Moakley Institute Kicks off Supreme Court Update Series


BOSTON, MA - Panelists will explore the legal issues raised by the Alien Tort Claims Act, a 1789 law used in modern times to sue in international human rights cases, as the John Joseph Moakley Institute and Suffolk University Law School inaugurate a new forum series, “Supreme Court Updates.” Each forum will address a noteworthy case before the Supreme Court of the United States through advocates having a principal interest in the selected case. Alien Tort Claims Act: Advancing Human Rights or Threat to Global Business? is the topic to be addressed Tuesday April 20, 3:00 p.m. at Suffolk University Law School.

On March 30, 2004, The Supreme Court, heard the case of Jose Francisco Sosa, Petitioner v. Alvarez-Machain, which involved a federal agency's hiring bounty hunters to kidnap a Mexican doctor accused of participating in the murder of a U.S. drug agent. The indictment against Alvarez-Machain was ultimately dismissed by a U.S. Court. The doctor then sued both the U.S. government and the Mexican agent, Sosa, using the 1789 U.S. statute known as the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA). The use of ATCA in the past 20 years to sue sovereign states, non-U.S. government officials and corporations for damages related to human rights abuses has attracted opposing views from human rights groups, international corporations and anti-terrorism agencies. The Supreme Court has been asked to rule on the availability of ATCA in these cases.

The panel for this first “Supreme Court Update” will include:

Mark A. Drumbl, Assistant Professor of Law and Ethan Allen Faculty Fellow at Washington and Lee University School of Law, has served as counsel to Legal Aid Rwanda; was a lecturer in the International Law Project, Afghan University, Peshawar, Pakistan; and has served as judicial clerk to Justice Frank Iacobucci of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Suffolk University Law Professor and Director of the International Law Concentration, Valerie Epps will moderate the forum, which will take place from 3:00 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., Tuesday, April 20, at Suffolk University Law School, Room 425, 120 Tremont St., Boston.

Dilan Esper is a lawyer with Stein & Flugge, LLP in Los Angeles, focusing on civil liberties and entertainment law. Since 1994, he has been a member of the litigation team representing Dr. Humberto Alvarez-Machain in his civil claims against the United States government for forcibly abducting him from his medical office in Mexico and bringing him to the United States for trial. Esper has been involved in additional cases involving human rights claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act.

The panel will also include: Joseph R. Guerra, a partner in the Washington DC office of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood and is co-counsel for Mr. Sosa. He represented the Comptroller General of the United States in his lawsuit seeking information relating to Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force. Guerra served as a law clerk to Associate Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., of the U.S. Supreme Court and was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice.

William R. Kirschner is an attorney with the Washington office of Shea & Gardner whose practice has focused on complex civil litigation involving issues of international law. His firm filed a brief on ATCA for National Association of Manufacturers. Kirschner was a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked on facilitating the resolution of class action lawsuits stemming from the Nazi era against Austrian and German companies and the Republic of Austria.

For nearly 100 years, Suffolk University Law School, in the heart of downtown Boston, has remained one of the most respected names in legal education. Its expansive curriculum -- more than 200 upper-level elective courses, specialty concentrations, joint-degree programs and an LL.M. in global technology -- enables students to gain a strong academic foundation. A wide range of hands-on experience, including clinical programs, internships and moot court competitions, provides students the practical skills necessary to succeed. Suffolk Law's diverse and supportive community comes together in Sargent Hall, which was dedicated in 1999 and is among the country's most inspiring, modern and technologically advanced settings for the study of law.

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