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UN Working Group Rules Favorably on Petition Filed by SLS' Allen Weiner, Condemns Treatment of 16 Vietnamese Social and Political Activists

The Original Petitioners: Vietnamese Social and Political Activists Who Have Been Detained

In a decision announced on November 28, 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) in Geneva ruled favorably on a petition filed by Allen Weiner, Director of the Stanford Program in International and Comparative Law at Stanford Law School, that contests the illegal arrest, conviction and ongoing detention of sixteen Vietnamese social and political activists. UNWGAD held that the detention and subsequent criminal conviction of these activists violated international human rights obligations that are binding on Vietnam and called upon the Vietnamese government to “immediate[ly] release” the detainees.

The activists were convicted under various Vietnamese criminal laws that outlaw “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” the “undermining of national unity” and participating in “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” The petition, which was filed in July 2012, alleged that the detention of these activists violated Vietnam’s international obligations under, among other things, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In response to Vietnam’s contentions that the detainees were convicted under existing provisions of the Vietnamese criminal code, the Working Group held that “the criminal provisions that gave rise to the charge against the [detained] individuals and their subsequent conviction by the court cannot be regarded as consistent with the relevant provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” UNWGAD further noted that “the holding and expressing of opinions, including those which are not in line with official Government policy, are protected under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

According to Weiner, Senior Lecturer at Stanford Law School and counsel for the petitioners, the arrest and conviction of these activists was merely part of a broader effort by the Vietnamese government to suppress the expression of any political views that challenge either the Vietnamese government or its policies. Weiner noted that the detainees, many of whom were engaged in online journalism or blogging, were peacefully engaging on a range of social and political issues, including opposing official corruption and calling for multi-party democracy and electoral fairness. Some activists objected to Vietnam’s relations with China, while others opposed the arrest and trial of other Vietnamese citizens on political grounds. Some opposed environmentally harmful bauxite mining projects and land grabs by the state and others argued for labor rights or improved access to education.

“In short, these young activists were engaged in the kind of peaceful political expression that all of us in democratic states take for granted as a fundamental right,” said Weiner. He expressed gratitude that UNWGAD “ruled so clearly that the Vietnamese government is legally required to release these detainees.”

The detainees are affiliated with the Roman Catholic Redemptorist Church in Vietnam, and many were charged as being members of Viet Tan, a Vietnamese pro-democracy party.

UNWGAD was emphatic in rejecting Vietnam’s contention that the activists were not arrested for being journalists and bloggers, but rather for their violation of Vietnamese laws. The Working Group specifically stated that a purported “[v]iolation of national legislation as referred to by the Government [of Vietnam] does not in and of itself justify detention.” In a holding that categorically rejects the Vietnamese Government’s strategy of relying on its vague criminal statutes to suppress political speech, UNWGAD ruled that “the criminal provisions that gave rise to the charge against the sixteen individuals and their subsequent conviction by the court cannot be regarded as consistent with the relevant provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” The Working Group reiterated that “the holding and expressing of opinions, including those which are not in line with official Government policy, are protected under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” The Working Group also stated, as Weiner had argued in his petition and subsequent communications to UNWGAD, that the Vietnamese Government had not provided any evidence “of any violent action or actions on the part of any of the detainees.”

Based on these findings, the Working Group called upon Vietnam “to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation, which include the immediate release of the aforementioned individuals.” The Working Group further called upon the Vietnamese Government to provide adequate reparation to the detainees to compensate them for the violations of their rights. It also reminded Vietnam of its obligations “to bring its laws into conformity with international law, in particular international human rights law.”

Weiner described this as a significant decision: “The use by governments of their legal systems to stifle dissent and suppress challenges to illegal governmental restrictions and human rights abuses is a growing trend around the world.” UNWGAD’s decision “reflects a clear statement that countries may not rely on repressive domestic laws as an excuse to evade their human rights obligations under international law.”

Although the decision of UNWGAD is not itself legally binding, Weiner explained that “it represents an authoritative interpretation of international legal obligations that Vietnam has accepted and that are already binding on them.” He added that “under the circumstances, the Vietnamese government can no longer claim that it has any plausible legal basis for continuing to incarcerate these activists.” Weiner urged Vietnam to comply with its international human rights obligations.

