University of New Hampshire Law Review


[Excerpt] "On September 18, 2002, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a United States based corporation can be held civilly liable for “aiding and abetting” the internationally recognized human rights violation of forced labor. This case, Doe v. Unocal Corp.1 (Doe II), is significant for its ramifications to human rights litigation in United States courts as well as to future liability for multinational corporations conducting commerce in foreign states. The uniqueness of this case is found in its precedent. No prior federal court has held a corporation liable for human rights violations under the Alien Tort Claims Act. […]

This article concerns the third category, in particular, an analysis of Doe II. This article analyzes Doe II under a multi-tiered rubric. The first tier involves analyzing whether the Ninth Circuit was correct in its jurisdictional interpretation. The second tier studies the extent to which the Ninth Circuit’s use of international law expanded previously accepted usage by United States courts. For example, after reading Doe II, a question arises as to whether the Ninth Circuit created a “complete” universal jurisdiction for torts under the ATCA. The final tier, involves analyzing foreseen legal consequences. That is, does Doe II expand causes of action for foreign human rights violations because the decision reduces possible defenses to tort claims under the ATCA?

Within this multi-dimensional rubric, Doe II must be understood from its beginnings. Section II discusses the history of Doe II, primarily through two prior district court decisions. However, in order to analyze Doe II, a meaningful background to the ATCA must be determined. Section III of this paper provides this background. Particular attention is paid to the Filartiga decision and its progeny because Doe II relied, in large-part, on principles established in Filartiga. Section IV provides context for the suit, namely, the nature of human rights violations occurring in Myanmar where the plaintiffs allege the violations occurred. Section V analyzes the Ninth Circuit’s unique application of International Law. Section VI analyzes foreseeable consequences to defenses against ATCA suits. In particular, defenses under the act of state doctrine, dismissal under the indispensable parties rule, and forum non conveniens are addressed. This article concludes with the final assessment that while Doe II is rooted in fundamentally correct interpretations of the law, it both expands the parameters of corporate liability and it fundamentally alters the ability to defend against ATCA suits."

Repository Citation

Joshua E. Kastenberg, Enforcing Internationally Recognized Human Rights Violations under the Alien Tort Claims Act: An Analysis of the Ninth Circuit’s Decision in Doe v. Unocal Corp., 1 Pierce L. Rev. 133 (2003), available at http://scholars.unh.edu/unh_lr/vol1/iss3/4