Newspaper article International New York Times

Iran's Central Bank Lawyer Faces Court in Washington ; Justices Hear Arguments in Suit by Families of Victims in Terror Attacks

Newspaper article International New York Times

Iran's Central Bank Lawyer Faces Court in Washington ; Justices Hear Arguments in Suit by Families of Victims in Terror Attacks

Article excerpt

At issue is a lawsuit against Iran by the families of Americans killed in terrorist attacks sponsored by Tehran.

A lawyer for Iran's central bank faced skepticism at the Supreme Court as he tried to persuade the justices that his client should not have to pay nearly $2 billion to victims of terrorist attacks.

The case was brought by the families of Americans killed in terrorist attacks sponsored by Iran, including relatives of those who died in the 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing in Lebanon. They have won billions of dollars in court judgments against Iran in American courts.

The question in the case, Theodore B. Olson, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Wednesday, is whether his clients can collect from assets of the bank held in the United States. American courts, he said, have already determined that "the government of Iran sponsored terrorism that killed and maimed American citizens."

The plaintiffs seek to collect money from Bank Markazi, Iran's central bank, relying on a 2012 federal law, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act, that sought to make the task easier by specifying assets of the bank that could satisfy the plaintiffs' judgments. The bank says the law violates the Constitution because it is focused on a single case.

The arguments on Wednesday, in Bank Markazi v. Peterson, No. 14- 770, took place at a delicate moment in relations between the United States and Iran, coming just months after the two countries signed a nuclear agreement. Several justices said the court should be wary of intruding on judgments made by Congress and the president in the conduct of foreign affairs.

"The political branches have a great deal of power in this area, even when it comes to very particular controversies," said Justice Elena Kagan.

Jeffrey A. Lamken, the bank's lawyer, argued that Congress had breached the boundaries of the separation of powers when it enacted the 2012 law, which he said was concerned with "one and only one specified case. …

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