This week, the United States Supreme Court declined a petition submitted by Maxima Acuña Atalaya and her family in July to hear their case. The family requested that the high court review a flawed procedural legal doctrine known as “forum non-conveniens” that frequently blocks cases based on the notion that it is more “convenient” for a U.S. corporation to litigate in a foreign court rather than in its home state.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware dismissed the family’s case in March of 2020, arguing that the case would more appropriately be heard in Peru, and without ruling on the underlying facts. In December, the Third Circuit upheld that decision, ruling that the result was permissible despite “recent, serious allegations of corruption” in the Peruvian judiciary. The U.S. Supreme Court decided this week not to review those previous rulings dismissing the case.
In their case, Maxima Acuña Atalaya and her family allege that Newmont has intimidated and sent police and security to physically attack them, killing their animals and destroying their property, all to force them from their farm to pave the way for a massive open-pit gold mine. The family sued the mining company in its home forum of Delaware. Asserting that it would inconvenience them to litigate at home, Newmont sought dismissal of the case, arguing that it should instead be brought in Peru, notwithstanding a judicial corruption crisis there. The district court agreed, despite recognizing concerning evidence of judicial corruption in Peru, including evidence of Newmont’s own past attempts to corrupt the Peruvian courts.