Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper

This Monday, the Court heard oral argument on two cases related to whether ineffective assistance of counsel claims could be brought on the basis of trial counsel’s failure to communicate information relevant to a defendant’s potential plea deal.

In Lafler v. Cooper, trial counsel advised Anthony Cooper to reject a plea deal because of counsel’s misunderstanding of Michigan law. The prosecution offered Mr. Cooper – who was charged with shooting Kali Mundy four times while she was fleeing him – a plea to the charge of assault with intent to kill with a sentencing guideline calculation between roughly four to eight years; Cooper’s counsel stated that Cooper rejected the offer because the government had insufficient facts to prove intent to murder.

Cooper’s counsel mistakenly believed that Cooper the government could not prove intent to murder if all of the wounds his victim sustained were below the waist. Cooper was sentenced after trial to 15 1/2 to 30 years

In Missouri v. Frye, defense counsel failed to inform Galin Edward Frye – who was facing his fourth charge of driving with a revoked license – of the prosecution’s plea offer, he subsequently pled guilty to less favorable terms.

In Lafler, the government provides three arguments for why Cooper’s Sixth Amendment rights were not violated: first, if a defendant pled not guilty and received a fair trial with counsel, that is sufficient to satisfy the Sixth Amendment; second, a defendant has no substantive or procedural right to a plea deal, which is made purely at the discretion of the prosecution and can be rejected by the court after accepted by the defendant; and third, the only remedy the court could fashion – to require the prosecution to re-offer a plea after the defendant had received a trial – would place the defendant in a better position than if he or she had received adequate representation.

Cooper argues that his trial counsel’s performance was deficient, that this harmed a critical stage of his prosecution, and that his later trial did not cure this deficiency. He further states that the government’s bright line test is contrary to the precedent of all of the circuit courts, each of which identify circumstances where a defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights may be violated by deficient performance that causes him or her to reject a plea bargain.

In Frye, the state argues for a bright-line rule: that Hill v. Lockhart establishes that the prejudice prong of the Strickland test only can be satisfied where there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s errors, the defendant would not have pled guilty and would have instead gone to trial. As in Lafler, Missouri argues that there is categorically no right to a plea deal by a defendant, their only right is to make an informed decision on whether to go to trial or not.

Like Cooper, Frye asserts that plea negotiations are a critical stage of a criminal prosecution; Frye further argues that a failure to communicate a plea offer renders a subsequent guilty plea unknowing, unintelligent, and involuntary, and that Frye suffered prejudice because he would have received a shorter sentence of a misdemeanor if he had pled, and that allowing Frye to plead guilty to the original offer is the only remedy that will restore him to the position he would have occupied had counsel not been ineffective.

Each of the two cases poses particular concerns for the Court as it revisits a hotly contested area of the law. In Cooper, the mistaken advice of counsel led to a significantly higher sentence. But, that sentence came after a full trial by jury.

Though Frye was facing a lesser charge, counsel for Frye’s mistake was arguably more egregious – or at least the kind of clear error the Court may be more comfortable decrying than a mistake of legal judgment, even one as significant as that made by Cooper’s counsel – as counsel simply failed to provide Frye with important information. 

Courtside to be reborn as Subway Café

The Law Weekly received this rendering of the planned Subway Cafe.EXCLUSIVE: After more than three years of false starts and setbacks, Courtside is set to reopen as a full service Subway Café restaurant. Christina Farias, Director of Business Services at the Law Center, has been working on this project ever since Courtside first shut its doors and has seen talks with possible vendors fall through more than once. Farias told the Law Weekly that through the entire process she was focused on providing something “specially designed with students in mind.”

Farias expressed gratitude to the SBA – particularly SBA President Elizabeth Farrar and 3L representative Lisa Lowry – for continued support and critical insight into what students wanted from a new vendor.

Farrar was equally positive, remarking that “after more than a year of advocacy … SBA is glad to welcome a new vendor to Courtside.” Both she and Lowry were thankful to Farias. “We want to thank Christina Farias for her hard work and persistence in seeking a vendor for Courtside,” said Lowry.

Negotiations over the new location began some nine months ago with Subway LLC, a part of the Subway organization that acquires property for franchises. The Law Center was comfortable dealing with the company because main campus already had a positive relationship with them.

Farias provided the Law Weekly with some of the deal’s specifics. The Law Center is functionally a landlord, with Subway LLC as the lessor. Subway LLC, in turn, will manage the relationship with its franchisee. Farias noted that the Law Center knew and was happy with the franchisee for Courtside, an experienced operator with two other locations in the area.

