Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


Since 1789 federal courts have had jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Claims Act of tort actions in which an alien plaintiff alleges a violation of the law of nations. Two recent court of appeals cases present conflicting views of the Act's applicability to contemporary international human rights claims. The Note examines the issues raised by the statute's construction in this context, including the difficulty of ascertaining the precise content of customary international legal norms. It concludes that neither the political question doctrine, nor the absence of an explicit private right to sue in international law necessarily precludes a federal court from entertaining international human rights litigation under the Alien Tort Claims Act.