INSTITUTE FOR LEGISLATIVE AND
Dean Eric Gouvin opened the ceremony with welcoming remarks.
He observed that the “great strength of our country is its ability to
attract new citizens from all around the world, who come for their
own personal reasons, but who contribute their talents, culture, and
values to enrich our country as a whole.”
Federal Magistrate Judge Katherine (Katy) Robertson ’90
presided at the formal proceeding in our Pellegrini Moot Court
Room. We also invited several other graduates to participate in the
program. Attorney Kathryn (Katie) Foster ’09 sang America the
Beautiful and The Star Spangled Banner, a role she reprised from
her graduation in 2009.
Attorney Phyllis Ryan ’81, the principal speaker, offered congratulatory remarks, words of encouragement, and a challenge to
be a fine citizen. Having been born in Italy, she told the poignant
story of her father bringing the family to America to begin new
lives. Emphasizing the joy and opportunities that flowed from coming here, Attorney Ryan stressed to the new citizens the importance
of taking advantage of those opportunities and of being a devoted
citizen to their families, to their communities, and to their country.
The Institute also hosted a hearing of the Joint Committee
on the Judiciary of the Massachusetts Legislature, which
conducts most of its hearings through committees composed of
members of both houses. Senator William N. Brownsberger, senate
chair, and Representative John V. Fernandes, the house chair,
presided at the hearing.
The Joint Committee heard testimony on a variety of bills
relating to criminal justice, human rights, and other topics, including a bill sponsored by Representative John Velis (Democrat, Westfield) that seeks to prevent persons from misrepresenting their
receiving military honors and exploiting that misrepresentation.
After the United States Supreme Court declared unconstitutional
the Federal Stolen Valor Act, Rep. Velis introduced his bill so that
state law could fill the gap left by the Court’s decision in a constitutionally permissible manner.
For two hours, the Joint Committee heard testimony on three
bills relating to human rights: S. 877, which addresses civil remedies for certain human rights violations, and two companion bills,
S. 1116 and H. R. 1530, providing civil and criminal remedies for
female genital mutilation (FGM). Passage of these bills is essential
for the advancement of human rights in the Commonwealth.
Four years ago, the United States Supreme Court decided Kiobel
v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 133 S.Ct. 1659 (2012), which left
critical gaps in the enforcement of human rights in the United
States. The Massachusetts Legislature has been a leader in advancing human rights, the subject of these bills.
The Legislative Institute hosted three major events during the fall 2015 semester. We first celebrated
Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, which Congress established as a national holiday several years
ago. This year, we focused on the citizenship aspect of the holiday by hosting a naturalization ceremony
in which foreign nationals became citizens of the United States. The new citizens included immigrants
from Armenia, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Latvia, Nepal,
The Netherlands, South Korea, and Ukraine.
Read more about the Institute
at www.law.wne.edu/ilga. *