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Alien Tort Statute – Jurisdiction

United States Supreme Court

Case Name: Nestle USA, Inc., v. John Doe I, et al.,

Case No.: 19-416; 19-453

Focus: Alien Tort Statute – Jurisdiction

The Alien Tort Statute (ATS) gives federal courts jurisdiction to hear certain civil actions filed by aliens. 28 U. S. C. §1350. Although this jurisdictional statute does not create a cause of action, our precedents have stated that courts may exercise common-law authority under this statute to create private rights of action in very limited circumstances. See, e.g., Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U. S. 692, 724 (2004); Hernández v. Mesa, 589 U. S. ___, ___, ___ (2020) (slip op., at 6, 14). Respondents here seek a judicially created cause of action to recover damages from American corporations that allegedly aided and abetted slavery abroad. Although respondents’ injuries occurred entirely overseas, the Ninth Circuit held that respondents could sue in federal court because the defendant corporations allegedly made “major operational decisions” in the United States. The Ninth Circuit erred by allowing this suit to proceed.

Reversed and remanded

Dissenting: ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Concurring: GORSUCH, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined as to Part I, and in which KAVANAUGH, J., joined as to Part II. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which BREYER and KAGAN, JJ., joined.

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Derek A Hawkins is Corporate Counsel, at Salesforce.

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