Devon Porter ’15: A Fellowship Summer in Strasbourg and Morocco
As Devon explains: “At the ECHR, I was working for both a judge and for the Research Division. For the judge, I wrote memos on topics that he needed to research for pending cases. I also drafted two dissenting opinions, for which I got substantive feedback and edits, which was helpful. The topics were varied and interesting (from biotech and privacy, to PKK terrorists in Turkey, to adoption) and I learned about both U.S. and comparative law, as well as learning more about how the European Convention of Human Rights governs its member governments. I was able to attend one of the Grand Chamber hearings, which was especially different from courts in the U.S. because the proceedings were being simultaneously translated into multiple languages.”
Devon noted that there is also a large intern program, both for the Court and for the Council of Europe as a whole, so that there is a community of interns around the same age and with similar interests, providing a fun social element in addition to the positive work experience.
Devon encountered a different set of tasks and experiences at her second fellowship placement. “At Droit et Justice, I learned about what human rights work is like in a Muslim county that is also a constitutional monarchy. Here I wasn’t working with lawyers most of the time and the majority of the work I was doing was in project development, researching and writing grant proposals, fundraising, and writing budgets. I really enjoyed living in Morocco, and it was a particularly interesting cultural experience to be there during Ramadan.”
The organization’s projects included, among other things, “Justice Caravans,” where volunteer attorneys would travel to rural areas and provide legal advice to indigent Moroccans. One of Devon’s projects was putting together a proposal for a court-monitoring project to improve accountability in Moroccan courts. “One sobering fact that I learned in the course of my research for this project is that according to Transparency International, nearly half of Moroccans who have come into contact with the justice system in the past year reported paying a bribe to a judge (and over 60% reported paying a bribe to a police officer),” said Devon.
Devon valued her fellowship for bringing her in contact with issues that were very different from those she encountered in her work in the U.S.