International Implications of the Alien Tort Statute
Posted: 29 Feb 2008
Date Written: June 2004
The Alien Tort Statute of 1789 (ATS) remained virtually dormant until it was revived by the 1980 decision of the Second Circuit in Filartiga vs. Pena-Irala. Since Filartiga, plaintiffs, who are neither US citizens nor residents, have invoked the ATS for a widening range of claims alleging large damages from acts committed outside the United States. ATS suits are increasingly targeting the deep pockets of multinational corporations. In an upcoming case, Sosa vs. Alvarez-Machain, the US Supreme Court will have to address whether the ATS grants federal courts a flexible power to create new torts corresponding to evolving norms in the 'law of nations'. The authors contend that a broad interpretation of the ATS will make US federal courts agents of judicial imperialism, doing great damage to foreign relations, as well as international trade and investment.
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