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SCOTUSblog featured commentary on July 9 and 20, 2012 from Anthony Colangelo, Associate Professor at SMU Dedman School of Law, as a guest contributor in an online symposium on Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum.

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 is due August 1. The second oral argument in the case will take place this fall, with an opinion to follow later in the Term.

Click here to review commentary from other guest contributors that are considering all three of the questions before the Court.