Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

Clinic students contribute over 1,000 hours of legal research to Massachusetts Courts

By Hon. John Cratsley (Ret.)

It is no surprise that students in this spring semester’s expanded and more diverse Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic and class provided over 1,000 hours of volunteer legal research and writing for their assigned judges. This exceeded the contribution of students in last year’s clinic by several hundreds of hours. The 25 students in the clinic and class were placed with 7 U.S. District Court judges, 10 Superior Court judges, and 8 judges of the Boston Municipal, District, Juvenile and Land Courts. Whether assisting a state or federal judge, the reality of big caseloads, complex litigation, and tight budgets means this extra student help is widely welcomed.

In addition to their judicial placements, students participated in a weekly class emphasizing issues impacting their judges and their courts, including alternatives to incarceration like restorative justice and treatment courts such as drug, mental health and veterans’ courts. Class sessions also focused on access to justice issues involving the unmet legal needs of the poor and the appropriate judicial response to the growth of self-represented litigants. New this year were two presentations by Adam Mansky, Program Director at the Center for Court Innovation, one open to the law school and a second in our class, describing their ground breaking work in promoting community courts.

The variety of student legal research and writing is impressive. It ranges from working on civil motions, like summary judgment and dismissal, and criminal motions to suppress, to the more complex evidentiary issues in antitrust and employment discrimination litigation. Some of the more challenging work included federal habeas corpus and judicial review of state and federal administrative agency decisions, while other students worked on mental health, 8th Amendment cruel and unusual punishment , and class action issues. Students also observed the full range of trial events from jury selection to the cross examamination of expert witnesses to sentencing and probation revocation.

Many of the students write their final papers on topics of current concern, including access to justice , sentencing policy, and re-entry issues. For example, one student who worked in a court service center in college assisting pro se litigants is writing an evaluation of the new court service centers in Massachusetts. Another is studying the impact of the recent changes in the Code of Judicial Conduct which clarify the role trial judges may play in assisting pro se litigants. And a third is exploring how new evidence based sentencing data could be incorporated into the existing sentencing guidelines. The emphasis is on student writing that explores, evaluates , and possibly reforms current judicial practices.

Here is what students had to say about their experience in the clinic:

“With plans/hopes to eventually work in a prosecutor’s office, [I valued] the opportunity to get a “behind the scenes” view of a federal judge’s approach to criminal justice issues and sentencing decisions.” — Sandra Hough, J.D. ’16

“Seeing the criminal justice system up close, both in the courtroom and during our prison visit, was profoundly effective at forever molding my view of what is currently wrong and the ways to address it.” — Michal Hain, LL.M. ’16

“I think the moment /image that will stay with me [from the clinic] is when my judge invited me to sit with her on the bench during a civil trial. The view of the court room is very different from up there.” — Samuel Wagreich, J.D. ’16

My winter term at the Utah Transit Authority

By William Organek, J.D. ’16

William Organek, J.D. ’16

I was very fortunate to work for the Utah Transit Authority over the Winter 2016 term. Transit issues have fascinated me for years, after seeing how improved transit can spur economic development, reinvigorate underutilized neighborhoods, and redefine people’s interactions with each other and their city. I was looking forward to helping the UTA expand transit service as part of its role in the Mountain Accord, an innovative cross-jurisdictional plan to preserve and improve the nature and tourist industry of the region. Yet, since the UTA only has a small legal department within an organization with a wide mandate, I also had the opportunity to work on legal issues related to employment regulations and civil litigation.

The most surprising, and gratifying, part of my experience was the level of trust and responsibility given to me by my supervisors. Shortly after arriving, I was helping craft language for legislation which will be submitted to Congress in connection with the Mountain Accord, as well as writing the first draft of a motion to dismiss a civil claim against the UTA.

This experience, putting my legal writing skills to use in a litigation and policy setting, was one of my most valuable in law school and I could not more strongly recommend working for the UTA.

Reflecting on the First Year of the Harvard Low-Income Tax Clinic

Via Boston Bar Association

Daniel Nagin, Clinical Professor of Law, Faculty Director of WilmerHale Legal Services Center

Daniel Nagin, Clinical Professor of Law, Faculty Director of WilmerHale Legal Services Center

Daniel Nagin, Faculty Director of the Legal Services Center & Veterans Legal Clinic of Harvard Law School, recently sat down with us to talk about how the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic there has fared in its first year. With financial support from the Boston Bar Foundation, the IRS, and the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust, and the donation of time and resources of members of the private bar, the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic aims to increase access to legal aid for low-income taxpayers with legal problems related to taxes.

One of the priority populations the Clinic serves is low-income veterans.  This year, tax attorneys from the Legal Services Center, Greater Boston Legal Services, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and the IRS led a series of trainings at the BBA with the goal of recruiting pro bono attorneys to accept overflow cases from the Clinic. Nagin said over 35 attorneys and tax professionals signed on to our pro bono panel as a result of these trainings.  In October, the Clinic also arranged a lunch time program at the BBA with the National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson.

These are the questions we asked about the Clinic’s successes and plans for its future:

Q: How would you sum up the Clinic’s first year?

A: There has been tremendous momentum due to a number of intersecting forces. First, there are a substantial number of people who have tax controversies with the IRS and no recourse. Understandably, they feel intimidated, overwhelmed, and often they have no idea that there are defenses available to them. Another force has been the interest from the private bar. There are many attorneys looking to do pro bono work in the area of tax law. We are gratified to the BBF’s partnership in bringing these forces together.

Q: What plans do you have for the Clinic’s future?

A: We are seeing an increasing number of taxpayers with issues with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, so that is one area of our work that we are trying to build out. In the future we hope to address not only federal tax issues, but related state issues. Unfortunately, like many other segments of the community, low-income veterans often have not only one legal problem but multiple legal problems. So, we also have a substantial number of clients who are referred internally at the Legal Services Center from the Veterans Legal Clinic to the Tax Clinic when they contact us about veterans’ law issues but also have tax issues.

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Reflecting on capital punishment

By Ke’Andra Levingston, J.D. ’17

Ke'Andra Levingston, J.D. '17

Ke’Andra Levingston, J.D. ’17

One of the greatest learning experiences I had while at Texas Defenders was seeing the intersection between legal substance and empathy in the practice of public defense. Though much of my work involved formal legal research and doctrinal practice, nearly as much of my externship has involved very personal interactions that required empathy. In extensive conversations at the Polunsky Unit with clients, in emotional interactions in the homes of family members during investigations, in the media outreach work I did soliciting op-eds from civic and faith leaders, and in speaking about a client’s case at an NAACP conference, my willingness to connect emotionally with the cases I worked on was critical. What I have realized through this experience is that being a good lawyer is not simply about mastering the text of the law. True excellence in practice requires mastering the spirit of what we believe the law should become.

The case that has defined my experience this semester both mystifies me and propels me to continue my pro bono work in the area of capital punishment. I met with a client for nearly two hours in prison who had admittedly committed terrible acts that tragically ended lives. However, this client was sentenced under the Texas death penalty statute, which requires a jury to find that a convicted person will be dangerous in the future in order to bring down a death sentence. During the sentencing phase of his trial, both the defense team and the prosecution used the testimony of an “expert” witness who testified that black people were inherently more dangerous. Through this case, I have seen the ultimate nexus between racism, capital punishment, and the supposedly neutral law. This case taught me that, contrary to popular belief, there is no division between the substance of law and the insidious influence of racism and bias. For defendants of color, the very application of the legal text to their cases is far too often tainted with the poison of judges and lawyers who use the law in ways that dehumanize and marginalize entire groups of people.

The very fact that multiple Texas prosecutors in position at the time of sentencing have since stated that what happened in this case was a miscarriage of justice, is telling of how deeply deplorable the system of capital punishment is in the state of Texas. Working on this case has changed my life and made me question whether I want to be involved in a profession that upholds laws that are consistently used to deny people of color of their humanity. This is a problem that, for me, remains unsolved. However, were it not for non-profit firms like Texas Defenders, clients like the ones I worked with would remain without quality legal counsel to help push for change in both their cases and in the justice system more broadly.

