The “Banzhaf Index of Voting Power,” a seminal work that law professor John Banzhaf created when he was still a law student, continues to be an important contribution to national debates, as another Presidential election cycle enters the home stretch. His work was referenced extensively in a recent Wall Street Journal article and blog post on the relative power of voters in different states to influence presidential elections:
Dinah Shelton, Manatt/Ahn Professor of International Law, was presented with the Wolfgang Burhenne Award by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Korea, on September 11.
Dinah is tireless in her efforts in the areas of international environmental law and human rights law, both in terms of her prolific scholarship and her hands-on work with organizations such as IUCN and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, of which she is a member and immediate past chair. The citation read at the IUCN award ceremony is an excellent summary of Dinah’s contributions, and I am including it below:
I have the privilege today to present this award to Professor Dinah Shelton on behalf of the Commission on Environmental Law. Dinah is a woman with an impressive moral stature, who has destined her career, as well as her entire life to the protection of nature and ancestral communities. She has managed to determine a link between the environment and human rights, as only few have done.
She has worked from the very beginning next to another leading figure in Environmental Law, Prof. Alexander Kiss, who we remember with admiration and respect.
Prof. Shelton has been serving in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights since 2010, and I have been fortunate enough to see her in action. I would like to briefly share with you a story that serves to show her enormous degree of commitment: A couple of years ago, she was working on a case with a Paraguayan indigenous community, who were presenting a claim on their ancestral land. The case required that she visit the land at stake. When she got to the entrance gate, she realized that the owner had guarded the entry. Dinah was not daunted. She got a humble donkey to cross over to the community—even crossing through a river! This is Dinah Shelton!
Today, we are awarding her with a prize that carries the name of the patriarch of the Commission, Wolfgang Burhenne, who continues to teach us with his vision and sharpness of mind.
Dinah, the Commission would like to make a tribute to your courage, commitment, and dedication. You are a pride for IUCN, the Commission, and above all, for women around the world.
Chair, Commission on Environmental Law
International Union for Conservation of Nature
September 11, 2012
On September 10, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia appointed the first director of the state’s new Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs. The agency is named after Herbert H. Henderson, JD ’58, a prominent state civil rights leader who, in addition to his law practice, served as the head of the West Virginia NAACP for 20 years. He died in October 2007 at the age of 78.
Manila-based lawyer Rebecca E. Khan (LL.M. in International and Comparative Law ’08), has won first place in the Short Story in English category of the 62nd Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, the longest-running and most prestigious literary competition in the Philippines. Her short fiction piece, “In Transit,” was selected as the first-prize winner ahead of more than 200 other entries in that category. According to the Awards’ website, 1,077 entries in 20 categories were received this year. Award winners were honored in a ceremony held on September 1st in Manila.
Rebecca came to GW Law as a Fulbright grantee and a Buergenthal scholar in 2007. After graduating with highest honors, Rebecca returned to her post as lawyer with the Philippine government, specializing in investment treaty arbitration and other forms of international dispute settlement. She also teaches Public International Law at a law school in Manila. Despite hectic work hours, Rebecca carved out the time to write an award-winning story. Clearly, the talents that our alumni possess are not confined to the legal realm. Congratulations, Rebecca!
Professor Orin Kerr received the following email from one of his students, Ryan Borchik. In it, Ryan details how he used his GW Law education to play a crucial role in convicting a child molester, and then second-chair a murder trial that led to several convictions—all while serving as a summer intern between his 2L and 3L year. Ryan’s amazing story highlights not only the quality of his performance as a student–attorney, it also demonstrates how GW Law faculty members such as Orin Kerr influence their students in ways that reach well beyond the classroom.
From 3L Ryan Borchik
To Professor Orin Kerr
This summer I worked at the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office in the Special Victim’s Unit. After doing the usual office-intern business of making copies and researching for a week, I overheard one of the prosecutors speaking with the Division Chief and another woman in her office about a very nasty case. The woman was a grandmother who feared that her granddaughter was being molested by a family member. The family member had been charged and obtained defense counsel, but there wasn’t going to be enough evidence to convict because the young girl was understandably unwilling to talk. The only lead was an email account that we suspected the defendant was using to exchange explicit messages with the girl. However, the prosecutors were unsure how to get original copies of the email messages from the account.
