For 16 years, Dan Gaskill has kept photos of his fallen Marine Corps comrades in his office.
Though he didn’t serve with them, since 2000 he has represented many Marines whose lives were forever altered by an act of terrorism.
They are the victims of the 1983 Beirut Bombing and Gaskill has been part of the quest to punish Iran for its involvement in the planning of the attack.
On April 20 Gaskill finally completed his mission as the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-2 in Bank Markazi v. Peterson.
Gaskill said he has a spiritual connection to the Marines and the family members he represents. Each photo served as an omnipresent reminder of a delayed justice he has been seeking for more than a thousand people for 16 years.
“I know many, many of the victims very closely,” Gaskill said.
The ruling upholds previous court decisions that said that Iran is responsible for the 1983 bombings in Beirut and that the $2 billion in funds from its central bank—Bank Markazi—that are frozen in American accounts are to be paid to the surviving Marines and the family members of the deceased from the bombing.
The $2 billion dollars in Iranian assets will be distributed to more than 1,000 petitioners with each petitioner getting $2.5 million on average. The amount of payments to the petitioners varies depending on the injuries they sustained or relation to the deceased.
The legal basis for the Supreme Court’s decision was a provision of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 that specified the type of assets that are available in a terrorism case.
In the court’s majority opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the 2012 law was constitutional.
Joining Justice Ginsburg in affirming the court’s decision were Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan and Clarence Thomas. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Sonia Sotomayor made up the dissent.
Roberts wrote in his dissent that Congress and the President had an unconstitutional influence in the previous court decision to unfreeze the Iranian Assets by passing the Iran Threat Act. Roberts wrote that 2012 is essentially a retroactive decision that unlawfully interfered with an ongoing legal case.
Ginsburg wrote in the court’s majority opinion that the Supreme Court should defer to the Congress and the President on this specific case because it involved international terrorism, a subject outside the court’s realm.
“I know some of them live very rough lives,” Gaskill said of the Beirut Bombing survivors, “and this bombing has affected them in ways I can’t even describe in a newspaper article,”
Arguments in the Supreme Court finished Jan. 20. Gaskill said waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision was an emotional experience for him.
Gaskill was watching the Supreme Court docket while he was sitting in the Montgomery County Circuit Court. He almost panicked when saw his case—the case of thousands of victims and family members he represented—pop up on the screen and that a decision from the Supreme Court was pending.
“I think I stopped breathing for a second,” he said.
When the decision came in 6-2 in favor of the survivors, Gaskill was so enthralled he hugged a stranger next to him.
For Gaskill the decision did not just affirm the prior court’s ruling, but affirmed why he was fighting for the survivors and their families.
“Now if you attack an American, if you blow up or kill through an act of terrorism, then a civilized nation has laws in effect to deal with this other than violence,” Gaskill said.
Gaskill said he knows hundreds of stories from the emotional pain of family members who lost a loved one to the physical torment of Marines and sailors who survived the bombing.
One of the petitioners suing Iran was T.J. Valore. Valore was severely wounded in the bombing and almost died. Gaskill approached Valore about joining the lawsuit, knowing his testimony would be powerful in court.
“When I first met Dan and found out he was a Marine, I thought this thing has a shot,” Valore said.
At first Valore was skeptical about seeking damages, but Gaskill convinced him that Iran would be the one that would pay, not the U.S. taxpayer.
“I’m a Marine first and foremost. I’m not gonna take money out of the lives of the people I swore to defend.”
After years in court and pursing this case, Valore said that Gaskill has become a brother to him. He said they watched each of their families grow over the years.
“I’m just happy it’s over, I just want to bury this thing,” Valore said.