Friday, March 11, 2011

Learning to Live in Italian Time

Chancery Court, Rome
Alore! Today we got to experience an Italian institution – the “general strike.” More on that in a couple of minutes.

We started the day with three great CLE programs. In the first, Professor Francesco Francioni of the European International Institute spoke on “Investment Arbitration and Human Rights.” Those are two topics which one would not normally think are corrected. But, as Professor Francioni explained, as more national governments enter into contracts and joint ventures with foreign investors, issues usually found in the realm of Human Rights litigation – like protection of the environment, the right to earn a livelihood and indigenous peoples’ rights to land – are creeping into disputes in international arbitration. Some international legislation – like the Vienna Convention – specifically allows for the consideration of International law, which may include human rights law. 

At the Chancery Court
 The second panel was a rousing participatory session on ethics, moderated by our Conference Chair Tim Eaton, and featuring commentary from Judge Sophia Hall, Ian Fisher and Dan Kotin. That discussion was made more interesting because Professor Francioni stayed with us and offered his thoughts about EU ethics law – which is in many ways very different from our Code.
Finally, Bishop Danieli, Secretary of the Apostolic Signatura (the Vatican court of last resort) spoke about that Court and the types of cases that it hears.

 We then headed out for a tour of the Apostolic Signatura. Due to the aforementioned “general strike,” with which our private charter bus drivers were in sympathy, we piled into about 15 taxis. That was well and good, until we discovered that all the main streets had been closed for a parade of protestors who were part of the general strike. After 45 minutes of circling Rome by taxi, we gave up and walked the rest of the way to the Signatura.

 A reception room at the Chancery Court
 The roundabout travel was worth it – the Apostolic Signatura, along with the other Vatican or Chancery Courts – are located in a beautiful palazzo – the first Renaissance palace built in Rome. Originally built as the home of a Cardinal who came from a wealthy family, the palace was eventually taken over by the pope, and in the 19th century the Vatican Courts were moved there. We toured two of the public re caption rooms in the palace, guided by a priest from New Jersey who has worked in the courts for several years. It was a special experience to be able to visit the Vatican Courts.

Our special thanks to CBA member and long-time supporter Bishop Tom Paprocki of Springfield for arranging both for Bishop Danieli’s talk and for the tour of the Vatican Courts, and for joining us here in Rome.

The General Strike

Thursday, March 10, 2011

When in Rome . . .

The main courtroom of the Court di Cassazione,
the Italian Supreme Court.

On March 9 a group of 65 members and friends of the Chicago Bar Association kicked off the CBA’s fifth annual CLE Abroad trip in Rome, Italy. We began in regal style with a wonderful reception hosted by the Italian law firm Gianni, Origoni, Grippo & Partners. Gianni, Origoni’s Rome office occupies three floors of a 15th Century Palazzo (palace) at the Corner of Four Fountains in Rome. The Palazzo is still decorated as it was when a 15th century Bishop and his family occupied the building. The law firm greeted us with a buffet of Italian delicacies worthy of a State visit. Our sincere thanks to Francesco Gianni, name partner in the firm, for so generously and graciously hosting us.

The next morning, March 10, we hosted four different CLE sessions, which included distinguished guests from the Rome Bar and from the faculty of Loyola University Chicago’s Rome campus, including Emilio Iodice, Claudio Lodici and Alexander Guttieres. CBA members and friends who participated included Judge William J. Bauer, Judge Timothy C. Evans, Judge Cheryl Cesario , YSL First Vice Chair Justin Heather, John H. Morrison, Carrie DiSanto, Willie Miller, Saverio Mirarchi, and Notre Dame Law Professor Douglass Cassel.

Our group with officers of the Rome Bar at the Court di Cassazione

With our Italian colleagues
on the staircase at the Court di Cassazione

Following the CLE sessions, we gathered at the Court di Cassazione, the highest court in Italy, and the equivalent of the United States Supreme Court. There we met with officers of the Rome Bar, then toured the Courthouse. We were honored to meet with a panel of judges from the Court (except in extraordinary cases the Court sits in three separate 5-judge panels). We learned that there is a right of appeal to the Court di Cassazione in all cases, civil and criminal. The criminal division of that court alone disposes of over 4,000 cases each year, and the judges have no clerks or assistants – they write all of the decisions themselves. The Court reviews only errors of law – unlike the Italian appellate courts, which can when they see fit conduct a retrial in any case. We also learned that because of this three-level court process and the absolute right to appeal at each level, cases can take many years to be resolved.

We are making many friends here in Rome. As always when we make trips abroad, we are finding that there is much to be learned – good and bad – from our brothers and sisters in the law in Italy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

CBA Members Admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar

This morning, I ran my record in the United States Supreme Court to three and one – in motions to admit attorneys to the Bar of that Court. Today, I had the pleasure of moving the admission of 11 Chicago Bar Association Members into that Bar. Kimberly Taylor moved the admission of another four of our members.

We assembled in the East Conference Room of the Court.
Our group assembled bright and early in the morning for photos on the steps of the Supreme Court, then enjoyed a breakfast in the East Conference room of the Court. That Conference Room, used for official Court functions, is decorated with portraits of past United States Supreme Court Justices, including Rehnquist, Warren, Burger and Taft. We heard from retired Major General William Suter, the Clerk of the Court, who regaled us with stories about oral arguments past.

Our group on the steps of the Supreme Court building.
 Then the highlight of the day – we filed into the Supreme Court Courtroom, where, before arguments began, I got to stand before the justices and move the admissions of our members. I am happy to say that the Court granted my motion without a moment’s hesitation (and with no difficult questions).

We then settled in to watch two oral arguments – in Camreta v. Green and Schindler Elevator Corp. v. United States ex rel. Kirk. The Camreta case is a closely-watched case coming out of the Ninth Circuit, in which the court below held that a child abuse investigator with the State of Oregon violated the Fourth Amendment by failing to obtain either a warrant or parental consent before pulling a child from class at school and questioning her about whether her parents were abusing her. The Court was very lively during argument, and appeared to be very interested in whether the case is now moot and whether it should simply vacate the portion of the Ninth Circuit’s decision finding a Fourth Amendment violation. The second case presented the question whether a FOIA response can fall within the exception to the right to bring qui tam actions under the False Claims Act where a claim is based upon information discernable from a government “report.” On that issue, as well, the Court engaged in very active questioning.
Justice Alito greets my mother, Kathryn Mascherin,
and me in his chambers

A highlight of the morning for me (and my mother, Kay, who was my guest for the morning) was the opportunity to visit briefly after the morning court session with Justice Samuel Alito, the son of family friends, who attended the same high school that I attended back in Hamilton, N.J.

It’s always a pleasure to be able to visit the Supreme Court. Whenever I see the Court in action I am convinced that we have the best justice system in the world, and I am proud to be a part of it.