Editorial Note: This morning the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch-Shell, a case which we have blogged about extensively over the past 18 months. Several of our staff members were in attendence, and four of them wrote brief initial impressions. This is one of those four.
How did it go? Who knows? There is a reason why people say you shouldn’t try to predict which side will win a Supreme Court case based on the oral arguments. This one certainly was no exception. There seemed to be Justices on both sides, and others whose positions could at best only be guessed at. Its strange to think that the continued existence of the ability to sue corporations-which was essentially unquestioned for over a decade-may now rest on the decision of a single Justice.
Yet here we are.
Ultimately, I am optimistic.
Not because I feel like I learned anything today that would help me predict who will win… but because I still find it difficult to believe that the Court will accept that a corporation can participate in genocide or crimes against humanity and yet be immune from suit; to find that although corporations can be sued everywhere in the world for even ordinary torts, they can’t be sued here for the worst kinds of abuses. I still have faith in the rule of law.