Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

PLAP student argues case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Via Prison Legal Assistance Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Via Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

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

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

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

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

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

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

Via Harvard Law Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stuck in legal limbo

Via Harvard Gazette

Challenges for Syrian Refugees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Via The Washington Post

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

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

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

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My three weeks on Capitol Hill

By Michael Perloff, J.D. ’17

The Capitol Building and its surrounding structures carry the regal magnificence of a European castle.  Marble stairs and floors grace the entryways; ceilings vault endless upwards; and stone arches greet entrants passing from one corridor of power to the next.  In some ways this majesty is surprising: America came into existence to break free of aristocratic trappings and leaders throughout the country’s history have made homage to the salt of the earth.  Yet, despite its elegance, the Capitol does not fully belie national claims of humility; for the building’s sheer grandeur imposes a sense of solemnity on those who walk its hallowed halls.

Or at least it did for me.  Before my J-Term internship, I never spent time on Capitol Hill—no prior internships, no family vacations, not even a class trip.  This omission was striking because politics fascinates me.  As a kid, I remember watching SNL’s Gore-Bush debates with my dad and developing a (bad) knock-off version of Darrell Hammond’s Al Gore. In high school and into college, I followed Barack Obama’s rise with excitement and admiration; and just this past fall, I volunteered to knock doors for Hillary Clinton.  The experience of finally approaching the doors of the Capitol was thrilling; it felt like arriving at the set of a movie, only a lot nerdier.

Somewhat overawed, I walked into Congressman Bobby Scott’s office and met with David Dailey, my supervising attorney and the congressman’s legislative director.  From the start, David made me feel part of the team.  He included me in the weekly conference call and asked me to come with him and another staffer to grab lunch.  He also invited me to join the rest of the staff as we introduced ourselves to the new members of the Virginia congressional delegation—an aspect of Southern hospitality that won bipartisan plaudits.  Over the week, other staffers opened up, too.  Paige Schwartz, a legislative assistant from Virginia turned to me after every inside joke to give context; Evan Chapman, a more senior legislative assistant, made sure to stop by my desk to talk about his book list and our shared search for vegetarian restaurants in Boston; Press Secretary Gabby Brown talked with me about the her job responsibilities as she took me from press conference to press conference; and Joni Ivey, the Chief of Staff, made sure to invite me to events when she had extra tickets.  By the end of the first few days, I felt part of the team, someone who was valued and respected rather than simply an eager young person in the big city.

My sense of inclusion also stemmed from the substantive assignments I received.  Within my first week, David and Rep. Scott assigned me a time-sensitive project.  The task required extensive research on federal and state statutory interpretation and resulted in an 8-page memorandum.  Rep. Scott checked in with me personally several times throughout the week, asking me for my legal conclusions and asking me questions about the finer points of my legal interpretation.  The opportunities to advise a congressman directly was thrilling; it made me feel useful and gave me confidence I could make an impact as a lawyer.

The following week, my work turned to criminal justice reform.  While I had enjoyed the previous week’s work, criminal justice was the issue area I planned to target by interning with Rep. Scott.  My interest in that issue area had grown during law school, to the point that I plan on devoting myself to criminal justice reform after graduation.   When I met with David Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, to discuss this passion, he suggested I work with Bobby Scott, whom David described as one of Congress’ most aggressive advocates for eliminating the draconian aspects of federal criminal law.  I collaborated with David to secure an internship with Rep. Scott not only to learn about politics generally but also to study the battles for criminal justice reform at the highest levels.

I explored this issue through three projects.  First, I reviewed several criminal justice bills that Rep. Scott planned to introduce during the upcoming legislative cycle.  My job was to ensure that the bills, as drafted, achieved their policy goals and, if they did, write letters encouraging other legislators to support them.  In completing this assignment, I analyzed six bills and wrote a 5-page memo analyzing the loopholes in one of them.  I also wrote six letters advocating for the bills.  This experience honed my legal writing skills, allowing me to make strong rhetorical cases for legislation while explaining legal provisions in ways non-lawyers could understand.  More importantly, though, the assignment introduced me to federal sentencing law and helped me appreciate the consequences of several disturbing statutes.  One of the most jarring parts of the code is 18 U.S.C. 924(c), a provision that, among other things, imposes a 25-year mandatory minimum on anyone who possesses a firearm in multiple incidents of drug dealing.  Reading about the implications of this provision was chilling and helped me appreciate the stakes in reforming federal criminal law.

My second project was to analyze and reorganize the SAFE Justice Act.  Rep. Scott’s most ambitious legislative effort, the SAFE Justice Act is an omnibus bill that would, among other things, eliminate a slew of mandatory minimums, increase prosecutorial accountability, and create new mental health programs.  The bill is over 100 pages long and Rep. Scott introduced it in 2015 only to have it pushed aside by a less progressive reform bill.  Rep. Scott plans to put it forward again in the new session of Congress.  My task was to revise the bill to ensure the provisions followed a logically cohesive structure.  As I worked on the bill, I joined David in several meetings with its key supporters, including one of the leaders of a national advocacy organization, a staffer for a Democratic co-sponsor, and a staffer for a potential Republican ally.  After these meetings, David took me aside to explain some of the concerns about the original version of the bill and the obstacles that lay ahead for this draft.  These conversations taught me about the battle for committee positions, how Nancy Pelosi has lead the Democratic caucus, the influence of advocacy groups, and the way a centrist bill can harm a more progressive one.  Taken together, the conversations helped me better understand the interests that move major players in congressional advocacy.

My third task was to analyze a recent set of federal guidelines pertaining to the Death and Custody Reporting Act (DCRA).  Enacted in 2014, DCRA requires the Department of Justice to collect data on homicides committed by state, local, and federal law enforcement officials.  Last fall, DOJ promulgated a set of guidelines on how it would implement the statue; however the guidelines won little praise from Rep. Scott and the other lead sponsors of the Act.  DOJ responded by publishing another set of guidelines in December and my role was to review these guidelines to note what DOJ improved and what new problems it created.  The result of my analysis was a four-page memo that will provide the basis for a possible comment that Rep. Scott may submit critiquing the guidelines.  This project allowed me to explore the challenge of turning a statute into a policy and the tension between branches when that process goes awry.

