Monday, March 8, 2010

Amicus Brief - Cert Petition: Legislative Jurisdiction/Extraterritoriality

My colleague at Southwestern Law School, Austen Parrish, is asking that law professors contact him if they might be interested in signing on to an amicus brief in support of a petition for writ of certiorari in British American Tobacco v. United States.  See the notice, below, for details.


UPDATE -- The links are fixed in the notice below and should now work.


Amicus Brief – Extraterritoriality and Legislative Jurisdiction

Max Huffman (Indiana) and Austen Parrish (Southwestern) have written an amicus brief in the case British American Tobacco v. United States in support of a petition for cert.   The cert. petition is part of a massive case brought by the U.S. against the tobacco companies. Various cert. petitions have been filed, including a government petition seeking recovery of a $280 billion disgorgement award.  Details about the underlying case can be found on SCOTUSblog. 

The amicus brief focuses only on the narrow issue of how a court should approach issues of extraterritorial jurisdiction.  They are looking for full-time law professors at U.S. law schools to sign on to the brief.  If you would consider signing on to the amicus brief, please email Austen Parrish at [email protected], and he can send you a draft for review. There’s a tight deadline and the brief will be finalized this week: the deadline for providing notice to file the amicus is this Friday and the brief will likely go to the printer early next week.  Because the effects test applies in a number of contexts (antitrust, securities, trademark, labor law, environmental law, criminal law etc.), the D.C. Circuit's decision could have far-reaching implications. This would be a good opportunity for the Court to clarify what is now a confused area of law.

Quick Overview of Case and Issues

The petitioner's cert petition implicates the question of whether RICO applies to the overseas conduct of foreign corporations.  The D.C. Circuit did not directly address whether Congress intended RICO to apply extraterritorially -- an issue on which the lower courts are divided.  Instead, it found: (1) that when domestic effects are felt in the United States, regulation of foreign conduct of a foreign corporation does not implicate extraterritorial jurisdiction; and (2) that it need not decide whether RICO applies extraterritorially so long as the foreign conduct has substantial effects in the United States.  Because the D.C. Circuit found a domestic effect, it presumed that Congress intended RICO to regulate abroad.  The case raises interesting questions about the role of the presumption against extraterritoriality, the effects test, and international law.  It implicates at least a three-way circuit split on how the courts determine legislative (prescriptive jurisdiction).

The amicus brief focuses on how a court should interpret the geographic reach of federal law (the extraterritoriality question).  The brief is being submitted to encourage the Court to grant certiorari. After explaining the confusion that exists in the lower courts on the issue of legislative jurisdiction, the brief clarifies the history and application of the effects test and shows how that history bears upon the proper interpretation of whether Congress intended a statute to reach extraterritorial conduct.  The brief does not take a position on the underlying merits: the federal government's use of RICO to prevent and restrain an alleged scheme to deceive American consumers about the health risks of smoking.  The amicus brief argues that courts should not use the effects to create a presumption in favor of extraterritorial regulation, but rather that the effects test sets the outer limit of Congressional power under international law (assuming one of the other bases for jurisdiction under international law does not exist).  The brief highlights how assuming that legislation applies extraterritoriality can cause harm and undermine the meaningful development of international law. 

Professors Huffman and Parrish have previously written about these issues, which forms the basis for the amicus brief. Professor Huffman’s article on the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act can be found here.  Professor Parrish has written two pieces.  The first, Reclaiming International Law from Extraterritoriality can be found here.   The second, The Effects Test: Extraterritoriality’s Fifth Business can be found  here.

Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Foreign, Procedure, Products Liability, Tobacco | Permalink

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