671 F.3d 736 (9th Cir. 2011), 02-56256, Sarei v. Rio Tinto, PLC

Docket Nº:02-56256, 02-56390, 09-56381.
Citation:671 F.3d 736
Opinion Judge:SCHROEDER, Judge.
Party Name:Alexis Holyweek SAREI; Paul E. Nerau; Thomas Tamausi; Phillip Miriori; Gregory Kopa; Methodius Nesiko; Aloysius Moses; Rapheal Niniku; Gabriel Tareasi; Linus Takinu, Leo Wuis; Michael Akope; Benedict Pisi; Thomas Kobuko; John Tamausi; Norman Mouvo; John Osani; Ben Korus; Namira Kawona; Joanne Bosco; John Pigolo; Magdalene Pigolo, individually and o
Attorney:Steve W. Berman, Seattle, WA, for plaintiffs-appellants-appellees Alexis Holyweek Sarei, et al. Sri Srinivasan, Washington, DC, for defendants-appellees-appellants Rio Tinto, PLC, et al.
Judge Panel:Before: MARY M. SCHROEDER, HARRY PREGERSON, STEPHEN REINHARDT, ANDREW J. KLEINFELD, BARRY G. SILVERMAN, M. MARGARET McKEOWN, MARSHA S. BERZON, JOHNNIE B. RAWLINSON, CONSUELO M. CALLAHAN, CARLOS T. BEA, and SANDRA S. IKUTA, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge SCHROEDER; Concurrence by Judge REINHARDT...
Case Date:October 25, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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671 F.3d 736 (9th Cir. 2011)

Alexis Holyweek SAREI; Paul E. Nerau; Thomas Tamausi; Phillip Miriori; Gregory Kopa; Methodius Nesiko; Aloysius Moses; Rapheal Niniku; Gabriel Tareasi; Linus Takinu, Leo Wuis; Michael Akope; Benedict Pisi; Thomas Kobuko; John Tamausi; Norman Mouvo; John Osani; Ben Korus; Namira Kawona; Joanne Bosco; John Pigolo; Magdalene Pigolo, individually and on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

RIO TINTO, PLC and Rio Tinto Limited, Defendants-Appellees.

Alexis Holyweek Sarei; Paul E. Nerau; Thomas Tamausi; Phillip Miriori; Gregory Kopa; Methodius Nesiko; Aloysius Moses; Rapheal Niniku; Gabriel Tareasi; Linus Takinu, Leo Wuis; Michael Akope; Benedict Pisi; Thomas Kobuko; John Tamausi; Norman Mouvo; John Osani; Ben Korus; Namira Kawona; Joanne Bosco; John Pigolo; Magdalene Pigolo, individually and on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

Rio Tinto, PLC and Rio Tinto Limited, Defendants-Appellants.

Alexis Holyweek Sarei; Paul E. Nerau; Thomas Tamausi; Phillip Miriori; Gregory Kopa; Methodius Nesiko; Aloysius Moses; Rapheal Niniku; Gabriel Tareasi; Linus Takinu; Leo Wuis; Michael Akope; Benedict Pisi; Thomas Kobuko; John Tamausi; Norman Mouvo; John Osani; Ben Korus; Namira Kawona; Joanne Bosco; John Pigolo; Magdalene Pigolo, individually and on behalf Central of themselves & all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

Rio Tinto, PLC; Rio Tinto Limited, Defendants-Appellants,

and

United States of America, Movant.

Nos. 02-56256, 02-56390, 09-56381.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

October 25, 2011

Argued and Submitted Sept. 21, 2010.

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Steve W. Berman, Seattle, WA, for plaintiffs-appellants-appellees Alexis Holyweek Sarei, et al.

Sri Srinivasan, Washington, DC, for defendants-appellees-appellants Rio Tinto, PLC, et al.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Margaret M. Morrow, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. Nos. 2:00-cv-11695-MMM-MAN, CV-00-11695-MMM.

Before: MARY M. SCHROEDER, HARRY PREGERSON, STEPHEN REINHARDT, ANDREW J. KLEINFELD, BARRY G. SILVERMAN, M. MARGARET McKEOWN, MARSHA S. BERZON, JOHNNIE B. RAWLINSON, CONSUELO M. CALLAHAN, CARLOS T. BEA, and SANDRA S. IKUTA, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge SCHROEDER; Concurrence by Judge REINHARDT; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Judge PREGERSON; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Judge McKEOWN; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Judge BEA; Dissent by Judge KLEINFELD; Dissent by Judge IKUTA.

Opinion by Judge SCHROEDER, Circuit Judge, with whom SILVERMAN and BERZON, Circuit Judges, join. PREGERSON and RAWLINSON, Circuit Judges, join as to all but Parts IV(C) and (D) and partially join Part IV(B)(3). REINHARDT, Circuit Judge, joins as to all but Part II(C) and Part IV(B)(3), as to which he concurs in the result. McKEOWN, Circuit Judge, joins as to all but Part IV(A)(3) and Part IV(B)(4):

OPINION

SCHROEDER, Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This is an Alien Tort Statute (ATS) case arising out of the operations of Rio Tinto mining group (Rio Tinto) on the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the uprising against Rio Tinto in the late 1980's that resulted in the use of military force and many deaths. The Plaintiffs are current or former residents of the island of Bougainville. The ATS provides that " district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation

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of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1350.

This is the second time this case has been before this en banc court. See Sarei v. Rio Tinto PLC (Rio Tinto III), 550 F.3d 822, 825-26 (9th Cir.2008). The facts are laid out comprehensively in the original district court opinion. See Sarei v. Rio Tinto PLC (Rio Tinto I), 221 F.Supp.2d 1116, 1121-27 (C.D.Cal.2002). The original three-judge panel majority and dissenting opinions were divided on the issue of exhaustion of local remedies. Sarei v. Rio Tinto PLC (Rio Tinto II), 487 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir.2007). As a result, our first en banc decision focused on that issue. Rio Tinto III, 550 F.3d 822. A majority of this en banc court took the view that exhaustion must be considered, with the narrower, and therefore controlling, plurality opinion by Judge McKeown stating that only prudential exhaustion principles apply. Id. at 832 n. 10.

On remand, the district court held that it would be inappropriate to impose a prudential exhaustion requirement on Plaintiffs' claims for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and racial discrimination. Sarei v. Rio Tinto plc (Rio Tinto IV), 650 F.Supp.2d 1004, 1032 (C.D.Cal.2009). It held the remaining claims required exhaustion. The court, therefore, gave Plaintiffs the choice either to withdraw or to submit the following claims to the traditional two-step exhaustion analysis: violation of the rights to health, life, and security of the person; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; international environmental violations; and a consistent pattern of gross human rights violations. Id.

Plaintiffs opted to withdraw those claims, reserving the right to file an amended complaint if the matter is remanded. Id. n. 71. Thus, the only claims before this court on appeal are Plaintiffs' claims for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and racial discrimination.

The ATS, as Judge Friendly explained more than three decades ago in IIT v. Vencap, Ltd. , " is a kind of legal Lohengrin; although it has been with us since the first Judiciary Act, § 9, 1 Stat. 73, 77 (1789), no one seems to know whence it came." 519 F.2d 1001, 1015 (2d Cir.1975). This case has been a perplexing one for the judges of this circuit because of the new legal uncertainties in the application of the ATS that flowed in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U.S. 692, 124 S.Ct. 2739, 159 L.Ed.2d 718 (2004).

In Sosa, the Supreme Court held that the ATS is a jurisdictional grant for a limited category of claims for violation of internationally accepted norms. 542 U.S. at 729, 124 S.Ct. 2739. The statute was " enacted on the understanding that the common law would provide a cause of action for the modest number of international law violations ... based on the present-day law of nations ... rest[ing] on a norm of international character accepted by the civilized world and defined with a specificity comparable to the features of the 18th-century paradigms we have recognized [violation of safe conducts, infringement of the rights of ambassadors, and piracy]." Id. at 724-25, 124 S.Ct. 2739.

Internationally accepted norms must be " specific, universal, and obligatory." Sosa, 542 U.S. at 732, 124 S.Ct. 2739 (citing with approval In re Estate of Ferdinand Marcos, Human Rights Litig. (Marcos II), 25 F.3d 1467, 1475 (9th Cir.1994)). Thus, in discussing the definite nature of an international norm that gives rise to a cause of action in an ATS suit against a private actor, the Supreme Court also noted that " a related consideration is whether international law extends the scope of liability for a violation of a given norm to the

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perpetrator being sued, if the defendant is a private actor such as a corporation or individual." Id. at 732 n. 20, 124 S.Ct. 2739.

With regard to the specific claims before us, we conclude that only Plaintiffs' claims of genocide and war crimes fall within the limited federal jurisdiction created by the Act, and that the crimes against humanity arising from a blockade and the racial discrimination claims do not. Under international law, there is a distinction between genocide and crimes against humanity. We discuss this distinction in Section IV of this opinion when we deal with the specific claims. Before discussing each claim, however, we must deal with and reject the more sweeping legal principles that Rio Tinto and our dissenting colleagues argue require dismissal of the entire action. Those include the contentions that we lack jurisdiction under the ATS because all of these claims arise extraterritorially, are claims against corporations, or constitute claims of aiding and abetting liability outside the scope of international law. We also address Judge Ikuta's dissenting contention, not raised by any party, that the Act gives federal courts no authority to hear cases between aliens because cases under the ATS are diversity cases that do not " arise under" the laws of the United States. We then reach Rio Tinto's alternative contentions that the claims in this suit are nonjusticiable on the grounds that they require prudential exhaustion, constitute political questions, are barred by principles of international comity, or invalidate acts of state.

Although the torts alleged all occurred outside of the United States, Rio Tinto has substantial operations in this country. According to the complaint, Rio Tinto operates in 40 different countries and, as of December 31, 1999, had consolidated operating assets of nearly $13 billion— 47% of which are located in North America. Personal jurisdiction is not disputed.

II. JURISDICTIONAL ISSUES

A. Extraterritoriality

Extraterritoriality is generally a question of statutory interpretation going to the merits of a case. Morrison v. Nat'l Australia Bank Ltd., --- U.S. ----, 130 S.Ct. 2869, 2877, 177 L.Ed.2d 535 (2010). Because the Supreme Court in Sosa...

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