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Amir Reza Oveissi v. Islamic Republic of Iran

July 25, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge



This action arises out of the brutal February 1984 assassination of General Gholam Ali Oveissi on the streets of Paris, France. The plaintiff, Amir Reza Oveissi, is General Oveissi's grandson. This action is brought against defendants Islamic Republic of Iran ("Iran") and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security ("MOIS") under the state-sponsored terrorism exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330, 1602 et seq., which was enacted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 ("NDAA"). Pub. L. No. 110-181, § 1083, 122 Stat. 3, 338--44 (2008). That provision, codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1605A, provides "a federal right of action against foreign states." Simon v. Islamic Republic of Iraq, 529 F.3d 1187, 1190 (D.C. Cir. 2008). For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that plaintiff has provided sufficient proof to support his causes of action, and determines that defendants may be held liable under the FSIA's updated state-sponsored terrorism exception.


A. Prior Oveissi Litigation

In 2003, plaintiff sued defendants over General Oveissi's 1984 assassination through the former state-sponsored terrorism exception codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(7). Oveissi v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 573 F.3d 835, 837 (D.C. Cir. 2009). After the D.C. Circuit ruled that French law applied to plaintiff's substantive cause of action, this Court conducted a bench trial and entered liability and damages judgments against defendants. Oveissi v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 768 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2010) (liability opinion); Oveissi v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 768 F. Supp. 2d 16 (D.D.C. 2011) (damages opinion). This Court awarded plaintiff $7.5 million in solatium damages but denied recovery for his alleged economic loss. Oveissi, 768 F. Supp. 2d at 30--33.

B. This Action

Plaintiff here is again Amir Reza Oveissi, General Oveissi's grandson. In the Complaint, plaintiff alleges the same essential facts concerning the 1984 assassination that were established by sufficient evidence in the 2010 Oveissi liability opinion. Compl. ¶¶ 1--16. On September 10, 2011, plaintiff served copies of the relevant papers, along with translations, by mail as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1608(a)(3). Status Report, Oct. 17, 2011, ECF No. 7, ¶¶ 3--4. Under the terms of

28 U.S.C. § 1605A, defendants had 60 days from that date-until November 9, 2011-to respond. 28 U.S.C. § 1608(d). After none of the defendants appeared or responded, the Clerk of the Court entered default on plaintiff's behalf. Clerk's Entry of Default, Jan. 10, 2012, ECF No.

11. Plaintiff then moved for default judgment in accordance with § 1608(e). Mot. for Default J., Jan. 19, 2012, ECF No. 13. Based on that motion, the record, and facts available for judicial notice, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.


The Clerk of the Court entered defendants' default on January 10, 2012. However, prior to entry of final default judgment, the FSIA requires that courts evaluate the evidence before them to ensure that plaintiffs have established their right to relief "by evidence that is satisfactory to the court." 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e). This requirement "imposes a duty on FSIA courts to not simply accept a complaint's unsupported allegations as true, and obligates courts to inquire further before entering judgment against parties in default." Rimkus v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 750 F. Supp. 2d 163, 171 (D.D.C. 2010) (internal quotations omitted).

In considering whether to enter default judgment, courts in FSIA cases look to various sources of evidence to satisfy their statutory obligation. Courts may, for example, rely upon plaintiff's "'uncontroverted factual allegations, which are supported by . . . documentary and affidavit evidence.'" Valore, 700 F. Supp. 2d 52, 59 (D.D.C. 2010) (alteration in original; quoting Int'l Road Fed'n v. Democratic Republic of the Congo, 131 F. Supp. 2d 248, 252 n.4 (D.D.C. 2001)). In addition to more traditional forms of evidence-testimony and documentation-plaintiffs in FSIA cases may also submit evidence in the form of affidavits. Blais v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 459 F. Supp. 2d 40, 53 (D.D.C. 2006) (citing Bodoff v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 424 F. Supp. 2d 74, 82 (D.D.C. 2006)). Finally, a FSIA court may "'take judicial notice of related proceedings and records in cases before the same court.'" Valore, 700 F. Supp. 2d at 59 (quoting Brewer v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 664 F. Supp. 2d 43, 50--51 (D.D.C. 2009)). Here, plaintiffs rely on judicial notice in support of their motion for default judgment.

