Law Students, Professor Look Outside U.S. Borders for Legal Answers
International situations offer new perspectives for addressing conflicts worldwide
The University of Idaho College of Law is making a case for why international perspectives prove valuable in addressing conflicts at home and abroad.
Take a look at recent newspaper headlines and there’s no denying that drought is wreaking havoc on the western United States. That’s why UI law professor Barbara Cosens, recipient of a visiting professorship from the Goyder Institute and Flinders University, spent three and a half months in South Australia examining how that country legally managed its 15-year Millennium Drought, from 1995-2011. Based on first-hand experience, Cosens saw that Australia’s water management in the Murray-Darling Water Basin involved three main prongs: changes in infrastructure, increased efficiency in agricultural and municipal water consumption, and redefinition of water rights. Desalination plants sprung up to make seawater potable. They pump in salt water, desalinate it and then discharge leftover salt into the ocean. Wastewater was treated and reused in irrigation, crop types were reconsidered, and low-flow showerheads and toilets became the norm.
“Looking at what another country is doing gets you to think outside the box,” said Cosens, whose research contributed to a project funded by the National Science Foundation. “There’s not just one way to approach water allocation during drought. The fact that Australia came through such a prolonged drought without huge economic dislocation sends the message that we can make these adjustments.”
Joining Forces to Find Solutions
“I think we are living in an increasingly globalized world and have a lot of problems that cannot be solved as individual states,” said UI Law Professor Anastasia Telesetsky, who taught a 2015 summer course on environmental law at Beijing’s Renmin University, the No. 1 ranked law school in China. “Cooperation between states matters because we are operating increasingly across borders.”
One such problem of growing international concern — as populations multiply and resources become strained — is over-fishing, typically by individuals from developed nations whose vessels are in developing states’ waters. In September 2014, Telesetsky, whose research focuses on the sustainability of marine fisheries, presented a brief as part of a pro-bono legal team to the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany, on state responsibility for illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
“Developing countries are losing billions of dollars a year of potential revenue in fishery resources that might be fished by their people for sustenance,” Telesetsky said. Now, based on Telesetsky’s work, there exists a legal decision requiring states to proactively supervise their distant water fishing fleets.
Following in Telesetsky’s wake, but making her own waves, is recent UI law graduate Claire Freund, who completed a 10-week externship in the summer of 2014 with the Environmental Defenders Office in New South Wales, an Australian organization specializing in public interest environmental law. By first examining ocean policies implemented in other countries, Freund helped develop policies for marine protected areas for South Pacific islands victimized by over-fishing from developed countries’ vessels.
Fellow law graduate Uriel Benichou, who chose UI’s law program from his home country of France, also credits Telesetsky’s encouragement in his successful application for a United Nations internship — he became one of 20 recipients among 1,800 applicants. Working within the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Benichou researched marine genetic resources, or the potentially valuable DNA from algae and fish, that developed countries have been attempting to patent to create new antiviral drugs and cosmetics. Benichou primarily studied how developing nations could benefit from the research done in their own waters.
We’re offering various international opportunities by either bringing the world to Idaho or giving students and faculty members the opportunity to travel and work abroad.
— Mark L. Adams, dean of UI’s College of Law.
The Future of Law
Internationalization is certainly the new trajectory for the College of Law, according to Associate Dean of Students and Administration Jeffrey Dodge, and involves three core initiatives: study and work abroad opportunities, exchange programs and a Master’s of Law (LLM) for foreign students. Students taking advantage of such opportunities develop what Dodge calls cultural competency skill sets, so that regardless of cultural differences, UI law graduates are equipped to serve the world.
“We’re offering various international opportunities by either bringing the world to Idaho or giving students and faculty members the opportunity to travel and work abroad,” said Mark L. Adams, dean of UI’s College of Law. Adams emphasized that such opportunities “make you more aware of the commonalities we’re all dealing with, and by bringing people together, we can try to come up with solutions by looking at things through a different perspective.”
“The study of law is intense for students,” Cosens said. “At the end of three years, they face the bar exam, which requires memorization of existing law. This can cause students to think there’s no new direction the law can take — it’s just a matter of knowing the statutes and cases that have come before, which can cause students to become constrained in their thinking about what the solutions might be. Looking at what arguments and innovations have been made in other countries can really help move them beyond that.”
Article by Kate Keenan, College of Engineering