Abbey Koenning-Rutherford

Aryeh Neier Fellow

Abbey is an outspoken advocate and leader at the intersection of Indigenous sovereignty, human rights, and the environment. As the President of Native American Law Student Association at Georgetown Law, Abbey successfully advocated to increase the number of Native students on campus. Abbey dedicated their legal work to advancing human rights, particularly at the intersection of environmental law and the sovereignty of Indigenous communities. They specialized in community impact environmental issues at the Natural Resource Defense Council, EarthRights International, and Earthjustice, where they supported tribal communities to fight for clean water. Last fall, they flew to the Midwest to support Indigenous water defenders’ organizing work, and they worked on a documentary on the rights of Indigenous communities in Wisconsin. Abbey also authored an innovative note published in Georgetown Law Journal that ecocide should be prosecuted as genocide against Indigenous people.

Abbey has also used every opportunity throughout their coursework and internships during law school to advance the rights of marginalized communities, including immigrants. As a student attorney and later a research assistant for the Center for Applied Legal Studies, Abbey prepared clients’ applications for asylum, including by conducting weekly trauma-informed interviews and advocating to immigration officials. Abbey also externed at Al Otro Lado, where they interviewed asylum clients to support the preparation of their applications. Through the Human Rights Advocacy in Action Practicum, Abbey worked to advance accountability for ISIS’s crimes of genocide and sexual violence against the Yazidis, a marginalized ethnoreligious minority in Iraq.