One L(ove)

November 20, 2008

Human Rights & Forum Non Conveniens

Filed under: Uncategorized — galileehitchhiker @ 9:00 pm
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Forum non conveniens is granted when the court dismisses an action because it believes that there is a more appropriate forum available where litigation can take place, regardless if that first court has proper jurisdiction and the venue requirements have been met. In deciding on whether to dismiss an action on the basis of forum non conveniens, the court takes into consideration private (e.g., litigants access to sources and proof), public (e.g., drawing a pool of jurors from an area that has no connection with where the event that gave rise to action took place), and local interests (e.g., locals want an event that took place around their area to be decided there). When the court balances these interests, it then determines whether dismissing an action on the basis of forum non conveniens is appropriate.

What gets really interesting is when a foreign plaintiff (usually, a U.S. court has its finger on the button for forum non conveniens and if it feels that the foreign plaintiff is there because of taking advantage of a favorable legal system in the U.S., it will most likely press it) brings an action claiming violations of human rights to a U.S. court. Under the Alien Tort Statute (28 U.S.C. sec. 1350), a foreign plaintiff can bring a tort claim based on violations of international law in the U.S. courts. A reason why we allow foreign plaintiffs to bring violations of human rights claims to U.S. courts is because the forum in a country that has violated a plaintiff’s right might conceivably be an inadequate forum.

The essence of the debate is whether forum non conveniens should apply in human rights cases brought forth by a foreign plaintiff? There are basically two sides to this debate: 1) Forum non conveniens should not apply when there are compelling interests at stake in litigating human rights claims in the U.S.; and 2) Forum non conveniens should apply when there are few meaningful reasons for the U.S. to adjudicate a human rights claim here and when the interests of another country outweigh the interests of the United States. I guess answering that question and determining where you stand on the issue is to answer a simple (hah!) foreign policy question: Do we have a stake in interests in every single abuse of human rights that takes place in the world? I guess we have to ask ourselves what “stake in interests” includes. Being that it is the greatest global power in the world right now, should the U.S. include moral reasons besides economic ones? Would it or would it not be practical?

Currently listening to: Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’


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