Global law firm White & Case LLP achieved victory at the Supreme Court of the United States for the Republic of the Sudan in a resounding 8 to 1 vote.
The ruling states that foreign countries sued in US courts must be served directly in their home jurisdictions and not through their US-based embassies. The opinion upends a US$315 million default judgment against Sudan for the USS Cole attack by Al Qaeda in 2000.
"We are proud that the rule of law was upheld in this Supreme Court decision," said White & Case partner Christopher Curran, who led the defense case for Sudan with partners Nicole Erb and Claire DeLelle. "Sudan is pleased with the decision. No one disputes that the sailors on the Cole were the victims of a brutal terrorist attack. But Sudan vehemently disputes any culpability in that attack, and is determined to clear its name."
Nicole Erb added, "The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) is clear that, without a specific prior arrangement, foreign ministers of countries targeted with a lawsuit under an exception to immunity—including the terrorism exception—need to be served either directly, or through diplomatic channels via the US Department of State, if other means fail."
Reversing the Second Circuit, Justice Alito wrote: "There are circumstances in which the rule of law demands adherence to strict requirements even when the equities of a particular case may seem to point in the opposite direction. The service rules set out in §1608(a)(3), which apply to a category of cases with sensitive diplomatic implications, clearly fall into this category. Under those rules, all cases must be treated the same."
The White & Case legal team who represented the Republic of the Sudan was led by partners Christopher Curran, Nicole Erb and Claire DeLelle, and included associates Nicolle Kownacki and Celia McLaughlin, with support from many others.
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