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St. John's Center for International and Comparative Law Celebrates Another Successful Year and the Launch of its International Honors Program

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L-R: Admitted 1L student Sarah Melore, Hon. Mario M. Cuomo, CICL Co-Director Margaret E. McGuinness, CICL Student Fellow PJ Campbell '14, and CICL Co-Director Christopher J. Borgen

June 2, 2014

On May 22, 2014, the Center for International and Comparative Law hosted its year-end reception at Willkie Farr & Gallagher in midtown Manhattan. Marking the end of another successful year for the Center, which was founded in 2010, the reception honored its departing student fellows, welcomed its new student fellows, and served as the official launch of its new International Honors Program. Over 75 alumni, current and incoming students, faculty, and administrators, as well as Hon. Mario M. Cuomo ‘56L. ’75HON, attended the event, which was generously hosted by Willkie Co-Chairman Steven Gartner ’84.

“Willkie Farr & Gallagher has long played an important role at St. John’s Law, especially since the days when John D'Alimonte ‘68 ran the firm, said Brian J. Woods, the Law School’s Executive Director of Development and Alumni Relations. “Many St. John's graduates begin their legal careers at Willkie and rise to prominence there or in prestigious in-house positions. The strong St. John’s Law connection continues today as Steve Gartner and his co-chairman, Thomas M. Cerabino ’81, lead the firm.” Gratefully acknowledging Willkie’s generosity in hosting the reception, Woods added: “Being 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan affords St. John's Law easy access to its most prominent alumni, and connecting incoming students and current students with them on a regular basis helps to strengthen our unmatched alumni network.”

Peter Sluka ’13, a first year associate at Willkie, agreed and added: “My connection to St. John's has been a remarkably helpful asset in the early stages of my legal career. Its reputation leads others to demand a well-reasoned, thorough work product, and the quality of its education and training allows alumni to consistently deliver.” Vincent Iannece ’15 —who along with Rand Potter ’15 will soon start work as a summer associate at Willkie— enjoyed being introduced into the Willkie family by the distinguished St. John's alumni at the reception. “It gives me great comfort to witness firsthand the heights a St. John's Law education can take its graduates,” he shared.

Reflecting on the evening, Associate Academic Dean Larry Cunningham said: “This event was a wonderful opportunity to bring together prospective and current students, faculty, and alumni who share a commitment to excellence in international and comparative law. As part of a law school in a global city, it’s only fitting that St. John’s Center for International and Comparative Law is a leader in the field."

As the Center enters its fifth year, its arsenal of projects continues to grow. Its Pro Bono for International Justice initiative, started in 2013, allows Center-affiliated students to work on projects that promote international justice.  As part of the initiative, the Center teams with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to update an appellate digest, and works with two non-governmental organizations to promote corporate accountability for human rights violations committed outside the United States. The Center also conducts research for the Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.  According to Margaret E. McGuinness, the Center’s co-director, “the new pro bono initiative gets students working for clients on real cases, allowing them to hone their skills under the supervision of experienced attorneys.”

The Center’s student fellows program gives 2Ls and 3Ls the opportunity to work with affiliated professors on research projects, to present and publish work as part of the Center’s Roundtable Series, and to take leadership roles on the Center’s projects and events. "Being a student fellow has been a great complement to my international studies," said Marissa Harrell ’15. "My involvement with the Center has deepened my research into international topics, introduced me to international scholars and practitioners, and exposed me to the practical application of international law."

The Center’s new International Honors Program will begin this fall, thanks in part to the generosity of Yasuhiro Saito ’92, founding partner of Saito Sorenson LLP. The five St. John’s Law students selected for the program plan to pursue international legal practice. They receive a partial or full-tuition scholarship to fund their studies, and have access to additional stipends to fund research, academic travel, and student teaching.  "International Law is one of the more popular areas of law for prospective students,” said Robert M. Harrison, the Law School’s Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Services. “Being able to offer an International Honors Program will greatly enhance our ability to attract and recruit highly qualified applicants."

