Since joining the faculty in 1969, “exactly that” has been the mission of Professor John J. Barceló, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of International and Comparative Law and Elizabeth and Arthur Reich Director of the Leo and Arvilla Berger International Legal Studies Program. As director of the Berger International Legal Studies Program, Barceló has been principally responsible for increasing classroom offerings in the field, scholarly publication, and universal recognition of Cornell Law School as among the world’s leading institutions for comparative legal study.
“I came to Cornell specifically because of the international program already in place, especially since the end of World War II, and [the Law School’s] dedication to expanding that program,” said Barceló, who is also founder of Cornell Law’s Summer Institute of International and Comparative Law at Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, and founder of dual degree programs that link Cornell with Paris I, with Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, and with Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
Barceló’s pan-European ancestry sparked his early attraction to international affairs: his eponymous surname is a historic one in Barcelona, capital of the autonomous Catalonia region of Spain, and on the island of Majorca in the Mediterranean Sea. He traces additional family lines to Italy, Germany, and Ireland. Further affecting his outlook, Barceló was born and raised in New Orleans, where Louisiana’s code civil des Français—commonly known as civil law, the world’s dominant legal system—departs from British-based common law practiced in the nation’s other forty-nine states.
“The French influence was something I was always conscious of,” said Barceló. At Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans, where he earned his J.D., “We studied law at the outset from a comparative perspective, and I found the study fascinating,” said Barceló, who went on to earn an S.J.D. degree (Doctor of Juridical Science) at Harvard Law School.
For Barceló, then, Paris was an inevitable site for the Summer Institute he created in 1994. Each July since, as many as a hundred students and dozens of Cornell Law professors have spent an intensive five weeks of study at the Sorbonne, culminating in a gala reception—held this year at the Cercle de l’Union Interalliée, the private dining club frequented by lawyers and business leaders, adjacent to the American, British, and Japanese embassies.
The highlight of this year’s Summer Institute was an address given by Cornell alumnus Sang-Hyun Song, J.S.D. ’70, the current president of the International Criminal Court at The Hague. On the evening prior to Song’s address—and lively question-answer session—Cornell alumnus Nicholas Vivien, LL.M. ’90, held a reception at his Paris law firm, Vivien & Associés.
Barceló, whose background in legal practice includes consultation service to the U.S. International Trade Administration (Commerce Department) and global arbitration under rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, sees three fundamental purposes for the Summer Institute:
Those purposes guide Cornell Law’s further offerings in international study—including the Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture; the Clarke Initiative for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa; the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice; the International Human Rights Clinic; the Labor Law Clinic; a broad selection of seminars, colloquiums, and courses, including Comparative Constitutional Law, East Asian and Chinese Law, Islamic Law and History, Cross-Border Trading, International Economic Law, Foreign Direct Investment, Immigration and Refugee Law, War Crimes Trials, Jurisprudence of War, and International Criminal Law; and the Post-Graduate Fellowship for International Judicial Service. In close cooperation with the Law School, the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations has recently established programs in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Hanoi, Vietnam.
Larry S. Bush, who came to Cornell in 1999 as executive director of the Clarke Center for International and Comparative Legal Studies, speaks of the campus atmosphere in Ithaca.
“It’s not possible to attend Cornell now and not be affected by the international life and opportunities here, even if your focus is domestic law,” said Bush, a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Bucharest, founder of England’s Cambridge Summer Session for Global Law Studies, and labor rights instructor at seminars and workshops in Romania, Serbia, and Thailand.
He added, “We genuinely understand and believe that to be a well-trained lawyer you have to be aware of the international scene.”
According to studies published by the International Monetary Fund, the African continent is the world’s fastest-growing economic region. As director of Cornell University’s Institute for African Development, it is Professor Muna B. Ndulo’s mission to prepare students for a future of American opportunities in a part of the world where the United States has taken a back seat to other countries.
“The U.S. is in a position to grow its own economy by investing in Africa,” said Ndulo, who has served in several United Nations posts, including ten years as legal officer for the UN Commission on International Trade Law prior to his joining the Cornell faculty in 1996.
He cited Cornell’s classroom and clinical offerings in foreign investment and business law, international criminal law and human rights, venture capital and micro-lending—along with internships at the African Development Bank and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda—as a comprehensive curriculum for preparing a new generation of lawyers to affect political and commercial progress in the nations of Africa.
He added, “At the moment China, India, and Brazil are the countries that have taken advantage of [African economic expansion]. China has beaten the U.S. because the U.S. is largely still locked into the old image of Africa as a continent full of conflict and disease. Africa is changing.”
Ndulo’s academic credentials in Africa—currently, he is honorary professor of law at the University of Cape Town; he served as dean of the University of Zambia School of Law from 1977 through 1982—redound to Cornell’s benefit. This fall, his institute brought Professor Sandra Liebenberg of South Africa’s Stellenbosch University to the Ithaca campus. She is a leading scholar in the areas of African human rights and economic justice. Last year’s guest was Justice Yvonne Mokgoro of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.
Perhaps Ndulo’s most newsworthy accomplishment this year was his work with Law School students in a clinic to draft a constitution for the world’s newest state—the Republic of South Sudan, which gained independence from the north on July 9 following Africa’s longest civil war, a conflict that began in 1956.
Globalization has given rise to the growing field of international labor law, which is part of the material covered by the Labor Law Clinic, directed by Professor Angela B. Cornell. There is a human dimension to international trade and trade agreements are increasingly including language that protects the fundamental rights of workers. Last spring the Clinic, in collaboration with ILR, sponsored a panel discussion at the law school on “Workers’ Rights Clauses in Trade Agreements and Investment Treaties: Recent Cases and Issues from Latin America and Asia.” Students in the Clinic have also worked on international labor law cases in Latin American and Asia. Last spring a student traveled to Costa Rica to do field research on a potential labor case under the U.S.-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement. Students have also investigated violations of fundamental workers’ rights in export processing zones in Honduras. Students in the clinic learn that “labor rights are just one dimension of the human rights paradigm.”
The work in Latin America dovetails nicely with Professor Cornell’s work in the region. She has trained judges and law professors on international labor law in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua and has spoken on related topics in Venezuela, Chile, and Brazil. She previously worked in Mexico and Peru.
In a collaborative project with the International Human Rights Clinic, students investigated sexual harassment in the garment industry in the export processing zone in Chennai, India. Three students worked on the project, which involved numerous worker interviews in India. The textile workers are primarily young women and sexual harassment is prevalent.
Among this year’s schedule of symposia in the field of international law was “Popular Justice: Beyond Judges and Juries,” a March 25 conference held at École Normale Supérieure in Paris, covering juridical issues in France, Germany, Austria, and India.
With the help of French colleagues, the event was organized by Cornell Law Professors Valerie Hans and Jeffrey J. Rachlinski, whose respective presentations were “The French Jury in Comparative Context” and “Judicial Decision Making.”
The university’s Scheinman Institute tapped Law School students to execute its two newest global initiatives: an international arbitration center in Dubai, in cooperation with corporate trade groups, and the first ever workplace arbitration training center for the government of Vietnam.
Rocco M. Scanza, the institute’s executive director, said the initiatives would provide Cornell-sponsored training in the “nuts and bolts” of arbitration and mediation for some thirty lawyers and labor relations specialists in each country—training that relies on manuals and other documents written by students, supervised by labor and employment law attorneys.
With the Law School’s Post-Graduate Fellowship for International Judicial Service now firmly in place since its inception in 2008, alumni may take clerk and intern positions at the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court (ICC), both at The Hague, the Israel Supreme Court in Jerusalem, and courts throughout Europe—including the Paris-based Conseil Constitutionnel and the Conseil d’État.
According to a fellowship report, three Cornell Law alumni have completed clerkships in Paris courts. They prepared bench memoranda on issues such as the French government’s controversial ban on Islamic face veils for women, Internet piracy, and the effects of European Union directives in Belgium, Spain, and Britain. The report concluded:
Alumni whose respective career paths take them into international legal practice at the foreign offices of U.S.-based law firms, or to positions with foreign law firms, businesses, judiciaries, or governments, will benefit directly from such exposure while lifting the reputation of the law school . . . [The] fellowship will indirectly promote the career of every Cornell-trained attorney whose practice includes joint representations, transactions, or other cooperative activities with foreign law firms.
Student organizations and publications focused on international law include:
Cornell International Law Journal
Published three times per year by a staff of seventy J.D. candidates and graduate law students, the Cornell International Law Journal was founded in 1967, making it one of the nation’s oldest such publications on global and comparative law.
Full articles written by scholars, practitioners, and government officials are accepted. Notes are authored by student editors. The journal also hosts an annual symposium, cosponsored with the Berger International Legal Studies Program, and publishes symposia proceedings.
International Moot Court Competitions
The Berger Program sends teams of students to moot court venues, including the Phillip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition; the Niagara Competition, open to U.S. and Canadian law campuses; the Toronto Moot Court Competition, for first-year J.D. candidates; and the Wilhelm C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court Competition in Vienna, Austria.
