Judge David Edward Oral History


Introduction by Judge David Edward

One of the penalties of leading a busy and varied life is that one’s pet projects are constantly being relegated to the back burner. One of my pet projects has been to record, before I forget them or become too senile, my impressions of life as a Scottish advocate, a university professor and as a judge of the European Courts in Luxembourg. Another has been to compile an anthology of the fugitive pieces about European Law and other topics that I have contributed over the years to legal journals and books of essays.

Now, thanks to the industry and enthusiasm of my friend, Professor Don Smith of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, these projects have been accomplished with hardly any effort on my part. I am deeply grateful to him and to the University of Denver for the honour they have done me in bringing these materials together in the university website. From my point of view, it has also been great fun.

I hope the collection will be of interest to those who are interested in the way European law works and in the reasons why some of us, at least, believe that the European Community experiment has something to contribute to a more stable and secure world order. If anyone had said to me when I started out in practice as an advocate that I would end my career as a member of a court with judges from France and Portugal, Finland and Greece, I would have said they were mad. In the intervening years there have been many mistakes and some wrong turnings. It would be surprising if there had not. But the old continent, for so many centuries the theatre of conflict, ethnic hatred and national rivalry has become, in my professional lifetime, a zone of relative stability.

That is not a mean achievement and it is due, at least in part, to a new respect for law as a factor of political, social and economic integration. I hope I have played a part in fostering that respect.

David A.O. Edward
August 2006
Edinburgh, Scotland

Introduction by Don C. Smith

In the beginning…

On a cold and blustery evening in February 1999, I first heard Judge David Edward speak at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Judge Edward was just over mid-way through his 12 year tenure as the United Kingdom’s member of the Court of Justice, and I was a student in the University of Leicester’s European Union Law LL.M. program.

About 30 LL.M. students were on a week-long visit to the centers of power in the European Union and our first stop was Luxembourg, home of the EU’s courts. Judge Edward spoke to us for perhaps an hour and I feverishly took notes, figuring it unlikely that I would ever again be in the presence of a member of one of the world’s most influential courts. It never occurred to me for one moment that over the course of time I would become a friend of one of Europe’s most important jurists.

Time passed, I graduated from the LL.M. program in the summer of 2001, and in 2002 I began teaching European Union Law & Policy as an adjunct professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

And then, on another cold and blustery night this time in Denver nearly 5,500 miles from Luxembourg about five years from the day I first heard Judge Edward first speak, one of those serendipitous moments that sometimes occur in life took place. I was at my computer, working on the next day’s lecture about the EU, when I decided to do an internet search on the phrase “Judge David Edward.” One of the hits was an article from the Times of London that said Judge Edward had retired from the Court of Justice in early 2004.

An idea suddenly went through my mind – I was scheduled to be in the U.K. in March and I wondered whether the newly retired Judge might be willing to meet with me. If I have asked myself once, I’ve asked myself a million times, where I came up with the idea that a retired member of the Court of Justice would have the least bit interest in meeting with me – but never mind, that’s what was on my mind. I had a faint recollection that Judge Edward had taught at the University of Edinburgh School of Law, so I did a search on the law school, and found the name and e-mail address of Hector MacQueen, the former dean (and currently a law professor) at Edinburgh. I dashed off an e-mail to Prof. MacQueen, introducing myself and asking whether he might know how to contact Judge Edward.

I retired for the evening, figuring that despite my desire to make contact with Judge Edward my efforts would be for naught – who really would think that a former law school dean from Scotland would respond to my brief and completely unexpected e-mail? When I arose the next morning, there it was – Prof. MacQueen had not only sent a very kind response, but he had given me Judge Edward’s e-mail address.

With the e-mail address in hand I wrote to Judge Edward, explaining that I had first heard him speak in Luxembourg in February 1999. Once again, I figured that it was unlikely I would hear anything in response. However, to my delight Judge Edward wrote back and said he would meet with me when I was in the U.K. That set in motion our first formal meeting, which took place in March 2004 at a business lounge at London’s Heathrow Airport. Subsequently, the Judge and I e-mailed on a regular basis and in April 2005 he and his wife, Elizabeth, traveled to Denver where he spoke to both law and undergraduate students at the University of Denver.

The Idea of an Oral History is Broached

Serendipity was about to strike again in May 2005 when I was reminded of an oral history project that had been undertaken with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. I visited the Blackmun website, and in so doing it occurred to me that just like Harry Blackmun in the context of U.S. law, David Edward’s life and career was one of special importance in the context of European Union law.

