Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

Law School Students Participate in Human Rights Hearing on Immigration

Via Harvard Crimson

Two students from Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinic argued that the United States was no longer a “safe country” for refugees before the Inter-American Committee on Human Rights in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.

The hearing centered on Canada and the United States’ shared policy on the exchange of refugees. Following President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders cracking down on immigration, the students argued, Canada should no longer bar refugees who first land in the United States from seeking asylum in Canada—currently a provision of the Safe Third Country Agreement, a refugee exchange treaty.

The human rights committee, which promotes human rights in the Western hemisphere, granted the HIRC’s request to participate in this hearing last week. The HIRC’s team—which included HIRC Assistant Director Sabi Ardalan and Law School students Jin U. Kim and Malene C. Alleyne—centered their statements on the status of the agreement, whose integrity Kim said was imperiled by the executive orders.

“[Canada has] a whole set of review procedures that they follow every once and awhile to make sure that the country that was designated as a safe country is still a safe country,” Kim said. “By focusing on the impact of the executive orders, we were arguing that…if Canada actually does the review process again, then the US should not be designated as a safe country of asylum.’”

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Supreme Court Litigation Clinic: getting the best of legal practice and academia

By Jeanne  Jeong, J.D. ’17

Jeanne Jeong, J.D. '17

Jeanne Jeong, J.D. ’17

This January, I spent winter term working at Goldstein & Russell, P.C., a boutique law firm that focuses on Supreme Court and appellate litigation and whose partners run the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic. Each year, the firm hosts ten Harvard students at its office in Bethesda, Maryland to work on pro bono litigation in the Supreme Court. The clinic’s participants were divided into three teams, each working on a brief in a different case. One team wrote a petition for certiorari, and another drafted a brief in opposition to a petition for certiorari.

Meanwhile, my team worked on an amicus brief for a group of professors submitting a brief in support of the respondent in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., which involved whether a transgender boy could use the boys’ restroom at his public high school. We argued that regardless of the appropriate deference due to the agency’s interpretations of its regulations under Title IX, the school board’s exclusion of G.G. from the boys’ restroom violated Title IX as a matter of statutory construction. Under the direction of two attorneys, we worked through several stages of the brief-writing process, including brainstorming ideas for arguments, conducting legislative history and case law research, and drafting and editing. Although on March 6, 2017, the Court decided that it would not hear the case this term in light of new guidance from the administration following the 2016 presidential election, it was an incomparable hands-on experience to work with Supreme Court litigators on a timely and fascinating issue.

Given our posture as amici, our aim was to craft an informative and effective brief that provided the Court with a distinct perspective. Moreover, we were particularly fortunate to have clients who pushed us to think creatively about innovative analytical frames. Accordingly, the project straddled the best of both worlds of legal practice and academia. I gained enormous insight observing the professors, supervisors, and my peers, as they theorized about cases at a high level, while simultaneously strategizing about how to most effectively appeal to the Court. After drafting, we underwent a line-by-line edit, which was an invaluable experience to receive detailed feedback from seasoned Supreme Court practitioners.

Although writing a full brief in three weeks put us on an intensive and fast-paced timeline, the firm arranged for us to visit with Justice Elena Kagan, Acting Solicitor General Ian Gershengorn, and Nina Totenberg, among others. The clinic’s different components exposed me to a breadth of issues facing the Supreme Court bar and underscored the different approaches and strategies relevant to each stage of the Court’s unique litigation process. In addition to attending lectures on Supreme Court advocacy and oral argument moots, we participated in feedback workshops for the briefs of the other teams. Collaborating in these workshops allowed us to discuss briefs that spanned the stages of Supreme Court litigation. This also gave us the opportunity to more deeply discuss certain circuit conflicts and the persistent, seemingly irreconcilable questions they raise in the law—an exercise that is simultaneously both highly intellectual and highly pragmatic, grounded in real cases and facts. Such characteristics aptly capture the clinical experience overall as well, highlighting the unparalleled opportunity that the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic offers students to learn about Supreme Court litigation in a collegial environment that provides an instructive balance of academic rigor and practical skills.

My time as a legal intern in D.C.

By Audra Herrera, J.D. ’17

Audra Herrera, J.D. '17

Audra Herrera, J.D. ’17

My taxi driver sighed when I asked him to take me downtown through the heavy traffic. He helped me and my suitcases into the car and pulled out of the airport. My usual impulse to initiate small talk was overcome by the left-leaning newscaster’s commentary on the radio. The driver turned the volume up, and we both silently listened as the newscaster talked about the distances participants traveled to participate in the protest and reported that nearly half a million people marched throughout the day. As we approached the northwest quadrant of D.C., home of the White House and now me, I saw dozens of pedestrians in pink walking alongside the rows of restaurants and tourist shops. “Fight like a girl.” “Is this fake news?” “I’m with her.” I rolled down the window to get a better view of the homemade protest signs the women and men carried under their arms. The drive was long, but passing through the crowds, I knew that I was witnessing a significant moment in history.

I moved to D.C. on the day of the Women’s March to participate in Harvard’s Semester in Washington Clinic. My first Monday as a legal intern at the Department of Justice was Donald Trump’s first Monday as President at the White House. The uncertainty of the policies of the new administration meant that everyone had their eyes on Washington. Suddenly, I was not only a Law & Policy intern at the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, but I was also a policy adviser for friends and family members back home. After meeting with an attorney adviser to get started on my first assignment, I returned to my desk only to find my inbox full of messages containing questions and comments about President Trump’s tweets and initial round of executive orders.

Now, nearly two months into the Semester in Washington program, the stream of incoming messages about politics has eased up. However, my engagement in some of the major legal and political issues facing the nation has deepened. Through my internship, I have learned about the role the National Security Division plays within the law enforcement and intelligence communities as well as the federal government as a whole. Importantly, I have had the opportunity to work on some of the most relevant and interesting topics in cyber law and counterterrorism. Through evening classes taught by lecturer on law and DOJ Criminal Division attorney Jonathan Wroblewski, I have gained a framework in which to think about mandatory minimum sentences, the health risks of youth in tackle football, and the ethical obligations of the government lawyer among other policy topics. At these classes, I discuss and debate with 10 other students in the program—each at different placements within the three federal branches—current events in the news and policymaking. I am confident that my remaining time in D.C. will be just as rich.