As I completed these projects, Rep. Scott and David made sure that I got a full taste of life on the Hill.  On many afternoons, Rep. Scott would invite me to join him for a press conference and talk politics with me on the way back to his office.  Other times, David would ensure I had a seat at events—including one closed-door meeting between legislative staffers and a Pennsylvania department of correction official who has led the movement for penal reform in his state.  I had lunch with a labor counsel for the minority staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, enjoyed long conversations with a civil rights counsel on that committee, and sat in on a hiring meeting for someone who would assist with Rep. Scott’s criminal justice portfolio.  Throughout it all, the staff left everything in the open and treated me like a colleague.

My final day coincided with the Inauguration and I watched from the window as President Obama boarded Marine One, his term in office complete.  Most of the day I spent working on a final memo—this one on election reform—but I still made time to reflect on the moment I was witnessing.  Like everyone else in the office, I felt nostalgic as I watched the president fly off, remembering how his election coincided with my first year of college and his presidency with the first chapter of my adult life.  With law school graduation approaching, that chapter has ended and the next one, the one where I am no longer a professional in training but a professional in practice, is rapidly approaching.  My experience this January made me feel ready for my new beginning; it gave me confidence that I could go to a new office, make friends with my fellow staffers, and work quickly and effectively to contribute to a common goal.  Walking down the grand staircase and exiting through a highly arched door for the last time, I no longer saw the Capitol Hill compound as intimidating; instead, it was a reminder that I was ready for what would come next.

Harvard Law students work with ACLU to challenge Trump administration immigration order

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

By Carys Golesworthy, JD ’17

The 3rd floor wing of Wasserstein Hall that houses the Harvard Law School Immigration and Refugee Clinic is often a hub of activity. But last Friday, it was packed to capacity. Students perched on the arms of couches, crowded in corners, and angled for space around a small table. The call had gone out looking for students to help the ACLU with litigation research related to President Trump’s recent Executive Order restricting entry to the United States — and students responded in force. By Friday evening the group had grown to over fifty students. The students would spend their weekend conducting legal research to assist the ACLU in the ongoing case of Darweesh v. Trump, which challenges the Trump Administration’s Muslim ban.

In that case, the ACLU represents lead plaintiffs Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, Iraqi men who were detained after arriving at JFK Airport in New York City on January 27. The ACLU filed suit against the President on behalf of these men and a nationwide class of similarly situated individuals, seeking habeas relief and declaratory and injunctive relief.

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Clinic Supports Reporters Committee, Other Media Entities, w/Amicus Filing on MA Anti-SLAPP Statute

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

On January 24, 2017, the Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (pdf)  on behalf of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in the case, Steinmetz v. Coyle & Caron Inc., First Circuit No. 16-1996. The brief supports defendant-appellee in the case, and the Court granted leave to file the brief this week (over the objections of plaintiff-appellant). RCFP was joined on the brief by The Associated Press, Gannett Co., Inc., the New England First Amendment Coalition, and the New England Newspaper & Press Association, Inc. RCFP has summarized the brief on its website.

The Steinmetz case arises out of a public debate over the plaintiffs’ plan to build a house in Cohasset, MA. After a local agency rejected the plan, the plaintiffs sued the defendant architectural firm for allegedly furnishing inaccurate renderings of the proposed structure. The defendant successfully moved to dismiss under the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP statute, Mass. Gen. Laws c. 231, § 59H. On appeal, the plaintiffs challenge, inter alia, the constitutionality of this provision, arguing that it represents a violation of their Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial.

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HIRC files amicus curiae brief in NY case against Trump’s executive orders on immigration

Via Harvard Law Today

Harvard Law students also respond to call to work with ACLU to challenge administration’s ban

HIRC group at conference table

Photo courtesy of HIRC
Students and staff of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program. On February 16, HIRC filed an amicus brief in a New York case against President Trump’s recent executive orders regarding immigration.

Nathan MacKenzie ’17 via HIRC — The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) filed an amicus curiae brief today in the Eastern District of New York case against President Trump’s Muslim Ban, one of several cases currently challenging the president’s actions on immigration.

The case, Darweesh v. Trump, focuses on the President’s authority to ban entry into the United States on the basis of national origin. The lead plaintiffs, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an interpreter for U.S. troops in Iraq, and Haider Sameer Abdulkhleq Alshawi, whose wife worked as an accountant for an American contract security firm, were en route to the United States when President Trump signed the Executive Order that established the ban. Immigration officials detained both men at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The ACLU later filed suit against the President on behalf of these men and other similarly situated individuals.

HIRC’s brief makes three distinct arguments for why the ban should not stand.

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Legal assistance for refugees in Israel

By Hannah Belitz, J.D. ’17 


Credit: Hannah Belitz, J.D. ’17

I spent this January term interning at HIAS in Israel.  HIAS is an international nonprofit that assists and protects refugees; it was founded in 1881 to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, and in the 2000s it expanded its resettlement work to include assistance to non-Jewish refugees throughout the world. The HIAS office in Israel assists refugees – primarily those from Eritrea and Sudan – in obtaining asylum and works to improve the asylum system in the country so that it adheres to international and domestic legal standards.  Over the course of my three weeks at HIAS, I conducted legal research to support the asylum applications of HIAS clients, traveled to the Eritrean Women’s Community Center in South Tel Aviv to assist with interviews, and had the opportunity to attend a refugee status hearing.

The situation for refugees in Israel is particularly dire.  Approximately 55,000 asylum-seekers currently live in Israel: roughly 36,000 from Eritrea, 15,000 from Sudan, and 4,000 from other African countries.  Although the vast majority of them arrived primarily between the years 2005 and 2012, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) did not allow Sudanese and Eritreans to file individual asylum claims until 2013 – the reasoning being that they were protected under the “temporary group protection” afforded to Sudanese, Eritrean, and Congolese asylum seekers.  Since 2013, when MOI began adjudicating asylum claims, asylum officers have assessed approximately 5,000 to 12,000 claims submitted by Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers.  Of those, only seven Eritreans and one Sudanese have been granted refugee status.  The overall rate of granting asylum is less than 1%.  Internationally, Eritreans and Sudanese are granted asylum at a rate of approximately 80% and 30%, respectively.

