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Stanford Law School’s Allen Weiner Reports to United Nations on Ongoing Human Rights Violations by Vietnamese Government

Vietnamese activists

The original petitioners: Vietnamese activists who have been detained

STANFORD, Calif., October 21, 2014—Allen Weiner, director of the Stanford Program in International and Comparative Law at Stanford Law School, today filed an update concerning the petition initially submitted to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) in Geneva in July 2012 contesting the illegal arrest and ongoing detention of 16 Vietnamese social and political activists.

The update reports on the continuing failure of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to comply with the opinion rendered by the UNWGAD in August 2013, which found that the deprivation of liberty of these activists contravened Vietnam’s international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Working Group called upon the Vietnam government to immediately release the detainees and provide them with adequate reparation.

The update notes that despite the unambiguous nature of the UNWGAD’s August 2013 opinion, the Vietnamese government is still violating its clear legal obligations under international law. Eleven of the activists continue to be arbitrarily detained by the Vietnamese government in violation of its international human rights obligations.

In addition, although five of the activists have completed their prison sentences, they still face ongoing unlawful restrictions on their liberty through the exercise by the Vietnamese government of “administrative detention,” a form of restriction on their freedom of movement which is severely curtailing their livelihood and which is also in violation of Vietnam’s international obligations.

In addition, the update reports on the Vietnamese government’s malicious mistreatment of persons covered by the UNGWAD’s decision. The update notes with particular concern the cruel and degrading treatment of Francis Dang Xuan Dieu, a blogger and member of the nonviolent pro-democracy party Viet Tan.

 Human rights violations

According to a former prison inmate, Dieu has been held in solitary confinement and faced physical assault for maintaining his innocence and refusing to wear a prisoner uniform. Prison authorities have reportedly withheld food and clean water and forced Dieu to remain in a tiny cell without ventilation or even basic sanitation.

The mistreatment of Dieu is a clear violation of Article 19(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides: “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.” It is also inconsistent withArticle 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

This conduct is also flatly inconsistent with the representations made by the Vietnamese government upon its signing on November 7, 2013, of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Vietnamese ambassador to the United Nations at that time asserted that, by signing the convention, Vietnam was “reaffirm[ing] its unwavering commitment to prevent all acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of persons and to better protect and promote fundamental human rights.”

Given the continuing mistreatment of those engaged in nonviolent forms of political and social activism in Vietnam and the Vietnamese government’s ongoing unlawful detention of such activists, the update urges the UNWGAD to take urgent action on behalf of Francis Dang Xuan Dieu and the other petitioners, such as requesting a country visit to Vietnam, including a prison visit with Dieu; submitting an inquiry to the Vietnamese government regarding the current treatment and condition of Dieu; and reiterating its previous opinion and renewing its request for the unconditional release of all 16 social and political activists covered by the Working Group’s August 2013 opinion.

Violation of international law

“In view of the U.N. Working Group’s opinion in this case, there can be no reasonable question about whether Vietnam’s detention of these social and political activists is permissible under international law. It is not, but is simply governmental repression against those seeking to exercise civil and political rights that are protected under international law,” said Allen Weiner, senior lecturer at Stanford Law School and counsel for the petitioners.

“The refusal of the Vietnamese government to release these petitioners, notwithstanding the clear decision of the U.N. Working Group, reflects a deep disregard for international law and raises profound questions about the role Vietnam wishes to play in the international community,” he noted. “Above all, it is a deep injustice to these activists, who seek only to engage in the kind of speech and political and social advocacy that we take for granted in a free society.”

In its opinion issued in August 2013, the UNGWAD, which is responsible for examining cases of arbitrary detention, stated expressly that that the holding and expressing of opinions, including those which are not in line with official government policy, are protected under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Working Group noted that the provisions of Vietnamese law on the basis of which the petitions were convicted are “vague and overly broad.” It found that the deprivation of liberty of the petitioners, as well as the procedural deficiencies in their trials, contravened numerous provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The petitioners are Dang Xuan Dieu, Ho Duc Hoa, Nguyen Van Oai, Chu Manh Son, Dau Van Duong, Tran Huu Duc, Le Van Son, Nong Hung Anh, Nguyen Van Duyet, Nguyen Xuan Anh, Ho Van Oanh, Thai Van Dung, Tran Minh Nhat, Ta Phong Tan, Tran Vu Anh Binh, and Nguyen Dinh Cuong.