Law School Welcomes Hassan Jallow, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

October 9, 2013
CICL Press Release

On Tuesday October 8, 2013, St. John’s Center for International and Comparative Law (CICL) hosted Hassan Jallow, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), who spoke to students and faculty about the work of the tribunal and international criminal justice. 

Mr. Jallow has served as Prosecutor of the ICTR, headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania, since 2003. The ICTR was created in December 1994 by the UN Security Council to prosecute those responsible for the genocide and other international crimes that took place in Rwanda in early 1994. A native of The Gambia, Mr. Jallow previously served as The Gambia’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, a Judge of The Gambia’s Supreme Court, and an international legal expert who carried out a judicial evaluation of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, among many other positions.

Accompanying Mr. Jallow were James Arguin and Don Webster. Mr Arguin is the Chief of the Appeals and Legal Advisory Division within the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICTR. Prior to joining the ICTR, Mr. Arguin served as a prosecutor with the United States Department of Justice and Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, where he was appointed Chief of the Appeals Division. Mr. Webster has spent 14 years at the ICTR in the role of Senior Appeals Counsel and Senior Trial Attorney.

In his introductory remarks, Mr. Jallow addressed the ICTR’s completion strategy, through which the tribunal expects to complete all its judicial activities in the near future. He also discussed some of the major achievements and most difficult challenges faced by the tribunal. “Hearing from Prosecutor Jallow and his colleagues helped bring to life for students the important legal and political challenges to achieving international justice in the wake of atrocity,” said Professor Margaret E. McGuinness, co-director of CICL. “These are not abstract questions, but involve horrific facts and a tragic history that must be translated into a working judicial process with prosecutors, defendants, and judges that achieves some small measure of justice for the victims, a process -- Prosecutor Jallow emphasized -- that is by its nature imperfect.”

Mr. Jallow then joined Mr. Arguin, Mr. Webster, and Professor Alexander K. A. Greenawalt for a conversation, which included questions from Professor Greenawalt, students, and faculty in attendance. The conversation touched on topics of legitimacy of international tribunals in the states where atrocities occurred, whether the International Criminal Court will displace ad hoc tribunals in the future, and whether pro se litigants should be allowed to appear before the tribunals.

Reflecting on the important dialogue, Professor Greenawalt said: “The ICTR is a very special court and, as its longstanding prosecutor, Hassan Jallow has played a central role in its mission. We were very fortunate to benefit from his insights into the accomplishments and challenges of this unique institution, and of the still evolving field of international criminal law.”

Andrew Seaton, one of CICL’s Student Fellows, added: “We were incredibly fortunate to have this time with Mr. Jallow and his colleagues. So much of law school is concerned with learning broad doctrinal law. Speakers like Mr. Jallow afford students a meaningful glimpse into the practical, real-world applications of what we study in the classroom.”

Professor McGuinness Discusses Researching and Teaching Human Rights


Margaret McGuinness, J.D., is professor and co-director of the Center for International and Comparative Law at St. John’s School of Law. Before coming to St. John’s in 2010, Prof. McGuinness taught at the University of Missouri School of Law, and she has been a visiting scholar at the University of Georgia and Temple University law schools as well as the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She entered academia after practicing law in the public and private sectors. Prof. McGuinness began her professional life as a foreign service officer.

As an attorney and a legal scholar, what has influenced your interest in international human rights?
I came into the field with the intention of focusing on international law, international dispute resolution and human rights. I lived in Great Britain as a child, so I was exposed to travel and foreign cultures from an early age. I attended junior high and high school in Ridgewood, NJ. Growing up during the Cold War, in the post-Vietnam era, I found geo-politics endlessly fascinating.

