Stanford University – fall, 2003 – Armin Rosencranz (EM armin)

                    Hum Bio 98Q: The Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 -- SYLLABUS


The Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 (ATCA) is the oldest American law currently in force. It has been used since 1980 by foreign claimants of human rights or environmental injury to sue U.S. companies, especially oil and mining companies, in U.S. courts. This course will introduce international law, human-rights law, environmental law, civil procedure, and legal history, together with federalism and separation of powers in the American constitutional system. The course will explore the theme of continuity and change in adapting an ancient law to today's circumstances. Working cooperatively with others, and culminating in a substantial research paper, each student will follow at least one ATCA case, comparing it with precedent cases, talking to the lawyers (and possibly judges) involved, examining the recent interventions by the U.S. Departments of State and Justice, and analyzing the issues that the case presents. Interested students will have opportunities for junior-year ATCA work connected with the instructor’s courses on globalization and global environmental policy.

week 1 – 9/29/03 – Intro, review of basic ATCA journal articles (Bridgeman, Herz and Rosencranz) and review of terms/concepts.  taking sides on a typical ATCA case.  presentation of AR power point.

week 2 – 10/5 – the origins of ATCA: review of early ATCA cases; documentary history of the first federal Congress (1789-91);  review of journal articles on what the ATCA was intended to accomplish;  originalism; the Tel-Oren case and Judge Bork’s views.

week 3 – 10/13 – Doe v. Unocal: mastery of briefs and oral argument:  Four class members will be judges, and need to be familiar with the main arguments to be able to interrupt with questions. The rest of the class will be divided into four teams of three each: team 1 will represent plaintiffs (claimants of injury at the hand of Unocal), team 2 will rep. Unocal; team 3 will represent amici curiae on behalf of plaintiffs; team 4 will rep. the US DOJ.  Each group will have 30 minutes to present their argument before the court.

week 4 – 10/20 -  Doe v. Unocal – CA state case; briefs will be distributed.  Same format as above, but focusing on the independent state cause of action.


week 5 – 10/27 -  Natalie Bridgeman’s case: Cabello v. Fernandez-Larios (Pinochet accomplice). We’ll read documents beforehand, and orally argue both sides. Natalie will be at the class as a judge and for Q&A.

week 6 –  11/3 - class-chosen case 1 (same format as week 3): Kasky v. Nike

week 7 – 11/10 - class-chosen case 2: Steelworkers v. Coca Cola (Colombia)

week 8 – 11/17 - class-chosen case 3: Presbyterian Church of Sudan v. Talisman Energy (ethnic cleansing of Christians)


week 9 –  11/24 - eight individual 12-minute presentations in power-point, with Q & A

week 10 – 12/1 - eight individual 12-minute presentations in power point, with Q & A


50% of the grade will be based on class preparation and participation in oral arguments.

40% based on individual research papers and 10% on the final oral pres. in power point.