The Alien Tort Statute and Beyond: Jurisdiction for Victims of International Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Courts

In 2002, Nigerian nationals who had been granted asylum in the U.S. sued Dutch and British oil companies in the Southern District of New York. Specifically, the plaintiffs accused the companies of aiding and abetting the Nigerian government in carrying out environmental damage and human rights abuses. During the mid-1990’s, oil accounted for 95% of the Nigeria’s export earnings. The plaintiffs’ homeland, Ogoniland, had been ravaged by oil production. Pipelines were constructed through farmers’ fields, polluting the soil and destroying crops. Water in local wells had become contaminated. Fish and trees had begun to die. The plaintiffs’ role in peacefully protesting oil extraction activities had made them a target of the reigning Nigerian military dictatorship. The lead plaintiff’s husband had been extrajudicially hanged. The plaintiffs stood no chance at a fair suit in Nigeria, but they deserved a chance at relief. The Nigerian plaintiffs sued under a statute enacted over two hundred years earlier. That statute was 28 U.S.C. §1350, better known as the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”). It reads: “[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of 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.” Id. The statute deals [read more]

Industrial Design: Reinterpreting the Useful Article Doctrine

The separability test’s current binary approach dooms opposing parties to talk past one another, each at a different level of abstraction, with courts only clumsily able to direct the proceedings. Courts could more productively channel discourse if they considered separability across a spectrum. By applying a spectrum, courts would be able to determine the sorts of designs that are truly worthy of copyright protection with greater precision and sophistication. [read more]

The Future is Female?: The Legal Implications of California’s New Law Mandating Female Representation on Corporate Boards

With women comprising over half the population, their insight is critical to discussions and decisions that affect corporate culture, actions and profitability. Women have different life experiences and perspectives than white men who typically comprise boards, and that makes a difference. Quotas may force companies to look outside of the normal places for diverse yet highly qualified candidates who might not have the typical background for such a position. [read more]

A Case for Treating Nonviolent Drug Offenders With Rehabilitation Instead of Prison Time

In light of the opioid crisis facing the nation today, lawmakers are focusing less on harsh federal sentences, and more on research into the public health crisis. Since the government is looking at opioid drug users with more compassion and less contempt, there is a perfect opportunity for lawmakers to make offenders of all drugs an offense that calls for treatment instead of prison time. [read more]
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