It takes a special person to moderate a panel that includes sitting Supreme Court justices of three countries and two top international constitutional law scholars. The ABA's International Law Section called on Miller Canfield's Michael Traison (above, on right) for the assignment, and he delivered in world class form. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was literally and figuratively the center of the panel, which included Israeli Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran; Canadian Supreme Court Justice Morris J. Fish; M. Cherif Bassiouni, emeritus professor of law at DePaul University in Chicago; and Irwin Cotler, former Canadian minister of justice.
As he did in his visit to Michigan last spring, Justice Joubran explained the complicated and unique composition, jurisdiction, and operation of the Israeli Supreme Court, the busiest Supreme Court in the world, measured by caseload.
Much of the discussion focused on Canada's Charter “override” clause, that allows the federal government or a provincial legislature to enact a five-year override of sections of the charter that deal with freedoms and other legal rights.
On the controversial question of how the U.S. Supreme Court views foreign law, Justice Ginsburg said that a majority of the Court is "not averse" to looking beyond our borders. “International law is a part of our law. We are a nation among a world of nations. We can look to their attempts to wrestle with problems we face, for the persuasive value of the decisions." She also made clear that her observation that the Canadian and South African constitutions are more popular modern role models than the U.S. Constitution should not be construed as a put-down:
I revere the U.S. Constitution. It was way ahead of its time.
What's more, she said, she always carries a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution with her wherever she goes.