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The Long View on Kiobel: A muted Victory for International Legal norms in the United States?

  • Marco Basile (a1)

Extract

Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. may be a Trojan horse. Observers who are sympathetic to the adjudication in U.S. courts of international legal norms—such as those against torture— have criticized the decision for limiting federal jurisdiction over human rights abuses abroad. Yet, despite this price, Kiobel might ultimately strengthen the foundation of international legal norms in U.S. courts. Chief Justice John Roberts's majority opinion, limiting the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) from reaching overseas, rested on the principle that one sovereign state should not usually apply its laws within the borders of another sovereign state, and that idea is a bedrock principle of international law. The majority avoided the connection to international law by dressing up the presumption against extraterritoriality in a foreign-policy rationale, but its argument does not square with the historical record, especially when it comes to piracy.

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References

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1 Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 133 S.Ct. 1659 (2013).

2 See, e.g., Adam Liptak, Justices Bar Nigerian Human Rights Case from U.S. Courts, N.Y. Times, Apr. 18, 2013, at A22 (describing human rights groups’ disappointment with Kiobel ).

3 28 U.S.C. §1350.

4 The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 700 (1900).

5 Swift v. Tyson, 41 U.S. (16 Pet.) 1 (1842).

6 See David Sloss, Judicial Foreign Policy: Lessons from the 1790s, 53 ST. Louis U. L.J. 145, 147 (2008).

7 David L. Sloss, Michael D. Ramsey & William S. Dodge, Continuity and Change over Two Centuries, in International Law in the U.S. Supremecourt: Continuity and Change 589, 597 (David L. Sloss, Michael D. Ramsey & William S. Dodge eds., 2011); see also Nicholas Parrillo, The De-privatization of American Warfare: How the U.S. Government Used, Regulated, and Ultimately Abandoned Privateering in the Nineteenth Century, 19 Yale J.L. & Human. 1 (2007).

8 S. Pac. Co. v. Jensen, 244 U.S. 205, 222 (1917) (Holmes, J., dissenting).

9 Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 79–80 (1938).

10 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, on the Law of Nations 120 (1990).

11 See Mark Mazower, The Strange Triumph of Human Rights, 1933–1950, 47 HIST. J. 379, 393 (2004).

12 See Martti Koskenniemi, the Gentle Civilizer of Nations: the Rise and Fall of International Law 1870–1960, at 413–509 (2001).

13 See Filártiga v. Peña-Irala, 630 F.2d 876 (2d Cir. 1980).

14 U.S. Const. Art. III, §2, cl. 1.

15 See, e.g., Curtis A. Bradley & Jack L. Goldsmith, Customary International Law as Federal Common Law: A Critique of the Modern Position, 110 HARV. L. REV. 815 (1997).

16 Louis Henkin, International Law as Law in the United States, 82 MICH. L. REV. 1555, 1561 (1984).

17 Id. at 1561–62.

18 Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U.S. 692, 725–26 (2004).

19 Id. at 724.

20 Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 133 S.Ct. 1659, 1669 (2013).

21 Id.

22 See, e.g., Medellı´n v. Texas, 552 U.S. 491, 506 (2008) (holding, in an opinion by Roberts, that decisions of the International Court of Justice do not have legal force in the United States absent legislation rendering them domestic law, despite the United States being a party to that Court's founding treaties).

23 See, e.g., Supplemental Brief of Chevron Corp. et al. as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 133 S.Ct. 1659 (2013) (No. 10-1491), available at http://www.losangelesemploy mentlawyer.com/International-Human-Rights/Chervron-Corp-Dole-Food-Co-Dow-Chem-Ford- Glaxosmithkline-and-P-G.pdf (arguing that the extraterritorial application of the ATS violates international law).

24 Kiobel, 133 S.Ct. at 1664–65.

25 Id. at 1665.

26 See Gary B. Born, Areappraisal of the Extraterritorial Reach of U.S.Law, 24LAW & Pol’Y INT’LBUS. 1, 10–19 (1992) (discussing the presumption's origins in international law).

