APSA Roundtable Review

by Roger Alford

It was wonderful to be in Philadelphia to participate in the APSA Roundtable on International Tribunals. The presentations by Allison Danner, Kal Raustiala, Larry Helfer, Jeff Dunoff, Julian Ku, Tom Lee, and Tomer Broude were all superb. I wish each of the speakers had twice as much time. And, of course, drinks at the Continental were a great success (thanks to Dave Hoffman’s swanky choice of venue). As you might predict, spending time with the likes of these folks offstage is as interesting as listening to them on stage.

As anyone who has been following the online discussion of the roundtable will appreciate, the study of international tribunals is fertile soil for research and analysis. The discipline is in its infancy and there is much merit in sustained analysis of this new subject. There is a tremendous amount of creative thinking that is occurring on the subject of international tribunals. What I find particularly interesting about the topic is that most scholarly research in international law seems to focus on specific substantive subjects. There are too few law scholars who are focused on international organizations or procedures. And as for the law school curriculum, almost all international law courses are divided by substantive disciplines. You have the occasional nod to international organizations, but as of yet there are few courses that are the international equivalent to Federal Courts or Civil Procedure or Evidence. I would suspect that in the future there will be more attention to trans-substantive analysis of international law. In a decade hence will we see specialized emphasis on subjects such as International Criminal Procedure or International Courts or International Remedies?

There was one other aspect about the roundtable that was fascinating. Because APSA has a dysfunctional approach of organizing dozens of concurring panels, we had the odd experience of top scholars offering wonderful presentations to a half empty room. For me this underscored the brilliance of Tomer Broude’s idea of doing a virtual roundtable as a lead up to the actual event. The virtual roundtable had a larger audience every fifteen minutes last week than were present for the actual panel. While I do not think that online symposia should displace live events, the idea of combining the two has real merit. With almost no additional work the panelists exponentially increase their audience, and yet they still enjoy the indispensable benefits of the live interpersonal exchange.


One Response

  1. Thanks, Roger, for summing up and for your kind words. And thanks again to Opinio Juris for providing the preview venue. It was great seeing you all in person and despite the virtue of virtual discussion, the personal exchange was well worth the 30 or so hours of travel I spent getting to sunny Philadelphia (well, it’s sunny this morning) and now back. I second your sentiments, especially the impression that we emerged with no answers, a few pointers, and many, many questions. The highlights, I think, were the puzzle of political-judicial (im)balance in emerging international governance, and the acknowledgement of the need to better understand the role of private standing and remedies in international tribunals.

    By the way, a good place to start understanding the cross-cutting issues of international tribunals, as a research and teaching resource, is the NYU/UCL Project on International Courts and Tribunals (PICT) , with which I imagine most readers are already familiar.

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