The Supreme Court said Monday that it can't intervene in an important dispute over the rights of apartheid victims to sue U.S. corporations in U.S. courts because four of the nine justices had to sit out the case over apparent conflicts.
The result is that a lawsuit accusing some prominent companies of violating international law by assisting South Africa's former apartheid government will go forward.
The court's hands were tied by federal laws that require at least six justices to hear any case before them.
Short of the required number by one, the court took the only path available to it and upheld an appeals court ruling allowing the suit to proceed.
The justices have ties to Bank of America, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Colgate-Palmolive, Credit Suisse, Exxon Mobil, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Nestle, among nearly three dozen companies that asked the high court to step in.