Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

HIRC & IDP Release “Particularly Serious Crime” Bars Report and Chart

Via the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

Source: Pixabay

On September 20, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program’s Crimmigration Clinic and the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) issued two new resources for advocates and attorneys defending the rights of immigrant fighting removal to countries where they will be persecuted:

Phil Torrey, HIRC Managing Attorney and supervisor of the Crimmigration Clinic, helped create these resources, along with HLS law students Clarissa Lehne and Colin Poirot.

Let’s Discuss

Via the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program 

This fall 2018, the instructors and students of Harvard Law School’s “The Lawyer as Facilitator” course will host Let’s Disagree—a series of three small-group discussions, led by student facilitators as the capstone event of a semester-long facilitation workshop. We aim to convene people with diverse personal backgrounds and political views to address polarizing civic issues. Let’s Disagree is designed to explore deep differences of opinion in a facilitated setting that encourages participants to embrace and learn from conflict—to learn to disagree passionately on matters of vital civic importance, and still maintain a strong, vital community. We welcome students, staff, faculty, and members of the greater Boston community.

Let’s Disagree will meet from 1:00–2:30pm on October 31, November 7, and November 14, on the Harvard Law School campus. Participants are asked to commit to attending all three of the scheduled conversations and to bring a willingness to engage with respect and curiosity in a civil discussion of challenging issues. An optional 30-minute debrief with co-participants and facilitators will follow each session.

Topics will be determined near the time of each meeting of Let’s Disagree to ensure that each session is current and relevant.

If you are interested in applying to participate in this dialogue series, please fill out the application here. Your responses will help us select and assign participants to small groups with an eye to achieving a range of views and voices in each group.

We will follow up with you by email to let you know if you have been accepted to the program and confirm your participation.

New Frontiers in Homemade Food

Via The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

By: Amy Hoover

Amy Hoover was a FLPC summer intern and Cottage Food Laws in America report co-author.

Source: Pexels

An innovative bill on the verge of being signed into law in California could create a new frontier in the state laws that allow cooks to sell food made in home kitchens. Building on the success of cottage food laws, which allow food producers to sell certain low-risk homemade foods, this new law would open up sales opportunities for entrepreneurs selling a wider array of foods, including hot meals, made in their homes.

Cottage food laws are now commonplace across the United States. In the timespan between FLPC’s 2013 report on cottage foods and our new report released last month, cottage food laws passed in seven additional states and the District of Columbia, bringing the total of states with cottage food laws to 49. Furthermore, many states have updated their cottage food rules to expand the types of products or scale of production that is allowed under their cottage food provisions.

Although cottage food laws vary tremendously from state to state in their details (just check out our 50-state appendix for an interesting snapshot of federalism at work), most have traditionally followed a fairly standard basic structure. These laws typically allow home cooks to sell limited types or categories of foods that pose low food safety risks when held at room temperature, subject to certain sales limits. Higher-risk food items that require time and temperature control for safety, such as meats, cooked vegetables, and premade meals, are not allowed under these cottage food laws.

All cottage food laws followed this basic pattern until 2015, when Wyoming broke away from the typical cottage food law with its food freedom law. In contrast to other cottage food laws, Wyoming’s law removes almost all limitations on what types of foods home producers can sell. It requires only that cottage food producers sell directly to “informed end consumers” for home consumption. Within these limits, home food producers’ actions are not regulated by the state. Since Wyoming’s food freedom law passed, North Dakota and Illinois have also passed laws based on this model (although with more constraints than Wyoming’s law).

Another new frontier in homemade foods is now on the horizon in California, where a coalition of food advocates is on the verge of securing enactment of A.B. 626. If (or at this point, perhaps when) A.B. 626 becomes law, in addition to making low-risk foods under the state’s existing cottage food law, home producers will have another, more expansive option: the proposed law would allow home cooks to sell almost any foods, including hot prepared meals. Within the proposed law’s oversight and food safety framework, home cooks in California would be able to make and sell foods that need time and temperature control for safety—exactly what almost every cottage food law forbids.

Although both California and Wyoming have sought to broaden the types of foods that home producers can sell, A.B. 626 innovates in a very different way from Wyoming’s food freedom law. Wyoming’s law exempts homemade food producers from any state oversight. In contrast, the California bill allows home cooking but subjects “microenterprise home kitchens” to a new set of regulations. The bill’s permitting and licensing requirements (more than for cottage food producers; less than for commercial food operations) are designed to create a new avenue of economic opportunity for home cooks while ensuring food safety.

Alongside its innovative elements, A.B. 626 retains several of the features that have helped cottage food laws successfully balance food entrepreneurship and food safety. It allows only direct sales, on the theory that a personal interaction between cook and consumer can create a relationship that reduces the need for government oversight. It also limits annual gross sales, number of meals sold, and number of employees, meaning that only micro-scale operations are allowed under the proposed law. But even these small operations can help home cooks make some extra money and test the market before they scale up and face the costs of complying with the full array of food safety regulations for commercial operations.

With overwhelming bipartisan support, A.B. 626 is well on its way to becoming law. It passed California’s Assembly on January 29th, and just recently, on August 28th, it passed California’s Senate. Now, Governor Jerry Brown has until September 30th to sign the bill into law. Its enactment can provide a new model for homemade food sales and may well set the stage for future shifts in cottage food laws nationwide.

In California and other states across the nation, food entrepreneurs, lawmakers, and regulators are innovating and experimenting to open up new opportunities for safe and delicious homemade foods. To learn more about the recent trends in cottage food laws nationwide, check FLPC’s new definitive guide, Cottage Food Laws in the United States.

Survived to Tell the Story

Via The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program 

By: Mutasim Ali

Mutasim Ali

This post was written by Mutasim Ali, a summer intern at HIRC. Mutasim is a law graduate of the College of Law and Business – Ramat Gan, Israel.

“As our forefathers were in the distant past foreign workers in countries, not theirs, and in the recent past were knocking on the gates of various countries fleeing the Nazi enemy, and were rejected – we are required to apply the relevant legal rules with compassion and sensitivity to all involved ‘victims of persecution’. This is necessary because we are a Jewish and democratic state.” Meltzer, Israeli Supreme Court Justice.

Every immigrant has a unique story. Some of us are privileged and are able to choose when and where to go searching for a better life, while others who are less privileged are forced to escape involuntarily to survive.  I am one of those who escaped genocide and ethnic cleansing in Darfur and I survived to tell the story of those who didn’t survive.

When I was forced to leave my home in Darfur in 2003, I didn’t know where was I going and I didn’t know where I would end up. All I knew was that I needed to run as fast as I could to a safe place so that I could survive to tell the story. My home was destroyed by the Sudanese government and its militia called Janjaweed. They murdered tens of people in my village and displaced hundreds of others, among them my family who still live in a displaced persons camp to this day. I recall the atrocities and the extermination of our people, the African ethnic groups in Darfur, for no reason but for their African racial identity. The government of Sudan committed systematic acts of murder which were recently defined as a genocide by the former US State Secretary Colin Powell. I have told my story hundreds of times and every time I feel more pain as I recall the stories of the past, the trauma, and, most of all, I think about those left behind.

More than 300,000 people were murdered, over two and a half million are displaced within Sudan, and tens of thousands of others are in exile. As a refugee, I escaped not only for personal safety, but also to tell my story time and again and to be a voice for those still in the darkness of tyranny and under persecution. I believe in the power of words and as much as telling this story is painful, it is the only way to make the voices of the victims heard and to involve other people in this just struggle. I was raised by community organizing parents. I learned to care for others and I always felt the obligation and the commitment to act. In Sudan, I was imprisoned several times as a result of my advocacy – I didn’t quit because as Albert Einstein said: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those watching them without doing anything.”

It has been almost nine years since I left my home country and now I live in Israel as the only recognized refugee from Sudan. I didn’t expect an easy life, but I did expect compassion and sensitivity and indeed I expected to find a safe haven. In some instances, I feel I don’t belong to Sudan anymore. It is a country of 1,886,068 km sq. that doesn’t have a place for many others like me. I am no longer with my family. I lost my social status, networks, and even habits. Now, I live in Israel the small country of approximately 20,770 km sq. where I find myself without a history and without representation. You hear people label refugees as a threat to society. Some say: “So what if they fled persecution? Why should ‘we’ as a society care? They should look for a shelter somewhere else.” People spew hatred and propaganda, blaming immigrants for almost every problem. They apply offensive policies to dehumanize immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. It is so painful when you have to tell your story to prove you are in need of protection and instead of confronting your story with compassion and sensitivity, you are told go back to your home. This is not where you belong, you are an illegal infiltrator, you are told. The terms illegal and infiltrator come with so many connotations, all of which are negative.

Listening to those voices is discouraging because the negative voices are empowered by politicians and have the necessary resources to spread their hatred and propaganda. They base their arguments on false information and it is difficult if not impossible to have a constructive and reasonable debate.

I have tried to use these negative experiences as motivation to succeed. I completed my law degree and currently I am interning at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, where we are helping asylum seekers with stories similar to mine. To help someone fleeing MS-13 or Barrio 18 in El Salvador is not just about responding to a story of a stranger, it is also about my story fleeing the brutal and vicious acts of Janjaweed in Sudan. It is personal to me. Listening to asylum seekers is not enough to understand their full stories. Our stories are much more than what is told. To understand our plight, one must experience it and I don’t wish that on anyone. All I wish is for everyone, whether they agree or disagree with welcoming immigrants, to consider the fear and pain asylum seekers and refugees are living in.

I am privileged to be part of this organization and most of all to be mentored by the amazing people who are committed to making our world a better place. For us at the Clinic, it is not just about legal services but also about creating a space for immigrants to feel that they belong and that they are welcome in this community, and where their story can be told and heard.

LSC Engages in Outreach to Homeless Veterans at Stand Down 2018

Via The Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School 

LSC’s Betsy Gwin, Dana Montalto, Dan Nagin, Julia Schutt, Keith Fogg, Steve Kerns, and Evan Seamone volunteering at Greater Boston’s Stand Down 2018

A team of volunteer students and staff from LSC partnered with Veterans Legal Services to provide legal advice to over 120 veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness at Greater Boston Veterans Stand Down 2018. The event, which was held on Friday, September 7, at City Hall Plaza, brings together over 100 community providers in order to provide veterans with access to medical, housing, employment, legal, and other services.

Alongside Veterans Legal Services and pro bono attorneys, LSC staff volunteered in the legal assistance tent to advise veterans on areas of law such as VA benefits, Chapter 115 state veterans’ benefits, other public benefits, tax debt issues, and discharge upgrades. In addition to offering legal advice, LSC staff provided referrals to other service providers and in a few cases has followed up to explore potential legal representation.

Clinic Attorney Evan Seamone, whose work is supported through a generous grant from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in order to provide legal assistance to underserved veterans, reflected on the impact of Stand Down as an outreach event:

“In a noteworthy trend this year,  a number of veterans at the legal tent shared that they had learned valuable information at the Stand Down after years of failed attempts. An answer awaited them, but finding it had been a major hurdle. This year’s Stand Down underscored the incomparable value of concentrating essential services and resources in a single and accessible place.”

