United States District Court, District of Columbia
BILLY G. ASEMANI, 339096, Plaintiff,
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, Defendant.
ORDER OF TRANSFER (ECF NOS. 3, 5, 11 &
CHARLES R. BREYER, United States District Judge
a prisoner at the Eastern Correctional Institution in
Westover, Maryland, filed the instant pro se action
seeking to enforce a state court judgment against the Islamic
Republic of Iran (Iran) under the Foreign Sovereign
Immunities Act (FSIA). Plaintiff alleges that on July 22,
2016, an Allegany County court in Maryland entered a $4, 000,
000 judgment in his favor and against Iran for damages he
suffered as a result of the “extrajudicial
torture” Iran inflicted on him. ECF No. 1 at 7, 41.
Plaintiff seeks to enforce that judgment in this court so he
can pursue assets he claims Iran has in this court's
“ter[ito]rial jurisdiction.” Id. at 32.
also seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF
Nos. 3, 5 & 11) and issuance of summons pursuant to Rule
4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (ECF No. 13).
FSIA “provides the sole basis for obtaining
jurisdiction over a foreign state in federal court.”
Argentine Republic v. Amerada Hess Shipping Corp.,
488 U.S. 428, 439 (1989). It also provides the sole basis for
jurisdiction in cases brought to enforce a state court
judgment against a foreign state. See Jerez v. Republic
of Cuba, 775 F.3d 419, 423-25 (D.C. Cir. 2014); see
also Mobil Cerro Negro, Ltd. V. Bolivarian Republic of
Venezuela, 863 F.3d 96, 116 (2d Cir. 2017) (FSIA
provides sole basis for jurisdiction over actions in federal
court to enter judgment against foreign state on awards made
under International Convention on the Settlement of
Investment Disputes Between States and Nationals of Other
States (ICSID Convention).
the FSIA, “a foreign state shall be immune from the
jurisdiction of the courts of the United States and of the
States except as provided in sections 1605 to 1607 of this
chapter.” 28 U.S.C. § 1604. If no exception
applies, then the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
Jerez, 775 F.3d at 423-24.
plaintiff appears to claim subject matter jurisdiction by
pointing to the terrorist act exception, under which a
foreign state shall not be immune from suit in any case
“in which money damages are sought against a foreign
state for personal injury or death that was caused by an act
of torture, extrajudicial killing, aircraft sabotage, hostage
taking, or the provision of material support or resources for
such an act.” 28 U.S.C. § 1605A(a)(1).
Jurisdiction under the terrorist act exception is subject to
two important conditions: first, the foreign state defendant
must have been designated a state sponsor of terrorism at the
time the act occurred, or as a result of that act; and
second, the claimant must have been a national of the United
States when the act upon which the claim is based occurred.
See id. § 1605A(a)(2). Plaintiff appears to
satisfy § 1605A(a)(1) because the state court judgment
he seeks to enforce stems from his suit for money damages
against Iran for “torture.” And at this stage in
the proceedings, the court will assume without deciding that
he also appears to satisfy the two important conditions set
forth in § 1605A(a)(2).
action to enforce a state court judgment against a foreign
state also must comply with the FSIA's venue provisions.
Cf. Mobil Cerro Negro, Ltd., 863 F.3d at 118 (action
to enforce ICSID award against foreign state must comply with
FSIA's venue provisions). Under the FSIA, venue is
established in one of four ways, as set forth in 28 U.S.C.
§ 1391(f). Section 1391(f) provides:
A civil action against a foreign state as defined in section
1603(a) of this title may be brought -
(1) in any judicial district in which a substantial part of
the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or
a substantial part of property that is the subject of the
action is situated;
(2) in any judicial district in which the vessel or cargo of
a foreign state is situated;
(3) in any judicial district in which the agency or
instrumentality is licensed to do business or is doing
business, if the action is brought against an agency or
instrumentality of a foreign state; or
(4) in the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia if the action is brought against a foreign state or