Georgia Law 3L Collin Douglas on his D.C. Semester externship at NATO HQ SACT: “unique law school experience”

Pleased today to welcome this post by University of Georgia School of Law student Collin Douglas, who described his recently completed Fall 2022 externship in Norfolk, Virginia, in the legal department of HQ SACT, a leading unit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This externship forms part of Georgia Law’s D.C. Semester in Practice initiative, in partnership with NATO Allied Command Transformation. Collin arrived at Georgia Law with a background in international affairs, having earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees in that field from the University of Oklahoma. His law school experiences have included service as Executive Articles Editor of the Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law, internships at USAID and the Documentation Center of Cambodia, and work as a research assistant for a climate and security institute. Collin is due to receive his J.D. degree this May.

My time at the NATO Supreme Allied Command Transformation Office of the Legal Advisor was an incredibly rewarding and valuable experience. It was a completely unique law school experience, and allowed me to do work I could not do elsewhere.

In the wake of the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the mission of NATO has felt that much more vital. The invasion of Ukraine gave NATO a renewed focus and drive, and that fact was clear from the ever-quickening pace of work around NATO SACT. The Legal Advisor performs a wide variety of legal roles within NATO SACT to support the mission, and I was able to interact with all of those roles.

As soon as I began working, I was treated as an equal member of the team and trusted with important work. One of the responsibilities of the Office of the Legal Advisor is to provide legal aid support to the international military staff of NATO SACT. This support ranges from advising on how to handle speeding tickets to coordinating with the State Department on visa issues. Within a few weeks of starting work, I was the first person who greeted any legal assistance client who walked in the door, of which there were 10-20 every day. Talking with NATO personnel from 32+ different countries exposed me to 32+ different legal perspectives and cultures. This fact gave the legal assistance portion of the work its own international perspective, as we often had to anticipate things like the Norwegian perspective on landlord-tenant issues, the German perspective on automobile sales, Albanian frustration with the visa process, or simply whether someone fully grasped the legal aspects of something they were involved with.

The Office of the Legal Advisor also performs the more typical general counsel duties of any other large organization, but with the added (and interesting) layer of being an international organization. This work covers contracting, employment intellectual property issues, and much more. This work does not differ significantly from that of a general counsel’s office in a large corporation. Where it does differ is the immunity that NATO receives under the treaties that make up the NATO system. I was able to support this work by researching and helping to articulate NATO’s view on its own immunity. Doing work of this kind for an international organization is such a rare opportunity, and I jumped on the chance to contribute to it.

My externship at NATO was part of the UGA Law Semester in D.C. program, led by Professor Jessica Heywood, so I took part in two classes that greatly contributed to my time at NATO. As part of this program we heard each week from a different lawyer working in Washington, D.C. This provided an excellent opportunity to learn about the many career paths available to attorneys who want to work in the nation’s capital. I also had a weekly class session with other students doing similar externship experiences; this allowed me to better understand my strengths and weaknesses in the workplace and to grow as an individual.

I am extremely grateful for my time at NATO SACT. There is no other law school experience that compares to it. I want to thank my amazing colleagues Monte DeBoer, Mette Hartov, Theresa Donahue, Kathy Hansen-Nord, Vincent Grassin, Butch Bracknell, Madeleine Goddrie, and Galateia Gialitaki.

Scholarly achievements, vibrant initiatives highlighted in newsletter of Dean Rusk International Law Center, University of Georgia School of Law

For a recap of the year’s research and global practice accomplishments, have a look at the newly published newsletter of the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law. Features include:

Scholarly achievements of our Center Director, Melissa J. Durkee, and our many other globally minded faculty, including Diane Marie Amann and Harlan G. Cohen, our Center’s Faculty Co-Directors, as well as Zohra Ahmed, Christopher Bruner, Jason Cade, Nathan Chapman, Walter Hellerstein, Thomas Kadri, Jonathan Peters, Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge, Tim Samples, and Laura Phillips-Sawyer.

► The exceptional performance of the Georgia Law students who competed in the 2022 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, placing second in the United States, competing through octofinals internationally, and tying for best overall oralist through the International Advanced Rounds.

