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Old 05-13-2008, 08:47 AM   #1 (permalink)
Jackal Ghoul
 
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Supreme Court to close to Racist Companies must allow lawsuit against APARTHIED!

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said too
many justices have conflicts for the court to act in an appeal by 33
companies trying to stop a flurry of lawsuits seeking more than $400 billion
from corporations that did business in South Africa during the apartheid era.

The rare situation was triggered because three justices have conflicts due to
stock holdings and one justice has a son that works for Credit Suisse Group
Inc. (CS), a defendant in the case. The court needs six justices to act on an
appeal.


Due to the lack of a quorum, the Supreme Court was required to affirm a
lower court ruling that went against the companies, many of them major
international corporations.

Recused from the appeal are Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices
Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy. Roberts, Breyer and Alito
had conflicts due to stock holdings, according to their most recent financial
disclosures. Kennedy was recused presumably because his son works for
Credit Suisse.


Justices aren't required to provide a public reason for their recusal from a case.

Additional involved companies that triggered recusals include Hewlett-Packard
Co. (HPQ), owned by Chief Justice Roberts; Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and
Bristol- Myers Squibb Co. (BMY), owned by Justice Alito; and Bank of America
Corp. (BAC), International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Colgate-Palmolive
Co. (CL) and Nestle SA (NESN.VX), owned by Justice Breyer
.

Updated annual financial disclosures for the justices will be released in June
that will confirm the stock holdings of all the justices.

Supreme Court justices - and all federal judges - are allowed to hold individual
stock investments but they must recuse themselves in appeals involving
shares they own. The practice has prompted occasional recusals in a case by
one or two justices, but no recent appeal has been jeopardized because four
justices had to recuse themselves.

Chief Justice Roberts has in the last two years sold stock at least twice so he
could participate in an appeal before the Supreme Court. A recent change
federal tax law - championed by Roberts - makes it easier for members of the
federal judiciary to divest of stock holdings.


In late April the high court delayed consideration of the apartheid appeal,
prompting speculation at least one justice might sell stock so the court could
act in the appeal. Monday's action, however, indicates all three of the
justices with financial stock conflicts continue to hold at least some of the
stocks that prevented their inclusion.




From The TimesMay 13, 2008

Victims of apartheid can sue multinationals

Suzy Jagger in New York

Thousands of South Africans who suffered under apartheid won the right
yesterday to sue a number of companies, including BP, Citigroup and Ford, for
allegedly helping to perpetrate human rights abuses.

The US Supreme Court ruled that three class actions can use the American
legal system to sue approximately 50 international corporations who they
believe “knowingly aided and abetted the South African military and security
forces”. Some legal experts have estimated that the companies could be sued
for as much as $400 billion.

The corporations that could be facing a court challenge in the United States
also include ExxonMobil, UBS, Deutsche Bank, General Motors, IBM, Hewlett-
Packard, Bank of America and General Electric.

The three class actions are believed to represent thousands of South Africans
who suffered under apartheid between 1948 and 1994. One set of plaintiffs -
a South African human rights organisation called the Khulumani Support
Group - said that it had 32,700 members who were survivors of apartheid
violence.

Lawyers representing the victims within the three class actions will have to
establish that the companies knowingly helped the South African government
to perpetrate human rights abuses. That could include, for example, proving
that a motor company knew that lorries that it sold in South Africa would be
used as armoured vehicles to destroy townships. It could also include
establishing that a technology company sold computer equipment and
software that would be used to operate a racial identification system.

Speaking to The Times, Michael Hausfeld, the lead counsel for the Khulumani
group, which is based in Washington, said: “We want a legal
acknowledgement of accountability, that these international corporations
knowingly helped the regime violate human rights.

“A ruling in our favour would have two possible impacts. It would force the
companies to pay compensation to those who were injured as a consequence
of the abuses they suffered. It would also trigger a change in corporate
governance.”

In a hearing in July, Mr Hausfeld said that he would ask the court to demand
that the companies produce documentation about their business in South
Africa up to 1994, which would show “what they did and what they knew”. It
is possible that representatives of the companies would have to appear in a
court in New York.

The lawsuits were filed in 2002 and were thrown out by a federal judge on the
ground that the United States's courts did not have jurisdiction.

This case is the latest test of an 18th-century law, called the Alien Tort
Claims Act. It allows foreigners to use the US legal system to right
international law violations. The legislation was drawn up to help foreigners
seek redress for issues such as piracy, but it has been used increasingly to
sue corporations for their alleged involvement in human rights abuses
overseas.

The American and foreign corporations have appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Bush Administration and business groups have supported their appeal.
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Old 05-13-2008, 09:05 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Interesting, I wonder what kind of fiscal impact this will have on those companies, and I also wonder how many suits this actually involves. Litigation on these incidents could now take years to resolve, and the only ones getting richer will be the lawyers, so chalk one up for them.

Also yet another reason to distrust the current Supreme Court - too many investments to adjudicate something is absolutely intolerable.
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