In the early ’90s, I was a foreign service officer at the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan, with responsibility for the human-rights portfolio. I met with human-rights activists, judges and members of the police in various cities to better understand how the rule of law did or didn’t work there. I also wrote the first draft of the Embassy’s human-rights report. It was one of the comprehensive Country Reports on Human Rights Practices that the State Department produces for every nation in the world. The experience remained with me when I returned to the States.

What is your current research project?
I’m examining the impact the State Department’s Country Reports have had on international human-rights jurisprudence. Congress passed legislation in the 1970s requiring the State Department to monitor and report on human-rights practices around the world. The annual report was intended as a way to constrain the president’s ability to carry out diplomacy with regimes that were rights violators. 

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, there was criticism that the reports themselves were not  accurate depictions of human-rights practices, that they soft-pedaled human-rights abuses by allies while harshly criticizing others who were not allies. Yet the reports have had staying power. They started appearing in legal opinions and within the NGO (non-governmental organizations) community to support factual claims of rights abuses. Advocates who bring asylum claims to U.S. courts, for example, use the reports to support their arguments concerning human-rights conditions in other countries, while the U.S. government uses them to refute those assertions in cases where it is looking to deny asylum. My research has found that the Country Reports are used in other nations' immigration cases as well.

Has the cause of international human rights lost or gained ground during the course of your career?
Oh, it’s absolutely gained ground. In the ’70s, there was a robust debate among professional diplomats, members of Congress and others about the role of human-rights in U.S. foreign policy. Then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger embodied the view that diplomacy is not about human rights; it’s about geo-strategic interests. Since then, there’s been a definite shift toward an understanding that observing human rights is valuable to us all. It makes the world a more peaceful place, because the rule of law is preferable to the rule of the gun.

I’ve also seen through my research that ideas change behavior. Today, you would never hear foreign service officers object to supporting human rights in the way the State Department objected to congressional oversight of human-rights policy in the early ’70s. It’s become normalized for them that U.S. foreign policy places human rights at the top of the agenda. At the same time, the international human-rights system itself has matured. You could say we are witnessing a shift from the infancy of the human-rights system to its coming of age.

How would you like your research to contribute to these developments?
I’d like to contribute to a more measured understanding of the role of human rights in foreign policy. U.S human-rights policy appears somewhat paradoxical.  On the one hand, the U.S. acts as an outsider to the international human-rights system, which some scholars attribute to American “exceptionalism” on human rights. Yet the U.S. government constantly measures the behavior of nation states according to international human-rights standards. For example, the State Department Country Reports don’t evaluate the behavior and actions of states against the measure of the U.S. Constitution; they reflect international standards taken from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international human-rights instruments.

How does your research impact your teaching at St. John’s School of Law?
My interests inform a great deal of my teaching at St. John’s. The legal field is constantly evolving, and globalization will present challenges to my students when they graduate and begin their careers as practicing attorneys. They’ll be facing intense competition from around the world. They’re going to have to be nimble, entrepreneurial and acquire expertise in international as well as local law. Preparing students for this evolving climate is one purpose of the St. John’s Center for International and Comparative Law (CICL), which I co-direct with Chris Borgen [Christopher J. Borgen, J.D., Associate Dean for International Studies and Professor of Law].

We connect the study and the practice of international law in a variety of ways that benefit our students—not just through courses, but internships, study abroad offerings and opportunities to present papers. We want to ensure that St. John’s students are globally oriented as they enter the profession of law.

I’ve also engaged several of my law students to work as research assistants for me, to read and analyze U.S. and foreign case law and reports by United Nations human-rights agencies as well as NGO documents, to better understand how the Country Reports on human rights are used by claimants, governments, judges and advocates around the world.

What brought you to St. John’s School of Law?
I was interested in returning to the New York area, and I was excited by the plans Dean Simons [Michael A. Simons, J.D., Dean and John V. Brennan Professor of Law and Ethics] and Chris Borgen—whom I have known professionally for many years—had put in place for expanding global programs. My expectations have only been exceeded in the two years I have been here.