Though I believe that empathy has been a major benefit for me in being able to offer quality assistance to clients on death row, this attribute has also made defense work very emotionally taxing for me. I wear my heart both on my sleeve and in my practice, and it is hard to leave behind the emotional investment you make in clients you care so much about. However, I know that what I have done through this externship has not only been instructive for me, but that it has also allowed me to support a team of incredible lawyers in achieving tangible gains for just application of death penalty law in Texas.

U.S. must face lawsuit over beauty school student loans

Via Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court in New York revived a lawsuit seeking to stop the government from collecting on loans made to students of a nationwide beauty school chain, since it knew the now-defunct company routinely falsified student eligibility for those loans.

Thursday’s 3-0 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York may make it easier for struggling borrowers to press the U.S. Department of Education to discharge federally guaranteed student loans that should never have been made.

It is a victory for thousands of borrowers who said Wilfred American Educational Corp victimized them into obtaining loans to attend its roughly 60 for-profit trade schools, popularly known as the Wilfred Academy. The last closed in 1994.

Toby Merrill, director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, said low-income borrowers like many of the plaintiffs are “primary targets of predatory schools,” and often unable to vindicate their rights.

“This has been an enormous problem in for-profit trade schools,” Merrill, who filed a brief supporting the plaintiffs, said in an interview. “The decision shows that the Department of Education can’t sit on those rights.”

Neither the agency nor lawyers for the plaintiffs immediately responded to requests for comment.

The plaintiffs said Wilfred targeted immigrants and lower-income people for enrollment and improperly certified loan eligibility for borrowers who lacked high school diplomas and had not taken tests to show they could “benefit” from enrolling.

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Cyberlaw Clinic Supports Amicus Effort in Border Shooting Case

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

The Cyberlaw Clinic and attorney Mahesha Subbaraman of Subbaraman PLLC submitted an amicus brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this week on behalf of civil liberties advocacy organization, Restore the Fourth, in the case, Rodriguez v. Swartz.  As set out in more detail in the brief and summarized in  a statement by Restore the Fourth, the case concerns the 2012 shooting of a Mexican teenager by United States Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz.  The victim — 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez — was in Nogales, Mexico; the agent fired shots from the U.S. side of the border, through a border fence, killing Rodriguez as he walked home following a basketball game.

The civil suit brought by the victim’s mother against the agent raises questions about whether the agent can claim qualified immunity and, in turn, whether the killing is subject to the Fourth Amendment’s requirements regarding the reasonableness of searches and seizures.  The case has potentially far-reaching implications regarding the scope and continuing viability of United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259 (1990) — in which the United States Supreme Court addressed the applicability of the Fourth Amendment to a search of a Mexican citizen’s home in Mexico — and more broadly about the extraterritorial reach of the Fourth Amendment’s protections.

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FLPC Releases Report on Consumer Perceptions of Food Date Labels

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Date Labels Survey Infographic-01

Today, at the Food Waste Summit hosted by the National Consumers League (NCL) and Keystone Policy Center, FLPC, NCL, and Johns Hopkins University Center for Livable Future released their findings from a national survey on consumer perception of date labels in the report Consumer Perceptions of Date Labels: National Survey.  The survey aimed to understand the extent to which consumers are confused about date labels, whether they throw away food after the date passes, perceptions about whether labels are federally regulated, and which labels most clearly communicate quality and safety, for purposes of standardizing the language Many people throw away food once the date passes because they think the date is an indicator of safety, but in fact for most foods the date is a manufacturer’s best guess as to how long the product will be at its peak quality. With only a few exceptions, food will remain wholesome and safe to eat long past its expiration date. The survey, and subsequent report, confirms widespread consumer confusion over food date labeling and how it likely contributes to to the 40% of food wasted in the U.S. each year.

Excerpt from the report:

“More than one third of the population (37%) says they always or usually throw away food because it is close to or past the date that appears on the package. 84% of consumers throw out food based on date labels at least occasionally.”

As efforts are underway in Congress to standardize date labels that indicate quality versus safety, the reports also provides useful data on which date labels consumers perceive most strongly as communicating quality and which most strongly communicate food safety.

Read Consumer Perceptions of Date Labels: National Survey in full.

Meeting at Cops’ Corner

Via HLS News

HLS Clinical students

Credit: Mark Ostow
At the invitation of the Everett police chief, Sara Bellin ’17, Jenae Moxie ’16 and Carson Wheet ’16 conducted interviews in the city last fall to find out how the police and youth relate to each other and to make recommendations for improvements.

Clinical project underscores how ‘every interaction matters’ for Everett police officers and youth

In just one decade, Everett, Massachusetts, once a predominantly white city, has become the most racially and ethnically diverse in the commonwealth. Building communication between police officers and local youth is a priority for Chief of the Everett Police Department Steven A. Mazzie, who is white, as are 86 percent of his officers. Last fall he invited a team of HLS students from the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program to Everett for an impartial assessment.

“Our clinic trains students to think about how systems issues contribute to conflict situations,” said Clinical Professor Robert Bordone ’97, director of HNMCP. “By taking a systems approach, we ask: What’s working and what isn’t? What can we do to improve day-to-day interactions, to build trust and connections, to help people gain perspective, and to create systems that promote both peace and justice?”

For six weeks, starting last October, HLS students Sara Bellin ’17, Jenae Moxie ’16, and Carson Wheet ’16 led focus groups and one-on-one interviews with youth and police to assess how well police officers and Everett teens relate to each other and to recommend improvements. They also interviewed community group leaders.

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Community Lawyering for Change

Via Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

L-R: Andres (community organizer); Nan McGarry J.D. ’17; Natalia (client); Pedro Spivakovsky-Gonzalez J.D. ’17; and Stanford Fraser, J.D. ’16

In a cramped church basement in East Boston, people gather together for a common purpose: to stay in their homes. East Boston is ground zero for no-fault evictions brought by investors seeking to increase rents and profit off of increased housing demand in the Greater Boston area. At their core, no-fault evictions are evictions where the tenant has done nothing wrong—hence the name “no-fault”. A tenant can have paid rent on time and abided by his or her lease regulations for decades and still be thrown out for no reason other than the whims of an investor landlord. Despite these evictions, a group gathers and organizes to fight back against the displacement.

City Life/Vida Urbana (CLVU) is a community organization focused on supporting homeowners and tenants who have been hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis and now the displacement crisis. The model that CLVU and Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) attorneys have developed together is called “the Sword and Shield.” The sword is composed of CLVU protests, rallies, eviction blockades, and other activist measures to fight back against evictions and displacement. The shield is composed of community legal services, including HLAB. Along with Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) and others, HLAB has worked with CLVU to represent tenants facing evictions in Boston Housing Court. Another Harvard Law student organization, Project No One Leaves, supports the work of HLAB and CLVU by canvassing homes facing foreclosure and buildings investors have purchased where tenants may be at risk of facing no-fault evictions. These canvassing efforts bring in potential members to CLVU, strengthening both the sword and the shield. In the basement of the East Boston church where CLVU meets, a group of tenants came to seek legal help and their case became a rallying point and exemplar of the fight against displacement throughout Boston.

The Bennington Street building is a three story mixed use building, with a nail salon on the first floor and four residential units on the second and third floors. The tenants of the four residential units had been living in their apartments for various lengths of time, from several years to up to twenty years. Several of the tenants have families, including small children.

These families had been paying their rent on time, but one day the owner of the building sold it to an investor landlord who wanted to double it. Five days after purchasing the building, the new landlord sent all the tenants No-Fault Notices to Quit, saying they had to leave the premises or face legal action. The tenants’ landlord offered them an impossible choice: $500 to leave their homes of many years or a doubling of their rent. This is a common extrajudicial tactic amongst investors in East Boston, in part because it is much cheaper to pay off tenants with the threat of a rent increase than to go through the court system. Oftentimes the threat of legal action also makes some tenants decide to leave their homes, because they are unaware of their legal rights and do not realize that the courts could rule in their favor. Instead of accepting this offer, the Bennington tenants came to CLVU looking for help in their fight against losing their home.

