Gibson Dunn Adds Ex-European Human Rights Court Judge

Judge Robert Spano
Judge Robert Spano
The former president of the European Court of Human Rights will join Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP's London office next year, the firm said Thursday.

Judge Robert Spano began his career on the court in 2013 and has served as its president since 2020, according to the court's website. His nine-year term ends Monday, but Judge Spano's first day as a Gibson Dunn of counsel will be on Jan. 1, 2023, the firm said in a news release.

The firm noted Judge Spano's background involves digital rights, policy work focused on disinformation and online content moderation challenges, the firm said. In 2021, Judge Spano was part of an ECHR decision finding U.K. mass digital surveillance regimes brought to light by Edward Snowden violated European citizens' right to privacy and freedom of expression.

His work at Gibson Dunn will continue in the area of digital rights, public international law and investor-state arbitration, the firm said.

In an email to Law360 on Friday, Judge Spano said he chose to join Gibson Dunn because he "wanted the best possible platform for handling disputes of global significance." 

"My focus will be complex cross-border disputes and strategic advisory work in the fields of digital rights and privacy, [environmental, social and corporate governance], public international law and investor state arbitration," he said. "Few firms can offer all of that."

Philip Rocher, who leads the firm's London-based dispute resolution group, lauded Judge Spano, noting that he oversaw "transformational change at the court" and presided over a "period of multiple generational human rights challenges for Europe."

"His role has involved extensive diplomatic and policy engagement with the governments of individual signatory states within the Council of Europe, and with the EU institutions, in particular with the European Commission," Rocher said. "We are looking forward to having him apply that drive and energy to our clients' most significant global disputes and regulatory challenges."

Judge Spano, who was born in Reykjavík, Iceland, earned his law degree at the University of Iceland and was appointed as deputy district court judge in the District Court of Reykjanes in 1997, according to his court profile.

From 2004 to 2013, Judge Spano was a full-time legal scholar at the University of Iceland. 

Judge Spano was also appointed parliamentary ombudsman of Iceland, according to his ECHR profile.

He has led several expert committees in Iceland, including being appointed as the chairman of a special commission that investigates human rights abuses at municipal and state child care institutions.

--Additional reporting by Lucia Osborne-Crowley. Editing by Gemma Horowitz.

Update: This article has been updated with comments from Judge Spano.

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