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56 Rutgers L. Rev. 971 (2003-2004)
The Alien Tort Statute, Civil Society, and Corporate Responsibility

handle is hein.journals/rutlr56 and id is 983 raw text is: THE ALIEN TORT STATUTE, CIVIL SOCIETY, AND
Sarah H. Cleveland*
The topic of this panel is civil participation in the global trading
system, with a particular focus on Doe v. Unocal Corp.1 and use of
the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) to enforce fundamental human rights
norms against multinational corporations. These comments will
therefore attempt to locate Doe v. Unocal and other ATS litigation in
the broader efforts of civil society to establish and maintain
normative principles for corporate responsibility in the global trading
regime. This comment first explains the role of ATS litigation in the
broader civil society context and the contribution of ATS cases to the
development and enforcement of international human rights law. It
then briefly responds to two recent criticisms of ATS litigation: that
ATS litigation is spiraling out of control and that suits under the
ATS improperly infringe on U.S. foreign relations. I argue that ATS
litigation has played an important role in the recent overall global
development of enforceable human rights norms, that traditional
procedural and prudential mechanisms are working effectively to
identify appropriate ATS claims, and that extraordinary measures
such as the current administration's attempts to obtain dismissal of
corporate ATS suits are contrary to longstanding U.S. human rights
policy and simply damage the United States' standing as an
international leader in the promotion and protection of human
The Unocal case and other suits under the ATS represent the
flipside of the relationship between civil society and the World Trade
Organization (WTO) considered in the first half of this symposium.
Unlike the situation at the WTO, where civil society is knocking for
admission at the door of an established international institution with
* Marrs McLean Professor in Law, University of Texas School of Law; A.B. 1987,
Brown University; M.St. 1989, Oxford University; J.D. 1992, Yale Law School. I am
grateful to Hollin Dickerson for her invaluable assistance with this project.
1. Doe v. Unocal Corp., No. 00-56603, 2002 WL 31063976 (9th Cir. 2002), reh'g en
banc granted, opinion vacated by Doe v. Unocal Corp., No. 00-56628, 2003 WL 359787
(9th Cir. 2003) (settlement entered March 2005).

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