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Wednesday
Feb252015

Court report: what's next for Hoya men's basketball

The Georgetown men’s basketball team’s trajectory is familiar to all those who have followed the Hoyas for the past several years. Georgetown started off relatively underrated, with one player singled out as someone to watch this year (this year, it was D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, voted Big East Player of the Year during the preseason). The season began with a relatively difficult non-conference schedule, with one seemingly impressive win (against Florida, though this is not the Florida of the early 2000s, or even of last year), and several impressive close losses (against Wisconsin and Kansas). 

Then the conference schedule began, and confirming the worst fears of Hoyas fans, it began poorly with a 17-point loss to Xavier. However, Georgetown recovered relatively quickly, and beat then #4 Villanova at home in an easy win, 78-58, and even claimed first place in the Big East, albeit temporarily. 

What trends can be made out of the season so far? Unlike previous years, Georgetown has not (yet - knock on wood) lost a game to a clearly inferior opponent.  In recent years, Georgetown has dropped at least one game to a team with a losing record, including DePaul, South Florida, and Providence (back when Providence was an also-ran, not a contender). Instead, Georgetown has lost to Xavier (twice), Providence (twice), and Villanova. Both of the losses to Providence were close, with one going to overtime.

However, Georgetown’s losses to Xavier, as well as its loss to Villanova, were all by significant margins, well over ten points each. Several similarities emerge between the losses. First, Joshua Smith, who has otherwise displayed the talents that led Georgetown to recruit him from UCLA, has struggled, fouling out in multiple losses. Additionally, Georgetown has failed to consistently score in the beginning of most of the losses. In particular, Smith-Rivera, who leads the team in average minutes, points, assists and steals per game, failed to score in the first half against Villanova.

As would be suspected, Georgetown gave up large shot percentages in the games they lost, with Villanova hitting 50% of 3-point shots and Providence shooting 53.5% overall.

Despite these negative signs, Georgetown still maintains a strong record that should appeal to the selection committee for March Madness. Georgetown lacks any bad losses, with the losses coming to teams that also have strong records. Ironically, Georgetown may hope for Xavier to do well, as Xavier’s record, other than beating Georgetown twice, does not look as strong as Georgetown’s (Xavier has lost to DePaul and Creighton, both of whom are struggling this year). At this point, Georgetown has played most of its toughest games. Thus, Georgetown should ensure that it sweeps St. John’s, positioning itself well for the Big East playoffs, before taking on Butler and Seton Hall to finish off the regular season.

Tuesday
Feb242015

Event recap: APALSA celebrates Lunar New Year with dinner and performances

 

Students enjoy the APALSA Lunar New Year event, which took place on the 12th floor of Gewirz.

As President’s Day Weekend and the Georgetown Law Faculty Retreat approached (known colloquially as “Fake Break” before the “real” Spring Break), students gathered together to celebrate the upcoming 2015 Lunar New Year. This year’s celebration was held on Tuesday, February 10 on the 12th floor of Gewirz, ahead of the official 2015 Lunar New Year date, which fell on February 19. The event was hosted by the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), who pre-sold tickets for $5 but also sold them for $7 at the door to partially fund the celebration.

Given the theme of Lunar New Year, APALSA decorated the room with Chinese lanterns and red tablecloths, Lunar New Year-themed utensils, napkins, and plates, and additionally arrayed oranges on gold-tinted plates. Food tables with Asian cuisine, a dessert table with beautiful cake and fortune cookies, an open bar and a performance stage completed the layout of the room.

Students arrived promptly at 7:00 p.m., and soon the food line extended from the food table on one end of the room to the performance stage at the other end. In contrast to last year’s Lunar New Year celebration, the food surprisingly ran out within the first hour. APALSA then announced they had ordered extra food, which was delivered around 8:30 p.m., but the additional round of victuals disappeared almost immediately; it seems “Hungry Hungry Hoyas” is no joke here at Georgetown Law! Despite this setback, an air of festivity permeated the air, as students seemed glad to take a break from school. When food seemed scarce, they engaged in further rounds of beer and wine and caught up with fellow students.

