Case: Iraq v. Beaty & Iraq v. Simon (consolidated)

Date: Monday, April 20, 2009

Issue: Whether Iraq possesses sovereign immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts in cases involving the alleged misdeeds of the Saddam Hussein regime.

Background: During the First Gulf War, CBS News reporter Bob Simon and cameraman Roberto Alvarez were kidnapped on the Saudi Arabia-Kuwait border. They say they were beaten, tortured and used as human shields in buildings targeted by the Coalition’s military jets. They were released six weeks after their capture. In 2003, the journalists along with another man sued Iraq seeking $243 million in damages. Over Iraqi objections, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the lawsuit could go forward. Iraq has appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.

Iraq says it is "now an important, democratic ally" of the United States and has sovereign immunity from this type of litigation—especially when the alleged bad acts were done under the deposed government of Saddam Hussein. It further argues President Bush used his executive powers to protect Iraq and that these legal claims "should be addressed diplomatically" not in an American courtroom.

The Beaty plaintiffs are the children of Kenneth Beaty and William Barloon. Their parents were awarded $10 million alleging improper detention and treatment by the Hussein regime in 1993. The children are seeking additional millions for the "emotional distress" they allegedly suffered because of their fathers' treatment.

The Obama Administration supports Iraq's efforts in these cases. In its brief to the justices, the Solicitor General's office argues "the threat of enormous judgments against Iraq based on the Hussein regime's terrorist acts do pose a threat to adequate funding for the new Iraqi government." There have been a number of see-sawing laws and presidential directives over the past 15 years that either allowed or limited lawsuits against Iraq. The brief describes "rapid and dramatic changes in the United States' foreign policy toward Iraq" in recent years that the government says requires a ruling that protects the new Iraqi government from prosecution.

Case: Horne v. Flores & Speaker of the Arizona House v. Flores (consolidated)

Date: Monday, April 20, 2009

Issue: Do Arizona schools have to comply with a federal judge's order about increasing funding for bilingual education even though it complies with the No Child Left Behind law?

Background: How much money does a school district have to spend for bilingual education programs and can a single federal court judge rule it is not enough? That is the essence of this case from Arizona.

In 2000, Judge Alfredo Marquez agreed with a group of parents from Nogales, Arizona in ruling that the state's bilingual education programs were deficient. He imposed a $2 million/day fine until the state upgraded its educational system. Even though the fine was never actually imposed, Arizona did institute a number of changes and now contends that under better management and increased oversight the state is doing a much better job at providing non-native English speakers a better education. It even notes that its programs are compliant with the Bush Administration's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation.

But Judge Marquez says that's not enough. He and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that because Arizona does not have a dedicated spending apparatus in place for its English Language Learner program, it is in violation of a 1974 federal education law. And compliance with NCLB doesn't equate to compliance with other laws. The state's superintendent of schools says the "appropriate action" was taken to upgrade the state's education system. His lawyers argue the judge's refusal to rescind his original 2000 order was improper.