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Saltany v. Bush

Citation. 960 F.2d 1060 (D.C. Cir. 1992)
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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 Bush 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.


Justice Circuit Judge Wald dissenting

This case is different from those where FRCP 11 is violated and the court is mandated to impose sanctions on the offending party. After the first appeal, Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp. was decided, changing the standard of review from de novo to “clearly erroneous”. The appellate court did not give the proper deference to the trial court’s determination that FRCP 11 sanctions were not appropriate, it in fact mandated that the lower court impose sanctions. The trial judge did not make an explicit finding of fact required to support a violation of FRCP 11. The court’s decision here takes away a trial judge’s discretion and will chill future meritorious litigation from being brought.


1. The district court does not have discretion on whether to impose a sanction if it finds that FRCP 11 was violated.
2. Holding below is affirmed.

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