April 17, 2013

Supreme Court Ejects Foreign Suits from U.S. Courts


Washington, DC – The Supreme Court today held that the federal Alien Tort Statute (ATS) cannot be used to challenge foreign conduct in United States courts. In Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, the High Court held that the ATS does not “reach conduct occurring in the territory of a foreign sovereign.”

The decision is a severe blow to foreign entities and individuals that have sought to use the ATS – with alarming success in the last three decades – to bring foreign disputes in U.S. courts. These international groups had made a cottage industry out of asking U.S. courts to apply the amorphous and ever-changing dictates of “international law,” even when it conflicts with U.S. law or the United States Constitution.

Liberty Counsel currently represents Pastor Scott Lively in one such case brought against him by Sexual Minorities Uganda, which calls itself “SMUG.” In its lawsuit, filed in federal court in Massachusetts, SMUG claims that Mr. Lively violated “international law” when he criticized homosexual conduct while visiting Uganda. SMUG is asking the Court to punish a United States citizen for his alleged speech in Uganda – speech that would be entirely protected in the United States. Liberty Counsel had previously asked the Court to dismiss SMUG’s frivolous lawsuit, partly on the grounds that the Alien Tort Statute does not apply to conduct outside the United States.

The Supreme Court has now accepted Liberty Counsel’s argument and has made it the law of the land. On the basis of the just-issued decision in Kiobel, Liberty Counsel has again asked the Massachusetts federal court to dismiss SMUG’s lawsuit.

“We are thankful that the Supreme Court has firmly closed the door to foreign groups and their domestic allies, who seek to use American courts against American citizens and to supplant the bedrock protections of the United States Constitution with their own notions of international law,” said Horatio Mihet, Senior Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel and lead attorney in Mr. Lively’s case. “We are hopeful that today’s decision will soon lead to Mr. Lively’s exoneration and the reaffirmation of the supremacy and portability of the United States Constitution.”

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.



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