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UCL honours distinguished women judges

On the 17th June 2002, and on the initiative of the Faculty of Laws, University College London awarded honorary doctorates to the first women to become Members of the Constitutional Courts of France, Germany, and Italy. They are, respectively, Madame Noelle Lenoir (who was also Clifford Chance Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Laws during 2001/2), Professor Dr Jutta Limbach, (until last March) President of the German Federal Constitutional Court and currently President of the Goethe Institute, and Madame Justice Fernanda Contri of the Italian Constitutional Court. Short biographical information about these three remarkable women - all of whom have close links with the Institute of Global law - are given below.

Madame Noëlle Lenoir began her career as a Member of France’s elite Administrative Court - the Conseil d’ Etat - but her dynamism soon brought her to the attention of successive Prime Ministers so she was seconded to work in the Senate and the Office of the Minister of Justice which she ran effectively for over eighteen months in the early nineties. Her growing interest in bioetchics and a steady stream of writings on this subject led her being asked to represent France on various European Commission Committees that dealt with this subject of growing importance and complexity. Her efficiency and productivity, unabated by the ever-growing responsibilities placed on her shoulders, finally came to the attention of President Mitterand who appointed her in 1990 as the first woman member of the French Conseil Constitutionnel – France’s highest Court. When her ten-year tenure as Justice expired last December she was widely tipped by the Press as the next Minister of Justice in the Jospin Government. But she refused to become involved in active politics and, instead, chose to take “a sabbatical leave” in order to focus on her writings on bioethics and the law - a decision facilitated by the offer of Visiting Professorships held concurrently at the Yale Law School and the Faculty of Laws of UCL. She eventually did enter the political field after the last general election and is now minister déléguée aux Affairs européennes in the French cabinet. view ministre déléguée aux Affaires européennes website

Professor Dr Jutta Limbach is a notable legal scholar who held the Chair of Civil, Commercial, Business law, and Sociology of Law at the Freie Universität of Berlin since 1972 before becoming Minister of Justice of the State of Berlin (1989-1994). For two of these years - 1992/3 - she was also a member of the highly influential “Joint Committee of the Bundesrat and the Bundestag” charged with the sensitive role of reforming the German Constitution on a wide range of important matters. She resigned these posts in 1994 to take over as the President of the German Constitutional Court, becoming the first woman to hold this post which is fourth in hierarchy in the German constitutional order. Her prolific writings have covered the topics of her chair including women’s’ rights and are permeated by her liberal thought which she has also stamped on the Constitutional Court during the nearly ten years she has been in charge of it. Professor Limbach’s reputation in Germany is so high and so broad-based that she has often been talked of as a possible candidate for the post of Federal President.

Madame Justice Fernanda Contri, for many years national Vice President and President of the Italian Bar Association, began her career as a practising lawyer in her native town of Genoa were she built up a national practice of renown. At the same time, she also developed a national profile as a writer and speaker for social and especially women’s’ rights in the workplace and at home. Her high profile led her to being appointed to many important posts such as the Consiglio Superiore della magistratura. She also became an active and respected member of the Parliament – appointed Anti-Mafia Board, President of the highly sensitive and important Disciplinary Division of the Judiciary, First Secretary to the Office of Prime Minister, (the equivalent of our Secretary of the Cabinet) Minister of Social Affairs in the first government of Prime Minister Amato and, finally, the first woman Justice in Italy’s Constitutional Court – a post which she still holds today. Like President Limbach, Signora Contri has, through her writings and her judicial work, captured the attention of the wider Italian public and during the last presidential elections was considered as a likely candidate for the post of President of the Republic.

 

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