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The legal systems in the United States and the United Kingdom are abandoning each other instead of getting closer, according to a leading QC and a Harvard professor. Harvard law professor Arthur Miller said at the American Bar Association conference that the U.K. legal system was “turning its back on the U.S. and is looking instead to the E.U.” However, leading human rights specialist Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC responded immediately: “On the contrary, the U.S. is turning its back on the rest of the world.” He continued, “The Commonwealth looks to each other’s case law but in the U.S., the system is quite certain it has nothing to learn from the rest of the world.” Lester criticized “the insularity of the U.S. legal system,” saying that “if one is making ethical choices in judgments, it is sensible to see what other courts are doing.” Former ABA President Roberta Cooper Ramo underlined just how far the two legal systems appear to have diverged when she told Baroness Scotland QC, “If you’re a silk, I’m a denim.” Surprisingly, the claims of such a profound split were made at a panel discussion of the common law tradition shared by the U.S. and U.K. Academics admitted insularity in U.S. legal education but said that significant developments had occurred over the last 10 years to change this. This was highlighted by the launch of the Columbia-London Law Institute at the University of London’s Senate House. Anthony Kennedy, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was at pains to distinguish between issues of common law method and constitutional principles. Said Kennedy, “The fact that courts in the U.K. and the U.S. don’t follow each other is not a bad thing.” He did admit however, that the U.S. legal system should “be better informed by the rest of the world.”

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