Read about the U.N. Working Group’s favorable ruling on the original petition.

About Allen S. Weiner

Allen S. Weiner is senior lecturer in law, director of the Stanford Program in International and Comparative Law, and co-director of the Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation at Stanford University. He is an international legal scholar with expertise in such wide-ranging fields as international and national security law, the law of war, international conflict resolution, and international criminal law (including transitional justice). His scholarship focuses on international law and the response to the contemporary security threats of international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and situations of widespread humanitarian atrocities. He also explores the relationship between international and domestic law in the context of asymmetric armed conflicts between the United States and nonstate groups and the response to terrorism.


Supreme Court urges states to take lead in same sex marriage, say Stanford Law professor and others at Stanford

This story was written by Clifton B. Parker of Stanford News Service.

Same sex marriage took another step this week toward becoming the law of the land – at least how it’s defined individually in all 50 states – according to Stanford scholars.

Earlier this week, and in a bit of a surprise, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will not hear any of the seven same sex marriage cases pending before the court. Jane Schacter, a Stanford Law School professor and leading expert on sexual orientation law, said the immediate effect is that the high court will allow marriage to go forward in the states involved in the litigation and eventually in every state in these circuits.

People wait in front of Supreme Court

People wait to enter the Supreme Court on Oct. 6, 2014, as it begins its new term. Photo by Scott Applewhite, AP

“If the Supreme Court declines review from a circuit court ruling, that ruling binds every state in that circuit,” noted Schacter, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law.

Schacter said she believes the likely meaning of the Supreme Court’s action denying review is that the court won’t take up a same sex marriage case until a federal appeals court upholds a state ban on same sex marriage: “That would create a split among the federal appeals courts that the court might feel obliged to resolve.”

As she pointed out, in 2013 the court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and every federal appellate court to hear a case since that decision has ruled in favor of marriage equality.

“We of course don’t know what the court would rule if it did take a case,” said Schacter, who said there may well be a narrow majority on the court in favor of marriage equality.

As for those who oppose same sex marriage, she said they will likely continue to argue that each state ought to set its own marriage policy and that nothing in the Constitution grants same sex couples a right to marry.

“They will correctly point out that the court’s decision not to grant review earlier this week is not the same thing as a decision affirming that laws banning same sex marriage are unconstitutional,” said Schacter.

Litigation is underway in several federal circuits that have not yet ruled on marriage equality, she added. If there was a “circuit split,” Schacter said, the “Supreme Court might well decide to grant review and give us a conclusive national answer.”

‘Sense of justice,’ economic inequality

Estelle Freedman, a Stanford history professor specializing in women’s history and the history of sexuality, offered an explanation for the shift in public opinion toward favoring same sex marriage in recent years.

“For one, it appeals to people’s sense of justice,” said Freedman, the Edgar E. Robinson Professor in U.S. History. Before last year, federal law barred same sex couples from availing themselves of many tax benefits that flow freely to heterosexual married couples. Social Security survivor benefits are another issue.

“The concept of marriage as a long-term commitment is important to many people, so it’s acceptable to extend it to lesbians and gay men,” said Freedman. The legal arguments against same sex marriage were focused on how it might corrupt children or destroy the institution of marriage. Multiple courts have already found such argumentation to be unfounded, she added.

“In short, this court is not going to make it a federal case, ruling for the nation,” she said.

Within the LGBTQ community, Freedman said, there is debate about the broader effects of the same sex marriage movement. Some critics point out that concentrating on marriage rights is a conformist strategy that may privilege those with the most resources and overlook problems of economic inequality.

Even with the support for same sex marriage, society still has a problem with homophobia and bullying toward queer people, especially the young and underprivileged, she said.

“Homophobic violence is often experienced by those who are economically vulnerable, including gay youth, people of color and trans people,” said Freedman.

She said that while she hoped the recent favorable court rulings would help undermine these hostile attitudes, much work remains to be done beyond the courthouses of America.

