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DISCOVERY MAGAZINE

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Bill Powers

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Latin American & International Law


The University of Texas School of Law assumes a key leadership role with its significant expansion of the school’s Latin American initiative. A new LL.M. program in Latin American and International Law was inaugurated in 2000. The Institute of Transnational Law, which will bring faculty and students from Europe and Latin America to Texas, was established in 2001. A lively series of conferences has brought legal authorities from both hemispheres to discuss legal developments in Latin America and the United States. All this is in addition to our regularly taught courses focusing on Latin America, such as Professor Patricia Hansen’s course on NAFTA and Professor Antonio Benjamin’s course on comparative environmental law.

The Law School initiated the first LL.M. program in the United States focusing on Latin American and International Law. The curriculum addresses such matters as international trade and investment, international human rights, international environmental law, U.S.-Mexico border problems, and specific legal regimes of Mexico and other Latin American states. Students can even earn a joint degree in Law and Latin American Studies if they take the necessary courses in each area.

The Institute for Transnational Law serves as a bridge for faculty and students in Latin America, the U.S. and Europe. The institute positions the University of Texas to become the hub of intellectual legal activity between Latin America and Europe. Funded by generous grants from M.D. Anderson, Joe Jamail and Vinson & Elkins, the institute will allow Latin American and European students to pursue LL.M. degrees at the University of Texas and concentrate on North American law. It will also allow Latin American and UT law students to pursue LL.M. degrees at University College London and concentrate on European law. In addition, UT faculty will teach at University College London.

The Law School hosted three major Latin American conferences with other UT units during 2001. Each conference dealt with specific Latin American issues and helped construct a dialogue between University of Texas scholars, their counterparts in Latin America and public officials and activists from throughout the Americas.

A “Balancing Core Democratic Values in the Judiciaries of Mexico and the United States” conference was held in May 2001. We worked with the LBJ School of Public Affairs to host jurists from the United States and Mexico. These legal experts, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Minister Sergio Salvador Aguirre Anguiano of the Supreme Court of Mexico, came to Austin to address issues of judicial independence and accountability.

Dean Bill Powers and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer
Photo: Marsha Miller
Dean Bill Powers and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer at a Law School conference for the judiciaries of Mexico and the United States.
In April 2001 the Law School, LLILAS and the College of Liberal Arts sponsored a conference on “The Market and Beyond.” This conference brought together ambassadors, economists, journalists, legal scholars, political scientists and experts on intellectual and artistic exchange from all of the MERCOSUR countries, as well as from the U.S. and Mexico.

In February 2000 the Law School convened leading constitutional and human rights law scholars and activists from Peru, Venezuela, Argentina and Guatemala to discuss presidential-legislative relations, civil rights and reckoning with the past. The “Challenges to Fragile Democracies in the Americas: Legitimacy and Accountability” conference was co-sponsored with LLILAS and the Department of Government.

The Law School continues to recruit and retain a prestigious group of permanent faculty focused on Latin America. Antonio Azuela, the former attorney general for environmental protection in Mexico City, is a visiting scholar from the Social Research Institute of Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM). In spring 2002, he will teach at the LBJ School and Law School as the Tinker Visiting Professor. He will team teach a course on environmental law and public policy in Latin America.

Professor Antonio Benjamin is working to establish programs and exchanges between the Law School and institutions in Brazil and Argentina. As assistant attorney general of the State of São Paulo in Brazil, Professor Benjamin is responsible for consumer and environmental litigation. He has taught at the National School of Judges (Brazil), the University of São Paulo and the Catholic University of São Paulo College of Law. He serves as the vice chairman of the Brazilian Institute of Environmental Law and Policy. At Texas, he teaches courses on comparative environmental law, biodiversity and the protection of the rainforests.

UT Professor Antonio Benjamin, Michael Hahn, cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, LLILAS Director Nicolas Shumway, Bill Powers and Professor Claudia Lima Marques
UT Professor Antonio Benjamin, Michael Hahn, cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, LLILAS Director Nicolas Shumway, Bill Powers and Professor Claudia Lima Marques of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul sign an agreement of cooperation.
Professor José María Serna de la Garza conducts research in the Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas at UNAM in Mexico City and coordinates the institute’s ongoing study of “Popular Movements, Human Rights, and the Law in Mexico.” At UT he teaches courses and seminars on Mexican law and Latin American legal systems.

Professor Daniel Sabsay of the University of Buenos Aires also teaches courses at the UT Law School, such as Latin American constitutional law.

In addition, the Law School’s own faculty has established strong relationships with Latin American universities and governments. In August 2001 a contingent of Law School faculty went to three major conferences in Brazil. The first focused on civil liability and was sponsored by the School for Judges of the State of Rio de Janeiro. I spoke on products liability, Professor John Robertson discussed ethical and legal issues in reproductive technology, and Professor Patrick Woolley spoke on U.S. class action law.

The second conference focused on “Introduction to U.S. Law” at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre. The UT faculty was represented with seven panelists and speakers, two of whom then went to testify at the Brazilian House of Representatives. I also represented the Law School at a third conference in Resistencia, Argentina on consumer rights.

While in Brazil, University of Texas representatives signed a declaration of cooperation with the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRG). This agreement is expected to be the first of many such agreements that will expand the UT School of Law’s reach into Latin America.

Bill Powers
Bill Powers serves as dean of the University of Texas School of Law and holds the John Jeffers Research Chair in Law and Hines H. Baker and Thelma Kelley Baker Chair in Law. He received his J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1973, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review. He is a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers at UT Austin and holds the title of University Distinguished Teaching Professor. He is the author or co-author of three books: Texas Products Liability Law (1992), Cases and Materials in Torts (1998) and Cases and Materials on Product Liability (1994). Dean Powers can be reached at 512-232-1129.

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May 14, 2002
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