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EU judge: Courts play key role in complex times (with video)

April 07, 2016

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Judge Ian Forrester (MCL ’69) uses Tulane Law's Eason-Weinmann Lecture March 30 to provide insights into the General Court of the European Union’s Court of Justice, on which he sits, and contrasts American and European antitrust law.

Photo by Ryan Rivet 


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Eason-Weinmann lecturer Judge Ian Forrester talks with students, including Maria Kalousi-Tatum (L ’16) after the Eason-Weinmann Lecture.

Photo by Linda P. Campbell 

At a tumultuous time in Europe, courts have an important role to play, Judge Ian Forrester, a Tulane Law graduate serving on the European Union’s General Court told a New Orleans audience.

“The courts are aware especially that at a time of political difficulty, a judicial voice is an important one,” said Forrester, a Scot who received a Tulane Master’s of Civil Law in 1969.

European nations have been roiled by the challenge of whether to accept waves of refugees. Voters in Great Britain will decide soon about the future of the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union. And in the span of five months, deadly terrorism has rocked Paris, Istanbul and Brussels.

In fact, it took Forrester and his wife, Sandra Keegan, several days to travel from Belgium to the United States, partly because of March 22 suicide bombings that shut down the Brussels Airport and hit a Metro station not far from the couple’s home. Thirty-two people were killed and 300 wounded.

“Europe has been going through existential crises greater than any I can remember,” Forrester said during the Eason-Weinmann Lecture on Comparative Law March 30. But, he added, times like these underscore why the European Union was created: “It was created in order to make war impossible” by easing age-old tensions between Germany, France and Britain.

Watch the lecture video.

While the alliance started with six countries, it has grown to 28. And the courts accommodate that diversity: while the judges deliberate in French, parties can argue their cases, with translation, in up to 23 different languages. Forrester said he recently sat in a panel with judges from Cyprus and Lithuania on a case argued in Spanish, and communication was not a problem.

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Dean David Meyer, John Giffen Weinmann (L ’52) and Virginia Eason Weinmann join Judge Ian Forrester (MCL ’69) after the Eason-Weinmann Lecture March 30.

Forrester, one of the world’s foremost attorneys handling antitrust and intellectual property cases for a host of global corporations, was in New Orleans last year when he received a phone call telling him he was selected for the General Court of the Court of Justice as the judge from the UK. He was sworn into office in October.

He reminisced about being befriended by the legendary Judge John Minor Wisdom (L ’29) of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and remarked on “how much fun I have had as a Tulane lawyer over the 40 intervening years.”

Forrester has remained connected to the law school as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board. While senior partner in White & Case’s Brussels office, he hosted Tulane alumni receptions in 2013 and 2015.

He called his judicial experience “utterly fascinating” so far, seeing the ways different nations approach judicial review. The General Court hears appeals involving decisions by European Union administrative bodies, such as antitrust fines, trademark rulings and the freezing of assets of suspected terrorism supporters. The Court of Justice handles cases referred by courts from EU member countries, as well as appeals from General Court rulings. 

While the courts have limited jurisdiction, Forrester offered a pointed example of their relevance in a complex world. In a long-running case that predates his term, a wealthy Saudi national who gave help to Bosnian Muslims during the Yugoslav wars appealed to the General Court after his assets were frozen following the 9/11 terror attacks in the U.S. He initially lost, but eventually the Court of Justice departed from deference to international law and examined whether his human rights were violated by not being able to examine highly sensitive evidence being used against him. Forrester explained that rules now are being developed that would allow for some court scrutiny of that kind of restricted information to help protect individual rights.

Forrester called the EU’s constitutional structure “creaky at the moment.” But, he said, “the imperfections of the constitutional architecture of the European Union don’t diminish the need for good judicial oversight of administrative action.”

Tulane’s Eason-Weinmann Lecture is funded by the Eason Weinmann Center for International and Comparative Law, which was created in 1981 with the help of a generous gift from Tulane Law School Hall of Fame member John Giffen Weinmann (L ’52) and Virginia Eason Weinmann, his wife. John Weinmann, a former chair of Tulane’s Board of Administrators, served as U.S. Ambassador to Finland in 1989-91 and then White House chief of protocol in 1991-93.

 
   


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