Toward an International Pro Bono movement?

Justice For AllIt is an unfortunate truism that, in a domestic setting, most parties who pay a lawyer “receive only as much justice as they can afford.”  These expenses can mount exponentially when the claim is international in nature.  Thus, absent a strong contingent of international practitioners willing to undertake pro bono publico work before international fora or in transnational litigation, serious limitations preclude the disenfranchised from accessing justice.  Frequently, such claims, even when brought, do not ultimately pass muster.  The unfortunate result is that those most in need of protection before international bodies, or domestic courts that host transnational litigation, find themselves at a marked disadvantage.

Absent talented attorneys willing and able to address the plight of the voiceless, many viable–or even non-viable yet important and controversial–claims may never see advancement to international bodies uniquely positioned to address them.

The International Bar Association recognizes that “[p]erformance of pro bono work has a positive systemic impact and enriches the true value of the legal profession,” and provides prospective pro bono counsel with the opportunity to seek support in filing international legal claims (or domestic claims on behalf of an international party).  The IBA launched this project along with an online ‘matching’ model that connects parties in need with legal resources and means of support in an effort “to promote volunteering as an integral part of legal practice” and “to promote and reinforce the Rule of Law.”  This service is particularly helpful in providing remote or otherwise disadvantaged regions of the world with access to representation.

Absent talented attorneys willing and able to address the plight of the voiceless, many viable–or even non-viable yet important and controversial–claims may never see advancement to international bodies uniquely positioned to address them.  This would represent a loss to the international community, which deserves the opportunity to review such injustices, and to properly ensure the equitable administration of justice in resolving them.

Selected Readings:

M. Clara Garcia Hernandez & Carole J. Powell, Valuing Gideon’s Gold: How Much Justice Can We Afford?, 122 Yale L.J. 2358, 2375 (2013).

Santiago A. Cueto, International Litigation Costs: A Comparative Study, International Law Business Advisor (Jun. 4, 2013), http://internationalbusinesslawadvisor.com/international-litigation/.

Maya Steinitz, The Case for an International Court of Civil Justice, 67 Stan. L. Rev. Online 75 (2014), http://www.stanfordlawreview.org/online/the-case-for-an-international-court-of-civil-justice.

Case Concerning the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro), 2007 I.C.J. 191, at para. 399 (finding no state responsibility absent “effective control” over the parties committing the crime of genocide)

Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 133 S. Ct. 1659, 185 L. Ed. 2d 671 (2013) (finding the Alien Tort Statute inapplicable to violations of international law occurring within another sovereign’s territory).

Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746, 187 L. Ed. 2d 624 (2014) (reversing the Ninth Circuit’s finding of general jurisdiction in a case involving “mothers of the disappeared” in Argentina who brought suit against Petitioner via its wholly-owned California subsidiary, MBUSA, in connection with the activities of its wholly-owned Argentinian subsidiary)

International Bar Association, IBA Pro Bono Site, http://www.ibanet.org/IBA_Pro_Bono.aspx (last visited Feb. 10, 2016).

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