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Haiti Rule of Law

Students recruit for student organization and delegation to sister law school.

In September, the Haiti Rule of Law student organization welcomed new students with an introduction and overview of the organization’s mission – backed by an invitation to consider applying to join the Seton Hall Law delegation that visits Haiti each year.

“Seton Hall initiated its Haiti Rule of Law Project in 2002,” says Professor Lori Nessel, Director of the Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice and Faculty Director of the Haiti Rule of Law Program. “Since that time, faculty and students at Seton Hall Law have worked to support L’Ecole Superieure Catholique de Droit de Jérémie [ESCDROJ], a small Catholic Law School in the remote city of Jeremie, Haiti. During the years that we have been traveling to Haiti, our work has included lecturing and leading skills exercises at the ESCDROJ, meeting with lawyers, judges, prosecutors, religious leaders and health care workers, raising money for a well to bring drinking water to prisoners, reporting on prison conditions and access to justice issues, and litigating cases before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of political prisoners and massacre victims,”

Haiti Rule of Law Program President, Samantha Rumsey ’14, was part of the delegation to Haiti last spring, and explains the importance of the trip, saying, "The trip was unique because despite our short stay, we were able to have valuable legal experiences. On the one hand, our work on a human rights case exposed us to the challenges of seeking justice in Haiti. On the other, at ESDROJ, which has a mission of training lawyers committed to justice, we were able to meet future lawyers committed to improving the legal culture in their country."

Jason Stern’14, Treasurer of Haiti Rule of Law, also joined the delegation last spring. He too was profoundly impacted by his experience, saying, “Our trip to Haiti reignited my passion for traveling and my commitment to public interest law. It reminded me why I go to law school and inspired me to consider the type of work I hope to do one day. Haiti is a beautiful country with welcoming people and very real problems. Our trip made me realize that we, as aspiring lawyers, can be a part of the solution.”

Narline Casimir ’13 was born and raised in Haiti, yet she was also affected, saying, “I was shocked to see the devastation of the earthquake. For instance, the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral are now on the ground. I did not even recognize where I was until the driver would point out the places to me. This is not how it was when I grew up there. The plaza outside of the palace was beautiful and now it is filled with tents.”

She continues, “Despite the devastation, I was happy and proud to see how everyone in the program embraced the culture and really enjoyed the trip. I went with a great group of people and I was happy to share my culture with them. Haiti is a beautiful country, we are a beautiful people.”

Haiti Rule of Law Program President, Rumsey explained her personal motivation for becoming involved in the program: "I came to law school because I have an interest in working directly with people through public interest work. In the day-to-day academic environment, however, it can be easy to lose sight of what originally inspired me to study law. Although our work in Haiti was sobering, it was also refreshing and motivating to witness the challenges Haitian law students and lawyers are willing to confront in order to promote justice. I returned from the trip inspired to pursue legal opportunities I am truly passionate about."

Professor Lori Nessel adds that she is excited that the law firm of McCarter & English will collaborate with Seton Hall Law School this year on the Haiti Rule of Law Project. As Nessel explains, “[w]e are so grateful to have the support of a law firm like McCarter & English, that has a strong commitment to providing pro bono legal services to those in need. We look forward to joining forces to further our work in support of justice and rule of law in Haiti.”

Application to participate in this year’s Haiti Rule of Law Program will be available at the beginning of the Spring semester.

For more information regarding the Haiti Rule of Law Project, please contact: Professor Lori Nessel, Director, Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice, at lori.nessel@shu.edu or call 973-642-8708.

Pictured, from left: Front: Narline Casimir ’13, Kimberly Vanderhoef ’12, Jason Stern ’14, Samantha Rumsey ’14, and Rachel Lopez, Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor of the Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice.