November 22, 2022

On November 21, Schlam Stone lawyers Richard Dolan, Jeffrey Eilender, Elizabeth Wolstein, and John Moore filed an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court on behalf of a member of the British House of Lords in support of the petitioner in Turkiye Halk Bankasi aka Halkbank v. United States.  The case presents the question whether a foreign sovereign is immune from criminal prosecution in federal court.  The Second Circuit upheld the district court’s jurisdiction over the prosecution of petitioner, a bank owned by Turkey, based on 18 U.S.C. § 3231, which vests the district courts with jurisdiction over “all offenses against the laws of the United States.”  The brief argues that assertion of criminal jurisdiction over foreign sovereigns is contrary to international law, pursuant to which sovereign states stand on equal footing in relation to each other.  The Supreme Court has followed and applied that principle for over 200 years, and the brief contends that the Court should decline to vary that approach absent an express Congressional grant of jurisdiction which has never been given.  As the brief details, nothing in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act—which waives sovereign immunity in certain narrowly defined circumstances in civil cases—or other domestic law supports the assertion of criminal jurisdiction over foreign sovereigns.  The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case on January 17, 2023.  The case docket is here.