27 See, e.g., Joseph Story,Commentarie Son the Conflict of Laws19 (1834);Emerdevattel,The Law of Nations 75 (Be´la Kapossy & Richard Whatmore eds., Thomas Nugent trans., 2008) (1758). Some commentators argue that international law does not recognize a presumption against extraterritoriality. See David L. Sloss, Kiobel and Extraterritoriality: A Rule Without a Rationale, 28MD. J. INT’L L. 241, 241–44 (2013). The argument relies on S.S. Lotus (Fr. v. Turk.), 1927 PCIJ (ser. A) No. 10, at 18–19, which adopted a permissive, rather than prohibitive, approach to default international norms and reasoned accordingly that states are generally free to exercise jurisdiction extraterritorially absent a specific prohibition. However, the 1927 case has been rightly criticized as “represent[ing] the high water mark of laissez-faire in international relations, and an era that has been significantly overtaken by other tendencies.” Arrest Warrant of 11 April 2000 (Dem. Rep. Congo v. Belg.), 2002 ICJ REP. 3, 78, para. 51 (Feb. 14) (Higgins, Kooijmans & Buergenthal, JJ., joint sep. op.); see also id. at 43, para. 15 (Guillaume, J. & Pres., sep. op.) (noting that “the adoption of the United Nations Charter proclaiming the sovereign equality of States, and the appearance on the international scene of new States, born of decolonization, have strengthened the territorial principle”). Moreover, even if S.S. Lotus applies, the case does not mark a clean break from the territorial principle in favor of extraterritoriality, given that it relied on the “effects” on Turkish territory of an alleged offense committed on the high seas in order to uphold Turkey's jurisdiction over the offender. See S.S. Lotus, supra, at 23. See generally Cedric Ryngaert, Jurisdiction in International Law 30–31 (2008).

28 See David Armitage, Foundations of Modern International Thought 21 (2013).

29 See Noah Feldman, When Judges Make Foreign Policy, N.Y. TIMES MAG., Sept. 28, 2008, at MM50.

30 Sloss, supra note 27, at 247–50.

31 Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U.S. 692, 724–25 (2004).

32 Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 133 S.Ct. 1659, 1667 (2013).

33 See id. at 1672 (Breyer, J., concurring).

34 See Kevin Arlyck, Plaintiffs v. Privateers: Litigation and Foreign Affairs in the Federal Courts, 1816–1822, 30 LAW&HIST. REV. 245, 261, 273 (2012).

35 See The Antelope, 23 U.S. (10 Wheat.) 66, 120 (1825); United States v. La Jeune Eugenie, 26 F.Cas. 832 (C.C.D. Mass. 1822) (No. 15,551).

36 See Hugh G. Soulsby, The Right of Search and the Slave Trade in Anglo-American Relations, 1814–1862 (1933).

37 See R. v. Dawson, 13 How. St. Tr. 451, 455 (High Ct. Adm. 1696) (universal jurisdiction over piracy). Historically, the Supreme Court has hesitated to apply U.S. laws to pirates subject to the jurisdiction of a country whose flag their ship flew, but it was less hesitant where pirates flew no flag, save the Jolly Roger. Compare United States v. Palmer, 16 U.S. (3 Wheat.) 610, 643 (1818) (declining to apply piracy statute to piratical acts “on board of a ship or vessel belonging exclusively to subjects of any foreign state”), with United States v. Klintock, 18 U.S. (5 Wheat.) 144, 152 (1820) (applying same piracy statute to piratical acts committed “on board of a vessel not at the time belonging to the subjects of any foreign power”).

38 See, in this Agora, Zachary D. Clopton, Kiobel and the Law of Nations; Ralph G. Steinhardt, Kiobel and the Weakening of Precedent: A Long Walk for a Short Drink.

39 The Declaration of Independence (U.S. 1776).

40 Id.; see David Armitage, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History 25–62 (2007).

I would like to thank Noah Feldman for comments on a previous draft.

The Long View on Kiobel: A muted Victory for International Legal norms in the United States?

  • Marco Basile (a1)

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