HLAB member and President Pedro Spivakovsky-Gonzalez was the first student attorney on the Bennington Street cases, in August of 2015, although the team eventually expanded to include Nan McGarry, Jack Solano, and Stanford Fraser in January in anticipation of four possible jury trials. The case came to HLAB as four separate cases, one for each apartment in the building. HLAB entered into a joint representation agreement with the tenants, meaning that while we still would represent each household in their individual eviction case, we would also represent them as a group. The significance of this was that for months client counseling and negotiations with the landlord’s attorney involved a great deal of communication with the residents of each apartment regarding their individual cases, but also clear communication about the impacts of each decision on the group as a whole.

Although the landlord’s attorney attempted to consolidate the four cases, Pedro successfully opposed the motion in October, thus allowing all of the Bennington tenants their opportunity to be heard in court in front of a jury. Negotiations with the landlord’s attorney continued, and HLAB requested an inspection of the building, which revealed a number of conditions of disrepair. Although the tenants had been paying their rent for years, there were important repairs that still needed to be made for the landlord to be compliant with Massachusetts housing law. Through the course of representation, the landlord started to make some repairs to the building. Months of motions in court to compel discovery, among others, and months of settlement discussions, exchanging offers and counteroffers, led up to the scheduling of jury trials in February.

In fact, four jury trials had been scheduled, forcing Pedro, Nan, Jack, and Stanford to prepare as if all four trials were going to happen. Substantial HLAB resources were dedicated to this trial preparation, as the Bennington cases together involved eleven witnesses, including two expert witnesses. The whole team engaged in rigorous trial preparation, including preparing motions for the inclusion and exclusion of evidence, putting together several evidence binders, and preparing direct and cross examinations of witnesses. Throughout all of this work, the trial team also maintained communication with CLVU and GBLS.

The Bennington cases provide a glimpse at the type of cross-coordination work common in community lawyering. The tenants often attended CLVU meetings, where tenants from many other households gathered to share their own stories, many very similar: landlords purchasing properties, not making any repairs, and then seeking to evict tenants that had been paying their rent. HLAB student attorneys attended these weekly community meetings in East Boston, and also consulted with CLVU organizers and GBLS attorneys about litigation and settlement strategy.

As the Community Lawyering Clinical Instructor and a Lecturer on Law at HLAB, Eloise Lawrence supervised the student attorneys and provided guidance in critical moments of the process. Lawrence leads HLAB’s community lawyering efforts, following in the footsteps of the late David Grossman, who helped to pioneer community lawyering. Lawrence’s experience as a community lawyer in Lynn, where she still takes cases, continues to inform HLAB’s work in this area.

After all of the trial preparation and coordination with CLVU, the day of the first Bennington trial came on February 1. The trial would end up lasting four days and involving multiple witnesses, several of whom needed translators. Before the trial even began, key testimony and reports from the Boston Public Health Commission about the nail salon in the first floor of the building, were excluded from the trial, even though they showed noxious fumes from the nail salon endangering the health of the Bennington tenants. Nevertheless, the first trial team of Pedro and Nan, with the support of Eloise Lawrence fought through this exclusion of evidence and other challenges throughout the trial.

In one particularly memorable moment from the trial, Nan cross-examined the landlord about a back fence that had been padlocked. Under the law, every residential building over a certain number of units needs two ways to enter and exit the building, in part for fire safety reasons. This back fence, being padlocked, made it impossible to leave out the back of the building. In her cross-examination, McGarry asked specifically how the family would escape. The landlord responded, “What do you mean, if there was a fire? They could jump over the fence.”  In her closing argument, McGarry returned to this picture of a family, including a 67-year-old grandmother and a small child, trying to jump over a fence as their home burns. In the words of Eloise Lawrence, “You could feel the jury listen to every word and identify with our clients. If you didn’t know better, you would have thought Nan was a very experienced litigator, not that it was her first trial.”

Pedro and Nan won that first trial, with the jury returning a verdict in favor of the tenants on all counts, including attorney’s fees for HLAB. After winning the first trial, the team was able to successfully negotiate a settlement for all cases—including the other three cases that would have otherwise gone to trial—that included new long-term leases at affordable rents and landlord responsibility for repairs and maintenance to the units. As a result of these settlements, all the residents of this Bennington Street building will be able to stay in a home, with repairs being made by the landlord.

While not all cases have such a happy ending, the Bennington Street cases represent a window into how community lawyering can achieve individual results that are tied into a larger movement.

The tenants now have affordable and habitable apartments, while landlords in Boston understand that tenants will stand up for their rights. They will fight, with the help of organizations like City Life/Vida Urbana and the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and they will win.

Six trials, Six wins, two appeals, and a successful motion to suppress

This year, faculty and students in the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) have been investigating criminal cases, interviewing witnesses, conducting research, and arguing motions and trials before several courts.

At CJI students find the opportunity to combine their classroom education with hands-on experience, representing indigent criminal defendants and juveniles. Students are assigned cases in local district and juvenile courts and handle everything from arraignment to trial. Under the supervision of experienced clinical instructors, students handle an average of six to eight misdemeanor and felony cases during the semester. Below are some of their recent successes in court.

Via the Criminal Justice Institute

Trial 1

Dehlia Umunna, Clinical Professor of Law

Dehlia Umunna, Clinical Professor of Law

In December 2015, Clinical Professor of Law and Deputy Director of CJI, Dehlia Umunna, along with Clinical Instructor Jennifer McKinnon, had a jury trial in Dorchester Court. Our client was accused of an assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on the mother of his younger daughter. The client has legal custody of his oldest daughter and had been sharing custody of his youngest one for the first two years of her life. The client and the alleged victim, although no longer in a relationship, continued to have an amicable relationship up until he began dating someone new. That is when she began stalking him and making his life very difficult. After she lodged her allegations against him, she did not allow him visitation with their daughter. However, after a two day jury trial, our client was acquitted. The first thing he said after the verdict was read was that he hoped to litigate for visitation of his little girl now that this nightmare was over. Several jurors found our client in the hallway after the trial, shook his hand, and wished him and his girls the best in life.

Trial 2

In February 2016, Umunna and student attorney Brittany Llewellyn J.D. ’16 successfully defended their client, a young man who had been charged with assault. The client had been accused of assaulting two security guards almost three years ago, despite the fact that there was no tangible, unbiased evidence that our client had touched, hit or raised his fists to the security guards at all. At trial, the Commonwealth’s only evidence came from the complaining witnesses who then changed their stories when they testified on the stand. Llewellyn argued the motions and conducted the opening statement for the defense, while Umunna cross-examined witnesses, conducted the direct examination of the defense witness, and closing argument. The result was a not guilty verdict.

Says Llewellyn, “this was my first time trying a case, and the trial was an enriching and rewarding experience. Apart from allowing me an opportunity to develop my speaking, advocacy, and other courtroom skills, this trial experience also reinforced to me the importance of being well-prepared for court, in order to be able to forcefully advocate on behalf of your client. I was nervous during the 15 minutes that we waited while the jury deliberated.  But then I thought about our client, and considered how nervous he must be because he had so much at stake.  The incident at issue in the trial had occurred in 2013, and our client had to wait years to be found not guilty for something he did not do.  It was meaningful to see justice done.”

Trial 3

Kristin Muniz, Senior Clinical Instructor

Kristin Muniz, Senior Clinical Instructor

Sarah Teyssen J.D. ’16 and Jacob Loup J.D. ’16 conducted a trial on a charge of assault and battery. After several delayed trial dates — due to court congestion, delays by the prosecutor, and an absent police officer witness — the trial finally took place on March 15–16. Teyssen gave the opening statement, cross-examined the alleged victim and a civilian witness, and made the arguments for specific jury instructions at the end of the trial. Loup argued the opening motions, cross-examined a police officer, and delivered the closing argument. After about an hour of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The charge had been hanging over the client’s head for almost a year and a half; he was very happy to finally have the matter behind him. The students were supervised by Senior Clinical Instructor Kristin Muniz.

