Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

First Circuit Hears Oral Argument in Unusual Copyright Case

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

By Leo Angelakos, J.D. ’17

On April 6, 2017, Cyberlaw Clinic students attended oral argument in a First Circuit copyright appeal involving a curious set of facts and legal issues. The case pitted Richard Goren, a Massachusetts attorney, against Xcentric Ventures, LLC, the owner of an online consumer review website known as the Ripoff Report. Goren was upset by a review of his services posted on Ripoff Report by Christian DuPont, the defendant in a prior case where Goren had represented the plaintiff. Goren initially sued Dupont in Massachusetts state court, alleging that Dupont’s review was defamatory. Dupont failed to appear, and thus defaulted. After obtaining a default judgment, Goren requested that Xcentric remove the posting. Xcentric refused, citing the Ripoff Report’s strict “no removal policy.”

Here’s where the dispute gets weird. Upset by Xcentric’s response, Goren obtained amended relief from the same state court that presided over the defamation suit. This amended relief purported to assign Dupont’s copyright in the post to Goren, and to make Goren Dupont’s “attorney-in-fact” to effectuate the transfer. After obtaining a copyright registration, Goren sued Xcentric in federal district court, alleging inter alia that Xcentric had infringed Goren’s newfound proprietary rights as the post’s “owner.”

Goren’s strategy was dubious. He attempted to use copyright law as a backdoor to remedy the alleged defamation. This amounted to a misuse of copyright to censor speech, which is ironic given that copyright law is meant to incentivize the distribution of creative works to the public. Unfortunately, Goren’s strategy is not unprecedented. Similar attempts to use copyright as a means of censorship have been rejected in both the Eleventh and Ninth Circuits. See Katz v. Google Inc., 802 F.3d 1178, 1184 (11th Cir. 2015); Garcia v. Google, Inc., 786 F.3d 733, 736 (9th Cir. 2015) (“[A] weak copyright claim cannot justify censorship in the guise of authorship.”)

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Student Spotlight—Patricia Alejandro ’17

Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

Patricia AlejandroIt might seem like a long way from her birth in Cuba to the halls of Harvard Law School, but ever since she read Roger Fisher’s Getting to Yes as a sophomore in college, Patricia Alejandro ’17 had her sights set on law school, as well as Fisher’s legacy, as grown and cultivated by the dispute resolution community at HLS.

At some moment when sitting in an HLSNow training with Prof. Bob Bordone, for the corps of dialogue facilitators he was forming, Alejandro says, “It really hit me that I had achieved what I set out to—I was doing something I loved, something I wanted to do. I love this work and I think a lot about how to take it into the world, build better institutions. How to be better with each other. How to be better in the world.”

We’re so pleased to feature Patricia Alejandro as our Student Spotlight this spring. Not only has she been a student twice in the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP), but she has also served as a Teaching Assistant in the Winter 2017 Negotiation Workshop and as a facilitator for HLSNow and at Alumni Reunion Weekend. She was a student in Bordone’s Advanced Negotiation: Multiparty Negotiation, Group Decision Making, and Teams course, as well as this year’s reading group Political Dialogue in Polarizing Times: Election 2016. She sub-cited for the Harvard Negotiation Law Review, mediated with the Harvard Mediation Program, and was part of the Harvard Law School Negotiators student group, working this spring on the Religious Communities Project. We sat down with Alejandro in a rare free hour right before exams.

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Reflections on the Intersection of Alternative Dispute Resolution and Activism

Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

Grande Lum and Bob Mnookin - HNLR Symposium

Grande Lum, Prof. Robert Mnookin, and Prof. Robert Bordone

By Lisa Dicker ’17 and Amrita Narine ’17

On the surface, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and activism may appear to be in tension with each other. The former generally seeks to resolve conflicts through collaborative agreements, while the latter is often a public, vigorous campaign for one side. However, despite their apparent differences, there is significant overlap between these two fields and room for exchanging ideas.

The Harvard Negotiation Law Review’s 22nd annual symposium, “Reflections on the Intersection of Alternative Dispute Resolution and Activism,” explored opportunities for sharing and cross-fertilization between these fields. Practitioners of ADR, activists, and those who straddle both worlds came together to explore the manner in which the fields oppose each other, complement each other, and can learn from each other.

The Honorable Grande Lum ‘91 gave the symposium’s keynote address. Mr. Lum is the Director of the Divided Community Project at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio University. He spoke about his current work as well as his previous experiences as the Director of the Community Relations Service (CRS) at the United States Department of Justice. CRS focuses on community conflicts and preventing and resolving tensions that result from differences in identity, including race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.

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Boston Bar Association posts podcast featuring Julia Devanthery and Maureen E. McDonagh

Via Legal Services Center

Julia Devanthery and Maureen E. McDonagh are featured in this Boston Bar podcast about the proposed statewide expansion of the Housing Court.

FLPC and ReFED Launch the U.S. Food Waste Policy Finder

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Today, Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, in partnership with ReFED, a multi-stakeholder non-profit committed to reducing U.S food waste, released a new tool that will aid advocates, policymakers, investors, businesses, and nonprofits in improving the food waste policy landscape.

Over the past few years, FLPC has produced various 50-state charts on multiple areas of food waste policy, which are generally used as static charts or appendices to several of our published reports and toolkits. In order to share this data with more stakeholders across the country, we have created the U.S. Food Waste Policy Finder, an interactive tool for exploring federal and state policies that affect food waste reduction and diversion. The tool provides a comprehensive database of laws surrounding food waste and contains searchable maps that allow users to explore state-level laws around date labeling, tax incentives and liability protection for food donation, feeding food scraps to animals, and organic waste bans and waste recycling laws.  As over a dozen states are seeking to change food waste laws, this tool provides a valuable look into what works (and what doesn’t), and how federal and state policy can accelerate food waste reduction.

The tool also includes an in-depth section on date labeling laws in order to emphasizes the nation’s patchwork system of date labeling laws that vary drastically from state to state, and highlights the need for an overarching federal date labeling system.

