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Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer
and Samuel Alito recused themselves from the case.

Apartheid Case Against Corporations Proceeds After Supreme Court Recusals

May 13, 2008 04:22 PM
by Josh Katz
The Supreme Court could not form a quorum in a case concerning reparations over abuses incurred during South Africa’s apartheid regime.

30-Second Summary

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Victims from the injustices of South Africa’s apartheid government are suing dozens of corporations in the United States, Canada and Europe for more than $400 billion. The plaintiffs ground their case in the Alien Tort Statute, created in 1789 allowing noncitizens to take up matters of international law in federal court.

The class actions suit defends anyone who has resided in South Africa between 1948 and the present who has been abused by the apartheid regime. More than 30 businesses are defendants in the case, including Exxon Mobil Corp., IBM Corp., and Credit Suisse Group, reports Bloomberg.com.

The Supreme Court of the United States Blog
quotes one of the lawyers in the case in regard to the culpability of the companies: “car manufacturers provided the armored vehicles that were used to patrol the townships, arms manufacturers violated the embargoes on sales to South Africa, as did the oil companies, and the banks provided the funding that enabled South Africa to expand its police and security apparatus.”

President George W. Bush has lobbied in support of the companies, calling the case an embarrassment that would damage U.S. foreign relations. The South African government also wants the suit thrown out.

The lawsuit was to be challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court but will proceed because the personal interests of four justices left the Court with fewer than the six justices required to hear any case. Justices John Roberts, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito recused themselves because they hold stock in some of the companies represented, and Justice Anthony Kennedy bowed out because his son works for Credit Suisse. Such instances have been rare recently, and the fact that the current recusals occurred during such a prominent case has sparked controversy, Tony Mauro of the Legal Times writes.

Headline Link: ‘Companies Rebuffed by High Court on Apartheid Suits’

Background: The apartheid case and Supreme Court recusals

Historical Context: South Africa and apartheid

South Africa timeline
Apartheid history

Related Topics: Post-apartheid South Africa

Mandela and de Klerk receive Nobel Peace Prize
Thabo Mbeki

Reference: The Supreme Court

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