Supreme Court rules foreign company can't be sued for terror attack

Supreme Court rules foreign company can't be sued for terror attack
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The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a foreign corporation cannot be sued in U.S. courts for terrorist attacks and other human rights violations abroad.

The court in a 5-4 decision affirmed a lower court ruling that dismissed a lawsuit that 6,000 victims of a terrorist attack tried to bring against Arab Bank, PLC under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) for allegedly financing terrorist attacks in the Middle East.

The victims claimed the Jordanian bank used its New York branch to clear dollar-denominated transactions that benefitted terrorists through the Clearing House Interbank Payments System and to launder money for a Texas-based charity allegedly affiliated with Hamas, a Palestinian militant Islamist group.


In delivering the court's opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy on Tuesday called the connection between the terrorist attacks at issue in this case and the alleged conduct in the U.S. relatively minor and said that most of the petitioner's allegations involve conduct that occurred in the Middle East.

“The ATS was intended to promote harmony in international relations by ensuring foreign plaintiffs a remedy for international-law violations in circumstances where the absence of such a remedy might provoke foreign nations to hold the United States accountable,” Kennedy wrote.

“But here, and in similar cases, the opposite is occurring.”

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch joined Kennedy in the majority.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the court's ruling in an opinion Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined.

Sotomayor said the court’s ruling absolves corporations from responsibility under the ATS for "conscience-shocking behavior."

--Updated at 11:20 a.m.