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Student Staff Update: Jennifer Breedon

Meeting Ernie and becoming a staff member of the Center for Global Justice was definitely the highlight of my 1L year after Fall Semester 2013.  I was a “two-year” J.D. student, which means that I applied for and was selected to complete a full, ABA 90-credit law program in two years rather than the usual three.  As part of that program, I was the first official “extern” at the Center.

The Center for Global Justice works ON BEHALF of NGOs and international organizations to combat human rights violations and protect religious liberties. During my externship in the Spring of 2014, I worked for two organizations. The contacts that the Center for Global Justice has made are extensive and include several international organizations all over the world.  On top of that, Regent Law Professor Kathleen McKee works with externs in her Legal Aid practice, which also exposes students to domestic legal issues outside the Regent campus.  I came onto the student staff because I started law school with a deep interest in combating human sex trafficking.

Shared Hope International

I began my work at the Center by working on a project for Shared Hope International, which is a non-profit organization that strives to prevent the conditions that foster sex trafficking, restore victims of sex slavery, and bring justice to vulnerable women and children.  Our task was to comb through state statutes relating to victims of human trafficking so that Shared Hope could conduct its annual survey of U.S. state laws and give a “grade” to each state.  Every year, Shared Hope gives each of the 50 U.S. states a “report card” of how effective its human trafficking laws are.  Once this report is generated, Shared Hope employees notify state legislatures so that they may spend the next year strengthening their laws regarding commercial sex trafficking and hopefully get a better “grade” or “report card” in the next year. Shared Hope also highlights the areas where the state should strengthen its laws indicating what types of legislation should be added to boost the state report. 
As a Center staff member, I was allowed to choose which states I wanted to research. I chose Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, New Orleans, and New York.  It was fascinating to go through the research Shared Hope had compiled on each state.  I spent hours looking at the various state laws that combat, not only those who partake in commercial sex and sex trafficking, but also those laws that protect the victims of such acts.  State victim protection laws center around alleviating prosecution of prostitutes who have been trafficked so that they may receive proper help and therapy and become contributing members of society.  I was able to see how each state utilized its particular legislative avenues to combat the needs specific to that state, but more importantly I could see where state laws were weak and left large vulnerabilities in the prosecution and combatting of the commercial sex industry throughout the United States.   Today, I can log into the Shared Hope website and see the 2013-2014 report cards of each state and know that I helped research and develop those reports.

Southeastern Crime Stoppers Association

Jennifer and Prof. Kathleen McKee
The Southeastern Crime Stoppers Association includes Crimesolvers, Crime Line and Crime Stoppers programs from Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.  I helped compile statutes related to confidential informants and “tipster” anonymity protections. During the course of this project and the Shared Hope Project, I completely expanded my knowledge and skills to utilize LexisNexis and Westlaw legal search engines.  As a 1L, we are given a broad overview of the websites, but in the course of my externship, I spent most of my hours combing through hundreds of statutes, documents, and case law topics to gather information about the rules in several states.  My ability to quickly, efficiently, and effectively navigate these websites has already made me a strong candidate for any legal position since I am able to quickly find applicable case or statutory law for any issue my firm is needing research on.

 The opportunity to extern with non-profit organizations gave me an understanding of several different state laws regarding trafficking and confidentiality of informants. The opportunity also forced me to look at Supreme Court cases that were relevant to the issues and might have affected the state laws.  Finally, I was forced to spend the majority of my time on Westlaw and LexisNexis legal research websites which helped me substantially in understanding how these systems work and how to properly conduct legal research. While students are typically given a short tutorial on the websites, spending hours researching laws from various states is an incredible opportunity to piece together current laws on various topics and then create presentations based on such information.

At the end of the semester, I was given the opportunity to present my findings alongside Professor McKee at the Southeastern Crime Stoppers 2014 Annual Conference in Williamsburg in front of hundreds of police officers, legislatures, lawyers, and public relations people who traveled from the eight states (and D.C.) that make up the Southeastern Crime Stoppers.[1]  I presented the research that the Center for Global Justice had compiled on the tipster protections, and today that information, including out PowerPoint presentation, is being used to help the Maryland and D.C. legislatures frame and PASS the Crime Stopper bills which have been on the floor, but not yet implemented.  Such laws have been shown to heighten civilian awareness of criminal activity and strengthen the community involvement in the apprehension of criminals by giving the civilians incentives and anonymity to cooperate with law enforcement when they witness possible or suspect criminal activity in their respective neighborhoods.  Through the course of this project, I gained an incredible understanding of what the various “local crime stopper hotlines” do to make a positive effect on state communities and strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and civilians.  

