Supreme Court lets Arab Bank sanctions stand in Hamas lawsuit

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court’s sanctions on the Arab Bank in a lawsuit brought by victims of Hamas terrorist acts.

The denial issued Monday means the case, ten years in the works, may finally go ahead in a federal court in New York next month.

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The Arab Bank sought relief from a federal judge’s 2010 ruling penalizing the bank for not turning over documents related to the case.

The judge in that case ruled that a judge could instruct jurors to infer from the refusal that the bank knew it was providing services to terrorists.

“I am satisfied that plaintiffs have shown the high likelihood that the withheld documents would show repeated transfers by the bank to terrorists, terrorist organizations or their fronts, or on their behalf,” Judge Nina Gershon wrote at the time.

Jordan, where the Arab Bank is based, sought the Obama administration’s assistance in recommending to the Supreme Court that it reverse Gershon’s ruling and earlier this year the New York Times reported that a debate was underway between the State Department, which backed Jordan’s appeal, and the Justice and Treasury Departments, which saw the judge’s order as a useful tool to push back against banking secrecy worldwide.

The bank claims that secrecy rules in the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Lebanon are keeping it from complying with the plaintiff’s discovery demands.

In the end, Bloomberg News reported this week, Donald Verrilli, the solicitor general, advised the Supreme Court not to review Gershon’s sanctions.

The lawsuit, covering 24 terrorist acts that killed 39 Americans and wounded another 102 between 1995 and 2004, was brought in 2004 and is known as Linde v. Arab Bank, named for Courtney Linde, whose husband John was killed by a roadside bomb in the Gaza Strip in 2004 while providing security for U.S. diplomats.

“Hopefully, we’ve cleared the last roadblock to a trial on the merits,” Gary Osen, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “Our clients have waited 10 years for this moment.”

In a statement to Bloomberg, the Arab Bank said it was still confident of winning. “The unwillingness of the Supreme Court to review this interim appeal is not a determination on the merits of the case pending against Arab Bank,” it said.