Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

Experiencing impact litigation off the beaten path

by Brendan Schneiderman ’21

headshot photo of Brendan Schneiderman

Law school is a weird place. Year one primarily involves tolerating classrooms with 80 strangers where we’re judged by our ability to answer pop questions about abstract legal concepts. As 1L closes, most of us turn to career pursuits, where the most “prestigious” options involve working at corporate law firms for high salaries. Many students then turn to clerkship prospects, after which life becomes counting down to graduation. In short, the path of least resistance steers us right past the kind of advocacy that inspired many of us to come to law school in the first place.  Fortunately, my independent clinical at the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) was a perfect departure from that beaten path.

I first came across the NCLC while searching for impact litigation organizations focused on consumer advocacy. During 1L, consumer protection cases consistently outraged me most: mortgagors selling loans designed to default; landlords renting out uninhabitable spaces to poor mothers; foreclosures and evictions triggered by the termination of public benefits. Once I committed to finding an organization working in this space, the NCLC, a nationally renowned organization, surged to the top of my wishlist.

Spending a semester there required formulating an independent clinical. This kind of clinic has several unique benefits. First, it allows students to find an organization tailored to their individual needs. I was interested in seeing a range of litigation subject matter, from consumer protection to administrative law. I also wanted to see what kind of work attorneys do outside the litigation space. On both axes, the NCLC excels: they litigate all sorts of subject matter, including those I was interested in, but they also provide education, policy advocacy and field research services to other attorneys. This interdisciplinary approach made the NCLC a perfect fit. (Independent clinics are also graded Credit Received/Fail, which helps mitigate end-of-semester stress.) The independent clinic experience is also valuable because of its informality. While I was assigned a supervising attorney, I never felt bound to work only with him.  Instead, as I saw emails passed around about projects needing an extra hand, I felt free to offer my services. Moreover, oftentimes independent clinical students will be the only interns at their organizations, giving them higher odds of contributing to the work they are most interested in.

I worked on a wide variety of projects during my semester. The majority of my time was focused on making sure low-income communities aren’t left behind as state and local governments incentivize the purchasing of clean-energy vehicles. For example, some states offer an income tax rebate on these purchases, but a low-income family wouldn’t have any income tax liability, and therefore wouldn’t benefit from this incentive. My research involved outreach to non-profits and state legislators to learn about current policies. I also developed a cost-benefit calculator to show exactly how much a given state’s policies would impact the challenges a low-income consumer faces when purchasing an electric vehicle.

In addition, I worked with a team that was challenging a regulatory action that would re-define the standard for racial discrimination in housing. I researched how a recent Supreme Court decision defining the standard had been subsequently applied by lower courts. Relatedly, I conducted background research on why black families own homes in the United States at a much lower rate than white families. This task inspired my final writing project, which was a deeper statistical dive into the underlying causes of the homeownership gap, and why more research on the phenomenon is necessary.

I also experienced NCLC’s reputation as a first-rate consumer advocacy shop in a more personal way: this year, the NCLC celebrated its 50th anniversary with a big party at the conclusion of its annual conference, to which I was invited. There, I met Congresswoman Katie Porter of California, the keynote speaker and a hero of mine. Other guests included Senator Ed Markey (a former intern of the NCLC himself!), State Representative Nika Elugardo, and Elizabeth Cabreser, an esteemed plaintiffs’ attorney who litigated both the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the VW emissions scandal.

My most important experience at the NCLC, however, was simply getting a taste of its spirit. For me, much of the first year of law school involved biting my tongue or grimacing at insensitive statements made by well-to-do partners. Many conventionally successful attorneys become convinced that procedural technicalities and intellectual puzzles make their work rewarding, and thus never feel the need to reflect on the impact their legal advocacy has on the world outside.

The atmosphere at the NCLC is just the opposite. While people there are incredibly friendly and welcoming, they come to work with a clear motivation to improve things on the ground. Every decision is made out of a commitment to relentless, sober, and diligent advocacy, because that is what is needed in the communities the NCLC serves. While HLS’s path of least resistance may not expose students to such a clear-eyed, ends-driven focus, my time at the NCLC sure did. For receiving that perspective, I will always be grateful.

Growth in Animal Law Advocacy

by Elizabeth Melampy ’21

headshot photo of Elizabeth Melampy in front of an apple tree

 

During winter term, I began a litigation externship with Animal Outlook (formerly Compassion Over Killing). Animal Outlook is an organization that works to protect farm animals and to challenge the standard industry practices of animal agribusiness. Through undercover investigations, litigation, and consumer and corporate campaigns, they use a variety of advocacy tools to reveal the truth about animal agriculture and promote protections for farm animals.

 

During my externship, I have had an opportunity to research federal agricultural subsidy programs, allowing me to understand how complex and deeply rooted the agricultural exceptionalism is in our society. I have written memoranda on a variety of topics relating to regulations on farm animal raising and slaughter. I even got to write an Op-Ed relating to a recent decision in Kansas striking down an “ag-gag” law that impermissibly restricted investigators’ First Amendment right to record and publish the operations of industrial animal farms. In conversations with my supervisor, I’ve learned so much about how animal advocacy organizations operate, and how they choose to prioritize their limited resources to achieve the largest possible progress and protections for animals.

 

Animal law is a niche field, at least here at Harvard Law School. I have spent my time at HLS so far delving deeper and deeper into the field, learning as much as I can at every step. I interned at the Animal Welfare Institute last summer, where I worked on farm animal protection. I also participated in the Animal Law & Policy Clinic last semester, where I conducted legal research, drafted memoranda, and interacted with clients all seeking creative strategies for protecting the lives and well-being of the animals with whom we share our world.

 

This externship with Animal Outlook has been a perfect complement to my experiences so far. When working with farm animals in particular, legal advocacy requires creativity; there are very few federal or state protections for farm animals, so rarely is there a slam dunk case or even a type of case that lawyers can rely on as a model. I have been impressed with the creativity—and even courage—that I’ve seen during my externship as we brainstorm legal theories.

 

Many people come into law school seeking to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. I have found so much purpose and excitement in living out that goal by working for beings who cannot participate in the legal system, yet who are incredibly burdened by it. There are many kinds of abuse that farm animals endure that are routine and perfectly legal, like dehorning, debeaking, or castration without anesthetizing pain medication. Whatever your views on animal agriculture, practically everyone agrees that they shouldn’t needlessly suffer. Yet getting into court to challenge a practice like that, or getting a bill on the books to prohibit it, is literally impossible for the cows, chickens, and pigs who suffer the pain for their whole lives before they are slaughtered for our lunch.

 

In many ways, the law ignores the interests, well-being, and worth of non-human animals, and they need lawyers and advocates who are willing to speak a human, legal language on their behalf. I am excited to be part of a rising tide of animal advocates seeking to use the law as a tool for protecting animals and promoting humane treatment. As I continue my externship into the spring semester, I am looking forward to conducting more research, having more conversations, and participating in meaningful advocacy.

Winter Independent Clinical Reflections

by Olivia Klein

Over the course of their winter term, many HLS students choose to partake in independent clinical projects. Students travel far and wide to work at organizations they are passionate about, completing a variety of projects during the three-week term. Some students stay close to home, working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Boston, while others work on the other side of the world, researching environmental law at the New Zealand Department of Conservation. No matter where their work takes them, our students gain valuable knowledge from their independent clinicals, which they share in weekly reflections.

 

Week 1

 

During their first week, students get situated at their placements, form relationships with their supervisors and coworkers, and begin the projects they planned ahead of time. Even with only one week under their belt, many students reflect on the immense amount they have learned, not only about their organizations and areas of the law, but also about themselves.

 

“Reflecting a bit on my own career, my first week of work has made me question my ideal role within an organization like DOC. Is it most fun to be a regulator, cogitating and pronouncing on policy? Or would I get more satisfaction from working within a community? If I were to work within a community, would I miss the higher altitude vantage point?” – Lowry Yankwich, New Zealand Department of Conservation

 

“In coming here, I expected to learn a lot more about the inner workings of a massive nonprofit health care system. I had somewhat forgotten that the Legal Department has a significant “people focus” as well. The lawyers regularly work with doctors and hospital police to keep patients and the hospital safe… I am excited to learn more about the issues that are so unique to public health care settings. My projects and observational opportunities cover many of these varied subjects, and I am glad that I can contribute my work to the department. It is a great learning environment, and I am looking forward to making the most of my time here.” – Evelyn Atwater, UNC Health Care System, Legal Department, Chapel Hill, NC

 

“So far, my projects ask for a lot of my input and creative legal thinking, which I appreciate – it isn’t about finding case law to support a certain theory or set of facts, but rather about going out to find the issues and then figuring out how to attack them. My supervisor mentioned that he views animal advocacy as following the “death by a thousand paper cuts” strategy. We rarely get the giant blow that will take down the entire animal agriculture system, but we can find small avenues and chip away at structures and norms through careful reading of the law and creative legal strategies. This notion builds on what I learned in the Animal Law & Policy Clinic last semester, too – animal law is by necessity a creative field, because the laws were not written to protect animals in any way. I enjoy this kind of research and creative thinking.” – Elizabeth Melampy, Animal Outlook, Washington D.C.

 

“As the week draws to a close, I feel that the placement is off to a great start. The ICC proved itself extremely efficient in settling us in, and our supervisor has done a great job of balancing expectations of productivity with encouragement to utilize the unique resources currently available to us here in the Hague. I think that I have also improved my teamwork by working collaboratively at length each day. Simultaneously, I am exercising my legal and policy analysis in editing a report that combines both. I am glad to be here.” – Matthew Farrell, International Criminal Court, Netherlands

 

“There are a couple of things I have noticed much more prominently now that I am physically in chambers… Judges have families, they deal with day-to-day issues, and they have a life outside of the courthouse… I will be sure to consider this in my future writing and argument to the courts.” – Brian Kulp, U.S. Court for the District of Columbia

 

“This week has reaffirmed that I do want to work on local policy issues, because even seemingly minor agency procedure can have large impacts on individuals and communities.” – Jessica Katzen, Legal Aid Society of New York – Law Reform Unit, New York City

 

“I appreciate the thoughtful, creative, and rigorous approach the team takes to considering legal questions and making decisions about the types of cases they dedicate their resources to. Each member of the team has different experiences in immigration and human rights work, and it has been really informative to listen to discussions about the implications of taking on a specific case as well as legal strategies in the ongoing litigation. The team is incredibly collaborative in these discussions, and each team member’s different perspective and experience allows them to challenge the team to think about questions from a variety of perspectives. By the end of my J Term internship, I hope to contribute to these discussions more. While I do not have the experience of many other team members, I hope to challenge myself to think deeply about the questions the team confronts and contribute in team discussions.” – Sarah Libowsky, RAICES, San Antonio, TX

 

 

Week 2

 

During the second week at their placements, students are feeling energized by the experience of practical work in areas they are passionate about. This week brings the opportunity to delve deeper into their projects and to continue immersing themselves in the legal issues their organization works with, while also building community at the organization itself. After two weeks of hard work, students pause in their reflections to recognize their own growth as lawyers.

 

“For the first time I’m thinking about the advantages of starting one’s own organization to create the work environment that one deems as ideal, and how admirable and difficult it is to not only articulate but also practice the very values that the organization wants to promote in society. It makes me think about what one might be able to gain if one compromises money, stability, and a little bit of efficiency.” – Ayoung Kim, Advocates for Public Interest Law, Seoul, South Korea

 

“Learning about the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and its work in academic classes is important and has been helpful, but experiencing the work first-hand as a member of the organization’s team is quite different and very engaging. When working here, one feels as though they are part of a larger mission that transcends geographic boundaries… One can sense that BIS employees (myself included) are excited to arrive to work every day and to take on the challenges that face the global financial system. The work matters, and it is refreshing to feel as though you are having an impact.” – Caroline Shinkle, Bank for International Settlements, Basel, Switzerland

 

“I am finishing up my second week interning with Chief Justice Garcia’s chambers. I finished drafting my first assignment and the judge’s order is now online. It is very exciting to see something I participated in on WestLaw!” – Dustin Fire, Western District of Texas – Judicial Chambers of Orlando Garcia

 

“This week I worked with the elder law team. I had never been particularly attracted to working with the elderly—I have friends who work in nursing homes, and I hadn’t fully understood that choice. But I get it now. The clients have been, more than anything, kind. After I called an elderly man an alarming number of times, trying frustratingly to get ahold of his eviction notice, the man thanked me for all the calls—”You showed me a lot of love,” he said. The highs were higher and the lows were lower this week, and I think that goes to both the kindness and the helplessness of these elderly clients. It’s hard not to be emotionally invested—there’s something especially jarring about a 70-year-old woman with cancer getting harassed by a collections agency, or an 80-year-old deaf man being evicted. When people reach a certain age, can’t we all just agree stop chasing them for their debts? To let them be?” – Sara Carter, Legal Services Alabama – Birmingham

 

“Writing about the law for an audience of non-lawyers is hard, especially in a workplace where you want to make sure you’re giving people every piece of information that they need to achieve a goal that you fully support. You have to recognize that if you want them to achieve that goal, you must balance giving them the information they need with the risk of burying them under so many pages of legalese that they can’t get through it all… I didn’t perfect any of those skills this week, but I got some valuable practice. Taking time to critique my own work is helping me to see my strengths and weaknesses, and it’s motivating me to keep working to be better.” – Amanda Odasz, Rise, Washington D.C.

 

“I’ve found that I really like the adviser role, and that having the opportunity to help clients and advocate for the respect of law and international law in particular, is rewarding. It’s exciting to work on critical issues and I think the trade off in voice that comes with an adviser role may be worth it to have a hand in such high-level and impactful work.” – Samantha Lint, US Department of State

 

 

Week 3

 

By the end of their third and final week at their independent clinical sites, students are proud of the meaningful work they have accomplished and sad to say goodbye to their new colleagues. Even in such a condensed amount of time, students form close bonds with their supervisors and complete projects that will benefit the organizations and individuals they work with. Students feel a renewed sense of purpose and motivation at the end of their independent clinical, and they bring their new experience and lessons learned back to HLS with them.

 

“Overall, this has been an incredible trip and an even more incredible opportunity. It already felt surreal to even be in the building on the first day, and yet we will close out the week meeting the President of the Assembly of States Parties to discuss the project. Everyone we have talked to has been generous with their time and encouraging to the project (even those who were ultimately critical). I am beyond grateful to have been able to spend January term here, and am coming out of this experience hoping to continue with the project itself and this field of law.” – Celeste Kmiotek, International Criminal Court

 

“I am disappointed, outraged, and heartbroken to see what is going on at the border. But I’m also motivated. Without the work of thousands of volunteer legal advocates on the ground, even more people would be completely shut out of the courts. After law school, I intend to return to Tijuana to work full time with people stuck in the terrible limbo where targeted violence prevents them from going home and policies rooted in racism and xenophobia prevent them from accessing the protections of the law.” – Ginger Cline, Al Otro Lado, Tijuana, Mexico

 

“The genuine enjoyment and satisfaction I felt from my work for the past month, coupled with the experience of working with an attorney who shared so much in common with me in terms of interests and goals and had successfully found a job to put his skills and aptitude to great use, has provided me with reassurance that I’m on the right path.” – Bryce Burgwyn, Office of the Attorney General of the Republic of Palau, Koror, Palau

 

“This was an extraordinary career opportunity for me, for which I am very appreciative. As someone who plans to go into this field, I gained so much exposure to the process of litigating on behalf of immigrants’ rights. I worked side-by-side with extremely sharp attorneys, all of whom were kind, open, trusted me with critical assignments, and provided useful feedback. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be part of this small, dedicated team, fighting for a cause I believe in. I know this experience will open doors for me so that I can make the greatest possible impact in the future.” – Madeline Kane, ACLU Immigrant Rights Project, NYC, New York

 

 

If you are interested in pursuing an independent clinical project, you can find more information on the OCP website or by setting up an advising appointment with someone in the OCP office.

