Friday, July 15, 2011

Two significant legal decisions

The first is the decision of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Flomo v. Firestone that corporations can be sued for human rights abuses:
The Firestone opinion expressly labels the Kiobel decisions, which found corporate immunity for human rights abuses, an "outlier," which it now certainly is. Between Exxon Mobil and Firestone, along with Judge Leval's dissent in Kiobel, the reasoning of the Kiobel majority has been thoroughly dismantled.

So far the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the D.C., Seventh, and Eleventh Circuits have expressly found corporate liability for human rights violations; the Ninth Circuit has assumed such liability and may make an express decision on the issue soon, and it is also being considered by the Fourth Circuit.

Only the Second Circuit, in Kiobel, has found that corporations cannot be sued. The district court's decision in Firestone was the only opinion that followed Kiobel, and now it has been reversed.
The second is also a positive development, but calls attention to a nasty policy that I had no idea existed:
The US Court of Appeals' ruling on July 6, 2011, that the government may not force US organizations that get funding for international anti-AIDS work to pledge their opposition to prostitution is an important step in the global fight against AIDS, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Alliance for Open Society International v. United States Agency for International Development affirmed lower court orders halting enforcement of the anti-prostitution pledge requirement on grounds that forcing funding recipients to adopt and espouse the government's viewpoint violated fundamental free speech rights.

...In an amicus curiae brief to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in AOSI v. USAID, 22 organizations, including Human Rights Watch, described the harmful local and global consequences of the Leadership Act on efforts to fight HIV and AIDS among sex workers and other marginalized groups. The organizations said that the act disrupts outreach efforts and joint programming with sex workers by forcing non-profit groups to present a stigmatizing, anti-prostitution message.

...While the ruling is important, Human Rights Watch said the government should take additional steps, including policies to promote and strengthen federal support for reducing HIV/AIDS in sex worker populations and to provide support to sex worker coalitions conducting HIV/AIDS work.

...The Second Circuit ruling applied only to US organizations and does not affect the Leadership Act's application to foreign (non-US) organizations receiving US anti-AIDS funding. These organizations also play a critical role in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, Human Rights Watch said.

"The Obama Administration should stop enforcing the anti-prostitution pledge immediately against all groups, including US and foreign organizations," Schleifer said. "Leadership in the fight against AIDS requires removing the pledge altogether from US law."
What a sick law this is in the first place.

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