ATS Reversal Watch: M.C. v. Bianchi

I thought I’d drag myself out of blogger purgatory to make a brief comment on a recent decision out of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania that I noticed earlier this evening. In M.C. v. Bianchi, Chief Judge Bartle denied a Motion to Dismiss on the basis that ATS jurisdiction can be conferred over non-state actors based purely on the heinousness of their actions. Assuming there is an appeal, I think it’s a safe bet the Third Circuit will swat this one down once it is reviewed, because the decision’s basis under international law is rather shaky.

My gut feeling is this is just a case of hard facts make bad law, because Defendant Anthony Bianchi, millionaire and convicted serial child rapist, is one of the least sympathetic litigants you could possibly have, and it’s not hard to see how one might be very strongly motivated to extend any assistance available to the unnamed minor plaintiffs.

But being a really horrible person does not magically invoke the jurisdiction of the ATS. Judge Bartle seems to have taken the requirement that only ‘extreme’ violations of international law are sufficient to invoke ATS liability to mean that, the more morally heinous an act is, the greater the likelihood is that there exists a cause of action for a tort in violation of the law of nations:

“Given the young age of his victims and the frequency with which Bianchi engaged in these heinous acts, this case is extreme enough for subject matter jurisdiction to exist under the ATS. What occurred here is a serious transgression of international law that is ‘specific, universal, and obligatory.’ Under all the circumstances, we conclude that Bianchi’s sexual assault of children through sex tourism falls within the ‘very limited category’ of claims cognizable under the ATS as a violation of the law of nations.” Quoting Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U.S. 692, 732.

To put it charitably, the decision is something of an international law train wreck. Its primary justification seems to be the existence of a international instrument condemning acts like those committed by Bianchi:

“[I]n support of this court’s jurisdiction, plaintiffs point to the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child, Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (“Optional Protocol”).” … The Optional Protocol bans the ‘offering, delivering or accepting, by whatever means, a child for the purpose of … [s]exual exploitation of the child.’ S. Treaty Doc. No. 106-37 at art. 3(1)(a)(i). It also declares that parties ‘shall ensure that all child victims of the offences described in the present protocol have access to adequate procedures to seek, without discrimination, compensation for damages from those legally responsible.’ Id. at art. 9(4).

Although the U.S. is a signatory to the Optional Protocol, because that treaty is not self-executing, Plaintiffs had to go the law-of-nations route for the ATS suit, rather than relying on the treaty alone. But calling something ‘customary international law,’ even if it were, does not mean that it automatically comes with a cause of action against private parties. Judge Bartle notes that “‘[The Optional Protocol] also provides that ‘each State Party shall take measures, where appropriate, to establish the liability of legal persons’ for these offenses, both criminal and civil,” and then blithely goes on to assume, “[t]hus, the Optional Protocol clearly contemplates the liability of private individuals.” But that’s not what it says at all. The treaty clearly contemplates obligating nations to prohibit child sex crimes as a matter of domestic law, not making child sex crimes in themselves a violation of international law.

Other than the Optional Protocol, the decision’s basis for finding a violation of international law is based on the following:

“[C]ourts across the United States have acknowledged that child sex tourism … is uniformly admonished by the international community as reprehensible.”

“[Bianchi’s] crimes represent a global problem, whereby individuals from developed nations travel to less developed nations to prey on young children from impoverished communities.”

“Courts have been willing to recognize claims by children under the ATS, even where the same claims would not be actionable if brought by adults.” Citing (questionably) Roe v. Bridgestone Corp., 492 F. Supp. 2d 988, 1019-22 (S.D. Ind. 2007).”

But none of this is sufficient to establish that Bianchi’s crimes were “a serious transgression of international law that is ‘specific, universal, and obligatory.'” His actions were evil and illegal, but not a matter of the law of nations.

Judge Bartle’s judicial over-reach in the name of universal jurisdiction is by no means an isolated decision. There is in fact fairly ample, if scattered, support for the idea that jurisdiction over Bianchi would be proper, under the argument that international commercialized child rape (I cannot bring myself to use the monstrously inadequate euphemism of ‘sex tourism’) is a modern crime akin to the traditional offenses of piracy and slavery. Eugene Kontorovich [PDF] has called this claim the “piracy analogy”. The piracy analogy is

the argument that [universal jurisdiction] is based on principles implicit in the earlier, piracy-only universal jurisdiction. According to the piracy analogy, international law treated piracy as universally cognizable because of its extraordinary heinousness. Universal jurisdiction was never about piracy per se, the argument goes, but about allowing any nation to punish the world’s worst and most heinous crimes. Thus universal jurisdiction over human rights violations is simply an application of the well-settled principle that the most heinous offenses are universally cognizable and not, as critics contend, a radical and dangerous encroachment on nations’ sovereignty.

The Bianchi decision is a text-book example of the piracy analogy in action, and of the mistaken belief that the world’s evils are best fought by expanding the nebulous jurisdictional reach of international law to encompass them. However, while states can and do use international law as a means of combating offenses that are universally condemned, as they have with the Option Protocol on the Rights of the Child, the mere fact that an offense can be regulated by international law cannot transform it into a violation of international law.

-Susan

All* Alien Tort Statute Cases Brought Between 1789 and 1990

As an addition to my post on successful cases brought under the Alien Tort Statute, below is a list of failed cases under the ATS from its enactment in 1789 through 1990. These are only the cases that were dismissed outright by the court — the list of ATS suits that were either successful, or which were ultimately unsuccessful but at least made it before a jury, are listed in the above link.

I am reasonably confident that the list is a complete list of all losing ATS cases for that time period. Of course, I’ve probably jinxed myself by saying that, but other than maybe some unreported cases I couldn’t get my hands on, pretty much all of the ATS cases for that time period should be here. … That said, if you know of some I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments!

Of course, given that the ATS’s invocation in federal courts has been expanding at an exponential rate, the overwhelming majority of ATS cases were brought after 2000. So this list has a long way to go yet.

Alien Tort Statute Cases Dismissed by the Courts (Complete Through 1990)

1. Moxon v. The Brigantine Fanny, 5317 F.Cas. 942 (D.C.Pa. 1793). “Neither does this suit for a specific return of the property, appear to be included in the words of the judiciary act of the United States, giving cognizance to this court of ‘all causes where an alien sues for a tort only, in violation of the laws of nations, or a treaty of the United States.’ It cannot be called a suit for a tort only, when the property, as well as damages for the supposed trespass, are sought for.”