The event was coordinated by the New England Center and Home for Veterans.  More photos from the event are online here.


City Attorney Sues Blogger for Libel. Is It ‘A Threat Designed to Silence?’

Via the Miami Herald 

By: Sarah Blaskey

Cyberlaw Clinical Instructional Fellow Kendra Albert was quoted in an article by the Miami Herald about a lawsuit where the North Bay Village, FL attorney is suing a blogger for alleged libel:

“The suit is part of a growing trend of public officials taking bloggers to court for posts they see as harmful to their personal or professional image, according to Kendra Albert of Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic. Melania Trump filed a high-profile libel suit against a Maryland blogger that settled last year in her favor, with a full retraction and significant reparations. While some cases are legitimate, Albert said, the increase in lawsuits against journalists (think Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker) has publications thinking twice before publishing. These days, even facts can be expensive to defend.

‘Journalistic entities need to have a fair amount of money in order to defend themselves, and I do think that does represent a threat,’ Albert said. ‘Lawsuits can be weaponized by folks with more power to shut down speech they don’t like. But that’s not necessarily what’s happening here.’ Albert did not review the specifics of the case.”

Read the full article here.

Building Support for the Expansion of Court-Annexed Mediation in Vietnam

For a week in August, John Cratsley, Director of the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic, was invited to join the teaching team for a Seminar on Commercial Mediation co-sponsored by the Vietnamese Supreme People’s Court and the USAID GIG Program. 

By: Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.)

More formally titled “The Business Environment and Commercial Mediation: Resolving Commercial Disputes at Court”, the two day seminar for Vietnamese judges and court clerks was presented first in Hanoi and repeated in Ho Chi Minh City. The organizers, wanting the perspective of a retired American judge with mediation experience, asked me to develop four presentations about: the U.S. experience with court-annexed mediation programs, the basics of the mediation process from start to finish, a review of a mediator’s evaluative rather than facilitative techniques, and a summary of US law on enforcement of mediated settlements.  I also presented two commercial mediation problems for discussion in small groups, one involving a contract dispute over sales of medical devices and the other a dispute about defective motor oil used by large construction vehicles.

What became readily apparent as the seminar proceeded was the importance of the first Vietnamese court-annexed mediation program already underway in Hai Phong City Court. This pilot project, now six months old, was discussed throughout the seminar and, in fact, a Judge of the Hai Phong Court described the pilot in detail in both cities.

For me, as I told the seminar participants, there is much to like and replicate, beginning with the wide range of disputes, including those involving land, family, employment, contract and government agencies, that are quickly screened and referred to mediation early in the process.  The mediators are not the sitting judges who might ultimately try the case but members of a panel of retired attorneys, prosecutors, court officials and judges. If they wish, parties can chose their mediator from among the members of the panel. The cost of the mediation is free as the mediators are paid from the state budget.  For management purposes, a brief but reasonable time period is allowed for the mediation to proceed before the case, if not settled, is returned to the court docket. Plus the time involved does not count against the statute of limitations. Further, of importance in Vietnam, any mediated settlement can be approved right in the same courthouse without the delay of traditional confirmation proceedings.  Each of the Judges from the Hai Phong Court who spoke during the seminar emphasized the increasing number of successfully settled disputes, and the improved social relationships, achieved by this innovation.

While I was given the role of “expert”, or so the program read, the real significance of this seminar was introducing the concept of court-annexed mediation, particularly the Hai Phong pilot program, to judges and court clerks from the North and South.  This introductory seminar, together with follow up  mediation training for members of the mediator panels, city by city, will surely further the expansion of court-annexed mediation throughout Vietnam.

Student Borrowers And Advocates Win Court Case Against DeVos


By: Elissa Nadworny and Anya Kamenetz


A federal judge ruled this week that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ delay of a key student borrower protection rule was improper and unlawful.

“This is such an important win for student borrowers and anyone who cares about a government that operates under the rule of law,” says Toby Merrill, of Harvard Law School’s Project On Predatory Student Lending. The judge is expected to order a remedy in the next week.

U.S. District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss sided with consumer advocates, two former students seeking relief from their loans and Democratic attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia, who challenged the Trump administration’s postponement of Obama-era regulations governing “borrower defense to repayment.”

If you attend a school that misled you or engaged in other misconduct, “borrower defense” is the process of seeking relief from your outstanding student loans. The rule was created in the mid-1990s but remained obscure, producing very few claims, until the collapse of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech beginning in 2014. That’s when the Obama administration updated and clarified how students were supposed to seek loan forgiveness. Since then, a reported 165,000 claims have been brought, and almost all of them pertain to for-profit colleges.

Since June 2017, DeVos has taken several actions to delay the Obama-era rule. The department has used that time to restart the rule-making clock and rewrite borrower defense to make it tougher for students to get debt relief. In particular, they introduced the idea that some students should only get some of their loans forgiven, depending on their current income. The new DeVos rule would take effect in mid-2019. In the meantime, claims are being reviewed and processed slowly, under the old, mid-1990s rule, with most students getting partial relief or none at all, according to a recent report by the Associated Press.

The judge ruled that DeVos’ delay was “unlawful” and “arbitrary and capricious.” With respect to the student plaintiffs, the judge found that the department’s actions: “have deprived” them “of several concrete benefits that they would have otherwise accrued under the Borrower Defense Regulations.”

