Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


III. The Paradigm Shift-The Rule of Lawyers and the Culture of Law

With all the attention given to the shift to compulsory adjudication, binding outcomes and the creation of the Appellate Body, there is one dimension which, in my view, is not sufficiently articulated28 and understood. Juridification is a package deal. It includes the Rule of Law but also the Rule of Lawyers. It does not simply (and very importantly) have an impact on the power relations between Members, on the compliance pull of the Agreements, on the ability to have definitive settlement of disputes, on the prospect of having authoritative interpretations of clumsy or deliberate drafting of opaque provisions. It imports, willy-nilly, want it or not, the norms, practices, habits-some noble some self-serving, some helpful some disastrous, some with a concern for justice others with a concern for arcane points of process and procedure-of legal culture. It would be nice if one could take the rule of law without the rule of lawyers. But that is not possible. To have one, you get the other. The dissonance I am explicating is in part a result of the Organization moving to the rule of law without realizing that it comes with a legal culture which is as integral as the compliance and enforcement dimensions of the DSU shift.

Juridification means that lawyers, practising lawyers, will be involved early on in all stages of dispute management by and within Members. In many states the lawyers will be responsible for dispute management-a trend that will grow with juridification. Ministries of Trade world wide are scurrying to beef up their legal departments. The WTO itself is in the business of providing legal services to poorer Members.29

Much of legal culture is at odds with the ethos of diplomacy. Here is a partial inventory.

- Legal disputes which go to adjudication are not settled; they are won and lost. The headlines talk of "victory" and "defeat" (as in a typical FT or NY Times headline: "The US or the EU went down to defeat in a ruling by etc.").
- Law is meant to be a dispassionate discipline of rigorous and objective analysis. It is so-at times. But not when two parties believe the law is on their side and decide to litigate which is a normal occurrence. Then it becomes a profession of passion, of rhetoric of a desire to win strong in even the most reserved and self-controlled practitioners-all inimical to compromise. There are to my knowledge less than a handful of cases in the history of the WTO (EC Butter WT/DS72; EC Scallops WT/DS 12 &14) where a compromise was found and a dispute settled once a Panel started its work. At that point, the parties, led by legal teams, go for the jugular.
- Likewise, this discipline of dispassionate and rigorous analysis is practiced by men and women who are like all other professionals: people with ambition, with a search for job satisfaction. The international relations expert will explain, a titre juste, that the new DSU makes legal resolution more attractive to Members because, for example, it can equalize egregious disparities of power which exist at the negotiation table.30 At the negotiating table a Venezuela is a Venezuela and the United States is The United States and the name of the game is power. At the Bar of Law it is an altogether different paradigm or at least is meant to be so: all are meant to be equal. But make no mistake. A huge factor in the decision whether to go for legal resolution will have been the conscious and often subconscious input by lawyers driven by ambition and their particular professional deformations. The "we can win in court..." becomes in the hands of all too many lawyers an almost automatic trigger to "we should bring the case". Surgeons like to operate: they have been trained to do that. Lawyers like to litigate and win cases.
- Juridification involves an empowerment of lawyers both within the WTO itself and within the Members. It is salutary for the rule-of-law at one level when politicians, even of powerful States, are forced to ask their lawyers-"is it legal?"-before they embark on a course of action.31 But it is empowering of lawyers, makes them much more central and consequently explains the infusion of legal culture into WTO discourse.
- The Appellate Body was put in place primarily to give States an additional guarantee of review and revision, having given up their veto power over adoption of Panel Reports. But one cannot overestimate the importance of the mere existence of the Appellate Body to a shift in organizational legal culture. The Appellate Body, in style, content and self-understanding is a high court. It reviews Panel Reports in precisely the same way that higher courts review a first instance decision in any of our municipal legal systems. That is how it should be. And there is an inevitable spill over into the style, content and self-understanding of the Panels. Underlying, the pre-WTO ethos of Panels was, consciously and subconsciously, the 5-4 ethos: Crafting an opinion, consistent with the legal advice given by the secretariat but one which, at the same time, would settle the dispute by being adopted by both parties. The Gasoline decision of the Appellate Body, the first it rendered, sent a sharp notice to Panels and the WTO Secretariat, a notice which has become a permanent feature of the Appellate Body jurisprudence. Though it approved most aspects of the Panel Report (and this has been the case in most instances), the Appellate Body, both in tone and content, was sharply critical of the legal reasoning of the Panel on many of the points. The message was clear and I would summarize it as follows: "This is a legal process; here the law rules". The new ethos, conscious and subconscious, underlying the panel process is no longer the 5-4 mentality. It is "getting it (legally) right" and/or "making it appeal-proof".32
- Finally, in this very partial list, are the inevitable changes in the DSU process itself brought about by jurisprudence such as the ruling in Banana III which allowed Member States to employ private lawyers in their litigation33 and in Turtle and Asbestos which opened up of the process to amici briefs.34 Both decisions (on legal representation and amici) offended some of the very diplomatic reflexes I described above since they contradicted the internal, the discrete and the intergovernmental nature of disputes as perceived by many delegations. And yet in both decision the Appellate Body was doing no more than most conservative and prudent courts would do to ensure the integrity and fairness of legal process.

