Here’s your chance, Your Majesty

While a mass petition drive may have been effective in persuading the National Geographic Society to change its position with respect to the Persian Gulf’s historic name, it will not move the Supreme Court of the United States toward a successful outcome in the case of Persian archeological pieces loaned to the University of Chicago. This by no means is intended to be a rain on the petition organizers’ parade; but if the objective is the preservation of the pieces, then a more effective strategy has to be formulated.

The instant case is based upon a triple suicide bombing that was allegedly carried out by Hamas in a Jerusalem mall on September 4, 1997. The plaintiffs who are American citizens and were injured there, brought a number of civil actions in 2000 and 2001against Hamas, Islamic Republic of Iran, the Revolutionary Guards, Ministry of Information, the supreme leader, Rafsanjani and Falahian. The legal actions that were later consolidated into one case, were filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

A glance at the records of the said Court shows that the Islamic Republic of Iran and Hamas have jointly been named in a number of cases involving alleged injuries to individual plaintiffs; and from the filing dates of the most recent cases, it appears that creative attorneys continue to file this type of cases. Regardless of the merits of these actions, the Iranians who were properly served through the State Department either failed and/or refused to file any responsive pleadings in these cases.

Therefore, as the rules of practice provide, plaintiffs obtained default judgment against the defendants. Uncontroverted expert testimonies on the record show how millions of dollars of Iranian funds have allegedly been funneled to Hamas to support its activities. Following is the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law by the presiding judge who awarded punitive damages of $300,000,000 to eight plaintiffs that is equal to three times the alleged annual expenditure of Iran on terrorism which based on expert’s testimony was about $100,000,000 a year.

Over the years there have been many default judgments entered against Iran in the courts of the United States. To satisfy their claims, plaintiffs have often tried to enforce their judgments by attaching the Iranian assets in the U.S. that have been frozen since 1979 with no avail. The State Department that is the foreign affairs arm of the Executive Branch has consistently and successfully intervened in these cases and has resisted any temptation by the Judiciary Branch to step in the jurisdiction of the President.

However, it is a matter of time before the constitutional Doctrine of Separation of Powers is invoked by either branch. In the instant case, in an attempt to enforce their default judgment by attaching the Persian Archeological pieces that are on loan to and stored at the University of Chicago, plaintiffs registered their default judgment in the U.S. District Court in Chicago.

The testimony of the custodian of the pieces states on the record that those items, some of which are as small as the tip of human finger, have been on loan from Iran since 1930s and 1960. The U.C. intervened in the legal proceedings and tried to assert Iran’s rights under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act. However, Judge Blanche M. Manning, based on the applicable law, rejected that argument and stated that Iran is the only party that has standing to assert and invoke its rights under the Act.

The Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the United States has yet to be invoked, therefore, it has no say in the case. The Executive Branch is on the side of the U.C. and is challenging the process and is doing all it can with no avail. Assuming that any issue(s) has been preserved for appeal, the next step in the process is an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by the defendants (Named Iranians or Iran itself) where the interested groups (petitioners) with permission of the Court could file an Amicus Brief (petition by people with strong interest in the issues, as friends of court). However, that is a long shot and not promising at all because the Iranians have consistently failed to file any responsive pleadings in the D.C. Court or in the Chicago Court.

The simplest way to untangle this problem is through Congress that could pass a private legislation with retroactive effect. However, considering the post 9/11 climate and the current atmosphere in the mid-term election year, no one in the Congress would touch this issue with a ten-foot pole. Although U.C. is in possession of the items, it does not have title that belongs to Iran and not the named defendants. At this juncture, a motion for an injunction against enforcement of the judgment would buy some time, however the movant must be a legitimate organization representing the interest of Iran itself with sufficient nexus to the land to be able to overcome issues raised by the various decisions. 

His Majesty, Reza Pahlavi who is the legitimate heir to the throne and crown, would perhaps be the best candidate with adequate resources to take a break from issuing weekly messages and move for an injunction against enforcement of the judgment and attachments of the items; additionally, he could ask the Court to hold the case in abeyance pending the proper resolution of transfer of power which as predicated by his office should not be long.

Alternatively, the organizers of the petition could be more effective by focusing their efforts on the Executive Branch including the Department of Justice and State, and the International Community that have much greater stakes in the outcome of this case than the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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