Tuesday, February 02, 2016


Thanks to Howard for the invitation and the welcome. I am truly delighted to be guest blogging on Prawfs this month. For those of you I have yet to have the pleasure to know, I am a long-time die-hard proceduralist. I teach Civil Procedure, Administrative Law, and Federal Courts, and this semester for the first time, have added perhaps my first “substantive” course, National Security Law. Although any good proceduralist knows the substance/procedure dichotomy is murky, if not entirely false, I will admit that the move away from procedure has in fact felt uncomfortable, though certainly exciting.

In some ways, teaching National Security Law was the next, inevitable step for me. I have written about procedural aspects of government secrecy for essentially my whole (short) academic career. For a long time I fought full engagement with national security, hoping instead to address problems with procedural rights and remedies for all kinds of secrecy equally. But the truth is that our deepest government secrecy problems today concern security, and national security secrets are not treated the same as other secrets.

As you may have guessed by now, I am planning to use my time here to share my thoughts on the intersection between government secrecy, procedural justice, and national security. Before I get to national security, though, I will begin with a few posts on a slightly orthogonal topic: the corporate and commercial use of the Freedom of Information Act. I will share with you some of the findings I report in my forthcoming article FOIA, Inc., which is based on original data collected from six federal agencies’ records. While I think the findings are, in and of themselves, quite surprising and worthy of consideration, I hope by the end of my series, when I engage more fully with national security secrecy, I can make the connection between these two threads apparent.

I am looking forward to the month!

Posted by Margaret Kwoka on February 2, 2016 at 11:07 AM in Blogging, Civil Procedure, Information and Technology, International Law, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Setting the Record Straight on Resettlement of Syrian Refugees

The following is by Jill Goldenziel, former guest Prawf, FOD, and a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's International Security Program of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a Senior Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Fox Leadership Program.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, 27 U.S. governors and several presidential candidates have called for Syrian refugee resettlement to be halted. Members of Congress have drafted legislation that would cease resettlement immediately. In light of these debates, it’s important to remember the legal framework governing refugee resettlement in the U.S.—along with some important facts.

  • A refugee, according to international law and U.S. law, is someone who flees his country of origin due to a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
  • Refugees undergo extensive checks before resettlement in the U.S., often lasting 2-3 years. They are first screened by the U.N. Refugee Agency, who then refers them to the U.S. for resettlement. They then undergo a rigorous 13-step process of interviews, background checks, security clearances, and medical screenings, detailed here: http://goo.gl/lw8qTb. Beyond this, Syrians get an extra level of scrutiny.
  • At any stage of the process, any refugee deemed to be a security threat is screened out and will not be resettled in the U.S.
  • Once refugees arrive, the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration coordinates their admission and placement, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement provides case management services, assists with transitions, and helps with short-term medical and financial needs. More about this process can be found here. http://goo.gl/9JizS0.
  • In other words, authorities know who the refugees are and where they are going. They will eventually be free to move throughout the U.S., just as other citizens do, but it won’t be easy for them to slip under the radar.
  • Governors have virtually no authority not to accept refugees for resettlement in their states if the federal government says they must do so. They can make life difficult for refugees by opposing their presence, but doing so would be against states’ interests in keeping public order.
  • Of Syrians resettled in the U.S. since 2011, half are children, ¼ are adults over 60, 2% are single men of combat age, half are male, and half are female.
  • During the vetting process, refugees referred by the U.N. to the U.S. for resettlement remain in their countries of first asylum—for Syrians, primarily Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. They are not allowed to leave these countries while they are waiting.
  • Many refugees don’t want to be resettled in the U.S. because the waiting periods are so long and because the social welfare net is much smaller in the U.S. than in other countries.
  • For the financial year ending in 2016, the U.S. has agreed to accept 85,000 refugees, including 10,000 Syrians. By 2017, the number will increase to 100,000 total refugees, and it is expected that the number of Syrians will increase as well.
  • This is hardly the first time that the U.S. has accepted refugees from states known to harbor terrorists. The U.S. has resettled more than 100,000 Iraqi refugees since the 2003 invasion. Stringent background checks have ensured that they have posed a minimal security threat to the U.S. security clearances for Syrians are even tougher.

This post is adapted from my fact sheet originally published by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 19, 2015 at 04:08 PM in International Law, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"It sounds so simple I just got to go"

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking before the Mexican Electoral Tribunal in Mexico City at a conference titled "Two Paths in the Law of Democracy." The conference was sponsored by the Mexican Electoral Tribunal and the University of Texas.  The U.S. delegation consisted of five American scholars who study election law and politics, and we presented on various aspects of election law to the researchers, staff, and judges of the Tribunal.  It was a fascinating experience and I learned a lot.

Mexico, as a young democracy, is trying to learn best practices for running free and fair elections.  Yet there is so much that we can learn from the Mexican experience as well -- both procedurally and substantively.  

For example, as the very existence of the Tribunal demonstrates, Mexico has a federal agency that is charged with administering elections.  This Tribunal also includes a court that decides all election disputes.  Although we, too, have two federal agencies that focus on elections -- the Federal Election Commission and the Electoral Assistance Commission -- neither are very effective, especially because they often deadlock along partisan lines on most important issues.  In addition, our regular courts hear election law controversies, and we all know how well that has gone.  Mexico has figured out a way to, at least initially, avoid this partisan deadlock, and its Tribunal and court are well-respected and effective at administering elections in a way that people perceive as generally independent.  Perhaps this is because the members of the Tribunal are non-political and because of the strong research and education focus of its activities.

Substantively, Mexico has figured out some things that we are still struggling to solve.  For instance, partisan gerrymandering is not allowed in Mexican redistricting, which is conducted by the independent Tribunal.  (That said, there are still questions about whether Mexico has sacrificed transparency in the process and whether politics still infiltrates the resulting maps.)  Similarly, there seem to be fewer Election Day mistakes at the polls in Mexico, perhaps due to the robust educational and training programs the Tribunal puts on throughout the country.

Just traveling to Mexico City was a learning experience itself.  It is a fascinating place with beautiful museums, amazing tacos, and extremely nice people.  The researchers at the Tribunal are among the most respected people at the agency.  There is a true commitment to understanding American election law to discern best practices for their own system.  And our hosts showed us genuine sincerity, respect, deference, and collegiality.

This experience demonstrates the importance of looking beyond our borders to improve our own laws and legal structures.  Although we often espouse American exceptionalism, we also deal with the same kinds of issues and share the same kinds of struggles as places all over the world.  We can learn a lot from other countries, especially newer democracies where the rules are not as entrenched.  The Mexican Electoral Tribunal invited the American scholars so it could learn how we do things in an effort to improve its own processes, but of course with any exchange like this, we learned as much, if not more, from them.  This further suggests that we should not shy away from looking to international norms when evaluating our own rules and laws--whether in legislative debates or judicial decisions.

Oh, Mexico -- It sounds so sweet with the sun sinking low.  It sure was.


Posted by Josh Douglas on November 17, 2015 at 11:15 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Culture, International Law, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

“An Antidemocratic and Largely Foreign Conspiracy”

In my last post, which considered whether abolitionist sentiment should matter to the Justices’ decision-making in Glossip, I noted that part of that sentiment (a good deal of it, actually) is coming from nation-states that have long been abolitionist.  Here I’ll expand on that theme, and connect it up with the title of my post, which unfortunately comes from one of the amicus briefs in Glossip.

As most people know, Europe is almost entirely abolitionist (indeed, in all of Europe, only Belarus still has the death penalty, and it’s so close to Moscow that it’s hard to think of it as Europe).  And Europe isn’t abolitionist-light—it’s as committed to abolitionism as the United States is to its death penalty.  Abolishing the death penalty is a requirement for EU membership, and in 1998, the EU made worldwide abolition a centerpiece of its human rights agenda, declaring that it would “work towards universal abolition of the death penalty as a strongly held policy view agreed by all EU member states.” 

These guys are not fooling around.  It was the EU that sponsored UN Resolution 62/149, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007, which declared that “the death penalty undermines human dignity” and called for all nation-states to institute a moratorium as a first step towards abolition.  The vote was 104 nations in favor, 54 against, with the United States leading the dissenters.

The point here is that European abolitionism has been around for a long time, a lot longer than the current snafu over lethal injection drugs, and these countries are Dixie Chicks serious about abolishing the death penalty worldwide.  So when the market for thiopental experienced upstream supply problems, and when thiopental’s producer (Hospira) moved its production plant from North Carolina to Italy for reasons that had nothing to do with any of this, is it any wonder that Italy, then Great Britain, and then the EU as a whole, saw an opportunity, and seized it, to put the damper on death penalty drugs?

For decades, EU governments had tried, and largely come up short, to influence the United States with their anti-death penalty views.  To borrow a line from my paper with Jim Gibson, it turns out that the best way for European governments to export their abolitionist norms was to stop exporting their drugs.

What’s wrong with that?

That brings me to the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation’s amicus brief in Glossip.  I originally wanted to do the Harry Potter “It that must not be named” thing—my attempt at that was yesterday’s post.  But that approach has proven unsatisfactory.  I’ve got to name it, because it named me, or rather the paper I just co-authored—all under the heading “The United States must not allow its justice to be obstructed by an antidemocratic and largely foreign conspiracy.”  Wait, what?

That’s right, that section of the brief cites the paper, and quotes it, to show that foreign governments are “meddling” in our business—our execution business, which it alleges is of “no legitimate concern of European governments.”

I dissent.  We are a sovereign state and so yes, we can execute if we please.  If we can’t get the drugs to inject someone to death, we can hang them.  Or shoot them.  Or electrocute or gas them.  We can double-down on death, no matter what the EU does.

But those European countries are sovereign states too, and they aren’t “meddling” in our affairs when they make their own decisions in response to ours.

The EU doesn’t have to sell us its drugs.  We’re not entitled to them.  It’s a free country (or countries, I suppose).  If European countries, or nation-states anywhere else, want to use export controls to express their moral disapprobation of the death penalty, they can do that—just like we’ve done it countless times when other countries do things we find morally repugnant. 

The CJLF amicus brief states in a footnote when citing the paper that “Amicus does not endorse the views of the authors, who seem to think that European government meddling in American criminal justice policy is a good thing.”  

For the record, we don’t take a stand on whether these developments are a good thing, or a bad thing; they’re just a thing.  I can say, however, that I don’t endorse the views of amicus any more than it endorses mine. 

The US is sovereign, but no more sovereign than other nation states.  Rather than fuming about foreigners meddling, we’d be better served to think about execution methods that don’t require the cooperation of nations that don’t want us to execute.


Posted by Corrina Lain on June 25, 2015 at 07:54 PM in Criminal Law, International Law, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Natural Rights and the "Human Right" to Intellectual Property

I am picking up from where I left off in my prior post on human rights and intellectual property. My concern with embracing a human right to intellectual property arises from the possibility that it will lead to more expansive intellectual property protections. I would tend to agree, therefore, with the report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights (mentioned by Lea Shaver in her comment), which characterizes copyright as distinct from the human right to authorship.

Human rights are generally understood to be natural rights. If one accepts this proposition, how does treating intellectual property protection as a human right relate to the natural rights intellectual property scholarship? The intellectual property and human rights conversation is primarily an international intellectual property conversation. However, the natural rights framing of intellectual property rights is primarily a domestic intellectual property conversation. Both of these frameworks are based on natural rights theories, yet they appear to reach opposite conclusions. With some exceptions, proponents of natural rights justifications for intellectual property tend to support more expansive intellectual property protections. On the other hand, proponents of a human right to intellectual property speak of “balance” and of using human rights frameworks to respond to excessive intellectual property rights.

One might be inclined to dismiss the theoretical foundations for intellectual property as irrelevant to the practical aspects of intellectual property law. However, the framing of intellectual property rights can impact the way private citizens, including judges and policy makers, view intellectual property protection and infringement. Gregory Mandel’s study on the public perception of intellectual property rights, for instance, found that individuals who view intellectual property rights as natural rights tend to support more expansive intellectual property protection. This is consistent with legal scholarship that takes a natural rights approach to intellectual property. My inclination, then,  is that distinguishing between copyright protection and the human right to the moral and material interests arising from one’s literary or artistic production is a step in the right direction.

Posted by Jan OseiTutu on April 27, 2015 at 03:03 PM in Culture, Intellectual Property, International Law, Legal Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Human Right to Intellectual Property?

The merger between trade and intellectual property, referred to as “strange bedfellows” in the 1990’s, has become the norm as a result of the WTO Agreement on Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights, and subsequent agreements. Intellectual property and human rights may seem like strange bedfellows as well. However, there is a greater connection between these two areas of law than one might imagine.

Article 27(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides that “everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.” The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights contains similar language. A number of scholars have considered the relationship between human rights instruments and intellectual property rights (i.e. Helfer, Yu, Shaver, Land, Chapman, Carpenter, and others). Some (Chapman, for instance) have suggested that this UDHR provision provides a basis for a human right to copyright or patent protection.

Writing on corporations and the possible human right to intellectual property, I found myself reluctant to accept the notion of a right to intellectual property as a human right. I like the idea of considering the impact of intellectual property rights on human rights, as has been done in the access to medicines debate, for instance. However, I am generally uncomfortable with the notion of a human right to intellectual property. Equating the UDHR human right to a right to copyright or patent protection raises a number of issues, and I doubt that it is ultimately a good idea. However, I am willing to be convinced otherwise. 

Posted by Jan OseiTutu on April 21, 2015 at 01:16 PM in Corporate, Culture, Intellectual Property, International Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Intellectual Property Conversations: International & Domestic

I think it is fair to say that international intellectual property is generally seen as distinct from general (i.e. domestic) intellectual property (IP), both in terms of scholarship and teaching. Thus, from what I gather, international intellectual property panels tend not to draw huge crowds during the annual IP scholars meetings. However, I see a fair amount of overlap between general IP scholarship and the international IP issues that some of us tend to explore. Among others, I see overlap when it comes to questions about the role of IP, the scope of IP rights, and whether the current international model and the mandated levels of intellectual property protection align with societal goals.

Writing international intellectual property scholarship requires an understanding of international law, and trade law in particular. This is due to the merger between trade law and intellectual property law that came about as a result of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property, commonly referred to as TRIPS. Post-TRIPS, there have been a number of other “trade-related” agreements that aim to protect intellectual property rights in the global arena. In addition to various bilateral trade agreements and investment treaties, there are multilateral agreements that have chapters or provisions on intellectual property. These include the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.  The two latter agreements are currently being negotiated.  

There are complexities to the international discussion insofar as it involves some analysis of international legal obligations. However, the intellectual property aspects often address similar issues to those raised by some of the domestic scholarship. The articles discussed by Amy Landers and Dave Fagundes in their recent posts, for instance, are pertinent to some of the recurring themes in international intellectual property scholarship. Both international and domestic scholars might ask: what is the utilitarian calculus, and is society being well served? If not, is there some assumption (i.e. “faith”) that IP rights must be protected due to some natural entitlement? If so, is this beneficial to society or just to the IP producer? 

Those of us who write primarily on international IP issues can, and do, draw on domestic IP scholarship for our analysis of international issues. In this globalized economy, maybe it’s time for international IP scholarship to become more integrated into the mainstream so that there can be a greater exchange of ideas between general IP and international IP scholars. Making connections between domestic and international IP, where possible, can only enrich the conversation. 

Posted by Jan OseiTutu on April 15, 2015 at 02:17 PM in Intellectual Property, International Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 02, 2015


First, I am delighted to be back on Prawfblawgs and want to thank Howard and the team very much for coordinating this.  It’s wonderful to see how what Dan started continues to grow and thrive.

Second, in thinking about how to make best use of my time I’ve decided to focus on public health law--to shed some light on the ever-present conflict between an individual's right to manage her own health and the government (state and federal) ability to interfere.

 As everyone knows, we in the United States are in the middle of an outbreak of measles that started when two un-vaccinated children who had been exposed to measles visited Disneyland.   My focus will be on legal issues, but lets start with an overview.  As of today, there are 102 cases reported in 14 states-anyone interested in tracking the outbreak can so here.  Measles is that “worst case scenario” virus that Ebola wasn’t—it is highly contagious, spreads through the air, can live a long time on surfaces, and is infectious well before people feel sick enough to stay at home.  This is a very helpful graphic.  In 2000 measles was “declared eliminated in the United States” because, for an entire calendar year, there had not been a case of one person catching measles from another in the United States.   But measles is nowhere near eliminated globally and we haven't had a year like 1999 in a long time.   Globally,  400 (mostly) children die of measles every day, 16 die every hour.   Unfortunately, “globally” does not, in measles’s case, mean remote areas of the planet, Europe, India the Philippines and Vietnam—are all seeing increases in measles cases.  

Also, over the past 5 years, an increasing number of people (mostly college students) have caught  measles and mumps (and both) without the infectot or the infectee leaving their U.S.  college campus.

 The good news about measles is that there is a highly effective, widely available vaccine that fully protects 97 out of every 100 people vaccinated.  It’s a “threefer” in that the vaccine provides immunity from not just Measles but two other very serious viruses, Rubella (German measles) and Mumps.

 Like most vaccines, however, it can’t be given to infants younger than six months old and in the absence of an immediate threat, usually isn’t given until a child is twelve months old.  There are also counter-indications (more about them later) about who shouldn’t get the vaccine.  Finally, people on chemotherapy or who have had bone marrow transplants lose whatever immunity they had before.   Without doing the math that means at any one time, even if every person in the United States eligible to vaccinated had one, many people would still be susceptible to infection.  And of course the point of this post on a law site, is that far from everyone eligible to be vaccinated has taken advantage of the opportunity.


The current controversy is a great teachable moment for any law school class considering the balance between the rights of an individual and that of the state.    Over the next month, I will be diving deeper into this area of the law to examine the parameters of state authority under the Tenth Amendment and then the different aspects of federal power that create the parameters of governmental authority to prevent, and control outbreaks through public health measures like mandatory vaccination, treatment, quarantine and isolation.  Spoiler alert—neither sincerely held religious belief nor autonomy to raise one’s children have prevailed against a state’s interest in requiring vaccination for attending public school.

To be continued.

Posted by Jennifer Bard on February 2, 2015 at 03:10 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Current Affairs, First Amendment, International Law, Law and Politics, Religion, Science, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Think about proposing programming for the annual meeting, or participating in a junior scholars workshop. And if you are ever interested in serving on a committee, let Russ Weaver (the executive director) know. The appointments usually happen in the summer, but he keeps track of volunteers all year long.

Posted by Marcia L. McCormick on October 14, 2014 at 11:00 AM in Civil Procedure, Corporate, Criminal Law, Employment and Labor Law, First Amendment, Gender, Immigration, Information and Technology, Intellectual Property, International Law, Judicial Process, Law and Politics, Legal Theory, Life of Law Schools, Property, Religion, Tax, Teaching Law, Torts, Travel, Workplace Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Suboptimal Human Rights Decisionmaking

In a forthcoming paper, I explore ways in which human rights violations may result from suboptimal decisionmaking rather than utility-maximizing conduct by state leaders.  Most strategies to influence the human rights practices of a country involve efforts to alter its expected utility calculation, either by introducing material incentives so that compliance is more attractive or by changing underlying preferences so that human rights concerns are seen as more intrinsically valuable.  These are known in the literature as coercion and persuasion respectively.  Drawing on social science research that demonstrates how individuals often fail to maximize their expected utility, my paper argues that at least some human rights violations likely result from such suboptimal decisionmaking.  And if that is correct, then the human rights community may be missing out on opportunities to improve compliance that do not require altering a state’s expected utility calculation through coercion or persuasion, but instead work within a state’s existing incentive structure.

For this blog post, I thought I’d describe the three specific causes of suboptimal decisionmaking that I discuss in the paper and invite suggestions on other lines of research to explore.  As I discuss in the paper, there are methodological obstacles to applying behavioral research, which is generally based on studies of individuals in laboratories, to real-world state conduct, which involves decisionmaking by groups consisting of experienced elites who might not make the same mistakes that participants in artificial experiments do.  I chose the three causes of suboptimality that I did in part because there is a substantial international relations literature that has already attempted to make that translation, and in part because they seemed likely to contribute to the types of flawed decisions that would result in human rights violations.  But of course the behavioral literature is quite vast, and I may have missed some other promising avenue.

The first cognitive bias I discuss is loss aversion, and in particular the prediction that people who are operating in the realm of losses will engage in risky behavior in the hopes of obtaining an unlikely gain.  Many human rights violations arise from acts of desperation by state leaders who are under severe threat.  For example, leaders of an authoritarian regime facing domestic uprisings may take bold steps to reassert their power, resulting in brutal crackdowns.  Or a country that has recently experienced attacks by terrorists or rebel forces may take drastic measures to restore security, leading to widespread infringement upon individual liberties.  Risk taking can also be a rational course of action, and it will often be difficult from the outside to figure out whether loss aversion is at work in a particular situation.  But it is nonetheless valuable to recognize the possibility of loss aversion because it may call for different strategies for improving compliance.

The second bias I discuss is overconfidence, which is the tendency people have to make overly optimistic assessments of their abilities and prospects for success.  Overconfidence could contribute to suboptimal human rights decisionmaking at various stages in the process.  For example, at the planning stage, state leaders may consciously choose to violate a human rights norm, believing with overoptimism that the righteousness of their conduct will be recognized by the international community while failing to anticipate a costly backlash.  Likewise, at the operational level or implementation stage, state leaders may be overconfident in their assessment of the resources needed to meet human rights standards and thus fail to comply even when they intended to do so. 

Emotion-based reasoning, the third line of research I discuss, is not a bias per se, but it does produce distortions that undoubtedly lead to some suboptimal decisions.  The research on the role of emotions in decisionmaking has many facets, but one specific idea discussed by political scientist Stephen Peter Rosen is that human beings view situations through the lens of particular patterns that were formed during emotionally resonant past experiences.  This phenomenon may help to explain human rights violations that take place in the course of longstanding conflicts between religious or ethnic groups.  Leaders of a regime that has had a history of clashes with a particular minority group will view new conflicts through the lens of that history, and thus be prone to adopt more repressive policies than a more rational assessment would produce.

That is a very abbreviated sketch, but I hope the basic connection between the various causes of suboptimality and human rights violations seems plausible.  I do not argue in the paper that all or even most human rights violations result from suboptimal decisionmaking, but instead merely highlight the possibility as an alternative to exclusively rational explanations.  The paper then goes on to explore strategies that the human rights community could adopt in response, with the goal of supplementing rather than replacing coercion and persuasion.  In short, since coercion is costly and persuasion often takes a long time, there may be missed opportunities to make more immediate gains in compliance by addressing the causes of suboptimal decisionmaking and thereby clearing the way for states to comply when it is already in their interest to do so.

Posted by Richard Chen on September 25, 2014 at 11:54 AM in International Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ratification of the Canada-China BIT

It was announced last week that Canada ratified its bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with China that was signed about two years ago.  The treaty will take effect on October 1, 2014.  At the time of the signing, a Canadian international investment law scholar named Gus Van Harten wrote an editorial warning of dire consequences if Canada ratified the BIT.   In particular, he expressed concern that the BIT would impose constraints on Canada's sovereignty and put important policy questions in the hands of foreign arbitrators.

In an earlier phase of international investment, when capital flowed primarily from developed to developing nations, only the latter had to worry about constraints on their sovereignty.  But as more capital has begun to travel in the opposite direction, established democracies like Canada will increasingly have to respond to claims brought against them by foreign investors.  The Canada-China BIT, like other recent BITs that both Canada and the United States have entered into, adopts a narrower definition of fair and equitable treatment that should in theory avoid the most serious sovereignty concerns described in my prior posts.  But as other commentators have observed, some tribunals have proceeded to apply the same broad standard used in arbitral precedent as if the limiting language were not there.

The United States has not yet signed a BIT with China, but the countries did agree recently to restart negotiations.  It will be interesting to see whether the United States tries a different approach to fair and equitable treatment or otherwise departs from its model BIT in anticipation of the possibility that the protections of a China-U.S. BIT will be invoked as much by Chinese investors against the U.S. government as by U.S. investors against the Chinese government.

Posted by Richard Chen on September 18, 2014 at 12:27 PM in International Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Investor-State Regulatory Disputes (Part 2)

In my previous post, I described the sovereignty concerns raised by investor-state regulatory disputes, the viewpoint that currently predominates in the literature known as the public law approach, and my criticisms of that proposed framework.  In this post, I explain why investment tribunals should instead adapt concepts or tools from contract law and theory and describe in further depth one such proposal.

The basic argument for a contractual approach is that tribunals could do more to approximate how the contracting states themselves would want to resolve these disputes.  No one would disagree that, if states actually addressed the issue in their bilateral investment treaties (BITs), their express intent would govern.  The problem is that the BITs do not define “fair and equitable treatment” or otherwise provide guidance on how that standard should be applied to regulatory disputes.  In contract law, when an agreement has a gap or otherwise contains an ambiguity, courts do not simply abandon the inquiry into the parties’ intent but instead apply other tools to form the best possible estimate.  I believe a few of these tools could be usefully adapted for the present context to fill this gap in the BITs.

I do not suggest that recourse to contract principles is mandated by the BITs themselves, but neither of course is the public law approach.  Like proponents of the public law approach, I recognize that tribunals have been delegated some authority to develop the law in this area, but I believe a contractual approach is functionally superior to the public law alternative.  I noted in my prior post that a public law approach suffers from concerns relating to expertise and legitimacy.  A contractual approach would constitute an improvement in both of these respects.

With regard to expertise, a contractual approach would not require tribunals to make the inevitable policy judgments inherent in the public law approach’s balancing test.  Instead, tribunals would engage in more traditional modes of legal analysis and thus be in position to develop a more principled jurisprudence.  With regard to legitimacy, in addition to the benefits that come with more principled reasoning, a contractual approach would reduce concerns about interference with state sovereignty.  That is because tribunals could avoid passing judgment on the substance of state policy and instead intervene only as part of an attempt to effectuate the intent of the contracting states themselves.

For the sake of brevity, I will focus here on one particular contract law principle; the paper from which this post is derived explores two others.  The question of when a state should be permitted to revise its regulatory framework without implicating its fair and equitable treatment obligation could be understood as a problem of changed circumstances.  In contract law, changed circumstances will sometimes permit a promisor to excuse nonperformance, either because having to perform would be so burdensome as to be impracticable or because the purpose of the contract has been so completely frustrated.  One factor for analyzing when excuse is permitted is foreseeability:  If the supervening event was sufficiently foreseeable, then nonperformance will not be excused.  The rationale is that parties should be expected to have priced the risks of foreseeable supervening events into their agreement, but would want courts to find an implied condition on performance for risks that were outside their contemplation.

A foreseeability test could similarly be used to distinguish between regulatory changes that violate fair and equitable treatment and those that do not.  The question would be whether the supervening event was sufficiently foreseeable that the host state should have priced in that risk at the time it ratified the investment treaty at issue.  If so, then the state should be liable for losses suffered by investors relating to the regulatory changes at issue.  If not, then the investor should have to bear its own losses.  Here, as in the contract law context, foreseeability strikes a middle ground that reflects an intuitively plausible balance of the parties’ competing concerns: preserving the regulatory flexibility states need to respond to new developments on the one hand, and ensuring that legitimate investor expectations will not be too readily disrupted on the other.

Like any standard, foreseeability will not always yield definite answers.  But in contrast to a proportionality test, a foreseeability approach falls more squarely within the core competence of tribunals and allows them to focus on the contracting states’ intent rather than more policy-oriented questions that they lack the legitimacy to decide.

Note: The draft paper from which this post and my prior one are adapted is not quite ready for SSRN, but I would be happy to share it upon request with anyone who is interested.  And of course I welcome comments here as well.  Thanks!

Posted by Richard Chen on September 13, 2014 at 11:20 AM in International Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Investor-State Regulatory Disputes (Part 1)

The project I am currently working on looks for new approaches to the problem of investor-state regulatory disputes.  The problem is well-known among international investment law scholars, and a variety of solutions have been proposed, but none in my view has been satisfying. 

The basic problem arises when a foreign investor challenges a generally applicable regulation that was enacted by the host state as a good-faith attempt to promote the public interest.  Although any effect on the foreign investor’s business would have been incidental, the investor has at least a viable claim under the fair and equitable treatment obligation contained in the bilateral investment treaty between the host state and the investor’s home state.  Such claims do not need to show bad faith or other opportunistic conduct by the host state, as the fair and equitable treatment standard has been construed to require a degree of stability in the regulatory framework irrespective of the host state’s motives.  To give one particularly controversial example of this increasingly common form of dispute, tobacco companies have challenged regulations on cigarette marketing in a few different countries as violating their rights as foreign investors, even though the regulations are clearly designed to promote public health and not to extract value from them. 

The increasing prevalence of such claims is troubling to many because it puts international investment arbitral tribunals in the position of evaluating the policies of host states.  In an earlier phase of international investment, when investors were more likely to challenge outright expropriations or other forms of bad-faith conduct, the availability of impartial tribunals was seen as a valuable check on host state abuse.  But as investor-state disputes increasingly involve challenges to regulatory efforts that only incidentally affect foreign investment, the discussion has shifted to concerns about the potential for tribunals to interfere with host state sovereignty.

In response to such sovereignty concerns, commentators -- and increasingly the tribunals themselves -- have begun to converge around a view that analyzes regulatory disputes within a public law framework.  That means proceeding with special concern for the needs of the sovereign state, recognizing that the parties to the dispute are not co-equal in status but stand in a vertical relationship.  Commentators have drawn on analogies to constitutional and administrative law to propose a variety of doctrinal solutions, such as a balancing test that would weigh the host state’s regulatory concerns against the investor’s rights to determine whether the enacted measure is proportional to the burden imposed on the investor.

I am skeptical about the existing proposals and more generally about whether the public law analogy points us in the right direction.  While it is true that we entrust domestic judges to employ balancing tests and the like when reviewing domestic legislation, international arbitrators lack the expertise and legitimacy to do the same.  One concern is that most arbitrators do not have experience or training in public policy, as they typically come from commercial backgrounds.  But the more fundamental problem is that foreign arbitrators are not part of the same political community that enacted the challenged measures and thus lack the expertise (and accompanying legitimacy) a domestic court would have to make the context-sensitive, value-laden judgments required.  Others have made similar points, though they go on to propose a solution that, in my view, suffers from the same essential problem and creates additional concerns as well.

Having set up the basic issue and described my concerns about the prevailing ideas in the literature, I will turn in a follow-up post to the alternative path I propose.

Posted by Richard Chen on September 10, 2014 at 06:26 PM in International Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A victory for the rule of law - apparently not

I had to edit this blog because literally as I posted it, the news changed.  Monday, Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese mother of two young children who was facing a death sentence for adultery for marrying a Christian man and apostasy after refusing to denounce her faith was released by court order.  As I previously wrote, her imprisonment violated Sudanese law.  Her release was a victory for the rule of law.  International pressure influenced this outcome.   But the victory was very short (less than 24 hours).  The breaking news is that she was rearrested at the airport and was taken into custody along with her two children and husband.

Unfortunately, Ibrahim is only one of many who have suffered (and are suffering) in this way.  There are many who endure tremendous human rights violations because of the lack of rule but who do not receive media attention.  Ibrahim's story illustrates my previous point - international pressure is one way to help bolster rule of law in developing countries, however, that may not be enough as evidenced by the re-arrest of Ibrahim.  Perhaps governmental officials who are threatened with a charge of a crime against humanity for failure to enforce their countries own laws will feel the weight of international shame and act to uphold the rule of law.

