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Apartheid suits to go forward

May 12, 2008 at 2:35 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, May 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court, unable to act because four justices had conflicts of interest, Monday allowed apartheid-related suits against companies to go forward.

But the 34 U.S. and foreign companies turned away by the high court still have a chance to have the suits dismissed. The companies allegedly profited by South Africa's racial laws, which ended in 1994.

A federal appeals court in New York rejected the companies' assertion that the reparations lawsuits couldn't be brought against private corporations under the 1789 Aliens Tort Act but didn't deal with their assertion that the suits should be dismissed out of "deference" to the executive branch. The U.S. Justice Department has taken the side of the corporations in court.

The high court rejection of the case means the case now returns to a federal judge in Brooklyn for a ruling on the "deference" argument, SCOTUSBLOG.com reported.

The U.S. Supreme Court must have six sitting justices to have a quorum. In an order Monday, the court said Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito took no part in the decision to reject the cases. Though the court offered no explanation, the recusals usually mean justices or their close relatives have stock in the companies in the case.

(No. 07-919, American Isuzu Motors, et al vs. Ntsebeza, et al.)

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