The petitioners are as follows: Mr. DANG Xuan Dieu, Mr. HO Duc Hoa, Mr. NGUYEN Van Oai, Mr. CHU Manh Son, Mr. DAU Van Duong, Mr. TRAN Huu Duc, Mr. LE Van Son, Mr. NONG Hung Anh, Mr. NGUYEN Van Duyet, Mr. NGUYEN Xuan Anh, Mr. HO Van Oanh, Mr. THAI Van Dung, Mr. TRAN Minh Nhat, Ms. TA Phong Tan, Mr. TRAN Vu Anh Binh and Mr. NGUYEN Dinh Cuong.

“I have been honored by the opportunity to serve these brave young activists who are seeking merely to build better lives for the citizens of Vietnam. I commend the Working Group for issuing so clear a statement about the illegal nature of Hanoi’s activities and look forward to the immediate release of these detainees and others who have been imprisoned in violation of their international human rights,” said Weiner.

The decision of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is available here.

About Allen S. Weiner

Allen S. Weiner is senior lecturer in law, director of the Stanford Program in International and Comparative Law, and co-director of the Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation at Stanford University. He is an international legal scholar with expertise in such wide-ranging fields as international and national security law, the law of war, international conflict resolution, and international criminal law (including transitional justice). His scholarship focuses on international law and the response to the contemporary security threats of international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He also explores the relationship between international law and the invocation of domestic “war powers” in connection with the U.S. response to terrorism. In the realm of international conflict resolution, his highly multidisciplinary work analyzes the barriers to resolving violent political conflicts. Weiner’s scholarship is deeply informed by experience; he practiced international law in the U.S. Department of State for more than a decade advising government policymakers, negotiating international agreements, and representing the United States in litigation before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Court of Justice, and the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal. Before joining the Stanford Law School faculty in 2003, Weiner served as legal counselor to the U.S. Embassy in The Hague and attorney adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser of the U.S. Department of State. He was a law clerk to Judge John Steadman of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School (www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

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EDITORIAL CONTACTS

For comment:
Allen Weiner
Director, Stanford Program in International and Comparative Law
Stanford Law School
Phone: 650 724-5892
Email: aweiner@stanford.edu

For Stanford Law School:
Anjali Abraham
Associate Director of Media Relations
Stanford Law School
DESK: 650 723.2232
EMAIL: aabraham@law.stanford.edu

U.S. Supreme Court calls on SLS’ Barton Thompson to help settle longstanding water law dispute

SLS Professor Barton H. "Buzz" Thompson, Jr.

Stanford, Calif., November 20, 2013 – The United States Supreme Court has appointed SLS Professor Barton H. “Buzz” Thompson, Jr. as a special master in a years-long battle between Montana and Wyoming over their respective water rights. Thompson is the Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law at SLS and the Perry L. McCarty Director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Montana and Wyoming each argue that the other has violated the Yellowstone River Compact of 1950, an agreement that governs water use in a basin that includes parts of Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. Their legal battle has already lasted more than six years.

The U.S. Supreme Court is now relying on Thompson to help it resolve the case. While the Court typically hears cases on appeal, it has original jurisdiction in all cases involving disputes between states. This means that feuding states can take their case directly to the Court without first having to go to a trial court. When these cases arise, the Court usually appoints a special master to conduct what amounts to a trial and then make recommendations to the Court.

Before joining the SLS faculty in 1986, Thompson was a partner at O’Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles and a lecturer at the UCLA School of Law. He served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, J.D. ’52 (B.A. ’48, M.A. ’48) and to Judge Joseph T. Sneed of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Thompson is Chairman of the Board of the Resources Legacy Fund and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, a California trustee for The Nature Conservancy and a board member of the American Farmland Trust and the Sonoran Institute. He previously served as a member of the Science Advisory Board for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Thompson is also a senior fellow (by courtesy) at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Thompson’s current role is not his first experience serving as a special master, nor his first time helping settle water challenges between Montana and Wyoming. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court appointed Thompson as a special master in Montana v. Wyoming (137 Original).

