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Thread: Law Review: One Contingent Hopes Kagan Hearings Revisit 9/11 Case

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    Law Review: One Contingent Hopes Kagan Hearings Revisit 9/11 Case

    Law Review: One contingent hopes Kagan hearings revisit 9/11 case

    http://www.philly.com/inquirer/busin...9_11_case.html

    By Chris Mondics
    Inquirer Staff Writer

    At a time when the ideal Supreme Court nominee comes coated in Teflon, the better to fend off partisan attacks, Elena Kagan has a pretty good resume.

    She has never served as a judge and her writings reveal little about how she would rule on the most ideologically divisive issues of the day. The absence of any meaningful paper trail, apart from things such as her decision as Harvard Law School dean to ban military recruiters, makes her less of a target.

    Yet there is one legal case in Kagan's background that to a small group of litigants constitutes a profound distortion of justice, a slap in the face that they say stings even now, one year later.

    And they contend that the Senate Judiciary Committee should keep this case in mind, painful though it may be to revisit the matter, as it reviews Kagan's nomination in the coming weeks.

    It was on May 29 of last year that Kagan - as U.S. solicitor general - filed legal papers with the Supreme Court urging it not to hear arguments in a lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia brought by thousands of family members and other victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

    Days later, the Supreme Court rejected the case, following the lead of the solicitor general, as it often does in deciding whether to weigh in on a matter.

    The Supreme Court decision effectively let stand lower-court rulings that the Saudi government and senior members of the Saudi royal family could not be sued by U.S. citizens - even if the plaintiffs had shown that millions of dollars in Saudi government money went to bankroll al-Qaeda in the years leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks.

    "We were terribly disappointed with her ruling," said Beverly Burnett, of Northfield, Minn., whose son, Tom, perished on United Flight 93 when it went down near Shanksville, Pa. "We had hoped she would be with us so that we could have our day in court."

    What Burnett and many others desperately want to know is why, after evidence that some believe points to Saudi government responsibility for the attacks, they so far have been barred by U.S. courts from having their case heard.

    And why the Obama administration argued, through Kagan, that their case should not be heard.

    Burnett and the other plaintiffs alleged in lawsuits brought by several law firms, including the Center City firm of Cozen O'Connor P.C., that for years the Saudi government funded Islamist charities that in turn supplied money and logistical support to al-Qaeda fighters in the Balkans and Southeast Asia.

    The plaintiffs charged that the Saudis continued to finance the charities even after U.S. officials on two occasions warned the money was being used to support terrorist operations.

    Because of longstanding economic, military, and diplomatic ties between the two countries, the litigation was sensitive for both the Obama administration and Saudis.

    The Saudis complained in court papers that the lawsuits had upset relations between the two countries. And, as Kagan last year weighed what position to take in the Supreme Court appeal, plaintiffs lawyers lobbied the administration to decide in their favor.

    It didn't work.

    Kagan's amicus brief, which said such lawsuits would interfere with U.S. foreign policy, and the ensuing Supreme Court decision, prompted Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.) to introduce legislation that would amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The law was cited as a reason for ruling against the plaintiffs. Specter sought to make clear that U.S. citizens can sue foreign governments that finance acts of terrorism, even in politically delicate situations.

    Specter, who was joined by cosponsors Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), was blunt in his criticism of Kagan. He contended that the Obama administration urged the Supreme Court not to hear the case because the litigation had become an irritant to U.S.-Saudi relations.

    Of Kagan, he said, "She wants to coddle the Saudis."

    Specter had earlier voted against her nomination to be solicitor general because, he said, she had ducked questions during her confirmation hearings on the Saudi litigation and other matters.

    He still seemed irritated Monday. In a meeting with reporters, he promised as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to grill her once again on why the lawsuits should not go forward.

    The 9/11 victims and their family members, at the very least the ones who filed the lawsuits, would expect nothing less.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  2. #2
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    Kagan helped shield Saudis from 9/11 lawsuits

    http://rawstory.com/rs/2010/0511/kag...-911-lawsuits/

    By John Byrne
    Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 -- 9:04 am

    Elena Kagan, President Barack Obama's latest nominee to the Supreme Court, helped protect the Saudi royal family from lawsuits that sought to hold al Qaeda financiers responsible in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

    The suits were filed by thousands family members and others affected by the Sept. 11 attacks. In court papers, they provided evidence that members of the Saudi royal family had channeled millions to al Qaeda prior to the bombings, often in contravention of direct guidance from the United States.

    But Kagan, acting as President Obama's Solicitor General, argued that the case should not be heard even if evidence proved that the Saudis helped underwrite al Qaeda, because it would interfere with US foreign policy with the oil-rich nation. She posited “that the princes are immune from petitioners’ claims” because of “the potentially significant foreign relations consequences of subjecting another sovereign state to suit.”

    In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer published Tuesday, the mother of a man who was killed on United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania said he didn't know why Kagan argued that the case not even be heard. By keeping the case off the dockets, the Saudis were spared scrutiny of their finances.

    "We had hoped she would be with us so that we could have our day in court," Beverly Burnett said.

    “I find this reprehensible,” said Kristen Breitweiser, another family member whose husband was killed in the 9/11 attacks, said at the time. “One would have hoped that the Obama administration would have taken a different stance than the Bush administration, and you wonder what message this sends to victims of terrorism around the world.”

    The Obama Administration's decision to intervene in the Saudi-al Qaeda case so irritated two Republican senators that they introduced legislation aiming to ensure that Americans have the ability to sue foreign governments.

    Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) offered a proposal to amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which Kagan cited as one reason the Saudi case should not be heard. Both senators said that US citizens should be able to sue foreign governments if they are found to be supporting terrorist activity.

    Specter, who has since become a Democrat, was unusually blunt.

    "She wants to coddle the Saudis," he said.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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