Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Brian Ray '01 to Clerk With South Africa's Highest Court

Brian RayBrian Ray grew up in Akron, the son of an elected official and a psychiatric nurse. In grade school, he befriended a half-Japanese boy and developed an active interest in Asian culture. That interest would take Brian to Notre Dame where he graduated cum laude with a dual major in philosophy and Japanese studies. As a Fulbright Fellow following graduation, he went to Japan for a year to study the philosophy of Keiji Nishitani of the Kyoto School, a philosopher best known for describing Zen Buddhism in Western philosophical terms.

Upon return, Brian continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania earning a Master of Arts, summa cum laude, in East Asian Studies. Realizing he didn't want to pursue a Ph.D., Brian went to work for Ohio Congressman Ralph Regula, putting his international background to use tracking and reporting on foreign affairs legislation. Moving on to the Alliance for International Exchange in Washington, Brian planned and implemented government relations strategy for an association of 60 non-profit international education groups.

Brian's interest in law began with another friendship. An acquaintance studying law in an evening program impressed Brian with her ability to analyze arguments. As he met more Washingtonians with law degrees, Brian realized they approached problems differently. Again driven by intellectual curiosity, Brian decided to go to law school.

At Ohio State, Brian was a stellar student. As a research assistant for Professor Jim Brudney, Brian did comparative research on labor law in the United States and the United Kingdom. As a student in Professor Dan Chow's Chinese Business Law Seminar, Brian was able to see the legal and practical aspects of forming joint ventures in a foreign legal system. He summered at the Cleveland and Columbus Offices of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, translating Japanese documents, and researching in the litigation department. He was articles editor for The Ohio State University Law Journal and a member of the National Moot Court Team.

In the spring of 2000, Brian met Justice Goldstone, who was visiting the Moritz College of Law's Center for Law, Policy, and Social Science. Brian was intrigued by the newness of the South African Court and its emphasis on affirmative issues, as well as by Justice Goldstone's reputation as a jurist and international human rights advocate. Brian applied for and accepted sequential judicial clerkships – the first with the Honorable Alan E. Norris of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the second with Justice Goldstone. Between clerkships, Brian is at Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue's Columbus office working on a variety of litigation projects.

Although the South African Constitutional Court is an equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court as a court of last resort, it differs from the U.S. Supreme Court in fundamental ways. The South African Court's purview is limited to constitutional issues. The South African Constitution specifically allows the Court to consider and incorporate international law and the laws of other countries into its decisions.

The South African Constitution, framed in 1996, is young and is still fleshing out basic, first-order constitutional issues about the rights of its citizens and what those rights mean. The Constitution includes more affirmative rights than does the United States Constitution. While the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from government intrusions such as search and seizure, the South African Court is a much longer document and mandates specific rights, e.g. education and access to adequate housing. Affirmative rights of providing education and housing can be costly, and the South African Courts wrestle with the tension of interpreting individual rights in a way that will not bankrupt the state.

Justice Goldstone is an intriguing mentor to Brian on many levels. Goldstone headed a commission investigating systematic corruption in government, public violence, and intimidation at the end of apartheid. Shortly after being appointed to the Constitutional Court, Goldstone took a sabbatical to serve as the United Nations Prosecutor for human rights abuses, first in Yugoslavia and later in Rwanda. In 2001, he was appointed Chairperson of the International Task Force on Terrorism established by the International Bar Association. Working for Goldstone will give Brian exposure to another culture at a pivotal point in its history.

Brian and his wife Kim will travel with their toddler Audrey to South Africa. They hope to travel throughout the region, possibly as far north as Victoria Falls. Of his post-clerkship life, there is only one certainty – the adventure will continue