I was able to tell them how they could get the both the girl’s and the defendant’s username and password, content of the emails, times that the emails were sent, what accounts the emails were sent to, and to whom the accounts were registered. At the time, the prosecutors did not know that Maryland has a statute which mirrors the Federal Stored Communications Act—same exceptions and everything, right down to the 2703(d) orders. The only reason I was able to find it was because I took your Computer Crimes class. I drafted the subpoenas, had them signed by a judge, notified the girl’s family and the defendants’ attorney, and sent the subpoenas off to Google. A little while later Google faxed over a pile of very incriminating document evidence which led to the defendant pleading guilty. What you taught me in Computer Crimes lead to a really bad guy getting put away.
This was pretty cool standing alone, but what happened next is even better. Because of my work on the sex offense case, a senior prosecutor named Jennifer Hastings asked me if I was interested in working with her on a case that she had brought from Homicide and was “specially set” for 2 months later; in Baltimore, this is a definitive, non-negotiable trial date used for high profile cases. It was a monster case—Baltimore’s first five co-defendant murder trial. To complicate things, the murder took place within the Baltimore City Detention Center, an old-school prison facility without any video surveillance or any of the modern prison technology you might see on a show like “Lock Up”.
We believed that four inmates and a prison guard worked together to murder one inmate, a man by the name of Stephon Nicholson, and attempted to kill another inmate. However, proving it was expected to be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible. No one expected convictions—within the office other prosecutors were proud simply because we were even attempting to try a case that Ms. Hastings later called “one of the most difficult, complicated and problematic cases I have ever personally handled in my career”.
Many of these difficulties stemmed from the murder taking place in prison. Evidence is harder to collect, witnesses are much less likely to talk, and those witnesses who do talk already have inherent credibility issues. But the biggest problem was the logistics of the litigation itself. Five separate defendants meant five separate defense attorneys. Five openings, five crosses of each witness, five closings. In fact, it was scheduled to be a three week long trial and it ended up taking almost exactly that long. For every statement we made, the defense had five opportunities to refute it, or failing that, simply bury it under hours of testimony. As a result we had to prepare that much more thoroughly because every point we made had to be made perfectly.
On top of all of this was the absolute madness of jury selection. It turns out that finding 15 people who can sit through a three-week-long trial isn’t the easiest thing. And having five attorneys on the other side meant over 150 peremptory strikes for the defense. Just finding a jury took an entire week and more than 1,000 potential jurors.
I started out just handling the basics of anticipating and researching the issues that might pop up, but as we got closer to the trial date I actually had the opportunity (with the permission of the Honorable Judge Althea Handy) to step in as the second-chair for the trial. This meant that I was not only able to prepare and organize the case, but I was also able sit at the prosecution’s table and see my work through by actively participating in the trial.
I’ll spare you the details of the litigation (I’m way too young to be telling war stories), but I second-chaired a murder trial. I literally tried a case. Prosecuting a homicide has been my dream for longer than I can remember, but the icing on the cake is that three of the defendants were ultimately found guilty. We obtained convictions in a case that everyone was proud just to see us even take to court — the possibility of actually getting convictions was never even on the radar. But now these men will be sentenced on September 24th and I will be there to see it.
Professor Kerr, the only reason I was given these amazing opportunities was because of what you taught me in Criminal Law as a 1L and then Computer Crimes as a 2L. I just wanted to say thank you for everything.
S.J.D. ’08 alumna Srividhya Ragavan’s book, Patent and Trade Disparities in Developing Countries, was recently published by Oxford University Press. Now a professor of law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, Srividhya based the book, in part, on her GW Law doctoral dissertation “Bridging the North-South Trade Divide: The Impact of Patents on Developing Nations,” and also included several new areas relevant to the subject matter. In addition to graduating from GW Law, Srividhya is a graduate of the prestigious National Law School of India University, Bangalore, and she is now in India at her alma mater under a Fulbright Nehru CORE Teaching Grant.
Srividhya’s work is an important contribution to the scholarship in the much-debated area of patents, trade, and the developing world. We congratulate her on this accomplishment.
Arthur Seidel, J.D. ’49, a top figure of the Philadelphia intellectual property bar, died on August 16 at the age of 89. At the time of his retirement from Drinker Biddle & Reath in 2009, Mr. Seidel had spent 62 years as a patent lawyer. He had merged the firm he founded in 1952 with Drinker Biddle in 2001. Originally a chemist, Seidel attended GW Law at night while working in the patent department of Gulf Oil.