Kiobel: US Supreme Court Review of Alien Tort Claims Act - Background Materials

Materials relating to the US Supreme Court's 17 April 2013 decision in Kiobel v. Shell are available here.

The US Supreme Court announced on 17 October 2011 that it would hear an appeal in the Alien Tort Claims Act lawsuit Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Co.(Shell).  This represents the first time this court has reviewed a human rights lawsuit against a corporation under this statute.  The Kiobel plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court following a dismissal of their case by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on 28 February 2012.

On 5 March the Court announced that it would not rule on this case in the 2011-12 term.  It asked the parties to submit supplemental briefs and reheard the case on 1 October 2012.  The Court asked the parties to submit briefs on whether the Alien Tort Claims Act allows federal courts to hear lawsuits alleging violations of international law which occur outside the United States.  On 17 April 2013 the Supreme Court issued its decision, affirming a lower court’s dismissal of the case and restricting the application of the Alien Tort Claims Act in cases involving allegations of abuse outside the United States.

Our case profile of this lawsuit is here.


[PDF] Full transcript of rehearing, US Supreme Court, 1 Oct 2012
[audio] Official recording of rehearing, US Supreme Court, 1 Oct 2012

Reharing briefs filed by the parties
- Petitioners/plaintiffs (Kiobel) - Supplemental Opening Brief, 6 Jun 2012
- Respondents/defendants (Shell) - Supplemental Brief, 1 Aug 2012
- Petitioners/plaintiffs (Kiobel) - Supplemental Reply Brief, 31 Aug 2012

Rehearing amicus briefs filed in support of Petitioners (Kiobel)
- EarthRights International, 13 Jun 2012
- International Human Rights Organizations, 13 Jun
- Abukar Hassan Ahmed, Daniel Alvarado, Dr. Juan Romagoza Arce, Aldo Cabello, Zita Cabello, Aziz Mohamed Deria, Dolly Filartiga, Neris Gonzales, Gloria Reyes, Oscar Reyes, Cecilia Santos Moran, Zenaida Velasquez, and Bashe Abdi Yousuf, Center for Justice and Accountability, 13 Jun 2012
- Professors of legal history William R. Casto, Charles Donahue, Robert W. Gordon, Nasser Hussain, Stanley N. Katz, Michael Lobban, Jenny S. Martinez, James Oldham & Anne-Marie Slaughter, 13 Jun 2012  
- Dutch law professors Alex-Geert Castermans, Cees Van Dam, Liesbeth Enneking, Nicola Jägers, Menno Kamminga, 13 Jun 2012
- German Institute for Human Rights & International Law Experts, 13 Jun 2012
- Juan E. Méndez UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, 13 Jun 2012
- South African Jurists Anton Katz, Maz du Plessis, and Christopher Gevers, 13 Jun 2012
- Australian international law scholars, 12 Jun 2012
- Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic, 12 Jun 2012
- Professors of civil procedure and federal courts, 11 Jun 2012
- Volker Beck & Christoph Strässer, Members of Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany, 11 Jun 2012

Rehearing amicus briefs in support of Respondents (Shell)
- US Government [in support of partial affirmance of Second Circuit decision], 13 Jun 2012

Rehearing amicus briefs in support of neither party
- Institute for Human Rights and Business, Errol P. Mendes, David Petrasek, John F. Sherman, University of Minnesota Human Rights Litigation and International Advocacy Clinic
- Former UN Special Representative on Business & Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie; Professor Philip Alston; & the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law, 12 Jun 2012

