US Supreme Court victory for foreign sovereign

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Decisive (8 to 1) victory vacated a multimillion-dollar default judgment in a case concerning service of process on foreign sovereigns under the FSIA and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Default judgment against a foreign sovereign

A US district court entered a US$314 million default judgment against the Republic of the Sudan, after Sudan did not appear in US terrorism-related litigation. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the default judgment and the district court's orders directing various banks to turn over Sudanese assets to the plaintiffs. We appeared and petitioned the Second Circuit to reverse the decision due to improper service of process on Sudan under US and international law. The United States filed a statement of interest in support of Sudan’s position.

Challenging the judgment for lack of jurisdiction

The US Supreme Court granted Sudan's petition for a writ of certiorari, and we argued to the Court that service on a foreign state's embassy in the US did not satisfy the strict requirements of §1608(a)(3) of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and contravened the Vienna Convention. The US agreed, citing US reciprocity concerns. 

Remand decision reverses the judgment

In an 8 to 1 decision, the Supreme Court agreed that the "service rules set out in §1608(a)(3), which apply to a category of cases with sensitive diplomatic implications," require plaintiffs to mail the service packet to the head of the foreign ministry in the foreign state. The Supreme Court’s decision vacated the multimillion-dollar default judgment against Sudan.

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