The new Courtside — Subway Café

A rendering of the future Subway Cafe. This view is from the main entrance, which will be just left of the currently closed coffee bar.Subway Café may be unfamiliar to most students given that it is a relatively new format for the mega-franchise. Distinguishing the Subway Café from a standard Subway was key to meeting the needs of students, Farias said. In addition to the familiar sub sandwiches, the new Subway Café will offer breakfast food and pizza, and includes a coffee bar (serving Seattle’s Best) and convenience items.

Aesthetics also differ from a standard Subway; bright colors are replaced with muted colors for an upscale look. The remodeled Courtside will have glass doors over the two currently closed entrances to the café. Inside of the doors, the familiar Subway made-to-order case will be complemented by a drink cooler and several tables. The new coffee bar will be in the same location as the current bar, just outside the entrance to the new Subway Café.

The Law Center plans to turn Courtside into a Subway Cafe restaurant.Subway Café will be open Monday through Friday from 8am to 8pm during the academic year. The Law Center guaranteed those hours of operation by contract.

Moving Forward

Construction in the heavily utilized Hotung building will be the final hurdle in this long process. Complicating matters is the emphasis on steel, glass, and marble in Hotung’s design. Noise carries so well in the building that someone tapping on the walls within the café can be heard clearly in the Supreme Court Institute moot courtroom.

Despite such challenges, administration is confident that it can avoid disruption to classes and the Institute. Courtside has been empty for long enough, officials say, so they are wasting no time. Construction will begin Monday. Although Farias was unable to provide a guarantee on the completion date, she expressed hope that Subway Café will be open and serving students before finals.

To celebrate the long awaited rebirth of Courtside, a Grand Opening celebration will be held for the Law Center community.

Some students aiding Occupy DC protestors

Photo by Chris Carraway, 2L. Occupy DC protestors march.In recent weeks, Georgetown Law students have been putting their legal skills to work for the Occupy Wall Street protesters here in DC.

The Georgetown Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild has been involved with the protests from the very beginning as one of the main sources of legal observing for the Occupy DC protestors.

This means the group is “helping organize and train legal observers; running know your rights trainings; organize a street team that will track anyone that gets arrested if the police decide to break up the camp; as well as research any pertinent legal questions for the [National Lawyers Guild] attorneys that are assisting on the more significant legal issues,” said Chris Carraway, 2L, President of the Georgetown National Lawyers’ Guild members involved in this effort.

The idea is that simply having people there as legal observers will cut down on the likelihood of legal issues. Further, it provides a source of information, training and civil rights information for the protestors.

Before the protests began, the NLG organization held a “disorientation” training, an introduction to the guild and to peoples’ lawyering. The event trained about 20 legal observers, who have seen been active at the protests. Carraway said even more students have approached him about getting involved since the protests got started.

 “I feel like people are eager to begin to apply their growing legal skills in a meaningful way,” Carraway said.

The legal observers from Georgetown Law have many of the same strongly-held convictions of the Occupy DC protestors.

“I’m involved in this movement for a variety of reasons. Generally, I’m disgusted at the role wealth has in access to power and coercion, especially where people are literally starving, not just in the Third World but also in the United States, while a small portion of the country are amassing huge amounts of wealth,” Carraway said.

“I saw what was happening in NYC. I agreed with it and honestly felt compelled to go down and take part in DC. I was, of course, completely cynical – even for the first few days.

“I think it was the time of the first Friday, in which we did a protest of the IMF, where we had 300 people chanting underneath the entrance of one of the largest monetary institutions. Just the power and hope it created was something special I haven’t felt in a long time. It’s important to see these different groups of people to come together, organically, and work together in a non-hierarchical, horizontal fashion and it actually working.”

Carraway and others have concerns about how the Occupy protests move forward. He said he doesn’t want it to be co-opted to become an electioneering demographic, he doesn’t want the focus to be solely on potential legislation, and he doesn’t want the movement to “simply fall underneath its own weight and cause widespread burnout.”

The hope and the idealistic vision of these protesters, including the Georgetown Law participants, is that the protests “would continue to snowball. I would love to see people take what they are learning in the occupied parks, and apply it to their daily lives,”

Carraway said. “I would love to see neighborhoods coming together and working under the same model. Factory workers coming together and applying consensus based horizontalism (like we’ve seen in many developing nations). I would like to see OWS [Occupy Wall Street] to fundamentally undermine late capitalism and show a more humanist side reflecting compassion and cooperation.”

Ultimately, he would like to see a large-scale, comprehensive change in how politics operates, in how movements operate. “Hopefully, people learn an alternate way of organizing themselves politically and within their communities,” Carraway said.

