Supreme Court turns down 9/11 families’ appeal “without comment”, lets stand Saudi immunity



Court won’t hear Sept. 11 claims vs. Saudi Arabia

June 29, 2009

Photo of the Supreme CourtWASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has refused to allow victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to pursue lawsuits against Saudi Arabia and four of its princes over charitable donations that were allegedly funneled to al-Qaida.

The court, in an order Monday, is leaving in place the ruling of a federal appeals court that the country and the princes are protected by sovereign immunity, which generally means that foreign countries can’t be sued in American courts.

The Obama administration had angered some victims and families by urging the justices to pass up the case.

In their appeal, the more than 6,000 plaintiffs said the government’s court brief filed in early June was an “apparent effort to appease a sometime ally” just before President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

At issue were obstacles in American law to suing foreign governments and their officials as well as the extent to which people can be held financially responsible for acts of terrorism committed by others.

The appeal was filed by relatives of victims killed in the attacks and thousands of people who were injured, as well as businesses and governments that sustained property damage and other losses.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York previously upheld a federal judge’s ruling throwing out the lawsuits. The appeals court said the defendants were protected by sovereign immunity and the plaintiffs would need to prove that the princes engaged in intentional actions aimed at U.S. residents.

In their appeal to the high court, both sides cited the report of the Sept. 11 Commission. The victims noted that the report said Saudi Arabia had long been considered the primary source of al-Qaida funding. The Saudis’ court filing, however, pointed out that the commission “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.”

The victims’ lawsuits claim that the defendants gave money to charities in order to funnel it to terrorist organizations that were behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The appeal also stressed that federal appeals courts have reached conflicting decisions about when foreign governments and their officials can be sued.

The case is Federal Insurance Co. v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 08-640.

Top court lets stand Saudi immunity in 9/11 case

June 29, 2009
By James Vicini

Photo of President Bush and Prince Bandar
President George W. Bush meets with Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, on August 27, 2002, at Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.
(Photograph by Eric Drapper/The White House)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling that Saudi Arabia, four of its princes and other Saudi entities cannot be held liable for the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks in the United States.

The justices refused to review the ruling by a U.S. appeals court in New York that the Saudi defendants were protected by sovereign immunity in the lawsuit brought by victims of the attacks and their families.

The appeals court had upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit claiming Saudi Arabia, four princes, a Saudi charity and a Saudi banker provided material support to al Qaeda before the September 11 attacks.

The victims and their families argued that because the defendants gave money to Muslim charities that in turn gave money to al Qaeda, they should be held responsible for helping to finance the attacks.

The appeals court ruled that exceptions to the sovereign immunity rule do not apply because Saudi Arabia has not been designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department.

Attorneys for the victims appealed to the Supreme Court. They said the appeals court’s ruling dramatically limited the ability of victims to recover damages for acts of terrorism committed in the United States.

But the Obama administration late last month urged the high court to reject the appeal. It said New York courts correctly concluded that Saudi Arabia and its officials are immune from lawsuit for governmental acts outside the United States.

The Supreme Court turned down the appeal without comment.

(Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Deborah Charles and Will Dunham)

June 29, 2009, 2:23 p.m. EST
Statement by Counsel for the Family of John P. O’Neill in Response to U.S. Supreme Court’s Refusal to Hear 9/11 Victims’ Case Against Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Others

PHILADELPHIA, June 29, 2009 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — The following is a statement by Jerry S. Goldman of Anderson Kill & Olick, P.C., counsel to the family of John P. O’Neill, Sr.:

We are disappointed by today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court to refuse to hear the case brought by the family of the late American hero, John P. O’Neill, on behalf of the victims of 9/11 against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and others. Federal Insurance Company, et al., v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, et al., No. 08-640 (6/29/09).

We are saddened to see that the Court declined to apply its traditional standards for accepting a case for review. We assume that it relied upon the arguments propounded by the Executive branch and the defendants to deny the 9/11 victims their day in Court against certain sovereign nations, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, that we allege materially support terrorists.

We note, however, that there are still cases pending in the lower courts against other sovereign nations unaffected by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

We note, too, that there are still cases pending against other defendants seeking to hold them accountable for their actions in assisting Al Qaeda.

At the Supreme Court, the Justice Department argued that the decision of the Second Circuit was only of limited impact on the other defendants in the case.
We can only assume that the Justice Department will be consistent with the arguments that they propounded before the Supreme Court. Similarly, we are looking forward to their filings as to the scope of sovereign immunity.

We are optimistic that the lower courts will allow the rest of the lawsuit to proceed, as we believe that it is obvious that a United States court is the appropriate forum for hearing claims brought for harms suffered by individuals and businesses on American soil, whether against the terrorists who hijacked planes to wreak death and mass destruction, or against those, who provided the material support enabling terrorists to wreak death and destruction.

We look forward to finally proceeding with discovery and allowing justice to prevail.

About Anderson Kill & Olick, P.C.

Anderson Kill & Olick, P.C. practices law in the areas of Insurance Recovery, Anti-Counterfeiting, Bankruptcy, Commercial Litigation, Corporate & Securities, Employment & Labor Law, Real Estate & Construction, Tax, and Trusts & Estates. The firm’s senior attorneys maintain national and international practices from offices in New York City, Newark, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, Washington, D.C., and Ventura, CA. For more information, please visit

GENERAL CONTACT: Jerry S. Goldman/267-216-2795

MEDIA Contact: Andrew Sprung/646-792-3739

SOURCE Anderson Kill & Olick, P.C.

June 29, 2009, 2:24 p.m. EST

In Response to the Supreme Court’s Denial of The 9/11 Families’ Petition for Writ of Certiorari–On Behalf of The 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism –(In Re: Thomas E. Burnett, Sr., et al. v. Al Baraka Investment & Development Corp., et al., Case No. 03-CV-9849 (GBD); In Re: Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, 03 MDL 1570)

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2009 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ — The following is a statement on behalf of the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism:

We are deeply disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied our petition for writ of certiorari, thus deciding not to hear our appeal of a lower court’s decision to dismiss our charges against five Saudi defendants we allege provided material support for the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The High Court’s decision only further denies us our day in court, while enabling members of the ruling family to evade accountability. We respect the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of legal matters in our system of government; nevertheless, we find this result a travesty of justice and a betrayal of the 9/11 families and others whose lives are impacted by terrorism.

In a sad day for justice, the Saudi ruling class’ interests have been advanced at the expense of the rights granted to civil litigants under our Constitution and the laws designed by Congress to deter terrorism such as the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 USC 2331 et seq. We believe the High Court’s decision sets a dangerous precedent that those who provide support to terrorism atrocities will now see themselves as beyond the reach of U.S. laws. The High Court’s decision allows fundamental questions of law to go unresolved, and lets stand a decision by the Second Circuit that the Department of Justice itself believes to be wrong, potentially affording terrorism sponsors undeserved protection from  accountability in ongoing and future cases. We will continue to do everything within our rights to stop the material support pipeline fueling al Qaeda and to press our remaining claims in the case.

SOURCE 9/11 Families/Burnett v. Al Baraka

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