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Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran

September 8, 2010

JENNY RUBIN ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN ET AL., DEFENDANTS, AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, INTERVENOR.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document Nos.: 82, 90

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE PROPOSED INTERVENORS'MOTION TO INTERVENE;DENYING AS MOOT THE PROPOSED INTERVENORS'MOTION FOR AN EXTENSION OF TIME TO FILE A NOTICE OF APPEAL

I. INTRODUCTION

In 2001, the plaintiffs sued the Islamic Republic of Iran and related defendants under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1602 et seq., for injuries sustained as a result of a terrorist attack in 1997. The defendants neither appeared in court nor responded to the complaint. Thus, in 2003, the court issued a default judgment in favor of the plaintiffs for $71,500,000.

As part of the plaintiffs' efforts to enforce their judgment, they initiated attachment proceedings in other districts against the University of Chicago, the Field Museum of Chicago, Harvard College and the Museum of Fine Arts in Massachusetts (collectively, "the Museums").

According to the plaintiffs, the Museums possess artifacts belonging to Iran that the plaintiffs may attach to satisfy their judgment.

The Museums have moved to intervene in this action to seek reconsideration of and potentially to appeal a June 3, 2008 order of this court authorizing the plaintiffs to attach property belonging to Iran to satisfy their judgment. Because the Museums assert no valid justification for waiting until after the order was issued to move for intervention, the court denies the motion to intervene as untimely.*fn1

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On July 31, 2001, the plaintiffs filed a complaint against the defendants for injuries sustained as a result of a terrorist attack in Jerusalem in 1997. Comp.; Mem. Order (June 3, 2008). The defendants did not appear in court or respond to the complaint. Mem. Order (June 3, 2008) at 1 n.1. Thus, on March 6, 2002, the Clerk of the Court entered default against the defendants. Id. The Court then conducted several evidentiary hearings, still without the participation of the defendants, which resulted in the court issuing a default judgment for the plaintiffs totaling $71,500,000 on September 10, 2003. Id. As of July 29, 2008, the plaintiffs had collected only $400,000 against the judgment. Pls.' Opp'n at 4.

As part of the plaintiffs' continuing efforts to enforce their judgment, they have attempted to attach certain artifacts, allegedly belonging to Iran, which are housed at the Museums. Id. at 5-10. These attachment proceedings are being litigated in the United States District Courts for the Northern District of Illinois and the District of Massachusetts. Id. The two central issues in the attachment proceedings are whether the artifacts belong to Iran and whether Iran's sovereign immunity prevents the plaintiffs from attaching those artifacts. Id.

Under the version of the FSIA in force at the time the default judgment was entered, plaintiffs were not permitted to attach property owned by foreign sovereign nations to satisfy judgments against those nations. See 28 U.S.C. § 1609 (providing that "property in the United States of a foreign state shall be immune from attachment arrest and execution except as provided in sections 1610 and 1611 of this chapter"). Subsequently, however, Congress amended the FSIA by enacting the National Defense Authorization Act ("NDAA"), which broadened the rights of individuals seeking to obtain and enforce judgments against foreign sovereigns arising out of terrorist acts. See generally Pub. L. No. 110-181, 122 Stat. 3 (2008). The NDAA established a new cause of action for victims of state-sponsored terrorism, and removed sovereign immunity protection for sovereign property owned by states responsible for terrorist acts. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1605A, 1610(g)(2). The NDAA further provided that judgments entered under the old version of the FSIA "shall, on motion made by plaintiffs to the United States district court where the action was initially brought . . . be given effect as if the action had originally been filed under" the amended version of the FSIA. 28 U.S.C. § 1605A(c)(2). Pub. L. No. 110-181, § 1083(c)(2).

The plaintiffs filed such a motion on March 28, 2008. See generally Pls.' Mot. for Order Pursuant to § 1083(c)(2) of the Nat'l Defense Authorization Act ("Pls.' NDAA Mot."). The Museums, concerned that granting the motion would adversely affect them in the ongoing attachment proceedings, mailed a letter to the Clerk of the Court on May 30, 2008, explaining why they believed the motion should not be granted.*fn2 Museums' Reply at 5 n.1. They also faxed the letter to chambers on June 3, 2008. Museums' Mot. at 4-5. They did not, however, move to intervene, and the court granted the plaintiffs' motion. See generally Mem. Order (June 2, 2008); Mem. Order (June 3, 2008).*fn3

On June 16, 2008, two weeks after the court granted the plaintiffs' motion, the Museums moved to intervene "for the purposes of seeking reconsideration of this Court's Memorandum Orders of June 2, 2008 and June 3, 2008 and preserving an appeal." Museums' Mot. at 1. The Museums assert that they are entitled to intervene as a matter of right under Rule 24(a) and, in the alternative, that they are entitled to permissive intervention under Rule 24(b). Museums' Mot. at 1; Museums' Mem. at 12. The plaintiffs filed an opposition on July 29, 2008, claiming, inter alia, that the Museums have no legally cognizable interest in the action and that the motion ...


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