To give just one example, revised educational curricula for K-12 students that include LGBT history and issues could be helpful in encouraging respect for diversity, Freedman said.

Changing families, research findings

Michael Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford who studies race, ethnicity and families, said the percentage of Americans supporting same sex marriage has risen by about 1.5 percent per year in recent years.

As a result, he said, public support for same sex marriage has in many states gone from just less than 50 percent to just more than 50 percent, which allowed same sex marriage to win at the ballot box in several states in 2012.

“Most of that change is due not to individuals changing their minds, though some individuals have certainly changed their minds, but rather to the arrival into adulthood of people from more recent birth cohorts, who have grown up in environments in which gay rights are not controversial,” he said.

Rosenfeld described the generational gap in attitudes toward gay rights as “enormous.”

“Societal change due to more recent birth cohorts replacing older birth cohorts is called ‘demographic metabolism,’” said Rosenfeld.

“Once people perceive that support for same sex marriage is a majority position, as it is now in many states, same sex marriage starts to be perceived as inevitable,” he said.

Moreover, social science research shows that the public increasingly perceives same sex couples – especially same sex couples raising children – as families, according to Rosenfeld.

As scholars published more research in the past 10 years on children raised by same sex couples, the findings revealed that those children have “good outcomes,” he noted.

“The social science consensus that children raised by same sex couples are at no disadvantage has been acknowledged by the various scholarly professional organizations and by the courts,” Rosenfeld said.


A. Douglas Melamed Joins Stanford Law School as Visiting Professor

One of Stanford Law School’s new visiting professors has argued precedent-setting antitrust cases, has held senior positions in the U.S. government and has been general counsel of a major multinational corporation. And during his final year at Harvard Law School, he coauthored a paper on law and economics that remains one of the most cited and influential law review articles of all time.

Now A. Douglas Melamed, the Herman Phleger Visiting Professor, is preparing to teach a new course during winter quarter at the law school called “Going Global: Advising Clients in a Global Economy” with Professors Robert Daines and Jenny Martinez. He’ll draw upon his long experience as a partner in an international law firm and as head of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the Clinton years and his more than four and one-half years as senior vice president and general counsel of Intel Corporation.

A. Douglas Melamed

A. Douglas Melamed

“Commerce takes place increasingly in the global economy,” Melamed said. “We learn in law school analytical tools for navigating the U.S. legal system. But the law is very different even on the European continent. In non-Western countries, the differences are even greater. It’s important for students to learn that the tools of American law are of limited value once international borders are crossed.”

“Doug Melamed brings spectacular experience to Stanford.  He has had a distinguished career as a private attorney, led the antitrust division of the Department of Justice and guided a major multinational corporation as its chief lawyer.  Beyond this, he has exceptional intellectual range and creativity.  Our students and our community are so lucky to be able to learn from him,”  said M. Elizabeth Magill, dean and Richard E. Lang Professor of Law at Stanford Law School

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

One of the most important lessons Melamed has learned is that, in counseling on business and legal strategies and in litigation, one cannot assume others see problems or issues the same way. “You can’t be a good lawyer if you’re drinking the Kool-Aid,” he explained. “You’ve got to anticipate how the situation looks to others and what those whose background and interests are different from yours are going to think and say.”

When Melamed prepares for an important legal argument, he spends hours jotting down all the questions he can imagine that others might ask about the case – and then proceeds to answer them. That enables him both to prepare for the argument and to test the soundness of his position.

Melamed entered Harvard Law School in 1967 after earning a BA in political science and economics at Yale. “I loved what I studied in college, but I didn’t take law school as seriously as I think I should have,” he recalled. “I didn’t expect to practice law, and maybe I was too young.” But he became excited about law while writing a paper for a third-year seminar.

He sat down with a blank legal pad and created a matrix that became a framework for the nascent field of law and economics. He speculates that the novelty of the approach might have reflected in part that he was taking a fresh look at the problem. “I wasn’t steeped in the literature,” he explained. Melamed and the professor, Guido Calabresi (now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit), turned the paper into an article, “Property Rules, Liability Rules and Inalienability: One View of the Cathedral,” that has been cited thousands of times and reprinted in anthologies around the world.