Trial 4

Angel Everett  J.D. ’16 and Aaron Bray J.D. ’16 successfully defended their client at a jury trial in the Roxbury District Court on a criminal charge of Violating a Restraining Order. Everett gave the opening statement, cross examined the complaining witness and conducted two direct examinations of defense witnesses. Bray lead the attorney-conducted voir dire of the jurors, cross-examined the police officer, directly examined a defense witness and delivered the closing argument. After a brief period of time, the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty. The students were supervised by Senior Clinical Instructor Kristin Muniz.

Trial 5

Clinical Instructor, Jennifer McKinnon

Clinical Instructor, Jennifer McKinnon

Clinical Instructor Jennifer McKinnon and student attorney Rena Karefa-Johnson J.D. ’16 tried a jury trial in Roxbury District Court in March. Our client was charged with two counts of indecent assault and battery and two counts of assault and battery. He was in the process of applying for citizenship when these charges were filed against him. The allegations were made by family friends who were fighting over money with our client’s family. The “collateral” consequences for our client if he were convicted included being required to register as a sex offender and, because of his immigration status, deportation. After a two day trial, our client was acquitted of all charges. When the verdict was read, there was not a dry eye on our side of the room, including the interpreter! As the jurors left the building, several came over to us to wish our client well and congratulate us.

Trial 6

In April, two CJI students, Michelle Elsner J.D. ’16 and Taylor Poor J.D. ’16, led their first jury trial on the criminal charges of assault and battery on a household member, a misdemeanor, and strangulation, a felony. With the help of their classmates, they investigated the case and interviewed witnesses. Elsner gave the opening statement, cross-examined the Commonwealth’s main witness, conducted direct examinations of the CJI students who served as rebuttal witnesses, and argued the sentencing. Poor took the majority of the legal motions, including the motions in limine, the cross-examinations of both police officers, a direct examination of one of the rebuttal witnesses, and the closing statement. After almost five days of trial and deliberation, the jury returned a split verdict: not guilty on the strangulation charge, and guilty on the assault and battery count. At the moment, Elsner and Poor are gathering material to pass on to Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) for the next step: appeal. Elsner and Poor were honored to represent and fight for their client, and greatly appreciated the rare chance to lead a trial as law students.

Motion to Suppress

Lia Monahon, Clinical Instructor, Criminal Justice Institute

Lia Monahon, Clinical Instructor, Criminal Justice Institute

In March, CJI won the outright dismissal of a case charging our client with causing serious bodily injury while driving under the influence. The charge arose out of a nighttime car accident in which a pedestrian suffered significant brain injuries. CJI alum Aaron Webman, HLS J.D. ’15, investigated the case over a year ago and litigated several discovery motions. Webman’s pre-trial litigation revealed that the Boston Police Department had a surveillance video that showed the client was driving safely, his view of the pedestrian was likely blocked by a van in the next lane, and the pedestrian stepped into oncoming traffic far from any crosswalk. Before the video could be used to exculpate Webman’s client, it was destroyed by Boston Police, who failed to take any steps to “preserve” it. CJI alums Samantha Gupta, HLS J.D. ’15, and Michael Dziuban, HLS J.D. ’15, brought and litigated a motion to dismiss the case as a sanction for the loss of the video, without which it was not possible for their client to have a fair trial. Based on the testimony of numerous police witnesses, the judge found that no remedy short of dismissal would protect the defendant’s right to due process of law. The students were supervised by Clinical Instructor Lia Monahon.

Appeals Court

On April 5, 2016, Zoe Bedell J.D. ’16 represented a CJI client in appellate arguments in front of Justices Green, Trainor, and Milkey on the Massachusetts Court of Appeals. At arraignment, the judge had dismissed one charge of stalking against our client and reduced one charge of assault and battery with a deadly weapon to simple assault and battery; the Commonwealth appealed the judge’s decision. We argued that the judge had properly dismissed and reduced the charges given the lack of probable cause to support the charges. Clinical Professor of Law Dehlia Umunna wrote the briefs and supervised the oral arguments. The decision is still pending.

Robert Proctor, Clinical Instructor

Robert Proctor, Clinical Instructor

On April 14, 2016, David Victorson J.D. ’16 argued an appellate case in front of the Massachusetts Appeals Court. The panel consisted of Chief Judge Kafker, Judge Kinder, and Judge Neyman. The issue stems from the fact that Massachusetts does not have a broad obstruction of justice statute. The client is accused of swallowing evidence, but since there is no proper statute to cover that charge, the Commonwealth charged her with “Intimidation of a Witness.” The Intimidation statute makes it illegal to “mislead . . . a police officer,” so the Commonwealth’s argument is that obstruction is misleading. The District Court dismissed the charge, saying that misleading conduct must create a false impression — basically that “mislead” does not mean “obstruct.” The Commonwealth appealed and, as it told the court, is looking for a decision that clarifies what “mislead” means rather than a decision based in the specific facts of this particular incident. Mr. Victorson was supervised by Clinical Instructors Robert Proctor and Lia Monahon. The decision is still pending.

Celebrating 35 Years of the Harvard Mediation Program

Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

Karen F. Green and Frank SanderOn a sun-filled Saturday on April 30, 2016, the Harvard Mediation Program (HMP) celebrated its 35th anniversary with approximately 80 members and supporters in attendance. The event provided an opportunity for current HMP members—law school students and community members alike—to connect with previous generations of HMP.

Those in attendance included co-founder Karen F. Green ’81; founding member Bruce Patton ’84; Prof. Emeritus Frank Sander ’52, who is often recognized as one of the founders of dispute resolution in the U.S.; David Hoffman ’84, who teaches the “Mediation” course previously taught by Prof. Sander; and Prof. Bob Bordone ’97, Director of the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program. Assistant Clerk Magistrate Bruce Glaser and Clerk Deb Belmonte of the Chelsea District Court staff were also present. Chelsea District Court is one of six Massachusetts Courts where HMP provides mediation services.

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Student Spotlight – Deanna Parrish ’16

Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinic

Deanna Parrish

Deanna Parrish ’16

My fierce dedication to democracy’s potential led me to Harvard Law School. I am the child of an immigrant family—Cubans who fled to the United States seeking an equal and democratic system of government. Because my family sacrificed for the opportunity to be heard by their leaders, I have felt that the onus is on me to stubbornly imagine the more just society they sought—one that works together to solve its most intractable problems. I came to HLS looking for the skills to build this better future, but with little understanding of how it would translate into a course of study. HNCMP became the answer to this query, and the home I was looking for in law school.

In a year otherwise filled with competitive classrooms and black letter law, the Spring 2014 Negotiation Workshop reminded me that I was a person who also went to law school. My training in other coursework would have limited meaning if I could not apply it thoughtfully in day-to-day negotiations. In a school dedicated to advocacy, the Workshop refreshingly suggested “curiosity, not conclusions.” Beyond the many skills the Negotiation Workshop taught me, it was this philosophy that kept me a close disciple of HNMCP during my time at HLS.

In the HNCMP Clinic, I was encouraged to turn my gaze from the personal to the systemic. Under Clinical Instructor Heather Kulp’s mentorship, my team was pushed to design systems where individuals were not only heard, but also felt empowered to speak. My Clinical team worked to create a dispute resolution system for the U.S. Department of Agriculture—never before had I confronted a task so huge and thrilling in law school. No longer were the teachings of the Negotiation Workshop rigorous academic exercises, but real-life issues that I could help solve.

I am fortunate that my engagement with HNMCP has been as robust inside of the classroom as out. Some of my most exciting work has been in content development for the HNMCP Blog; writing a multi-party negotiation case; and helping create HNMCP’s new podcast series The Listening Room. Working with Sara del Nido Budish and Bob Bordone, I have been given amazing mentorship to pursue research and writing in the nexus of issues I hope to explore throughout my professional life. Where do conflict management and social justice intersect? Who is doing this work already that we can learn from? What articles, stories, and exercises will inspire new students of this material? How do we harness group problem-solving to create better institutions?

