Thoughts on ASIL annual meeting, by Sohn Fellow Johann Ebongom

Johann Ebongom, one of several Georgia Law students who traveled to Washington last month as Louis B. Sohn Professional Development Fellows, reflects below on that experience. This Saturday Ebongom, a lawyer from Cameroon, will receive his Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree at our commencement ceremony.

From April 12-15, I, along with University of Georgia School of Law classmates, volunteered at the 111th annual meeting of the American Society of International Law in Washington, D.C. What a great networking occasion for young students interested in the legal management of international affairs and the development of a stronger and more efficient international rule of law.

I was so excited to be offered an opportunity to be a privileged observer of one the world’s biggest and most prestigious international law gatherings, particularly in a time when most nations have adopted new policies towards the protection of their interests and the security of their citizens. With the Brexit in Europe, the Syrian crisis in Middle East, the North Korean nuclear tests, the relationship between African countries and the International Criminal Court, and the recent foreign-policy-related decisions of the current President of the United States of America, no need to say that this year’s ASIL meeting was a decisive one! As an LL.M. student at Georgia Law who has a keen interest in global affairs, I could not ask for a better way to strengthen my analysis and understanding for future research.

For three days, I had the great fortune to listen and interact with experts, scholars, judges, and practitioners coming from various institutions, such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Criminal Court, and the U.S. Department of State, among others. Several people shared with me valuable career advice. This experience was further highlighted by an in-depth exchange with Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the ICC, on the inevitable collaboration between the ICC and the soon-to-be-established African Court of Justice, which will lead to a reform of the current hierarchical organization of the international criminal justice system. Also, I enjoyed meeting Georgia Law alums – whom I’ve found always willing to assist.

The conference principally questioned the values of international law at a time when the world is subject to several events that might well compromise the value of international frameworks most nations had once believed in. The main highlighted issue seems to reside in the application or implementation of international law principles. Nations usually sign and ratify international conventions; however, these are far from being implemented, precisely in countries that are powerful enough to bypass the international order to preserve their interests.

It was an honor and privilege to represent Georgia Law as an LL.M. student. Being present for this year’s annual meeting was an inspiration for me, to one day enter the conversation in the hopes of creating a more just, more livable, and more connected world. I am very grateful to the Dean Rusk International Law Center for all its efforts and support in ensuring we have an unforgettable and fruitful time at the University of Georgia School of Law.

For other international law-minded Georgia Law students: Participating in an ASIL annual meeting is a good start to meet the international law community and benefit from invaluable advice! Do not hesitate to join next time.

(Cross-posted); prior Exchanges of Notes posts for which Johann Ebongom was a co-author here and here)

 

Alum Jon Smibert, U.S. Justice attaché in E. Europe, honored for public service

A distinguished University of Georgia School of Law alumnus, Jon R. Smibert (JD 1996), has been honored as one of the United States’ top federal employees. The honor was celebrated this month at a breakfast at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Smibert serves as Resident Legal Advisor for the U.S. Department of Justice at the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania. As reported in the Washington Post, he is one of 26 finalists for a 2017 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, also known as a “Sammie,” awarded by the Partnership for Public Service. Smibert is a finalist in National Security and International Affairs; the medalwinners will be chosen later in the year.

In addition to this U.S. recognition, Smibert recently received a medal from  from the President of Albania. In that country, he has worked to assist in overhauling the legal system, with the particular aim of reducing public corruption. Smibert helped to redraft about a third of Albania’s constitution and more than a dozen statutes. Innovations included vetting requirement for judges and prosecutors, as well as establishment of a Constitution-level body dedicated to investigating and prosecuting corruption.

Of Smibert’s work, Donald Lu, U.S. Ambassador to Albania, said:

“A lot of Albanians consider him a hero. The Albanian prime minister has called this ‘the most important reform since the fall of communism. Jon Smibert has a real passion for what he does, not only for representing the U.S., but in making Albania better.”

Before his posting in Albania, Smibert served in Pristina, Kosovo. In addition to helping to establish independent prosecution offices and to draft Kosovo’s Criminal Procedure Code, Smibert helped to launch the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, a war crimes court that sits at The Hague in the Netherlands.

Smibert began his career as a federal prosecutor in Atlanta, Georgia, and later in Cleveland, Ohio. His publications include a 240-page book, Principles of Evidence (2014).

On World Trade Day, alum Bill Poole earns Global Leadership Award

Very pleased to congratulate our distinguished alumnus William M. Poole (JD’73), recipient of the Global Leadership Award bestowed by the World Trade Center Atlanta.

The Center bestowed the award during its World Trade Day celebration on May 2, in order to recognize Poole’s

“exemplary service to the facilitation of international trade and investment between Georgia and the rest of the world.”

Poole, who goes by Bill, is Of Counsel at Atlanta’s Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP. Serving as head of the office’s International Practice, Poole, whose expertise includes transnational tax law, focuses on transnational business and investment matters.

He’s taught international business transactions law as an adjunct professor here at his alma mater. While a law student, he was Editor-in-Chief of the Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law and took part in our Jessup International Moot Court and Brussels Seminar initiatives. After earning his undergraduate degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Poole served in Vietnam and Germany.

Through its World Trade Day event, the World Trade Center Atlanta brought an array of leaders to discuss issues of trade and investment. In Georgia last year, this sector accounted for more than $157.2 billion in imports and exports.

