Court of Appeals Orders Jurisdictional Discovery of Defendants Accused of Supporting Terrorism

The World in U.S. Courts: Summer 2013 - Personal Jurisdiction

In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001 (U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, April 16, 2013)

These consolidated appeals involve claims under the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Alien Tort Statute, the Torture Victims Protection Act, and various common law torts against numerous foreign corporate entities and individuals. The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York considered the trial court’s dismissal of thirty-seven defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction over them. The plaintiffs alleged the defendants supported terrorism through various means, and thus directed their activities at the United States, establishing both “general” and “specific” personal jurisdiction.

The court rejected “specific” personal jurisdiction as to all defendants except twelve defendants whose conduct, the court found, was alleged to have been especially directed at the United States. For these defendants, the court found the plaintiffs’ allegations involved “more direct” support of the terrorist attacks; they were largely charity officials who allegedly funneled money and resources directly to Al Qaeda with knowledge that Al Qaeda was “engaged in a global campaign of terror” against the United States. Although the court strongly suggested “specific” personal jurisdiction had been established, it ordered jurisdictional discovery to confirm the extent to which the conduct was directed at the United States.

As to the other defendants, the court held that contacts such as (1) maintaining bank accounts in the U.S., (2) providing financial services to Al Qaeda, and (3) giving indirect financial support to individuals associated with Al Qaeda were insufficient to establish “specific” personal jurisdiction. Nor was there “general” personal jurisdiction, although the plaintiffs argued that various of the defendants’ various business activities, including operating a U.S. office and/or subsidiary, were sufficient to establish general personal jurisdiction.

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