New York, March 4, 2014—Justices from the U.S. Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) joined Columbia Law School faculty members and other legal scholars to discuss issues faced by the respective legal systems at a high-level judicial gathering in Luxembourg in mid-February.
The summit, held February 9-12, was the first full, official session of the Luxembourg Forum, which was established in 2012 to facilitate dialogue and increase mutual understanding between the two judicial systems at a time of increased globalization. Luxembourg is home to the 28-member ECJ, the European Union’s highest court.
Six academics participated in the forum, including Columbia Law School professors Sarah H. Cleveland and George A. Bermann and Visiting Professor Harold Hongju Koh. Five U.S. Supreme Court justices—Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., associate justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr., and retired associate justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who left the Court in 2006—flew to Europe to take part in the discussions. They were joined by their European Court of Justice counterparts, including President Vassilios Skouris and Vice President Koen Lenaerts. Robert Mandell, the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, who helped organize the gathering, was also in attendance.
Bermann, the Jean Monnet professor of EU law and Walter Gellhorn Professor of Law, served as head of the academic group at the forum. In addition to Cleveland, Bermann, and Koh, the former legal advisor at the U.S. Department of State, Gráinne de Búrca of New York University School of Law, Daniel Halberstam of The University of Michigan Law School, and John Attanasio of SMU Dedman School of Law participated in the talks.
Pictured, left to right: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Professor George Bermann, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Chief Justice John Roberts, Professor Daniel Halberstam (Michigan Law), Prof. Gráinne de Búrca (NYU Law), Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg '59, Prof. Sarah Cleveland, Professor Harold Koh, and Professor John Attanasio (Dedman School of Law) at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Luxembourg.
One topic of discussion was how U.S. courts approach issues between the states and the federal government compared with how the European courts handle disputes between the European Union and its member states. Other issues included standards of review and judicial discretion, and docket management and procedures.
In addition to the group discussions, EU justices heard Breyer speak about the U.S. legal system and the Supreme Court, and U.S. attendees were able to sit in on a case being argued before the ECJ. Before oral arguments, an ECJ judge gave forum participants a private presentation of the case and its implications for the development of EU law. After argument, the judge debriefed participants and answered their questions.
“This was an exercise in pure comparative law in action and in context,” Bermann said.
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