Joan Donoghue to Fill Vacancy at the ICJ
Joan Donoghue, the Principal Deputy Legal Adviser in the Department of State, has been selected to be the next United States Judge for the International Court of Justice, according to reliable sources. Donoghue will replace Thomas Buergenthal, who has ably served as a judge on the ICJ since 2000.
Donoghue is a relative unknown outside government circles, but is very respected within the State Department. Indeed, in 2009 she was Acting Legal Adviser prior to Koh’s confirmation. In the early 1990s Donoghue wrote a handful of articles, most of them dealing with sovereign immunity, that have received some scholarly attention, but not much. She graduated from Berkeley Law School in 1981 and has been at the State Department since the early 1980s.
Donoghue was chosen over the two other top candidates, Lucy Reed, Freshfields partner and past president of the ASIL, and David Caron, the current president of the ASIL and professor at Berkeley. There is no doubt that Reed and Caron are higher profile choices and also would have been outstanding judges. Both Reed and Caron would have fit the Tom Buergenthal or Theodor Meron model of appointing superstars in the international field, while Donoghue is closer to the Schwebel model of choosing a State Department insider.
I am biased, but it does not take much imagination to determine how the committee chose Donoghue over Reed and Caron. The US national group that made the decision includes the current Legal Adviser, Harold Koh, and three past Legal Advisers, David Andrews, John Bellinger, and former ICJ judge Stephen Schwebel. Donoghue was an extremely safe choice for the State Department lawyers to make. Indeed, one seriously doubts that Donoghue will be voting against the United States any time soon.