Belgian Consul General de Baets featured at Global Atlanta luncheon

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Pictured at front, from right: Belgian Consul General William de Baets and Phil Bolton and Trevor Williams, respectively, publisher and managing editor of Global Atlanta.

For decades, we at the University of Georgia School of Law have welcomed collaboration with Belgium and its people and institutions. Even before 1978, when Belgium’s national airline became the 1st foreign carrier to fly nonstop to Atlanta, a Belgian attorney became the 1st foreign-trained lawyer to earn Georgia Law’s Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree. And thanks to the hard work and generosity of Georgia Law professors like Gabriel Wilner and our Center’s namesake, former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, we’ve partnered with leading Belgian universities to offer summer seminars on issues related to international  law and policy, often with a focus on European Union and transatlantic cooperation. That tradition will continue via this summer’s global governance school at the home of our partner, the Leuven Centre for Global Governance at the University of Leuven, one of Europe’s premier research institutions.

Thus it was a special pleasure to attend last Friday’s “Consular Conversations: Luncheon Interview With Belgium’s Consul General,” held at the Atlanta office of Miller & Martin, where Tom Harrold, Georgia Law alumnus and member of our Dean Rusk International Law Center Council, leads the International/World downloadLaw practice group. The event was part of a series of conversations sponsored by another Center partner, Global Atlanta.

Guest of honor was William de Baets, who’s served since last April as Belgium’s top diplomat in the Southeastern United States. In a wide-ranging conversation with Phil Bolton and Trevor Williams, Global Atlanta’s publisher and managing editor, de Baets explained he’d joined Belgium’s foreign service following 9 years as a Navy officer. Postings before his arrival at Atlanta included deputy head of mission in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, and Venezuela, and political counselor at Belgium’s embassy in Washington, D.C.

De Baets said that his office provides consular services and also engages in public and economy diplomacy; Friday’s conversation fulfilled the latter role. He spoke to a full house – a testament to the fact that Belgium ranks among the top 10 foreign investors in Georgia, which is home to more than 70 Belgian companies and more than 5,000 Belgian nationals.

Asked about Belgium’s renown as the home of Tintin and the Smurfs, not to mention 20th C. surrealists like René Magritte, de Baets recalled an artistic tradition that reaches back to the 16th C. Flemish master, Peter Paul Rubens. Additionally, Belgium did not gain independence until 1830; before that “the territory kept changing hands and was ruled by other people,” he noted. “We couldn’t speak up too much. We were saying yes and thinking no, or saying yes and doing what we wanted to do. It was a source of our humor – we couldn’t take ourselves too seriously.”

Again answering a question, de Baets spoke of his father’s participation in the resistance during Germany’s occupation of Belgium during World War II.

Flags of the 28 NATO member countries

Conversation then turned to Belgium’s role in contemporary matters. Regarding Brussels-based NATO (right), the defense alliance established 68 years ago by the North Atlanta Treaty, de Baets noted apparent disagreement within the new U.S. administration. Indeed, earlier in the week the South Carolina Governor tapped to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, had called NATO “important.”

Although the United States can defend itself without NATO, Europe cannot, and so de Baets advocated strengthening the European Union’s security pillar to offset any weakening of NATO. Such alliances are essential for countries like Belgium and its neighbor, Luxembourg. Yet de Baets acknowledged difficulty in achieving the goal, given disagreement among EU member states – including Britain, even before its people voted in favor of Brexit.

Dubbing compromise a “Belgian export,” de Baets indicated that his country could a key role in aiding Europe’s efforts to resolve crises in financial and security sectors, as well as migration. The goal, he said, is to “strengthen our security without giving up our values.”

Georgia Law welcomes LLM-linked partnership with Fulbright in Hungary

sonjajokaybpest2016cropA new partnership between the University of Georgia School of Law and the Hungarian-American Fulbright Commission will provide exceptional scholarship opportunities for qualified Hungarian law graduates who wish to pursue a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree.

Georgia Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge and Dr. Károly Jókay, Executive Director of the Hungarian-American Fulbright Commission, signed the agreement. It follows meetings among representatives of both institutions, including the October 2016 meeting in Budapest between Jókay, depicted above at right, and Georgia Law Professor Sonja R. West (prior posts).

Administered by the law school’s Dean Rusk International Law Center, the Georgia Law LL.M. degree has deep historical ties in Europe, as well as an active network of graduates there. This Fulbright partnership promises to enhance intercultural exchange not only for foreign-trained lawyers who come to Athens to earn their LL.M., but also for the J.D. students with whom they interact, inside and outside the classroom (prior posts).

