Category Archives: Latest News

Law Student Scholarship program 2015

Iranian American Bar Association (IABA) and IABA Foundation would like to thank the following sponsors who generously supported our Law Student Scholarship program for 2015:

  • 3L+ Law Prep ($2,185 value includes career conference, new attorney conference, 3 month career counseling)
  • IABA OC Chapter ($4,000)
  • IABA NY Chapter ($1,100)
  • IABA Nor Cal Chapter ($900)

In years past, our various IABA Chapters across the US have contributed to this important show of support for our Iranian-American law students.

Our 2015 Student Scholarship award recipients are:

  • Sam Sadeghi, UCLA School of Law
  • Anita Bamshad, UC Davis School of Law (King Hall)

 

For a complete listing of past IABA student scholarship award recipients, please visit here.

IABA Seeks Apology From Senator Graham

Dear Members and Friends,

The Iranian-American Bar Association (“IABA”) is an independent, voluntary, non-governmental, and non-political organization.

Senator Lindsey Graham recently made highly offensive remarks about Iranians when he addressed the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last week. During his speech, he made comments such as: “everything I learned about Iranians I learned working in the pool room,” “I met a lot of liars and I know Iranians are lying,” and “the Iranians cheat and they lie, they are a radical regime, they want a master religion for the world, and the Nazis wanted a master race.”

The IABA strongly condemns such comments from any U.S. Senator. Such stereotyping is unacceptable, especially from a presidential hopeful who seeks to represent all residents in the United States, including the Iranian-American community. Moreover, Senator Graham’s apparently reckless comparison of the Iranian Government to the Nazi Regime is highly inappropriate. Senator Graham’s speech reached a large audience in the United States, and we are deeply concerned and disappointed with his statements.

Finally, as we have mentioned before, the IABA supports any process in which conflicts with Iran are resolved through dialogue, diplomacy, and a peaceful process. We find it disturbing that the Senator is portraying Iranians in such a negative light, discouraging diplomacy, and hindering a peaceful mechanism of resolving the current disputes between Iran and the West.

To the extent Senator Graham’s comments, as reported, were taken out of context or not correctly reported, the IABA invites him to publicly clarify them. Otherwise, the Senator should apologize to the Iranian-American community for his offensive and provocative remarks.

Click here to view video of Senator Graham’s speech.

Resource Page on Immigration Judge’s Suit Against Department of Justice Unlawful Recusal Policy

In light of significant public interest in Immigration Judge Ashley Tabaddor’s suit against the Department of Justice, the firm has established a resource page to provide a source of easily accessible information about the case.

On August 12, 2014, Cooley filed suit against the Department of Justice raising constitutional and discrimination based challenges to a Department order requiring Judge Tabaddor to indefinitely cease hearing any cases involving Iranian nationals — an order issued based on Judge Tabaddor’s race and national origin as well as her civic engagement and community service off the bench… Read More

Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition

The Iranian American Bar Association (IABA) and the IABA Foundation are sponsoring a team of four top law students from Iran to compete in the Phillip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition. Now in its 55th year, the Phillip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition is the world’s largest moot court competition, with participants from over 550 law schools in more than 80 countries.

The Jessup International Moot Court Competition is a great forum for students to learn about the international legal system, as well as the legal traditions and customs of other countries. The competition is an excellent educational experience for students to appreciate how conflicts are resolved peacefully in the international arena through the international legal system. It also provides for an exceptional opportunity for future leaders from all around the world to know each other better through a personal direct experience and forge better understanding of other cultures. Read More

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IABA Expresses Concern over Reports of Continued Mistreatment of Prominent Iranian Lawyer

Washington DC – September 9, 2013 –

In the past month, multiple news outlets and human rights organizations have reported that prominent Iranian lawyer, Massoud Shafiee, has again been subjected to interrogation by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry and remains subject to a ban from travelling outside of Iran.  Throughout his legal career, Mr. Shafiee has represented several Iranian political and labor activists, in addition to Sara Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, the three American hikers previously charged by Iranian authorities with espionage and subsequently released in September 2011.  After the release of the American hikers, it was reported that Mr. Shafiee was subject to targeting by the Intelligence Ministry through searches of his person and property, multiple interrogations, seizure of his passport, and a period of detention at Tehran’s Evin Prison.  Due to these circumstances, Mr. Shafiee has been impeded in his ability to effectively represent clients and maintain his practice.

As an independent, voluntary, non-governmental and non-political organization, the Iranian American Bar Association (“IABA”) regards the fair application of the rule of law as one of the principle cornerstones of a just society.  To that end, IABA is committed to the promotion of an independent judiciary and a legal structure that is free from undue political influence and respects the independence of lawyers and advocates.

