Republic of Sudan v. Harrison

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: March 26, 2019
  • Case #: 16-1094
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, GORSUCH, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
  • Full Text Opinion

The Foreign State Immunity Act, 28 U.S.C. §§1604,1608(a)(3), requires that service through mailing upon on a foreign state must be sent directly to the foreign minister’s office in the minister’s home country.

Respondents filed suit under an exception to the Foreign State Immunity Act (FSIA), alleging that the Republic of Sudan had provided material support to the terrorist group al Qaeda in the October 2000 attack upon the USS Cole, which resulted in the deaths of 17 crewmembers. Service was made via mail to the Sudanese Embassy in the United States. Respondents motion for default judgment was granted by the district court and they sought enforcement of the judgment in the sum of $314 million. Sudan filed notice of appeal, arguing lack of personal jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, reasoning that §1608(a)(3) does not require a specific location for service by mail. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that the natural reading of the statute required service by mailing directly to the foreign minister's office in the foreign state. The Court reasoned that because the American embassy is not the typical location of the foreign minister, the interpretation of the lower court is inconsistent with the most reasonable understanding of the statute provisions. The Court also noted that this reading was consistent with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4, in cases of service upon parties located in foreign states. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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