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Bank Melli Iran v. Pahlavi

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
58 F.3d 1406 (1995)


Facts

Shams Pahlavi (defendant) was the sister of the shah of Iran. While the shah was in power, Pahlavi executed several promissory notes, including notes held by Bank Melli Iran and Bank Mellat (collectively, the banks) (plaintiffs). After the Iranian Revolution, in which the shah fled Iran and the Islamic Republic of Iran was established, the banks filed suits against Pahlavi in Iranian court seeking to recover on the notes. At the time that the suits were filed, Pahlavi was a resident of California. The banks served Pahlavi by publication and obtained default judgments against her. The banks then filed suit in federal court seeking to enforce the Iranian judgments under California law. Pahlavi moved for summary judgment. In support of the motion, Pahlavi submitted reports demonstrating that trials in Iran are generally politicized and nonpublic, that the Iranian government did not recognize the independence of the judiciary, that people with ties to the shah’s regime could not safely return to Iran, that attorneys and witnesses were threatened and discouraged from representing or supporting people associated with the shah’s government, and that American claimants could not expect fair treatment or justice in Iranian courts. In opposition, the banks offered affidavits from their attorneys, offered on information and belief rather than personal knowledge, that addressed the manner of service and rendering of the judgments but did not address the fundamental issue of whether Pahlavi received or could possibly receive a fair trial in Iran. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Pahlavi, finding that the judgments were not obtained in accordance with due process. The banks appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Fernandez, J.)

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