About Stanford Law School Stanford Law School (www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

Leading Health Law Scholar Joins Stanford Law School Faculty

SLS Professor David Studdert; photo courtesy of University of Melbourne

STANFORD, Calif., November 18, 2013—Stanford Law School today announced that David M. Studdert has joined the Stanford faculty as professor of law, effective November 1st. He also holds a joint appointment as professor of medicine at Stanford School of Medicine.

Professor Studdert is a leading expert in the fields of health law and empirical legal research. His scholarship explores how the legal system influences the health and well-being of populations. He is a prolific scholar who has authored more than 150 articles and book chapters, and his work frequently appears in leading international law, medical and health policy publications.

“David’s vast scholarship in health law and policy continues to be highly influential in multiple fields,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School. “His exceptional ability to bridge complex legal and scientific concepts is an ideal complement to Stanford’s rich tradition of interdisciplinary study and is a tremendous asset to our students and faculty. We are very excited that David has joined the SLS community.”

Before joining SLS, Professor Studdert was on the faculty at University of Melbourne and the Harvard School of Public Health. He has also worked as a policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, a policy advisor to the Minister for Health in Australia and a practicing attorney.

“David is a wonderful colleague, as I know from our past collaborations on health policy research projects,” said Deborah Hensler, Judge John W. Ford Professor of Dispute Resolution and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies at SLS. “His policy analysis experience and health law expertise will contribute significantly to our new public policy initiative and ‎his international perspective is icing on the cake.”

“I am absolutely delighted to have David as a colleague,” said Daniel Kessler, SLS Professor of Law. “He is an internationally-known scholar with broad interests in law and public health. This is a huge win for the Law School.”

Professor Studdert’s research has addressed the full spectrum of health law and policy, including the performance of the medical liability system, conflicts of interest in medical research, informed consent and the regulation of nursing homes.

“David is one of the foremost health law scholars and he will help build and strengthen collaborations between the School of Medicine and Law School,” said Douglas Owens, Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. Professor, and Director of the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research at Stanford School of Medicine and of the Center for Health Policy at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Law School who have interests in health policy.”

Professor Studdert received the Alice S. Hersh New Investigator Award from AcademyHealth, the leading organization for health services and health policy research in the United States, in 2004. He was awarded a Federation Fellowship in 2006 and a Laureate Fellowship in 2011 by the Australian Research Council. He holds a law degree from University of Melbourne and a doctoral degree in health policy and public health from the Harvard School of Public Health.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the SLS faculty,” said Professor Studdert. “It’s a remarkable faculty full of scholars whose work I admire. I’m excited about the prospect of learning from them, and forging new research collaborations here. I’m also looking forward to engaging with Stanford Law students.”

About Stanford Law School Stanford Law School (www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

Stanford University announces inaugural recipient of the Bright Award

The Bright Award will be given annually to an unheralded individual who has made significant contributions to global conservation efforts. The inaugural prize recognizes a forestry manager whose innovative efforts have reduced deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and cut Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions.

This news story was originally published November 13, 2013 in Stanford Report.

By Bjorn Carey

Tasso Azevedo describes sustainable forestry practices in a preserve near Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo credit: Gordon Gurley.

Tasso Azevedo, a forestry manager and socio-environmental entrepreneur dedicated to preserving the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Bright Award at Stanford University. The $100,000 prize is given annually to an unheralded individual who has made significant contributions to global sustainability. It is the top environmental award from Stanford.

Azevedo founded the Brazilian non-governmental organization Imaflora to create alternatives to deforestation and was the first chief and director general of the Brazilian Forest Service. In the past 18 years, his innovative approach in promoting forestry management techniques has contributed to reducing the rate of deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent, and resulted in a 35 percent reduction of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions. His work has inspired similar efforts around the world.

The Bright Award, issued by Stanford Law School in collaboration with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, is the only honor of its kind to recognize significant achievement in conservation in different regions of the world. The prize was made possible by a gift to Stanford Law School from alumnus Ray Bright.

