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Turkey v. Usoyan

This case arose from violent attacks by members of Turkish security forces, first, on a small group of people and, later, on one woman, as they were protesting on public sidewalks in Washington, DC, during a visit by Turkey’s President. As a result of the attacks, the victims suffered injuries including concussions, seizures, and lost teeth. When they brought tort suits seeking damages for their injuries, Turkey moved to dismiss, arguing that it was immune from liability under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). Although the FSIA generally provides immunity to foreign sovereigns from suit in United States, it withholds immunity from lawsuits seeking damages for bodily injury or death occurring in the United States and caused by tortious action of an official or employee acting within the scope of employment, unless the challenged action falls within the FSIA’s “discretionary function excep­tion.” The district court, considering a large body of evidence, including videos of the events, held that Turkey’s actions were not covered by the discretionary function exception. On appeal, the D.C. Circuit agreed, explaining that the discretionary function exception did not apply because the nature of the challenged conduct was not even “plausibly” related to protecting President Erdogan, which is the only authority Turkey had to use force against United States citizens and residents. Turkey then filed a petition for certiorari.

Public Citizen, serving as co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court, prepared the brief in opposition to the petition. The brief explained that the court of appeals properly applied established precedent when it rejected Turkey’s argument that, under the FSIA, even violence against peaceful protesters is covered by the discretionary function excep­tion. In October 2022, the Court denied the petition.