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The Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy

Academic Law Scholars: 2014-2015

the clough center for the study of constitutional democracy

The Clough Center provides grants to Boston College Law Students of exceptional academic ability and accomplishment who are enrolled in any of the Law School’s degree programs. The 2014-15 Academic Law Scholar grants have been awarded to:



Claudio Ferreira Ferraz
BC Law

Claudio Ferreira Ferraz was born in Vitoria, capital of the State of Espírito Santo, Brazil. He attended a catholic school named Sacre Couer de Marie, where he finished high school. In 1989, at age of 17, he came to the United States as an exchange student in the Rotary International Exchange Program, when he spent one year studying in Muncie, IN. This experience marked deeply into his youth. As both his father, Roberto, and brother, Marcio, were engineers, his will to study Law found encouragement on his mother Heloisa, to whom he owes nearly everything, specially the formation of his character. Claudio was admitted at the Law School of the Federal University of Espírito Santo in 1990, graduating in 1994. At the age of 26 he married Vanessa, his first girlfriend, and together they had 3 children, Carolina (14), Marina (11), Eric (6).

As a lawyer, since the beginning of his career Claudio has been practicing ​​mining law, acting as the legal adviser of the Brazilian Center of the Ornamental Stones Exporters, a national wide association. He is specialist in Tax Law, degree awarded by Getúlio Vargas Foundation, in Rio de Janeiro. He also holds the degree of Master of Laws (concentration in civil procedure/class actions) from the Federal University of Espírito Santo, where, in 2013, he taught civil procedure. Claudio is the author of articles about mining law and civil procedure law, some of them published on important Brazilian Law Reviews. He works for one of the largest law office in his State, being responsible for its environmental and mining division. In the past years, he handled many complex cases involving mining law, environmental law, tax law and civil procedure, working on both legal consulting and litigation, including cases in the higher Brazilian Courts. He is Vice-President of the Mines and Energy Committee of the Espírito Santo State Bar Association and Member of the Environmental Law Committee of the Espírito Santo State Bar Association. As a member of these committees, Claudio is contributing with the debate regarding the new Brazilian Mining Code, as an adviser to the Federal Deputies that represent his State in Congress.

In order to give regular continuation and evolution on his career, Claudio decided to join a LL.M. program abroad, and was accepted by many qualified programs in the US. Among these programs, he chose Boston College Law School LL.M. program to be what best fits his expectations. After earning the LL.M. degree Claudio plans to join a doctoral program to improve his teaching career, as well as his research, that aims the debate and the finding of solutions to issues involving mining activities and the environmental protection.



Sam Gottstein
BC Law Class of 2015

Sam Gottstein was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and received his B.A. in history from Yale University in 2010, after which he served as a legislative aide to two Alaska State Senators.  Sam spent his 1L summer with the Oil, Gas, and Mining section of the Alaska Department of Law, and is looking forward to his upcoming judicial externship with Federal District Court Judge Timothy Burgess in Anchorage this summer.  Sam sits on the Executive Board of the Boston College Law Review, serving as Executive Notes Editor.

When he is not working, he continues to make time for his lifelong passion for dance (tap, jazz, modern, ballet, and hip hop), and takes full advantage of the Alaskan outdoors by hiking, camping, and flying a small plane. Sam intends to return home to Anchorage to pursue a legal career in both the public and private sectors.



John Stern
BC Law Class of 2015

John Stern is a third year law student at Boston College Law School.  While at Boston College, John has studied First Amendment issues in connection with a doctoral program he is concurrently pursuing at Yale University, with a particular focus on U.S. Supreme Court establishment clause jurisprudence. 

John is interested in the intersection between the Court’s treatment of the establishment clause – as well as religion in the public square generally – with classical liberal political theory and historic religious accounts of political theology and public religion. Particular issues such as the role of governmental coercion in matters of religion; categorization of the sacred and the secular; the vice or virtue of religion in a democratic society; identification of the harms that establishments of religion are thought to cause; evaluation of the relevance and role of historical practice in adjudicating contemporary disputes about public religion; and the role of various anthropological conceptions of conscience and individual dissent in theories of church and state. 

John is also interested in a broad range of sources on the issue of public religion, ranging from sacred texts to prominent historic philosophers and theologians such as Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, to lesser known modern religious thinkers who advocated for the separation of church and state, such as Thomas Helwys (in England), and (in America) Roger Williams, Isaac Backus, Elisha Williams, John Leland, and others. 



Amelia Wirts
BC Law

Amelia M. Wirts is working on a joint degree in philosophy and law at Boston College. After receiving a B.A. in philosophy and a B.S. in communication studies from University of Oregon in 2009, she began her PhD in philosophy in 2010. She recently defended her dissertation proposal, and as an ABD doctoral candidate, will take the next three years studying law before returning to the philosophy department to finish her dissertation.

In political philosophy, her work has been influenced by both Habermasian and Rawlsian frameworks as well as by a myriad of feminist philosophers, including Susan Okin, Katharine MacKinnon, and Seyla Benhabib. In addition to her primary interests in political justification and feminist projects, Amelia is also interested in the intersection of moral theory and criminal law, especially notions of blameworthiness, desert, and punishment.

Amelia’s dissertation will focus on the ways that public justification of laws that offer remedies for gender-based oppression work to curtail this oppression not only through deterrence, but also by changing the background norms that reinforce sexist oppression. She will specifically explore the foundations, justifications, and effects of the Violence Against Women Act, passed in the US in 1994. The role of justification is two-fold. It offers a form of democratic legitimacy at the same time that it shapes our shared values. On the international level, following Seyla Benhabib, Amelia will argue that human rights and other international legal structures can similarly empower women as they fight against unjust oppression, but not through a top down enforcement mechanism. Like the domestic case, publically justified international laws become tools for women as they make claims against their own governments, communities, and religious organizations. For an international example, she will explore the role of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This dissertation will also include a critique of contemporary political philosophy’s (over)emphasis on stability and pluralism, sometimes at the cost of more substantial development of justice as non-domination. She will argue that political justification and deliberation must have justice rather than mere legitimacy as its final end.

While in law school, Amelia hopes to gain helpful insight into the workings of family law and criminal law in order to better understand the way that law can operate as a liberatory mechanism for women and other oppressed groups. Additionally, she hopes to understand constitutional law, legal justification, criminal and family law, not just as a philosopher, but from the perspective of those who have practiced law.

When she finishes her joint degree, Amelia hopes to continue her research projects as a professor of philosophy and/or law. In the meantime, she is excited to begin the law portion of her joint degree, and cannot wait to see what new directions open up to her as she sees law from a new perspective.