Moving forward with this protest, many are concerned that the police will eventually move to remove the protestors from the parks. The legal observers are working “to document police interactions, train each other, and organize so when the police move we will be there to ensure accountability.”

If students would like to get involved with Occupy Wall Street as a legal observer or otherwise, contact the National Lawyers Guild chapter or Carraway, himself.

Additionally, Carraway had suggestions for all students: “I would really suggest individuals to do two things. Go down to McPherson Square and observe and participate a general assembly,” he said. “Find out for yourself what is going on. One of the largest social movements in our generation is happening literally a mile from school.”

 

Clinton talks economics on main campus

Photo courtesy WC. Clinton visited Georgetown main campus last week.Last Friday, Georgetown University hosted a Clinton Foundation symposium on “Clinton-Gore Economics: Understanding the Lessons of the 1990s,” featuring former President Bill Clinton, a Georgetown University alumnus, and a host of speakers and panelists, many from the Clinton administration.

The first panel discussed “The Foundation: the 1993 Budget Fight and the Beginnings of a New Economy,” and the second panel concerned “The Bridge: Harnessing the Innovation of the 1990’s.”

Speakers and moderators included Robert Rubin, Alan Blinder, Marjorie Margolies, Thurgood Marshall, Jr., Bruce Reed, Laura Tyson, John Podesta, Gene Sperling, Mickey Kantor, Henry Cisneros, Rodney Slater, Neera Tanden, Erskine Bowles and Scott Murphy. President Clinton closed the symposium with a keynote address.

Clinton began his speech with an anecdote about the most recent World Series championship game, a motif that held through his speech. According to Clinton, the last World Series game was “great” because, even though both teams made mistakes, “they both kept playing the game. They played all the way to the end.”

As for Americans in this current economy, Clinton stresses “We can’t just stop playing the game. We need to up the game.” One initiative Clinton supports is increased funding for education and a revitalization of the student loan system. “If you were born around the same time as me and went to school, the one thing you never had to worry about was being gainfully employed.” The situation for graduates now, Clinton argues, is very different.

Regarding the current economic landscape, Clinton remarked, “It’s not healthy for a country that depends on the idea of opportunity in social mobility, when we have 9% unemployment….Just recognize what it does to a country if a substantial number of decent people go months without jobs, or are weighed down by paralyzing debt and even more paralyzing doubt. What doubt does is, it keeps you from playing the game.”

President Clinton showed off his trademark humor to the audience. “People only elect democrats when things are screwed up in this country.” “It’s so easy for me to make speeches around the world now [given the current economic downturn] because these are the same things I’ve been saying for twenty years.”

Indeed, twenty years have passed since Clinton first announced his candidacy, in a 1991 speech at his alma mater, Georgetown University. This symposium touched on that landmark speech, as well as highlights of Clinton’s economic achievements during his tenure as President of the United States.

The symposium began with a video presentation featuring notable moments during Clinton’s term in office, focusing on his administration’s economic initiatives. Georgetown University President Degioia spoke a few words of welcome, followed by an opening address by Rubin, current Co-Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and Former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. Relating America’s current economic conditions to those during the Clinton era, Rubin noted that “a successful economy requires an efficient political system.” 

Two panels followed the opening speeches, the first primarily discussing the controversial budget plan of 1993. The first panel was moderated by Podesta, who is President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, as well as a Georgetown Law alumnus and visiting professor at GULC.

Reed, Assistant to President Obama and Chief of Staff to Vice President Biden, related an anecdote about Clinton’s formal presidential candidacy announcement. On October 23, 1991, Clinton announced his run for president in a speech given at Georgetown University. The night before, Reed and other members of Clinton’s team had “rushed” to deliver a draft of the speech to Clinton, who immediately proceeded to “pull out a briefcase of memos from economist and policy specialists” and draft a list of fifteen policy items for his team to work into the speech.

Blinder, currently a professor at Princeton University, spoke regarding the 1993 budget debacle. “It was necessary to take a few sacred cows out for prominent slaughter…to cut some of the things the Democrats valued. It was important not to oversell and oversay what we expected to achieve. We didn’t come in claiming miracles were going to happen.”

Margolies, president of Women’s Campaign International, discussed her perspective on the 1993 budget debates, as a representative who “sacrificed” her seat for the party line. “The crazies have been breeding, these past twenty years. I wish people wouldn’t care so much about staying in office. The reason the public finds Washington appalling is that the people feel members aren’t sticking up for what is right.”

