ND Law’s 2024 Shaffer Fellow will focus on international humanitarian law research

Author: Sarah Doerr

Claire Crites

Claire Crites, a third-year Notre Dame Law School student, has been selected as the recipient of the 2024 Thomas L. Shaffer Public Interest Fellowship. The fellowship will enable her to pursue humanitarian law research at an international level over the next two years.

The Shaffer Fellowship, named in honor of former dean and professor Thomas L. Shaffer and funded by donor support, is awarded each year to a member of Notre Dame Law School’s graduating class. The fellows’ salaries and benefits are covered while they work for two years at a nonprofit organization providing legal services to low-income or other underrepresented populations. Fellowship recipients develop their own jobs and projects that directly meet an unmet or underrepresented legal need.

Crites will be working in the London office of the International Committee of the Red Cross, where she will conduct legal research and analyses, draft reports, and review documents related to international humanitarian law. Her research will focus on topics such as sanctions and counterterrorism, the conduct of hostilities, civilian protection in conflict, and weapons and arms transfers. She will also have the opportunity to attend meetings with internal and external stakeholders including United Kingdom government officials and armed forces.

The opportunity is particularly significant for Crites and future Shaffer Fellowship recipients as it is the first time in the award’s history that it will be used to support an international placement.

"I was very inspired by Thomas Shaffer's life and story and thought that working with the ICRC through the Shaffer Fellowship would continue the fellowship's legacy to serve vulnerable populations through law," said Crites.

Before attending Notre Dame Law School, Crites knew she wanted to pursue a career in international humanitarian law, and has leveraged her time at ND Law to better understand what that might entail. During her first year she was a representative for the International Human Rights Law Society, and over her first-year summer, she worked for a Geneva-based NGO, International Bridges to Justice, where she developed courses on various countries' criminal codes to assist in legal training.

During her second year, Crites participated in the year-long London Law Programme. While in London, Crites was a research assistant to Professor Satvinder Juss. It was in his international humanitarian law class that she was first introduced to the International Committee of the Red Cross. She also participated in an externship with the Geneva-based NGO Legal Action Worldwide, where she conducted legal research on gender-based violence in South Sudan, and was a research assistant in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. During her second-year summer, Crites was an SEC Scholar with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Office of International Affairs.

Crites has also been a research assistant for Professor Mary Ellen O'Connell and has researched international law and use of force issues. She serves as managing articles editor for the Journal of International and Comparative Law. The journal published her article,"The Role of CEDAW in Combating Gender-Based Violence in Conflict Zones," which Crites says was inspired by the time she spent with Legal Action Worldwide. During her third year at ND Law, Crites also interned with the Office of the Legal Advisor of the U.S. Department of State. She assisted in drafting sanctions packages against human rights abusers in countries such as Iran and Russia, and drafted a research memo on EU sanctions in response to the Russia-Ukraine War. She penned atrocity risk assessments in Iraq and Afghanistan as well, through her internship with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations.

In the spring 2024, Crites was also one of the students in the inaugural class in the Law School’s newly established Global Human Rights Clinic. Through her involvement with the clinic, she traveled to Barbados where she attended the world's largest public hearing on climate change and human rights.

"The Shaffer Fellowship was the best path for me to pursue this career with the ICRC because it is very difficult to break into the international humanitarian law field without the support of something like the Shaffer Fellowship," said Crites. "Through the fellowship, I hope to gain expertise and knowledge of international humanitarian law and how to utilize it in practice to assist and support vulnerable populations enduring conflict."

Crites, a Trabuco Canyon, California native, earned her undergraduate degree with honors from Baylor University, during which time she attended the University of Oxford as a visiting student.

The Thomas L. Shaffer Public Interest Fellowship, established in 2013, continues a long tradition of public interest at Notre Dame Law School. The fellowship honors Thomas L. Shaffer ’61 J.D., who was a longtime faculty member and former dean at Notre Dame Law School. During his tenure, he was a supervising attorney in the Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic, now called the Notre Dame Clinical Law Center, where he taught clinical ethics and guided the legal practice of law students who served underprivileged people in the South Bend area. Information about the 2023 Shaffer fellows is available on Notre Dame Law School’s website.