2. O’Reilly De Camara v. Brooke, 209 U.S. 45, 28 S. Ct. 439 (1908). This is the first time the ATS went before the Supreme Court. (It is also the first time an ATS claim was subject to a motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action.) The case involved an alleged violation of the Treaty of Paris, and “was brought by the Countess of Buena Vista, a subject of the King of Spain, residing in Havana, Cuba, against Maj. Gen. John R. Brooke, to recover damages alleged to have been caused to the plaintiff by an order of Gen. Brooke, made August 10, 1899, when he was military governor of the Island of Cuba, abolishing the right or franchise to slaughter cattle in the city of Havana, owned by the plaintiff.” “Again, if the plaintiff lost her rights once for all by General Brooke’s order, and so was disseised, it would be a question to be considered whether a disseisin was a tort within the meaning of [the ATS]. In any event, the question hardly can be avoided whether the supported tort is ‘a tort only in violation of the law of nations’ or of the Treaty with Spain. In this court the plaintiff seems to place more reliance upon the suggestion that her rights were of so fundamental a nature that they could not be displaced, even if Congress and the Executive should unite in the effort. It is not necessary to say more about that contention than that it is not the ground on which the jurisdiction of the District Court was invoked. ” “[W]e think it plain that where, as here, the jurisdiction of the case depends upon the establishment of a ‘tort only in violation of the law of nations, or of a treaty of the United States,’ it is impossible for the courts to declare an act a tort of that kind when the Executive, Congress and the treaty-making power all have adopted the act. We see no reason to doubt that the ratification extended to the conduct of [the General].”

3. Pauling v. McElroy, 164 F.Supp. 390 (D.D.C. 1958). Suit to enjoin nuclear weapons testing. Request for injunction not a tort, and accordingly no relief available under ATS.

4. Khedivial Line, S. A. E. v. Seafarers’ Union, 278 F.2d 49 (2 Cir. 1960). Right of free access to ports not sufficient to establish jurisdiction.

5. Madison Shipping Corp. v. National Maritime Union, 282 F.2d 377 (3rd Cir. 1960). “[I]njunctive relief was prayed for on the theory that the appellants’ acts were violative of the appellee’s rights under the Treaty of Friendship, Navigation and Commerce made between the United States and the Republic of Liberia on August 8, 1938, 54 Stat. 1739. Jurisdiction of both of these claims was asserted to be pursuant to Sections 1331 and 1350 of Title 28 U.S.C. [I]t was [also] alleged that the appellants tortiously interfered with the appellee’s contractual relations in violation of the law of Pennsylvania. Injunctive relief and damages were prayed for, and jurisdiction was asserted to be pursuant to Sections 1332 and 1350, Title 28 U.S.C.” Except the court was reviewing the case under interlocutory appeal, and none of the questions before it reached the requisite standard, so the case was booted out.

6. Bowater S. S. Co. v. Patterson, 303 F.2d 369 (2nd Cir. 1962) (in dissent). Interesting, although questionable, early analysis of the ATS. Majority dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction on unrelated grounds. In a dissenting opinion, Judge Lumbard, apparently raising the issue sua sponte, argues that the ATS granted the court a separate basis of federal jurisdiction. the Plaintiff, the Bowater Steamship Company, Ltd., was an English corporation. It “advance[d] a claim under the treaty ‘To regulate the Commerce between the Territories of the United States And of his Britannick Majesty,’ signed and ratified in 1815, 8 Stat. 228, and extended indefinitely on August 6, 1827, 8 Stat. 361.” According to Judge Lumbard, “This is sufficient to give the district court jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1350.” However, the relevant treaty did not provide the substantive law, but rather guaranteed a federal form for the litigant. Therefore, the dissent would have, apparently, used the ATS as a means of providing jurisdiction for an alien to assert a claim under New York state tort law.

7. Lopes v. Reederei Richard Schroder, 225 F.Supp. 292 (E.D.Pa.1963). Dismissied; doctrine of unseaworthiness held to be not part of the law of nations.

8. Upper Lakes Shipping Limited v. International Longshoremen’s Ass’n, 33 F.R.D. 348 (S.D.N.Y. 1963). Plaintiff brought claim “arising under the treaty between the United States and Canada concerning the boundary waters between the United States and Canada.” Court found that treaty’s only available remedy was for plaintiff to “seek the espousal of its claim by the Canadian Government and its presentation to the International Joint Commission.”

9. Seth v. British Overseas Airways Corp., 216 F.Supp. 244 (D.Mass. 1963). Not an interesting case. “The theory of the third count is that this Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1350 because this is a ‘civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of a treaty of the United States. … There being no evidence that BOAC committed a tort or violated any act of Congress, Counts 2 and 3 are dismissed with prejudice.”

10. Damaskinos v. Societa Navigacion Interamericana, S. A., Pan., 255 F.Supp. 923 (S.D.N.Y.1966). “Negligence in providing a seaman with a safe place in which to work, and unseaworthiness of a vessel in that respect, are not violations of the law of nations.”

11. Valanga v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., 259 F.Supp. 324 (E.D.Pa. 1966). “[A]ctions to recover funds based upon life insurance contract obligations do not impress this Court as being of the calibre of the cases which have been allowed recourse to § 1350. Plaintiff has failed to indicate the impact of defendant’s conduct as violating the “law of nations.” The mere fact that an individual breaches the contractual duty owed to an alien does not mean that such conduct is so flagrant as to warrant this court to conclude, as a matter of law, that it constitutes a violation of the rules of conduct which govern the affairs of this nation, acting in its national capacity, in its relationships with any other nation.”

12. Abiodun v. Martin Oil Service, Inc., 475 F.2d 142 (7th Cir. 1973). Nigerians’ claims alleging fraudulent employment training contracts failed to state a claim involving an international law violation.

13. IIT v. Vencap, Ltd., 519 F.2d 1001 (2d Cir. 1975). Source of the ATS’s famous epitaph:  “[t]his old but little used section is a kind of legal Lohengrin; although it has been with us since the first Judiciary Act, § 9, 1 Stat. 73, 77 (1789), no one seems to know whence it came.” Court found that “[t]hou shalt not steal” is not part of the law of nations.