Posted by Naomi Goodno on June 24, 2014 at 11:13 AM in Criminal Law, Current Affairs, Gender, International Law, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How to Prosecute Crimes Committed Abroad?

Earlier this year, in U.S. v. Pepe, a former U.S. Marine captain was sentenced to over 200 years in prison for brutally molesting young girls while teaching in Cambodia under the pretense of being a college professor looking out for the Cambodian youth.  He was found guilty of a violation of the PROTECT Act, a laudable federal statute with extraterritorial application which prohibits U.S. citizens from molesting children abroad.  The Pepe case had been lingering for eight years.  The investigation began in 2006, the jury convicted in 2008, and since then the case has been stuck in litigation limbo (a lingering motion for new trial based on an inappropriate relationship between a U.S. law enforcement agent and translator).

I have previously written about the PROTECT Act, and how it, along with numerous other federal statutes that criminalize U.S. citizens behavior abroad, raises an interesting Foreign Commerce Clause (FCC) issue - a matter in which circuit courts are in complete disarray over.  Assuming that Congress, under the FCC, has the power to enact laws like the PROTECT Act with extraterritorial application, the next issues to address (the issues which are framing my fall research project) are the criminal procedure implications of investigations of U.S. citizens in other countries and the related evidentiary matters.

If the U.S. criminally prosecutes a citizen for behavior abroad, when and to what extent should constitutional guarantees (like search and seizure) apply?  It has been suggested that so long as U.S. government agencies train foreign officers, constitutional rights would be secure and the evidence would be admissible.  That seems simplistic, and, indeed, case law is unclear.  For example, under the "joint venture doctrine," a U.S. agency may be so involved with a foreign investigation that the foreign authorities would be deemed as "acting as agents for their American counterparts."  At that point, the U.S. citizen has the right to constitutional protections.  But, the circuits are split as to what level of involvement the U.S. agency has to have to give rise to a joint venture.

What about evidentiary issues?  For example, in one PROTECT Act case, an NGO was helping U.S. and foreign authorities investigate a U.S. citizen traveling in Asia.  When the foreign agents arrested the defendant, an individual from the NGO took the defendant's laptop home which created problematic chain of custody issues at the U.S. trial.  From both practical and legal perspectives, securing witnesses and admissible evidence in the prosecution of extraterritorial crimes create extraordinary legal battles.  Given how easy international travel has become, these issues will become more and more prominent.

Posted by Naomi Goodno on June 19, 2014 at 05:55 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Criminal Law, Current Affairs, International Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Two Newest Faces of the Problem with the Lack of the Rule of Law - a Newborn and a 20-month Old

As a tangential follow-up to my previous post concerning the use of a crime against humanity charge as a way to bolster the rule of law, another heart-wrenching story is gaining international attention. 

Meet Maya, the first U.S. citizen to be born in a Sudanese prison while her mother was shackled to prison walls.  Meet Martin, Maya's twenty-month old bother, who is probably the second youngest U.S. citizen to be sitting in a Sudanese prison.  Their father is a U.S. citizen.  Their mother is Meriam Ibrahim, a doctor and a Sudanese citizen, who has been sentenced by a Sudanese court to 100 lashes for adultery because she married a non-Muslim man and to death by hanging (once Maya is weaned) for apostasy for refusing to denounce her Christian faith.  Ibrahim was found guilty of apostasy because it was determined that she was Muslim even though she testified she was Christian and raised by her Christian mother when her Muslim father abandoned the family.  The trial raises due process issues since three of Ibrahim's witnesses were not allowed to testify.  

There are clear human rights violations and violations of Sudanese law.  Ibrahim's imprisonment violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which, since Sudan has ratified the treaty, guarantees that all Sudanese citizens "have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and due process of law.  Sudan has also ratified the African Charter on Human and People's Rights which also guarantees freedom of religion and due process.  Indeed, Sudan's own 2005 interim constitution specifically guarantees the "right and freedoms enshrined in international human rights treaties" ratified by Sudan.  Ibrahim's case (and the impact on her children) graphically illustrates the rule of law problem - the laws are in place but not enforced.

The pressure from the international community caused some movement, albeit ineffectual as it currently stands.  A few weeks ago the Sudanese government pledged Ibrahim's release, but recanted a few days later.  This probably is not surprising given the government is headed by Omar al-Bashir who has an outstanding ICC warrant for CAH for his actions in Darfur.  What can be done?  What should be done?  Perhaps with continued and more world-wide pressure (which should be headed by the U.S. given that some of the youngest U.S. citizens - Maya and Martin - are sitting in deplorable conditions), there might be another small step forward even if it simply means more discussion about and attention given to the lack of the rule of law and the consequential human rights violations of women and children.  More legal attention and monetary support should be put in place to uphold the rule of law. 

Posted by Naomi Goodno on June 13, 2014 at 05:25 PM in Criminal Law, Culture, Current Affairs, Gender, International Law, Law and Politics, Religion | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 05, 2014

'Bring Back Our Girls' - Failure to Enforce the Rule of Law as a Crime Against Humanity

The media has been saturated with stories of violence against children and women in developing countries and the lack of meaningful action by government officials.  As a recent example, hundreds of girls in Nigeria were kidnapped from a boarding school and Nigerians have criticized the government for failure to sufficiently act.  In India, two girls were raped and hung from a mango tree while, villagers allege, the police stood by.  In Pakistan, a pregnant woman, while literally standing on the courthouse steps of a high court, was stoned to death by relatives even though such "honor killings" are illegal. 

Many developing countries have well-written laws dealing with such issues as violence against women and children, bonded labor, property grabbing, and the general administration of justice, but a large swath of the most vulnerable part of the population (the poorest, the women, and the children) fail to receive protection or justice.  No doubt, there is a rule of law problem.

Rule of law issues are complex.  Developing countries do not have the funds to enforce laws.  Citizens of developing countries are often unaware of their rights and protection under the law.  Corruption is a problem throughout law enforcement agencies and the justice system, from the police to the prosecutors and the judges.  The international community needs to do more to help battle this corruption (of course, this is not to say that we don't have our own major corruption problems on the domestic front).  The rule of law problem is so pervasive in some of these countries that all the good NGOs do by providing food, education and health care is overshadowed by the violence that the most vulnerable populations face daily.  Focus (and funds) should be shifted away from simply providing material aid, and instead more attention should be given to establishing the rule of law. 

It doesn't matter how healthy or educated a young girl is if she is raped without any recourse or murdered without any justice.  This is the subject of my current research project where I argue that the failure by high ranking government officials to enforce their countries' laws could establish a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute.  A systematic failure to protect a large portion of the population (i.e., women and children) from murder, rape and other inhumane acts fits the definition of a crime against humanity.  There are some potential problems with this analysis, though. 

Even if the failure to enforce laws (an act of omission) could constitute a crime against humanity, could anyone really be charged?  Many developing nations (including India and Pakistan) have not ratified the Rome Statute.  However, the U.N. Security Council has referred a few matters (Sudan and Libya) to the International Criminal Court.  In the Sudan matter, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for the leader of Sudan under the Rome Statute even though Sudan is not a party member.  With enough international pressure, perhaps the Security Council would act again.  Even if it did not, some of the countries where gender and children violence is pervasive are parties to the Rome Statute (like Nigeria).

Second, and perhaps more important, even if a government official is charged with a crime against humanity, so what?  The ICC is struggling with number of issues, including the problem of enforcement.  Despite the issues surrounding the ICC, however, the shame brought upon an individual with a crime against humanity charge (or investigation) might send a strong message that the international community believes in the rule of law.

Posted by Naomi Goodno on June 5, 2014 at 03:39 PM in Criminal Law, Current Affairs, Gender, International Law, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

UF Law's (and My) New MOOC: The Global Student's Introduction to US Law

I am now officially part of a MOOC, which went online today. It has been a learning experience (!!), with the biggest lesson being that it is nowhere as easy as you might think to put one of these courses together. I plan to blog about the experience at length when I get a chance. For now, though, you might be interested in viewing the University of Florida Law School's foray into the great MOOC experiment: The Global Student's Introduction to US Law

The course description is as follows: 

In this course, students will learn basic concepts and terminology about the U.S. legal system and about selected topics in the fields of constitutional law, criminal law, and contract law. A team of outstanding teachers and scholars from the University of Florida faculty introduces these subjects in an accessible and engaging format that incorporates examples from legal systems around the world, highlighting similarities to and differences from the U.S. system.  Students seeking an advanced certificate study additional topics and complete assignments involving legal research that are optional for basic level students. The course may be of interest both to U.S. students contemplating law school and to global students considering further study of the U.S. legal system.

My Senior Associate Dean Alyson Flournoy spearheaded the project, and we had excellent technical assistance, which was crucial, by Billly Wildberger. My colleagues Pedro Malavet, Jeff Harrison, Claire Germain, Loren Turner, Jennifer Wondracek, and Sharon Rush all provided lectures, and our research assistant Christy Lopez is providing support with the discussion forums. 

Posted by Lyrissa Lidsky on May 1, 2014 at 09:49 AM in Culture, Information and Technology, International Law, Life of Law Schools, Lyrissa Lidsky, Teaching Law, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Legal Case for Intervening in Syria (Anthony Colangelo Guesting)

An International Legal Case for Military Intervention in Syria  

By Anthony J. Colangelo

Does international law allow U.S. military intervention in Syria? The Obama Administration has advanced a number of possible justifications including self-defense, halting civilian deaths, and debilitating the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capabilities. None of these justify intervention on the current state of international law.

Yet that doesn’t mean international law would view a U.S. intervention as illegal in the long run. International law is a tricky sort of law, and the United States could make a strong legal argument that intervention would help change the law to allow interventions to halt mass human rights abuses. Going forward, this argument could retrospectively ratify U.S. intervention in Syria and give the United States a central role in formulating international legal criteria for future interventions.  

Legal arguments against intervention are straightforward and rely principally on treaty law. Most prominently, the U.N. Charter prohibits the “use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” There are only two ways intervention is permissible under the Charter: the Security Council authorizes it, which has not and will not happen, or the United States acts in self-defense. Even the very best international lawyers can’t stretch the doctrine of self-defense to cover a U.S. strike in these circumstances. Even if they could, that’s both an awful and an awfully expansive precedent.

The Administration has also seized upon the Assad regime’s evident use of chemical weapons as a violation of international law that justifies intervention. Yet here too, treaty law cuts the other way. Syria is not a party to recent treaties banning the use of such weapons. Because treaties bind only states that have agreed to be bound by them, Syria’s use of chemical weapons cannot violate the treaties. The only treaty banning the use of chemical weapons Syria is a party to addresses international, not internal, conflicts. And in any event, it doesn’t authorize states to attack other states that violate it. In sum, treaty law does not allow intervention in Syria.

There is, however, another type of international law that might allow intervention, called customary international law. Unlike treaty law, customary international law doesn’t derive from formal agreements among states. Instead, it arises from the practice of states accompanied by what international lawyers call opinio juris, or states’ intent that their practice carries legal significance.

States can usually treaty around custom much the same way private individuals can contract around the norms that govern our everyday behavior. But there are some rules of customary international law that cannot be contracted around and that override treaties inconsistent with their rules. These are called jus cogens, or peremptory norms of international law. Jus cogens contain prohibitions on serious international law violations like genocide, torture, slavery, and crimes against humanity. To illustrate, Hitler and Mussolini can agree by treaty to afford each other’s nations certain preferential trade treatment. But they cannot enter into a treaty legalizing genocide. Jus cogens would swoop in to invalidate that treaty as contrary to a peremptory norm of international law.               

Where does this leave the international legal justification for intervention in Syria? Many favoring intervention have cited jus cogens prohibitions on mass human rights abuses as justification. But that argument is flawed because the jus cogens norm does not directly conflict with the U.N. Charter’s prohibition on the use of force. That is, the Charter doesn’t authorize human rights abuses—in fact, just the opposite: it seeks to “promot[e] and encourage[e] respect for human rights.” Thus even if one can safely classify the Assad regime’s abuses as violations of jus cogens, that only gets the argument halfway to intervention. To justify intervention, the jus cogens norm would need to encompass not only a prohibition on human rights abuses but also the capacity of other states to enforce that prohibition. This latter enforcement component is presently lacking under the law. Finally, the Charter’s prohibition on the use of force isn’t some run-of-the-mill international rule. It is a cornerstone of the postwar international legal system that outlaws aggressive war. For this reason, the prohibition on the use of force is itself considered a jus cogens norm.        

Nonetheless, it may be time for a change. Because customary international law arises from state practice, as practices change so too does the law, including the law of jus cogens. One way customary international law changes is states break it to form new norms; breaches effectively plant the seeds from which new norms grow. Although a breach may violate international law when it occurs, the law may develop to ratify that breach as the early stage of a new norm’s development.  

If the United States intervenes in Syria, it has an initial international legal choice to make: it can ignore international law or seek to justify intervention within it. The second option’s benefit is that if state practice develops to allow intervention the illegality of U.S. action will wilt as the new norm blossoms. Yet some may view this option as undesirable precisely because it may prompt other states to accept the legality of intervention. Reciprocity is also a cardinal rule of international law: if it’s legal for us, it’s legal for you.

The question then becomes whether it’s better to operate within the law or outside it. For other states also will face that same initial choice above, to which this first-order reciprocity norm also extends; that is, the initial choice to ignore law or to justify their actions within it. In this respect, the United States may actually derive two distinct benefits from choosing to justify its actions under international law: a retrospective ratification of U.S. intervention and the ability to formulate criteria for a budding international law of humanitarian intervention.   


Posted by Administrators on September 4, 2013 at 01:44 PM in Article Spotlight, Current Affairs, International Law | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Friday, May 31, 2013

Non-State Law Beyond Enforcement II

With grading finally behind me, I wanted to post again about non-state law "beyond enforcement."   The question I've been exploring is in what ways do various forms of non-state law (such as international law and religious law) function as law even when these forms of law lack the ability to enforce their legal rules?

In my last post, I mentioned a forthcoming book by Chaim Saiman, which conceptualizes Jewish Law as "studied law" as opposed to enforced law.  In making this point, Saiman highlights some Jewish legal doctrines that the Talmud explicitly notes are not meant to be applied in the public square, but simply dissected in the study hall.  In this way, Saiman disaggregates the very concept of Jewish law from the enforcement of Jewish law.

Now there is a tendency to think that religious law - as opposed to other forms of non-state law - is particularly susceptible to manifesting law-like characteristics outside the context of enforcement.  Religious law, at its core, is intended to connect individuals to something outside of this world and so it is not surprising that certain facets of religious law might be directed not to practical this-world enforcement, but to achieving some other-worldly religious value.      

While I think this sentiment is true, over-emphasizing the point would lead us to miss the ways in which other forms of non-state law exhibit law-like features even in the absence of enforcement.  At the symposium I ran a few weeks back on "The Rise of Non-State Law," Harlan Cohen (Georgia) presented a great paper titled ""Precedent, Audience and Authority."  The paper wrangled with the following question: why is it that, even though international law denies international precedent any doctrinal force, precedent is cited constantly as authority in any number of international law fields?

To answer the question, Cohen emphasizes the way in which law - and in particular international law - is a practice with its own (often unspoken) interpretive rules and norms.  On this account, Cohen focuses on how precedent speaks to the members of the international law community - the ways in which using precedent generates legitimacy for international law in the eyes of those within the international law community.  

One of the striking features of Cohen's analysis - at least striking to me - is the persistence of precedent in the eyes of consumers of law even absent an actual doctrinal basis.  It is almost as if, at least in certain legal communities, that law struggles to separate itself from an interpretive method that discounts precedent.  All of this struck me as a bit Dworkinian, capturing another important way in which non-state law can function as law outside the context of enforcement.  Put differently, certain legal systems can be identified as being systems of law not simply based upon the extent to which the law is enforced, but based upon certain methods of interpretation endemic to law.  

