On Feb. 25, 1996, a suicide bombing in Jerusalem orchestrated by the terrorist organization Hamas severely injured Ira Weinstein, Ms. Hazi’s father and a U.S. citizen residing in New York. Mr. Weinstein later died from his injuries.
On Oct. 27, 2000, his estate brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for wrongful death and other torts against Iran, the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security, and certain Iranian officials, alleging that they had provided monetary support for Hamas’ attack. The district court exercised jurisdiction under §1605(a)(7) of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The defendants failed to appear and the court entered default judgment for the plaintiffs in the amount of over $183 million.
Following the entry of judgment, the plaintiffs registered the judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and served a subpoena on the Bank of New York that led to the identification of Bank Melli as a possible instrumentality of Iran. The plaintiffs sought to attach certain of Bank Melli’s assets in the United States, under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). The district court, however, determined that Bank Melli’s assets were not attachable under the TRIA because they were not “blocked assets,” as required by the TRIA. Subsequently, on Oct. 25, 2007, the Department of Treasury designated Bank Melli as a “proliferat[or] of weapons of mass destruction” and froze its assets.
On Oct. 31, 2007, Ms. Hazi filed a motion seeking appointment by the district court of a receiver, to sell property owned by Bank Melli in Forest Hills, Queens, which Ms. Hazi sought to attach and sell in partial satisfaction of the judgment against Iran. The district court appointed a receiver, but stayed the proceedings pending resolution of Bank Melli’s appeal of the appointment of the receiver to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Second Circuit’s decision clarified that federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction under the FSIA and the TRIA over the instrumentalities and agencies of designated terrorist states for purposes of satisfying a judgment even when the instrumentality or agency is not itself accused of an act of terrorism.
Weinstein is the first Court of Appeals decision addressing this question, and it likely will guide other courts considering jurisdictional challenges under the TRIA in the future.