14. Nguyen Da Yen v. Kissinger, 528 F.2d 1194 (9th Cir. 1975). “[T]he illegal seizure, removal and detention of an alien against his will in a foreign country would appear to be a tort . . . and it may well be a tort in violation of the “law of nations’… We are reluctant to decide the applicability of § 1350 to this case without adequate briefing. Moreover, we are reluctant to rest on it in any event. The complaint presently does not join the adoption agencies as defendants.”

15. Dreyfus v. Von Finck, 534 F.2d 24 (2d Cir. 1976). Seizure of Jewish plaintiff’s property in Nazi Germany and repudiation of 1948 settlement agreement may have been tortious, but not an international law violation.

16. Papageorgiou v. Lloyds of London, 436 F. Supp. 701 (E.D.Pa. 1977). Dismissed under the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

17. Soultanoglou v. Liberty Trans. Co., 1980 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9177 (S.D.N.Y.). “Negligence in providing a seaman with a safe place in which to work, and unseaworthiness of a vessel in that respect, are not violations of the law of nations. []. Soultanoglou has failed to provide the Court with contrary authority. … The Court accepts Magistrate Raby’s conclusion that section 1350 is inapplicable here.”

18. Huynh Thi Anh v. Levi, 586 F. 2d 625 (6th Cir. 1978). There is no universally accepted international right that grants grandparents rather than foster parents custody of children.

19. Benjamins v. British European Airways, 572 F.2d 913 (2d Cir. 1978). Claims arising out of crashed airplane are a tort, but not one in violation of international law or U.S. treaty.

20. Akbar v. New York Magazine Co., 490 F. Supp. 60 (D.D.C. 1980). Libel not a violation of international law or treaty.

21. Canadian Transport Co. v. U.S., 663 F.2d 1081 (D.C.Cir. 1980). “Appellants’ second cause of action alleged that the exclusion of TROPWAVE violated the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation of 1815 between the United States and Great Britain (the 1815 Treaty), 8 Stat. 228. 33 Appellants argue that the District Court had jurisdiction to award them damages under 28 U.S.C. § 1350 (1976), which provides: ‘The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.’ Because nothing in the language of this statute indicates that the United States has waived its sovereign immunity from tort suits for treaty violations, the District Court’s decision dismissing this cause of action must be affirmed unless appellants can show another basis for concluding that sovereign immunity has been waived.”

22. Trans-Continental Inv. Corp. v. Bank of Commonwealth, 500 F. Supp. 565 (C.D. Cal. 1980). “Plaintiffs do not claim that any treaty has been violated nor do they suggest that any such claim can be pleaded. Thus, the invocation of Section 1350 jurisdiction is posited directly on their claim that ‘fraud is a universally recognized tort.’ This is essentially the same argument that was made in IIT v. Vencap, Ltd., and the answer must be the same, while the statement is undoubtedly true, universal recognition does not, per se, make the rule a part of ‘the law of nations,’ construed in accordance with Article III.”

23. Cohen v. Hartman, 634 F.2d 318 (5th Cir. 1981). Tortious conversion of funds (embezzlement) is not a violation of the law of nations.

24. Jafari v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 539 F.Supp. 209 (N.D.Ill. 1982). “[T]he ‘law of nations’ does not prohibit a government’s expropriation of the property of its own nationals.”

25. B.T. Shanker Hedge v. British Airways, 1982 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16469 (N.D. Ill.). “The plaintiff alleges that he suffered physical injuries when he was struck by a luggage cart while he stood at the lost and found area controlled by the defendant at the airport in Geneva, Switzerland.” Yeah, not exactly a tort in violation of the law of nations. Now maybe if he’d sued for tortiously bad airline food… *rim shot*. But a somewhat interesting note: “This case alleges a tort, but not one in violation of the law of nations or any treaty of the United States. If jurisdiction were held to exist under this statute over this cause, the exercise of such jurisdiction would probably be in violation of Article III of the Constitution.”

26. Canadian Overseas Ores Ltd. v. Compania de Acero, 528 F. Supp. 1337 (S.D.N.Y. 1982). Suit to recover “spare parts and related equipment.” “[T]his suit is not one to recover allegedly expropriated property and accordingly 28 U.S.C. § 1350, conferring jurisdiction over suits “by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of Nations,” does not provide a constitutional jurisdictional predicate for the suit. As the Court of Appeals stated in the footnote relied on by CANOVER, ‘commercial violations … do not constitute violations of international law.'”

27. De Wit v. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 570 F. Supp. 613 (S.D.N.Y. 1983). Trade secret and employment action. “The court finds that such extraordinary circumstances are not present here and therefore de Wit’s claim of jurisdiction under this provision is also lacking.”

28. Zapata v. Quinn, 707 F.2d 691, 1983 U.S. App. LEXIS 27589 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1983). “This is an unusually frivolous civil rights action brought under 28 U.S.C. § 1350 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by the winner of $273,178 in the New York State Lottery against its director, claiming that New York regulations, which provide that the winnings will be paid partly in cash and the balance by way of an annuity over 10 years instead of in one lump sum, deprived her of property without due process of law.”

29. Ramirez de Arellano v. Weinberger, 724 F.2d 143 (D.C.Cir. 1983). “As for remedies (available to the Honduran corporations alone) under the Alien Tort Statute: Assuming without deciding that that legislation allows suits against the United States, in the case.it nonetheless applies only to so-called transitory causes of action. Neither an action seeking ejectment nor an action seeking money damages for trespass would lie, since they are both local actions.”

30. Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic, 726 F.2d 774 (D.C.Cir. 1984). The ATS gets Borked.

31. Ramirez de Arellano v. Weinberger, 745 F.2d 1500 (D.C.Cir.1984). ATS raised as jurisdictional ground, but court found it unnecessary to address the claim.

32. Munusamy v. McClelland Eng’r, Inc., 579 F. Supp. 149 (E.D. Tex. 1984). This case is something of an accidental invocation of the ATS, and should probably be discarded for purposes of looking at ATS issues:  “[]he Plaintiffs insist the court has jurisdiction by virtue of” the ATS and three other jx statutes, and the causes of action were various, but included “the General Maritime Law of the United States and of Nation.” But the ATS issue is never discussed, and then the case got lost in a FNC procedural quagmire.

