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Professor Colangelo writes amicus brief in Supreme Court Case Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum; blogs about it in SCOTUSblog this past summer

October 12, 2012

The case involves the interpretation of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a section of the United States Code passed by the first Congress in 1789, that provides: "[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." Recently the statute has been the source of massive class action suits in U.S. courts alleging human rights abuses around the world against multinational corporations subject to personal jurisdiction in the United States.

The Court granted certiorari in Kiobel principally to consider whether corporations can be held liable under the ATS. Shortly after oral arguments in February, however, the Court ordered new oral arguments in the case. The parties have been directed to brief and argue an even more fundamental question to ATS suits alleging human rights abuses abroad: “Whether and under what circumstances the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, allows courts to recognize a cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States.” The petitioners have already filed their supplemental brief addressing that question, and the respondent’s brief was due August 1. The second oral argument in the case took place on October 1, with an opinion to follow later in the Term.

Kiobel promises to be the single most important case involving the relationship between U.S. and international law of this era, and holds major implications for a variety of other areas of law including corporate liability, canons of statutory construction, and federal jurisdiction, to name a few.

Click here to review SCOTUSblog commentary on July 9 and 20, 2012 from Professor Colangelo as a guest contributor in an online symposium on Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum.
Click here to read The California Lawyer magazine article recently published with interviews and quotes from both sides' lawyers:  Paul Hoffman for petitioners; Kathleen Sullivan for respondents;  Erwin Chemerinsky, who helped write petitioners' briefs; SMU Dedman Law Professor Colangelo, who wrote an amicus brief in the case and blogged about it at SCOTUSblog this summer.