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Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Limiting Lawsuits

AP

The Supreme Court appears ready to impose new limits on lawsuits brought in U.S. courts against companies over human rights violations abroad.

The justices kicked off their new term Monday with arguments over whether businesses and individuals can be sued in the United States for conduct that takes place on foreign soil and has foreign victims.

The dispute involves a lawsuit filed against Royal Dutch Petroleum over claims that the oil company was complicit in abuses committed by the Nigerian government against its citizens in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Justice Samuel Alito said the case has no connection to this country and wondered why it should "belong in the courts of the United States?"

The court also declined to hear an appeal from a national anti-gay marriage group that tried to thwart Maine's campaign disclosure law requiring it to release its donor list.

The high court turned aside an appeal from the National Organization for Marriage, which donated $1.9 million to a political action committee that helped repeal Maine's same-sex marriage law.

Maine's campaign disclosure law requires groups that raise or spend more than $5,000 to influence elections to register and disclose donors. The group says it believes releasing the donor list would stymie free speech, but the lower court refused to throw out the law.

The case is pending with the state ethics commission, so the voter list remains under wraps. Voters repealed the Maine's gay marriage law in 2009.

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