APALSA not only provided food and drinks, but also scheduled performances from both the Georgetown University Filipino Dance Group and our very own Lawcapella group. While there were some audio issues with the dance group at first, both performances were loudly applauded by the audience. Some students even approached APALSA board members afterwards and suggested that they would have paid up to $10 for the food as well as the performances!

APALSA also allowed Georgetown Law Weekly to secure a one-on-one interview with the current president of APALSA, 2L Daphne Lin.

GU LAW WEEKLY: So, Daphne, who organized this event?

Daphne Lin: It was members of APALSA: fourteen of us in total organized everything.

LAW WEEKLY: What are your goals [as an organization] on campus?

Lin: We have professional goals, academic goals, [and] social networking goals. APALSA is on Georgetown Law to bring the different Asian Pacific American people or the people who identify with that together, to celebrate [events and customs like] the Lunar New Year together, because we don’t have a federal holiday for that.

LAW WEEKLY: What did you think of this year’s event?

Lin: We did phenomenal! We sold close to 130 tickets, and were able to have performances from the Filipino Dance Group from Georgetown undergrad and Lawcapella from on this campus. Everyone who came up to me afterwards said that they loved the decorations, they loved the food, and they loved the performances, and that they loved coming to our event.

LAW WEEKLY: We hear you sell out every year?

Lin: That’s right—we did sell out, as we had 124 seats.

LAW WEEKLY: What was different about this year’s celebration from last year?

Lin: Well, last year we had no performances. People just came in, got food, and sat down. Our event was more structured, more organized this year, and had a better flow. For example, [this year] you had to look under a tape under your chair to find out if you have a ticket to get a red envelope [that we were giving out]. We only had 35 of those surprise gifts.

LAW WEEKLY: Given that the New Year has come, what’s your wish for this new Lunar Year?

Lin: I wish that our upcoming “Trailblazer” event on March 19th will be a success. We will have a very big keynote speaker, Denny Chin of the Second Circuit, come speak to us on Asian diversity issues on campus, along with four panelists as well.

Michael Jen is also a member of APALSA and serves as the Community Chair on the APALSA Board.

Monday
Feb232015

Successful Greenhalgh mock trial competition comes to a close

Did Skylar Roberts shoot Penn Teller in self-defense? Is the responding officer’s description of the security camera footage good enough? What about the officer’s history with the defendant? 

These are the sorts of questions debated during this year’s William W. Greenhalgh Competition, the annual event run by the Trial Advocacy division of the Barrister’s Council, better known as the Law Center’s Mock Trial team. Georgetown Law is ranked fourth in trial advocacy by U.S. News and World Report.  

Greenhalgh is the only opportunity for students to join Mock Trial. During this year’s competition, 160 students participated. The tryout process began on January 20, and the entire competition lasted about a month.   

On Wednesday, February 11, the final round of the tournament had reduced the 160 to just four advocates: James Hoeffgen and Apeksha Vora for the defense, and Amarto Bhattacharyya and Michael Daniels for the state. The students had just competed in the semi-finals on the Monday before, and the quarter-finals the weekend before that.

The matter at hand throughout the entire weeks-long tournament was the criminal trial of Skylar Roberts. Roberts was accused of shooting her friend, Penn Teller. Roberts alleged that it was self-defense because Teller had drawn a knife, and was angry at Roberts about an alleged affair. Meanwhile, the state disputes the evidence of the knife belonging to Teller, arguing that the murder was in cold blood. The only visual evidence of the crime, security camera footage, was lost in a fire. 

This round was presided over by a real sitting judge, Judge Craig Iscoe of the DC Superior Court. The panel of jurors was comprised of four professors and practitioners. Mock Trial participants use the real rules of evidence in a real courtroom setting. Witnesses are also portrayed by students, who are subjected to direct and cross-examination. Objections and preliminary motions are commonplace, providing all participants with valuable courtroom experience. Bhattacharyya, who has had eight years of experience in mock trial, said “real judges are particularly good at ruling on objections and managing the trial.”

