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Foreign, Comparative & International Law   Tags: comparative law, foreign law, international law, transnational law  

LibGuide to accompany course of the same name taught by Professor Paul Callister
Last Updated: Feb 15, 2016 URL: Print Guide

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What is international law?

international law. (18c) The legal system governing the relationships between nations; more modernly, the law of international relations, embracing not only nations but also such participants as international organizations and individuals (such as those who invoke their human rights or commit war crimes). Also termed public international law; law of nations, . . . law between states.

customary international law. International law that derives from the practice of states and is accepted by them as legally binding. • This is one of the principal sources or building blocks of the international legal system.

private international law. International conflict of laws. • Legal scholars frequently lament the name “private international law” because it misleadingly suggests a body of law somehow parallel to public international law, when in fact it is merely a part of each legal system's private law.
INTERNATIONAL LAW, Black's Law Dictionary (Bryan A. Garner, Editor in Chief, 9th ed. 2009), international law

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What is Comparative Law?

In the strict sense, it is the theoretical study of legal systems by comparison with each other, and has a tradition going back over a century. In recent years it has gained in practical importance for two reasons. The first is the increased globalization of world trade, involving the need to conduct business in unfamiliar legal systems. The second is the move towards harmonization of laws, and more recently towards codification within the European Union, where several legal traditions coexist.

Paul Norman, Globalex, Update Comparative Law (Feb. 2009)

transnational law. 1. The amalgam of common principles of domestic and international law dealing esp. with problems arising from agreements made between sovereign states and foreign private parties. 2. The problems to which such principles apply. Cf. international law.

TRANSNATIONAL LAW, Black's Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009), transnational law

Normally, in international law, states are like billiard balls--they may knock each other around, but there is no inner penetration to provinces, municipalities, or individuals.  In transnational law, this is not true; not only are nation states involved, but sub-sovereign entities and individuals in the issue.  This often occurs when there are environmental and shared natural resource issues.  The CIA World Fact Book summarizes for each country the transnational issues affecting a particular country.  For instance, water sharing with the United States is listed as a disputed issue under Mexico's "Transnational Issues."  Another example is the Columbia River Treaty Review involving not only the sovereign states of the United States and Canada, but British Columbia, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming and fifteen tribal nations of the United States and seventeen first nations in Canada.  See Nigel Bankes and Babara Cosens, The Future of the Columbia River Treaty 26-29, 102 (October 2012),

Tribes and First Nations in the Columbi River Basin

Supranational law - Supranational law is a form of international law, based on the limitation of the rights of sovereign nations between one another. It is distinguished from public international law, because in supranational law, nations explicitly submit their right to make judicial decisions to a set of common institutions.

Saskia I Mehlhorn, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Foreign & International Law Research (handout) 2 (Spring 2011)

supranational, adj. Free of the political limitations of nations.

SUPRANATIONAL, Black's Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009), supranational

An example of a supranational institution is the European Union or EU because it has soveignty, including judicial review, over the member nation states in certain instances.  See e.g., Fact Sheets of the European Union - 2013, Supranational Decision-Making Procedures.

The distinctive quality of the EEC Treaty (now TFEU) was defined by the European Court of Justice in the most significant passage of its most notable decision: Van Gend en Loos (N.V. Algemene Transport- en Expeditie Onderneming van Gend & Loos and Nederlandse administratie der belastingen (Netherlands Inland Revenue Administration), Case 26/62 [1963]:

The objective of the EEC Treaty, which is to establish a Common Market, the functioning of which is of direct concern to interested parties in the Community, implies that this Treaty is more than an agreement, which merely creates mutual obligations between the contracting states. This view is confirmed by the preamble to the Treaty, which refers not only to governments but also to peoples. It is also confirmed more specifically by the establishment of institutions endowed with sovereign rights, the exercise of which affects Member States and their citizens…

 Eurofound, EU Law.

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Prof. Paul Callister
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Phone: 816-235-2436
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