Monday, May 23, 2016

Case of the Day: Leibovitch v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66358 (N.D. Ill. May 19, 2016)


Plaintiff is the next-of-kin Israeli Americans who died from terrorist attacks in Israel in 2003, allegedly orchestrated by Iran. In connection with their litigation, plaintiff issued a subpoena to Bank of Tokyo, and the bank moved to quash the subpoena. The bank argued that it searched its records within its Chicago branch, but they need not conduct a global search.

The court found that it lacked jurisdiction over Bank of Tokyo, as there is no general jurisdiction over Bank of Tokyo and the bank did not have sufficient minimum contacts to establish specific jurisdiction.


Asian parties do not always appear in U.S. courts as primary litigants; increasingly, they appear as third parties, as is the case here.

Until two years, this case would turn mostly on sovereign immunity and the question of whether the plaintiff may conduct discovery over asset information of a sovereign. But Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital Ltd., 573 U.S. ___ (2014) extinguished that query by holding that such discovery does not implicate sovereign immunity. 

In the circuit split that led to NML Capital, Seventh Circuit (which includes the Northern District of Illinois) was reluctant to conduct discovery over a sovereign--which likely informed the decision in this case to be somewhat stringent about finding jurisdiction over Bank of Tokyo in this case. The concern in NML Capital was that U.S. courts may end up serving as a "clearing house" for global discovery; Seventh Circuit would surely resist becoming one.

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