A class of plaintiffs suing several dozen US companies which did business in South Africa during apartheid will ask to narrow their claims Tuesday in a status conference to be held in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs are South Africans seeking to hold the businesses liable under the Alien Tort Claims Act based on alleged complicity in perpetuating the oppression of the black majority in that country. In 2003, the South African government issued a statement of its position on substantially similar litigation then in US courts, calling it "inconsistent with South Africa's approach to achieving its long term goals."
The case returns to the SDNY after the US Supreme Court affirmed a Second Circuit judgment in May on the rare grounds that it lacked a quorum due to four recusals. The Second Circuit's decision allowed the ATCA action to go forward to trial, but had dismissed additional claims filed under the Torture Victims Protection Act. The Supreme Court's recusals were statutorily required because several justices had financial conflicts, but raised fairness concerns and brought about discussion as to possible effects on future cases.