This very last point, trivial as it may appear, encapsulates a crucial element of my thesis. The paradigm shift introduced by compulsory adjudication, binding outcomes and the establishment of an Appellate Body, does not only occasion an important shift in legal culture (an "is" statement) but must (an "ought" statement) be so accompanied. There are important normative elements associated with legal process on which its legitimacy depends-some are rooted in legal principles such as the principles of Natural Justice-Nemo Judex in Propria Causa35 and Audi Alteram Partem.36 Fairness and openness are other such principles. Others like the quality of legal reasoning, coherence and consistency and communicativeness are not perhaps strict legal principles or rules but indispensable for the proper functioning of legitimate legal process.37

28 But see John H. Jackson, The World Trade Organization: Constitution and Jurisprudence (1998), pp. 98-99 ("Turning to the actual practice so far, here too one can detect a pretty strong rule-oriented approach. The appeal case reports so far read much more like a judicial opinion of a national court than did some of the much earlier GATT cases. ... Similarly, the participating governments are finding that the process requires them to be much more `legalistic' in their advocacy, to the extent of feeling the need to seek non-government expertise to assist them in cases.").

29 See e.g., Trade and Development Center, "Establishing the Advisory Center on WTO Law", <>; DSU, as note 3, above, art. 27, para. 2 ("While the Secretariat assists Members in respect of dispute settlement at their request, there may also be a need to provide additional legal service and assistance in respect of dispute settlement to developing country Members. To this end, the Secretariat shall make available a qualified legal expert from the WTO technical cooperation services to any developing country Member which so requests.").

30 The threat of legal resolution should however have a similar effect. Generally recourse to legal resolution or adjudication eliminates, to a large degree, room for political maneuvering by big powerful States. Because a neutral third party hears and judges on a dispute, even big powerful States have the risk of losing the case in the tribunal. In particular, when relevant case law for a specific dispute exists and it favours a small State, the small State enjoys a higher leverage vis-à-vis the big one in the negotiation table by using the threat of legal resolution because the existence of jurisprudence leads the big one to realize that it will eventually lose the case if the dispute ends up in the court room.

31 Or, at a minimum, politicians will ask their lawyers what will be the legal costs if their policy violates the WTO law. The legal costs includes, inter alia, the monetary loss in terms of withdrawal of concessions. For instance, in the aftermath of Banana III, the arbitrators found that the level of nullification and impairment suffered by Ecuador amounted to US$201.6 million per year. Also, in the aftermath of the Hormones case, the arbitrators determined the level of nullification suffered by the United States to be equal to US$116.8 million. See WTO, Dispute Settlement: Overview of the State-of-Play of WTO Disputes, as note 13, above. The EU is now requesting withdrawal of concessions to the tune of $4bn Nov. 17, 2000.

32 One detects, too, a new approach in some Panel Reports. Given that there is a review instance, instead of adopting the "appeal proof" approach, some Panels now may be more ready to "push the envelope" more than they might have dared without an appeal process. Once a good dialogue develops between Panels and Appellate Body (see infra) this might not be a bad development: The Panels-responsibly, judiciously and within the province of legitimate hermeneutics-becoming the experimenters and the Appellate Body supervising uncalled for judicial innovation.

33 See Banana III, as note 6, above.

34 United States-Import Prohibition of Certain Shrimp and Shrimp Products, Appellate Body Report adopted on 6 November, WTO Document WT/DS58/AB/R, pt. V (Panel Proceedings and Non-requested Information) (hereinafter Turtle).

35 No person can judge a case in which he or she is party.

36 All parties must be heard.

37 M. Cappelletti, Giudici Legilatori? (Milano, Giuffre, 1984).



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