At the intersection of law and policy

By Morgan Franklin, J.D. ’17

Morgan Franklin, J.D. '17

Morgan Franklin, J.D. ’17

This semester I have the good fortune of participating in HLS’s Semester in Washington Clinic, a program that provides students with the chance to work in an office in DC while taking a course in government lawyering and policy creation. I was initially attracted to the clinic because I’m rather interested in the political process and, perhaps even more so, the development of public policy. Though in traditional classes I appreciated discussing the intricacies of current law, the conversations I enjoyed most were those that encouraged students to offer recommendations and policy prescriptions, inviting us to consider shaping the law instead of just interpreting it. I applied to the clinic because I wanted to have a better understanding of the inner workings of government and the competing imperatives operating upon policy makers. Additionally, I wanted the opportunity to think deeply about how a legal education can inform an attorney’s engagement with policy.

With regard to the actual experience of the clinic, there are two principle components, each student’s office placement and the course on government lawyering and policy. As for my placement, I feel extremely lucky to be working for Congressman Jamie Raskin (HLS ’87) who represents Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District. I applied to Mr. Raskin’s office because I wanted to spend my last semester in law school working for someone championing causes in which I believe and helping to hold the line on issues such as civil rights protections and economic opportunity for marginalized communities. Additionally, I appreciate his example of using the training and privilege associated with his law degree to make a difference in his community. While working in his office I’ve had the opportunity to complete legal and policy research, engage with his constituents in various contexts, and support his staff as they serve the citizens of his district. In doing this work I am gaining a better understanding of the difficult undertaking of making and sustaining law and policy.

With respect to the course on government lawyering, Professor Wroblewski’s focus on legal and professional ethics, the indispensable nature of our governing institutions, and practical concerns with creating viable policy guides our work. In addition to our course work we’ve been able to engage with the larger DC area, from pro bono work with a legal aid outfit to watching an oral argument at the Supreme Court to visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture. While all of this has been very informative, perhaps my favorite part of the course has been the community that has developed between the members of the clinic through our in depth conversations about the role of government in the lives of real people and the ways in which lawyers can have a positive impact on American life through policy creation.

Overall, this has been a fantastic opportunity so far and I’m excited for the weeks ahead. I’m grateful that this clinical program exists, as the shift from abstract theory to practical application of government lawyering has enhanced my education in a way I did not anticipate. What a way to end my law school experience!

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights grants HIRC’s joint request to participate in emergency hearing on executive orders

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

HIRC to attend Commission hearing next week

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has granted a request filed by the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) to participate in a hearing on the impact of President Trump’s Executive Orders on human rights in the United States.

HIRC’s request, submitted with the support of over two dozen law professors and advocates on both sides of the border, will focus on the impact of the Executive Orders on the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between Canada and the United States. The hearing will take place on March 21st in Washington, D.C.

Under the STCA, Canada refuses to hear claims by asylum seekers who arrive at the Canadian border from the U.S. on the premise that the United States is a “safe” country for refugees and can adequately entertain their claims. However, as HIRC’s hearing request explained, with these Executive Orders, the United States cannot be considered a “safe” country for refugees.

HIRC outlined grave concerns with the U.S. asylum system in its latest report, submitted to the IACHR with the request for a hearing. The report demonstrates how the executive orders undermine human rights and fall short of basic refugee protection obligations under international law. Of particular concern are the provisions for an expanded system of mass incarceration of refugees; expansion of expedited removal proceedings without due process; and aggressive prosecution of unauthorized entry.

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Working with non-profits and local governments to improve economic well-being and quality of life in the Mississippi Delta

Via the Mississippi Delta Project Spring 2017 Newsletter

Economic Development Team

The Economic Development Team works on solutions that improve economic well-being and quality of life in the Mississippi Delta.  In previous years, our team has worked with both non-profits and local governments, producing policy papers on subjects including public corruption in Arkansas and philanthropic innovation in the Mississippi Delta. This year, the team has partnered with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi to develop paid family leave policy in Mississippi, which we believe will help support Mississippi families and businesses. Our team members spent the fall semester researching the status of paid leave throughout the United States, ultimately producing a policy paper presenting recommendations for potential legislative strategies to pass paid leave legislation in Mississippi. In the spring semester, we hope to work with the Women’s Foundation to cultivate partnerships with organizations and individuals who can help bolster support and advance paid leave legislation.

Student Spotlight

Marissa Marandola, 1L
Hometown: Cranston, RI

Marissa Marandola, 1L

Marissa Marandola, 1L

Marissa Marandola is a first-year student on the Mississippi Delta Project’s Economic Development Team. Hailing from Cranston, Rhode Island, Marissa received her undergraduate degree in Political Science from Boston College. She worked on paid family and medical leave issues for the United States Department of Labor Women’s Bureau during her senior year of college and this past summer before beginning law school.

Marissa’s passion for government work and experience at DOL has made her a particularly strong asset to the Economic Development Team, which is currently working with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi to explore potential paid family leave legislation in Mississippi.

“I grew passionate about the potential of paid leave as a vehicle for upward mobility and opportunity, especially for mothers and their children,” Marissa says of her time working for the government. “Coming from a state that is a pioneer on paid family and medical leave, I was initially surprised at the dearth of PFML programs, particularly outside of the New England states. I joined MDP both to broaden my perspective on the national paid leave landscape and in the hopes that my experience at DOL could contribute to our work to bring paid leave to Mississippi.”

Marissa has stayed busy outside of MDP. She serves as a Technical Editor for the Journal on Legislation, works as a research assistant for Professor David Wilkins in the Center for the Legal Profession, is a first-year representative for the Law and Government Program of Study, and is a member of the Catholic Law Students Association. After law school, she hopes to continue to pursue labor and employment issues and a career in government.

Helping Consumers in a Changing Health Policy Landscape: A Report from Health Action 2017

Via Health Law and Policy Clinic

Last month, CHLPI attended Families USA’s annual health advocacy conference, Health Action 2017, in Washington D.C.  Given the tumultuous path of health policy in today’s world, the conference’s goal was to prepare health care advocates as they seek to defend and bolster progress that has been made since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  CHLPI brought along student Seán Finan, who is pursuing an L.L.M. from Harvard Law School and working in the Health Law and Policy Clinic to gain insight into the ideas and strategies that health advocates are using to protect access to affordable care. He prepared brief blog posts detailing their perspectives on workshops they attended during the conference.

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“The Mississippi Delta Project strongly influenced my decision to come to law school at Harvard”

Via the Mississippi Delta Project Spring 2017 Newsletter

Student Spotlight

Emanuel Powell, 1L
Hometown: Liberty, MS

Emanuel Powell 1L

Emanuel Powell 1L

Emanuel Powell is originally from Liberty, MS and went to high school in Greenville, MS. He studied finance at USC in Los Angeles, CA and worked for four years as a nonprofit strategy consultant in New York City before coming to Harvard Law School.

“The Mississippi Delta Project strongly influenced my decision to come to law school at Harvard,” he says, “both to explore a different way of having positive social impact through policy as well as to build community with others that care about the South and supporting my home state.”

After law school, Emanuel’s goal is to support community development efforts back home in Mississippi. He is thankful to have the opportunity to work with MDP to to begin exploring what that work may look like after graduation.

Strengthening the Farm to School movement in Mississippi

Via the Mississippi Delta Project Spring 2017 Newsletter

Food Policy Team

For the past few years, the Food Policy Team has been working to strengthen the Farm to School movement in Mississippi. Through Farm to School programs, schools purchase food from local producers to feature on their menus and use in classroom activities. Farm to School seeks to improve child nutrition, teach children about agriculture and healthy diets, and build relationships between schools and local farmers. Last year, we conducted a 50 state survey, interviewed stakeholders in Mississippi and around the country, and compiled a report identifying recommendations which could be adopted in Mississippi.

This year, we have been working on narrowing in on particular recommendations and turning them into reality. In the Fall of 2016, we carried out a series of projects on behalf of the Mississippi Farm to School Network (MFSN). These included a pamphlet summarizing our recommendations for strengthening the Farm to School movement in Mississippi, a survey of the recommendations, and a series of interviews with interested stakeholders. The goal of these projects was to identify which recommendations would be most valuable and feasible in bolstering farm to school.

In the Spring of 2017, our team has three primary objectives. First, we will complete a legislative advocacy toolkit to assist MFSN in advancing farm to school legislation. This toolkit will include, information on how the legislative process works in Mississippi, as well as how advocates can affect and direct it. Second, we will write a short report analyzing how other states have utilized relationships with University Extensions in their Farm to School programs. Finally, we will encourage the Mississippi Department of Education to issue a guidance promoting the use of the Mississippi Farm Food Safety Checklist. The checklist is intended to be a substitute for costly formal food safety certifications, and its widespread use could help remove administrative costs that make it difficult for small farmers to sell to schools.

Student Spotlight

Sarah Atkins, 1L
Hometown: Lexington, KY

Sarah Atkins, 1L

Sarah Atkins, 1L

Sarah Atkins is a first-year law student on the Food Policy Team. Having grown up in Kentucky, she was excited for an opportunity to stay connected to the South. Sarah joined the Food Policy Team because it fit naturally with her lifelong interest in childhood nutrition.

“Food policy is such a critical area of law,” she says, “It has the potential to help a phenomenal number of people, especially children.”

Prior to law school, Sarah earned a bachelor’s degree in English from
Yale University. During college, she managed a charity bookstore whose proceeds supported local homeless shelters, and she taught sex ed to girls living in orphanages in Vietnam. After graduating, Sarah worked for two years as a paralegal in New York, which confirmed her interest in the law.

At law school, in addition to the Food Policy Team, Sarah participates in the Journal on Legislation. While she is not exactly sure what she will be doing after law school, it will likely involve healthcare law and the South.

Harvard Law Students partner with Spare Change News

Via Spare Change News

Harvard Law students Antoine Southern and Anne Rosenblum will be guiding Spare Change News vendors through the legal questions that come with being a small business owner.
Courtesy photo

We are third-year Harvard Law School students from the Transactional Law Clinics’ Community Enterprise Project, and we are partnering with Spare Change News to address some of the concerns vendors face.

We are excited to be working with Spare Change News!

We will be focusing our efforts on providing education and resources to existing and future vendors to support them as small business owners.

The core part of our project will be collecting and sharing information regarding legal issues inherent in running a small business, including what it means to be the sole proprietor of a small business, tax obligations and how to meet them, how public benefits might be impacted by small business ownership and tips on banking services.

We will also include a section about local rules impacting how and where vendors can sell papers.

In addition to the business-oriented core of our work, we plan to identify service providers and resources that are available to help vendors confront legal obstacles that are not business-related, such as housing discrimination, criminal record expungement and mental health services, to name a few.

This aspect of the project will be less in-depth but will hopefully help to raise awareness and facilitate access to these services and resources for the vendors.

We will create a comprehensive, user-friendly reference guide that can be distributed to vendors in the future. We will present the guide to vendors in April, highlighting some of the key information and resources it contains.


Tracking a remnant of war in Kosovo

Via International Human Rights Clinic

By Jared Small, J.D. ’18

Tomorrow, my Harvard Law School colleagues and I will board an airplane for Kosovo. Our goal: track down remnants of a war that ended nearly two decades ago.

