Lawrence W. Newman has been a partner in the New York office of Baker & McKenzie since 1971, when, together with the late Professor Henry deVries, he founded the litigation department in that office. He is the author/editor of 4 works on international litigation/arbitration.
Michael Burrows, Formerly, Of Counsel, Baker & McKenzie, New York.
In Chapter 29 we discussed how the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”) was becoming a major concern to multinational corporations as a result of an ever-increasing number of lawsuits against them, seeking billions in damages under the statute. We talked about how the threat of large judgments could adversely affect international business and aid to developing countries. And we explained how the Supreme Court would likely have to play a significant role in shaping the jurisprudence in this area, lest matters spiral completely out of control.
As anticipated, the Supreme Court granted certiorari on an ATS case, and, in its recent decision in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, the Supreme Court brought some much needed clarity to this area of the law. Or did it?
Development of the Statute
First, some historical context. The ATS was passed by the first Congress as part of the Judiciary Act of 1789. It provides, in its entirety, as follows: