Thursday, September 17, 2009
In the continuing debate about how U.S. courts should consider pronouncements of foreign and international tribunals, this quote from Chief Justice John Marshall might shed some favorable light. In a case called Thirty Hogheads of Sugar v. Boyle, 13 U.S. (9 Cranch) 191, 198 (1815), Chief Justice Marshall declared:
"The law of nations . . . is in part unwritten, and in part conventional. To ascertain that which is unwritten, we resort to the great principles of reason and justice . . . being, in some degree, fixed and rendered stable by a series of judicial decisions. The decisions of the Courts of every country, will be received, not as authority, but with respect."
Hat tip to Jordan Paust, Jon M. Van Dyke, and Linda Malone. The quote appears on page 56 of their new edition of International Law and Litigation in the United States. Or click here to read the case on OpenJurist.org.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
After three years of consultations, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted a resolution on September 14 that takes the next step in the process of establishing a new UN entity focused on the rights of women. Rather than adding to the current list of sub-agencies, four existing UN agencies and offices will be joined to create a new single entity within the UN dedicated to promoting the rights and well-being of women worldwide and working towards gender equality. The four existing bodies that will be merged are: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the UN Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues (OSAGI), and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).
Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon issued a statement saying he is "particularly gratified" that the Assembly had accepted his proposal for "a more robust promotion" of women’s rights under the new entity. "An important step has been made in strengthening the United Nations’ work in the area of gender equality and empowerment of women, as well as in ensuring the effective delivery of its operational activities for development, which constitutes the other key components of the resolution." Mr. Ban has appointed more women to senior posts than at any other time in the history of the UN, including nine women to the rank of under-secretary-general. The number of women in senior posts has increased by 40 per cent under his tenure. Mr. Ban pledged to expeditiously provide Member States with a comprehensive proposal outlining the mission statement, structure, funding and oversight of the new entity so that it can be created as soon as possible.
The Compromis for the 2010 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition has been released. Click here to see it. This year’s problem addresses the right to self-determination and the lawfulness of measures taken to protect the economic resources of a State.
For more information about the International Law Students Association or the Jessup Competition, visit www.ilsa.org
Mark E. Wojcik, Board Member, International Law Students Association
Pace Law School has sent me a small brochure highlighting "International Law at Pace" and the work of these five faculty members:
- Luis E. Chiesa
- Alexander K.A. Greenawalt
- Thomas M. McDonnell
- Nicholas A. Robinson
- Darren Rosenblum
As with the brochures from other schools mentioned here (including most recently William & Mary), I am happy to see law schools promoting the accomplishments of their international law faculty.
I've just received a brochure from William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia. The cover says "Shaping International Law," and it's a brochure that was mailed to members of the International Association of Law Schools (IALS) -- the international equivalent of the Association of American Law Schools.
Inside the brochure are profiles of seven faculty members from William & Mary who are "leading programs and engaged in critical scholarship, thus shaping the future of international law." The seven faculty members profiled are:
- Angela Banks
- Lan Cao
- Nancy Combs
- Charles H. Koch, Jr.
- Linda Malone
- Alemante Selassie
- Christine Warren
I know that we all have mixed feelings about these law school brochures, but I have to tell you that I do enjoy seeing brochures that promote international law professors, their scholarship, and (for me) their work in the field and in bar associations and other professional societies devoted to international law.
Congratulations to William & Mary on having the wisdom to highlight its international law faculty. (And yes, I suspect I'm going to be put on the mailing lists of many other law schools now.)
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict has released its report, in which it concluded "there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity," according to a UN press release.
The full text of the report is available online at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/docs/UNFFMGC_Report.pdf.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently issued a decision holding that a California law intended to benefit victims of the Armenian Genocide is preempted by the federal "foreign affairs power" despite the fact that the U.S. Constitution does not expressly grant such a power to the federal government. See Movsesian v. Victoria Versicherung AG, No. 07-56722 (Aug. 20, 2009). The law at issue is California's Code of Civil Procedure, which extended the statute of limitations until 2010 for claims arising out of life insurance policies issued to victims of the Armenian Genocide who lived in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923 and who died, were deported, or escaped to avoid persecution during that period. Movsesian filed a class action seeking damages against Victoria and two other insurance companies claiming that he and other members of the class are persons of Armenian descent who claim benefits under policies issued by the defendant companies for breach of contract, unjust enrichment and related claims.
The Ninth Circuit held that the CA statute directly conflicts with the Executive Branch's foreign policy refusing to provide official recognition to Armenian Genocide and impinges on the federal government's ability to conduct foreign affairs. In reaching this conclusion, the court acknowledged that no international agreement existed that preempted the state law. Instead, the court ascertained a federal foreign policy from statements made by the Executive Branch to Congress opposing various proposed congressional resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide on the basis that such resolutions would interfere with the United States' efforts to bring peace and stability to the Middle East.
This decision is a significant extension of the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Am. Ins. Assoc. v. Garamendi, which involved another CA law intended to force disclosure by insurance companies of information relating to claims by Holocaust victims. Garamendi recognized that presidential foreign policy may preempt state law, even if the absence of a controlling international agreement or federal statute. However, in Garamendi, the foreign policy was reflected in various sources, including an international executive agreement establishing a compensation fund for Holocaust victims. Thus, even though the executive agreement did not directly preempt CA state law, it at least reflected an express public policy. In Movsesian, there is no executive agreement, presidential proclamation, or federal statute which clearly expresses an official foreign policy. Rather, the Court's sole evidence of a federal foreign policy consisted of a series of letters to Congress from the Executive Branch. Thus, this case may come closer to recognizing an implied foreign affairs power than any that have previously been decided.
