Twenty years ago, when Katie Redford was in law school, she wrote a paper suggesting the use of an ancient federal statute to fight contemporary human rights abuses by an American corporation doing business in Burma. Her interest in the subject resulted in her work on John Doe v. Unocal Corp, the first time the US courts agreed to consider a lawsuit against an American company accused of human rights abuses abroad. Unocal, a California oil company, was part owner of a pipeline project in Burma, where the military regime guarding the site allegedly raped, tortured, and killed villagers. In 2005, Unocal agreed to settle the case. Redford, who is from Wellesley, filed a brief in support of a similar case argued last week before the US Supreme Court. Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell) is the first case the Supreme Court is hearing this session.