Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran

Justia Summary

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act grants foreign states and their agencies and instrumentalities immunity from suit in the U.S. and grants their property immunity from attachment and execution in satisfaction of judgments against them, 28 U.S.C. 1609, with some exceptions. Petitioners obtained a judgment against the Islamic Republic of Iran under section 1605A, an exception that applies to foreign states designated as state sponsors of terrorism with respect to claims arising out of acts of terrorism. Petitioners sought to attach and execute against Iranian assets—a collection of ancient clay tablets and fragments housed at University of Chicago. The Seventh Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed a holding in favor of Iran. Section 1610(g), which provides that certain property is “subject to attachment in aid of execution, and execution, upon [a 1605A] judgment as provided in this section” does not provide a freestanding basis for parties holding a 1605A judgment to attach and execute against the property of a foreign state. For section 1610(g) to apply, the immunity of the property at issue must be rescinded under a separate section 1610 provision. The section 1610 provisions that unambiguously revoke the immunity of a foreign state’s property employ textual markers that are absent from 1610(g). There is support for petitioners’ position that section 1610(g) was intended to divest all property of a foreign state or its agencies or instrumentalities of immunity.