In 2005 and 2008, Congress included in its approval of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act a provision directing the U.S. Secretary of Labor and the Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) to compile “a list of goods that ILAB has reason to believe were produced using forced labor or child labor” in order to provide consumers and firms with this type of information. On September 10, 2009, the Department of Labor complied for the first time with this requirement. The DOL report listing those goods may be found here. The ILAB reviewed exploitive working conditions in 77 countries based on a preliminary screening indicating higher levels of goods produced by forced or child labor. The ILAB ultimately identified 122 goods produced with forced or child labor in 58 countries. Most goods on the list were produced by child labor rather than forced labor. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 218 million children working right now, of which 126 million engage in hazardous forms of work and an additional untold number are trapped in illegal industries such as the sex trade. ILO also estimates that there are 12.3 million persons engaged in forced labor. The industry sector with the most violations was agriculture, followed by manufacturing and mining. The purpose of the list is to raise awareness of these practices and to increase efforts to end the use of child or forced labor. ILAB also hopes that consumers, businesses and governments who do not wish to support such practices will use this list as a tool when making purchases.
On behalf of the people of the United States, I extend my congratulations to the people of Nicaragua as they celebrate 188 years of independence on September 15. As Nicaraguans continue the tradition of reading the Act of Independence of Central America in schools throughout the country tomorrow, showing solidarity with all the people of the isthmus in commemorating the freedom and independence of the five Central American republics, they can be proud of their country and confident in the friendship of United States.
On this historic occasion, let me reaffirm the commitment of the United States to build a stronger partnership with the people of Nicaragua in support of their journey toward a more prosperous future. Together we can work to build a more secure, democratic, and thriving hemisphere.
Secretary of State
On behalf of the people of the United States, I would like to congratulate the Costa Rican people as they celebrate their 188th Independence Day on September 15. We are united by our shared democratic values and a strong partnership that enhances the security and prosperity of all our people.
On this historic occasion, I want to salute Costa Rica’s strong regional leadership in working to advance human rights and the rule of law, encourage peaceful resolution of conflicts, strengthen democratic institutions, protect the environment, and build greater shared prosperity. The people of Costa Rica have so much to be proud of and to celebrate, and I hope that the Independence Day festivities, especially the nation-wide street light parades, are a great success.
I also want to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to continue working together with Costa Rica to strengthen our partnership and seek new areas of cooperation that will ensure a more peaceful and prosperous future for us all.
Monday, September 14, 2009
On behalf of the people of the United States, I would like to extend my warm congratulations to the people of Guatemala as they celebrate the 188th anniversary of their Proclamation of Independence on September 15.
As school children parade through the streets and Guatemalans across the country and around the world join in the celebration of Independence Day, they can be proud of Guatemala’s accomplishments as a unique, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic nation. This is an opportunity to honor their rich cultural heritage and to reaffirm their commitment to democracy, equality, justice, and prosperity for all.It will also be a day of celebration for Guatemalans in the United States, who are valued members of our own diverse nation and have contributed so much to our culture and our economy.On this historic occasion, let me reaffirm the commitment of the United States to strengthen our partnership with Guatemala and work together to ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for all our people.
The Specially Appointed Chamber of the ICTY today convicted Florence Hartmann, a one-time spokesperson for a former Tribunal Prosecutor and a former journalist at the French newspaper Le Monde, of contempt for disclosing in a book and as well as an article confidential information in knowing violation of a court order. Summary of the judgment is available here.
One may find the decision highly regrettable. While employees of any court can legitimately be expected to refrain from disseminating confidential information, it is also important to remember that “justice is not a cloistered virtue: she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and the respectful even though outspoken comments of ordinary men” (Ambard v AG for Trinidad and Tobago  AC 322, 335, Lord Atkin).
The United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) has published the 2009-2010 edition of its highly respected “A GLOBAL AGENDA: Issues Before the United Nations.” The topics in this new edition tackle climate change, international security, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and development aid, human rights, international justice and UN reform. The book is now available online at Barnes & Noble.com, Amazon, and Powell’s Books.
It sells for $20 but you probably can find it for a couple of bucks cheaper online.
Here's the information:
A Global Agenda: Issues Before the United Nations 2009-2010
Publisher: United Nations Association of the USA
This is a useful reference tool for anyone interested in the United Nations and the upcoming new session.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The deadline for the call for papers for the fifth Global Legal Skills Conference is September 25, 2009. This is one of the most important and rewarding conferences for international legal education. The Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey (FLDM) will be the host again of this amazing conference. (The hosted the third conference.)
Here is a seven-minute video that explains the conference, the host law school, and the city of Monterrey. This video was shown at the fourth Global Legal Skills Conference, which was held at Georgetown University Law Center.
More information about the conference is available by clicking here. Proposals are due September 25 for panels and presentations. Please note that there is also a concurrent track of programs and panels in Spanish as well (which gives English speakers a good opportunity to practice your legal Spanish). There will also be special meetings of the Teaching Committee of the American Branch of the International Law Association and the Mexico Law Committee of the American Bar Association Section of International Law.
The American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA) is holding its International Law Weekend from October 22-24, 2009 in New York City. Click here to see the program.
Law professors who are members of ABILA should also remember to join the ABILA Committee on the Teaching of International Law.
There's a list of 10 "must-see movies for law students" posted on the Online Universities Weblog. Amber Johnson of that blog thought it might be an interesting site to share with readers of this blog. One of the movies is Judgment at Nuremberg. Click here to read the full list (with descriptions of the 10 movies). I've seen nine of them.
When you've had a chance to see that list, please leave us a comment here as to what other international law movies should be on that list.
Hat tip to Amber Johnson