APALSA hosts annual Trailblazers reception


Harold Koh, the former US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor gave the keynote address at the Trailblazers event. Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, the Georgetown University Law Center branch of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association hosted “Trailblazers: Charting Your Own Paths.” The event consisted of a panel of prominent Asian professionals working in the legal and policy-making fields, followed by a networking dinner event.

The panel featured four professionals who pursued a variety of career paths after completing law school and was moderated by Jeff Liu, the current president of APALSA. The panelists spoke about how their culture and identity as Asian-Americans impacted their decision to enter the legal field and their career decisions within it.

The keynote address was delivered by Harold Hongju Koh, a Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School and one of the foremost authorities of public and private international law, national security law, and human rights. He worked as the US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor between 1998-2001 and the Dean of Yale Law School between 2004-2009.

Koh gave a short keynote speech filled with stories about his childhood, immigration to the United States from Korea, and how and why he began his legal career, often eliciting laughs from the audience.

Along with Koh, there were three other panelists. Karen K. Narasaki, the head of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), one of the most prominent civil rights advocacy organization in the country. She was vice-chairwoman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and chair of the Rights Working Group, an organization dedicated to arresting the erosion of liberties since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Representing an alternative career choice was David Lat, founder and current managing editor of Above the Law. During his portion of the panel, Lat claims that he was unsure of what his end goal was when he began law school and after graduation, followed the traditional path of working at a large firm. He started a blog called underneaththeirrobes.blogs.com, as a humorous blog dedicated to the lives of federal judges outside the courtroom. He discovered a love of writing and blogging through this and left the firm to start blogging fulltime.

Besides answering broader questions about career choices and advice for current law students, more specific questions about the status of the legal market were directed at Lat, who responded with a positive note and reassured the students in the room that legal hiring was improving.

Judge Maribeth Raffinan, an Associate Judge for the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, who was nominated by President Barack Obama on July 28, 2010, was also present. Previously, she worked as a staff attorney for the Public Defenders Service for the District of Columbia for 11 years before her confirmation as judge.

The evening ended with a dinner where about a dozen practitioners working in the D.C. area were invited to share a meal and engage in conversation with current students. “It was great to hear from Asian American leaders in the field of law. I think it’s important to share in success and struggles, “ said Hannah Kim, 1L, who attended the event.  “It was a great event, and I hope to attend more like it in the future.”

With contributions by Jeff Liu, 2L

Africa Week promotes human rights on campus

The Africa Committee, a sub-section of Georgetown University Law Center’s Human Rights Action-Amnesty International student organization, hosted “Spring to Action” the week of March 18, 2013. The program, also known as Africa Week, consisted of a variety of and panels throughout the week

The week kicked off with an educational campaign and petition aimed at stopping land grabs in Cameroon.  The Cameroonian government is granting a 99-year land lease to an American company, allowing it to develop an industrial palm oil plantation.  The Africa Committee worked to raise awareness about both the environmental impact of deforestation and the detrimental effect that the oil palm plantation could have on the local populations who live and practice substance farming on the land.  The petition is being conducted in partnership with Greenpeace.

On March 20, Matt Wells, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, led a discussion on war crimes in Côte d’Ivoire and problematic labor practices in Zambia. Wells analyzed the 2010 elections in Côte d’Ivoire and the armed conflict that followed. Though both sides of the conflict committed atrocities, thus far the government of Côte d’Ivoire and the International Criminal Court have only charged people affiliated with the former government. The discussion that followed focused on appropriate forms of prosecution and reconciliation. The central themes of justice and peace were both emphasized in creating a solution, as was the need for both sides of an armed conflict to be held accountable. This is to mitigate the concern that only one side of the conflict is held accountable and punished for the violence resulting from their crimes.

The second portion of the discussion focused on Chinese-owned copper mines in Zambia. Wells described the impact of China’s increasing presence in the area and voiced his concerns over the discussion being overly one-sided either for or against China’s presence. At the copper mine in question, the Chinese company was the only party willing to reopen the mine, which provided jobs for thousands of Cameroonians, because of low profit margins.  The company made employees work longer hours for less pay in unsafe conditions, but work done by Human Rights Watch improved the situation. The company’s standards are not yet meeting all labor standards, but Wells claimed that the progress is promising.  The cooperation of the Zambian government contributed to the improvement of conditions as well.