 

Responsibility and Community in Restorative Justice

Profile photo of Kathryn Combs

by Kathryn Combs ’20

I spent part of Fall 2019 semester working as an independent clinical intern at Communities for Restorative Justice (C4RJ). I heard about C4RJ during my time in a clinical seminar with Judge Cratsley, who serves on their board. I had been looking into opportunities to do hands-on work during my last year at HLS. When I realized I could plan an independent clinical placement, I immediately thought of C4RJ and contacted Judge Cratsley to speak with him and Professor Lanni about their research, involvement, and thoughts on restorative justice.

I spent the summer of my 2L year at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, which often refers cases to diversion programs run by nonprofits. I was glad those cases were being diverted but was curious about the process after a case is sent to one. I was very excited to get the chance to work at C4RJ, which is headquartered in Concord but takes cases from all over Western Massachusetts, and to see one of those programs in action. I was C4RJ’s first law student intern, and as such was able to craft my role along with my supervisors in a significant way so that I could be most useful.

Restorative Justice is a multi-layered concept, but in the criminal context, it focuses on the harm done in a criminal action and agreements made among stakeholders to make right that harm. C4RJ refers to “responsible parties” and “impacted parties” to push the boundaries of the criminal court system’s focus on distinct offenders and victims. C4RJ’s process works through referrals from police departments and District Attorney’s offices, and will take any case where the offender is taking responsibility, and the victim is willing for the process to go forward.

While at C4RJ, I primarily worked conducting legal research for the attorneys who make up the majority of the staff. I researched the impact of Massachusetts’ Restorative Justice provisions in the 2018 Crime Bill, analogous statutes in other states, and the requirements state and federal law place on C4RJ regarding volunteers with criminal records themselves.

I also was given the opportunity to participate in a Boston case regarding a serious felony that was referred to C4RJ due to the victim’s wishes to have the case proceed through Restorative Justice rather than the traditional court process. I sat in the “opening circle” for this case. In an opening circle, community members, C4RJ volunteers, the responsible party, the impacted party, and family of the responsible party sit together and discuss the criminal action, along with its effects on all parties and the harm done. The group then drafts a “restorative agreement” in which the responsible party agrees to abide by while working with C4RJ volunteers. This particular opening circle was very powerful, especially given the intense impact the event had had on the victim coupled with the responsible party’s clear regret and desire to apologize.

Having observed that case, been briefed on all open C4RJ cases, and looked at the files regarding past agreements and cases, it was very meaningful to me to see the process of restorative justice as something more concrete than an abstract theory. I was able to see the ways that victims were served by the process, responsible parties were able to own up to what harm had been done without facing overly punitive consequences in court, and how family members and supporters were able to be meaningful participants.

This, combined with my research on states nationwide enacting restorative justice statutes, was a great balance of seeing the human, on-the-ground work of restorative justice combined with the policy and legal realities needed to make restorative justice practicable. I am very glad that other HLS students will begin working at C4RJ this upcoming spring semester; and am grateful to my supervisors at C4RJ for letting me participate, observe, and research the complex and impactful work of their organization.

 

Eloise Lawrence named assistant clinical professor of law and deputy faculty director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

Headshot of Eloise Lawrence

via Harvard Law Today

Eloise Lawrence, a community lawyering advocate, was named assistant clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School and deputy faculty director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), effective Jan. 1.

She was previously a clinical instructor and a lecturer on law at HLS. She was also the director for community lawyering and strategic initiatives at HLAB, a student-run civil legal aid organization founded in 1913.

“I am delighted that Eloise Lawrence has joined our faculty. She played a pivotal role at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, finding novel and effective ways for lawyers and law students to work hand-in-hand with clients, community members, and community organizations to secure protections for individuals and families facing eviction and predatory practices,” said John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean of Harvard Law School. “Eloise is a terrific lawyer, advocate, and teacher, and her skill and dedication provides our students and our community with an outstanding example of what great public interest lawyers can accomplish.”

Lawrence joined HLAB in 2011 at the height of the foreclosure crisis to work with students and community organizers to defend hundreds of families—homeowners and tenants who were losing their homes due to foreclosure. During the crisis, her cases involved predatory lending, improper foreclosure practices, discrimination, and unfair practices in the servicing of loans. She also worked with organizers to advocate for policy changes at the local, state and federal level. Since 2015, she has defended families who are being displaced from their homes and communities due to gentrification and speculation. In addition to protecting tenants in the courts, she, along with her students, works closely with community organizers to ensure tenants realize their collective power.

At HLS, Lawrence co-teaches Housing Law and Policy on a biennial basis and is a member of the HLAB teaching team for courses specifically geared towards HLAB student attorneys. She also serves as supervisor and faculty adviser for the student practice organization Project No One Leaves.

From 2008 to 2010, she served as a staff attorney in the consumer rights unit at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), where she brought affirmative suits on behalf of mortgagors against loan originators, servicers and foreclosing entities.

Earlier in her career, she worked for the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) in Boston, leading its Environmental Health and Justice Initiative using community lawyering to tackle issues such as removing lead from Boston’s drinking water, providing accessible public transportation and ensuring adequate environmental review for bio-containment labs.

Prior to working at CLF, she was a Skadden Fellow with Business and Professional People for the Public Interest in Chicago, where she represented public housing residents in civil rights class actions.

“I am deeply honored to join the HLS faculty. This position will allow me to continue to teach and work with HLS students, to serve the individuals and communities who are traditionally underrepresented by our profession as well as to collaborate with other members of the remarkable HLS faculty,” said Lawrence.

Lawrence received a B.A. in history from Stanford in 1995 and a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law in 2002, where she focused on a variety of social justice issues including juvenile justice, affordable housing and LGBTQ rights.

Finding human solutions to global problems

via Harvard Law Today

by Dana Walters

Headshot photo of Aminta Ossom

With headlines declaring 2019 the year that the world woke up to climate changeAminta Ossom ’09 sees hope in approaching the issue from a specific angle: human rights.

“Human rights has a lot to offer the climate change movement because it’s a way to humanize the issue. It becomes less scientific or technical and more accessible,” she said. “The human rights approach also says that everyone has a buy-in and should have a say. Everyone is a potential victim of the effects of climate change,” she added.

After years working at Amnesty International and the United Nations, Ossom returned to Harvard Law School this fall to teach in the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), where one of her projects focuses on how human rights organizations are advising governments on climate change. The new clinical instructor, who self-identifies as a “regional human rights systems nerd,” had not originally planned on a career in law.

A childhood attending science summer camps and a STEM magnet school propelled her to the University of Oklahoma as a chemical engineering and pre-med major. But when Ossom realized she was drawn more toward religion and global politics than thermodynamics, she combined history, philosophy, languages, political science, and literature into a self-designed major. That degree showed Ossom how she might “connect history to current events through broader world issues and theories of justice,” she said.

In 2006, she enrolled at HLS and joined the International Human Rights Clinic, where she researched child labor and diamond-mining in Sierra Leone. Her clinical instructor, Sharanjeet Parmar, taught students how to do legal research with nuance and a historical eye. Both the method and the project proved formative for Ossom, helping her identify a larger theme for her advocacy: economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR).

“It’s a tricky subject. Economic, social, and cultural rights violations frequently result from inaction, like a failure to provide adequate food, housing, or education, so the process of determining responsibility can feel less straightforward than when the violation is an affirmative action that can be identified,” Ossom said.

Ossom leans against a wooden chair in front of a blank board as a group of people sit in chairs to the right.

As a Satter Fellow for Amnesty International in 2011-2012, Ossom helped build an evidence base and capacity for crimes against humanity and war crimes in West Africa.

After earning her J.D. at HLS and a Masters in African Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, Ossom was awarded a Satter Fellowship to work at Amnesty International, where she focused on international criminal law and matters of universal jurisdiction. She also contributed to a variety of projects that bolstered her ESCR expertise, from helping organize a demonstration on forced evictions in Ghana to assisting with research on maternal mortality in Sierra Leone.

Following a teaching stint as the Crowley Fellow at Fordham Law School, Ossom landed at the United Nations in Geneva, where she worked with leading experts to monitor state compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. There, she had a front-row view to the human rights movement’s engagement with the U.N., noticing where it was advancing and where more work was necessary. She began to see the human rights movement as a living organism with changing needs.

“I think we’re moving from people who have access to powerful institutions—like lawyers—being the ones raising rights violations to a more decentralized type of work,” she said. “Especially for those of us who grew up in the global north, it’s important for us to see ourselves less as conduits to change and more as allies. Communities and survivors of human rights violations are now the face of the movement. I think that’s super exciting to witness and be a part of, and it’s what I want to foster more with my students.”

These days, Ossom finds herself “thinking a lot about how human rights can respond to issues that aren’t specific to particular communities,” she said. Climate change is one example.

Aminta Ossom sits in a meeting room with three female students, Tara Boghosian, Johanna Lee, and Alicia Alvero Koski

As a clinical instructor in the IHRC, Ossom is leading a team on right-to-work issues, focusing on the types of rights violations faced by workers in the informal economy, and how international and regional human rights law could be invoked to further protect these workers. Pictured from left to right: Ossom, Tara Boghosian ’20, Johanna Lee ’21, and Alicia Alvero Koski ’20.

In her first year as a clinical instructor in the IHRC, Ossom and her students are preparing recommendations for governments trying to adapt to and respond to the climate change crisis, with an awareness of how inequality disproportionately magnifies the impact for some communities. To recommend solutions, the team is looking closely at the principles that have been solidified in the jurisprudence of the Committee on Economic and Social Rights, making sure that states preparing for climate change do not inflict harm by pulling resources away from other responsibilities like education and healthcare.

In addition to her climate change work, Ossom is studying how the changing nature of labor increases the chance that workers might be exposed to harassment, discrimination, or other types of abuses. Her clinical team is researching the types of rights violations faced by workers in the informal economy and how international and regional human rights law could be invoked to further protect these workers.

Tara Boghosian ’20, who has been part of the right-to-work clinical project since the fall, described Ossom as building a “collaborative team ethos.”

“Aminta encouraged us to take ownership of the direction of our project, while still providing us with plenty of support and guidance so that we felt well-equipped to take on new challenges. She gave each member of the team the opportunity to lead a call with an expert, but worked with us as much as we needed to brainstorm agendas and topics for each conversation,” Boghosian said.

Building relationships with students, she sees advising as a way to “multiply [her] impact” and support others on subjects she is equally as passionate about but does not have the capacity to take on herself. At IHRC, she models thoughtful and intentional practices and communicates to her students how to set boundaries, act with humility, and avoid burnout.

“Human rights is not what any single individual does but it’s something that a whole group of individuals and organizations are doing together. I’m not that crucial. It will all still go on if I withdraw at some point,” she tells her students. “This idea also helps me be very deliberate with my projects, both in terms of substance and style. When I teach, I emphasize that human rights is not just fact-finding. You can do human rights and legislative drafting or human rights and criminal defense. I hope my students can find a match between their skill set and the movement’s larger goals.”

LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic launches at Harvard Law School

via Harvard Law Today

Full frame rainbow flag shines bright backlit by summer sun

credit: PeskyMonkey/iStock

Harvard Law School today announced the launch of the new LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic.

The clinic will provide students the opportunity to work directly on cutting-edge issues involving LGBTQ+ rights, with a particular emphasis on issues affecting underrepresented individuals and groups within the LGBTQ+ community. Clinic offerings include local and national projects covering the spectrum of LGBTQ+ issues. Students will engage in a range of work encompassing various strategies for advancing LGBTQ+ rights, including impact litigation and amicus work, policy and legislative advocacy, and direct legal services for LGBTQ+ clients.

“The LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic will give our students a wonderful opportunity to address vital legal issues in an important and rapidly developing field, to provide first-rate legal representation to the LGBTQ+ community, to develop practice skills and substantive knowledge at the very highest levels, and to make a positive difference in the world,” said John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean of Harvard Law School. “I want to welcome the clinic’s terrific new director, Alex Chen, and to wish him and his students well as they undertake the important work of this new clinic.”

Alex Chen ’15, an HLS lecturer on law and clinical instructor, will serve as founding director of the clinic. A graduate of HLS, Chen has been a tireless advocate in recent years in efforts to protect and expand LGBTQ+ civil rights.

Photo of Alex Chen sitting on a brown couch in front of a wood paneled wall, fingers laced in front of him.

credit: Lorin Granger

Announcing the clinic, Harvard Law School Clinical Professor Dan Nagin, vice dean for experiential and clinical education and faculty director of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center (LSC) and Veterans Legal Clinic, said: “Alex Chen is a fantastic advocate and creative thinker who also possesses a deep commitment to mentorship and community. Under Alex’s leadership, the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic promises to provide singular learning opportunities for law students and critical legal services to underserved populations. We could not be more thrilled to welcome Alex back to Harvard Law School.”

The LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic will be based at LSC, a general practice community law office in Jamaica Plain.

Lisa Dealy, assistant dean for the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs at Harvard Law School, added: “We are so fortunate to have Alex join HLS—I cannot think of a better person to start the new LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic. Alex is already well-known in the national LGBTQ+ advocacy community and will bring his boundless energy, vision, intellect and connectedness to create a clinic that can help shape national movements. I cannot wait to see all that Alex, his students, his colleagues and advocacy partners will do together as part of the new clinic.”

In 2017, Chen was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 for his groundbreaking legal work to expand the rights of transgender youth. As an Equal Justice Works fellow at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) in San Francisco, Chen conducted national LGBT civil rights impact litigation, legislative and policy advocacy, and public education, including in education, employment, health care, housing, prison, conversion therapy, and child welfare and juvenile justice settings.

He was a member of the litigation team in transgender military ban cases (Doe v. Trump and Stockman v. Trump) and a landmark Ninth Circuit transgender prisoner surgery access case, Edmo v. Corizon. He co-drafted AB 2119, a bill making California the first state to guarantee transition-related health care access for trans youth in foster care. He also wrote the “Trans Youth Handbook,” a first-of-its-kind legal resource guide for trans youth and their families.

“I am thrilled that Harvard Law School is launching the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic, which will offer students the opportunity to develop their legal advocacy skills while providing critical services to the LGBTQ+ community. I look forward to rejoining the HLS community, and working together with HLS’s incredible faculty and staff to build this exciting new initiative,” Chen said.

At HLS, Chen will supervise clinical students on client matters related to LGBTQ+ civil rights law and he will teach a course on Gender Identity and the Law. Course topics will include constitutional and statutory law; sex-segregated spaces and activities; religion-, speech-, and ethics-based objections; access to health care and reproductive technology; non-binary and intersex identities; race and transgender experience, and military, family, and prison litigation.

Chen earned a B.A. from the University of Oxford in 2009, an M.A. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 2012 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2015. At Oxford, Chen was awarded the Wadham College Prize for outstanding performance in final-year examinations. Born in Colorado, the son of Chinese immigrants, Chen was awarded a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship in 2014. Chen has also lived in Southern California, Canada, and Hong Kong.

While a student at HLS, he co-founded Queer Trans People of Color at HLS and the Labor and Employment Action Project at HLS, and he served as a student attorney in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic and the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project. He was also an articles editor for the Harvard Law Review, and on the board of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.

During the summer following his second year at HLS, he served as a fellow for the National Center for Transgender Equality, in Washington, D.C., where he drafted policy guidance for federal agencies and performed legal research on employment, criminal, administrative, and education issues involving transgender people, and as a legal intern in the Educational Opportunities Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Washington, D.C., where he drafted legal briefs, reviewed depositions, and prepared witnesses for desegregation hearings. He also performed legal research for Department of Education Title IX sexual violence guidelines and reviewed Title IX complaints.

As a 2013 legal intern for the American Civil Liberties Union, LGBT & HIV Project, in New York City, he conducted legal research for LGBT civil rights impact litigation, including on marriage equality (United States v. Windsor), family law, status decriminalization, health care access, and transgender rights.

He served as a clerk for U.S. Court of Appeals for Judge M. Margaret McKeown of the Ninth Circuit, and Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Clinical instruction plays an important role in legal education at Harvard Law School. Through the collective work of 44 different legal clinics and student practice organizations, HLS students learn the skills lawyers engage in under the supervision of clinical professors by practicing law on behalf of clients, while helping improve the lives of individuals in need through pro bono legal services. More than 80 percent of JD students take at least one clinic, and more than 40 percent take two or more. Existing HLS clinical programs focus on a wide range of legal areas, from cyber, tax and veterans’ law to human rights, immigration, health and housing law.

Emily Broad Leib named clinical professor of law

via Harvard Law Today

photo of Emily Broad Leib sitting on a rock bench in front of a grass lawn

credit: Jessica Scranton

Emily Broad Leib ’08, founder and director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, has been named clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School. She was formerly an assistant clinical professor at HLS.

A national leader in food law and policy, Broad Leib founded the first food law and policy clinic in the country at Harvard Law School. She has used her position to advocate for improvements to the laws and policies that govern America’s food system, including in the area of food waste. She also serves as deputy director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.

“Emily Broad Leib is a superb teacher and is internationally respected for her groundbreaking work on food law and policy,” said John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean of Harvard Law School. “Through her commitment, intellectual leadership, and teaching, she has inspired countless students and attorneys to pursue options within the legal system to improve the food system and enhance the well-being of others.”

“I am humbled by my promotion to clinical professor, and full of gratitude at the opportunity to continue working alongside the committed and inspiring faculty, staff, and students of the HLS community. It has been a pleasure to make my home at such a supportive institution that has provided the resources and vision for me to build the first clinic in food law and policy, to develop opportunities for students to learn and participate in the vital field of food law, and to see the impact the Food Law and Policy Clinic has had and will continue to have on policies that impact the environment, health, and social justice,” Broad Leib said.

Broad Leib joined HLS’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation in 2010 as a senior clinical fellow. The following year, in 2011, she founded the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), which provides legal advice to nonprofits and government agencies, while educating law students about ways to use law and policy to impact the food system.

Broad Leib focuses her scholarship, teaching, and practice on finding solutions to some of today’s biggest food law issues, aiming to increase access to healthy foods, eliminate food waste, and support sustainable food production. She has published scholarly articles in the California Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, the Harvard Law & Policy Review, and the Food & Drug Law Journal, among others.

In 2015, she was an inaugural recipient of Harvard University’s Climate Change Solutions Fund. Her project “Reducing Food Waste as a Key to Addressing Climate Change,” was one of seven chosen from around the university to confront the challenge of climate change by leveraging the clinic’s food law and policy expertise to identify systemic solutions to reduce food waste, which is a major driver of climate change.

Under Broad Leib’s direction, FLPC has been advocating for the standardization of date labels since the release of its 2013 report “The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America.” FLPC has also worked with members of Congress on legislation to reform the expiration date system, and Broad Leib testified for Congress on date labels and other areas of federal policy that impact the amount of food that goes to waste. She led work with the two largest food trade associations to implement a voluntary standard for date labels, which will go into effect this year. Last summer, the clinic released a follow up issue brief “Date Labels: The Case for Federal Action.”

Beyond date labels, Broad Leib has led the clinic in supporting food producers, businesses, and government agencies in understanding and improving laws relevant to food waste and food recovery. The clinic’s work has included consulting to government agencies and legislators at the federal level and in nearly two dozen states, and publication of scores of policy reports and toolkits, including Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill (2017) and Food Safety Regulations and Guidance for Food Donations: a 50-State Survey of State Practices (2018) and a number of resources to support states and localities in addressing food waste through policy, including “Bans and Beyond: Designing and Implementing Organic Waste Bans and Mandatory Organics Recycling Laws” (2019) and “Keeping Food Out of the Landfill” (2016).

Drawing on this expertise, in 2019, Broad Leib launched the Global Food Donation Policy Atlas project, through which she and clinic staff and students are partnering with local food donation agencies in fifteen countries around the globe to compare and analyze the laws relevant to food donation, and make recommendations for best practices that can help more safe, wholesome food make it to those in need.

In 2016, she was named by Fortune and Food & Wine to their list of 2016’s Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink. Her groundbreaking work has been covered in such media outlets as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, The Guardian, TIME, Politico, and the Washington Post. She has appeared on CBS This Morning, CNN, The Today Show, and MSNBC.

In 2016, Broad Leib partnered with colleagues around the country to found the Academy of Food Law and Policy, the first-ever academic association for the growing number of faculty and scholars teaching and writing in the field of food law and policy. She served as the founding co-chair of the Academy’s Board of Trustees from 2016 to 2019.

After graduating from HLS, Broad Leib spent two years in Clarksdale, Mississippi, as the Joint Harvard Law School/Mississippi State University Delta Fellow. She directed the Delta Directions Consortium, a group of university and foundation leaders who collaborate to improve public health and foster economic development in the Delta region. In that role, she worked with community members and outside partners, and with support from more than 60 HLS students, to design and implement programmatic and policy interventions on a range of critical health and economic issues in the region.

Broad Leib’s fellowship work in Mississippi inspired the Mississippi Delta Project, a student practice organization at HLS that provides opportunities for current students to continue advocating for similar issues in the Mississippi Delta region. Broad Leib continues to support that organization as the faculty supervisor. She is also the faculty supervisor for the Harvard Law School Food Law Society.

In 2013, she was appointed deputy director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. In 2015, she was named an assistant clinical professor of law.

Broad Leib received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and her B.A. from Columbia University.

Sabrineh Ardalan named clinical professor of law and faculty director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

via Harvard Law Today

Headshot of Sabrineh Ardalan

credit: Martha Stewart

Sabrineh Ardalan ’02, who teaches in the fields of immigration and refugee law and advocacy, was appointed a clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School and faculty director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, effective January 1.  Ardalan, formerly an assistant clinical professor and assistant director of HIRC, succeeds Deborah Anker LL.M. ’84, founder and inaugural faculty director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic Program.

“Through her outstanding work in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, Sabi Ardalan has made vital contributions to litigation, advocacy, pedagogy, and teaching in the important fields of immigration and refugee rights,” said John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean of Harvard Law School. “Through her exceptional expertise and commitment as a teacher, Sabi has trained countless students to do excellent and impactful work serving countless clients at a critical time.  I thank Debbie Anker for her vision in founding HIRC and training lawyers now working across the globe. I know that Sabi will build on that great foundation to ensure that Harvard Law School continues to lead, to contribute, and to help others through the clinic’s superb work.”

Ardalan joined HIRC as a clinical fellow in 2008. She was appointed a lecturer on law in 2010 and an assistant clinical professor in 2017. In 2012, she was appointed assistant director of HIRC.

At HLS, Ardalan teaches courses on immigration, U.S. asylum law, international refugee law, international labor migration, and trauma, refugees and asylum. In her clinical work, she supervises and trains law students in direct client representation, appellate litigation, research, and policy advocacy.

She has written amicus briefs on cutting-edge issues in U.S. immigration and asylum law submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals, federal district courts, circuit courts of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. Ardalan initiated the clinic’s interdisciplinary approach, partnering with an on-site social worker, and currently oversees and collaborates closely with the clinic’s social work staff as part of her teaching and client advocacy. Since 2017, she has helped lead HIRC’s response to the travel ban and border and interior enforcement executive orders, and launched HIRC’s efforts to provide legal and social services to undocumented members of the Harvard community.

Ardalan is a Fulbright specialist at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, Faculty of Law for a 2020 project on human rights and legitimacy in European Union and U.S. migration and asylum law. She has been a visiting lecturer on immigration and refugee law at Yale University and at the College of Law and Business in Tel Aviv, Israel. She co-taught an international human rights practicum in New Delhi, India, as an adjunct professor with the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Boyd School of Law. In 2016, she conducted research on the development of the asylum system in Morocco and EU border externalization policies as a Fulbright Senior Scholar. In 2015, she was one of the honorees in the HLS International Women’s Day Celebration.

Ardalan’s work has been published or is forthcoming in a wide range of publications, including the Brooklyn Law Review, the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, the Michigan Journal of Law Reform, the New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, The Fordham Urban Law Journal, The Leiden Journal of International Law, Westlaw’s Immigration Briefings and in major media publications. Her article, “Trump is Rewriting Asylum Law,” appeared in the Atlantic (Nov. 13, 2018). She has also contributed to several books, including “Adjudicating Refugee and Asylum Status: The Role of Witness Expertise and Testimony” (Cambridge University Press, 2015), and “Securitizing Asylum Flows” (Brill, forthcoming).

“I am deeply grateful to the Dean, Clinic Founder Deborah Anker, and Harvard Law School for this opportunity to work with incredible law students and dedicated colleagues to advance the rights of immigrants and refugees,” said Ardalan. “Debbie is a legend in the field who has taught and mentored countless students. I am lucky to be one of them. It is such a privilege to be part of this community. And at a moment when there is an unprecedented assault on immigrants’ rights, it is also our obligation to use our skills to pursue justice.”

Anker, who will continue to support the program as Founder and engage in research in the field, said: “Sabi has that extraordinary combination of commitment to clients, the immigrant community, and brilliant appellate advocacy and scholarship. I know the Program will expand and flourish under her directorship.”

Prior to her work with the clinic, Ardalan clerked for Judge Michael A. Chagares of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit and Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She previously served as the Equal Justice America fellow at The Opportunity Agenda, where she worked on advocacy for a right to health care under U.S. and international law, and as a litigation associate at Dewey Ballantine.

She earned a B.A. in history and international studies from Yale University in 1997 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2002.

Crimmigration Clinic wins BIA appeal

via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

red background with 'Crimmigration Clinic Harvard Law School' imposed on it in white

On December 31, 2019, the Crimmigration Clinic celebrated a victory on behalf of a client who had been detained for more than a year. Based on arguments submitted by the Clinic, the Board of Immigration Appeals (the Board) terminated removal proceedings against the client and released him from detention.

“In spite of the injustices our client has faced, I’m thrilled to know that he’ll soon be reunited with his family,” said Niku Jafarnia ’20. Jafarnia, and her case team partner, Joseph Tahbaz ’20, co-authored the appeals brief filed with the Board that resulted in the victory.

Like many immigrants, David* was denied justice in several ways. Although he had a strong case for possible immigration remedies, the Immigration Judge (IJ) denied him relief from removal largely due to a conviction for violating a Florida statute, which the IJ found triggered the “crime of child abuse” removal ground. The IJ’s decision was made in spite of the fact that David had lived in the United States for over 20 years as a green-card-holder, has two elderly U.S. citizen parents, and helps support his U.S. citizen teenage daughter. Additionally, the IJ failed to properly record the favorable testimony from David’s family at the hearing during which the IJ denied his request for relief. Without a transcript of that hearing, it was impossible for the Board to effectively review the IJ’s decision denying his relief. David knew the odds were stacked against him and he sought help.

The Crimmigration Clinic stepped in to represent David with his appeal to the Board. Jafarnia and Tahbaz worked diligently to craft an argument that had not yet been made in David’s case—David was not removable in the first place because his Florida conviction did not actually trigger the “crime of child abuse” ground of removal. Shortly after filing their brief, the Board’s decision was issued. The court agreed that the Florida statute covered criminal conduct that reached far beyond what the removal ground was designed to cover. The Board ultimately held that David’s conviction did not render him removable because the Florida statute criminalizes conduct that does not necessarily result in harm to a child, or even a significant risk of such harm. Without a viable ground of removal, the government terminated proceedings against him and released him from detention.

According to Tahbaz, the legal victory in David’s case is a reminder that even in these troubling times, there is hope that the law will be applied fairly and faithfully. “This case gives me great hope. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead in our client’s future.” said Tahbaz.

*Client’s name has been changed to respect his privacy.

Remembering Dale Kensinger

via Procedurally Taxing

by Keith Fogg

Black and white headshot of Dale Kensinger

Dale Kensinger

On January 15, 2020, Dale Kensinger passed away leaving a big hole at the Tax Clinic at Harvard Law School.  You can find his obituary here.  Until very recently Dale put in a few days a week doing volunteer work at the tax clinic, where he had his own dedicated office as part of the supervising team.

I first met Dale on March 14, 1977, when I started working for Chief Counsel, IRS in Branch 3 of the Refund Litigation Division.  Dale was one of nine attorneys in the branch and was the second most senior.  As a newly minted law school graduate, I remember thinking Dale, who was about 35 at the time, was really old.  He was also extremely knowledgeable, generous with his time and kind.  I was fortunate to start my legal career in a small branch of attorneys that included someone like Dale.

Dale moved on to the Kansas City office of Chief Counsel only nine months after I arrived.  I moved on after just 18 months because of a reorganization that sent all of us to field offices across the country or to other National Office divisions.  Dale worked in the Kansas City office from 1978 to 1999 where he became the Assistant District Counsel.  Other than seeing him at the occasional training program, our paths essentially did not cross during these years though we both worked for the same large organization.

He retired in 1999 and founded the low income taxpayer clinic at University of Missouri – Kansas City.  He also became active in the ABA tax section and quickly rose to leadership in the low income taxpayer committee.  When I retired in 2007 and began teaching at Villanova, I reconnected with Dale through the ABA Tax Section.  Then Dale retired again in 2009 to move from Kansas City to Boston to be near his daughter, Elizabeth.  Following his retirement from the UMKC clinic, Dale became less active with the ABA but he was not finished helping low income taxpayers.

My colleague at the Legal Services Center at Harvard, Dan Nagin, arrived in 2012 to start a veteran’s clinic and quickly found that he had many clients who needed tax assistance.  Dan searched around for someone who could help these clients and connected with Dale.  Dale worked with volunteer students from Harvard to service the veteran clients until Dan could convince the Harvard faculty to formally start a tax clinic.  When the tax clinic formally started in 2015, I came to Harvard as a visitor to get it going and had the incredibly good fortune to have Dale there already to guide me once again.

Dale served three years in the air force during the Vietnam War.  His time as a veteran, his kind and patient nature as well as his deep knowledge of tax practice, allowed him to fix the tax problems of many veterans, and others, during the five years I worked with him in the tax clinic at Harvard.  He not only handled a substantial docket but he mentored students, fellows and me.  The tax clinic misses him on many levels.  His clients miss him deeply and several have commented to me over the past two months how much he helped them and how much they hoped and prayed for his recovery.

Because of his extraordinary service to low income taxpayers in his retirement, Dale was selected in 2018 as the co-recipient of the Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award which is the only annual award given by the Tax Section.  The ABA Tax Section describes the award and the selection criteria as follows:

This award was established in 2002 to recognize one or more individuals or law firms for outstanding and sustained achievements in pro bono activities in tax law. In 2007 the award was renamed in honor of the late Janet Spragens, who received the award in 2006 in recognition of her dedication to the development of low income taxpayer clinics throughout the United States.

