Ninth Circuit Ruling: Family Members of Slain Palestinians May Not Sue in Federal Court

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, on 17 September 2007, ruled that plaintiffs who had family members killed by Israeli Defense Forces (“IDF”), when their homes were demolished using bulldozers manufactured by Caterpillar, could not sue Caterpillar, Inc. in federal court.

Cynthia Corrie v. Caterpillar, Inc., No. 05-36210, D.C. No. CV-05-05192-FDB (17 September 2007), involved family members of Palestinians who were killed by the IDF following the Six Day War in 1967, when their homes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were demolished.

The bulldozers, purchased from Caterpillar, were financed by the United States The United States Department of State confirmed that “funds requested by the Executive and appropriated by Congress were used by Israel to purchase the equipment in question under the” FMF program. government under the Foreign Military Financing (“FMF”) program.

The court determined that it lacked jurisdiction to hear this case because the “claim unavoidably rests on the singular premise that Caterpillar should not have sold its bulldozers to the IDF. Yet these sales were financed by the executive branch pursuant to a congressionally enacted program calling for executive discretion as to what lies in the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States.”

Further, “allowing this action to proceed would necessarily require the judicial branch of our government to question the political branches’ decision to grant extensive military aid to Israel. It is difficult to see how we could impose liability on Caterpillar without at least implicitly deciding the propriety of the United States’ decision to pay for the bulldozers which allegedly killed the plaintiffs’ family members.”

This is the second opinion this month by the Ninth Circuit recognizing deference due the Executive Branch, in matters of foreign policy and nation defense. The prior ruling allowed the Navy to conduct sonar training in the waters off Southern California, despite possible danger to whales.


One Response

  1. Look for Jonathan Lee Riches to sue Palestine for some reason or another.

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