Report on Sixteenth Annual Franco-American Legal Seminar
Paris, Le Mans, Rennes
Introduction. This year’s Franco-American Legal Seminar took place in France from March 5 through March 13. Professors Charles Norchi, Martin Rogoff, and Sarah Schindler accompanied fifteen students from the University of Maine School of Law (Joel Biron, Ben Buxton, Amber Collins, Robin Campbell, Adéline Dauboin, Mike Dixon, Sarah Kellar, Sarah Lawson-Stopps, Meghan Ogren, John O’Hara, Kim Pacelli, Matt Peacock, Chris Raucher, Laura Rideout, and Alan Vaillancourt). Professor Dave Own assisted in planning the Seminar and working with students on their presentations. Students and faculty from the Faculté de Droit of the Université du Maine (Le Mans) and the Faculté de Droit of the University of Rennes 1 also participated. The visit was organized by Professors Myriam Rousille (Le Mans) and Béatrice Parance (Le Mans) and Jean-Éric Gicquel (Rennes) and Ludovic Ayrault (Rennes). Other French faculty participants were Professors Juliette Morel-Morager (Le Mans) and Chantal Cans (Le Mans). Crucial organizational support was provided by Laurence Lailler (Le Mans) and Nicole Vinal (University of Maine School of Law). The principal theme for this year’s Seminar was Environmental Catastrophes: Prevention and Response. A secondary theme for the Seminar was Franco-American Amity in Historical Perspective.
Saturday and Sunday. The American student group arrived in Paris on Saturday, March 5. Saturday and most of Sunday were free for sight-seeing. The Seminar began on Sunday evening with a dinner at le Procope restaurant. Le Procope is the oldest restaurant in Paris, established in 1686. It was frequented by such French literary luminaries as La Fontaine, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and Verlaine; and also by American representatives in France during the revolutionary period and immediately after (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe). Le Procope is thus an historic place, with special significance as a symbol of Franco-American friendship and cooperation. The dinner took place in the Benjamin Franklin dining room, a beautiful venue dominated by an illuminated bust of Franklin. The dinner was attended by 38 persons: the professors and students named above (except Ludovic Ayrault, Dave Owen, and Béatrice Parance); Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusef (International Court of Justice); Ambassador Mark Miggiani (Maltese ambassador to France) andwife; Professors Armel Le Divillec (Paris 2), Mark Kende (Drake), Pierre-Henri Prélot (Cergy-Pontoise), and Leila Sadat (Washington University); former student participants in the Seminar and/or in the University of Maine School of Law’s exchange programs (Jessica Cardill, Riccardo de Caria, David Corbé-Chalon, Nathalie Fourgeaud, Anjulie Gungadin, Sophie Martineau, and Amanda Zane); French attorney Jean-François Lang; and French law student Marion Perruche.
Judge Yusef and Ambassador Miggiani addressed the group after dinner. Professor Rogoff also spoke: he described revolutionary-era links between the American colonies and later the fledgling United States, with emphasis on the role of Benjamin Franklin in negotiating a war-time alliance with France and later the peace treaty between the United States and Great Britain (which was signed in Paris on rue Jacob, only a few short blocks from le Procope). Remarks were also made by Professor Pierre-Henri Prélot and Maître Jean-François Lang.
Monday. On Monday morning the group visited the Senate, located in the historic and beautiful Palais du Luxembourg. We were hosted by the third-ranking member of the Senate’s administrative staff and his colleague responsible for the organization and functioning of the Senate’s legislative sessions. They explained the place of the Senate in the French constitutional scheme, its workings in detail, and the historic and symbolic significance of the magnificent statutes, paintings, and frescoes adorning the building. During this presentation, the group was seated on the Senate floor, and later could explore the chamber where plaques on certain desks indicated the names of illustrious past senators who occupied those desks (like Victor Hugo and Georges Clemenceau). Later that day, the group visited the Court of Cassation (France’s highest court for civil and criminal matters), where a member of the Court described the jurisdiction and workings of the Court.
In the late afternoon, the group attended a colloquium at the Collège de France entitled Paris in America. The first part of the colloquium was devoted to the career of Édouard Laboulaye (1811-1883), a professor at the Collège de France, the author of several books about the United States and its government, the person who conceived the idea of (and raised the funds for) the Statute of Liberty, and convinced his friend Frédéric Bartholdi to undertake the project. Professor Mireille Delmas-Marty (Collège de France) presided. Presentations were made by Olivier Dutheillet de Lamothe (former member of the Constitutional Council), and by Professors Jean-Louis Halpérin (École normale superieure), Bénédicte Fauvarque-Cosson (Paris 2), Vivian Curran (University of Pittsburgh), and George Bermann (Columbia University). The second part of the colloquium was devoted to a discussion of the recent book by Justice Stephen Breyer entitled Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge’s View. Robert Badinter, former president of the Constitutional Council and former Minister of Justice, presided. Discussants were Justice Breyer, Guy Canivet (member of the Constitutional Council), Mireille Delmas-Marty (Collège de France), and Antoine Garapon (Secretary General of the Institute for the Study of Justice). Justice Breyer’s remarks (in French) were animated and passionate as he presented a justification for and the responsibility of the United States Supreme Court in assuring democracy in the American political process.
