Reich & Paolella files U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief on Alien Tort Statute

Reich & Paolella today filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on the Alien Tort Statute. The brief, submitted in support of respondent Royal Dutch Petroleum, urges the Court to limit jurisdiction under the Statute to lawsuits brought by aliens against U.S. citizens, and to exclude cases where an alien sues another alien.

The case, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., No. 10-1491, involves a lawsuit brought in U.S. federal court by Nigerian citizens against a Dutch company that is alleged to have aided and abetted human rights abuses in Nigeria by the local government. The Supreme Court originally granted certiorari to consider the question of whether corporations could be liable under the Alien Tort Statute. However, after oral argument, the Court took the rare step of asking the parties for additional briefing and argument on the question of whether the Statute applies at all to wrongs which occur overseas. The case will be reargued on October 1, 2012 — the opening day of the Court’s upcoming Term.

The amicus brief argues that the Statute, passed by the First Congress in 1789, was originally intended to permit aliens to sue U.S. citizens who caused them harm — and thus satisfy the United States’ duty under the law of nations to redress harms caused to foreigners by its citizens. Had the law not provided this kind of redress, the young nation could have faced military and other reprisals from other countries. But the law was not intended to open the U.S. courts to claims between foreign citizens, whose actions the United States had no responsiblity to redress. The brief argues that the Statute did not turn U.S. courts into global policemen, empowered to hear alien-versus-alien claims arising across the world. Rather, “[t]he key limitation on ATS jurisdiction was . . . that the action had to be against a U.S. citizen.”

The brief was authored by Reich & Paolella founding partners Christopher J. Paolella and J. David Reich, in conjunction with law professors Anthony J. Bellia Jr. and Bradford R. Clark.  Paolella, who specializes in appellate and Supreme Court practice, has authored amicus briefs in cases including McDonald v. Chicago (concerning whether the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms applies against the states) and Miller v. Alabama (concerning the constitutionality of imposing life imprisonment without parole on a juvenile offender). He previously served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Reich is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney with more than two decades of litigation experience, representing clients in trials, appeals, and arbitrations.

Professors Bellia and Clark are the authors of The Alien Tort Statute and the Law of Nations, 78 U. Chi. L. Rev. 445 (2011), a seminal article on the original understanding of the Statute. Their comprehensive research has been cited by the parties in Kiobel and by courts construing the Statute. Bellia is a Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame and Clark is the William Cranch Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School.

Reich & Paolella is a New York-based law firm that devotes its practice exclusively to litigation and advocacy, focusing on complex commercial litigation, appeals and critical motions, and white collar defense and investigation.

Click here to read the brief.

08/08/2012 | Appeals & Critical Motions: Commercial Litigation: Supreme Court: White Collar Defense & Investigations