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Transnational Public Law Litigation

Harold Hongju Koh
The Yale Law Journal
Vol. 100, No. 8, Symposium: International Law (Jun., 1991), pp. 2347-2402
DOI: 10.2307/796897
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/796897
Page Count: 56
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Transnational Public Law Litigation
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Abstract

Many lawyers erroneously believe that domestic and international litigation proceed along wholly separate tracks. In traditional domestic litigation, private individuals bring municipal-law claims against one another before competent domestic judicial fora, seeking both enunciation of norms and retrospective damages relief. In traditional international litigation, nation-states bring public claims against each other before global tribunals of limited competence, primarily seeking enunciation of international legal norms for use in future political settlement. In this article, Professor Koh identifies an emerging model of adjudication, transnational public law litigation, which melds these traditional litigation modes. In transnational public law litigation, he argues, private individuals, government officials, and nations bring "public actions" against one another in domestic courts, primarily seeking judicial declaration of transnational public norms for use as bargaining chips in other political fora. Professor Koh traces the historical evolution of this phenomenon back to the earliest days of the Republic and argues in favor of its further judicial development. To decide these cases, he rejects the "vertical" approach to international law adjudication in domestic courts that Professor Brilmayer urges, in favor of a "doctrinal-targeting" approach that would address more precisely the concerns about comity, separation of powers, and judicial competence that transnational public lawsuits generally raise. Finally, he suggests that this doctrinal debate has important ramifications not just for judicial decisionmaking, but also for an emerging trend in international legal scholarship: the study of the "new international legal process."

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