United States District Court, S.D. New York
AMENDED OPINION & ORDER
WILLIAM H. PAULEY III, United States District Judge
Jewish Agency for Israel, et al., move to dismiss
Plaintiffs' amended complaint. For the reasons that
follow, Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted.
operative facts stem exclusively from proceedings in Israel.
Plaintiffs are a group of seven divorced fathers who allege
that they are victims of a conspiracy orchestrated by former
and current Israeli government officials and a number of
charities. Plaintiffs allege they were injured in various
ways, ranging from wage garnishment to restrictions on their
the allegations in the amended complaint
(“Complaint”), which are accepted as true for
purposes of this motion, the mechanics of the conspiracy
unfold in the following manner: an Israeli family court
enters an order related to the dissolution of a
Plaintiff's marriage-usually for alimony and/or child
support-imposing a financial obligation on that Plaintiff.
The agency responsible for collecting payment on such
obligations-the Debt Collections Office in
Israel-“wrongfully refuse[s] to accept [the] payments .
. . and arbitrarily and capriciously, ” absent judicial
approval, changes the amount owed and charges excessive fines
resulting from a failure to pay the modified balance.
(Amended Complaint (“Compl.”), ECF No. 40, ¶
8(b).) Israeli officials from various levels of the
government (the “Israeli Officials”) either
control, oversee, or facilitate the Debt Collections
Office's efforts to unlawfully collect these
“arbitrary and excessive debts.” (Compl. ¶
Plaintiffs' debts grow, the Debt Collections Office
deploys a number of coercive tactics to obtain payment,
ranging from making false arrests to threatening
Plaintiffs' family members. (Compl. ¶ 8(b).) When
Plaintiffs fail or refuse to pay these debts, they face
severe consequences: an order freezing their bank accounts
and credit cards, garnishment of their wages, imposition of
excessive interest rates, issuance of stop-travel orders
prohibiting them from traveling outside of Israel, and
revocation of their driver's licenses. To add insult to
injury, Plaintiffs are cast as “deadbeat dads”
and “abusive fathers” solely because of their
failure to honor their financial obligations.
part of the conspiracy involves actions taken by various
Jewish or Christian fundraising organizations and individuals
(the “Fundraising Defendants”). According to the
Complaint, the Fundraising Defendants offer money and
services to Plaintiffs' ex-wives in exchange for their
agreement to assert “false claims and [ ] false
allegations against their ex-husbands relating to their
payment of spousal and child support.” (Compl. ¶
58.) The filing of these complaints authorizes the Debt
Collections Office to “manipulat[e] the amounts of the
spousal and child support owed [by Plaintiffs] and thereby
provide examples for the Fundraising Defendants to raise
funds.” (Compl. ¶ 59.) Those
examples-“deadbeat” fathers who have abandoned
their child support obligations-are prominently advertised on
billboards and through communications soliciting donations on
behalf of the Fundraising Defendants' organizations.
result of their ex-wives' complaints, Plaintiffs lose
custody of their children. (See e.g., Compl.
¶¶ 8, 95.) Consequently, their children are placed
into childcare services managed by the Fundraising Defendants
who profit from these arrangements. To maintain this
lucrative scheme, the Fundraising Defendants interfere with
Plaintiffs' subsequent attempts to regain custody.
assert six separate causes of action against the Israeli
Officials and Fundraising Defendants: (1) negligent
infliction of emotional distress; (2) intentional infliction
of emotional distress; (3) aiding and abetting violations of
the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
(“RICO”); (4) violations of RICO; (5) extortion;
and (6) mail fraud.
survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must plead
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A
“plausible” claim is “more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” but
is less than a “probability requirement.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
“With regard to pro se complaints, the court
construes the complaint liberally, accepting all factual
allegations in the complaint as true, and drawing all
reasonable inferences in the plaintiff[s']
favor.” Jackson v. Cnty. of Rockland, 450
F. App'x. 15, 18 (2d Cir. 2011).
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is proper
“when the district court lacks the statutory or
constitutional power to adjudicate [the claims].”
Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d
Cir. 2000). Under the common law, an individual foreign
official is entitled to immunity for acts performed in his
official capacity. Samantar v. Yousuf, 560 U.S. 305,
324 (2010); Weiming Chen v. Ying-jeou Ma, 2013 WL
4437607, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 19, 2013).
all of the Israeli Officials' acts were taken in their
capacities as government officials. The Complaint alleges
that the Israeli Officials entered illegal orders, made
extra-judicial demands, arbitrarily altered amounts owed, and
assessed improper fees against Plaintiffs. (Compl. ¶
45.) The Israeli Officials also issued arrest warrants, froze
bank accounts, and garnished wages. (Compl. ¶¶ 106,
138, 210, 222.) Each of these actions represent official
conduct taken in response to Plaintiffs' apparent failure
to comply with their child and spousal support obligations.
The authority to take such actions arises directly from their
positions as government officials tasked with overseeing the
Debt Collections Office, enforcing the child and spousal
support orders, and providing judicial recourse for unpaid
characterize these actions as wrongful and illegal, but such
slights do not render the acts any less
official.See, e.g., In re Terrorist
Attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, 122 F.Supp.3d 181, 189
(S.D.N.Y. 2015) (“Such an assertion is merely an artful
way of implicating the jus cogens doctrine, ”
which is “not a limitation to a foreign official's
right to immunity in U.S. courts where, as here, that
official acted in his official capacity.”). Indeed, if
Plaintiffs could hurdle immunity simply by alleging that the
acts were illegal, “such a rule would eviscerate the
protection of foreign official immunity and would contravene
federal law on foreign official immunity.” Giraldo
v. Drummond Co., Inc., 808 F.Supp.2d 247, 250 (D.D.C.
2011). The dispositive question is whether the defendant was
a government official authorized to take the actions at issue
here. The Israeli Officials-as bureaucrats tasked with
overseeing the Debt Collections Office and judges empowered
to remedy delinquencies associated with divorce decrees-are
entitled to immunity because their actions were taken through