Lyman ’06 Wins Top International Law Writing Award

Posted May 8, 2007

lymanLaw School alumnus Robert Lyman ’06 recently received the Justice Robert H. Jackson Award, North America’s premier honor recognizing an outstanding student work addressing topics of international or comparative law. Lyman’s article, “Compulsory Process in a Globalized Era: Defendant Access to Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties,” was published in the Virginia Journal of International Law’s (VJIL) fall 2006 issue. More than 30 leading international law journals in the United States and Canada were invited to submit entries.

Virginia Law professor John Harrison advised Lyman on his research. “Rob found a practical problem of considerable importance that's also intellectually interesting,” Harrison said. “His paper is a fine piece of scholarship that has implications for a question that matters.”

Sponsored by the Washington Foreign Law Society, the award is given in honor of Justice Robert H. Jackson, a former U.S. Supreme Court justice who pioneered much of the current thinking on the use of international law as it applies to war and crimes against humanity. The award entails a $2,500 cash prize and an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the Society’s annual dinner to accept a testimonial prize on behalf of the publishing journal. Lyman attended the ceremony May 1, with guest speaker and former Secretary of State James Baker.

Lyman’s article focuses on mutual legal assistance treaties, which are bilateral agreements signed to facilitate the transfer of evidence between countries to enforce criminal laws, and could include holding an American-style deposition abroad under a subpoena from a foreign court.

“My paper makes the case that defendants as well as prosecutors should be able to use these mechanisms,” he said. “If the prosecutor has significant power to produce evidence that is denied to the defendant, then that is also a violation of the [Sixth Amendment’s] compulsory process clause.” The clause gives defendants the same rights to produce evidence, such as subpoenaing testimony, as prosecutors.

Defendants in U.S. criminal cases have other legal means for procuring evidence from abroad for their case, but these alternative processes are slow and don’t work as well, Lyman explained.

VJIL notes development editor Natalie Shonka said she is consistently humbled and amazed by the quality of her peers’ submitted work.

“It attests to a backdrop of excellent student scholarship here at the Law School,” said Shonka. “The testimonial prize is a great recognition of the hard work our editorial and managing boards put into polishing submissions for publication.” The journal publishes four times a year, and each issue features a student-written article, or “note.” Lyman’s piece won the journal’s Dillard Prize for best note in 2006.

Lyman picked up the idea for the paper from a Law School class he took with Tom Snow ’82, at the time one of the highest-ranking civil service officers in the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, where Lyman learned that defendants do not have access to the treaty mechanism. After researching the issue, Lyman found there were no definitive rulings on the topic. “My immediate sense was, well, that’s not fair,” he said. “In a domestic trial that would never be acceptable.”

Lyman said he was surprised he won the award. “I’m not really writing about international law as that term is usually defined,” he said, but the issue could have significant foreign policy implications if the Supreme Court were ever to overturn the current practice.

"Lyman's note was a great example of the truly outstanding scholarship students are capable of at the University of Virginia. He combined original thought with thorough research to produce a top-notch scholarly work,” said Jeremy Graves, who served as notes development editor for VJIL last year, when Lyman’s article was published. “We are proud that we were able to publish this note and continue VJIL's tradition as the nation's leading student-edited journal dedicated to international and comparative law."

Lyman is currently clerking for Judge Norman K. Moon (J.D. ’62, LL.M. ’88) of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

News Highlights