A prominent far-left lawyer is showing that when it comes to being woke, it’s apparently OK to snooze a bit.
Neal Katyal, who became a hero to the radical left when he led the legal fight against Donald Trump’s travel ban, has changed his tune a bit and has gone over to the “enemy” to represent giant corporations in a suit by several former child slaves who allege the companies not only knew of the slave trade but also facilitated it by helping the farmers.
The former slaves are suing Nestle USA and food processing giant Cargill in the Supreme Court under an obscure law from 1789 called the Alien Tort Statute. Katyal and other attorneys are arguing that the case should be thrown out because U.S. courts don’t have jurisdiction.
The child slaves were kidnapped in Mali and brought to work on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast.
“From the United States, [Nestlé] had complete control over the farms’ labor practices, knew that the farmers they were assisting were using and continued to use forced child labor, and purposefully relied on the enslavement of children to increase profits by ensuring the flow of cheap cocoa,” the plaintiffs’ filings read.
They also claim that Nestlé cultivated close ties with plantation owners to maintain influence in the region. To do so, they allegedly financed the purchase of farming supplies, made advance payments, and provided plantation owners with personal spending money to secure their loyalty as exclusive suppliers.
During oral arguments, the justices appeared skeptical.
“Many of your arguments lead to results that are pretty hard to take,” Justice Samuel Alito told Katyal. “Suppose a U.S. corporation makes a big show of supporting every cause de jure but then surreptitiously hires agents in Africa to kidnap children and keep them in bondage on a plantation…. You would say that the victims … should be thrown out of court in the United States, where this corporation is headquartered and does business?”
A second issue is whether the child slavery allegations have a strong enough connection to the United States to move forward in court. Again, Katyal argued no.
Katyal argued that the corporations abhor slavery and would never do anything to support it. He also points out that the corporations are “not the locators, not the overseers, and not the farm.”
One can imagine what Katyal would be saying if he was on the other side of this suit.
Everybody has to make a living, of course, but doesn’t radical chic pay much anymore? Katyal is no stranger to the limelight.
Among other high-profile impact cases, Katyal led challenges to the Bush administration’s military tribunals for Guantanamo Bay detainees and obtained an appointment to the prosecution team in the George Floyd case. Beyond the staid world of appellate advocacy, he contributes regularly to MSNBC, appeared on stage at a Vanity Fair summit with John Legend, and played himself on House of Cards.
This doesn’t bother his radical friends at all. He can go on waving the bloody shirt while representing the poor and downtrodden because that’s his schtick, his “brand.”
As for representing huge corporations accused of abetting child slavery, his hypocrisy can safely be ignored. There’s no requirement for a radical-left lawyer to be consistent in his advocacy — especially when no one else on the left is.