On March 213, the Africa Committee held a screening of “Sisters in Law”. The film follows the struggle of two Cameroonian women seeking justice for female victims of physical and sexual abuse through the nation’s court system. The cases covered a variety of issues including kidnapping and custody issues, domestic violence that led to a successful bid for divorce, child abuse, and the rape of a young girl. The two women successfully dealt with strong cultural pressure against their clients and were ultimately able to protect their clients’ rights. One of the primary difficulties they faced was the marginalization of women.  Their clients found it difficult to speak out on issues that were contrary to social norms and gender roles. The film demonstrated the importance of international human rights and the role of lawyers in upholding them.

by Hayley Webster, 1L

Georgetown Law elects new SBA executive board and class representatives for next academic year

by Ann Y. Du, 1L

On Thursday, March 21, 2013, the Georgetown University Law Center Student Bar Association held campus-wide elections to select the new general representatives and executive board members for the 2013-14 academic year.

Bill King, 1L, swept the Day Division Vice President election. King earned 217 votes compared to his opponents Samuel Smith, 1L, and Ernest Pysher, 1L, with 127 votes and 49 votes respectively. In his candidate statement, King stated, “[l]ast fall, I was honored to become my section’s delegate to the SBA. I didn’t have much experience, but made one simple promise – to always take my job seriously and to listen when my classmates had something to say.” Kukui Claydon, 2E, will be the new Evening Division Vice President.

Rounding out the executive board for next year are Jessica Montello, 2L, as Secretary and Andrew Warner, 1E, as Treasurer.

The only executive board position that remained unfilled at the end of Thursday night was the highly contested role of president. The Thursday ballots produced no clear winner between the three candidates, with a mere 16-vote difference between the forerunner Parker Schnell, 2L, with 195 votes, and Edward Williams, 2L, with 179 votes. Alexis Kellert, 2L, had 185 votes.

With no definitive majority in favor of any candidate, Christopher Morgan-Riess, 3L, the current SBA Elections Chair, announced that a run-off election would take place on Friday, March 22, 2103. Along with President, run-off elections were also for Joint Degree Representative and for one of the 3E Representative positions. The run-off for the second 3E Representative resulted in another tie between Landon Stropko, 2E, and Tara Straw, 2E, on Friday night, and will be decided by a 2/3 vote by the outgoing SBA members.

The position of President was conferred upon Parker Schnell who maintained her leading position in the presidential polls, earning 53.08 percent of the run-off votes. The new Joint Degree Representative will be Joe Vukovich, 1L.

Along with the executive board members, new general representatives for each class were also selected. These delegates will be responsible for representing the voices and best interest of each year group or program at the Law Center.

 A full list of newly elected representatives follows:


Executive Board
President: Parker Schnell
Day Vice President: William King
Evening Vice President: Kukui Claydon
Secretary: Jessica Montello
Treasurer: Andrew Warner

Allyson Poulous
Benjamin Lee
Whitney Turk
Alexis Kellert
Alex Bergjans
Ashley Binetti
David O’Steen
Kevin Homiak
Nicole Smith
Phil Beshara
Benjamin Schiffelbein
Colin MacDonald
Ernest Pysher
Lance Shapiro
Lane Johnson
Mercedes Bugallo
Monique Boyce
Ricardo Doriott
Samuel Smith
Utsav Gupta
Anjali Garg
Betsy Henthorne
Ory Rinat
Landon Stropko, Tara Straw– TBD by 2/3 vote of outgoing House of Delegates
Elizabeth Nevitt
Edit Frenyo
Joint Degree:
Joe Vukovich



THE SIDEBAR (presented by OCS and OPICS): Top 5 Things 1L Students Should Know About Early Interview Week (EIW)

With Spring Break just behind us, it’s hard to start thinking about fall recruiting, but over the next several weeks, you will hear a lot about the fall recruiting programs that OCS and OPICS will host, including Early Interview Week (EIW). Here are the top 5 things you should know about EIW.

1. EIW takes place before school starts and all deadlines are over the summer.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Probably the last thing you want to think about. Sorry.
EIW is August 12-August 16. Orientation for all participating students is August 9. All deadlines (most notably, the bidding deadline, July 17) are over the summer. It is essential that you continue to check your Georgetown email account over the summer to ensure that you don’t miss any important details or deadlines.

