Admissions Open 2024

Eminent US jurists participate in JGU colloquium on ‘Sustaining Rule of Law and Democracy

Inside JGU

October 2023

Eminent US jurists participate in JGU colloquium on ‘Sustaining Rule of Law and Democracy

Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) of O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU) organised the judicial colloquium on ‘Role of Judiciary in Sustaining Rule of Law and Democracy: Comparatives Perspectives, India and USA’ where the university welcomed 10 eminent judges and jurists from the USA to participate in it. The judicial colloquium was followed by a wide-ranging interview and interaction that the JGU Vice Chancellor had with the visiting judges and jurists from USA.

Later, the judges and jurists also embarked on a multi-city tour to understand the legal framework and jurisprudence in India.

The eminent judges and jurists were:

  • Justice Michael D. Wilson, Former Judge, Supreme Court of Hawai’i;
  • Justice Sabrina S. McKenna, Judge, Supreme Court of Hawai’i;
  • Justice Todd W. Eddins, Judge, Supreme Court of Hawai’i;
  • Justice Ann L. Aiken, Senior Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Oregon;
  • Justice André Birotte Jr., Judge, U.S. District Court, Central District of California;
  • Justice Sara L. Ellis, Judge U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois;
  • Justice Jenny Rivera, Associate Judge, New York State Court of Appeals;
  • Justice Douglas L. Tookey, Judge Oregon Court of Appeals;
  • Justice Josephine L. Staton, Judge, U.S. District Court, Central District of California;
  • Prof. Camille Nelson, Dean, William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai’i.

The colloquium largely focused on the role of judiciary in balancing the will of the people when state fails to respect the same. In particular, the colloquium focused on reorienting the constitutional discourse to a will-centric, people-centric approach and the role of judiciary in the wake of rising notions of ‘popular constitutionalism’.

Commenting on the colloquium, Prof. (Dr.) C. Raj Kumar, Founding Vice Chancellor, JGU, and Founding Dean, JGLS, said, “This is an unprecedented opportunity to bring 10 eminent jurists from the United States to India, and to have them engage with us and understand each other better. It’s also important for us to recognise the role of vibrant constitutional democracies such as India and the United States in advancing the cause of the rule of law. Our larger objective is to understand about the rule of law and sustain our democratic institutions. The vision of this initiative is also for judges from the United States to get an understanding of India, India’s complex legal system, India’s democracy and our deep commitment towards strengthening those values of democracy and constitutionalism. The Indian judiciary is among the most independent autonomous institutions in the world. It began at a very relatively conservative court in 1947. But in its evolution, it has become one of the most progressive courts in the world. India has had a very progressive Supreme Court and high courts where we constantly draw upon jurisprudence from other parts of the world, including the US, the UK, European Union, and of course, more recently from South Africa and other parts of the world. And that aspiration to be able to look at other experiences of other parts of the world is part of the traditional journeys and interpretations our Constitution has undergone.”

“Understanding the response of judiciaries to challenges to rule of law, and to democracy thereof, in a comparative perspective which would streamline responses by facilitating mutual learning and effective rationalisation is indeed critical. The colloquium has wonderfully met this objective, thanks to the outstanding participation and extraordinary inputs by these learned judges and jurists. JGLS and JGU are extremely honoured to be part of such an intellectually enlightening discussion.”

Hon’ble Justice Michael Wilson, Former Judge, Supreme Court of Hawaii, raised the issue of preventing climate change and the difference that the rule of law can bring. He said: “The pandemic pales in comparison to the greatest threat to humanity that we’re facing, which is climate change. We have to prevent that from happening because the rule of law is likely to disintegrate along with the heating of the planet when we get to 1.5 degrees.”

Justice Sabrina S. McKenna, Judge, Supreme Court of Hawaii, said, “We have a right to a life sustaining planet. The fact that judges need to reflect the makeup of the communities they serve, as a principle of the rule of law, means that the diversity in the judiciary is not an aspirational goal. It is a requirement of the rule of law. People tend to trust courts more if the people that are making the decisions look like them and come from their own backgrounds.”

Justice Ann L. Aiken, Senior Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Oregon, spoke about the responsibility of lawyers and said, “This rule of law is to educate law students as the next generation of leaders to understand that you have an obligation to be stewards for the generation that comes after you. It is important not to just work at the individual level but to improve a community.”

Justice Andre Birotte Jr., Judge, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, reflected on the rehabilitation of individuals once out of the criminal justice system, “Many of us take for granted the fact that we are able to have a bank account but then you find that that there are people who are exposed to trauma at young ages, those things are not necessarily the case. And through a programme, we take individuals who have been charged with crime and try to address some of the issues that brought them here in the first instance.”

Justice Sara L. Ellis, Judge U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois spoke about the re-entry systems where people who have already been charged with crimes are coming out of prison. She said: “The re-entry court fits in with the rule of law as it is a programme where we are looking at people who have been marginalised. So many people in our criminal justice system don’t have the tools that you and I have to make different choices so it is important that justice requires practical solutions.”

Justice Douglas L. Tookey, Judge, Oregon Court of Appeals, spoke about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and how it brought remote working to the courts and had an impact on access to justice during that period.

Justice Todd W. Eddins, Judge, Supreme Court of Hawaii, focused on how the legal profession is the first line of defence for the protection of individual rights and how it is absolutely essential in a democracy.

Justice Jenny Rivera, Associate Judge, New York State Court of Appeals, spoke about the standards that judges apply to what lawyers do in the courtroom in the way they represent their clients. So when a lawyer fails to provide effective assistance of counsel, the lawyer is said to be ineffective which could initiate a claim that can be brought to court which could reverse a conviction because the lawyer was ineffective.

Further discussions included Justice Josephine L. Staton, Judge, U.S. District Court, Central District of California; and Prof. Camille Nelson, Dean, William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii, who spoke to the JGLS law students about interdisciplinary law that exists in a political, economic, social and historic space and that democracy is not only representation, but also about basic values, the centre of which are human rights, and a delicate balance between majority rule and individual rights.

The judicial colloquium was followed by an interview and interaction that the JGU Vice Chancellor had with the judges and jurists from USA. The interview engaged with issues relating to the future of legal education, legal profession, rule of law, access to justice and the judiciary. It also discussed about the role of technology and its growing impact on law and justice.

The 10 judges and jurists represented five states of the USA: California, Hawaii, Illinois, New York and Oregon and all levels of the judiciary.

Watch the interview and interaction with 10 distinguished judges and jurists of the USA with the Vice Chancellor of JGU during their recent visit to India and to the JGU campus: https://youtu.be/hNCGO8Nthm4