New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type



Forthcoming in Santa Clara Journal of International Law 2010


Courts and scholars often attempt to draw legal conclusions from the status of entities, whether states, international organizations or corporations. Debates concerning whether corporations are “subjects” of international law and the legal conclusions that supposedly follow from this are particularly vociferous within Alien Tort Claims litigation in U.S. courts. Using the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United as a cautionary tale, the author argues that drawing legal conclusions from the fact of “subject-hood” is fraught with peril, particularly in the case of corporations. He argues that such top-down approaches are likely to lead to unintended consequences and that corporations, like international organizations, should more properly be seen as “participants” than “subjects.”

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