In a hearing Friday, the judge allowed these two plaintiffs, Meaghan Bauer and Stephano Del Rose, to join — as defendants — a separate, ongoing case. In this case, a for-profit college industry group is suing to block the 2016 Obama-era rule.

The Department of Education did not immediately respond to request for comment by NPR.


Read more stories about the decision with quotes from Toby Merrill, a litigator at Harvard University’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, in the Washington Post and

UnSung: Sharon Jones

Via Minnesota Lawyer 

By: Kevin Featherly

Sharon Jones, JD ’03
Source: Minnesota Lawyer

As a Harvard-educated attorney who once did contract work for the high-flying Robins Kaplan firm, it would seem Sharon Jones had boundless career options. She has chosen to work among the poor.

Jones is the executive director for Legal Assistance of Dakota County, where for the past 10 years she has provided legal assistance to low-income Minnesotans.

“I got to law school and realized that what I really missed was helping people,” Jones said. So she joined the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, representing low-income Boston-area residents. She graduated in 2003.

After stints at the Indian Child Welfare Law Center and Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Jones became LADC’s executive director. LADC has managed through budget-challenged times to help 1,200 low-income Dakota County families.

“We are really focusing on trying to make the courts accessible to everyone,” Jones said. “We believe, ultimately, that makes a healthy community.”

Jones hears questions every day about potentially more lucrative career options. The simple answer, she said, is that there isn’t another place she’d rather be.

“I think I am incredibly privileged to do work that I love every day and to walk the paths that I get to walk with my clients,” she said.

Yes, You Can Name A Website “”

Via the Electronic Frontier Foundation 

By: Mitch Stolz

Jeremy Rubin just wanted to speak out about the rise of white supremacist groups in the U.S. and raise some money to fight against those groups. But the Internet domain name he registered in late 2017 for his campaign—“”—ran afoul of a U.S. Department of Commerce policy banning certain words from .US domain names. A government contractor took away his domain name, effectively shuttering his website. Last month, after EFF and the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School intervened, Mr. Rubin got his site back.

A government agency shutting down an Internet domain based on the contents of its name runs afoul of the First Amendment. After a long back-and-forth with EFF and the Cyberlaw Clinic, the Commerce Department’s contractor Neustar agreed to give Mr. Rubin back his domain, and to stop banning “dirty words.” has proudly returned to the Internet.

As anyone with a business or personal website knows, having a meaningful domain name can be the cornerstone of online presence. Mr. Rubin, moved to act after anti-Semitic and white supremacist incidents last summer, created a “virtual lapel pin” through the Ethereum computing platform as a fundraiser for opposition to these causes. The virtual pins, and the domain he registered to sell them, declared his message in a pithy fashion: “

The Internet’s domain name system as a whole is governed by ICANN, an independent nonprofit organization. While ICANN imposes questionable rules from time to time, a blanket ban on naughty words in domain names has never been one of them. Unluckily for Mr. Rubin, the .US top-level domain is a different animal, because it’s controlled by the U.S. government.

Originally used only for government websites, .US is now open to anyone with a connection to the U.S. Since 1998, it’s been controlled by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a part of the Department of Commerce. And it’s managed by registry operator Neustar, Inc., under contract with NTIA.

Shortly after Mr. Rubin registered “,” Neustar suspended the domain, calling it a violation of an NTIA “seven dirty words” policy, a phrase with particular First Amendment significance.

As a general rule, First Amendment law makes clear that the government can rarely impose restrictions on speech based on the content of that speech, and when it does, must show some level of necessity. The well-known case of Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation upheld the FCC’s decision to reprimand, though not fine or revoke the license of, a public broadcaster after it aired George Carlin’s famous monologue “Filthy Words.” In so doing, the Court approved of the FCC’s definition of “indecency,” a word otherwise without a constitutional definition. But the Supreme Court explained that “indecency” as a legal concept was limited to over-the-air broadcast media, because broadcasts made use of limited radio spectrum, were a scarce and highly regulated public resource, and were easily overheard by children in their everyday surroundings. Many years later, the Supreme Court directly rejected the US government’s attempt to impose a similar indecency regime on the Internet, and that regime has never been applied to any medium other than over-the-air radio and television broadcasts.

Last month, we learned that Neustar and NTIA were reversing course, allowing Mr. Rubin to proceed with the use of, and more generally removing these kinds of restrictions from future .US domain name registrations.

Thanks to the First Amendment, the .US domain, advertised as “America’s Address,” is a place where one can say “Fuck Nazis” without censorship.


IHRC Clinic Releases Joint Briefing Papers on Refugee Freedom of Movement and Business Documentation in Kakuma, Kenya

Via the International Human Rights Clinic 

By: Anna Crowe

The International Human Rights Clinic and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Kenya released two briefing papers on September 13 highlighting the importance of freedom of movement and business documentation for refugees living in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp and the associated Kalobeyei settlement. Kakuma and Kalobeyei are home to close to 186,000 refugees, and Kakuma camp itself is one of the largest refugee camps in the world.

Under Kenyan law, all refugees are required to live in and remain within designated refugee camps – to leave a camp without permission is a criminal offence. “Supporting Kakuma’s Refugees: The Importance of Freedom of Movement” explores the ways in which movement restrictions affect the lives and livelihoods of Kakuma’s refugees and limit their opportunities to participate in the local economy and Kenyan society. It seeks to encourage local and national actors to consider alternatives to Kenya’s current encampment policy and rethink existing practices around the temporary movement regime in place in the camps, which refugees described as opaque, arbitrary, and unpredictable.