In this way, Cohen's notion of international law as a practice parallels Saiman's formulation of Jewish law as studied law.  In both instances, we find important ways in which non-state law functions internally as law based upon the way in which the law is interpreted and analyzed.  On this account, non-state law can function as law irrespective of whether it is enforced.  

Posted by Michael Helfand on May 31, 2013 at 02:34 PM in International Law, Legal Theory, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, May 17, 2013

Non-State Law and Enforcement

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been doing some thinking about what it means to be non-state law and looking to different types of non-state law - such as international law or religious law - to consider some common dynamics that consistently arise.  

One theme that regularly emerges - and is often discussed - in the context of non-state law is the problem of enforcement.  Put simply, without the enforcement power of a nation-state, non-state law must typically find alternative mechanisms in order to ensure compliance with its rules and norms.  This hurdle has long figured into debates over whether one can properly conceptualize international law as law.

But the focus on enforcement is problematic for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the challenge of enforcement for non-state law is in many ways overstated.  For example, in a 2011 article titled Outcasting: in Domestic and International Law, Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro explored this issue, emphasizing - especially in the context of international - how certain forms of nonviolent sanctions, such as denying the disobedient the benefits of social cooperation and membership, can be deployed as a form of non-state law enforcement.  Indeed, the use of outcasting has long been prominent in other areas of non-state law, such as a method to enforce religious law within religious communities.  

There's, of course, much more to be said on the relationship between non-state law and enforcement (something I may explore in a subsequent post).  But too heavy an emphasis on this piece of the non-state law puzzle is problematic for a second reason - it too often obscures other important ways in which non-state law functions as law.  In my next couple of posts what I'd like to do is consider other ways in which various forms of non-state law function as law by focusing more directly on the internal practice of law within the relevant communities.

Posted by Michael Helfand on May 17, 2013 at 04:46 PM in International Law, Legal Theory, Religion | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Non-State Law

Back in 2011, I attended a symposium on Legal Positivism in International Legal Theory: Hart’s Legacy.  The conference was a bit outside the range of topics I usually write about (e.g. religion meets private law).  But presenting at the symposium drove home the point to me that international law and religious law scholars are contending with similar inquiries, many of which flow from one core question: what does it means to be non-state law?   

When I talk about non-state law, I'm thinking collectively of various forms of law - from religious law to transnational law to international law.  Of course, thinking about these forms of law outside of the law of the nation-state has long been at the center of the legal pluralism project.  But what is often missed is that lessons from international law are  instructive for religious law - and vice versa.

This often overlooked opportunity was largely the motivation behind the "Rise of Non-State Law" symposium I organized last week.  To my mind, the papers, presentations and discussion at the symposium were extremely productive and got me thinking even more about the overlap between various forms of non-state law.  In my next couple of posts, I'm hope to say a little bit about non-state law, building on some of the insights from the symposium. 

Posted by Michael Helfand on May 7, 2013 at 03:41 PM in International Law, Legal Theory, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Great to be back and greetings from Washington!

It's great to be back at Prawfs for another guest-blogging stint.   I'm looking forward to spending the month talking a bit about some of my favorite topics such as co-religionist commerce, religious arbitration, and non-state law.  

My growing interest in non-state law largely traces to my sense that ASIL Pic Flier conversations in both international law, transnational law, and religious law share much in common (e.g. discussions of what is law, can there be law without enforcement, how should the state treat competing legal norms etc.).  To further this interest, I'm running a symposium in Washington, D.C. today sponsored by Pepperdine Law School and the American Society for International Law titled "The Rise of Non-State Law."  The symposium is part of a series run by ASIL's International Legal Theory Interest Group and the papers from today's symposium will eventually become part of a volume published by Cambridge University Press.  

I must say the papers submitted (and being presented) by the participants are truly fantastic and have led today to some great conversation and debate.  For those who share the interest, here's the full schedule for the day:

Symposium Schedule

8:30 a.m. Breakfast (Tillar House)

8:45 Introduction (Michael Helfand (Pepperdine), John Linarelli (Swansea))

9:00 Panel 1—Global Legal Pluralism: Trends and Challenges

10:45 Coffee

11:00  Panel 2—Non-State Law and Non-State Institutions

1:00 p.m. Lunch

2:00 Panel 3—The Role of Religion and Culture in Non-State Law

3:45 Coffee

4:00 Open Forum

5:00 Closing Comments

Posted by Michael Helfand on May 2, 2013 at 12:11 PM in Culture, International Law, Legal Theory, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Transplant Tourism: Hard Questions Posed by the International and Illicit Market for Kidneys

The Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics has just published an article by me on transplant tourism, that discusses the burgeoning international market for buying and selling kidneys. I review the existing data from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, which is pretty deplorable. As I show the vast majority of these sellers are poor and using the money (which is a significnat sum in terms of what they earn, even though in the end only 2/3 is paid) to try to buy themselves out of bonded labor, pay off familial debts, or try to mount a dowry. Many are misinformed or decieved about the health consequences for them and the needs of the person who will receive their kidney. Once they have agreed to sell they are often pressured not to renege. They are often released too soon post-transplant compared to what is optimal for a transplant, and their self-reported health post-transplant is worse. Many experience significant social stigma as a "kidney man" (or woman)and the 20-inch scar (the more expensive way of doing the procedure would reduce the scar size) marks them for life and makes it difficult for them to marry. Most express significant regret and would advise others not to undertake the operation.

Despite these grave facts, as I argue in the paper (and in greater depth for many of these arguments in the chapter on transplant tourism in my new book on medical tourism under contract at Oxford University Press), many of the traditional justifications from the anti-commodification literature -- arguments relating to corruption, crowding out, coercion, and exploitation -- do not make a convincing case in favor of criminalization. If a ban is justified, I argue the strongest arguments are actually about defects in consent and justified paternalism, on the assumption that criminal prohibition is a second best regulation in the face of the impossibility of a more thoroughly regulated market.

I then examine what means might be used to try to crack down on the market if we concluded we should. I evaluate possibilities including extraterritorial criminalization, professional self-regulation, home country insurance reimbursement reform, international criminal law, and of course better organ retrieval in the patient's home country.

I will keep writing on this topic, including for my new book, so even though this paper is done feel free to email me your thoughts.

Posted by Ivan Cohen on April 24, 2013 at 11:03 AM in Article Spotlight, Criminal Law, Immigration, International Law, Science | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Foreign Travel by Members of Congress (Part III)

As I explained previously (here and here), I’ve been writing a piece that examines Congress's involvement in international diplomacy. One half of the article documents the nature and extent of the contemporary practice, while the other analyzes that practice from a separation-of-powers angle. As the data in the last post demonstrated, legislative diplomacy in the form of CODEL travel is a major form of engagement between the United States and foreign countries. Now I want to discuss some of the reasons why the numbers from the last post are significant.

First, the findings at least partially contradict the common perception that CODEL travel is nothing more than a series of taxpayer-funded boondoggles for profligate legislators. With places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan among the most common destinations, and with members of congressional committees such as Foreign Affairs and Armed Services traveling more than their counterparts on other committees, it is apparent that something other than vacationing is going on. Wikileaks confirms as much—an overwhelming majority of the State Department cables show legislators using foreign travel to gather information about economic, political, and social conditions in host countries. The idea, it seems, is that legislators can educate themselves by meeting with foreign officials and personally observing foreign conditions, and in turn use their knowledge to develop more effective legislative solutions to foreign policy problems. Wikileaks shows that another rationale for CODEL travel is lobbying; legislators often use their meetings with foreign officials to press foreign governments to act in ways that promote U.S. interests or, less frequently, the interests of specific constituents. One might fairly question whether CODELs are an effective means of pursuing these goals, but it’s clear that the goals generally are not sightseeing and leisure. The intermittent public debate on CODEL expenditures needs to acknowledge that.

Second, the results show that the conduct of foreign relations is, from an institutional perspective, more complicated than commonly assumed. In practice, diplomacy is not an executive prerogative; it’s a crowded field occupied by the President, State Department, and other executive actors, plus both chambers of Congress. And in practice, the Senate is not necessarily more involved in foreign relations than the House. As I explained before, House members participated in CODELs even more frequently than their Senate counterparts in 2009, both in aggregate and on a per-legislator basis. 

Finally, I think the results are significant because they call for some new thinking about the separation of powers in the context of foreign affairs. A few aspects of the doctrine should be pretty straightforward: Legislative diplomacy generally cannot intrude upon diplomatic functions—such as negotiating treaties—that Article II assigns to the President, and communications carried out for the purpose of fact-finding are constitutional as an exercise of Congress’s implied power to investigate in furtherance of enumerated Article I powers. But beyond that, formalist analysis is probably unable adequately to account for the contemporary practice. For example, as a textual matter is it unclear why CODELs can lobby foreign governments, and why Senator Kerry could undertake missions to Pakistan and Afghanistan on President Obama’s behalf. The alternative is to adopt a functionalist analysis that renders legislative diplomacy constitutional as a form of constitutional custom, or as the product of an executive delegation of Article II diplomacy power, but doing so results in a series of additional complications. Functionalism, for example, typically isn’t used for converse analyses of these kinds; the more common inquiry—such as in Youngstown—is whether custom or legislative delegation supports a gloss on executive power. Moreover, the possibility of executive delegation would operate in tension with the principle of the unitary executive. In working through these issues, I hope to develop a few insights for con law folks and those involved in legislative diplomacy, and also to illustrate one way in which Congress exerts more influence in foreign affairs than is often assumed. I’ll share a draft soon on SSRN.

Posted by Ryan Scoville on December 18, 2012 at 03:01 PM in Constitutional thoughts, International Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Foreign Travel by Members of Congress (Part II)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been writing an article on the subject of international diplomacy by members of Congress, with an emphasis on congressional delegations (“CODELs”) to foreign countries. Information about CODEL practice has been pretty limited, so one of my purposes has been simply to provide a more complete account of how frequently CODELs travel overseas, who is participating, where they go, and what they do when they get there. To do so, I collected information from the State Department cables that Wikileaks released to the public in 2010-11, many of which provide detailed accounts of meetings between members of Congress and foreign governments. I also collected information from official reports on publicly and privately financed congressional travel. Some of the reports were published in the Congressional Record pursuant to federal statute; others were published in accordance with House and Senate ethics rules. The data is quite voluminous, so I focused only on travel that happened in 2009—the most recent year for which the available information is the most complete. Counting each country visit by each legislator as one trip, and adding the data from the various sources, I came up with the following.

A total of 420 federal legislators, or approximately 79% of the combined membership of the House and Senate, completed slightly more than 2000 trips abroad in 2009. Members of the House were responsible for 84.5% of this travel, for an average of 4.0 trips per member, while members of the Senate were responsible for 15.5%, for an individual average of 3.2 trips. Legislators from both parties participated in comparable measure: Democrats averaged 4.09 trips per legislator, while Republicans averaged 3.56.

Legislators engaged in diplomacy unevenly. While some never went abroad even once, fifty-four legislators made at least 10 foreign trips during the year; the most frequent fliers were Eni Faleomavaega (24 trips) (D-AS), Jim McDermott (21) (D-WA), Adam Smith (17) (D-WA), Gabrielle Giffords (16) (D-AZ), Sheila Jackson-Lee (16) (D-TX), Lindsey Graham (15) (R-SC), Gregory Meeks (15) (D-NY), Jeff Miller (15) (R-FL), Solomon Ortiz (15) (D-TX), Dana Rohrabacher (15) (R-CA), and Joe Wilson (15) (R-SC). By comparison, Secretary Clinton made 51 trips to foreign countries over the same period.

Legislators traveled widely. CODELs visited at least 117 countries in 2009. The most frequent destinations were Afghanistan (139 trips), Israel (134), Kuwait (119), United Arab Emirates (86), Germany (73), Iraq (72), Pakistan (53), Jordan (49), Belgium (47), and Italy (47). An overwhelming majority of this travel was publicly funded.

Finally, members of congressional committees with jurisdiction over foreign affairs and related matters were more likely to participate in CODELs than other legislators. The tables below contain information for the committees with the highest and lowest member-trip averages.

Table 1 – House Committee Travel (2009)


Total Member Trips

Trips Per Member

Foreign Affairs



Armed Services






Standards of Official Conduct



Education and Labor



. . .

. . .

. . .

House Administration



Table 2 – Senate Committee Travel (2009)


Total Member Trips

Trips Per Member

Foreign Relations



Armed Services






Homeland Security



Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry



. . .

. . .

. . .

Veterans’ Affairs



In my next post, I’ll offer a few observations about why I think these results are significant, and why they raise some interesting separation of powers questions.

Posted by Ryan Scoville on December 13, 2012 at 12:30 AM in Constitutional thoughts, International Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Monday, December 10, 2012

Foreign Travel by Members of Congress (Part I)

The Constitution allocates power over the conduct of foreign relations primarily to the executive, but diplomacy by Congress is common. Members of the House and Senate frequently travel overseas as part of congressional delegations—or “CODELs”—to meet with foreign officials, and foreign officials often make stops on Capitol Hill to discuss legislation. In recent years, visiting heads of state such as Benjamin Netanyahu and Lee Myung-bak have even issued formal addresses to Congress. Moreover, these practices are nothing new; federal legislators and foreign officials have been communicating with each other ever since the First Congress convened in 1789.

I think these practices are fascinating for a couple of reasons. First, no one really has a sense for how frequently they occur, where legislators are traveling, or why they go there. News media rarely mention foreign lobbying of Congress. Some media outlets have called attention to expenses incurred by Nancy Pelosi and others during various trips abroad, but there are no complete reports on the nature and extent of contacts between federal legislators and foreign governments. Yet these contacts constitute a significant mode of engagement between the United States and the rest of the world, and have a real impact on the way in which other nations perceive U.S. policy.

Second, I think the diplomatic contacts are fascinating because they challenge the prevailing understanding that diplomacy is a prerogative of the executive branch. Most analyses don’t seem to acknowledge that legislative diplomacy occurs, much less address the extent of its constitutionality. One resulting problem is theoretical: the gap between theory and practice means either that Congress systematically violates the separation of powers, or that the prevailing understanding of executive power is at least incomplete, and possibly incorrect. A second problem is practical: lacking a theoretical foundation, legislative diplomacy occurs in a constitutional void that imposes no principled limits on the conduct of members of the House and Senate, and offers no guidance on the extent to which planned communications are permissible.

I’m currently writing an article—entitled “Legislative Diplomacy”—that addresses these issues. One purpose is empirical. I use evidence from Wikileaks and a variety of public reports on congressional travel to provide an extensive account of the nature and volume of contemporary diplomacy by Congress. This evidence shows that legislative diplomacy is surprisingly frequent, widespread, and longstanding. The other purpose of the article is to offer a constitutional analysis of the contemporary practice. In my next post, I’ll share some of the data I collected. 

Posted by Ryan Scoville on December 10, 2012 at 03:23 PM in Constitutional thoughts, International Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Arms Trade Treaty: A Response to the Second Amendment Critique

Shortly after the election, the Obama Administration announced its support for U.N. efforts to develop a new treaty regulating international trade in conventional arms. The terms are still far from settled, but draft provisions from a U.N. conference last summer provide a rough guide on how the treaty might work. I'd like to highlight some of the key provisions and then address a Second Amendment objection that I’ve heard from some treaty critics. 

