David E. Chawes


This Comment argues that inconsistent application of limitations periods to ATCA claims does not provide sufficient and certain notice to potential parties to allow them to bring a timely claim, thereby potentially denying them an opportunity to receive a fair hearing in federal courts. Absent a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to provide consistent guidance on the applicable ATCA limitations period, Congress should amend the statute to provide a specific ten-year limitations period for most torts. Because both international and U.S. laws provide that murder committed as part of the crime of genocide has no statute of limitations," ATCA claims arising from genocidal acts should also be free of any limitations period. Part II provides general background on statute of limitations jurisprudence and related concepts, such as borrowing statutes, the doctrines of repose and laches, equitable tolling, and the discovery rule. Part II also examines the application of limitations law in federal courts. Part III reviews the history and progression of application of limitations law to the ATCA, focusing on the inconsistency of the limitations periods in representative ATCA claims. Part IV examines arguments for and against amending the ATCA to include a fixed limitations period, and evaluates several proposed alternatives for Congress to consider when amending the ATCA. Part IV also presents the key elements that the amended ATCA should contain. Part V presents conclusions about the appropriate limitations period for Congress to adopt.