I e-mailed the Judge in June 2005, asking whether he might be willing to participate in the development of an oral history similar to the one Justice Blackmun did. I knew that Judge Edward had met Justice Blackmun and that he had a great affinity for the former U.S. Supreme Court Justice. However, I also knew that Judge Edward was in many respects a reserved man – his Scottish ancestry leaves him almost shy at times – and I would not have been surprised if he had said he would rather not. But David Edward, if nothing else, is someone who enjoys challenges as well as teaching and he responded that he would indeed be willing to participate.

Thus began a series of e-mails that traversed the north Atlantic from June through October as we worked on an organizational scheme for the video taping sessions and ultimately a list of questions that would serve to elicit remembrances and observations from the Judge. I spent the autumn months tracking down various articles that Judge Edward had written (as well as articles that had been written about him) and prepared a long list of questions based on my research.

We finally met to conduct the video taping sessions in late November 2005. We agreed to conduct these sessions in the room in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he began his legal career as a Scottish Advocate more than 40 years ago. (In those days, a Scottish Advocate generally had an office in his home; the Edwards still live in the same home, but now the room has been converted to a dining room.)

During the video taping breaks, the Judge and I walked around his neighborhood in Edinburgh and through the magnificent grounds of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. On these walks I asked him about a multitude of topics from his memories as a boy in the 1940s visiting his grandmother in Edinburgh to what life was like in the early 1960s as a young Scottish Advocate to what, in his opinion, the principle “rule of law” means. Moreover, he talked about the debt of gratitude that he owed to many of his forbearers for his love of learning and curiosity about the world.

His comments were unfailingly thoughtful and noteworthy, often providing a depth of commentary that is all too often lacking in today’s consideration of events and people. To share these moments with someone such as David Edward was indeed a pleasure on one hand and a learning experience on the other. In fact, the more time we spent together, the more committed I became to sharing his remarkable story with the widest audience possible. The oral history seemed the perfect vehicle with which to accomplish this objective.

By December 2005, the oral history project was well underway on many fronts including editing the videos, preparing the full-text transcripts of the video sessions, and designing the website. As spring 2006 arrived, work began on securing permissions from publishers so we could post many of Judge Edward’s articles, book chapters, and speeches.

In early May 2006, I traveled to Edinburgh for a final series of meetings with the Judge where, among other things, we went through the transcripts page-by-page. Both the Judge and I wanted to make sure the transcripts exactly reflected what he had said. More than a few times, I had to smile (as I’m sure the Judge did as well) about what an American “ear” had transcribed while listening to a Scotsman speak. Despite the fact that English is the first language for both of us, there nevertheless were words that needed some “clarification” by the always kind and patient Judge.

At this point, only the final steps lay ahead – to make necessary changes to the transcripts, to finish obtaining publisher permissions, and to fine-tune some last minute changes to the website.

Finally, in August 2006, the website was officially launched and the story of one of Europe’s great men became fully available to people worldwide.


A project of this scope and enormity is not accomplished in a day or a week or even a month by one man or woman. Instead, it has been an undertaking that has involved many individuals, some in the European Union and some in the United States.

Consequently, let me attempt to recognize many of those (although I fear that I will inadvertently overlook some) who have played a crucial role in the development of this website. First, there are those at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law who have been of enormous help and support as this project has moved along. Among these individuals are: David Thomson, Professor of Lawyering Process, who provided invaluable advice, encouragement, and moral support; Jessica Hogan, Manager of Educational Technology, whose creative ideas and unbounded energy resulted in the website’s look and feel and internal architecture; Wayne Rust, Media Specialist, who invested hours converting and editing video and audio files and who did a superb job producing the video sessions; and Sergio Stone, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Librarian, who provided valuable help with various research questions I posed. In addition, J. Robert Brown, Professor of Law and former Associate Dean, played a key – if understated – role. Professor Brown first approached me in 2002 about teaching an EU-related course on-line, an effort that neither of us could have known at the time would ultimately provide the backdrop for the development of this web-based oral history.

In addition, three former EU law students of mine – Mary Bullard, Tiffany Hutchings, and Samantha Muirhead – were of immense help as I tried to make sure that the video sessions and the transcripts thereof were identical. Another student – who now works for the European Commission – also needs to be acknowledged: Sean Schneider, who studied EU law at the University of Edinburgh, was of great help in locating and scanning the Judge’s vast collection of articles, lectures, and book chapters.

