Lawyers get together at conference to discuss special aspects of American next month indicates again that events abroad are having an increasing impact on how we do business here.
A three-day conference on special aspects of law and business in the Middle East, including a session on "The Reemergence of Islamic Law," is being sponsored by Chase World Information Corporation, a subsidiary of Chase Manhattan Bank, and Middle East Executive reports, a monthly newsletter.
The establishment of an Islamic Republic in Iran has dramatized a development that has been quietly occuring elsewhere in the Middle East, according to Joseph Saba, a practicing lawyer and senior editor of the newsletter.
Saba, who was a Foreign Service officer in Kuwait before he started practicing law here, said Islamic law is reappearing as the foundation for business dealings in several countries besides Iran-Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and even Egypt. The University of Mecca is now training its first class of lawyers trained in Islamic law, or Sharr'a. They, in turn, will assume positions in Saudi ministries, where they will be negotiating development contract and other business deals with the outside world.
When Napoleon subdued in 1798, he set in motion a series of events that left Islamic law obscured by Western Varieties. Islamic law was and is a system of jurisprudence similar in scope to English common law, but for Western businessman Islamic law poses some special problems.
Islamic law, for one thing, prohibits the payment of interest-something to invest in a venture in an Moslem country. The solution, according to Saba is for Moslem banks lending money to take back a share of profits from ventures they invest in, and persons with money in the bank, in turn, to get a portion of the profits.
Islamic law, Saba says, is not "incapable of handling large commercial transactions, but nobody knows anything about it outside of Saudi Arabia." That situation, apparently, is now chaning, making the subject of Islamic law's reemergence "a sexy item," according to Saba. At$475 a head, you would need more than a mild interest in the subject to attend. The conference will be June 4-6 at the Madison Hotel.
Once a year the United States attorney for the District of Columbia gets a chance, sua sponte as judges like to say, to say a few words about the state of law enforcement inthe nation's capital. "Earl Silbert's Complaint" is mostly a dry-as-dust compendium of facts and figures about arrests, prosecutions and convictions, but here and there among the statistics are a few blasts by Silbert at judges, lawyers and even congress. For example:
Among the 17,000 run-of-the-mill cases his office prosecuted in fiscal 1978, Silbert says, there were a number of highly publicized trials involving politicalfigures or others in the public eye.
Silbert says the prosecution of those cases was "generally sound" but "at least one aspect remains seriously open to suspicion as to its fairness," the sentencing of convicted white-collar criminals. "To often," Silbert says, "citizens still witness a person convicted of bribery, a public official convicted of defrauding the public over a period of years of thousands of dollars, or a businessman convicted a swindling his customers of subtantial amounts of money receive a sentence of probation or a maximum of one to three years in jail."
During fiscal 1978, he says, his office carefully chose about 25 cases for prosecution where unemployment conpensation of amounts ranging from $1,000 upwards of $5,000 or $6,000 had been fraudulently obtained. Not one of the 25 received a jail sentence after conviction. "Such aresult inevitably and completely undercuts any efforts by law enforcement to deter this kind of fraud when perpetrated on the public," Silbert says.
The district's parole board also comes in for comment. Judges, when sentencing persons convicted of a crime who also happen to be parolefor a previous conviction, often bend to defense lawyers' requests and impose a short sentence because the defendant will have to serve "back up" time for violating parole, which is to say the unserved portion of the paroled sentence has to be served.
When judges agree, they intend forthe parole violation and the new sentence to run consecutivily, but, Silbert says, if the parole board does not revoke parole before sentencingor after the judge's sentence has been served, the effect is that the two sentences-the parole violation and the new term-run together and the convicted criminal gets a shorter term than the judge intended.
The parole board, Silbert says, has been asked "for some time" by him, the D.C. police and Superior Court to let it be known when parole will be revoked so that sentencings can be coordinated with parole revocations. "The existing failure of communication from the Parole Board has resulted too often in shorter sentences than would otherwise have been imposed, to the detriment of the public interest," he says.
Silbert also laments the "continuing explosion" of civil litigation handled by his office, which represents the federal government in civil as well as criminal matters. His office "disposed of" 106 employment discrimination suits brought against the goverment during the year, losing 12, settling 30 and winning the rest. "Too many of these suits involve persons initiating suits soley because of frustration from lack of promotion, but without any justifiable basis for alleging that their lack crimination," Silbert says. He doesn't offer a solution.