Law professor Michael Scharf to be featured on C-SPAN Book TV

Program highlights his new book about historic moments that quickly change the course of international law

Michael Scharf
Michael Scharf

C-SPAN Book TV will broadcast Case Western Reserve University law professor Michael P. Scharf’s recent talk at the City Club of Cleveland about his new book examining world events that change the course of widely accepted international law. The program is scheduled to air at 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21.

In his recently published book, Customary International Law in Times of Fundamental Change: Recognizing Grotian Moments  (Cambridge University Press), Scharf describes what he refers to as “Grotian Moments” that have accelerated changes in international law and continue to do so.

Scharf is John Deaver Drinko – Baker & Hostetler Professor of Law and director of the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center. Since this fall, he also has served as the law school’s acting dean along with Jessica Berg.

Scharf spoke about recognizing Grotian Moments with C-SPAN Book TV cameras covering the Nov. 20 event. Scharf identified such legal issues as humanitarian intervention in Syria and using military drones to target terrorists as possible Grotian Moments.

The term Grotian Moment is named for Dutch jurist and scholar Hugo Grotius, whose 1625 book, De Jure Belli ac Pacis (On the Law of War and Peace), is widely regarded as having triggered a paradigm shift in international law.

Scharf writes that a Grotian Moment allows customary international law to keep up with the rapid-pace of developments during periods of fundamental change. In his book, Scharf examines technological, geo-political and societal change that can accelerate the formation of customary international law.

“The great thing about what Michael Scharf does with international law and international criminal justice is his ability to explain it to those who don’t often think about it,” said Dan Moulthrop, the City Club’s chief executive officer who interviewed Scharf for the Book TV program and led a question-answer session with the audience. The City Club, considered the nation’s oldest continuously running free speech forum, allows for free-flowing conversation between the featured speaker and the audience.

“I think the program audience gained an understanding that these concepts are not too abstract and are quite relevant,” Moulthrop said. “He helps everyone understand why it matters to democracies around the world. These are the kinds of ideas that shape the future.”

Scharf focused on the Grotian Moment concept during a sabbatical in 2008, when he served as special assistant to the prosecutor of the Cambodia Genocide Tribunal.  He was assigned to write a prosecution brief, arguing that the tribunal could use a doctrine known as Joint Criminal Enterprise Liability. His brief was the first time the term Grotian Moment was used in an international court.