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Estate of Klieman v. Palestinian Auth.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

March 3, 2015

ESTATE OF ESTHER KLIEMAN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants

For BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION, Non-Party Petitioner: Charles D. Tobin, Drew E. Shenkman, LEAD ATTORNEYS, HOLLAND & KNIGHT, LLP, Washington, DC.

For ESTATE OF ESTHER KLIEMAN, bye and through its Administrator, Aaron Kesner, Plaintiff: Noel Jason Nudelman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Richard D. Heideman, Tracy Reichman Kalik, HEIDEMAN NUDELMAN & KALIK, P.C., Washington, DC; Steven R. Perles, LEAD ATTORNEY, PERLES LAW FIRM, P.C., Washington, DC.

For NACHMAN KLIEMAN, RUANNE KLIEMAN, DOV KLIEMAN, YOSEF KLIEMAN, GAVRIEL KLIEMAN, Plaintiffs: Noel Jason Nudelman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Richard D. Heideman, Tracy Reichman Kalik, HEIDEMAN NUDELMAN & KALIK, P.C., Washington, DC.

For PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY, also known as PALESTINIAN INTERIM SELF-GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY, Defendant: Charles FrancisBenedict McAleer, Jr., Richard A. Hibey, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Lamia R. Matta, MILLER & CHEVALIER, CHARTERED, Washington, DC; Mark J. Rochon, LEAD ATTORNEY, MILLER & CHEVALIER, Washington, DC; Timothy Patrick O'Toole, MILLER CHEVALIER, Washington, DC.

For PALESTINIAN LIBERATION ORGANIZATION, also known as PLO, Defendant: Charles FrancisBenedict McAleer, Jr., Richard A. Hibey, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Lamia R. Matta, MILLER & CHEVALIER, CHARTERED, Washington, DC; Mark J. Rochon, LEAD ATTORNEY, MILLER & CHEVALIER, Washington, DC; Maher Hanna Hanania, LEAD ATTORNEY, Woodbridge, VA; Timothy Patrick O'Toole, MILLER CHEVALIER, Washington, DC.

OPINION

PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, United States District Judge.

Esther Klieman, an American schoolteacher, was killed in a terrorist attack in Israel in 2002. Her estate, survivors, and heirs have brought this action under Section 2333 of the Antiterrorism Act (" ATA" ), 18 U.S.C. § § 2331 et seq., and various tort theories, against the Palestinian Authority (" PA" ) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (" PLO" ), as well as several other organizations and individuals alleged to have engaged in or otherwise supported terrorist activities in or near Israel. The PA and the PLO are the sole remaining defendants in this case.

In 2006, the Court determined that it could exercise general personal jurisdiction over the PA and PLO based on their " continuous and systematic" contacts with the United States. The Court denied defendants' motion for reconsideration of that decision in 2008. In light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014), the PA and the PLO again move for reconsideration of this Court's rulings on personal jurisdiction. Upon consideration of the parties' papers, the relevant legal authorities, the oral arguments of counsel, and the entire record in this case, the Court will grant defendants' motion to reconsider. Due to the intervening change in the law, this Court concludes that it cannot exercise general personal jurisdiction over the PA and the PLO. The Court also finds insufficient bases for the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction. The Court therefore will dismiss the PA and the PLO from this action and will dismiss the case.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

On March 24, 2002, terrorists with machine guns attacked a public bus near Neve Tzuf, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Esther Klieman, an American schoolteacher, was shot and killed. In the aftermath, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an organization designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State, claimed responsibility for the attack. Compl. ¶ 32. By the time plaintiffs' complaint was filed in 2004, two individuals -- Tamar Rassem Salim Rimawi and Hussam Abdul-Kader Ahmad Halabi -- had been arrested, tried, and convicted of Klieman's murder in an Israeli court. Id. ¶ 28. A third suspect, Ahmed Hamad Rushdie Hadib, had been arrested and indicted, while a fourth suspect, Annan Aziz Salim Hashash, remained at large. Compl. ¶ 30.