► Our International Law Colloquium in Spring 2022, a course featuring works-in-progress conversations with international law scholars based in Latin America and Europe as well as the United States.

► Recent events, including our day-long conference on “The Law of Global Economic Statecraft” cosponsored with the Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law and other University of Georgia entities, our Consular Series of talks with diplomats, presentations by distinguished lawyers on issues including the Ukraine-Russia war, and participation in panels at meetings of the American Branch of the International Law Association, the American Society of International Law, and other global entities.

► Initiatives aimed at preparing our J.D. and LL.M. students for global legal practice, including our NATO Externship, our Global Externships, and the Global Governance Summer School we host in partnership with the Leuven Centre for Global Governance at Belgium’s University of Leuven (plus additional partnerships with O.P. Jindal University in India and Bar Ilan University in Israel).

The full newsletter is here.

In court and in Congress, Georgia Law clinics continue efforts on behalf of immigrant women alleging abuse, retaliation while in ICE detention

University of Georgia School of Law clinics’ faculty and students have continued to press forward– both in court and in Congress – in challenges they have brought on behalf of women clients who are challenging the abuses they endured while in U.S. immigration detention.

As previously posted, Georgia Law’s Community HeLP Clinic and First Amendment Clinic have pursued administrative, judicial, and advocacy paths in support of women who had been in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Irwin Detention Center, a privately run facility in south Georgia. While there, the women were subjected to nonconsensual, gynecological and other medical procedures; those who spoke out were met with retaliatory acts, including attempted or actual removal from the United States.

For more than two years, the Georgia Law clinics have represented some of these women in judicial and administrative proceedings. Associate Dean Jason A. Cade, Director of the Community HeLP Clinic, and Professor Clare R. Norins, Director of the First Amendment Clinic, are among co-counsel in Oldaker v. Giles, a class action complaint pending before Judge W. Louis Sands, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Assisting them have been Staff Attorney Kristen Shepherd, Legal Fellow Lindsey Floyd, and many law students.

The Oldaker litigation took a new turn last Monday, when Judge Sands granted a contested motion and thus added two new named plaintiffs, both of them represented by the Georgia Law clinics.

Congressional action occurred earlier last month, when the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a hearing on “Medical Mistreatment of Women in Ice Detention,” on November 15 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

That same day, the subcommittee – led by its Chairman, Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia), and Ranking Member, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), simultaneously released a 103-page Staff Report (pictured above) based on its 18-month investigation of the issue. The report recounted many incidents on which the Oldaker suit is based, and further incorporated information provided by six plaintiffs, one of them represented by the Georgia Law clinics. Among other key findings, the report stated that:

  • The women detainees “appear to have been subjected to excessive, invasive, and often unnecessary gynecological procedures” by one of the center’s physicians; and
  • ICE “did not employ a thorough vetting process,” and, before hiring the physician in question, “was not aware of publicly available information regarding medical malpractice suits” and other complaints against him.

Georgia Law Appellate Clinic team briefs, argues, wins Convention Against Torture case before Second Circuit in New York

One week after oral arguments put forward by students in the University of Georgia School of Law Appellate Litigation Clinic, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today ruled on behalf of a Clinic client, whose immigration case involved the 1984 Convention Against Torture, an international treaty that the United States joined in 1994.

The client, a gay transgender rights advocate from the state of Guerrero, Mexico, and the petitioner in Case No. 20-1693, Santiaguez v. Garland, seeks deferral of removal pursuant to the treaty’s provisions respecting non-refoulement, or non-return. Specifically, the client asks not to be sent back to his home country, where his brother, also gay, recently was killed due to sexual orientation.

Georgia Law 3L Noah Nix (pictured above) argued on behalf of the client last week at the Second Circuit’s New York courthouse. He challenged prior rulings in the case, in which both the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals had agreed that no Mexican public official would likely acquiesce to the Clinic’s client being tortured if he returned. The Board of Immigration Appeals also had found that the Immigration Judge did not violate the client’s due process rights when refusing to allow a country conditions expert to testify at the client’s merits hearing.

