Thomas Jefferson School of Law once again took on a strong international flavor as the San Diego French-American Chamber of Commerce (SDFACC) met at TJSL on August 31.
It was a cultural exchange in the purest sense of the word, as the event featured seminars on both the French and the American legal systems for those unfamiliar with one or the other. The event was titled the Legal Business Conference and it was a first for TJSL.
Dean Rudy Hasl welcomed everyone, saying that the law school is happy to be creating yet another partnership with France, which already has a study aboard program in Nice, France.
“TJSL is uniquely positioned for offering expertise in foreign trade law,” Dean Hasl said. “We have more expertise than you will find elsewhere.”
Professor Susan Tiefenbrun, who founded the Nice Program and who could be called TJSL’s resident ambassador to France, delivered a charming welcome speech in beautiful French. She told everyone, “I love France. I love the language, the people, the culture, the music, the art, the gastronomy, the fashion and above all, the literature.” In fact, for her efforts at fostering educational and cultural cooperation between France and the United States Professor Tiefenbrun was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal by President Jacques Chirac in 2003.
Professor Thomas Golden was given the unenviable task of educating the audience about the U.S. legal system in record time – 20 minutes - which he did admirably. The U.S. legal system, of course, is based on the English common law system, whereas the French system is based on the civil system, derived from the Roman law tradition and the Napoleonic code.
A portion of the U.S. legal system presentation was an analysis by Professor David Steinberg of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case. The prominent French politician was the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund at the time of his arrest on charges of raping a New York hotel maid.
Professor Steinberg called the justice system’s handling of the case “absolutely shameful and a complete abuse of process.” Although the criminal charges against the man known in the media as DSK were dropped, he still faces a lawsuit by his accuser.
French attorney Lionel Bochurberg, who is the director of the SDFACC, did the presentation on the French legal system, which is based on the constitution adopted by France in 1958. Bochurberg said France’s constitution is still the supreme law of the land, although, European
Union law is also applicable and has supremacy on certain issues.
One major difference in the French system is that all judges are professional judges, who attend a national judge’s academy. Lawyers are split into several groups, with different professional titles, based on their specialty. There is no death penalty in France, he said, and class-action suits are not permitted.
“The U.S. is paradise for lawyers,” said Bochurberg referring to the fact that there are only 40,000 attorneys in France. “There are 1,200,000 lawyers in the U.S.,” he said.”170,000 in California alone.”