Wednesday, January 9, 2013

News from the International Law Section of AALS

The annual meeting of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) has just concluded. The International Law Section held a very interesting program considering two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases involving the rights and responsibilies of corporations - Kiobel and Citizens United - and the relevance of international law.

As a reminder, the Kiobel case pending before the Supreme Court involves the issue of whether corporations may be held liable for human rights violations under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). In addition, the Supreme Court has asked the parties to consider whether the ATS gives the Court jurisdiction when there is little, if any, connection between the parties and facts and the United States. Thus, the case considers whether and to what extent corporations may be treated as persons and held responsible for their actions under U.S. and international law.

In Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations hold free speech rights similar to natural persons, such that many laws limiting corporate spending on political campaigns are unconstitutional.  The case raised many concerns about both domestic and foreign corporate spending and influence on U.S. elections.

The AALS panel considered whether corporations should be considered the equivalent of natural persons and be subject to similar rights and responsibilities. It also considered whether the U.S. Supreme Court's jurisprudence has been inconsistent in this regard. Finally, these cases also raise the issue of corporate "citizenship" or "nationality," especially in a world where many corporations operate in multiple countries.

Congratulations to Christiana Ochoa of the Indiana University School of Law for organizing a very interesting panel and to the participants for leading a thought-provoking discussion. For members of AALS, the podcast of the proceedings should be available on the AALS website by the end of the month.

Congratulations also to the new officers of the International Law Section of AALS: Stephanie Farrior of Vermont (Chair), Cindy Galway Buys of Southern Illinois (Chair Elect), Matthew Charity of Western New England (Secretary) and Shalanda Baker of San Francisco (Treasurer).

Members of this year's Executive Committee include Elizabeth Burleson (Pace), David Gartner (Arizona State), Virginia Harper Ho (Kansas), Ved Nanda (Denver), Christiana Ochoa (Indiana), Hari Osofsky (Minnesota), Cymie Payne (Rutgers) and Anastasia Telesetsky (Idaho).

Next year's AALS Annual Meeting will be held in New York City from January 2-5, 2014.

(cgb)

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