Jun 22 2010
To quote Professor Jules Epstein writing for Widener’s Nairobi blog: “We learn (not too rigorously, but certainly richly) as we travel.”
This weekend, most of the group traveled to Paris for the long weekend. It required us to step outside our familiar Lausanne and orient ourselves with a new and entirely foreign city. It’s remarkable how quickly one begins to associate environments with comfort; perhaps even stranger what triggers that realization. As much as I enjoyed performing the 3 day whirlwind tour of Paris (Versaille, Tour d’Eiffel, Louvre, etc.), I found myself missing my little French canton of Switzerland. However, this is certainly not to say that Paris was not an amazing experience. Put simply, Paris is “a different animal.”
We arrived Friday afternoon and immediately ventured to Versailles. The next day, we woke up early and headed to the Louvre in an effort to escape the crowds. Although Nicholas Cage is able to fully traverse its innards in the span of 20 minutes (think Da Vinci Code), it’s certainly not the case in real life. We contained our visit to specific points of interest and left relatively unscathed by the crowds. Our trip concluded by a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps the best advice we received is to purchase our tickets in advance. By doing so, we were able to bypass a large portion of the crowd. The view was incredible. Although the crowds we were able to successfully avoid the entire weekend came into full force, Paris lay before us as far as the eye can see. The view from the top was a welcome reprieve from the bustling streets below. While many have tried (as I attempt to do so now) to describe Paris from a birds eye view, I’m certain even the most artful explanation cannot do it justice.
We resumed classes on Monday – instead of returning to the classroom, we were graciously allowed to observe a case at the Palais de Justice. It was certainly a tangible example of the various (and often amorphous) legal systems we have been
scrutinizing for the past two weeks. The Swiss legal scheme is based upon an inquisitorial system – involving active court participation in investigation and the actual trial. The proceedings were carried out by a three judge panel. In lieu of a prosecutor (who is present only for more serious offenses), the “professional” judge conducts witness examination with the “non-professional” judges having the ability to ask questions whenever appropriate. The defendant’s attorney was actually a “lawyer in training”; a practice I suppose comparable to Widener’s various legal clinics. Following the trial, we were afforded a question and answer period, with the discussion centering mainly around a comparative analysis of the US and Swiss legal systems. Each judge was gracious in their response and more than willing to explain the legal reasoning that is not transparent to a foreign It was revealed that Switzerland will upheave their legal scheme to resemble an adversarial system. Many students were perplexed by this, myself included.
Today we begin a new class – WTO law. It will be interesting to see how the subject matter relates to the foundation laid by our previous courses. On another note, the World Cup pandemonium continues. With match play coming to a close, tensions between the various nationalities in Switzerland are becoming even more apparent. I liken it to the Phillies and Yankees relationship during the 2009 World Series. Should I be concerned? I’ll be sure to update if anything interesting happens; until then…