In addition to filing asylum requests for clients in Israel, HIAS also works to resettle refugees in the United States.  During my final week, lawyers from the HIAS office in Vienna came to conduct intakes with refugees who may be eligible to come to the United States under the U.S. refugee resettlement program.  The resettlement program offers a final hope to refugees who face little chance of being granted asylum in Israel.  However, now that President Trump has issued an executive order severely restricting the entry of refugees, the future of the resettlement program remains unclear.  What is clear is that the need for both immigration attorneys and humane asylum policies – in the United States and in Israel – has never been more pressing.

Remedying segregation at historically black colleges and universities in Maryland

By Peter Im, J.D. ’18

I spent J-term at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law at a federal bench trial about remedying unconstitutional segregation at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Maryland. During the first week of J-term, I was at the Lawyers’ Committee’s DC office preparing for trial, which started on January 9th. I spent the next two weeks in Baltimore with the trial team. The case was filed in 2006, and litigation has dragged on for the last decade. In 2013, after the first trial, the judge found that the state’s perpetuating segregation at HBCUs violated the Constitution. This trial focused on the issue of remedies.

During the Jim Crow era, Maryland and many Southern states established public HBCUs as the black part of a de jure segregated system. Even after the end of de jure segregation, many states made some efforts to desegregate their white institutions but continued to shortchange their public HBCUs. Several federal lawsuits have addressed these practices, but the Maryland litigation is the first to do so in twenty years. As with desegregation cases and cases that address other systemic inequities in access to educational opportunity, crafting a successful remedy here is daunting. The Supreme Court has held consistently that the remedy must match the scope of the Constitutional violation, but what does this mean when the violation is a century of denying students and schools educational opportunities? And what does integration look like in the higher education setting, given that educating black leaders is a core part of HBCUs’ missions?

To address these thorny questions, the parties presented experts who relied on competing, often irreconcilable social science research. My task at the Lawyers’ Committee was to help prepare our experts to testify about the remedial proposal that they had prepared. Like in any complex litigation, the questions I worked on sometimes seemed distant from the main issues in the case. The experts had to defend their methods, so we discussed the relative merits of different social science methodologies. We explored how research, case studies, and data could be used to craft an “educationally sound and practicable” remedy. This work made me think about the larger question of how empirical research should affect court actions and how education litigation will evolve as we move into the era of “Big Data.” In decades past, courts could trust the expertise of experts who made qualitative claims. Moving into the future, empirical claims about remedies will increasingly need to rely on quantitative analysis. But what do we lose when courts of law privilege numerical data over the lived experiences of students?

It occasionally seemed a bit absurd that on the plaintiffs’ side alone, a dozen people were cooped up in hotel rooms away from their families for six weeks putting together slide decks, filing documents, preparing exhibits, and conducting meetings. But then I would remember that this case will have a huge impact: at stake is the fate of four universities. The outcome of the case will also reflect how Maryland, and ultimately other states, deal with the legacy of segregation.

A wonderful clinical experience with the National Health Law Program

By Amanda Brown-Inz, J.D. ’17

This January, I interned at the National Health Law Program, a public interest organization in Los Angeles (with offices in D.C. and North Carolina) that focuses on access to health care for low-income and underserved populations, as well as more specialized issues such as reproductive rights and opioid addiction. With the Affordable Care Act potentially on the Congressional chopping block, it was, to say the least, a fascinating time to be at a health law organization – each day, I participated in meetings, conference calls, and even traveled to a Congressman’s office to talk about the future of the ACA and, more generally, health care law. I assisted NHeLP staff in exploring all of the potential risks of ACA repeal, reflecting on its reverberation throughout society.

Participating in these advocacy efforts highlighted for me the deep symbiosis between legal and grassroots advocacy – as we learned from grassroots organizers about state-level efforts to protect and defend health rights, we were able to provide guidance on navigating the complex legal and regulatory aspects of the ACA and Medicaid, as well as the legislative process in Washington D.C. It was invigorating to be a part of this collaboration at such a crucial time in the history of healthcare law. Further, as I drafted several fact sheets about the likely impact of ACA repeal on Americans’ health rights, I honed my skills in communicating complex legal concepts in a manner that will resonate with the public. Overall, it was a wonderful experience and an amazing opportunity to witness firsthand (and participate in) the groundbreaking work of this organization.

My winter term working on criminal appeals

By Isaac Gelbfish, J.D. ’17

During J-term 2017 I interned at the Criminal Appeals Bureau (CAB) of the Legal Aid-Society, New York City’s largest public defender office. I was fortunate to have amazing supervisors and had the opportunity to work on a number of criminal appeals. With closed and relatively short records– it was kind of like second-semester LRW, but with real cases.

I had the opportunity to work, from start to finish, on various appeals because the Appeals Bureau works on all cases– big and small alike. Sure, a 3-week intern wouldn’t bear responsibility to lead a murder conviction appeal, but, it turned out, a very large percentage of the CAB is not actually flashy murder appeals. The appeals docket, rather, consists mostly of smaller misdemeanor convictions, like disorderly conduct or public lewdness, where defendants risk loosing public benefits or housing, or being deported, or simply risk attaching further addenda to an existing criminal record.

Such misdemeanor convictions come quick and dirty, by hasty trials with very short records. A person charged with disorderly conduct, i.e., a penal, rather than an administrative offense, for playing his music too loud can be convicted in a matter of minutes – one appeal I worked on regarded a seven and half minute trial. The officer testifies, and, boom, before you know it, there’s a conviction. On appeal, then, enter the lawyers, asking all sorts of legally nuanced questions. What are the legal standards for determining whether conduct was “disorderly;” are they objective or subjective; and were those standards met in the current case?

