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Pepperdine’s Sudreau Global Justice Institute Summer Internship Program Provides African Supreme Court Clerkship and Legal Aid Opportunities

Law Students posing in front of a prison in Uganda with Danny DeWatt.

On Monday, May 20, 2024, 16 first-year law students from Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, Regent University School of Law, and the University of South Carolina School of Law began a summer internship program hosted by Pepperdine’s throughout Africa. These students will travel to Uganda, Rwanda, and Ghana to gain vital firsthand experience in the international criminal justice system. Over the course of nine weeks, they will live and work in their respective countries clerking with Supreme Court justices. Some will also partner with human rights organizations such as the Human Trafficking Institute in Uganda. These experiences will not only deepen their understanding of global legal practices, but also foster unique opportunities to work directly  with prominent judicial figures.

“Not many law students—let alone law students that recently completed their first year of law school—can say that they had the privilege of clerking for a Supreme Court justice. It is a truly remarkable opportunity for Pepperdine law students to learn from some of the very brightest legal minds in these countries,” shares Seth Bamburg (JD '17), associate director of the Sudreau Global Justice Institute. “Much more than simply a notable line on a résumé, it is a transformational experience to live in a country and culture different from one's own and engage daily with world leaders at the highest level of the legal profession.”

The institute's summer internship program is designed for students who are passionate about service, legal aid, and international justice. The trip will culminate with students from the three different countries convening in Uganda and facilitating a plea bargaining prison project alongside lawyers from the US, Ugandan advocates, and Ugandan law students. Taking place in Uganda's largest prison, Luzira Prison, this project will provide legal representation to clients who have been waiting in pre-trial detention to speak to an attorney, in some cases for months or even years, and will be the first time that any of the students have represented clients. While a Ugandan attorney will always be present supervising as the official attorney of record, the students will take ownership of the entire representation process.

President Jim Gash (JD '93), formerly the dean of students at Caruso School of Law, will attend the inaugural day of the prison project as a distinguished guest. Since granting permission for the first Pepperdine law students to clerk for the Supreme Court of Uganda in 2008, President Gash has been deeply involved in the country's legal landscape. He played a pivotal role in drafting plea bargaining guidelines for the Ugandan judiciary, training justice stakeholders, and integrating plea bargaining into the Ugandan criminal justice system. Additionally, he spearheaded and guided the prison project's initiatives for several years.

“There is no doubt that our students contribute value through their internships while also receiving so much through the experience,” Bamburg says. “We are always struck by how many times we hear the phrase ‘life-changing’ from the students' perspective and know this unique and humbling opportunity is making a difference in people’s lives.”