A Conversation with Former Section Chair Randall Winn
by Robin Lindley
In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected president, defeating Jimmy Carter. Adolfo Perez Esquivel of Argentina won the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting human rights in Latin America, and the World Health Organization announced the worldwide eradication of smallpox.
In that same year, at the height of the Cold War, a group of prescient Washington attorneys formed the World Peace Through Law Section of the Washington State Bar Association.
As explained in a February 1981 Bar News account, the goal of the World Peace Through Law Section "is to encourage lawyers to involve themselves in the current international effort to improve the effectiveness of international law and legal institutions. A fundamental purpose of the Section is to help promote the development of world peace with fairness and justice for all human beings throughout the world."
At the Section's December 2005 meeting, keynote speaker Congressman Jim McDermott (Seventh Dist.-WA) stressed the growing importance and timely concerns of the Section, and urged lawyers to educate the public on international law and legal approaches to issues of peace and human rights. Other speakers discussed the legal workings of the United Nations, human trafficking, trade sanctions, and the proposed U.S. Department of Peace.
Randall Winn, a Seattle attorney, served as chair of the World Peace Through Law Section from September 2003 through December 2005, and is the current chair-elect. Mr. Winn earned a J.D. degree at the Western New England College School of Law in Springfield, Massachusetts, and a certificate in international law from the McGeorge School of Law (University of Pacific) program in Salzburg, Austria. Winn grew up in Everett, and decided to return to the Puget Sound area after law school. He established a private law practice, and continued his past work in computer programming. He served as the WSBA webmaster for several years.
Randall commented on the activities of the World Peace Through Law Section at 25, and his hopes for the future of the section in the 21st century.
Lindley: It's the 25th anniversary of the Section. Talk about the work of the Section.
Winn: Like all State Bar sections, we're a voluntary group of lawyers. We meet to educate ourselves and others, particularly through CLEs each month with expert speakers on issues of law and peace.
Lindley: How is the Section different from the International Practice Section?
Winn: The International Practice Section relates to commercial matters. I'd like to see more joint programs with them, [because] people who trade with one another are less likely to fight. And [for example,] we could learn how commercial entities resolve disputes and deal with cultural differences.
Lindley: In this post-Cold War world, the Section continues to deal with disarmament and related issues, but also increasingly focuses on human rights. And human rights are inextricably bound to establishing peaceful societies and international relations.
Winn: The biggest issue in the Cold War was arms control. When there's a crisis that can leave everyone dead in 30 minutes, it focuses the mind, and peace becomes the absence of nuclear war. But now, other issues are coming to the fore . . . and we can deal with the spectrum of peace issues from nations not being at war to nations extending human rights to individuals. For example, [U.S. District Court] Judge Coughenour recently spoke of his work on criminal law reform in the former Soviet Union.
Lindley: As Section chair, you've offered monthly CLEs with experts who speak on international peace and human rights.
Winn: It's a great member benefit, and members love it. It fulfills our educational mandate, and it's good for networking. [I've found that] experts love to spread their information, to talk about their work. If you've defended an accused war criminal from Rwanda or Yugoslavia, you want to talk about it. Or if you're a professor, you want to talk about your area of expertise. They're willing to take an hour of their lives to talk with lawyers about their work.
Lindley: You've attracted willing local speakers with notable expertise.
Winn: Yes, with your help as chair-elect. We haven't had to import experts from New York or Washington, D.C. We have many experts in this area. We've had programs with a member of congress, a federal court judge, a Marine JAG, two defense attorneys at the war crimes tribunals, professors from the University of Washington and Seattle University, [Washington] practitioners, and others.
Lindley: It's been an honor to recruit these accomplished speakers for the CLE programs. The first program I arranged featured Prof. Ron Slye of Seattle University School of Law, an expert in human rights law who had worked with the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He started a series of programs by offering an overview of international law.
Winn: He addressed . . . the ostensible conflict between our Constitution and international law, [as well as] the sovereignty of nations, and treaty obligations.
Lindley: The CLE presentations have tackled issues pulled from the headlines. They've included programs on torture, genocide, investigation and prosecution of war crimes, the new Iraqi constitution, the Alien Tort Claims Act, the application of the Geneva Conventions, post-conflict legal reform, as well as human trafficking, indigenous rights, global health and justice, and other international human-rights issues.
Winn: There's a hunger for knowledge, and our Section members want to know more than they get in newspapers. So we've been getting experts, like a defense counsel before the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia. In the absence of knowledge, it's easy to dismiss international law, but when an attorney comes in and says I defended this person before an international tribunal and justice was done, it illustrates the way the law works. By having speakers on the International Criminal Court [ICC], some misgivings about the Court were dispelled. The newspapers and talk radio don't explain that the Court first needs jurisdiction to act. Most international courts cannot operate until national remedies are exhausted, and a case gets to an international tribunal only if the nation with original jurisdiction asks the tribunal to take it, or the laws of the nation with original jurisdiction are demonstrably illegitimate, neither of which will happen with the U.S.
