Thursday, February 19, 2015

California Court Says Iranian Forum Would Discriminate Against Women and Non-Muslims

In Aghaian v. Minassian, (CA App., Feb. 17, 2015), a California state appellate court held that Iranian citizens living in the United States should not be required to litigate a dispute with other Iranian citizens over property in Iran in an Iranian court.  Reversing the trial court's forum non conveniens stay of the action in California, the appellate court said:
[T]he evidence is overwhelming that Iranian courts discriminate against women and non-Muslims. Among other things, Plaintiffs submitted evidence that the testimony of a woman counts for half the value of that of a man, and that women are not treated equally before the courts, particularly in personal status matters relating to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody, and only men can serve as judicial officers.... [T]he judiciary in Iran is heavily influenced by religious authorities and ... the law requires the head of the judiciary as well as the prosecutor general and all Supreme Court judges to be high ranking clerics....
Two of the three Plaintiffs here are women and [plaintiffs] family members are not Muslim. Leaving aside whether Iranian courts are independent or corrupt, this is sufficient to show Iran is not a suitable alternative forum. This is the “rare circumstance” in which an alternative forum “provides no remedy at all.”
Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise reports on the decision.