The latest draft suggests that the treaty would have several basic features. First, it would establish a limited number of categorically prohibited international transfers. These include transfers in violation of a measure adopted by the U.N. Security Council pursuant to the Council’s peacekeeping authority; transfers in violation of other international obligations; and transfers made for the purpose of facilitating genocide, crimes against humanity, or certain categories of war crimes. Second, the treaty would limit the power of states to export conventional arms by requiring assessments on whether proposed exports would contribute to or undermine peace and security. Mandatory considerations would include whether the arms could be used to commit a serious violation of international humanitarian law, human rights law, or an offense under international treaties relating to terrorism. In the event of an “overriding risk” of one of these consequences, the treaty would prohibit the exporting state from authorizing the transfer. The treaty would also require exporting states to “consider taking feasible measures” to make sure that the arms are not diverted to the illicit market, used to commit gender-based violence, or used by transnational organized crime. Third, the treaty would impose obligations on arms-importing states. These parties would be obligated to provide information to help their exporting counterparts complete the required risk assessments. Importing states would also have to “put in place adequate measures that will allow them to regulate, where necessary, imports of conventional arms,” and “adopt appropriate measures to prevent the diversion of imported conventional arms . . . to the illicit market or for unauthorized end use.” Other provisions impose restrictions on brokering and mandate record-keeping and reporting.

Some U.S. critics of the draft treaty have argued that it would violate the Second Amendment, but I think this objection has some major weaknesses. First, most of the restrictions would simply have no effect on the right to keep and bear arms. Here’s the proposed list of regulated items: battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and “small arms and light weapons.” As Heller explained, the Second Amendment’s reference to “arms” applies only “to weapons . . . not specifically designed for military use and . . . not employed in a military capacity.” The result is that all but the last items on the list—“small arms and light weapons”—plainly fall outside of constitutional protection. Moreover, even to the extent that the treaty applies to arms covered by the Second Amendment, significant portions of the treaty would not interfere with the right to “keep and bear” those arms. For example, provisions that would restrict exportation—in a sense the very opposite of “keep[ing]” and “bear[ing]”—from the United States surely raise no constitutional problem. And as a practical matter, it’s hard to see how the prohibitions on transfers in violation of Security Council measures or for the purpose of facilitating genocide, crimes against humanity, or certain categories of war crimes would interfere with the right of U.S. citizens to keep and bear arms.

The only non-frivolous argument against the treaty focuses on its import restrictions. As explained above, the treaty would require states to “put in place adequate measures that will allow them to regulate, where necessary, imports of conventional arms,” and “adopt appropriate measures to prevent the diversion of imported conventional arms . . . to the illicit market or for unauthorized end use.” The opponents’ argument seems to be that these provisions would require the United States to adopt restrictive measures that would themselves infringe upon the right to bear arms. But several observations undercut that argument. First, it’s actually not clear that the provisions would require the United States to adopt any new restrictions. Federal law currently imposes permit and registration requirements on arms importers, bars some imports based on country of origin, mandates broker registration, and authorizes criminal penalties against violators. There is no textual basis for concluding that these measures are anything short of “adequate” and “appropriate.” As long as that’s the case, no new import restrictions would be necessary in the United States, and the treaty would violate the Second Amendment only if the existing federal restrictions do. Treaty opponents seem unwilling to challenge longstanding federal law in this way.

Second, even if the treaty were to require something more restrictive than current federal law, it’s still not clear that the additional restrictions would be unconstitutional. Post-Heller, lower courts have held that the level of scrutiny applied to a regulation depends on the degree to which the law burdens the right and the nature of the conduct being regulated. Where a regulation does not impose a severe burden or does not implicate the right’s core—i.e., “defense of hearth and home” by “law-abiding, responsible citizens”—courts have applied intermediate scrutiny. In doing so, they have upheld restrictions such as registration requirements and licensing fees. Critics of the ATT would have to establish that the contemplated minimum import restrictions would fail under this framework even while a variety of other regulations have survived. I have not encountered a persuasive argument about why that would be the case, particularly given the important national interests in favor of controlling transnational arms flows.

Finally, even assuming the contemplated import restrictions are constitutionally suspect, the United States could simply join the treaty subject to a reservation ensuring that the restrictions raise no constitutional problem. We did something similar with respect to the Genocide Convention and, more recently, entered a Constitution-based reservation to the Torture Convention. The reservation here would have to comport with the object and purpose of the ATT, but a Second Amendment-based reservation could meet that requirement, as several parts of the treaty draft reflect a purpose of respecting national laws.

The treaty text is far from finalized, so it’s possible that the drafting process will generate Second Amendment problems that are currently absent. But I think the real barrier to U.S. ratification won’t be the Constitution; it will be political: Practically speaking, fierce opposition from U.S. arms manufacturers is guaranteed. In 2011, U.S. arms-export agreements with developing nations amounted to $66.3 billion, or an astounding 78.7% of the total global market share. It is hard to believe that the Senate will be able to withstand the likely tidal wave of pro-export lobbying. 

Posted by Ryan Scoville on December 3, 2012 at 05:57 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Current Affairs, International Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Self-Defense Argument for Intervention in Syria

News media are reporting today that the combat in Syria has, for the first time, spilled across international borders, with Syrian government forces firing into Turkey last night, killing two people and injuring three others, and also firing into Lebanon. The New York Times suggests that a “large number of reinforcements for the government troops, backed by tanks and helicopters,” may have arrived “close to Turkish territory.” And of course Turkey is already sheltering a large number of refugees from the conflict—over 24,000, by the Turkish government’s estimate.

All of which raises the question of what, if anything, can be done. For the past year, the answer has been very little: Russia and China blocked effective measures in the Security Council; the legitimacy of humanitarian intervention on the basis of the responsibility-to-protect (“R2P”) principle has been contested; and neighboring states seemed to lack a persuasive argument for intervention on the basis of self-defense. But yesterday’s events suggest that the self-defense argument is strengthening. Article 51 of the UN Charter recognizes an “inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against” a member state, “until the Security Council takes measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” There is at least a reasonable argument that by firing bullets across the border, amassing troops nearby, and forcing Turkey to cope with a significant influx of refugees, Syria is violating Turkey’s territorial integrity and creating justification for an armed intervention on the basis of a Turkish right of self-defense.

To be clear, I’m not necessarily advocating the legality of intervention on the ground of self-defense; I’m saying simply that the argument for a self-defense-based intervention is getting stronger. And, of course, whether intervention makes sense as a practical matter is another issue altogether.

Posted by Ryan Scoville on April 9, 2012 at 02:01 PM in Current Affairs, International Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wired, and Threatened

I have a short op-ed on how technology provides both power and peril for journalists over at JURIST. Here's the lede:
Journalists have never been more empowered, or more threatened. Information technology offers journalists potent tools to gather, report and disseminate information — from satellite phones to pocket video cameras to social networks. Technological advances have democratized reporting... Technology creates risks along with capabilities however... [and] The arms race of information technology is not one-sided.

Posted by Derek Bambauer on March 22, 2012 at 02:11 PM in Current Affairs, First Amendment, Information and Technology, International Law, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, March 12, 2012

Social Media and the Kony 2012 Campaign

By now, you all (likely) will have come across the Kony 2012 campaign. Sponsored by a US-based charity group, Invisible Children, this campaign aims to raise public awareness about the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader, Joseph Kony, through a 30 minute video that has gone viral – receiving upwards of 60 million hits (and growing fast). This documentary video has caught the attention of a star-studded cast, including Justin Bieber, George Clooney, and Lady Gaga. Kony remains at large, despite having been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2005 and notwithstanding the weakening of the LRA. (A rebel group, the LRA has inflicted mass atrocities in Northern Uganda, but for several years now has fled the country). Kony is charged with an array of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Kony 2012 campaign encourages his capture and supports the intervention of Ugandan
government armed forces (assisted by American special-ops). Ever mobile, Kony is no longer in Uganda, but likely in the Central African Republic. The brutal entanglement of children in the LRA, as combatants, sex slaves, and domestic helpers, has been central to the reach of the Kony 2012 campaign and its attendant calls for support.

This campaign demonstrates the power of social media to mobilize and raise awareness. But this campaign also demonstrates the ability of social media to essentialize, sensationalize, and reductively simplify. For starters, in addition to the horrors inflicted by the LRA, the government of Uganda has also been responsible for human rights abuses in the country, including massive displacement of the local population, and also outside the country. Second, in calling for armed action, the video exhorts the very militarization that, in turn, has plagued Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan for decades already. The process of peace and justice in Northern Uganda is painstakingly complex – at the national level amnesties have played a key role – and criminal prosecutions are far from a self-evident solution, especially at the ICC. The problem of child soldiering is much more complex than the video portrays. The saving grace of international humanitarianism can only go so far – the vast majority of LRA child soldiers, after all, exited the LRA not by humanitarian rescue but, instead, by escaping or abandoning the group. Reintegration, moreover, needs to occur locally. Criminal prosecutions of a handful of recruiters are not a cure-all. To be sure, the LRA has relied on brutal abduction of children. World-wide, however, and including elsewhere in Africa, a majority of child soldiers demonstrate some initiative in coming forward and enlisting in fighting forces. Child soldiering is a global phenomenon, not just an African phenomenon – the majority of child soldiers in fact are not on the African continent. Nor are the majority of child soldiers young children – most are adolescents, often older adolescents; approximately 40% are girls; some child soldiers are implicated in grievous acts of atrocity, at times against other children.

The best way to prevent child soldiering is to understand it as a composite of practices, not as a singular practice to be generalized from the LRA. A better way to reintegrate former child soldiers, and attend to restorative needs, is to humanize former child soldiers, not present them passively as devastated mindless victims or deranged cold-blooded automatons programmed to kill. Oxford University Press recently published my book, Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy, which I wrote to advance a nuanced conversation so as to meaningfully improve preventative and rehabilitative efforts (youtube summary here). But nuanced conversations tend to lack catchy sound-bites. Does Invisible Children, then, have it right – put a simple image forward, boldly through #StopKony, and then follow up, as it does, with some texture in responsive, albeit at times defensive, posts
that parry criticism, concern, and commentary?

Posted by Mark Drumbl on March 12, 2012 at 04:38 PM in Criminal Law, Culture, Current Affairs, International Law, Law and Politics, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bargaining Your Way Out of War Crimes

Writing book reviews may be a fading fad, but I’ve agreed to do one for Criminal Law and Philosophy on Mark Freeman’s Necessary Evils: Amnesties and the Search for Justice. Freeman argues that the push in international criminal law towards banning the amnesty, although certainly understandable, comes with some costs and, hence, isn’t self-evident. According to Freeman, some room should be left for human rights abusers to bargain away their criminal liability in exchange for peace. Ultimately, Freeman sets a very high bar on the permissibility of such bargains. His bar is so high, and his conditions so complex/onerous, that in practice under his own framework the amnesty may never be possible. In any event, Freeman’s position is an unorthodox one for an international lawyer to take. In this regard, his book is brave indeed. To be sure, political scientists routinely embrace the amnesty as a means to do business. But for lawyers, steeped in retributivist ethics, the cost of doing such business may be too much to bear. Freeman frequently turns to Dan Markel’s work in order to offer theoretical background on interplay between the deontological need to punish and the utilitarian reality that sometimes non-punishment may serve a greater good. That said, these questions are far from theoretical. In September 2011, Uganda’s Constitutional Court respected an amnesty given domestically to Col. Thomas Kwoyelo, who is among the highest level leaders of the rebel Lords’ Resistance Army (LRA), notorious for massive human rights abuses, wide-scale rape, and abduction of child soldiers. The Court ordered his release; the Court of Appeals affirmed in November; but Kwoyelo is still in custody. Kwoyelo himself had entered LRA as a teenage child soldier. In response to international pressure, a couple of years ago Uganda established an International Crimes Division in its domestic courts to prosecute LRA fighters. Kwoyelo was the first person brought to trial. These fighters, like Kwoyelo, had previously been granted an amnesty (pursuant to legislation adopted in 2000) in exchange for their renunciation of violence. The debate over Kyowelo’s amnesty therefore involves tension within branches of the same state: Uganda’s constitutional imperatives to equal treatment of its citizens, on the one hand, and Uganda’s prosecutorial obligations to punish perpetrators of serious international crimes, on the other. One angle to the amnesty debate that I have not seen much of in the literature, and which I hope to explore at greater length in the review, is how reneging on an amnesty previously granted may in and of itself amount to a rule of law denial, thereby imperiling constitutional legitimacy. In this regard, respecting a painful and unattractive bargain may signal a deontological commitment to promise and predictability. Any thoughts on how upholding ugly bargains may prettify a new constitutional order? How scuttling them, however attractive in the short term, may come to blight constitutional credibility?

Posted by Mark Drumbl on February 10, 2012 at 11:33 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Criminal Law, International Law, Judicial Process, Law and Politics, Privilege or Punish | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Restating, stating, shuffling, or changing?

I’m really glad to have a chance to rejoin the Prawfs community for this month. Sorry for the somewhat belated start, but the past couple of days have been a flurry. I was just out in sunny California for a fascinating international humanitarian law conference at Santa Clara Law School. As Ken Anderson, one of the participants, notes in his opinio juris blog post on the conference, topics covered included the applicability of classic criminal responsibility theories to robots that are used in warfare; the intersections between gender, justice, and conflict; and the right to counsel in military proceedings. I had a chance to present on my new book on child soldiers, several aspects of which I hope to blog about here this month as well.

Yesterday the Transnational Law Institute at my law school hosted George A. Bermann from Columbia Law School, who delivered a fantastic public lecture entitled "American Exceptionalism in International Commercial Arbitration". We are fortunate at Washington and Lee to have Susan Franck as a colleague, in that her work situates at the cutting-edge of scholarship in this field -- and our Moot Court Room was packed and engaged. Although the notion of "American Exceptionalism" often applies in human rights law areas (such as constitutional interpretation, war crimes trials, and terrorism), Prof. Bermann explored how aspects of the US legal system interface with the quest, through international convention, for uniform enforcement of international arbitration awards in commercial law matters. In particular, Bermann identified a number of factors, which may not always be anticipated in contract negotiation, including federalism (for example, how the public policy of one of the US states may interface with the recognized ability for an award to be denied enforcement if it infringes public policy), inadequacies in the domestic Federal Arbitration Act, and procedural features of the US legal system. In this regard, clearly, I would answer Trey Childress' earlier question on this blog with a clear yes – international law matters and domestic legal structures ought to be mindful of it.

Bermann serves as Chief Reporter of the American Law Institute Restatement (Third) of the U.S. Law of International Commercial Arbitration. At the end of his talk, a student in the audience raised what I thought to be an important reminder – namely, what are the obligations and duties of Restatement authors? Is it to photograph the law, prod it along, or reengineer it? Do different obligations arise in different areas of law? For example, in areas of law thick with case-law and statute, is photography preferable? In areas of law lolling in ambiguity, grappling with change, or redolent with awkwardness, is something more required? What is the proper place for normativity? For international law junkies out there: are the obligations of the Restatement drafters similar to or different from those of the members of the International Law Commission (ILC), who are called upon to promote the progressive development of international law and its codification – recognized by convenience in art. 15 of the ILC's statute as two separate tasks?

Posted by Mark Drumbl on February 7, 2012 at 12:16 PM in International Law, Legal Theory, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Kiobel

I'd like to share some brief thoughts on Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., the case in which the Supreme Court will likely decide whether the Alien Tort Statute confers federal jurisdiction over claims alleging corporate violations of customary international law.

Although not directly at issue in the litigation, Kiobel seems to raise an interesting question about the method by which courts go about ascertaining custom. A core principle of international law is that binding customary norms develop from "general and consistent practice that states follow from a sense of legal obligation." According to Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, the ATS provides for federal jurisdiction over civil actions by aliens who have alleged violations of a particular subset of these norms--i.e., those that are "accepted by the civilized world" and defined with a fairly high degree of specificity. Thus, determining whether the ATS provides jurisdiction in any given case often requires a judicial analysis of the nature, extent, and rationale of the practice that has allegedly given rise to the norm that the defendant has allegedly violated. In some cases--such as those involving prohibitions against piracy, offenses against ambassadors, and torture--the jurisdictional analysis is relatively easy because the underlying norm is widely accepted and well-defined. In others, it may be difficult to ascertain whether a norm has the requisite levels of state acceptance and definitional precision.


