Georgia State University College of Law hosted a U.S. Senate Human Rights Subcommittee public hearing led by U.S. Georgia Senator and U.S. Senate Human Rights Subcommittee Chairman Jon Ossoff on Oct. 30.
The hearing gave College of Law students a unique opportunity to witness the day-to-day operations of a U.S. Senate subcommittee and the application of the law.
Among the three witnesses called before the committee, Wenona C. Belton (J.D. ’99), a retired presiding judge for the Fulton County Juvenile Court, shared her affiliation as a Georgia State Law alumna before offering her expert testimony. Her insight into the investigation was informed by more than a decade on the bench and a long career of advocacy in the county’s Juvenile Court.
“Listening to Judge Belton’s powerful testimony confirmed for me that, for decades, Georgia State Law has prepared world-class legal practitioners that are knowledgeable, compassionate and leading the state on so many fronts,” said Aditya Krishnaswamy (J.D. ’25).
Belton was joined by Paulding County Juvenile Judge Carolyn Altman and Gwinnett County Juvenile Judge Nhan-Ai Simms who shared similar experiences with the committee.
Georgia State Law student leaders met with Senator Ossoff after the hearing for a meet and greet and to learn more about how legal advocacy can be a catalyst for change in local communities.
“One of the most effective kinds of advocacy is actionable advocacy. The more specific the identified need and potential remedy is, the more achievable it is and the better chance we have of actually getting something done,” said Ossoff.
The impact of the experience helped connect the dots for many students between the classroom and the courtroom.
“Hearing the testimony of the juvenile justice judges and speaking to Senator Ossoff confirms what students of Georgia State Law’s Olmstead Clinic learn through our meaningful work with institutionalized clients – the systems meant to support foster children, especially those with serious developmental and physical disabilities, are failing in preventable ways. The opportunity to hear the perspective of three experienced judges and ask questions about the senator’s investigation was invaluable to my understanding of how to fortify these systems,” said Halle Seydel (J.D. ’25), a student clinician in the Olmstead Disability Rights Clinic,
Students also had the opportunity to meet another Georgia State Law graduate, Chandra Harris (J.D. ’10) who serves as the senator’s state director and played a key role in planning the subcommittee public hearing.
“It feels especially encouraging and supportive when changemakers like Ret. Judge Belton and Director Harris are Georgia State Law alumni,” Seydel added.
Krishnaswamy also felt encouraged to see alumni in high-profile roles, and it affirmed his decision to study law at Georgia State. “Unlike any legal institution I know, Georgia State Law is intimately connected to the local community. I came to Georgia State for this reason, so I could be trained and supported by community-oriented lawyers.”
The U.S. Senate Human Rights Subcommittee public hearing was held to continue a bipartisan investigation into the safety of children in foster care. You can click here to watch the livestream.
-Written by Lauren Allred