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Little Progress on Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)

In a previous post, we outlined some of the various civil suits initiated in U.S. courts against terrorist organizations as well as other entities that allegedly provided funding and support in relation to the 9/11 attacks on New York City, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania. While many of these suits are ultimately symbolic in nature, some could hold true promise of providing well-deserved compensation to the victims and their families. Unfortunately, several recent court rulings have served as setbacks for these claims.

Specifically, a recent ruling by the Second Circuit in a suit against various components of the Saudi government held that victims’ claims were barred by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and that no cause of action for “aiding and abetting” terrorism was available under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991.

In response to this ruling, Senator Chuck Schumer and Congressmen Peter King, both of New York, introduced the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) on September 23, 2013. The purpose of the bill was to abrogate and circumvent court decisions that limited the legal rights of 9/11 victims by amending the statutes those courts were interpreting. JASTA’s main purposes were to:

  • Add an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act that would remove sovereign immunity from sponsors of terrorism on U.S. soil
  • Amend the Anti-Terrorism Act to give U.S. courts jurisdiction over foreign entities whose conduct contributes to terrorism on U.S. soil

Introduced in the House as HB 3143, the bill was first referred to the House Judiciary Committee which in turn referred it to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice on January 9, 2014. While commentators believe the bill has a fair chance of ultimately being enacted, to date it remains in the subcommittee for consideration and debate.

As part of our overall commitment to assisting the victims of 9/11 and their families, our team at Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson closely monitors any court action or legislation relating to victims’ rights. If you have questions about your legal options as a 9/11 victim, please contact our attorneys today.

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