Corporate liability in the aftermath of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. continues to be indefinite. Du Daobin filed action against Cisco in federal district court in Maryland, alleging the Golden Shield (a nationwide surveillance program) detected his circulation of Internet articles calling for fair treatment of rural farmers in China, after which he was subjected to forced labor, unlawful detention, and torture. Daobin’s claims were brought pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a particularly vague area of international law, which allows foreign plaintiffs with the sole means of obtaining jurisdiction in U.S. courts for alleged human rights abuses. The Supreme Court in Kiobel, relying solely on international law, held that ATS does not provide foreign plaintiffs relief against corporations. The Kiobel decision requires lower courts to consider international law in determining whether the defendant has committed a violation of international law; once a violation is established, domestic law provides the means for holding the defendant accountable. Before the district court in Maryland ever reached the consideration of Cisco’s international law violations, it dismissed Daobin’s claims because they were nonjusticiable due to the political question doctrine.
Du Daobin v. Cisco Sys., No. 11-1538, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22632 (D. Md. Feb. 24, 2014); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1350; Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 133 S. Ct. 1659 (2013); Mara Theophila, Note, “Moral Monsters” Under the Bed: Holding Corporations Accountable for Violations of the Alien Tort Statute After Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 79 Fordham L. Rev. 2859 (2011).
(Development authored by Christa Pitts)