IABA remains deeply concerned about the treatment of Mr. Shafiee and the ongoing allegations relating to state sanctioned abuse and intimidation of lawyers in Iran.  Whether or not Iranian lawyers undertake politically sensitive or human rights matters, it is essential that they serve as independent advocates for their clients.  As we have previously stated, an independent legal profession is an essential prerequisite to ensure the protection of human rights and the impartial administration of justice.

We urge the Iranian government to review its treatment of Mr. Shafiee and other attorneys who may be facing undue government scrutiny or action because of their work on behalf of clients and to remedy these situations accordingly.  We continue to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, any attacks on lawyers, jurists or their family members.  Such actions are antithetic to the effective exercise of the rule of law.

About the Iranian American Bar Association

With over 1500 members and chapters in 12 different metropolitan areas around the country, the Iranian American Bar Association (“IABA”) is one of the most prominent minority bar associations in the United States.  IABA chapters hold networking events, publish articles on key legal developments and provide outreach to lawyers and law students.  IABA also provides an annual scholarship to law students looking for assistance and provides lawyer mentors for those seeking guidance and helps serve the Iranian-American community and the community at large by providing legal advocacy on important issues.

 

Announcing New Board of Advisor Member

IABA Introduces A New Board of Advisors Member

IABA is proud that Nema Milania has agreed to join the Board of Advisors. To learn more about our new Board of Advisors members and other IABA Board of Advisors, please visit 013e805http://iaba.us/board-of-advisors/

Nema Milaninia is a lawyer with the Office of the Prosecutor, Appeals Division, for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia where he assists in the prosecution of those most responsible for the crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Prior to joining the ICTY, Mr. Milaninia was an associate at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, CA and New York, NY where his practice focused on white collar crimes, internal investigations, corporate social responsibility, and international litigation. In that capacity, Mr. Milaninia defended and advised clients suspected of violating anti-bribery regimes, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and U.K. Bribery Act, and advised and assisted clients in their lawsuits against foreign states. Mr. Milaninia also represented individuals currently detained in Iran assert claims for torture and arbitrary detention against the Iranian government and victims of paramilitary violence in Colombia assert civil claims in the United States under the Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victims Protection Act

Mr. Milaninia received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego and received his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of Law.

From 2008 to 2010, Mr. Milaninia was the President of Iranian American Bar Association.  During that time, he founded the IABA/Asian Law Caucus Fellowship and IABA’s series of working group documents. He was also a member of the Steering Committee for the Iranians Count 2010 Census Coalition and an Advisory Board member of the Pars Equality Center.

Iranian-American Coalition Reiterates Call for Obama to Allow Earthquake Relief

Iranian-American Coalition Reiterates Call for Obama to Allow Earthquake Relief
Washington, DC – In the aftermath of the second deadly earthquake to strike Iran within a week, a coalition of Iranian-American, human rights, and humanitarian organizations have reiterated their call for President Obama to take appropriate action to ensure that sanctions do not impede humanitarian assistance and relief efforts, and that Americans are able to provide assistance as needed to the Iranian people.
Dear President Obama,
Yesterday, a deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Khash, Iran. Early reports have indicated that it was the strongest earthquake to hit the region in decades.  We write you to urge that the White House, in coordination with the Department of Treasury and Department of State, take action to ensure that sanctions do not in any way impede relief efforts, and to enable Americans to provide assistance as needed to the Iranian people.
This latest earthquake follows a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Bushehr on April 9, that killed at least 37 people, injured hundreds more, and destroyed over 700 homes.  Our coalition wrote to you last week following that earthquake to urge that efforts be undertaken to ensure that sanctions do not impede relief efforts. Today, we write you in the aftermath of another deadly earthquake to reiterate our request.
In 2012, following deadly earthquakes in northwest Iran, our organizations urged you to take similar action.  A few days later, the administration issued a temporary general license to allow charitable organizations to provide direct humanitarian relief and reconstruction assistance to the Iranian people.  Similarly, when an earthquake struck Bam, Iran, in 2003, the Bush Administration issued a general license to help enable relief organizations to work in Iran and support recovery efforts.
We have been greatly appreciative of these past efforts and hope that, in light of these latest disasters, you will continue to take action as necessary to ensure that sanctions do not get in the way of humanitarian relief.
Sincerely,
Child Foundation
Children of Persia
Havaar
The HAND Foundation
Iranian Alliances Across Borders
Iranian American Bar Association
IMAN Foundation
Keep Children in School
Moms Against Poverty
National Iranian American Council
Pars Equality Center
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans
United For Iran
West Asia Council

IABA Letter Urging General OFAC License For Victims of Bushehr Earthquake

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

On Tuesday, April 9, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Bushehr, Iran, reportedly killing at least 37 people, injuring at least 850 more, and destroying over 700 homes. In the aftermath of this disaster, we write to urge that the White House, in coordination with the Department of Treasury and Department of State, take appropriate action to enable humanitarian and reconstruction assistance and ensure that U.S. sanctions on Iran do not in any way impede relief efforts.

