INTERNATIONAL COURT HEARINGS don’t typically fall within the purview of American legal education. Yet in my three years at Harvard Law School, I managed to line up legal internships in Thailand, Myanmar, Hong Kong, and India—so when a friend from a German nonprofit invited me to observe a provincial court hearing just one week before graduation in May, it seemed an apt conclusion to my studies. Little did I know I would witness international primetime legal theater: administrative missteps, endangered bat species, and a hidden soap opera filled with aristocratic drama.
Within the austere façade of a Bauhaus-inspired cement block, attendants hailing from across Europe, the Americas, and Africa packed the small courtroom to the point of overflow seating. Media were just as well represented, from Chile to Croatia. The plaintiffs were organic apple farmers operating as part of Europe’s largest biotope connective system, constructed by the International Gabriele Foundation: systems of hedges provide animals habitat, while farmers cultivate land through “peaceable farming.” The defendants? A wealthy energy company and a district administrative office, too quick with its rubber stamp.