Blog: Yonina Alexander

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June 13, 2012

Clinic Files Supplemental Brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Kiobel Case

Posted by Tyler Giannini and Susan Farbstein

After months of hard work, the International Human Rights Clinic filed today a supplemental brief of amici curiae professors of legal history with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of petitioners in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. We’ll post more about this tomorrow, after we’ve gotten a good night’s sleep.

For now, we wanted to say that this wouldn’t have been possible without the superlative work of our students (and now graduates), Poppy Alexander ’12, Yonina Alexander ’12, Russell Kornblith ’12, and Daniel Saver ’12. We’re so fortunate to be able to work with such talented individuals every day.

May 31, 2012

Clinic Graduates Honored for Community Service

Posted by Cara Solomon

A little late but no less heartfelt, here is our huge congratulations to Daniel Saver, Poppy Alexander, and Yonina Alexander for the community service awards they won last week.

Daniel was a co-recipient of the Frank S. Righeimer, Jr. Prize for Student Citizenship. Established in memory of Frank S. Righeimer, Jr. ’32, the prize is awarded annually to a graduating student or students in recognition of exceptional citizenship.

Poppy and Yonina received the Dean’s Award for Community Leadership, given to graduates who have contributed time and energy to making the HLS community a better place through involvement in student organizations, community service groups, and individual efforts.

Daniel, Poppy, and Yonina have been fixtures at the Clinic since their 2L year–talented and tireless in the way they approach the fight for human rights. They’ve worked on more than a dozen clinical projects between them, from Alien Tort Statute litigation related to violations in Bolivia and Nigeria, to fact-finding in South Africa and along the Thai/Burma border, to efforts to support indigenous rights in Chile.

They’re also just a lot of fun to have around the office, which is good, because they were around the office A LOT. And they continue to be, even now that they have graduated; it’s all hands on deck for the latest amicus curiae brief in the Kiobel case, due to the Supreme Court in mid-June.

April 27, 2012

The Power of Procrastination: Reports from the Field

Posted by Cara Solomon

For her first round of finals, Maia Levenson, JD ’13, tore through seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  That was very satisfying indeed.  This spring, she has turned her attention to Sci-Fi—more specifically, a short-lived show called Firefly, which explores the adventures of cowboys in outer space.

“I’m just waiting for the moment of desperation when I watch the full-length movie,” Maia wrote over email.

All across the Harvard Law School campus, students are studying for finals and writing papers.  Or pretending to study for finals and write papers.  Or openly and unabashedly not studying for finals or writing papers.

The value of procrastination has always generated debate in society, with some people calling it a critical part of the studying/writing/life process, and others convinced it is clearly a character flaw.  The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges put it thusly:

“The truth is that we live out our lives putting off all that can be put off; perhaps we all know deep down that we are immortal and that sooner or later all men will do and know all things.”

That’s all well and good, but Yonina Alexander, JD ’12, said the other day that she feels like this.

Some students, like Michelle Dowst, JD ’13, turn to music during times like these.  This week, Michelle found herself deep in mourning for Earl Scruggs, the legendary banjo player who died recently.  To learn more about Earl, Michelle recommends you listen to these recordings and read this.

Then there is Jordan Baehr, JD ’13, who decided that anything was more fun than studying for his tax test.  And so he began to draft a Wikipedia page on Human Rights and Climate Change.

Inevitably, there comes a point in the studying process when students are tempted to ask: why?  Caroline Schneider, JD ’13, reached that point earlier this week.  She turned to the movie Philadelphia for a reminder of why she had chosen to participate in what she described, very simply, as “hell.”

In the movie, Tom Hanks’ character explains the appeal of being a lawyer: “It’s that every now and again—not often, but occasionally—you get to be a part of justice being done. That really is quite a thrill when that happens.”

“AMEN,” Caroline wrote.  “Now back to paper-writing.”

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April 3, 2012

Belated Thanks

Posted by Cara Solomon

A big and belated thanks goes out to the 3Ls and 2L who showed up at the Clinical Fair last Wednesday to help us introduce the International Human Rights Clinic to prospective students.  We were lucky enough to have a steady stream of 1Ls at our table, and our students engaged them all, offering insight into the clinical experience, and advice on how to get the most out of it.

