The firm occasionally handles significant federal human rights appeals in conjunction with other firms. Recently, these activities have focused on civil litigation under the Alien Tort Statute.
The firm spent a great deal of time investigating allegations of bribery, torture, assassination and other human rights violations in Equatorial Guinea in preparation for the filing of a civil case in Los Angeles. However, the U.S. Attorney’s office has filed that case as a criminal money laundering/forfeiture case that is now pending in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
The firm was heavily involved in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in October 2011 on the issue of whether corporations can be sued for human rights violations under the Alien Tort Statute. After that issue was briefed and argued on February 28, 2012, the Court ordered further briefing on the issue of the extra-territorial application of the Alien Tort Statute.
The final ruling by the Supreme Court generated several opinions but lacked clear rules backed by a majority. The Court appeared to hold that corporations could be sued for human rights violations under the ATS, but since a majority found that a sufficient nexus to the United States was lacking so that the ATS could not be applied in an extra- territorial manner, the ruling as to corporate liability became dicta rather than a holding. The decision lacked a consensus as to the precise nexus to the United States required before an ATS claim could be based upon extra-territorial conduct. This has given rise to a plethora of cases to fill in the many ellipses of Kiobel. Although Kiobel was argued in the beginning of the 2012-2013 term, the decision was held to the end of the term. Suspicions were that Justice Kennedy was struggling with his opinion. In the end he gave little guidance inviting further litigation. As one observer wrote: Justice Kennedy labored and labored and gave birth to a mouse.
The firm intends to file future international human rights cases as may present themselves under the following statutes: Torture Victims Prevention Act, Anti Terror and Effective Death Penalty Act, RICO, and the Alien Tort Statute. The Firm also intends to continue its appellate advocacy in favor of human rights including work in the US Supreme Court.