In the last few years at HLS, these questions have also played out our own campus. HLS is one of many institutions in the throws of a nation-wide conversation on race, identity, and the purposes of legal education. It has been in these important moments where I have appreciated the necessity for both the personal skills and systems design in which HNMCP has trained me. As a student in The Lawyer As Facilitator (LAF) course, and as a facilitator in the  Real Talk  initiative (a series of extracurricular facilitated dialogues on personal identity and the 1L experience), I was given both the training and the opportunity to engage with these issues head-on. In these moments, the quest for a more just society that compelled me to law school became less nebulous: societies are simply systems made up of people, and people experience conflict, change, and vulnerability differently. As a facilitator, I helped participants navigate these experiences. I was overwhelmed by the power that came from a group of individuals processing together, and in turn, by the power of HNMCP’s teachings in creating change, one person at a time.

My experiences with HNMCP have been diverse, deep, and transformational. I have taken courses including the Negotiation Workshop, Dispute Systems Design, the Negotiation and Mediation Clinic, Lawyer as Facilitator; and pursued independent projects including the HNMCP Blog, the Harvard Negotiation Institute, The Listening Room, case writing, and Real Talk. In my last semester of law school, it feels like a capstone for my intense study and practice of dispute resolution to serve as a Teaching Assistant for the Negotiation Workshop. After three years of understanding my own tendencies in conflict, and learning how to prevent and manage others, I feel lucky to introduce new students to this incredibly powerful material.

This material is as liberating as it is challenging: it imparts on its students the onus to do something—be someone—different than before encountering it. It implores us to go into the world with fewer conclusions, greater curiosity, and perhaps more compassion than before. I am closer to my dream of a more inclusive and just society because of my time with HNMCP.

Deanna Parrish ’16 is a 3L at Harvard Law School. In addition to facilitating in the Real Talk initiative, Deanna has served as a teaching assistant in the the Negotiation Workshop and the Harvard Negotiation Institute. During her studies at HLS, Deanna has taken The Lawyer as Facilitator workshop, Dispute Systems Design, and the Negotiation and Mediation Clinic (HNMCP). She has also written a multi-party negotiation case.

A Semester with Senator Warren

By Zachary D’Amico, J.D. ’16

Zachary D’Amico, J.D. '16

Zachary D’Amico, J.D. ’16 with Senator Elizabeth Warren

Rather than finish off my legal education with yet another series of black-letter law lectures and endless April nights reading outlines, I opted to spend my final four months at Harvard Law School working in the Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren. Thanks to the Government Lawyer: Semester in Washington Clinic, I was able to get outside the classroom and see the day-to-day impact that a lawyer can have working in public service.

I initially reached out to Senator Warren’s office for several reasons. My placement search began with two fundamental questions: (1) Where can I have the most impact? and (2) Where can I do something I believe in? In a time of congressional gridlock – a problem exacerbated by the 2016 election cycle – Senator Warren’s office has proven that it can use informal means to accomplish its goals. Perhaps just as important, many of those were goals I already believed in, some involving issues I had worked on during my time in law school.

While I was lucky enough to work on an array of projects with many individuals over the past four months, I spent the majority of my time working for Sen. Warren’s Oversight and Investigations team. Most offices in the Senate don’t have special oversight staff; these jobs are typically under the jurisdiction of committees. Senator Warren, however, has the power of the public megaphone on her side, and oversight and investigations are two important tools with which she wields that power.

Jumping into an office that has an exponentially larger output than any office with a staff of its size should have, I found myself with more immediate responsibility than I expected. Two projects I worked on during my first month in Washington are representative of my experiences throughout the semester: one involving enforcement efforts and the other a proposed rule from the Department of Labor.

On my first day, my boss briefed me on Senator Warren’s effort to shine a spotlight on the government’s woefully ineffective enforcement practices. I spent over a week investigating and researching dozens of failed prosecutions, toothless settlements, and other government failures of enforcement across a wide range of agencies. Much of this research was incorporated into our office’s first annual enforcement report entitled “Rigged Justice.” Just three weeks into my new job I had made a practical contribution to the legal world in a way that was beyond anything I had done in two and a half years of law school before that.

For my second project, I had to completely switch gears in order to research and gather information for a letter Senator Warren sent to the Department of Labor in support of a proposed rule on fiduciary standards for retirement advisers. The letter helped point out that critics of the regulation were not being completely honest (and in a latter letter Sen. Warren asked the SEC to investigate if these companies were misleading investors about the regulation) and DOL eventually finalized the rule in early April. This project was one of many that taught me my most valuable lesson I learned in four months I spent working on Capitol Hill: don’t be afraid to dive in with your eyes closed. I knew very little about retirement advising when my boss handed me this project. But as I would come to find out, most people in the office faced the same obstacle at some point in their careers. It’s okay to not have a clue what you’re doing at time, as long as you’re willing to do whatever it takes to figure it out.

I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with such an intelligent, hardworking team for such an inspirational woman. For anyone considering the Semester in Washington Clinic, I highly recommend the experience.

 

My home at the law school

By Sam Feldman, J.D. ’16

I came to law school to work on the issues of mass incarceration and prisoners’ rights, inspired by advocates and activists I’d met who were challenging America’s own 21st-century gulag archipelago. I hadn’t actually done much research, though—something I’ve gotten better at over the course of law school—and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Harvard is one of the only law schools in the country whose students have the opportunity to go into prisons on a regular basis and represent prisoners at hearings. The Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP), Harvard’s largest student practice organization, serves (a small fraction of) the Massachusetts state prisoners who desperately need representation and have nowhere else to turn.

PLAP’s bread and butter are disciplinary hearings, in which inmates accused of violating prison regulations have the opportunity to defend themselves before a hearing officer. Accused prisoners are allowed to retain counsel, but very few have the resources to do so. That’s where PLAP comes in: working in teams of one or two students supervised by an experienced attorney, we interview clients, submit discovery requests and motions, cross-examine corrections officers, and defend our clients against charges that can carry serious consequences, ranging from a loss of privileges to punitive solitary confinement.

I took my first disciplinary case in the fall of my 1L year and won a not guilty verdict for my client on a very serious charge, escape or attempted escape. Soon after I picked up a parole case together with a friend from my section, and the following year, while I served as PLAP’s Parole Hearing Coordinator, we represented our client before the Massachusetts Parole Board as he sought a chance to breathe free air after over 30 years in prison. This year I’ve served as one of PLAP’s two Executive Directors, and I’ve taken as many disciplinary cases as I can squeeze in between classes and other clinical work. My parole client was denied release last summer for reasons I believe are unlawful; before I graduate, I’ll have the opportunity to make that argument to the Suffolk Superior Court as part of our impact litigation practice.

Throughout my three years here, PLAP has been my home at the law school. I’ve appreciated our corner office on the 5th floor and the large community surrounding it, including about 200 students, two amazing supervising attorneys, and our dedicated administrative director. I’m also grateful for the chance to work in another type of space entirely: the state prisons in which thousands of people involuntarily reside, a few of whom I’ve had the privilege of getting to know. And I’ve been inspired anew by the motto hanging on the wall of our office: freedom for some, justice for all.

 

Working with PLAP: Opportunities to represent inmates in Massachusetts prisons

By Erin DeGrand J.D. ’16

Erin DeGrand J.D. '16

Erin DeGrand J.D. ’16

Joining PLAP as a 1L, I was most attracted to the fact that it seemed like the only place on campus that would let me get involved without submitting a resume first. In the face of all of the stress that accompanies 1L, PLAP was welcoming and required no application. Not to worry, this Hufflepuff mindset goes Gryffindor quickly, but it is a notable and important aspect of PLAP that we take everyone.

Two things made me continue with PLAP throughout law school: the David and Goliath nature of the work, and the opportunity for as much hands-on experience as I could take. PLAP primarily represents prisoners in two types of hearings: disciplinary and parole. At disciplinary hearings, we defend prisoners from charges that they have violated a prison’s rules; these charges range in seriousness from disobeying a guard’s order to assault. In these hearings, students cross-examine guards and witnesses, they often directly examine their clients, and they make closing arguments to the hearing officer. At parole hearings, we represent prisoners asking the Parole Board to let them out of prison. Here, students rigorously prepare their clients for the Board’s questions, prepare parole memos explaining why their clients have reformed and are ready to return to society, and make opening and closing statements to the Board at the hearing.

