LOS ANGELES – Amal Alamuddin Clooney went from being a hard-charging human rights attorney to a Hollywood tabloid target last September when she married famed actor George Clooney. Now she is the most famous lawyer at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). But will her status as a Hollywood A-lister help or hurt her legal career?
“Though her Hollywood ties could turn a serious situation into a circus, like it apparently has at the European Court of Human Rights, if she does not pursue her own career she will always and only be known only as Mrs. George Clooney. Over time, people will even forget she had a career,” Glenn Selig of The Publicity Agency, told FOX411. “(Her presence) will, at least for near future, cause a distraction outside the courtroom. There are clearly important cases that would otherwise not be receiving worldwide exposure if not for her celebrity tie so there is an upside to it.”
The mere presence of Clooney in the courtroom late last month – while representing Armenia on the intensely debated genocide claims allegedly orchestrated by Ottoman Turks early last century – is said to have turned the hearing into something akin to a circus.
Middle East-focused news site Al-Monitor noted that reporters and paparazzi swarmed Strasbourg, and despite the seriousness of the case at hand, Clooney was questioned in the court room in a manner more appropriate to a Hollywood red carpet.
Like, which designer was she wearing?
Al-Arabiya reported that the star-studded attorney laughed, responding to the trivial question with: “I’m wearing Ede & Ravensoft,” referring to a London-based supplier of gowns for academic and legal professionals. TIME magazine’s Charlotte Alter surmised that such a line of questioning is “proof that the jig is up.”
“It’s stop pretending you care about what Amal Clooney is doing, when really just care about how she looks while doing it,” she wrote, pointing to scores of other human rights lawyers doing hugely important work without the spotlight. “Let’s face it: no matter how real Amal’s accomplishments are, the breathless celebration of her legal triumphs is just a thinly veiled infatuation with how she looks.”
(For what its worth, Clooney based her side of the argument on the 1920 Sevres Treaty, which the Ottomans were made to sign in the aftermath of the First World War, stating that they vowed to punish those “guilty” of the Armenian massacres but had failed to do so. In opposition, the attorney speaking on behalf of Turkey argued that Switzerland does not officially recognize the events as genocide. In 1915, it is estimated that somewhere between 500,000 and 1.5 million Armenians perished under the Ottoman rule.)
But irrespective of the work the new Mrs. Clooney is doing on the international stage, it is most her relationship with the Oscar-winning actor that garners widespread press attention. Just six months into the marriage and the tabloids are already speculating that the romance is on the rocks, and that she is being “paraded around Hollywood for show and tell.”
Her background and accomplishments – everything from working on the Enron case, working as an advisor to Kofi Annan in reference to Syria and investigating alleged rules of war violations on the Gaza strip – has become a point of Tinseltown fascination, even an opening joke for this year’s Golden Globes co-host Tina Fey.
“So tonight her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award,” she said to a room full of laughs.
On Monday it was announced that Clooney has joined a legal team from London, Dublin and Belfast to represent 10 men taking the United Kingdom to the European Court of Human Rights, alleging that they were tortured and held without trial in Northern Ireland in 1971. According to the BBC, their claim is being supported by the Irish government and that in 1976, the European Commission on Human Rights upheld a compliant by the Irish government that the men in subject had indeed been tortured, a ruling that was then overturned on appeal, instead concluding that the men were treated inhumanely but not tortured.
In December, the case was reopened following a campaign by the men involved. So will Clooney be quizzed about her high-fashion label choices in the court room once again? Only time will tell.
“Now that she is Mrs. George Clooney she has the opportunity to use this to her advantage. When she walks into the courtroom, followed by meaningless queries about her clothes and nails, her competition immediately devalues her as simply a Hollywood accessory,” added Ari Zoldan, political affairs expert and CEO of communications and technology firm Quantum Networks. “She is then able to take that opportunity to show her opposition that she is more than a pretty face. As a human rights lawyer, she often deals with cases that can benefit from the publicity. If she keeps her eyes on the prize, she will be able to use her new role to her advantage and the advantage of her clients.”