Today the Second Circuit panel, composed of Chief Judge Debra Ann Livingston, Judge Barrington D. Parker Jr., and Judge Eunice C. Lee, ruled on behalf of the Clinic’s client. Specifically, reasoning that the agency had not properly considered the client’s evidence, the panel issued an order vacating the agency’s decision and remanding the case for further proceedings.

Assisting in brief-writing in the case were two Georgia Law students who have since graduated, Jared Allen and Olivia Hunter. The team worked under the supervision of Thomas V. Burch, the Clinic’s Director.

Georgia Law’s Community HeLP Clinic assists client in winning bid for asylum

A client of the Community Health Law Partnership Clinic here at the University of Georgia School of Law was recently granted asylum, a status that provides permanent protection to noncitizens fleeing persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in particular social groups. 

The Clinic’s client had fled to the United States alone as a 16-year-old, after facing death threats and physical violence in Guatemala, and had requested asylum at the U.S. border. The Asylum Office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services initially interviewed the client in 2018. (photo credit) However, a torrent of subsequent administrative decisions upended longstanding asylum policies, leaving his fate in limbo. 

The Community HeLP Clinic reactivated the case early this year. It successfully argued that the Guatemalan government was unable or unwilling to control persecution against the client by private actors. As a result of the asylum grant, the client no longer faces deportation and can focus on rebuilding his life in the United States.

The Clinic’s Staff Attorney, Kristen Shepherd, handled the initial presentation of the case before the Asylum Office. Navroz N. Tharani, who completed his Georgia Law JD in May 2022, wrote the brief, supervised by Shepherd and by Clinic Director Jason Cade, who is Associate Dean for Clinical Programs and Experiential Learning and J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law. Eddy Atallah, a member of the JD Class of 2021, assisted with earlier research.

Journeying from Georgia Law to Nepal, Center staff member Catrina Martin participates in study abroad seminar

Catrina Martin, 2d from right, and other seminar participants at Nepal’s Namo Buddha stupa, a Buddhist pilgrimage site located in the Kavrepalanchok District, 40km southeast from Kathmandu.

Catrina Martin, Global Practice Preparation Assistant here at the Dean Rusk International Law Center, University of Georgia School of Law, took part earlier this month in an educational seminar in Nepal.

The seminar was sponsored by SIT Study Abroad, a unit of the Vermont-based School for International Training. It brought together 10 study abroad professionals and faculty members from an array of U.S. colleges and universities. They discussed the importance of diversity, inclusion, and reciprocity in study abroad programs, and the the process of experiential learning.

“We received the warmest of welcomes in Nepal, and every aspect of the seminar was enriching. I learned so much from everyone we interacted with, including my fellow attendees,” said Martin, who assists with administration of the Global Externships Overseas, among other Dean Rusk International Law Center initiatives.

Led by Suman Pant, SIT Academic Director, the attendees were immersed in the Nepali language and culture. They made numerous site visits, including one to Mitini Nepal, a nongovernmental organization that advocates for equal rights for Nepal’s LGBTI+ community.

Lectures, meanwhile, covered a variety of pedagogical and cultural topics. A highlight was a discussion with activist Deepti Gurung on statelessness and human rights in Nepal.

Martin summed up her experience:

“An integral part of the programs that Director Pant runs is the intentional removal of students from their comfort zones, and she extended that to us, as well. We didn’t only discuss experiential learning pedagogy, we went through it ourselves. I am so excited to return home and put into practice the lessons we’ve learned.”

Georgia Law students bound for summer Global Externships with law firms, corporations, NGOs across the globe

Eleven Georgia Law students will earn global practice experience this summer through the Global Externship Overseas initiative of the Dean Rusk International Law Center here at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Through the GEO initiative, students enhance their legal studies by working for law firms, in-house legal departments, and nongovernmental organizations. This summer’s placements are based in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Practice areas include dispute resolution, data privacy, corporate law, refugee law, cultural heritage law, international human rights law, and international criminal law.

This year’s GEO class includes these placements in private-sector legal settings:

These students will work for nongovernmental organizations:

More information here about GEOs and other Dean Rusk International Law Center initiatives. (image credit)

Georgia Law at top in international law, Center-administered NATO externship featured in national preLaw magazine

The just-released issue of preLaw magazine places the University of Georgia School of Law among the United States’ top international law curriculums; in so doing, it features an initiative of our Dean Rusk International Law Center.

