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Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont Geoffrey W. Crawford Visits STL

In October 2019, Chief Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford was invited to deliver a lecture and hold a discussion at STL. Judge Crawford used to be a partner at O’Neil, Crawford & Green law firm. In 2014, he was nominated by President Obama as the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont. He has a close relationship with STL.

On October 10th, Judge Crawford delivered the lecture on Marbury v. Madison and the Judicial Review. The lecture was moderated by Dean Philip McConnaughay and was attended by STL students and faculty.

Judge Crawford launched the lecture by providing the historical context of Marbury v. Madison—the fourth presidential election in America. President John Adams appointed nearly 60 “midnight judges” on the last day of his presidency. However, James Madison, the Secretary of State refused to deliver the commission letters for many of these judges, without which the appointment would not have officially been concluded. Marbury was one of the appointed judges who never received their official commission. Consequently, Marbury sued Madison before the Supreme Court of the United States by filing a writ of Mandamus to compel the delivery of his commission.

Judge Crawford then discussed how Judge John Marshall approached this case wisely. Judge Marshall first affirmed that Marbury was indeed entitled to the commission, that the Secretary of State’s conduct can be sued, and that Mandamus would be the correct remedy. However, he dismissed Marbury’s claim on the ground that the Constitution did not authorize original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court of the United States in issuing Mandamus. The Judiciary Act of 1789, which authorized the original jurisdiction, was unconstitutional. With that, Marshall’s holding established the US Supreme Court’s power of judicial review.

By way of comparison, Judge Crawford then analyzed the judicial review system in China and the UK. In China, the court does not have the power of judicial review. Instead, power to correct governmental action that violates the constitutional norms is vested to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. In the UK, under the principle of “Parliamentary Sovereignty,” the courts have authority to determine whether an administrative act is against parliament, but they generally do not have the power to strike down a legislation directly. As an example to demonstrate the scope of the courts’ jurisdiction, Judge Crawford discussed the recent R (Miller) v. Prime Minister case, where the UK Supreme Court struck down the Prime Minister’s prorogation of Parliament. Finally, Judge Crawfordrevisited the issue of judicial review in the US by sharing his own experience as a judge engaging in judicial review.

The lecture concluded with a Q & A session where Judge Crawford gave patient and detailed answers to the questions posed from the students and faculty. The questions ranged from the personal to the professional. On one end, for example, when asked about how to determine whether a law is good or bad, Judge Crawford said that he would adopt an economic analysis. On the other end, when asked about his transition from an appellate court judge to a trial court judge, he said that his personality contributed to the transition because the trial court was more fun.

The students and faculty were impressed by Judge Crawford’s excellent, informative and humorous lecture. Chen Xin, a 1L student, said, “I’m grateful for the first-hand experiences Judge Crawford showed us. His explanation of different ways of legal interpretation is also illuminating.” Guo Qianru, a 2L student, expressed her feelings after joining in the discussion, “Judge Crawford and Professor Campbell shared with us their very interesting work experience and touching life stories. Judge Crawford said that personality matters when choosing a future job.”

All in all, the lecture was deemed to be a memorable one that left a deep impression on students.

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Peking University School of Transnational Law

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Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School,
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