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3 U.C. Irvine Law Review 25 (2013)


The brief symposium contribution explores human rights litigation in U.S. state courts under state law. Faced with higher hurdles to successfully asserting Alien Tort Statute claims in U.S. courts and reluctant to re-embrace more traditional international lawmaking, human rights advocates have begun to experiment with alternative strategies for redressing human rights violations. One strategy involves state court litigation. Some commentators believe that state courts may prove more amenable to enforcing and advancing human rights. This symposium contribution explores the parallels between the recent willingness to consider state court litigation to remedy human rights violations occurring abroad and other state court strategies, particularly those implicating environmental rights. After exploring the reasons behind the interest in state courts, the contribution explains why the move to state court litigation is unlikely to prove beneficial for the human rights movement. Over the long-term, relying on state courts will place human rights advocacy in a weaker position. State court litigation – similar to its federal analogue – is likely to prove a poor substitute for more traditional, multilateral, and collaborative international lawmaking.