A Civil Action and Learning Sessions

One other great feature of this internship program is the interactive learning sessions. The learning sessions were held about once every two weeks, and covered a variety of topics. The Supreme Court lecture we have been to, for example, was a special learning session. The regular learning sessions usually involve assigned reading materials and group discussion/presentation on the highlighted topics.

We spent two learning sessions discussing about “rule of law” based on the readings from Rachel Kleinfeld’s book Advancing the Rule of Law Abroad: Next Generation Reform. The first rule of law session covered the definition and understanding of rule of law, and the second one focused on the methods of implementation of rule of law. This topic was essential for us to understand what NCSC is doing and how the goals would be achieved by different means. It could also apply to other non-profit organizations.

In week 6, the three interns, John, Ashley and myself, did an hour-long presentation to NCSC staff on extraordinary rendition, with analysis of differing perspectives of United States and Europe. The presentation included background information and history of the rendition cases in both United States and Europe, along with thorough case studies and introduction of modern trends such as topics of material witnesses. The presentation, as the staff commented, was very successful. We got great support from the colleagues. Most of them showed up and filled up the office library. The great thing was that a number of NCSC employees came from European and South American countries, therefore the discussion after the presentation turned out to be very interesting and informative, reflecting a variety of viewpoints.

The book discussion on A Civil Action was definitely a highlight of the summer. The book is a non-fiction written by Jonathan Harr in 1996. It is a thorough documentation of the famous water contamination case Anderson v. Cryovac in Woburn, Massachusetts, in the 1980s. (For a plot summary, please see this link.) It was a very unique and complicated case, and raised many interesting questions for discussion: for example, whether the family got justice, whether the judge was right to split the case into phases without showing the jury a full picture of the case, whether the special verdict questions were properly designed, whether the jury’s decision should decide the outcome of the case, whether the settlement was fair amount of money. There were also many things to discuss on the discovery process and evidence/expert use. The book was a perfect reading for law school students. One colleague told us that when she was in law school, this book was required for her civil procedure class. The book discussion was followed with a short presentation on innovative strategic litigation and the programs supported by international donor program, which opened up the topic into a broader area relevant to international organizations.

Thanks to Tim, the summer intern program not only gave us hands-on experience, but also broadened our views and enriched our knowledge on international law practice. Reading A Civil Action itself was an enjoyment, and realizing how interesting a litigation can be was a big plus on that.