SCOTUS grants cert. in ATS case: Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum

John Bellinger at Lawfare reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. 

Briefly, on September 17, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a 2-1 split decision,  ruled that the Alien Torts Statute (ATS) grants U.S. courts jurisdiction over alleged violations of international law by individuals only, not by corporations. Essentially, the majority opinion held that corporations cannot be sued under the ATS for violations of customary international law because “the concept of corporate liability . . . has not achieved universal recognition or acceptance of a norm in the relations of States with each other.”  (Slip op. at 49).

The two issue presented before the U.S. Supreme Court are:

(1) Whether the issue of corporate civil tort liability under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, is a merits question or instead an issue of subject matter jurisdiction; and

(2) whether corporations are immune from tort liability for violations of the law of nations such as torture, extrajudicial executions or genocide may instead be sued in the same manner as any other private party defendant under the ATS for such egregious violations.

The Kiobel appeal is joined with Mohamad v. Rajoub which will address the issue:

Whether the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 permits actions against defendants that are not natural persons

SCOTUS Blog has full coverage, including briefs and documents here and here.

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