Foreign Sovereign Immunity—Attachment of Assets Owned by State Sponsors of Terrorism

Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran, No. 16-534

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) generally prohibits U.S. courts from attaching property of a foreign state that is within the territorial boundaries of the United States. In this case, plaintiffs seeking to enforce a money judgment against the Islamic Republic of Iran seek to attach a collection of cuneiform-inscribed tablets owned by the National Museum of Iran that are on long-term loan to a museum at the University of Chicago.

In conjunction with this dispute, the Supreme Court has agreed to interpret a 2008 amendment to the FSIA that expanded the availability of assets of foreign state sponsors of terrorism for postjudgment execution. In particular, the Court will decide whether the 2008 amendment provides a freestanding exception to immunity from attachment, or if claimants must also demonstrate that the assets are connected to commercial activity in the United States.

This case will be decided by an eight-Justice Court, with Justice Kagan recused.