33. Tamari v. Bache & Co., 730 F.2d 1103 (7th Cir. 1984). Boring case, not useful: “[t]he alleged violations include excessive trading and churning of the accounts; making false representations, false reports and false statements to the Tamaris; and deceiving the Tamaris as to the true condition of the accounts.” “We note that 28 U.S.C. § 1350 has been narrowly construed and would not supply a basis for federal jurisdiction over the common law claim.”

34. Sanchez-Espinoza v. Reagan, 770 F.2d 202 (D.C. Cir. 1985). My favorite part of this case is the dismissive reference to “so-called ‘customary international law.'” Court found that either the acts of the defendants were private acts and not covered by the ATS, or else were the acts of officials and therefore barred by sovereign immunity: “It would make a mockery of the doctrine of sovereign immunity if federal courts were authorized to sanction or enjoin, by judgments nominally against present or former Executive officers, actions that are, concededly and as a jurisdictional necessity, official actions of the United States.”

35. Greenham Women Against Cruise Missiles v. Reagan, 591 F.Supp. 1332 (S.D.N.Y. 1984). Plaintiffs, British citizens, sought to enjoin the deployment of ninety-six cruise missiles at Greenham Common, Great Britain. “Based on these alleged consequences of deployment, the Greenham plaintiffs contend that the deployment of cruise missiles contravenes several customary norms of international law, subjecting them to tortious injury actionable under the Alien Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1350.” No surprise that the court found that “[t]he instant case presents a non-justiciable political question.” Besides which, their claim wasn’t for a tort.

36. Jaffe v. Boyles, 616 F. Supp. 1371 (W.D.N.Y. 1985). Interesting case, and not just because it involves bounty hunters. Plaintiff was seized and dragged across the Canadian border into the US, where he was prosecuted. Court found that the US-Canada extradition treaty did not create private right of action, and as ATS is jurisdictional only, there was no tort a private person could sue for: “Any alien torts committed against Jaffe in violation of the law of nations occurred in Toronto with his seizure and continued with the crossing of the border here. The extradition treaty may well have been violated at the moment the border was crossed, but as already discussed, plaintiffs have no private right of action under that treaty.” So in a way, this case could go down into the “jurisdiction under ATS” column — the court did find that there may well have been a tort in violation of a US treaty, but it’s not one that Plaintiff was able to recover for.

37. Guinto v. Marcos, 654 F.Supp. 276 (S.D.Cal. 1986). Plaintiffs brought suit alleging Philippines government and seized and suppressed a film. Court rejected the filmmaker’s ATS claims: “However dearly our country holds First Amendment rights, I must conclude that a violation of the First Amendment right of free speech does not rise to the level of such universally recognized rights and so does not constitute a “law of nations.”

38. Saltany v. Reagan, 702 F. Supp. 319 (D.D.C. 1988). Boring case. ATS claim brought and then smacked down under FSIA.

39. Carmichael v. United Technologies Corp., 835 F.2d 109 (5th Cir. 1988). Plaintiff, a British citizen, was stuck in a Debtor’s Prison in Saudi Arabia, for two years, and brought claims against his creditors for false imprisonment and assault and battery. Plaintiff “allege[d] that the defendant corporations conspired with the Saudi government to have him jailed. He further alleges that, knowing of his incarceration and the type of treatment he was receiving, the defendants purposefully delayed giving their unilateral release of their claims in order to force him to sign mutual releases and covenants not to sue.” The court found it lacked PJx over all all defendants but Price Waterhouse. Those claims were dismissed because Plaintiff “simply cannot demonstrate any causal connection between Price Waterhouse’s conduct and his prolonged imprisonment or torture. In this case, there is no evidence that Price Waterhouse was responsible, directly or indirectly, for Carmichael’s initial incarceration. Second, Price Waterhouse owed no affirmative duty to Carmichael simply to release him from an obligation that he admitted owing. And finally, no evidence was adduced in the 12(b)(1) proceeding that Price Waterhouse in any way conspired with or aided and abetted in the act that we have assumed constituted the violation of international law, that is, the official torture of Carmichael.

40. Jones v. Petty-Ray Geophysical Geosource, Inc., 722 F. Supp. 343 (S.D. Tex. 1989). Complaint did not allege Plaintiff was an alien, nor did it plead any violation of the law of nations. “The plaintiff’s complaint alleges that Sudan was negligent in failing to warn plaintiff’s decedent of imminent political danger and violence and failing to provide adequate police protection and security to decedent. However, the plaintiff has not shown where this cause of action arises under the ‘law of nations’ and has not cited any persuasive source that recognizes a sovereign’s duty to protect foreign nationals from harm.”

41. Von Dardel v. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 736 F. Supp. 1 (D.D.C. 1990). Dismissing default judgment against USSR that was granted for, inter alia, claims under the ATS. Court found FSIA barred judgment.

42. Adras v. Nelson, 917 F.2d 1552 (11th Cir. 1990). Dismissed, court found “all claims were barred by doctrines of absolute immunity, qualified immunity, and for failure to state a claim, and lack of pendent jurisdiction.”

43. Castillo v. Spiliada Maritime Corp., 732 F.Supp. 50 (E.D.La. 1990). Plaintiffs claimed “retaliatory discharge under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350 et seq.” Unsurprisingly, the case didn’t go anywhere.

————-

Partial, in-progress list of post-1990 cases:

44. Amlon Metals, Inc. v. FMC Corp., 775 F. Supp. 668 (S.D.N.Y. 1991). Amlon involved the shipment of allegedly hazardous copper residue to a purchaser in England for metallic reclamation purposes. Among its claims, the purchaser sought recovery in tort under the Alien Tort Statute, and “assert[ed] that the complaint does allege facts that constitute a violation of the law of nations. In particular, plaintiffs argue that FMC’s conduct is violative of the Stockholm Principles, United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (adopted June 16, 1972), to which the U.S. is a signatory.” The court said yeah right, nice try: “reliance on the Stockholm Principles is misplaced, since those Principles do not set forth any specific proscriptions, but rather refer only in a general sense to the responsibility of nations to insure that activities within their jurisdiction do not cause damage to the environment beyond their borders.”