The lawyers at the CAB approached these questions seriously and methodically. I was continuously impressed at just how committed the lawyers were to each and every case. Appeals were carefully considered, and, in weekly team meetings that I would attend, attorneys would discuss and deliberate about their arguments. The legal questions were always interesting, even if relating to all too common behavior. In one case I worked on, for example, a defendant/client peeped three times under a dressing room stall, and was then convicted for harassment. In quite a lawyerly fashion—conceding and bracketing that the defendant was up to no good—the CAB lawyers in our weekly team meetings started discussing: what did the harassment statute say, and was the three-timed peeping considered a “course of conduct” as required by the harassment statute? If not, the defendant’s conviction must be reversed.

Much of criminal appeals work is indeed quite abstract – lawyers sitting in a room, researching, writing, and defending clients they never met. That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention quite a different type of appellate lawyering that I saw at CAB—one that was quite inspiring. A CAB senior attorney described to me the relationship she would form with her clients. Whereas some appellate attorneys wrote briefs and focused exclusively on the legal and often abstruse defenses for the client, she would aim to explain to the client the arguments she intended to make. So often, she explained, the clients were quite astute, even pushing back and actively shaping the arguments on appeal. In some instances clients’ insistence on certain arguments might– in the lawyers’ view– be harmful or not productive, and in those cases she would sit down with the client, engage with him or her, and best explain the reasons behind the argument. Through the months and years of the appellate process, the senior attorney was able to form a relationship with the client that trial lawyers often could not; the clients came to trust her meticulousness and respect her dedication. And while the vast majority of appeals are lost, she concluded in response to my final question, the appellate process was a way to “be there for her client,” to provide him with the feeling that somebody had his back, in a system where he had likely bounced around from person to person. For me, the idea of losing the vast majority of cases was initially disheartening. But I was happy to hear what, to me, was an inspiring answer. I came to value her dedication.

Helping to advance the rights of baseball players

By Jonathan Weinberg, J.D. ’17

Sports Law Clinic

Office view

My continuing clinical placement through the Sports Law Clinic at the Major League Baseball Players Association was an exciting opportunity to gain valuable labor law practice at a vibrant union. I was able to build upon my work and experience last year and help advance the rights of baseball players pursuant to their collective bargaining agreement, while also having fun. I first participated in the Sports Law Clinic because, as a sports fan, I savored the opportunity to work in the industry. But I now further appreciate that baseball is more than a game!

Like last year, I primarily worked on grievance arbitrations (disputes between players and clubs) at the MLBPA; however, unlike last year, I worked on several similar player grievances in lieu of one relatively-unique situation. The series of grievances all arose under the same provision of baseball’s Basic Agreement (collective bargaining agreement.) First, I was tasked with reading and summarizing a series of previous panel arbitrations which served as the relevant legal precedent. Once I developed sufficient background, I reviewed the relevant discovery, files and facts surrounding each of the grievances and developed work product which provided MLBPA attorneys with all of the relevant information they needed to properly represent and advise the player-clients.

For a few of the grievances, I was even able to observe attorney / player-client meetings where attorneys updated player-clients on their grievances based upon my work product. Finally, I authored a comprehensive legal memorandum analyzing the panel precedent and applying it to one of the player-grievances, evaluating the player’s case and making recommendations for next steps. In addition to this work, I was asked to research and summarize case-law developments potentially impacting the union for attorneys, and afforded shadowing opportunities whenever available.

My time at the MLBPA taught me that baseball players have disparate needs and interests, and that even all-stars require zealous representation to protect fundamental interests. While a baseball player union does not typically engender the visual of labor activism, I found that the union labor lawyers treated their role just as that of any other union labor relations attorney, advancing rights for workers who happen to play baseball for a living – though they certainly are fans of the game.

I am excited to apply what I’ve learned through the Sports Law Clinic as a labor and employment attorney. And as a fan, I’ll definitely watch baseball differently.

Making the case for an asylum seeker

By Nathan Mackenzie, J.D. ’17

Nathan Mackenzie, J.D. '17

Nathan Mackenzie, J.D. ’17

While most immigration cases drag on for months, my most challenging and rewarding case in the Harvard Immigration & Refugee Clinic lasted only one frantic week.

It started with a desperate phone call from one of the clinic’s former clients. Her younger sister, “Sarah”, had been detained at the border while trying to enter the U.S. She was due to be “removed” back to El Salvador within the week (“removed” is the term used in place of “deported” for people who have not been lawfully admitted into the U.S.). The former client told my supervising attorney, Maggie Morgan, that Sarah was running from MS13, one of the violent street gangs that has been terrorizing El Salvador. The gang had threatened Sarah before she fled and she feared that they would kill her if she went back. Maggie said she would do what she could. I signed on to assist.

Sarah had been in the U.S. for fewer than 2 weeks and was caught near the border, which made her subject to what is known as Expedited Removal. That meant that she could be removed without a formal hearing unless she passed a Credible Fear Screening. These brief, preliminary screenings are designed to ensure that the U.S. does not deport people who may have a viable asylum claim, as doing so would violate both international (the 1951 Refugee Convention) and domestic (the Immigration and Naturalization Act) refugee law. Unfortunately, Sarah had already had her Credible Fear interview and she had failed.

Sarah’s failure did not make sense to us. She has family members in the U.S. who have received asylum based on very similar harms. These claims involved persecution for membership in her family, for being a woman in El Salvador without male relatives to protect her, and for political opinions expressed against gangs. Despite all of terrible circumstances she had fled, the government determined that Sarah’s fear was not sufficient to form the basis of a potential asylum claim.

Sarah’s failure highlights a major issue with Credible Fear Screenings. They are brief and completed under less-than-ideal conditions. Often the questions asked do not elicit the right information from the applicant. Applicants rarely understand the contours of U.S. asylum law and almost none speak with an attorney before their interview. As a result, many applicants only tell the interviewing officer about the most pressing reason they fled. For many, those reasons are gang threats and violence, but some officials are very reluctant to approve gang claims. Asylum requires that a person fear persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Many officials do not recognize gang claims as fitting within this definition, even though a lot of these claims are eventually successful in immigration court once they have been further developed. Additionally, these same applicants may also face other threats in their home countries that, though less concerning to them at the moment of their interviews, greatly increase the strength of their asylum claim. Without proper counsel, applicants often fail to raise these claims.

Unfortunately, Sarah encountered all of these issues in her original screening. It happened quickly and she did not have the opportunity to speak with a lawyer beforehand. She told the officer about the most pressing fear: the threats the gangs had made against her. Since these gang-related claims are not well understood, denials are common. The interviewing official did not find that the threats were connected to a protected ground. However, we had additional information, both from our own discussion with her and from speaking with her sisters, and we felt we could make a good argument for asylum based on her trouble with the gang. Additionally, we knew she had several other potential claims relating to other circumstances she faced back in El Salvador. As such, we decided to request a second Credible Fear Screening and file additional information to explain the dangers Sarah would face if she were removed back to her home country.

It was a solid plan, but we were fighting against the clock. The government could have removed Sarah at any moment. We needed more time to prepare the case, but Sarah could be removed at any moment, so Maggie called the local asylum office near the detention center where Sarah was being held. After hearing the details of the case, an asylum officer agreed to speak with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and request that they delay Sarah’s removal until we had the chance to file our request for a second Credible Fear Screening.

Next, I met with two of Sarah’s sisters to get background and context for their family’s situation in El Salvador. They provided amplifying information on the threats Sarah faced and highlighted details that went back to before Sarah was born. I used this information to draft an affidavit that the sisters signed and that we included with our request to the asylum office. The other pieces of the request included a legal letter detailing Sarah’s several potential claims, signed forms authorizing Maggie to represent her, proof of her sisters’ grants of asylum, and other documents that supported her claims.

Finally, we needed to make sure Sarah fully understood all of requirements for asylum and the background information we had collected on her case. Even if the asylum office granted our request, Sarah would still need to assert her potential asylum claims in the second interview. To give Sarah the best chance of success, we got her on the phone along with her sisters. I outlined the requirements for asylum and the potential claims we saw in her case. Her sisters then discussed the family situation and other background information with her, stressing the importance of telling the interviewing officer everything. It was a difficult conversation, detailing all of the worst things that had happened in this woman’s life. Her sisters who had been through it before, comforted her and kept stressing the need for her to be strong so she could stay in the U.S.

This whole process happened over the course of just a few days. It had been quite hectic, consuming a lot of hours in our already busy schedules, but the seriousness of the consequences kept us motivated and we pushed through. I am so glad we did. A few days after we sent our request, Maggie received word back that the asylum office had re-interviewed Sarah. They found that she had a credible fear of persecution on account of a protected ground and agreed not to remove her before she could make a full asylum claim in front of an immigration judge. She would not be removed and would likely be released from detention to live with her sisters in Boston while she prepared her asylum claim.

This case highlights why applicants need access to legal representation prior to and during Credible Fear Screenings. Attorneys and law students can help properly frame an applicant’s case by aligning the facts with current asylum law to create a solid argument for relief. Without an attorney, Sarah’s original interviewing officer had dismissed her case without seeing the underlying political context. Had the Harvard Immigration & Refugee Clinic not intervened, the government would have removed Sarah back to El Salvador. Her case highlights that Credible Fear Screenings can mean the difference between life and death for the applicant. Sarah was lucky to have family here in the U.S. who helped her get legal aid, but many others are not so fortunate. Providing legal representation during Credible Fear Screenings would help ensure that eligible applicants receive this life saving relief as a matter of law, not as a matter of luck.

Warm Welcome to Jordana, Daneiris, Alyssa, and Christina

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs extends a warm welcome to Daneiris Heredia-Perez (Administrative Director) of Harvard Defenders, Christina Haines (Program Assistant) of the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP), Alyssa Chan (Program Coordinator) of the Food Law and Policy Clinic, and Jordana Arias (Program Administrator) of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program.

Jordana Arias

Jordana Arias, Program Administrator, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Jordana Arias, Program Administrator, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Jordana Arias is the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic’s Program Administrator. She recently relocated from Washington, D.C. where she worked at the University of the District of Columbia – David A. Clark School of Law for nearly ten years. While there, she also served as a community organizer and volunteered for several pro-immigrant non-profit organizations and faith-based groups where she worked closely with at-risk communities. She is passionate about helping people – especially those in underprivileged and disenfranchised populations.

Daneiris Heredia-Perez, Administrative Director, Harvard Defenders

Daneiris Heredia-Perez, Administrative Director, Harvard Defenders

Daneiris Heredia-Perez

Before coming to Harvard Law School Daneiris was a Team Lead at Boston Medical Center in the Nursing Staffing Office, supporting the hospital with RNs, CNAs and Unit Coordinators to make sure the floors were staffed safely. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Project Management at Boston University. She graduated from Manhattanville College in 2011 with a double major in Communications and Graphic Design.


Alyssa Chan, Program Coordinator, Food Law and Policy Clinic

Alyssa Chan

Alyssa Chan became involved with the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic while still an undergrad, working as a summer intern and, later, as a Research Assistant. In January 2017, she joined the clinic full-time as Program Coordinator. She first became interested in sustainable food systems while working on an organic farm and winery in Argentina. Since then, her focus has shifted to food justice issues, including food access, labor in the food system, and equitable access to land and capital for socially disadvantaged farmers. Alyssa graduated from Harvard College in December 2016 with a joint degree in Chemistry and Earth and Planetary Sciences, and a minor in the Comparative Study of Religion.

Christina Haines, Program Assistant, Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

Christina Haines, Program Assistant, Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

Christina Haines

Prior to joining HNMCP, Christina worked as Manager of the Reimagine Learning Fund at New Profit, a national venture philanthropy firm, where she managed the fund’s communications and engagement with a network of  200+ organizations and supported strategic priorities of the fund including convenings and investment selection. Prior to that, Christina had a 10-year career at Harvard, most recently as the Associate Director for Policy and Institutional Outreach of the Harvard Global Health Institute, a University-wide initiative focused on advancing global health curricula and experiential learning and catalyzing innovative cross-disciplinary research. She managed new initiatives and pilots, including large-scale academic events, fellowships and awards, research partnerships, workshops and seminars. Christina holds a B.A. from Marist College in economics, and an M.L.A. with a concentration in government from Harvard Extension School.