The circuit split underlying the decision to grant cert in Kiobel suggests that the norm of corporate liability falls into the latter category. After canvassing selected treaties, precedent from international tribunals, and scholarship, the Second Circuit concluded that corporations have never been prosecuted for violating customary international law, and that a custom of liability therefore does not exist. But upon completing the very same inquiry, the Seventh Circuit reached precisely the opposite conclusion in Flomo v. Firestone National Rubber Co. Notably, Flomo found that the Second Circuit had simply overlooked an important example of corporate liability--that of the German company I.G. Farben after WWII.

Assuming the Seventh Circuit was correct, the Second Circuit's failure to recognize the I.G. Farben precedent seems significant. But from the standpoint of judicial process, the failure was also understandable, for federal courts lack the resources to systematically identify all relevant international practice for the purpose of resolving 12(b) motions. A thorough inquiry would seem to require reviewing even the mundane, day-to-day behaviors of the entire "civilized world"--to use Sosa's words--over a course of years, perhaps decades. And yet, there is no database of such practice, no analogue to the essentially complete and well-organized federal and state case reports on Westlaw and Lexis. Thus, standard legal research techniques won't necessarily generate reliable answers. Courts can take shortcuts by focusing their research on salient indicia of state practice in the form of treaties and important decisions from international tribunals, but those examples usually seem to tell only part of the story. 

One conclusion to draw from this observation is that the disagreement between the Second and Seventh Circuits does not necessarily itself show that the norm of corporate liability lacks the acceptance and precision that Sosa demands. Instead, the split may simply reflect the difficulties inherent in federal judicial identification of international custom. Perhaps the Seventh Circuit was right, and the Second Circuit simply overlooked relevant precedent. Perhaps both circuits did. Absent a rigorous historical inquiry, it's hard to say with certainty. Either way, to conclude that it is difficult to accurately identify whether any given customary norm enjoys the acceptance and clarity necessary to create ATS jurisdiction is not to say that the norm lacks such characteristics. 

Another possible conclusion to draw is that federal courts should look for ways to supplement their capacity to ascertain international custom. One potential solution lies in Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which permits courts to appoint special masters "to address pretrial . . . matters that cannot be effectively and timely addressed by an available district judge or magistrate judge of the district." If the problems of research method that I have described prevent courts from "effectively and timely" identifying customary international law, then the Rule would seem to permit them to use special masters to supplement their efforts. Chosen special masters would ideally be international legal experts or historians with expertise in the relevant area of custom, and would thus have a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of state practice than the court could possibly obtain through standard legal research techniques. Briefly looking at the Federal Reporter, I did not come across any examples of courts using special masters in this way, but perhaps it's a step worth considering.  

Posted by Ryan Scoville on December 13, 2011 at 01:41 PM in International Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, December 05, 2011

Circumvention Tourism: Traveling for Abortion, Assisted Suicide, Reproductive Technology, Female Genital Cutting, Stem Cell Treatments, and More...

This past week I was in lovely Hermance, Switzerland, as a guest of the Brocher Foundation and the International Society for Stem Cell Research's Ethics and Policy Commitee to talk to them about stem cell tourism -- travel abroad to receive treatment or be part of a clinical trial using stem cells not authorized in the patient's home country.  This is often a sub-type of what I call "circumvention medical tourism" -- medical tourism for services that are illegal in the patient's home country but legal in the destination country to which they travel.

I have just posted on SSRN a draft of my new article, Circumvention Tourism, 97 Cornell L. Rev. _ (forthcoming, 2012), which uses the real world examples of  medical tourism for abortion, assisted suicide, reproductive technology (especially surrogacy), and female genital cutting to build a bigger legal and ethical theory of circumvention tourism.

I briefly discuss the 'can' question: Assuming a domestic prohibition on access to one of these services is lawful, as a matter of international law is the home country permitted, forbidden, or mandated to extend its existing criminal prohibition extraterritorially to home country citizens who travel abroad to circumvent the home country prohibition?

Most of the Article, though, is devoted to the 'ought' question: Assuming the domestic prohibition is viewed by the home country as normatively well-grounded and lawful, under what circumstances should the home country extend its existing criminal prohibition extraterritorially to its citizens who travel abroad to circumvent the prohibition? I show that contrary to much of the current practice, in most instances home countries should seek to extend extraterritorially to circumvention tourists their criminal prohibitions on abortion, FGC, assisted suicide, and to a lesser extent reproductive technology usage.

I then use this analysis as scaffolding to build towards a larger theory of circumvention tourism that includes examples outside of the medical context (such as prostitution, drug use, honor killings, and others)

I don't normally post drafts on SSRN until they are in page proofs (this draft is before the editors have had a chance to improve it) but am doing so early in this case because the topic is developing and I want my views to be part of the conversation. Still, it is a work-in-progress, so if you have any feedback you want to give me I always value it; though I think it makes more sense just to email me comments on the paper directly rather than post it on here so as not to clog the blog...but happy for more editorial/conversational comments to be added on here.

PS: I've already benefitted greatly from workshops of this paper at HLS, UT Austin, and by the NYU/Brooklyn Crim Law Theory Group that Dan Markel coordinates. I love workshopping papers, so if you are interested in having me present this or another paper feel free to get into contact.

Posted by Glenn Cohen on December 5, 2011 at 02:51 AM in Criminal Law, Gender, International Law, Legal Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Online Symposium: Shapiro and Hathaway on Outcasting

Opinio Juris is coducting an online symposium addressing Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro's recent article in the Yale Law Journal titled Outcasting.  Both the article and the symposium are great contributions to recent discussions on non-state governance (one of my other favorites is the Utah Law Review's 2010 symposium on non-state governance).  I've contributed my own thoughts in a post to the online symposium here.

Posted by Michael Helfand on November 15, 2011 at 10:30 PM in International Law, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, November 11, 2011

Greetings from D.C.

I'm spending a wonderful day in D.C. presenting a paper at the annual symposium for the American Society of International Law's International Legal Therory Interest Group addressing Hart's Legacy on International Law.  The papers have brought together some amazing work on legal theory, international relations, international law and non-state governance presented by Trey Childress, Mark Herlihy, John Linarelli (see here for one of his related papers), Tim Meyer (related to his forthcoming article in the Penn. L. Rev. Codifying Custom), John Mikhail, Liam Murphy, and Dan Priel (another related paper here).  These papers will appear down the road in Cambridge U. Press's ASIL Studies in International Legal Theory.

I must say that given my experiences today, I'm even more bullish about writing in multiple scholarly areas.  Many thanks to Mark Herlihy for organizing this fantastic event!

Posted by Michael Helfand on November 11, 2011 at 11:33 AM in International Law, Legal Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cyber-Terror: Still Nothing to See Here

Cybersecurity is a hot policy / legal topic at the moment: the SEC recently issued guidance on cybersecurity reporting, defense contractors suffered a spear-phishing attack, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive issued a report on cyber-espionage, and Brazilian ISPs fell victim to DNS poisoning. (The last highlights a problem with E-PARASITE and PROTECT IP: if they inadvertently encourage Americans to use foreign DNS providers, they may worsen cybersecurity problems.) Cybersecurity is a moniker that covers a host of problems, from identity theft to denial of service attacks to theft of trade secrets. The challenges are real, and there are many of them. That's why it is disheartening to see otherwise knowledgeable experts focusing on chimerical targets.

For example, Eugene Kaspersky stated at the London Cyber Conference that "we are close, very close, to cyber terrorism. Perhaps already the criminals have sold their skills to the terrorists - and then...oh, God." FBI executive assistant director Shawn Henry said that attacks could "paralyze cities" and that "ultimately, people could die." Do these claims hold up? What, exactly, is it that cyber-terrorists are going to do? Engage in identity theft? Steal U.S. intellectual property? Those are somewhat worrisome, but where is the "terror" part? Terrorists support malevolent activities with all sorts of crimes. But that's "support," not "terror." Hysterics like Richard Clarke spout nonsense about shutting down air traffic control systems or blowing up power plants, but there is precisely zero evidence that even nation-states can do this sort of thing, let alone small, non-state actors. The "oh, God" part of Kaspersky's comment is a standard rhetorical trope in the apocalyptic discussions of cybersecurity. (I knock these down in Conundrum, coming out shortly in Minnesota Law Review.) And paralyzing a city isn't too hard: snowstorms do it routinely. The question is how likely such threats are to materialize, and whether the proposed answers (Henry thinks we should build a new, more secure Internet) make any sense.

There are at least two plausible reasons why otherwise rational people spout lurid doomsday scenarios instead of focusing on the mundane, technical, and challenging problems of networked information stores. First, and most cynically, they can make money from doing so. Kaspersky runs an Internet security company; Clarke is a cybersecurity consultant; former NSA director Mike McConnell works for a law firm that sells cybersecurity services to the government. I think there's something to this, but I'm not ready to accuse these people of being venal. I think a more likely explanation flows from Paul Ohm's Myth of the Superuser: many of these experts have seen what truly talented hackers can do, given sufficient time, resources, and information. They then extrapolate to a world where such skills are commonplace, and unrestrained by ethics, social pressures, or sheer rational actor deterrence. Combine that with the chance to peddle one's own wares, or books, to address the problems, and you get the sum of all fears. Cognitive bias matters.

The sky, though, is not falling. Melodrama won't help - in fact, it distracts us from the things we need to do: to create redundancy, to test recovery scenarios, to deploy more secure software, and to encourage a culture of testing (the classic "hacking"). We are not going to deploy a new Internet. We are not going to force everyone to get an Internet driver's license. Most cybersecurity improvements are going to be gradual and unremarkable, rather than involving Bruce Willis and an F-35. Or, to quote Frank Drebin, "Nothing to see here, please disperse!" Cross-posted at Info/Law.

Posted by Derek Bambauer on November 10, 2011 at 03:53 PM in Criminal Law, Current Affairs, Information and Technology, International Law, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, November 07, 2011

Global Justice and Medical Tourism

Over the last few years, when I have not been working on bioethical issues relating to reproduction and reproductive technologies, I have been working on a different project relating to medical tourism – the travel of patients from one country (the “home country”) to a foreign country (the “destination country”) for the primary purpose of getting health care.  I have done three major law review articles on the subject (and a few other bioethics and medical journal articles). The first law review article focued on quality of care and medical malpractice recovery.  The third, which is forthcoming in the Cornell L. Rev, focuses on circumvention tourism -- patients who travel abroad for the purpose of circumventing a home country restriction on access, such as in the case of abortion, assisted suicide, female genital cutting, and reproductive technology use in some contexts.  The second law review article is coming out this week in print, but I have already posted it online here. This piece of the project, I hope, will be useful beyond medical tourism to those interested in globalization and global justice theory more generally.

A good way to frame my subject of inquiry is by way of a recent New York Times article  by Somini Sengupta, entitled “Royal Care for Some of India’s Patients, Neglect for Others,” which captures a particular global justice critique well: She begins by describing the care given at Wockhardt Hospital in India to “Mr. Steeles, 60, a car dealer from Daphne, Ala., [who] had flown halfway around the world last month to save his heart [through a mitral valve repair] at a price he could pay.” The article describes in great detail the dietician who selects Mr. Steele’s meals, the dermatologist who comes as soon as he mentions an itch, and Mr. Steeles’s “Royal Suite” with “cable TV, a computer, [and] a mini-refrigerator, where an attendant that afternoon stashed some ice cream, for when he felt hungry later.” This treatment contrasts with the care given to a group of “day laborers who laid bricks and mixed cement for Bangalore’s construction boom,” many of whom “fell ill after drinking illegally brewed whisky; 150 died that day.” “Not for them [was] the care of India’s best private hospitals,” writes the article’s author; “[t]hey had been wheeled in by wives and brothers to the overstretched government-run Bowring Hospital, on the other side of town,” a hospital with “no intensive care unit, no ventilators, no dialysis machine,” where “[d]inner was a stack of white bread, on which a healthy cockroach crawled.”

There is also a more academic or policy strain of critiques among those who write about global health and/or globalization.

The goal of this paper is to examine this kind of critique.  Here is my take...

As I argue in the paper these kinds of critiques should be understood as raising there kinds of questions: (1) An empirical question: Does medical tourism have negative effects on health care access for the poor in the destination country? (2)  The normative question: If so, do home countries or international bodies face obligations to prevent or correct those negative effects, and under what circumstances? (3) The regulatory question: If so, how might they do so?

I discuss some of the development economics and health system design pertaining to the first question and regulatory options as to the third question, but most of the paper is focused on the second normative question. This gives me an opportunity to engage ongoing debates in normative and applied ethics between theories of global justice, cosmopolitan, statist, and intermediate. I discuss the ways in which these theories suggest we may owe different things to those inside versus outside the nation state, or the ways in which the obligations may be activated under different circumstances depending whether those who suffer are our fellow nationals or foreign.  While my focus is on medical tourism, I also show how some of the ideas I develop are applicable to other instances of the globalization of health care such as medical migration (the brain drain).  The goal (you, dear reader, can judge if it is successful) is to have a dialogue between these theories and the concrete medical tourism cases, to see ways in which the theories speak to the cases but also the ways in which the cases identify gaps, ambiguities, and possible divergeny ways of filling the blanks.

 I am currently editing a book for Oxford on legal and ethical issues in health care globalization and starting a new book project on medical tourism specifically. While I have found the global justice literature useful as to these project, I actually think it has many more applications to the work done by law prawfs – for example in immigration law and labor and employment law, among other areas.  Since this law review article represents a part of an ongoing project, I am definitely eager for your thoughts.

Posted by Glenn Cohen on November 7, 2011 at 11:17 PM in Article Spotlight, Books, Immigration, International Law, Legal Theory | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How Baseball Made Me a Pirate

Major League Baseball has made me a pirate, with no regrets.

Nick Ross, on Australia's ABC, makes "The Case for Piracy." His article argues that piracy often results, essentially, from market failure: customers are willing to pay content owners for access to material, and the content owners refuse - because they can't be bothered to serve that market or geography, because they are trying to force consumers onto another platform, or because they are trying to leverage interest in, say, Premier League matches as a means of getting cable customers to buy the Golf Network. The music industry made exactly these mistakes before the combination of Napster and iTunes forced them into better behavior: MusicNow and Pressplay were expensive disasters, loaded with DRM restrictions and focused on preventing any possible re-use of content rather than delivering actual value. TV content owners are now making the same mistake.

Take, for example, MLB. I tried to purchase a plan to watch the baseball playoffs on mlb.com - I don't own a TV, and it's a bit awkward to hang out at the local pub for 3 hours. MLB didn't make it obvious how to do this. Eventually, I clicked a plan that indicated it would allow me to watch the entire postseason for $19.99, and gladly put in my credit card number.

My mistake. It turns out that option is apparently for non-U.S. customers. I learned this the hard way when I tried to watch an ALDS game, only to get... nothing. No content, except an ad that tried to get me to buy an additional plan. That's right, for my $19.99, I receive literally nothing of value. When I e-mailed MLB Customer Service to try to get a refund, here's the answer I received: "Dear Valued Subscriber: Your request for a refund in connection with your 2011 MLB.TV Postseason Package subscription has been denied in accordance with the terms of your purchase." Apparently the terms allow fraud.

Naturally, I'm going to dispute the charge with my credit card company. But here's the thing: I love baseball. I would gladly pay MLB to watch the postseason on-line. And yet there's no way to do so, legally. In fact, apparently the only people who can are folks outside the U.S. And if you try to give them your money anyway, they'll take it, and then tell you how valued you are. But you're not.

