Dedication of the Eric E. Hotung International Law Center Building: Keynote Address

By O'Connor, Sandra Day | Georgetown Journal of International Law, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Dedication of the Eric E. Hotung International Law Center Building: Keynote Address


O'Connor, Sandra Day, Georgetown Journal of International Law


This is a very happy occasion indeed. And I'm glad that as a neighbor I was invited to come over and share this day with you. Georgetown University Law Center is our nation's largest law school. It is consolidating its broad international law programs under one roof in the new Eric E. Hotung International Law building. This law school, which is located in our nation's capital, already has one of the most comprehensive international and comparative law programs in the world. It has at least twenty-two talented faculty members focused on these areas. Students from at least seventy-one countries are enrolled here in the international programs. Alumni of this law school live all across the globe, and the law school is already home to many diverse programs in the international area. In short, Georgetown University Law Center is now situated to be the leading global law center in this country and perhaps in the world. No wonder this is a special day.

International law has emerged in ways that affect all courts here and abroad. The reason is globalization. Its importance should not be underestimated. Thirty percent or more of our gross domestic product is internationally derived. We operate today under a very large array of international agreements, treaties, and organizations: the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the World Trade Organization, the Hague Conventions on Collection of Evidence Abroad and on Service of Process, and the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, to mention only a very few. But globalization is much more than just these agreements and these organizations. Globalization also represents a greater awareness of and access to peoples and places far different from our own. The fates of nations are more closely intertwined than ever before, and we are more acutely aware of the connections. As we learned in this country on September 11, 2001, these connections can sometimes be devastating rather than constructive. But as we are also learning in the post-September 11 world, the power of international cooperation and international understanding is much greater than the obstacles we face.

The term "international law" is used loosely to describe different things. It includes public international law, that is, the law regulating the intercourse of nations. It also includes private international law, the laws and choice of law rules governing cross-border activities of individuals, corporations, and other entities. And the study of international law deals with other activities and regulations such as domestic statutes with extraterritorial application, cross-border coordination of regulatory schemes, the recognition of foreign judgments, and the treatment of aliens by our own and other countries.

Finally, under our Constitution, treaties made by our country constitute part of the supreme law of our land. International law stemming from these various sources is at least a concern for the lawyer counseling her client on issues ranging from commerce to the environment, family law, human rights, immigration and intellectual property. International law is no longer an issue only for diplomats and trade lawyers. With increasing globalization, international law affects business and litigation decisions across the board. And lawyers in their role as counselors must recognize potential international law issues even when they show up in unexpected contexts.

Last term, by way of example, our Supreme Court decided six cases presenting international law issues. The cases we resolved included interpretation of a treaty, the Warsaw Convention on Air Travel and Transport. We also interpreted United States statutes touching on international law issues, such as the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvement Act, the federal statute authorizing discovery in aid of foreign proceedings, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and the Federal Tort Claims Act. …

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