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.