Just weeks after sitting for the Ohio Bar Examination, 2016 Cleveland-Marshall College of Law graduate Chelsea Mullarkey traveled across the globe to Seychelles, an island nation made up of over 100 islands that sit off the eastern coast of Africa. In Seychelles, Mullarkey worked a summer fellowship clerking for the nation’s Chief Justice in the country’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
Both American and Canadian in heritage, Mullarkey is no stranger to travel. By the end of her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto she had lived in 19 cities, including in France, and is fluent in the French language. However, Mullarkey had never lived so far from home or any place as scenic, as Seychelles.
Seychelles is a 72-hour round trip from Cleveland and has just 96,000 residents. The country’s main island, Mahé, is a mere 60 square miles. Creole is the predominant ethnicity and language on the island with nearly the entire population speaking either English or French as well. Mullarkey describes a developing country that is marked by contrasts. Seychelles’ has world-class resorts with picturesque beaches and mountain terrain, but also lacks common amenities, with just a single movie theater in the country and Internet service that is extremely spotty even in the highly populated regions.
Mullarkey worked for Migration and Refugee Services, a department of Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland prior to attending C|M|LAW and began her studies focused on immigration law as an extension of that field. In addition to immigration law courses, she took Professor and Associate Dean for Faculty Enrichment Milena Sterio’s International Law course, described by Mullarkey as “the best course in law school.” She wrote her final paper for the course on jurisdictional issues in piracy cases, the area of law that Seychelles is best-known for, and through the connections made working on that paper she was offered the position clerking.
While piracy has been a major legal issue in Seychelles for some time, most of Mullarkey’s work during the fellowship pertained to domestic issues. The C|M|LAW graduate researched and drafted decisions on cases of malpractice, a high-ranking impeachment, and politics. The country was in the midst of parliamentary election in September that was decided by less than 250 votes and received several legal challenges.
Mullarkey also was immersed in the revamping of the country’s drug sentencing laws. She assisted in reviewing appeals by previously convicted offenders under past drug laws and helped release numerous convicts to lower the country’s incarnation rate from its previous standing of highest in the world. She has also continued to work on an anti-trafficking research project for the Seychelles courts after returning to the U.S.
Because Seychelles has just 40 years of case law developed since proclamation of independence from the United Kingdom in 1976, virtually every decision Mullarkey worked on was precedent-setting.
“I believe I got to do more in a clerkship in Seychelles than domestically because there is so much to do,” said Mullarkey. “We were basically crafting case law in every single case.”
The country’s still developing judicial process also helped Mullarkey appreciate the importance of her law school studies in civil procedure – a subject often taken for granted in law school and in our legal system.
“I learned just how important civil procedure is and how it can absolutely wreak havoc on a nation to not have clear civil procedure rules,” said Mullarkey.
It was not all legal work for Mullarkey as the country’s strict 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. work hours left her with plenty of time for exploration. She spent countless evenings watching the sunset on the beach and frequented the five-star resorts which offer special access for locals.
Mullarkey’s grueling trip home was improved immensely by learning on the plane that she had passed the bar exam. Now a licensed attorney, she is considering a longer-term return to Seychelles, weighing the offer of a two-year position equivalent to a federal clerkship with the Seychelles courts against immigration law opportunities in Cleveland and Florida.