In an article entitled “25 Most Innovative Law Schools,” author Michelle Weyenberg reports (page 42) on a valued partnership which Georgia Law entered several years ago with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Georgia Law’s “NATO externship,” she writes, “is a full-time, semester-long externship in the legal department of the NATO Allied Command Transformation.” She then describes experiences by our most recent extern, 3L Davis Wright, who worked in-person in Norfolk, Virginia, throughout the Fall 2021 semester (prior post):

“Third-year law student Davis Wright said his experience in the program last semester challenged him and provided an opportunity to make a substantial impact with the intergovernmental military alliance. Wright said he had the opportunity to work on an overhaul of general term and conditions throughout HQ SACT and in its subordinate commands, and to research whether NATO information is protected under U.S. laws against espionage.”

The NATO externship is one of many with international components in Georgia Law’s D.C. Semester in Practice initiative, directed by Georgia Law Professor Jessica Heywood, and also one of our Center’s many Global Externships Overseas and At-Home (GEO/GEA), administered by Sarah Quinn, our Center’s Associate Director for Global Practice Preparation.

Georgia Law Appellate Litigation Clinic secures final relief for client in case invoking Convention Against Torture

The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals has granted relief to the petitioner in Arellano Herrera, a case on which the Appellate Litigation Clinic at the University of Georgia School of Law has worked for over two years.

As detailed in prior posts here and here, in September 2020, Georgia Law students in the Clinic briefed and argued the case, Arellano Herrera v. Barr, to a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Their argument turned on the non-refoulement, or non-return, obligations the United States took on when it ratified the 1984 Convention Against Torture, or CAT. Two months later, the appellate court held that the Board of Immigration Appeals incorrectly had applied the clear error standard when reversing the Immigration Judge’s decision to grant petitioner’s request for withholding of removal.

Subsequently, on remand before the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Clinic argued that the Immigration Judge did not clearly err in findings key to the CAT-based claim:

  • 1st, that if returned to Mexico, the petitioner would more likely than not be tortured by cartel members, with the acquiescence of one or more public officials; and
  • 2d, it would be unreasonable to expect the petitioner to relocate within Mexico in order to avoid that torture.

A Board of Immigration Appeals panel has just agreed, thus reinstating the Immigration Judge’s original decision and, as a result, finally affording the petitioner the relief she long had sought.

The Clinic team included 3 students, since graduated from Georgia Law: Jason N. Sigalos, Mollie M. Fiero and John Lex Kenerly IV. They worked under the supervision of Thomas V. Burch, the Clinic’s Director, and Anna White Howard, the Clinic’s Counselor in Residence.

Georgia Law students earn international practice experience as Global Externs

Ten rising 2L and 3L students at the University of Georgia School of Law are taking part in Global Externships Overseas this summer. Administered by the Dean Rusk International Law Center, the GEO initiative places Georgia Law students in externships lasting from four to twelve weeks, and offers students the opportunity to gain practical work experience in a variety of legal settings worldwide.

These Global Externs are enhancing their legal education through placements – remote this summer, on account of the pandemic – in law firms, in-house legal departments, and nongovernmental organizations based in Asia, Europe, and South America. Practice areas include dispute resolution, corporate law, refugee law, and international human rights law.

This year’s GEO class includes these placements in private law settings:

  • Ben Bacia (3L) – PSA India, New Delhi, India
  • Starlyn Endres (3L) – Orange, Brussels, Belgium
  • Savannah Grant (2L) – Araoz y Rueda, Madrid, Spain
  • Nishka Malik (2L) – Orange, Brussels, Belgium
  • Alina Salgado (2L) – MV Kini & Co., New Delhi, India
  • Maha Toor (2L) – Syngenta AG, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Additionally, the following students are working in public law placements:

  • Collin Douglas (2L) – Documentation Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh
  • Caleb Grant (2L) – Documentation Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh
  • Savannah Grant (2L) – No Peace Without Justice, Brussels, Belgium
  • Bradford Lorenz (3L) – Boat People SOS, Center for Asylum Protection, Bangkok, Thailand