After law school, Melamed clerked for Judge Charles M. Merrill of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Then he began practicing law, first as an associate and later as a partner with the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Washington, D.C. His second oral argument was before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Kaiser Steel Corporation. Since then, he has argued on behalf of other clients in numerous federal and state appellate and trial courts and before various administrative agencies.

Taking on Microsoft

Joel Klein tapped Melamed in 1996 to be his principal deputy when Klein headed the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. In that role, Melamed worked closely with Klein in developing the government’s legal theories for the case that accused Microsoft of monopolizing personal computer operating systems. (Stanford Law School Professor Phil Malone was the factual architect of the case.)

During his years with the DOJ, Melamed also oversaw numerous other investigations and cases, as well as the Antitrust Division’s international activities and its policies regarding the communications and electricity industries. When Klein left the DOJ, Melamed succeeded him as acting head of the Antitrust Division until the inauguration of President Bush in 2001.

Melamed has been a leader in the antitrust bar and has influenced the evolution of antitrust law through articles he has written and by cases on which he worked at the Justice Department and in private practice. After he returned to what became Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, his most important cases included Rambus v. the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and U.S. Philips v. the International Trade Commission (ITC) and Princo v. ITC, both in the Federal Circuit. All required challenging and creative analysis of legal problems – an exercise Melamed enjoys.

For example, in the Rambus case the FTC accused the chipmaker of “a pattern of anticompetitive and exclusionary acts and practices.” Melamed’s argument on behalf of Rambus defined important limits on the role of the antitrust laws in governing business conduct. The court ruled in favor of Rambus.

“We took positions in those cases that were novel, that people didn’t expect to prevail, and we succeeded,” he said. “We made new law, and I think we made good law.”

In 2009 Melamed moved to California to join Intel as senior vice president and general counsel. His job includes overseeing both Intel’s legal department and its global public policy team.

“I am excited about the opportunities I will have at Stanford – to think and write about some legal issues in which I have been interested for some time, to help develop a needed new course focused on legal problems in the global economy, and to try to pass on to law students some of what I have learned over the past 40 years,” he said.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.


Stanford Law School Recognizes Attorneys Marielena Hincapié and Catherine Crump with Public Service Awards

STANFORD, Calif., October 7, 2014 – The John and Terry Levin Center at Stanford Law School honored two outstanding lawyers last night for remarkable achievements in public service.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, was awarded the National Public Service Award, while Catherine Crump (JD ’04) received the Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award. Crump is an assistant clinical professor of law and associate director of the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law.

M. Elizabeth Magill, Marielena Hincapie, John Levin

Stanford Law School Dean M. Elizabeth Magill (left) and John Levin (MA ’70, JD ’73) honor Marielena Hincapie with the National Public Service Award.

The National Public Service Award is awarded to attorneys whose public service has had national impact, and the Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award recognizes a Stanford Law School alumnus or alumna who has made outstanding contributions to advance justice and social change in the lives of vulnerable populations on a community, national or international level. In particular, the Rubin Award is intended to highlight sustainable solutions to societal problems.

“Marielena Hincapié is a powerful voice for some of the most vulnerable in our society—low-income immigrants and their family members—and she is an inspiring example to our students of what a profound difference a skilled advocate can make in the lives of people. She also reminds us all of our obligation to make the world a better place, and we are thrilled to honor her with Stanford’s National Public Service Award,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, dean and Richard E. Lang Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.

“It is also deeply meaningful when we can honor one of our own. We are grateful to the Rubin Family for creating a prize that allows us to do so every year. I’m delighted that we have chosen Catherine Crump, whose work in the area of privacy, civil liberties and civil rights could not be more timely or important,” she added. “These two honorees are at the forefront of two of the most pressing social justice issues of our day.”

National Public Service Award Recipient: Marielena Hincapié

Under Marielena Hincapié’s executive leadership, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) has grown to be one of the premier immigrants’ rights organizations, using a combination of litigation, policy, communications and alliance-building strategies to effect social change. It is recognized as the main organization dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants in the U.S. Hincapié is highly respected for her legal and alliance-building strategies and is seen as a bridge builder within the immigrants’ rights field, as well as across broader social justice sectors.

