Human Rights Litigation

Throwback Thursday: The Human Rights of Foreign Sailors

Litigation in U.S. courts involving gross misconduct committed outside the United States by non-U.S. actors did not begin with the revival of the Alien Tort Statute in the 1980s. In the earlier era of global trade that centered around maritime commerce, U.S. admiralty courts at times remedied—often with moral outrage—wrongs committed on the high seas….

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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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Section 230 and the Presumption Against Extraterritoriality

The Ninth Circuit opinion in Gonzalez v. Google (2021) raises important questions about how the presumption against extraterritoriality applies to immunity defenses invoked by social media companies under 47 U.S.C. § 230.Section 230 shields internet companies from civil liability for user-generated content hosted on their platforms. Gonzalezholds, effectively, that there is no conceivable application of…

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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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Kashef v. BNP Paribas SA Overcomes the Forum Non Conveniens Hurdle

In Kashef v. BNP Paribas SA, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in the Southern District of New York recently denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens. The order allows plaintiffs to continue to pursue their claims against BNP Paribas S.A. and its U.S.-based subsidiary and New York branch (“BNPP”) for their role in…

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Doe v. Meta and the Future of the Communications Decency Act

Two law firms recently filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Rohingya refugees in the United States seeking at least $150 billion in compensatory damages from Meta (formerly Facebook).  The plaintiffs in Doe v. Meta allege that Meta’s algorithms were designed to promote hate speech and misinformation about the Rohingya, a Muslim-minority population in Myanmar…

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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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Ingrid Brunk Wuerth

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

Emma White

Vanderbilt Law School
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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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David L. Sloss

Santa Clara University School of Law
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Swathi Rajan

Santa Clara University School of Law
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Yanbai Andrea Wang

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
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Pamela K. Bookman

Fordham University School of Law
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Alyssa S. King

Queen’s University Faculty of Law
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Katie Burghardt Kramer

DGW Kramer LLP
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