Laudatio: Ehrenpromotion von Prof. Richard L. Williamson jr. 15. Mai 2013

Ehrenpromotion von
Prof. Richard L. Williamson jr.
Mai 2013
im Alten Senatssaal der Universität Leipzig


 Honorary doctorate conferred to
Prof. Richard L. Williamson jr.
15 May 2013
in the Hisorical Senate Hall of the University of Leipzig


Prof. em. Dr. Rudolf Geiger
Past Executive Director
of the
Institute for Public International Law, European Law
and International Administrative Law
at the
University of Leipzig Law School




Herr Generalkonsul[3]

sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

besonders aber:

lieber Herr Kollege Williamson,

liebe Frau Williamson


Nach dieser auf Deutsch gehaltenen Anrede möchte ich nun auf Englisch fortfahren, weil viele unserer Gäste Schwierigkeiten haben werden, Deutsch zu verstehen, während alle Anwesenden mit Englisch gut zurechtkommen.

When I was invited by the Dean of our Law School to do the Laudation in this academic ceremony, I felt not only honored, but also very pleased. It is an honor for me to represent our faculty in publicly presenting the reasons for the honorary doctorate to be awarded to Professor Williamson from my personal view, and I was very pleased, because many memories of the beginnings of the international cooperation of our law schools are still very strong.

So, first of all, I want to go back to the time when the Leipzig University’s School of Law was reconstructed after the unification of Germany, because this is also the period when our cooperation with the University of Miami law school under the leadership of Professor Williamson has started.

At that time, the situation of the University of Leipzig generated a challenging task. The law school was reconstructed in the early 1990s. My colleagues Helmut Goerlich and Franz Häuser and I worked on founding an Institute of Public international law, European law and Foreign public law , which was proclaimed in exactly this Hall of the Senate in 1997.

Apart from the Institute’s function of promoting jurisprudence, we thought it to be particularly important to arouse or reinforce interest on part of the students in the law of international relations and also to draw foreign students to our University.

The first step in this respect was creating a Master’s program. Two such programs started in the winter semester 1997/98, one established by our Institute concerning European Union law, the other under the guidance of Professor Rauscher, concerning private international law.

Now we thought it necessary to come into a closer connection with a foreign university which might lead to introducing a system of common lectures, discussion groups and seminars.

In this respect, I was looking for an American university, and that mainly for two reasons:

First, the Unites States was the leading world power and so already by its political weight it had become the most influential state regarding the development of international law. An exchange of opinions and arguments among students and teachers of an American university comparing American and European views, seemed to me to be particularly important and interesting.

The other reason was that I thought we could learn about the possibly different ways of teaching and learning at a German and an American law school; it is alleged that the American way may be characterized as the so-called „Socratic“ method using casebooks whereas the German way is founded on lectures plus textbooks building on legal principles.

Well, and just when we were considering what to do in order to establish such contacts – I think it was in 1999 – I received a letter from Professor Richard Williamson, explaining that after three years as associate Dean of the University of Miami School of Law he was expecting a sabbatical year and that he would like to spend that year as a guest professor at a German law school on a scholarship of the Fulbright program for German-American exchange projects.

I supposed that we were not the only law school which received this offer, so – after consulting the faculty – I answered him right away that we would be glad if he came to Leipzig.

I was so much interested in Professor Williamson to be a guest professor here for a particular additional reason:

I had read in his CV that he had not only had an academic career, but that he had also from time to time and for quite a few years worked as a practitioner. He had earned an AB in 1967 from the University of Southern California, an MA in 1977 from American University, and a J.D. in 1984 from Harvard University.

In the time between the periods which he spent at the Universities he was engaged in different branches of the U.S. foreign service and therefore always in touch with the realities of international affairs and the corresponding problems of international law.

So for eight months in 1968 he had been busy at the U.S. embassy in Bonn. As I learned later he was on night duty just at the time when Soviet tanks crossed the border to Czechoslovakia. I am sure that such events witnessed in practice teach you more about the application of international law and its limits than many books.

For a short time he was also a vice-consul in Munich. I am sure he had a better and not so exciting time, there.

Later on, he was also division chief of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, heading the Nuclear Affairs Division, their work leading to the MBFR negotiations in Vienna.

Then, for two years he was Executive Director of the American Foreign Service Association; this was a body representing the about 11000 employees engaged in the American Foreign Service, providing a behind-the-curtain insight into the operation of the State Department.

After the following studies at Harvard Law School where he attained the J.D. he worked for four years as an attorney with Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton, a law firm operating world wide also in the field of international law. There he was mainly occupied with environmental law, this made him a recognized expert in this area.

Only after these professional experiences he became a professor of the Miami University School of Law.

It was very welcome for us that Professor Williamson brought along this extensive practical knowledge regarding the international field.

He knew the intricacies showing up in international law and what they mean in political practice, and particularly in arms control and in environmental law.

This expertise was also apparent in his publications where he discussed the relationship between relevant legal provisions and their practical effects, in particular why legal acts achieve or why they fail their intended purposes.

So, it was a great pleasure for us that he accepted our invitation and we could welcome Professor Williamson in Leipzig. He moved to Leipzig, joining us together with his family, Mrs. Williamson and their son Ryan, who at the time spent a school year here in Leipzig.