So, I'm finding ways to watch MLB anyway. If you have suggestions or tips, offer 'em in the comments - there must be a Rojadirecta for baseball. And next season, when I want to watch the Red Sox, that's the medium I'll use - not MLB's Extra Innings. MLB has turned me into a pirate, with no regrets.

Cross-posted at Info/Law.

Posted by Derek Bambauer on October 26, 2011 at 07:48 PM in Criminal Law, Culture, Information and Technology, Intellectual Property, International Law, Music, Odd World, Sports, Television, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (34) | TrackBack

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Myth of Cyberterror

UPI's article on cyberterrorism helpfully states the obvious: there's no such thing. This is in sharp contrast to the rhetoric in cybersecurity discussions, which highlights purported threats from terrorists to the power grid, the transportation system, and even the ability to play Space Invaders using the lights of skyscrapers. It's all quite entertaining, except for 2 problems: 1) perception frequently drives policy, and 2) all of these risks are chimerical. Yes, non-state actors are capable of defacing Web sites and even launching denial of service attacks, but that's a far cry from train bombings or shootings in hotels

The response from some quarters is that, while terrorists do not currently have the capability to execute devastating cyberattacks, they will at some point, and so we should act now. I find this unsatisfying. Law rarely imposes large current costs, such as changing how the Internet's core protocols run, to address remote risks of uncertain (but low) incidence and uncertain magnitude. In 2009, nearly 31,000 people died in highway car crashes, but we don't require people to drive tanks. (And, few people choose to do so, except for Hummer employees.)

Why, then, the continued focus on cyberterror? I think there are four reasons. First, terror is the policy issue of the moment: connecting to it both focuses people's attention and draws funding. Second, we're in an age of rapid and constant technological change, which always produces some level of associated fear. Few of us understand how BGP works, or why its lack of built-in authentication creates risk, and we are afraid of the unknown. Third, terror attacks are like shark attacks. We are afraid of dying in highly gory or horrific fashion, rather than basing our worries on actual incidence of harm (compare our fear of terrorists versus our fear of bad drivers, and then look at the underlying number of fatalities in each category). Lastly, cybersecurity is a battleground not merely for machines but for money. Federal agencies, defense contractors, and software companies all hold a stake in concentrating attention on cyber-risks and offering their wares as a means of remediating them.

So what should we do at this point? For cyberterror, the answer is "nothing," or at least nothing that we wouldn't do anyway. Preventing cyberattacks by terrorists, nation states, and spies all involve the same things, as I argue in Conundrum. But: this approach gets called "naive" with some regularity, so I'd be interested in your take...

Posted by Derek Bambauer on October 17, 2011 at 04:43 PM in Criminal Law, Current Affairs, Information and Technology, International Law, Law and Politics, Science, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Monday, October 10, 2011

Spying, Skynet, and Cybersecurity

The drones used by the U.S. Air Force have been infected by malware - reportedly, a program that logs the commands transmitted from the pilots' computers at a base in Nevada to the drones flying over Iraq and Afghanistan. This has led to comparisons to Skynet, particularly since the Terminators' network was supposed to become self-aware in April. While I think we don't yet need to stock up on robot-sniffing dogs, the malware situation is worrisome, for three reasons.

First, the military is aware of the virus's presence, but is reportedly unable to prevent it from re-installing itself even after they clean off the computers' drives. Wired reports that re-building the computers is time-consuming. That's undoubtedly true, but cyber-threats are an increasing part of warfare, and they'll soon be ubiquitous. I've argued that resilience is a critical component of cybersecurity. The Department of Defense needs to assume that their systems will be compromised - because they will - and to plan for recovery. Prevention is impossible; remediation is vital.

Second, the malware took hold despite the air gap between the drones' network and the public Internet. The idea of separate, isolated networks is a very attractive one in security, but it's false comfort. In a world where flash drives are ubiquitous, where iPods can store files, and where one can download sensitive data onto a Lady Gaga CD, information will inevitably cross the gap. Separation may be sensible as one security measure, but it is not a panacea.

Lastly, the Air Force is the branch of the armed forces currently in the lead in terms of cyberspace and cybersecurity initiatives. If they can't solve this problem, do we want them taking the lead on this new dimension of the battlefield?

It's not clear how seriously the drones' network has been compromised - security breaches have occurred before. But cybersecurity is difficult. We saw the first true cyberweapon in Stuxnet, which damaged Iran's nuclear centrifuges and set back its uranium enrichment program. That program too looked benign, on first inspection. Let's hope the program here is closer to Kyle Reese than a T-1000.

Posted by Derek Bambauer on October 10, 2011 at 05:55 PM in Information and Technology, International Law, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Certain Expenses Concerning U.S. Military Operations Against Libya

In its canonical Certain Expenses advisory opinion of 1962, the International Court of Justice made clear that military activity carried out by member states in the context of peace keeping operations in the Congo and along the Suez authorized by the General Assembly amounted to United Nations activities, which were therefore to be treated as expenses of the United Nations, funded from member contributions.   France and the Soviet Union objected to U.N. involvement in peacekeeping in the Middle East and Congo, but they could not legally withhold their required contributions to the United Nations on account of those objections.  United Nations skeptics might retort that even though the I.C.J. is the judicial arm of the United Nations, the U.N. has no concrete power to enforce an advisory opinion, and even I.C.J. judgments cannot be enforced against a recalcitrant state absent a Security Council Resolution authorizing sanctions against that non-complying state.  And yet both France and the Soviet Union eventually paid the money they had withheld from the U.N. in protest against U.N. action in the Suez and Congo, much as the United States finally paid its assessed contributions after much protest against U.N. policies in the late 1970s, the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Since member states are obligated to fund United Nations activities including peacekeeping by member states authorized by the General Assembly even though the text of the U.N. Charter does not plainly convey the power to authorize peacekeeping on the General Assembly, it seems to me that United Nations enforcement actions authorized by the Security Council pursuant to its unambiguous authority under Chapter VII of the Charter are, a fortiori, expenses of the United Nations to be funded by member states.  This would make the military activity of certain U.N. member states, including the United States, against the government of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya authorized in Security Council Resolution 1973 of March 17, 2011 United Nations activity to be funded as United Nations expenses from member contributions.   Unless I am missing something, the United States should be able to seek reimbursement from the U.N. for its military activity against the Libyan government.  The U.S. share of the United Nations budget is now approximately 22%, so approximately 78% of the costs of U.S. operations in Libya should be funded from the contributions of other member states.   Of course, ultimately the U.S. should have to contribute U.N. funds totaling 22% of the costs borne by other U.N. member states in the U.N. authorized operations against the Libyan government.   Perhaps the U.S. “refund” and the U.S. contributions to other member states’ operating costs will even out.  But I am mystified as to why public discussion of the costs of the operations against Libya does not (as far as I know) make any reference to the Certain Expenses case and the character of the operations against the Libyan government as United Nations activities.   Am I missing something obvious?  If not, it strikes me as worth public notice that one material difference between U.S. participation in illegal wars of aggression violating Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter and U.S. participation in United Nations authorized enforcement actions pursuant to Chapter VII of the Charter is that the U.S. will be required to bear the full costs on its own respecting the former, while in the case of the latter, U.S. military action comes at a 78% discount.  

Posted by Bill Merkel on June 22, 2011 at 05:24 PM in Current Affairs, International Law, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Monday, June 06, 2011

Kansas and the Mexican Question

In my last Prawfsblawg entry titled Feral Pigs, Communist Pigs, and Incitement to Genocide, I stressed the point that vocabulary matters enormously in the context of explaining and attempting to justify violence against human beings.  In a marginally well adjusted society, one might hope, it should be more or less axiomatic to most people that killing fellow humans cannot be justified by likening persons or groups to animals, and that killing explained by no more convincing rationale than the victim classes’ alleged pig-like or cockroach-like attributes is morally repugnant.   Yet international and inter-ethnic conflict and oppression today appear as closely intertwined with the false science of dehumanization as were their antecedents in the medieval and ancient worlds.   The rhetoric of extermination deployed in Rwanda or Nazi Germany seems as little touched by the sensibilities of the Age of Enlightenment as were the primitive impulses of hate and fear that shaped the deontological opposition of Muslims and Christians in the Middle Ages.   Barbaric sensibilities might be cabined or controlled in modern culture, but they awaken all too quickly in all too many people when summoned to support inhuman projects by evil or unthinking speakers.

Kansas state representative Virgil Peck, who Wikipedia lists as Chairman of the Republican Majority Caucus, recently suggested machine gunning illegal immigrants from helicopters as a useful public policy option, given the reported successes in thinning the state’s feral pig population by similar means.  A decade before champions and opponents of slavery’s expansion into Kansas fought the infamous prelude to the American Civil War known as Bleeding Kansas, the slaveholding United States fought free Mexico in a two year war leading to the annexation of one third of Mexico’s territory into the United States.   Some cultural imperialists justified the War principally by invocations of Manifest Destiny and articulated arguments that allegedly stronger races were destined to conquer allegedly weaker ones.   But for President James K. Polk and then Congressman Abraham Lincoln, at least as a matter of public discussion, the war’s justice or injustice hinged  not on the politics of race, but on decidedly U.N. Charter-era considerations that today would be cast in terms of illegal aggression and lawful self-defense.  In his speech in the United States House of Representatives on January 12, 1848, Lincoln characterized his dispute with Polk as follows: "The President [Polk], in his first war message of May, 1846, declares that the soil was ours on which hostilities were commenced by Mexico, and he repeats that declaration almost in the same language in each successive annual message, thus showing that he deems that point a highly essential one. In the importance of that point I entirely agree with the President. To my judgment it is the very point upon which he should be justified, or condemned.”

Lincoln and other war skeptics took it for granted that only self-defense could justify collective violence.

  Alleged animal attributes or racial inferiority did not figure in his calculus. Looking back on the Mexican War in his post-presidential Memoirs in 1885, Ulysses Grant offered a similar assessment.  By the standard that aggression was illegal and that only self-defense could justify violence, Grant measured the U.S. decision to wage war against Mexico in the balance, and found it wanting:  “[T]o this day [I] regard the war . . . as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory. . . . The occupation, separation and annexation were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union."

The first generations of G.O.P. leaders had a far sounder understanding of basic principles underlying the illegality of collective and individual killing than the leader of the Kansas Republican Caucus does today.  Lincoln and Grant’s Whig forbear Daniel Webster spelled out these fundamental principles memorably in the context of the Caroline Dispute from 1838-42, and Webster’s insistence that defensive force was justified only when necessary and proportionate to repulse an existing or imminent attack accurately represents both municipal and international law to this day.  Virgil Peck would have done well to internalize the basic maxims understood so clearly by Grant, Lincoln, and Webster and to disown forever the politics of racist incitement.   The fact that Peck has so far not resigned his position and his seat is troubling, for it signals to the world that a man willing to endorse profound evil can ascend to high office in the United States.   From this writer’s perspective, the fact that the people of Kansas and of the United States have not been adamant in demanding his resignation is more troubling still.

Posted by Bill Merkel on June 6, 2011 at 08:44 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Criminal Law, Culture, International Law, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Of Feral Pigs, Communist Pigs, and Incitement to Genocide

Yesterday’s Lawrence (Kansas) Journal World featured a front page spread commemorating ten noteworthy and/or outrageous developments in the just concluded Kansas legislative session.  Coming in near the top of the list were remarks made by state representative Virgil Peck, who suggested back in March that shooting feral hogs might serve as a useful model for addressing a perceived problem of illegal immigration to the state.   Peck’s comments are disturbing on any number of levels, not least because their surreality and shock value; nonetheless, they have generated little national reflection about the central role of animal metaphors (particularly pig-centered metaphors) in propaganda and incitement to genocide.  In context, Peck’s remarks are stranger still, as the program he endorsed as a suitable model for immigration culls involved the Palinesque prospect of machine gunning feral hogs from helicopters. 

Peck’s precise language -- “It looks to me that if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works maybe we have found a problem to our illegal immigration problem” -- becomes truly gut-wrenching when one realizes that he obviously meant to use the freighted term “solution” in place of his first invocation of “problem.”   Wrestling seriously with genocide, crimes against humanity, and incitement as offenses that have been and can be perpetrated by Americans as well as alien peoples may not particularly burden the national attention span, but shooting feral pigs on grounds of racial purity has, it seems, become a minor obsession in a least some quarters of the country.  A few weeks ago I stumbled across a documentary (mockumentary?) on the Discovery Channel titled something like “Pig Bomb” and “Russian Boars” exploring the alleged explosion of the wild hog population in the Southeast.   The thesis of the show was that American farm pigs and their feral prodigy are well meaning and seldom uppity, but that in recent decades giant immigrant wild pigs from Russia and Ukraine have infested the native American population and made it dangerous by cross-breeding.   I suspect the show was meant to be taken seriously, but it might as well have been a Canadian or European spoof of overblown American xenophobia and anti-communism.  

Peck’s remarks tap into a long vein of nationalist discourse about the dangers of foreign pigs and commie pigs.   A half-hearted apology issued under pressure a day later does not dispel my sense that Peck is no mere unconscious racist (to borrow Charles Lawrence’s phrase).  When challenged on the obvious racist valance of his remarks, Peck was hardly in a position to feign outrage as Newt Gingrich recently did when called to account for labeling Barack Obama the Food Stamp President.   Peck’s approach is naked, direct, and dehumanizing.   It is the approach of Joseph Goebbels and Radio Mille Collines.  It is incitement to genocide.   The Rome Statute treats incitement purely as a modality of genocide, a means of attributing liability after the crime of genocide is completed.   The Genocide Convention, more soundly in my view, treats incitement as an independent offense that can be completed absent any actual killing.   Peck’s commentary goes well beyond group libel.   It is criminal and should be of grave concern to thinking citizens of the United States and the world.

Posted by Bill Merkel on June 2, 2011 at 03:53 PM in Criminal Law, Culture, Current Affairs, First Amendment, International Law | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Leo Strauss Tapes

I've blogged here before about my book project on Leo Strauss's ideas on war, peace, and law.  One of the steps forward in this project came when the literary executor of Strauss provided me with a transcript of Strauss's course on Hugo Grotius's Rights of War and Peace.   Strauss's lectures confirmed my view, based especially on a reading of his Thucydides essay, that he took international law very seriously.  

Now many of Strauss's courses and seminars are being made available on the website of the Leo Strauss Center at the University of Chicago.   A common misunderstanding of Strauss, based upon an inadequate reading of his idea of esoteric/exoteric teaching is that Strauss reserved the blunt expression of the inner meaning of his thought for oral instruction of disciples (often suspected to be a militantly anti-liberal ubermensch type philosophy).   In my first published work on Strauss, "Between the Lines," which appeared in Philosophy and Rhetoric over a decade ago, I sought to correct this misunderstanding through an interpretation of Strauss's introductory essay in Persecution and the Art of Writing, arguing that for Strauss writings are more authoritative articulations of philosophical truth than oral teachings.

Well, now it is possible to listen to a wide variety of Strauss's classes, and while I've only started to mine the tapes, those seeking to present Strauss as teacher of would-be tyrants (or at least Wolfowitzs) will have a lot to answer for. 

Strauss's manner of teaching is modest, straightforward, preoccupied by trying to understand for himself, and communicate his understanding to the students.  He is frequently tentative, often corrects himself, and allows himself to be corrected and improved by comments of the students.  He is probing and provocative in his confrontations with the texts he analyses but he is never preachy or polemical.  To borrow from Marx's famous line, one comes away from listening to these classes with the clear impression that Strauss was teaching students to interpret the world, not to change it (except perhaps only very indirectly, through thinking and arguing about the basic problems of the human condition). 

This isn't surprising to me, however, given Strauss's own written account of his ideal of  pedagogy:  "Always assume there is one silent student in your class who is by far superior to you in head and in heart....[D]o not have too high an opinion of your importance, and have the highest opinion of your duty, your responsibility."  These are words that I've tried to have in my head every time I've entered the class room for the last 20 years.   

