Ivory Coast co­coa im­porters li­able to slav­ery suits

Los Angeles Times - - REAL ESTATE - By Maura Dolan maura.dolan@la­times.com Twit­ter: @mau­radolan

SAN FRAN­CISCO — A di­vided fed­eral ap­peals court has de­clined to re­con­sider a rul­ing that said im­porters of co­coa from Ivory Coast plan­ta­tions could be sued for pro­mot­ing child slav­ery.

A ma­jor­ity of the vot­ing judges on the U.S. 9th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals de­clined Wed­nes­day to re­view the de­ci­sion, prompt­ing a strong dis­sent by eight of the court’s more con­ser­va­tive ju­rists.

A three-judge panel de­cided 2 to 1 in Septem­ber that cor­po­ra­tions do­ing busi­ness with Ivory Coast plan­ta­tions that use child slaves could be held li­able for aid­ing and abetting slav­ery.

“The de­fen­dants had the means to stop or limit the use of child slav­ery, and had they wanted the slave la­bor to end, they could have used their lever­age in the co­coa mar­ket to stop it,” the rul­ing said.

That de­ci­sion stemmed from a pro­posed class-ac­tion law­suit filed in Los An­ge­les by three for­mer slave la­bor­ers against Nestle USA Inc., Archer Daniels Mid­land Co., Cargill In­cor­po­rated Co. and Cargill Coco.

In Wed­nes­day’s dis­sent, Judge Car­los Bea, an ap­pointee of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, said a larger panel should have re­con­sid­ered the case be­cause the court had acted out of sym­pa­thy for child slaves and mis­ap­plied the law.

“Pur­suit of profit over hu­man wel­fare, in the ma­jor­ity’s eyes, al­lows a jury to find the de­fen­dants specif­i­cally in­tended not merely to buy co­coa cheap, but to pro­mote slav­ery as a means of buy­ing cheap,” Bea wrote for the dis­senters.

He said the rul­ing ex­panded the li­a­bil­ity of cor­po­ra­tions im­port­ing goods from over­seas and could re­sult in an em­bargo of Ivory Coast co­coa.

“We do the law a dis­ser­vice when we al­low our sym­pa­thies, no mat­ter how well­founded, to run our de­ci­sions afoul of the Supreme Court’s un­equiv­o­cal com­mands,” Bea wrote.

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