In September 2007, the Clinic initiated an ATS suit on behalf of ten Bolivian plaintiffs against former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and former Minister of Defense José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín. The case, Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, alleges that the defendants were involved in a 2003 massacre that included targeted killings of civilians in contravention of international law, including prohibitions on extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity.
The Washington Post called this the most significant ATS lawsuit against a former head of state since the case against Ferdinand Marcos.
On September 19, 2011, the Clinic and its partners filed a petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc following the Eleventh Circuit’s August 2011 ruling. Four amicus curiae briefs—addressing the standards for extrajudicial killing, crimes against humanity, command responsibility, and pleadings requirements—were filed in support of the petition for rehearing.
Background on the case
As co-counsel, the Clinic has been involved at every stage of the litigation. During the Fall 2007 term, the Clinic participated in drafting the complaint, having previously undertaken three investigative missions in 2007 to interview victims and witnesses in Bolivia. During the Spring 2008 semester, the Clinic performed extensive legal research and drafting for the opposition to the defendants’ motion to dismiss. During the Fall 2008 semester, the Clinic assisted with preparation for an October 2008 hearing on the motion to dismiss before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, including organizing moot court sessions with the litigation team. In November 2009, the district court ruled in plaintiffs’ favor on the motion to dismiss, allowing claims for crimes against humanity and extrajudicial killings to move forward against both defendants. During the Fall 2010 semester, the Clinic prepared briefing in an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit and, during the Spring 2011 semester, worked with co-counsel to moot and prepare for oral argument. The Clinic has also conducting fact-finding missions to Bolivia to support the litigation.
The partner attorneys on the case are Judith Brown Chomsky and Beth Stephens of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Steven Schulman, Michael Small, and Jeremy Bollinger, of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, LLP; David Rudovsky of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP; and Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun, De Simone, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman, LLP.