“Tasso Azevedo’s innovative approach to forestry management represents what the Bright Award is all about,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean at Stanford Law School. “It was a genuine honor to select Tasso as the inaugural recipient of the Bright Award and a joy to personally inform him of the exciting news. His work in preventing deforestation continues to produce dramatic results in South America, and his eagerness to involve all parties in preservation efforts is an example for all who strive to protect our environment.”

“Tasso is thinking about multiple ways in which he can influence ways forests can be successfully managed in a sustainable way,” said Nomination Committee Chair Barton H. “Buzz” Thompson Jr., JD/MBA ’76 (BA ’72), the Robert E. Paradise Professor in Natural Resources Law and Perry L. McCarty Director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “He’s somebody who is thinking very practically and looking at multiple ways he can change people’s behavior, and he has been very effective at doing this at both the governmental and NGO level. These were all characteristics that we had in mind as we searched for a recipient of this first Bright Award.”

Assigning value

Azevedo began his forestry career in 1995, soon after graduating from the University of Sao Paulo. He co-founded Imaflora on the premise that the most effective way to conserve tropical rainforests was to assign them an economic value, while promoting environmentally sound and socially fair management practices. This approach involves processes that certify that commercial forest products were harvested from forests that are responsibly managed.

Under his leadership, from 1995 to 2002, Imaflora became the leading environmental certification institution in Brazil, certifying more than 3 million hectares of forest. It also developed several global innovations, such as getting the public involved in setting standards and conducting assessments and establishing the Social Certification Fund to support the certification of community and family operations.

In 2003, Azevedo was appointed Brazil’s national forest program director, under the Ministry of Environment. In this role, he introduced goals and incentives to promote sustainable forestry that resulted in nearly doubling the annual area of planted forests and the area of natural forest managed in the country.

Azevedo implemented and chaired the National Forest Commission – which involved representatives from NGOs, loggers, forestry industry, indigenous people, social movements, workers’ unions, scientists and government – that proposed a bill to reform regulations and practices in public forests. Such forests comprise 75 percent of the Amazon. After the law was approved, the president nominated Azevedo as the first chief and director general of the Brazilian Forest Service. During this time, he instituted an innovative forest concession model whereby any parties wishing to bid for a long-term contract to harvest forest products must first detail the social benefits and environmental care that the operation will implement.

In 2003 and 2004, Azevedo collaborated with public agencies, NGOs and sustainable businesses to defeat the illegal traffic of mahogany, one of the most endangered and expensive timbers in the market. A task force apprehended more than 10,000 cubic meters of logs; the timber was sold through certified companies and the profits were donated to an endowment fund to benefit the local communities that had previously been pressured by illegal loggers. Within a few months’ time, the illegal market of mahogany from Brazil had virtually collapsed.

Fighting deforestation

These experiences inspired the creation of the National Plan to Combat Deforestation in the Amazon that aligned actions by the federal and state governments with the public to fight the all-time record of 2.7 million hectares of deforestation in 2004. Azevedo was one of the key people involved in designing and implementing the plan that resulted in multiple positive actions, such as the imprisonment of more than 700 people, including more than 100 public servants, involved in corruption and illegal actions related to deforestation and forest degradation. Officials apprehended 1.4 million cubic meters of illegal logs and created 25 million hectares of newly protected areas. Compared to the average rate of deforestation in the 1990s, the deforestation rate had decreased by 50 percent as of 2007 and by 80 percent by 2012.

By this time, Azevedo had become exceptionally aware of deforestation’s role in climate change. Global warming is driven not just by carbon emissions, but also by the reduction of Earth’s natural ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Historically, deforestation has been the single most important source of greenhouse gas emissions from Brazil. In 2005 it represented two-thirds of all emissions, and Brazil was the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

Limiting deforestation is a key step in addressing climate change concerns, Azevedo said. But for Brazil, the forests also need protection for basic reasons.

“It’s in Brazil’s best interest to protect the forest because it’s our main source of rain,” he said. “Seventy percent of our rain comes from evaporation from the forest. If we don’t have forests, we don’t have rain. Eighty percent of our energy comes from hydroelectric power; if we don’t have rain, we don’t have energy. We don’t have agriculture or fresh water. It’s a no-brainer. We have to take care of the forests.”

