Alien Tort Claims Act

Today, the Supreme Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, held that a citizen of a foreign country who is abused by a foreign corporation in a foreign country cannot sue in a U.S. Court under the Alien Tort Statute because, basically, multinational corporations are very different than pirates.

After Citizens United, we knew that corporations are people. We’re learning what kind of people they are (not pirates). Yet to be decided is whether you’d want to invite them to a dinner party. Or whether they’d accept.

How did we get here?

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* “This case has nothing to do with the United States.” We’d normally let that slide because of this law from 1789, but now the Supreme Court is suddenly skeptical about the validity of the Alien Tort Claims Act. [Reuters]

* “Why are we being punished for Dewey & LeBoeuf?” Come to think of it, former employees at the failed firm are probably wondering the exact same thing as the fictional characters on “The Good Wife.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* Reduce, reuse, and recycle your claims? New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed suit against JPMorgan, alleging that the bank’s Bear Sterns business defrauded mortgage-bond investors. [Bloomberg]

* A man of many firsts: Randall Eng, the first Asian judge in the state, was appointed to lead New York’s Second Department as presiding justice, the first Asian-American to serve in the position. [New York Law Journal]

* UC Irvine Law is planning a six-week summer camp for in-house counsel. They’re calling it the Center for Corporate Law, but Mark Herrmann’s “General Counsel University” has a nicer ring to it. [National Law Journal]

* Why shouldn’t you get a dual JD/MBA? Because hiding out in school for another year isn’t going to save you from all of the extra debt you’ve incurred earning yet another degree. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

As the Chief Justice announced at the start of today’s session of the Supreme Court, October Term 2011 is concluded; October Term 2012 has commenced.

And what a commencement it was. Stars of the Supreme Court bar flooded into One First Street N.E. to welcome the start of the term — and also because of the massive amount of corporate amicus work brought on by Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum.

Tom Goldstein, celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the invaluable SCOTUSblog, parked himself at the front of the lawyer’s lounge, resplendent in a pink shirt and pink tie — like Regis Philbin’s wardrobe, but in a way that worked for a lawyer.

There were two cases up for argument today. One involved whether you can sue a company with a U.S. subsidiary for very bad things it does in cahoots with the Nigerian government. The other was over the scope of federal admiralty jurisdiction….

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Right now is a great time to be a Supreme Court aficionado. There’s a big new book out about the Court, Jeffrey Toobin’s The Oath (affiliate link). And the new SCOTUS Term starts in just a few days, on Monday, October 1.

Given the time of the year, it’s not surprising that SCOTUS preview events are as common as Ninth Circuit reversals pro se cert petitions. I attended one sponsored by the Federalist Society earlier this month, where Kannon Shanmugam of Williams & Connolly offered excellent insights into October Term 2012. Our Supreme Court correspondent here at Above the Law, Matt Kaiser, went to a preview talk sponsored by the American Constitution Society (which he turned into Kaiser’s Guide To Bluffing Your Way Through Knowledge About The Supreme Court’s New Term).

That sounds like more than enough SCOTUS previews. But I couldn’t help myself from attending one more, due to the starpower of the panelists: Paul Clement, the former solicitor general who’s now a partner at Bancroft, and Tom Goldstein, the noted Supreme Court advocate and founder of the invaluable SCOTUSblog.

What did Messrs. Clement and Goldstein have to say about OT 2012?

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October first is the start of the new Supreme Court term!

If, like many readers, you’re a few years out of law school, this may strike you with a mild sense of dread. You remember the heady days of law school when you followed every argument, opinion, and cert grant from One First Street Northeast with an excitement rivaled only by your enthusiasm for the starting salaries for first-year associates.

Alas, the years since law school haven’t been kind to your pants size or your level of engagement with the Supreme Court.

Now, I suspect, you worry that soon — at a family dinner, dropping off your kids at preschool, or anywhere else you interact with non-lawyers — someone will recognize that you are a lawyer, and ask you what to make of the new Supreme Court term.

You have three options for how to deal with this, now, before the media frenzy over the new Supreme Court term starts.

First, you can admit to yourself that you’re no longer the gunner you used to be. You can tell people that just don’t follow the Supreme Court anymore, since you’ve gotten really interested in your exciting new life doing document review for a municipal bond arbitration.

But you’re not going to do that. If you were that good at being honest with yourself, you aren’t likely to be the kind of person who went to law school in the first place.

Second, perhaps, you can wade through the volume of information out there about the new term. Go through SCOTUSblog with the same passion you now spend tracking whether your friends from law school have better careers than you do. Maybe go to one of the OT 2012 preview events that clog every convention hall and small town library starting in mid-September.

That takes time and energy. Tom Goldstein sometimes uses really long paragraphs, and you really wanted to spend more time Googling for topless pictures of Kate Middleton.

Instead, you could let me to one of those events for you. For the truly efficient, follow the jump, sit back, and enjoy Kaiser’s Guide To Bluffing Your Way Through Knowledge About the Supreme Court’s New Term to Non-Lawyers….

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What business does a case like that have in the courts of the United States?

– Justice Samuel Alito, during today’s oral arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. The case will determine whether the 223-year-old Alien Tort Statute allows corporations to be sued in U.S. courts for violations of international law. You can view the entire argument transcript on the SCOTUS website.