Judge Scheindlin, In Re South Africa Apartheid Litigation, and… A Non-Fully Dead ATS?

Although in the middle of the Easter holiday (at least for some), I find it is worth briefly reporting on the opinion of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York In re South Africa Apartheid Litigation, that was delivered yesterday.

As stated and criticized by Julian Ku, most of the opinion deals with whether a corporation may be sued under the Alien Tort Statute. Julian Ku goes on explaining that as a lower court within that circuit, the district court should have been bound to follow that court’s 2010 opinion Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell, which held that corporations cannot be sued under the ATS. However, the lower court judge, Shira Scheindlin, decided that since the Supreme Court had ended up dismissing the Kiobel plaintiffs on other grounds (e.g. extraterritoriality), the Court had sub silentio reversed the original Kiobel decision’s ruling on corporate liability.

So, let’s end in the same way he starts, i.e. with an open question: “maybe the use of the Alien Tort Statute against corporations for overseas activities isn’t fully dead.” (Add.: yet).