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Abstract

This Note will explore the Alien Tort Statute from its origin in 1789 to the present interpretation of the Sosa Court. Part II will focus on the Framers’ language and intent, discuss the long lull in the use of the ATS and the impact of Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, and examine a line of cases that reawakened the ATS in the 1980s. Part III explores the elements of the Court’s decision in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain: the facts that gave rise to an ATS claim, the plurality’s denial of jurisdiction, its dicta regarding potential application of the ATS, and Justice Scalia’s concurring opinion endorsing a very narrow and strict approach to the modern ATS. Part IV analyzes the possible interpretations and application of the Court’s decision, the efforts of human rights victims and activists to squeeze through the slightly ajar door of the ATS, the potential international and economic implications that may result from the Supreme Court’s failure to decisively shut the door on ATS litigation, and the role that Congress should play in redefining the purpose of the ATS.

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