Damage from depleted uranium penetrators in Gjakova/Đakovica. Credit: Naomi Toyoda / ICBUW

The Kosovo War ended in 1999 after a months-long NATO airstrike crippled Yugoslav and Serbian forces and paved the way for an internationally monitored Kosovan autonomy.  Kosovo has since declared independence, and is moving forward towards what it hopes will become full membership in the European Union.

But there is an invisible part of this story that has largely escaped the public eye over the past decade and a half.  Our team from the International Human Rights Clinic will travel to Kosovo to better understand potential environmental and human health impacts that linger from the war.

During the course of the NATO airstrikes, United States aircraft deployed at least 5,723 kg of Depleted Uranium (DU) ammunition at Serbian and Yugoslav targets.  As an incredibly dense by-product of the process of enriching uranium, DU is often used by militaries in armor-piercing shells and bullets. American A-10 Thunderbolts fired DU at more than 100 ground targets during the campaign against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was attempting to cleanse Kosovo of its nearly 90% ethnic Albanian population.

In addition to penetrating armored vehicles, DU rounds ended up in areas now returned to civilian use, including bucolic buildings and urban streets. Even 18 years after the end of the war many of these penetrators remain scattered around Kosovo.

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In new report, Food Law and Policy Clinic calls for federal action on food recovery

Via Harvard Law Today

‘Don’t Waste, Donate’ outlines actionable recommendations for policy changes

On March 9, the Food Law and Policy Clinic of Harvard Law School (FLPC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), released “Don’t Waste, Donate: Enhancing Food Donations through Federal Policy” presenting actions the federal government should take to better align federal laws and policies with the goal of increasing the donation of safe surplus food. Such food recovery has the potential to address the coupled issues of food waste and food insecurity in the United States, reducing the 40% of food that is wasted by instead getting edible food onto the plates of those in need.

Dont-Waste-Donate_-March-2017_coverIn 2015, the federal government made reducing food waste a national priority through the announcement of a national goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030. In this report, FLPC and NRDC lay out a variety of policy opportunities that help the federal government meet this goal. The report identifies a number of federal laws and policies that strive to enhance food recovery, but fail to address the evolving needs of the food donation landscape or reduce unnecessary barriers to donation. For example, under current laws, if an entire manufacturing run of yogurt has a misprint with the incorrect net weight, the manufacturer would not benefit from the liability protections or tax incentives meant to encourage food donation unless every container were re-labeled with the correct number of ounces. These types of hurdles do nothing to protect consumers and everything to discourage food donations. Fortunately, simple and targeted changes to federal policy can reduce these senseless barriers.

“Don’t Waste, Donate” offers 16 actionable recommendations spanning five key areas of federal policy that can increase the amount of safe, wholesome food donated to those in need. The report recommends policy changes that would:

–Enhance liability protections for food donations;

–Improve federal tax incentives for food donations;

–Standardize and clarify expiration date labels;

–Better monitor and encourage food donation by federal agencies; and

–Modernize and clarify food safety guidance for food donations.

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Students win Weiler Awards

Three Harvard Law School students – Rebecca Johnson J.D. ’17, Scott Sherman J.D. ’17, and Gia Velasquez J.D. ’18 – were honored with Weiler Awards presented at the Committee on Sports and Entertainment Law’s 2017 Symposium. The awards are presented annually to eligible students who have participated in the HLS Sports and Entertainment Law Courses, in the Committee on Sports and Entertainment Law and the Journal on Sports and Entertainment Law activities, as well as in clinical placements through the Sports Law Clinic.

Rebecca Johnson, J.D. ’17

On campus, Rebecca has served as Co-Editor in Chief of the Journal on Sports and Entertainment Law and as the Director of External Affairs for the Women’s Law Association. She has also been involved with the Committee on Sports and Entertainment Law and participated in the Sports Law Clinic in January, 2016. Rebecca spent her 1L summer at the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania in appeals and her 2L summer at the Fox Rothschild, LLP in Pittsburg.

Scott Sherman, J.D. ’17

At Harvard Law School, Scott has been an active participant in the sports law program. He has taken all three of Professor Carfagna’s classes, written an independent study paper on “Deflategate” and currently serves as the president of the Committee on Sports and Entertainment Law and an Executive Editor of the Journal on Sports and Entertainment Law. 

During his 1L summer, Scott worked in the labor relations department of Major League Baseball, and has served as a legal intern for the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets through the Sports Law Clinic.

“I am truly honored to win a Weiler Award” Scott said. “One of the main factors that drew me to Harvard Law was the breadth of the sports law program here, so it means a lot to be recognized for my work in that very program.”

This fall, Scott will be joining the litigation department at Winston & Strawn in New York, where he hopes to pursue a career in sports law.

Gia Velasquez, J.D. ’18

At Harvard, Gia has been involved in the Journal of Law and Technology and the Harvard Business Law Review. She spent last summer in Anchorage, Alaska, working for the Attorney General in the Environmental Division. Through the Sports Law Clinic, she has been placed with Jim Juliano of Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper in Cleveland, Ohio, and currently works for the Concussion Legacy Foundation in Boston.

“Professor Carfagna is truly an asset to Harvard Law School. His clinical placements and teaching methods prove most valuable to his students” Gia said. “While I was not very familiar with the nuances of sports law when I entered law school, I feel incredibly lucky that Professor Weiler pioneered this program, and Professor Carfagna has continued it, so that students like me can gain exposure to the field. I am so honored to have been selected by Professor Carfagna as a recipient of this year’s award.”

Gia is interested in IP Transactions and will work during the summer at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago in the Technology Transactions department.

Sports Law Clinic

Back row, left-right: Glenn Cohen, Florrie Dawrin, Chris Deubert, and Holly Lynch. Front row: Emeritus Professor Paul C. Weiler.

At the beginning of the event, Loren Shokes, J.D. ’17 and last year’s recipient of the Weiler Writing Prize, introduced this year’s Writing Prize winners: Chris Deubert, Senior Law and Ethics Associate for the Law and Ethics Initiative of the Football Players Health Study at Harvard University; Glenn Cohen, Professor at Harvard Law School; Faculty Director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics; and Co-Lead of the Law and Ethics Initiative of the Football Players Health Study; and Holly Lynch, Executive Director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics; Faculty at the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics; and Co-Lead of the Law and Ethics Initiative of the Football Players Health Study.