We greatly appreciated your Administration’s efforts last year when two earthquakes struck northwest Iran. The White House, Treasury Department, and State Department took action to issue a General License temporarily authorizing charitable organizations to provide direct humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to the Iranian people despite sanctions. Similarly, when an earthquake struck Bam, Iran, in 2003, the Bush Administration issued a General License to help enable relief organizations to work in Iran and support recovery efforts. We strongly supported these efforts and hope that you will once again take appropriate action to issue a General License and take any additional measures necessary to ensure relief efforts are not impeded by U.S. sanctions.

Enabling the American people to help the Iranian people will support relief efforts and demonstrate that disputes between governments should never interfere with humanitarian needs and goodwill among people. We strongly encourage that you take appropriate action and our organizations stand ready to help with any such effort.

Sincerely,

Child Foundation
Children of Persia
Keep Children in School Foundation
Havaar
The HAND Foundation
IMAN Foundation
Iranian Alliances Across Borders
Iranian American Bar Association
Moms Against Poverty
National Iranian American Council
Pars Equality Center
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans
United For Iran
West Asia Council

cc: Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew
Secretary of State John Kerry

IABA Primer on the 2nd Amendment

IABA Second Amendment Primer

Introduction

The debate over gun control and the scope and applicability of the Second Amendment has undergone periods of intense debate in recent years, in the wake of the mass murders at Columbine High School, and Virginia Tech University, along with other more recent mass shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and involving U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others, the Obama administration, Congress, lobbyists and the people have become re-engaged in the debate over U.S. gun control policy, with little changes.

The latest horrific shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, however, has reawakened the firearm debate to a near fevered pitch.  What follows is a brief primer on the Second Amendment, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions interpreting the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the current state of gun control activities in the United States.

Legal Background and History

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects the right of people to keep and bear arms, was adopted on December 15, 1791 as part of the United States Bill of Rights.  It reads:

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

The legal debate over the Second Amendment is based on whether the constitutional provision grants each American an individual right to own a gun. In 2008 and 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two landmark decisions concerning the Second Amendment.  In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia, and to use that firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home and within federal enclaves. In McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government.

District of Columbia v. Heller

In Heller, a divided Court ruled as unconstitutional the District of Columbia’s outright ban on private handgun possession, reasoning that the Second Amendment provides an individual the right to own a firearm that is “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554, 625 U.S. 570 (2008).  In Heller, a D.C. policeman applied to register a handgun he wished to keep at home, but the District refused. He filed suit seeking, on Second Amendment grounds, to enjoin the city from enforcing the bar on the handgun licensing requirement insofar as it prohibited carrying an unlicensed firearm in the home, and the trigger-lock requirement of the D.C. law insofar as it prohibited the use of functional firearms in the home. The District Court dismissed the suit, but the D.C. Circuit reversed, holding that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess firearms, and that the city’s total ban on handguns—as well as its requirement that firearms in the home be kept nonfunctional even when necessary for self-defense—violated that right.  The Supreme Court affirmed.

McDonald v. Chicago

Heller was followed in 2010 by McDonald v. Chicago, which applied the Second Amendment’s individual right to bear arms to state governments.  In McDonald, the city of Chicago and the village of Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, had promulgated laws effectively banning handgun possession by almost all private citizens. After Heller, petitioners filed this federal suit against the City, which was consolidated with two related actions, alleging that the City’s handgun ban left them vulnerable to criminals. They sought a declaration that the ban and several related City ordinances violated the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. Rejecting petitioners’ argument that the ordinances were unconstitutional, the court noted that the Seventh Circuit previously had upheld the constitutionality of a handgun ban, that Heller had explicitly refrained from opining on whether the Second Amendment applied to the States, and that the court had a duty to follow established Circuit precedent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.  The Supreme Court reversed the Seventh Circuit.

Current Gun Control Laws and Proposed Measures

 Several federal gun control laws have been passed over the years. They include the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, and the now expired Federal Assault Weapons ban (1994-2004).  Current federal law restricts individuals from possessing firearms in school zones (Gun Free School Zones Act).  Moreover, federal law also requires background checks before gun purchases (Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act).  There are exceptions to the background check requirement, and state and local officials may choose to conduct or not conduct these background checks.  Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997)  In the wake of the recent Newtown tragedy, the Obama administration has committed to proposing various regulations to address the issue of gun violence in the U.S.  On January 16, 2013, President Obama signed 23 executive orders to battle gun violence.  The President also called on Congress to pass legislation that will include universal background checks, limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines, and a renewed ban on assault weapons.

