Clearing the Road to Havana: Settling Legally Questionable Terrorism Judgments to Ensure Normalization of Relations Between the United States and Cuba
The Obama Administration has acted decisively to cure a long-standing wound the United States has inherited from the Cold War by seeking to normalize relations with Cuba. However, prospects for full normalization are currently impeded by over four billion dollars in judgments levied against Cuba by politically motivated state courts in Florida under the state sponsor of terrorism (SST) exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. These judgments create a serious obstacle and impede Cuba and its companies from transferring any assets into the United States. Because these judgments purport to punish Cuba for acts occurring during and immediately after the Cuban Revolution and Cuba was only placed on the SST list in 1982 for supporting insurgent movements elsewhere in Latin America, the courts manifestly exceeded their subject matter jurisdiction in issuing them. Nevertheless, several federal courts have afforded them full faith and credit and begun to enforce them against Cuba’s existing assets in the United States.
This Note therefore argues that the President can and should exercise his power to espouse and settle international claims to resolve these judgments pursuant to a sole executive agreement, whether or not he is able to secure congressional acquiescence for his actions. In doing so, the President can lean on a long record of historical practice affirmed repeatedly by the Supreme Court and buttressed by recent settlements of terrorism claims with Iraq and Libya. Finally, the U.S. government should be able to avoid a takings claim by SST judgment holders after the judgments’ resolution by funneling their claims into the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission and providing for some fractional compensation.