Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Sturm conference brings international issues, collaboration to campus

University of Denver Sturm College of Law faculty and students didn’t have to go far this week for a global perspective.

Two conferences focused attention on international law, international collaboration and shared experiences.

Beginning Feb. 15, more than 30 high ranking judges from Brazil descended on DU for an intensive educational seminar as they studied American law in eight areas, ranging from criminal law to environmental law. The session was developed at no cost to the University.

Professor George “Rock” Pring, who helped put the conference together, also taught sessions on administrative and environmental law. He said the idea for the visit by the cadre of Brazilian judges evolved in part from visits he and his wife, Catherine “Kitty” Pring, made to 27 countries as they co-wrote their recently published book, Greening Justice (The Access Initiative, 2009). In the book, the pair discuss environmental law issues with many legal representatives.

“As it turned out, for this conference, they ended up coming to us, not us asking them,” Pring says. “These are very high ranking judges in Brazil, like our U.S. Circuit judges. They had a choice from about 200 law schools in the country, and they chose the University of Denver to come for this session.”

Pring says judges in Brazil typically look to learn what other countries are doing as they fine tune their legal system. The group visited Denver’s federal courts and participated in a discussion session with the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, led by former state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis. The group also heard from Dean Martin Katz, who led a discussion of U.S. constitutional law.

For his session on environmental law, Pring stressed that the United States has done many good things, including leading the charge in clean air and clean water law, but that the country also could learn from the powerful and proactive environmental law courts in Brazil. One advantage judges in Brazil have in environmental law, he said, is that they work with a constitution that was revamped in 1988 and specifically includes laws regarding the environment — something the 221-year-old U.S. Constitution does not mention.

“People outside the U.S. are getting tired of hearing us lecturing them and saying ‘do it our way,’” he said. “We can learn a lot from each other.”

Over the weekend of Feb. 12–13, the American branch of the International Law Association held its annual International Law Weekend at the Sturm College. The event was hosted by the Ved Nanda Center for International Law and International Legal Studies program, along with the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy and the International Law Society.

Key sessions included discussions of international law and environmental sustainability, mining law, sustainable energy development and international corporate governance.

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