Is the US a ‘safe’ country for refugees?

Via Public Radio International

President Donald Trump’s executive order barring US entry by immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations dominated the global conversation. But it’s just one of several important executive orders the Trump administration has made to change the processes and rights available to undocumented people, including refugees, a new report says.

Deborah Anker, a Harvard Law School professor and director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, wants to draw attention to the interior and border enforcement executive orders that have not gotten a lot of publicity.

What they amount to, she says, is “massive detention and deportation without the priorities set out by previous administrations.” The president “has called for the construction of detention facilities across the southern border,” given agents license to make arrests on the “mere suspicion” of undocumented status and greatly diminished the possibility for appeal.

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Losing Hope in U.S., Migrants Make Icy Crossing to Canada

Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic’s recent report on effect of Trump’s executive orders on asylum seekers is featured in the New York Times.

Via New York Times

The road to asylum. The highway from Emerson, Canada, to Winnipeg, where many migrants go to seek refugee status. Credit Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Almost three months after Bashir Yussuf watched Donald J. Trump win the presidential election, he made his way to Noyes, Minn., where he set off at night into the snow-filled woods and crawled across the unmarked border into Canada.

“I saw what was coming,” said Mr. Yussuf, 28, who fled his home in Somalia in 2013 to make a circuitous, five-month voyage to San Diego, where he applied for asylum but was rejected. “I knew Trump was going to deport me.”

After a three-hour walk, much of it through deep drifts, Mr. Yussuf arrived in Emerson, a small farming town in sight of the snow-swept border with both North Dakota and Minnesota.

Emerson’s 700 inhabitants have long known “border hoppers,” often offering them lifts to the nearby Canadian Border Services Agency office. But they have never seen them coming in these numbers.

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Student perspective: Reflections of a newcomer to the CCW Review Conference

Via International Human Rights Clinic

By Anna Khalfaoui, LL.M. ’17

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 12.25.30 PMThe Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) was a great success for advocates of a ban on fully autonomous weapons. Held at the United Nations in Geneva in December 2016, the Conference was also an opportunity for me to discover and reflect on the processes and challenges of the CCW, to which I was a newcomer.

I became involved when I attended the Conference as part of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC).  I also contributed to a report that IHRC co-published with Human Rights Watch the week before the Review Conference. Making the Case: The Dangers of Killer Robots and the Need for a Preemptive Ban rebuts the major arguments against a prohibition on the development and use of fully autonomous weapons. These weapons, also known as killer robots and lethal autonomous weapons systems, would be able to select and engage targets without human intervention.

The Review Conference was a key step toward a ban because states parties agreed to formalise talks on killer robots by establishing a Group of Government Experts (GGE), which will meet for 10 days in 2017. This GGE creates the expectation of an outcome as past GGEs have led to negotiation of new or stronger CCW protocols. It provides a forum for states and experts to discuss the parameters of a possible protocol which hopefully will take the form of a ban. The Review Conference also showed that support a ban is gaining traction around the world. Argentina, Panama, Peru and Venezuela joined the call for the first time at the Conference, bringing to 19 the number of states in favour of a ban.

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Student Perspective: Documentation dilemmas for Syrian refugees living in Jordan

Via International Human Rights Clinic

By Katherine Gonzalez, J.D. ’17

Two Syrian schoolmates hold up their MoI cards. Credit: Norwegian Refugee Council/Lian Saifi

Two Syrian schoolmates hold up their MoI cards. Credit: Norwegian Refugee Council/Lian Saifi

It may be difficult to believe that a simple piece of paper can carry so much weight. But for Syrian refugees living in host communities in Jordan, marriage certificates, birth certificates, and government-issued identity cards are essential to securing basic human rights.

Several months ago, I traveled with a team from the International Human Rights Clinic to interview dozens of Syrian refugee families about their experiences with obtaining these documents in Jordan. Like the vast majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan, these families lived outside of refugee camps, their legal status dependent on whether they had new government-issued identity cards, otherwise known as “MoI cards.” Without the cards, refugees lived in situations of legal uncertainty, without access to essential services, and at risk of arrest, detention, forced relocation to refugee camps, and possible refoulement.

The families we interviewed described a variety of experiences, but one theme was common throughout: lacking proper documentation can have cascading consequences for Syrians who already occupy a marginalized and vulnerable position.

For one Syrian mother, getting a new MoI card for her infant son, who was born in Jordan, seemed nearly impossible. In order to get the card, she needed proof of identity for her son, in the form of a birth certificate issued by Jordanian authorities. But she couldn’t get the birth certificate until she got a marriage certificate. And she couldn’t get the marriage certificate because the woman and her husband, who wed in Syria two years prior, could not provide sufficient proof that they had been married in Syria.

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Inside the Clinic Leading Harvard’s Response to Trump

Via The Harvard Crimson

Staffed by attorneys and students at Harvard Law School, the clinic provides immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers legal support—a mission that has become all the more pressing under the Trump administration.

Harvard Law School Library

The Immigration and Refugee Clinic at Harvard Law School is at the center of the University’s response to President Donald Trump’s executive order. GRACE Z. LI

Since Donald Trump won the presidential election in November 2016, everything’s been busier at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program.

Staffed by attorneys and students at Harvard Law School, the clinic provides immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers legal support—a mission that has become all the more pressing under the Trump administration.

In January, Trump signed three executive orders related to immigrants and refugees, prompting widespread protest at Harvard and across the University and spurring a flurry of action at the clinic.

In just the last month, HIRC has helped the University file an amicus brief challenging Trump’s immigration order, organized a number of information sessions for immigrant students, and, most recently, released a report about the effect of Trump’s order on asylum seekers specifically.

The clinic has also hired a new staff attorney, Jason Corral, to work full-time to support undocumented students on campus, and hired clinical instructor Cindy Zapata to oversee the clinic’s expanded programs. Staffers at the clinic also helped pen an additional amicus brief opposing Trump’s order.

In short, it’s been a hectic month.

Maggie J. Morgan ’04, a clinical and advocacy fellow overseeing students at the clinic, said that although it is still unclear how the executive orders will play out, there is already much to do to support clients.

“We just don’t know yet exactly how [the executive orders] will be implemented, but there’s been an enormous increase in activity in the clinic to respond to the threat posed by this administration,” Morgan said. “And there’s a lot of fear in the immigrant community, understandably so, so we’ve focused on reaching out to our clients and the immigrant community.”

As the University responds to a rapidly changing political environment and seeks to supports its international and undocumented students, HIRC has been central to its efforts.

“I think that it also gives people hope and a sense of comfort to know how many people are not just going to sit down and take whatever this administration throws at them,” Morgan said.

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My Independent Clinical in Sarasota

By Jessica Blanton, J.D. ’18

During winter term, I worked for three weeks at Legal Aid of Manasota in Sarasota, Florida. The experience was invaluable, and I would strongly encourage other Harvard Law students to take advantage of independent clinical opportunities.

Several of my cases involved domestic violence clients, and I was deeply moved by the stories they shared. Sadly, the theme of violence weaved through many of the cases, including those not explicitly about domestic violence. I worked on landlord-tenant cases, which, on the surface level, involved technical legal issues within tenant leases. However, a common underlying issue was that male landlords were threatening female tenants when they made a complaint about the condition of their homes, and thus the women could not safely advocate for themselves.

I was impressed with the commitment of the Legal Aid attorneys in the office, most of whom were retired attorneys working as volunteers. I noticed that clients were frequently relieved to have a safe space to share their stories, and they were often seeking emotional support in addition legal advice. Many clients suffered from a mix of chronic health issues, unstable home environments, and limited emotional support networks. I watched as the Legal Aid attorneys expertly balanced listening respectfully to their clients’ stories and directing the conversation to elicit necessary information about their case.

Previously, I had performed legal work in federal offices in DC and NYC (at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and U.S. Attorney’s Office), and I did not know what to expect at this small Legal Aid office in southern Florida. Fortunately, I learned that the substance and complexity of legal issues at the state level are no less interesting or challenging than at the federal level. At Harvard Law, our curriculum is often focused on federal law and federal courts, and students frequently seek clerkships with federal judges. Nonetheless, there is a clear need for motivated young lawyers to work at the state level and clerk for state judges, which I am now considering pursuing in my legal career.

Harvard releases first report on effect of Trump’s executive orders on asylum seekers

Via Harvard Law Today

Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program has released a report on the effects of President Trump’s executive orders on people seeking asylum protection in the United States under long-standing provisions of U.S. and international law, including refugee law and the Convention Against Torture.

In the wake of the executive orders, media attention has focused largely on the travel ban involving seven predominantly Muslim nations, but the impact of the orders on asylum seekers from around the world has received little attention.

A dozen Harvard Law students, part of the Harvard Immigration Project, have been working intensely over the past two weeks to help produce the report.

The authors of the report warn that President Trump’s executive orders will dramatically restrict access to asylum and other immigration protections in the United States, and will usher in a new regime of large-scale detention, expansion of expedited removal without due process, and deputizing of state and local officials to detain individuals on “mere suspicion” of immigration violations.

According to the report, the executive orders would lead to a massive expansion of immigration-related detention and the construction of new detention centers at the southern border to accommodate a much larger population of detainees. “It will take billions of dollars to accommodate this kind of mass incarceration,” said Professor Deborah Anker, head of the Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School. “In the meantime, the new policies allow any state and local enforcement official, not just trained federal agents, to pick people up on mere suspicion, detain them in any remote location, subject them to an ‘expedited removal’ process, where many if not most will be unable to express their fear of return and be screened for making refugee and torture protection claims.”

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Reflecting on my Independent Clinical in Zimbabwe

By Mila Owen, J.D. ’18

Mila Owen, J.D. '18 worked at Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights in Harare, Zimbabwe

Mila Owen, J.D. ’18 worked at Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights in Harare, Zimbabwe

Mila Owen spent the 2017 winter term at Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. At ZLHR, she was able to engage in a wide range of challenging and meaningful work and looks forward to continuing her working relationship with the organization, and furthering as much as possible the relationship between HLS and ZLHR.

“My goals for my winter term independent clinical were fairly straightforward – to do legal work in Zimbabwe, to get a sense of what being a lawyer is like in my home country, and to contribute to meaningful public interest work. I am grateful that the lawyers at ZLHR enabled me to accomplish much more. Even though the frenetic pace of work and high caseload of ZLHR staff meant that there was a significant amount of casework I am passing on to other interns, my last week fortuitously brought a number of satisfying project conclusions. A case challenging the criminal code provision that penalizes insulting the President was heard before the Constitutional Court – the very first case heard this term. It was a thrilling and educational experience to listen to oral arguments with a full understanding of the case, and in particular for a case I had contributed to briefing. I also finished scoping for potential work pursuing conjugal visitation rights for Zimbabwean prisoners, an extremely ambitious and progressive project that entailed fascinating research about the rights to marry and form a family, sex in prisons and programs to reduce prison violence and recidivism. Finally, an article I co-wrote on State obligations in the face of the current typhoid epidemic in Zimbabwe was published in a national newspaper on Tuesday.

I have also been able while I was there to discuss opportunities for ongoing collaboration between ZLHR and HLS. There is enormous scope for collaborative projects, ranging from future student placements to advocacy campaigns, and even contributing to writing new constitutional law and international human rights casebooks for the University of Zimbabwe. I hope to play a role in the collaborative work and also encouraging and facilitating other student involvement. It is very rewarding to feel that HLS gives me the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to such important work in my home country.”

