Alien Tort Statute

Is MBS Entitled to Head of State Immunity?

Editor’s Note: This article also appears in Just Security. In 2018, Saudi security agents brutally murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) approved the operation. In 2020, Khashoggi’s widow and a non-profit organization that he helped found sued MBS and…

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Has the Alien Tort Statute Made a Difference?

In a globalized and interconnected world, human rights litigation has, by necessity, become transnational. For decades, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) was viewed as a beacon of American justice for foreign victims of human rights violations. However, a series of Supreme Court decisions—most recently the paired cases of Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe and Cargill,…

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A Primer on Human Rights Litigation

Modern human rights law developed in response to the events of the World War II, although it has earlier precursors. In 1948, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a non-binding declaration. More than seventy human rights treaties followed, including the Genocide Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,…

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The ATS Clarification Act Can Protect Human Rights and Level the Playing Field for U.S. Businesses

As previously reported on TLB, Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Brown (D-OH) recently introduced the Alien Tort Statute Clarification Act (ATSCA), which, if passed, will clarify the extraterritorial reach of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and expand the statute’s jurisdiction to cover all defendants “present in” the United States. The ATS is one of our nation’s…

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Court Holds that ATS Claims for Medical Experimentation Are Not Impermissibly Extraterritorial

In a recent decision, Estate of Alvarez v. The Johns Hopkins University, a federal district court held that claims under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) based on nonconsensual medical experiments in Guatemala were not impermissibly extraterritorial. Although the district court ultimately granted summary judgment for the defendants on other grounds, the decision is significant because…

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New Bill Would Amend the Alien Tort Statute to Apply Extraterritorially

Last week, Senators Dick Durbin and Sherrod Brown introduced a new bill, the Alien Tort Statute Clarification Act (ATSCA), that would amend the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) to apply extraterritorially. Since 1980, plaintiffs have relied on the ATS to bring international human rights claims in federal court against individuals and corporations. But since 2013, the…

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Can Defendants Be Sued at Home? Forum Non Conveniens, Expendable Lives, and the Legacy of Gore v. U.S. Steel Corp.

Diverse Stock Photos

Many were shocked last month when court documents revealed that Johnson & Johnson tested the safety of its talc powder in the 1960s by injecting asbestos into mostly Black inmates at Philadelphia’s Holmesburg prison. The use of Holmesburg inmates for medical studies was already well-documented, echoing the U.S. Government’s syphilis studies in hundreds of Black…

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Jam v. IFC: Secondary Liability in Transnational Disputes

Later this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a petition for a writ of certiorari in Jam v. International Finance Corp., a case that raises important questions about United States jurisdiction over cross-border disputes.  The case most immediately involves the scope of sovereign immunity where a foreign state or international organization takes actions in the United States that contribute to tortious conduct overseas.  But the case also has broader implications for secondary liability generally.

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Customary International Law’s Domestic Status: Reflections After Twenty-Five Years

We are grateful to Bill Dodge for highlighting our 1997 article on the domestic legal status of customary international law.  In that article, we critically analyzed what we referred to as the “modern position,” which is the claim made by some academics and the Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law that customary international law has…

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Throwback Thursday: Revisiting Bradley and Goldsmith’s “Critique of the Modern Position”

Twenty-five years ago, Professors Curtis Bradley and Jack Goldsmith shook the fields of transnational litigation, federal courts, and foreign relations law by questioning the conventional wisdom that customary international law has the status of federal common law. Their article Customary International Law as Federal Common Law: A Critique of the Modern Position, published in the…

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Ingrid (Wuerth) Brunk

Vanderbilt Law School
ingrid.wuerth@vanderbilt.eduEmail

William Dodge

UC Davis School of Law
wsdodge@ucdavis.eduEmail

Maggie Gardner

Cornell Law School
mgardner@cornell.eduEmail

John Coyle

University of North Carolina School of Law
jfcoyle@email.unc.eduEmail

Peter B. "Bo" Rutledge

University of Georgia School of Law
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Linda J. Silberman

New York University School of Law
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Geneviève Saumier

McGill University Faculty of Law
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David L. Sloss

Santa Clara University School of Law
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Philippa Webb

King's College London
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Robert Kry

MoloLamken LLP
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Katie Burghardt Kramer

DGW Kramer LLP
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Ellen Nohle

Yale Law School
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Chris Ewell

EarthRights International
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Oona A. Hathaway

Yale Law School
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