Friday, February 15, 2008

15 February 2008

American Isuzu Motors Inc. et al. v. Lungisile Ntsebeza, 07-919 (aka Khulumani v. Barclay Nat'l Bank Ltd., 509 F.3d 148 (2d Cir. 2007)--up for cert)

((see entry (below) for January 16, 2008))

WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Department urges Supreme Court to stop lawsuit alleging companies aided apartheid

In a rare move, the Justice Department's Solicitor General Paul D. Clement urged the Supreme Court on Monday to reverse an October 2007 appeals court decision that allowed the apartheid suits to proceed. The ruling, by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, "allows an unprecedented and sprawling lawsuit to move forward and represents a dramatic expansion of U.S. law," Clement wrote.

Business groups are concerned that the appeals court's decision expands the reach of the ATS, because it held companies could be held liable for "aiding and abetting" international law violations, in addition to actually committing them.

The case raises questions about how the United States deals with countries that abuse human rights. The government's brief argues that in some cases, such as apartheid-era South Africa, the United States may impose targeted sanctions while still allowing commerce in order to encourage reform. "Such policies would be greatly undermined" if corporations that subsequently do business in those countries are sued under the ATS, the Justice Department said.

Paul Hoffman, the lead attorney for some of the plaintiffs, said he will argue in a brief to the Supreme Court next month that it is too early in the litigation for the justices to weigh in. The lower court rulings have only addressed the question of whether to dismiss the suit. If the case is allowed to proceed, Hoffman said he will file a narrower complaint that will draw closer connections between the actions of the companies and the South African victims. That complaint will also likely name fewer companies, he said.

South Africa's government has repeatedly criticized the litigation as an infringement on its sovereignty, the Justice Department's brief said, and has asked U.S. courts to dismiss the case.
The court won't decide whether to take the case until late April at the earliest, and if it agrees to do so, oral arguments will take place during the court's next term, which begins in October.

For the complete article:

To see the Gov't full argument: