U.S. Supreme Court

Case Status


Docket Number


2012 Term

Lower Court Opinion

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit


Questions Presented

1. Whether U.S. courts should recognize a federal common law claim under the ATS arising from conduct occuring entirely within the jurisdiction of a foreign sovereign, especially where the claim addresses the foreign sovereign's own conduct on its own soil toward its own citizens.

2. Whether U.S. courts should recognize a federal common law claim under the ATS based on aiding-and-abetting liability, even absent concrete factual allegations establishing that the purpose of the defendant's condct was to advance the principal actor's violations of international law.

3. Whether a plaintiff asserting a federal common law claim under the ATS addressed to conduct occurring entirely within the jurisdicion of a foreign sovereign must seek to exhaust available remedies in the courts of that sovereign before filing suit in the United States, as international and domestic law require.

4. Whether federal common law claims asserted under the ATS for violations of international human rights law norms may be brought against corporate entities.

Case Updates

Ninth Circuit (en banc) affirms district court's judgement of dismissal

June 28, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court throws out Ninth Circuit decision on Alien Tort Statute in light of Kiobel ruling

April 22, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court granted Rio Tinto's certiorari petition, vacated the Ninth Circuit's ruling, and remanded the case back to that court in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum.

U.S. Chamber files amicus brief in Alien Tort Statute case

December 28, 2011

NCLC urged the U.S. Supreme Court to agree to hear this case if the Court reverses judgment in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, in order to clarify a host of unresolved questions regarding the scope of liability under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). In this case, residents of a Papua New Guinea island raised ATS claims against Rio Tinto for alleged human rights violations, racial discrimination, and environmental damage. In its brief, NCLC explained that ATS litigation is imposing extremely substantial, and wholly unjustified, burdens on legitimate business conduct. Key drivers of unjustified ATS litigation include unresolved questions regarding aiding and abetting liability; the extraterritorial reach of the ATS; and the traditional requirement that non-U.S. plaintiffs exhaust remedies in the country in which the claim arises before bring suit in the U.S.

Case Documents