In the end, the State’s advocate team won in the eyes of the jury. This was the first time during this competition that Bhattacharyya and Daniels had advocated for the state, and only had two days to fully prepare and practice their new arguments. Bhattacharyya said the run-up was very hectic, but they were able to draw from their excellent competition at earlier stages in the tournament for inspiration. Bhattacharyya also took home the Best Advocate award alongside with his side’s victory. The judges cited, in particular, his strong cross-examination of the defendant and his well-themed closing argument. 

Additionally, the defense team benefitted from and enjoyed Greenhalgh. Hoeffgen said he liked every part of the event. “The full trials during competition itself were the most fun, because that’s when all the bits and pieces that we had put together for tryouts came together.” 

The Greenhalgh competition serves as an introduction for mock trial advocates to get real experience and advice. According to the event’s Assistant Director, Beatrice Diehl, “[The students] are able to get real experience in a courtroom and get advice from judges who are practitioners in the field. The mock trial team’s goals are to get members acquainted with a courtroom and to gain experience in the rules of evidence, public speaking and trial preparation.” Defense advocate Hoeffgen said “I think the most important thing that I have learned is how to be comfortable in the courtroom. Once you have that down, the specific trial skills come naturally.”  

The judge and jurors provided exhaustive feedback for all four advocates, commenting on their strengths and weaknesses and advising them on how their skills will apply in the real world of trial advocacy. While all of the practitioners were extremely complimentary to the advocates, they still had constructive criticisms that the students will use in future competitions and in practice.

For now, the mock trial team, including its newest members, has a break. But Hoeffgen, as a new member, said “All I know is that I am really excited to start competing against other schools next year.”  

Sunday
Feb222015

Justice Ginsburg shares wit and wisdom on campus

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, known for her sharp wit, needed little time to answer the question posed by a Georgetown student at the 2nd Annual Dean’s Lecture.

“If I had any talent in the world, any talent that God could give to me, I would be a great diva.”

Justice Ginsburg, in an hour-long discussion with Dean Treanor to the graduating class of 2015 at Hart Auditorium, spoke both with humor and with seriousness, addressing both her path to the Supreme Court and her thoughts on current legal issues.

As Treanor noted to the crowd, Hart Auditorium was full to the point that an overflow room was used. The event was also picked up on C-SPAN.

Justice Ginsburg, as is so often the case, made short but poignant points on key issues for both her and members of the audience.

When asked by a member of the reproductive rights group at GULC about her feelings on recent decisions, Ginsburg focused on the ties between poverty and reproductive rights.

“There will never be a time when women of means will lack choice,” Ginsburg said, addressing a hypothetical scenario in which the Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. “The women who won’t have that choice are poor women, and that doesn’t make a lot of sense…if we care about our sisters who are less fortunate than we are, we will do what we can to say that they have roughly the same choices in life.”

Ginsburg earned the praise of many click-baiting websites by answering “nine” to the question of how many women would be sufficient on the Supreme Court. However, she also discussed her experiences as one of few women on the Supreme Court, such as commonly being mistaken for Justice O’Connor, feeling more noticed now that her seniority brings her closer to the center of the Justices during hearings, and how Justices only received a women’s restroom after she joined the court.

Martin D. Ginsburg, the late husband of Justice Ginsburg and tax professor at GULC, was referenced early and often during the discussion. Justice Ginsburg’s first words directed at the students suggested they consider taking classes offered by David Schizer, the holder of the Martin D. Ginsburg Chair in Taxation and former clerk for Justice Ginsburg.

Justice Ginsburg spent much of the first half of the lecture discussing her legal education. She said that she was inspired to attend law school by a constitutional law professor she worked for as a research assistant. “It was the early 50s, and it was the heyday of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who saw communists in every corner,” Justice Ginsburg said. She further commented that her professor showed her “there were lawyers…reminding our Congress that we have a First Amendment that says we speak freely without Big Brother telling us what is proper speech, and that there is a Fifth Amendment that protects people from self-incrimination.”