What do you like best about teaching here?
That’s easy—my students and colleagues, who make the experience exciting and meaningful.

CICL and JICL Launch Field Notes Blog

On Monday, July 2, 2012, the St. John’s Center for International and Comparative Law (CICL), together with the St. John’s Journal for International and Comparative Law (JICL), announced the launch of the international Field Notes blog.

Field Notes follows eight students from St. John’s University School of Law during the summer of 2012. Seven of the eight students are working outside the United States.

Field Notes aims to foster a sense of community among those students who are interested in pursuing a career in international law. Each entry will focus on the professional, personal, and cultural exposure our American law students receive while participating in diverse international programs.

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When Drones Attack: The Legal and Political Implications of U.S. Policy

On Friday, April 13, 2012, CICL and JICL, together with the American Society of International Law, presented:
A Global Issues Panel Discussion: When Drones Attack: The Legal and Political Implications of U.S. Policy

Drones have revolutionized war and counterterrorism operations. Remotely controlled, unmanned aerial vehicles allow intelligence and military personnel to conduct surveillance and attack targets from half a world away.

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Prof. Yael Ronen on “Are Non-State Actors Bound by International Human Rights Law?”

yael ronen

Global Issues Speaker Series

On Wednesday, February 22, 2012, CICL hosted a presentation by Professor Yael Ronen as part of the CICL Global Issues Speaker Series.  Dr. Ronen is an expert on statehood and recognition, human rights, international humanitarian law and transitional justice.  Her presentation, “Are Non-State Actors Bound by Human Rights Law?" addressed whether non-state actors – corporations, transnational criminal syndicates, terrorist groups, etc., – can or should be

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Dr. Paula Newberg on “The Rule of Law in Pakistan?”

On Wednesday, January 25, 2012, Dr. Paula Newberg, Director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, gave a presentation entitled "Rule of Law in Pakistan?"

Paula R. Newberg is the Marshall B. Coyne Director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy (ISD).  A scholar and practitioner with wide-ranging experience in multilateral and nongovernmental organizations, Dr. Newberg specializes in issues of democracy, human rights, and development in crisis and transition states, and has served as a Special Advisor to the United Nations in various regions, including multiple postings in Afghanistan.  Dr. Newberg was a senior associate position at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she co-founded its Democracy Project and chaired the South Asia Roundtable,

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Ed Kehoe ‘90, Received ILS Distinguished Alumnus Award

ILS distinguished

On October 26, 2011, the St. John’s International Law Society honored Edward Kehoe ‘90 in the annual distinguished alumni event. Mr. Kehoe graduated from St. John’s School of Law cum laude and was a member of the St. John’s Law Review. Currently, he is a partner and co-head of the International Arbitration Practice at the prestigious firm King & Spaulding. Mr. Kehoe has over 20 years experience in business arbitration and litigation and is very accomplished in the field. The International Law Society was honored to present this award to such a notable alumnus.

A Conversation with Christopher Derige Malano, Outgoing Secretary General of the International Movement of Catholic Students – Pax Romana


CICL Brown Bag Roundtable Series

On September 27, Christopher Derige Malano, the outgoing Secretary General of the International Movement of Catholic Students, Pax Romana,  shared his experiences as an international youth organizer with students and professors at CICL.

CICL Fellow Christopher Dekki (’12) introduced Mr. Malano and hosted the event.  Mr. Malano told students about his work as leader

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Vis team victory in Vienna

VIS victory

St. John’s recently tied for third place in a field of 260 teams from 65 countries at the 18th Annual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot in Vienna.  The student competitors , 3Ls Brian Andrews, Daniel Merker, Rachel Roseman and Olga Shestova, traveled to Vienna under the auspices of The Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution and the Dispute Resolution Society. Assisting them throughout the competition were faculty coaches Christine Lazaro and William J.T. Brown, who accompanied the team

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