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SUPREME COURT DOCKET REPORT

Mayer Brown's Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Group distributes a Docket Report whenever the Supreme Court grants certiorari in a case of interest to the business community. We also email the Docket Report to our subscribed members and if you don't already subscribe to the Docket Report and would like to, please click here.

October Term 2011 - October 17, 2011

October 17, 2011

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in two cases of interest to the business community:


Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act—Corporate Liability

The Supreme Court granted certiorari today in two cases addressing whether corporations, as opposed to individuals, can be held liable in civil suits alleging human rights abuses committed abroad. The cases, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, No. 10-1491, and Mohamad v. Rajoub, No. 11-88, will be argued in tandem.

The Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”) grants federal courts jurisdiction over a tort claim brought by an alien who alleges that the tort was “committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1350. Kiobel presents two questions under the ATS: first, whether the issue of corporate liability under the ATS is a question of subject matter jurisdiction; and second, whether corporations, like natural persons such as government officials, may be held liable under the ATS.

The Torture Victim Protection Act (“TVPA”) creates a cause of action against “[a]n individual who, under actual or apparent authority, or color of law, of any foreign nation” either “subjects an individual to torture” or “subjects an individual to extrajudicial killing.” 28 U.S.C. § 1350, note § 2(a). Mohamad presents the question whether the term “individual,” as used in the TVPA, refers only to natural persons or also encompasses corporate entities.

These cases are important to all companies that conduct business abroad and potentially face civil suits alleging human rights violations.

The Kiobel petitioners are residents of Nigeria. They sued Dutch, British, and Nigerian corporations engaged in oil exploration and production in Nigeria for allegedly aiding and abetting the Nigerian government in violently suppressing petitioners’ protests against oil exploration. The Second Circuit held that petitioners’ suit must be dismissed. The court found that, “although international law has sometimes extended the scope of liability for a violation of a given norm to individuals, it has never extended the scope of liability to a corporation.” 621 F.3d at 120. Because “no corporation has ever been subject to any form of liability under the customary international law of human rights,” the court concluded that the ATS “simply does not confer jurisdiction over suits against corporations.” Id. at 121. The Second Circuit’s decision conflicts with subsequent decisions of the Seventh and D.C. Circuits.

The Mohamad petitioners brought suit on behalf of Azzam Rahim’s estate, alleging that the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization tortured and killed Rahim in violation of the TVPA and federal common law. The D.C. Circuit affirmed dismissal of the suit, holding that the statutory term “individual” encompasses only natural persons and not corporations or organizations. 634 F.3d at 607.

Absent extensions, amicus briefs in support of the petitioners are due December 8, 2011, and amicus briefs in support of the respondents are due January 10, 2012. Any questions about this case should be directed to Andrew Pincus (+1 202 263 3220) in our Washington, DC office.


Mayer Brown's Supreme Court & Appellate practice distributes a Docket Report whenever the Supreme Court grants certiorari in a case of interest to the business community and distributes a Docket Report-Decision Alert whenever the Court decides such a case. We hope you find the Docket Reports and Decision Alerts useful, and welcome feedback on them (which should be addressed to Andrew Tauber, their general editor, at atauber@mayerbrown.com or +1 202 263 3324).

Feel free to forward this message to anyone who you believe might be interested in the Docket Report.

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Mayer Brown's Supreme Court & Appellate practice distributes a Docket Report whenever the Supreme Court grants certiorari in a case of interest to the business community and distributes a Docket Report-Decision Alert whenever the Court decides such a case. We hope you find the Docket Reports and Decision Alerts useful, and welcome feedback on them (which should be addressed to Andrew Tauber, their general editor, at atauber@mayerbrown.com or +1 202 263 3324).

Mayer Brown Supreme Court Docket Reports provide information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest to our clients and friends. They are not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and are not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed. 



 
 
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