Stephen Alexander Vaden

March 29, 2023

SIU School of Law Simonds lecture to focus on trade law

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Stephen Alexander Vaden, who serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of International Trade, will discuss how many policy and legal disputes are being shepherded for resolution through a trade law context and what legal doctrines and structural factors may be implicated by this trend during a lecture next week at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale School of Law.

Vaden will present “Trade Über Alles: How Trade Law Dominates Everything from Agriculture to the Environment” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, in the law school’s Lesar Law Building Courtroom. A reception is at 5:30 p.m. in the formal lounge.

The lecture, part of the Gene and Katy Simonds Lectureship in Democracy series, is free; and the public is invited.

The Court of International Trade has jurisdiction over matters originating from the U.S. Department of Commerce and Customs Service involving tariffs applied on goods imported from overseas. The court’s jurisdiction is “largely appellate in nature, and the majority of our cases are handled similarly to petitions for review that are filed before the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals,” Vaden said.

Agriculture, international trade are connected

Zvi Rosen, an assistant professor of law, said the goal of the lecture is to connect regional and agricultural concerns to international trade.

“You can’t look at agriculture and international trade as disconnected,” Rosen said, adding that, “Conservation isn’t a distinct goal from an ideologically different calculus, but it’s in fact all one calculus.”

Vaden said he hopes the lecture provides information about the Court of International Trade, its unique role in the federal judiciary, and for law students, why they “should care about and pay attention to trade law.”

Family involved in farming

A native of Union City, Tennessee, Vaden grew up helping with his family’s farms and real estate ventures. He earned a bachelor’s degree in American history from Vanderbilt University in 2004 and law degree from the Yale Law School in 2008.

Vaden came to the bench in December 2020 when he was appointed by President Trump following U.S. Senate confirmation of his nomination. Prior to joining the court, he served as General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, supervising more than 250 legal professionals in 13 offices across the United States. During Vaden’s nearly four-year tenure leading the Office of General Counsel, he said, the department “was involved in devising remedies for American farmers who found themselves victims of unfair trade actions taken by China.”

“Advising the department on legal issues regarding its ability to craft policy responses to China's actions necessarily brought me into the world of trade policy and the laws that govern it,” he said.

Sixth lecture in series

Vaden noted that he is “particularly honored to accept an invitation to speak from a law school that is both close to home and serves students from rural areas seeking to enter the legal profession.”

The series was established in 2015 through a gift from Emma K. “Katy” Simonds. The funds support a lecture, symposium or debate on a topic of current or recurring public interest, which explores commonsense solutions to issues related to the common good by applying principles of limited government, popular sovereignty, personal liberty, personal responsibility and federalism.