Ela on Human Rights Litigation and the Alien Tort Statute

In the forthcoming issue of Law & Social Inquiry, Nate Ela (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dept. of Sociology) has an article of interest: "Litigation Dilemmas: Lessons from the Marcos Human Rights Class Action."  Here is the abstract:

How do activist plaintiffs experience the process of human rights litigation under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS)? Answering this question is key to understanding the impact on transnational legal mobilization of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., in which the US Supreme Court sharply limited the scope of the ATS. Yet sociolegal scholars know remarkably little about the experiences of ATS litigants, before or after Kiobel. This article describes how activist litigants in a landmark ATS class action against former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos faced a series of strategic dilemmas, and how disagreements over how to resolve those dilemmas played into divisions between activists and organizations on the Philippine left. The article develops an analytical framework focused on litigation dilemmas to explain how and why activists who pursue ATS litigation as an opportunity for legal mobilization may also encounter strategic dilemmas that contribute to dissension within a social movement.


Lael Weinberger is a J.D./Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago's law school and history department. Follow him on Twitter @LaelWeinberger.