Justice Ginsburg also discussed her difficulties in securing a job after law school, despite her qualifications as a top student. On the judges she applied to for a clerkship, she noted that “some of them could get over that I was a woman, but none could get over that I was a mother of a 4-year-old.” She then discussed how, in both law school and her career, she felt the need to overcompensate in her work to overcome those challenges.

Additionally, Justice Ginsburg explained in frank detail why Rutgers Law School hired her as a Civil Procedure professor. “Rutgers had an excellent civil procedure professor who left to become Dean of Howard Law, here in D.C., and they tried to replace him with another African-American man, so they replaced him with the next-best thing, a woman,” Ginsberg said. “That’s how I got my first teaching job.”

When offered a hypothetical magic wand that could reverse any Supreme Court decision by a questioning student, Justice Ginsburg said that she would reverse Citizens United. “I think the system is being polluted by money,” Ginsburg observed, discussing in particular the rising cost of judicial elections in the states.

Ginsburg also tied rising spending in elections to voter apathy, saying “people have a sense of ‘why bother, it’s a foregone conclusion of who is going to win.’ So I think we need to get our democracy to where it’s a democracy for all of the people.”

Justice Ginsburg also advised a student seeking changes to gender equality laws to not solely focus on the courts. “As a whole, the judiciary is a reactive institution,” she advised. “You need to try to influence public opinion. People want to have change…then you need to try to get the legislature to write laws that are family-friendly. The Court is really the third audience.”

Overall, Ginsburg had a rapt audience for the lecture. Attendees in the first row wore Notorious RBG shirts, and Dean Treanor also seemed to appreciate Ginsburg’s answers, sharing his laugh throughout the hour.

Saturday
Feb212015

CALS students triumph in immigration court, win asylum for Sudanese torture survivor

Zana Operta and Olivia Davis work carefully on the extensive evidence needed to argue an asylum case in Immigration Court. Photo courtesy of CALSStory courtesy of Professor Andrew Schoenholtz, Center for Applied Legal Studies

“The ruling party could detain us, they could torture us, but they could not change what my friends and I knew was right—we had to keep working to help the people of Sudan,” Rashid told his student representatives, Olivia Davis (2L) and Zana Operta (2L), in one of their first meetings. (We have not used his real name to protect his privacy.) As part of the Center for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Davis and Operta learned core lawyering and advocacy skills while representing a client before a U.S. immigration judge. They successfully defended Rashid from deportation and put him on a pathway to permanent residence. Rashid now has a chance to start a new life in the United States, knowing that he is safe and protected from the reach of his persecutors.

“I was excited to be a part of CALS because students in the clinic are in charge of and responsible for such high stakes cases,” Davis said. “But I also lost a lot of sleep because losing a case meant that the client would be deported and face further torture or even death.”

Davis and Operta enrolled in CALS hoping to learn about immigration law, develop practice skills, and serve a vulnerable client. At the start of the semester, they were teamed together to represent Rashid, a young Sudanese man who fled to the United States after being arrested and tortured by Sudanese security forces because, along with other students, he had organized humanitarian activities on his university campus. In a political prison, Rashid met and came to admire many other Sudanese who had asserted their rights to assembly and speech in order to bring social problems to public attention, only to be harshly suppressed by the Sudanese regime.

Even after fleeing to the safety of the United States, Rashid struggled to escape the effects of trauma, and he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He found it difficult to speak to Davis and Operta about the torture he suffered, and often had nightmares about returning to Sudan, being captured, and tortured once again.  Simple knocks on the door triggered flashbacks for Rashid. He slept with the lights on.     

