On February 28, 2012 the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum and Mohamad v. Rajoub. Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum involves the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which permits non-U.S. citizens to bring a lawsuit in federal court in order to seek relief for certain violations of international law. The question is whether corporations, and not merely individuals, can be held liable in an ATS lawsuit--and whether that issue affects the jurisdiction of the court even to hear the case. Mohamad v. Rajoub involves the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), and presents a similar question: whether corporations, and not merely natural persons, can be held liable for violations of the TVPA.
On March 5, 2012, however, the Supreme Court put the Kiobel case back on the calendar for re-argument, and directed the parties to brief whether and under what circumstances the ATS allows courts to address violations of the law of nations that occur outside the United States.
To discuss the cases, we have Eugene Kontorovich, who is a professor at the Northwestern University School of Law.