Herbert W. Briggs Society of International Law
The Briggs Society is named for international lawyer and Cornell Government and Law professor Herbert W. Briggs (1900–1990). About eighty students per year participate in society activities that include cosponsorship of speaker series, moot court competitions, and field trips for J.D. and LL.M. candidates.
Cornell Advocates for Human Rights
The Cornell Advocates for Human Rights helped establish what is now the International Human Rights Clinic, run by Sital Kalantry. In addition, Advocates have created links with international and domestic nongovernment organizations to provide Cornell Law students with opportunities on research projects.
Cornell LL.M. Students Association
Established in 1998, the Cornell LL.M. Students Association works with the Berger Program to sponsor special events, such as a field trip to the United Nations headquarters in conjunction with the Briggs Society, along with other social and academic endeavors, including coordinated events with the Cornell Law Students Association.
Cornell European Law Students Association
The Cornell European Law Students Association was formed in 1999 by J.D. and LL.M. students with a special interest in European legal developments, to encourage dialogue on important European issues and to showcase the European student presence on campus.
The Tale of Two Erics
The tale of two Erics
—a self-described Colorado ski bum, and an I’m-not-in-Kansas-anymore summer intern in Africa—is a fair demonstration of the globetrotting future in store for alumni who take part in student activities, in this case the Cornell International Law Journal
where they met.
Eric H. Blinderman ’99.
In December of 2006, much to the relief of his mother, Blinderman returned from three years of adventure in war-torn Iraq where he was associate general counsel for the multinational Coalition Provisional Authority and later chief legal counsel to the Regime Crimes Liaison Office—a Baghdad-based agency of the U.S. Justice Department charged with assembling documentary evidence of atrocities for the prosecution of the late Saddam Hussein and others.
Global law was “all I ever wanted to do,” says Blinderman in an interview from the Manhattan office of Proskauer Rose. As international litigation counsel, he now handles extradition disputes and matters involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, criminal and civil cases at The Hague and other world tribunals, and complex transnational arbitrations. He returns to Iraq periodically, where his newest clients are entrepreneurs in the country’s northern Kurdish region.
In between his undergraduate period at Cornell University and his Law School years, Blinderman says, “I was a ski bum in Colorado.” Before his work in Iraq and his joining Proskauer, Blinderman held a U.N. internship in Geneva and earned a master of science in human rights degree at Oxford University in England.
“I love Cornell, and still have a lot of undergraduate friends,” he says. “And I do a little coaching for the ski team.”
Besides his transactional portfolio at Proskauer, Blinderman continues his human rights work with involvement in pending cases at The Hague. Memories of the documentation he provided for the trial of Saddam Hussein—which included his inspection of mass graves—have not begun to fade.
“There are opportunities out there for Cornell lawyers to hold people accountable for gross violations of human rights,” he asserts.
Eric J. Pelofsky ’98 is the other Eric. The two first met when Pelofsky served as editor-in-chief at the Cornell International Law Journal, and the younger Blinderman was a staffer. A close personal and working friendship began with a phone call in 2003. At the time, Pelofsky was deputy general counsel of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
In a weekend telephone interview from his home in Washington, D.C., Pelofsky relates what he said to Blinderman by way of an invitation to sign up for duty in Iraq: “I think you’ll be interested. I can’t tell you about it. Just shut up and give me your résumé.” In short order, Blinderman was summoned to Washington for interviews at the Pentagon.
Much in the same way, Pelofsky’s career took off when he contacted a classmate from his undergraduate days at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. Pelofsky had read, in a brief piece in Haverford’s alumni magazine, that an old friend had landed a job with the State Department’s legal office.
Pelofsky responded in a straightforward manner reflecting his Kansas background, and recounts, “I wrote [my classmate], and asked, ‘How the heck did you do that?’ I stayed in touch. One day he called me at White & Case and asked if I was still interested [in State Department work]. I said, ‘Yeah—duh.’ He said, ‘Get me your résumé by tomorrow.’”
By this time, Pelofsky had interned twice in Africa and once at the National Security Council, where he worked for the woman who is now his boss in Washington.
Today, Pelofsky is a senior advisor to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan E. Rice on the Arab Spring, Iran and Afghanistan/Pakistan issues, after serving over six years in the State Department's legal office and nearly two years at the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“There are some days when I feel I’m in the thick of it—“
Here, Pelofsky begs off the interview for a moment. “My Blackberry is going crazy,” he explains. “You can never quite get away [from the job]. It’s a Libyan thing.”
Pelofsky then picks up where he left off.
“—and some days I feel like I’m in a thicket.”