Local legal author deepens look at international aviation law


 By Cynthia Price

Legal News
A good summary of the way Gabriel Sanchez and his co-author Brian F. Havel approached the subject of their new book, The Principles and Practice of International Aviation Law, can be found on page 7 of the book:

“It must be said that neither international law in general nor international aviation law in particular has been the object of much introspective theorizing by the academy. Both fields have been dominated by doctrinal experts skilled in explicating the content of the law.”

Sanchez explains, “We wanted to be a lot more realistic and empirical in our scholarship than some of what we saw. People assume that international law functions the way contracts do — countries follow the law — but is that actually true? We wanted to find out some of the rules of the game, and then ask when do nations adhere to international law, when do they defect, and what can you do with it in the future?”

The authors go on to suggest alternative theoretical approaches “that a contemporary analysis of international aviation law should consider.”

First, and probably most important to Sanchez, is economic analysis. Though the authors say that they will refrain from using economics in other than an explanatory historical context , Sanchez suggests that it would be beneficial for international regulators to pay more attention to the overall effect on both airlines’ and global prosperity.

For example, he mentions, the prohibition on airlines merging across national borders may have some advantages, but ultimately should probably be looked at on a case-by-case basis to promote efficiencies.

The second analytical approach the authors think would benefit international aviation regulatory law is rational choice theory. “Rational choice adherents believe that in order to understand international law, scholars and students alike must go ‘behind’ it to track, explain, and predict what they see as the largely self-interested behavior and motivation of States,” the book explains.

The authors then pledge to use rational choice theory along with traditional doctrinal analysis, and promise to first explore what the laws actually are before applying any kind of interpretive theory.

In fact, Sanchez says, that was the main impetus behind the book, which is published by the prestigious Cambridge University Press.

“Brian Havel and I?started writing articles on aviation law, and though there was a whole lot of information out there, we came to the conclusion that there really wasn’t one good book that covered everything. We pitched it to Cambridge and this is the result.”

The preface makes clear that the book will contain references to hundreds of documents which can be read in greater detail through a simple Internet search.

In a sense, it all came about as a result of a grant DePaul University Law School received from FedEx and United Airlines to research aviation law. Sanchez, who had attended DePaul for his J.D., was hired back to work on the project under a fellowship.

“I hadn’t previously had an interest in aviation law, but was always fascinated by international trade law. To be perfectly frank, I can’t stand flying,” he says with a grin.

After that, he started teaching aviation law, as well as international trade law, at DePaul, and he continued his conversations with Havel and other professors on aviation regulation. After Cambridge accepted their book proposal and the collaborative writing process was underway, Sanchez decided to heed the call to come back home to Grand Rapids.

He and his wife Laura, who also attended school while they were in Chicago, are from here originally. Sanchez graduated from Grand Valley State University, and after spending almost nine years in Chicago, moved back here to work on the book, facilitated by Skype and the relatively brief drive between the two cities.

He intends to stay. “All of our family is here, and that makes it easier raising our kids, and it’s definitely more family friendly,” Sanchez says. The couple has four children, all boys — Jonah, Manuel, Iohan and Eliyah.

Sanchez also plans to continue on a research and writing career path, and is not opposed to non-legal topics, although he feels his work is always influenced by his knowledge of the law. In fact, another strong area of expertise has come in handy lately: political religious topics in Eastern Europe.

“Even though I have a Hispanic name, half my family comes from Eastern Europe - from the area of Galicia which bordered Poland and the Ukraine. I got interested at the legal level after the fall of the Soviet Union, and I wanted to dovetail that with writing on more political and cultural issues. So since last year, I’ve been writing a lot about the Ukraine.

“And I also write about the general topic of international law from a little more of a popular angle. How does it  affect people? And I’ve found that a lot of the time, it kind of doesn’t. So that’s something I look at too.”

He writes for a number of publications, and does consulting, often on collaborative projects, for such entities as the American Bar Association and the World Economic Forum.

Sanchez does not absolutely rule out entering practice, but would like to do so in a more innovative way than he has seen, though he is not sure the system is ready for it.

For example, he would love to see lawyers in certain types of cases arguing for their clients from the point of view of overall benefit, rather than from “arcane” points of law.

“If you’re dealing with a particular conflict, to ask, what is the most sensible result?” he says. “Of course, you have to be rooted in the law, but I’d love to see lawyers argue something like, if you decide for my client, here are the good things that are going to flow from it for all the stakeholders.  I do think some judges are becoming sensitive to this, especially at the federal level.”

And he also thinks more of the legal work should be spread around. “Why shouldn’t Grand Rapids be able to attract some of that Chicago business? It may be a matter of a larger vision, but I’d much rather see more business, especially from international clients, come up here.”

The Principles and Practice of International Aviation Law was aimed at three different groups — students, academics/policy developers, and practitioners who want more in-depth knowledge — and Sanchez hopes that the book achieves a balance that will make it useful for all three. “We tried to first lay out what the international laws were, and then ask, is there a coherency?” he says.

Sanchez recognizes that issues like traveler and international security, carbon emissions, and the labor force produce important tensions. “What we really wanted to do with the book,” he says, “is set up a framework for resolving some of these issues.”