UW Legal Discussion Targets International Human Rights Case

April 9, 2012

University of Wyoming students and others have the opportunity to hear a legal debate over alleged human rights violations during oil exploration in Nigeria at a UW College of Law forum this week.

UW's Potter Law Club annually hosts a spring panel discussion about a controversial legal issue, and this year's takes place the evening of Thursday, April 12, in Room 178 of the College of Law.

Thursday's events begin with a 6:15 p.m. reception in the Rare Books Room at the College of Law. The discussion begins with an introduction at 7 p.m. in Room 178, followed by a question-and-answer session at 8:30 p.m.

The speakers are the attorneys who have prepared amicus briefs for the case of Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum. The case is up for reargument in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and will determine whether corporations, rather than individuals, can be sued under the Alien Tort Statute. That law allows U.S. courts to hear human-rights cases brought by foreign citizens for conduct committed outside the United States.

The underlying issue involves Royal Dutch Petroleum and its alleged human right violations in Nigeria.

Speaking for the company will be Anne Cohen, a senior litigation partner at Debevoise and Plimpton whose wide-ranging practice focuses on complex tort litigation and internal investigations, as well as general commercial litigation. She has represented defendants in firearms, Agent Orange, smoking and health, toxic shock syndrome, pharmaceutical and asbestos matters.

Cohen led a team, representing Hooker Chemical Co., in the successful defense of a class-action lawsuit brought under the Alien Tort Statute by Vietnamese nationals in New York against a number of chemical manufacturers, alleging that the use of chemical herbicides during the Vietnam War was a violation of the law of war.

Speaking for the petitioners will be Marco Simons, legal director for EarthRights International (ERI), a nongovernmental organization dedicated to protection of human rights and the environment worldwide. ERI aims to hold corporations and other actors accountable for human rights and environmental abuses. Simons has represented victims of abuse in several transnational human rights cases in U.S. courts.

Moderating the discussion will be Klint Alexander, a partner and U.K. solicitor at Wyatt Tarrant and Combs, where he concentrates his practice in the areas of commercial litigation, government affairs and international law.

Alexander has been a senior lecturer in law and international relations in the Vanderbilt University Department of Political Science since 2004 and is a visiting lecturer at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London, where he teaches courses on international law and economics.

Continuing legal education credits will be available for those who attend.

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