They were recognized for their groundbreaking article “Protecting and Promoting the Health of NFL Players: Legal and Ethical Analysis and Recommendations” that was published as a Special November edition in the Harvard Law School’s Journal on Sports and Entertainment Law.

The Weiler Awards were established in honor of Emeritus Professor Paul C. Weiler, who retired in 2008 after 26 years of teaching at Harvard Law School.

Advocating and making a difference with Harvard Defenders

By Stephanie Schuyler, J.D. ’17

If I had to give one piece of advice to incoming 1Ls at Harvard Law School, I would tell them to join a student practice organization (SPO) as soon as humanly possible. Speaking for myself, I can safely say that Harvard Defenders kept me sane during my 1L year. I have been immensely lucky, because my experience as a Defender has allowed me to connect with and learn from local communities and to use my immense privilege as a law school student to center their stories at the outset of the criminal process.

Stephanie Schuyler, J.D. '17

Stephanie Schuyler, J.D. ’17

Many SPOs here at HLS can provide students with hands-on experience. But what drew me to Defenders was the possibility of centering and lifting the narratives of our clients, who might otherwise be processed by the criminal justice system without anyone hearing or caring about their stories. Harvard Defenders have the potential to make a real difference in the outcomes our clients face. We provide representation to accused individuals at “probable cause hearings,” which are the entry point for many individuals into the criminal justice system. During these hearings, because no criminal process has begun, individuals are not entitled to a court-appointed attorney, and the Defenders are the only organization in the Commonwealth that provides free representation to help clients avoid entanglement with the system of mass incarceration.

Working as a Harvard Defender for the last three years has taught me so much. When I first started taking cases as a Defender, I was certain I would win the day with my fancy legal arguments about statutory language and mens rea. I quickly learned that my role in the process was as much about communicating my client’s story to the magistrate as it was about arguing the law. When we—as advocates—center our clients in the adjudicative process, magistrates often listen, and our clients get the day in court they deserve and avoid the unnecessarily harsh penalty of an undeserved criminal conviction.

In the last two years, I’ve also had the chance to put the lessons I’ve learned to good use. I’ve trained and mentored new Defenders, as both a Training Director and small team leader. I’ve done my best to share some of the things I’ve learned, lessons which have made me a better listener and advocate, and which have helped me not to lose sight of the reasons I came to law school in the first place.

Testifying at the Department of Corrections

By Katherine Robinson, J.D. ’18

Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project

On Thursday, October 6th, PLAP Board Members Dennis Dillon, Annie Manhardt, and I testified at a public hearing regarding proposed changes to the Massachusetts Department of Correction regulations. Executive directors Judy Flumenbaum and William Ahee also helped to draft our comments. As an organization, we submitted testimony regarding proposed changes to the regulations that govern disciplinary hearings, use of force, and grievance procedures. A few of the department’s proposed changes we support as long-overdue amendments to DOC policy, such as prohibiting the issuance of disciplinary reports for self-injurious behavior and providing that defendants in disciplinary hearings may seek accommodations for their disabilities. However, PLAP students reviewing the proposed changes identified a number of issues that concern us including the use of overly broad language that would give correction officers little guidance in assessing aggravated assaults and the reasonable use of force, vague and redundant offense definitions that could lead to further abuse of disciplinary ticketing, failures to clarify aspects of sanctions procedures that could lead to inconsistent and unfair outcomes, and new language that runs the risk of deterring the submission of valid grievances.

At the hearing, we voiced our concerns before DOC representatives, along with our supervisor Joel Thompson (who spoke on behalf of Prisoners Legal Services), families of incarcerated people, and representatives from the correction officers union. Though it remains to be seen whether the DOC will incorporate any of our comments into the amended regulations, I’m glad we had this opportunity to voice our clients’ concerns, share the experiences of student attorneys who navigate these regulations, and help shape the rules that dictate so much of our clients’ lives. In a system designed to silence incarcerated people and hide abuse within prisons from public view, PLAP is honored to speak on behalf of our clients and hold the DOC accountable for their policies that authorize the inhuman conditions in which prisoners are held.

Food Law and Policy Clinic & Natural Resources Defense Council Offer Federal Policy Recommendations to Increase Donation of Wholesome Food and Reduce the 40% of Food Wasted in the U.S.

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

The Food Law and Policy Clinic of Harvard Law School (FLPC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council, released Don’t Waste, Donate: Enhancing Food Donations through Federal Policy presenting actions the federal government should take to better align federal laws and policies with the goal of increasing the donation of safe surplus food. Such food recovery has the potential to address the coupled issues of food waste and food insecurity in the United States, reducing the 40% of food that is wasted by instead getting edible food onto the plates of those in need.

In 2015, the federal government made reducing food waste a national priority through the announcement of a national goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030. In this report, FLPC and NRDC lay out a variety of policy opportunities that help the federal government meet this goal. The report identifies a number of federal laws and policies that strive to enhance food recovery, but fail to address the evolving needs of the food donation landscape or reduce unnecessary barriers to donation. For example, under current laws, if an entire manufacturing run of yogurt has a misprint with the incorrect net weight, the manufacturer would not benefit from the liability protections or tax incentives meant to encourage food donation unless every container were re-labeled with the correct number of ounces. These types of hurdles do nothing to protect consumers and everything to discourage food donations. Fortunately, simple and targeted changes to federal policy can reduce these senseless barriers.

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Formerly Incarcerated Youth Share Their Powerful Stories

Via Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project

In this photo, three students can be seen talking to Nick, one of the Free Minds Poet Ambassadors who traveled all the way from DC to meet with us and share his story.

In this photo, three students can be seen talking to Nick, one of the Free Minds Poet Ambassadors who traveled all the way from DC to meet with us and share his story.

