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The Sun Never Sets on the City Bar Association

Feb 1997

The activities of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York extend to all corners of the globe. The actions of our 20 international committees, discussed below - covering such areas as international law, human rights, international trade, and the practice of law abroad - are coordinated by the Council on International Affairs (Sidney S. Rosdeitcher, Chair). One focus of our efforts is to make it easier both for American lawyers abroad to practice in foreign countries and for foreign lawyers to practice in New York. The memorandum of understanding we recently signed with the Paris Bar Association (through the efforts of the Task Force on International Legal Services, James R. Silkenat, Chair) is one example of this cooperation (see January 1997 44th Street Notes).

We work closely with other international bar associations as well. The Association has delegations to both the International Bar Association, in which we are one of the few local bar associations in the world to sit on its governing council, and the Union Internationale des Avocats. Through the efforts of Donald H. Rivkin, our delegate to the International Bar Association, we have been meeting periodically with the leaders of the Council of Bars of the European Union to discuss matters of mutual interest, including our European colleagues' concern over conflict of interest issues and the unauthorized practice of law. In June we will host the 50th anniversary of the International Bar Association, which was founded in the Association's House.

The Association also has two committees that serve as our "eyes and ears" in foreign legal centers. Our Committees on Coordination of Relations with European Bars (Walter W. Oberreit, John H. Riggs, Jr., Jerry L. Smith and Charles E. Stewart, Co-Chairs) and Coordination of Relations with Asian Bars (Robert F. Grondine and Jeffrey S. Wood, Co-Chairs) keep the Association apprised of changes in the rules regulating foreign lawyers practicing in key European and Asian jurisdictions.

As the practice of law becomes increasingly global, the law governing international transactions has become the focus of a number of committees. Recently the Committee on Taxation of International Transactions (Alan O. Dixler, Chair) reported on the foreign tax treatment of partnerships under United States income tax treaties and the Committee on International Trade (Bhalinder Lal Rikhye, Chair) issued an extensive report on the effects of U.S. anti-dumping law on downstream industries.

Some committees focus on particular regions of the world. The Committee on Inter-American Affairs (Jos?W. Fern ndez, Chair) published a guide book on financial markets in Latin America. The Committee on the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union (Scott Horton, Chair), closely monitors legal developments in Russia. In the fall, that Committee had as its guest Ernest Ametistov, a Justice of the Russian Constitutional Court, who discussed constitutional developments in Russia.

One of this Association's distinctive accomplishments in promoting the rule of law is the work of our Committee on International Human Rights (Jay Topkis, Chair), which monitors and reports on human rights conditions throughout the world. Recent missions of the committee have led to reports analyzing compliance with human rights treaties and the limits on judicial independence in Turkey and Peru. A trip and follow-up report on Malaysia is planned for the near future.

Last year a subcommittee headed by Judge Leonard Sand spent a week in Hong Kong studying, and then issuing a report (51 The Record 357) on, the future of the rule of law in Hong Kong after that country becomes part of mainland China on July 1, 1997. To continue to monitor developments in Hong Kong, and speak out where necessary, the International Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Asian Affairs (Allan H. Wernick, Chair) are sponsoring follow-up programs and meetings with representatives of the Hong Kong Bar.

The Committee on African Affairs (Robert F. Van Lierop, Chair) has also kept human rights high on its agenda. Drawing from recent Meeting Hall programs, the Committee is finalizing reports on political and human rights abuses in Nigeria and Rwanda, accompanied by recommended actions to be taken by both the United States and the United Nations.

Another aspect of our human rights concerns is the work of our Committee on Immigration and Nationality Law (Frances C. Berger, Chair). In addition to its reports attempting to shape the immigration legislation recently passed by Congress, the Committee devotes its energies and pro bono efforts to the plight of refugees and those seeking asylum in this country.

Closely related to our reports and investigations into human rights violations is a recently completed report by the Committee on International Law (Elizabeth F. Defeis, Chair) and the Committee on International Human Rights on the desirability and feasibility of a permanent International Criminal Court. One of the highlights of that effort will be a Meeting Hall program on March 13 at which leading speakers will debate the issues underlying the establishment of such a court.

Much of the work of the international committees has a close relationship to the United Nations and Association committees work closely with that body. The Association has a permanent representative to the United Nations Department of Public Information, and we have participated in numerous UN conferences, including the UN Conference on Women, held last year in China.

Every October, the Council on International Affairs holds a reception for legal advisers to all the countries of the United Nations. To discuss, with representatives from Japan, China, Egypt, Israel and Outer Mongolia, issues ranging from the tension between Israel and the PLO to pollution on the high seas - to take but one discussion in which I participated this past October - gave me hope that, over time, discourse may replace violence as a means for resolving international disputes.

As the world grows ever smaller, the laws of each nation inevitably impact to an ever increasing extent the actions of other countries. The need for more international cooperation, for increased development of international law, and for a strong and accepted international court of law grows by the day. The importance that people from all nations understand and respect each other better, and recognize human rights and the primacy of the rule of law throughout the world, is of a greater and greater priority. Your Association continues its active work in this regard, and is grateful to all of those members who produce the extraordinary work that can only be briefly highlighted in this column.

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