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Projects for Student Volunteers

The Talsky Center is conducting multiple research and drafting projects in which MSU Law students are given opportunities to gain lawyering experience in and contribute to the furtherance of human rights.

Students who are interested in taking advantage of any of these unique opportunities should contact Professor Susan Bitensky, director of the Talsky Center, at or 517-432-6898.

Current Projects:

Project to Assist the Child Soldiers Initiative

The Child Soldiers Initiative, founded by Lieutenant-General (Ret’d) Romeo Dallaire and based in Canada, is dedicated to preventing child soldiering and providing legal protection to those who were or are child soldiers around the world. The Talsky Center has developed a relationship with the Initiative whereby, on an as needed basis, MSU Law students have the opportunity to research various legal issues involved in reaching these goals; students may also be asked to draft legal memoranda, embodying research results, for use by the Initiative.

For example, students are currently researching whether it may be a mitigating circumstance that a perpetrator of violations of international humanitarian law was once a child soldier. The research pertains to an actual case which may be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court.

Project on Children’s Rights

This collaborative project between the Talsky Center and the Stahili Foundation involves students in researching and writing about children’s legal rights as contained in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Students will be doing this work under the supervision of various experts on the Convention; and, student work products will be used as the basis for a future book about these rights.

Previous Projects:

Project to Promote Enactment of State Legislation Requiring Schools to Teach Students About Genocide

This project involves students, under the direct supervision of the Talsky Center’s director, in research for and drafting of actual and model statutes requiring K-12 schools to teach students about genocide. (There are 45 states which do not presently require this type of education.) The project has produced a bill, currently pending in the MI legislature, which requires such education and about which students have given testimony before the House and Senate Education Committees.

Project to Make It Feasible to Sue Corporations in State Court for Their Human Rights Abuses (temporarily suspended)

The Talsky Center has undertaken this project in collaboration with the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) and EarthRights International. In so doing, MSU Law College has joined 14 other American law schools which are also participating, such as Harvard Law School, UCLA School of Law, and University of Virginia School of Law.

The project is, in part, an attempt to undo some of the damage done by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, 133 S. Ct. 1659 (2013), which drastically limited the availability of actions under the Alien Tort Statute in federal court. Specifically, the decision made it close to impossible for victims of human rights violations perpetrated by corporations and occurring outside the United States, to seek redress against the corporations in federal court.

The project is designed to identify and, if needed, create alternative causes of action in state court against corporations which engage in such extraterritorial human rights violations. The idea is to enable victims to obtain relief in state court for, say, assault and battery or wrongful death (as opposed to litigating torture, genocide, or war crimes in federal court).

In light of our law school’s geographic location, the project at MSU Law will focus exclusively on accomplishing this legislative reform in Michigan. The project will enlist students in three successive phases of work:

Phase 1: Students will research pertinent Michigan-law litigation issues, and will draft research memoranda and proposed legislation.

Phase 2: Students will try to assess Michigan state legislators’ attitudes of receptivity or antipathy toward the proposed legislation, and will approach potential allies to introduce and support the bill.

Phase 3: Students will participate in the effort to build a movement around the bill, and will work with other organizations to help garner support.

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