The Fulbright Program – established in 1946 under legislation introduced by J. William Fulbright, then a freshman U.S. Senator from Arkansas – funds international educational and cultural exchanges for students and scholars. It is administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. State Department in more than 150 countries.

We look forward to welcoming Hungarian students and strengthening our connection to both Central Europe and the Fulbright Program.

1st Amendment Professorship to Sonja West, globally noted media law expert

cropsonja_lawrencefulbrighthu13oct16Very pleased to note the appointment of Georgia Law Professor Sonja R. West, an internationally recognized expert in media law,  the inaugural holder of the Otis Brumby Distinguished Professorship in First Amendment Law. News of the position, which is shared by the law school and the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, came in a university press release issued just before the holiday break.

Of her appointment, Georgia Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said:

“Sonja is a distinguished scholar in media law, and it is fitting that she be named to this professorship, which is devoted specifically to teaching and research about the First Amendment.”

As noted in a previous Exchange of Notes post, last October West represented Georgia Law in Budapest, Hungary, where she:

► Spoke on “Improving Press Coverage of the Courts through Communication” at the European Judicial Conference on Courts and Communication.

► Met with Budapest-based alums and representatives from the Hungarian-American Fulbright Commission, with whom she discussed Georgia Law’s Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree.  West’s at that meeting the photo above; to her immediate left is Dr. Jessica Lawrence, who earned her J.D. from Georgia Law and now is a Lecturer at Budapest’s Central European University. Surrounding them are Fulbright representatives: at far left, Krisztina Kováts, and to the right of West, Dr. Károly Jókay, Körtvélyesi Zsolt, and Molnár Gábor.

► Visited the law faculty at Pázmány Péter Catholic University. In fact, West has accepted an invitation to return to that Budapest university in June, to take part in a Free Speech/Media Law Discussion Forum.

National Jurist magazine features Georgia Law LL.M. alum Tobias Henke

henkecompThe new edition of the magazine National Jurist features a recent stellar graduate: Tobias Henke, who earned his Georgia Law LL.M., or Master of Laws, degree in 2015.

Henke, who earned his undergraduate law degree from Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany, is now back in Frankfurt, practicing as an Associate in the Capital Markets Group of the international law firm Taylor Wessing.

As described on p. 34 of National Jurist’s Fall 2016 issue, he landed the position based on a interview at the International Student Interview Program in New York City – the University of Georgia School of Law belongs to a select group of law schools that participate in this annual LL.M. careers event.

Henke told the magazine that he applied here based on the recommendation from a law firm where Henke had clerked, Orrick Herrington Sutcliffe:

henketobias_sep2016‘Since I always wanted to go back to the U.S., I decided to apply for an LL.M. program. My former boss at Orrick was, by coincidence, an alumnus of [University of Georgia] and spoke highly of this school. Because I really liked Atlanta, it was obvious for me to come back to Georgia.’

Georgia’s a draw for Germans, the magazine reported:

The state of Georgia is home to more than 17,000 Germans and 450 German companies.

Henke cited an additional reason for preferring Georgia Law:

‘LL.M. students are always included in classes and viewed as equals.’

Details on our LL.M. curriculum and application process here.

Toutes nos félicitations! Representing Niger, winning Georgia Law students headed to D.C. for Model African Union

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From left, the Republic of Niger delegation: Shummi Chowdhury, Amanda Hoefer, Johann Ebongom, Chanel Chauvet, and Nelly Ndounteng. The team’s 6th member, Rebecca Wackym, is pictured in the photo below.

Georgia Law students emerged victorious in last weekend’s Southeast Model African Union competition, hosted here in Athens by the University of Georgia African Studies Institute. Twenty-one teams from a dozen universities and colleges took part; we at the law school’s Dean Rusk International Law Center were proud cosponsors.

The team won Best Delegation Award, and thus will compete against teams from across the country in the National Model African Union Conference to be held February 23-26, 2017, at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

niger_240-animated-flag-gifsWhat’s more, every one of the 6 students on the Georgia Law team won individual awards. They and the AU committees in which they represented their appointed country, the Republic of Niger (flag at right), are:

Johann Ebongom, LLM, Committee on Economic Matters: Outstanding Delegate and Outstanding Parliamentarian

Chanel Chauvet, 2L and Dean Rusk International Law Center Student Ambassador, Committee on Peace and Security: Outstanding Delegate

Nelly Ndounteng, LLM, Committee on Social Matters: Outstanding Delegate

Shummi Chowdhury, 1L and Dean Rusk International Law Center Student Ambassador, Committee on Pan-Africanism and Continental Unity: Honorable Mention

Amanda Hoefer, 1L, Committee on Democracy, Governance and Human Rights: Honorable Mention

wackym_cropRebecca Wackym, 1L, Executive Council: Participation Award

The conference was founded 37 years ago by Dr. Michael C. Nwanze, who teaches at Howard’s Department of Political Science. Then, the continent’s regional group was the Organization of African Unity. Next year will logobe the 15th that the conference has borne the name of the OAU’s successor, the African Union.

Georgia Law students to compete in regional Model African Union rounds

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Front row, from left: Johann Ebongom, Chanel Chauvet, Amanda Hoefer, Rebecca Wackym; back row, from left, Nelly Ndounteng, Shummi Chowdhury

A team of 6 Georgia Law students will represent the Republic of Niger in the 20th Annual Southeast Model African Union.

Thanks to the leadership of the African Studies Institute at University of Georgia, the regional competition will be held here on campus Thursday through Saturday. The Dean Rusk International Law Center, University of Georgia School of Law, is honored to cosponsor.

The contest is intended to sharpen skills in diplomacy, leadership, governmental, legal research, and public speaking. Rounds will simulate activities of the African Union.

Through the work of its many committees, this decades-old the intergovernmental organization addresses myriad issues on the continent. The competition will use as its organizing platform an African Union document,alternate-semau-flyer_0 “Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.”

The students Georgia Law students who will compete, and their committee assignments, are:

Rebecca Wackym, 1L, Executive Council

Amanda Hoefer, 1L, Committee on Democracy, Governance and Human Rights

Johann Ebongom, LLM, Committee on Economic Matters

Nelly Ndounteng, LLM, Committee on Social Matters

Shummi Chowdhury, 1L, Committee on Pan-Africanism and Continental Unity

Chanel Chauvet, 2L, Committee on Peace and Security

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All the students have experience in international law and policy. Chowdhury and Chauvet are Dean Rusk International Law Center Student Ambassadors, for example, while Ndounteng and Ebongom both practiced law, in Nigeria and Cameroon respectively, before enrolling at Georgia Law.

Bon courage!

LLMs’ behind-scenes courthouse tour

photo-6_2A group of our Georgia Law LL.M. students walked downtown to the Athens Clarke-County courthouse yesterday to visit with several of our law school alums.

Assistant District Attorney Paige Otwell (JD’88) welcomed the group, which included her mentee in the LL.M. Class of 2017, Nelly Sandra Ndounteng.

Associate Magistrate Judge Ben Makin (JD’04) explained his role in the judicial system and discussed subjects ranging from arrest warrants and jail bonds to small claims court.

Ryan Hope (JD’00), who serves as Chief Assistant Solicitor  in the county’s Office of the Solicitor General, told the students how he became interested in the court system through his work at the public defender clinic in law school. In his remarks he touched on Clarke County’s accountability courts, such as DUI court, which integrate treatment and “quick, limited punishments” with the goal of reducing recidivism.

The Honorable Ethelyn N. Simpson (JD’90), Chief Judge of the State Court, related how her early experience clerking for Superior Court judges allowed her to see “a lot of good lawyers and a lot of bad lawyers,” preparing her for an unexpected career on the bench. Her enthusiasm about “the greatest job” was infectious.

After meeting with the alumni, the LL.M. students were escorted into the courtroom to view victim testimony in an ongoing trial. For the students, who come from Cameroon, Venezuela, Nigeria, Iran, Ghana, and the Bahamas, the experience was informative and rewarding. Special thanks to ADA Otwell and Dean Rusk International Law Center Student Ambassador Deborah Nogueira-Yates, a member of the Georgia Law J.D. Class of 2018 who earned her LL.M. here last May, for organizing the visit!

(Pictured above: front row, from left, Philicia Armbrister, Gilbert Oladeinbo, Valerie Mills, Nelly Ndounteng, and Assistant District Attorney Paige Otwell; top row, Noj Oyeyipo, Johann Ebongom, Javier Gonzalez, Laura Kagel (Director of International Professional Education), and Hamed Moradi Roodposhti)