 

The second panel, moderated by Bowles, concerned innovation in the 1990s and the theory that the Clinton boom era provided economic success primarily because of technological innovations, including the rise of the internet. Sperling, Director the National Economic Council and current Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, claimed “Presidents always get more credit and more blame than deserved in any economy. You have to judge a president and his administration with the hand they were dealt.”

 

Kantor, a partner at Mayer Brown and Secretary of Commerce, joked “I was six feet tall before the campaign, so if you want to be short in stature, just work for Bill Clinton. I am grateful to be in a room of such fine people with the exception of myself I am also grateful that, after thirty two years of friendship you have sit and to listen to me, Mr. President.”

In his introduction for President Clinton, former Congressman Murphy told the audience that seeing Clinton speak during college inspired Murphy to “cut some classes and join his campaign.” On Clinton’s legacy, Murphy said, “Bill Clinton understood innovation. Great innovation is not an accident. It comes when the private and public sectors work together.”

 

Clinton spoke at length about redefining the lines of the current political divide. The economic debate is no longer that of the difference between Reagan’s trickle-down economics and the “invest and grow” strategy of the Clinton administration. Clinton argues that the “line that defines the limits of debate between Democrats and Republicans” is currently focused on the question of “how much government is too much.” However, “the idea that government is the problem has been an irresistible paradigm for those reporting on it. It makes it easy for reporting, but it’s a distortion of real political philosophies.”

 

Clinton offered two lessons for current members of congress. First, “you have to share the future, both the burdens and the benefits.” Second, “there isn’t a single solitary example on the planet of at truly successful economy that is pursuing this militant anti-government theory. All successful economies have had both a vibrant private sector and government.”

 

Clinton spoke briefly on mortgage debt and healthcare reform. Clinton believes that it is necessary to leverage mortgage debt in order to attain full employment, and that “the best healthcare plan would help private medical systems as much as it would benefit Medicare and Medicaid.”

 

On illegal immigration, Clinton doesn’t think “Americans after being kept out of work because there are illegal immigrants in the country.” Nor does Clinton believe “the government is the problem.” Rather, “one of America’s greatest characteristics is we do not resent people who do well. As a kid, I was taught it was a character defect to resent someone for his own success.”

 

“People ask me all the time what great new idea did you and your economic team bring to Washington, and I say ‘arithmetic.’ I just figure if two and two equal four in Little Rock, it probably does in Washington too.” However, “the solution [Clinton’s team] pursued is not appropriate for today’s situation.” The important question to ask, then, is “What is today’s version of getting back to shared prosperity and shared responsibility?”

 

It is unclear whether Clinton referred to politics or life in general when he said, “All that matters when all is done is whether people are living better lives. All else will just be a passing irritant.”

Clinton spoke of his hopes for America. “I hope that people can have their dreams again, and think about tomorrow again. I ask you, is it better to have a partnership [between the two parties], or an anti-government vs. pro-government, trickle-down vs. invest-and-grow, shared prosperity vs. on-your-own [political climate]? I don’t think it’s a close call. Everybody needs to calm down and do what we know is best for the future.”

 

Closing with a nod to his baseball analogy, Clinton gave an earnest appeal for the future. “I want Americans to get up into morning and feel like they can play the game.”

 

The event, which was free and open to all members of the Georgetown University community, attracted attendees from the undergraduate university, as well as law students and graduate students from other disciplines. A lottery was held to distribute student tickets. The event began approximately at noon, and concluded shortly after 3:30 P.M.

 

Preconceived Notions

Learning by inference and assumption. Source: 2001: A Space OdysseyThe wisdom of the day says that we should reject assumption and inference when dealing with new people and foreign cultures in order to approach them with an open-mind. These two things are not mutually exclusive. When confronted with a new experience we infer, extrapolate, and guess based upon experience and information (correct or not) that has been gained until that point. In short, we form assumptions. It is a basic, useful, and unavoidable fact that allows us to go beyond mere observation into thought and theory.

Some argue that this way of thinking can lead to predjudice, but what of it? It is true that it is necessary to embrace assumption in order to develop predjudice, but it does not guarantee that result. And what, if we reject the idea that inference and assumption are good, would be the result? Would the nature of how we percieve and understand the world change? No. We would still go through the same natural process. This approach does not make bias, predjudice, or ignorance less likely in the least. Simply refusing to acknowledge something does not make it go away. The ostrich who buries his head in the sand fools only himself.

Everyone has predjudices, but with the hope of discovering the current ones and guarding against the new, here are a few principles to remember.

Preference Reality

Preference reality over assumption. When a real event occurs that goes against an untested assumption, modify or discard it.

