Saturday, March 06, 2010
Amicus Brief - Cert Petition: Legislative Jurisdiction/Extraterritoriality
First, thanks to Dan for inviting me back to Prawfs. This is my third stint, and it's good to be back. I wanted to begin by reaching out to law professors who might be interesting in signing on to a amicus brief in support of a petition for writ of certiorari. Max Huffman (Indiana) and I are writing an amicus brief in the case British American Tobacco v. United States. The cert. petition is part of a massive case brought by the U.S. against the tobacco companies. Various cert. petitions have been filed, including a government petition seeking recovery of a $280 billion disgorgement award. Details about the underlying case can be found on SCOTUSblog.
The amicus brief that we are writing is on a narrow issue focused on how a court should interpret the geographic reach of federal law (the extraterritoriality question). The brief is being submitted to encourage the Court to grant certiorari and review the decision of the D.C. Circuit. The brief clarifies the history and application of the effects test and shows how that history bears upon the proper interpretation of whether Congress intended a statute to reach extraterritorial conduct. The brief does not take a position on the underlying merits: the federal government's use of RICO to prevent and restrain an alleged scheme to deceive American consumers about the health risks of smoking.
If you are a law professor who would consider signing on to the amicus brief, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I can send you a draft. A draft will be completed Monday, and we hope to finalize within the next week or so (it's on a tight filing deadline). Because the effects test applies in a number of contexts (antitrust, securities, trademark, labor law, environmental law, criminal law etc.), the D.C. Circuit's decision, if left to stand, could have far-reaching implications. Legal commentators have also lamented the doctrinal incoherence in how courts approach legislative jurisdiction. This would be a good opportunity for the Court to clarify what is now a confused area of law. More information about the case and the amicus brief is included below.
The petitioner's cert petition implicates the question of whether RICO applies to the overseas conduct of foreign corporations. The D.C. Circuit did not directly address whether Congress intended RICO to apply extraterritorially -- an issue on which the lower courts are divided. Instead, it found: (1) that when domestic effects are felt in the United States, regulation of foreign conduct of a foreign corporation does not implicate extraterritorial jurisdiction; and (2) that it need not decide whether RICO applies extraterritorially so long as the foreign conduct has substantial effects in the United States. Because the D.C. Circuit found a domestic effect, it presumed that Congress intended RICO to regulate abroad. The case raises interesting questions about the role of the presumption against extraterritoriality and the effects test. It implicates at least a three-way circuit split on how the courts determine legislative (prescriptive jurisdiction).
The amicus brief attempts to show how the D.C. Circuit's opinion has added confusion to the existing circuit split. It also suggests that the D.C. Circuit erred by disregarding the presumption against extraterritoriality. The brief argues that the effects test sets the outer limits, under international law, of Congress's legislative jurisdiction, but does not serve as a canon of construction that overrides the presumption against extraterritoriality. The brief highlights how assuming legislation applies extraterritoriality can cause harm and undermine the meaningful development of international law.
Max Huffman and I have previously written about these issues. Max's excellent article on the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act can be found here. I have written two pieces on international law, the effects test, and extraterroriality. They can be found here and here.
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