Skip to content

Fall 2022 Seminar

Human Rights Litigation in U.S. Courts

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

This seminar will explore the current landscape of human rights litigation in U.S. courts. The seminar will examine both the doctrinal and practice dimensions of this litigation. We will looki at how modern human rights litigation started, how it has evolved, how it has changed (and not changed), and where we stand now. We will also think about the future prospects of such litigation in the United States and how it connects to other jurisdictions, including in Canada, Europe, South Africa, and elsewhere. 

Modern human rights litigation in U.S. courts started in the late 1970s with the resurrection of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). For many, the ATS has defined U.S.-based human rights litigation for the past forty years, but the litigation landscape has changed significantly during over time. While this seminar will take a close look at the past several decades, this will only be the starting point. The seminar will focus the majority of its time on current approaches to human rights litigation, including innovative test cases and a number of statutes that receive far less attention than the ATS has.

The seminar will also give us a chance to connect with day-to-day litigation practice, including the various stages of litigation as well as how litigation fits within broader human rights advocacy efforts. Together, we will examine how litigation strategies and techniques have been shared and developed over time and identify common strategies and recurring legal issues that arise across the cases. The seminar will also examine practical issues, including how to work with communities, how to coordinate cases that touch on multiple jurisdictions, how to interact with large teams of lawyers in different countries, and how to address unique cross-cultural and logistical challenges given the transnational nature of these cases.