2. It is the primary point of entry into large, national law firms.

EIW is the largest recruiting program of the year. Over 400 employers conduct 7,000+ screening interviews during the week. The employers who participate tend to be large national or international firms with hundreds of attorneys. They conduct screening interviews followed by in-office “callbacks” for positions in the following summer’s program. If you have a successful summer with the firm, you are usually extended an offer to rejoin the firm after you graduate. Very few firms of this nature engage in 3L recruiting. Therefore, if you hope to work at a large firm upon graduating, you are strongly encouraged to participate in EIW.

3. Grades aren’t the only consideration. Success in EIW requires research, realism, and preparation.

EIW is not a prescreened program, which means that employers do not select which candidates they meet with. You have 50 “bids” to use on firms that you are interested in, and Symplicity runs a lottery to assign interviews. While firms will certainly consider grades in making callback decisions, some care more about grades than others. Students who succeed at EIW don’t always have top grades, but they have spent time meeting with their counselor, researching firms and being strategic about their bid list.

4. OCS and OPICS offer many ways to maximize success in EIW.

In addition to offering individual meetings with counselors, for the next several months, both offices will provide ways to enhance your success in recruiting. Start by attending one of the 15 available EIW Information Sessions, where we’ll get the technical details out of the way before summer so your counselor appointments can focus on your individual strategy.

Also, attend one of the 1L Firm Receptions on March 27 and April 11. They are an excellent opportunity to interact with attorneys at the firms you’re considering and will help when it comes time to narrow the field of EIW employers. Attend the Pro Bono Panel OPICS is hosting on April 5 to learn about incorporating public service into a private sector career.

5. While EIW is the primary point of entry for large firms, it is not the only game in town.

OCS offers a number of other recruiting programs for students interested in private sector employment, including Request for Resumes (RFR), Government Interview Program (GIP), September Interview Program (SIP), and the On-Tour Interview Programs (OTIPs). Be on the lookout for these deadlines.

by Amy Mattock
Director, Employer Outreach,
Office of Career Services

So fresh and so clean: your online presence

It’s the week after Barrister’s Ball, and while we all had a great time, there may be some evidence of that night that you’re not proud of. Or that you shouldn’t be proud of. Either way, here’s a quick and easy guide to cleaning up your online presence so that you remain your charming, employable self.

Google yourself.

It may seem narcissistic, but this is probably the first thing that an employer will do when researching you online, so make sure that you’re fine with everything an employer will see when she searches for your name. This is a great reason to create a LinkedIn profile—it will definitely show up upon a Google search of your name, pushing negative material lower on a search, and it will give employers a completely appropriate picture of your life. Make sure to remove old, embarrassing Myspace or LiveJournal profiles that you’ve forgotten about.Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Things were different back then.

If you have a common name, you may need to add specific terms about yourself into your search, such as your high school, hometown, or undergraduate institution. You can also set a Google Alert for your name so you know when anything new is posted.

Hide everything.

It may be fun to see what your boss is up to in her personal life, but being friends with professional contacts is a bad idea. If you haven’t made your Facebook profile as private as possible and deleted anyone you don’t want seeing embarrassing information, do so immediately. If you don’t protect your tweets, do so immediately. Your only web presence for professional reasons should be LinkedIn or a professional profile through your organization. Everything else should be for friends only.

Refrain from uploading unflattering photos.

It doesn’t matter if your profile is private and you think it will never come to light. Haven’t you watched House of Cards? You have no idea what your future holds and what elaborate background checks will be conducted on you. If you’ve already uploaded questionable photos, delete them. If your friend uploaded them, make her delete them. Sure, Facebook still retains the right to use the photo commercially, but getting it off the Internet is the first step to getting (and keeping) a good job. Requiring approval for friends to tag you in photos is a good additional step, but even if you’re not tagged, as long as the photo is out there, it has potential to damage your professional reputation.

If your friends won’t delete embarrassing photos of you, get new friends. Seriously, that’s just mean.

Control what you can.

You can view what your profile looks like to the public by clicking on the little wheel at the top of your profile. It probably includes your profile photo, cover photo, and the things you “like.” Make sure you would feel comfortable with an employer seeing anything that is public. Remember that the legal profession is conservative, and employers have stricter standards for appropriateness than a fun 20-something. That means no drink in your hand in your profile pic. I know, it’s a cute photo, but take it down.

For more information on maintaining a professional web presence, visit NALP’s e-guides.

SBA Special Events succeeded in balancing competing concerns for Barrister’s Ball ‘13

Barrister’s Ball is an important, well-attended and popular social event in which law students can forget about the stressors of work and school for a night and delight in a themed dance party at a fancy venue with an open bar. The Law Weekly found this year’s event to be a vast improvement on that of last year, due to sincere dedication by the SBA Special Events Committee and responsiveness to student feedback from barrister’s balls past.


At this year’s event, what was gained in the quality in the venue was lost in the food. But, if this tradeoff was necessitated by the choice of a more expensive venue, then the SBA decided appropriately. SBA president Shaun Zhang, 3L, explained that the Mayflower Hotel is one of the more expensive venues to rent in D.C. So, to keep costs low, the committee accepted a package deal in which the hotel would provide its own food and caterers at a reduced price. That gave the committee less say over what was served and may have resulted in a less than stellar food offering. At the start of the dance, a table set up offered potato chips and a couple kinds of dip, which seemed like a somewhat strange choice for a semiformal event. However, SBA says this decision was done in compliance with the law school’s policy that events serving alcohol must also always serve food. Later, servers brought around trays of light snacks like chicken skewers and spring rolls. Desserts were served later on. Either way, at a late-evening dance party where many of the guests arrived after 10 p.m., and music blasted all night, investing in an expensive dinner menu would not have made very much sense. The SBA exercised wise judgment in emphasizing other factors, such as the choice of venue and D.J., over the food selection.


Students reactions’ were mixed to SBA’s decision to hold the event on a Friday night, which would require evening students and those who work on Fridays to scramble to get ready at the last minute or miss class in order to attend. However, the choice in day of the week may have saved the SBA approximately $50,000, which resulted in cheaper tickets. Thus, the decision to hold the ball on a Friday was another example of the tradeoffs the committee must make in trying to throw a highquality event that is still affordable. Venue The strongest point of the night was the decision to hold the event at the Mayflower Hotel. Compared to last year’s ball, the size of the venue was much more appropriate for fostering an intimate feeling without being overly crowded. The venue’s two stories with balconies overlooking the dance floor created a sense of togetherness to the ball. The SBA chose the Mayflower with complaints from previous events in mind. Two years ago, guests complained that the venue was too crowded. Last year, many felt that the space was too large and impersonal for the number of people in attendance. This year, the SBA found the goldilocks of dance venues and got it just right. With the second story overlooking the dance floor, guests who wanted to sit at tables rather than dance the night away were still close enough that they felt that they were part of the event. Furthermore, the elegance and charm of the Mayflower Hotel appropriately matched the ball’s Roaring Twenties theme.


The Special Events Committee successfully navigated competing concerns in response to students’ criticism of the number of tickets sold. Zhang said that selling more than the usual 800 tickets is a huge gamble for the SBA, which would have to absorb the costs of not selling enough tickets. However, the SBA responded promptly when Facebook comments made it clear that students felt that demand for tickets exceeded supply, and it made the unprecedented choice to sell an additional 200 tickets on top of their initial sale of 1,000. Ashley Binetti, special events committee co-chair, said the organization cared deeply about and worked diligently toward providing an enjoyable experience for as many law students as possible. However, while the SBA appreciates student feedback, Zhang said that it believes that opinions could be more effective if they were channeled through more appropriate venues, such as direct emails, rather than inflammatory social media rants. The Law Weekly thinks that a hostile confrontation between the student body and the Special Events Committee could be avoided through greater communication and dialogue between the two sides. The student body, particularly the L.L.M.’s, want to partake in the experience without having to stress over buying a ticket. They value accessibility over anything else. But the SBA, which stands to absorb the costs of buying more tickets than it can sell, has to struggle to balance a variety of competing concerns, some of which are not always readily apparent to outsiders. What’s important is that the lines of communication stay open. Students have a stake in knowing why decisions that will affect their experience are made in a certain way, and the SBA deserves for students to appreciate how painstaking the process of planning and executing the event can be. While the SBA made a smart move in publishing Chief of Staff Justin Waddell’s memo in response to student criticsm, it should do more from an earlier point in the year to include student input in the event planning process, which the SBA says begins in the summer.


Who can forget a DJ who goes by the name Sanitize? The committee chose wisely in selecting a DJ who has performed at D.C. venues popular to the young adult crowd such as Rock N Roll Hotel, the Velvet Lounge, Napoleon, and U Street Music Hall. Sanitize did a better job than DJ’s prior of apealling to a broader variety of musical tastes rather than catering to one genre, such as the trance/houseleaning DJ of last year’s ball.

Clinics are great, but learning is better

This week many Georgetown Law students will apply to clinics, with dreams of arguing a case in court, shepherding an exciting new non-profit through its incorporation, or writing an eye catching policy memo. Some of them will even be accepted. Clinics are often heralded as the future of legal education, and their benefits are obvious, but they should not be overstated. They give students practical, hands on education. Instead of an externship, where a student is often given small research projects and the chance to observe, but rarely gets to make substantive decisions about legal strategies, clinics offer students the opportunity to take charge of a legal situation with the advice and guidance of a well-qualified professor.

Clinics are a unique learning experience with value to students, to the people the clinics serve, and to potential employers. But are they really the future of legal education? This question gets to the heart of what law school really is, and what it means to be a law student. Are you in law school to learn to be a lawyer, or are you in law school to learn about the law? The two are not mutually exclusive, of course. In learning to be a lawyer, you inevitably learn some of the law, and in learning about the law, you often learn something about being a lawyer. But neither are the two things the same. Learning to be a lawyer emphasizes advocacy skills, strategic thinking, and interpersonal relations. Learning about the law is as much about asking what the law should be, as it is about answering what the law is.

Clinics are a valuable tool, and I, myself will be applying to some of them in the hopes of a rich and rewarding learning experience next year. But law schools should not trip over themselves to provide a “practical” legal education while neglecting the more theoretical aspects of the law. The legal academy has long fulfilled the function of examining the law’s underpinnings; pushing and prodding it to find its weak points. If it abandons that task in order to overemphasize the skills of practice, it risks the production of a generation of Disco Ball lawyers: impressive on the outside, hollow at the core.

It is worth noting the cause of the shifting emphasis. The costs of legal education reach ever higher into the stratosphere, while the legal job market remains somewhat stagnant. Potential students become more and more wary of taking out large loans, and they look for schools that have the best reputations with legal employers. Those employers will favor schools that provide the best practical educations, since new employees with better practical training require less training from the employer, allowing the employer to make money from the new employee sooner.

All of this is logical and, to some extent, desirable. One of the functions of law school is undoubtedly to prepare its students to practice law. It makes sense, at a general level, to try to achieve that task as efficiently as possible, and doing so both spurs innovation in legal instruction and improves the efficiency of the bar. But taking too narrow a view of the educational mission is dangerous. With the rise of ediscovery and improving legal search engines, some legal tasks are becoming increasingly automated. One of the most important ways for lawyers to stay relevant is to focus on reason as well as process. Lawyers need to understand not only how the law works, but why it works that way. And to do that lawyers need to have a holistic view of the law; to see patterns that repeat in different areas; to know how it was put together, who put it together, and why; and to be aware of the parts that work and the parts that don’t work.

By all means, apply to some clinics. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get hands-on tutoring from some of the best and most knowledgeable professors and practitioners in the country. But remember, you have your whole career to learn how to practice. This is the only time you get to devote to asking the fundamental legal questions. Let’s make sure we continue to take advantage of it.

Is this the future for externships and externship credits at Georgetown?

The Law Center is no stranger to crusades for experiential learning. In 2010, the SBA introduced a proposal that requested both increased externship opportunities and a 3-credit minimum for externships. This proposal mirrored sentiment among both students and employers that experiential learning provides valuable real world training and helps students stand out amongst other applicants in a shrinking and competitive legal market.

At that time, peer schools provided students with opportunities to devote a vastly higher number of credits to experiential learning through externships. For example, local school George Washington University offered upwards of eight credits, while Stanford offered a whopping total of 12 credits. Despite pushback from some faculty, such as Professor Gary Peller, who argued that increased externship credit hours would “cheapen the value of the degree to award credit solely on the basis of job enhancement goals,” the SBA was successful in increasing the maximum credit hours available from two to three.

This year, the Long Range Planning Committee is examining all aspects of the Law Center, including “critically examining the curriculum in light of the changing legal market. Experiential learning is one of many issues we are considering,” per committee member Shaun Zhang. Every five years, the Law Center undergoes a strategic planning phase that conducts research, analyzes trends among other law schools, and develops the next five-year plan. The current Long Range Planning Committee is in the process of researching and brainstorming ideas for the upcoming 2014-2019 Long Range Plan and intends to take a thorough approach to designing a plan and developing a proposal. According to Shaun Zhang, “the Long Range Planning Committee is examining the advantages and disadvantages of a possible overhaul of the upper level curriculum to include a greater focus on experiential learning, including externships, clinics, practicum, skills courses, and more.”

The current Long Range Planning Committee, a student-faculty committee run independently of the SBA, is comprised of over 20 faculty members and Deans, as well as three law students – Shaun Zhang, Lala Qadir, and Edward Williams. Professor Regan and Professor Aiken chair the committee. At the moment, the committee’s focus is on conducting research and compiling data on various Law Center issues, including experiential learning; no proposal has yet been drafted. According to Zhang, “the data will instead be used in considering the 2014-2019 Long Range Plan. Having a proposal now is not helpful to the process. Any changes to be proposed will likely instead be built into the 2014 plan.” At the moment, the Committee is conducting and analyzing research for its strategic plan. Peer schools such as Washington & Lee have already developed a mandatory experiential learning program. At Washington & Lee, students focus on traditional law school curriculum in their first and second years. However, during the third year, students take skills courses, practicums, and professionalism programs and perform at least 60 hours of legal pro bono. In addition, Stanford recently changed its third year curriculum requirements to permit students to pursue joint degrees, and NYU is in the process of implementing a voluntary experiential learning program for third year students that will include international studies and externships in other cities such as Washington, D.C., and specializations and concentrations.

Students have long complained that three years of law school are unnecessary. Now, tuition hikes, an oversaturated legal market, and law firms grumbling about having to spend funds training students to do things such as write complaints have encouraged students and faculty to consider changes to curriculum that will allow students to meet the challenging legal market head-on.

Following in the footsteps of these other legal institutions, the Committee will consider changing upper level curriculum to provide students with more opportunities for real world learning. The Committee is currently working on drafting a mission statement for the next strategic plan and has planned a weekend meeting in May.

Genocide survivors speak out at human rights colloquium

On March 1, 2013, the Georgetown Human Rights Action-Amnesty International (GHRA-AI) club hosted, in partnership with the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, a colloquium discussing “The Forgotten Genocides.” The event featured a colloquium on genocides, war crimes, and other crimes against humanity.

Eze Eluchie, an LL.M. student who was born during the Biafran genocide in Nigeria, organized the event. The colloquium was an all- day affair consisting of three panels focusing on the politics of genocides,stories from genocides, and justice after genocides. Panelists represented a variety of fields, including an ambassador, activists, professors, and survivors of genocides from four continents.

Srdjan Darmanovic, the Ambassador of Montenegro, stressed the importance of leadership and its role in the starting and prevention of genocide. The conflict between justice and peace was discussed by panelists, who determined that an agreement based on impunity would not be successful, and that prosecuting every individual who participated would also not be wise. It was noted that the lack of a clear solution could be linked to a lack of a formalized standard for punishment.

The panel of survivors was comprised of individuals who experienced genocide as children, including the Holocaust, the Cambodian genocide, the Biafran genocide, and the Guatemalan genocide. All of the survivors felt that education was the best way to prevent future genocide. They believed that it was important to learn what happened in the past because forgetting would be a form of validating the genocides.

Education can also teach people how to avoid genocides by learning the warning signs and how to peacefully coexist. The survivors discussed the role of the international community.

A group of practitioner speakers focused on the topic of justice after genocide. Professor Maxwell Bloche of Georgetown University Law Center discussed his work interviewing genocide perpetrators, including why people choose to follow orders and engage in torture. Gregory Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch, noted that “evil is not the most powerful force in the world, love is.” Stanton believed in using modes and courts of justice appropriate to individual countries, such as the methods of community hearings employed in Rwanda.

One aspect of the colloquium discussion was the recurring use of rape as a weapon by genocide perpetrators. Many of the survivors and practitioners mentioned it in their discussions.

Panelist Niemath Ahmadi, the director of Global Partnerships United to End Genocide, in particular made it her mission to be a voice for women like herself who were raped during the Darfur genocide. Many of the rape victims in Darfur, and in other countries, are ostracized by their communities because they are viewed as damaged. In addition to rape, another tool of genocide perpetrators that all the survivors remembered was starvation. By controlling food aid, planting, and harvests, perpetrators could be far more effective in their aims.

