Wall Street Journal
April 24, 2018
The Editorial Board
The Court ruled in Jesner v. Arab Bank that foreign corporations cannot be sued under the 1789 Alien Tort Statute, which was originally intended to punish piracy and injuries to ambassadors under the common “law of nations.” But plaintiff attorneys have been using the law to haul foreign defendants into U.S. courts for human-rights violations that occur overseas.
In Jesner, foreign plaintiffs charged that the Jordanian Arab Bank should be liable for injuries perpetrated by terrorists in Israel since it had cleared automatic wire transfers via the U.S.-based CHIPS system for groups later placed on Treasury’s list of terrorist organizations. Writing for a 5-4 conservative majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy affirmed the Court’s Kiobel (2013) decision that liability under the 1789 law does not extend to suits against foreign corporations when “all the relevant conduct took place outside the United States.”
In sterling concurrences, Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch explained that allowing foreign corporations to be sued under the 1789 law would violate the separation of powers.
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