Formal work and employment opportunities are largely inaccessible to Kakuma’s refugees, and most rely on humanitarian assistance as their primary form of support. Nonetheless, Kakuma has a thriving informal economy and a sizeable number of refugees run informal businesses there, providing goods and services to other refugees, as well as the local community. “Supporting Kakuma’s Refugee Traders: The Importance of Business Documentation in an Informal Economy” focuses on refugees running businesses in the camp and their experiences obtaining mandatory local government-issued business permits. It aims to contribute to ongoing discussions on how to ensure that business permit practices help refugees to safely run businesses and support refugees to exercise their right to work.

The briefing papers are part of a longer-term collaboration with NRC, which in 2017 included examining the documentation challenges refugees living in Nairobi face. Clinic students Haroula Gkotsi JD’19, Niku Jafarnia JD’19, Alexandra Jumper JD‘18, Daniel Levine-Spound JD’19, Julius Mitchell JD’19, and Sara Oh JD’19 worked on the briefing papers, including through desk research and fieldwork.

SPO Student Reflection: Answering the Call – In Community for Justice

By: Felipe Hernandez, JD ’20

Source: Pixabay

As a first-generation college student, my parents and I, who worked nightshifts as janitors, never dreamed that one day I would attend Harvard Law. As undocumented immigrants living in Los Angeles, our family faced periodic evictions, interactions with the criminal legal system, labor violations, and discrimination without access to legal aid. Throughout my life, and increasingly during 1L, I regularly received frantic phone calls from family members or friends undergoing life altering challenges including incarceration, deportation, eviction, child custody issues, domestic violence, and police violence. While these experiences were my primary motivation for changing my career from the non-profit world to attend law school, they continue to fuel my involvement in student practice organizations (SPOs) and clinics to develop the necessary legal skills to answer these calls.

To better understand the criminal legal system afflicting folx back home, I joined Harvard Defenders, where we provide representation to people facing criminal show-cause hearings. The Defenders’ community immediately became a home of diverse, radical, and loving people working to counter the weight of the criminal legal system and exploitative social order on low-income, mostly people of color, in Boston. Practically, I learned how to respond to criminal complaints, interview people we serve through an anti-oppressive method, develop case strategy in team meetings, gather evidence, cross-exam police officers, and advocate zealously for our people in court. The stories of the folx we represented – from domestic violence to struggling with drug addiction and mental health to petty larceny – resonated deeply with the people I was trying to help back home. Understanding the limitations of direct representation in addressing systemic violence, I am most excited when our community discusses strategies to address structural oppression afflicting the people we serve, including engaging in community movement lawyering and cultivating an abolitionist politic and practice within and outside of Defenders.

I also joined the HLS Immigration Project (HIP) to develop the capabilities to help people facing ICE persecution, imprisonment, and deportation. I transferred the skills I learned from preparing asylum applications and for bond hearings in immigration detention and removal proceedings to help family and community members fighting deportation. In HIP, I met students and staff devoted to addressing the consequences of global inequality and imperialism that displaces millions of people, and pushes them to migrate through violent borders. I spent my 2018 Spring Break with American Gateways in San Antonio helping people imprisoned in the South Texas Detention Center prepare asylum applications. Our team included some of the most inspiring, critical, and incredible law students at HLS. This experience was life changing because we witnessed the psychological, physical, and emotional abuse that the U.S. immigration system inflicts onto people fleeing violence. For example, as I worked with one of my clients, Melissa, on her asylum application, she shared her frustrations with the U.S immigration system: “I came here because I thought it would be better, I thought they [the immigration judge] would believe me and help. Instead, I am in prison.” On our final day, as we said goodbye and talked about her next steps, we both exchanged tears of pain, power, and hope. She had been fighting tirelessly for decades for herself and daughter to escape abuse. She won many battles but the structural imbalance of power was overwhelming. As I left, she told me that she felt more energized to kept fighting. That night, I wrote in my journal:

“I came to HLS because I thought I could fix it all as easily as I had helped family members in the past. How naïve. Our immigration system is built to undermine and reject basic notions of humanity. People with the audacity to seek a better life, after decades of abuse, are told ‘We don’t believe you’ by administrative judges sitting back in their cushy chairs and folx are sent back where they are certain to undergo similar, if not worse, traumatic experiences. I wonder if what we did was enough. I wonder how we can dream of and actively work toward building a better world.” – March 16, 2018

The impact of my time at HLS has already had ripple effects on those I promised I’d serve because of the skills I gained through SPOs. For example, I helped a family member fight a criminal charge she did not commit after being overcharged and pressured by a district attorney to take a plea. I helped another family member fight an eviction proceeding initiated because of her partner’s undocumented status. While these skills have improved my ability to respond to some of the ongoing calls for help I receive, I remain frustrated at my inability to substantively dismantle systemic causes of these calls. This is why I decided to serve as a student-attorney with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB); to improve my capabilities in providing direct legal aid and to be in community with an inspiring group of brilliant people who are consciously cultivating spaces and practices to address systemic injustices in coalition with the Boston community.

Being involved in SPOs and clinics has not been easy. Those of us involved constantly struggle to grapple with our evolving critical views of social and reparative justice, realities within and outside the criminal and civil legal systems, and strategic visions of how to engage in long-term movement building yet deal with the urgent needs of people we serve and advocate with. Nevertheless, we persist to answer the calls for justice because of our shared prophetic love for the communities we serve.