While an abundance of food is produced in the U.S., 40% of this wholesome, healthy, and safe food ultimately ends up in the landfill. In order to meet the national food waste reduction goal to cut food waste in half by 2030, there is a great deal of work to be done. The release of the U.S. Food Waste Policy Finder adds to FLPC and ReFED’s existing work to foster valuable cross sector collaboration to promote viable solutions to the nation’s food waste problem. FLPC hopes that these tools will inspire action, advocacy, and policy change to reduce unnecessary food waste.

Explore the U.S. Food Waste Policy Finder now!

How Two Harvard Legal Aid Bureau Student Attorneys Won an Unpaid Wages Case

By Diane Ramirez, J.D. ’17

My client, a student at a local university in her senior year of school, was thrilled when she received a summer job offer from a financial firm in New York City. Like many of her classmates, she had struggled to find paid summer employment that she could use to gain experience, enhance her resume, and catapult herself into a career. This opportunity was a dream come true for her, a Chinese national, who came to the United States with a student visa to pursue her goal of obtaining an American degree in economics.

In an offer letter, the CEO and founder of the financial firm promised to pay my client $2,500 per month, vacation time, and “10,000 shares of the company.” The letter also confirmed my client was able to work from home in Massachusetts for up to 35 hours per week the entire summer. Her work included research, financial modeling and analysis, and technical programming.

The first month on the job passed and she awaited her first paycheck. It never arrived.  She checked in with the nine other college-age summer employees, at least four of whom were also working for the New York City employer from their homes in Massachusetts. None of them had been paid.

At the end of the summer, my client expected to be paid the total amount she was owed for her work: $6,875.00. She and most of the other interns received $0. She contacted the CEO of the company, who promised to send payment “soon.” (The CEO is also the Founder and CEO of a second, larger entrepreneurship consulting firm and is an adjunct professor at a college in New York).

Three months later, my client contacted the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau to help her fight for the wages she was owed. I, along with my colleage Martin Njoroge ’17, took her case and wrote to the employer, demanding our client’s payment and informing her that she and the company were in violation of Massachusetts wage and overtime laws. We informed her that she could be on the hook for treble damages under Massachusetts law, which amount to at total of $20,625.00, if a court so ordered.

The employer responded to the letter, yet did not pay my client or most of the other summer employees for another two months.  On February 10, Martin and I filed a complaint on behalf of our client in the Waltham District Court.

Finally, after a total of seven months since the day our client should have been paid, we successfully helped our client recover $6,562.50 that she was rightfully owed for her full-time work during the entire summer. The employer sent the check after we filed the complaint in order to avoid protracted litigation that would have had an adverse affect on the finances of her company.

I have been practicing wage and hour law for about a year and a half at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and have seen first hand the power a student attorney can have in helping victims of wage theft recover wages under Massachusetts’ influential labor laws. The desire to help victims of wage theft was one of the factors that initially motivated me to go to law school. My father, uncles, and cousins who are all in the construction business in the state of Georgia have been victims of wage theft on multiple occasions and have been unable to recover what was owed to them due to Georgia’s state labor laws that are simply much more employer friendly. In Georgia, finding civil legal representation is also very difficult if you are low-income, and the state Attorney General does not have a robust worker’s rights division to assist victims. Here, in Massachusetts, the Attorney General hosts wage and hour clinics once a month at Suffolk Law School.

As a member of HLAB, I have volunteered at the clinics to provide legal advice and assist victims in drafting demand letters. I feel proud and grateful to have had the opportunity as a law student to practice wage and hour law, to inform workers of their rights, and to fight for victims using negotiation and litigation.

Reflection on a visit to the prison

Students in Hon. Judge John C. Cratsley's (Ret.) Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic

Students in Hon. Judge John C. Cratsley’s (Ret.) Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic

By John Zhou, LL.M. ’17

“Woof, Woof… ” A black Labrador barked desperately to give out alarm that someone was knocking at the door. She ran back and forth, gently rubbing the thigh of her human friend, until the man slowly approached the door and opened it. Everything was comforting, as a service dog training facility should be. The bars on the window, however, reminded me that it was nothing close to a routine one.

In fact, we, the 20-some students in the Judicial Process at Trial Court Clinic, and Judge Cratsley, our Clinic Director, were at the Massachusetts Correction Institution (MCI) in Concord, a state prison with medium-level security. These lovely and capable service dogs are the products of the Prison PUP partnership initiated by the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS). For nearly 20 years, NEADS has worked with correctional facilities and their inmates around New England to train service puppies for those in urgent need. In the training room of MCI Concord, training inmates kindly showed us what their puppies could do, e.g. searching and fetching, turning lights on and off, waking up and alarming, etc. The trainers meticulously and skillfully presented their achievements with the dogs, and everyone present was impressed.

But MCI Concord is not supposed to be impressive in this way: each section of the facility is strictly segregated and inmates, who are generally felony convicted, are placed into confined spaces, almost identical to the settings of prisons pictured on TV.  If inmates violate prison regulations,  they can be punished by solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. In other words, they will only have one hour of access to another human being. It seems here, a man can be an island, entirely of its own.

However, the presence of the Prison PUP partnership can provide inmates with a semblance of normalcy. The trainers who demonstrated for us had served almost 20 years in the prison and they claimed that living with and training the dogs was simply the best thing that had ever happened to them. Before we left, we commended the inmates for their presentation with their canine friends, and wished them every success in the future. Rehabilitation is probably the hardest part of the entire criminal justice system, and these inmates will face hardship when they become free again after years of imprisonment. However, companionship with their dogs and the chance to contribute to the society will definitely be a good start.

HIRC co-authors amicus brief on material support bar

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

By Marissa Yu, J.D. ’17, and Zoe Egelman, J.D. ’18

Earlier this week, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) co-authored a brief to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) on the “material support” bar to asylum, arguing that the word “material” must be given independent meaning in order to ensure that victims of terrorism are not unfairly denied humanitarian protection.

