Remarks of The Chief Justice
Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
20th Anniversary Judicial Conference
April 8, 2002, 1:30 p.m.
Thank you Bob [Chief Judge Mayer]. I always enjoy attending the Judicial Conference of the Federal Circuit, and am particularly pleased to do so this year, as you celebrate the court's 20th anniversary.
This afternoon I thought I would speak briefly about the increasing participation of the federal courts in international judicial exchanges. Although such judicial exchanges are not new -- there was an Anglo-American exchange forty years ago in 1961 -- the number of participants has risen dramatically and the variety of topics of concern to participants has grown in parallel with the global economy.
When the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was established 20 years ago, international judicial exchanges were not nearly as common as they are today. And the participants in exchanges back then had likely never dreamed of most of the technological advances that have taken place during that time, from electronic case filing to the Internet.
In 1990, Chief Judge Mayer served with a number of judges on an ad hoc Judicial Conference Committee established to organize the Fifth International Appellate Judges' Conference in Washington. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of the newly independent states in Eastern Europe began to establish democratic institutions and sought information about our legal system. Finally, because of the growing demands on the federal judiciary to participate in international judicial exchanges, in late 1993, the International Judicial Relations Committee of the Judicial Conference was established. The members of that committee have participated in exchanges and education programs all over the world. One of the original members of the Committee was former Chief Judge Edward Re, of the Court of International Trade. Members of our Court have also participated in exchanges with a number of countries, including Great Britain, Russia, Canada, France, Italy, India and Germany. Six years ago, I attended the first meeting of the Organization of the Supreme Courts of the Americas held at the Supreme Court.
Just last fall, on September 25, 2001, I led a delegation that included Justice Breyer on a judicial exchange in Mexico. The visit was at the invitation of Chief Justice Góngora Pimentel of the Mexican Supreme Court and followed a similar visit to Washington by a Mexican delegation in November 1999.
The exchange consisted of a series of meetings where we spoke about topics as varied as the Judicial Branch and the press, and judicial education. But as is common in these types of meetings, the real value of these reciprocal visits is in establishing face-to-face contact with judges in another country who, despite the differences between our judicial systems, face many of the same problems faced by federal judges in the United States.
Traditionally, international judicial exchanges have focused on such areas as constitutional law, procedure, criminal law, the jury system, judicial independence and court administration. And the judiciary participants from our federal courts have most often been judges on the regional Courts of Appeals or the District Courts. But with the growth in global commerce and technology, the areas within the jurisdiction and expertise of the Federal Circuit have become more and more topical for international exchanges. As new judicial systems get past the initial efforts to put basic rules and systems in place, they become able to focus on areas such as patent and trade law.
So as your court enters its third decade, I hope that you will take the opportunity to participate in international judicial exchanges with more regularity. It is important for judges and legal communities of different nations to exchange views, share information and learn to better understand one another and our legal systems. The judges in this circuit have a lot to offer.
I congratulate you on your first two decades and wish you continued success.