Chaka Laguerre ’08 hopes to someday advise governments and organizations on international law, human rights and social justice issues. With three graduate degrees, she’s on her way. But before that, she has one more accomplishment to add to her résumé: serving as a trainee for the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.
Laguerre, who received her J.D. from the University of Michigan in 2014, begins her 10-month clerkship in September, working in The Hague for Judge Giorgio Gaja of Italy. She looks forward to “learning from judges who are some of the most highly esteemed international law experts in the world,” she says, “and working on cases that raise intriguing and challenging questions to international law."
Laguerre is a first-generation college student. Her senior year at Amherst, she was also the reigning Miss Jamaica U.S. In that role, she instituted projects that aimed to rebuild and empower communities in Jamaica and in the Jamaican diaspora.
Those experiences motivated Laguerre to become a lawyer, to “advocate on behalf of others to help improve the conditions of their lives, or to help them improve the lives of others.”
After law school, Laguerre earned an M.A. in legal and political theory, with the highest distinction, from University College London. Her dissertation was named the best in legal and political theory in 2014–15. This summer she completed an M.Phil. in history and philosophy of science at the University of Cambridge.
“I am a lawyer by hand and an academic at heart,” she says. “These research degrees allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between law, knowledge and authority, and allowed me to study the issues that I care about in a rigorous and deep manner.”
Laguerre learned she’d been accepted to the ICJ clerkship just as she was about to speak to high school students in Brooklyn, N.Y., as part of the National Association of Women Judges’ Color of Justice Program. She is one of the first people from the Caribbean to be selected for the clerkship.
Amherst’s Forris Jewett Moore Fellowship helped her to study at Cambridge. Now, she says, she is proud to represent Amherst in The Hague, and she hopes her story will inspire Amherst students and alumni who come from backgrounds or circumstances similar to her own."