Experts debate merits of legal systems at international gathering in Argentina

Constitutional law experts meet in Buenos Aires. Mr. Rajeev Dhavan, centre, one of India’s leading constitutional lawyers shares his legal views at the international gathering. He is flanked to the right by Justice Anup Raj Sharma, Judge of the Supreme Court of Nepal; and to the left by Carlos M. Vazquez, Professor of Law at Georgetown University.

Comparing the way constitutional courts work in federal systems on five different continents brought judges, scholars and high court justices together for a two-day seminar in Buenos Aires, organized by the Forum of Federations.

Participants at the event included constitutional court justices from Germany, Nepal, Spain and Sri Lanka who joined superior court judges from Argentina, Brazil and Canada along with lawyers and academics from, Australia, India and the United States.

Among the questions discussed were the following:

  • How many judges are there in the constitutional court and how long do they serve?
  • Should the court’s judges be representatives of a country’s diversity or simply technical legal experts?
  • Do the constituent units such as states or provinces participate in the nominating or appointing of judges and what are the consequences?
  • What is the basis for the framing of federal questions to the court?
  • How effective is the court in resolving disputes over power sharing?
  • How long should it take the court to rule on constitutional quarrels between the federal and the constituent unit governments?
  • Should the court engage in self restraint or in judicial activism (the practice of some judges to become quasi-legislators by writing public policy into their decisions)?

On the second day of the seminar, held March 26-27, 2008, at the Faculty of Law of the University of Buenos Aires, several key topics were addressed including institutional, political, sociological, doctrinal and constitutional issues.

The experts invited by the Forum included Prof. Cheryl Saunders, Director of the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at the University of Melbourne; Luiz Alberto Gurgel de Faria, Professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande del Norte and Judge at the Federal Regional Tribunal of the 5th Region – Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil; Shawn Greenberg, Judge at the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, Canada.

The Forum also invited Udo Steiner, Former Judge of the Constitutional Court, Germany; Rajeev Dhavan, Advocate of the Supreme Court of India and an eminent Indian constitutional lawyer; Carlos M. Vazquez, Professor of Law, Georgetown University, United States. Two observers also attended: Anup Raj Sharma, Judge of the Supreme Court of Nepal and Saleem Marsoof P.C., Judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. Enric Fossas, Professor of Constitutional Law and former Judge of the Constitutional Court of Spain was invited by the Jimenez Abad Foundation of Spain.

Prof. Jorge Bercholc of the Buenos Aires Law Faculty co-ordinated the event while Prof. Saunders presided at the introductory session. The opening was attended by Julio Ortiz, the Vice-Dean of the Faculty; Timothy Martin, Canada’s Ambassador to Argentina; Eugenio Raul Zaffaroni, Argentina’s Minister of the Supreme Federal Tribunal; and George Anderson, the President of the Forum of Federations.

Mr. Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni,
Minister of the National Supreme Court of Justice of Argentina, addresses the gathering of constitutional experts.
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