This year, 11 Harvard Law School students were selected as Cravath International Fellows. During winter term, they traveled to 11 countries to pursue clinical placements or independent research with an international, transnational, or comparative law focus. Here is a look at the experiences of three of these students.
Carina Bentata ’18
Carina Bentata spent winter term in Bogotá, Colombia, working with Women’s Link Worldwide (WLW), an international NGO engaged in advocacy and litigation to advance the human rights of women and girls.
Part of Bentata’s family has roots in Venezuela, and she has connected her ties to Latin America with her growing interest in gender justice and international human rights. During her 1L summer, she completed a legal internship at the Center for Justice and International Law in Washington, D.C., where she worked on cases that arose in the context of the decades-long armed conflict in Colombia; last fall, she handled asylum cases for the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, learning more about conditions there from a Colombian client. “These experiences have made me increasingly interested in the situation in Colombia, and I [felt] that working on the ground there would give me invaluable insight into the conflict and its impact on Colombian society, politics, and the legal system,” she notes.
When she arrived in Bogotá, she was also asked to assist with a reproductive rights case that WLW brought before Dominican Republic national tribunals. The complex, time-sensitive case involves a pregnant 16-year-old who was diagnosed with cancer. Her doctors initially withheld chemotherapy due to her pregnancy, but denied her request for an abortion; they eventually agreed to administer chemotherapy, without informing her of the serious risks to herself and her fetus.
During her three weeks in Bogotá, Bentata focused on researching and writing a memo on informed consent, citing applicable legal standards from the Inter-American Court and Commission, the European Court of Human Rights, and United Nations treaty bodies.
I could see that I was doing the same tasks that other lawyers were doing, and that I was the only one working on the issue of informed consent. Therefore, I know that my memo will actually be used by the lawyers, which makes the work much more satisfying.
She also compiled a detailed chart aligning the specific facts of the case with the legal standards she identified in her research. “It was very interesting, although also quite difficult, especially since the majority of the cases cited dealt with substantially different circumstances than the case at hand,” she recalls. In the end, she identified 13 points in the patient’s complicated medical history where standards relating to informed consent and personal autonomy were violated. For example, she cited a European Court of Human Rights finding that the health of the fetus is a component of the health of the pregnant woman, who should therefore have the right to obtain all available information on the fetus’ condition as well as her own.
“[A] lot of the research I did was in Spanish, and the memo and reports I wrote were in both English and Spanish, so I was able to practice using the Spanish legal terminology that I began to develop at my previous internship and through the Spanish for Public Interest Lawyers class at Harvard,” she adds.
Bentata plans a career in international law and has sought opportunities to explore different practice settings: a U.S.-based NGO, direct client service, working in a law firm, and through this fellowship, an NGO based abroad. “Having worked only in the United States, I have always been cautious about imposing a Westernized view on human rights and development work,” she notes. “Working at Women’s Link allowed me to hear my co-workers’ views on topics such as gender rights and the Colombian peace process, and the approaches they plan to take in furtherance of their goals. Getting to experience a human rights setting abroad was definitely a valuable experience.”
Richard H. Gadsden ’17
Richard Gadsden traveled to Paris, France, for winter term. Drawing on his French language proficiency, lifelong love of comic books, and his experiences as a New Yorker during and after 9/11, he originally planned to focus his work on the impact of French freedom of speech and hate speech laws on the French market for bandes dessinées, an art form which encompasses comics, satirical cartoons, and graphic novels.
France is an especially good environment in which to study this topic, he observes, in part because of the long-standing French tradition of laïcité (which prohibits religious influence in the determination of state policies), and how — in light of radical Islamic movements, the recent terror attacks in France, the “burkhini ban,” the closing of refugee camps, and other events — this secularism may in fact be impinging on freedom of expression.
The biggest surprise for me was how deeply laïcité pervades French law and culture. Perhaps because of the way the First Amendment is written, religious expression seems a key element of freedom of speech to most Americans. The French see it very differently. Many of my participants were visibly shocked when I brought up religion, since they considered the public expression of religion to be an issue very separate from speech law.