Distinguished India-based alumna, Priti Suri, earns prestigious ABA award

Delighted to congratulate of our our distinguished LL.M. alumnae, Priti Suri, recipient of one of the most prestigious American Bar Association awards. (photo credit)

The ABA Section of International Law bestowed its Mayre Rasmussen Award for the Advancement of Women in International Law upon Suri Wednesday, at a luncheon during the Section’s Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C. Regarding Suri’s award, the Section said:

“Priti’s role as a mentor and in opening doors for women and women lawyers in India make her the perfect candidate for the Mayre Rasmussen Award.”

In a LinkedIn post, Suri responded:

“I feel truly humbled, as the first Asian, to receive ABA’s Mayre Rasmussen career achievement award. To everyone who contributed – my incredible family, my friends, my co-workers, my teachers and to every single person who has been with me on this journey – a very big thank you. Miles and miles to go still….”

Suri is the founder-partner of PSA Legal Counsellors, an Indian business law firm with offices in New Delhi and Chennai. Its practice spans many industries, and includes cross-border M&A transactions, strategic investments, joint-ventures including tender and exchange offers, venture capital financings, structuring private equity deals, leveraged buyouts, and divestitures.

This week’s ABA honor comes not long after another: last October, Suri was named to the India Business Law Journal A-List of India’s top 100 lawyers.

Since earning her Master of Laws degree from in 1989, Suri has remained active in the University of Georgia School of Law community. She frequently welcomes Georgia Law students as part of our Global Externship Overseas, and she has been an officer of the LL.M. Alumni Association.

The ABA Rasmussen Award is named after “a pioneer in the field of international business law” who died in 1998, and is given

“to individuals who have achieved professional excellence in international law, encouraged women to engage in international law careers, enabled women lawyers to attain international law job positions from which they were excluded historically, or advanced opportunities for women in international law.”

Among the prior Rasmussen Award recipients is another member of our Georgia Law community, Associate Dean Diane Marie Amann.

Brava!

Washington week: Our Louis B. Sohn Fellows’ tour of D.C. monuments

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Gathering before the D.C. memorial to Atlanta-based Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: from left, Lyddy O’Brien, Chanel Chauvet, Nelly Sandra Ndounteng, Taryn Arbeiter, Kathleen A. Doty, Johann Ebongom, and Eric Health

During the 2017 American Society of International Law Annual Meeting earlier this month in Washington, D.C., members of our University of Georgia School of Law community took a break from volunteering to spend an evening touring the monuments on the National Mall.

On the tour were Georgia Law students who traveled from our Athens campus thanks to Louis B. Sohn Professional Development Fellowship grants awarded by the law school’s Dean Rusk International Law Center; they are: 1L Lyddy O’Brien, 2L Chanel Chauvet, and LLM candidates Johann Ebongom and Nelly Sandra Ndounteng. Chanel took part in the Annual Meeting as the recipient of a scholarship from the Blacks in ASIL Task Force, and the other Sohn Fellows volunteered at the annual meeting. They were joined in D.C. by another Annual Meeting volunteer, 2L Taryn Arbeiter, who is completing a full-time externship at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as part of Georgia Law’s D.C. Semester in Practice initiative.

Pick 2.jpgLeading the monuments tour were Kathleen A. Doty, Director of Global Practice Preparation at the Dean Rusk International Law Center, and Eric Heath, who earned his Georgia Law J.D. degree in 2015 and now practices in D.C. as a Legislative Staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In addition to MLK, the group visited the Lincoln, Korean War, and Roosevelt memorials. Afterwards, they shared a meal before returning to the ASIL events.

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Alums Kaitlin Ball and Eric Heath publish in International Legal Materials

Delighted to see the bylines of 2 recent graduates of the University of Georgia School of Law in the newest edition of International Legal Materials.

An American Society of International Law publication, ILM reprints decisions, treaties, and other newly issued documents reflecting important developments in international law. Each is preceded by an Introductory Note which explains and analyzes the document. Contributing such Notes to Volume 56, Issue 1, of ILM –  available online via open access for a limited period – are:

Kaitlin M. Ball (J.D. 2014), who is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Politics & International Studies, University of Cambridge, England. While at Georgia Law, Kaitlin served as Student President of the worldwide International Law Students Association, and was a Global Extern at the U.S. Department of State Office of Legal Adviser for Private International Law, at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and at the nongovernmental organization Human Rights League in Bratislava, Slovakia. Her ILM Introductory Note is entitled “African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection.”

Eric A. Heath (J.D. 2015), who serves on the Legislative Staff of U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pennsylvania) in Washington, D.C. Immediately before taking that position, Eric served as an ASIL Fellow and also earned his LL.M. degree in International Economic Law from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. While at Georgia Law, he was a Global Extern at UNESCO, in Paris, France, and published in our Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law. His ILM Introductory Note is entitled “Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Kigali Amendment).”

Georgia Law team in Vienna for Vis International Arbitration Moot

Delighted to introduce the representatives of the University of Georgia School of Law who are competing this week in Vienna, Austria, at the 24th Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. They continue a long Georgia Law tradition of participation in this annual event.

At either end are two Associates at King & Spalding LLP in Atlanta: Sara Sargeantson Burns, team coach, and Christopher Smith, who was a member of Georgia Law’s Vis team while earning his J.D. degree here; in the middle is 3L Emily Cox, a member of last year’s competition team and this year its student coach. Also pictured, from the left of Burns to right, are 2L team members Jared Magnuson, Victoria Barker, Maria Kachniarz, and Wheaton Webb.

Viel Glück!