Posts Tagged SCOTUS
‘Apartheid’ dismissed and Al-Shimari distinguished: The bar is high for the ATS’ touch and concern test
For readers unfamiliar with earlier posts on the Alien Torts Statute and its role in the corporate social responsibility debate, the title of this piece may sound like gobbledygook. Review of the interim ruling in Apartheid probably helps. As I noted in that piece, Scheindlin USDJ instructed counsel to brief on the ‘touch and concern’ test put forward by the Supreme Court in Kiobel, with the warning that they must show in particular that the companies concerned acted ‘not only with the knowledge but with the purpose to aid and abet the South African regime’s tortious conduct as alleged in these complaints’.
Having now reviewed those extra briefs, she has decided that the high bar set by the USCC in Kiobel was not met in current case. She distinguished (at p.18) the case from Al-Shimari, for the alleged violation of international law was inflicted by the South African subsidiaries of the US defendant corporations, over whom defendants may have exercised control however control alone, it transpires, is not enough to create sufficient link with the US to meet the Kiobel test.
Applicants had previously already argued that critical policy level decisions were made in the US, and that the provision of expertise, management, technology and equipment essential to the alleged abuses came from the US. This has now, so it would seem, been further backed up by detailed facts however even these facts did not graduate so to speak the US companies’ involvement from management and effective control to ‘aiding and abetting’ as Scheindlin USDJ had instructed counsel to show.
Similarish issues are at stake in trying to subject activities taking place outside the EU, to EU law by virtue of companies’ EU headquarters.
02-md-1499, Alien Tort Statute, Apartheid, Comity, Corporate social responsibility, CSR, DaimlerChrysler, DaimlerChrysler v Bauman, Extraterritoriality, Human rights, In re South African Apartheid Litigation, Jurisdiction, Kiobel, Lungisile Ntsebeza et al v Ford General motors and IBM, Piercing the corporate veil, Regulation 1215/2012, Rio Tinto, SC, SCOTUS, Touch and concern, United States Supreme Court, USSC
Regular or indeed occasional readers of the blog will have been following developments in US case-law since SCOTUS issued its ruling in Kiobel. In Al Shimari v. Caci, the fourth circuit Court of Appeal held in early July that plaintiffs’ claims “touch and concern” the territory of the United States with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Statute: that is the test which SCOTUS set in Kiobel.
Due to a shortage of trained military interrogators, the US hired civilian contractors to interrogate detainees at Abu Ghraib, Iraq – context will be known to readers. During the time period relevant to the civil action, those private interrogators were provided exclusively by CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI), a corporation domiciled in the US. Plaintiffs in the case are foreign nationals who allege that they were tortured and otherwise mistreated by American civilian and military personnel while detained at Abu Ghraib. Plaintiffs allege that CACI employees “instigated, directed, participated in, encouraged, and aided and abetted conduct towards detainees that clearly violated the Geneva Conventions, the Army Field Manual, and the laws of the United States.”
The Court of Appeal noted among many things that SCOTUS in Kiobel broadly stated that the “claims,” rather than the alleged tortious conduct, must touch and concern United States territory with sufficient force, suggesting in the view of the CA that courts must consider all the facts that give rise to ATS claims, including the parties’ identities and their relationship to the causes of action. It found that the claims do concern US territory, pointing to the fact that:
‘the plaintiffs’ claims allege acts of torture committed by United States citizens who were employed by an American corporation, CACI, which has corporate headquarters located in Fairfax County, Virginia. The alleged torture occurred at a military facility operated by United States government personnel.
In addition, the employees who allegedly participated in the acts of torture were hired by CACI in the United States to fulfill the terms of a contract that CACI executed with the United States Department of the Interior. The contract between CACI and the Department of the Interior was issued by a government office in Arizona, and CACI was authorized to collect payments by mailing invoices to government accounting offices in Colorado. Under the terms of the contract, CACI interrogators were required to obtain security clearances from the UnitedStates Department of Defense. Finally, the allegations are not confined to the assertion that CACI’s employees participated directly in acts of torture committed at the Abu Ghraib prison. The plaintiffs also allege that CACI’s managers located in the United States were aware of reports of misconduct abroad, attempted to “cover up” the misconduct, and “implicitly, if not expressly, encouraged” it.‘
(The case nb is not home and dry: whether the claims present non-justiciable political questions still needs to be determined by the district court).
