Julia K. Schwartz
2016 Temple Bar Scholar Report
It was an incredible honor to learn about England’s legal system from its most influential and engaged practitioners and judges during the Temple Bar Scholarship program. Two related themes emerged during our month in London. We learned about the global reach of the English legal system, and also about the uncertainty that has resulted from the British electorate’s decision to leave the European Union in June 2016.
Due to the high caliber of British lawyers and judges and London’s status as a global financial center, English law often governs contractual relationships between parties from different countries. Roughly 50 percent of cases in London’s Commercial Court do not involve a British party or subject matter. We met The Honorable Mr. Justice Blair, head of the Commercial Court, who discussed the court’s collaboration with commercial judges around the world to promote best practices for managing international litigation. During my mini-pupillage at Fountain Court Chambers, I observed two trials involving international shipping disputes, and witnessed the fascinating conflicts-of-law, cultural, and international trade issues over which the Commercial Court judges adeptly preside.
We also learned about the uncertainty surrounding the country’s place in the international sphere that has resulted from the electorate’s decision to leave the European Union. During my mini-pupillage at Blackstone Chambers, I observed High Court arguments in a case against the government concerning how Britain will give notice of withdrawal from the European Union. Lord David Pannick of Blackstone Chambers, one of the country’s preeminent public law barristers, argued on behalf of concerned citizens that Parliament must vote to give notice under Britain’s doctrine of parliamentary supremacy. In January 2017 the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom agreed with the earlier ruling of the High Court, and held that Parliament must vote, though the Court denied the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish legislatures a veto.
It was fascinating to observe the challenges courts face in interpreting England’s unwritten constitution, particularly when confronted with complex political developments. One barrister I met told me that the Brexit case has strained multiple aspects of the country’s constitutional structure. She likened England’s constitutional system to a series of shifting tectonic plates. One of the primary plates—the European Union—has buckled. Another pressure point concerns the role of the judiciary in enforcing separation of powers principles. And yet a third strain concerns the relationship between the UK and the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
I am grateful to the American Inns of Court and COMBAR for giving me the opportunity to observe these fascinating legal developments first-hand. In particular, I would like to thank Cindy Dennis for her efforts planning our visit and Chief Judge Stewart for welcoming us to London during the Opening of the Legal Year festivities. I would also like to thank Lord Hughes, Justice of the Supreme Court, Stephen Moriarty QC at Fountain Court Chambers, and Harry Adamson, Daniel Burgess, and Kerenza Davis at Blackstone Chambers, who graciously shared their vast knowledge and experience with me. I have learned lessons from each of these individuals—and the many other barristers and judges I met in London—that I will remember as I continue my own practice.
Julia K. Schwartz is law clerk to Judge Richard A. Posner, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. A graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, she served as executive topics and comments editor of the University of Chicago Law Review. Honors included the Illinois Women’s Bar Foundation Scholarship, the Bradley Fellowship, and the Donald E. Egan Scholarship. Schwartz earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology summa cum laude from Princeton University, where her thesis research on an organization working to free the wrongly convicted was nominated for the Hank Dobin Thesis Prize. She clerked for Judge Matthew F. Kennelly on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and has worked as a summer associate at Sidley Austin LLP and Grippo & Elden LLC.