US Supreme Court lowers curtain on an activist stage

The international oil and gas industry escaped a legal hazard on Apr. 17 when the US Supreme Court narrowed the geographic scope of an antique law on civil infractions involving noncitizens. In Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, the high court held that the Alien Tort Statute doesn’t apply to acts committed outside the US. Enacted in 1798, the statute provides foreigners a judicial remedy in the US for violations of “the law of nations.” Congress acted it after foreign ambassadors fell victim to mistreatment in the US—in one case verbal abuse by a countryman and in another the wrongful arrest of a domestic servant—and had no legal recourse. It also gave legal footing to actions related to p...

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