ATS Apartheid Case Affirmed by Supreme Court

by Roger Alford

In a strange move, the Supreme Court on Monday affirmed the ATS Apartheid case of Khulamani v. Barclay Bank (recaptioned at the Supreme Court as American Isuzu Motors v. Ntsebeza). The stated reason? The Court lacked a quorum. From the docket sheet:

Because the Court lacks a quorum, 28 U.S.C. § 1, and since a majority of the qualified Justices are of the opinion that the case cannot be heard and determined at the next Term of the Court, the judgment is affirmed under 28 U. S. C. § 2109, which provides that under these circumstances the Court shall enter its order affirming the judgment of the court from which the case was brought for review with the same effect as upon affirmance by an equally divided Court. The Chief Justice, Justice Kennedy, Justice Breyer, and Justice Alito took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1, “the Supreme Court of the United States shall consist of a Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices, any six of whom shall constitute a quorum.” And under 28 U.S.C. § 2109, in any case “which cannot be heard and determined because of the absence of a quorum of qualified justices, if a majority of the qualified justices shall be of opinion that the case cannot be heard and determined at the next ensuing term, the court shall enter its order affirming the judgment of the court from which the case was brought for review with the same effect as upon affirmance by an equally divided court.” Apparently four justices had to recuse themselves and therefore the Court lacked the six justice quorum required to decide the case.

If you look at the list of defendants it is perhaps not surprising that many of the justices had a conflict. Still, I have never heard of anything like this in such an important case. Lyle Denniston has more here.

http://opiniojuris.org/2008/05/16/ats-apartheid-case-affirmed-by-supreme-court/

2 Responses

  1. Yes – almost divine providence. This is a terribly important case for anyone who was involved in the divestment movement in the 1970’s and 1980’s and was confronted with the argument in the US that it is better that we stay in South Africa. Here the alleged victims of those corporate decisions will have a chance to explain in US court. It is the kind of case that reminds me of the IBM and the Holocaust facts discussed a few days back. Best, Ben

  2. The New York Times has a good little editorial about this case here. I especially like the question of why Supreme Court justices hold stock instead of mutual funds. I fully concur with the idea that a justices’ investment portfolio should be structured in such a way that they are not conflicted out of doing their job.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. There are no trackbacks or pingbacks associated with this post at this time.