SPO Student Reflection: “IHRC Has Been at the Heart of My Growth as a Human Rights Practitioner and Social Justice Advocate”

By: Daniel Levine-Spound, JD ’19

It is no exaggeration to say that my experience in the Human Rights Program has been the highlight of my time in law school. Since arriving at HLS in the Fall of 2016, I have served as Director of Programming and as a project participant in HLS Advocates for Human Rights, spent two semesters in the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), conducted independent research with IHRC professors, and taken as many international human rights-related courses as possible. Now, as I begin my third consecutive semester in the International Human Rights Clinic, and begin my work as Co-President of HLS Advocates, my 3L schedule largely revolves around the Human Rights Program – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The breadth of clinical offerings, SPO projects, and coursework in the Human Rights Program allows students to explore a broad range of pressing human rights issue-areas, and to identify and focus on the subjects about which they are most passionate. Most recently, as a 2L clinical student, I spent two semesters working on a lengthy investigation of refugee rights in the Kakuma refugee camp in North-Eastern Kenya, with a specific focus on freedom of movement. Working in a team of students under the supervision of Clinical Instructor Anna Crowe, I conducted months of research on movement restrictions in Kakuma, analyzing the functioning and effects of a complex and often opaque governance regime in light of domestic, regional, and international law. In November 2017, I traveled to Nairobi and Kakuma with Anna and one other student, conducting dozens of interviews with refugees, NGO workers, government employees and experts. Our research, reflected in a lengthy internal report and recently published briefing paper, provides a clear analysis of the significant consequences of movement restrictions on refugees in Kakuma, demonstrates the incongruence of said restrictions with Kenyan and international law, and offers a number of necessary recommendations. Now, as I enter into my third semester in the IHRC as a 3L, I am thrilled to be working on a project centered on assisting victims of environmental damage in armed conflict with Bonnie Docherty, Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection.

Outside of my clinical work, I have had the opportunity to take courses, and conduct independent research, on a number of subjects related to international human rights. Over the course of my time at HLS, I have explored questions of international humanitarian law, public international law, corporate accountability, human rights litigation in US Courts, disarmament, the UN human rights system, regional human rights courts, and emerging international law around LGBTQ rights and protections.

Undoubtedly, the most meaningful part of my experience in IHRC and Advocates has been the opportunity to work closely with clinicians. As project supervisors, classroom instructors, SPO advisors, and mentors, IHRC clinicians are the reason why Harvard Law School is an exceptional place to learn and grow as a human rights practitioner and lawyer. Supportive and affirming, inspiring and encouraging, and committed to the values of human rights and social justice, IHRC clinicians are dedicated to developing the next crop of human rights lawyers and activists. And at an extremely precarious moment for human rights, both in the United States and across the world, their work could not be more vital.

At a large and often intimidating institution like HLS, IHRC is a home for students on campus committed to fighting for a more just, humane, and democratic world. Even when I don’t have anything scheduled in the IHRC, I often find myself walking around the clinic, chatting with clinicians and other social justice-oriented students, and feeling re-charged and rejuvenated, ready to get back to the human rights work for which I came to HLS in the first place. As I enter into my final year of law school, it is clear that IHRC has been at the heart of my growth as a human rights practitioner and social justice advocate, providing me with the tools and inspiration I need to begin a career as a human rights lawyer.

I will miss it deeply when I am gone.

Rand Paul Must Reverse His Position On Judge Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court Nomination – Or Betray His Anti-War Legacy

Via Take Care Blog

By: Daniel Levine-Spound

On July 30th, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced his support for Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Although he had initially voiced concerns regarding Kavanaugh’s “record on warrantless bulk collection of data and how that might apply to very important privacy cases,” Paul ultimately backed President Trump’s choice.

Whatever one makes of Rand Paul’s waffling on privacy issues, his support for Kavanaugh speaks to an arguably deeper betrayal of his principles: opposition to the United States’ ever-expanding and seemingly interminable “War on Terror.” For few judges have shown themselves less willing to impose limits on American war-making, or more flexible in deferring to the Executive Branch on issues related to armed conflict, than Kavanaugh.

In June 2018, Paul chaired a Senate hearing on the Corker-Kaine Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a bill meant to replace the 2001 AUMF and provide new legal authority for US counterterrorism operations abroad. In his Opening Statement, Paul noted that when the 2001 AUMF was passed, “no one in Congress believed they were voting for a worldwide war on ‘terrorism’ in twenty some odd countries that would go on for decades.” Rather than limiting “the scope of war,” the proposal, Paul explained, would do the opposite, “expand[ing] the current theaters of war” and flipping the Constitution “on its head.” Although the bill references “reassert[ing] the role of Congress,” Paul’s assessment is correct: the bill’s passage would have further ceded Congress’s constitutional war-making authority, allowing “the president to wage war against six enumerated groups and add new groups in the future, all without any geographic or time constraints.”

Paul’s opposition to the Corker-Kaine bill aligns with his long-standing principles. Since his 2011 election, Paul has remained one of the Senate’s staunchest critics of the “Forever War” and unchecked executive power. In 2013, he conducted the “longest talking filibuster in recent Senate memory,” speaking from the Senate floor for over twelve-hours to block the Obama Administration’s nomination of John Brennan as head of the CIA due to his role in Obama’s drone strike program. In September 2017, Paul called explicitly for the repeal of the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs, lambasting the “trillions spent in seemingly endless conflicts in every corner of the globe.” He asserted that, when Congress allows the Executive Branch to “unilaterally” declare war, it “abdicates” its Constitutional responsibilities.

For anyone concerned about the “Forever War,” Paul’s past actions are laudable. But in supporting Kavanaugh, Paul has undermined over a decade of advocacy aimed at restraining US military action abroad. At a time in which the Trump Administration has publicly declared its intention to keep Guantanamo open, and has further escalateddrone strikes, supporting Kavanaugh’s accession to the Supreme Court is particularly inconsistent with Paul’s publicly-stated principles.