Klieman's estate, survivors, and heirs brought this action against thirteen individuals and organizations under Section 2333 of the ATA, 18 U.S.C. § § 2331 et seq., and various tort theories. The original defendants can be broken into four categories: (1) the four alleged perpetrators named above; (2) three additional individuals allegedly involved in the attack; (3) four organizations, Al Aqsa, Fatah, Tanzim, and Force 17, accused of directly supporting the attack; and (4) the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Plaintiffs accuse the PA and the PLO of not only failing to take effective measures to prevent terrorist attacks, but of providing weapons, funding, and other support to the organizations and individuals responsible for the attack. Compl. ¶ ¶ 31-49.

The procedural history of this case spans a decade. It is summarized here as relevant. On March 30, 2006, the Court issued an Opinion and Order denying defendants' first motion to dismiss and granting plaintiffs' partial motion for summary judgment. See Estate of Klieman v. Palestinian Auth., 424 F.Supp.2d 153 (D.D.C. 2006) (" Klieman I" ). Defendants then moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction due to inadequate service of process and insufficient contacts to satisfy due process. Estate of Klieman v. Palestinian Auth., 467 F.Supp.2d 107, 110 (D.D.C. 2006) (" Klieman II" ). On December 29, 2006, the Court issued an Opinion and Order holding that plaintiffs' service of process was ineffective and granting plaintiffs thirty days to perfect service. Id. at 110. But the Court rejected the PA's and the PLO's arguments that they lacked sufficient contacts with the United States for the exercise of personal jurisdiction. Id.

Defendants then filed a third motion to dismiss based on insufficient service of process, as well as a motion for reconsideration of the Court's personal jurisdiction decision. On April 18, 2008, the Court found that only the PA and the PLO had been properly served, and it therefore dismissed all other defendants from the case. See Estate of Klieman v. Palestinian Auth., 547 F.Supp.2d 8, 11 (D.D.C. 2008) (" Klieman III" ). In a separate Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court denied the defendants' motion for reconsideration of this Court's decision on personal jurisdiction. Memorandum Opinion and Order at 1, 3, April 24, 2008 [Dkt. No. 85]. The Court explained that the contacts the PA and the PLO allegedly had with the United States, including speechmaking and participation in other public appearances, were sufficient for the Court to exercise personal jurisdiction, and that doing so " comport[ed] with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Id. at 3. In so holding, the Court aligned itself with other U.S. courts finding general personal jurisdiction over the PA and the PLO. See, e.g., Ungar v. Palestinian Auth., 153 F.Supp.2d 76, 88 (D.R.I. 2001) (concluding that the PA's and the PLO's contacts with the United States, including maintaining an office in Washington, D.C., engaging in fundraising and public speaking engagements, and hiring a U.S. lobbying firm were sufficient to exercise personal jurisdiction); see also Biton v. Palestinian Auth., 310 F.Supp.2d 172, 175, 179-80 (D.D.C. 2004) (concluding that the PA's contacts with the United States -- such as maintaining offices and bank accounts in the United States and employing a lobbying firm to develop a U.S. public relations campaign -- were sufficient to exercise personal jurisdiction).

Defendants have filed another motion for reconsideration of this Court's personal jurisdiction decisions in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014). Defs.' Mot. at 12. In response, plaintiffs argue that (1) the defendants waived their objection to the Court's previous findings of personal jurisdiction, (2) the Court can exercise general jurisdiction over defendants despite Daimler, (3) this Court can exercise specific personal jurisdiction in the alternative, and (4) plaintiffs at the least are entitled to jurisdictional discovery before the Court decides whether it has jurisdiction. These arguments are addressed in turn.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Motions for Reconsideration

Motions for reconsideration are not specifically addressed in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. While the most analogous rule is Rule 60, which provides relief from a final judgment or order, motions to reconsider interlocutory orders are not governed by Rule 60(b), but rather, such determinations " are within the discretion of the trial court." Keystone Tobacco Co. v. U.S. Tobacco Co.,217 F.R.D. 235, 237 (D.D.C. 2003); see also Bean v. Soberano, No. 04-1713, 2008 WL 239833, at *1 (D.D.C. Jan. 24, 2008); America v. Preston, No. 03-1807, 2007 WL 8055550, at *1 (D.D.C. Feb. 12, 2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) (" [A]ny order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities." ). Notwithstanding the broad discretion of a court to reconsider its own interlocutory decisions, however, and " in light of the need for finality in judicial decision-making," district courts should only reconsider interlocutory orders " when ...


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