fb pixel fb conversion Plenary Speakers | Pepperdine School of Law

Plenary Speakers

Bert Ballard

Bert Ballard, Ph.D
Assistant Professor in Communication at Pepperdine University

Professor Ballard researches intercountry adoption related to identify, family, and global issues. He was the co-chair for the 2010 Intercountry Adoption Summit in Ontario, Canada. His work has been published in a wide variety of scholarly and non-scholarly publications addressing issues of identity, communication, family, parenting, and global issues related to intercountry adoption. He is a frequent speaker at scholarly and professional adoption conferences, adoption family “culture” camps, adoption trainings, adoptive parent events, and adoptee-only gatherings. Dr. Ballard was adopted from Vietnam, evacuated during Operation Babylift in 1975, and is an adoptive parent to a 3-year old son from Vietnam.

Elizabeth Bartholet

Elizabeth Bartholet
Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Faculty Director and Founder of the Child Advocacy Program (CAP) 

Professor Bartholet teaches civil rights and family law, specializing in child welfare, adoption and reproductive technology. Before joining the Harvard Faculty, she was engaged in civil rights and public interest work, first with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and later as founder and director of the Legal Action Center, a non-profit organization in New York City focused on criminal justice and substance abuse issues. Bartholet is a graduate of Radcliffe College and Harvard Law School.

Naomi Goodno

Naomi Goodno
Associate Professor of Law and Director, Byrne Judicial Clerkship Institute, Pepperdine School of Law 

Professor Goodno graduated from Princeton University before attending Boalt Law School for the first two years and Harvard Law School for her final year. After law school, she was a civil and criminal litigator and clerked for the Ninth Circuit. Professor Goodno teaches Civil Procedure, Evidence, Trial Practice, Human Rights and International Criminal Law, and Advanced Criminal Procedure. Her research interests include criminal law, international criminal law and global justice. She is also active in working with international human rights organizations.

Susan Jacobs

Ambassador Susan Jacobs
Special Advisor to the Secretary for Children's Issues

Ambassador Jacobs was a Senior Policy Advisor in the Bureau of Consular Affairs and previously served as the Bureau's liaison to the Department of Homeland Security. From 2000-2003 she was the United States Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. From April 1998 to October 2000 she served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Issues in the State Department's Bureau of Legislative Affairs. Ambassador Jacobs graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where she was a Regents Scholar, and later studied at Georgetown University Law School and the George Washington University. She has received numerous awards, including the Department of State's Meritorious Honor Award, its Superior Honor Award; and the Community Achievement Award in New Delhi.

Jedd Medefind

Jedd Medefind
President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans

Jedd Medefind unites more than 100 respected organizations in coordinated efforts to inspire and equip Christians to care effectively for orphans and vulnerable children, both in the U.S. and worldwide. Previously, Jedd served in the White House leading the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Jedd has worked, studied and served in more than 30 countries. He has written numerous articles and three books, most recently UPENDED: How Following Jesus Remakes Your Words and World.

Dawit Mezmur

Dr. Benyam Dawit Mezmur
Chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

Dr. Benyam is a Research Fellow at the Community Law Centre of the University of Western Cape (UWC), South Africa, and a Lecturer and Assistant Professor (both part-time) at the Faculty of Law of UWC and the Addis Ababa University respectively. He lectures child rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, and the international protection of human rights at the post-graduate level. From 2003 to 2005, he was a Legal officer at The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF). Dr Benyam has published a number of articles on children's rights in Africa internationally, and has lectured/served fellowships among others at the University of Antwerp (Belgium), Ghent University (Belgium), Abo Akademi (Finland), Utrecht University (The Netherlands), Groningen University (The Netherlands), and Central European University (Hungary). He received his Bachelor's degree in law (LLB) from the Addis Ababa University, a Masters' degree (LLM) from the University of Pretoria (Centre for Human Rights), South Africa, and a Doctorate in Law (LLD) from the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.


Whitney Reitz

Whitney Reitz joined Senator Landrieu's staff in October 2012, as a Senior Policy Advisor on International Child Welfare. She focuses on revitalizing the U.S. intercountry adoption program, which has declined dramatically since 2004.

Ms. Reitz has worked on humanitarian immigration issues at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the State Department for over 20 years. At USCIS, Ms. Reitz helped lead the USCIS Special Humanitarian Program for Haitian Orphans in 2010, which united nearly 1,200 Haitian orphans with their U.S. families after the tragic earthquake. In 2011, Ms. Reitz served as a principal negotiator in multiple rounds of talks which resulted in the U.S. and Russia signing an adoption agreement, thereby preserving an important option for Russian children in need of permanent families.

For over 20 years, Ms. Reitz has dedicated her career to humanitarian immigration issues, working extensively on intercountry adoption, refugee admissions, and temporary protected status.

Peter Selman

Dr. Peter Selman
Visiting Fellow in the School of Geography, Politics & Sociology at the Newcastle University

Peter Selman is editor of Intercountry Adoption; Development, trends and perspectives (BAAF, 2000) and has written many articles and chapters on adoption policy. His main research focus in recent years has been on the demography of child adoption with a special emphasis on intercountry adoption. He has presented many papers on this topic at international conferences and has acted as research consultant to international organizations such as the United Nations Population Division, the Hague Conference on Private International Law and the Innocenti Research Centre in Florence. Dr. Selman holds a PhD from the University of Newcastle and a BA Literae Humaniores from Oxford University.

David Smolin

David Smolin
Harwell G. Davis Professor of Constitutional Law, and Director,
Center for Children, Law, and Ethics at Cumberland Law School, Samford University 

David Smolin is the Harwell G. Davis Professor of Constitutional Law, and Director, Center for Biotechnology, Law, and Ethics, at Cumberland Law School, Samford University.   He has taught as an adjunct or visiting professor at Beeson Divinity School (Samford University), Regent University Law School, Handong International School of Law, and the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Most of his adoption-related articles are available at http://works.bepress.com/david_smolin/ .   He has presented on adoption throughout the United States and at the Korean Women's Development Institute in Seoul, South Korea; the Second International Symposium on Korean Adoption Studies in Seoul, South Korea; the Hague Special Commission on the Practical Operation of the Hague Adoption Convention; the State Supreme Court of Sao Paulo, Brazil; the International Adoption Summit in Stratford, Canada; the Federal-Provincial/Territory Conference on Intercountry Adoption in Ottawa, Canada; and the NALSAR University of Law, in Andhra Pradesh, India.   He works together with his wife, Desiree Smolin, on analysis and reform of adoption systems and practices, and sometimes contributes to the adoption blog she co-founded: http://fleasbiting.blogspot.com/.