Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2063921
 


 



Attorney General Bradford's Opinion and the Alien Tort Statute


Curtis A. Bradley


Duke University - School of Law

June 7, 2012


Abstract:     
In debates over the scope of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), one historical document has played an especially prominent role. This document is a short opinion by U.S. Attorney General William Bradford, issued in the summer of 1795, concerning the involvement of U.S. citizens in an attack by a French fleet on a British colony in Sierra Leone. Numerous academic articles, judicial opinions, and litigation briefs have invoked the Bradford opinion, for a variety of propositions, and the opinion was discussed by both sides in the oral argument before the Supreme Court in the first hearing in the pending ATS case, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. Surprisingly, however, no one appears to have looked for the official records and correspondence concerning the Sierra Leone incident, other than the Bradford opinion itself. Based on research conducted in the archives of both the U.S. State Department and the British Foreign Office, this essay considers the broader diplomatic context of the Bradford opinion. The essay concludes that, when read in light of the complaints from the British government that Bradford was responding to, his opinion provides support for the extraterritorial application of the ATS, but only with respect to the conduct of U.S. citizens. It also concludes that the opinion does not provide support for aiding and abetting liability under the ATS, at least as that concept is typically invoked today. The two principal documents that Bradford was responding to in his opinion, which have not previously been considered in the scholarship on the ATS, are transcribed as an appendix to the essay.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 22

Keywords: Alien Tort Statute, extraterritoriality, aiding and abetting, neutrality, law of nations

working papers series


Download This Paper

Date posted: May 22, 2012 ; Last revised: July 24, 2012

Suggested Citation

Bradley, Curtis A., Attorney General Bradford's Opinion and the Alien Tort Statute (June 7, 2012). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2063921 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2063921

Contact Information

Curtis A. Bradley (Contact Author)
Duke University - School of Law ( email )
Box 90360
Duke School of Law
Durham, NC 27708
United States
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 921
Downloads: 214
Download Rank: 78,714

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo7 in 0.297 seconds