Dames & Moore v. Regan


In response to the seizure of American personnel as hostages at the American Embassy in Iran, the President issued various Executive Orders and regulations by which the President nullified attachments and liens on Iranian assets in the United States, directed that theses assets be transferred to Iran, and suspended claims against Iran that may be presented to an International Claims Tribunal. On December 19, 1979, Petitioner, Dames Moore, filed suit in the United Sates District Court against Defendants, the government of Iran, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, and many Iranian banks, alleging that its subsidiary was a party to a contract with the Atomic Energy Organization and that the subsidiary’s interest had been assigned to Petitioner. Petitioner alleged it was owed over 3 million dollars. The District Court issued orders of attachment directed against the Defendants’ property and the property of certain Iranian banks. In a January 20, 1981 Executive Agreement, the
President agreed to nullify attachments and ordered the transfer of frozen Iranian assets. On February 24, 1981, the President ratified an earlier Order wherein he “suspended” all “claims which may be presented to the Tribunal” and provided that such claims “shall have no legal effect in any action now pending in U.S. courts.”


Did the president have the authority to transfer Iranian funds and to nullify legal claims against Iran?


The Court held that the International Emergency Economic Powers Act constituted a specific congressional authorization for the President to order the transfer of Iranian assets. The Court further held that although the IEEPA itself did not authorize the presidential suspension of legal claims, previous acts of Congress had “implicitly approved” of executive control of claim settlement. The Court emphasized the narrowness of its ruling, limiting the decision to the facts of the case.”


The majority resorts to drawing inferences from Congress’ legislation to conclude that the President has authority to suspend claims in American Courts.

Thomas G. Shack, Jr. Argued the cause for intervenor-respondent Islamic Republic of Iran, C. Stephen Howard Argued the cause for the petitioner
Eric M. Lieberman Argued the cause for intervenor-respondent Bank Markazi Iran, Rex E. Lee Argued the cause for the the federal respondents
Dames & Moore
Dames & Moore
Burger Court
453 US 654 (1981)
Jun 24, 1981
Jul 2, 1981