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March 3, 2014

Battling Public Corruption

by Dan Rodriguez

Professor Juliet Sorensen penned an opinion piece that is well worth a read: “Why Are Natural Disasters Breeding Grounds for Corruption?” It was published today on Talking Points Memo.

This is a subject on which she writes regularly. Another notable recent op-ed of hers was on the United Nation’s efforts to fight international corruption through the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which was published on Al Jazeera America.

Her writing is based, in part, on the work she does with her Northwestern students. I’m pleased to share with you here an excerpt from a forthcoming article about the exemplary work of students, faculty, and alumni involved with the Center for International Human Rights. The full article will appear next month in the Spring 2014 issue of the Northwestern Law Reporter:

In 2013 the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center for International Human Rights was granted consultative status with the United Nations, an accreditation held by only one other US law school, which allows nongovernmental, nonprofit public and voluntary organizations to play a role in UN deliberations. CIHR’s consultative status enabled clinical assistant professor Juliet Sorensen and two JD students—Akane Tsuruta (JD ’14) and Jessica Dwinell (JD-LLM IHR ’14)—to attend last November’s Conference of the State Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, held in Panama City.

As recently as 15 years ago bribery was regarded in many countries as a legitimate business practice, in some cases even a tax deduction allowed by law. It was not until 2003—when the Convention against Corruption was adopted by the UN General Assembly—that a legally binding international treaty to criminalize corporate bribery, extortion and embezzlement first emerged. As of February of this year, 170 countries have become parties to the treaty, and the Conference of the State Parties to the UNCAC has convened biennially to review signatories’ progress toward preventing corruption, improving international law enforcement and providing mechanisms for the treaty’s implementation.

Northwestern Law’s three delegates to last fall’s conference—the fifth to be held—worked closely with the UNCAC Coalition, a global coalition of anticorruption NGOs, attending plenary sessions and helping the organization to write articles. Tsuruta and Dwinell also blogged about conference proceedings for FCPA Professor, a widely followed online forum devoted to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other international anticorruption laws…

…With substantial input from Chicago law firm Baker & McKenzie, the Center for International Human Rights created a desk reference compendium on UNCAC compliance. Sorensen and her students analyzed data and assembled country-by-country documentation, working together with Baker & McKenzie partner Edwin R. Dunn (JD ’67), attorney Gerardo Calderon-Villegas (who also attended the UNCAC conference), and Bluhm Legal Clinic advisory board member Angela Vigil (JD ’95), who is Baker & McKenzie’s director of pro bono and community service for North America. The compendium was an essential resource for Northwestern Law’s UNCAC conference delegation and will continue to serve as a guide for future UNCAC compliance work.

“This valuable resource would not have been possible without the generosity and talent of Baker & McKenzie,” said Sorensen. “And each of us, regardless of the type of law we practice, can play a role in fighting corruption. As members of the bar, it is our responsibility to advise clients facing the gray areas of corruption to make honest, ethical decisions. In-house lawyers, corporate counsel and litigators—all can help.” –Erin Marks

I’m proud and appreciative of the extraordinary efforts of these members of the Northwestern Law community.

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