Almost as soon as he arrived in Paris, however, his interviews with writers, translators, journalists, scholars, newspaper editors, and the editor of one of the largest comic book publishers in France led to a shift in focus, toward a broader sociology of speech law. As it turned out, “what really interested my participants and me were the ways in which perceptions of French law and quasi-legal norms in French society both constrained and allowed certain types of expression,” Gadsden notes.
The paper he is writing will explore two major themes: defamation, which is often marshaled to protect minority rights, but also used to defend government actors from criticism; and secularism, which is considered a cornerstone of the French value of equality, but which often silences majority religious expression.
He began his research on campus last fall, studying French legal codes and cases, and working closely with his faculty advisor, Clinical Professor Christopher Bavitz, to identify interview subjects. “From the moment I proposed my study, Professor Bavitz was 100% behind it,” Gadsden notes; “he immediately reached out to his contacts at CERSA [Centre d’Études et de Recherches de Sciences Administratives et Politiques] and helped me secure office space to serve as my home base abroad.”
Gadsden has linked his personal interests with his professional experience. During his 1L summer, he was a business and legal intern at Marvel Studios LLC, which makes films based on Marvel Comics characters, and after graduation, he will join the Los Angeles office of Latham & Watkins LLP, a firm with a strong focus on entertainment, sports, and media law.
Lane Michael Kauder ’18
Lane Kauder spent winter term in Singapore, conducting research and interviews on the city-state’s “right to counsel” procedures and mandatory sentencing provisions in capital punishment cases. The paper he is writing under the supervision of Professor Carol Steiker will argue that social and economic trends in Singapore and abroad will cause the Singaporean administration to give ground, relatively soon, on some of its more controversial policies — particularly mandatory capital sentencing in drug cases — in order to retain or advance its positions on other issues.
Kauder’s focus on these questions stems from a long-standing interest in procedural safeguards — an interest that stems from his work as a criminal law research assistant, a judicial internship at the Superior Court in the District of Columbia, and even his 1L Moot Court argument in favor of the application of a federal statute entitling capital defendants to dual counsel. After law school, he plans to work as a litigator and to continue to engage in legal scholarship.
His intensive research plan for winter term included accessing the National Library of Singapore for newspaper articles and government publications; the National University of Singapore law library and the Singapore Academy of Law for academic and reference works and commentaries; and the Law Society of Singapore to learn about the legal profession there.
Kauder spent time observing criminal appeals in the Supreme Court of Singapore, and noted key differences between judicial proceedings in Singapore and in the United States. “For example, Singaporean judges will interject in proceedings, sometimes asking challenging questions or posing complex hypotheticals to the defendants directly – even those represented by counsel,” he notes.
My interest in the right to counsel stems from my recognition that the government, through the criminal justice system, has the power to exert virtually infinite power on the individual by depriving them of their life, property, or freedom. Procedural safeguards, such as the right to counsel, right to jury trial, evidentiary privileges, and so on are vital lines of defense for human and civil rights.
He also considered it essential to talk with Singaporeans and even foreign visitors about the city-state’s culture, society, government, global presence, future direction, “or just about anything they wanted to tell me about,” Kauder recalls. “These experiences reminded me about the human side of what I had previously only read about in an academic context, which gave remarkable weight, in my mind, to what I had been working on.”
Conversations like these helped him shape one of the key arguments he plans to make. He observes that the Singaporean legal system is structured in ways that make it very difficult for a defendant facing the death penalty to make a legal challenge against mandatory sentencing. “For this change to come it will have to be a societal or political change,” he argues, “and one of the people I spoke with really helped me understand how online culture today has helped to mobilize the citizenry of Singapore in a way that hasn’t ever been the case before.” Given Singapore’s strict regulations against public gatherings, “now that online media has proliferated, it’s viable now to actually oppose the policy en masse and get out an oppositional platform or idea,” Kauder notes.
The Cravath International Fellowships were created in 2007 by a group of partners and HLS alumni at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, led by Sam Butler ’54 and the late Robert Joffe ’67.