ASCL 2019 Awards

October 24, 2019

During its Annual Meeting on October 16th-19th 2019 at the University of Missouri, School of Law, the Prizes Committee of the American Society of Comparative Law awarded its Annual Prizes. Here is the statement of the Prizes Committee, composed by Jorge Esquirol, Julia Qin, John Reitz (chair), and Ron Scalise:

  • Hessel Yntema Award for 2017 (award originally planned to be made at 2018 annual meeting)

The Prize Committee awarded the Hessel Yntema Prize for Volume 65 of the American Journal of Comparative Law for the 2017 calendar year to James G. Stewart & Asad Kiyani, The Ahistoricism of Legal Pluralism in International Criminal Law, 65 Am J. Comp. L. 393 (2017). 

The Prize Committee awards the Hessel Yntema Prize for the 2017 volume year of the American Journal of Comparative Law (Volume 65) to James G. Stewart & Asad Kiyani for their article “The Ahistoricism of Legal Pluralism in International Criminal Law,” 65 Am. J. Comp. L. 393-449 (2017). The article is a major contribution to the literature about international criminal law (ICL) and the importance of history to legal studies. The article addresses a major problem in the construction of ICL, namely the problem of identifying those domestic rules and doctrines that the various international and domestic courts applying ICL should use as the basis for that law to the extent that no international treaty provides a specific rule, as is often the case. Using a variety of examples, the article challenges the view that the presence of a given legal rule in a jurisdiction necessarily shows strong support for the rule within that country. The examples, include (1) the roots of the inchoate offense of association de malfaiteurs in the law of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that reach back to the legal tools used in Belgian (and ultimately in French) law to repress African opponents of European colonial power in Africa, (2) the parallel history of the development in ICL of the crime of conspiracy at the strong urging of the United States and the United Kingdom in the wake of World War II, (3) the adoption of German modes of attribution of criminal liability—like aiding and abetting, superior responsibility, and joint criminal enterprise—in Japanese law because of the enormous prestige of German law, and (4) the parallel adoption into ICL of similar doctrines of attribution, culminating in the adoption of liability for a “joint criminal enterprise” in the decision by the International Criminal Court for Yugoslavia in the Tadić case. In all these examples and more, the article argues that legal doctrine is a poor guide to social values in situations in which law is imposed by colonialism, military power, or even the inordinate prestige of a foreign legal order. The persistence of law adopted from the West may thus not reflect widespread support for the rule within the host country, certainly not when it was adopted as a tool of colonial repression and was maintained after decolonization because authoritarian and/or corrupt leaders found it apt for their purposes, as in the case of the DRC’s doctrine of association de malfaiteurs. The article is thus in sum a strong argument for the importance of paying attention to the history of legal doctrine argued to enjoy widespread acceptance and legitimacy. 

  • Hessel Yntema Award for 2018 (award made at 2019 annual meeting)

The Prize Committee has selected for the Hessel Yntema Award for Volume 66 of the American Journal of Comparative Law for the 2018 calendar year an article written by Jaakko Salminen, The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, 66 Am. J. Comp. L. 411-51 (2018).

Mr. Salminen’s article compares the Bangladeshi Accord on Fire and Building Safety, a binding agreement between First World buyers and international and Bangladeshi trade unions that obligates First World buyers to police the labor protections provided by their Third World suppliers and that can be enforced by arbitration, with the Alliance for Worker Safety, a non-binding, more traditional model of corporate social responsibility (CSR) relying on codes of best practices that lacks enforcement provisions and was drafted without the participation of Bangladeshi workers. Both the Accord and the Alliance resulted from the tragic Rana Plaza fire in Bangladesh in 2013 that resulted in the deaths of over one thousand garment workers.   

This paper is a fine analysis of a very important recent legal development. It makes full use of comparative law, including an extensive analysis of relevant contract law, especially in the various First World countries where the buyer’s liability would likely have to be enforced (the Accord does not have a choice of law requirement). While Salminen joins other scholars in praising the Accord as an advance in the protection of worker safety, he also analyzes the risks that First World buyers may use agreements subject to the Accord to cap their liability to Third World workers, much as manufacturers learned in the past century after they lost the privity defense to put in their contracts written “guarantees” against product defects that also established caps on their liability.  He also examines the risk that judges interpreting the Accord may be led by a number of factors about the Accord to refuse to apply domestic law protective of workers in favor of the specific language of the contract, thus denying workers the benefit of protections their own legal system might otherwise provide for them because they are different from what the Accord provides. Finally, in further analogy to the history of liability for product defects, he speculates in an interesting way about the possibility that the Accord could be a step on the long road to developing a more robust, generally applicable legal obligation on the part of buyers to police their suppliers for labor law violations. 

  • Senior Scholar Award

Ringe, Wolf-Georg, “Changing Law and Ownership Patterns in Germany: Corporate Governance and the Erosion of Deutschland AG,” 63 Am. J. Comp. L. 493 (2015). 

This piece on changes in ownership patterns in German corporations combines careful analysis of the data available on dispersion of share ownership in Germany with perceptive analysis of the reasons for the changes and what this chain of events in Germany may tell us about the interaction of legal reform and market pressures.  The award to this piece is a fitting tribute to our recently deceased colleague Roger Goebel because it is a fine piece of scholarship about an important issue at the heart of EU and comparative corporate law, areas about which Roger cared and devoted himself to study.

  • Service Prize

We award the first Service Prize to our long-time fellow member of the Society William B. Fisch, the Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Missouri, for his many acts of support and service to our Society.  

Bill began attending meetings of the Society in the 1960s as a member of the faculty of the North Dakota Law School, and since he joined the Missouri Law School faculty in 1970, he has until recently missed very few meetings. Even though he took emeritus status in January 2003, he continued to teach at Missouri as an adjunct faculty member until 2012 and he continued to remain active with the Society even longer. Over the years his service to the Society has included a post on the Executive Committee (1998-2000), Program Committee Chair from 2000 to 2010, and after that he served for several years as Parliamentarian, a post which also required his attendance at Executive Committee meetings. 

From 1986 to 2010, Bill Fisch participated in the Society’s efforts to respond fully to the invitation of the International Academy of Comparative Law to a multinational comparative study of law in its many different dimensions by contributing a U.S. national report for one of the congress topics in every one of the International Academy’s quadrennial comparative law congresses (seven in that time span). He also contributed a chapter on professional contracts to the International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law when the Society made a major push to assist with the completion of that Encyclopedia.  

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