District Court Dismisses ATS Claim Against Laotian Politicians Alleging Conduct having No Connection With U.S.

The World in U.S. Courts: Spring 2016 - Alien Tort Statute (ATS) | March.14.2016

Hmong I v. Lao People's Democratic Republic, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, March 14, 2016

Thus putative class action seeks to redress alleged human rights violations committed in Laos by several of its political figures. The defendants did not respond to the complaint and the plaintiffs sought entry of a default judgment. A magistrate judge in the District Court in California refused to do so and instead recommended that the case be dismissed, concluding that the ATS did not apply to conduct allegedly occurring entirely in Laos.

The Court held that the case was controlled by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., which established that the presumption against extraterritorial application of U.S. laws applied to the ATS. Further, the complaint "contains no allegation of any conduct occurring in the United States, having any effect in this country, or being directed at, or affecting, anyone in or from the United States," and thus did not trigger ATS jurisdiction based on facts that "touch and concern" the U.S.

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