Law Review Symposium Addresses Human Trafficking

By Andy Meek

A 2011 report from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on human sex trafficking put it bluntly:

“The results … are shocking. Human trafficking and sex slavery in Tennessee is more common than previously believed possible.”

That’s one reason the 2013 University of Memphis Law Review Annual Symposium will focus on the topic and bring a slate of guest speakers from the nonprofit and law enforcement worlds to address it.

“Breaking the Silence: Legal Voices in the Fight Against Human Trafficking” is the title of the daylong symposium, which will be held March 22 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will look at key areas of human trafficking in the court system on both national and statewide levels.

Because sex trafficking, labor trafficking and other forms of human trafficking occur close to home, the state of Tennessee recently passed some of the strongest anti-trafficking laws in the country, according to the law school, which means the issue will come up with increasing frequency in state courts.

On the national level, American Bar Association president Laurel Bellows said a few months ago she’ll use her year as ABA president to raise awareness about the issue. And from July 1 through Sept. 30, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center reported almost 5,200 phone calls to the organization.

Also in 2012, 28 states passed new human trafficking laws, according to statistics from the Polaris Project, a group that fights human trafficking.

“It’s definitely a hot legal issue right now,” said University of Memphis Law Review Symposium editor Jessica Bradley. “We’re hoping to draw a sizable crowd of people like immigration attorneys and state attorneys.

“The Internet has kind of facilitated sex trafficking. And there aren’t that many laws on the books elsewhere geared specifically toward sex trafficking. This is something the legal community needs to deal with, and we’re trying to contribute to the discussion.”

Guest speakers at the symposium will include representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and law school professors, among others.

Ryan Dalton, director of anti-trafficking operations with Operation Broken Silence, will speak about abolishing online sex trafficking and imposing criminal culpability on advertisers facilitating sexual exploitation of minors.

Steve Parker, chief of the civil rights unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee, will speak about analysis of the federal sex trafficking statute.

Samantha Vardaman, senior director with Shared Hope International, will speak about domestic minor sex trafficking and legislation related to appropriate victim response.

Alicia Wilson, attorney-adviser with the U.S. Department of Transportation, will speak about transportation and human trafficking.

Naomi Bang, professor with the South Texas College of Law, will speak about seeking justice for victims of human trafficking through civil litigation.

And Jasteena Dhillon, professor at the University of Windsor Law School in Canada, will speak about the U.S. northern border strategy and Canada’s move toward a more securitized notion of migration policy.