The material support bar in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prevents individuals who have afforded “material support” to terrorist activity or foreign terrorist organizations from obtaining asylum.

Over the past several years, federal courts of appeals have asked the BIA to clarify how much support triggers the bar. Is “material support” a term of art that includes any amount of support, even de minimis contributions to foreign terrorist organizations? Or does “material” have independent meaning such that de minimis contributions will not trigger the bar? To resolve this issue, the BIA issued a call for amicus.

HIRC took the call to advocate for asylum seekers unjustly affected by the failure to give meaning to the “materiality” requirement of the bar. These include innocent civilians who give minimal amounts of good or services to rebel or terrorist groups that they dislike or fear but with which they are obligated to interact on a regular basis because the conditions in their home countries offer them no realistic alternative. They also include refugees who have limited dealings with groups they see as their protectors against more abusive, typically governmental, forces, and to which they make contributions that can hardly be considered criminal acts.

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From one immigrant to another, raising awareness through Know Your Rights trainings

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

HIRC staff and students with organizers of a Know Your Rights workshop at a school in Somerville.

By Jin Kim, JD ’18

“Welcome home, Mr. Kim.”

My heart still flutters whenever I come back to the United States after a trip abroad and the Customs and Border Protection officer welcomes me home. It’s the same feeling I had at my naturalization ceremony five years ago. I was overwhelmed with emotion when the federal judge handed me my naturalization certificate and congratulated me on becoming a U.S. citizen. Although I was not born in the U.S., I love this country and am so proud to call it my home.

And so it has been disheartening to see it become increasingly hostile to immigrants in the recent months. President Trump’s executive orders on immigration have set the tone, operating on a range of false assumptions about the criminality and extremist tendency of people who contribute so much to our country.

Unfortunately, this exaggerated, baseless fear of immigrants is not new. In 2001, my parents and I moved from Korea to the United States – the land of freedom and opportunity – in search of a better life after losing all our savings to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. A couple months after our move, we watched on our local news channel in Atlanta as two airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers. Then, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, as fear of immigrants swept across the nation, my family’s immigration process got delayed indefinitely. I remember the sense of hopelessness I felt after learning that we could not leave the country to attend my beloved grandfather’s funeral in Seoul because our Green Card applications had been stalled.

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On the Ground, In the Ground in North Carolina

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Written by Kait Beach, current student in the Food Law and Policy Clinic

Image from Duke Campus Farm’s Facebook page.

Tilth. I had trouble even wrapping my tongue around the word at first, but the meaning was clear enough to see. We travelled to Durham, North Carolina with the Food Law and Policy Clinic, then to the Duke Campus Farm. Handling two clods of dirt freshly dug from the ground, one felt of a heavy clay-like mud and one of a crumbling, root-filled, rich-looking cake. For someone like myself who has only ever visited farms as a neighbor or tourist, there was a steep learning curve with plenty to ask about—whether it was tilth, cover crops, starting a CSA program, or rigging an irrigation system.

Beyond a lesson in the basics of farming, it was a lesson in how beginning farmers must feel. Working with the Clinic on Farm Bill issues and focusing on market access (basically, how a farmer can find and reliably get buyers), I was quickly finding out just how much information there is to master. The learning curve for a new or expanding farmer is monumental. Our short North Carolina travels certainly showed that and revealed some of the many unexpected hurdles for farms aiming to turn a profit. There are the inputs—like seeds, water, and fertilizer—and the equipment, but there is so much more to a successful production operation. Each farmer or farm operation not only has to learn a trade, they must also learn how to run a small business.

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Military and academic experts explain legal and cultural issues in counter terror operations

The second annual symposium on Legal and Cultural Issues in Counter Terror Operations was held on April 8 at Harvard Law School.  Organized by John Fitzpatrick ’87, a Senior Clinical Instructor at the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project, and a Major in the US Army Reserve, the symposium brought together over 30 military personnel and legal experts whose work focuses on the areas of Islamic and human rights law as well as on cultural and international security issues.

Members of the Army's Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps are pictured with Professor Doug Johnson of the Kennedy School, who spoke to the group on the strategic implications of torture.

Members of the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps are pictured with Professor Doug Johnson of the Kennedy School, who spoke to the group on the strategic implications of torture.

This event featured presentations from scholars at HLS, the Kennedy School, the University of Massachusetts, and the US Naval War College. Salma Waheedi, a Clinical Advocacy Fellow at the International Human Rights Clinic and a Visiting Fellow at the Islamic Legal Studies Program, addressed developments in Islamic law; and Professor Doug Johnson, Faculty Director of the Kennedy School of Government’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, spoke about the strategic implications of torture. In addition, a screening of Eye in the Sky was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Major Fitzpatrick with Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Ford, a Professor at the Naval War College specializing in the law of war for targeting; and Professor John Kaag of the University of Massachusetts, co-author of the recent book “Drone Warfare,” a comprehensive examination of legal, ethical and philosophical problems with the military use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

“It was a privilege to host these distinguished speakers, each of whom agreed to appear at HLS on short notice,” said Fitzpatrick. “This is a continuing effort to break down barriers between the civilian academic bubble and military academic bubble regarding legal  issues of modern warfare. There has been an unfortunate tendency for civilian and military academics to retreat to their own echo chambers, instead of dialoguing constructively with each other. Events like this are small in scale, but hopefully can have a cumulatively larger, positive impact in bridging the knowledge gaps between the civilian and military academic worlds.”

“My time with the Veterans Legal Clinic has been extremely rewarding”

By Vetan Kapoor, J.D. ’17

Vetan Kapoor, J.D. '17

Vetan Kapoor, J.D. ’17

Last year, a Vietnam-era veteran who served in the Navy honorably for several years asked the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for help. He had a dental condition that required emergency medical treatment, but could not afford to pay for the procedures and his insurance did not cover the full costs. Massachusetts offers veterans below a certain income threshold financial assistance for such emergencies, but the veteran must first apply, and the application must be approved by a city caseworker and the state’s Department of Veteran Services.

