What Were They Thinking? How a circuit split over mens rea could resolve the Alien Tort Statute corporate liability controversy - New Jersey Law Journal

    13 February 2012

    Passed by the first Congress in 1789 to combat, among others, acts of piracy on the high-seas, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. § 1350, grants federal district courts jurisdiction over “any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” As threats from Barbary pirates faded in the nineteenth century, this obscure jurisdictional statute lay nearly dormant for 200 years. Indeed, only two ATS cases were adjudicated in the history of the statute until, in 1980, the Second Circuit revived it in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, 630 F.2d 876 (2d Cir. 1980). The seminal decision in Filartiga opened the floodgates for hundreds of lawsuits that would claim ATS jurisdiction over the next 30 years.

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    Reprinted with permission from the New Jersey Law Journal.