If the facts are contrary to any predictions, then the hypothesis is wrong no matter how appealing. – David Douglas

Expect Complexity

The world is not simple, no matter how much we wish it were. The oversimplified assumption, also known as a stereotype, is the primary type that makes people recoil from assumption-based learning alltogether. These kinds of assumptions do not do justice to the word. They are not thoughtful, they are not inquisitive, and they are not accurate. They are easy to spot because they are stated in absolute terms. Catch what I did there? If not, place “commonly” before “stated” and re-read. Language matters.

The whole idea of a stereotype is to simplify. Instead of going through the problem of all this great diversity – that it’s this or maybe that – you have just one large statement; it is this. – Chinua Achebe

Weigh Information Comparatively

If an individual from World War II gives an opinion on Germans and a recent study is released about German cultural attitudes it is important that these two pieces of information are weighed comparatively. Often the mistake is made of weighing the objective equally with the subjective judgements of another’s experience without regard to the context of that experience. Respect the postions and experiences of others, but think for yourself.

Travel is very subjective. What one person loves, another loathes. – Robin Leach

Every day our assumptions about others — and theirs about us — will be confirmed and denied, accepted and rejected, and then reborn for the process to begin all over again. When we accept this process, embracing assumptions for what and as they are, they are invaluable; they help us learn and grow.

Home Court dodgeball tournament raises $1,500

Photo courtesy of Tyler Press. Students play ball at last year’s tournament.Eighteen teams of Hill staffers and Georgetown Law students raised over $1,500 at this weekend’s second annual Home Court Dodgeball Tournament.

“Dodgeball is great because we can challenge law students and Hill staffers on the five D’s of dodgeball,” said the executive team for the Home Court organization. “We surpassed our fundraising goal, [and we] are particularly proud of the amount of Hill and 1L teams we were able to attract. Those two groups are essential for a successful spring game and for the future of Home Court.”

The dodgeball game was conceived as a way to raise money and awareness for an earlier Home Court event. That annual Home Court basketball game between Georgetown Law faculty and members of Congress has been held since 1987, raising $4 million for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

“There wasn’t really much that needed changing since last year was so successful!” the executive team said. “I think we definitely replicated last year’s success-the costumes were wonderful, everyone had fun, and we raised a lot of money.”

SBA focusing on jobs, campus tech issues

SBA says it is focusing on jobs and campus technology.The Student Bar Association is undertaking two efforts to make the lives of Georgetown University Law Center students better: improving the WiFi on campus, and updating the GPA data for Early Interview Week firms.

At last week’s Wednesday Wind Down, the Student Bar Association put out a suggestion table for students to state their grievances/suggestions, something the SBA intends to do throughout the year. At that suggestion table, a student suggested the SBA look into improving the wireless internet access provided on campus.

“That was the impetus for getting moving,” said Joshua Karpoff, chair of the SBA’s Technology Committee. “We have already heard about problems with wireless before, but we wanted to take this as an opportunity to take steps to improving the wireless on campus.” 

Karpoff said that the SBA contacted Pablo Molina, the head of IT for the campus, about this issue. He said Molina is aware of the problem, and said he planned to go to the Finance Committee to request funding for a major upgrade of the wireless infrastructure on campus. Molina also asked the SBA to put together a letter showing student support for such an initiative.

The SBA prepared and passed a reslution demonstrating such student support. The group also began circulating a petition for students to sign, showing campus-wide support for upgrades to the campus wireless Internet. As of last Thursday, the petition had more than 150 signatures, Karpoff said.

“Our goal is that the Finance Committee sees the importance of improving wireless not only to the IT department, but to the entire student body … and will provide the necessary funds to do a major upgrade of our wireless infrastructure to accommodate the growing demand,” Karpoff said.

This year, the Technology Committee also plans to work on the changes with the law center website.
 
As for jobs, students participating in the Early Interview Week program with large firms at Georgetown Law have access to data about the prior hiring of firms coming to campus. Students can see the median GPA of students hired from Georgetown by the firms, which makes it easier for students to target their applications and to know at which firms they will be competitive.

However, “the SBA was aware of student concern about accuracy of the GPA data points since they had not been updated in the last two years (since the downturn in the economy),” said Paige Taylor, chair of the Career Services Advisory Committee for the SBA. “SBA felt that it is important to re-analyze the data.”

The SBA is thus asking the Office of Career Services to update this information.

“According to OCS, there is a decent number of law firms who hired five or more Georgetown students in the past two years. So it should not be a problem to gather median GPA data for a couple dozen firms who gave offers to Georgetown students since the economic downturn, and to keep those students’ GPAs confidential,” Taylor said. “The SBA hopes to alleviate students’ career concerns by having more data output this year, and to be an advocate for students who want to strategize more effectively in their job search. This renewed data output applies not only to EIW, but also to non-profit and government hiring practices.”