A. Judicial Notice of Prior Related Cases

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, courts are permitted to take judicial notice of facts "not subject to reasonable dispute" where those facts are either "generally known within the territorial jurisdiction" or are "capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned." Fed. R. Evid. 201(b). This rule permits courts to take judicial notice of court records in related proceedings. 29 Am. Jur. 2d Evidence § 151 (2010); see also Booth v. Fletcher, 101 F.2d 676, 679 n.2 (D.C. Cir. 1938) ("A court may take judicial notice of, and give effect to, its own records in another but interrelated proceeding . . . ."); 2 McCormick on Evid. § 332 (6th ed. 2009) (noting that the principle permitting courts to take judicial notice of current proceedings "is equally applicable to matters of record in the proceedings in other cases in the same court"). Because of the multiplicity of FSIA-related litigation, courts in this District have frequently taken judicial notice of earlier, related proceedings. See, e.g., Murphy v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 740 F. Supp. 2d 51, 58 (D.D.C. 2010); Valore, 700 F. Supp. 2d at 59--60; Brewer, 664 F. Supp. 2d at 50--51.

A difficult issue arises concerning judicial notice of related proceedings with regard to courts' prior factual findings. While such findings in a prior proceeding are "capable of accurate and ready determination" from judicial records, Fed. R. Evid. 201(b), it cannot be said that these same findings are "not subject to reasonable dispute." Id. Specifically, such findings represent merely a court's probabilistic determination as to what happened, rather than a first-hand account of the actual events. As such, they constitute hearsay, and thus are considered inadmissible. Athridge v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 474 F. Supp. 2d 102, 110 (D.D.C. 2007) (citing United States v. Jones, 29 F.3d 1549, 1554 (11th Cir. 1994)).

This Court grappled with these difficulties in Rimkus, where- "mindful that the statutory obligation found in § 1608(e) was not designed to impose the onerous burden of re-litigating key facts in related cases arising out of the same terrorist attack," 750 F. Supp. 2d at 163 (citing Brewer, 664 F. Supp. 2d at 54)-it determined that the proper approach is one "that permits courts in subsequent related cases to rely upon the evidence presented in earlier litigation . . . without necessitating the formality of having that evidence reproduced." Id. (citing Murphy, 740 F. Supp. 2d at 58). Thus, based on judicial notice of the evidence presented in the earlier cases- here, the prior Oveissi liability and damages opinions-courts may reach their own independent findings of fact.

B. Relevant Findings of Fact

Plaintiff seeks to have the default judgment he received in the prior Oveissi litigation confirmed under 28 U.S.C. § 1605A. See Ben-Rafael v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 718 F. Supp. 2d 25, 30--31 (D.D.C. 2010) (confirming an earlier FSIA § 1605(a)(7) judgment under § 1605A). There being no intervening events that would raise any concerns regarding the validity of the Court's findings of fact in the prior Oveissi litigation, 498 F. Supp. 2d at 272--74; 768 F. Supp. 2d at 6--7, this Court adopts its prior findings of fact in their entirety. In summary, the Court finds the following:

Gholam Oveissi was a general and high-ranking official in Iran prior to the 1979 revolution, which saw the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini and the transformation of Iran into an Islamic state. Shortly before the revolution, General Oveissi and his family fled to the United States, where Amir Reza was born. After a brief stay in the U.S., the family settled in Paris, France, where they resided for nearly five years. Their stay in Paris was cut short, however, after Gholam Oveissi was gunned down in a busy street in February 1984. Islamic Jihad-a relatively-unknown group at the time-immediately claimed responsibility for the assassination. Following his brutal murder, the remaining members of Gholam Oveissi's family, including five year-old Amir Reza, were whisked away to Africa, and eventually made their way back to the United States, where plaintiff has since resided. Since his grandfather's death, plaintiff-and the world-has learned that Islamic Jihad was actually a cell composed of members of the terrorist organization Hezbollah, and that the group acted under the direction of MOIS, and were materially supported by Iran.

Oveissi, 768 F. Supp. 2d at 17 ...

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