DECISION ALERT: Sokolow v PLO

On April 27, 2020, the United States Supreme Court quietly granted certiorari to the plaintiffs in this landmark case, after first denying certiorari on April 2, 2018.

The plaintiffs, who themselves or their next of kin died or were injured by the terrorist acts of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinian Authority, and their affiliates or supporting organizations, were first awarded a $655.5 million judgment by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (the “SDNY”), after a seven-week jury trial,[1] pursuant to a law (known colloquially as the “Anti-Terrorism Act,” or “ATA”) allowing American citizens to sue terrorists and terrorist entities in United States federal courts, even if the terrorist acts injuring them occurred outside the United States.[2] Subsequently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (the “Second Circuit”)[3] overturned the judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in holding that the SDNY lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendants sufficient to enter and enforce a monetary judgment against them, and in favor of the plaintiffs, pursuant to the ATA.

However, in December 2019, Congress passed the Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act of 2019,[4] clarifying the jurisdiction of United States federal courts to enter and enforce judgments under the ATA for extra-territorial terrorist acts against American citizens and their interests. This led the Supreme Court to finally remand the case to the Second Circuit to reconsider the plaintiffs’ claims in light of Congress’s clarification of its intent in enacting the ATA.

[1] Petition for a Writ of Certiorari at 2, Sokolow v Palestine Liberation Organization, 835 F.3d 317 (2d Cir. 2016), (No. 19-764). [2] Anti-Terrorism Act of 1992, Pub. L. 102-572, tit. X, § 1003, 106 Stat. 4521-4524. [3] Waldman v. Palestine Liberation Organization, 835 F.3d 317 (2d Cir. 2016). [4] Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-253, 132 Stat. 3183-3185.

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