Dames & Moore v. Regan

453 U.S. 654, 101 S. Ct. 2972 (1981)



Congressional purpose in authorizing blocking orders is to put control of foreign assets in the hands of the President.


Petitioner company filed an action against defendants, the Government of Iran and Iranian banks, seeking money owed for services performed. The district court issued orders of attachment directed against the property of defendants. Petitioner was granted summary judgment. However, pursuant to an unrelated hostage agreement, American hostages in Iran were released. The U.S. President issued executive orders to implement the agreement. The orders nullified all non-Iranian interests in Iranian assets and suspended all settlement claims. Petitioner filed an action for declaratory relief against the government, alleging that the actions of the President was beyond his statutory power. The district court dismissed the complaint. Petitioner then sought a writ of certiorari.


Whether the President has the authority to nullify all attachments obtained on Iranian assets.




The order of the President nullifying all attachments obtained on Iranian assets after the blocking order of November 14, 1979, was authorized by 1702(a)(1)(B) of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 USCS 1702(a)(1)(B)), which empowers the President to "compel," "nullify," or "prohibit" any "transfer" with respect to, or transactions involving, any property subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in which any foreign country has any interest, the President's action being supported by the strongest presumption and the widest latitude of judicial interpretation, since it was taken pursuant to specific congressional authorization, and the corporation had not sustained the heavy burden of persuasion placed upon those attacking the President's action, since the attachment obtained after the blocking order was subject to revocation and specifically made subordinate to further actions which the President might take under the Act, and (2) the order of the President suspending all claims against the government of Iran which may be presented to the Claims Tribunal and providing that such claims shall have no legal effect in any action pending in any court of the United States was within the authority of the President, since Congress had enacted legislation, such as the Economic Powers Act and the Hostage Act (22 USCS 1732), in the area of the President's authority to deal with international crises, and since Congress had implicitly approved the longstanding practice of claims settlements by executive agreement, the President, by suspending the claims, not having circumscribed the jurisdiction of the United States courts in violation of Article III of the Constitution.

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