Tuesday. The group spent all Tuesday morning at the Constitutional Council. We were received there by the chief of the Council’s legal staff. He explained the working of the Council, with special emphasis on the new basis of jurisdiction which it was accorded by the July 2008 amendments to the Constitution. The addition to the Constitution of new article 61-1 now allows the Council to consider the constitutionality of a law that has already entered into force during an ordinary litigation in the civil or administrative court system. This is an enormous innovation in French constitutional practice, which has long been hostile to judicial review. After learning about this new procedure (called the QPC, question prioritaire de constitutionnalité), our group witnessed arguments in four QPC cases through closed-circuit TV in a conference room in the Council building. We then had a tour of the Council’s premises, followed by a champagne reception.
On Tuesday afternoon, we attended a seminar at the École normale superieure organized especially for us by Professor Jean-Louis Halpérin on French legal culture. Late in the afternoon the group travelled to Le Mans. We were greeted by French students and faculty with a reception in a restaurant near the train station. American students were met by the French students who would host them in their homes until Sunday morning.
Wednesday and Thursday. All day Wednesday and Thursday French and American students presented and discussed their papers on the principal theme of the Seminar: Environmental Catastrophes: Prevention and Response. Papers were uniformly well done and enthusiastically presented.
On Wednesday evening, the group attended a reception at the Le Mans Bar Association’s Maison des Avocats. We were greeted there by the president of the Le Mans Bar Association and the president-elect. Also in attendance were the Procureur de la République for the area (a position equivalent to United States Attorney), and the president of the district’s trial court. There was discussion of the possibility of establishing an internship opportunity for American exchange students in local law firms, the public prosecutor’s office, and the courts. Later that evening, Professors Rogoff and Schindler dined with the president of the Le Mans Bar Association, the president-elect, a former president, the head trial judge, and Professor Christophe Guettier (former dean of the law school). Useful discussions on cooperative relations were had. On Thursday evening, Professors Rogoff and Schindler dined at the home of Yves Guillotin, President of the Université du Maine. Also present was Philippe Daniel, Vice President for International Relations. Useful discussions on cooperative relations were had.
Friday. On Friday, the group visited Rennes. After having had lunch in a typical Breton crêperie, the group visited the Parlement de Bretagne, now the seat of trial and appellate courts, but in pre-revolutionary days the seat of the important legal and political institution called the Parlement de Bretagne. To understand certain significant legal outcomes of the French revolution (like attitudes towards judges and judicial review, for example), it is necessary to understand the role the regional Parlements played in the Old Regime. These important historical matters were amply described by our guides.
Following our visit to the Parlement of Bretagne, we had free time for discovering the charms of Rennes, one of the most historic, beautiful, and lively cities in France. Later that evening, we had a Gala Dinner in a local restaurant. Speeches were made, gifts were exchanged, and amicable relations cemented between French and American students.
Saturday. On Saturday, the group visited the castle of the count of Rochambeau, located on the Loir River, a small tributary of the well-known Loire River. The count’s ancestor was the famous Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, who commanded the French army whose support was crucial to George Washington’s victory over the British at Yorktown in 1781. Nathalie de Gouberville, the daughter of the recently-deceased count, who now lives in the chateau with her husband, gave us a guided tour of the chateau and its grounds, providing much interesting historical information about General Rochambeau, his accomplishments, and his participation in the American Revolution. Following the tour of the chateau, we had lunch in the charming provincial village of Thoré-la-Rochette, visited a local vineyard to sample the wines of the region, and stopped off on the way back to Le Mans for a quick visit to the picturesque village of Trôo. We were accompanied on these visits by Flora Camoni, a French student who participated in the Seminar last year and who lives in and was thoroughly familiar with the area.
Conclusion. I would like to thank everyone who made this year’s Seminar such a valuable experience for all participants, especially my colleagues Sarah Schindler, Dave Owen, and Charles Norchi, and the Seminar organizers in Le Mans (Myriam Roussille and Béatrice Parance) and Rennes (Jean-Éric Gicquel and Ludovic Ayrault). Also, I would like to thank the French and American student participants for their academic efforts, cooperation, and good will.
Martin A. Rogoff
Director, French Law Program
University of Maine School of Law
March 16, 2011