Federal Judge Sarah Netburn today met with dozens of lawyers who are filing a number of lawsuits against the government Saudi Arabia seeking damages related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The focus of the meetings was to try to consolidate some of the lawsuits together to avoid having so many different suits going on at once.
In September, Congress unanimously voted for the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which allowed American victims of 9/11 to sue the Saudi government in US courts. The bill was vetoed by President Obama, but the veto was overridden and it became law, allowing the suits to be filed.
JASTA was highly controversial, with Saudi Arabia threatening to collapse the US debt market in retaliation for the move, and the Obama Administration argued that the precedent of letting individuals sue the Saudi government over terrorism was a dangerous precedent, given the number of things people might want to sue the US government for.
The push to open up lawsuits against the Saudi government was related to the notorious “28 pages” of the 9/11 Report, which detailed Saudi Arabian government ties to al-Qaeda in the lead-up to the attacks. Saudi officials deny any involvement with al-Qaeda, and are calling for the lawsuits to be summarily dismissed.
With the evidence the 28 pages offered, it’s unlikely the lawsuits will be dismissed, though it remains to be seen if the Trump Administration will be as hostile to the lawsuits as the Obama Administration was, and the Justice Department could make things very difficult for the lawyers involved.