In 2019, the U.S. government took a step that it had never taken before. It brought criminal charges against a foreign state-owned bank, Turkiye Halk Bankasi, or Halkbank, which is majority-owned by the country of Turkiye (until recently known as Turkey), for evading U.S. sanctions on Iran. Turkiye in turn argued that such a move was not only unprecedented but prohibited by the legal immunities it is entitled to under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, or FSIA. Yesterday, those arguments reached the U.S. Supreme Court where both sides seemed to agree on just one thing—that the court’s eventual decision could well have major consequences for the United States and its foreign relations.
To talk through oral arguments in Halkbank, Lawfare senior editor Scott R. Anderson sat down with two leading sovereign immunity experts: Professor Chimène Keitner of the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, and Professor Ingrid Wuerth of Vanderbilt Law School. They discussed how each side reads the FSIA and other related statutes, whether any of the justices seemed particularly persuaded, and where the court—as well as the broader issue—seems likely to go from here.