Commentary on rehearing
- Kiobel case: Corporate accountability for human rights abuses, Lauren Carasik, Western New England University School of Law in Al Jazeera, 1 Apr 2013
- Shell, the Supreme Court, and Corporate Liability, Sara Murphy, Motley Fool, 14 Dec 2012
- Views on Kiobel v. Shell, Salil Tripathi, Institute for Human Rights and Business, 9 Oct 2012
- Alien torts in America's courts, Editorial, Los Angeles Times, 8 Oct 2012
- Shell, Corporate Responsibility and Respect for the Law, Amol Mehra & Katie Shay, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, 3 Oct 2012
- Investor Statement for Human Rights and in Support of U.S. Alien Tort Statute, Boston Common Asset Management & 30 other socially responsible investors & investment managers, 2 Oct 2012
- Kiobel case to determine whether corporations can be held accountable for human rights abuses abroad, Human Rights First, 1 Oct 2012
- Argument recap: In search of an [Alien Tort Statute] compromise, Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog, 1 Oct 2012
- Supreme Court may narrow law in human rights cases, Jonathan Stempel, Reuters, 1 Oct 2012
- Justice Kennedy is back for more torture, Noah Feldman, Harvard Law School in Bloomberg, 30 Sep 2012
- Alien Tort Invasion, Wall Street Journal, 30 Sep 2012
- Supreme Court revisits corporate liability for human rights violations, Michael Bobelian, Forbes, 28 Sep 2012
- Supreme Court holds U.S. rights legacy in balance, Vincent Warren, Center for Constitutional Rights in CNN Opinion, 27 Sep 2012
- Will the high court be a dream killer?, Peter Weiss, Center for Constitutional Rights in National Law Journal, 21 Sep 2012
- Kiobel and Corporate Social Responsibility: An Issues Brief, Professor John Ruggie, former UN Special Representative on business & human rights, 4 Sep 2012
- Shell Brief in Kiobel Misstates the Law and Demeans Victims of Human Rights Abuse, Jonathan Kaufman, EarthRights Inernational, 3 Aug 2012
- Shell: Alien Tort Statute not meant for interntaional human rights, Alison Frankel, Thomson Reuters News & Insight, 2 Aug 2012
- Online symposium: Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, SCOTUSblog [USA], Jul 2012
- Kiobel brief shows State/DOJ split over human rights litigation, Alison Frankel, Reuters, 15 Jun 2012
- The U.S. Supreme Court must preserve the Alien Tort Statute for international corporate human rights cases, Marco Simons, EarthRights International, 13 Jun 2012
- New SCOTUS brief: Keep international human rights cases in U.S. courts, Alison Frankel, Thomson Reuters News & Insight, 11 Jun 2012



[audio] Official audio recording of oral arguments, US Supreme Court, 28 Feb 2012
[PDF] Official transcript of oral arguments, US Supreme Court, 28 Feb 2012
[PDF] Supreme Court Order restoring case to calendar for reargument, US Supreme Court, 5 Mar 2012

[video] The Alien Tort Statute, Corporate Liability for Human Rights Abuses and the Supreme Court, panel discussion with Paul Hoffman (counsel for Kiobel plaintiffs), Elisa Massimino (Human Rights First) and Marco Simons (EarthRights International), 29 Feb 2012

Briefs filed by the parties
- Petitioners/plaintiffs (Kiobel), 14 Dec 2011
- Respondents/defendants (Shell), 27 Jan 2012
- Petitioners/plaintiffs (Kiobel) - Reply Brief, 21 Feb 2012

Amicus briefs filed in support of the Petitioners (Kiobel) (filed 21 Dec 2011)
- US Government
- Ambassador David J. Scheffer, Northwestern University School of Law
- American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
- Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law
- Civil Procedure Professors
- EarthRights International
- Former US Government Counterterrorism & Human Rights Officials
- International Human Rights Organizations & International Law Experts
- International Law Scholars
- Law Professors of Civil Liberties & 42 U.S.C. § 1983
- Nuremberg Scholars
- Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Professors of Legal History
- Rutherford Institute
- Joseph E. Stiglitz
- Arlen Specter (former US Senator), Human Rights First, Anti-Defamation League
- Yale Law School Center for Global Legal Challenges

Amicus briefs filed in support of the Respondents (Shell)
- Association of German Chambers of Industry & Commerce, Federation of German Industries, CBI, Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, economiesuisse, Intl. Chambers of Commerce Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland
- BP, Caterpillar, ConocoPhillips, General Electric, Honeywell, IBM
- CATO Institute
- Chevron, Dole, Dow Chemical, Ford, GlaxoSmithKline, Procter & Gamble
- Clearing House
- Coca-Cola, Archer Daniels Midland
- German Government
- International Law Professors
- Law Professors of Constitutional & Federal Civil Procedure Law
- National Foreign Trade Council, USA*Engage, US Council for Intl. Business, American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, Organization for Intl. Investment, American Insurance
- Product Liability Advisory Counsel
- Professors of International Law, Foreign Relations & Federal Jurisdiction
- Rio Tinto, Occidental Petroleum
- UK & Netherlands Governments
- US Chamber of Commerce

