Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

An advocate for children, Michael Jung ’18 has taken a wide view

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Lorin Granger

When he was in high school in his native South Korea, Ha Ryong (Michael) Jung ’18 volunteered at a custodial facility for neglected children. “It was wonderful and at the same time heartbreaking,” he remembers. “It seemed like they were isolated from the system and society. I was young at the time myself, so I didn’t really know what I could do as a person. But the more I gained work experience, the more I saw the need for law to help protect these children and their rights.”

A burgeoning interest in poverty and development led him to major in business administration at the University of Michigan; a summer research project on regional poverty and education in Ghana was so engaging that he and his fellow students learned traditional Ghanaian music and dance so that they could perform on campus to raise funds for girls who wanted to go to school. Returning home after college, he completed an internship with Korea’s National Assembly and his mandatory two-year service in the South Korean army, and worked with UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding.

Throughout, “children were still nagging at my heart,” he recalls. “I continuously came across instances where legal frameworks existed, and there was functioning law enforcement, but children were being sidelined. I wanted to understand what the international and national mechanisms were that exist to protect our children, and it was this curiosity that was really my primary motivation for coming to law school.”

Continue reading

Carol Flores of CJI receives Shatter the Ceiling Award

Amy Soto, Administrative Director of CJI, with Carol Flores

Last month the Harvard Women’s Law Association presented the annual Shatter the Ceiling Award to Carol Flores, Administrative Coordinator of the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI).  In presenting the award the students noted that Carol contributes to the success of a program that makes a big impact on many students as well as criminal defendants.  “Her dedication and love for her job really shows.”  Congratulations, Carol!

Former Clinic Students Present Harvard Law Review Student Notes

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic

Of the four students whose work is represented in the Harvard Law Review’s April 2018 “Developments in the Law” issue, three are former students in the Cyberlaw Clinic and all have taken classes with our staff. The issue of the Law Review focuses on challenges posed by the vast amount of personal information that individuals now store digitally and with third party technology companies. The student authors, Audrey Adu-Appiah, Chloe Goodwin, Vinitra Rangan, and Ariel Teshuva, presented on their work to a packed room on Thursday, April 18, at the Law School, followed by a conversation moderated by Chris Bavitz.

Adu-Appiah presented on her Note, “The Video Privacy Protection Act as a Model Intellectual Privacy Statute,” arguing that while the VPPA is often seen as niche legislation and has been somewhat compromised by recent amendments, as originally passed it could be a strong model for a more general intellectual privacy regime which would apply to written materials as well as audio-visual ones.

Summarizing her Note, “Cooperation or Resistance? The Role of Tech Companies in Government Surveillance,” Goodwin argued that the two narratives that dominate discussion of tech companies’ involvement in government surveillance — that they are either doormats or bulwarks, depending on your perspective — is a vast oversimplification. Goodwin calls for new regulation that will align these companies’ incentives with those of their users.

Teshuva presented on a related topic to Goodwin’s, but focused particularly on the issue of standing to challenge legitimate surveillance of foreign individuals that sweeps up the communication of people located in the U.S., which would otherwise require a warrant from law enforcement. Her Note, “Standing, Surveillance, and Technology Companies,” points out that the present state of the law makes it extremely difficult for individuals to gain standing to challenge these practices, and vests the protection of their interests largely in the tech companies whose platforms they are using.

In what she described as a “hard right turn,” Rangan looked at how trusts and estates law is being impacted by these same developments. In her Note “What is an ‘Electronic Will’?” she argued that state legislatures need to parse the various types of electronic wills in order to instruct probate courts on how to properly evaluate this evidence of testators’ intent.

Following the students’ presentations, Professor Bavitz led an engaging discussion, highlighting issues such as the role of individuals in effecting change that drew connections between all four of the Notes presented.

Making Change: A Harvard Law School clinic helps the homeless earn a living

Via Harvard Law Today

Making Change: A Harvard Law School clinic helps the homeless earn a living (video)

 

CHLPI to present at Second annual “Food Is Medicine” symposium in Indianapolis

Via Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana will hold the second annual “Food Is Medicine” state symposium Thursday, April 12  in Indianapolis. The symposium will take an in-depth look at how medically tailored food plays a essential role in outcome-driven, cost-effective health care models.

Medically tailored food is prepared under the direction of a physician to individuals who are chronically ill with the individual patient’s specific nutritional needs in mind.

The symposium, which is in its second year, stems from Meals on Wheels’ involvement in the Food Is Medicine Coalition, a national association of medically tailored food and nutrition service providers. Meals on Wheels  joined the coalition in 2015 as part of an effort to strengthen its services to critically and chronically ill individuals.

“By partnering with medical providers, community organizations, and chronic disease experts to ensure low-income Hoosiers with critical and chronic diseases have access to medically tailored meals and more customized nutritional plans, we have the potential to positively impact their overall health while lowering health care costs,” said Barb Morris, CEO of Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana.

According to a study by The New England Journal of Medicine, food insecurity is one of the top ten causes for costly hospital readmissions. With a food intervention upon discharge, studies show this number can be reduced to as low as eight percent.  The problem is further exacerbated when patients are discharged from the hospital and return home to a bare pantry.

The symposium will bring together leaders representing health care organizations, state and local policymakers, elder care experts, academic and statewide advocacy groups.

Presenters:           

 

Understanding Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation under the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

By Bonnie Docherty

The humanitarian impact of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) depends on both its comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons and its obligations to assist victims and remediate the environment affected by use and testing. The former aims to prevent future harm, while the latter addresses harm that has already occurred.

The Clinic is releasing new papers on victim assistance and environmental remediation in order to increase awareness of these elements of the treaty. The short publications provide an overview of the provisions in the TPNW and guidance from other humanitarian disarmament treaties as to how they might be implemented.

The TPNW’s so-called “positive obligations” establish a framework of shared state responsibility for helping victims and cleaning the contaminated environment

During last year’s treaty negotiations at the United Nations, the Clinic worked closely with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. A team from the Clinic, along with advocates from Article 36, Mines Action Canada, and Pace University, played a leading role in ensuring that the treaty included the positive obligations.

Natalie Trigo Reyes ’19 wants to help vulnerable communities—starting at home in Puerto Rico

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Mark Ostow
Natalie Trigo Reyes ’19

After Hurricane Maria roared over Puerto Rico in September 2017, crippling the island where Natalie Trigo Reyes ’19 grew up and where much of her family still lived, she felt “completely overwhelmed.” Within days, however, she put together an event that raised about $40,000 for relief efforts, collected enough emergency goods to fill three large trucks, and joined Harvard Law Professor Andrew Manuel Crespo ’08 and Lee Mestre of the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs to plan the school’s response to the disaster.

