Duquesne University School of Law

Meet Melissa Ruggiero, L'03

From Duquesne Lawyer
Summer 2014

Young Alumni Profile
Melissa R. Ruggiero, L'03

Home: Pittsburgh, Pa.

Education: John Carroll University, BA'99; Duquesne University, L'03; Queen's Belfast and National University of Ireland, Galway, LL.M'07 (Human Rights and Criminal Justice, Cross Border). Her LL.M dissertation was Establishing the Rule of Law in the Republic of Macedonia after the 2001 Conflict.

International Experience:
-Legal Officer, Special Court for Sierra Leone, The Hague, Netherlands (January 2012 to October 2013; Court mandate fulfilled October 2013)
-International Legal Officer for Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo (January 2008 to December 2011)
-Researcher at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway Researcher (March to December 2007)
-Intern, International Service for Human Rights, Geneva, Switzerland (June 2004 to September 2004)
-Law Clerk, British United Provider Association (BUPA), London, England (January to June 2004)
-Intern, Interrights (NGO), London, England (March to May 2004)

Case of interest: The appeal judgment case of Prosecutor v. Charles Taylor in the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). Charles Taylor was the former head of Liberia and was charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed by the rebels against civilians during the civil war in Sierra Leone. On Sept. 26, 2013, the Appeals Chamber upheld Taylor's conviction on 11 counts and affirmed the 50-year sentence imposed by the Trial Chamber. The SCSL is the first international court since Nuremberg to indict, try and convict a former head of state.

Of Note: In May 2007, Ruggiero participated in a study visit organized by Barbara Carlin, L'82, former Department of Justice, Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (DOJ/OPDAT) Resident Legal Adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje and Sarajevo. This provided the opportunity to interview U.S. Embassy officials, local professors and organizations regarding various projects to assist with establishing the rule of law in the Republic of Macedonia after the 2001 conflict.

Lasting Impression: "During my second year of law school, Dean Ken Gormley organized a memorable trip to see oral arguments at the Supreme Court. As part of the visit, we had the amazing opportunity to meet and talk with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. When asked what advice she would give future lawyers, I was surprised when she told us to make sure we exercised. I have remembered that advice. While in Sarajevo, I enjoyed running and hiking, and in The Hague I rode my bike to work every day, was a member of the women's soccer team and the Den Hague Touch Rugby club, and participated in Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris."

The value of a Duquesne Law Education: "My law school educated provided the foundation for my career as a lawyer. I use the skills I learned at Duquesne every day to do my job well. Professor Kirk Junker provided invaluable advice on how to go about having a career in international law, while the law school provided courses such as international law, international business transactions and European union law that enabled me to pursue my career."

Why I give back: "The encouragement and advice of family and friends have helped me in my professional and personal life in many ways, and I am fortunate to have this kind of support. One way of showing my appreciation to them is by trying to give advice and provide assistance to other students and lawyers who want to pursue a career in international law."

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