So, the veteran applied, provided evidence of the serious nature of his condition, and submitted his dentist’s proposed treatment plan. His application was improperly denied, and the veteran spent the better part of a year trying to find some way to obtain the care he needed. The reason for the denial? A caseworker wrongly decided that money the veteran had borrowed to pay for a graduate degree enabling him to serve as a counselor for other veterans disqualified him from receiving assistance.

Over the past year, I have represented this veteran and several others through the Veterans Legal Clinic. I have had the honor of representing clients before the state’s administrative agency, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the federal Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Each matter has brought its own set of challenges and learning experiences. For example, my work in the emergency benefits case involved tough negotiations with the General Counsel of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services, informal advocacy, coordination with the veteran’s caseworker, and appearances before a magistrate judge. Eventually, the state agreed to provide the veteran with the financial assistance he needed to receive treatment.

My time with the Veterans Legal Clinic has been extremely rewarding. I have learned a great deal about how the law impacts the veteran community on a daily basis, and have honed my negotiation, advocacy, and legal writing skills. But the most gratifying aspect has been the interactions I have had with my clients. Being able to learn about their lives, to hear some of their stories, and to fight for successful outcomes in their legal cases has been one of the highlights of my time here at Harvard Law School.

Massachusetts is home to about 330,000 veterans, 27% of whom have some form of disability. Nationwide, over 3.8 million veterans have a disability, while nearly 1.5 million live in poverty. I am very thankful to the Clinic for giving me the chance to learn more about the issues impacting veterans and to make a modest, positive impact in the lives of some of those who have served our country. There remains more work to be done!

Giving back to my community through the Child Advocacy Clinic

By Elisa Hevia, J.D. ’17

Elisa Hevia, J.D. '17

Elisa Hevia, J.D. ’17

I was drawn to the Child Advocacy Clinic because it enables its students to give a voice to the voiceless, but more specifically, to give a voice to children, who are unfortunately too often overlooked in our society. I was impressed that the clinic’s structure allows its students great flexibility and variety in the type of work you can engage in (education, juvenile justice, impact litigation, etc.), the type of organization you are placed at (nonprofit, courthouse, DA or AG offices, etc.), and the location of your organization (essentially, worldwide). Going into the program, I knew I wanted to work in Miami, Florida. I will be returning home to south Florida after I graduate, and it was really important to me to work in a community that I felt deeply connected to, a desire to give back, and an urgency to establish meaningful professional connections.

I am thrilled to be placed at the Miami-Dade County Children’s Courthouse in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida. I am working with the Honorable Maria Sampedro-Iglesia, who oversees the Growth Renewed through Acceptance, Change and Empowerment G.R.A.C.E. Court. The G.R.A.C.E. Court is the first specialty court in the United States exclusively devoted to children who have been identified as victims of commercial sexual exploitation. My main project is to create a Benchbook for the court, outlining the nuanced areas of the law that frequently arise in this courtroom. Working remotely on a long-term project has allowed me to retain my independence, hone my time management and research skills, and practice the important task of synthesizing lengthy, complex information into simple summaries.

I’ve learned an enormous amount through the Child Advocacy Clinic, not just through my work with the G.R.A.C.E. Court, but by listening to my peers’ experiences during our weekly seminar. The seminar helps me put my work into perspective and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a public interest lawyer, and specifically an advocate for children. I was surprised to learn that children’s rights is an often overlooked area in the public interest sector, and I was shocked to learn that much of the work related to children’s rights is actually done by advancing parents’ rights. Overall, this experience has been wonderful, and I am so glad I decided to shift the focus of my course load this semester from black letter law to clinical work.

Food Waste Reduction Workshop in Toronto, Canada

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Written by Dominique Trudelle, current student in the Food Law and Policy Clinic.

As a Continuing Clinical student in the Food Law and Policy Clinic this semester, I spent two days at the North American Workshop on Food Waste Reduction and Recovery in Toronto, Canada. Since starting the clinic in January, I have been learning about and working on FLPC’s food waste and food recovery initiatives. Specifically, I helped to finalize a recent report produced in partnership with NRDC, Don’t Waste, Donate: Enhancing Food Donation through Federal Policy, detailing how the federal government can better align federal laws and policies with the goal of increasing donations of safe, surplus food to those in need. Through this work, I have learned about improving liability protections and tax incentives for food donation, as well as ways to support innovative food recovery models. At the Workshop, interacting with other organizations highlighted how each approaches tracking, reducing, and recovering food waste.

The Workshop brought together experts working in government, industry, business and academia from Canada, the United States, and Mexico to discuss opportunities to reduce food waste across the food supply chain in each country. The Workshop included a mix of short presentations about topics ranging from donation of surplus foods by retailers, tracking food waste, and liability protections for food donations in the U.S. by retailers, innovative food recovery organizations, and academics. These presentations were followed by roundtable discussions. Having focused primarily on food recovery, I appreciated the opportunity to discuss food waste reduction with others whose perspective and strategies differ from those I have focused on during my clinic.

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WEBINAR: Human rights and Myanmar’s transition from military rule

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Several weeks ago, Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, and Yee Htun, Clinical Advocacy Fellow, presented a webinar for Harvard Law School alumni on human rights and Myanmar’s transition from military rule. The talk was so popular, the school asked if it could feature it as part of its bicentennial celebration.

Great work, Tyler and Yee.

Upcoming Clinical Application Deadlines

Please note the upcoming clinical application deadlines!

April 10, 2017 – Public Education Policy & Consulting Clinic (deadline extended)
April 10, 2017 – Community Enterprise Project of the Transactional Law Clinics

Lauren Kuhlik ’17 winner of Law Student Ethics Award

Lauren Kuhlik '17

Lauren Kuhlik ’17

Harvard Law School student Lauren Kuhlik ’17 won the 2017 Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC)-Northeast Law Student Ethics Award. According to the Chapter, the award was created to recognize students who have demonstrated exemplary commitment to ethics. One of ten students honored from participating local law schools, Kuhlik was recognized for demonstrating a commitment to ethics through her work with the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP).

