Domestic implementation of international treaties: the next new challenge for private international law?

Author:Tramhel, Jeannette
Position:Proceedings of the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law: Charting New Frontiers in International Law

This panel was convened at 9:00 a.m., on Saturday, April 2, 2016, by its moderator S.I. Strong, of the University of Missouri, who introduced the panelists: Mike Coffee of the Office of Private International Law at the U.S. Department of State; John Coyle of the University of North Carolina; and Jeannette Tramhel of the Department of International Law at the Organization of American States. *


Welcome to this morning's session, "Domestic Implementation of International Treaties: The Next New Challenge for Private International Law?" It is great to see so many people up and about this early on a Saturday morning, particularly for a panel on private international law. Although private international law is sometimes overlooked in favor of public international law, globalization has expanded the amount and type of cross-border activity that goes on in the world. As a result, private international law is growing at an exponential rate, making it increasingly important to practitioners, scholars, and governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

In the past, it has sometimes been challenging to conceptualize the "field" of private international law as a matter of practice or scholarly inquiry because of the diversity of the underlying subject matter. Private international law encompasses everything from commercial law and consumer law to family law and employment law, and it is difficult, if not impossible, for someone to be equally adept in every specialty. However, there are a number of crosscutting issues that are relevant across the field. Furthermore, recent developments around the world, most particularly in Europe, have shown how private international law can be framed as a single cohesive body of law.

One of the most important issues to arise in recent years involves problems of domestic implementation. Private international law is often reflected in various international treaties that must be given domestic effect. However, private international law raises a variety of problems that do not exist in the area of public international law.

This session therefore considers various problems associated with domestic implementation of private international law from a variety of public and private perspectives. Panelists were asked to consider a variety of issues, including domestic constitutional concerns (such as federalism), the role of international organizations, lack of political will, matters relating to the proper scope of the implementing legislation, and alternative (including judicial) means of giving effect to international treaties involving private international law. The panel was also asked to discuss what can be done in cases where a domestic legislature fails to enact relevant implementing legislation following formal adherence to a particular treaty. Speakers represent the viewpoints of interstate organizations, public entities, and academic observers, thereby providing both a practical and theoretical view of these and other issues.

The session begins with Mike Coffee, who is an attorney-adviser in the Office of Private International Law, in the Office of the Legal Adviser, at the U.S. Department of State. Mike is responsible for private international law matters relating to family law, transport law, electronic commerce, wills and trusts, and other fields. Mike has headed and served on delegations to the Hague Conference on Private International Law and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. Prior to serving in the Office of Private International Law, Mike served in other offices within the Office of the Legal Adviser, advising on national and international security law matters. Mike has participated as an observer for the Uniform Law Commission's drafting committee to implement the 1996 Hague Child Protection Convention and its drafting committee on the Enforcement and Recognition of Canadian Domestic Violence Protection Orders.

Mike will speak from the perspective of governmental organizations seeking to implement existing treaties at the national level. He will discuss several existing treaties that are in the process of ratification by the United States and describe why the U.S. Department of State chose the implementation method it did.

Our second panelist, John Coyle, provides an academic overview of state practice in the past. John joined the faculty at the University of North Carolina in 2010 after serving as a Climenko Fellow at Harvard Law School. John also clerked for Judge Reena Raggi on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and practiced corporate law at Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, D.C. His research interests include corporate law, conflict of laws, and private international law. John received a B.A. in History and Literature, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Harvard College, an M.Phil in European Studies from Cambridge...

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