NAJC Report, Keynote and Related Material

NAJC report cover

Now available for download:

Complete report of the NAJC [PDF]


Louise Arbour, former Supreme Court Justice of Canada, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Read a transcript of the keynote

See a video of the speech

Related material:

"Judicial Globalization" - What Impact in Canada? [PDF] (October 2009) by colloquium participant Madam Justice Kathryn Neilson of the British Columbia Court of Appeal

Colloquium Examines International Law and Domestic Courts


John Hedigan, a judge on the High Court of Ireland, formerly of the European Court of Human Rights, and Anita Usacka, a judge on the International Criminal Court

November 12, 2008


A panel of U.S., Canadian, and international judges weighed the influence of international law on domestic courts during the North American Judicial Colloquium, held at Brandeis on November 6-8.

Called “What Can International and Domestic Judges Learn from One Another?” the colloquium hosted eight judges from the U.S., seven from Canada, and three from international courts. The domestic judges represented a combination of federal, U.S. state, and Canadian provincial courts. They came from as far as British Columbia, Manitoba, and Alabama. The international judges represented the Caribbean Court of Justice (Trinidad), the European Court of Human Rights (Strasbourg), and the International Criminal Court (The Hague). See the complete list of participants below.

As one judge noted, the event focused on “the way that the internationalization of the judiciary can affect us all in our work.” In six panel sessions, participants covered issues such as how international law was enshrined in the South African Constitution and how domestic courts have considered international environmental and human rights law.

They also discussed the impact of specific cases on international law, such as Medellin v. Texas, a U.S. Supreme Court death penalty case concerning the rights of foreign nationals to consult with consular officials. In addition, the colloquium outlined the process of selecting judges for both domestic and international courts and offered guidance on electronic legal research tools for international law.

In the sessions, judges noted the reluctance of some countries, in particular the United States, to cite foreign or international law in court decisions. One participant said that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia criticized judges for “cherry picking” international law in order to support their decisions. Another participant said that some lawyers fear citing international law because they may be seen as not having relevant domestic law to support their cases. But that concern is diminishing in a globalized world, the judge added.

Indeed, participants also noted an increasing support for applying international law in a domestic context. One judge cited a conference that educated judges in the Caribbean region on issues of international laws and treaties. Another participant noted that international tribunals may draw on how judges act at the domestic level. Participants agreed that domestic and international courts are increasingly interdependent.

“As the rule of law expands throughout the world, dialogues like this will be more common,” said one participant.

The North American Judicial Colloquium followed two West African Judicial Colloquia, the first held in Dakar, Senegal, in January 2006, and the second held in Accra, Ghana, in October 2007. The aims of the Brandeis Judicial Colloquia are to foster an exchange of experience and expertise between judges in national judiciaries and those on international courts, and to establish an ongoing dialogue on fundamental issues that affect them both.

The North American Judicial Colloquium was funded by the JEHT Foundation and the David Berg Foundation.

Colloquium Participants

United States Judges

  • Raymond Dearie, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
  • Fernande Duffly, Massachusetts Appeals Court
  • Elizabeth Fahey, Massachusetts Superior Court
  • Ramona Garrett, Solano County Superior Court, California
  • Phillip Rapoza, Massachusetts Appeals Court
  • Cathy Hollenberg Serrette, 7th Judicial Circuit of Maryland
  • Scott Vowell, 10th Judicial Circuit of Alabama
  • Mark Wolf, U.S. District Court of the District of Massachusetts

Canadian Judges

  • Shawn Greenberg, Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba
  • Thea Herman, Superior Court of Justice of Ontario
  • Kathryn Neilson, British Columbia Court of Appeal
  • James O’Reilly, Federal Court of Canada
  • Brian Riordan, Cour Supérieure du Québec
  • Marc Rosenberg, Court of Appeal for Ontario
  • Lynn Smith, Supreme Court of British Columbia
International Judges
  • Desiree Bernard, Caribbean Court of Justice
  • John Hedigan, High Court of Ireland, former Judge of the European Court of Human Rights
  • Anita Usacka, International Criminal Court

Keynote Speaker

  • Louise Arbour, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, former Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY and the ICTR, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


  • Jutta Brunnée, Professor of Law & Metcalf Chair in Environmental Law, Acting Associate Dean of Law (Graduate), Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
  • Martha Davis, Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law
  • Sharon Fray-Witzer, Lecturer in Philosophy, Legal Studies Department, Brandeis University
  • Richard Gaskins, Proskauer Chair in Law and Social Welfare, Brandeis University
  • Richard Goldstone, Learned Hand Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, former Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa
  • Scott Lyons, Deputy Director of Programs, American Society of International Law
  • Andrew Solomon, Director of Programs, American Society of International Law
  • Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society, International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life, Brandeis University


  • Stephanie Cartier, Adjunct Professor, Fordham University

Fernande Duffly, a judge on the Massachusetts Appeals Court (left) and Thea Herman of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario