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by Peter Roth, QC

To mark the occasion of the inauguration of the single market of the European Community in 1992, alumni from other European countries were invited to the annual dinner. The result was a gathering of more than 50 people, who were entertained by wonderful speeches from Judge Colyer and Penn Law Dean Colin Diver. Two years later, the event was held in the King’s Inns in Dublin. It was there that a group of Austrian, Belgian, French, German, Italian, Norwegian and Spanish alumni, along with the Irish hosts and the British originators, decided to create PLES: the Penn Law European Society.

1999 2002 2003

Since then, PLES meets annually, always in a different country. What began as just a dinner has developed into a weekend event, comprising a mixture of a well-arranged introduction to the local highlights (both historical and gastronomic) and an afternoon academic session in which papers are presented by a member of the Penn faculty and a lawyer or scholar from the host country. Most recently PLES has met in the restored Reichstag in Berlin and this June in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, where we heard fascinating presentations by Penn Professor of Law and Sociology Kim Lane Scheppele and Michael O’Boyle, Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights, on the scope of protection for terrorist suspects under the U.S. Constitution and under the European Convention – which made for an interesting comparison!

PLES now has a constitution, allowing all graduates and faculty of the Law School, and others associated with it, who live or work in Europe to become members. The new president is Sir Nicolas Bratza, the UK judge in Strasbourg, and each country or region of western Europe has its own representative. In June 2004, PLES will meet in Switzerland. The gatherings are unlike the traditional kind of legal conference, for they bring together practising and academic lawyers and judges of different nationalities, ages and specialisms. Anyone who has attended one of these events can testify that they are exceptionally collegial and enjoyable. For further information on PLES, please contact Development & Alumni Relations at the Law School or the PLES secretary, Didier Goudant at didiergoudant@panoceanenergy.com.

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