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Professor Cora True-Frost G’01, L’01 Awarded Fulbright for Research on European Tribunals and International Disability Law
Cora True-Frost G’01, L’01, Bond, Schoeneck and King Distinguished Professor in the College of Law, has been selected by the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Program to join the University of Oslo, Pluricourts as a Fulbright Scholar. Beginning in August 2022, True-Frost will conduct her research and scholarship on European Tribunals and International Disability Law: Definitions, Discrimination, and Involuntary Detention.
“Fulbright Scholarships are prestigious academic achievements and Professor True-Frost is a deserving recipient and representative of the College of Law in this program,” says College of Law Dean Craig M. Boise. “Her scholarship at the intersection of international law and politics and the rights of the disabled is being justly recognized. Cora is a gifted classroom teacher and will ultimately enrich this field and our students, building connections between leading international courts and our law school.”
True-Frost answered some questions about her Fulbright Scholarship.
01What is your research focus for this distinguished appointment and what are your intended outcomes?
I will be examining contests between European tribunals and international bodies over the interpretation and application of international law, with a specific focus on international disability law norms within Europe by the Court of Justice for the European Union (CJEU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Several substantive areas in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) are provoking high-stakes contests of legitimacy and authority between and among both international level treaty bodies, and with regional courts. I intend to initially engage an admittedly broad question, but through a methodologically narrow approach: in the 2020s, what relative roles do international courts, regional tribunals, as well as “soft law”-makers, such as human rights treaty bodies and the European Commission (“EC”), play in determining the rights of people with disabilities in Europe?
While national domestic legal systems work to avoid conflicts by permitting appeals only within a strict hierarchy of authority and constrained jurisdiction, the same is not true of the international system. The complexities and sophistication of the judicial system of the European Union (“EU”) offer a perfect opportunity to examine conflicts and variation arising in the legal interpretation and application of relatively new international law, the CRPD. Within Europe, multiple sources of law and policy protect people with disabilities—national legislation, European Union Directives, European Commission subsidiary organs, regional conventions, the European Disability Forum and Council of Europe policies. International law, such as the CRPD, also protects people with disabilities in Europe.
My past scholarship has examined the effects of the CJEU’s efforts to respect and observe its international legal obligations. To give an example, a past project examined impacts of the Kadi & al-Barakaat case, in which the CJEU struck down a Council of the European Union (“Council”) law for violating fundamental rights in implementing the UN Security Council’s (UN SC) resolution. The CJEU decision took pains to emphasize the EU’s compliance with international law even in the face of a particularly draconian UN SC resolution. My work showed how the CJEU decision in turn helped push the powerful UN SC to reform its procedures related to targeted sanctions in the fight against terrorism post-9/11.
My broader scholarly focus on international level tribunals and organizations inevitably and frequently overlaps with decisions of regional tribunals such as the CJEU and the ECtHR. For example, although my forthcoming article, “Listening to Dissonance at the Intersections of International Human Rights Law” contributes to the fragmentation literature by focusing on conflicts between the interpretations of provisions of treaties by international-level treaty bodies, through analyzing issues related both to the horizontal allocation of authority and the impacts of conflicting interpretations on different norms, my research continuously led to the jurisprudence of the CJEU and ECtHR. I am excited to be able to take this next step in my research.
02What are your intended outcomes from your research?
I will be developing a qualitative series of case studies of contests of authority and legitimacy focused on various EU directives implementing the CRPD and CJEU judicial decisions regarding these Directives will form the core research. The first phase of this project will map and analyze various consistencies, conflicts and variations in European tribunals’ articulation of three substantive areas of disability law in relation to international disability law standards: defining disability, applying employment discrimination law and setting forth standards for involuntary detention. In its second phase, the project will develop normative implications both for the legitimacy of international and regional courts and for the substance of disability law.
I very much welcome the opportunity to closely engage CJEU and ECtHR decisions in conversation with the community of many scholars working on Pluricourts’ international tribunals research in Norway, and would plan to make research trips, as needed, to Geneva, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. My work overlaps with the literatures focused on at Pluricourts. I have written regarding almost all of the research topics, particularly the legitimacy of international tribunals; the proper allocation of powers between different international and national lawmaking, executive and judicial organs; the impacts of global administrative law and best practices of international lawmaking bodies.
03Why did you pursue a Fulbright?
My international law scholarship has always benefitted and grown from my experience abroad. Pursuing this important research topic about conflicts between international and disability law in Europe will offer me the opportunity to meet with various stakeholders in European regional and domestic courts and do primary research.
I am an international law scholar with a focus on the development of human rights norms in international tribunals and organizations. However, my research over the last decade has continued to lead me to the jurisprudence of European tribunals, which have had a strong influence on the content of international human rights law.
04Why study European law in Norway in particular?
Norway has a unique relationship with the EU, so the opportunity to examine its own domestic interpretations of European and international human rights law will offer more context to my research on conflicts. Luckily, in 2020, when I decided to pursue my research with the Fulbright program in Europe to focus on European law, I learned that the University of Oslo offered a Fulbright grant focused on international courts and tribunals. I was already aware of the University of Oslo’s Pluricourts research center, which is a Center of Excellence funded by the Norwegian government, as I had the opportunity to attend the 11th Annual Conference of the European Society of International Law in Norway from in September 2015, which Pluricourts had sponsored. During my brief visit, as a junior scholar on pre-tenure leave, I was extremely impressed by the university, its faculty and its strong networks in international law. Over the course of the short conference, I saw many ways that the Pluricourts’ research agenda overlapped with my own research agenda. My interest in living and researching in Norway now is helped by the knowledge that two dear friends and former colleagues of mine from my earlier work on gender justice in East Timor, who are Norwegian, both live in Oslo now with their families. This is an example of how networking and staying in touch professionally builds bridges to future international experiences.
The Fulbright also offers me the opportunity for concentrated, comparative research in disability law, a new area of interest for me. At Syracuse Law, I have had the pleasure of teaching international and domestic law students who are Blind, Deaf, dyslexic, wheelchair-using, among many other disabilities. I have seen the challenges my students, both domestic and international, face in securing the supports and accommodations they require. In recent years, as international attention has rightly, if belatedly, focused on too long-delayed calls for racial justice, my interest in race and intersectionality and my experience with disabled students have raised my awareness and concern about the many unnecessary challenges disabled people face.
05What impact will this have on your teaching?
I look forward to integrating connections and publications from this research project into both the ECtHR and International Human Rights Law classes I teach. I also look forward to connecting our students interested in international law with the work I will be doing abroad, by delivering remarks/observations to College of Law students via Zoom or Skype while I am at the University of Oslo. I look forward to learning more about Norwegian higher education techniques, as I have been able to do in France with our partners there during the ECtHR classes.