An historic first formal meeting of the United States Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights took place on Thursday, March 1 in Washington DC, with participation from judges and administrators from both courts. Although most of the sessions were closed, somewhat to the irritation of the Washington Post, the first session, held at George Washington Law School was open to the public. It involved a conversation between Justice Stephen Breyer of the Supreme Court and Judge Lech Garlicki of the ECtHR, considering in particular their contrasting approaches in the area of the display of religious symbols in the public space. The cases they considered were the US cases of McCready v ACLU and van Orden v Perry , and the European cases of Sahin v Turkey and Lautsi v Italy. The conversation was moderated by Harold Koh, the former Dean of Yale Law School and currently Legal Adviser to the US Department of State, which facilitated the visit. There was also a personal message of praise for the ECtHR to the meeting by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Comments on some of the issues raised in the conversation between the judges were presented by Derek Walton, Legal Counselor to the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and me. You can watch a recording of this opening session by clicking here.
Christopher McCrudden is Professor of Equality and Human Rights Law,Queen’s University Belfast; and William W Cook Global Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School