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Saltany v. Reagan

Citation. 886 F.2d 438 (D.C. Cir. 1989)
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Brief Fact Summary.

55 Libyan citizens attempt to sue the President of the United States and others, including the U.K., for U.S. air strikes in Libya, even when plaintiffs’ counsel knew the case was impossible to win.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

When the district court has found that a party violated FRCP 11, it must impose a sanction.


55 Libyan citizens represented by Plaintiff Saltany filed a suit against Defendants U.S. President Reagan and others, including the U.K., demanding damages for injuries and losses suffered as a result of the 1986 U.S. air strikes on Libra. The district court dismissed the claims which was affirmed by the appeals court. Defendants also moved for FRCP 11 sanctions against Plaintiffs’ counsel. The district court found that Plaintiffs’ counsel must have known that there was no possibility of success, but it still did not impose sanctions because of the public policy of keeping courts accessible to plaintiffs who wish to sue the government in protest. The U.K. appealed the FRCP 11 ruling and requested attorneys’ fees for the cost of defending the case.


When a district court finds a party has violated FRCP 11 must it impose a sanction on the offending party?


Yes, if a party violated FRCP 11 it must be sanctioned. Holding below is affirmed.


  1. The court knew plaintiffs’ counsel violated FRCP 11 by filing a case that was impossible to win.
  2. The court erred in finding the violation but failing to impose a sanction.
  3. While defendants did not suffer serious harm as a result of the case, this is not the measure used to determine whether FRCP 11 was violated nor should it factor into whether a court stays open to plaintiffs filing suit as a form of protest.
  4. Federal courts are not the proper place for public dissent.
  5. Plaintiffs should have also known that their claim against the U.K. would not succeed and was barred under the ruling in Argentine Republic v. Amerada Hess Corp.
  6. Therefore the U.K.’s motion under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 38
  7. If a court of appeals determines that an appeal is frivolous it may award just damages and single or double costs to the appellee.
  8.  for attorney’s fees is granted. Holding below is reversed and remanded.

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