45. Koohi v. U.S., 976 F.2d 1328 (9th Cir. 1992). No waiver of sovereign immunity. ATS claim dismissed in a quick footnote.

45. Hamid v. Price Waterhouse, 51 F.3d 1411 (9th Cir. 1995). “The wrongs alleged are in substance fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and misappropriation of funds. Although the conduct was international in scope, no violation of what has traditionally been the subject of international law is claimed. International law includes more than international treaties. But looting of a bank by its insiders, and misrepresentations about the bank’s financial condition, have never been in the traditional classification of international law.”

46. Aquinda v. Texaco, Inc., 945 F. Supp. 625, 627 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). Court in Aquinda referenced the possible application of § 1350 for environmental practices “which might violate international law.” Suit was subsequently dismissed on grounds of comity, forum non-conveniens, and failure to join a necessary party.

47. Beanal v. Freeport-McMoRan, Inc., 969 F.Supp. 362 (E.D.La. 1997). Court found that plaintiff “failed to articulate a violation of the international law. Plaintiff states that the allegations support a cause of action based on three international environmental law principles: (1) the Polluter Pays Principle; (2) the Precautionary Principle; and (3) the Proximity Principle. None of the three rises to the level an international tort.” Court also suggested that corporation could not violate international environmental law.

48. Jogi v. Piland, 131 F. Supp.2d 1024 (C.D. Ill. 2001). Dismissed, court held that ATS claims require a tort in violation of treaty, not just any treaty violation.

49. Mendonca v. Tidewater, Inc., 159 F.Supp.2d 299 (E.D.La. 2001). Boring case; lots of alleged violations of international law that make no sense. “the plaintiff can cite no solid support for his claim that the conduct complained of rises to the level recognized by the law of nations.”

50. Doe I v. The Gap, Inc., 2001 WL 1842389 (D.N.Mar.I. 2001). Plaintiffs brought claims of forced labor and deprivation of fundamental human rights in violation of international law. Interestingly, the court accepted the idea that a purely private actor could be held liable under the ATS, but that plaintiffs failed to prove their slavery claims, so the ATS claim was dismissed: “Although international law generally governs the relationship between nations, and thus a violation thereof almost always requires state action, it has been recognized that a handful of particularly egregious acts — genocide, war crimes, piracy, and slavery — by purely private actors can violate international law. As of now, however, only the acts mentioned above have been found to result in private individuals being held liable under international law.” “The court has above determined that plaintiffs have failed to make out a claim for the less egregious act of involuntary servitude and thus it need not consider whether the Unocal court’s equation of forced labor with slavery is sustainable on the facts as alleged here. As to plaintiffs’ claims of other alleged human rights violations, no court has yet accepted plaintiffs’ contention that the freedom to associate and the right to be free from discrimination are standards that have as yet evolved into norms of customary international law sufficient to invoke and be actionable under the ATCA.”

51. Tachiona v. Mugabe, 386 F.3d 205 (2d Cir. 2004). Dismissal of ATS claims for sovereign and head of state immunity.

52. Bancoult v. McNamara, 370 F.Supp.2d 1 (D.D.C. 2004). Plaintiffs tried to claim a “violation of the ATS.” Dismissed.

53. Schneider v. Kissinger, 310 F.Supp.2d 251 (D.D.C. 2004). Claims under TVPA and ATS against Kissinger dismissed. ATS claims did no fulfill the requirements of §2679(b)(2)(B), although TVPA claims “arguably did.” But TVPA claims still dismissed, as “[i]n carrying out the direct orders of the President of the United States, Dr. Kissinger was most assuredly acting pursuant to U.S. law, if any, despite the fact that his alleged foreign coconspirators may have been acting under color of Chilean law. In addition, the TVPA claims appear to be barred by Dr. Kissinger’s qualified immunity from suit.”

54. Ganguly v. Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., 2004 WL 213016, (S.D.N.Y. 2004). Foreign investor seeking to hold brokerage firm liable for losses failed to allege any violation of international law.

55. Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp., 381 F.Supp.2d 1164 (C.D.Cal. 2005). Court found act of state doctrine did not apply, and refused to dismiss certain ATS claims. It then, however, dismissed the entire case, under the political question doctrine.

56. Holland v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 496 F.Supp.2d 1 (D.D.C. 2005). TVPA only good against individual defendants.

57. Joo v. Japan, 413 F.3d 45 (2005). “We hold the appellants’ complaint presents a nonjusticiable political question, namely, whether the governments of the appellants’ countries resolved their claims in negotiating peace treaties with Japan. In so doing we defer to “the considered judgment of the Executive on [this] particular question of foreign policy.”

58. In re Iraq and Afghanistan Detainees Litigation, 479 F.Supp.2d 85 (D.D.C. 2007). Defendants were immune under the Westfall Act. Because the Geneva Convention is not a law enacted by Congress, but rather an international agreement, it does not fall within the Westfall Act’s exception for statutes.

59. Taveras v. Taveraz, 477 F.3d 767 (6th Cir. 2007). Court found parental child abduction does not violate law of nations. Further, “the nexus between Mr. Taveras’s asserted injury and the alleged law of nations violation (that the right of the United States to control who enters its borders was infringed) is highly tenuous, at best. As Sosa definitively established that the underlying tort itself must be in violation of the law of nations to be cognizable under the ATS, we reject Mr. Taveras’s Adra-styled argument that Ms. Taveraz’s fraudulent entry into the United States is sufficient to implicate a law of nations infraction and thereby propel his purely domestic tort action within the jurisdictional ambit of the ATS.”

60. Jama v. Esmor Corr. Serv., 2008 WL 724337 (D.N.J. 2007). “Four of Jama’s claims went to the jury [including] violation of the Alien Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1350.” Ignoring the fact that you cannot violate a jurisdictional statute, the jury found “no liability against any defendant under the Alien Tort Claims Act.” However, it several of the Defendants did settle, so this one can go in both the win column and the loss column.

61. Ruiz v. Fed. Gov’t of the Mexican Republic, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74736 (W.D. Tex. 2007). “In his Complaint, Ruiz contends that the defendants’ actions have violated the UN Charter and the UDHR. Neither of these documents create a tort actionable under the ATS.