Now, it was in the year 2000, we started the project which fortunately has not come to an end until today, and – as we can tell by looking at the students here in the audience – will hopefully continue its work in the future.

At first Professor Williamson and I held a trial seminar in the winter semester 2000/2001 under the heading “The USA and Europe: Legal Issues and Conflicts”.

It was a trial seminar with only students of Leipzig participating. We wanted to know whether or not our students knew English well enough to make presentations and participate in discussions held in this foreign language, since we could not count on Miami students speaking German.

There were different topics, and for each topic two students were chosen who had to act as the representatives of the United States or Germany, respectively. They presented and explained their government’s view, and after that they were asked to make known their personal views on the matter.

We were very satisfied with that seminar, it had worked well, and so in May 2001 we had our first Leipzig-Miami Seminar here in Leipzig.

There were eight students from Miami, accompanied by Professor David Abraham, who had assisted the Miami students to prepare their presentations at home. And there were eight Leipzig students.

The topics concerned controversial positions on -for example –

the right to family life and child abduction,

  • protection of property and extraterritorial jurisdiction (the Helms-Burton Act),
  • the right of free expression vs. the protection of society from hate speech,
  • diverse problems concerning the Kyoto Protocol, the WTO rules, the American missile defence system,
  • and about the differences regarding NATO and the upcoming European Security and Defence Policy.

In March 2002 it was our turn for going abroad, and I accompanied eight students to a seminar in Coral Gables, the seat of the University of Miami. There, also we professors made presentations on our domestic immigration and nationality laws and their problems.

In the next year, in May 2003, Professors Williamson and Abraham with their crew were in Leipzig again, and on our side also Professor Goerlich joined the seminar.

Now the whole procedure had already become a matter of course.

The responses of both the Miami and the Leipzig students were very positive. The students had an excellent chance to learn about different views on international legal problems including their political backgrounds in a sometimes unexpected reasoning.

It was just the different opinions in the discussions which promoted a better understanding not only of the foreign position, but even of one’s own legal system at home. It was not unusual that in the end in their personal opinions some of the German and the American students switched sides.

And of course the students enjoyed the social activities organized around the meetings, in Leipzig for example an excursion to the Wörlitz Park and an evening in the Leipzig opera (“Freischütz”), in Miami the trip through the environment of the Everglades and of course a basketball game of the Miami Heats, and above all a wonderful farewell picnic on the seaside organized and presented by Mrs. Williamson.

I also heard that the students enjoyed night life when the professors were absent.

In 2003 one of the Miami students wrote a report published on the homepage of the Miami law school which she finished by saying: ‘This program was truly unique because we learned about hot topics in the law, made meaningful contributions in a small seminar format, spent time interacting with professors and foreign students, and of course, traveled to Europe and made lifelong friends.’

2003 was also the year when I retired from my teaching duties in Leipzig. But, as I had always hoped, the Leipzig-Miami-seminar continued, on the German side thanks to my colleague Professor Thomas Rauscher, who is now supervising the project, and thanks to the cooperation of Professors Goerlich and Kotzur, and also of Professors Berger and Schneider.

The Seminar has even been expanded: there are now ten instead of eight students on each side, the range of the topics has been widened, now including private and comparative national law, and, most importantly, visit and counter visit take place in Leipzig and in Miami within the one year.

As I was told by our Dean, the Leipzig-Miami-seminar today forms the starting point for further cooperative activities and – hopefully – even for a student exchange program between the two Universities.

All of these projects, whether present activities or plans for the future, have become possible only thanks to the great and lasting commitment of Professor Williamson, who has initiated and constantly supported the cooperation between our law schools with great motivation and engagement.

I think that this deserves great appreciation even more, since, after he had left Leipzig, he never forgot our seminar, although he was again busy with a wide variety of things. Firstly he was asked to be the Chair of the International Studies Department in the College of Arts and Sciences, which he did for two years. For twelve of the last 13 years he has served on the Final selection Committee (Endauswahlausschuss) of the Fulbright Commission in Germany selecting German exchange students. And he was just re-elected as Chair of the university-wide Faculty Senate for a fifth one-year term. This position is, as I became aware, at least a half-time job year round.

In addition, in view of scholarly work, he was able to use the comparative law research he began in Leipzig to complete some publications, one a comparative study on German and American environmental law (on the effect of waste water fees), and another one before the last U.S. presidential elections, pointing out how U.S. political parties seek to manipulate the voting laws to their benefit – an ideal topic for a comparative study within the Leipzig- Miami Seminar.

Thus, finally I want to say: Professor Williamson has successfully promoted legal research and the teaching of international and comparative law at this school of law by his contributions to the framework of cooperation instituted between the Universities of Leipzig and Miami, and by his tireless devotion to this project.

Professor Williamson, dear Rick,

It is therefore very understandable and highly convincing, that the University of Leipzig School of Law wants to show its high esteem and its gratitude by awarding you its honorary doctorate.

Thank you very much.

[1] Rektorin Prof. Beate Schücking

[2] Dekan Prof. Christian Berger

[3] Generalkonsul Mark J. Powell

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