Working with Rashid was one of the most inspiring experiences of my life. Hearing what he lived through and witnessing his continued strength and determination to still approach the world positively was incredible. His determination to seek safety here and demand a better life will always stay with me,” Operta said. “We were resolute to help him win his case and aid him in starting a new chapter in his life.”

Rashid faced numerous obstacles in his case. Corroboration is key in all asylum cases, and key evidence often lies in the country that asylum seekers flee. In Rashid’s case, the Sudanese government heavily monitors communications. That forced Davis and Operta to be creative in procuring affidavits and declarations corroborating Rashid’s claim. In the course of the semester, Davis and Operta interviewed Rashid many times to gather details about what had happened to him in Sudan. They also meticulously investigated human rights conditions in Sudan, researched applicable asylum law, and wrote (and re-wrote again and again) a substantial brief.  At the same time, they secured assistance from experts on human rights in Sudan, as well as medical and psychological professionals who corroborated Rashid’s story. In all, they compiled a 618-page submission including 30 evidentiary exhibits that they filed in court.

“CALS students perform such heroic efforts because the cases are so demanding—we have to carry a significant burden of proof in immigration court,” said Professor Andy Schoenholtz, director of CALS in the fall semester.  “Our students have proven to be incredibly dedicated, sustaining the long hours necessary to build the case, and learning how to pull it all together in court on the day of the hearing.”

Davis and Operta advocated vigorously for their client both with the Department of Homeland Security Trial Attorney and before the federal Immigration Judge. After a contested hearing, the Immigration Judge granted asylum to Rashid.

Reflecting upon the semester’s experience, Operta observed: “The CALS process and the constant support of the entire CALS team allowed us to prepare the best case possible.  Not only did CALS teach us how to take an asylum case from beginning to end but it gave us confidence in our abilities as lawyers.”

To prepare students for the demands of the asylum cases, CALS gives thorough training to students through twice-weekly classes and weekly case meetings that students conduct with their instructors. The classes cover traditional skills, such as interviewing, researching, legal writing, and hearing preparation, and are designed to afford the students a chance to simulate court proceedings before they have to perform those tasks in their real cases. In addition, there are classes devoted to the “softer” legal skills, such as dealing with some of the psychological pressures that arise when serving refugees who have been victimized by torture and other trauma, time management, collaboration with a partner, and learning to accept responsibility for a client’s case.

The pedagogical philosophy of CALS stresses placing the students into situations of real responsibility. The cases “belong” to the students, who make all the critical decisions and execute all the legal tasks. The teaching staff (one professor and two graduate fellows each semester) is very closely engaged, ensuring a secure “safety net.” However, the students, not the teachers, undertake the essential tasks, such as drafting and signing the brief and speaking in court. “CALS has not only helped me gain confidence in my oral advocacy skills, but also taught me that thorough preparation and trust in your client leads to zealous and effective advocacy,” said Davis.

“I chose to come to Georgetown in large part so I could participate in CALS, and the experience was even better than I expected,” concluded Operta. “It was one of the most challenging and demanding tasks I have ever attempted. But the amount I learned and the sense of accomplishment in winning asylum for a person like Rashid justified all the long hours and stress.”

The clinic enrolls 12 students each semester who work in pairs, so six cases proceed simultaneously. The clients come from all over the world. In recent years, CALS has represented political activists, racial minorities, gays and other survivors of torture or repression from Cameroon, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Russia, Serbia, Togo, and elsewhere. The clinic grants 10 semester credits and is offered in both the spring and fall semesters.  Students devote an average of 35 hours per week to CALS activities.

“We deliberately include both second-year and third-year students in CALS,” said Professor Phil Schrag, who directs the clinic in the spring. “Georgetown students will soon start receiving information about clinical opportunities for next year, and anyone who is interested in CALS could get more information from our website (http://www.law.georgetown.edu/clinics/) or by contacting us at calsclinic@law.georgetown.edu. Georgetown has always been ranked as the top clinical law school in the country, with more clinics and more different types of clinical opportunities than any other school.”          