62. Harbury v. Hayden, 522 F.3d 413 (D.C.C. 2008). Stating that “the ATCA cannot be the subject of ‘a violation’ of a federal statute because the ATCA provides no substantive rights that could be the subject of any claimed violation”.

63. Presbyterian Church of Sudan v. Talisman Energy, Inc. (2d Cir. 2009). Second Circuit found that corporate defendant not liable for assisting others’ alleged violations of the ATS in the absence of evidence it intended that those violations be committed.

65. Hurst v. Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, 474 F.Supp.2d 19 (D.D.C. 2007): “In their Opposition, Plaintiffs assert for the first time a claim by Mulroy under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), 28 U.S.C. § 1350, on the grounds that they asserted jurisdiction under the statute in their complaint, and they seek leave to amend if the claim was not sufficiently pleaded. The ATS does not provide jurisdiction over foreign states.”

66. Hoang Van Tu v. Koster, 364 F.3d 1196 (10th Cir. 2004). 10-year statute of limitations adopted from TVPA to bar claims.

67. Rojas Mamani v. Sanchez Berzain, 636 F.Supp.2d 1326 (S.D.Fla. 2009). TVPA claim — dismissed for failure to exhaust all remedies.

68. Turedi v. Coca-Cola Co., 343 Fed.Appx. 623 (2nd Cir. 2009): Dismissed for forum non conveniens.

-Susan

Supreme Court of the Philippines Threatens to Hold Professors Who Condemned Plagiarism In Contempt

Previously, Mike posted about a decision from the Supreme Court of the Philippines that extensively plagiarized an article written by two American legal scholars. That case, Isabelita Vinuya v. Executive Secretary, also reached a decision contrary to that of the article the Supreme Court had plagiarized from, despite the extensive copy-and-paste job done on the source material.

37 professors at the University of the Philippines College of law issued a statement condemning the plagiarism. Now, the Philippines’ Supreme Court has threatened to hold the professors in contempt:

[Justice] Del Castillo was accused of plagiarizing portions of his ruling on World War II comfort women, but the Supreme Court cleared him, saying there was “no malicious intent” in the “accidental decapitation” of the attribution marks that would indicate that the research material was borrowed.

The court also threatened to crack its whip on the 37 law professors who aired a statement against Del Castillo, saying the Code of Professional Conduct for lawyers prohibits members of the Bar from airing public statements that tend to influence public opinion while a case is pending.

Can you imagine if that was the rule in the U.S.? That would essentially outlaw legal bloggers.

In its Rule to Show Cause issued against the professors, the Supreme Court stated that it

“could hardly perceive any reasonable purpose for the faculty’s less than objective comments except to discredit the April 28, 2010 Decision in the Vinuya case and undermine the Court’s honesty, integrity and competence in addressing the motion for its reconsideration.” The Vinuya case was controversial enough, it added, but the law faculty “would fan the flames and invite resentment against a resolution that would not reverse the said decision.” The court said this was contrary to the faculty’s obligation as law professors and officers of the court and violated the Code of Professional Responsibility.

There is little doubt, though, that the critics’ charges of plagiarism are accurate. In its order dismissing the plagiarism allegations, the Court excused the failure to cite directly quoted text by noting that, “Given the operational properties of the Microsoft program in use by the Court, the accidental decapitation of attributions to sources of research materials is not remote.” In other words, it’s the “Bill Gates ate my homework” defense.

-Susan

Second Circuit’s Error in Kiobel

This is kind of petty, and not particularly timely, but the Second Circuit’s decision in Kiobel contained one pretty blatant error I wanted to point out. It’s a minor mistake, and entirely insignificant regarding the outcome of the case, but it is perhaps indicative of a lack of familiarity with the history of the Alien Tort Statute:

Such civil lawsuits, alleging heinous crimes condemned by customary international law, often involve a variety of issues unique to ATS litigation, not least the fact that the events took place abroad and in troubled or chaotic circumstances. The resulting complexity and uncertainty—combined with the fact that juries hearing ATS claims are capable of awarding multibillion-dollar verdicts — has led many defendants to settle ATS claims prior to trial. Thus, our Court has published only nine significant decisions on the ATS since 1980 (seven of the nine coming in the last decade), and the Supreme Court in its entire history has decided only one ATS case.

Although much of this statement is subjectively wrong, the last line is outright false. Sosa was not the first — O’Reilly De Camara v. Brooke, 209 U.S. 45 (1908) was the first case brought under the Alien Tort Statute to make its way to the Supreme Court. Although the case was not particularly significant, it is notable in that it “perhaps implies that an unjustified seizure of an alien’s property in a foreign country by a United States officer would come within it.” See Khedivial Line, S. A. E. v. Seafarers’ Intern. Union, 278 F.2d 49 (2d. Cir. 1960).

The rest of that paragraph from the Kiobel decision is also dubious.

ATS cases “often involve a variety of issues unique to ATS litigation, not least the fact that the events took place abroad and in troubled or chaotic circumstances.” The Second Circuit is abusing the meaning of “unique,” here. Events that took place abroad and in chaotic or troubled circumstances are in fact frequently litigated in US courts, albeit usually involving fact patterns that are different from the typical ATS case.

The resulting complexity and uncertainty—combined with the fact that juries hearing ATS claims are capable of awarding multibillion-dollar verdicts — Juries may be capable of awarding multibillion-dollar verdicts in ATS cases, but that is true for all sorts of cases. The only case the Second Circuit cites to is Karadzic, which was a default judgment. Moreover, a jury decision on the merits in favor of a plaintiff in a corporate defendant case has happened exactly once in any ATS case ever, in Chowdhury v. Worldtel Bangladesh Holding, Ltd., 588 F. Supp.2d 375 (E.D.N.Y. 2008). Just once. That is hardly grounds for invoke the specter of “juries awarding multibillion-dollar verdicts.”

