Around the Section of International Law - April 2020

Dear Friends,

I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and well.

It’s difficult to comprehend how much has happened since this time last month. The past several weeks have seen nearly the entire world move to shelter in place, country borders close, millions of people fallen ill – or worse, the economy falter, businesses suffer, and countless other consequences of the pandemic that seemed to crash on to our shores almost overnight.

Amidst all of this chaos, one thing has shown through: the strength, resilience, comradery and magnificence of our Section. In just a few short weeks, we have gone from looking forward to seeing each other at three separate in person meetings, in fabulous destinations like Costa Rica, New York, and Dublin, to not knowing when we might be able to see each other in person again.

These events collectively took years to develop and thousands of hours of hard work and dedication of countless members and other experts from around the world, and our staff. Without missing a beat, you came together to not only help us convert as much as possible of our conferences into virtual events, but also rise to the challenge of developing an incredible programming series, COVID-19: Its Impact on International Law and You, in just a few short weeks. To date, we have nearly two dozen programs in this series to bring our members and the world critical updates on how the pandemic is impacting any number of aspects of international law, as well as skills and tools we can all use to get ourselves, our firms, and our clients through this crisis. The creation of this programming series in many ways is like the equivalent of putting together a small conference in just three weeks, and would not have been possible without our tremendous members and staff.

The Section is also forming a COVID-19 International Task Force, designed to complement the ABA COVID-19 Task Force, with specific focus on the international implications and ramifications of the pandemic. The mission of the International Task Force is to consider the impact of the pandemic on various aspects of international law and identify areas and ways in which the ABA can and should act to help effectuate positive change and progress in staving off and remedying the consequences of the pandemic. For the next 18-24 months, the Task Force will consider not only areas of need and opportunity in the current circumstances, but also the exit and beyond, to ensure that any lasting impact of the crisis in the international arena can be appropriately addressed.

The pandemic may be impacting each of our ability to carry out plans for this year and instead cause us to address innumerable negative events in our lives. Through all of the bad, however, one thing has remained constant and bright, and that is where the Section fits in all of this. From minute one, you have shown your strength, friendship, resilience, energy, spirit of community, and positivity, to join together and support each other and the Section through this crisis and to position us to be stronger than ever once it’s over.  Thank you.

Stay safe and well.

Lisa Ryan
Chair, ABA International Law Section

Online Networking and Knowledge-Building Opportunities

Thanks to the amazing efforts of our members and incredible staff, we have an exciting line-up of online programs, keeping you connected to your Section colleagues and abreast of the legal implications of fast-moving events. Consistent with this year’s Empowerment theme, our COVID-19 Webinar Series launched on Tuesday, March 31 with a special program on Money Management During the COVID-19 Crisis, that was well-attended. That program was followed by Navigating International Courts and Tribunals During the COVID-19 Pandemic on Tuesday, April 7, and COVID-19: How Antitrust Enforcers are Responding to the Global Pandemic on Tuesday, April 14.  

There will be something for everyone in the COVID-19 Webinar Series. A sampling of upcoming programs includes: Domestic Violence, Global Resources, and the COVID-19 Pandemic on Thursday, April 23 at 11:00 a.m. ET,  Force Majeure and COVID-19: An International Perspective on Monday, April 27 at Noon ET, and Effective Networking while Social Distancing on Tuesday, April 28 at 6:00 p.m. ET. More information about these and other programs in this exciting new series can be found on our new COVID-19 microsite.

In May we will unveil our 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting, which will include the vast majority of the terrific, cutting edge programs we had planned to present in person in New York this week. Keep an eye on your email, social media, and the Section’s website for a program schedule, registration information, and other updates.

Policy Achievements

The Section continues to play a key role in the international policy arena. Thanks to the efforts of the Honorable Delissa Ridgway, the International Human Rights Committee and Co-Chairs Dan Appelman and Darren Fenwick, Former Section Chair Sara Sandford and the Middle East CommitteeABA President Judy Perry Martinez issued a statement in support of Lawyers’ Day in Turkey, celebrated each year on April 5. Lawyers’ Day recognizes the fundamental role that lawyers and other legal professionals play in protecting the rights of the Turkish people and promoting the rule of law.