The reduction of deforestation since 2005 represents more than 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions avoided, by far the greatest contribution of any country in the world to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Environmental Program.

These achievements inspired Azevedo to propose the Amazon Fund, a fund dedicated entirely to promoting forest conservation in the Amazon and monitoring forests around the world. The Amazon Fund, established in 2008 and currently the largest forest conservation fund in the world, has a commitment of $1 billion, distributed over seven years, from the Norwegian government to continuously reduce deforestation.

From 2009 to 2012, Azevedo worked as a consultant to the Minister of Environment in Brazil on forest and climate policy and, in collaboration with other leaders, designed Brazil’s National Policy on Climate Change, which included a goal of reducing Brazil’s emissions by 36.1 percent by 2020.

Lately Azevedo has begun developing a system to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors of Brazil’s economy as an open data source in partnership with more than 30 civil organizations.

“I’m very lucky,” he said. “I’ve just happened to be in the right place in the right time to make a difference, and I’m very happy that I could be useful to all my teammates in facing all those challenges.”

The Bright Award was made possible by a generous estate gift to Stanford Law School from Ray Bright, Stanford Law School class of 1959, and his wife, Marcelle.  Bright passed away in 2011.

Youthful mountaineer

As a child, Bright spent countless hours outdoors with his father, who was a park ranger at Mount Rainier National Park. At age 4, he became the youngest person to scale the 10,000-foot peak of Mount Baker in Washington. His passion for the outdoors carried on throughout his life, as he and Marcelle made frequent visits to Yosemite, Death Valley and other natural wonders around the world.

“Our brother wanted to make sure that the things he enjoyed in life, others could enjoy in the future, and he wanted to do something to sustain or enhance experience in the human environment,” said George Bright, Ray’s brother and an adviser on the award.

In laying out his plans for the Bright Award, Bright sought to recognize unsung people who were actively leading efforts to protect or reinvigorate an area and lead it toward a more environmentally sound future. He hoped that the prize and the recognition would allow the recipient to have an even larger influence after receiving the award.

A nomination committee comprised of Stanford Law School faculty members, law students and others on campus, with assistance from consultants focused on designated regions of the world, will recommend potential candidates each year. The Dean of Stanford Law School will select the final award recipient. In line with Bright’s wishes that the award become a global honor, each winner will be selected from a rotating list of 10 regions of the world, starting with South America.

“He admired people who were out in the world doing their own thing to preserve environment and civilization, and he thought they weren’t getting the recognition for the great work that they were doing,” said Mike Bright, who also advises on the award recipient. “This is his way to start something, and in particular he wanted to recognize efforts that would lead to establishing world laws that could help preserve the environment around the world.”

The Bright brothers praised the selection of Azevedo, noting that his work to protect the rainforests in Brazil is exactly the sort of effort that Bright envisioned when he funded the award.

“It’s a really fantastic opportunity to be able to make an award like this through Stanford University,” said Thompson. “For several decades now, Stanford has been committed to research and education that leads to practical solutions for environmental problems. The Bright Award allows us to recognize and promote the work of people like Tasso, who are doing exactly what we’re teaching our students they should do when they get out of Stanford.”

Azevedo will visit Stanford on Dec. 10 for the formal award ceremony in Paul Brest Hall on the Stanford Law School campus and will deliver a lecture on his work. The 2014 award winner will come from North or Central America and will be announced in the fall of 2014. For more information about the Bright Award, see brightaward.stanford.edu.

The event will take place from 4:00 PM-6:30 PM on Tuesday, December 10th, at Paul Brest Hall at the Munger Residences, 555 Salvatierra Walk, Stanford, CA 94305. It is open to the public and will include an award ceremony, lecture and reception. Parking and directions can be found at http://campus-map.stanford.edu. RSVPs should be sent to Diane Osborne at brightaward@law.stanford.edu.

