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    April 23, 2008  
 
 

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Join us for lunch with three of America's top General Counsels: Freddie Mac's Bob Bostrom, the Washington Post's Veronica Dillon, and American Capital Strategies' Sam Flax (largest publicly-held private equity firm in the US; Sam and his team were named WMACCA's law department of the year).  Wed, May 28, at Il Mulino in DC. Sign up here. Thanks to great sponsor Studley.

 

Most practitioners at The Hague’s International Court of Justice (the UN-created body that settles disputes between nations) come from London or Paris or other European locales too sophisticated for us Yanks to even spell correctly. But right on little old K Street, Paul Reichler of Foley Hoag runs a practice that now has four cases before the ICJ, representing a full third of the august court’s docket. His latest is an action on behalf of Ecuador against Colombia to stop aerial anti-cocoa spraying that allegedly carries its foul effects across his client’s border.

 

The ICJ work grows out of Paul’s expertise representing foreign states in U.S. courts (they’re not always protected by the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act) and at the Int’l Center for Investment Disputes in DC. Today he has a team of three partners and seven associates, all of them multi-lingual (Paul habla espanol), to lend a hand. The operation wasn’t quite so large more than 20 years ago, when Paul hit on an audacious idea to help his client, Nicaragua: sue in the ICJ to stop the U.S.’s not-so-covert war against the country. President Ortega went for it and insisted Paul lead the team, which won the David v. Goliath legal battle. Congress halted funding shortly thereafter.

 

Pointing here to a Nicaraguan cease-fire signing at which he was present, Paul made an accidental name for himself with the case, which drew heavy notice among Third-World diplomats. (Many of his clients are Latin American and African nations.) Now an expert on ICJ procedures, Paul schooled us on the details: the court’s 15 judges all sit on each case—judging from Paul’s pictures, they wear funny wigs while doing so—and receive two rounds of comprehensive pleadings before a trial-like hearing at which witnesses can be presented. The process can take two or three years.

 

Paul made eight trips to Ecuador on the case last year, and keeps the India-ink portrait behind him to remind him of who he’s fighting for. It’s not the first time he’s been in the country. Forty-one years ago, living in Quito as an exchange student, Paul says he had a dream that he would come back someday in a helpful capacity. We’d probably make a joke about that here if it weren’t so inspiring.

John Ford is Bisnow’s Managing Editor. Pass those story tips on to john@bisnow.com.

 
 
 
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