Perhaps no issue more clearly highlights the difference between Kavanaugh and Paul than Guantanamo Bay, the infamous prison camp opened by the Bush Administration at the onset of the “War on Terror.” In 2013, Paul was one of three Republican Senators willing to back an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) loosening restrictions on transferring detainees out of Guantanamo—part of President Obama’s efforts to shrink the Guantanamo prison population. In light of that vote and other actions, Paul was characterized in 2015 as a “rare Republican presidential candidate willing to buck the party’s traditional position on an issue of national defense.”

Kavanaugh could hardly be more different. In a lengthy concurrence in Al-Bihani v. Obama, a 2010 case in which a Yemeni citizen captured in 2002 challenged his continued detention in Guantanamo, Kavanaugh disputed the notion that the international law of armed conflict places any restriction on US wartime detention. Both the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions—signed and ratified by the United States—strictly limit the permissible length and conditions of detention in armed conflict. But in spite of the Supreme Court’s recognition of these obligations, Kavanaugh would have rejected his court’s ability to enforce them on the President. In his view, “it is hard to conceive of a task less appropriate for U.S. judges…than judicial invocation…of uncertain and changing international-law norms to restrain the President and the U.S. military in waging a congressionally authorized war abroad.”

Three years later, in Razak Ali v. ObamaKavanaugh again disputed the notion that courts, or international law, can regulate the length of detention in Guantanamo: “It is not the Judiciary’s proper role to devise a novel detention standard that varies with the length of detention. The only question before us is whether the President has authority under the AUMF to detain Ali. In conducting that analysis, we must apply the same standard in 2013 that we would have applied in the aftermath of Ali’s capture in 2002.” Following Kavanaugh’s logic, there is no reason why an individual captured in 2002 could not be held until 2030 or 2050, provided the ill-defined armed conflict authorized by the 2001 AUMF continues. For Kavanaugh, the United States’ international obligations regarding wartime conduct appear largely irrelevant: “When Congress has broadly authorized the President to take certain actions, and that broad authorization encompasses actions that might in turn violate international law, courts have no legitimate basis to invoke international law as a ground for second-guessing the President’s interpretation.”

In an op-ed tracing Kavanaugh’s national-security jurisprudence, Professor Stephen Vladeck observes: “Kavanaugh’s many opinions concerning Guantanamo and related matters make it crystal clear that his confirmation would make the court far more deferential to the president’s exercise of aggressive war powers.” Vladeck highlights several decisions animated by the same principle seemingly at work in Al-Bihani: extreme deference to the executive on matters related to armed conflict. In Saleh, et al. v. Titanet al., a federal class action lawsuit filed on behalf of over 250 Iraqi civilians tortured by private US military contractors at Abu Ghraib, Kavanaugh joined a majority decision “barring state-law tort claims against a private military contractor.” Saleh’s majority focused on concerns that liability could hinder the war-effort: “Allowance of such suits will surely hamper military flexibility and cost-effectiveness.” As in Al-Bihaniand Razak Ali, Kavanaugh’s opposition to judicial involvement in armed conflict—and his extreme deference to the executive branch—dictated his vote.

As the “War on Terror” trudges into its 17th year, Rand Paul faces an important choice: will he vote “yes” on the nomination of a judge committed to seemingly unfettered executive power in all matters related to wartime conduct? Or will he uphold the constitutional principles he has long espoused, and refuse to assent to Kavanaugh’s nomination?

His legacy of opposing endless war and advocating checks on presidential power may depend on the answer.

Why An Army of Small Companies is Defending the Sprint/T-Mobile Merger


Source: Pixabay

Cyberlaw Clinical Professor of Law Susan Crawford writes about why small companies are supporting the T-Mobile/Sprint merger and what the consequences are for consumers if the merger occurs:

Last month, Reuters reported that T-Mobile was asking the small operators that resell T-Mobile’s excess network capacity to write letters and opinion pieces in support of the company’s proposed $36 billion merger with Sprint.

T-Mobile’s request wasn’t unusual. Trumping up support for deals that aren’t actually in the public interest is common practice in the swamp we know as US telecom policy. When Comcast was working on its merger with NBCU at the beginning of this decade, supportive comments poured into the FCC from companies across the country who had an interest in keeping Comcast happy. By helpfully suggesting talking points to resellers—or MVNOs, for Mobile Virtual Network Operators—including Mint Mobile, Republic Wireless, and Ting, all of which lease access from the Big Four network operators (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile) in order to sell phone and data services to customers, T-Mobile is following the usual “air of inevitability” merger playbook.

What’s so troubling about T-Mobile’s get-out-the-vote campaign is who is aiding the company’s lobbying. MVNOs, who don’t own their own infrastructure but collectively account for about 10 percent of the consumer wireless market in the US, primarily target “value” consumers, otherwise known as low- and medium-income Americans. These small companies, who are utterly dependent on the goodwill of the Big Four, are serving Americans who are making barely enough to survive.

Continue reading.

An Unusual Coalition in Boston Helps Save Homes from Foreclosure

Via Next City

By: Zoe Sullivan

Source: Pixbay

One day in early Summer 2012, a man yelled up to Alma Chislom from the front porch of her triple-decker apartment building, the style so common in the Boston area.

“The man on the porch asked if he bought the house, if we would want to stay,” says Chislom. She had moved just a few months earlier to the Park Street apartment after dealing with a landlord who didn’t pay the water or heating bills. “So here I am again thinking we’re going to be homeless,” she says.