Reflecting on her CALS experience, Davis stated, “My CALS experience has convinced me that direct representation of immigrants is my calling after graduation.”

Saturday
Feb142015

Top three things to do in DC this weekend

It’s already getting to be mid-February, and I’m sure that everyone is excited and looking forward to the long weekend coming up! This weekend is an especially exciting weekend for us Hoyas, because we have the mid-February break, the faculty retreat coming up, when people are looking forward to catching up with work, and also Valentine’s Day! While it’s always great to study and catch up with work, Georgetown Law Weekly hopes that our fellow Hoyas always look out for fun things to do in DC. 

 

1. George Washington’s Mount Vernon

For people that want to glaze over some history this weekend, Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate in Virginia, is the perfect place to be. Located about half an hour from campus, it is one of the most iconic historic homes in America.

Spread out over a few thousand acres, the place boasts its beauty with George Washington’s mansion, outbuildings, gardens and grounds, as well as heritage breed animals and museums that depict the life and the legacy of Washington. In the main mansion, visitors are able to delve into Washington’s artistic taste, his everyday life and his love for friends and family. Visitors can also hear from Martha Washington, who lays out the stories of the man and his life, endeavors and passion in achieving his goals.

After the mansion is explored, visitors can enjoy the exquisite nature that Mount Vernon provides. Outside the mansion is the view of the Potomac, horses and livestock that Washington bred in his time, which are still bred in his estate. Livestock includes Ossabaw Island Hogs, Hog Island Sheep and Bronze Gobbler Turkeys. In addition to the livestock, reflecting Washington’s interest in farming, there are four separate gardens covering over six acres. These gardens served many different purposes, and are one of the most beautiful parts of the estate. Walking through the nature in the enormous plain will give fellow Hoyas the soothing comfort that we all have craved as the semester has taken off!

Another benefit derived from visiting Mount Vernon is the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center. Usually best if saved for last, the Education Center gives a new experience by tracing Washington’s life story through state-of-the-art gallery displays and digital appliances. It has a very descriptive recollection of Washington as a General, President and man. In the museum, there are very many personal possessions of Martha and George Washington that visitors can look into to gain insight into George Washington and Martha’s personal tastes. Just like any other historic or tourist site, the place also has a gift shop, which is known to sell his favorite whiskey that is worth trying out, although a bit pricy.

 

2. Theodore Roosevelt Island

Another nearby place worth visiting is Theodore Roosevelt Island. Notorious for dragging diplomats and government officials on tough hikes, this is the perfect place if you want to get fresh air or do some working out over the long weekend after a perfect Valentine’s Day dinner out! There are a variety of trails that lend themselves to different activities, such as an easy half-mile walk or a longer walk where you could see swampy woods and cattail marsh. Depending on what you’re looking for in your day, the trails could give you the benefits of nature or the memorial plaza with its statue and fountains that would bring you into the mood to delve more into our modern history!

If you are interested in sports rather than walking or hiking, canoeing or kayaking is also an option on the island. In fact, the most effective way to see how the island is shaped by the Potomac might actually be to paddle around the island and feel it yourself! As citizens of a big city such as Washington, it is very rare that we get the chance to canoe or kayak. Wildlife viewing is another joy that the island gives to its visitors, making it another great place to spend the weekend.

 

3. Ice Skating at the Washington Harbour Ice Rink

Ice skating would be the perfect choice for couples! At 11,800 square feet, the Washington Harbour Ice Rink is the place to ice skate if both romance and staying active are what you’re looking for. Located right alongside the beautiful Potomac and surrounded by great restaurants and bars in Georgetown, this outdoor ice rink can hype the romance up for any couple! The best part of it is that ice skating is not that hard at all - learn the basics and you will feel confident. What would the Hoyas not be capable of doing? Enjoy the atmosphere and indulge in the winter sport before spring comes!

These are just a few things that Law Weekly thought worth mentioning for this upcoming weekend. Enjoy the upcoming weekend, fellow Hoyas – we wish you the best of luck!