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James L. Bacchus

Listed in Best Lawyers since 2006

Greenberg Traurig LLP

James Bacchus is Chair of the firm's Global Practice and is a leader in the firm’s overall worldwide practice. His emphasis in his own practice is on international business, including trade, investment, finance and sustainable growth. In particular, Bacchus offers legal and strategic advice to worldwide clients based on his unique experience with the many issues relating to the global rules for trade and commerce of the World Trade Organization (WTO). He is a former chief judge on the highest international tribunal of world trade, a former member of Congress, and a former Special Assistant to the U.S. Trade Representative in the Executive Office of the President.

Bacchus works worldwide for the firm’s clients on international business, and is also engaged worldwide in numerous additional efforts to address shared global concerns. He is among the "B20" global business leaders selected to advise the "G20" heads of state on the international economy; he chairs the global Commission on Trade and Investment Policy of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce; and he chairs the Global Agenda Council on Governance for Sustainability of the Davos-based World Economic Forum.

Previously, he served as the Chairman of the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization, the global court of final appeal in international trade in Geneva, Switzerland. The seven judges of the Appellate Body hear final appeals in international trade disputes involving the 95 percent of world commerce conducted by the more than five billion people in the more than 150 countries and other customs territories that are the members of the WTO.

Bacchus was a founding member of the highest global trade tribunal, was twice appointed by consensus of the members of the WTO, and was twice elected Chairman by his six colleagues. During his eight years and two terms of service to the WTO, he was the only American, and the only North American, on the Appellate Body. Bacchus has a comprehensive knowledge of the more than 30,000 pages of global trade rules in the WTO treaty, and he has written many of the more than 50,000 pages of rulings that have clarified those rules in WTO dispute settlement.

Bacchus was the only member of the Appellate Body who served on the tribunal during all of the sixty appeals in the first eight years of the new international trade institution, which is the global successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The international trade disputes he judged involved billions of dollars in trade annually relating to goods, services and intellectual property. Cases ranged from apples and bananas, to automobiles and airplanes, to semiconductors and supercomputers, to agriculture, textiles, clothing, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and steel.

His final decision for the WTO was as the presiding judge in the appeal of the complaint by the European Union, Japan, China, Brazil and other WTO Members against restrictions applied by the United States on imports of steel. Following the decision by the United States to comply with the ruling by Bacchus and his colleagues on the Appellate Body, The New York Times concluded that "this case was the rough equivalent of Marbury v. Madison, the 1803 decision that established the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of the constitution, able to force Congress and the executive branch to comply with its rulings" (Page 25, December 5, 2003). According to The American Lawyer, "James Bacchus, as much as anyone, can lay claim to being the John Marshall of the World Trade Organization" (March 2004).

In addition to his service at the WTO, Bacchus has also served as a Member of the Congress of the United States, from 1991 to 1995, representing the 15th Congressional District of Florida as a Member of the United States House of Representatives. His district included much of Orlando, Walt Disney World, Cape Canaveral, and the "Space Coast" of Central Florida. He was elected to two terms in Congress, and chose not to seek election to a third term. He was the first Democrat in the history of the South elected to an open seat in the Congress in a district where Republicans outnumbered Democrats.

While in Congress, Bacchus was a leader in bipartisan efforts to advance international trade issues. He was a supporter of presidential "fast-track" negotiating authority on trade issues, a leading supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a vocal advocate of extending most-favored-nation (MFN) treatment for China, a champion of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, and one of the six original co-sponsors of the implementing legislation for the Uruguay round trade agreements that established the WTO.

Bacchus was also one of the principal supporters in Congress of the space program. He was a forceful advocate for commercial space development and for space exploration. He was one of the leading supporters of the space shuttle program, one of the original co-sponsors of the International Space Station, and an advocate generally for more public and private investments in science and technology. He was also especially active on issues relating to children, education and the environment.

Bacchus’ service in Congress drew wide praise. The Washington Post described Bacchus as one of the "profiles in courage" in the house. The Wall Street Journal called him a "good-government Democrat." In his home state, the Orlando Sentinel praised him as someone who put "his country's future before his own political career" and chose "to lead in the midst of the crowd." Florida Today concluded that he offered "the vision and leadership needed to build a better future."

Bacchus’ intimate involvement in trade issues in Congress was a natural outgrowth of his previous experience. From 1974 to 1976, Bacchus served as a senior aide to Florida Governor Reubin Askew. From 1979 to 1981, he served as his special assistant while Askew was U.S. Trade Representative in the Executive Office of the President during the Carter Administration. At USTR, he helped monitor U.S. trade negotiations worldwide, and helped negotiate and implement trade agreements with numerous nations. He was the first Member of Congress of the United States to have served previously at USTR.

After retiring from Congress in 1995, Bacchus founded the Orlando office of Greenberg Traurig. He served as the managing shareholder of the Orlando office for the next six years while serving also on the Appellate Body.

In addition to his current role with Greenberg Traurig, Bacchus is an Honorary Professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, China. He has been a visiting professor of law at Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, Tennessee, and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Politics at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. He is a former journalist and a recipient of the national "Silver Gavel Award" of the American Bar Association for Outstanding Public Service in Journalism.

Among his many global pursuits, Bacchus is a member of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. He has chaired the ICC’s Working Group on Guidelines for International Investment and currently chairs the ICC’s Commission on Trade and Investment Policy, and the WEF’s Working Group on Trade and Climate Change, among numerous other international assignments. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bretton Woods Committee and the Evian Group. He has served on the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law. He was one of the nine members of the Independent Review Group appointed by the Secretary of Defense to investigate conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Bacchus is the author of the book Trade and Freedom, published in London in 2004, by Cameron May, featured nationally on "Book TV," and sold worldwide. He writes and speaks frequently on international issues in publications and on platforms worldwide.

Case History

  • Other Court Admissions
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
    • U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida
    • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida
    • U.S. Court of International Trade


Awards

  • "Grad Made Good," Alumnus of the Year, Florida State University, 2005
  • Chambers Global, International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy, 2008-2013
  • Chambers USA Guide, International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy, 2007-2013
  • Florida Trend magazine, "Florida's Most Influential," 2004
  • Rated, AV Preeminent® 5.0 out of 5
  • Super Lawyers magazine, Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers, 2007-2013

Locations

450 South Orange Avenue, Suite 650
Orlando, FL 32801
Firm Phone: 407-420-1000

Practice Areas

  • International Trade and Finance Law

Bar Admissions

  • Florida, United States
  • District of Columbia, United States