The SBA will be asking students to participate in a campus-wide EIW survey to both update these numbers and to demonstrate the success of EIW this year, since the change to an earlier week in August on this campus.

The same survey, the SBA hopes, will provide valuable information for other kinds of hiring as well, including clerkships and government recruiting.

Through this process, “Students will be able to see hard numbers that prove that GULC is effectively competing with our peer law schools in the big firm hiring process,” Taylor said.

“SBA is conscientiously pushing hard this Fall to get feedback from a majority of students who participated in EIW and also from students who did other OCI programs. It is imperative that students fill out the survey this year so that GULC can determine how best to compete in the job market.”

Taylor also added, “SBA and OCS want to make sure that the data output is not focused entirely on big-firm jobs. We hope to generate data output for not just EIW, but also other OCI programs to see where students are being successful in their job search, and how SBA and OCS can better Georgetown Law’s strategies and priorities.”

by Cara Schenkel, 3L

Clinical program welcomes new assistant dean

Strong is the new Assistant Dean for clinics.There are many synonyms and puns for the word “strong,” and it is likely that Rachel L. Strong has heard most of them. Luckily, Georgetown Law’s newly-minted Assistant Dean for Clinical and Practicum Programs can find solace in the fact that her formidable work ethic, impressive experience, and intense passion will indeed serve to bolster Georgetown Law’s clinical and practicum program.

Dean Strong is no stranger to mentoring young lawyers and lawyers-to-be. Before coming to the Law Center, Strong ascended the ranks of Howrey LLP, starting as an associate, then working as Pro Bono Counsel, and finally serving as Pro Bono Partner. At Howrey, she participated in and supervised hundreds of pro bono cases and was responsible for the overall strategy and administration of the pro bono program firm wide. Through her work with Howrey’s Pro Bono programs, Strong worked to assist clients who otherwise would not have been able to find legal representation.

Strong’s favorite part of her former job was working with young associates on pro bono cases and watching the inexperienced attorneys handle their first client interviews, depositions, and court experiences. Regarding her experiences training young lawyers, Strong says she “enjoyed helping teach these young lawyers skills that they could use on all different cases that they would work on as they progressed in their careers.”
Now at Georgetown Law, Strong has transitioned from supervising the training of young lawyers to supervising the training of law students.

In her new position as Assistant Dean for Clinical and Practicum Programs, Strong assists Associate Dean Deborah Epstein in the administration of the clinical program and in the development and expansion of the curriculum of practicum courses.

Epstein describes Strong as an “incredibly talented, brilliant, professional lawyer and administrator who hit the ground running at Georgetown Law.”

Of the many features that drew Strong to this position, she was most excited about working with students through advising and getting involved in “cutting-edge practicum courses.” Georgetown Law’s practicum courses combine a substantive seminar class and student field work in a related area.  “Georgetown is on the forefront of designing its curriculum to incorporate real-life learning experiences,” says Strong, “and I am excited to be a part of this shift in pedagogy.” Strong also hopes to increase the practicum course offerings “so that students leave here with as much practical experience as they can get.”

Strong’s responsibilities at Georgetown Law will also include administrative work for the clinical program, which Strong describes as “already the best in the country.” She hopes to work with both the clinic faculty and the student body to build on the existing strengths of the clinics and find areas in which to make improvements and additions. “The administration at the Law Center is dedicated to helping the students forge a successful path here and in their careers, and I want to play whatever role I can in that effort.”

With her knowledge, drive, and capacity for innovation, Strong makes a compelling addition to the Georgetown Law administration.

In Dean Epstein’s words, “the entire clinical faculty is thrilled to welcome Dean Strong to our community.  The clinical and experiential programs already are enormously improved due to her creativity and dedication to excellence.  I’m confident that students will enjoy any opportunity they have to work with her.”

Fighting human rights abuses in a new Libya

Gaddafi was manhandled just before his death.Since the Arab Spring reached Libya in February 2011, both pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces have committed numerous human rights abuses, some of which amount to war crimes, violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and possible crimes against humanity. Though Libyan leader Colonel al-Gaddafi’s Security Forces have committed gross abuses, official and unofficial members of the opposition, loosely structured under the National Transitional Council (NTC), have carried out some of the same actions, albeit on a smaller scale.