Throughout the 50+ years of his career as a tax lawyer, Dale provided a model of caring about finding the right answer through his legal skills and caring about his clients with his interpersonal skills.  At the tax clinic we are reminded daily of Dale’s work as we try to finish what he started with the clients he was representing.  We were very fortunate to have him as a colleague and a role model for so many years.  I will miss our regular talks about baseball, politics, difficult clients, difficult IRS employees and wonderful granddaughters.  Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family at this time.

Harvard Law School clinician testifies in support of Massachusetts food and health pilot program

A wooden box with a caduceus and the inscription: 'Food is Medicine' holds fresh producevia Harvard Law Today

Food insecurity and hunger cost the Commonwealth of Massachusetts nearly $1.9 billion in avoidable health care costs every year.

Today, a team of attorneys from the Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI) and Community Servings, a nonprofit food and nutrition program, testified at a hearing on proposed legislation to establish a food and health pilot program in the state of Massachusetts.

Harvard Law School Clinical Instructor and CHLPI staff attorney Katie Garfield ’11 and Jean Terranova, Community Servings’ director of food and health policy, testified before the Joint Committee on Public Health at the Massachusetts State House.

The new legislation, titled An Act Relative to Establishing and Implementing a Food and Health Pilot Program, is the first major result of a report CHLPI and Community Servings released last summer—the “Massachusetts Food is Medicine State Plan.” The legislation, introduced by Massachusetts Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro) and Rep. Denise Garlick (D-Needham), provides a blueprint to successfully integrate nutrition services into health care delivery and financing in the Commonwealth—a proven strategy to improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs for people experiencing food insecurity and living with chronic illness.

The legislation would require the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to establish a Food and Health Pilot Program that equips health care systems to connect MassHealth enrollees with diet-related health conditions to one of the three appropriate nutrition services, with the expectation that health outcomes will improve and cost of care will decrease.

“Massachusetts has long been a national leader in health care policy,” said Garfield in testimony before the committee. “However, we continue to struggle with two issues that play a fundamental role in driving health outcomes and health care costs: food insecurity and diet-related disease. … A growing body of evidence indicates that connecting these individuals to “Food is Medicine” interventions may be an effective, low-cost strategy to improve health outcomes, decrease use of expensive health care services, and improve patient quality of life.”

Published in June 2019, the “Massachusetts Food is Medicine State Plan” is a product of a two-year, community-driven initiative that engaged more than 400 people from across the state. The initiative sought to identify health and food system reforms to improve access to critical nutrition interventions and change the culture and practices of the health system.

CHLPI and Community Servings also launched Food is Medicine Massachusetts (FIMMA), a multi-sector coalition comprised of more than 50 organizations representing nutrition programs, patient advocacy groups, health care providers, health insurers, academics, and professional associations.

CHLPI advocates for legal, regulatory, and policy reforms to improve the health of underserved populations with a focus on the needs of low-income people living with chronic illnesses. Community Servings provides medically tailored, nutritious meals to chronically and critically ill individuals and their families.

In recent years, four Mass. jails got $164 million in federal money to house ICE detainees

An ICE officer badge in gold and blue is shown clippped to a belt of an officer

Credit: FRANCISCO KJOLSETH/THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE VIA AP

via The Boston Globe

by Danny McDonald

The state has received more than $160 million in funding from federal immigration authorities since 2012, mostly in exchange for keeping and transporting ICE detainees in jails run by four Massachusetts sheriff’s departments, a Globe review has found.

The sum, brought into the state’s coffers through controversial contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has raised the eyebrows of some advocates and immigration attorneys who oppose the agreements and think there are better alternatives.

The sheriff’s offices, meanwhile, have defended the arrangements, with at least two departments saying their relationship with ICE has made Massachusetts residents safer.

The funding in question stemmed from agreements between ICE and the sheriff’s offices for Plymouth, Bristol, Franklin, and Suffolk counties, according to spreadsheets and invoices obtained through public records requests. Suffolk announced in October that it would end its relationship with ICE so it can provide rehabilitative services to more women who will soon be housed at its South End jail commonly referred to as South Bay.

AI Ethics Principles Undergo Meta-Analysis, Human Rights Emphasized

via unite.ai

by Daniel Nelson

Word spread containing words related to AI ethics, such as 'morals', 'honor', 'philosophy', 'values', and 'truth'

In 2019, there was more focus on AI ethics than ever before. However much of this discussion seemed hazy, with no codified approach. Rather, different companies created their own frameworks and policies regarding AI ethics. Having a consensus on AI ethics issues is important because it helps policymakers create and adjusts policies, and it also informs the work done by researchers and scholars. Beyond that, AI companies must know where ethical limits are if they hope to avoid unethical AI implementation. In order to create a better picture of the trends in AI ethics, as VentureBeats reports, the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University performed a meta-analysis of the various existing AI ethics principles and frameworks.

According to the authors of the analysis, the researchers wanted to compare the principles side-by-side to look for overlap and divergence. Jessica Fjeld, the assistant director of the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic, explained that the research team wanted to “uncover the hidden momentum in a fractured, global conversation around the future of AI, resulted in this white paper and the associated data visualization.”

During the analysis, the team examined 36 different AI principle documents originating from around the world and coming from many different organizational types. The results of the research found that there were eight themes that kept appearing across the many documents.

Privacy and accountability were two of the most commonly appearing ethical themes, as was AI safety/security. Transparency/explainability was also a commonly cited goal, with there many attempts to make algorithms more explainable over the course of 2019. Fairness/non-discrimination was another ethical focal point, reflecting growing concerns about data bias. Ensuring human control of technology, and not surrendering decision power to AI was heavily mentioned as well. Professional responsibility was the seventh common theme found by the researchers. Finally, the researchers found continual mention of promoting human values in the AI ethics documentation they examined.

The research team gave qualitative and quantitative breakdowns of how these themes manifested themselves within AI ethics documentation in their paper and in an accompanying map. The map displays where each of the themes were mentioned.

The research team noted that much of the AI ethics discussion revolved around concern for human values and rights. As the research paper notes:

“64% of our documents contained a reference to human rights, and five documents [14%] took international human rights as a framework for their overall effort.”

References to human rights and values were more common in documents produced by private sector groups and civil society groups. This indicates that AI private sector companies aren’t concerned just with profits but with producing AI in an ethical way. Meanwhile, government agencies seem less concerned or aware of AI ethics overall, with less than half of AI-related documents originating from government agencies concerning themselves with AI ethics.

The researchers also noted that if the documents they examined were more recent, they were more likely to address all of the eight most prominent themes instead of just a few. This fact implies that the ideas behind what constitutes ethical AI usage are beginning to coalesce among those leading the discussion about AI ethics. Finally, the researchers state that the success of these principles in guiding the development of AI will depend on how well integrated they are in the AI development community at large. The researchers state in the paper:

“Moreover, principles are a starting place for governance, not an end. On its own, a set of principles is unlikely to be more than gently persuasive. Its impact is likely to depend on how it is embedded in a larger governance ecosystem, including for instance relevant policies (e.g. AI national plans), laws, regulations, but also professional practices and everyday routines.”

OCP note: To read more about Jessica Fjled and Adam Nagy’s work on ethics and governance of AI, read their report called Principled Artificial Intelligence: Mapping Consensus in Ethic and Rights-Based Approached to Principles for AI.

2019 HRP Summer Fellow Reflection: Angel Gabriel Cabrera Silva, SJD Candidate

Cabrera Silva spent Summer 2019 at Colectivo Emancipaciones, in Morelia, Michoacán, México

Summer fellowships for human rights internships are a central part of the Harvard Law School human rights experience. During the summer of 2019, HRP funded five HLS students to intern abroad at nongovernmental organizations for up to eight weeks. At the conclusion of their internships, students returned to HRP with a deeper appreciation for the type of work required of human rights practitioners. Over the course of the next month while our summer fellowship application is open, we’ll be excerpting portions from their fellowship reports to provide a glimpse into the kinds of experiences open to human rights students at Harvard Law.


As an SJD candidate studying grassroots mobilizing in human rights, Angel Gabriel Cabrera Silva wanted to immerse himself in a social justice organization working in partnership with indigenous communities. He joined Colectivo Emancipaciones, an NGO that advocates on behalf of indigenous rights. In order to express its democratic goals, the Colectivo organizes itself into non-hierarchical “commissions.” Angel joined the “Litigation Commission” and the “Community Council’s Commission.” In the former, Cabrera Silva worked on strategic litigation on behalf of indigenous communities. In the latter, he worked with communities on socio-political organizing.

He described his work as follows:

“Currently, the Colectivo Emancipaciones is working alongside Community Councils of the towns of Pichátaro, San Felipe de los Herreros, Arantepacua, and Santa Fe de la Laguna to intervene in a legislative process that intends to regulate their budgetary autonomy. The axis of this strategy is to preemptively organize the social and political aspects of a process for free, prior, and informed consultation that will be reclaimed after (and if) this bill is discussed by Congress. As such, my task was to attend meetings with the various Councils, brief them about the legal elements of the strategy, listen to their opinions, and collaboratively think about how to articulate the organizational aspects (like when and how would it be easier to organize a politically efficient process of free, prior, and informed consent).”

Cabrera Silva plans to return to some of the communities that Colectivo partnered with later in his SJD to do fieldwork. Over the summer, he was particularly impressed with the community commitment of the NGO. He explained that working at Colectivo Emancipaciones provided “a clear example of how the outcomes of human rights work change when advocates have direct political commitments to specific social movements (rather than abstract normative commitments or indirect commitments with donors).”

At Colectivo, he said, “the role of lawyers was never to upkeep any norm or to advise the communities about the proper legal avenue to get a favorable decision. Instead, the lawyers were constantly reviewing the political and social usefulness of any legal action. The constant contact with community councils meant that the Colectivo was always in touch with what material solutions were needed, and their work revolved around that aspect. In fact, the very structure of the Colectivo (organized in a Commission) seems to have been learned from the way the Community Councils organize themselves.”

Angel further elaborated on how the funding structure of the NGO provided a positive influence on its culture, saying: “The fellowship also gave me a lot of insights into how NGOs are sometimes influenced by external sources of funding. The Colectivo Emancipaciones has an internal policy of not accepting any money that might condition their work. In this sense, they have almost no external donors. They mostly fund themselves through their own professional independent practice. They have also established collaborative academic research projects as a means to embolden their alliance with the communities. This mode of practice has an important influence on the power dynamics between the Colectivo, communities, and the individual members of the Colectivo, which are much more horizontal and open for reflection.”

Overall, the internship gave Cabrera Silva the opportunity to re-examine what skills are important in human rights work. “Normally, I would think that having expertise in the latest development of international standards and knowing all the international procedures was one of the most important advantages of a human rights lawyer. However, I realize how little this technical knowledge might matter in contrast to developing the skills that relate to political strategizing, community organizing, and even inter-personal support.”


Interested in learning more about HRP Summer Fellowships? Schedule an advising appointment with Anna Crowe, Assistant Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, and apply to join our 2020 cohort today! Please note that you do not need to have a confirmed placement organization before you apply for the 2020 HRP summer fellowship pool. Applications are due February 1, 2020!

Prepared for the Challenge

via Harvard Law Bulletin Winter 2020

by Cara Solomon

Profile photo of Brianna Rennix, leaning against a white wood railing

Credit: Matthew Mahon

It was just the seed of an idea 35 years ago: a clinic that would train students to work in the emerging field of immigration law. Back then, asylum law was only a few years old.

Today the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, or HIRC, is a leader in the field. The program trains more than 130 students a year in direct representation, policy advocacy and appellate litigation; represents more than 100 clients annually; and supervises a student practice organization, the HLS Immigration Project.

But in the beginning, it was just Deborah Anker LL.M. ’84, who co-founded HIRC with John Willshire Carrera and Nancy Kelly to fill a critical gap in legal services for immigrants and refugees. Although immigrants have a right to counsel in immigration proceedings, it’s at their own expense. And many can’t afford a lawyer. HIRC’s bottom-up approach of representing individuals through all stages of the immigration process—from the trial level up to the Supreme Court—reflects its client-centered practice.

As the law itself has evolved, so too has HIRC. Anker continues to support the program as founding director, and former Assistant Director Sabrineh “Sabi” Ardalan ’02, who specializes in trauma and refugees, now leads the program as HIRC’s recently appointed faculty director. Phil Torrey, managing attorney and lecturer on law, joined the team in 2011 and created HIRC’s Crimmigration Clinic, expanding the program’s docket to tackle the intersection of criminal law and immigration, given how intertwined the fields have become. Several years ago, HIRC became among the few clinical programs to hire a social worker to support the needs of clients, students and staff.

Through the years, HIRC challenged the immigration policy changes of five administrations, from the near-ban on Central American and Haitian asylum claims under President Reagan to the increased immigration enforcement that earned President Obama the nickname “deporter in chief.”

Still, nothing could prepare HIRC for the Trump administration, which has escalated detentions and issued a flood of new directives aimed at deterring refugees and immigrants from coming to the U.S. For years, Anker advocated to get gender-based violence designated as grounds for an asylum claim, ultimately working with the government to issue historic guidelines that set the stage for similar measures internationally. Then in one fell swoop, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a decision in 2018 that attempted to rewrite asylum law to prevent people fleeing gender-based and gang-based violence from getting protection in the U.S. at all.

“We’ve got a real fight on our hands,” said Anker, who wrote the seminal book on asylum law. “But we’re up to the task.”

HIRC has been in overdrive, challenging everything from the intentional separation of thousands of families to the closing of the southern border for the vast majority of asylum seekers.

In addition to direct representation, staff and students are filing appeals in federal court on issues such as gender-based asylum and immigration detention; conducting policy advocacy on everything from sanctuary cities to solitary confinement in detention; and filing amicus briefs that challenge asylum bans and Immigration and Customs Enforcement courthouse arrests. They’re leading Know Your Rights trainings all around Greater Boston. And they’re staffing a Harvard-funded initiative, created in 2017, that provides immigration and legal support to any member of the Harvard community.

“In a constantly changing legal landscape, we’re working as hard and as fast as we can to meet the need,” said Ardalan. “It’s encouraging to know so many of our alumni are out there, doing the same thing.”

Indeed, HIRC alumni are working all across the immigration field, from government to academia to private firms to advocacy organizations. In interviews with several, they framed their work as urgent and necessary—both harder than ever and extremely fulfilling. They also described HIRC as an essential training ground, not only for learning the legal basis of the work, but for understanding the care and compassion it takes to do it well.

Here are a few of their stories.

Brianna Rennix ’18

Staff Attorney, Dilley Pro Bono Project, Dilley, Texas

In a small trailer, surrounded by hundreds of other trailers, encircled by a fence, in the middle of South Texas scrubland, Brianna Rennix does her work. Sometimes it takes 12 hours. Sometimes it takes more. At some point each day, she leaves the largest family detention center in America, drives five minutes through the small town of Dilley, and settles in to work some more at home.

Read more about Rennix »

 

Mark Fleming 97

Partner and Vice Chair, Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Practice, WilmerHale, Boston

Five cases argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Twenty-two years of work as a lawyer. And still, Mark Fleming will never forget the woman from Congo, the first client to trust him with her life.

Read more about Fleming »

 

Geehyun Sussan Lee ’15

Appellate Counsel, Center for Appellate Litigation, New York City

There was a time, not too long ago, when the courthouse was a safe space for Sussan Lee’s clients. Of all the obstacles they faced as immigrants charged with a crime, they did not have to worry about the walk to the courtroom. They did not have to worry about getting the opportunity to present their case.