Hincapié began her tenure at NILC in 2000 as a staff attorney leading the organization’s labor and employment program. During that time, she successfully litigated law reform and impact-litigation cases dealing with the intersection of immigration laws and employment/labor laws. She then served as NILC’s director of programs from 2004 to 2008, after which she became executive director.

Before joining NILC, Hincapié worked for the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center in San Francisco, where she founded the Center’s Immigrant Workers’ Rights Project. She received her juris doctor degree from Northeastern University School of Law, served on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration, and is currently a member of the Jobs with Justice and Welcome.US boards of directors.

Fully bilingual and bicultural, Hincapié serves as a resource and is often interviewed by media outlets. She also is a frequent lecturer at national and international conferences, addressing issues of migration, and she works closely with emerging leaders in the social justice movement.

Among the awards Hincapié has received are Univision’s Corazón Award for 2013, in honor of her commitment to the Latino community. The media company, which honors one organization and one individual each year, cited her leadership at the National Immigration Law Center as a key reason she received the award. In 2014 she received the Latina of Influence award from Hispanic Lifestyle and was chosen to be one of seven Prime Mover Fellows by the Hunt Alternatives Fund.

Hincapié immigrated as a child from Medellín, Colombia, to Central Falls, Rhode Island.

Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award Recipient: Catherine Crump

Catherine Crump is an assistant clinical professor of law and associate director of the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law. An experienced litigator specializing in constitutional matters, she has represented a broad range of clients seeking to vindicate their First and Fourth Amendment rights. She also has extensive experience litigating to compel the disclosure of government records under the Freedom of Information Act.

Her primary interest is the impact of new technologies on civil liberties. Representative matters include serving as counsel in the ACLU’s challenge to the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ call records; representing artists, media outlets and others challenging a federal Internet censorship law; and representing a variety of clients seeking to invalidate the government’s policy of conducting suspicionless searches of laptops and other electronic devices at the international border.

Prior to coming to Berkeley, Crump served as a staff attorney at the ACLU for nearly nine years, starting her career there as an Equal Justice Works post-graduate fellow. Before that, she was a law clerk for Judge M. Margaret McKeown at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“This year’s honorees are outstanding role models for our students and for all who hear the call to pursue justice, especially when it is difficult,” said Diane T. Chin, associate dean for public service and public interest law and lecturer in law, who oversees the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law. “Their passion, commitment and unwavering pursuit of what is right should inspire all of us to serve our communities and strengthen the systems that are designed to ensure our equality and safety.”

The awards were established in 2006 by the Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law as part of its mission to raise awareness about the importance of public service. The awards are given annually to individuals who exemplify a commitment to public service, provide models of practice that are interesting and innovative, and who make a contribution to the overall public interest legal field. The recipients were chosen by individuals that included Todd Rubin, a member of the Rubin family who helped establish the Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award, Dean Elizabeth Magill and Associate Dean Diane T. Chin.

About the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law

The mission of the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law at Stanford Law School is—through courses, research, pro bono projects, public lectures, practitioner convenings, funding programs and career development support—to make public service a pervasive part of every law student’s experience and ultimately help shape the values that students take into their careers. It also engages in programming and research that supports development of the public interest legal community and increases access to justice.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

Stanford Law School Honors 2014 Bright Award Recipient Art Sterritt

This story was written by Bjorn Carey and was published Oct. 3 in the online edition of the Stanford Report.

For a professional artist, sculptor and goldsmith, Art Sterritt has led a remarkably successful second life as an environmental conservationist.

Art Sterritt

Art Sterritt

As the founding executive director of Coastal First Nations (CFN) in British Columbia, Canada, Sterritt led the establishment of the 21-million-acre Great Bear Rainforest, a protected 250-mile stretch of coastline north of Vancouver. The ecosystem accounts for a quarter of the world’s remaining coastal temperate rainforests, and CFN has established services within it that allow member nations to create sustainable businesses within the territory.

“The natural capital that has sustained us now requires us to help sustain them,” Sterritt said. “We basically have taken 25 percent of the coastal temperate rainforest left on the planet, and we can guarantee that it will be there forever.”

Visit to Stanford

On Thursday, Sterritt, the 2014 Stanford Bright Award recipient, visited campus to share his experiences in an evening lecture, and sat down for a lunchtime conversation led by Felicity Barringer, an environmental reporter for the New York Times.

Issued by Stanford Law School, it is the only award to recognize significant achievement in conservation across different regions of the world. The prize was made possible by a gift to Stanford Law School from Ray Bright, Stanford Law School class of 1959, and his wife, Marcelle. Bright passed away in 2011, but his brothers, George and Michael Bright, serve on the advisory board.

“Art has done remarkable work in helping to preserve the Great Bear Rainforest, and it’s one of the great environmental achievements in North America in recent history,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School.

In addition to raising $120 million from government, corporate and private donations to fund the protection and management of the region, Sterritt has helped usher in practices that will make the program sustainable in the long term.

One of those involves protecting trees and selling carbon offsets. Great Bear Rainforest has 875,000 tons of carbon offsets available annually, Sterritt said, which it sells for upward of $15 a ton to environmentally responsible corporations and governments. That revenue helps fund the management of the rainforest.

Sustainability pays off

“The natural capital of the region pays our people to manage the forests now,” Sterritt said. “The area is actually protecting itself. We as people depend on the forests, then for a while the forests depended on us. Now we depend on forests again. We’re simply changing the paradigm back to what it had been for a millennium.”

This is a dramatic shift from only a few decades ago, Sterritt said, when outside industry threatened to overexploit the forests and fisheries. Commercial logging had been so intense that at one point scientists projected that land set aside for this use would be depleted within 20 years. Now, any business conducted within the park must meet incredibly strict environmental standards, established by CFN.

Marrying modern scientific knowledge with generations of native wisdom has been central to Sterritt’s success. He has recruited top scientists to analyze the ecosystem and judge the environmental impact of business plans. Frequently, when representatives from First Nations, governments and corporations meet at the negotiating table, they each bring their own data. Sterritt said he’s been so successful in large part because of his novel approach to negotiating: merge the data sets. The negotiating parties then draw upon the communal database to establish an ecosystem-based management and business plan that satisfies CFN.

“There are [people and corporations] that don’t quite agree with the result, but they can’t disagree with the process, because they’re all part of it,” Sterritt said.

Although the management of Great Bear Rainforest serves as a model for how indigenous people can preserve their culture and land while co-existing with industry, these dealings rarely work as smoothly as has been the case with CFN. Barringer asked Sterritt for the secret to his success.

“You have to personalize things and get people in the regions to make sure that they understand,” Sterritt said. “You have to respect the people. We shared good information with them, and they made the decisions.”

Response to oil companies

When weighing proposals for oil production or pipelines in the territory, for example, Sterritt and other CFN members visited the sites of the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon spills. They learned about how even the latest oil cleanup technologies had barely made a dent in these environmental disasters, and in some case made the situation worse. They reported these findings to their members, and CFN has collectively issued a tanker ban along Great Bear Rainforest, and says that no pipeline will ever cross the land. Recent polls show that a strong majority of British Columbians support these decisions.

The work often takes patience and perseverance, Sterritt said. Convincing fellow First Nations members to make additional forest off-limits to logging in order to sell the carbon offsets was a difficult concept to explain. But once the first payments came in, the people understood the financial benefits associated with preserving and nurturing the land.

Sterritt and his wife, Pat, have 16 grandchildren, all of whom live within Great Bear. This makes it even more important to him, he said, to ensure that the riches of the land will be available for future generations.

“We’ve been here for 10,000 years, and we’ll be there 10,000 years from now,” Sterritt said. “Our social safety net is our forest, our water and our air.”

The Bright Award, issued by Stanford Law School in collaboration with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, honors significant achievement in conservation in different regions of the world and is the top environmental award at Stanford. The award was created by a gift to Stanford Law School in 2007 from Raymond E. Bright Jr., JD ’59, on behalf of his late wife, Marcelle, and himself. Mr. Bright died in 2011.

Sterritt was nominated for the award by a committee composed of Stanford Law School faculty and students, with assistance from consultants experienced in this year’s designated North American region. The dean of Stanford Law School selected the final award recipient. An advisory board, consisting of Michael Bright, George Bright and Alan Markle, helps oversee the Stanford Bright Award. Next year’s recipient will be selected from Europe.

For more information, visit http://brightaward.stanford.edu.