Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of Israel Boycott Case

July 6, 2020

A panel of three judges with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the dismissal of a long-running federal lawsuit challenging the American Studies Association’s adoption of a resolution endorsing the academic boycott against Israel in 2013.

The appellate judges ruled that the four American studies professors who sued the organization did not show that their alleged damages exceeded $75,000, the minimum threshold for them to sue in federal court. The judges expressed no opinion on the merits of the professors' claims and noted that the lower district court recognized they "may have meritorious claims arising from their individual injuries as ASA members."

The four American studies professors have also filed a separate lawsuit against ASA and a group of current and former officers that is still pending in D.C. Superior Court. In that case, they allege breaches in contractual and fiduciary duties on the part of officers of the ASA, who, they claim, "gained and abused positions of trust within the American Studies Association through deception and manipulation" and "orchestrated the misappropriation of the assets, both monetary and reputational" of the association to promote an anti-Israel boycott. They further argue that pursuit of such an agenda "subverts the apolitical mission and scholarly purpose" of the association.

Slightly less than two-thirds -- 66.05 percent -- of ASA's membership ratified the association's 2013 resolution endorsing an academic boycott of Israel.

While noting that other pending litigation remains unresolved, ASA hailed the appellate court ruling upholding the dismissal of the federal lawsuit in a press release, describing it as the latest in “a string of victories for the ASA in a case it has defended since April 2016.”

"We will continue to defend our work, our reputation, and our members who come under attack," the association said. "We will continue to form principled alliances in the interests of academic freedom and social justice."

Jennifer Gross, an attorney representing the current and former members of the ASA who sued the association, said the professors "disagree with the Court of Appeals’ decision and are considering how to proceed in light of it." She said the case will continue, "although perhaps only in the District of Columbia Superior Court."

"We look forward to continuing to prosecute this case to obtain full disclosure of exactly how the ASA was victimized by anti-Israel activists, and a remedy for the abuses those people have inflicted on this academic society, its work and its members," Gross said.

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