Kuhlik was nominated for the award by Harvard Law School’s Clinical Instructor Joel Thompson, who supervised her during her work with PLAP. In his nomination letter, Thompson praised Kuhlik for her work defending clients at disciplinary hearings and her excellent ability to navigate the tricky waters of plea negotiations.

“In her years at PLAP, Lauren has been a magnet for unusual cases with complex legal and ethical issues” wrote Thompson. “She has consistently provided quality representation despite these challenges.”

The Prison Legal Assistance Project is a student practice organization that allows students to represent incarcerated individuals at disciplinary hearings and parole hearings in Massachusetts state prisons; assist inmates with prison-related problems; and work on impact litigation and prison policy initiatives. Students work pro bono and not for credit.

Kuhlik began this work her first year at Harvard Law School.  Throughout her time, she defended a client in a disciplinary hearing by holding the Massachusetts Department of Corrections accountable to its own rules and negotiated a plea agreement that the client accepted. In addition, Kuhlik and a fellow student represented a prisoner sentenced to life before the Parole Board.  In preparing for the hearing,  certain facts came to light that prompted ethical obligations in terms of what Kuhlik and her fellow student could do for the client. “It was a very complicated situation which had to be resolved very quickly,” wrote Thompson. Kuhlik and her fellow student were very thoughtful about the ethical issues and methodically arrived at the best possible solution.

“It’s an honor to receive the ACC law student ethics award,” said Kuhlik. “I’m thrilled that ACC recognizes the important work that the Prison Legal Assistance Project, and all of our clients do to advance criminal justice and reform in Massachusetts.”

Kuhlik will receive the award at a reception for the honorees on April 27, 2017, at the Old South Meeting House Museum in Boston. Each recipient of a Law Students Ethics Award will also receive a $1,000 check from the ACC-Northeast Chapter.

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is a global bar association that promotes the common professional and business interests of in-house counsel who work for corporations, associations and other private-sector organizations through information, education, networking opportunities and advocacy initiatives.

Skill Building in the Food Law and Policy Clinic

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Written  by Tyler Mordecai, current student in the Food Law and Policy Clinic.

Harvard Law School clinical student testimony in DC

Tyler Mordecai delivers testimony to Washington D.C. City Council.

I took the Food Law and Policy (FLPC) seminar last year, and I enjoyed the material so much that I decided to enroll in the Clinic this Spring. Now in the clinic, much of my focus has been on FLPC’s state and local food waste initiatives. We work with various state and local advocates to reform and modernize their laws aimed at reducing the more than 62 million tons of food that goes to waste each year. Among other projects, I am currently creating a D.C.-specific food donation resource guide, which will review and analyze the applicable food recovery laws in D.C.

As part of my work on the D.C. resource guide, on Tuesday, March 28th I had the opportunity to testify before the Washington D.C. City Council about a new law under consideration there: The Save Good Food Amendment Act of 2017. The Act would reduce food waste by (1) providing tax credits for donated food, (2) extending liability protections for those who donate food, (3) simplifying D.C.’s food date labeling system, and (4) publishing a food donation guide.

At the hearing, I thought I was only going to read a statement advocating for passage of the law, so it was quite a surprise when D.C. Councilmembers asked questions for more than half an hour! The Councilmembers were incredibly interested, but also a bit reluctant, about the proposed legislation. They used my testimony as an opportunity to ask some very pointed questions and gain more clarity about the bill. Some examples: Why is a tax credit more beneficial than a tax deduction? Which specific foods pose a safety risk after their date label has passed? Which states have enacted similar liability protections, and has there been any issues in those states? The Q&A portion of the testimony was my favorite part of the hearing—it was a great experience to have a discussion with elected officials about how to use the law to effectively reduce food waste.

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HLS students travel to Mexico to provide free tax services for migrant workers

Written by the team of students who traveled to Mexico

HLS students on their Spring Break Pro Bono Trip to Mexico

HLS students on their Spring Break Pro Bono Trip to Mexico

Our enthusiastic team of eight HLS students and one supervising attorney ventured into the state of Queretaro, Mexico to provide free tax services for migrant workers in coordination with Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM). One week, many tacos, and $6,799 in refunds later, we are headed back to Boston with new perspectives on the challenges that migrant workers face in the US.

About 1,200 workers settled a class action against an employer in the US following poor working conditions and missing back pay. Some workers had federal taxes withheld from the settlement amount, which we were able to reclaim. We also helped migrant workers claim back year taxes for 2014, 2015, and 2016. For other migrant workers who did not have federal taxes withheld from the settlement amount, we helped them fill W-7 forms for individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITIN) in order to claim their dependents and file tax returns in the future.

While preparing tax returns, many migrant workers recalled cramped bunk houses, illegal and non-reimbursed recruiting fees, withheld W-2 forms from their employers, and paid tax preparation fees by the employer, often claiming fraudulent tax credits. On each of these issues, we tried our best to inform them of their rights remedies should they encounter these problems again.

None of this success would have been possible without the fantastic people at CDM. The CDM team organized workshops for community members in tandem with our tax clinics to discuss the resources available to prevent labor abuses, to navigate the immigration system, and to understand the American political climate. CDM’s history, expertise, and passion for advocacy on behalf of migrant workers have earned them the trust and respect of local communities. We learned so much from them and would urge other law students to work with them in the future. CDM is on the front lines of migrant worker labor rights, which have become more critical since the recent election. The anxiety among the population was palpable, especially in terms of their visa status and heightened racism. For many migrant workers, their US wages earned within a few months each year is their only income.

Outside of our work, we found time to soak up the culture and explore all that Mexico has to offer. We hiked La Pena, the world’s third largest monolith, which watches over the officially designated Pueblo Magico and is rumored to have mystical energy. Many of our group can now attest to its power. We sampled many delicious local dishes and indulged moderately in local liquors such as mescal and aguardiente. We even had a piñata to celebrate the birthday of Joanna Cornell (JD/MBA ’19)!

