Harvard Law Review picks antiquities theft sleuth as new president

Harvard Law Review president Apsara Iyer appears in a profile photo. Handout via REUTERS
Harvard Law Review president Apsara Iyer appears in a profile photo. Handout via REUTERS
  • Apsara Iyer is Harvard Law Review's new president
  • Iyer has worked at the Manhattan DA's office investigating art theft

(Reuters) - The Harvard Law Review for the first time in its 136-year history will be headed by an Indian-American woman after the prestigious law journal named a student dedicated to investigating art and antiquities theft as its new president.

Harvard Law School student Apsara Iyer in an interview on Tuesday described herself as a first-generation American whose decision to seek a law degree was fueled by a goal of furthering her years-long work fighting antiquities trafficking.

The 29-year-old has carried out much of that work to date at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, where she has been involved in helping investigate art crime and repatriate more than 1,100 stolen works of art to 15 countries.

"I think the law is a really good way of addressing a problem that's now gaining growing importance," she said. "There's a direct link between destruction of art or the theft of art and other issues that we recognize as being of a policy importance."

She succeeds Priscila Coronado, the first Latina elected to lead the Harvard Law Review.

Law reviews are staffed by U.S. law schools' top students, who are often recruited for judicial clerkships and other prestigious jobs in the profession.

Legal and political luminaries who have worked at the Harvard Law Review include President Barack Obama, who was named the journal’s first Black president in 1990. Three serving members of the U.S. Supreme Court have served as editors.

Iyer, who was born in Chicago and raised in Indiana, said she first came to focus on archeology while attending a boarding school in Massachusetts and developed an understanding of the harms art trafficking poses to indigenous communities.

After graduating from Yale in 2016, she joined the Manhattan DA's office in 2018, initially as an investigative analyst.

The cases she worked on included that of hedge fund billionaire Michael Steinhardt, who in 2021 agreed to surrender $70 million in antiquities determined to be stolen and accept a first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities as part of a non-prosecution agreement.

Iyer continued working at the DA's office part-time during her first year at Harvard in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and then took a year off school to work at the DA's office as her unit's chief of staff and focus on the case against Steinhardt.

Now in charge of the Harvard Law Review, Iyer said she hopes to ensure that the publication is "really mindful of the articles that we're including and making sure that we're really amplifying a wide variety of voices."

Read more:

Billionaire Steinhardt surrenders $70 mln of antiquities, accepts collecting ban -Manhattan DA

Harvard Law Review elects first Latina president

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.