I also want to acknowledge Prof. MacQueen from Edinburgh University. As explained above, it was Prof. MacQueen who – in a manner of speaking – got this entire ball rolling. I will always appreciate his kind reply to my initial e-mail seeking advice on how to contact Judge Edward.

And my sister, Sarah L. Barr, an attorney at Kansas State University, was there every step of the way providing counsel, suggestions, and encouragement as well as helping with all manner of tasks not least of which was handling the first cut at transcribing most of the video sessions.

Of course, I would be remiss without saying that Judge Edward and his wife Elizabeth were of enormous help and support. On several occasions they took me into their home in Scotland and shared at least a sliver of their lives with a fellow they had never really laid eyes on until just a couple of years ago. Diane Hansen-Ingram, secretary to Judge Edward from 1989 to 1998, has observed that “Judge and Mrs. Edward are generous to a fault. The Judge always brings back small gifts from his business trips and holidays, and is a prolific postcard writer…There are also countless [office] dinners at Flaxweiler [the Edwards’ home in Luxembourg], to which both staff and their partners are invited.”1 Perhaps I can put this in a slightly different way: How many individuals can say that a former member of the European Court of Justice met them on their airport arrival, helped them retrieve their bags and carry them to the car park, and then delivered them right to the door of where they were going to stay – which just also happened to be this former judge’s home?

Final Thoughts

One can’t embark on and complete a journey such as the one I’ve undertaken with Judge Edward without learning some important lessons. In my case, I’ve had the great good fortune to learn two extremely valuable lessons.

First, Judge Edward one time told a former junior colleague that a key aspect of legal education is from whom you learn. “Go and learn at the feet of great men and women,”2 Judge Edward told Claus-Dieter Ehlermann, who worked for the Judge for four years while he was in Luxembourg. In the case of everyone who visits this website, we can take the Judge at his word. But in this instance, the great man – and in effect our teacher – is Judge Edward himself.

And second, the significance of the European experiment should not be lost on anyone. Foes that fought for literally hundreds of years, during which untold death and destruction occurred, have joined together to work for the benefit of peace, prosperity, and the rule of law across the whole of Europe. In this regard, Judge Edward has written that the “why” of European integration must never be forgotten. “When I first became involved in European affairs as a delegate [to a European organization of lawyers], the older members included one who had lost a leg at Stalingrad; one who had ended the war as the commander of a Hitler Youth Battalion and woke every night from the nightmare of hearing the boys’ voices calling for their mothers; two who had been in concentration camps – one of them in Dachau; one who had been in the Dutch Resistance; and a Belgian of Romanian Jewish ancestry who spent six weeks in a hen house in the middle of a field waiting to guide the paratroopers at Arnhem [the Netherlands]. If that generation were prepared to make the effort of reconciliation for future generations – and it was a great effort for some – why should not I?”3

While the work of adding new materials to this website will continue into the future, it is with equal amounts of satisfaction with the final result and admiration for Judge Edward that we open this website to the world. The story of modern Europe is the story of countless men and women who have valiantly – and not without being subjected to sometimes searing criticism – invested their energy and dedication to an undertaking that would have been unimaginable in the darkest days of World War II. David Edward was one of those leading individuals, and thus the epithet “A True European” is a fitting description indeed marking his life-long contributions and legacy to a peaceful, prosperous Europe truly governed by the rule of law.

Don C. Smith
Adjunct Professor of Law
University of Denver (USA) Sturm College of Law
August 1, 2006


  1. Diane Hansen-Ingram, “Tales From the Tartan Chambers,” in A TRUE EUROPEAN: ESSAYS FOR JUDGE DAVID EDWARD, Mark Hoskins and William Robinson editors, Hart Publishing (2004), at 2.
  2. Claus-Deiter Ehlermann and Nicolas Lockhart, “Standard of Review in WTO Law,” in A TRUE EUROPEAN: ESSAYS FOR JUDGE DAVID EDWARD, Mark Hoskins and William Robinson editors, Hart Publishing (2004), at 268.
  3. David Edward, “Luxembourg in retrospect: a new Europe in prospect,” EUROPEAN BUSINESS JOURNAL (2004), p. 120, at pp. 126-127.
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