The tapes can be found here. I know that there are some conspiracy theorists who will not be satisfied-maybe Strauss was prepping the neocons in midnight seances with the tape recorder shut off, or in office hours?  Also, those who hope that listening to these classes is a shortcut to grappling with the immense complexity of Strauss's written engagements with thinkers such as Machiavelli and Maimonides will probably be disappointed.   But there is much here of genuine philosophical value.  And all but the most close-minded will come away with a clearer portrait of the kind of teacher and human being that Strauss was. 

Finally, the Strauss Center is running a conference on April 22 and 23 to celebrate this project, focusing on Strauss as a teacher.  The link, with registration information is here.








Posted by Rob Howse on February 25, 2011 at 01:09 PM in Culture, International Law | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Rule of Law Trampled on the Red Carpet

Director Roman Polanski in France on the set of the 1979 film Tess, following his arrest and flight from U.S. authorities. (Promotional photo from Columbia Pictures)

Roman Polanski has just been freed by Swiss authorities who were detaining him under house arrest. Switzerland decided against extraditing Polanski to California, where the Oscar-winning film director has been wanted since 1978 after he drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13-year-old girl.

Several pundits and a slew of Hollywood glitterati who are friends or wannabe-friends of Polanski have decried his arrest and continuing status as a fugitive.

They point out mitigating circumstances: Polanski lived through the Holocaust, with his father surviving Mauthausen and his mother perishing in Auschwitz. Then in 1969, Polanski's pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by Charles Manson's followers.

Does Polanski's tragedy-filled life mean we should show him leniency? I don't think so. I think he should spend the rest of his life in prison. But that's not my point here. What saddens me is the contemptuous regard for the rule of law that's been put on display by this debacle.

Arguing for clemency for Polanski is, in my opinion, deeply wrongheaded. But such a position is not beyond all bounds of decency. What is outrageous – actually morally bankrupt – is for people to defend Polanski yet not speak up on behalf of other sexual predators.

It is common that violent and sexual offenders have suffered abuse in their pasts. Many offenders endured lives of utter horror and ceaseless despair before committing the crimes that put them behind bars. If Polanski deserves empathy, why not them? Where are the throngs of adoring celebrities – who gave the absent Polanski a standing ovation at the 2003 Academy Awards – to advocate for pedophile rapists who are poor, unsuccessful, and bereft of artistic talent or handsome charm? 

Our courthouse statuary upholds blind justice as the ultimate virtue. But oh-so many people do not. For the blithe cowards stumping for Polanski, it is natural and right-feeling to balance the scales of justice with eyes wide open. And that's a deep shame.

Posted by Eric E. Johnson on July 14, 2010 at 05:56 PM in Criminal Law, Current Affairs, Film, International Law, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Monday, July 05, 2010

History of U.S. Executive Policy Since WWII

My first post focused on the most recent Nazi-looted art appeal in the United States, which was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  To put this appeal into context, an analysis of federal court cases adjudicating Nazi-looted art claims since 2004 demonstrates a de facto presumption against the legitimacy of these claims.  I will lay out a summary of the other cases in question in my next (third) post. 

This post will focus on the history of U.S. executive policy.  Dismissing such claims without reference to the complex historical factors delaying assertion of owners’ claims violates foreign policy goals pursued by the United States and the Allies during and immediately after World War II, and in recent diplomatic breakthroughs in 1998, 2000, and 2009.  This executive policy is the subject of this post.  Historical context dating back to 1933 will be provided in my fourth post. 

In the normal course of judicial administration touching on foreign policy, federal judges typically defer to determinations of policy matters by the executive branch.  For example, in 1949 this Court ruled inadmissible the statements of a Jewish victim of Nazi persecution describing his brutal imprisonment by the Nazis that led him to “transfer” major assets under duress, on the ground that to do so would denigrate a foreign country.  Bernstein v. N. V. Nederlansche-Amerikaansche Stoomvaart-Maatschappij, 173 F.2d 71 (2d Cir. 1949).  In 1952, however, as will be familiar to any international law professor, Jack B. Tate, Acting Legal Advisor in the Department of State, clarified:


[The U.S.] Government’s opposition to forcible acts of dispossession of a discriminatory and confiscatory nature practiced by the Germans on the countries or peoples subject to their controls . . . [and] the policy of the Executive, with respect to claims asserted in the United States for restitution of such property, is to relieve American courts from any restraint upon the exercise of their jurisdiction to pass upon the validity of the acts of Nazi officials.  

26 Dept. St. Bull. 984-85 (1952) (the “Tate letter”).  Once the Second Court was fully informed of the government’s views of coerced “transactions” during the Nazi era in Germany, it promptly reversed its previous ruling in the same case.   Bernstein v. N.V. Nederlansche-Amerikaansche Stoomvaart-Maatschappij, 210 F.2d 375, 376 (2d Cir. 1954).


U.S. diplomats led efforts to warn other countries against looting in the landmark London Declaration of January 5, 1943, 8 Dept. St. Bull. 21 (1952), which “declare[d] invalid any [coerced] transfers of, or dealings with, property . . . whether such transfers or dealings have taken the form of open looting or plunder, or of transactions apparently legal in form, even when they purport to be voluntarily effected.”  Immediately after the war, the Nuremberg Tribunal evaluated detailed evidence of coerced sales, and the plunder of art was declared a war crime and is so recognized today.  At Nuremberg, it was perfectly clear to the fact finders who had done what and to whom.  For example, Alfred Rosenberg, head of infamous Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (“ERR”) art looting unit, was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. 

Shortly thereafter in Bonn and Vienna it was equally clear that, in order to rejoin the human family, Germany and Austria had to repudiate all spurious “transactions” of the entire Nazi era, including art “deals” that were really seizures.  E.g., Restitution of Identifiable Property; Law No. 59, 12 Fed. Reg. 7983 (Nov. 29, 1947) (Military Government Law 59).  Thus, the model chosen was a restitution model for individual claims, and these claims were not subsumed in reparations paid after the war, which were limited as we made room for the Marshall Plan.

Current foreign policy requires deference like this Court gave to the Tate letter.  Diplomats from the State Department, particularly Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, played a leading role in securing public commitment by the forty-four nations that adopted the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art and the Terezín Declaration, which emerged from the international conference hosted by the Czech Republic in June 2009.  These declarations call for effective, fact-based resolution of Nazi-looted art claims.  Principle eleven of the Washington Principles encourages nations “to develop national processes to implement these principles, particularly as they relate to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for resolving ownership issues.”  The Terezín Declaration states in its principles under the heading “Nazi-Confiscated and Looted Art”:

3. . . . [W]e urge all stakeholders to ensure that their legal systems or alternative processes . . . facilitate just and fair solutions with regard to Nazi-confiscated and looted art, and to make certain that claims to recover such art are resolved expeditiously and based on the facts and merits of the claims and all the relevant documents submitted by all parties. Governments should consider all relevant issues when applying various legal provisions that may impede the restitution of art and cultural property, in order to achieve just and fair solutions, as well as alternative dispute resolution, where appropriate under law.  (Emphasis added)


To give credit when due, this development in foreign policy was sparked in no small measure by Guidelines issued by the Association of American Museum Directors (“AAMD”) in June 1998.  Thus, it is quite shocking that U.S. museums are asserting statute of limitations and laches defenses, often as plaintiffs, and distorting the historical record and law in the process.  

  My next post will lay out the progression of cases since the 2004 Altmann victory in the United States Supreme Court and subsequent restitution of the Gustav Klimt Adele Bloch-Buaer II, a portrait of a relative of the claimant formerly known as Austria’s Mona Lisa.  This progression shows that federal courts do not seem to be giving Nazi-looted art cases the fair assessment they deserve. 

Posted by Jen Kreder on July 5, 2010 at 10:15 AM in Civil Procedure, Culture, International Law, Property, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Civil Law and the Law School Curriculum

Last week, I attended a meeting of Pacific McGeorge's International Board of Advisors.  This group includes a number of judges and lawyers based outside the U.S.  During one of the meetings, the discussion turned to the degree to which U.S. law schools provide students with exposure to Civil Law legal systems. It occurred to me that, unless a students registers for an international or comparative law course, that grounding might not occur.

After the meeting, I looked around for some short, well-written resources geared for those familiar with the common law.  I found this resource, A Primer on the Civil Law System, by James G. Apple and Robert P. Deyling, on the Federal Judicial Center's website.  It's an interesting read.  I particularly like the material in the Appendices, which provide a nice contrast between the French and German Civil Law systems.  

Posted by Amy Landers on May 26, 2010 at 05:17 AM in International Law | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Geographic Reach of Federal Law...

Last week, I blogged about an amicus brief that Max Huffman and I are about to file.  The amicus brief involves the issue of how courts should approach questions of legislative jurisdiction and the extraterritorial reach of federal laws (post here).  I thought I would continue the conversation about extraterritoriality and note three excellent articles that were recently posted on SSRN.  Jeff Meyer of Quinnipiac wrote the first article.  Chimene Keitner at UC Hastings wrote the second.  Anthony Colangelo of SMU  wrote the third.

The issue of when U.S. laws reach conduct outside U.S. borders and the role territoriality should play in law remains a hot topic. The question of extraterritoriality has arisen in a number of recent high-profile cases.  In December, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted certiorari in a "foreign-cubed" securities class action. Foreign-cubed securities actions are lawsuits that foreign plaintiffs file against foreign defendants, alleging fraud in connection with the sale or purchase of shares in foreign markets. They are, to say the least, highly contentious. Extraterritoriality arises in other contexts too: the extent to which the U.S. Constitution applies outside U.S. borders has also become a key point of discussion in terrorism cases.  Extraterritoriality also remains a hot topic among international law professors.  Last year, when Kal Raustiala's influential book on territoriality was published, there was a wave of commentary, including a week long discussion of the topic on Opinio Juris.  IntLawGrrls -- another influential international law blog -- has had a number of interesting posts on extraterritoriality too.

With this backdrop, three excellent articles were recently posted on SSRN.  If you're interested in the topic of extraterritoriality, they are well worth reading....

The first article is by Jeffrey Meyer of Quinnipiac.  His article -- Dual Illegality and Geoambiguous Law: A New Rule for Extraterritorial Application of U.S. Law -- was posted last Friday on SSRN here.  The article is well-written and nicely sets out the debates on how to interpret the geographic reach of U.S. law. Here's the abstract:  

Scores of federal criminal and civil statutes are “geoambiguous” - they do not say whether they apply to conduct that takes place in foreign countries. This is a vital concern in an age of exploding globalization. The Supreme Court regularly recites a “presumption against extraterritoriality” but just as often overlooks it and opts to apply geoambiguous law abroad. The Court’s inconsistency bespeaks a deep divide among scholars. Judicial unilateralists favor liberally imposing U.S. law abroad to respond to unwanted effects from foreign conduct. Judicial territorialists favor restraint and a return to traditional territoriality to avoid international conflict. And judicial interests-balancers favor multi-factored, case-by-case consideration of whether it is “reasonable” to apply geoambiguous law abroad.

This Article advances a new approach - a proposed rule of “dual illegality” to govern how courts apply geoambiguous laws. Under a dual illegality rule, U.S. courts should decline to apply geoambiguous laws to penalize or regulate conduct that occurs in the territory of a foreign state unless the same conduct is also illegal or similarly regulated by the law of the foreign territorial state. A similar rule of dual illegality has worked for many decades as a limitation in countless criminal extradition treaties. A dual illegality rule would revitalize traditional territoriality values as a limiting principle on U.S. assertion of its law abroad, while also allowing extraterritoriality when there is the least likelihood of provoking political dispute. The response to greater globalization should be less jurisdictional contestability and more reliance on rules that do not invite judges - as the rules wrongly do now - to engage in policy-like assessments of the needs or interests of the United States in having its law applied to activity abroad. Courts should apply a dual illegality rule to decide the scope of geoambiguous law.

John Knox of Wake Forest has a recent article in a similar vein, which is likewise excellent. The article  -- Extraterritoriality and Its Discontents: Limiting the Reach of U.S. Law - can be found here.  

The second article -- Rights Beyond Borders -- was written by Chimene Keitner from UC Hastings. Although originally posted a year ago, a new revised version was posted on SSRN just last week and can be found here.  Chimene's article focuses on the when constitutional rights apply in the context of detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects.  Here's the abstract:

Burgeoning scholarly interest in comparative constitutional law, transnational criminal law, and national security law has generated surprisingly little synthesis among these fields. The central question of whether, and when, a country’s domestic rights regime constrains government action beyond national borders has largely escaped comparative analysis. This Article addresses this gap by developing a conceptual framework for thinking about the extraterritorial application of domestic rights provisions, with a focus on cases arising from the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects. Part I identifies three modes of reasoning about rights beyond borders, which I label country, compact, and conscience. Country-based reasoning takes a strictly territorial approach to regulating the government’s action outside the national territory, even vis-à-vis its own citizens. Compact-based reasoning focuses on the entitlement of a given individual to assert rights against the government based on his or her citizenship and/or presence within the national territory. Conscience-based reasoning focuses on the government’s limited mandate to act solely in accordance with a prescribed set of national values in all locations and circumstances. Part II examines the evolving jurisprudence of extraterritorial rights in three common law jurisdictions in light of these models: the United States under the U.S. Constitution, Canada under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the United Kingdom under the U.K. Human Rights Act. These three categories (country, compact, and conscience) provide a vocabulary for describing how domestic courts reason about the extraterritorial application of domestic rights in particular circumstances. They can also help us think more systematically about how courts and other actors should reason about rights beyond borders, as governments bring their coercive power to bear on individuals in a variety of extraterritorial circumstances.

The last article --  The Foreign Commerce Clause -- was written by Anthony Colangelo and will soon appear in the Virginia Law Review.  Here's the abstract:

This Article is the first major scholarly work to comprehensively address Congress’s powers under the Constitution’s Foreign Commerce Clause. Congress has increasingly used the Clause to pass laws of unprecedented and aggressive reach over both domestic and foreign activity. Yet despite the Clause’s mounting significance for modern U.S. regulatory regimes at home and abroad, it remains an incredibly under-analyzed source of constitutional power. Moreover, faced with an increasing number of challenges under the Clause lower courts have been unable to coherently articulate the contours of Congress’s power. When courts have tried, their efforts have largely been wrong. The Article explains why they have been wrong and offers a doctrinally and conceptually sound approach to the Clause based on the text, structure and history of the Constitution. It also engages broader legal and policy questions triggered by the Clause. As I show, the Clause is crucial to how Congress constitutionally may project U.S. law around the world.

The Article advances two key limits on Congress’s foreign commerce power and reformats the Supreme Court’s three-category commerce framework for the Clause in light of these limits. The first is the nexus requirement, which derives from the Constitution’s grant of power only to regulate commerce “with foreign Nations,” not a general, global power to regulate commerce “among foreign Nations.” Foreign commerce that is the subject of federal regulation therefore not only must be “with” foreign nations, but also “with” the United States. That is, there must be a U.S. nexus. The second limit I refer to as the foreign sovereignty concern. It holds that Congress has no more power and, in some contexts, has less power to regulate inside foreign nations under the Foreign Commerce Clause than it has inside the several U.S. states under the Interstate Commerce Clause. For example, Congress cannot create comprehensive global regulatory schemes over international markets or prevent races to the bottom among the world’s nations the same way it can create comprehensive national regulatory schemes over domestic markets and prevent races to the bottom among the states. Because Congress lacks primary authority to create such global schemes, it cannot claim a derivative authority to reach local foreign conduct that threatens to undercut those schemes the same way it can reach local intrastate conduct in order to effectuate regulation “among the several States.”

All three are well written and worth reading.

Posted by Austen Parrish on March 18, 2010 at 01:09 AM in International Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack