In nearly all modern democracies, independent judges play a critical role in protecting liberty, usually through the application of written constitutions. But within that context judges in the United States and Europe have developed drastically different approaches to the roles of judges and constitutions in reconciling human rights with majority rule. On such issues as the balance between civil liberties and security, the role of foreign and international law in domestic jurisprudence, and the democratic legitimacy of international legal institutions, the United States and Europe often take very different approaches to similar challenges.
In the Third Annual Raymond Aron Lecture at the Brookings Institution, three of the world’s most distinguished jurists discussed these and other questions. The panel discussion was moderated by Brookings President Strobe Talbott and featured Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, the former President of the French Constitutional Council, Robert Badinter, and retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
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European leaders were clear in their joint call for journalistic freedom, a credible investigation [into Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged killing and dismemberment by Saudi operatives] and accountability for any wrongdoing. In stark contrast, the American president chose to parrot Saudi denials and pitch an unsubstantiated and improbable explanation.