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Koh Delivers Inaugural Newman Lecture
Koh, the dean of Yale Law School, delivered the inaugural Jon O. Newman Lecture on Law and Justice in Wilde Auditorium, speaking on “The Supreme Court and Global Law.”
The university presented Koh with an honorary Doctor of Laws prior to his lecture. Koh is a leader in the protection of international human rights, and he is the Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law at Yale.
The new lecture series is made possible by the Honorable Jon O. Newman, a senior U.S. judge of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and a life regent of the university. The Jon O. Newman Lecture on Law and Justice will be presented annually as an integral part of the university’s new Pre-Law Advising Program.
In 2004-05, about one-fifth of the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court involved global law, Koh said. These included cases related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, detainment of suspected terrorists, and the death penalty.
Six of the nine high court justices now form a “transnationalist” majority – they believe that U.S. courts must look beyond national interests, and consider the laws of other countries when ruling on issues with global implications, Koh said.
The other three justices – William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas – have a nationalist perspective, Koh said. They generally believe that international law should not be a factor in U.S. court rulings.
The nationalist-transnationalist debate is growing in visibility and importance, and the positions of the next Supreme Court appointees will play a key role in determining how the United States engages with the rest of the world, Koh said.
“Is the United States going to be part of the world, or are we going to go our own way?” asked Koh, who clearly favors the transnationalist perspective. “We have to remember that the United States is only one of 194 countries in the world. It is part of an international system.
“There’s something about being in a global system,” Koh said. “You have to play by the global rules whether it’s convenient or not.”