In May, Danielle DerOhannesian ’18, Hwui Lee ’18, and Alison
Smeallie ’19 traveled to The Hague, Netherlands. Over a period of five days, they conducted oral arguments and presented briefs about human trafficking in the shrimp industry in the country of Northeros. The country, like the victims—and all allegations in the case—are fictional. The setting of the final round, however, was an actual courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and actual ICC judges adjudicated the fictional case.
The Temple Law squad was one of two teams representing the U.S. in the international round of the International Criminal Court Moot Court Competition. The other U.S. team is fielded by Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. The teams won the honor of representing the U.S. in March, when students from 15 U.S., Canadian, and Guatemalan universities convened at the annual regional competition, held at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in White Plains, NY.
While Temple ICC Moot Court teams have advanced to the semi-final round three times in the past five years, DerOhannesian, Lee, and Smeallie are the first Temple squad to advance to the international round. Teams are judged on their written briefs as well as performances in the oral arguments.
Graduating law student Lee, who was recognized as the third best prosecutor in the regional competition, says, ““I could never have imagined that I would be afforded an opportunity to go to an international law competition at The Hague. . . . Participating in the competition was one of my best law school experiences, not only for the sheer amount of international criminal law I learned, but for the closer relationship I came to have with our coaches and my two teammates.”
DerOhannesian agrees about the value of participating in the team. “Although law school prepared us well for many aspects of participating in this competition, domestic law is different from international law in significant ways,” she explains. “International criminal law, in particular, covers unique crimes, such as genocide, and has its own distinct policy debates. It was critical to our success to share our individual experiences in international law with the team and to learn from the wealth of knowledge and experience of the other professors and students helping us.”
Helping to prepare the team for the regional victory were the team’s researchers Marielle MacMinn ’19 and Megan Marriner ’19, international law professors Jeffrey Dunoff and Margaret M. deGuzman, Professor Richard Greenstein, and Temple Law alumni Anu Thomas ’17, Lilah Thompson ’17, and Justin Capek ’17. Greenstein will accompany the students to The Hague.
The ICC Moot Court Competition
The International Criminal Court, which has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, first began functioning in 2002. As a relatively young institution, it is still exploring its limits and potential reach. The first verdict was handed down in 2012, when Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was found guilty of recruiting child soldiers.
In 2004, before the ICC had even issued its first arrest warrants, two law professors at Pace’s law school, Matthew Brotmann and Gayl Westerman, began the ICC Moot Court Competition as an in-class experiment. The next year, they expanded it to include an invited list of schools. In 2006, the competition was opened up to universities from around the world and eventually moved the final round to The Hague.
Today, the competition brings together more than 100 teams of aspiring international lawyers, representing 46 countries—from Afghanistan to Zambia—around the world. Larger countries field more than one team; for instance, while the U.S. has two teams, China and India are represented by four teams each. While the rounds of the competition extend over a five-day period, participants also engage in an extensive educational and social program, giving students of diverse backgrounds and cultures a unique opportunity to meet and mingle, and challenge their skills as future international lawyers.
The Temple Law Team
A shared passion for international law brought Danielle DerOhannesian, Hwui Lee, and Alison Smeallie together when the three successfully tried out for the ICC Moot Court team in Spring 2017. Now this threesome looks back at literally hundreds of hours spent together, strategizing, practicing, and reading one another’s briefs. Those long hours were rewarded in March when the team was among those qualifying for the international round of the competition at The Hague.
There was very little down time after the victory at Pace. “Preparations for The Hague began just a few days after our team’s success at regionals,” recalls Smeallie. “We felt it was important to quickly regroup and begin ironing out logistics, as well as discuss our takeaways from the regional competition. We did give ourselves a few weeks to relax before we began mooting again.”
Like many high-achieving law students who make multi-tasking an art form, the three teammates became skilled at juggling their moot court participation with already crammed schedules.
DerOhannesian, who graduated in May, has worked closely with international law professor Jaya Ramji-Nogales, with whom she co-authored Constructing Invisibility: International Criminal Law and Gendered Harms (forthcoming 2018). In the summer of 2016, she interned at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels. DerOhannesian is a native of Albany, NY, and and she earned her undergraduate degree in political science with a minor in Arabic and
anthropology from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. She has accepted a position at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office starting in the fall.
Lee, who was the captain of the team after a year as a researcher, also graduated this year. He made the most of opportunities to get hands-on experience while in law school. He has interned for Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for the past year, and participated in a clinical program for the Philadelphia Defenders Association and Temple Law’s Sheller Center for Social Justice. Lee, a Philadelphia native and graduate of Central High, earned his undergraduate degree in political science and philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. After passing the bar in California, he plans to work in Los Angeles at the commercial and entertainment litigation firm of Browne George Ross.
Smeallie, a rising third-year law student, has a busy year coming up before she graduates in 2019. Last summer, she was a Law & Public Policy Scholar in Washington D.C., and this summer she will intern for the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender in Camden. After serving as staff editor for the Temple International and Comparative Law Journal (TICLJ), she is now the editor-in-chief. Smeallie was born in Middletown, NJ and went to the University of Delaware, where she studied history, political science, and legal studies. With both her teammates graduating, Smeallie takes the helm as captain and senior member of the ICC Moot Court Team. “Having Hwui and Danielle as teammates this year has been one of the best aspects of my time at Temple Law,” she says. “Although I will miss them deeply as they move on to begin their careers as attorneys, I am confident that they will continue to support our team as alumni.”
2018 ICC Moot Court Competition Problem
Prosecutor v. McGregor Klegane of Northeros
This fictional case is intended to enable students to familiarize themselves with the law and practice of the ICC: The case of Prosecutor v. McGregor Klegane of Northeros addresses whether the crime of human trafficking can be tried as a distinct crime against humanity and raises the question of whether a corporate officer can be tried for failing to exercise proper control over a subsidiary which was implicated in acts of human trafficking committed by its suppliers.