Judicial Independence Issue Raised in Supreme Court Arguments

When the Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday in a case involving foreign terrorism and Americans’ damage claims, Chief Justice John Roberts cautioned that questions of judicial independence from congressional meddling were at stake.

The case involves efforts by victims and their families who sued Iran to recover large sums from terrorist actions backed by Iran. During the arguments, according to The Washington Post, Congress effectively “was on trial, for allegedly overstepping its powers by passing a law that essentially guaranteed a legal victory for the victims.”

“There are places in the world where courts function just the way our courts do, except every now and then, when there’s a case that the strongman who runs the country is interested in . . . he picks up the phone and he tells the court: You decide this case this way,” Roberts told an attorney for the victims. “I’m not sure I see what the difference is here.”

But questions by some other justices signaled a different view, that Congress acted within its power, and the victims could still win with their argument, the newspaper said.