UCI Law students help attorney argue first case of new U.S. Supreme Court term


Rex Bossert

Six students from UC Irvine School of Law's International Human Rights Clinic helped its director, Paul Hoffman, prepare the Oct. 1, 2012 U.S. Supreme Court oral argument in a key case involving alleged oil company abuses in Nigeria.

Hoffman and the students represented Esther Kiobel, who sued Royal Dutch Petroleum in 2002 on behalf of her late husband and 11 other Nigerians, saying that the company colluded with the Nigerian military in the 1990s to torture and kill protesters who were trying to halt oil exploration.

Hoffman argued the case, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, last term in February with student help, but a week later, the Court announced that it was putting the case over to October and expanding its scope. The Court-ordered re-argument raised the issue of whether the Alien Tort Statute permits U.S. courts to hear lawsuits for violations of international law on foreign soil.

The International Human Rights Clinic, one of nine legal clinics at UCI Law, focuses on international human rights litigation in federal courts, especially under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S. Code Section 1350. Students working with the clinic helped Hoffman research and write briefs for Kiobel and prepare his oral arguments last term and in the first case of the Supreme Court's new term, which began Oct. 1.

"They are a hardy and hardworking group," said Hoffman of the six students helping on the latest round of arguments: Brooke Weitzman, Jonathan Markovitz, Nick Hartmann and Sahar Hafeez (Class of 2014), and Carly Edelstein and Andrea Smith (Class of 2013). "They initially worked on the reply brief that was filed Aug. 31. Since then they have been helping me prepare for the Oct. 1 oral argument."