“Congress adopted the Alien Tort Statute in 1789 to grant federal courts jurisdiction over cases involving piracy and assaults on ambassadors.  Activist attorneys and judges have transformed the law into a tool for second-guessing U.S. foreign policy and for attacking the overseas conduct of corporations.”
—Richard Samp, WLF Chief Counsel

Click here for WLF’s brief.

WASHINGTON, DC—Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review (and ultimately overturn) an appeals court decision that permits activists to go forward with a suit charging cocoa processors and chocolate manufacturers with aiding and abetting human rights violations by farmers in the Ivory Coast. In an amicus curiae brief filed in support of two related certiorari petitions, WLF argued that the appeals court decision directly conflicts with other decisions that limit such human-rights lawsuits to claims: (1) arising within the United States and (2) filed against individuals, not against corporations. WLF’s brief was joined by the Allied Educational Foundation.

The plaintiffs are citizens of Mali who, as children, worked on Ivory Coast cocoa farms. They allege that cocoa farmers mistreated them. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that their lawsuit should be permitted to go forward under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which authorizes tort claims based on violations of “the law of nations.” The appeals court held that the defendants could be brought to trial for aiding and abetting slavery based on evidence that they took advantage of the lower prices available for cocoa produced under slave conditions.

WLF argued that immediate Supreme Court review is particularly warranted because the Ninth Circuit permitted the suit to go forward even though it has been pending for 14 years and even though the appeals court found that the complaint has yet to adequately state an actionable ATS claim. WLF charged that the apparent purpose of the lawsuit is to assist with a human-rights campaign being waged in the press and before legislatures, not to seriously pursue claims against those who purchase products from farmers who engage in abusive labor practices.

Washington Legal Foundation preserves and defends America’s free-enterprise system by litigating, educating, and advocating for free-market principles, a limited and accountable government, individual and business civil liberties, and the rule of law.