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After sidestepping the issue four years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared ready to reckon with a question that global businesses and human rights groups want answered: whether corporations can be held liable in U.S. courts for overseas misdeeds under the Alien Tort Statute.

Conservative justices seemed wary of corporate liability, voicing concern about a glut of worldwide tort cases and judicial interference with diplomatic relationships between the U.S. and other nations. But the lawyer arguing in favor of corporate liability seemed to gain some traction by telling the justices, more than once, that other federal laws could be deployed to block meritless lawsuits against companies.

“I’m concerned about the foreign entanglement issue,” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said during the hourlong argument in Jesner v. Arab Bank.

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Tony Mauro

Tony Mauro, based in Washington, covers the U.S. Supreme Court. A lead writer for ALM's Supreme Court Brief, Tony focuses on the court's history and traditions, appellate advocacy and the SCOTUS cases that matter most to business litigators. Contact him at [email protected] On Twitter: @Tonymauro

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