The Latest Legal Developments in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn Fiasco

by Mike Mintz on May 30, 2012 · 0 comments

in Legal News and Trends,

Almost a year after the now-infamous Dominique Strauss-Kahn allegedly sexually assaulted the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, in a New York hotel room, a judge ruled that the maid’s civil lawsuit against the disgraced public figure can proceed to trial in Bronx State Supreme Court in the case entitled  Nafissatou Diallo v. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Index No. 307065/11 (N.Y. Sup. Ct, Bronx Co. Part IA-19A).  The case is venued in the Bronx because that is Diallo’s county 0f residence.

Until his downfall, Strauss-Kahn was a serious contender to be the next French president.  Socialist Francois Hollande won the election recently. Shortly after Diallo’s allegations surfaced, he stepped down as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

The criminal case against Strauss-Kahn had been dismissed last summer because prosecutors developed doubts about the trustworthiness of Diallo.  Specifically, they found that she had lied about her background and about her actions right after DSK allegedly attacked her.  Diallo has always maintained that she told the truth about what happened during the encounter itself, including that she suffered a torn shoulder ligament as a result of the encounter.

In the current civil case, DSK’s attorneys had argued that he should be immune from Diallo’s civil lawsuit because under international rules he was entitled to immunity. Diallo’s attorneys disagreed, pointing out that an IMF spokesman noted after DSK’s arrest that he was not entitled to immunity because he was attending to personal business instead of IMF business during his encounter with Diallo.  At the time of the alleged encounter, DSK was visiting his daughter in Manhattan.

The court noted that as managing director of the IMF, DSK did enjoy some type of immunity, although it was unclear whether it was absolute immunity, which would protect him from criminal or civil liability even on personal matters unrelated to the IMF or “functional” or “official acts” immunity which would only protect him from crimes resulting from his activity in furtherance of his work for the IMF.  Even if DSK had absolute immunity, he would have to show that it protected him from prosecution even after he stepped down as head of the IMF. If DSK only had “functional” immunity, it would not protect him in this lawsuit since he was in Manhattan at the time of the alleged crime on a purely personal matter.

According to the IMF Articles §8(i),

all employees of the IMF are immune from legal process with respect to acts performed by them in their official capacity except when the Fund waives [the] immunity.

This provision was given full force and effect in the United States.  Thus, the court concluded that the Articles and U.S. statute giving it effect provide for “functional” or “official acts” immunity for IMF personnel, not absolute immunity, as DSK had hoped.  Hence, any immunity that DSK might have had did not apply to acts undertaken when he was conducting personal business.

The court further opined that:

The United States of America, through its political processes can make laws, ratify treaties or issue judicial pronouncements which require a non-citizen employee of a specialized agency, here on our soil as part of the fabric of international governance, to behave, in their private conduct, in a lawful way failing which to be answerable in courts of law or other tribunals under the same standards as their next door American neighbors. At a time when issues concerning human rights significantly shape today’s international law, customary or otherwise, it is hardly an assault on long standing principles of comity among nations to require those working in this country to respect our laws as Americans working elsewhere must respect theirs.

Not surprisingly, Strauss-Kahn vowed to fight the civil action tooth and nail. He has not yet decided whether to appeal that ruling.

Diallo’s allegations were hardly the only ones of a sexual nature made against DSK.  Several months ago preliminary charges were made against him in France on separate criminal allegations, meaning that authorities believe that a crime was committed but they need more time to investigate the matter.

On the heels of Diallo’s recent victory, DSK brought a counter-suit against the maid for $1 million based on claims of defamation. DSK claims that the maid damaged his reputation by bringing the, what he terms, are false allegations against him.  He claims that their actions in the hotel room were totally consensual.

DSK famously spent several days in jail after Diallo’s allegations first surfaced, and he spent another three months under house arrest before prosecutors eventually dropped the case.

In his recent counter-suit DSK contends that:

As a direct result of her malicious and wanton false accusation, Mr. Strauss-Kahn suffered … substantial harm to his professional and personal reputation in the United States and throughout the world.

Diallo’s attorneys reacted to the new counter-suit by asserting that they were sure that DSK’s claims would be thrown out, just as his failed claim for immunity from prosecution had been tossed out recently by the court.


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