Barry Commoner, 1917-2012

Environmental mover-and-shaker, Barry Commoner passed away yesterday. Commoner was very accomplished, inspiring Americans to think about the environment, and act to protect it; read his obituary here.

We’ve compiled his books for display in order to honor his work and the contributions he made to the environmental movement.


The US Supreme Court: The First Monday in October

“The term of the Court begins, by law, on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October of the next year.”

Not surprisingly the Cornell Library has almost 900 books under the subject heading United States Supreme Court and its subdivisions. The subdivisions with the most books are: Biography; Decision Making; and History; and History—20th Century.

Two cases are scheduled to be argued before the US Supreme Court :

One, Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida:
Issue: Whether a floating structure that is indefinitely moored, receives power and other utilities from shore, and is not intended to be used in maritime transportation or commerce constitutes a “vessel” under 1 U.S.C. § 3, thus triggering federal maritime jurisdiction.

The second, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, has garnered substantial press coverage:
Issue: (1) Whether the issue of corporate civil tort liability under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, is a merits question or instead an issue of subject matter jurisdiction; (2) whether corporations are immune from tort liability for violations of the law of nations such as torture, extrajudicial executions or genocide may instead be sued in the same manner as any other private party defendant under the ATS for such egregious violations; and (3) whether and under what circumstances the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, allows courts to recognize a cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States.

Kiobel has gained substantial notoriety since 2005 when it was first tried in the Southern District of New York, over 70 law journal articles have been published discussing aspects of the case.

First heard last February, Kiobel is being re-argued. While reargument before the Supreme Court is rare, some famous cases, such as, Roe v. Wade (1973) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954) have been reargued.
For the decade since it began publication, the Supreme Court of the United States Blog, better known as Scotus, has provided a quick, comprehensive site for up-to-date information about the Court and its docket.
In its extensive coverage of Kiobel, Scotus provides a brief introduction to the case:
“At issue in the Kiobel case is the proper interpretation of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which provides, in relevant part, that foreign citizens may bring civil suits in U.S. district courts for actions “committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” Enacted as part of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the ATS lay almost forgotten for nearly two hundred years.”

Scotus provides links to the case below, and links to the dozens of briefs amici and even an online symposium.

Carl Yirka