Report on “David & Goliath” Panel Discussion

DGBannerClr­On October 1, Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace presented the program “David and Goliath: The Marshall Islands Take on the Nuclear Powers.” This was co-sponsored with the National Lawyers Guild (University of Pittsburgh School of Law Chapter), the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), and SEIU Healthcare PA.

With excellent timing, also on October 1, Tony DeBrum and the people of the Marshall Islands were presented with the 2015 Right Livelihood Honorary Award “in recognition of their vision and courage to take legal action against the nuclear powers for failing to honor their disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.” This provided the backdrop for the presentation to students, lawyers, and activists at the University of Pittsburgh Law School.

Speakers included Ed Aguilar, PA Director for the Coalition for Peace Action; John Burroughs, Executive Director with the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP); and UE’s General Counsel Joseph Cohen.

Ed started the program with a PowerPoint history of the Marshall Islands. He described the Islands’ nuclear testing contamination and its relationship to climate change, as well as clean-energy solutions to reverse the effects of human activities on climate. John shared the case filed against the nine nuclear weapons powers before the International Court of Justice. It seeks to compel the nuclear powers to negotiate in good faith for the elimination of nuclear weapons as required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and customary international law. Because the United States did not accept the court’s jurisdiction, a similar complaint was filed in Federal District Court in California and is now on appeal.

John discussed the Amicus Brief filed by the LCNP in support of the Marshall Islands in that case.  Joseph explained how the District Court erred in finding that there was no judicial standards for determining whether the parties failed to negotiate in good faith. In fact, labor law has much experience with the “application of ‘good faith standard’ in collective bargaining.”

The panel presentations were followed by a thoughtful and provocative question and comment period. We were fortunate to have these experts share their knowledge and direct involvement with these groundbreaking cases, and we look forward to following their progress.





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