White & Case achieves victory in DC Circuit on behalf of Sudan

Press Release
2 min read

Global law firm White & Case LLP has achieved victory in the DC Circuit on behalf of the Republic of the Sudan after the DC Circuit upheld a ruling from the federal district court that it did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over a suit brought against Sudan under the terrorism exception to foreign sovereign immunity. 

The suit was filed against Sudan shortly before the United States and Sudan concluded a comprehensive settlement, which White & Case helped to negotiate, that settled and extinguished most terrorism-based claims against Sudan. The comprehensive settlement included the Sudan Claims Resolution Act, which removes the terrorism exception to immunity as a basis for jurisdiction in actions brought against Sudan, aside from certain pending actions brought against Sudan by victims of the September 11th attacks. While the plaintiffs argued that the Act violated their constitutional rights to equal protection and access to the courts, the White & Case team successfully argued that there was no constitutional violation.  

In the DC Circuit's unanimous decision, written by Judge Neomi Rao, the court agreed with the district court and held that the Act does not violate the plaintiffs' constitutional rights and that Congress has plenary authority to set the jurisdictional reach of the federal courts. Specifically, the court held that the "Act's jurisdiction-stripping provision easily satisfies" the rational-basis standard of review, because the Act "free[s] Sudan from potential liability that could otherwise impair its relationship with the United States" and "rationally distinguishes" between the Mark plaintiffs' claims and claims arising from the September 11 attacks. The DC Circuit further held that the Act did not violate the plaintiffs' right of access to the courts. The court concluded, "finding no constitutional infirmity in the Act's jurisdiction-stripping provision, we affirm." 

"This win is particularly noteworthy because it involves an important separation-of-powers issue and represents the continuation of our successful representation of Sudan in its efforts to clear its name from allegations of support for terrorism," says White & Case partner Christopher Curran, who argued before the DC Circuit panel. 

The White & Case team was led by partner Christopher Curran, and included partners Nicole Erb and Claire DeLelle, counsel Celia McLaughlin and associate Michael Mahaffey (all in Washington, DC).

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