When the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether corporations could be held liable for human rights abuses under the Alien Tort Statute, O’Melveny & Myers’ Jonathan Hacker had a different issue in mind. The statute, he argued in a cert petition filed in a separate case on behalf of his client Rio Tinto Group, didn’t even apply when the atrocities occurred in other countries. He repeated the argument in an amicus brief filed in a separate case, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. "We had argued the broader issue, and we thought it was the kind of issue the court would be interested in as a way to limit the ATS," Hacker said.
The court took notice, asking for supplemental briefs in Kiobel and then adopting Hacker’s argument in its April 17 ruling. "I wouldn’t claim personal credit for it," Hacker said, "but we were definitely a part of the momentum addressing the extraterritorial issue."
Hacker, chairman of the Supreme Court and appellate litigation practice, led on numerous big cases, many on behalf of business. Former chairman Sri Srinivasan was confirmed on May 23 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Joining Hacker last year were fellow Washington partner Walter Dellinger and New York counsel Anton Metlitsky, who stepped up his involvement on many of the cases this past year.
O’Melveny weighed in on the Supreme Court’s reviews of the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act and Cali­fornia’s ban on gay marriage, and in cases involving voter-registration requirements in Arizona and admissions policies at the University of Texas.
O’Melveny filed a petition for certiorari on behalf of Chadbourne & Parke, which faces a securities fraud class action tied to Allen Stanford’s $7 billion Ponzi scheme. On January 18, the Supreme Court granted the petition, along with that of two related cases, on the question of whether such claims can be brought in state courts despite preclusion under the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act.
O’Melveny defeated a number of challenges brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. On September 5, it filed an amicus brief for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a case challenging a reimbursement provision of US Airways Group Inc.’s health benefits plan. On April 16, the justices found for US Airways. The firm also obtained favorable rulings in ERISA class actions in the Ninth and Seventh circuits.
"The courts generally think it’s important to enforce plans according to their terms and to respect the discretion that’s given to ERISA fiduciaries," Hacker said.