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Saldana v. Occidental Petroleum Corp.

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20267
Nos. 12-55484, (9th Cir., 12/15/2014)

The Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit brought under the Alien Tort Statute and California tort law against a petroleum company alleging it should be held liable for war crimes committed by members of the Colombian National Army’s 18th Brigade. The action was brought by the family members of three union leaders killed in Columbia in August 2004 by members of the 18th Brigade. They claimed that the company, via its Columbian subsidiary, provided funding to the 18th Brigade, which gave the company operational control over the Brigade, knowing full well that it was committing murders and other human rights abuses. The lower court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction, and the appellate court agreed. The family members' claims are inextricably bound to the inherently political question of the propriety of the United States’ decision to provide $99 million worth of training to the 18th Brigade at the same time and for the same purpose as the corporation allegedly providing $6.3 million. As such, the case raised nonjusticiable political questions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1).