Using her contacts (Trigo Reyes co-founded a non-profit in San Juan in 2012 to support public-private partnerships), she helped to organize a mission to Puerto Rico over the law school’s spring break to provide legal and humanitarian aid. “Natalie was our connection to this world of different NGOs, community leaders and charitable organizations,” says Crespo. “Any time we hit some sort of issue, bump, or question, Natalie said, ‘I’m on this.’”

Months after Maria hit, tens of thousands of Puerto Rican residents are still living without adequate shelter. About a dozen of the 29 Harvard Law students on the trip helped to repair houses damaged by the storm.  The others, including Trigo Reyes, worked with local lawyers in the Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Recovery Centers located around the island, helping residents file appeals to try to claim disaster relief they had been denied. About 60 percent of the claims filed with FEMA by Puerto Rico’s residents for money to rebuild homes have been rejected for insufficient documentation, according to reports.  Many houses have been passed informally from generation to generation, so much of the work focused on establishing a chain of ownership through affidavits, old land registry forms, or death certificates. This was complicated by the fact that Puerto Rico, which was a Spanish colony until 1898, has a legal code different from the rest of the U.S., based partly on the Spanish civil system. Trigo Reyes and the other students tried to get through as many FEMA appeals as they could—she remembers one morning when she filed 11—yet at the same time they wanted to take time for people who were traumatized by the storm and its aftermath, and needed to tell their stories. “Having the opportunity to go to these remote locations and help people claim [what is] rightfully theirs was really emotional for me,” says Trigo Reyes. “These are U.S. citizens, and they are entitled to these FEMA benefits.”

The work she did in Puerto Rico grew naturally out of her personal values and professional experience. She came to HLS with a degree in economics and six years of work in federal government, including in the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Chambers of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (as special assistant to the justice, she accompanied her on two trips to Puerto Rico). The HLS trip this spring also tied in with Trigo Reyes’ quest to seek out creative ways to use the law on behalf of vulnerable communities.

Continue reading

HIRC files amicus brief on latest travel ban

Via the Harvard Immigration & Refugee Clinical Program

On March 30th, HIRC filed an amicus brief challenging President Trump’s latest immigration order. The brief argues that the travel ban violates federal immigration statutes and that this latest version, like its predecessors, is not based on any exigent situation involving diplomacy or military affairs. It replaces individualized determinations of risk with blanket prohibitions and thus reinstates a discriminatory system that Congress eliminated in 1965.

Dozens of immigration scholars from across the country signed on to the amicus brief, which was written in collaboration with Fatma Marouf (HLS ’02).

Read the brief here.

In Clinic Case, Jury Finds Former Bolivian President Responsible for Extrajudicial Killings of Indigenous People; Awards $10 Million in Damages

Via International Human Rights Clinic

April 3, 2018 – In a landmark decision today, a federal jury found the former president of Bolivia and his minister of defense responsible for extrajudicial killings carried out by the Bolivian military in September and October 2003. The decision comes after a ten-year legal battle spearheaded by family members of eight people killed in what is known in Bolivia as the “Gas War.” It marked the first time in U.S. history a former head of state has sat before his accusers in a U.S. human rights trial. The jury awarded a total of $10 million in compensatory damages to the plaintiffs.

Both the former Bolivian president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and his former defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, have lived in the United States since they fled Bolivia following the massacre known as “Black October.”  During that period, more than 50 people were killed and hundreds were injured. In Bolivia, in 2011, former military commanders and government officials who acted under Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín’s authority were convicted for their roles in the killings. Both Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín were indicted in the same case, but could not be tried in abstentia under Bolivian law.

The lawsuit originated in the International Human Rights Clinic, and dozens of students have worked on the case since 2006.

“After many years of fighting for justice for our family members and the people of Bolivia, we celebrate this historic victory,” said Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, a plaintiff and member of the indigenous Aymara community of Bolivia, who were victims of the defendants’ decision to use massive military force against the population. “Fifteen years after they fled justice, we have finally held Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín to account for the massacre they unleashed against our people.”

In Mamani v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, the families of eight Bolivians who were killed filed suit against Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín in 2007. Today’s verdict affirms the plaintiffs’ claims that the two defendants were legally responsible for the extrajudicial killings and made decisions to deploy military forces in civilian communities in order to violently quash opposition to their policies.

“To me, it was the biggest honor of my life to work with the plaintiffs and learn from them in their struggle for justice,” said Thomas Becker ’08, who brought the idea for the lawsuit to IHRC after spending time in Bolivia and learning about the massacre there. “It’s an extraordinary privilege to witness this and be a small part of this.”

The three-week trial included the testimony of 29 witnesses from across Bolivia who recounted their experiences of the 2003 killings. Twenty-three appeared in person. Eight plaintiffs testified about the deaths of their family members, including: Etelvina Ramos Mamani and Eloy Rojas Mamani, whose eight-year-old daughter Marlene was killed in front of her mother when a single shot was fired through the window; Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, whose pregnant wife Teodosia was killed after a bullet was fired through the wall of a house; Felicidad Rosa Huanca Quispe, whose 69-year-old father Raul was shot and killed along a roadside; and Gonzalo Mamani Aguilar, whose father Arturo was shot and killed while tending his crops.

One witness, a former soldier in the Bolivian military, testified about being ordered to shoot at “anything that moves” in a civilian community, while another recounted witnessing a military officer kill a soldier for refusing to follow orders to shoot at unarmed civilians. Witnesses recounted how tanks rolled through in the streets and soldiers shot for hours on end. Others testified about how the president and minister of defense committed to a military option instead of pursuing dialogue with community leaders to reach a peaceful resolution.

In 2016, a U.S. appeals court held that the plaintiffs could proceed with their claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), which authorizes suits for monetary damages in U.S. federal court for extrajudicial killings. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín then sought and were denied a review by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017, and the case moved forward in U.S. District Court. After a review of the evidence gathered by both sides, District Court Judge James I. Cohn ruled on February 14 that the plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

“There are just no words for what the plaintiffs have done over the past ten years to seek justice for their lost loved ones as well as many others who were killed in Bolivia,” said Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. “Today the jury gave the plaintiffs a huge victory, and showed that the former president and his defense minister are not above the law.”

“When I heard the verdict, I almost couldn’t believe it,” added Susan Farbstein, Co-Director of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. “The only thing I could think of was: We didn’t let down the plaintiffs, we didn’t disappoint them, we did our jobs.”

The plaintiffs and their litigation team.

The plaintiffs and their litigation team.

As co-counsel, the International Human Rights Clinic has been involved in all phases of the litigation from the outset, including researching and drafting for the complaint and various motions and briefs, assisting with oral arguments, and undertaking more than a dozen investigative missions to Bolivia since 2007. Over the past year, during the discovery phase, students traveled to Bolivia numerous times, and assisted with document review, interrogatories, and the depositions of plaintiffs, witnesses and experts; more than a half dozen students worked on every facet of the case during the three weeks of trial.

“It was fascinating to work under the legal team and have complete faith in their talent and ability to manage such a complex case,” said Amy Volz ’18, who traveled to Bolivia on four fact-finding trips. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

After the jury announced its verdict, the defendants made a motion asking the judge to overturn the jury’s finding of liability against both defendants. Both parties will submit briefing on this issue in the coming weeks.

“We’re not one to leave halfway through the fight,” said Baltazar Cerro. “We will struggle until the last moment.”

In addition to the Clinic, a team of lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the law firms of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman, LLP, and Akerman LLP are representing the family members. Lawyers from the Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia) are cooperating attorneys.

Spring Break with Project Citizenship

By Andrew Patterson, J.D. ’20

Over Spring Break, I had the opportunity to work with Project Citizenship, a Boston-based organization that exists to help Legal Permanent Residents become United States citizens.  I had an amazing experience that enabled me to jump right into working with clients, including providing direct representation at a USCIS citizenship interview.

The naturalization process is complex and expensive.  The forms can be daunting, filled with confusing language and oddly intrusive questions.  The application process can cost up to $725 in fees, posing a high financial hurdle.  Because of these obstacles, many Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) avoid the naturalization process and forego the benefits of citizenship – among them the right to vote and, increasingly important, security from deportation.

Project Citizenship exists to assist LPR’s overcome these difficulties by helping them determine eligibility, prepare the forms, and obtain fee waivers.  Much of my work with them consisted of screening applicants for citizenship eligibility, often in Spanish, and then setting them up with an appointment to attend one of the Project’s workshops.  During my week there I also got to work with clients at a day-long workshop, assisting them with citizenship applications and fee waivers alongside dozens of pro-bono attorneys.  That day we submitted close to 80 citizenship applications, and with Project Citizenship’s 95% approval rate, the great majority of those applicants will soon be U.S. citizens.

Project Citizenship also does important work advocating for LPR clients who have a disability.  Prospective citizens usually have to show proficiency in English and U.S. civics and take the oath of citizenship, but certain applicants can be exempted from those requirements, namely those whose disability prevents them from learning English and Civics or from understanding the oath.  Applicants seeking a disability waiver must provide a written determination from a medical doctor explaining why they cannot prepare for these tests or understand the oath.  Even with this completed form, applicants for these waivers can be met with stiff resistance from the USCIS officers adjudicating their applications.  Project Citizenship and their pro-bono attorneys have encountered USCIS officers who are hostile to these applicants and who look for any pretext – such as minor mistakes in the paperwork – to reject these waiver requests.  Occasionally they also violate their own regulations by substituting their judgment for a doctor’s and by inquiring into other facets of the applicant’s life that have no bearing on the specific issue of ability to learn English and Civics.  Project Citizenship and its pro bono lawyers play an important role in these situations by challenging illegitimate grounds for rejection and ensuring that USCIS follows its own regulations.

Project Citizenship’s attorney Mitchell Montgomery, who serves through the AmeriCorps Legal Advocates of Massachusetts program, provided training and mentorship that enabled me to represent one of these clients.  I attended a citizenship interview with an applicant who had a cognitive disability, along with one of her family members who would answer questions and take the oath on her behalf.  The interview went smoothly and my client became a citizen that day.  My most valuable assistance ended up being simply describing the process to my client’s daughter and advising her on which parts of the application would elicit questions from the interviewing officer, and then helping her answer questions.  A big part of my role was decoding the process for the client to make it less intimidating.

Overall, the week provided great experience in improving interviewing skills and exposed me to direct representation in an administrative advocacy scenario.  Project Citizenship provided outstanding training and struck the right balance between stretching one beyond the comfort zone and ensuring adequate preparation.  I highly recommend that any HLS student interested in immigration and naturalization issues spend time working with Project Citizenship.

Blast from the past – Harvard-Backed Legal Aid Office To have Board From Community

Via Harvard Crimson 

Published August 1, 1969

A Harvard-sponsored office which provides legal said to low-income residents of Cambridge will soon be guided by a policy-making board composed largely of representatives of the community served by the office.

This week, the Community Legal Assistance Office (CLAO) sent letters to 15 community organizations–including local planning teams, a tenant seat, and a welfare rights organization–and asked each organization to designate a representative for the board.

Of the board’s initial 29 members, 17 will be community representatives, while most of the remainder will be Harvard Law School students and Faculty, and representatives of City and state bar associations.

The powers of the policy-making board have not yet been defined, but it is expected that the board will have a major say in determining the future course of the legal aid office.

“As the board considers policy issues, it presumably will develop more and more insight into what the most productive and responsive relationship between community and law school can be for a joint venture in legal services. One can anticipate, therefore, that the most appropriate formal relationships among everyone involved with CLAO will come into sharper and sharper focus as the board continues to function,” the office’s letter said.

Founded in October, 1966, the CLAO office is funded by the Office of Economic Opportunity and by the Harvard Law School. The bulk of CLAO’s financing comes from the OEO, while the law school pays primarily for handling criminal cases, which Congress had forbidden OEO to pay for.

Continue reading

Law students help to mend Puerto Rico

Via Harvard Gazette

29 travel to hurricane-damaged island to provide legal services, rebuild homes

The Law School brigade outside San Juan. Courtesy of Thinlay Chukki

A few weeks after Hurricane Maria swept Puerto Rico last September, Harvard Law School (HLS) student Natalie Trigo Reyes ’19 visited the island where she grew up, and found an unrecognizable landscape.

“Everything was brown, barren, leveled to the ground,” said Trigo Reyes on a recent morning in Wasserstein Hall. “It looked as if the island had been hit by a nuclear bomb.”

Six months later, Puerto Rico is still reeling from the devastation, but to Trigo Reyes, who just came back from a weeklong trip as part of a humanitarian and legal brigade, the outlook is hopeful.

“Now, there is vegetation, and you can see the green,” she said, “and even though the government response has been slow and insufficient, there is a sense of hope.”

Trigo Reyes led a group of 29 HLS students who traveled to Puerto Rico over spring break to lend a hand to local residents who are still struggling to obtain disaster relief aid. Puerto Rico is a U.S. self-governing territory and its inhabitants are American citizens, although they can’t vote in presidential elections or elect representatives to Congress.

The HLS trip was spearheaded by Andrew Crespo ’08, assistant professor of law, and coordinated by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, led by Lee Mestre. The students joined forces with local groups such as Fundación Fondo de Acceso a la JusticiaAyuda Legal Huracán MaríaCaras con Causa, and ConnectRelief, all of which are working to protect the rights of Puerto Rico residents to federal assistance, employment, and housing protection.

Continue reading

 

Representing Veterans in Discharge Upgrades: A Step-by-Step Pro Bono Training

Dana Montalto, Elizabeth Gwin and Evan Seamone of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School will be conducting a training called Representing Veterans in Discharge Upgrades: A Step-by-Step Pro Bono Training on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 from 3pm to 5:30pm. The training will be held at the Boston Bar Association located at 16 Beacon Street, Boston MA.

Many of the men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces are cut off from veterans’ services and benefits because they were given a less-than-honorable discharge. They may have served in combat or have suffered physical or mental wounds, but are nevertheless unable to access much-needed treatment and support from federal and state veterans agencies because of their discharge status. In many cases, the origin of their need for support—for example, service-related post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury—also contributed to the conduct that led to their less-than-honorable discharges.

The training will offer a step-by-step approach to building a persuasive discharge upgrade petition, including a review of best practices for client meetings, gathering letters of support, engaging medical experts, and drafting a brief. They will also discuss how to address common challenges in discharge upgrade practice, such as tracking down government records and maintaining contact with clients who may be in crisis or dealing with other issues. Finally, the training will provide important updates about discharge upgrade law, including recommendations for how best to use the recent Kurta Memorandum to advocate for veterans discharged for mental health-related misconduct. Both attorneys with experience in discharge upgrade practice and those who are interested in getting more involved are encouraged to attend. Law students are welcome but are not eligible to take pro bono referrals from the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership (VJPBP),

Attorneys who participate in the training will be eligible to join the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership established in 2015 by the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. Through the VJPBP, the Veterans Legal Clinic screens and refers veterans seeking discharge upgrades to private attorneys and then provides ongoing support and expert resources to those attorneys throughout the case. The generosity and efforts of VJPBP attorneys help to address the enormous gap in the provision of legal services to veterans and will provide much-needed advocacy to those who served the nation in uniform.

Immediately after the training, the BBA’s Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum will host a reception for program attendees and other members and supporters of the Boston veterans community. The reception will be an opportunity to build our community and to recognize the important work you have been doing on behalf of veterans, as well as to honor Memorial Day.

If you are interested in attending, you can register for the training and the reception through the BBA website.

Project No One Leaves: “Though our efforts are modest, our team is mighty”

By Lark Turner, J.D. ’18

Group photo of Project No One Leaves

I signed up to canvass with Project No One Leaves a couple of weeks into my first semester at Harvard Law School. I didn’t know much about the organization, and I was nervous about jumping in a car with 2Ls and 3Ls I had never met, to drive into neighborhoods I had never been. But I’m so glad I did. My Saturday mornings spent canvassing taught me some of the biggest lessons of law school.

Though Harvard students are lucky to have many venues to work on housing justice, Project No One Leaves is one of the only organizations on campus that teaches students what it feels like to participate in the community part of lawyering. Working with the veteran organizers at City Life Vida Urbana, an anti-displacement nonprofit and Boston community anchor that fights foreclosures and evictions, we identify specific properties or whole neighborhoods where evictions or foreclosures are occurring or imminent. Then we set off to try and help City Life stop them.

Every Saturday at 10 am, fueled by bagels and coffee and armed with clipboards, we hop into cars and set off to East Boston, Chelsea, Dorchester, or other Boston neighborhoods to knock on doors and talk to residents about their rights as homeowners and tenants. As a former reporter, I was used to bothering people on their doorstep at odd hours. But I had never done so to promote a cause I deeply believed in, nor to connect a person to resources they might urgently need — all while convincing them to rely, even a little bit, on a gaggle of students in matching red T-shirts standing incongruously on their stoop. Even without the added obstacle course of Boston traffic, this was much harder than my old job.

I learned new lessons: How to greet the curious pull of a curtain with a friendly shout of introduction, and how to know when to walk away; how to interrupt folks as they make breakfast for their kids to tell them, maybe for the first time, that their landlord was foreclosed upon and no longer owns their home; and how to listen for the infuriating and ubiquitous music of canvasses — the beep of smoke detectors in homes where landlords can’t be bothered to change a battery. Hardest of all, I learned how to spot when we are too late. Sometimes that means addresses marked in coal-black, modern fonts; enrobed in fresh paint; and outfitted with a glinting security system. More often it means vacancies — homes boarded up or halfway gutted, their families long gone. Even then, I learned to leave a red bag full of legal information hanging on the doorknob — a sign to the developer, and to the neighborhood, that we stopped by.

Though our efforts are modest, our team is mighty. The students I met at my very first canvass have graduated, but we’re still friends. Every canvass introduces me to more fellow students ready to spend their Saturday morning helping keep roofs over families’ heads. Like many things I’ve experienced here, the opportunity to work with these peers and with City Life is a gift I can’t repay, and it’s difficult to leave my time in Project No One Leaves behind. But I’m heartened to know that next year’s team of canvassers have it covered — and the lessons I’ve learned and friends I’ve made canvassing aren’t going anywhere.

Crimmigration Clinic Wins Case at the Board of Immigration Appeals

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

Working under the direction of HIRC’s Managing Attorney Phil Torrey, Crimmigration Clinic students Clarissa Lehne ’18 and Mike Ewart ’18 successfully argued before the Board of Immigration Appeals that their client’s conviction should not result in his detention and deportation.

“It was incredibly rewarding to see a tangible result of the work that we put in at the clinic,” said Lehne.  Echoing her sentiment, Ewart further noted that “so much of law school is theoretical, the opportunity to apply the knowledge we learned in Phil’s Crimmigration class to an actual case was invaluable—and easier said than done.”

The client is a longtime lawful permanent resident who was convicted under a statute that criminalizes a broad range of conduct, including relatively minor conduct.  The Department of Homeland Security argued on appeal at the Board that the immigration judge’s initial determination that the conviction did not trigger removal was wrong.  The Crimmigration Clinic’s response brief demonstrated why the conviction did not categorically match a ground of removal in the immigration statute.

“For me this case underscores the importance of access to counsel in the immigration context (where there is no equivalent to the public defender system). Here, our client had a winning argument, but it was one that would have been extremely difficult to make without legal training and the resources we had at our disposal,” noted Ewart.

After the Board terminated the client’s removal proceedings he was released from immigration detention so that he could be reunited with his family.

Spring break in Puerto Rico? After María, that means ‘rebuild,’ not ‘relax’

Via The Christian Science Monitor

Six months after the Category 4 hurricane hit, recovery remains slow. From Boy Scouts to Harvard Law, many students from the US mainland are spending vacation time volunteering here: helping to clear debris, navigate FEMA forms, and restore damaged forests.

Harvard law student Kevin Ratana Patumwat helps hurricane victims sort legal documents at a FEMA help center on March 14, 2018 in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. Six months after hurricane Maria hit, students spent their spring break helping victims navigate the FEMA system.

 

Mallory Gibson, a music-business major at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), has spent her junior-year spring break surrounded by sand, surf, and palm trees. But her experience has been pretty far from typical.

“This is exactly what I wanted to do,” says Ms. Gibson, who moments earlier put down a nearly two-foot-long machete that she was using to whack apart a fallen palm tree. She’s covered in a thin film of dirt and, like everyone else here, drips sweat under the midday sun. Just a few hundred yards away the Caribbean laps the sandy shore of the Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve, but she won’t dip her toes in the water until her seven-hour work day wraps.

“We’re tackling a small drop in the large ocean of things that need to be done” to help Puerto Rico get back on its feet, she says.

Gibson is the co-leader of a 22-person team from her university that traveled to Puerto Rico to volunteer six months after hurricane María, cleaning up debris and helping regenerate parts of the forest destroyed by the Category 4 storm.

These college students aren’t alone in eschewing traditional spring break activities like sunbathing and partying to help Puerto Rico recover. From the more than 100 Boy Scouts from across the mainland US helping to rebuild a scout camp in Guajataka to 31 Harvard law students providing pro-bono legal aid and humanitarian work, spring break in Puerto Rico this year is a far cry from lazing on the beach.

Continue reading

Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead

Via Harvard Law Today

Experts gather to reflect on a growing movement to end the international proliferation of inhumane and indiscriminate weapons

Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead 1

Credit: Heratch Ekmekjian
In early March, international experts gathered for “Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead,” the inaugural conference of the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) at Harvard Law School.

Earlier this month, about two dozen international experts gathered for “Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead,” the inaugural conference of the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) at Harvard Law School.

Drawing on their own involvement in creating international law, conference participants reflected on the development of the humanitarian disarmament movement, which strives to end civilian suffering caused by inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, and discussed where the movement should go from here. Humanitarian disarmament is a key focus of the ACCPI, which formally launched under the leadership of Associate Director Bonnie Docherty ’01 on March 5.

“I was thrilled to have the key players in humanitarian disarmament on campus, and the energy they brought was inspiring,” said Docherty. “It was the perfect way to kick off the ACCPI.”

Continue reading

Mid Semester 2018 in the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic

By Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.)

Twenty-seven HLS students, the largest group ever enrolled in the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic and Class, are well into their work with judges throughout the Massachusetts trial courts. Their judicial internships include the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Superior Court, various Divisions of the Boston Municipal Court, and the Newton District Court. Three LLM students are participating including one judge from Korea. Student placements are nicely balanced between the federal court, the Superior Court, and a variety of community courts throughout the neighborhoods of Boston.

Student observations about their experiences during the semester reinforce the value of direct exposure to the realities of our judicial system. A sample of their reflection papers describe different but equally valuable insights:

“…, I can already tell that this clinic will be an invaluable experience for an aspiring litigator. The opportunity to experience firsthand a trial judge’s decision-making adds a practical dimension to something which had been, for the most part, purely academic.”

“A good lawyer clearly has to treat folks with respect and maintain those relationships on a daily basis. You never know when you’ll need them.”

“Attending the hearing was very enlightening but also very sad. Witnessing a real defendant receive a sentence with her family sitting behind her puts into perspective how many lives are impacted by the judicial system every day.”

“Only one defense attorney was a person of color. The disparity made me extremely uncomfortable – here I was witnessing a body of white people locking up black folks. This was the exact dynamic I had studied in college and worked on in various internships addressing criminal justice reform. It was hard to observe in real life.”

“Essentially I got to see what it is like being chastised by a judge who is extremely unhappy with counsel’s conduct. I’ll certainly keep that lesson in mind and carefully read judicial orders when I am practicing.”

“My judge exemplified many of the features extolled in the Excellent Judges reading. The sentence was not a “mathematical” or “logical” application of the guidelines, it was based on his practice with recidivism, his experience of the human character, and his knowledge.”

Whether gaining insight into judicial reasoning, learning lessons for future practice, or observing justice issues in real time, every student in this clinic is broadening their understanding of the judicial process in trial courts.

Examining lead contamination in the Mississippi Delta

By Thomas Wolfe, J.D. ’19

Credit: Thomas Wolfe JD ’19

This spring, I went with the Mississippi Delta Project (MDP) to Clarksdale, Mississippi to work on the issue of lead contamination of municipal water supplies in the Mississippi Delta. I had an excellent trip, and I would recommend the MDP Spring Break trip to anyone interested in making a difference in a fascinating, but overlooked, part of the country.

Since the Flint Water Crisis, the presence of lead in drinking water has become a serious concern for local governments across the country. Old water systems often contain pipes with lead parts, and acidic water or chlorine used to treat other contaminants can corrode the pipes, which causes the lead to leach into the water supply. This can be especially problematic in rural areas, where a lack of funds or awareness of the dangers of lead poisoning can prevent residents and local governments from taking proactive steps to protect against lead contamination. Because of the increased focus on the threat of lead contamination in drinking water and the intense poverty of the Mississippi Delta, our task with MDP was to help our clients, researchers at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS, to determine just how significant of a problem lead contamination was for rural municipal water systems in the Delta.

For us this required first educating ourselves about the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and state laws and regulations implementing the Act. This was a fascinating dive into an important and complex statute, and it was made especially interesting because it required learning about how municipal water systems worked.

We then had to apply this information to the context of very small public water systems serving rural areas. This involved the best part of the trip: interviewing local stakeholders to find out which laws were effective, which weren’t, and generally to learn how they ran water systems. I really enjoyed the opportunity to interview people involved in the daily operation of local governments – from water operators, to small town mayors, to state public health department officials, to doctors in the neonatal care unit in Jackson, MS dealing with the effects of public health mismanagement. People were happy to talk to us about the issues facing their communities, and they really looked positively on our work and appreciated the fact that people were thinking and caring about the Delta. For my part, it was really nice to develop my skills as an interviewer, which I think is a key part of being a lawyer. The empathy you develop in speaking with people face to face is often missed in the law school classroom.

We eventually turned this information into memoranda and presentations for our clients, who will take the information and policy recommendations we developed and use it to continue to improve public health in the Delta. I’m proud that the work I produced over the course of the week will help to address the extremely important issue of lead contamination, which causes irreversible developmental issues in children and often affects the most disadvantaged members of society.

And I couldn’t help but mention that on top of the excellent professional and service opportunities that the trip provided, the Delta is one of the cultural wellsprings of America with great music, great food, and lovely people, and it’s a place I’d love to return to on my own. I’m glad I was able to play a small part in helping the people in the region get through hard times.

Third Symposium on Legal, Cultural and Strategic Issues in Counterterror Operations takes place at HLS

Among the Countertenor Law Symposium presenters were Christopher Anzalone (first row, third from left) a scholar at the Kennedy School of Government and Dr. John Park (first row, fourth from left), Director of the Korea Working Group.

Among the Countertenor Law Symposium presenters were Christopher Anzalone (first row, third from left) a scholar at the Kennedy School of Government and Dr. John Park (first row, fourth from left), Director of the Korea Working Group.

On March 3, Harvard Law School hosted the third annual Symposium on Legal, Cultural and Strategic Issues in Counterterror Operations. The day-long symposium was organized by John Fitzpatrick, JD ’87, a Senior Clinical Instructor at Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) and Staff Sergeants Lisa Baskall and Derek Piatt of the Army’s 3rd Legal Operations Detachment. Over two dozen active duty and reservist uniformed Army Judge Advocates and Paralegals attended the day-long presentations by several speakers from Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School.

