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Global Justice Initiatives

Global justice initiatives are led by dedicated USF School of Law faculty who are committed to advancing the rule of law with justice.

Projects have included assisting schools in developing nations, ending juvenile death penalty sentences, defending death row inmates in the American South, and addressing the underlying issues of migration caused by climate change. Students contribute to global justice initiatives by participating in focused internships and research projects.

Global Clinical Externships and Volunteer Human Rights Initiatives

The USF School of Law's International Externship Program educates students to be global lawyers and citizens, able to practice their profession anywhere in the world. Students extern in international law firms or NGOs. The externship program began in Brazil in the 1990s. Sites have included Argentina, China, India, El Salvador, the Philippines, Spain, Vietnam and in cities throughout Europe. Students have also volunteered in developing countries such as the Dominican Republic where they investigated discrimination experienced by Haitian migrant families.

Externships and academic opportunities allow students to specialize in criminal justice abuses, women's rights, children's rights, genocide, human rights education, environmental law, economic development, international business law, international trade, and intellectual property law.

Human Rights Litigation and Advocacy

The center's involvement in human rights litigation serves a dual function of protecting human rights around the world and educating USF law students in the most effective techniques of a human rights practice. The program is multi-dimensional, covering many different techniques of human rights practice in a variety of countries. Students have participated as researchers, writers, courtroom advocates for clients, and representatives of NGOs before the U.N. Human Rights Council and Commission on the Status of Women.

Clinical programs provide students the opportunity to represent clients and NGOs in the fields of U.S. death penalty litigation, U.S.-based advocacy and litigation for juveniles sentenced to life without parole, and international human rights justice.

International Rule of Law and Legal Education Projects

Under the direction of Professor Jeffrey Brand and Professor Dolores Donovan, the Center for Law and Global Justice has sponsored multi-year rule of law and international development projects around the world. The law school's involvement in international development rule of law programs dates to 1993 in Cambodia.

In the past 15 years, USF has administered programs in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, East Timor, and Vietnam. Rule of law programs typically involved legislative and judicial reform; institutional development of law schools; professional training programs for judges, prosecutors and lawyers; and institutional development of human rights NGOs.

USF students participated in international development programs as researchers, writers, teachers of legal English, and administrators. Students worked on international rule of law programs in San Francisco and abroad.

Partnerships with Foreign Law Schools

Partnerships with foreign law schools are the foundation for USF's international programs. Students benefit from these partnerships through student exchange programs and legal externships. Students also benefit through USF School of Law courses taught by visiting professors from the law faculties of foreign partners.

Cooperation with foreign law schools began in the early 1980s in China and Ireland and has since encompassed partnerships in Argentina, Brazil, the Czech Republic, El Salvador, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Luxembourg, Spain, and Vietnam. The USF School of Law presently has student exchange programs with the University of Luxembourg, City University of Hong Kong, China University of Political Science and Law, and Charles University in Prague. 

Keta Taylor Colby Death Penalty Project

The Keta Taylor Colby Death Penalty Project was established in 2001 to involve law students in the interim reform, and ultimate abolition, of the death penalty in the United States. The project is directed by Professor Steven F. Shatz, who holds the Philip and Muriel Barnett Professorship at USF. The principal program of the project has been the Southern Internship Program, which sends eight to 10 law students to work with capital defense attorneys in the South each summer. Each student is assigned to work with an attorney on one or more cases. The students perform legal research, visit their clients in prison or jail, gather case-related documents, e.g., from trial attorneys' files or public sources (through trips to courts and other agencies or by means of subpoenas or public record act requests), as well as interview lay and expert witnesses and, in some cases, jurors. Read more about the Keta Taylor Colby Death Penalty Project here.

Criminal Sentencing Reform Efforts

The Center for Law and Global Justice has played an active role in reforming criminal sentencing practices in the United States and abroad.

The Human Rights in Criminal Sentencing Project, funded by the Ford Foundation, compiles research on sentencing laws and standards around the world to situate U.S. practices within a global context. The project aims to aid lawyers and activists who are advocating for sentencing reform in the United States with information on international policies.

The Human Rights in Criminal Sentencing Project builds upon the success of the center’s efforts to abolish the juvenile death penalty and juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences. Under the direction of Professor Connie de la Vega, USF engaged in a project to educate U.S. lawyers and judges about international standards that prohibit the juvenile death penalty, advocated for a prohibition on the practice to be included in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights resolution in 2002, and filed a petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The work culminated in an amicus brief co-authored by de la Vega and filed before the U.S. Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons; the Court cited this brief in its 2005 decision that declared the sentencing of juveniles to the death penalty unconstitutional.

The Project to End Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences works with advocates and juvenile defenders to effectively challenge JLWOP sentences in U.S. courts with international human rights law. Professor Connie de la Vega has worked with former Director of Human Rights Programs Michelle Leighton and students to prevent the sentencing of juveniles to life without parole in collaboration with global NGOs. Authored by de la Vega and Leighton, the center issued a report on the sentencing of child offenders—those convicted of crimes committed when younger than 18 years of age—to a term of life imprisonment without the possibility of release or parole. Citing de la Vega and Leighton's research in the Graham v. Florida decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May 2010 that the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause does not permit JLWOP sentences for non-homicide crimes.

National Security Law

The USF School of Law is on the cutting edge of national security law as it relates to privacy in cyberspace, prevention of nuclear proliferation, and redressing the human rights abuses committed at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Whether protection of national security necessitates or justifies sacrifice of human rights is the subject of an intense world-wide debate. USF faculty members figure prominently among the leaders of that debate.

Professor Susan Freiwald is of counsel to the Electronic Frontiers Foundation and has authored amicus curiae briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts. Freiwald has also written on the right to privacy in cyberspace and the dangers presented to that right by U.S. government national security operations.

Professor Jack Garvey focuses on national security, here and abroad, including international peacekeeping and countering the threats of weapons of mass destruction. His most recent work concerns non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the reform of strategic planning to achieve nuclear security. His work has been published by Oxford University Press in the Journal of Conflict and Security Law and in other publications devoted to national security concerns.

Under the direction of Professor Peter Jan Honigsberg, the author of Our Nation Unhinged: The Human Consequences of the War on Terror (2009), the law school has embarked on a project to redress the balance between human rights and national security. Under the Bush administration, that balance became skewed in favor of national security to the detriment of the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens and the human rights of foreigners. The Witness to Guantanamo project seeks to ensure that the human rights abuses committed in the name of national security are not forgotten. 

Climate Change Initiatives

The USF School of Law is at the forefront of research on climate change and its effects on vulnerable populations. Faculty have focused on the problems and challenges associated with climate change and migration, and worked to develop human rights standards to protect the poor and most vulnerable in developing countries who are forced to migrate because of climate change. On the domestic side, Professor Alice Kaswan is a frequent commentator on the topic of environmental law and justice. Kaswan, who practiced environmental law and land use prior to entering academia, writes and presents on local, state, and federal environmental legislation.