Violations by al-Gaddafi Forces

In February, the Security Forces interrupted plans for non-violent protests of al-Gaddafi’s 40-year military rule by pre-emptively orchestrating forced disappearances of political dissidents, thus sparking violent clashes. The Security Forces have repeatedly dissembled protests using live ammunition, tear gas and batons, regardless of the setting or audience. Amnesty International reported multiple attacks near mosques and homes that caused the deaths of children and uninvolved bystanders.

The military specifically targeted civilians by launching indiscriminate attacks and deliberately concealing their tanks in residential buildings. They also besieged certain opposition cities and shelled them relentlessly, leaving civilians nowhere safe to hide and aggravating ongoing humanitarian crises by cutting residents off from access to water, electricity, fuel, medicine and essential foodstuffs and by preventing foreign humanitarian assistance from entering. In other areas, family cars were bombed by military tanks as they fled embattled areas such as Misratah in eastern Libya.

The military has also used excessively heavy artillery such as cluster bombs and, perhaps most controversially, antipersonnel landmines, including in residential regions, especially Misrata and the Nafusa Mountains. Libya is one of only three dozen nations that have not joined the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.

It is not clear where the Forces obtained the landmines, which are Brazilian-made – Brazil ceased producing and exporting landmines in 1989 and became a party to the Treaty in 1999. The NTC has come out in strong opposition of the use of landmines. In an official Communiqué to Human Rights Watch (HRW) on 27 April, they stated that their forces would not use landmines, would destroy any in their possession, would assist victims, and would help remove existing landmines. They further declared that any future Libyan government should relinquish landmines and join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.

Common Tactics and Human Rights Violations

As documented in Amnesty International’s detailed investigative report, pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces and their supporters are guilty of some of the same human rights abuses, though to differing degrees, including: the illegal capture and detention of their perceived enemies; torture and ill-treatment of captured persons; unlawful killings, including by lynching; and racially-motivated attacks and abuses against foreign nationals and dark-skinned Libyans.

Illegal Detention and Torture of Detainees

To prevent anti-government demonstrations, plainclothes Security Forces arrested government critics, pro-democracy activists, journalists, human rights defenders and other civilians, including children. Those detained by Security Forces have been held in undisclosed locations or in prisons. Some have been released, thereby giving Amnesty,

HRW and other rights groups insight into the treatment suffered by prisoners of war and illegal detainees.

The majority of those released were tortured in some way during interrogation and sustained serious, often untreated and sometimes-fatal injuries such as open fractures or gunshot wounds. Other captives were deliberately murdered, their bodies found with tied hands and gunshot wounds. These actions explicitly contravene the IHL prohibition of killing, torturing, or ill-treating individuals who have surrendered, been captured, or injured.

Those detained by the opposition are mostly former soldiers, foreign national “mercenaries,” civilians, and other suspected al-Gaddafi supporters accused of “subverting the revolution.” Some were captured during armed conflict, while others were taken off streets and from homes in broad daylight or during nighttime vigilante raids. None of the opposition’s detainees, Libyan or foreign, have been granted access to lawyers, formally charged or given the right to judicial review of their cases; the same is true for most of the government’s detainees.

However, officials at the opposition’s detention centers refer to “investigation committees” of volunteers who interrogate detainees and release whom they deem uninvolved in actions that subvert the revolution. Many of the opposition’s detainees reported ill-treatment and torture, including beatings with belts, metal bars and wires, rifles, and rubber hoses; electric shocks; and threats of rape. Under such conditions, some detainees were forced to sign statements without being allowed to read them first.

NTC officials have publicly declared disapproval of such tactics and their commitment to improving prison conditions, but they have shown neither an intent to take the steps necessary to stop the abuses, nor willingness to hold the perpetrators accountable.

Abuses of Foreign Nationals

Even before the unrest, foreign nationals in Libya faced institutional and societal racism. Since al-Gaddafi’s government refused to recognize the right to asylum, there was no official distinction between foreigners seeking protection and those joining Libya’s large migrant worker sector. Pro- and anti-Gaddafi factions relied on unsubstantiated suspicions that their opponent had hired foreign mercenaries from Sub-Saharan Africa to do their dirty work.

Furthermore, many such individuals captured were not foreigners at all, but were actually dark-skinned Libyans from minority ethnic groups. Because al-Gaddafi’s regime frequently insisted that all Libyans are racially and religiously homogeneous, many Libyans were ignorant to the fact that members of some native ethnic groups have darker skin and facial features more associated with Africans than with Arabs.

Despite these mistaken identities, both factions continued to stir a climate of increased racism and xenophobia that perpetuated violent attacks, robberies and other abuses by civilians, forcing many Sub-Saharan Africans to flee or be evacuated.