… has led many defendants to settle ATS claims prior to trial. Wait, don’t courts consider it a good thing when cases settle before trial? And wait a second here — “many defendants” is quite a stretch. I am only aware of seven ATS cases ever that resulted in a settlement. I’m willing to assume there are a few out there that I’ve missed, but not many. The Second Circuit itself lists only two. There have been, by an extremely conservative estimate, maybe three hundred ATS cases in total that were “legitimate.” By legitimate, I mean not jail-mail and not filed by obviously crazy people. Of these three hundred or so cases, under a dozen have ever resulted in a settlement. So at the extreme, a mere 3% of ATS cases wind up settling. The average settlement rate for torts in federal courts is around 67%. I therefore find it absolutely ridiculous that the Second Circuit is using the threat that “many defendants settle before trial” as a reason for why the ATS is ‘dangerous’ or ‘unpredictable.’

There are other errors in Kiobel that are more significant, and are legal errors rather than factual ones, but these mischaracterizations are telling. The court was not simply adjudicating the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims — obviously the court found that its fears of what the ATS was capable of doing to be significant enough to include in its opinion. But these fears were based on stilted facts, not on the actual record.

-Susan

Corporate Participation in International Law: Some Historical Examples

It has probably become apparent by now that the idea that corporations are noncognizable under international law is one that irritates me to no end. There is, obviously, a great deal of unsettled law out there regarding exactly how liability for violations of international law accrues to non-state entities. But corporations have played a vital role in the development of international law for just about as long as “international law” can be said to have existed, and there is no historical basis for the idea that corporations cannot, as a matter of law, be a participant in or violator of international law.

At some point I will write some more on the subject, but for now, I want to at least throw some links up that give some historical examples. The Transnational Corporation in History: Lessons for Today? is a highly recommended starting point. It gives a good overview of how the legal character of corporations has developed, and how the private/public distinction has always been unclear, oftentimes deliberately so:

Corporations and states are commonly represented as having an oppositional relationship. Corporations represent the private; states represent the public. Corporations represent the efficient, the natural, and the spontaneous; states represent the inefficient and the contrived. The ascendancy of the corporation means the decline of the state. But these commonly held views are ahistorical and tend to ignore the complex relationships between states and corporations. Modern incorporation is simply a matter of fulfilling formal registration requirements. There are few surviving remnants of the old notion that incorporation is a privilege conferred by the state. This Article aims to redress the balance somewhat by telling aspects of the history of the corporate form that have been obscured by modern forms of incorporation and modern conceptions of the public and the private. In a modest way this Article intends to show just how recent the public/private paradigm actually is and how selectively such concepts have been applied.

Compared with the French trading companies generally, the English and Dutch companies were considered to be much more independent and able to operate at arms length from their respective governments. The agents of the Dutch and English companies were regarded as employees and servants of groups of merchants, rather than the subordinates of their governments. The British considered themselves traders first and territorial rulers second. Of course, the proper mix of the East India Company’s functions was contested, tended to be in the eye of the beholder, and changed dramatically over the period of the company’s existence.

And how questions over the status of corporation under international law are not new:

The British East India Company certainly took advantage of its ambiguous status—successfully emphasizing its sovereign powers when it wished to avoid contractual debts to local rulers, protesting to the Royal Navy that its status would be reduced in the eyes of the locals if it had to acknowledge the superiority of the British naval fleet, and all the time relying for its trading advantage on the might of British naval power and on the calculated and limited use of force. It charged merchants fees for safe passage and was able to do so as an exercise of its monopoly and sovereign powers. It was graphically and finally reminded of its subordinate status, however, when Queen Victoria took over from the company in 1858. The company had survived in various guises and with mixed public and private motives for 250 years.

But throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, corporations were assumed to be competent at conducting activities that, today, we generally believe only a true sovereign could do. Corporations could start wars, engage in diplomacy, claim new territories, and enter into international agreements. Treaties between corporations and state or state-like entities flourished during this time period, i.e., the treaty between the Dutch East India Company and the Ali Raja, the Treaty of Giyanti, and the Treaty of Allahabad. Some treaties, such as the treaty between the British East India Company and nascent Singapore, lead to the creation of what would eventually become modern day nation states.

Also worth checking out is this 1769 letter, An Enquiry Into the Rights of the East India Company of Making War and Peace and of Possessing Their Territorial Acquisitions Without the Participation or Inspection of the British Government, which gives a good example of how, even then, people were confused about how sovereign a corporation could be, when there was no “official” grant of sovereignty.

I am not trying to say that the role of corporations in international law is crystal clear — it is obviously not. But the idea that corporations are unrecognizable under international law, and that states can use the corporate form to immunize the profits its citizens have made from engaging in violations of international law, is an extremely modern one, and in its own way is a very radical idea.

-Susan

The International Law Scholarship of Samuel Clemens

Mark Twain’s recently re-released The Treaty With China: Its Provisions Explained is a fascinating read. As the Journal of Transnational American Studies, Spring 2010, writes:

A good candidate for ‘the most under-appreciated work by Mark Twain’ would be ‘The Treaty With China,’ which he published in the New York Tribune in 1868. This piece, which is an early statement of Twain’s opposition to imperialism and which conveys his vision of how the U.S. ought to behave on the global stage, has not been reprinted since its original publication until now.

Mark Twain’s approach to the rights of “the Chinaman” were rather exceptional for his time period, and his commentary on the treaty is not what I would have expected. I hadn’t known of Twain’s interest in international law, but I feel as if his opening comments on the 1868 Treaty ought to be inscribed on the inside cover of an international law casebook somewhere: “Apart from its grave importance, the subject is really as entertaining as any I know of.”

The text of the treaty itself and Twain’s comments on it are equally fascinating, if for no other reason then for the jarring contrasts displayed between the treaties of today and the treaties of the 1800s, as well as for Twain’s own curmudgeonly and yet empathetic racism. On the portion of the treaty allowing for naturalization of Chinese residents, he writes:

The idea of making negroes citizens of the United States was startling and disagreeable to me, but I have become reconciled to it; and being reconciled to it, and the ice being broken and the principle established, I am now ready for all comers. The idea of seeing a Chinaman a citizen of the United States would have been almost appalling to me a few years ago, but I suppose I can live through it now.

This is, keep in mind, the opinions of a man who was a radical for his day, and who was considered to be something of an extremist on the issue of racial equality.