Fitzpatrick teaches and supervises hundreds of HLS students in PLAP, and is also a Major in the US Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He has previously taken leaves of absence for an active duty Army tour in Afghanistan and for human rights-related assignments in Congo and Niger. Fitzpatrick said he is excited about organizing this annual event, which aims to break down barriers and build bridges between private academia and the military.

“These communities of knowledge benefit exponentially from a greater awareness of what is going on over the other side of their proverbial fences” he said. “Such an increased situational awareness makes our military that much more an effective fighting force, and in turn allows our academic communities to be better-informed about current perspectives and concerns in our military.”

The speakers included Christopher Anzalone, an International Security Program scholar at HKS’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Dr. John Park, Director of HKS’s Korea Working Group. Mr. Anzalone, a leading authority on the Somalian insurgent factions addressed current political, legal and cultural aspects of the Somalian conflict. Dr. Park, a renowned specialist on North Korea and frequent news commentator discussed developments in the Korean crisis.

“It was an honor and a pleasure to participate in the Legal, Cultural and Strategic Issues in Counterterror Operations Symposium” Anzalone said. “I spoke about the complex interaction between politics, different societal groups and actors, and the political, financial, and military involvement of the US, UN, EU, and African Union in the ongoing insurgency in Somalia and why it is vital to understand how US involvement affects state-society relations on the ground.”

Anna Crowe, LLM '12 being introduced to Counterterror Law Symposium attendees by Harvard PLAP's John Fitzpatrick, JD '87.

Anna Crowe, LLM ’12 being introduced to Counterterror Law Symposium attendees by Harvard PLAP’s John Fitzpatrick, JD ’87.

Mr. Anzalone and Dr. Park were followed by two HLS speakers from the Human Rights Program, Anna Crowe, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law in the International Human Rights Clinic, and Yasser Hamdani, a Visiting Fellow in the Human Rights Program. Ms. Crowe spoke about the legal and practical hazards confronting noncombatants in the active battle space and other areas of armed conflict, as well as challenges facing refugees displaced by armed conflict.  “The Symposium sparked rich discussions on crucial legal questions that arise in and after armed conflict, and I was so glad to have the opportunity to be part of these discussions, and help in the goal of building bridges between the military and academia,” she said.

Human Rights Fellow Yasser Hamdani (left) shown with John Fitzpatrick, JD ’87.

Mr. Hamdani, a well-known Advocate in Pakistan’s High Courts, a news media commentator on law and politics, and member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, spoke about the future and possibilities of the rule of law in Pakistan. “The Symposium gave me an opportunity to interact with the legal minds in the US Army and to bring attention to key issues in the often fraught and contentious US-Pakistan equation. I was glad to have had the opportunity to present my point of view as a Pakistani who is personally invested in greater cooperation between the two countries.”

Fitzpatrick said the experts brought impressive depth of knowledge and insight to the Symposium. “We are incredibly grateful to them for their generous time and helping make this event a success.”

A lunch talk on Ashker v. Governor of California

Via Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project

Professor Jules Lobel speaks to HLS students

Professor Jules Lobel speaks to HLS students

On March 2 the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project hosted a lunch talk on solitary confinement by Jules Lobel, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Pittsburg School of Law and President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). Professor Lobel began his talk by giving a brief history of Ashker v. Governor of California, a federal class action lawsuit filed in May 2012, challenging the practice of solitary confinement based on the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment at California’s notorious “super max” Pelican Bay State Prison. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of prisoners held in solitary confinement at the prison’s Security Housing Unit for over a decade. The case was part of CCR’s efforts to challenge mass incarceration and abusive prison policies.

In 2013, the state agreed to settle the case and enter into a consent order, on terms that were acceptable to the prisoner plaintiffs. Lobel explained that the Pelican Bay State Prison has one of the largest solitary confinement units of its kind. Prisoners were locked 23 hours a day in an 8-by-10 feet cell, without access to sunlight. Studies have shown a consensus that such conditions of sensory deprivation contribute to mental illness and serious behavioral problems, even over a relatively short period of time.

Lobel focused on the challenges of obtaining and enforcing a positive settlement for his prisoner clients in 2013 and 2014. He described how he had to overcome objections from the state when he wanted to consult directly with the prisoners to ensure the proposed settlement terms were acceptable to them. He also discussed how much effort was required to monitor and reinforce the agreement, and the considerable work still to be done to eliminate abusive solitary confinement practices in the California state prison system as well as nationally.

Professor Lobel concluded by encouraging students to consider legal careers in helping marginalized populations such as prisoners, giving as an example two of his recent former students who started a prisoner rights advocacy center on a shoestring budget that has now won several important cases and grown to include a staff of additional lawyers. His enthusiastic message was that if they could succeed in living their dream of starting their own civil rights litigation practice, the students attending the law talk could too, offering his Pitt Law contact information to anyone who wanted to follow up with any questions.

Cravath Fellows pursue law projects around the world

Via Harvard Law Today

During Winter Term, students traveled to nine countries to do clinical work and research

Headshot of student

Credit: Lorin Granger

Niku Jafarnia ’19 spent Winter Term in Amman, Jordan, undertaking an independent clinical with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). Her commitment to working with refugees and asylum seekers began in college, when she drew on her Iranian heritage and her fluency in Farsi as an intake volunteer. A semester abroad, and later a Fulbright grant, took her to Turkey, where she lived in a city with a large Iranian and Afghan LGBTI refugee community. “I started teaching them English classes and tried to support them along their journey. I essentially chose to come to law school to be a better advocate for these communities.”

At HLS, Jafarnia became deeply involved in work arising from the executive orders banning travelers from Muslim countries from entering the U.S., gathering a group of classmates to protest at Logan Airport, returning the next week to assist affected travelers and working with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic on its amicus briefs to the 9th Circuit and the Supreme Court. Her Winter Term clinical in Jordan afforded her an opportunity to explore the full effects of the ban, well before the people affected try to enter the U.S. For the two years before the ban, “the U.S. was taking in significantly more refugees than any other place in the world. At the end of the day, even though many more spots have opened up in other countries, it’s just not enough to make up for the decrease in U.S. spots,” she explains.

Working at IRAP allowed her to refine the client intake skills she has been building through the chance to interview clients during her time there. Additionally, drawing on her earlier experience in Turkey, she researched and drafted a memo describing the ways in which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has failed to meet its own standards. IRAP also set up meetings for its interns with a wide range of important actors, from UNHCR and UNICEF to smaller NGOs working on the ground. “It was an amazing opportunity to get an in-depth look as to what issues refugees are facing daily—from a basic, housing-and-needs level, to a policy level in Jordan.”

Traveling to Jordan gave Jafarnia a chance to address these issues from a new comparative lens. “Each country presents a unique set of challenges for refugees”; she notes; Jordan hosts a significant number of refugees, but does not offer employment for them, and is almost entirely landlocked, which makes it more difficult for refugees to leave.

“My hope for the future is to start my own organization, giving refugees legal assistance but also empowering refugees with legal backgrounds to be doing this work themselves,” she explains. “I think countries have to work significantly harder at giving refugees work opportunities. Once you let people in, they need to be given the opportunity to create a life for themselves. There’s an image of people who have been displaced as burdens on the system, when in fact they’re not given the opportunity to be self-sustaining.” Her Winter Term work in Jordan has confirmed for her that this is a change that has to happen very soon.

Continue reading

Susan Farbstein Honored in Harvard Women’s Law Association’s International Women’s Day Exhibit

Via International Human Rights Clinic

A portrait of Susan Farbstein, Co-Director of our International Human Rights Clinic, on display at Harvard Law School this week in celebration of International Women’s Day.

On this International Women’s Day, and every other day, we’re full of gratitude for all the women who push for change around the world. But we’re feeling particularly happy and proud today to see our very own Susan Farbstein honored in this year’s International Women’s Day portrait exhibit, organized by the Harvard Women’s Law Association (WLA).

Susan, who co-directs our International Human Rights Clinic, is among 25 luminaries celebrated in the Wasserstein Hall exhibit for their “astounding contributions” in the areas of law and policy.

They include Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist and the creator of “Me Too,” a phrase invented to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse in society; Zainah Anwar, a leading feminist activist and scholar in Malaysia, and the current Director of Musawah; Sarah McBride, an LGBT rights activist who serves as the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign; Losang Rabgey, the co-founder of Machik, a nonprofit dedicated to social innovation in Tibet through educational development and capacity building; and Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, and the first woman elected to head a major professional sports union in North America.

It comes as no surprise to us that Susan stands among them. As an expert in Alien Tort Statute litigation, among other things, she has been co-counsel in such landmark human rights cases as Wiwa v. Shellin Re: South African Apartheid Litigation, and now Mamani v. Sanchez de Lozada and Sanchez Berzain. That historic case, which began trial in Federal District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Monday, marks the first time a former head of state stands trial in a civil case in U.S. court for human rights abuses.

Continue reading

A celebration of immigration

Via Harvard Gazette

With DACA in place for now, day’s events focus on protecting students, and on the artistry that other cultures bestow

Jason Corral and Cindy Zapata of the Immigration and Refugee Clinic advised students of their legal rights during "A Day of Hope of Resistance," part of a series of events exploring questions about the termination of DACA and TPS, deportations, and the current state of immigration policy.

Jason Corral and Cindy Zapata of the Immigration and Refugee Clinic advised students of their legal rights during “A Day of Hope of Resistance,” part of a series of events exploring questions about the termination of DACA and TPS, deportations, and the current state of immigration policy.
Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Life for undocumented immigrants is full of risks. Any encounter with law-enforcement officials — on the sidewalk, while they are driving, or in their homes in the middle of the night — can lead to arrest and possible deportation.

But in all such cases, undocumented immigrants have rights. They have the right to remain silent, to refuse to consent to a search, and to decline to open the front door unless officials have a warrant.

At a workshop on immigrants’ rights held Monday morning at the Memorial Church, attorneys Jason Corral and Cindy Zapata of the Harvard Immigration & Refugee Clinical Program shared legal advice on how to deal with the more aggressive enforcement of immigration laws under the Trump administration. Corral has provided legal services to at least 60 undocumented students studying at Harvard.

“In this new day and age, any evidence you can provide, you can end up in removal proceedings,” said Corral.

The event was part of the DACA Seminar, a series of daylong events on campus to highlight, among other things, the future of the federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era initiative that protects young immigrants from deportation.

Nearly 800,000 young immigrants have benefited from the program, but last September the Trump administration announced its end and set March 5 as a deadline for Congress to come up with a solution for those under its protections. But the deadline lost much of its meaning when the Supreme Court said that it would not rule on the administration’s plan to end the program. Federal district judges in New York and California had blocked the move to end DACA.

Continue reading

International Human Rights Clinic represents relatives of slain Bolivians in landmark case

Via Miami Herald

Landmark case in Florida pits Bolivia’s ex-leader against villagers attacked by his army

Etelvina Ramos Mamani, far left, and her husband, Eloy Rojas Mamani, and their children in Bolivia. They are suing the country’s former president over the death of their 8-year-old daughter, Marlene. Thomas Becker Center for Constitutional Rights

Etelvina Ramos Mamani, far left, and her husband, Eloy Rojas Mamani, and their children in Bolivia. They are suing the country’s former president over the death of their 8-year-old daughter, Marlene. Thomas Becker Center for Constitutional Rights

On a rocky and impoverished rural slice of Bolivia, the noise sounded like corn popping loudly.

Etelvina Ramos Mamani was lying on her bed, weak and feverish. She heard a scream from next to the window. Her 8-year-old daughter, Marlene, suddenly collapsed and tilted her head back, desperately trying to suck air into her lungs — pierced by a bullet fired by Bolivian soldiers.

“Blood was coming out of her chest like a fountain,” Ramos testified Tuesday.

Outside, the government soldiers were charging through the small village, firing away. Hours passed before the shooting stopped. By then, as her relatives held an impromptu wake in the dark, Marlene was dead — an innocent victim of the violent unrest that wracked Bolivia in the fall of 2003.

Ramos took the witness stand Tuesday not in South America, but 3,000 miles away in a Fort Lauderdale federal courtroom.

Her testimony marked the start of a landmark court battle that pits relatives of the poor, mostly indigenous people killed in the chaos against Bolivia’s ex-president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and his former defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzain.

Tuesday’s testimony marked the first time that a former head of state of a foreign country faced trial in a U.S. civil court for human rights abuses, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing the Mamani family.

“My daughter was innocent. She had not even gone out. She was playing inside the house,” said Ramos, who sported two long braids, a pink sweater and a turquoise skirt typical to the indigenous people of her region.

Her husband, Eloy Ramos Mamani, recalled soldiers chasing and firing on unarmed villagers. “Like scared rabbits they escaped to the hills,” he told jurors.

The couple belongs to one of eight families suing the former Bolivian government leaders under the U.S. Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows suits for extrajudicial killings in foreign lands. The suit was filed in South Florida, where the two former politicians now live after fleeing Bolivia in 2003.

The legal wrangling over the case has lasted for nearly a decade, and the trial is expected to last several weeks before U.S. Judge James Cohn. The relatives of the slain Bolivians are represented by lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and several high-powered private law firms.

Continue reading

One win against weapons could fuel another

Via Harvard Gazette

Successful campaign banning landmines could provide blueprint against nuclear arms, panel says

During "From Landmines to Nuclear Weapons," a panel featuring Steve Goose (from left) and Beatrice Fihn and moderated by Bonnie Docherty of the Law School addressed the origins and evolution of humanitarian disarmament while reflecting on their roles negotiating treaties that ban landmines, cluster munitions, and nuclear weapons.

During “From Landmines to Nuclear Weapons,” a panel featuring Steve Goose (from left) and Beatrice Fihn and moderated by Bonnie Docherty of the Law School addressed the origins and evolution of humanitarian disarmament while reflecting on their roles negotiating treaties that ban landmines, cluster munitions, and nuclear weapons.
Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

When the movement began in 1992, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was considered quixotic, its proponents unrealistically idealistic, its efforts doomed to fail. Twenty-five years and one Nobel Peace Prize later, more than 180 countries have signed its 1997 treaty, agreeing not only to avoid using the weapons but to help remove them from areas where they have been abandoned and remain a danger to life, limbs, and livelihoods.

Nuclear weapons, now a reality of our modern world, could go the same way, say the activists behind the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Indeed, humanitarian rights activists say, they must. On Monday at Harvard Law School’s Austin Hall, the anti-nuclear campaign’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, joined Steve Goose, co-founder of the landmines-ban group and executive director of Human Rights Watch’s arms division, to discuss the origin and evolution of the mine campaign, and how the tactics of the first can be applied to the next.

“Everybody said it was impossible to do,” said Goose, looking back at the long road to the 1997 landmine treaty. “After we finally did it, people said, ‘Oh, that wasn’t that hard. It was a one-off. Circumstances allowed that to happen.’” They also, he reported, said its success could not be replicated.

Monday’s discussion was designed to prove that false. Indeed, this first public event of Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead (moderated by Bonnie Docherty, associate director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection at Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic) started off by outlining the similarities — and the successes — of other recent campaigns.

Continue reading

Bonnie Docherty Launches Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Bonnie Docherty, Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection, talking with colleagues.

The International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) is thrilled to announce the launch of the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI), which aims to reduce the harm caused by armed conflict through targeted advocacy, leadership development, and the generation of innovative solutions.

The ACCPI will be led by Bonnie Docherty, Lecturer on Law and Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection, who is an internationally renowned leader in the field of humanitarian disarmament. Docherty has worked at the heart of almost every major civil society campaign to ban inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, or curtail their use to minimize the impacts on civilians. She was a critical player in the 2008 cluster munitions ban, as well as the nuclear weapons ban, adopted in July of last year.

“Today’s armed conflicts are causing countless civilian casualties, destroying infrastructure and the environment, and driving people from their homes,” said Docherty, who also works as a Senior Researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. “This initiative represents a unique opportunity to provide focused support to the movement dealing with these issues, as well as to students interested in making a career in the field.”

Since she arrived at the Clinic in 2005, Docherty has put clinical students at the heart of her advocacy, supervising them on everything from field research in Lebanon to lobbying at the UN. Under her leadership, and through her mentorship, students have gone on to work as field researchersadvocates in peace negotiations, and policy analysts, actively working to protect civilians from the effects of armed conflict.

Continue reading

Concern over a DACA deadline

Via Harvard Law Today

At an HLS event, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic directors will discuss legal strategies for fighting back on DACA deadline

Concern over a DACA deadline

Credit: Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
HGSE Professor Roberto Gonzales is one of the organizers of the DACA seminar at Harvard, a series of events exploring questions about the termination of DACA and TPS, deportations, and the current state of immigration policy.

Between 60 and 80 undocumented students are studying at Harvard, and though they’re a small fraction of the student body, some could have their lives eventually turned upside down.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had pegged March 5 as the end date for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which legally shields young immigrant students from deportation. It has been unclear what the government would do after the deadline passes. However, the Supreme Court said on Monday that it would not rule on the administration plan to end the program. Since federal district judges in New York and California previously issued injunctions against its quick end, the March 5 date likely is now too soon for a program phase-out. Still, the students’ worries remain.

To draw attention to the students’ quandary, three Harvard professors and a Ph.D. student in African and African American studies launched the DACA Seminar, a series of events on campus aimed at sparking conversations about the future of DACA and immigration policy and reform, while working to understand the students’ options.

Continue reading

Emmett Clinic Drafts Amicus Brief Explaining Dicamba Harms

Via Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

The Emmett Clinic filed an amicus brief in a 9th Circuit case challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of Monsanto’s XtendiMax—a new formulation of the highly-volatile and toxic herbicide dicamba.  EPA conditionally approved the product in 2016, based in part on Monsanto’s assurances that its formulation was less volatile than previous dicamba formulations.  Environmental and farming organizations challenged this decision in court.

Monsanto developed this new herbicide in response to increasing resistance to glyphosate (Roundup) in weeds.  Although dicamba is normally lethal to broadleaf crops such as soybeans and cotton, Monsanto genetically engineered varieties of these crops to be resistant to dicamba.  During the application process, commenters warned EPA that dicamba is very volatile and therefore has a tendency to drift, risking harm to other farmers’ fields or native vegetation.  As the Clinic’s brief explains, EPA’s approval of the herbicide resulted in widespread harm throughout the South and Midwest in 2017: at least 3.6 million acres of soybeans in 24 states were damaged by dicamba drift.  Farmers who want to plant soybeans feel that they have lost their freedom of choice: either they plant Monsanto’s resistant seeds or risk having their crops killed by drift from a neighboring farmer’s field.  EPA should not place farmers in this untenable position.

The Emmett Clinic filed this brief on behalf of several farmer support organizations: Family Farm Defenders, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Iowa Organic Association, Kansas Rural Center, Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing, Inc., Organic Farmers Association, and Save Our Crops Coalition.  Clinic student Heather Romero (JD ’19) and Deputy Director Shaun Goho wrote the brief.

Emmett Clinic Files Brief Supporting Chlorpyrifos Ban

Via Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

The Emmett Clinic filed an amicus brief  in a 9th Circuit case challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to ban agricultural uses of the organophosphate chlorpyrifos.  In 2016, EPA had proposed to remove all food tolerances for chlorpyrifos under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act—an action that would have prohibited all use of the pesticide on food crops.  Last year, however, Scott Pruitt reversed course and decided not to ban the pesticide, citing scientific uncertainty.  A coalition of environmental and farmworkers’ organizations have challenged this reversal in court.  The Clinic, representing the Alliance of Nurses for Health Environments, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, Migrant Clinicians Network, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of PSR, submitted an amicus brief in support of this challenge.

The brief explains that a significant body of research from both epidemiological and animal studies has demonstrated that children are vulnerable to long-lasting neurological harm from exposure to chlorpyrifos during pregnancy, even at levels far below the current tolerances permitted by EPA.  In particular, the studies show that chlorpyrifos can alter the very structure of the brain, as well as leading to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other behavioral problems.  In light of the large and robust research data demonstrating these harms, EPA cannot reasonably cite scientific uncertainty as a basis for failing to take action.

Clinic student Ryan Petty (JD ’19) wrote the brief under the supervision of Deputy Director Shaun Goho.

« Older posts