Litigation Dilemmas: Lessons from the Marcos Human Rights Class Action

Nathan Pell Ela*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


How do activist plaintiffs experience the process of human rights litigation under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS)? Answering this question is key to understanding the impact on transnational legal mobilization of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., in which the US Supreme Court sharply limited the scope of the ATS. Yet sociolegal scholars know remarkably little about the experiences of ATS litigants, before or after Kiobel. This article describes how activist litigants in a landmark ATS class action against former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos faced a series of strategic dilemmas, and how disagreements over how to resolve those dilemmas played into divisions between activists and organizations on the Philippine left. The article develops an analytical framework focused on litigation dilemmas to explain how and why activists who pursue ATS litigation as an opportunity for legal mobilization may also encounter strategic dilemmas that contribute to dissension within a social movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-508
Number of pages30
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Law


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