Law professors’ letter opposes potential trade agreement provisions that could allow multi-national corporations to bypass U.S. courts

A copy of the letter discussed in this release is available at

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 11, 2015: More than 100 law professors have signed a letter to congressional leaders and the U.S. Trade Representative urging them to “protect the rule of law and the nation’s sovereignty” as trade agreements are negotiated.

Specifically, the professors oppose the inclusion of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in these agreements.  Such provisions allow foreign corporations to bring challenges to government actions they allege threaten their investments not in that nation’s courts, but before a panel of private arbitrators – many of whom, as the letter points out, “rotate between being arbitrators and bringing cases for corporations against governments.”  The proceedings often lack an appeals process.  ISDS has been used by companies challenging health, safety, environmental, and labor laws around the world.

The letter was released today by Alliance for Justice, which also hosted a teleconference featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. and one of the signers of the letter, international labor law scholar Marley Weiss, Professor of Law, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.  A copy of the letter is available here and you can listen to the teleconference below:

“It is fundamental to our democracy that our justice system treats all equally, regardless of wealth or power,” said AFJ President Nan Aron.  “When laws and regulations protecting everyday Americans are at issue, any challenge should take place in our courts, not before a private tribunal.”

The letter urges Congress and the U.S. Trade Representative to ensure ISDS language is not included in two proposed trade agreements, the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.  The letter concludes:

ISDS threatens domestic sovereignty by empowering foreign corporations to bypass domestic court systems and privately enforce terms of a trade agreement. It weakens the rule of law by removing the procedural protections of the justice system and using an unaccountable, unreviewable system of adjudication. 



Alliance for Justice believes that all Americans have the right to secure justice in the courts and to have their voices heard when government makes decisions that affect their lives. We are a national association of over 100 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society. Through our justice programs, we lead the progressive community in the fight for a fair judiciary, and through our advocacy programs, we help nonprofits and foundations to realize their advocacy potential.