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USA: Summary by law professor of oral arguments in Nestlé & Cargill v. Doe in front of Supreme Court regarding corporate liability under the ATS


"Nestlé & Cargill v. Doe Series: In Oral Arguments, Justices Weigh Liability for Chocolate Companies", 7 December 2020.

The Supreme Court recently concluded 90 minutes of oral arguments in the consolidated cases of Doe v. Nestlé and Doe v. Cargill...The virtual format – with each Justice taking turns to present their line of questioning – took some time to get used to, and limited the more free-flowing colloquies of traditional oral arguments, but Chief Justice Roberts was scrupulous about giving each Justice equal time, interrupting the advocates mid-sentence if necessary.

This post summarizes the main arguments with reference to the briefs in the record and other commentary on the arguments.

The Justices were clearly uncomfortable with the prospect of providing impunity for U.S. corporations that breach the law of nations, particularly given the sickening nature of the facts in question...Justice Alito specifically acknowledged that many of the petitioners’ arguments would leave child slaves with no remedies against a U.S. corporation that knowingly facilitates, and significantly profits from, their daily mistreatment—results “that are hard to take.” Katyal insisted that while the underlying conduct is “horrific,” the companies are not directly involved in these activities and are, rather, “an afterthought.”...

In defense of his clients, Katyal addressed the two issues presented and briefed by petitioners: corporation liability and extraterritoriality...

A decision is expected in June.

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