The 200-Mile Limit: Between Creeping Jurisdiction and Creeping Common Heritage? Some Law of the Sea Considerations from Professor Louis Sohn's Former Ll.M. Student

By Franckx, Erik | The George Washington International Law Review, May 30, 2007 | Go to article overview

The 200-Mile Limit: Between Creeping Jurisdiction and Creeping Common Heritage? Some Law of the Sea Considerations from Professor Louis Sohn's Former Ll.M. Student


Franckx, Erik, The George Washington International Law Review


I. INTRODUCTION

It is for me a great privilege to have been invited to participate in this Symposium in remembrance of Louis B. Sohn. This kind invitation by the organizers of this prestigious event can, I believe, be explained in at least two ways. First of all, I happened to be Louis's LL.M. student at the University of Georgia during the 1982-1983 academic year. I did not only attend his Law of the Sea course. Louis was also the promoter of my LL.M. thesis on a law of the sea issue comparing the positions of the United States and the former Soviet Union on a few selected topics.1 This latter capacity allowed me to make use of his private library, located right next to his office, where a wealth of information could be found. Besides books and certain journal issues, this library also contained personal notes of Louis, many of which concerned the law of the sea. For a European post-graduate law student this felt like striking gold. If the main and law libraries of the University of Georgia could already be qualified as exceptionally rich in content when compared to the average European university library standard, having access to this additional source of information was simply fabulous. One could spend as much time inside this wonderland as one wished. There was only one caveat: under no condition was any item to leave the room. Even heaven thus seemed to have its own prohibitive rules.

I remember Louis as a very dedicated scholar possessing an incredible active knowledge of international law in general, and law of the sea, in particular. Students writing papers under his guidance were to report at regular intervals on the progress they were making. I will never forget my first such meeting with Louis. Having turned all the above-mentioned libraries upside down on a very specific and limited law of the sea topic, I believed to have drawn the full picture in preparation for that meeting. But Louis would simply, on the spot, indicate that this and that international case were still missing, or that I had overlooked that particular author whose opinion on the issue in question was of quintessential importance to correctly understand the issue involved. In short, a chapter that I had thought almost to be finished needed to be redrafted all over again. At a time that word processing applications had not yet reached the average student's desk, this turned out to be a rather hard fact of life. As a teacher and promoter, Louis was also always available to his students. That is to say, to be perfectly honest-almost all of the time. I say "almost" because once I dropped into his office when I was heading for his Law of the Sea lecture. Though by then the image of a charming and friendly man-be it a very demanding one as I had found outhad firmly crystallized in my mind, I was thunderstruck when he told me it was improper timing for me to come running into his office. "Can't you see I am preparing for class?" he rhetorically queried. When I left the room I was totally puzzled by these words. I really had no clue why a man of his posture still needed to prepare for class. But, now that I have been in the teaching business for more than fifteen years myself, I have fully come to understand exacdy how precious those five last minutes before class really are.

The second reason which springs to mind in order to explain my presence here at this Symposium, is that Louis received a doctor honoris causa from the Law Faculty of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel on March 23, 1990. I had just obtained my Ph.D.2 from that University and started teaching there. I, therefore, had the privilege on that occasion of participating in a conference hosted by the Center for International Law in honor of Louis' presence at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel on the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.3

Louis most certainly had a fundamental influence on my career, as my interest in the law of the sea has since only grown. …

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