- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear an appeal from family members of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks seeking damages from members of the Saudi royal family, whom the lawsuit accused of financing al Qaeda.

Family members and commercial insurers joined in the lawsuit targeting four Saudi princes who they say are responsible for financing the terrorist network through a series of Muslim charities. Several lower courts had ruled that the princes, as part of a foreign government, cannot be sued in U.S. courts.

The Obama administration angered family members last month when Solicitor General Elena Kagan filed a brief urging the court not to hear the case.

The Supreme Court’s decision upholds a lower court ruling that the princes enjoy sovereign immunity from prosecution.

“It’s safe to say the families are deeply frustrated and disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case,” said Jodi Flowers, a lawyer with Motley Rice, one of the firms representing the families.

The court did not comment on why it is not taking the case.

“The lower courts correctly concluded that Saudi Arabia and its officials are immune from suit for governmental acts outside the United States,” Ms. Kagan wrote in her brief, considered the official position of the U.S. government.

Lawyers for the families argued that the four princes’ involvement in financing charitable organizations that funneled money to al Qaeda made them responsible, in part, for the Sept. 11 attacks.

“It seemed to me to be a message to the court that said: ‘We don’t want to open this can of worms,’ ” said Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America.

The Sept. 11 families have been critical of the Obama White House, which has publicly spent more time focusing on health care reform and climate legislation than on the thorny issues of how to handle terror suspects being held at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and how to track terrorist financing networks.

Two weeks ago, family members met with top officials from the Justice and State departments over the course of three days to discuss the administration’s plans for the Guantanamo detainees and their work tracking terrorist finances.

In other cases Monday, the justices:

• Ruled that states can investigate nationally chartered banks for discrimination and other crimes in the states where they operate;

• Scheduled more arguments in a campaign-finance case on whether “Hillary: The Movie,” a critical documentary about the former first lady made during the 2008 presidential race, was a campaign ad for the purposes of federal regulation;

• Said the court would hear arguments from the National Football League seeking an exemption from federal antitrust laws;

• Agreed to hear an appeal of a corruption conviction by Bruce Weyhrauch, an Alaska state lawmaker;

• Agreed to decide a child custody dispute between a U.S. mother and a British father that touches on an international treaty;

• Refused a bid by Hollywood studios and television networks to block the use of a remote-storage digital video recorder system that would enable viewers to record shows and watch them at leisure without commercials;

• Let stand a ruling that an autistic child from Ohio is not entitled to private education at taxpayer expense;

• Allowed school officials in Washington state to block an on-campus Bible club from forming at Kentridge High School;

• Declined to interfere with a New Hampshire law that keeps doctors’ prescription-writing habits confidential;

• Refused to hear Missouri’s arguments defending a state law to restrict protests near funerals.

• Tom LoBianco can be reached at tlobianco@washingtontimes.com.

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