Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Jon Charney preceded me into the academic world by a dozen years and already had a well-established reputation in international law when I was a brand-new law teacher. At the time we met in 1984, Jon was tackling some of the most ambitious topics in the theory and practice of international law, and he reached out to others for collegial engagement on those subjects. From the mid-1980s, he and I worked together on three collaborative books and on many projects for the American Society of International Law and the American Journal of International Law.

Among the themes that preoccupied Jon as his scholarship blossomed, I would like to single out two that are fundamental and pervasive. First, he asked the deepest questions about the creation of legal norms for a diverse and changing international community: can there be a genuinely universal international law?' Is international law ultimately grounded on the consent of states, or could legal obligations take hold even if states have not consented to them? Second, he was concerned with the institutional framework in which international law is applied and international disputes are adjudicated: are international courts capable of ruling effectively on the kinds of disputes that litigants have sent them in the last few decades? Now that we have a veritable constellation of international tribunals, will their jurisprudence fit together for a coherent rather than fragmented international law? It is not necessary to be an international lawyer to understand that those questions are fundamental to the theory of international law, indeed to the nature of law itself. They epitomize the perennial challenge for our discipline: is international law really "law"? Jon was committed to the nature of international law as "law" and to the value, even the virtue, of holding its sources and methods and its institutions to the most probing scrutiny.