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In Washington

A Thought Experiment in Court Over How to Sue a Country

WASHINGTON--In 2012, American sailors injured in a terrorist attack won a $314 million default judgment against the government of Sudan. The award was at risk at the Supreme Court last week over what might otherwise have seemed a minor and technical question: whether the sailors had properly served Sudan by sending their lawsuit to its embassy in the United States.

Why don’t I deliver it to the embassy?

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said he was inclined to say yes.

“That would be my first thought,” he said. “Why don’t I deliver it to the embassy? I mean, the idea of mailing it to the foreign minister in some country and assuming it’s going to get there in any reasonable time--I think you’re much more likely to reach them through the embassy.” As the argument developed, though, several justices voiced doubts about allowing service of process at embassies in light of a federal law on the question and some doubts about how best to let foreign countries know that they are defendants in an American lawsuit ..To read more, subscribe to the blackchronicle newspaper