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Professor and Students Draft Uniform State Act

July 12, 2013 — A uniform act first drafted by Professor Susan Deller Ross and her students in the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic was passed by the Uniform Law Commission on July 11 at its annual meeting.

Professor Susan Deller Ross Professor Susan Deller Ross

The Uniform Act on Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking is “a very comprehensive take on the problem from all fronts,” said Ross. “Make it a crime, give prosecutors the tools they need to get successful prosecutions, set up a coordinating body so all the stakeholders can work together to put a stop to this and provide services to the victims so they don’t go back to the traffickers.”

The 16-page act provides penalties for offenses including trafficking an individual, forced labor, sexual servitude and patronizing a victim of sexual servitude. It includes a range of protections including restitution and services for victims and allows victims to sue the perpetrators. 

“Even if the prosecutors can’t get these criminals, the victims are allowed to bring a civil action for damages,” Ross said, noting that the act establishes a coordinating body to educate the public and to train state employees to identify victims and ensure they get services; it also provides a safe harbor for children who are sexually exploited commercially. “A lot of these protections aren’t in the state laws that exist now.”

The act will also bring uniformity to a patchwork of state criminal laws, Ross said. “Some state laws are comprehensive and good, while others are more limited in scope.”

The Uniform Law Commission or ULC provides states with legislation to bring uniformity, clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law. With the ULC's passage of this act, the commissioners will now urge states to enact it.

Since July 2011, Ross has served as the reporter for the ULC’s Committee on the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking, responsible for drafting the statute as the committee repeatedly met to review and analyze its features. She enlisted four students in her International Women’s Human Rights Clinic to help produce the first draft: Katherine Gora (L’13), Cindy Henning (L’13), Alexandra O’Donohue (L’12) and Lauren Britsch (L’13). They produced a 123-page report in December 2011 containing both the act and its guiding principles. 

"Participating in the shaping of the initial drafts of the Uniform Act on the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking was without a doubt my proudest achievement at Georgetown Law," said Gora, who continued to work on the project as Ross's research assistant. "It is my hope...that law enforcement and victims nation-wide will soon be newly empowered by the Act's criminal and civil provisions."

Ross’s clinic, established at the Law Center in 1998, advances women’s human rights globally through partnerships with local women's rights NGOs, as well as through research and scholarship.

The students’ 2011 draft can be viewed here. The final 2013 draft can be viewed here.

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