Many out there must be writing PhDs on related issues: a moving target indeed!
Abu Ghraib, Al Shimari v. CACI, Alien Tort Statute, Apartheid, ATS, Comity, Corporate social responsibility, CSR, extraterritorial, Extraterritoriality, Fourth Circuit, Human rights, Iraq, Jurisdiction, Kiobel, SC, SCOTUS, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, United States Supreme Court, USSC
Update 19 June 2017. SCOTUS held today in BMS and rejected jurisdiction.
Update 8 May 2017. Transcipt of pleadings issued in BMS and background here.
Update 12 January 2017 Bristol-Myers, if certiorari will be granted, will further define the limits to the Daimler case-law. Notice how Bristol-Myers, in their certiorari submission, emphasise predictability for the defendant: a sentiment often found in EU private international law. Update 19 January 2017. Certiorari granted.
Update 6 January 2017 a new case has just been launched in New York, against Germany, re its colonial past in Namibia, which one imagines will test both sovereign immunity and ATS.
(Update 3 September 2014: case dismissed end of August). Previous Update 25 July 2014: Docket still shows active case but no further development).
(Update on linked development: in April 2015, SCOTUS denied certiorari in Chiquita, in whuich the CA had applied Kiobel restrictively).
In Kiobel, the USSC /SCOTUS held on the basis of extraterritoriality: under what circumstances may US courts recognize a cause of action under the Alien Torts Statute, for violations of the law of nations, occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States? In focusing on this question (and replying in the negative), the SC did not entertain the question which actually led to certiorari, namely whether the law of nations recognises corporate liability.
Soon after the same USSC held in Daimler that general jurisdiction other than in the State of incorporation applies only (in the case of foreign companies) when a foreign company’s “continuous corporate operations within a state [are] so substantial and of such a nature as to justify suit against it on causes of action arising from dealings entirely distinct from those activities.”
In the ‘Apartheid litigation’ [Lungisile Ntsebeza et al v Ford General motors and IBM], the Southern District of New York picked up the issue where SCOTUS had left it: can corporations be held liable under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”) for violations of “the law of nations”‘? Scheindlin USDJ held they can on 17 April last [Xander Meise Bay has a good overview of the successive litigation here]. She firstly held that it is federal common law that ought to decide whether this is so – not international law itself (ATS being a federal US Statute). Next she argued that the fact in particular (withheld by Jacobs J in Kiobel) that few corporations were ever held to account in a court of law for violations of public international law was not instrumental in finding against such liability.
Counsel have now been instructed to brief on the ‘touch and concern’ test put forward by the Supreme Court in Kiobel, with the warning that they must show in particular that the companies concerned acted ‘not only with the knowledge but with the purpose to aid and abet the South African regime’s tortious conduct as alleged in these complaints’. A strict timetable for arguments has been laid down whence the wait for further development should not be too long. (Update 25 July 2014: Docket still shows active case but no further development; Update 3 September 2014: case dismissed end of August).
02-md-1499, Alien Tort Statute, Apartheid, BMS, Bristol Meyers, Colonialism, Comity, Corporate social responsibility, CSR, Daimler, DaimlerChrysler, DaimlerChrysler v Bauman, Extraterritoriality, Germany, http://opiniojuris.org/wp-content/uploads/17-Apr-SDNY-Opinion.pdf, Human rights, In re South African Apartheid Litigation, Jurisdiction, Kiobel, Lungisile Ntsebeza et al v Ford General motors and IBM, Namibia, Piercing the corporate veil, Regulation 1215/2012, Rio Tinto, SC, SCOTUS, United States Supreme Court, USSC
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