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Moritz alumna Jessica Kim pursues justice on an international scale while still making time to give back

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By: Emma Kapp

Jessica H. Kim '11 was recently appointed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick B.  Garland to serve as the U.S. Special Prosecutor for the Crime of Aggression. In this role, she will be working with the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression Against Ukraine (ICPA), a unique judicial hub established at Eurojust in The Hague to support investigations into the crime of aggression related to the war in Ukraine. Kim will work alongside other prosecutors from countries, including Ukraine, to secure crucial evidence and prepare cases for future trials to hold the highest levels of political and military leadership accountable for the crime of aggression related to the war in Ukraine.  

The crime of aggression was last pursued when President Truman appointed former U.S. Attorney General Robert Jackson as U.S. Representative and Chief Counsel to bring Nazi leaders to justice at Nuremberg over 75 years ago. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg termed aggression “the supreme international crime.” This is the first time that an international justice mechanism to hold leadership accountable for the crime of aggression is taking place while the conflict remains ongoing.  

“I’m hugely honored,” Kim shared in response to her historic appointment, “and, of course, feel the enormous weight and responsibility of the role.”  

As a first-generation Korean American, Kim became interested in studying law because it seemed fair and applicable to everyone. She wanted the rule of law to apply more broadly, which led to furthering her career in pursuing justice internationally.  

Kim’s career has taken her across the world, but she remains closely connected to The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. To her, it’s important to give back in a meaningful way to a place that gave her so much. 

“Moritz chose me,” said Kim, explaining that she received a call the day before orientation started and learned a spot in the class had opened. Having graduated college in three years at age 20, her law school applications could have been improved. “I felt the significance of being given grace and an opportunity, one that I perhaps didn’t deserve. I knew I needed to take full advantage of everything Moritz had to offer.” 

One way she did this was by serving as Editor-in-Chief of the Ohio State Law Journal.  The youngest in her law school class, Kim was elected with no prior managerial experience. Kim says the experience – another opportunity through grace – was extremely humbling and reframed how she thought of leadership. She has carried this perspective of leadership with her and into her work today. 

She has continued to show her appreciation for that opportunity by serving as an adjunct professor and advising as a mentor in the Mentoring & More at Moritz program since 2014.  

“I never say no to a student or anyone who asks to chat or meet,” she said. “It’s so important – especially for young people – to have access to those with more experience, who can help get us where we want to go.” She knows how powerful having a mentor is – while there are countless people who have helped her, the Honorable Edmund A. Sargus Jr., federal district court judge and adjunct professor at Moritz, has been a particularly amazing mentor and friend.  According to Kim, he empowered her when she recognized, during her one-year clerkship, that she wanted to become an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA). Judge Sargus helped her make connections within his own network, eventually leading to her becoming an AUSA in 2014. Kim credits Judge Sargus for catapulting her career as an AUSA, which led her to her latest endeavor. “Everything I have been able to do is because of him,” she said. 

One semester, she felt her work duties would not allow her to continue as an adjunct professor. Equipped with a list of other candidates she thought would be better suited to teach her class, she told Associate Dean Paul Rose that she did not have the time to teach. Rose explained how her role wasn’t just about teaching the content. 

“He told me how important it was for students, especially young women and minorities, to see their identities and experiences reflected in who was at the front of the classroom,” she remembers. “That was transformative to hear, and really resonated with me. I changed my mind and decided to continue teaching. Students should see themselves in the profession, and this is my way of encouraging and serving them.” 

Kim’s service to Moritz will continue this fall when she returns as a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence. In line with her current work, she will teach a week-long intensive course on advancing accountability in Ukraine. Kim is excited to bring such a timely topic to Moritz and looks forward to thoughtful discussions with students. 

As she reflects on her career so far, Kim knows there are things she still wants to achieve and improve. She is constantly working on finding her own style as an attorney, but time and experience have taught her just to be herself. She would advise Moritz students to embrace who they are, use their unique qualities as strengths, and discover how they can be champions of justice.   

“Because of the unique training we receive in school, we as lawyers are able to think about issues and solutions in different ways,” she said. “We have a greater duty to our communities to use our unique skills and knowledge to help people, especially those less fortunate.”   

Kim lives her commitment to service and justice in everything she does. It is a great honor to have an alumna like Jessica Kim representing the United States of America. 

More About Jessica Kim 

Kim has advanced quickly in her career at the Department of Justice, and her professional experiences have prepared her well to take on this next role. She most recently served as the Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, responsible for the strategic and operational management of over 800 federal prosecutors and 700 personnel in over 70 countries, as well as helping to manage thousands of ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, she has helped oversee and coordinate the Department’s accountability efforts, including serving as one of the lead negotiators of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the United States and the seven national members of the Ukraine Joint Investigation Team that U.S. Attorney General Garland signed on March 3, 2023, in Lviv, Ukraine. She also led efforts resulting in the U.S.-Ukraine MOU between the Department of Justice and the Ukraine Prosecutor General’s Office that U.S. Attorney General Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin signed on September 20, 2022, in Washington, D.C. to strengthen the effective investigation and prosecution of individuals involved in war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine. 

From 2019 to 2022, Kim served as the Department of Justice’s Regional Resident Legal Advisor for Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia. Based at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, Kim provided justice sector assistance to build capacity in combatting corruption, money laundering and organized crime. She also focused on assessing and advancing procedural and legislative reforms, as well as building support for an effective judiciary and countering foreign malign influence, to promote the rule of law in the Eastern European region. Her efforts led to, among others, the prosecutions of several Romanian cabinet-level officials for corruption and six Bulgarian military intelligence officers for providing classified NATO information to Russia, including highly sensitive information on the purchase of F-16s from the United States. Kim’s extensive interagency efforts led to the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s unprecedented Global Magnitsky sanctions designations on three major Bulgarian oligarchs and 64 related entities for significant corruption, constituting the largest single Global Magnitsky action in history. Advising on these issues on an international scale made Kim uniquely qualified for her new role as U.S. Special Prosecutor for the Crime of Aggression. 

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