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to learn about direct client services while providing tangible assistance to an underserved community. We were able to save the migrant workers $6,799 through tax returns and $1,000 through saved tax preparation fees. We learned so much about the lives and challenges of migrant workers and had an unforgettable experience along the way.

 

Spring Break Pro Bono Project: Helping asylum seekers

By Pamela Yaacoub, J.D. ’17

“I’ve been talking about this for so long. Every time we go somewhere, questions, talking, talking. I hope that one day, I never have to talk about this again.”

My client said this to me while I was visiting him at the South Texas Detention Complex. I spent my spring break with 7 other HLS students, helping detainees complete asylum applications under the supervision of American Gateways in San Antonio. That Wednesday, I was focused on finishing my client’s “declaration,” a statement by an asylee telling the immigration judge their story, and why they are afraid to return to their home country. In my overzealous pursuit of detail, I forgot that my client was tired, that he has been trying to prove his family’s humanity for months, traveling through 10 different countries only to arrive to the United States and be imprisoned, without family, without friends, without comfort, without liberty.

We made our way to the detention center every day, driving an hour from San Antonio to Pearsall. We were each assigned 3-4 detainees to assist throughout the week, and we tried to meet with them every day. We scrambled to answer all the questions on the asylum application, explaining that one mistake or one omission could lead to a fatal (and irrational, and cruel) perception of inconsistency. We did our best to help our clients produce detailed declarations (which had to be in English) that conveyed their story and their pain. One of the most difficult obstacles was the lack of adequate language services. My clients spoke Arabic, Fulani, and Wolof; others spoke Haitian Creole, Somali, French, Spanish, Garifuna, and Portuguese. Most days, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and GEO, the private corporation that runs the detention center, only allow American Gateways to use one phone, two at the most, in order to access a language interpretation line. Between bad service, dropped calls, limited time, and limited phone access, I sometimes had only 20 minutes to talk to a client before time was up. How can they answer questions requesting every possible detail of their lives in 20 minutes? How can they access justice like this?

So often, we talk about immigration in numbers and hypotheticals. But it’s important to remember that immigrants are people with lives and loved ones, values and dreams. They are vendors and engineers, managers and construction workers, political activists and salespeople, doctors and farmers, ministers and students. They are unfathomably brave women from Haiti fleeing years of domestic violence, they are a gay Senegalese man who was beaten by an entire village, they are a Sudanese woman who stood up for the rights of rape victims from Darfur. They are a Salvadorian baker and father of four who was tortured by both the Barrio 18 gang and the police. And here we are, forcing them to fit their suffering into narrow legal categories. But they are human beings, and they have every right to be treated as such, everywhere they go.

It was my privilege to listen to the stories of my clients, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to play an infinitesimal role in their legal empowerment. I am also outraged at the inherently corrupt power structure that diminishes and dehumanizes them, that requires a national quota of 34,000 beds filled, that benefits from their chained bodies. But then I remember that there are heroes at American Gateways and elsewhere who have dedicated their lives to immigrant justice, and we can join them. We can channel our rage into action. If this story resonates with you at all, please take the time to support local immigration advocacy and community organizing, volunteer whenever you can, and actively engage others on issues of social justice.

Chi Adanna Mgbako HLS J.D. ’05 wins Shanara Gilbert Award

Chi Mgbako

Chi Adanna Mgbako, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham University School of Law

The Executive Committee of the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education announced that Chi Adanna Mgbako (HLS J.D. ’05) Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham University School of Law, is this year’s recipient of the Shanara Gilbert Award. Professor Mgbako is an alumna of HLS’s Human Rights Program and received the Gary Bellow Public Service Award while a student at Harvard Law.

Named in honor of clinician Shanara Gilbert, the award is given to a recent entrant with ten or fewer years of experience in the clinical legal education community who has demonstrated some or all of the following qualities:

  • commitment to teaching and achieving social justice, particularly in the areas of race and the criminal justice system;
  • an interest in international clinical legal education;
  • a passion for providing legal services and access to justice to individuals and groups most in need;
  • service to the cause of clinical legal education or to the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education; and,
  • an interest in the beauty of nature.

Professor Mgbako has focused much of her human rights teaching and advocacy on criminal justice reform as it affects people of color in the United States and Africa. She has directed human rights clinical projects in partnership with non-governmental agencies, international organizations, and foreign law schools. Professor Mgbako also developed an innovative mobile legal aid program in Malawi. Her clinic and the Center operated two mobile legal aid clinics in three rural villages in Malawi that had never before had access to legal services.

We offer our heartfelt congratulations to Professor Mgbako!

 

Op-Ed: UN investigation can help Myanmar down the path of democracy

Via International Human Rights Clinic

This opinion piece by Clinical Advocacy Fellow Yee Htun and Tyler Giannini, co-director of the International Human Rights Clinic, appeared in The Irrawaddy on March 29, 2017.

At first glance, the UN Human Rights Council resolution passed on Myanmar looks like a rebuke of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) government. The resolution calls for an international investigation into “alleged recent human rights violations by the military and security forces,” singling out Rakhine State in particular for scrutiny.

Given her muted public response to the violence, her government’s denials, and the lack of any serious domestic investigation to date, it would be easy to lay a lot of the blame at Aung San Suu Kyi’s door. But the real story remains in plain sight: there are roadblocks that prevent her and the civilian government from investigating and controlling the abuses of security forces. These roadblocks are rooted in the country’s Constitution, adopted by the military in 2008, and until they are removed, domestic and international maneuvering will be necessary to pressure the military to change its violent ways.

This is not the first time that we have seen Myanmar’s Constitution fail its citizens. Despite her party winning the first open elections in a generation, Aung San Suu Kyi herself was denied the presidency under the Constitution. She and her party had to resort to creating a new position – State Counselor – that has made her the de facto leader of the government. It was a creative, and necessary, move to bring a just outcome to the election.