Instead of correcting the false assumptions, NTC officials, including NTC Chairman Mostafa Abdeljalil and other opposition leaders fanned the flames with repeated references in media to Africans as opportunistic criminals invading Libya from the south and as “mercenaries” hired by al-Gaddafi’s government.

It is time for the NTC, the aspirational leaders of what is meant to be a new and brighter era for Libya, to fulfill their responsibility to seek to prevent, condemn and punish the ongoing grave violations of human rights.

The Human Rights Implications of Colonel Gaddafi’s Death

On October 20, 2011, news hubs worldwide buzzed with rumors that Gaddafi had been killed.  The main question being asked was whether he was killed in crossfire, or whether he had been captured by opposition forces and extrajudicially executed, which would amount to a violation of international law.

For the opposition party to be guilty of such a high-profile contravention of international humanitarian law before they even formally  take power would be a “stain” on the NTC’s reputation in the international community, as stated publicly by British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond on October 23rd.

Although the mobile phone footage depicting Gaddafi’s final moments is extremely shaky at best, the deposed Colonel’s face is depicted clearly in many videos as he became increasingly bloodied. In his final moments, he was surrounded by almost incessant gunfire and men shouting “Allahu akbar!” (God is great). In some videos, the men appeared to be escorting and protecting the injured leader, but for the most part, they seemed to be restraining and even beating him.

At the time of publication, it is still unclear exactly how Colonel Gaddafi died, and various individuals have contacted international media to claim responsibility. Reports from Libya’s “official pathologist” claim that gunshots to his head and stomach appeared to have caused his death. 

The international community is more that a bit uncomfortable with the manner in which Colonel Gaddafi was killed. Reports and photographs show that Gaddafi’s body was dragged on the ground, possibly after his death, and that his body has been displayed publicly in a cold storage livestock meat market for three days.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a credible investigation into Gaddafi’s death, stating, “new Libya needs to start with accountability, the rule of law, a sense of unity and reconciliation in order to build an inclusive democracy.”

As the international community continues to push for investigations into the circumstances surrounding Gaddafi’s death and the possibility that the incoming regime is already guilty of international humanitarian law violations, they will be increasingly hard pressed combat this major “stain” on their human rights record.

Melanie Habwe Dickson, 3L, can be reached at md268@law.georgetown.edu.



Tina Talks: advice for law students

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Sweating with embarrassment? Read on for Tina’s advice on how to recover your dignity.Hi Tina,

I may have done something really embarrassing.  I don’t know how to face the world anymore.  Help!

—Self-Conscious at School

Dear Self-Conscious,

Well, as you haven’t told me what it was that you did, you’re making it a bit hard for me to help you out.  Embarrassment comes in many shapes, sizes, and aromas.

You can try convincing yourself that everyone has forgotten about it already.  Denial, in addition to being a river in Egypt, is also an effective coping mechanism.

Your choice of words “may have done” leads me to believe it was a drinking-related incident.  So, heed the words of the great Jamie Foxx and “Blame it on the al-al-al-al-al-al-alcohol.”  This might work even if you were sober.  Say you were drunk when you did the embarrassing thing.  However, if you embarrassed yourself in class, this cover story could lead people to think less of you in new ways.  And, if you really were intoxicated and are genuinely unsure of what you may have done, check with a trusted friend to make sure that what you did was as bad as you think was before taking drastic measures.

How positive are you that people were witness to your embarrassment, and that they will bring it up?  If your answer lies in the 90th percentile, execute a preemptive strike.  Bring it up first and spin it your way.  “Hey guys, wasn’t that so hilarious when I intentionally on purpose did _______ to make an ironic statement about  ______?“  Caveat: this move risks adding fuel to the fire and turning your imaginary problem into a real one.  Some embarrassments are simply inexcusable.  You should know which category your incident falls into.

Direct gossip traffic by doing something a little “crazy.”  À la Julia Roberts in that movie with the horses, you must “give them something to talk about.”  How about the upcoming premiere of “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”?  Fluff and shellac your bouffant, cover yourself in glitter, and bask on the McDonough steps.  Or become your favorite animal.  Do your best cat impersonation for example.  Flick your tail as you strut proudly through the cafeteria, and lick the backs of your paws in class.  Better to be eccentric than embarrassed.

Your final option is to go into hiding.  Venture out only for sustenance and at odd hours of the night.  This will increase your credibility as either a cat or a sexy, benevolent vampire that doesn’t know the meaning of embarrassment, but also has no friends.  Your thirst for their blood is too great to risk socializing.

Hope that helps,
Tina