U.S. court revives 9/11 victims’ case against Saudi Arabia

A view over New York City and the 'Tribute In Light' marking the twelfth anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2013 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images
A view over New York City and the ‘Tribute In Light’ marking the twelfth anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2013 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images

A U.S. appeals court on Thursday revived claims by families of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks who alleged that Saudi Arabia provided material support to al Qaeda.

Reversing a lower court ruling, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said “the interests of justice” justified reviving the claims, in light of a 2011 decision that allowed similar claims to proceed against Afghanistan.

Circuit Judge Chester Straub wrote for a three-judge panel that it would be “especially anomalous” to treat both sets of plaintiffs differently. He returned the case to U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan for further proceedings.

The litigation had been brought on behalf of families of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the September 11 attacks.

Michael Kellogg, a partner at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel representing Saudi Arabia, said the country will “seek further review of this erroneous decision,” which he said was “contrary” to settled law.

“It is extremely unfortunate and burdensome that a sovereign nation and ally of the United States will continue to have to litigate this matter more than 10 years after it was filed,” he said in a statement.

Stephen Cozen, a partner at Cozen O’Connor representing the families, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The litigation began in 2002. Families of September 11 victims had alleged that Saudi Arabia and a government-affiliated charity knowingly provided funding and other material support to al Qaeda that helped it carry out the attacks.

Scope of sovereign immunity

U.S. District Judge Richard Casey in Manhattan dismissed the claims in 2005, saying Saudi Arabia’s alleged wrongful activity constituted a “discretionary function” entitling it to immunity under the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

A 2nd Circuit panel upheld that ruling on different grounds in 2008, but that panel’s interpretation of sovereign immunity law was overruled by a different panel in the Afghanistan case.

The families in the Saudi Arabia case then asked U.S. District Judge George Daniels, who took over their case following Casey’s death in 2007, to vacate the 2005 ruling.

But Daniels refused, saying at a March 2012 hearing that it was “pure speculation” to suggest the results were inconsistent “given the fact that there are different defendants with different sets of allegations regarding their activities.”

Writing for the 2nd Circuit, however, Straub said the new law announced in the Afghanistan case was an “extraordinary” circumstance to justify reviving the Saudi Arabia case.

“The procedural history of this case produced inconsistent results between two sets of plaintiffs suing for damages based on the same incident,” Straub wrote. “It also allowed the district court’s application of the discretionary function limitation to go unreviewed.”

Thursday’s decision was joined by Circuit Judges Jose Cabranes and Ralph Winter. Cabranes was also on the 2008 panel that upheld the dismissal of the Saudi Arabia case, and the 2011 panel that reinstated the Afghanistan case.

 


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

National

Divers struggle in search for South Korean ferry…

By Jungmin Jang and Narae KimMOKPO/JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Rescuers struggled with strong waves and murky waters on Thursday as they searched for hundreds…

National

New Hampshire moves to decriminalize adultery

For the first time in hundreds of years, it's about to be legal to cheat on your spouse in New Hampshire.

Television

Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

Music

Both feet on the ground with Aimee Mann…

What began with a cool double-bill of Ted Leo opening for Aimee Mann morphed into a full-fledged collaborative project that they're calling The Both. “There…

Sports

2014 Boston Marathon preview: Elite American, International runners…

2014 Boston Marathon: Elite American, International runners to watch

NBA

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams…

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams have the best shot at a championship. The Thunder, Clippers, Heat and Rockets lead the way.

NFL

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.