Amicus briefs filed in support of neither party
- Brief for Nuremberg Historians & International Law Professors, 21 Dec 2011

- Raising Awareness about Corporate Power and the Supreme Court, Hilda Vega, Libra Foundation in International Human Rights Funders Blog, 12 May 2012
- The Global Lawyer: The Perils of State Human Rights Litigation, Michael Goldhaber, AmLaw Daily, 5 Apr 2012
- The Global Lawyer: Human Rights Plaintiffs Can't Even Pick Their Poison, Michael Goldhaber, AmLaw Daily, 19 Mar 2012
- The Impact of Corporate Amicus Briefs on the Supreme Court in Kiobel, Sue Reisinger, Corporate Counsel [USA], 8 Mar 2012
- Supreme Court Orders Reargument in Alien Tort Statute Case, Marcia Coyle, Blog of the Legal Times, 5 Mar 2012
- Supreme Court won't rule this term on corporate liability for human rights abuses, Marco Simons. EarthRights International, 5 Mar 2012
- Pirates Incorporated: The US Supreme Court to decide if corporations are liable under the Alien Tort Statute, Joanna Kyriakakis, Castan Centre for Human Rights, Monash Univ. [Australia], 5 Mar 2012
- Human Rights and U.S. Courts, Los Angeles Times Editorial, 1 Mar 2012
- Supreme Court Debates Rights Case Against Companies, Adam Liptak, New York Times, 28 Feb 2012
- Corporate Rights and Human Rights, Room for Debate, New York Times, 28 Feb 2012
- Kiobel Case a Reminder of Remedy Gaps Still to be Bridged, Institute for Human Rights & Business, 28 Feb 2012
- Court skeptical of using U.S. laws in foreign human rights cases, Marcia Coyle, National Law Journal, 28 Feb 2012
- Corporate Immunity Looks Likely: Supreme Court Seems Ready To Side With Shell in Human Rights Suit, Mike Sacks, Huffington Post, 28 Feb 2012
- Corporate Crime and Punishment, Arvind Ganesan, Human Rights Watch in Huffington Post, 28 Feb 2012
- Kiobel v. Shell tests corporate personhood, Katie Redford, EarthRights International in Huffington Post, 28 Feb 2012
- Bringing 'Alien Torts' to America, David B. Rivkin Jr., Lee A. Casey, Wall Street Journal, 28 Feb 2012
- When big business and human rights collide, Ka Hsaw Wa, EarthRights International in Los Angeles Times, 26 Feb 2012
- [video] Supreme Court to decide whether US corporations can be sued for abuses they support overseas, Democracy Now, 24 Feb 2012
- Should corporations have more leeway to kill than people do?, Peter Weiss, Center for Constitutional Rights in New York Times, 24 Feb 2012
- Hold corporations accountable, Michael Bazyler & Jennifer Green, National Law Journal [USA], 20 Feb 2012
- Will Alien Tort Case be the Next Citizens United?, Marcia Coyle, Corporate Counsel [USA], 3 Feb 2012
- Corporate Personhood and the Supreme Court, Foresight News [USA], 26 Jan 2012
- Breaking News: USG Brief in Favor of Kiobel Plaintiffs, Beth Van Schaack, Santa Clara Law School in IntLawGrrls Blog, 21 Dec 2011
- Court will hear alien tort, First Amendment cases, Tony Mauro, National Law Journal, 17 Oct 2011
- Torture suits against companies draw Supreme Court review in immunity case, Greg Stohr, Bloomberg, 17 Oct 2011

Petition for Writ of Certiorari (request for court to hear appeal)
- Petition filed by Kiobel plaintiffs, 6 Jun 2011
- Brief in opposition filed by defendants, 12 Aug 2011

US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
- Decision dismissing Kiobel lawsuit, 17 Sep 2010