May 23, 2012

Big Moments, Small Moments That Make Up A Year

Posted by Tyler Giannini

Big moments, small moments; during graduation week, we are often flooded with the memories we have created over the past year, working closely with students.  It seems like a natural time to reflect.  But where to start when there are so many good memories?

I think about the small moments in the field, like when a student makes a breakthrough.  Earlier this year, I was shadowing two students in Thailand as they interviewed a refugee through a translator, and the student leading the interview kept turning to me, asking for advice.  I told her to stop; I told her she could do this—I had seen her do it—and that she needed to work now with her partner, not me.  She finally got it, trusting herself and the talent and skills she already possessed.

I think about the seemingly small moments in advocacy work that do not get a lot of media attention but are major victories for the protection of civilians, like when Bonnie and her team of students joined a group of nongovernmental organizations in defeating a proposal that would have weakened the absolute ban on cluster munitions.  For the students in Geneva who opposed the proposal, the moment—indeed the precise minute—it was defeated is indelibly etched in their minds: 7:05pm on Friday, November 25, 2011. The students wrote about it here.

I think about the big moments that come together after years of effort with partners, like the groundbreaking work out of Latin America that Fernando and Deborah did this year with several crack teams of students.  In August, they obtained critical measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to protect prisoners at the largest detention center in Latin America. Then, within weeks, they turned around and, working with their local partners, helped strike a landmark settlement with the state of Brazil that promises large-scale reform within the infamous Urso Branco Prison.

I think also about the teamwork, like the kind that flourished as our team of students worked for months on an amicus brief for the Supreme’s Court most important human rights case of the term.  This was a team that routinely sent Susan and me e-mails at two, three, and four in the morning.  When it came time for oral argument, in keeping with their nighttime rituals of working on the brief, the team of four camped out overnight on a cold February evening in front of the Supreme Court, hoping to get tickets.  They got in, and it was worth the wait: at one point during the oral argument, while questioning opposing counsel, Justice Stephen Breyer read directly from our amicus brief.

I think about innovations in the classroom.  It was a year of new classes, from Deborah’s on human rights advocacy in the United States to Bonnie’s on disarmament to Fernando’s on criminal justice and human rights.  Susan and I created an advanced seminar on human rights skills training, taking some risks by asking students to analyze, critique, and improve the Clinic’s own pedagogy, especially around simulations.

As always during graduation week, I think most about the future leaders in the field of human rights—students we have worked with, and beside—and they inspire me.  They have put so much into learning their craft as lawyers and advocates. They have participated on calls with leading historians, discussing the history of corporate liability, and someone listening in would have no idea how to tell the students from the experts.

They have overseen ever-evolving projects about violations of indigenous rights in Latin America, collaborating effortlessly with seasoned practitioners in the field. They have helped to design sophisticated clinical projects, including a multi-clinic examination of freedom of experession and assembly rights as they relate to Occupy movements around the country. They have worked to launch organizations to deal with pressing issues related to business and human rights. And they have brought together the community at the law school that works to advance social justice.

Today we celebrate these memories—from the field, the courtroom, the classroom, and beyond.  Our graduates have already left their mark on the Clinic and the Program.  We look forward to seeing how they will make their mark on the world.

In that spirit, congratulations to….

Core players on the Kiobel team: Russell Kornblith, Poppy Alexander, Susan and Tyler.

Poppy Alexander; Yonina Alexander; David Attanasio; Ian Boyle Harper; Katja Bratrschovsky; Alejandro Canelas Fernandez; Christina Chinloy; Elaine Choi; Amanda Chong; Ashley Chung; Natalie Coates; Sarah Crandall; Anna Crowe; Sarah Davis; Sarah Fenstemaker; Catherine Fischl;

Clara Long takes a break with Fernando before heading into an interview.

Deeona Gaskin; Michael Gibaldi; William Goldman; Anne Healy; Meghan Heesch; Shuenn Ho; Hirsh Jain; Anit Jindal; Russell Kornblith; Clara Long; Martha McCoy; Ryan Mitchell; Anjali Mohan; Candace Moss; Dalia Palombo; Ruchi Parekh; Lina Peng; Barb Perez de Espinosa Barrio; Tobias Peyerl; Joseph Phillips;

Deborah preps Deeona Gaskin for a legislative hearing on a bill that would sanction health professionals who participated in torture.

Zainab Qureshi; Sandra Ray; Nick Renzler; Daniel Saver; Julien Savoye; Jacob Schuman; Kendra Sena; Tazneen Shahabuddin; Naureen Shameem; Ishaani Shrivastava; Agata Skora; Shannon Smyth; Kayla Southworth; Matt Spurlock; Elizabeth Summers; Hilary Thrasher; and Brian Wood!!!

Catherine Fischl plays the part of a personal assistant  to a mining company president in the Clinic’s semi-annual human rights role play.

Nick Renzler at work in the Clinic’s scenario, scheduling interviews with teams of students.

Ian Boyle Harper participates as a human rights researcher in the role play, questioning Daniel Saver, who is acting the part of a community leader.

Ruchi Parekh talks to Deborah at the HRP Orientation about her seminar, “Human Rights Advocacy and the United States.”

Anna Crowe, on the right, with Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, at the Fourth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva.

Christina Chinloy hikes through the jungle on a clinical trip in Panama.