“A service packet must be addressed and dispatched to the foreign minister at the minister’s office in the foreign state,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the majority. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.
The Trump administration, along with the governments of Saudi Arabia and Libya, filed an amicus brief agreeing with Sudan, one of four nations the State Department lists as sponsoring terrorism. It said that “litigation against foreign states in U.S. courts can have significant foreign affairs implications for the United States, and can affect the reciprocal treatment of the United States in the courts of other nations.”
Alito said the justices understand the victims’ “exasperation” and “recognize that enforcing compliance with [the law] may seem like an empty formality in this particular case,” especially since it seems unlikely that Sudan was unaware of the suit.
But “the rule of law demands adherence to strict requirements even when the equities of a particular case may seem to point in the opposite direction,” Alito wrote.
The lawsuits arose from the deadly attack on Oct. 12, 2000, when al-Qaeda suicide bombers in a fiberglass boat detonated explosives near the destroyer Cole, which was refueling at a harbor in Yemen.
The blast killed 17 American sailors and wounded 42 others. Years later, the suits were filed against Sudan under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, alleging that Sudan had supplied material support to al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, who had lived in the country.
Alito said the decision was not the “end of the road” for the victims and their families. But they will need to file notice of their suit at the foreign minister’s office, he said.
Kannon Shanmugam, who represented the victims at the Supreme Court, said, “The fight for justice for the Cole victims and their families continues.”
The case is Republic of Sudan v. Harrison.
Alaskan moose hunter wins
The court ruled unanimously for moose hunter John Sturgeon, who in 2007 was stopped by National Park Service rangers and told he could not use his hovercraft on Alaska’s Nation River to reach his favorite hunting ground.
His case has been to the Supreme Court twice. “But now, we finally resolve it for good by saying that Sturgeon can take his hovercraft out of storage,” Justice Elena Kagan said in announcing the decision.
The court was examining the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which set aside more than 100 million acres of federally owned land for preservation. But lands and waters not owned by the government were also swept up when parks were created.
Kagan said Congress did not want the nonfederal land and waters regulated like regular parkland. That means the Park Service has less authority in Alaskan national parks than it does elsewhere, but that is because ANILCA made Alaska the exception instead of the rule, she said.
“John Sturgeon can once again drive his hovercraft up that river to Moose Meadows,” Kagan wrote.
The case is Sturgeon v. Frost.