New U. Chicago Law Review article: “The Alien Tort Statute and the Law of Nations”


From the abstract (full article PDF):

The ATS authorized federal court jurisdiction over claims by foreign citizens against United States citizens for intentional torts to person or personal property. At the time, both the commission of—and the failure to redress—such “torts” violated “the law of nations.” The statute thus employed these terms to create a self-executing means for the United States to avoid military reprisals for the misconduct of its citizens. Neither the ATS nor Article III, however, authorized federal court jurisdiction over tort claims between aliens. Indeed, federal court adjudication of at least one subset of such claims—alien–alien claims for acts occurring in another nation’s territory—would have contradicted the statute’s purpose by putting the United States at risk of foreign conflict. Despite suggestions that the true import of the ATS may never be recovered, the original meaning of the statute appears relatively clear in historical context: the ATS limited federal court jurisdiction to suits by aliens against United States citizens but broadly encompassed any intentional tort to an alien’s person or personal property.



For other scholarly articles on ATCA/ATS, visit ATCAblog’s Selected Academic Literature page.


About Charles Donefer

I am an attorney in New York City.
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