Twain’s droll asides about tangential matters of international affairs are also entertaining:

It will be observed by Article 3 that the Chinese consuls will be placed upon the same footing as those from Russia and Great Britain, and that no mention is made of France. The authorities got into trouble with a French consul in San Francisco, once, and, in order to pacify Napoleon, the United States enlarged the privileges of French consuls beyond those enjoyed by the consuls of all other countries.

But one part of the essay that caught my eye was Article 4, which provides for freedom of religion for both U.S. and Chinese citizens.

The old treaty protected “Christian” citizens of the United States from persecution. The new one is broader. It protects our citizens “of every religious persuasion”—Jews, Mormons, and all. It also protects Chinamen in this country in the worship of their own gods after their own fashions, and also relieves them of all “disabilities” suffered by them heretofore on account of their religion.

The Tianjin Treaty of 1858 was an unequal treaty, entered into at the conclusion of the first part of the second Opium War. Although a series of bilateral treaties were created, France, England, the U.S., and Russia were all involved in forcing the Chinese Empire into granting each of them a large number of concessions. It also provided for the protection of Christian missionaries and their converts in China:

ARTICLE XXIX: The principles of the Christian religion, as professed by the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, are recognized as teaching men to do good, and to do to others as they would have others do to them. Hereafter those who quietly profess and teach these doctrines shall not be harassed or persecuted on account of their faith. Any person, whether citizen of the United States or Chinese convert, who, according to these tenets, peaceably teach and practice the principles of Christianity, shall in no case be interfered with or molested.

Now there’s an interesting piece of treaty work. As far as I am aware, it was never the subject of a court case, although it would have been extremely interesting to see the outcome if it had been. Under modern application of the First Amendment, this portion of the treaty is clearly a violation of the Establishment Clause, and therefore ineffective as a matter of domestic law. However, the law only puts an obligation on a foreign state, and not on the U.S. — on both a domestic and international level, the U.S. is not required to enact any laws or take any actions as a result of this Article, so it is extremely unlikely any plaintiff would have ever had standing to challenge it. But even if it is Constitutionally null, such a treaty would still exist on the international plane, leaving China with an obligation to the U.S. to protect its Christian converts.

More than anything, I love the fact that in 1858, the idea of international law being used to impose duties upon a nation with regard to how it treated its own citizens had already been established. Of course, it only restricts how China is to treat its Christian citizens, but still — a limited international law recognizing freedom of religion did exist, in the mid-19th century. And the 1868 version of the treaty is even more expansive, although it provides only for the protection of non-Christian Americans in China. Non-Christians in China were, alas, left unregulated by international law. Still, Twain seemed to feel that the protection of religious freedoms in China was already well provided for:

China is one of the few countries where perfect religious freedom prevails. It is one of the few countries where no disabilities are inflicted on a man for his religion’s sake, in the matter of holding office and embezzling the public funds. A Jesuit priest was formerly the Vice-President of the Board of Public Works, an exceedingly high position, and the present Viceroy of two important provinces is a Mohammedan. There are a great many Mohammedans in China.

Interestingly, Twain had a much less favorable opinion on the degree of religious tolerance displayed in America:

If a Chinese missionary were to come disseminating his eternal truths among us, we would laugh at him first and bombard him with cabbages afterward. We would do this because we are civilized and enlightened. We would make him understand that he couldn’t peddle his eternal truths in this market.

-Susan

First President Steals Copy of Vattel’s Law of Nations, Uses It To Break Treaty With France

On Oct. 5, 1789, President Washington checked out Vattel’s Law of Nations from the Manhattan library, and failed to return it. He has now wracked up a $300K late fee on that and another volume, although the odds of collecting on the debt are, as the library acknowledges, remote.

I’m not so disappointed in GW’s failure to return the book as I am in the fact he had to borrow a copy of Law of Nations at all. Surely the man should have possessed his own copy of the book. After all, Vattel was a significant influence on the U.S. Constitution — but then again, maybe GW only got around to reading it until after the Constitution had been finished up, and suddenly George found himself in charge of faithfully executing what was in it.

Even before George Washington was president, however, he would have dealt with people quoting Vattel at him. John Jay, the future first Chief Justice, wrote to GW, who was presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and made a recommendation to him regarding the requirements of holding office under the new Constitution. Jay’s letter borrows the phrasing of “natural born citizen” from Vattel’s Law of Nations:

“Permit me to hint, whether it would be wise and reasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government; and to declare expressly that the Commander in Chief of the American army shall not be given to nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen.”

Still, perhaps George Washington made good use of his stolen copy of the Law of Nations. Less than four years after he checked it out, in 1793, Vattel played an important role in an early United States’ foreign affairs crisis, when the actions of the French ambassador, Edmond-Charles Genêt, threaten America’s neutrality to European conflicts. Hamilton and Jefferson wrote to Genêt, in which they defended the right of the United States to suspend the treaties in place between itself and France. Vattel, they conceded, had written that there was a “fundamental principle of republican government, which admits the right of the people to alter or abolish the established Constitution, whenever they find it inconsistent with their happiness.” However, Hamilton argued that, although France may have had a right to changes its government, France did not have any right to force the United States to become involved in that civil conflict. If international law allowed for such a situation, “[t]his would be to give to a nation or society, not only a power over its own happiness, but a power over the happiness of other Nations or Societies. It would be to extend the operations of the maxim, much beyond the reason of it—which is simply, that every Nation ought to have a right to provide for its own happiness.”

This was (and is) a pretty subtle question of international law, really. In the case of a nation torn by civil war, to which faction is a duty arising to that country under international law owed? To the established government? To the belligerents? At what point do the belligerents become the establishment, and are therefore the inheritors of the rights and duties under treaties incurred by previous administrations?

Young America, following a policy of neutrality set by President Washington, simply did not want to become involved. Ambassador Genêt was less than impressed with the Washington Administration’s reliance on the subtleties of international law, however. He wrote back, angrily, accusing the federal government of “bring[ing] forward aphorisms of Vattel, to justify or excuse infractions committed on positive treaties.”

This all sounds pretty familiar, really. For as long as the U.S. has been a nation, it has been using complicated interpretations of international law in order to avoid duties incurred under treaties. And for all the haters out there who think America shouldn’t bother itself with international law, I say that if it was good enough for George Washington to steal, it’s good enough for us to pay attention to today.

-Susan