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Harvard Crimmigration Clinic files amicus brief in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case challenging validity of ICE detainers

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

By Tess Hellgren, J.D. ’18, and Emma Rekart, J.D. ’17

The Crimmigration Clinic at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program recently filed an amicus curiae brief in support of a lawsuit arguing that it is unlawful for state law enforcement agencies to arrest and detain an individual in Massachusetts solely for immigration enforcement purposes.

The appellant, Sreynuon Lunn, is represented by the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the National Immigrant Justice Center.  Mr. Lunn argues that compliance with a request to arrest and detain an individual for immigration purposes violates both Massachusetts and federal law because these “ICE detainer requests” lack sufficient due process protections.

In its brief, the Crimmigration Clinic argues that Massachusetts law enforcement officials are not authorized to arrest and detain individuals pursuant to an ICE Detainer request because the Massachusetts legislature has not granted such authority.  Unlike several other civil arrest statutes in Massachusetts, ICE Detainer Requests fail to provide even basic due process protections, such as notice, findings of particularized facts, and oversight by a judge or neutral arbiter.

New Resource from CHLPI and Feeding America for Food Banks as Partners in Health Promotion

Via Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI), together with Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food banks and pantries, announce the release of Food Banks as Partners in Health Promotion: How HIPAA and Concerns about Protecting Patient Information Affect Your Partnership.

Health care providers and payers are increasingly realizing that food insecurity and unmet nutrition needs play a large role in the health outcomes of their patients and beneficiaries. When a patient is hungry, worried about running out of food, or unsure of where her or her family’s next meal will come from, that patient is less likely to be able to follow the medical advice of her health care provider. Food insecurity is also correlated with an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, and worse outcomes related to diabetes among patients who live with limited financial resources. Children in households that are food insecure fall ill more frequently, are hospitalized more often, and take longer to recover after becoming ill. In short, food insecurity is a key social determinant of health.

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Clinic Students and Staff Release Working Paper on Online Content Takedown Orders

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

In areas ranging from the so-called “right to be forgotten” to intellectual property to defamation, there is an ongoing debate over how legitimate national laws and preferences should be applied and enforced online in the content takedown context. At the core of this dispute is whether public international law doctrines of territoriality extend to digital spaces, or whether different presumptions should govern online.

In a new working paper released today entitled “Here, There, or Everywhere?”, Cyberlaw Clinic students Alicia Solow-Niederman (J.D. ’17) and Javier Careaga Franco (LL.M ’17), along with the Clinic’s Assistant Director Vivek Krishnamurthy and Clinic Advisor Nani Jansen Reventlow, offer a descriptive perspective on this debate. Using a case study method, the paper seeks to answer the question of what formal legal process determines whether objectionable online content remains accessible or removed and what territorial principles are emerging on the ground as courts tackle these questions.

By so doing, the develops a a taxonomy of global content takedown orders. Within the observed sample, the intended territorial scope of courts’ orders predominantly aligns with geographic boundaries, with this trend especially dominant in copyright disputes. This descriptive finding sets the stage for both further empirical work and policy prescriptions about the ideal role of the legal system in this domain.

Nani Jansen Reventlow and Vivek Krishnamurthy will be presenting the key findings of the paper at RightsCon in Brussels on March 30, 2017. More details on the event can be found here.

“My Clinic experience affirmed my desire to be a transactional attorney and helped prepare me for practice after graduation.”

By Asheley Walker, J.D. ’17

Asheley Walker, J.D. '17

Asheley Walker, J.D. ’17

I enrolled in the Transactional Law Clinics primarily because I wanted practical legal experience. I came to law school knowing I wanted to be a transactional attorney, but few, if any, of my classes gave me much insight into what it would be like to practice transactional law. I also wanted to work directly with clients. I worked in sales for startups and larger technology companies before law school, and I missed regular interaction with clients, including learning about their businesses, identifying how I could create value for them, and becoming a trusted advisor, not just a salesperson.

My experience in the Clinic delivered on both of those points. Because the Clinic operates like a small law firm, I interacted with clients directly and managed my own caseload of four to five clients each semester. While the learning curve for substantive issues was steep at times, I enjoyed the challenge and received more than adequate support from the Clinic. I researched legal issues independently, bounced ideas off of other student advocates, and discussed conclusions and lingering questions with my supervising attorney to get feedback before presenting my findings to the client.

I worked on a wide range of transactional issues during my two semesters in the Clinic. I counseled clients in choosing the right entity form for their business and goals, formed for-profit and nonprofit LLCs and corporations, drafted bylaws, and educated clients as to their ongoing corporate formalities requirements. Unexpectedly, I became somewhat of an expert about the eligibility requirements and application process for tax-exempt status, and I plan to harness that knowledge and experience in the pro bono work I do going forward. I spent the majority of my time drafting contracts, including privacy policies, terms of service, service agreements, and commercial real estate leases. I discovered that I love the jigsaw puzzle-like nature of contract drafting: taking the individual pieces and figuring out how to put them together to make the final product look (or work) the way that I wanted it to.

The Clinic serves a diverse set of clients, and I had the opportunity to work with clients ranging from Harvard students running startups to members of the Boston community looking to start a small business or nonprofit. I found it incredibly rewarding to draw on both my professional experience and my legal education to help underserved populations address legal challenges, mitigate risk, and identify ways to achieve their goals. My Clinic experience affirmed my desire to be a transactional attorney and helped prepare me for practice after graduation.

New Clinic: Democracy and the Rule of Law Clinic

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs is announcing a new clinic, Democracy and the Rule of Law Clinic.

Please visit the clinic webpage and read the course catalog description for more information.

Reflecting on my work with the Food Law and Policy Clinic

By Drake Carden, J.D. ’17

I have always taken an interest in food and how our food system operates, but had not done anything pertinent to the field outside of some light reading and Netflix documentary binge-watching. In the Spring of 2016, I had the pleasure of taking Emily Broad Leib’s Food Law class. This prompted my interest in enrolling in the clinic the next fall. I was placed on two projects: The Farm Bill Consortium and the Blueprint for the National Food Strategy.

