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Supreme Court hears Iraq immunity, English language school funding cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; briefs] in two cases. In Iraq v. Beaty [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report] and Iraq v. Simon, the Court will consider whether Iraq has sovereign immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts in cases involving alleged misdeeds that occurred during the Saddam Hussein regime. The plaintiffs in both cases sued the Iraqi government, alleging that they were detained and tortured during the 1990s Gulf War. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) [28 USC § 1602 et seq. text] creates exceptions to the general rule that states cannot be sued in US courts for states designated as sponsors of terrorism. The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit found in both Beaty and Simon [opinions, PDF] that the Iraqi government was subject to suit under the the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Counsel for the Iraqi government argued that the plain language of the statute grants Iraq immunity from suit because it is no longer designated a terrorism sponsor. Counsel for the respondents argued, "[The FSIA] says if you are the victim of torture by a nation designated as a state sponsor of terror and that designation changes so that you are no longer on that list, then you still have a cause of action under the FSIA. The fact that the country changes its ways and gets de-designated doesn't change that result."

In Horne v. Flores [oral arguments transcript, PDF] and Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives v. Flores, the Court will consider whether the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit erred in declining to modify an injunction against Arizona for failing to provide sufficient funding for non-English speaking school children. The circuit court affirmed [opinion, PDF] a lower court ruling that the state of Arizona was in violation of the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974 [text]. Counsel for the petitioners argued that the district court, "blinded itself to the significant changes structurally as well as the progress that had been made and just said it doesn't matter because this is all about funding, and that is not true." Counsel for the respondents argued, "When the district court issued its initial judgment in 2000, what the court found was that there was a systemic violation of the EEOA. And the court further found that the program deficiencies were the result of the lack of funding rationally related to the programs."

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