Resolving Conflicting Legal Norms Between US and Foreign Courts: UVA Symposium

If you happen to be around Charlottesville tomorrow, Friday, February 10, you might want to come over to a symposium on how to resolve conflicting legal norms in US and foreign courts:


The conference – organized by the student-run Virginia Journal of International Law and the John Bassett Moore Society of International Law – will explore how to resolve conflicting legal norms found in the United States and abroad, particularly as domestic laws extend their reach beyond countries’ borders. “Although domestic and foreign legal norms have always interacted, the particular issues that will be addressed during our 2012 symposium have yet to be given significant attention in legal scholarship,” said third-year law student Zach Torres-Fowler, managing editor of the Virginia Journal of International Law.


The keynote speaker for the conference will be the Honorable Harold Koh, Legal Adviser to the State Department, speaking at 9 am Friday; and the day’s panels feature many leading professors.  If the sponsors post up podcasts or video, I’ll come back and link to it later, but I believe papers from the conference will be published by the Virginia Journal of International Law.  The topic has always been around, but is an increasingly important one – conflicts of norms and how courts around the world should resolve them.  Leaving aside the much discussed question of constitutional norms and foreign courts, the whole body of “ordinary” law presents many conflicts questions in novel areas.

For example, the Second Circuit ruled against Chevron in its on-going dispute with Ecuadorian plaintiffs, and the US court talked about “comity” and respect for other legal systems in its opinion.  In other cases, on the other hand, many involving the Alien Tort Statute (which, as my earlier post noted, will be revisited by the Supreme Court), US courts essentially ignore local courts or courts that plainly have a closer nexus of jurisdiction in favor of jurisdiction of US courts found under the ATS.  As the amicus filings of Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands indicate in the Kiobel case – revisiting the ATS in the Supreme Court this term – this creates considerable friction with other states.  But there are many other situations that weren’t really seen in earlier periods – libel tourism, for example, and the clash of free expression and libel norms between the US and the UK.  So although the topic of conflict of legal norms appears quite abstract, it actually takes up some of the most pressing issues among court systems of the world.

I’ll be moderating one of the panels – and I had better get on the road down to C’ville.  Hope to see you there!

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