[On March 2nd], members of Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, came to Harvard Law School to speak to a group of students. Free Minds uses books, creative writing, and a peer support system to awaken incarcerated youth to their own potential. Their motto is “Books and Brotherhood.” Through creative expression, job readiness training, and violence prevention outreach, these young poets achieve their education and career goals, and become powerful voices for change in the community.

We heard from two amazing formerly incarcerated youth who are now Free Minds Poet Ambassadors. These young men bravely shared their stories and backgrounds, and discussed how working with Free Minds enabled them to recognize their skills and value. After learning about the organization, HLS students had the opportunity to read the work of incarcerated youth and provide encouraging feedback. It was a powerful event that demonstrated how books, creative writing and social support have the incredible power to teach, build community, and change lives.

HIRC files an amicus brief in lawsuit challenging Trump’s new refugee cap

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

From left: Jin Kim, JD '18, Sabi Ardalan, Assistant Director, HIRC, and Mana Azarmi, JD '17

From left: Jin Kim, JD ’18, Sabi Ardalan, Assistant Director, HIRC, and Mana Azarmi, JD ’17

The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) filed on Thursday an amicus curiae brief in support of a lawsuit that seeks, among other things, to prevent the Trump administration from lowering the number of refugees that can be allowed into the country.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), challenges President Trump’s January 27 Executive Order, which halved the number of refugees allowed into the country during this fiscal year, from 110,000 to 50,000.

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HLAB Victory in Hague Convention & Divorce Cases

Via Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

The Hague Convention is an international treaty which provides a method for resolving the return of abducted children between member nations. Because it is an international treaty, all Hague Convention cases must be decided in federal court. Additionally, Hague Convention cases can require divorce and/or custody to be obtained in state courts, making them complicated matters for the most experienced attorneys, much less HLAB student attorneys.

In September 2015, Diane Ramirez ’17 and Katie Renzler ’16 met their client, who had a Hague Convention dispute with the father of her children. The father is an Irish national, and wanted the children returned to him. After months of pre-trial motions and negotiations with opposing counsel from major law firms, the case culminated in a three-day trial in federal court in February 2016. Diane and Katie directed witnesses, cross-examined witnesses for the father, and presented evidence to support their argument that the federal judge should reject the father’s petition asking for the return of the children to Ireland.

In the summer of 2016, the judge issued the final ruling: the father’s petition was denied. The advocacy did not stop after this federal court victory. Diane continued to represent the mother in her divorce matter in state court, and obtained a judgement in October 2016 of divorce and an order granting her primary physical custody of her children and child support. Diane also negotiated a parenting time schedule that allowed the children to periodically visit their father in Ireland. Once again, HLAB student attorneys obtained a successful outcome for their client in the face of complicated litigation.

HLAB Student Wins Victory in Massachusetts’s Supreme Judicial Court

Via Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

Last spring, an HLAB student attorney was able to win a victory for both his client and all tenants in Massachusetts. Louis Fisher ’16 argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in the case of Meikle v. Nurse on November 5, 2015. The appeal arose from a case where a housing court judge ruled that a counterclaim for a violation of Massachusetts’s security deposit law does not qualify as a defense against eviction under what is known as the “8A trigger.” In no-fault or nonpayment eviction cases, counterclaims against the landlord can usually be used as a defense to an eviction under Massachusetts G.L.c. 239 § 8A. The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau appealed the ruling, with Deena Greenberg, ’15, as the original lead student attorney and Louis taking over in the 2015-16 school year. In an atypical move, the Supreme Judicial Court picked up the appeal directly from Boston Housing Court, bypassing the Court of Appeals.

On April 27, 2016, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of Ms. Nurse, overturning the Boston Housing Court ruling. The S.J.C. held that landlord violations of the security deposit law are a defense to eviction, stating that “it would be contrary to legislative intent to interpret [the 8A trigger] in a manner that would undermine a tenant’s right to assert the range of protections available under the summary process statute.” Thanks to the work of Louis, Deena, their clinical instructor Pattie Whiting, and the many other people who helped moot and prepare for the appellate argument, tenants have a firm foundation to defend themselves against an eviction if their landlord violates the security deposit laws.

HIRC brings issue of executive orders to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Earlier this week, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) took the issue of Donald Trump’s executive orders to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Commission), calling for an emergency hearing to discuss the impact of the orders on the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States.

Under the agreement, Canada refuses to hear claims by asylum seekers entering the country from the United States on the premise that the United States is a safe third country. But as HIRC made clear in its letter to the Commission on Wednesday, “the United States is not a safe country of asylum for persons fleeing persecution and violence.”

A recent HIRC report shows how provisions of the executive orders undermine human rights and other standards governing the treatment of asylum seekers. Of particular concern are provisions calling for an expanded system of mass incarceration; expansion of expedited removal proceedings without due process; a heightened credible fear standard; an increase in the number of agents with immigration functions; and aggressive prosecution of unauthorized entry.

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Summer Internships for Law Students

This list will be updated periodically.
For questions about each listing, please contact the respective program.

Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau seeks to hire approximately 15 law students to serve as Summer Legal Interns for 2017. Summer Legal Interns will be the primary case handlers on approximately 10-15 cases at a time in the areas of housing, family, government benefits, and wage and hour litigation. They interact directly with clients, opposing parties, witnesses, and government agencies, engage in extensive factual and legal investigation, draft motions and briefs, research legal issues, conduct discovery, and appear and argue in court. Rising 3Ls and 2Ls may apply, though rising 3Ls and rising 2Ls who have taken an evidence or trial advocacy course are preferred.
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Prison Legal Assistance Project

The Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) is hiring several rising 2Ls and 3Ls to work as full-time student attorneys this summer. PLAP is one of the few large-scale law student practice organizations delivering legal services to incarcerated individuals, and has helped defend Massachusetts inmates’ rights for several decades.
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Internships in the Clinics: Law students, graduate and undergraduate students are welcome to apply

This list will be updated periodically.
For questions about each listing, please contact the respective clinic.
Legal Services Center

2017 Summer Interns Program
May 22, 2017 – July 28, 2017 (flexible start & end date)
Read more and Access Application

Students’ first day in court

Twenty-three students, enrolled in the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic and class, recently started their work with judges throughout the Massachusetts trial courts. Below, some of them reflect on the impact of their first days with their judges and confirm the value of leaving the classroom for the courtroom.

“My first day in court had a more profound impact on me than the mere opportunity to see and hear things I had only read about in books and learned in the classroom. Experiencing firsthand all the elements of a trial, albeit only for the closing arguments portion of it, as one living whole rather than discrete parts to be analyzed in the abstract made me rethink my attitude toward the “practice of law” and indeed helped me appreciate the fact that law is not only a subject area to be studied in law school but a “practice” and a way of life. This insight has both humbled and reinvigorated me, and I hope that during the remainder of my internship I can continue to broaden my understanding of the law and my capacity to practice it.” — Aaron Seong, J.D. ’18

“I could see in the hearing and the briefs the disparity between the quality of prosecution and defense in low-level criminal cases that I have read about for years. It confirmed my prior expectations that the criminal justice system is a hard place for defendants. This type of experience is one of the reasons I wanted more time in the courtroom.” — Nicolas Mendoza, J.D. ’18

“[my judge] was, in a word, dazzling. She casually listed the legal issues she was concerned about, slipping effortlessly from one to another while I struggled to make mental notes. It was in this moment that I fully appreciated the need for focus, commitment, and diligence in chambers. … I left the courthouse eager to come back the next day…”
— Marina Shkuratov, J.D. ’18

“During lunch, we all discussed both the upsides and downsides of each side’s argument and what each party could have done to improve their case. It was a great opportunity to understand what made an effective argument from the judge’s perspective.” — Gawon Go, J.D. ’17

“[my judge] is incredibly kind and helpful. I can tell that he enjoys working with law students, and he took the time to answer any questions I had. The work in interesting, and I know that what I work on actually matters. It is not “busy work” . And I learned a great deal from simply watching my judge and the attorneys that appeared before him.” — Caleb Wolokek, J.D. ’17

“Overall I had a challenging and eye-opening first week in court. I learned a lot and I am looking forward to the coming months. I think I underestimated how challenging it may be to become involved with criminal trials involving real defendants and victims. I think the clinic will be good preparation not only in terms of learning about rules of evidence and procedure, but also in learning how to deal with these more difficult, interpersonal aspects of being a trial lawyer.” — Nasheen Kalkat, J.D. ’18


PLAP student argues case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Via Prison Legal Assistance Project

Recently, Tabitha Cohen JD ’18 argued the appeal of a lawsuit, Crowell v. Massachusetts Parole Board, filed by the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) in the Massachusetts State Supreme Court, formally known as the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). The suit was originally brought in the state Superior Court, but was dismissed on the motion of the defendant, the state Parole Board.

The plaintiff, PLAP client Richard Crowell, is a septuagenarian prisoner who, in 1987,  suffered a disabling traumatic brain injury. He was originally arrested in 1962 as a teenager for a convenience store robbery in East Boston. He was recruited by several older men to drive a getaway car. During the robbery, one of the older co-defendants shot and killed the storekeeper and as a result, Crowell and his co-defendants were charged with first degree murder under the felony murder theory of culpability. To avoid the death penalty, which Massachusetts had at that time, Crowell pled guilty to second degree murder and received a life sentence in prison. In 1974, his sentence was commuted from life to 36 years to life. He was then paroled and spent several years successfully living in the community, with the exception of some minor parole violations that were not serious enough to prevent re-parole. However, after he was attacked and suffered his brain injury in 1987, his behavior worsened. Since 1990 he has remained in prison, except for a few brief weeks while out on parole and then returned to custody, and has otherwise been repeatedly denied parole.

PLAP’s Mike Horrell, JD ’14 represented the plaintiff in his 2012 parole hearing that led to PLAP’s later lawsuit. During that hearing the Board strongly suggested it considered the plaintiff impossible to parole because of his disability, a decision which would effectively consign Crowell to prison for the remainder of his life. After the client was again denied parole, Horrell helped to draft a complaint filed in the Superior Court seeking to reverse the Board’s decision and obtain a new hearing for Crowell. The central claim in PLAP’s Complaint was that the Parole Board had discriminated against the plaintiff because of his disability. In addition, PLAP argued the plaintiff was entitled to annual parole reviews, rather than reviews every five years as contended by the Parole Board.

After Horrell’s graduation, another PLAP student attorney, Tucker DeVoe, JD ’15, briefed and argued the case in the Superior Court, but PLAP’s lawsuit was subsequently dismissed. After DeVoe’s graduation, Erin DeGrand, JD ’16 worked on PLAP’s appeal to the state Appeals Court, including coordinating the drafting of the appellate and reply briefs while working with Keke Wu, JD ’18, Beini Chen, JD ’18 and Ethan Stevenson, JD ’17. After the briefing was concluded in the Appeals Court but before the case was scheduled for oral argument, the SJC took the case for direct review and solicited amicus briefing on the disability rights issue raised by PLAP. In response, civil rights and advocacy rights groups including the Massachusetts chapter of the ACLU, Massachusetts Prisoners’ Legal Services, the Center for Public Representation and the National Disability Rights Network filed a consolidated amicus brief in support of PLAP.

After DeGrand’s graduation in June 2016, Tabitha Cohen, JD ’18 picked up the baton of PLAP representation and argued the case before the Supreme Judicial Court on January 6, 2017.

“Tabitha was superb.” said John Fitzpatrick, JD ’87, one of PLAP’s two supervising attorneys in attendance that day along with Joel Thompson, JD ’97. Fitzpatrick added that “Her poise and the content of her argument, along with her ability to comprehensively answer every of the many questions put to her by the SJC justices, was equal to or even better than many experienced appellate attorneys arguing before the court.”

