Osgoode JD student Joel Robertson-Taylor will put legal ethics under the microscope this summer, peering through the lens of one of history’s most horrific and ethically troubling events – the Holocaust.
The Abbotsford, B.C. native, who will enter his second year at Osgoode in September, is one of 14 international law students selected for a 2022 FASPE – Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics. The all-expenses-paid experience will take place from May 27 to June 10 at sites in Germany and Poland. Along with law, the Fellowships are provided to students and early-stage practitioners in business, journalism, design and technology, medicine and seminary.
The once-in-a-lifetime experience will build on Osgoode Hall Law School’s own training in ethical lawyering.
In daily seminars led by specialized faculty, FASPE law Fellows will examine the conduct of lawyers in Nazi-occupied Europe as a way to reflect on legal ethics today, engaging in discussions and critical thinking about both the historical and the contemporary.
“I’m sure I’ll be challenged by the program,” Robertson-Taylor said in an email. “I’ll get a comprehensive and tough analysis of how the lawyers that forwarded the Nazi regime were not much different than me and my classmates.
“I’m sure most people are at best three or four bad decisions away from being someone they loathe,” he observed. “I worry that without actively working to defend civil liberties and prevent authoritarianism, it’s bound to reassert itself.”
FASPE Fellows study the perpetrators of the Holocaust in their respective fields to understand the essential role of professionals and to ask how and why they abandoned their ethical guideposts.
David Goldman, FASPE’s founder and chairman, said the program was established in the hope that the lessons learned will resonate throughout each participant’s career.
“By educating students about the causes of the Holocaust and the power of their chosen professions,” he said, “FASPE seeks to instill a sense of professional responsibility for the ethical and moral choices that the Fellows will make in their careers and in their professional relationships.”
The 2022 law program will be led by Jeff Ward, associate clinical professor of law at Duke University Law School, and Tanina Rostain, professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.
Robertson-Taylor is a graduate of British Columbia’s University of the Fraser Valley, where he received a BA with distinction in sociology, anthropology and media studies. In his second year at Osgoode, he will provide academic support to first-year students as a Contract Law Dean’s Fellow and will enter the International and Transnational Law Intensive Program. FASPE Fellows are chosen through a competitive process that draws applicants from across Canada, the United States, and the world. The program maintains a long-term relationship with all its 650 alumni.