Out of this World

April 25, 2008

A.V., 2L

Between clinics, classes and the occasional night out at Anchor Bar, who has time to venture out of New Haven? Even with these obstacles, serious law students have to follow the law wherever it takes them. And for me last Saturday, that meant geosynchronous orbit, 120 Kilometers above sea level.

Space law.

Ok, perhaps I’ve exaggerated a little bit. My travels to Washington didn’t require NASA clearance and the Amtrak train is no Space Shuttle Discovery. But I did seek out a bowl of Astronaut Ice Cream, and I did compete in a space law moot court competition. Since 1992, the International Institute of Space Law has hosted an annual competition for law students studying all around the world. The finals are judged by sitting members of the International Court of Justice.

I entered the competition for a few reasons. First, this offered a rare opportunity to work on disputes in international public law. International space law is set forth in widely accepted United Nations Declarations and Conventions. In addition, the problem debated at the competition allowed students to be advocates for nations exercising their rights under those treaties. Essentially, when satellites collide, someone gets to represent the sovereign nations on both sides.

Second, it turns out that Yale invented space law. Scholars like Myres McDougal of the influential New Haven School of legal academics helped craft the law of space in its early years (get yours before they run out!). Having attended the New New Haven School conference last fall, I could see connections between our still-vibrant intellectual movement and the politics of shooting down satellites (see, http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/space/01/18/china.missile/index.html and http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23265613/). As satellite pieces settled into lower orbits, the pieces fell into place for me: I went down to DC for space law, but space law was already here.