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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Working Papers

Boalt Hall continues to be one of the leading institutions in the nation for the study of international law and politics. With several Boalt faculty, supplemented by national and international visiting scholars and a variety of courses offered each year, the International Legal Studies Program offers students at Boalt Hall the flexibility to shape a curriculum that meets their interests in both depth and breadth. The program offers a number of introductory courses, advanced seminars and clinical programs. Students have an opportunity to work closely on advanced research projects with faculty members, including some of the leading international law scholars and practitioners in the nation.

Cover page of Doctor Frankenstein's International Organization

Doctor Frankenstein's International Organization


 In the classic novel, Frankenstein, Doctor Frankenstein creates a living creature in the hope of cheating death.  The monster, as the creature is called, horrifies Doctor Frankenstein, turns against him, and kills several people, causing the doctor to regret his decision to make the monster in the first place.    When states establish an international organization (IO), they create an institution with a life of its own on the international stage.  Though states can, collectively, control the IO, without unanimity among them the organization can often act on its own.  The danger for a state, then, is that its creation, like Frankenstein’s, will become a monster and act contrary to its interests.  In contrast to Frankenstein, however, states are conscious of this risk and are able to guard against it.  This Article explains that much of the existing landscape of international organizations has been formed by the state response to this “Frankenstein problem.”  The effort by states to avoid creating a monster explains, among other things, why there are so many IOs, why they vary so widely in scope, and the manner in which they are permitted (and not permitted) to affect international law and international relations.  The Article also identifies the four types of activities that IOs are allowed to undertake and explains how states choose which activities to place within which organizations.  More generally, the Article offers a better understand of why and how IOs are designed and their place within the international legal order.  

Cover page of Fixing Failed States

Fixing Failed States


Failed states pose one of the deepest challenges to American national security and international peace and stability. Finding a comprehensive and effective solution to the challenges of terrorism, human rights violations, or poverty and economic development requires some understanding of how to restore failed states. The response of the United States and its allies has remained the same: to rebuild the institutions of state control, and, if lucky, to plant a working democracy and a market economy within existing state borders. But many international law scholars remain openly dubious about the ability of states to rebuild – the problem is not failed states but the nation-state as the primary actor in international relations. This paper argues that both American and U.N policy on the one hand, and the conventional academic wisdom on the other hand, are mistaken. Building a normal nation-state with full sovereignty on every territory in the world, without changing any borders, fails to understand why some states are failing in the first place. Viable states simply do not align with the borders recognized by the United Nations or created during the period of rapid decolonization in the decades after World War II. Academics who see in failed states the rise of alternatives to the nation-state have no practical solutions that do not depend on the political, economic, and military resources of strong nation-states. Without them, supra-national governments, trusteeships, or non-governmental organizations have shown little ability to fix failed states. This paper argues that powerful nations can help by performing the more modest role of promoting and guaranteeing power-sharing agreements between competing groups within failed states. It concludes by illustrating the thesis with the outcome of the surge in Iraq.




Are smaller members of the World Trade Organization able to use the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism on an equal footing with the more powerful members of the organization? This paper examines the relationship between the wealth and power of states and their ability to participate fully within this system of dispute resolution. Two alternative hypotheses are considered. The “power hypothesis” predicts that politically weak countries will refrain from filing complaints against politically powerful states for fear of costly retaliation. The “capacity hypothesis” predicts the opposite – low income states will tend to complain about behavior by high income states because the latter offer a higher expected return.

Using the set of all WTO disputes we test these two hypotheses and find considerable support for the capacity hypothesis and no support for the power hypothesis. We conclude that poor states behave differently than their rich counterparts because they lack the financial, human, and institutional capital to participate fully in the dispute resolution system.

Cover page of A Theory of International Adjudication

A Theory of International Adjudication


Abstract. Some international tribunals, such as the Iran-U.S. claims tribunal and the trade dispute panels set up under GATT, are “dependent” in the sense that the judges are appointed by the state parties for the purpose of resolving a particular dispute. If the judges do not please the state parties, they will not be used again. Other international tribunals, such as the International Court of Justice, the Inter- American Court of Human Rights, and the new International Criminal Court, are “independent” in the sense that the judges are appointed in advance of any particular dispute and serve fixed terms. The conventional wisdom, which is based mainly on the European experience, is that independent tribunals are more effective at resolving disputes than dependent tribunals are. We argue that the evidence does not support this view. We also argue that the evidence is more consistent with the contrary thesis: the most successful tribunals are dependent. However, selection effects and other methodological problems render a firm conclusion impossible. We support our argument through an examination of qualitative and quantitative evidence, and we argue that the European Court of Justice is not a good model for international tribunals because it owes its success to the high level of political and economic unification among European states. We conclude with pessimistic predictions about the International Criminal Court, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and the WTO dispute resolution mechanism, the newest international tribunals.

Cover page of Peeking Abroad?: The Supreme Court's USe of Foreign Precendents in Constitutional Cases

Peeking Abroad?: The Supreme Court's USe of Foreign Precendents in Constitutional Cases


This essay criticizes the Supreme Court's use of foreign legal precedents in constitutional cases. If these citations are no more than ornamental, or are no more than good ideas from another jurisdiction, then there is little about which to be concerned. If reliance on foreign precedents represents a more significant trend, however, several difficulties arise. First, if foreign courts are receiving deference, then they may well be exercising federal authority outside the bounds of our Constitution. Second, reliance on such decisions breaks the relationship between the people and their government as expressed in the Constitution, because foreign courts are interpreting a different document within a different constitutional and political context. Third, to the extent use of these precedents has focused on European decisions, it is unclear whether the United States should seek to coordinate its constitutional solutions to problems with those of Europe. Europe has suffered from serious political instability over the last two centuries brought about by sometimes extreme political ideologies, and since World War II has enjoyed a different tradeoff between rights and security thanks to an American security guarantee.

Cover page of Competing for Capital: The Diffusion of Bilateral Investment Treaties, 1960-2000

Competing for Capital: The Diffusion of Bilateral Investment Treaties, 1960-2000


Over the past forty- five years, bilateral investment treaties (BITs) have become the most important international legal mechanism for the encouragement and governance of foreign direct investment. Their proliferation over the past two decades in particular has been phenomenal. These intergovernmental treaties typically grant extensive rights to foreign investors, including protection of contractual rights and the right to international arbitration in the event of an investment dispute. We argue that the spread of BITs is driven by international competition among potential host countries – typically developing countries – for foreign direct investment. We design and test three different measures of competition. The evidence suggests that potential hosts are more likely to sign BITs when their competitors have done so. We also control for diffusion via coercion, social learning, and cultural networks. We find some evidence that coercion plays a role, but less support for learning or cultural explanations. Our main finding is that diffusion in this case is associated with competitive economic pressures among developing countries to capture a share of foreign investment. We are agnostic at this point about the benefits of this competition for development.