[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 6-2 Wednesday in Bank Markazi v Peterson [SCOTUSblog materials] that the enactment of a statute allowing terrorism victims’ families to collect seized Iranian assets does not violate separation of powers, even if it directs a particular result in a single pending case. The US Congress enacted the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 [22 USC § 8722] to place beyond dispute the availability of certain assets for satisfaction of judgments rendered in terrorism cases against Iran. The act allows a designated set of assets available to satisfy the judgments underlying an enforcement proceeding which the statute identifies by the district court’s docket number: “the financial assets that are identified in and the subject of proceedings in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Peterson v. Islamic Republic of Iran … shall be subject to execution … in order to satisfy any judgment to the extent of any compensatory damages awarded against Iran for damages for personal injury or death caused by an act of [terrorism].” In an opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the court affirmed [opinion, PDF] the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] and held that §8722 does not violate the separation of powers. The court reasoned that Congress may require a court to apply a new legal standard in a pending prejudgment enforcement proceeding, and the statue was an appropriate exercise of Congressional authority regarding foreign affairs.
The court heard oral argument [JURIST report; transcript, PDF] in Bank Markazi in January. The respondents are more than 1,000 individuals that brought suit against Iran for actions related to state sponsored terrorism. To enforce their claims under 28 USC §1605A [text], the statute that allows American nationals to seek money damages from state sponsors of terrorism in the courts of the US, petitioners moved for a turnover in 2008 of about $1.75 billion in bond assets held in a New York bank account by the Bank Markazi. The Petitioner Bank Markazi, a/k/a the Central Bank of Iran, argued that §8722 allowed Congress to usurp judicial authority which violates separation of powers.