Speaker Roundup

BY DONOVAN RINKER-MORRIS

Judge describes his New York career track

Judge Bentley Kassal launched his career after graduating from HLS and entering the New York bar 62 years ago with a legal job paying $10 a week. Since then, he has served at every level of the New York judiciary, retiring in 1998 only to take a position with the Skadden, Arps litigation department.

Speaking to an audience of around 30 participants during lunch on February 11, Judge Kassal was invited to HLS as part of theTraphagen Distinguished Alumni Speakers Series.

Before donning judicial robes, Judge Kassal served in the New York State Assembly, where he introduced legislation to create a State Arts Council. Proud of his liberal reputation, Kassal said he takes special pride in drafting Morgan v. Morgan, which granted the wife in a divorce action support to enable her to attend medical school after she supported her husband at law school by holding a clerical job. Asked by a student about his judicial philosophy, Kassal described his approach to stare decisis as starting with the ethically right outcome and then working backwards to find some support for it.

In between his numerous legal positions in New York, Judge Kassal visited 151 countries as a volunteer photographer for over a dozen charities. Proud of his collection, Kassal showed the audience a print of the massive Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan destroyed in March last year used as a magazine cover, as well as some of his other photographs from Bhutan and other locations that have been featured in publications.

Hague judge reviews work of Tribunal

While detailing the nuts and bolts of judicial procedure at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague on February 6, Judge Patricia Wald told a story about exercising her newfound authority to call witnesses by requesting testimony from Bosnian Muslim military leaders at Srebrenica.

Thinking the exclusion of these witnesses was a glaring omission in the prosecutor’s case, she said she was shocked when both of the witnesses she had called were indicted in later months.

Speaking to an audience of around 120 participants on February 6, Judge Wald was sponsored by the Human Rights Program and the Carr Center for Human Rights.

Prior to serving as the American judge in the ICTY, Wald served as a circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where she was on the bench for over 20 years. This followed a 10-year career in public interest law, a stint as assistant attorney general under Carter, a hiatus from practice during which she raised five children, and a job at Arnold & Porter in Washington defending clients indicted as part of the McCarthy HUAC campaign against communism.

Regarding the ICTY, Wald noted several inefficiencies in the organization, including the difficulty of academically trained jurists attempting to manage complex criminal trials and the unmanageable length of many appeals. However, she remained proud of the achievements on the ICTY, including the recognition of rape as a war crime and the prosecution of several of the worst offenders, some of whom had joked about the ICTY when it was founded in 1994 only to be convicted and sentenced by it years later. Nonetheless, Wald was unsatisfied with the extended nature of ICTY proceedings, which may not be concluded in 2012.

Journal holds first conference on human rights

Kicking off the keynote address at the first Human Rights Journal Conference on February 15, John Shattuck, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, addressed a crowd of 50 students and presenters on this year’s theme, “Religion, Democracy and Human Rights.”

Shattuck discussed the controversial International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as well as the prospects for human rights following the attacks of September 11. Shattuck noted the extent to which policy interests have supplanted human rights concerns, and how this manner of decision-making without regard for human rights impact has produced serious national security threats in the past.

The conference continued with three panels on Saturday and an alumni roundtable discussion on Sunday. Several of the participants said that the conference theme showed considerable foresight, though conference planner Kerri Sherloc and the executive board of the Human Rights Journal began planning this event over a year ago.

The conclusion of the conference was an Alumni Roundtable that featured graduates of HLS who had founded the Human Rights Journal and gone on to distinguished careers in public interest, such as Smita Narula, at Human Rights Watch; Jennie Green, at the Center for Constitutional Rights; and Maria Green, at the International Anti-Poverty Law Center.

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