These hearings often inspire feelings similar to how the Red Sox must have felt against the Yankees in 2004. Prisoners are the ultimate underdogs: they have no guarantee of counsel in these hearings. In the disciplinary hearings, the standard of proof is low, the prison decides what evidence it will allow, and the judge is often a former corrections officer. In the parole hearings, the board has a lot to lose in granting parole and nothing to lose in denying it. But there is no better win than an underdog win, and getting a ticket dismissed or parole granted can be just as sweet as beating the Yankees.

Connecting back to my own humanity

By Michelle Ha, J.D. ’16

Michelle Ha, J.D. ’16

Michelle Ha, J.D. ’16

Through my experience in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HIRC) this semester, I had the privilege of representing an incredible woman named Juana* in her application for asylum in the United States.

Juana fled gang violence in Central America with her young daughter and has suffered from threats and abuse that no one should ever have to go through. She is unable to read or write because, while she had wanted to go to school, she had to work in order to help support her family. Her eyes light up when she talks about her children, her husband, whom she calls el amor de mi vida, and her church community. Her voice softens as she remembers how she dreamed of becoming a singer when she was a child.

There are details that demonstrate our true character and make us human, but the law may not provide room for those to come to light. There is no place in her court filings for us to talk about the delicious pastries she baked for us one weekend. There is nowhere we can include how she always washes the dishes from our conversations over tea and hot chocolate before she leaves, no matter how many times we tell her to leave them for us.

This is the case, even though asylum law is one of the most intimate areas of legal practice. As an advocate, you must learn who your client is, her background, experiences, values and beliefs in order to understand her story and how it fits into the legal definition of a refugee as provided for in the Refugee Convention and incorporated into U.S. domestic law.

Asylum law is also the area of law that displays most clearly the role of lawyer as a storyteller and translator. The central piece of evidence in an asylum application is the applicant’s affidavit. The lawyer’s role is to translate the things that happened to the client into a compelling narrative that the law understands to trigger legal obligation.

But there are certain issues of credibility that play out in a court of law that push us, as advocates, to flatten her narrative. Persuasive storytelling is made up of the telling details you are able to weave in, but we think of whether Juana will be able to remember these details when she is being cross-examined on the stand by an adversarial government lawyer. We work with her to parse down the rich details of her life into a clear, condensed, court-ready submission of around 30 pages. I cringe to think that some affidavits, even those written with the help of a lawyer, have less than 10. And I remember the men, women, and children without counsel at immigration court who will face this process alone.

Law lacks a human touch in many ways, but working with Juana, representing her in a case that itself represents her life and receiving her confidence and trust, has been an experience that has connected me back to my own humanity and what justice feels like, and why I came to law school in the first place. In my law school personal statement, I wrote that “justice is a feeling: of right and wrong, balance, compassion, and empathy. Literature depicts the world as it is and engenders, nurtures within us this sense of justice. But laws are the language by which we are able to conceive of how the world should be and articulate the possibilities of change.” Working with Juana during my semester in HIRC gave me the privilege of combining the language of justice with the language of the law in order to make a real difference in someone’s life.

As a 3L looking back on my time at HLS, I am grateful for all the opportunities I had to learn, grow, and prepare myself to serve, and look forward to the new opportunities that my law school training has provided me. I hope that students will continue to pursue opportunities to directly help those in need through providing legal assistance, through participating in student practice organizations, law school clinics, or other pro bono engagements. As the self-professed leaders of our time, we have legal and professional obligations to do so. But most of all, we owe it to ourselves.

*Name has been changed.

Housing Law Clinic: fighting housing displacement and insecurity

By Catherine Peyton Humphreville, J.D. ’16

Credit: Brooks Kraft

Credit: Brooks Kraft
Catherine Peyton Humphreville, J.D. ’16 and Lecturer on Law Maureen McDonagh

Working with homeless and street-involved youth as a legal intern at the Urban Justice Center’s Peter Cicchino Youth Project after my first year of law school, I saw that many of my clients first encountered legal troubles when they became homeless. After arriving back at school that fall semester, I set out to use legal tools to prevent homelessness and housing insecurity before it started. With that goal in mind, I enrolled in the Housing Law Clinic.

During my first semester, I worked on eviction cases. I learned about the unsafe housing conditions faced by many of Boston’s low-income residents and how to use the housing code and consumer protection law to fight these conditions. I also saw how domestic violence exacerbates housing crises and learned to work in tandem with the Family and Domestic Violence Law Clinic to help my client’s family. As a continuing clinical student during the Spring 2015 semester, I wrote an appellate brief in a foreclosure case, representing a single mother who had been fighting for her home for eight years, and attended weekly meetings at City Life/Vida Urbana, an anti-displacement community organizing group blocks from the Legal Services Center. Both semesters, I was able to forge close working relationships with clients through one-on-one meetings while also developing my writing skills and substantive knowledge of foreclosure law under the close supervision of Lecturer on Law Maureen McDonagh and Clinical Instructor Julia Devanthery.

I came to law school in part to advocate for women and LGBTQ people. By participating in the Attorney for the Day program at Boston Housing Court, I saw that it was primarily women and people of color facing eviction, who almost always had no access to legal representation and I began to see housing security as a feminist and anti-racist issue. I hope to be able to use the litigation and client-interviewing skills I learned in the Housing Law Clinic together with the transactional skills I garnered in two semesters with the Community Enterprise Project to fight housing insecurity and displacement in New York after completing a clerkship.

 

Shining a Light on the Right to Privacy: Surveillance in Venezuela and Zimbabwe

Via International Human Rights Clinic

IHRCSince the 2013 Snowden revelations, media and civil society groups have closely scrutinized U.S. surveillance and intelligence sector law and policy, generating wide-ranging domestic and international debates on privacy, security, and the limits of state power. Less scrutinized, however, are the surveillance and intelligence sector policies and practices of countries that wield little international influence, but whose governments exercise significant control over citizens’ ability to communicate privately and speak freely.

Two such countries, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, are the subject of reports the International Human Rights Clinic and its partners recently submitted to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The joint reports document serious challenges to the right to privacy in both countries, including inadequate legal and policy frameworks on surveillance and intelligence gathering that are compounded by the absence of a strong and independent judiciary. These reports will ultimately help the United Nations Human Rights Council evaluate the human rights situation in both countries through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The Clinic report on Venezuela, co-authored with Privacy International and Venezuelan non-profit Acceso Libre, notes a number of concerning developments since the country’s human rights situation was last assessed through the UPR in 2011: for example, the government has encouraged the emergence of “patriotas cooperantes” (cooperating patriots), anonymous informers who feed information to government officials about the activities of perceived government opponents. In a striking example of this practice, in February 2016 Reuters reported on the case of Rodolfo Gonzalez, who was arrested in April 2014 by intelligence agents and accused of masterminding protests against Venezuela’s President. The arrest was allegedly based on an audio recording provided by a cooperating patriot, in which Gonzalez discussed “destabilising actions” against the government. For nearly a year, Gonzalez was held in a facility operated by Venezuela’s major civilian intelligence agency while he waited for trial; he hanged himself in March 2015.

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Professor Daniel Nagin to Receive John G. Brooks Legal Services Award

Via Boston Bar Association

aniel Nagin, Clinical Professor of Law, Faculty Director of WilmerHale Legal Services Center

Daniel Nagin, Vice Dean for Experiential and Clinical Education, Clinical Professor of Law, Faculty Director of WilmerHale Legal Services Center

The Boston Bar Association is pleased to announce it will present the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award to Harvard Law School’s Professor Daniel Nagin during its annual Law Day Dinner on Thursday, May 12.

Prof. Nagin is the Vice Dean for Experiential and Clinical Education and serves as the Faculty Director of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center & Veterans Legal Clinic at Harvard Law School.

The John G. Brooks Legal Services Award was established to recognize professional legal services attorneys for their outstanding work on behalf of indigent clients in greater Boston, and Prof. Nagin’s work has embodied the spirit of the award, on both the local and national level.

In 2012, Prof. Nagin founded the Veterans Legal Clinic, where students gain hands-on experience while representing veterans and the families of veterans who would not have access to legal representation otherwise. Prof. Nagin has also written articles and sat on panels discussing legal issues of particular concern to veterans, including access to benefits.  Most recently, Prof. Nagin started the Low Income Tax Clinic (LITC) at the Legal Services Center, supported in part by the Boston Bar Foundation.