Read more about Lee»

Gianna Borroto ’11

Senior Attorney, National Immigrant Justice Center’s Federal Litigation Project, Chicago

Gianna Borroto began her career working mostly with unaccompanied minors. representing young people in their claims, often from start to finish. Then something shifted. “Under this administration, seeing all the policy changes and how they were directly impacting my clients, I felt like I needed to do more to create change on a broader level,” she said.

Read more about Borroto»

 

HNMCP Celebrates 2019 Art Award Winners

via HNMCP

The Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP) is pleased to celebrate the winners of its 6th Annual Art Award Contest. The purpose of this annual award is to honor artists who, through their creative expressions, contribute to the work of conflict resolution and peacemaking.

As a clinic, HNMCP seeks to explore challenging interpersonal dynamics leading to conflict and build community around the honing of skills associated with effective dispute resolution.

Given our dedication to the creation of an environment conducive to those goals, we hope that our physical office space is reflective of our values as well as the ambitions we have for our work.

We believe that art has the power to illuminate what connects all of us and to encourage the engagement of empathy. We are fortunate that the artwork detailed below will be on display in our offices for the remainder of the academic year, and in the case of a couple of the pieces, join our permanent collection.

Please visit our offices on the fifth floor of Pound Hall (P513) in the coming weeks to join us in appreciating these awe-inspiring works of art!

 

2019 Winners

Allow Me To Flower One More Time/ Déjame Florecer Una Vez Más”

Painting depicts a large colorful mural. Paintings in the middle show the stages of the undocumented immigrant experience. Images include an angel, a heart with flowers growing out of it, butterflies, a city skyline, hands tearing a heart in half. Smaller rectangular paintings surround the large centerpiece, each with a separate image. Images include flags, a sunset over an ocean, a camera, hearts.

About the Piece: This mural was designed and painted by undocumented, unaccompanied Central American minors currently detained in a maximum security prison in the United States. The mural is the outcome of a six- years art in prisons project that artist Claudia Bernardi has been facilitating, reaching Central American incarcerated minors who had been detained at the US/ Mexico border.

About the Artist: Claudia Bernardi, socially engaged and community-based artist, printmaker and installation artist, whose artwork is impacted by the effects of war and political violence. Born in Argentina, Bernardi endured the military junta (1976-1983) that caused 30,000 “desaparecidos”. Bernardi participated with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team in exhumations investigating human rights violations against civilians. This experience impacted her commitment to community arts. In 2005, Bernardi created the School of Art in Perquin, El Salvador, a community-based art project replicated in Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Switzerland, Germany and Northern Ireland. Bernardi is Professor of Community Arts, Diversity Studies and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts.

Lina

A portrait of a Syrian woman with her arms wrapped around herself. She is wearing a colorful floral print dress. The background behind her is a blue map showing the aerial view of Aleppo.

About the Piece: This artwork is a digital reproduction of Lina 2018, a pastel, gunpowder & powdered graphite drawing of a Syrian woman framed by an aerial view of Aleppo. This work is a companion piece to the artist’s video and mixed-media series, ‘Forced to Flee’, inspired by one woman’s escape from Syria and her ongoing effort to find a safe home for herself and her family. The artist hopes to humanize the abstraction of the crisis in Syria and to communicate her subject’s struggle, courage and tenacity with her work.

About the Artist: Linda Bond is a Resident Scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center and a former faculty member of the Massachusetts College of Art & Design. She was recently awarded a grant from the Chenven Foundation and in 2017 was awarded grants from the Pollock Krasner Foundation and the Puffin Foundation. Her exhibitions include Kean University, Brandeis, Simmons, Southern New Hampshire University, B’NK’R Munich, Germany, Museo de Arte de Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico, the MFA in Boston, Brattleboro Museum, Art Complex Museum, Fitchburg Art Museum, and the Corcoran Gallery. Her upcoming solo exhibition at Drexel University in Philadelphia will open in April 2020.

Mutuality

Two photos are shown side by side. The photo on the right shows an elderly man pouring something into a bowl as a young boy stands beside him holding a lit candle. The rest of the room is dark. The photo on the right depicts two young children, a girl and a boy, in a dark room looking at a candle that burns bright on a table.

About the Piece: Swiss photographer, Saskia Keeley, runs photography workshops in which participants unpack decades of fear and bias through the simple yet profound acts of looking and listening. She is exploring where these workshops can be helpful in global conversations toward peace and coexistence. Since 2016, Keeley has brought together Israeli and Palestinian women for photo workshops at the Roots Center on Israel’s West Bank.

The Roots Center was founded by a Palestinian peace activist and two rabbis for the purposes of promoting dialogue and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians who live in neighboring towns and villages. Saskia’s workshops provide an opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian women to have real contact with one another through a personal interaction. After each session, the participants bring the cameras home to photograph details of their life settings. The objective is for them to capture specific moments that are special and meaningful to them

In between sessions during a recent workshop, a threatening post on Facebook denounced the Palestinian coordinator for his connection to Roots, calling him an instigator and a “Jew collaborator.” The escalating provocations and threats caused great distress and the Palestinian participants were too scared to return. Saskia retrieved the cameras that had been in the women’s homes for 48 hours.

Out of fear of reprisal for this brief encounter with the Israelis, half of the Palestinian women had erased all the images from the memory cards. But in one of the cameras, the anonymous photographer captured the setting she saw a few days prior in the workshop, in the Havdalah photo. From memory, she replicated the image in all of its aspects: subject matter, emotion, and composition. The result is a similar moment in an Israeli home and a Palestinian one.

About the Artist: Saskia Bory Keeley is a Swiss photographer, educated at Geneva University, Sotheby’s, and the New Academy for Art Studies in London. She trained at the International Center for Photography in New York City and is enrolled in the Interspiritual Counseling Program (ISC), a 3-year training at the leading edge of the newly emergent field of Interspiritual Counseling (One Spirit Learning Alliance—NYC).

Saskia runs the Accompagnateur Workshops, photography workshops in which participants unpack decades of fear and bias through the simple yet profound acts of looking and listening. She is exploring where these workshops can be helpful in global conversations toward peace and coexistence (working with NGOs like Roots and Taghyeer in the West Bank) and within divided communities (collaborating with NGOs like Pico Union Project in Los Angeles and the Women’s Prison Association in New York City).

 

Founded in 2006, the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program focuses on cutting edge work in dispute systems design, negotiation, mediation, and facilitation.

Our clients are U.S.-based and international and include private corporations, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and community groups. Our students develop critical problem-solving skills, apply theory to practice, and deliver tailored conflict management solutions to our clients.

‘October Massacre’ victims’ trial highlights traumas in Bolivia

via PRI

by Elana Gordon

Eloy Rojas Mamani, right, gestures towards his wife Etelvina Ramos Mamani, while attorneys stand next to and behind them

Eloy Rojas Mamani, right, gestures toward his wife Etelvina Ramos Mamani, as they speak during a news conference after leaving the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, in Miami, Nov. 19, 2019.
Credit:
Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo

The night before she boarded a plane to the United States last month, Etelvina Ramos Mamani awoke from a terrible dream.

“I saw Marlene,” she said, referring to her 8-year-old daughter. The girl was killed more than a decade ago, on Sept. 20, 2003, by a single bullet through the chest. It had strayed through their bedroom window in their hometown, Warisata, a rural village in Bolivia’s highlands, north of the capital, and pierced the wall behind her.

This dream was difficult for her mother to talk about.

It’s these painful memories that prompted Etelvina and her husband, Eloy Rojas Mamani, to board a plane for Miami the next day. They were on their way to attend a court hearing — the latest chapter in their yearslong quest to seek justice for their daughter’s killing. Their lawyers were asking an appeals court to restore a landmark, $10 million jury verdict against Bolivia’s former president and defense minister over killings that took place during a 2003 period of unrest known as the “October Massacre,” part of Bolivia’s “Gas War.” A lower court judge has overturned last year’s verdict, saying there was insufficient evidence to hold them liable.

But the Mamanis have promised they won’t give up.

Memories of the tragedy still consume them. Etelvina said her daughter was “muy cariñoso,” or affectionate, that she liked to read and was helpful around the house.

The couple, along with seven other Bolivian families, has waged a lengthy legal battle against Bolivia’s former leaders, ex-President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and former defense minister Jose Carlos Sanchez Berzain, who are accused of planning and ordering security forces to use deadly military force against unarmed civilians, including Marlene. In total, security forces killed at least 58 people and injured more than 400, according to court documents — almost all of them from Indigenous communities.

More than 16 years later, tensions between Bolivia’s Indigenous groups and elite ruling class remain unresolved. The country was plunged into turmoil this fall during its presidential elections. Former Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was the country’s first Indigenous leader, was forced to resign and went into exile — first in Mexico, then in Argentina, where he was granted refugee status last week. Conservative interim President Jeanine Añez stepped into the void and shifted foreign and domestic policy to the right, ordering a crackdown on pro-Morales supporters during which at least 33 people have been killed. On Wednesday, Bolivian prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Morales, accusing him of promoting violence.

Eloy said the traumas of the past are connected to the unrest of the present day.

“It’s the same roots,” he said.

Never could the couple have imagined their daughter’s case would take more than a decade of work.

Etelvina Ramos Mamani (right) and Eloy Rojas Mamani (left) sit together in front of a white wall

Etelvina Ramos Mamani and Eloy Rojas Mamani spoke with The World in Boston, after meeting with lawyers from Harvard’s International Human Rights Law Clinic.
Credit:
Elana Gordon/The World

The long road to justice

The Mamanis’ journey to the Miami courtroom began years ago, in the rural highlands where members of the Indigenous Aymara community live.

“[An] Aymara is a person who lives in the countryside, working in the field,” Eloy told The World.

Both husband and wife were orphans and married by age 20, starting a family of their own. Eloy said he dreamed of getting a degree to teach, but did not have the opportunity. The Aymara community lacked government representation for a very long time, too.

“I am indigenous. Sincerely it bothers me that Indigenous people have not been given any value. That Indigenous people could have been discriminated against. That Indigenous people did not have any rights.”

Eloy Mamani

“I am indigenous,” Eloy said. “Sincerely it bothers me that Indigenous people have not been given any value. That Indigenous people could have been discriminated against. That Indigenous people did not have any rights.”

Then, in 2003, Bolivia was roiled by protests, strikes and roadblocks mounted in response to the government’s economic policies, especially a proposal to export natural gas that the protesters said exploited their natural resources. Then-President Sánchez de Lozada responded by deploying the military to the area where the protests took place, including in Warisata, where Eloy and Etelvina lived.

Eloy said he and others ran into the forest to hide, believing that men were being targeted.

In the end, government forces killed at least 58 throughout Bolivia during the crackdown, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the US case. That included 8-year-old Marlene.

Etelvina said her daughter died in her arms. “It has left me traumatized,” she said.

After the deaths, Etelvina, Eloy and others in their town marched for three days, Eloy said, until they reached the presidential palace in Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, to call for Sánchez de Lozada’s resignation.

“Almost the entire city of La Paz mobilized,” he said. More provinces joined in.

Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzain were forced to resign and fled to the US, where they still live today. But the Bolivian government waived their immunity, which the US State Department accepted. It paved the way for the Mamanis to sue Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzain in the US under the Torture Victim Protection Act, a federal statute that allows crime victims to sue for extrajudicial killings that took place in their home countries.

The civil lawsuit charges Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzain with “extrajudicial killings, crimes against humanity, and wrongful death.”

The act has been used several times against government officials. But what makes the Mamanis’ case unique, according to their lawyers at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program, is that it involves a living former head of state, sitting in the same courtroom with his accusers.

“If we win, good. If we don’t win, fine. But we have to take the risk,” Eloy told The World.

First filed in 2007, the lawsuit has been long and messy, full of motions to dismiss, appeals and delays.

Closure for the Mamanis appeared within reach last year, when a jury unanimously voted in their favor. A judge overturned the decision. So the Mamanis appealed, bringing them and the former leaders to the 11th circuit court of appeals in Miami, Florida, last month.

Dressed in suits and ties, the Mamanis entered the Miami court on Nov. 19, in traditional Aymara clothing. Etelvina wore a colorful pollera, or skirt.

James Tysse, a pro bono lawyer for the Mamanis, argued before the three-judge panel that the ex-president and defense minister ordered the shooting of the civilians.

“These deaths are the result of essentially widespread killings by soldiers who were ordered to shoot at anything that moves. They were even ordered to shoot at unarmed civilians below the belt.”

Justin Tysse, lawyer for the Mamanis

“These deaths are the result of essentially widespread killings by soldiers who were ordered to shoot at anything that moves. They were even ordered to shoot at unarmed civilians below the belt,” Tysse told the judges.

Stephen Raber, the defense lawyer, told The World there is “no evidence” his clients could be held responsible under the Torture Victim Protection Act.

“The facts alleged in the original complaint did not meet the test for extrajudicial killing,” he told the judges.

Raber argued the killings happened during a chaotic time in Bolivia, which the president and his defense minister were trying to manage and keep secure.

“Ordering the mobilization of a joint police force in a military operation is not an extrajudicial killing. Authorizing the use of necessary force to re-establish public order is not an extrajudicial killing,” he told the judges.

“It’s just obvious that all of us are going to have to read the record with a fine-toothed comb because you’re in total disagreement on the facts,” Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat said.

‘We can’t rest. We won’t tire.’

The hearing lasted less than an hour. The parties now await the judges’ ruling.

Eloy and Etelvina now wait in Bolivia, returning to a country that once again is in turmoil.

At least 33 people were killed since the Oct. 20 election, and last month, the head of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommended the country bring in outside investigators to assess human rights violations.

Meanwhile, Eloy said he and Etelvina would keep pursuing their daughter’s case to the end.

Justice, he said, means breaking the vicious cycle of governments killing its own civilians, and sending a message around the world that it won’t be tolerated.

“We can’t rest,” he said. “We won’t tire.”

Congratulations To The 2020 Skadden Fellows

via Above The Law

by David Lat

Text on the window of a building written 'Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP'

Credit: David Lat

The holiday season is an opportune time to think not just about Biglaw bonuses, Christmas parties, and vacations, but also about the less fortunate. It’s a time to be thankful for our blessings, but also to share those blessings with others.

So it’s appropriate that this time every year is when we learn about the latest class of Skadden Fellows. As we’ve explained in the past, these prestigious fellowships, “the public-interest world’s version of Supreme Court clerkships or Rhodes Scholarships,” allow their recipients to pursue public interest work on a full-time basis for two years.

Skadden Arps started the program in 1988 to commemorate its 40th anniversary as a law firm, and in honor of the firm’s 70th anniversary in 2018, it extended the program for another decade. According to Kathleen Rubenstein, who took over as executive director of the Skadden Foundation earlier this year from longtime executive director Susan Butler Plum, this latest crop of 28 new fellows will take the total number of fellows to 877 in just over three decades.

When I spoke with Plum last year about the selection process for fellows and their projects, she told me, “We try to stay away from what’s sexy and what’s hot. We focus on the work. Nobody knows what the clients need better than the applicants, because they’ve worked closely with the agencies in developing their proposed projects.”

That said, there’s no denying that the fellows and their projects will reflect current events to some degree. So it should come as no surprise that several of the new fellows will be focusing their work on immigration and on serving immigrant communities. In a piece about the new Skadden Fellows for Big Law Business, Elizabeth Olson shines the spotlight on two such fellows — Juan Bedoya of NYU Law School and Iva Velickovic of Yale Law School — both the children of immigrants themselves.

Congratulations to Bedoya, Velickovic, and the 26 other deserving recipients and thank you for the work that you already have done — and will do, as Skadden Fellows — in service of the public interest.