A special thanks goes to Russell Kornblith, JD ’12, who kept up his enthusiasm through two straight hours of talking.  We’re also grateful to Yonina Alexander, JD ’12, Christina Chinloy, JD ’12, Poppy Alexander, JD ’12, Daniel Saver, JD ’12, Clara Long, JD ’12, and James Tager, JD ’13.

We appreciate all you did that night, and all you continue to do to strengthen and improve the Clinic.  Pics of yourselves (and two of our clinicians) below!

Christina Chinloy, JD ’12, talks to a student about her clinical experience, working on projects in Panama and Brazil, among others.

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March 2, 2012

Camping Out for Kiobel

Posted by Yonina Alexander, JD ’12, and Daniel Saver, JD ‘12

Rumor had it that if we wanted much-coveted tickets to the oral argument in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., we would have to arrive at the U.S. Supreme Court very, very early.  The gallery of the Court is fairly small, and there are only a limited number of seats available each day to the general public. After a few phone calls and some internet research, we decided 4:00 am would do the trick.

On the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court after oral argument: Clinical Director Tyler Giannini, Yonina Alexander, JD ’12, Poppy Alexander, JD ’12, Russell Kornblith, JD ’12, Daniel Saver, JD ’12, and Associate Clinical Director Susan Farbstein.

Then, at 10:00 pm the night before the argument, we heard from a friend that 20 people were already lined up outside the Court. After putting in countless hours working on the Legal Historians amicus curiae brief for the case this past fall, we were bound and determined to be inside the Court when the justices heard the case. Totally unprepared to spend the night outside, we decided to head over anyway.

Armed with a bag of fruit, little to protect us from the elements, but plenty of good energy to make up for it, we arrived at the steps of the Court at 11:30 pm.  A couple dozen other law students, all of whom had contributed to the case in some capacity, greeted the four of us as we took our places in line—numbers 28 to 32.  As the night wore on, others joined the line, and we huddled in the cold, sharing food, war stories, and predictions of what the morning would bring.

There was a sense of camaraderie in the group. We had never met most of these students, but we all shared a commitment to the issue at hand—corporate accountability for human rights violations.  Sometime before dawn, a police officer referred to the gathering as “kind of like a rock concert—but for nerdy law students.”

At 7:30 am, the big moment arrived.  Police officers handed us gold-colored tickets with numbers, and told us the first 40 would be admitted.  We’d done it.  We’d made it in.

We entered through the side door, exchanged our sweatshirts for suits in the bathrooms and, minutes before the oral argument began, walked into the grand chambers of the Court’s gallery.

It struck us at that moment—and often in the hours before—that we were among the lucky.  As students at Harvard Law School, we had the opportunity to fly to Washington, D.C. and wait all night to witness this historic argument.  For many others who deeply cared about the case, that was not an option.

Inside the Courtroom, we sat flanked by stone-colored colonnades and heavy, red curtains, listening to the argument unfold. It was tense for all of us, trying to divine where the justices stood on the issues. Then, in an exchange with the Defendants’ counsel, Justice Stephen Breyer read out a line from our brief.  To hear those words echo through the chambers of the United States Supreme Court was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  We feel so fortunate to have worked with the rest of the team from the International Human Rights Clinic on a case with this much at stake.

Yonina Alexander, JD ’12, and Daniel Saver, JD ’12, have been members of the Clinic for the past four semesters.

For more information on Kiobel, click here for our resource page, or here for past coverage on the blog.

February 28, 2012

Update from the Steps of the U.S. Supreme Court

Posted by Cara Solomon

Just got word from Daniel Saver, JD ’12: everyone on the clinical team made it into the U.S. Supreme Court for oral argument on Kiobel.  Given all the buzz around this case, there were real questions as to whether that would happen. Susan, Tyler, and Marissa Vahlsing, JD ’11, already had tickets.  But it took several hours of waiting for Daniel, Yonina Alexander, JD ’12, Poppy Alexander, JD ’12, and Russell Kornblith, JD ’12, to get theirs.

Poppy Alexander, Russell Kornblith, Yonina Alexander, and Meghan Morris wait in line outside the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping to get tickets to hear oral arguments in Kiobel.

According to an email from Daniel, the group settled into line last night around 11:30pm.  Minutes later, by chance, they ran into Meghan Morris, JD ’08, whom Daniel described in the email—with exclamation points, of course—as an HRP legend.  Nobody slept last night, he said—they were huddled together for warmth.

Stay tuned for more Kiobel updates.

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