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Civil Procedure – ATS — extraterritorial claims

U.S. Supreme Court


Civil Procedure – ATS — extraterritorial claims

The presumption against extraterritoriality applies to claims under the Alien Tort Statute.

The presumption is not rebutted by the text, history, or purposes of the ATS. Nothing in the ATS’s text evinces a clear indication of extraterritorial reach. Violations of the law of nations affecting aliens can occur either within or outside the United States. And generic terms, like “any” in the phrase “any civil action,” do not rebut the presumption against extraterritoriality. See, e.g., Morrison, supra, at ___. Petitioners also rely on the common-law “transitory torts” doctrine, but that doctrine is inapposite here; as the Court has explained, “the only justification for allowing a party to recover when the cause of action arose in another civilized jurisdiction is a well-founded belief that it was a cause of action in that place,” Cuba R. Co. v. Crosby, 222 U. S. 473. The question under Sosa is not whether a federal court has jurisdiction to entertain a cause of action provided by foreign or even international law. The question is instead whether the court has authority to recognize a cause of action under U. S. law to enforce a norm of international law. That question is not answered by the mere fact that the ATS mentions torts.

621 F. 3d 111, affirmed.

10-1491 Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.

Roberts, C.J.; Kennedy, J., concurring; Alito, J., concurring; Breyer, J., concurring.

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