Jerusalem Institute of Justice:  Spring 2015

This was my proudest achievement and simultaneously most humbling experience.   Throughout law school, I had worked with Ernie in the above-mentioned projects, but maintained an open heart on the areas of law closest to my heart.  Ernie supported my work with another attorney that conducted international legal research with a concentration on the Middle East, namely Israel.  I both have a passion for Israel, so when my work with the other attorney was completed, I spoke to Ernie about working with law firms in Israel.  Providentially, Ernie already had set up a meeting with Calev Myers, the President of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice.  I was honored to be invited to this meeting and get to know Calev. Much of my focus in law school shifted from human trafficking to the Middle East just based on where I felt most passionate.  Calev founded JIJ to help combat human rights violations and democratic infringements in areas throughout Israel and its adjacent territories.  JIJ works with Israeli, Palestinian, and other Arab communities in those areas to help promote liberties and human rights amongst the civilians in that part of the world.

The first project that Calev’s team at JIJ presented to Ernie was a research paper that would focus on Hamas as a non-state or quasi-state actor since they were voted into elected office in the Gaza Strip alongside the Palestinian Authority in 2006.  Although the general politics of the area are contested, many worry that the Palestinian civilians living in Gaza are not being protected by its governing authority, Hamas, despite Hamas’s legal duties to their civilian population.   For the past several years, Hamas has not only targeted Israeli civilian populations, but has unlawfully used its own civilian populations as shields, or worse, an example to others of what conspiring with neighboring Israel will result in—public executions without trial. 

The research article that JIJ presented to us was to define what a “state” was and then identify Hamas’s standing under international law to determine if Hamas would be considered a “non-state” or “quasi-state” actor.  We were then to research whether non-state or quasi-state actors had duties and obligations to civilians under International Human Rights Law.  These laws are codified in various forms such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights, and various other multilateral conventions—including the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on Economic and Social Rights—all of which declare and outline fundamental human rights that ALL actors are to adhere to.  For support, we found cases where a non-state actor was held bound by IHRL despite not having “state” status or signing onto the treaty.  Throughout the research we discovered that there have been organizations which were bound by IHRL despite being considered “non-state actors.”
Next, our assignment was to research and document possible legal recourses for civilians affected by Hamas.  For example, if Hamas is considered a “non-state” or “quasi-state” actor, are they subject to the same legal duties as elected state representatives?  If so, civilians would have a legal claim against the actions of Hamas members or the group as a whole.  Also, if there are cases showing that non-state actors—such as Hamas—can be subject to civil legal recourse, then Palestinian or Israeli civilians would be able to sue Hamas for damages resulting from the violence Hamas has perpetuated as an elected representative.   This portion of the research highlighted various cases, domestic and international, where courts held Hamas (or similar terrorist organizations) financially liable for violence carried out against civilian populations.  We focused on cases involving Hamas and legal justifications that the courts used to find a non-state actor responsible for failing to carry out their legal duties.

The project was relevant for many reasons.  One of them being that the General Court of the European Union had temporarily voted to remove Hamas from the EU list of terrorist organizations which would allow Hamas to receive funding.  A major problem with this from JIJ’s (and our) perspective was that there was almost no proof that Hamas had used any of its financial resources to provide food and water and necessities to the Palestinian civilians.  Rather, evidence showed that Hamas had used its financial resources to purchase weapons in its war against Israel.  If removed from the EU terrorist list, it would be allowed nearly unlimited financial resources without much transparency as to whether those were being used to benefit the civilian population rather than incite another war. 

In the past few weeks, due to the efforts of many organizations (JIJ included), human rights organization Amnesty International declared that Hamas is guilty of torture, possible war crimes, and summary executions of Palestinian civilians.[2]  Hopefully this helps bring peace to the region where JIJ focuses its civilian efforts.  This project was very important to me as I maintain a passion to work in a legal field that deals primarily with the Middle East and Central Asia. 

[1] Southeastern Crime Stoppers Association,, last visited May 29, 2015.
[2]William Booth & Hazem Balousha, Amnesty International: Hamas Guilty of Torture, Summary Executions, Wash. Post (May 27, 2015),