CT Clinic Researchers 2012-13The Constitutional Transitions Clinic recently concluded its successful first year of operations. The clinic was launched by CT Director Sujit Choudhry to serve as a New York “back office” to support organizations and advisors working in the field as a part of constitution building processes. The clinic is staffed by law student researchers, who respond to requests from the field for focused research support on ongoing constitutional transitions. In his years of experience as a constitutional advisor, Choudhry saw first-hand the challenges faced by advisors working on the ground due to the inability to conduct comprehensive research in a timely manner. The clinic supplies this missing link, dramatically enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of current field missions by producing high-quality, in-depth research reports that feed into the constitution-making process. It is the first clinic in the world to support constitutional transitions in this way.

The clinic’s first partner is the West Asia and North Africa Office of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). The clinic is preparing a series of comparative, thematic research reports on constitutional design issues that have arisen in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. International IDEA will use these reports as engagement tools in support of its constitution building activities in the region (e.g. in Libya, Tunisia and Yemen).

During the 2012-13 academic year, twelve J.D. students and seven LL.M. students formed research teams to investigate three questions of constitutional design: executive-legislative relations; constitutional court appointment processes; and political party finance law. The student researchers hailed from eight countries, and brought relevant work experience from think tanks and advocacy NGOs, and from living and working in the MENA region. The students spent 20 hours per week researching and drafting their reports, which will be published online in Fall 2013 in English and Arabic.

Clinical students were uniquely positioned to monitor and study the events of the Arab Spring as they unfolded. In April 2013, they had the opportunity to travel to Tunisia to present their research at the University of Tunis-Al Manar’s Faculty of Law and Political Science. The delegation was also granted a private audience with Moncef Marzouki, President of the Republic of Tunisia, at the Presidential Palace. “After this year, I know that a clinic can produce work that is both incredibly relevant and interesting,” said clinic researcher Daniel Hanna (J.D. ’13). “Altogether we researched and wrote over three hundred pages of reports, which analyze constitutional issues that are being discussed right now in the Arab region.”