June 07, 2021

Contemporary Challenges in American & Global Law concluded its year-long web series with a wonderful slate of spring speakers. Spearheaded by Catholic Law Professor Emerita Leah Wortham and hosted in partnership with Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, the series welcomed faculty and alumni experts to provide their insights on some of the most topical and pressing legal issues of the day. The spring season was comprised of four, one-hour webinars which covered topics such as combating gender violence, objectives of the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements, retirement savings policy, and investment fund regulation. Each of the programs provided factual, legal, and policy considerations related to the topic while also providing ample background information so that attendees new to the topics were able to follow the discussion and understand its significance.

To start the spring season, Katarzyna Wolska-Wrona (LL.M. ’05), Chief Expert for the European Affairs Committee, Prime Minister's Chancellery Republic of Poland, and the Honorable Diane Kiesel ’85, Acting Supreme Court Justice for the Supreme Court of New York County, Criminal Term, led a program entitled, “Combating Gender-Based Violence: The Council of Europe Istanbul Convention Approach and the U.S. Experience.” The program was particularly timely because it was held just weeks after Turkey—which was the first country to ratify the Istanbul Convention in 2011—announced its withdrawal from the Convention. Wolska-Wrona outlined the core principles of the convention and spoke specifically about Poland’s implementation. Kiesel provided comments considering the American experience combating domestic and gender-based violence, drawing a parallel between the Istanbul Convention and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was enacted in the U.S. in 1995.

The second event considered the question, “#MeToo and #BlackLives Matter: Conflicting Objectives or Opportunities for Advancement of Shared Priorities?” Catholic Law Professor Mary Graw Leary led the program’s discussion. As a nationally and internationally recognized expert in criminal law and procedure as well as victimization, exploitation, and human trafficking, Graw Leary spoke about her research on the topic—including the emergence of areas of tension between the two movements and a framework for a path forward. Comments from dr hab. Aleksandra Kustra-Rogatka (IBTSLP 2004), Faculty of Law at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland, provided an international perspective on Graw Leary’s work.

In May, the series focused on “Examining United States Retirement Savings Policy through the Lens of International Human Rights Principles.” With extensive experience in pension law and employee benefits, Catholic Law Professor Regina T. Jefferson posed the question: is retirement a human right? Through the lens of international human rights, Jefferson considered the types of activities governments should support, the manner in which governmental support should be structured, and the extent to which such support should be provided. Prof. UKSW dr hab. Elżbieta Karska (IBTSLP 2000), Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, Poland, provided an international and United Nations (UN) perspective regarding human rights and pension/ social security systems. She noted that the flexibility of the programs and their ability to adjust to the changing needs of those who rely on them is the primary challenge of today’s systems.

For the final discussion of the spring, attendees heard from Wictor Furman (LL.M. '09), Force Advokatbyrå in Stockholm, Sweden, with comments made by James V. Catano ’11, Partner at Dechert in Washington, D.C. The program, “European Perspectives on Investment Fund Regulation,” covered some of today’s hot topics in the financial regulatory space. Furman provided the group with a basic understanding of investment funds and fund management before delving deeper into some of the recent changes to regulations that have affected or will affect fund operation. Catano then provided a U.S. perspective on several areas of regulation that Furman reviewed. His comments explored both the differences and the parallels between the regulatory systems.

The Contemporary Challenges in American & Global Law web series has led to wonderful conversations and connections over the course of the year. Hundreds of participants from both the Catholic Law and Jagiellonian University communities have joined together to engage in meaningful discussion regarding important topics in American and international law. Professor Wortham commented, “The pandemic required suspension of the 2019 and 2020 International Business and Trade Summer Law Program, the 2019-20 American Law Program at Jagiellonian, and delayed an LL.M. class in coming to D.C. for their CUA summer session. It opened the door, though, for this series’ amazing connections among CUA faculty, J.D. and LL.M. graduates, and alumni of our other CUA-JU programs. We learned so much about what is gained from the comparative perspective on contemporary issues and how to connect online. We expect to bring these lessons to future programs when we also are able to meet face-to-face again."