Here are three lists. The first shows the schools that have sent the most graduates into Skadden Fellowships for the past 12 years (fellowship classes 2009 to 2020). The top four remain unchanged from last year, but this year, with an impressive showing of three fellows, UCLA bumped Penn Carey Law Penn Law out of fifth place.

The second list shows all law schools that have sent graduates into Skadden Fellowships for the same period. The third shows the 2020 Skadden Fellows and the organizations they’ll be working for.

Again, congratulations to the 28 new Skadden Fellows, their 14 law schools, and their sponsoring organizations.

LAW SCHOOLS WITH THE MOST SKADDEN FELLOWS (2009-2020 FELLOWSHIP CLASSES)

1. Harvard – 59
2. Yale – 46
3. NYU – 32
4. Stanford – 21
5. UCLA – 17

LAW SCHOOLS WITH SKADDEN FELLOWS (2009-2020 FELLOWSHIP CLASSES)

American University – 4
Boston College – 2
Boston University – 1
Chicago – Kent – 1
City University of New York – 8
Columbia – 12
Denver – 1
DePaul – 3
Duke – 4
Fordham – 4
Georgetown – 12
GW – 1
Harvard – 59
Howard – 1
Indiana – 1
John Marshall (Chicago) – 1
Loyola (Los Angeles) – 2
Michigan State – 3
Northeastern – 6
Northwestern – 4
NYU – 32
Roger Williams – 1
Rutgers – 3
Seattle – 1
Stanford – 21
Suffolk – 1
Tulane – 1
University of Arkansas – 1
UC Berkeley/Boalt Hall – 12
UC Davis – 1
UC Irvine – 2
UCLA – 17
U. Chicago – 8
University of Connecticut – 2
University of Illinois – 1
University of Maryland – 3
University of Miami – 1
University of Michigan – 15
U. Penn. – 16
University of Texas – 2
University of Tulsa – 1
UVA – 5
University of Washington – 1
University of Wisconsin – 1
Valparaiso – 1
Vanderbilt – 4
Villanova – 1
Washington & Lee – 2
Wash U. – 3
Wayne State – 1
West Virginia – 1
Widener – 1
William & Mary – 1
William Mitchell – 1
Yale – 46

TOTAL: 341

SKADDEN FOUNDATION — 2020 SKADDEN FELLOWS

Esther Araya
Yale Law School
Kids in Need of Defense
Washington, DC
Will identify, represent, and promote access to support services for unaccompanied children subjected to mistreatment, due process violations, and/or abuse in U.S. custody.

Eric Baudry
Yale Law School
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
Minneapolis, MN
Will provide direct representation through IRS administrative proceedings of misclassified, low-income Minnesota workers, and coalition building to provide both relief from the negative economic consequences of misclassification and also access to the full range of employment benefits and protections.

Juan Bedoya
New York University School of Law
Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project
Boston, MA
Will provide comprehensive civil legal services for pregnant and parenting immigrants. Will support family unity and stability by providing legal support in child-welfare, education, housing, and public benefits.

Jordan Berger
New York University School of Law
National Center for Law and Economic Justice
New York, NY
Will provide direct representation, policy advocacy, impact litigation, and collaboration with local Social Services Districts in New York State, to achieve systemic reform that protects the rights of people with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness in accessing public benefits.

Alexis Christensen
Georgetown University Law Center
Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
Washington, DC
Will establish a new project based at the DC Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) to provide same-day, on-site advice, and extended representation to low-income clients who are challenging denials, terminations, or reductions in safety net benefits.

Maia Cole
New York University School of Law
Brooklyn Defender Services
Brooklyn, NY
Will provide representation to NYCHA residents facing permanent exclusion from public housing, or seeking to lift a permanent exclusion. Also will develop community education materials and bring affirmative litigation challenging NYCHA’s unjust and illegal practices.

D’Laney Gielow
Yale Law School
Legal Aid Chicago
Chicago, IL
Will revitalize the legal requirement that child welfare agencies make “reasonable efforts” to keep families intact.

Elizabeth Gyori
Harvard Law School
Legal Services NYC, Tenants Rights Coalition
New York, NY
Will vindicate the rights of NYCHA tenants, including those facing privatization of their units under the new Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, through direct representation, affirmative litigation, and policy advocacy.

Emma Halas-O’Connor
Northeastern University School of Law
Pine Tree Legal Assistance
Portland, ME
Will ensure that low-income tenants in rural Southern Maine have safe and affordable housing conditions by representing them in affirmative warranty of habitability actions.

John He
University of Michigan Law School
Public Justice Foundation
Oakland, CA
Will combat the imposition and collection of excessive criminal justice fines and fees through legal outreach, impact litigation, and advocacy.

Carly Hite
Stanford Law School
Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo
Buffalo, NY
Will provide direct representation and policy advocacy to reduce the number of Buffalo Public Schools students with disabilities who are suspended. Will advocate for an integrated suspension diversion program.

Ruby Kish
Rutgers University School of Law
Advocates for Children of New Jersey
Newark, NJ
Provide direct legal representation to youth with disabilities involved in New Jersey’s juvenile justice system in matters related to education, allowing them to successfully return to their communities.

Vail Kohnert-Yount
Harvard Law School
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
Brownsville, TX
Will provide comprehensive legal services for low-income workers who have experienced workplace abuse or labor exploitation.

Lauren Koster
Boston College Law School
Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
Lynn, MA
Will provide individualized, comprehensive legal representation for children in foster care with a special focus on ensuring their educational stability and academic achievement, particularly during times of crisis.

Stephano Medina
University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
Eviction Defense Network
Los Angeles, CA
Will provide direct representation of individuals, community organizations, and coalitions in Los Angeles’ low-income communities of color seeking to fight gentrification and assert their land use rights in the City’s Community Plan Updates, a program which aims to rewrite the local zoning regulations and set the framework for future development in gentrifying communities.

Mariel Mussack
University of Pennsylvania Law School
Justice at Work
Philadelphia, PA
Will address the unique legal needs of workers recruited through temporary labor migration programs, including administrative advocacy, civil litigation, and U & T visas.

Eliana Navarro Gracian
University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
Migrant and Immigrant Community Action (MICA) Project
St. Louis, MO
Will provide holistic legal representation and community-based legal education to support U.S. citizen children living in St. Louis and the surrounding rural areas who are separated from their parents as a result of immigration enforcement.

Jared Odessky
Harvard Law School
Legal Aid at Work
San Francisco, CA
Will provide direct representation and community education to support low-wage LGBTQ workers in Fresno County and Tulare County California facing discrimination, harassment, and other work-related issues.

Emanuel Powell
Harvard Law School
ArchCity Defenders
St. Louis, MO
Will enforce Missouri public records laws, impact litigation, community-driven policy advocacy, and pro se tool creation to support the surviving family members of people killed by the police.

Iva Velickovic
Yale Law School
Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network
Westminster, CO
Will provide direct representation to immigrant children who have suffered abuse, neglect, or abandonment to provide stability and fulfill the promise of recently enacted state legislation.

Kelsey White
University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
Alliance for Children’s Rights
Los Angeles, CA
Will defend the education rights of low-income students of color with disabilities living in foster care, by providing comprehensive direct representation across special education, school discipline, and juvenile court settings.

Vic Wiener
University of Tulsa College of Law
Juvenile Law Center
Philadelphia, PA
Will mobilize communities to end the registration of youth as sex offenders through support and advocacy with individuals and families impacted by youth registration, utilizing a movement lawyering model. Will engage legal service providers to challenge barriers caused by registration.

Jesse Williams
Yale Law School
Legal Aid of North Carolina
Greenville, NC
Will combat land loss in rural North Carolina by directly representing poor, rural landholders — especially those from minority communities and those affected by hurricanes — in consumer debt and property matters; pursuing impact litigation to expand protections for such individuals; and building lasting networks for legal support.

Sam Williamson
University of Maryland School of Law
Homeless Persons Representation Project
Baltimore, MD
Will eliminate barriers to housing, employment, safety, and stability for LGBTQ homeless youth by providing LGBTQ-focused outreach and representation in shelter grievances, discrimination cases, public benefits appeals, criminal record expungements, and petitions to change legal names and gender markers.

Emily Wilson
William & Mary Law School
Equip for Equality
Chicago, IL
Will provide direct representation for transition-age students with disabilities to ensure students receive appropriate transition planning and services that address independent living, education, and employment, in order to improve post-secondary outcomes.

Kath Xu
Yale Law School
American Civil Liberties Union – Women’s Rights Project
New York, NY
Will challenge the use of predictive analytics in the child welfare system through impact litigation, community outreach education, and policy advocacy.

Larisa Zehr
Northeastern University School of Law
Legal Aid Justice Center
Falls Church, VA
Will use individual representation, impact litigation, community education, and policy advocacy to prevent eviction and displacement of low-income Latinx immigrant communities.

Allison Zimmer
New York University School of Law
Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights
New Orleans, LA
Will provide direct representation and policy advocacy to protect the special education rights of New Orleans youth during juvenile incarceration and the transition back into the city’s 100% charter school system.

OCP Welcomes Olivia Klein

Profile photo of Olivia Klein in front of a red brick wall.

 

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs is excited to welcome Olivia Klein as Coordinator!

Olivia initially joined the OCP team in June of 2019 as an intern and has remained with the office throughout the fall. She graduated from Simmons University this December with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Business Management. During her time at Simmons University, Olivia was a Writing Assistant for the Writing Center, where she assisted students in first-year writing seminar classes, and was also a tour guide and orientation leader. Previously, Olivia worked with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as a Development Intern, where she created and maintained donor records using The Raiser’s Edge database and assisted with indexing and museum events. Olivia also completed editorial, marketing, sales, operations, and data management projects in her role as Editorial Intern at De Gruyter Inc.

Facial Recognition Laws Are (Literally) All Over the Map

via Wired

By Susan Crawford

Birds eye view of a large city in black and white, showing streets and cars.

Credit: Diane Bentley Raymond/Getty Images

The current state of rules for use of facial recognition technology is literally all over the map. Next month, the city council in Portland, Oregon will hold a public meeting about blocking use of the technology by private companies, as well as by the government. San Francisco, Oakland, Calfornia, and Somerville, Massachusetts, already have banned the use of facial recognition technology by city agencies; Seattle’s police stopped using it last year; and Detroit has said facial recognition can be used only in connection with investigation of violent crimes and home invasions (and not in real time).

State governments have their own rules too. In October, California joined New Hampshire and Oregon in prohibiting law enforcement from using facial recognition and other biometric tracking technology in body cameras. Illinois passed a law that permits individuals to sue over the collection and use of a range of biometric data, including fingerprints and retinal scans as well as facial recognition technology. Washington and Texas have laws similar to the one in Illinois, but don’t allow for private suits.

In other words, we’re headed for a major clash. The potential benefits of facial recognition, and biometric data generally, are just too great for governments and corporations to pass up. Existing bans of public-sector use that are based on its present, inaccurate, and discriminatory implementations likely won’t be sustainable long-term as the technology improves. At the same time, completely unfettered use of private biometric systems seems incompatible with American values. We’re not China, or at least not yet.

This situation is crying out for policy development: Government needs to act to determine where the lines of appropriate use should be drawn. This is not likely to happen on the federal level, though, anytime soon: Even as pressure from activists builds, Congress has so far been unable to pass even a basic federal online privacy law; this month’s House Oversight Committee hearing on facial recognition has just been punted to next year. (A proposed bipartisan bill to constrain the use of the technology by federal law enforcement officers would address just a sliver of the issues raised by the use of biometric identifiers.) That leaves the issues to be worked out in different ways in different places, as a patchwork of local laws. Tech and telecom companies often moan about just this sort of outcome, complaining that it makes compliance difficult and drives up production costs—but in this case, it’s a good thing.

When federal policy is absent, ham-handed, or hopelessly captured by industry, local governments can act as testing grounds for new ideas, providing proof that the status quo can change. This is not a new idea: As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in 1932, a “state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” That approach—of using local laws as laboratory trials—worked when it came to spreading the power grid across the country. States and localities led the way in making electricity a publicly governed utility. The same thing happened in health care: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has said that “without Romneycare [in Massachusetts] we wouldn’t have had Obamacare.”

The patchwork can work for tech too. In October, the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia circuit issued a 186-page opinion allowing states to continue to impose their own “open internet” laws and executive orders in the absence of any federal regulation of high-speed internet access. As telecom commentator Harold Feld wrote, this gives the industry “significant incentive to stop fooling around and offer real concessions to get some sort of federal law on the books.” In other words, the patchwork is usefully painful for companies: The agony stimulates them to come to the table.

Similarly, as I described earlier this year in my book, Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution―and Why America Might Miss It, hundreds of cities and localities across the country have taken their destinies into their own hands by calling for the construction of fiber-optic internet access networks. They’re not waiting for the federal government to act to make world-class fiber a basic element of a thriving life. Instead, the cheap, ubiquitous, reasonably priced public option that cities have been pushing will—someday—shame national policymakers into action. It’s clearly possible to have sensible communications policy, but it takes action at the local level to

So we should be glad to have all these local takes on the ethics of biometric data use. Thank goodness that Somerville, with its public sector ban, applies a different logic than, say, Plano Texas, which has enthusiastically adopted facial recognition technology with little public oversight. Thank goodness Portland is looking at a wholesale ban on commercial facial recognition technology within its borders. All of these places can do the hard work of figuring out where use of facial recognition and other biometric data by either private companies or public bodies is unethical, inappropriate, or immoral.

As more Somervilles, Planos, and Portlands decide on their different approaches to biometric identifiers, the public will continue to focus on this issue—and that will keep the pressure on both companies and government to reach a much-needed, national consensus on the use of biometric data. The hope is that someday, when all the good arguments are on the table and the pain of vendor compliance with a continued patchwork is too great to bear, the federal government will be shamed by the existence of good local laboratory test cases into adopting strong, basic rules for data use.

These might include: sharply constraining real-time use (as opposed to forensic or investigative use with a warrant in the criminal justice system) of biometrics for any purpose; permitting easy opt-outs from the use of biometric data for commercial purposes; greatly limiting the retention of all biometric data; requiring continued, intrusive auditing of (and public reporting about) the use of biometric data by both companies and government; swiftly punishing misuse of this data; and prohibiting biometric use in particular contexts that are prone to discriminatory activities, such as selecting people for particular jobs, insuring them, or admitting them to educational programs. That list is just a start. We have a great deal of policy work to do.

If we end up with sensible national policies constraining the use of biometric data—which is by no means certain—it will largely be thanks to the role of local government in America.

Why Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting Could Go National

A voting ballot it spread out neatly on a table, with a pen to the left.

Set of voting ballot ready to be send.

Via Campaigns & Elections

By Peter Brann

For many years, Maine’s gubernatorial election was held in the September of presidential election years. That made it a bellwether for the subsequent presidential election two months later — leading to the phrase, “As Maine goes, so goes the nation.”

Maine no longer conducts its gubernatorial election in September or even in presidential years. But Maine has taken the lead in a new way. In 2018, Maine became the first state in the country to conduct federal congressional elections using ranked-choice voting. Our experience shows that voters can and will embrace new ways of conducting elections, which could help improve voter turnout.

Indeed, Maine saw more than 47 percent of its eligible voters cast ballots in the first general election using ranked-choice voting — a half-century high for midterm elections and substantially higher than the national average.

For instance, in Maine’s second congressional district, incumbent Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin won a plurality, but not a majority, of the first-choice votes in the 2018 general election. When the lower-ranked candidates were eliminated and their second-choice selections were counted, Democrat Jared Golden won a majority of the votes and was declared the winner.