The Farm Bill project was just taking off, and I specifically got to work on the Crop Insurance Title (Title XI) of the Farm Bill. My role consisted of written and interview-based research (which included a trip to rural Iowa!) to help formulate policy recommendations for the next Farm Bill with respect to Title XI. I worked closely with another teammate to coordinate our recommendations around commodities as well.  I also got the chance to travel to the Food Law Student Leadership Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, where I met a lot of students and faculty from the Consortium partner schools. The project is now moving in an exciting direction, where they will combine recommendations among all coordinated groups working on other Titles of the Farm Bill. I look forward to seeing the final product!

In a bit of contrast, the National Food Strategy project was nearing its completion. This project entailed a white paper written in conjunction with Vermont Law School, and I came on board to help with final edits to both the paper and the appendices of supporting national and international strategies. Just last week, I received a copy of the final paper. It was great to be able to see a finished product, and I was very proud of the work of the entire team!

The Food Law and Policy Clinic provided me a valuable lesson in project management and team-building. I enjoyed working with Emily, the fellows (shout out to Lee and Emma!), and my classmates. I also enjoyed focusing on policy-making, something that is rarer in black letter law classes. And I got to work with interesting, smart, kind and patient people. Mission accomplished: I cannot say enough good things about the clinic staff!

Learning how to be a lawyer at the Criminal Justice System

By Kathryn Yukevich, J.D. ’17

The criminal justice system is a violent, harsh, and unjust system. In courts across the country, including many courts in the Boston area, people are caught in the system, turned into a number, and fined money that they cannot pay. In too many situations, people are permanently branded by the state as the worst thing that they have ever done.

Kathryn Yukevich, J.D. '17

Kathryn Yukevich, J.D. ’17

In my year with the Criminal Justice Institute, I have seen that the people who work within the criminal justice system have the power to make the system less harsh and less unfeeling. The judges who see your client as a person, the prosecutors who are candid with you, the court clerks who make sure you have the copies you need before an argument, all make the system a little less violent.

But I did not come to Harvard Law School to make the criminal justice system just a little less violent. I came to challenge the foundations of the system and to learn how to fight on behalf of clients who have been marginalized, silenced, and abused. And that’s what I have learned how to do this year from the amazing professors, instructors, and staff at the Criminal Justice Institute. I have been privileged to learn from fierce lawyers who have dedicated their lives to protecting people’s rights that are often ignored in the name of efficiency and expediency.

CJI gives students the opportunity to take full ownership of cases from beginning to end. I started with all but one of my clients at the arraignment stage, which is the client’s first interaction with the criminal justice system in a particular case. I am certain that I will be able to finish out the cases either at trial or through some other resolution. Students take all kinds of cases in the clinic from DUI cases to drug cases to gun crimes, but most of the cases on my docket were domestic violence and abuse prevention order cases.

One of the best things about CJI is how light your caseloads are. Public defenders in the Boston area can have anywhere from 40 to 100 cases on their plate at any given time. I had 5 clients, which is the maximum students will take with CJI. This caseload gave me plenty of time to build a strong relationship with my clients, make sure my cases were thoroughly investigated, and present creative legal arguments to the court on behalf of my clients.

Professor Umunna and the clinical instructors have created a client-centered culture in the CJI office. Our client’s story is always central to our defense strategy. What our clients want and what our clients need is always the first question that we ask before making a decision about what to do in a case. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with clients and communities who have been incredibly gracious and kind, especially considering my inexperience as a student attorney.

I thought coming into CJI that my success would be determined by the number of novel legal arguments I could make about elements of a charge or whether I had a Perry Mason moment with a witness on the stand. I could not have been more wrong. Success at CJI really depends on your ability to communicate and build relationships with people. CJI has helped me become a clearer, more focused communicator. District Court is a busy place, so motions, oral arguments, and off-the-record communications have to be concise and to the point. My clinical instructor, Jennifer McKinnon, has taught me how to make sure that every communication I have with the court or other interested parties is strategic and focused. I have learned how to explain what is going on in a case to a client clearly and realistically.

I have been incredibly fortunate to be a member of the CJI community. The other students in the office are always there to bounce ideas off of, to commiserate when things go badly, and to celebrate when things go right. Professor Umunna and Jennifer McKinnon are inspirational and fierce lawyers. They have taught me the kind of lawyer that I want to be. And my clients have taught me over and over again what strength, optimism, and compassion looks like, particularly in the face of the violence of the criminal justice system. I will be incredibly sad to leave CJI at the end of May, but I know that I will carry the lessons of the clinic with me for the rest of my career.

Reflection on the Federal Tax Clinic

By Jimin He, J.D. ’17

Jimin He, J.D. '17

Jimin He, J.D. ’17

My two semesters at the Federal Tax Clinic have been a humbling experience. Unlike my clients, who hover around the poverty line and have incurred significant tax liabilities relative to their income, financial security is never truly a pressing concern in my day-to-day life. An equally humbling realization is just how powerless I can be as a student attorney. While my clients always appreciate what I have done for them, most of them they will not be able to escape circumstances, such as poverty, that brought them to the Clinic in the first place. Nor are they better equipped to deal with a vast and complicated bureaucracy, which at times seems indifferent to the plight of the low-income taxpayers. It once took me, with assistance from the IRS taxpayer’s advocate, more than two weeks to effectuate an address change for a client so she could receive her refund check.

Despite this occasional feeling of powerlessness, I firmly believe in the mission of the Clinical and Pro Bono Program, both as a pedagogical tool and a practical training curriculum for law students. While the work we do at the various clinics brings an undeniable benefit to our clients, we should not lose sight of the institutional barriers that must also be dismantled and force us to search for systemic solutions. This semester, I am working on filing a brief with the Fourth Circuit, hoping to relax the strict Tax Court case law on jurisdictional requirements for timely filings. The brief is part of the Clinic’s ongoing effort to bring impact litigation cases across the country to improve access to justice for low-income taxpayers. I am grateful that the Clinic has given me an opportunity to try to make a difference through both individual representation and strategic litigation.

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