Prof. Nagin has been an active member and currently co-chairs the BBA’s Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee. He has also planned a number of pro bono trainings to assist veterans with discharge appeals and to support the pro bono panel of the new LITC.

Prior to his work in Massachusetts, Prof. Nagin founded and directed a public benefits clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law and taught in the clinical program at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. Prof. Nagin has also directed a social service and legal advocacy program for homeless New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS.

“I am deeply honored to receive the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award.  I have the good fortune to work every day with so many wonderful people in the legal services community,” Prof. Nagin said. “I am continually inspired by these incredible colleagues—and by the clients on whose behalf we advocate.  I share this award with everyone who seeks justice for the indigent.”

FLPC, in partnership with the Food Recovery Project, Launches Updated Legal Guide on the Federal Enhanced Tax Deduction for Food Donations

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Tax Deduction for Food Donation coverThe Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, in partnership with the Food Recovery Project at the University of Arkansas, is pleased to published an updated version of “Federal Enhanced Tax Deduction for Food Donation: A Legal Guide,” to reflect the significant changes Congress made as part of the fiscal year 2016 omnibus budget that increase tax incentives for food donations and prevent food waste. This guide, originally published in November 2015, provides an important resource for food businesses and food recovery organizations to determine whether a food donor is eligible to receive the enhanced deduction.

An estimated 40 percent of food produced in the United States goes uneaten; at the same time, more than 14 percent of U.S. households are food insecure at some point during the year. Diverting a fraction of the wholesome food that currently goes to waste in this country could effectively end food insecurity for all Americans.

The extension and modification of the charitable deduction for contributions of food inventory included in the 2016 omnibus budget contains four significant changes: 1) a permanent extension of the enhanced tax deduction for food donations; 2) increases the deduction’s cap to 15% of the donor’s net income; 3) provides certain taxpayers a new optional formula for calculating the enhanced deduction; and 4) provides a formula for determining the fair market value (FMV) of food inventory. Each of these are reflected in the updated legal guide and explained in detail in FLPC’s previous blog post.

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Advancing social justice through law: 2016 Gary Bellow award winners

Via HLS News

Four members of the Harvard Law School community—Ana María Mondragon Duque LL.M. ’16, Lindsey Whyte ’16, Faye Maison ’16, and Melody Webb ’93—received the Gary Bellow Public Service Award, established in 2001 in memory of the late Professor Gary Bellow ’60, a pioneering public interest lawyer who founded and directed Harvard Law School’s clinical programs.

Each year, the student body selects a student and an alumnus/a who best exemplify Bellow’s commitment to advancing social justice through law. The award committee expanded the award this year to recognize the work of an LL.M./S.J.D. graduate and two graduating students. Also this year, the Bellow Award committee hosted a TED-style talk event prior to online student voting for award finalists to share their public service vision and experience.

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Cyberlaw Clinic Protects the Right to Post “Ballot Selfies”

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (PDF) at the United States Court of a Appeals for the First Circuit, on behalf of the New England First Amendment Coalition and the Keene Sentinel. The case, Rideout v. Gardner, concerns a law passed by the State of New Hampshire to prevent “ballot selfies” – photos of completed ballots that are posted on social media. The brief argues that the law is unconstitutional under the First Amendment, as it prohibits a variety of speech important to monitoring the government, educating voters and engaging in political debate.

The statute at issue is N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 659:35, which prohibits “taking a digital image or photograph of [one’s] marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media.” As the brief notes, if the statute were allowed to stand, it would prohibit many types of speech that play important roles in elections, and democracy more generally. The law bars voters from raising questions about improprieties they find on their ballots, criticizing the government for poor ballot design, or engaging in advocacy for a candidate. The brief notes specific examples of times when photographs of ballots helped the public clear up misunderstandings about government conduct, demonstrated how to ensure that one’s vote would be counted, and conveyed messages about civic participation and advocacy for a candidate that could not expressed with words alone.

A copy of the brief is available here, and more information about it can be found at NEFAC’s website. Spring 2016 Cyberlaw Clinic students Michael Linhorst and Jacqueline Wolpoe took the lead on this brief, working closely with Managing Director Chris Bavitz and Clinical Fellow Andy Sellars.

EXPIRED in Washington, D.C.

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

By Katie Sandson,  J.D. ’17

2016-04-05_Date_Labeling_002_s

Image provided by Senator Richard Blumenthal’s office

I have been a clinical student in the Food Law and Policy clinic since January 2016. As a continuing clinical student this semester, I have been working on FLPC’s food waste and food recovery initiatives, including work on the clinic’s expiration date project. As part of its efforts to standardize date labels at the federal level, FLPC has drawn attention to this problem through the creation and promotion of a short film, EXPIRED? Food Waste in America. The film tells the story of how a restrictive date labeling rule in Montana has required countless gallons of wholesome milk to be needlessly discarded once the milk reaches a labeled date that has no basis in safety or science. Montana’s rule is just one example of similarly restrictive rules in place throughout the country.

Throughout the semester, I have worked to promote the film and raise awareness about the connection between date labels and food waste. Two weeks ago, I traveled to Washington, D.C. with the clinic to attend a number of events related to our date labeling projects, including two screenings of the EXPIRED film in two very different settings. On Sunday, I helped give a presentation on date labels at the National Food Recovery Dialogue hosted by the Food Recovery Network. On Tuesday, FLPC’s director Emily Broad Leib and clinical fellow Christina Rice participated in a panel on date labels hosted by Senator Richard Blumenthal’s Office. Senator Blumenthal has announced plans to introduce legislation to standardize date labels at the federal level, an effort FLPC has supported throughout the process.

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Schools look to aid traumatized children

Via Caller Times

Rachel Denny Clow/Caller-Times Youth attend an award ceremony recognizing volunteers and mentors with Brockton's Promise in January in Brockton, Mass. The organization is a coalition for youth development that aims to improve conditions of youth within the community by offering safe places, effective education, healthy starts and caring adults and opportunities to serve.

Rachel Denny Clow/Caller-Times Youth attend an award ceremony recognizing volunteers and mentors with Brockton’s Promise in January in Brockton, Mass. The organization is a coalition for youth development that aims to improve conditions of youth within the community by offering safe places, effective education, healthy starts and caring adults and opportunities to serve.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — Violence children see at home can affect their chances for success in school and later in life.

That’s why the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, based at Harvard Law School in Massachusetts, advocates for trauma-sensitive schools to help children impacted by trauma to feel safe at school.

There are six attributes of a trauma sensitive school that are explained in the initiative’s book, “Helping Traumatized Children Learn II: Creating and Advocating for Trauma Sensitive Schools.” Those attributes came from work done in schools in Brockton, Mass., and other places, and describe what a trauma sensitive school looks and feels like, said Michael Gregory, a senior attorney with the initiative and a clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School.

Leadership and staff share an understanding of trauma’s impact on learning and the need for a schoolwide approach.

“So this isn’t something that just the school psychologist understands, or just a few teachers that are interested in it, but really the whole staff,” Gregory said.

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Cravath fellows travel globally to experience international and comparative law

Via HLS News

Thirteen Harvard Law School students were selected as the 2016 Cravath International Fellows. The fellows traveled to 12 countries for winter term clinical placements or independent research with an international, transnational, or comparative law focus. Below are accounts of the experiences of four of the new fellows.

Crystal Nwaneri ’17

Crystal Nwaneri ’17 spent winter term in Singapore, conducting research on the legal and technological implications of a court ruling permitting a third party to retransmit over-the-air television without permission of the broadcasters. For Nwaneri, this was a chance to further explore her long-standing interest in the legal challenges brought about by rapidly advancing technology.

As an undergraduate, Nwaneri examined public policy and how legislators and private organizations shape and regulate the technology industry. Prior to law school, she worked at Dell’s government relations office in Washington, D.C., briefing their executives on the internet technology issues discussed at Congressional hearings.

Upon entering Harvard Law, she enrolled in a reading group with Professor of Practice Urs Gasser about the future of online privacy, joined the Women’s Law Association and the Harvard Black Law Students Association, and began working as an editor at the Journal of Law and Technology. As a 2L, she is focusing on the legal infrastructures that support technology innovation, which may affect access for underserved communities. She also supports clients in the Cyberlaw Clinic and is a research assistant with the Student Privacy Initiative at the Berkman Center.

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“My time in Defenders solidified my commitment to public interest”

By Tori Anderson, J.D. ’16

Tori Anderson, J.D. '16

Tori Anderson, J.D. ’16

I knew coming into law school that I wanted to work in public interest. Working for people and with people was very important to me and I wanted to spend my three years at HLS pursuing that. I discovered Harvard Defenders during the student activities fair in my first semester. I loved the idea of being a part of a supportive community of 1Ls, 2Ls and 3Ls who were like-minded in their commitment to giving back to the community during their time in law school. Defenders allowed me to help people in hearings where they were not provided representation and to gain experience zealously advocating for those most marginalized in society.

I have been able to represent clients in 10 cases, help with their criminal court issues, as well as connect them with housing resources, immigration consultations and school programs. During my time with Harvard Defenders, I have served as one of the Case Assignment Directors and as President. As Case Assignment Director, I ensured that people who called looking for legal help were connected with student attorneys. I also tracked the organization’s data. As President, I successfully advocated for a social worker for our clients and focused on revamping our referral network. I was able to get to know every one of our 83 members and forge lasting friendships with future public interest leaders. I learned how to research case law, look up criminal code statutes, find Massachusetts jury instructions, strategize for a case, prepare oral arguments and cross examinations and gained skills in how to navigate the often tricky relationship between student attorneys, law enforcement officers and court officials.

But my clients have taught me the most. We often meet our clients at a very difficult time in their lives when they have to face the potential of being prosecuted. They have taught me how to listen and how to be more empathetic. They have been open and showed a great ability to trust a complete stranger with personal details. My time in Defenders truly solidified my commitment to public interest. After graduation, I will be working as a public defender, a choice which was heavily influenced by my time in the organization.

Project on Predatory Student Lending: Inspiring My Public Interest Career

By Jessica Ranucci, J.D. ’16 

Jessica Ranucci, J.D. ’16

Jessica Ranucci, J.D. ’16

The Project on Predatory Student Lending, part of the Predatory Lending and Consumer Protection Clinic, has been a tremendously important part of my law school experience. The clinic is housed at HLS’s Legal Services Center (LSC), which is located in Boston, and is only a few minutes drive away from the community center where I worked full-time before law school.

I came to HLS in order to be able to combat the structural inequalities that I saw facing the youth and families with whom I worked. I sought out a clinical experience at LSC because its mission to provide quality legal services to clients in their own neighborhood comported with my own belief in community-based public interest work.

The Project on Predatory Student Lending provides direct representation to low-income student loan borrowers who have experienced illegal predatory activity by for-profit colleges. As a 2L in my first semester at the clinic, I directly represented clients in civil litigation. I also wrote a motion and conducted discovery for the first time. Through the Continuing Clinical Program, I have been able to remain in the clinic for my entire 3L year.

This year, I have a lot of flexibility to work independently while I oversee the clinic’s intake process. I love conducting intakes: they give new potential clients the opportunity to share their stories and give me the intellectual challenge of matching up the clients’ experiences with potential legal claims. After an intake meeting, I make recommendations to the clinic’s attorneys about the legal options we have to assist our clients. In some cases, there is a relatively easy solution and I can help the client apply for an administrative loan discharge. I bring the complicated cases to our weekly team meetings, where the supervising attorneys, fellow clinical students, and I discuss the legal assistance the clinic can provide.

The Project on Predatory Student Lending is also involved in shaping student debt policy on the state and national level. The clinic’s attorneys set policy priorities by listening to our clients’ needs and identifying when the current system is not working for them. What has really inspired me about the Project on Predatory Student Lending is its simultaneous commitment to high-quality direct legal services and pursuit of policy change on our clients’ behalf. I came to law school to find a way to combat structural inequality—and I see the clinic’s combination of legal services and client—driven policy advocacy as a model for how to achieve that. It is a model I hope to emulate in my career.

Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic’s prison visit

By Benjamin Sacks, J.D. ’17

To my left, three people sat around a table playing what appeared to be poker. To my right, another pair played Mah Jongg. Behind the tables, one man was holding his dog on a leash, another was talking on the phone, and a third was placing an order for a meal. They all gave me a quizzical look when I entered their room: What was I doing there?

Group photo of students in the class

Group photo of students in the class

Prisoners at Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI) in Concord aren’t used to visitors popping into their living quarters, but there we were. The twenty-five of us students in the Judicial Processes in the Trial Courts Clinic, Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.), and our tour guide, prison superintendent Lois Russo, standing in the common area which the prisoners’ cells (two to a room) face. We were on a tour of the prison as a culmination to our semester working with various judges in the courts of Massachusetts. After helping judges write opinions and perform legal research, it was only appropriate that we see the consequences of some of our judges’ sentencing decisions.

The prisoners seemed content enough playing their games and making their phone calls, but there was no mistaking that we were in a prison. The impersonal fluorescent lights, uncarpeted cement floors, and heavy metal doors with special locks throughout the facility served as a constant reminder that the people inside were there to stay. During our tour of the facilities, we were escorted by a minimum of two security guards. Each time we moved from one area to another, we went through two sets of doors, the first of which had to close before the second would open, so as to prevent unauthorized use.

Life isn’t easy in prison. At MCI Concord, inmates spend each night in their locked cells, and many hours of the day within the confines of the common area just outside. Surely, poker can only be entertaining for so long. There are prescribed visiting hours, and inmates are entitled to at least one hour a day outside, and one hour of exercise per day, five days per week. We did not go to the outside recreational area, but the indoor exercise area (still exposed to the cold outside air) was nothing but a box, with concrete floor, ceiling, and walls.

Prisoners can earn credits that can be spent on snacks, phone calls, or other amenities. They can also earn credits for sentence reductions by performing services within or outside the prison, depending on their security clearances. For example, a number of them receive training on how to domesticate and train service dogs (like the one we saw) for those with special needs. For two years at a time, they live with the dogs that they train.

Credits are nice, but they are nothing compared to the freedom we felt when we exited the prison after our visit and went to Judge Cratsley’s house, where we enjoyed a warm, home-cooked meal. Our visit reinforced my feeling that the only sentence I want to experience is the one comprised of words.

Harvard Law School Group Pushes Virtual Power Plants in Massachusetts

Via Microgrid Knowledge 

virtual power plantA Harvard Law School group is urging Massachusetts regulators to test virtual power plants – possibly as part of microgrids – as the state moves to modernize its electric grid.

The school’s Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic raised the idea of utilities demonstrating virtual power plants in comments filed last week before the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. The DPU is reviewing grid modernization plans proposed last year by its investor-owned utilities.

Akin to microgrids, virtual power plants are a collection of intelligently controlled distributed energy resources that can act like a single power plant in relation to the grid and energy markets. They often serve a group of customers that are either identified by a utility or aggregated by a private entity.

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Cyberlaw Clinic and Lumen Project Reps Contribute to Section 512 Study

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

Copyright OfficeOn April 1st, the Copyright Office closed the initial comment period for a public study undertaken to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) safe harbor provisions, embodied in Section 512 of the United States Copyright Act. On April 7th, the filed comments were released online.

Commenters submitted a total of 90,967 comments in connection with the study. The Cyberlaw Clinic filed one of those comments on behalf of Berkman Center for Internet & Society Project Coordinator Adam Holland, who manages the Center’s Lumen project (formerly known as Chilling Effects), and Harvard Law School Clinical Professor (and Cyberlaw Clinic Managing Director) Christopher Bavitz, who serves as Lumen’s principal investigator at Berkman. As described herein, the comment submitted by the Clinic advanced the twin propositions that:  (a) data is crucial to informing reasoned policy debates, including debates about policies that govern intermediary liability and obligations to police content online; and (b) transparency is intrinsically related to accountability, oversight, and process and is generally good for the public at large in a society that values free expression.

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