As the lawyer who successfully defended Golden in the federal constitutional challenge to his election, I believe that Maine could be the ranked-choice voting bellwether for other states. The 2018 election proved that it not only works quite well, but that it is court-tested.

Historically, court challenges to ranked-choice voting almost always fail and the same held true in Maine. In the three state court and two federal court challenges to ranked-choice voting the courts rejected every constitutional and statutory objection to its use in congressional elections, and its use in state primary elections.

This includes equal protection, due process, free speech, freedom of association, the constitutional provisions concerning congressional selection and qualifications, and the Voting Rights Act. In other states that have adopted ranked-choice voting for various local elections, every single court challenge likewise has failed.

In the specific federal court challenge brought by Poliquin and his supporters, they didn’t produce evidence of a single voter who was confused by the process. Probably that’s because ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, is simple to describe.

In a multi-candidate race, voters have the option to rank their choices from first to last. Or they just vote for one candidate or rank just some of the choices. If anyone wins a majority on the first round, that candidate wins the election. If no one wins a majority, the lower-ranked candidates are eliminated, and their voters’ lower-ranked choices are counted, and this process continues until someone wins a majority.

Maine is a good petri dish to test the efficacy of ranked-choice voting given its rich history of electing independent or third-party candidates. One of Maine’s two senators is an independent. In three gubernatorial elections since 1974, independent candidates have defeated both major party candidates. In virtually every other gubernatorial election since 1974, independent candidates have either finished second or been the margin of difference between the two major-party candidates.

Even though other states don’t have this tradition, every state holds multi-candidate local or primary elections that might benefit from ranked-choice voting. In most elections, the winning candidate is the one who wins a plurality of the votes, even if a majority prefers someone else. In multi-candidate elections, a small base of dedicated followers often is a winning strategy over a broad base of lukewarm supporters. Voters are discouraged from voting for “spoiler” candidates who are unlikely to win, and instead, are encouraged to vote for the “lesser of two evils.”

In the second most popular form of elections, separate run-off elections, the top-two finishers in a multi-candidate race face off if no one wins outright in the first round. The major objections to this form are the cost and delay of holding a second election and the usual drop in voter turnout for the run-off election. Also, “I wish there were another month of political ads,” said no voter ever.

Ranked-choice voting has been billed as a panacea for all of these evils. I must confess that I was skeptical at first, thinking that it would appeal only to political junkies and political scientists, but no one else. In the various primary and general multi-candidate elections held in Maine in 2018, the ranked-choice voting process actually worked quite smoothly. The election officials collected the relevant ballots from across the state, fed them into a computer, and winners were declared with a push of a button, all within a couple of weeks of election day.

When Maine voters were given the opportunity in 2018 through public referendum to repeal ranked-choice voting, they rejected the referendum by a fairly wide margin. Maine voters appear to understand and like ranked-choice voting.

So, what’s not to like? Maine’s state motto is Dirigo, which means, “I lead.” Perhaps one again, as Maine goes, so goes the nation.

Peter Brann is a Maine lawyer and visiting lecturer at Harvard Law School. He defended the winning candidate in a federal lawsuit challenging the use for the first time of ranked-choice voting in a congressional general election and wrote the chapter on ranked-choice voting for the American Bar Association’s election law book.

Human rights seminar tackles barriers to women’s leadership

Via Harvard Law Today

By Dana Walters

Susan Farbstein sits to the left at the head of a conference table, hands gesturing, as she speaks to a table of studentss

Credit: Lorin Granger

Susan Farbstein ’04, clinical professor of law and co-director of the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), stands with chalk in hand under a blackboard bearing the word “inspirational.” For the third session of “Human Rights Careers: Strategic Leadership Workshop,” Farbstein has kicked off the discussion by asking students to identify qualities of effective leaders. Adjectives like “empathetic” and “selfless” are enthusiastically shouted across the room.

Throughout the conversation, students are outspoken about considering words like “nurturing”—often traditionally associated with women—along with words like “assertive” and “decisive”—characteristics traditionally coded as masculine, according to “What Makes a Leader?”, an article assigned for class that day. With Farbstein at the helm, the seminar aims to accomplish two goals: to explore the strategic considerations critical to protecting and promoting human rights across the globe, and to investigate the barriers that women face in professional settings, especially in the human rights field.

“The further along I’ve advanced in my profession, the more I’ve become aware of the ways that one’s identity can be both a huge benefit and a huge obstacle,” Farbstein said. Over a 15-year career, she has practiced and taught in the areas of transitional justice, accountability litigation, community lawyering, and economic, social, and cultural rights. Now after working her way into a leadership position at Harvard Law School, she is “trying to make a small intervention for a necessary discussion,” she says. “I want to create space for a conversation that I wish had been taking place more often when I was in law school.”

Alongside Salomé Gómez Upegui LL.M. ’18 and current S.J.D. student Regina Larrea Maccise, Farbstein curated materials on women’s leadership and considered how this topic might be integrated into existing elements of an International Human Rights Clinic seminar, “Advanced Skills Training for Human Rights Advocacy.” Farbstein previously co-taught the class with Tyler GianniniHuman Rights Program and clinic co-director and clinical professor of law. Scenarios and readings in the seminar enable students to target entrenched, structural challenges—inequality, corporate power, climate change—as they prepare to enter the workplace after graduation. The seminar has changed frequently over the years, with students’ interests informing the direction of the class. Throughout, Farbstein and Giannini have always asked students to consider leadership and its interaction with identity.

Over the last year, however, Farbstein realized that she wanted to focus more deeply on the issue of women’s leadership. “It’s so clear from a variety of recent events and public conversations—around unconscious bias, the #MeToo movement, the Kavanaugh hearings, the electability of a woman as president—that we’re struggling with how to achieve true gender parity in our society, including in the workplace,” said Farbstein. “I wanted to do something to respond to this particular moment by bringing those conversations very thoughtfully and intentionally into the classroom and into a field—human rights—where my students aspire to build their careers.”

Susan Farbstein stands in front of a black board, writing the word 'inspiration' in white chalk

Credit: Emma Golding

For the third session of “Human Rights Careers: Strategic Leadership Workshop,” Farbstein kicked off the discussion by asking students to identify qualities of effective leaders.

Farbstein worked with Gómez Upegui and Larrea Maccise to develop four new sessions for the advanced seminar. An introductory session frames the idea of women’s leadership using an intersectional lens, while later classes dissect themes like workplace culture, bias and stereotypes, harassment, and microaggressions within institutional and human rights contexts.

In the first of these four new sessions, Farbstein assigned readings that address the grim statistics around harassment, diversity, and bias. McKinsey’s 2018 Women in the Workplace review, for instance, describes how microaggressions impact a woman’s ability to function in the workplace, with 40 percent of black women surveyed indicating that colleagues routinely question their judgment in their areas of expertise. A Forbes piece on the widespread gender bias faced by female lawyers notes that male law firm partners earn 44 percent more than female partners and that women are more likely to be interrupted when speaking, including at the Supreme Court, where nearly 66 percent of all interruptions are directed at the three female justices.

“To be a working woman is always an act of rebellion,” said Fabiola Alvelais ’20 in response, reflecting on the ways the system simply fails to support professional women.

Beyond exposing the sheer scale of the problem, the statistics serve an additional purpose: They allow Farbstein to engage with her class’s needs and approach the material flexibly, depending on students’ comfort levels. “If they need to stay at a general and abstract level, the numbers are there for them to discuss and reflect on. And if they are comfortable going deeper, which they have been, it gives students who have experienced or encountered gender discrimination in some form the feeling that they’re not the only one out there,” Farbstein said. The statistics hold personal stories within them.

Farbstein’s classroom has a casual intimacy. In part, this is a result of the relaxed tone that she sets and the deep bonds that she develops with her students. The International Human Rights Clinic itself has a community-oriented spirit, and students in the advanced seminar have all spent at least one, and often several, prior semesters together, working on clinical teams or in introductory advocacy seminars.

(From left to right) Fabiola Alvelais ’20, Jillian Rafferty ’20 and Daniel Moubayed ’20 sit in a classroom in front of a blackboard while Rafferty speaks.

Credit: Emma Golding. Students in “Human Rights Careers” describe Farbstein as a professor who fosters an inclusive and comfortable environment. From left: Fabiola Alvelais ’20, Jillian Rafferty ’20 and Daniel Moubayed ’20.

Students in “Human Rights Careers” describe Farbstein as a professor who fosters an inclusive and comfortable environment. From left: Fabiola Alvelais ’20, Jillian Rafferty ’20 and Daniel Moubayed ’20.

Student Monica Sharma ’20 echoed many of the same words her classmates used to define good leadership when asked to describe Farbstein, in particular noting the way she actively listens to students and lets discussions evolve naturally. Sharma described the advanced seminar as unique, a place where one can formally “consider your power as a Harvard student or as a lawyer.” The discussion, while academic, is inclusive and comfortable, allowing students to draw on their own experiences as well as the readings.

“When you’re talking about ethics or morality, personal narrative comes into play,” Sharma said. “We like to dissociate the law from human experience in a lot of ways, but this class helps you to confront both as they exist in reality and in your work.”

Early in the semester, student Daniel Moubayed ’20 had already found it personally enriching to be brought into the conversation on women’s leadership. “Too often those conversations happen in informal environments. It’s critical that we’re doing this inside the classroom and in a professional setting with a cross section of students,” he said.

In her own teaching, Farbstein seamlessly integrates legal expertise with lived experience. She recognizes that students are not blank slates: they have histories and subjective perspectives that contribute to the debate.

“Part of being a good human rights practitioner is sometimes being vulnerable, drawing on your own life experiences without prejudging the experiences of others, and engaging with the emotions that people carry with them,” Farbstein said. She added, “It’s good practice for students to consider: what is your comfort level when you start to enter this kind of territory?”

For Gómez Upegui, the work she did with Farbstein demonstrated how endemic and culturally rooted the difficulties are, creating situations in which women are dispersed across organizations, lack support networks, and are isolated as they attempt to confront significant challenges.

Still, the breadth of research did not adequately address the marginalization Gómez Upegui, who is Colombian, has witnessed in the legal and human rights fields. “There’s a tremendous lack of intersectional content out there,” she said. “We found endless amounts of work in the business sector and much in the corporate law sector within a white feminist context. Once we narrowed to look at the human rights and social justice fields, the literature winnowed. And we had to fight to find research addressing the lives of women of color or women of low socioeconomic status.”

Susan Farbstein sits at the head of conference table along with three students

Credit: Lorin Granger

“These students are each going to be leaders in their own way, and I can already see our conversations informing their decisions and actions,” said Farbstein (center). “Hopefully they will be inspired, and also better equipped, to create more opportunities for women leaders in human rights, and in the legal profession more broadly.”

In addition to the seminar, Farbstein is leading a project in the clinic that investigates gender equity in the human rights field. The team aims to unpack the barriers women human rights advocates face in their professional advancement. Over the course of the year, they will interview a variety of practitioners to provide qualitative evidence to support their findings.

Sharma, who is also a member of Farbstein’s project team, said that engaging with the movement on a self-referential level was vital. She noted that the way lawyers jump to find remedies can often lead to institutional and systemic problems.

Reflecting on the larger importance of the clinical project, Sharma said, “Sometimes in human rights, there is an idea that you sacrifice yourself to the work. Things get lost in the drive to fulfill the mission. It’s important to take a good look and ask, ‘Do organizations practice as they preach?’ I really believe that if you make an atmosphere supportive and encourage diversity of thought, then the work itself will be better.”

The clinical team has already identified factors that may impede gender equity in the human rights field—from the tightly-knit network of practitioners and organizations, to the notion that this is already a progressive space, to a mission-driven “martyr” culture that fosters a sense of selfless dedication to the cause. These initial ideas have, in turn, found their way into the classroom as students consider such obstacles as well as potential strategies to overcome them.

Farbstein hopes that her seminar will help students imagine the kinds of leaders they want to become. “Human rights practitioners talk a lot about how to make the movement more effective and inclusive, but this class is a very concrete step in the right direction,” she said. “These students are each going to be leaders in their own way, and I can already see our conversations informing their decisions and actions. Hopefully they will be inspired, and also better equipped, to create more opportunities for women leaders in human rights, and in the legal profession more broadly.”

Clinic Files Law Scholar Briefs, Supporting Public.Resource.Org

via Cyberlaw Clinic

On Friday, November 22, 2019, the Cyberlaw Clinic and local counsel Marcia Hofmann filed amicus briefs in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in two related cases, ASTM v. Public.Resource.Org (.pdf), and AERA v. Public.Resource.Org (.pdf). The cases involve copyright infringement claims brought by standards development organizations (SDOs) against Public.Resource.org. The cases are back before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The core issue in front of the Court is whether PRO’s provision of free online access to codes that were developed by the plaintiffs — but incorporated by reference into binding law — constitutes fair use.

The Clinic filed the amicus briefs on behalf of a group of law scholars (Ann Bartow, Brian Frye, Elizabeth Townsend Gard, James Gibson, Stacey M. Lantagne, Jessica Silbey, and Rebecca Tushnet), who assert that provision to the public of standards incorporated into law is permissible under the fair use doctrine. Fair use (embodied in Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act) must be understood in the light of the ultimate purpose of copyright, which is to benefit public welfare through the dissemination knowledge and ideas. Providing access to the content of our governing laws is fundamental to a just, democratic society and thus goes to the heart of the public interest that fair use seeks to promote.

The Clinic has filed amicus briefs supporting Public.Resource.org in prior stages of the case. In 2016, when the case was initially brought to the district court, the clinic filed two briefs on behalf of law scholars in ASTM v. Public.Resource.Org and AERA v. Public.Resource.Org. The clinic also filed an amicus brief on behalf of two members of Congress, Zoe Lofgren and Darrell Issa, after the two cases were consolidated on appeal.

Fall 2019 Cyberlaw Clinic students Katie Lin, Ari Sillman, and Elizabeth Strassner wrote this amicus brief with assistance from clinical supervisors Mason Kortz and Christopher Bavitz. The Clinic team also worked closely with Professor Rebecca Tushnet to develop arguments in the brief.

Image E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, courtesy Wikimedia user AgnosticPreachersKidCC BY-SA 3.0.

 

Where a Lawyer Makes All the Difference – And Only One Side Has One: Adjartey and the Urgent Need for Court Reform and a Right to Counsel in Eviction Cases

via Boston Bar Journal

by Esme Caramello, Joel Feldman, and Geraldine Gruvis-Pizarro

Each week, more than 750 tenants across Massachusetts face eviction in the courts of the Commonwealth. While the vast majority of landlords bringing eviction cases have counsel—almost 80% in the state’s Housing Courts last year—fewer than 9% of people faced with losing their homes have a lawyer to represent them. See Housing Court Department, Fiscal Year 2019 Statistics (2019). This disparity in access to counsel would create an unjust power imbalance in any legal setting. In the context of eviction cases, with their tight timelines and complicated procedural rules, the advantage that represented landlords enjoy over their unrepresented tenants is even more troubling.

In the summer of 2019, the Supreme Judicial Court took up this systemic inequality in Adjartey v. Central Division of the Housing Court Department481 Mass. 830 (2019). In a striking opinion on behalf of a unanimous Court, Chief Justice Gants reached far beyond the individual claims of the parties to describe an onerous summary process system and the barriers that pro se litigants face in trying to navigate it. In its breadth and detail, the opinion illustrates how “the complexity and speed of summary process cases can present formidable challenges to individuals facing eviction, particularly where those individuals are not represented by an attorney.” Id. at 831.

