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Sweis v. Unites States Foreign Claims Settlement Commission

United States District Court, District Circuit

June 15, 2013

JULIET SWEIS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITES STATES FOREIGN CLAIMS SETTLEMENT COMMISSION, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Gladys Kessler, United States District Judge

Plaintiff Juliet Sweis ("Sweis" or "Plaintiff") brings this action against the United States Foreign Claims Settlement Commission ("FCSC" or "Commission"), its Commissioners, Rafael Martinez and Anuj Desai, the United States Department of State ("State Department"), John Kerry in his official capacity as Secretary of State, the Department of Justice ("DOJ"), Eric Holder in his official capacity as Attorney General, the United States Department of Treasury ("Treasury Department"), and Jacob Lew in his official capacity as Secretary of the Department of Treasury (collectively, "Defendants" or "Government"). Plaintiff alleges violations of the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 551 et seq., and separation-of-powers principles.

This matter is presently before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion and Memorandum in Support Thereof for a Preliminary Injunction [Dkt. No. 8]. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition [Dkt. No. 12], and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

On December 27, 1985, Sweis was injured when four Abut Nidal Organization terrorists opened fire in the Rome International Airport. Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 13. She was seven years old at the time and suffered "hand grenade shrapnel and concussion injuries to her head, resulting in permanent physical injuries." Id. ¶ 20.

On April 21, 2006, a group of individuals, including members of Sweis's family, were named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit in this Court, Buonocore v. Great Socialist People's Libyan Aeab Jamahiriya, Case No. 06-727 ("Buonocore") . Compl. ¶ 26. Sweis was not a named plaintiff. On July 9, 2007, that complaint was dismissed without prejudice. [Case No. 06-727, Dkt. No. 34]

On March 28, 2008, an amended complaint was filed in Buonocore. Compl. ¶ 30. Sweis was added as a named plaintiff, but did not allege any physical injuries. Id.

On August 4, 2 008, President George W. Bush signed into law the Libyan Claims Resolution Act ("LCRA"), Pub. L. No. 110-301, 122 Stat. 2999 (2008) . Id. ¶¶ 36, 45. The stated purpose of the LCRA is to provide for "fair compensation to all nationals of the United States who have terrorism-related claims against Libya through a comprehensive settlement of claims by such nationals against Libya pursuant to an international agreement between the United States and Libya." Id. ¶ 45.

On August 14, 2 0 08, the United States and Libya entered into an international claims agreement, the US-Libya Claims Settlement Agreement ("LCSA"). Id. ¶ 46. The LCSA intended to settle all claims, terminate pending claims, and preclude future claims. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss & Opp'n to PL's Mot. for a Prelim. Inj. ("Defs.' Opp'n") Ex. 2, p. 3.

On October 31, 2008, President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13, 477. Id. ¶ 47. The Executive Order declared that all terrorism-related claims of U.S. nationals against Libya were settled by the LCSA and terminated pending suits in U.S. courts. Id. ¶ 48. On December 24, 2008, this Court granted the Libyan Defendants' Motion to Dismiss with prejudice in Buonocore, as a result of the LCRA and the Executive Order. [Case No. 06-727, Dkt. No. 78]

On December 11, 2008, the State Department referred certain claims to the FCSC, a quasi-judicial, independent agency within the Department of Justice ("First Referral"). Compl. ¶¶ 52, 55. The First Referral created jurisdiction in the FCSC over the claims of U.S. nationals who were named plaintiffs who had pled physical injury in pending litigation, including Buonocore. Id. ¶ 55. On March 23, 2 009, the Commission announced the commencement of its adjudication of the claims contained in the First Referral. Id. ¶ 58 (citing 74 Fed. Reg. 12, 148).

Sweis filed a timely claim under the First Referral. Compl. ¶ 59. On February 18, 2010, the FCSC entered a Proposed Decision declaring that it did not have jurisdiction over Sweis's claim because she had not pled a physical injury in the Buonocore complaint. Id. ¶ 62.

On March 1, 2012, Sweis filed a motion to amend the Buonocore complaint nunc pro tunc to March 28, 2 008, the date of the original filing. The purpose of the amendment was to include allegations regarding the physical injuries suffered by Sweis during the Rome Airport Attack. Compl. ¶ 61. On April 2, 2010, this Court granted that motion. [Case No. 06-727, Dkt No. 81]

Sweis objected to the FCSC's Proposed Decision, and provided the Commission with this Court's nunc pro tunc order permitting her to amend her complaint. Compl. ΒΆ 63. On September 14, 2012, the Commission held a hearing ...


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