Schumer Announces Critical Step Forward on ‘Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act’

Chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee Leahy Has Agreed to Consider JASTA Legislation Next Week, On September 11th

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Washington, DC - September 2, 2014 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer stood with families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and announced a breakthrough agreement and step forward on the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” (JASTA) legislation, which works to deter international terrorism and guarantee access to financial justice for those who have suffered at terrorists’ hands. Schumer, a sponsor of the bill, announced that the bill will be considered on Thursday, September 11th; Schumer and the families will call for passage of JASTA in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and then the full Senate. This legislation is long-sought after by families of 9/11 in order to bring a small amount of justice for the loss of their loved ones, by allowing them to sue foreign states and financial partners of terrorism.  Schumer will note that this effort has faced serious hurdles.
Since the 9/11 attacks, some court decisions have improperly blocked terrorism-related claims that Congress intended to permit. Based on the rulings, without Schumer’s legislation, Americans may have no recourse against the foreign states and groups that sponsor terrorist attacks. Schumer said that JASTA, if passed into law, will finally help the victims of 9/11 achieve justice by allowing them to sue countries, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, that fund terrorist groups, like Al Qaeda. JASTA would also allow a family member to sue those that fund ISIS, Hamas and other groups, should they kill an American in an act of terrorism. Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Leahy has agreed, at Schumer’s urging, to consider JASTA legislation next week, and given this critical momentum, Schumer urged his Judiciary and then Senate colleagues to swiftly pass this bipartisan legislation.
“This key breakthrough on the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act means that 9/11 victims and their families are one step closer to justice. For far too long, 9/11 victims have been prevented from obtaining recourse against those who helped sponsor the unthinkable attacks that took their loved ones. With the critical news that JASTA will be considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, on the 13th anniversary of the attacks, I promise to fight and tooth and nail to get this bill passed, because any foreign state or group that helps fund deadly terror attacks against an American must be held accountable and must pay,” said Schumer.
Schumer was joined by a number of family members of victims of 9/11, including: Terry Strada, Kaitlyn Strada, Justin Strada, Ernest Strada, Kathleen Owens, William Dietrich and Caren Mercer.
Several court decisions since September 11th have improperly blocked terrorism-related claims that Congress intended to permit. For example, the second Circuit In re Terrorist Attacks of September 11th, 2001, has held that sovereign immunity protected Saudi government “charities” from 9/11 victims’ claims regarding support for those attacks and that aiding and abetting theories are unavailable under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991 (ATA). That court further ruled that terror victims pursing ATA claims must satisfy a strict proximate causation test. As current law stands, the families of Americans who were injured or killed in terrorist attacks, like those who were tragically struck on September 11th, 2001, may have no recourse against the foreign states and groups that sponsor such attacks.
JASTA allows terrorism victims, like victims of the September 11thattacks, the right to pursue foreign states and sponsors of terrorism in federal court. The bill allows Americans to direct financial damage claims against those who funded the attacks. The legislation would also afford this right to families of other American victims of terrorism, that have occurred since September 11, 2001. The bill also fixes a decision in the aforementioned court case that, paradoxically, interpreted the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to limit recovery when those attacks occur on American soil.
The following is a summary of the bill:
  • First, JASTA amends the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSA) so that foreign sponsors of terrorism cannot invoke “sovereign immunity” in cases arising from a terrorist attack that kills an American on American soil.  
  • Second, JASTA amends the ATA so that civil suits against foreign sponsors of terrorism can be held accountable in U.S. courts where their conducts contributes to an attack that kills an American.