The decision makes a compelling case. Summary process is procedurally complex to begin with, id. at 834, and this complexity is “exacerbated by the web of applicable statutes and rules.” Id. at 837. The Uniform Summary Process Rules are just one part of the procedural maze. Id. at 836-37. The Rules of Civil Procedure also apply, but only sometimes, as do an array of statutes and standing orders. As the Court observed, “[d]eciding when to apply which of these rules—and how to resolve inconsistencies among them—is [a] formidable challenge for an unrepresented litigant seeking to comply with fast-moving deadlines, especially when that litigant is also facing the stress of a potential eviction.” Id. at 837.

Further complicating the task of the pro se litigant, the Court noted, is the speed at which a summary process case proceeds. Id. Once a case is filed, it is scheduled to go to trial on the first court date, just ten days later. Upon receipt of the Summons and Complaint, a tenant must figure out that an “answer” is required, and file and “serve” it, within a week after the case is filed. If she does not properly assert a “jury demand” in that answer, she waives her Constitutional right to trial by a jury of her peers. The tenant also must understand what “discovery requests” are and make sure her landlord receives them within that same short week. Overall, the time from service of process to judgment and execution can be as little as 19 days. Two business days later, a constable can remove the tenant from her home. As the Adjartey Court observed, “[t]he swiftness of this process … leaves little room for error.” Id. at 837.

As noted above, beyond the inherent complexity and speed of summary process, the vast majority of tenants are attempting to figure out the process on their own. In the words of the Court, “summary process cases are complex, fast-moving, and generally litigated by landlords who are represented by attorneys and tenants who are not.” Id. at 834. Because “in most cases, … the landlord has an attorney who understands how to navigate the eviction process and the tenant does not,” the system is not just out of reach for tenants, but also out of balance. Id. at 838. This imbalance presented an injustice the Adjartey Court could not ignore.

In an “Appendix” following the Adjartey decision, the Court attempted to gather, in one place, all the procedural laws governing summary process cases. Doing so took 35 slip opinion pages. While the Adjartey Appendix might be a useful primer on summary process for a lawyer or experienced advocate, it looks different from the perspective of a low-income mother with limited English proficiency and severe anxiety facing eviction. For her, and for most unrepresented tenants, the Appendix primarily highlights what the rest of the Adjartey decision implies: the eviction system is too hard to understand and navigate without the assistance of a lawyer. And where landlords generally have this assistance and tenants do not, the Appendix is an indictment of a system that aspires but fails to offer equal justice to all.

In a study of summary process judgments listed on masscourts.org from 2007-2015 in three out of the then-five divisions of the Housing Court (Boston, Central and Western), the Access to Attorneys Committee of the Access to Justice Commission found that landlords won judgment a shocking 98% of the time. See Shannon Barnes et al., Final Report of the Access to Attorneys Committee of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, 9 (May 2017). With Adjartey, the Supreme Judicial Court has shown us why.

Court Reform as a Necessary Step

Reforming the summary process system is an urgent need. To that end, the Trial Court has recently created a committee that has begun to work on simplifying court forms. Developing plain-language, accessible forms that the typical pro se litigant can understand and use is a necessary first step.  But forms alone will not level the playing field in a process that is too complicated and too fast to navigate without counsel.

There are many simple changes that would make summary process more accessible for pro se litigants. At a recent meeting convened by the Trial Court’s summary process reform committee, for example, most tenant lawyers and landlord lawyers agreed that the first court date in an eviction case should not be a trial. Instead, it can be an opportunity for the parties to explore settlement through mediation, and for unrepresented litigants to learn more about the process and seek help from a volunteer lawyer. It also can be a time for tenants to prepare the answers, jury demands, and discovery requests that they may be learning about for the first time when they arrive at court. We are hopeful that the court will soon implement this popular and sensible reform.

A range of other simple reforms are outlined in detail in a December 2017 report that Massachusetts submitted to the Public Welfare Foundation after a yearlong examination of “Justice for All” in the Commonwealth led by a team of judges and practitioners that included Chief Justice Ralph Gants. See The Massachusetts Justice for All Project, Massachusetts Justice for All Strategic Action Plan, 34-56 (Dec. 22, 2017). From rethinking cellphone bans that exclude unsuspecting tenants (and their evidence) from courthouses—a step the Trial Court has recently agreed to take—to promoting flexible scheduling that enables low-wage workers to avoid missing work, the Justice for All report is full of small and big ideas that would make the system fairer. The authors of this article sit on a committee of the Access to Justice Commission tasked with pursuing the report’s recommendations, but a much broader effort is needed for real change to happen.

If Landlords Have Lawyers, Tenants Need Lawyers, Too

In an ideal world, our housing dispute resolution system would be simple enough for people to use on their own, and the systemic power imbalances created by dramatic disparities in representation would be eliminated. But in a system designed for lawyers where only one side has one, access to substantive justice is not and cannot be equal. Tenants need lawyers to make the system work fairly.

Existing fee-shifting statutes should entice private attorneys to represent tenants in many eviction cases, and a few lawyers around the state have built financially successful practices representing tenants, but for reasons the Access to Justice Commission is still studying, fee-shifting statutes are underutilized. “Lawyer for a day” programs are meaningful and certainly help. But the problems Adjartey describes cannot be solved by last-minute limited assistance representation, even with experts doing the work. Too much has transpired by the time the lawyer-for-a-day steps in, when answers and jury trials and discovery have been waived by the unsuspecting tenant and the opportunity to investigate or gather admissible evidence has passed. As a 2012 Boston Bar Association study showed, only vigorous full representation enables tenants to fairly litigate their claims. See Boston Bar Association Task Force on the Civil Right to Counsel, The Importance of Representation in Eviction Cases and Homelessness Prevention (Mar. 2012) (summarizing research by Harvard Professor James Greiner and Harvard College Fellow Cassandra Pattanayak showing dramatic differences in outcomes for tenants receiving full representation by experienced litigators as opposed to advice through lawyer-for-a-day program).

New York City, San Francisco, Newark and Cleveland have all recently implemented a right to counsel for tenants in eviction cases. Massachusetts is poised to follow suit with several bills under consideration on Beacon Hill. The active support of the bar for these bills is crucial to bring balance, and legitimacy, to our summary process system. Adjartey is our call to action.

 

Esme Caramello is a Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the Faculty Director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.  She is a Trustee of the Boston Bar Foundation and a member of its Grants Committee, as well as a member of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission and co-chair of its Housing Working Group.

Joel Feldman is a shareholder in the law firm of Heisler, Feldman & McCormick, P.C..  He serves on the Executive Committee of the Access to Justice Commission,and co-chairs the Commission’s Housing Working Group.

Geraldine Gruvis-Pizarro has been representing tenants in eviction cases for the past four years and is currently a staff attorney at Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) in the housing and family law units. She is also the VLP Chairperson at the statewide Language Access Coaliton. Attorney Gruvis represents VLP at the BBA Real Estate Public Service Committee working alongside private attorneys, the court and the Boston Bar Association to maintain high quality services to the public at the Eastern Division of the Housing Court in Boston.

Clinic Stories: Prepping for the U.S. Court of Appeals

via Harvard Law Today

Through Harvard Law School’s Federal Tax Clinic, students have the unique opportunity represent low-income taxpayers in disputes with the IRS, both before the IRS and in federal court. Working individually and in teams, they represent taxpayers involving examinations, administrative appeals collection matters, and cases before the United States Tax Court and federal district courts.

In this video, we follow Adeyemi “Yemi” Adediran ’21, a second year student in the Clinic, as he prepares to argue an appeal on behalf of a military veteran with PTSD in the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Chicago. The veteran’s appeal to the Seventh Circuit centered on his eligibility for innocent spouse relief under the Internal Revenue Code. Over a three year period, the veteran’s wife embezzled $500K from the Appleton, Wisconsin Blood Bank—where she worked as a bookkeeper. She was arrested and sentenced to jail, but because the couple filed taxes jointly and embezzled money is taxable, they were both legally responsible for back taxes on the money.

As an important part of his preparation, Adediran participated in a mooting session before a panel of “judges” including Keith Fogg, clinical professor and director of the Federal Tax Clinic, and Clinical Professor Daniel Nagin, vice dean for experiential and clinical education and faculty director of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School (LSC), of which the Tax Clinic is a part.

You can read more about the Federal Tax Clinic and other LSC clinics and services at legalservicescenter.org.

2019 Litman Symposium

by Kenneth Crouch

On November 13th, the Harvard Defenders hosted accomplished practitioners to discuss the imagined futures and fraught present of the criminal legal system and criminal defense representation. The evening featured Criminal Justice Institute’s Faculty Deputy Director and HLS clinical professor Dehlia Umunna, and Committee for Public Counsel Services’s Legal Training Director Karen Smolar. Via a question-and-answer format, the panelists covered a wide variety of topics, from contemplating the practical challenges posed by ‘restorative’ criminal legal system, to the role of nascent progessive prosecution movements today. Finally, the Harvard Defenders Litman Fellows, law students from across the country who manage the clinic’s cases over the summer, facilitated table discussions around criminal legal topics of local and national significance.

HLS Legal Services Center: A Veteran’s Story

via Harvard Law School YouTube

The Legal Services Center’s Veterans Legal Clinic provides legal representation to veterans and their family members when they cannot afford an attorney. The Clinic serves the legal needs of veterans in cases involving VA benefits, Massachusetts Veterans’ Services Benefits, discharge upgrades, and estate planning matters. Watch the story of how Paul, a Vietnam veteran who was denied veterans benefits for decades, was finally able to access those vital benefits thanks to the Veterans Legal Clinic.

Toby Merrill ’11 named to the TIME 100 Next list

Toby-Merrill-TIME-100-Next

credit: Martha Stewart

 

Via Harvard Law Today

Toby Merrill ’11, founder and director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, has been named to the first-ever TIME 100 Next list, an expansion of the TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world. The list highlights 100 rising stars who are shaping the future of business, entertainment, sports, politics, health, science and activism, and more. Others on the TIME 100 Next list include Pete Buttigieg, Kyrsten Sinema, Aly Raisman. The full list and related tributes appear in the November 25, 2019 issue of TIME, available on newsstands on Friday, November 15, and now at time.com/next.

TIME 100 Next says of Merrill: “Years before student debt would be widely considered a national crisis—Americans now owe a combined $1.6 trillion—Toby Merrill started using litigation to fight what she calls the ‘worst-of-the-worst student debt,’ the kind incurred by students who enrolled in predatory for-profit colleges that burdened them with debt and provided them with worthless degrees.”

Merrill has been a fierce advocate for students cheated by for-profit colleges since she founded the Project on Predatory Student Lending in 2012, and has since led the Project’s team of attorneys in winning groundbreaking court victories in landmark cases, protecting and advancing the rights of defrauded students—restoring critical Borrower Defense rights and, most recently, holding Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education in contempt for illegally collecting on students’ invalid loans in violation of a court order in one of the Project’s cases.

“It is an honor to be included on the TIME 100 Next with so many inspiring leaders and advocates,” Merrill said. “This recognition is really a testament to the hard work and bravery of so many student borrowers who have been willing to stand up for their rights and fight back, despite being repeatedly cheated and let down by their schools and their government. Our team and our clients will make student debt from predatory for-profit colleges history.”

Of the list, TIME editor in chief and CEO Edward Felsenthal writes, “When we first published our TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people 15 years ago, it was dominated by individuals who rose through traditional power structures: heads of state, CEOs of public companies, actors from big-budget blockbusters, leaders of global foundations. What has been striking about more recent editions is the growing number of individuals who did not need an establishment to command international attention—people like the Parkland, Fla., students (in 2018) and Greta Thunberg (in 2019). TIME has always been a barometer of influence—and the nature of influence is changing.”

The Project on Predatory Student Lending represents over one million former for-profit college students across the country. The Project, which is part of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, has cases against for-profit college companies, and against the Department of Education for enabling and supporting this predatory industry. Many of the Project’s clients are people of color, veterans, and immigrants. Most are the first in their family to attend college. The Project’s work supports its broader goals of economic justice and racial equality.

DHS Bid To Collect Social Media Info Sparks Privacy Concerns

Via Law360

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security‘s proposal to collect social media handles from foreign citizens has been met with backlash from civil rights and higher education groups that caution it will chill free speech and discourage international students from studying in the U.S.

DHS had indicated in September that the department planned to begin asking for information on foreign citizens’ social media accounts for the past five years on visa applications and traveler forms, opening its proposal up for public comment through Nov. 4.

But in dozens of comments filed over the following two months, national civil rights and legal and immigrant advocacy organizations, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association and American Civil Liberties Union, have urged DHS to withdraw that proposal, warning that it could suppress protected free speech and promote self-censorship.

“The proposed rule may pressure applicants to engage in self-censorship like deleting their accounts, disassociating with online connections, limiting their social media postings, or sanitizing their internet presence for fear of reprisal,” more than 40 organizations wrote in comments on the proposal.

This would affect not only foreign citizens seeking immigration benefits, like green cards, or considering a visit to the U.S., but also the American citizens who communicate with them online, the groups said.

“Consider, for example, how an American citizen who wants her brother in Iraq to visit or emigrate might think twice before posting tweets criticizing U.S. policy or remaining Facebook friends with someone who does,” the organizations wrote.

Their joint comment is one of 80 filed responding to DHS’ proposal to collect the additional information under President Donald Trump’s March 2017 executive order to ramp up screening and vetting practices.

The U.S. Department of State, which processes visa requests made from foreign citizens looking to move to the U.S. from abroad, already requests this information, after updating its forms in June.

DHS’ proposal would authorize U.S. Customs and Border Protection to request social media handles from any foreign citizen entering the U.S.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes visa petitions from within the U.S., would also ask for social media handles on permanent residency applications, applications for U.S. citizenship, and asylum and refugee applications.

Social media accounts that foreigners would need to disclose include Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, TwitterLinkedIn, MySpace, Reddit and YouTube. Vine, a video platform that was shut down in 2017, is included on the list, while TikTok, a newer short-video platform, is not listed.

DHS could not, under the proposal, request passwords for social media accounts. Immigration officers also may not follow or friend request users to gain access to private account information.

But the ACLU and other organizations argued that this will nonetheless undermine the ability to communicate anonymously online, which could be important for political activists or members of the LGBTQ community who hail from countries where they may not be safe to identify themselves publicly.

In its own comments, the New York City mayor’s office also raised privacy concerns, saying that it is “committed to upholding privacy protections for New Yorkers irrespective of their citizenship or immigration status.”

The Harvard Law School Immigration Project and Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program flagged a recent incident that made national news when a Palestinian student at Harvard College was denied entry to the U.S. because of political messages posted by his “friends” on social media, even though he had not posted any political messages on his own account.

“This example illustrates the potential dangers of the department’s proposed policy,” the school’s immigration clinic wrote in their comment. “If noncitizens can be denied admission or an immigration benefit based on their friends’ social media activity over the past five years, many would likely refrain from engaging in associational activity freely on social media or even from using social media at all — which in turn would seriously and impermissibly burden their First Amendment right of free association.”

The National Association for College Admission Counseling, the American Council on Education and other higher education associations also warned that the social media collection would deter foreign students from attending American universities.

It would likely also “further strain” USCIS’ resources, one group of education associations said, referencing recent work authorization processing delays for the Optional Practical Training program, which gives foreign citizens who just graduated from U.S. universities one extra year to live and work in the U.S.

“The goals of protecting our security while ensuring that the United States remains the destination of choice for the world’s best and brightest students, faculty and scholars are not mutually exclusive,” the associations wrote.

A DHS spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

–Editing by Orlando Lorenzo.

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