On April 20, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Bank Markazi v. Peterson. The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 makes a designated set of assets available to satisfy the judgments gained in separate actions by victims of terrorist acts sponsored by Iran. Section 8772(a)(2) of the statute requires a court, before allowing execution against these assets, to determine, inter alia, “whether Iran holds equitable title to, or the beneficial interest in, the assets.” Respondents—more than 1,000 victims of Iran-sponsored acts of terrorism, their estate representatives, and surviving family members—hold judgments against Iran and moved for turnover of about $1.75 billion in bond assets held in a New York bank account allegedly owned by Bank Markazi, the Central Bank of Iran. When respondents invoked §8772, Bank Markazi argued that the statute was unconstitutional, contending that Congress had usurped the judicial role by directing a particular result in a pending enforcement proceeding and thereby violating the separation of powers. The District Court disagreed and upheld the statute. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, and Bank Markazi took its objection to the U.S. Supreme Court.
By a vote of 6-2, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Second Circuit. Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court, which held that Section 8772 does not violate the separation of powers. Justice Ginsburg was joined by Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Alito, and Kagan. Justice Thomas joined the majority opinion in all but Part II-C. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Sotomayor joined.
To discuss the case, we have Erik Zimmerman, who is an attorney at Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, PA.