Tabitha said that “It was a tremendous honor and privilege to represent Mr. Richard Crowell in his prisoners’ rights and disability rights appeal before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Thanks to the tireless work of my amazing supervising attorney, John Fitzpatrick, and all of my predecessors at the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project who worked so diligently on Mr. Crowell’s case, Mr. Crowell was able to make his voice heard in the state’s highest court. Arguing before the justices as a 2L has unquestionably been the highlight of my law school experience, and I cannot thank PLAP and everyone who worked so hard on this case, especially John, enough for this opportunity, and for entrusting me with this profound responsibility.”

Fitzpatrick said the oral arguments “went very well. Though that never predicts the eventual outcome of an appellate case, it is certainly better than the alternative.” He added that the SJC could issue its decision in the case during the next several months.

Clinic Files Amicus Brief in the D.C. Circuit in Support of Mercury and Air Toxics Rule

Via Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

On January 25, 2017, the Clinic filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Murray Energy Corporation, et al. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, et al. on behalf of Elsie M. Sunderland and eight other scientists in the latest round of the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule litigation. This case involves challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations limiting emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from power plants. After the Supreme Court remanded the Rule to EPA in Michigan v. EPA, 135 S. Ct. 2699 (2015), EPA completed a supplemental consideration of the costs associated with the regulation. In this brief, the Clinic argued that 1) mercury is a dangerous toxic metal and that power plants are the largest domestic source of mercury emissions; and 2) that the scientific literature confirms EPA’s conclusion that there are significant benefits to regulating power plant mercury emissions.

Clinic student Joshua Lee (JD’18) wrote the brief with Senior Clinical Instructor Shaun Goho.

Clinic Files Amicus Brief Supporting Family’s Right to Access Dead Relative’s Emails

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

On February 21, 2017, the Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of several trusts and estates law scholars and practitioners in Ajemian v. Yahoo!, Inc., Mass. Supreme Judicial Court No. SJC-11917. The brief supports the plaintiffs-appellants in the case. The Ajemian case arises out of a dispute between Yahoo and the family of John Ajemian, who died unexpectedly in 2006. After Mr. Ajemian’s death, the administrators of his estate contacted Yahoo about gaining access to his email account. Yahoo refused, claiming that the Stored Communications Act (SCA), 18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq., prevented it from doing so. Among other things, Yahoo argued that the “lawful consent” exception found in § 2702(b)(3)—authorizing providers to disclose stored communications “with the lawful consent of the originator or an addressee or [the] intended recipient”—requires the express consent of the user.

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Harvard Legal Aid Bureau takes foreclosure fight to Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Via Harvard Law Today

Dayne Lee '17, at the Massachusetts State House with Eloise Lawrence (far right), clinical instructor in community lawyering and lecturer on law at HLS; and Elvitria Marroquin and one of her two sons. Lee argued on behalf of Marroquin, who has been fighting foreclosure on her home since 2008.

Credit: Photo provided by Nadia Farjood
Dayne Lee ’17, at the Massachusetts State House with Eloise Lawrence (far right), clinical instructor in community lawyering and lecturer on law at HLS; and Elvitria Marroquin and one of her two sons. Lee argued on behalf of Marroquin, who has been fighting foreclosure on her home since 2008.

Team of students, clinical instructors, and community partners shape state housing law

On the morning of January 9, 2017, Harvard Law School student Dayne Lee ’17 slipped into a suit after three sleepless nights, punctured with dreams about his major oral argument. Later that day, he would argue before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in a case pitting federally controlled mortgage giant Fannie Mae against Lynn, Massachusetts homeowner Elvitria Marroquin, who has been fighting foreclosure on her home since 2008.

The question before the court was whether Fannie Mae and large financial institutions should be immunized from their failure to send a proper notice of default because the foreclosure took place within a grace period purportedly set in a prior SJC decision.

The decision, expected in a few months’ time, will set a precedent potentially impacting scores of foreclosed homeowners.

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Stuck in legal limbo

Via Harvard Gazette

Challenges for Syrian Refugees

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Anna Crowe, clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program, spent two semesters in Jordan interviewing Syrian refugees about the difficulties of obtaining legal documentation and the precarious existence of living and traveling without papers.

Some Syrian refugees in Jordan lack documentation, so they wait and wait

When human rights clinical instructor Anna Crowe first began documenting the legal challenges faced by Syrian refugees in Jordan, she found a tangled system that put their lives on hold. Thousands of refugees, stuck in legal limbo, were vulnerable to risks ranging from statelessness to relocation to refugee camps.

In Jordan, Syrian refugees must register with the interior ministry to obtain identity cards, which allow them access to health care, education, work permits, and humanitarian assistance. But to obtain the cards, the refugees need to show their original Syrian identity documents, which many lost in transit. They are caught in a catch-22.

“In theory, everyone or most people should be able to get the card,” said Crowe. “But there are practical challenges refugees face, which means that tens of thousands don’t actually have those cards.”

Lack of documentation is an aspect of the Syrian refugee crisis that doesn’t grab the same headlines as the harrowing scenes of people rescued from the rubble of a bombed city or drowned in the Mediterranean while fleeing to Europe. But the consequences for stranded refugees can be crippling.

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Harvard law clinic sues DOJ over for-profit college case files

Via The Washington Post

The Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School is suing the Justice Department for withholding documents that could help for-profit college students get their federal education loans canceled.

The lawsuit stems from a 2015 settlement between the Justice Department and Education Management Corp., the operator of for-profit schools Art Institutes, Argosy University, Brown Mackie College and South University. The company agreed to pay $95.5 million to resolve allegations that it paid employees based on student enrollment in violation of a federal ban on incentive compensation at schools in the federal financial aid programs.

Although a coalition of states involved in the deal got Education Management to forgive $103 million in outstanding student balances, the settlement did nothing to grant federal loan cancellation. As a result, people who attended Education Management schools have been filing “borrower defense to repayment” claims, which wipe away federal debt when schools use illegal or deceptive tactics to persuade students to borrow money for college.

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