The panelists are hopeful for the future, believing that with education, global attention, and a mechanism to hold perpetrators account able, genocide can be brought to an end.

by Hayley Webster, 1L

Clinic students Gibson, Wang save man from torture

Center for Applied Legal Studies students triumph in Immigration Court, win Torture Convention protection for Egyptian refugee.

Lee Wang and Elizabeth Gibson, 2Ls

The political upheaval in Egypt and the continued use of torture against political opponents and members of the LGBT community there may not be standard curriculum for most Georgetown Law students.  But in the fall, clinical students with the Center for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) mastered these issues to win a case before the U.S. Immigration Court.  With the hands-on legal skills taught through CALS, Lee Wang (2L) and Elizabeth Gibson (2L) prevented their client from being deported back to Egypt, and probably saved his life.

Wang and Gibson enrolled in CALS hoping to learn about immigration law, develop litigation skills, and serve a client in peril.  At the start of the semester, they were assigned to represent Waled Ahmed, who fled Egypt in 1995, at the age of 18, after being severely tortured by Egyptian security officials and police because of his sexual identity and his political opposition to the Mubarak regime.

As a gay adolescent, Waled also experienced beatings by religious fundamentalists in his Cairo neighborhood. The Egyptian authorities first tortured Waled and his boyfriend after the boys were picked up at a police checkpoint near Waled’s home.  Months later at a university protest, Egyptian authorities again arrested Waled and his boyfriend and tortured them for eight days in the infamous Ministry of Interior headquarters in Cairo. When he was released, his parents resolved to get him out of the country.  He obtained a visitor visa and fled to the United States.

In the United States, Waled was convicted of a drug offense that brought him to the attention of immigration authorities.  When Wang and Gibson first started preparing his claim for protection under the Convention Against Torture as a defense against deportation, Waled was still being held in detention and was subject to deportation.  Fortunately, the immigration authorities released him under an order of supervision in October, but he still faced his deportation hearing.

“Recognizing that Waled’s life depended on winning this case, Wang and I felt a daunting sense of responsibility.  “But Waled was such a source of inspiration. We just wanted to do everything we could to win his case.”

Waled had applied for Convention Against Torture protection, a status that enables those who face torture in their homelands to live and work in the United States.  In the course of the semester, Wang and Gibson faced the challenge of building a persuasive case in light of a strict legal standard and the need to help Waled remember the details of horrific events that occurred years earlier.  They interviewed Waled, meticulously investigated human rights conditions in Egypt, researched applicable asylum law, and wrote (and re-wrote) a substantial brief.  At the same time, they accumulated documents from Egypt and secured assistance from experts on LGBT issues, human rights violations in Egypt, and their client’s psychological and medical condition.  In all, they compiled a 700-page stack of 36 evidentiary exhibits that they filed in court.

Witness preparation and country conditions research posed particularly important challenges.  The two students had to ensure that their client, who suffered from memory issues because of posttraumatic stress disorder, could convey his story on the witness stand with sincerity and credibility.  Gibson and Wang faced the additional challenge of trying to accurately convey conditions in a country still in the midst of political upheaval.

“CALS students perform such heroic efforts because the cases are so demanding – we have to carry a significant burden of proof in immigration court,” said Professor Andy Schoenholtz, director of CALS for the Fall 2012 semester.  “Our students have proven to be incredibly dedicated, sustaining the long hours necessary to build the case, and learning how to pull it all together in court on the day of the hearing.”

After a formal judicial proceeding that lasted about an hour and a half, the government’s lawyer conceded the case and the judge granted Waled Ahmed relief under the Torture Convention.

Reflecting upon the semester’s experience, Gibson commented: “Before participating in CALS, I never had any real litigation experience.  The clinic’s supervisors did an excellent job helping me learn a wide range of lawyering skills, from making objections to subtle things like finding the right tone for a particular judge.  By the time the hearing arrived, I felt prepared and ready to advocate for Waled, and he was confident in Wang and me.”

The pedagogical philosophy of CALS stresses placing the students into situations of real responsibility.  The cases “belong” to the students, who make all the critical decisions and execute all the legal tasks.  The teaching staff (one professor and two graduate fellows each semester) is very closely engaged – the teacher to student ratio is only 4 to 1, ensuring a secure “safety net.” However, the students, not the teachers, undertake the essential tasks, such as drafting and signing the brief and speaking in court.


 by the Clinic for Applied Legal Studies