Recently, the ABA Section of International Law sponsored the Rona R. Mears Student Writing Competition & Scholarship Awards to encourage law student interest and participation in the practice of International Law and the Section. This is the fifth year of the competition, which was named after Rona R. Mears, a former ABA Section Chair who created the Women’s Interest Network Committee.
This year’s competition centered around Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum, 621 F. 3d 111 (2d Cir. 2010), cert. granted, 80 U.S.L.W. 3237 (U.S. Oct. 17, 2011) (No. 10-1491), and addressed the question, “Should U.S. Courts Recognize Cause of Action for Violation of the Law of Nations Outside the U.S.?” The essays allowed students a chance to weigh in as amicus curiae on how the court should rule.
The Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum case involves a claim under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows U.S. courts to recognize cause of action for violation of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign nation other than the U.S. You can read more about the case and the issues involved here.
Of the numerous essays submitted, two essays rose to the top. The 2013 Rona R. Mears Student Writing Competition & Scholarship winners are:
• R. Ethan Hargraves of Liberty University School of Law
• Jonathan Markovitz of the University of California, Irvine, School of Law
Both winners reflect great appreciation for the experience of the competition. As Jonathan describes, “The prompt for this year’s competition gave me the opportunity to think about Supreme Court jurisprudence in an unusual way: rather than trying to determine how the Court was likely to decide a case, the point of my research was to help me think about what the Court should do.”
“This experience has been invaluable. The competition afforded me the opportunity to contribute scholarship to a weighty and relevant issue, and participation alone has been an exercise in critical thinking and writing the benefits of which I reaped before I even submitted the essay. Having engaged with this issue and constructed a coherent and comprehensive legal argument, I am that much more prepared to enter the practice of law,” said Robert Hargraves.
The competition was judged by a distinguished panel of practitioners specializing in international law. The three judges were:
M. Anderson Berry, an attorney in Jones Day’s Global Dispute practice in San Francisco, California. He focuses on complex, transnational civil litigation and international arbitration. Mr. Berry is the author of “Whether Foreigner or Alien: A New Look at the Original Language of the Alien Tort Statute”, 27 Berkeley Journal of Int’l Law 316 (2009), which was cited in amici supporting the defense in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., et al. Mr. Berry is also the Assistant Managing Editor of the World Arbitration & Mediation Review.
David Wallach, an associate in the San Francisco office of Jones Day. He was a member of the trial team defending Chevron in Bowoto v. Chevron Corporation, one of only two corporate Alien Tort Statute cases to reach trial; and Firestone in Flomo v. Firestone Natural Rubber Co., an Alien Tort Statute case dismissed by the trial court on summary judgment and affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He has also written several articles on the Alien Tort Statute, including “The Alien Tort Statute and the Limits of Individual Accountability under International Law”, published by the Stanford Journal of International Law in June 2010.
Neil A.F. Popović, a litigation partner at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP in San Francisco, where he chairs the firm’s International Arbitration Practice, and a Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall), where he teaches International Environmental Law, and International Litigation and Arbitration. He is currently Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of EarthRights International. He has written extensively on the relationship between human rights and the environment, including authoring the chapter on “Environmental Litigation against Corporations” in the ABA International Section’s forthcoming book, Linking Corporate Practice to Human Rights Impacts: New Paradigms and Expectations.
The awards will be presented at the U.S. Supreme Court reception on Thursday, April 25, 2013, during the ABA International Section Spring 2013 Meeting.
Each award winner will receive a $2,000 prize, provided by WestlawNext®. “Being able to sponsor the Rona R. Mears Writing Competition is a tremendous honor,” said Lydia Flocchini, Director of WestlawNext Marketing. “Writing competitions such as these provide law students the opportunity to explore the complex issues that the Supreme Court faces on a daily basis, as well as develop compelling arguments through the legal research process. The opportunity to participate in writing competitions as a law student provides a challenging, but rewarding experience.”
The ABA International’s Spring Meeting is one of the world’s most important gatherings of international lawyers and is expected to draw over 1,100 attendees from over 80 countries.