Student Authors Recognized at Annual Reception

In early March, The Pence Law Library honored American University Washington College of Law student authors at its Eighth Annual Student Author Reception. This reception attended by faculty and staff recognized the research and writing accomplishments of students and celebrated their success in scholarly activities.

“It is so rewarding to see the efforts of so many students each year,” said Billie Jo Kaufman, associate dean for Library and Information Services. “Writing is a significant legal skill. These students’ works contribute to legal scholarship offering wide and varied topics. They do this work while carrying full course loads, participating in student organizations and activities, and many carry out internships and full-time employment.”

See the full list of student authors, or read more about several of them below.

Neha Bhat: “To Be or Not to Be: The Environmental Refugee” 

Neha Bhat, LL.M. candidate in the International Legal Studies Program, was recognized for her article “To Be or Not to Be: The Environmental Refugee.”  The article was published in January in the FAHAMU Legal Aid Newsletter, a monthly electronic publication that provides news, reflection, and learning on the provision of refugee legal aid.  Bhat’s article provides a historical overview of the debate on the descriptive category of “environmental refugees.”

“My aim in this article has been to present the development of the theory associated with environmental change and displacement in a concise and easy manner—I have tried to describe the works of some of the major proponents in this field through my article,” says Bhat. “For someone who is undertaking an initial reading in this subject, I hope my article will be able to point them to the larger set of issues and resources.”

Bhat’s recently published article is part of a longer piece of her academic research involving the displacement framework to deal with issues of environmental and climate change.

“I have worked extensively with refugees and asylum seekers before I started my LL.M. program at AUWCL,” she said. “I intend to keep working in this field. Most of my academic endeavors are therefore directed in this area also. I find it is very fascinating that although there is a lot of migration taking place in response to climate and environmental change, not much attention has been as yet paid to this aspect.”

Preston Mitchum & Lauren Nussbaum: “Homophobia as a Public Health Hazard: Gender Identities, Sexual Orientation, and the Human Right to Health”

Preston Mitchum and Lauren Nussbaum’s forthcoming article in the Health Law & Policy Brief,  “Homophobia as a Public Health Hazard: Gender Identities, Sexual Orientation, and the Human Right to Health,” analyzes international human rights violations and provides a legal framework of gender identities, sexual orientation, and gender expression. This article also expands on the effect of homophobia in the LGBTI community, and how it leads to both physical and behavioral health concerns. 

“As a gay man of color, I was interested in writing this article because of my personal experiences with homophobia and the lack of cultural competency in our health care system,” explained Mitchum. “What interested me were the violations of human rights for those who are LGBTI, and whether our current legal system provided a recourse to these individuals.”

“This topic was appealing to me because I am always interested in bridging the gap between theory and real-world impact, particularly in the human rights field, where much of the language of rights is so strong, but provides little guidance about domestic implementation to ensure that those rights are respected,” said Nussbaum.

The authors hope their readers realize that existing human rights principles already recognize protections for LGBTI people. There are needed changes to national and international laws that honor gender identity and sexual orientation in order to provide the best possible health care to LGBTI individuals.

“This can only be accomplished by first challenging the current system, and providing examples of what can be done,” said Mitchum, “This is one of the many purposes of the article.”

Mitchum, a recent LL.M. graduate was recognized for three articles at this year’s reception. He hopes to work for an organization that promotes equality and justice for marginalized groups. Nussbaum, a 2L, hopes to work in the assisted reproductive technology field of family law.

Juan Antonio Gaviria: “A Case for Misaligned Currencies as Countervailable Subsidies”

Juan Antonio Gaviria’s article on “A Case for Misaligned Currencies as Countervailable Subsidies” was published alongside Professor Aluisio Lima-Campos in the Journal of World Trade in 2012. 

The article presents a possible solution to predatory currency misalignment. They argue that undervalued currencies are giving an “unfair competitive advantage to some WTO members, nullifying the trade protections of other WTO members, and undermining the predictability and credibility of WTO rules,” and could be relieved by considering an undervalued currency as a countervailable subsidy.

Gaviria hopes that readers of the article recognize that this very well-known issue in international trade is a political one, and at the very least their article will create the necessary policy discussions.

Gaviria says his passion is in academia, and he enjoyes teaching and writing.  He earned his LL.M. from American University Washington College of Law in 2011, and is currently completing his S.J.D.  His dissertation is titled “The Hold-Up Problem in Colombia Contract Law.”

Chelsea Tu: “Edible Communities: Institutionalizing the Lawn-to-Garden Movement to Promote Food Independence for Low-income Families”

Chelsea Tu, a third-year student, will soon have an article published in the Sustainable Development, Law, and Policy Brief. The piece, “Edible Communities: Institutionalizing the Lawn-to-Garden Movement to Promote Food Independence for Low-income Families,” argues that lawn space should be used wisely to promote local fresh food growing.

“I learned that in 2009 Michelle Obama turned the south lawn into a vegetable and herb garden,” said Tu. “ I thought that if she could do it and she’s promoting healthy eating and healthy kids across America then we should internalize that concept ourselves in our front yards and backyards and then institutionalize this concept across the United States.”

Tu hopes that her readers recognize that unused lawn space is merely a “green carpet that is taking up a lot of water, using toxins, and not really providing any real use.”  Using such areas to grow roses or fruits and vegetables benefits both communities and the health of individuals, she said.

Tu has a background in science and management, and hopes to use her legal skills after graduation to better protect the environment.  

Jeff Kettle: “Congress Giveth and Taketh Away: A Look at Section 18 of the America Invents Act and the Review of Business Method Patents”

Jeff Kettle, a 3L, authored “Congress Giveth and Taketh Away: A Look at Section 18 of the America Invents Act and the Review of Business Method Patents” shortly after Congress passed the revision to the Patent Act.  His article, published by the Journal of the Patent & Trademark Office Society in 2012 specifically discusses business method patents, those patents which disclose and claim new processes of doing business.  One example of a business method, Kettle explained, is Amazon’s “1-Click Ordering” process, which allows frequent customers to place, pay for, and ship orders with the click of a button.

The article begins with a brief and understandable history of business methods, allowing even those looking for general information about patents and business method patents to appreciate Kettle’s work.

“The rest of the article is an analysis of the language of the act,” said Kettle. “It is a dissection of the words used in relation to prior case law and legislative history. I hope that readers can use my article to interpret what was written in the statute.”

According to Kettle, the professors at the law school served as an “amazing resource” throughout the writing process. He worked extensively with Professor Jorge Contreras, and got the idea for the article after taking patent law with Professor Jonas Anderson.

Kettle is involved with the intellectual property clinic at the law school, and hopes to work in the areas of trademark and copyright law after graduation.