Lindley: It would be unlikely that a U.S. soldier would be brought before the ICC.
Winn: Very unlikely, because we have a functioning military judicial system. If we want the ICC to work, we need to be part of it. [As attorney David Danielson described], the ad hoc war crimes tribunal for Rwanda had a slow and clumsy process, and was very dependent on the successor Rwandan government where the crimes were committed. The ICC eliminates some of these problems. Without an expert speaker, we never would have known of the conditions of the tribunal for Rwanda, convened in Arusha, Tanzania.
Lindley: What would you like to see develop with the Section?
Winn: I want to see the CLE program continue. I'd like to attract more people to leadership positions. It's good for the Section to broaden the leadership, to have a broad pool of talent to draw on. And I'd like to make a plea to younger lawyers: Our section is unique in that there are not a lot of experts on public international law, and it offers an opportunity for younger lawyers to learn to lead a section or network . . . to talk with anyone in the Bar Association and with regional experts. With the list serve, we can meet with other lawyers in the law and justice community throughout the state.
Lindley: It seems that lawyers are impressed by the quality of the speakers at the Section CLE meetings, and they feel that the sessions are worthwhile.
Winn: Absolutely worthwhile. And there's an opportunity for networking after the meetings. It's valuable, and you can't put a price on it.
Lindley: And the Section has grown.
Winn: Yes. Our meetings can't fit around a table any longer. We've had to use theater seating.
Lindley: Any other thoughts on the section in the 21st century?
Winn: I'm looking forward to progress on the subject matter. It's easy to get depressed by the news. But we've learned of many good things happening through our speakers, like the Indonesian doctor-lawyer alliance for public health described by Dr. Beth Rivin of the UW School of Law. If, in a small way, we can bring light to questions like torture and human trafficking, and ways to deal with the legal aspects, we've done a service.
Lindley: And do you have a message for the new year?
Winn: Peace on Earth. One of the first Nobel Peace Prize winners said the road to peace is long, but don't be discouraged. Keep moving forward.
The World Peace Through Law Section holds one-hour, brown-bag CLEs on the last Tuesday of each month at noon at the WSBA office. The programs are free and open to the public. For further information on programs or other Section business, contact Section Chair Robin Lindley at email@example.com, or Chair-elect Randall Winn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent WSBA World Peace Through Law Section CLE Events
9/15/03: The International Criminal Court � Anne Heindel 11/24/03: Reflections on the Right to Peace � Jorge Madrazo-Cuellar 3/22/04: Ethical Lessons from Watergate (Discussion and Video) � Video replay featuring Egil "Bud" Krogh, lead by John Rapp 4/26/04: Economic and Security Obstacles to World Peace Through Law � Thomas Mengert, Paul Schlossman 6/28/04: Constitution and International Law � Ron Slye 7/26/04: Indigenous and National Legal Rights in Chiapas � Luis Arriaga 8/23/04: War Crimes Trials � David E. "Gene" Wilson, Valerie Gow, Ann Lewis 9/27/04: Prisoner Abuse, American Law, and the Geneva Conventions � Rick Lorenz 10/25/04: The International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda: A Defense Lawyer's View � D. Danielson 11/22/04: Sacks v. OFAC: Humanitarian Efforts vs. Sanctions � Bert Sacks 12/27/04: Year-end Roundup: Progress in Human Rights Law � Robin Lindley, Randy Winn 1/24/05: Defending the Rights of Environmental Defenders � Marcia Newland 2/28/05: Alien Tort Claims Act � Anita Ramasastry 3/29/05: About the International Human Rights Clinic � Raven Lidman 4/26/05: Global Health and Human Rights � Patricia Kuszler, Beth Rivin 5/31/05: Human Trafficking � Gillian Apfel, Ye-Ting Woo, Norma Timbang 6/28/05: Corrie v. Caterpillar � Gwynne Skinner 7/26/05: Forensic Investigations and Human Rights � Dr. William Haglund. 8/30/05: Iraq's New Constitution and Democratization in the Middle East �Kristin Stilt 9/27/05: A Judge's View: Judicial Reform in Russia � Judge John C. Coughenour 10/25/05: U.S. Department of Peace Legislative Status � Patricia Kuderer, Jack Smith 11/29/05: European Human Rights Advocacy from 1790 to Present � Walter Walsh 12/27/05: Year-end Review � Rep. Jim McDermott (keynote), Dr. James Maynard (United Nations and U.S. at a Crossroads), Gillian Apfel (Human Trafficking), Bert Sacks (humanitarian action and trade sanctions), and Jack Smith (proposed U.S. Department of Peace) 1/31/06: The US, International Human Rights Law, and Torture � Dr. Jamie Mayerfeld 2/28/06: International Human Rights and the Global Economy � Martha Schmidt
Robin Lindley, a Seattle attorney, is the 2006 chair of the World Peace Through Law Section. He is a Spokane native and graduate of the University of Washington School of Law. He has worked as a congressional attorney-investigator, federal agency attorney, law teacher, legal consultant, and public health manager/analyst. He is also a freelance writer and visual artist.