Evan Mawarire, of the #ThisFlag Movement, Should Be Immediately Released by the Government of Zimbabwe

Via International Human Rights Clinic
by Susan Farbstein

Back in November, I was pleased to moderate a conversation with pastor Evan Mawarire, the leader of the #ThisFlag movement, which in 2016 channeled citizens’ frustrations into large-scale protests against corruption, human rights abuse, and economic decline in Zimbabwe.  It was therefore deeply distressing to learn that he was arrested last Wednesday at Harare International Airport when he returned to the country.  He continues to be held at Harare Central Police Station.

Mawarire was initially charged with subverting a constitutionally-elected government and was expected to appear in court for a hearing and the opportunity to make bail.  However, additional charges of insulting the Zimbabwean flag and inciting violence were added in an apparent attempt to prolong his detention and suppress his cause.  He is expected back in court on February 17.  If the case proceeds to trial he could face 20 years in prison.

Mawarire was previously arrested for treason last July.  After thousands protested outside the courthouse, the charges were dismissed and he was released.  He left soon after for South Africa and, subsequently, the United States, fearing for his safety.

Zimbabwe’s criminal justice system should not be used to intimidate citizens who speak out against abuse or target activists who organize peaceful resistance.  Mawarire should be released and the charges against him dropped.

Protecting Central American Families: Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Via Harvard Review of Latin America
by Maggie Morgan and Deborah Anker

Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic.

Celebrating an asylum victory at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic.
Photo by Ina Spaho.

All Maribel had wanted was to work in a beauty salon in her home country of Honduras, maybe one day doing well enough to open a salon of her own. Hair and nails, or maybe just nails since manicures are her specialty. Maribel (not her real name; all names in this article have been changed to protect confidentiality) dreamt of using the money to put her five-year-old daughter in a good school, and finally move into a two-bedroom apartment of their own, far from the cramped room they shared in the two-room shack in the slums of Tegucigalpa.

But the beauty shop she was working in had to close abruptly after gang members threatened to come shoot up the place with the owner inside. The owner’s crime had been to refuse to pay a “war tax” to gang members who controlled her neighborhood.  Now forced to look for work, Maribel was assaulted by gang members at gunpoint on her way to job interviews. She went to the police but they just ignored her, not even going through the motions of making a report. Maribel, fearing for her life, felt she had no choice but to flee Honduras with her young daughter.

Several years later, sitting almost 4,000 miles away in a legal office, on a gray day in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Maribel related her story to her attorney in preparation for her asylum hearing. She is one of many tens of thousands of Central American women and children who have fled to the United States since 2014, seeking safety from the unrelenting gang and gender-related violence roiling their home countries. Our attorneys and law students at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HIRC) represent Maribel and many clients with similar stories from this region.

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In the wake of Executive Orders restricting immigration, HLS clinic provides legal support and advocacy

Via Harvard Law Today

lawyers at logan airport

Credit: Danny Gold
Soon after the executive order restricting immigration was handed down, groups of lawyers gathered in airports nationwide to provide ad hoc assistance and advocacy to those affected by the travel ban. At John F. Kennedy International Airport, Russell Kornblith ’12 (center) worked with the International Refugee Assistance Project on behalf of individuals who were denied entry into the United States. See New York Times: “Lawyers Mobilize at Nation’s Airports After Trump’s Order.”

In the wake of the presidential election in November and after last week’s executive orders by President Donald Trump restricting immigration, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program has been addressing the related legal concerns of Harvard students, faculty, staff, and affected individuals in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The clinic is also focusing on policy questions through litigation and legislative advocacy.

Days after the presidential election, over 300 Harvard Law School students, under the guidance of the clinic, quickly organized a coalition to work on projects ranging from support of undocumented members of the Harvard community to local community outreach and legal research, litigation support, and legislative advocacy.

In a letter sent to all HLS alumni and shared with the on-campus community today, Dean Martha Minow reported: “Students in our renowned Immigration and Refugee Clinic are working hard to assist hundreds of individuals who have been caught off guard by the executive orders restricting immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations. They are representing asylum seekers and other individuals applying for humanitarian protection, including individuals in detention and in removal proceedings. They are engaged in research and advocacy on refugee resettlement, including the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project; research, litigation, and advocacy on sanctuary spaces and state and local enforcement measures at the intersection of criminal law and immigration law; and international collaboration, litigation, and advocacy relating to the Safe Third Country Agreement with Canada and other issues. They are also helping the sons and daughters — born in the U.S. — of undocumented parents who came to this country years ago, assisting through litigation, advocacy, and outreach to communities of people seeking to understand their rights in this rapidly changing legal terrain.”

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FLPC Releases “Moving Food Waste Forward: Policy Recommendations for Next Steps in Massachusetts”

Via Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Moving Food Waste Forward_CoverToday, the Food Law and Policy Clinic of Harvard Law School released Moving Food Waste Forward: Policy Recommendations for Next Steps in Massachusetts.

The report follows FLPC’s October 2016 report, Keeping Food Out of the Landfill: Policy Ideas for States and Localitiesa resource that provides detailed information on how states and local governments can contribute to local food waste reduction. Moving Food Waste Forward provides information and recommendations specific to Massachusetts stakeholders. In addition to information from other states, it also references ideas and recommendations that emerged from conversations with food waste experts and stakeholders from around the state of Massachusetts. The report covers tax incentives, liability protections, date labels, food safety, school food waste, the Massachusetts organic waste ban, and government support for food waste reduction.

Massachusetts stakeholders can use the information in this report in order to determine key priorities for next steps in policy change to further reduce the amount of food wasted in the state. The recommendations in this report could be implemented individually or in tandem, or could be combined together into comprehensive state food waste legislation.

2017-18 Clinical Registration: Info Series

To help HLS students with the upcoming clinical registration at the end of March, the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs has organized a a series of info sessions, ClinicTalks, designed to help students learn about the work in each of the clinics. Faculty Directors as well as current and former clinical students will attend to help answer questions about the clinic and the clinical registration process.

All sessions are scheduled from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm and food will be served at each event.

View Full Calendar

Clinical Advising
Students can schedule an individual advising appointment with one of our advisers here.
OCP also holds student walk-in hours every Friday from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm.

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