The Road to Success for Our Policy Champions

Last month, we celebrated the success of Resolution 104A on the Singapore Mediation Convention and Resolution 104B on the Protection of Military Working Dogs, two International Law Section Resolutions that the ABA’s House of Delegates approved at the organization’s Midyear Meeting. Have you ever wondered how R&Rs get put together, and who works on them? Meet some of the people behind those efforts, and the roadmaps they followed.

Resolution 104A

Former Section Chair Steve Richman spearheaded the effort to obtain the ABA’s support for promoting the ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (the Singapore Mediation Convention). The Singapore Mediation Convention provides a much-needed enforcement mechanism for cross-border commercial mediations. It permits a party to a written international commercial mediation agreement to directly enforce that agreement in the jurisdiction of the breaching party, rather than having to first bring an action in the U.S. or another separate jurisdiction and then seek recognition and enforcement of the resulting judgment in the breaching party’s jurisdiction. Mediation as a dispute resolution tool in international commercial transactions is often faster and cheaper than other options, but parties have been reluctant to use it due to the lack of a direct enforcement mechanism. Resolution 104A not only encourages all nations, including the U.S., to ratify the Singapore Mediation Convention, but it also urges the U.S. executive branch and Senate to regard the Convention as self-executing, to avoid the need for the passage of implementing legislation.     

Steve worked with Irina Strelkova, a Vice Chair of Policy for the International Arbitration Committee, to draft the Resolution and Report (R & R), and with Harout Samra to help fine-tune it. He also received input from other Section leaders including Policy Officer Ron BettauerLouise Ellen TeitzBruce Rashkow and Michael CoffeeJoan Stearns Johnsen, Chair of the Dispute Resolution Section and also an International Law Section member, marshaled support from her Section to co-sponsor the R & R, and Dispute Resolution Section Delegates James Alfrini and Pamela Enslen helped obtain the support of other Sections, including Business Law and Litigation. The result was the approval of Resolution 104A, with no known opposition!

Steve Richman was Chair of the International Law Section during the 2017-2018 ABA year and is currently a Member of the ABA House of Delegates. He is a Partner at Clark Hill PLC in Princeton, New Jersey where he focuses his practice on domestic and international commercial law, including mediation, litigation, arbitration and appellate work. He has also held a number of senior leadership positions with the New Jersey State Bar Association. Irina Strelkova is an Associate in the Louisville, Kentucky office of Frost Brown Todd LLC where she practices labor and employment law. Harout Samra is an Associate in the Miami, Florida office of DLA Piper LLP, where he focuses his practice on international dispute resolution and arbitration. He is a member of the International Arbitration Committee and also serves as a member of the Dispute Resolution Section’s Council and of various committees in the Litigation Section and the Young Lawyers Division. Congratulations to Steve, Irina, Harout and all of the other people who helped achieve this important milestone in promoting the use of cross-border mediation!

Resolution 104B

Frances Arricale and Jill MarianiInternational Animal Law Committee members, began their efforts to garner the official support of the ABA for the protection of military working dogs in 2018, with a panel at the Section’s Annual Meeting in New York entitled “Applying the Rule of Law to Protect Military Dogs as Deserving Heroes of War.”  The panel featured a video from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, an advocate for military dog welfare, and encouraged the legal community to develop a global model for safeguarding the rights and welfare of military dogs and their soldier handlers. After the program, the International Animal Law Committee formed a coalition of ABA members and advisory experts to create an action plan for ensuring adequate veterinary care and military transportation home at decommission for the dogs and priority adoption by the dogs’ veteran handlers at retirement for their mutual benefit. Resolution 104B addresses these issues and urges governments, as well as multinational and international organizations to amend existing laws, policies and procedures to provide for the health and well-being of military working dogs. It grew directly out of the coalition’s efforts.

Frances Arricale is a career government relations attorney based in the Los Angeles area who promotes animal welfare on a pro bono basis in her private capacity. She has developed a short film to highlight the importance of military working dogs. Jill Mariani is a Senior Investigative Counsel in the Rackets Bureau of the New York County District Attorney’s Office and is also a member of the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division Council. Jill has also worked on animal welfare issues in her private capacity on a pro bono basis for many years. Congratulations to Frances, Jill, the International Animal Law Committee and everyone who worked with them to make Resolution 104B a reality and bring this important issue to the attention of the global legal community!  