Cultural property conference honors legacy of SLS Professor John Henry Merryman, architect of the field

SLS Professor John Henry Merryman

Stanford, Calif., November 11, 2013 – Stanford Law School recently welcomed scholars of art and law to celebrate the contributions of John Henry Merryman, Nelson Bowman Sweitzer and Marie B. Sweitzer Professor of Law, Emeritus, to cultural property law and international heritage policy. Merryman’s singular influence upon art law was feted at “Thinking About Cultural Property: The Legal and Public Policy Legacies of John Henry Merryman.” The weekend conference covered topics as diverse as the collection of tribal art and legal protections for art in the digital world.

The clear consensus among conference attendees was that Merryman’s impact upon art law is difficult to overstate. Merryman is “for all practical purposes, the founder of the field,” said Paul Brest, Professor of Law, Emeritus, and former Dean of SLS. Brest added that although Merryman officially retired many years ago, he remains so active in teaching and scholarship that he hardly seems retired.

Merryman was first drawn to art by “forces too powerful to resist”—his wife, Nancy, who was a successful international art dealer, and their neighbor, Albert Elsen, a close friend and professor of art at Stanford. After agreeing to teach a course about art and the law at SLS in the early 1970s, Merryman and Elsen faced an immediate challenge. Since the very idea of the course was so innovative, there was no existing curriculum to rely upon.

“We had to build the whole infrastructure” of the course, Merryman said. What they built was contained in their widely-adopted course book, Law, Ethics and the Visual Arts, which is currently in its fifth edition and set for an upcoming sixth edition.

Professor Merryman teaching a class at SLS

Their effort was unquestionably successful, and was especially beneficial to SLS’ students. Because learning the substance of art law and making the necessary connections in the field are both challenging, “getting into this world is not at all routine,” according to Mark Kelman, James C. Gaither Professor of Law and Vice Dean at SLS. “John has always been one of the leading experts in the world … and could expose students to issues on the ground,” as well as introducing those students to his own invaluable contacts, Kelman remarked.

With the conference set to begin, Merryman identified his hopes for cultural property law going forward. Having coined the phrase “Preservation, Truth, and Access,” Merryman indicated that scholars and practitioners in the field must be mindful of three policy considerations. First, artifacts of our cultural heritage must be protected. As Merryman said, “whatever happens, it ought to be done in a way that preserves the art.” Second, preservation efforts must allow scholars continuing access to artworks. Finally, the public must have reliable access to artworks in order to enjoy them.

Merryman also invoked the contrast between cultural nationalism and cultural internationalism. Under the cultural nationalism theory, cultural property always belongs to its country of origin. Cultural internationalism, however, holds that cultural property belongs to all peoples.

“When pushed to the extreme, cultural nationalism is deplorable,” Merryman warned.

Merryman advised that the best approach to dealing with matters of cultural property is to engage in critical thinking and avoid the temptation to make decisions based on emotion.

“Everyone knows how we feel, but how should we think?” he posited.

While Merryman’s dedication to the legal and policy aspects of cultural property law is as robust as ever, he clearly remains interested in art in its own right. Suggesting that art represents something fundamental about the human experience, Merryman observed that art is “part of our cultural heritage—it helps tell us who we are, where we come from.”

Read more about Merryman’s life and work in this Stanford Lawyer feature.

About Professor John Henry Merryman An internationally renowned expert on art and cultural property law and comparative law, John Henry Merryman continues to teach and publish prolifically, while now in his tenth decade. He has received numerous international prizes and honors, including the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic and honorary doctorates from Aix-en Provence, Rome (Tor Virgate), and Trieste, and has been celebrated in two Festschiften: Comparative and Private International Law: Essays in Honor of John Henry Merryman on His Seventieth Birthday and Legal Culture in the Age of Globalization: Latin America and Latin Europe. In 2004, Professor Merryman received the American Society of Comparative Law’s Lifetime Achievement Award “for his extraordinary scholarly contribution over a lifetime to comparative law in the United States.” He also has been both a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fulbright Research Professor at the Max Planck Institute. Before joining the Stanford Law School faculty in 1953, Professor Merryman was a member of the faculty at Santa Clara University.

About Stanford Law School Stanford Law School (www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.