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USA: Research measures outcomes of transnatl. human rights lawsuits from past 35 years

Author: Cortelyou C. Kenney, Stanford Law School, Published on: 4 December 2015

“Measuring Transnational Human Rights”, 1 Dec 2015

…[H]undreds of transnational human rights civil suits…have been filed in the United States.  Exhaustive qualitative research chronicles plaintiff “successes” and “failures” as defined by how frequently plaintiffs win, the magnitude of judgments and settlements they obtain, and the extent to which judgments and settlements are enforced.  The prevailing wisdom is that while some cases have proven runaway successes…in general, transnational human rights suits constitute “a modest enterprise akin to personal injury”…[N]o scholar to date has undertaken a systematic, quantitative examination of such conclusions to determine whether the numbers actually bear them out.  This Article fills that gap.  It collects a new dataset of all cases…under the two predominant human rights civil statutes to scrutinize these claims…The data support three findings.  First, the transnational human rights enterprise is modest both in terms of how frequently plaintiffs prevail and how much money they…obtain, but not as modest as believed.  Second, any modesty is not evidence of courts’ isolationism…Third, a core group of claims has weathered significant doctrinal shifts over time.  Plaintiffs bringing these claims are poised to circumvent Kiobel II and are on track to be as “successful” or “unsuccessful” as ever…

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