Committee Newsletter Newsstand

Over the past year we have been highlighting some of our exceptional committee newsletters in Around the Section. We will soon be debuting a new initiative on the Section’s website to give our authors even more exposure – the Committee Newsletter Newsstand. It will feature committee newsletters as they are published and will be open to all Section members. So committee newsletter editors when you post your next editions to your Connect Communities please remember to send them the Section’s Communications Officer, Caryl Ben Basat, as well for posting on the Committee Newsletter Newsstand.

ABA International Human Rights Award – Deadline Extension for Nominations

Last month, we mentioned that the ABA is calling for nominations for its annual International Human Rights Award, established to honor and give public recognition to an individual or organization that has made an exceptional contribution to the advancement of human rights outside of the United States. The deadline for receipt of nominations for the 2020 award has been extended to May 3, 2020. Learn more and submit your nomination.

Committee Appointment Process is NOT Sheltering in Place

Joe Raia, Chair Elect and Nancy Kaymar Stafford, Vice Chair are pleased to announce that the the committee leadership appointment letters for next year are being issued as scheduled.  Having received nominations from virtually every committee in the Section, Joe and Nancy congratulate and thank our committee leaders for faithfully completing this process – canvassing their committees; producing nominations; responding to follow-up requests for information – all in the midst of the most disruptive pandemic in history.   To the few still outstanding, please get your nominations in so that your committee is not left behind in this process!

Upcoming Section Book Commemorating the 19th Amendment Centennial  

The International Law Section will be publishing a book slated for this Fall to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. Constitution’s 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. The Section has invited prominent women leaders from around the world to contribute a short essay about what it means to each of them in their respective nations to participate in the right of free elections.  We have gathered commitments from several accomplished women from the U.S. and abroad who are judges, tribal court judges, presidents of law societies and refugees from oppressive regimes who have built impressive legal careers and who will include short essays in the book. The book, when completed, will be a repository of intimate reflections and personal stories including challenges to the right to vote, difficulties getting to polling places, how these challenges have made a difference in the advancement of women, and of justice, including appointments to and elections to the bench. Some of these authors will speak to the impact voting challenges have had on inheritance rights and solutions to global poverty.  I will be contributing the Introduction to the book.  We are truly excited and inspired by the book project that we envisage will have heritage value for generations to come who will consider how the 19th Amendment affected the lives of women today in the U.S. and in other countries who are leaders and pioneers in the administration of justice.

An Update on ABA Website and Platforms

As you know, the ABA launched a new website and communication platform (CONNECT) in 2019.  Since the launch, there have been a number of challenges with the effectiveness and usability of both the main ABA site and the Connect communication feature.  The ABA has taken a number of steps to address these and other technology problems across the organization.  A fractional CIO, Vid Byanna, was hired in late 2019. Mr. Byanna has led a systematic review of ABA backend technology, including security and applications, and an evaluation of the performance of the website and its attendant components.  He provided a comprehensive assessment and list of recommendations (a road map) to the ABA Board of Governors.

While much of the road map for addressing the major functionality of the ABA site and supporting backend systems will take up to a year to carry out, certain actions have been in progress with the aim of stabilizing the main website sooner rather than later. Critical to remediating problems with member logins, program registrations and section access was the need to migrate away from the organization’s prior reliance on seven different servers to a single centralized cloud server.  That migration has been in process, and over the weekend of April 18th, testing of major bug fixes following the move was launched.   The ABA Standing Committee on Technology and Information Systems (SCOTIS), which includes an International Law Section Liaison, has been asked to help with testing the improvements to the website login functionality.  The ABA’s goal is to initiate a major renewal effort for members starting in mid-May 2020, and the ease of use of the ABA site is critical to this effort.  Throughout the next 6-8 months, the ABA IT team will be working on website bug fixes, improving functionality, refining the architecture that underpins all of the Association’s systems, implementing a new IT governance plan and prioritizing apps and software needed to help the Association continue to advance its offering and support to members.

These are certainly trying times for the global legal community. I hope you take advantage of the exciting programming the Section is offering through the convenience of your home computer. Perhaps you have an idea for a policy initiative, committee newsletter or other Section publication article or committee project. There has never been a better time to pursue those ideas, and your Section leadership and staff is happy to help you turn them into reality!