Conclusion

The history of gun control legislation in the U.S. is a long and complicated one.  But given the fact that January 22, 2013, marked the fifth school shooting in 2013, we may see some of the most comprehensive legislation on guns in over a decade.  Stay tuned.

Citing Federal Sanctions, TCF Bank in Minnesota Closes Accounts of Iranian Students

Citing Federal Sanctions, TCF Bank in Minnesota Closes Accounts of Iranian Students

It has recently come to light that Iranian students have been receiving notifications from banks regarding the closure of their accounts, most recently those attending the University of Minnesota.  According to local news reports, as many as a dozen visiting Iranian students at the University of Minnesota have received such letters from TCF Bank.[1]  The closing of accounts was apparently the result of the Bank’s investigation into transactions that may have violated U.S. sanctions programs.  TCF Bank contends that other students, not just Iranian students, also received such the letters.

U.S. financial institutions have increased both the quantity and the scope of their sanctions compliance policies over the years, in an effort to comply with various U.S. sanctions programs—particularly sanctions imposed against Iran. However, the complexity of these various sanctions programs can lead to confusion and misapplication of the law, as may have happened in the TCF Bank case, or even a conscious decision to shut out account holders deemed to put the bank at risk of sanctions violations.

To that end, is important for banks such as TCF Bank to note that once Iranian students come to the United States they are no longer deemed to be Iranian by the definition contained in the ITSR.[2] Instead, they are considered to be U.S. persons, the definition of which includes an individual physically present in the United States.[3] As such, the maintenance of an account by a U.S. financial institution on behalf of an Iranian student residing in the United States on a student visa is not a prohibited exportation of services to Iran, but rather the provision of services to a U.S. person. Furthermore, although the ITSR does not expressly grant authorization to U.S. financial institutions to open and maintain accounts for Iranian students visiting the U.S. on a student visa, it does in fact authorize transactions ordinarily incident to a licensed transaction. It is not a stretch to consider that maintaining a bank account while attending school in the United States is ordinarily incident to fulfilling the requirements of a student visa. 

The undersigned have begun an investigation into this matter and have been in contact with both the University of Minnesota and TCF Bank.  TCF Bank has confirmed that the investigation into these accounts began because certain transactions were flagged by interdiction software that reviews the text of all incoming wire transfers and account information.  Based on the flagging of certain transactions or accounts by this interdiction software, investigations were initiated by TCF Bank and determinations were made to close some of the accounts at issue.  As a result of the efforts made by the University of Minnesota, TCF Bank is conducting a secondary review of that decision to ensure that their initial risk assessment and decision to close the accounts was correct.

The use of interdiction software to flag suspicious transactions and conduct internal risk assessment analyses are commonplace in the financial services industry. In line with representations made by TCF Bank to members of the undersigned group as well as to the University of Minnesota, the closing of the accounts appears to be the result of an internal risk analysis of its account holders, coupled with a review of those transactions that TCF Bank believed to be suspicious.  U.S. financial institutions are required by law to monitor and report suspicious activity, develop anti-money laundering programs, and implement other risk-based approaches in order to prevent transactions that may run afoul of U.S. banking and sanctions regulations. It is imperative that banks such as TCF conduct secondary high-level reviews subsequent to any initial (and often software-based) interdiction reviews of customer accounts, particularly before taking any drastic action(s) such as closing customer accounts.  This heightened internal scrutiny of these critical decisions will help ensure that the bank actions do not violate either the spirit or letters of any federal laws—ITSR or otherwise. The undersigned recognize that the use of interdiction software is commonplace and that banks have a need to monitor their accounts, however, we also urge banks to perform second-level reviews and careful screening of accounts that are closed as a result of the use of such software, in order to ensure that bank accounts are not improperly closed due to account holders otherwise legal activities—as the closing of bank accounts has serious ramifications. 

We applaud the University of Minnesota for taking a proactive approach in this matter, and will continue to monitor this story and keep the public aware of any new developments.

 

Sincerely,

Iranian American Bar Association

Pars Equality Center

Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans 

No legal advice, express or implied, is intended by this letter

 

 

[1] Jenna Ross, TCF Bank’s Closing of Iranian Students’ Accounts is Questioned, StarTribune, Jan. 8, 2013.
[2] 31 C.F.R. § 560.303.
[3] 31 C.F.R. § 560.314.

TCF Bank letter