Chislom wasn’t alone in this situation. As the subprime mortgage crisis and subsequent recession dragged on, particularly in poorer neighborhoods, buildings languished in various phases of foreclosure, leaving homeowners as well as tenants in limbo — easy picking for investors looking to flip entire blocks or neighborhoods into luxury housing. Tenant organizers in Boston began to see the foreclosure crisis as a new front.

Lisa Owens was one of the people at City Life/Vida Urbana who eventually helped Chislom stay in her home.

“We had a pretty major campaign that started with the big banks but ultimately ended with a demand directly to FHFA [the Federal Housing Finance Association], and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which ultimately were the largest mortgage holders, to say ‘stop displacing people and do principal reduction for all of these homes that were under water,’” Owens says.

The situation brought together an unusual group of allies. The Coalition for Occupied Homes in Foreclosure, or COHIF as it’s known, includes members such as City Life/Vida Urbana, Boston Community Capital, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Greater Boston Legal Services, the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition, the Archdiocese of Boston’s affordable housing development arm, the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, and others.

“It is probably the only place that I know of where radical housing advocates and more mainstream policy advocacy folks in the housing world, non-profit developers, for-profit developers, financiers, and city agencies all come together to deal with this [foreclosure] crisis and what has turned into now a displacement crisis for renters and owners,” says Owens.

Continue reading.

SPO Student Reflection: LGBTQ Representation in TAP and PLAP

By: D Dangaran, JD’20

Not every law school allows its students to represent clients in their first year, and I chose HLS to prioritize direct service through its myriad clinical offerings. I’m interested in the intersection of health, human rights, and queer communities. Early on, I met with Vice Dean for Experiential and Clinical Education, Dan Nagin, and the Assistant Dean for Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, Lisa Dealy, to think through my options for working for the communities I care about most. They told me that while HLS may not have a LGBTQ clinic, there were a number of Student Practice Organizations (SPOs) and clinics that would have LGBTQ clients, and encouraged me to think about developing skills that I could apply to my topical interests later in my career.  I heeded their advice and applied to two SPOs during my 1L Fall: the Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP) and the Prison Legal Assistant Project (PLAP).

In TAP, I worked on three different cases in which the client was denied a housing subsidy based on their criminal offense record. I learned Reasonable Accommodation law and developed legal strategies for combatting the denials. Combing through the case files and preparing my opening and closing statements and direct- and cross-examinations allowed me to use my analytical and speaking skills for people in need. I wrote legal memos that were sent to various housing authorities, which felt like a real-world final exam for my Legal Research and Writing (LRW) class. The late nights I spent in the TAP office preparing for hearings emblematized the energy and effort I believe every client deserves.

In PLAP, during the Spring semester, I worked with a transgender client who requested assistance with a commutation petition based on her gender identity and lack of access to medical treatment in prison. I conducted legal research to help to show her case fit into the Governor’s executive clemency guidelines. Though we only completed a draft by the end of my time, my client gained some peace of mind knowing that a transgender student attorney was assisting her with getting started on this step of her self-advocacy. Meanwhile, I felt extremely fortunate to have been able to work on an LGBTQ-related case in my 1L year.

TAP and PLAP prepared me more than most of my courses for my summer internship in impact litigation in South Africa, because of the amount of time I spent applying Massachusetts law in real cases. During my internship, I wrote a legal research memo based on our clients’ experience of a search and seizure that my supervising attorney believed was unlawful. I used my training from TAP, PLAP, and LRW to present a memo that took each detail into account.

This fall, I will be participating in the Family and Domestic Violence Law Clinic in the Legal Services Center. I plan to build on my experiences in TAP and PLAP in this setting, and in my future work with domestic LGBTQ direct services and impact litigation.

TAP and PLAP pushed me to think about the issues I’m most passionate about intersectionally; though I wasn’t bringing “LGBT rights” cases to an appellate court, I worked intensely on health and queer issues in housing and prisons. Anyone who wants to dig into legal services short-term or long-term, or use the legal tools we’re gaining here for the benefit of society while we’re being enriched by this elite university, would gain a tremendous amount of humbling experience at TAP,  PLAP, or another SPO.

29 Little Ways to Cut Back on Food Waste

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Prevention magazine recently wrote an article full of ideas to reduce food waste, quoting FLPC Director Emily Broad Leib in the article.

Excerpt below:

Give milk the sniff test

Think the “sell by” or “use by” dates are there to prevent illnesses? Nope. “They’re not based on any safety test,” says Emily Broad Leib, director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School. “Most are just manufacturers’ suggestions for quality, and they vary widely.” If you regularly pitch things whose dates say they’ve just expired, you’re probably throwing away foods that are perfectly fine to eat. Still nervous? Check the USDA’s FoodKeeper app to double-check: It tells you how long various foods typically last.

Read the full article here.

HLPC Clinic Director Robert Greenwald Quoted in Pew Charitable Trust Article


Marsha Mercer’s article in Stateline for Pew Charitable Trust Pew Charitable Trust is about the food is medicine concept as a tool to cut health care costs. The article quotes HLPC Clinic Director Robert Greenwald:

“Food is medicine is an idea whose day has arrived,” said Robert Greenwald, faculty director of the Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, one of the experts who testified in January at the launch of the congressional Food is Medicine Working Group, part of the House Hunger Caucus.

Read the full article here.

HRP Welcomes New Staff to the International Human Rights Clinic

Via the Human Rights Program

With the semester start, we’d like to extend the warmest welcome to our new staff! We have four new members of the International Human Rights Clinic. Read below to learn more about them and make sure you swing by to introduce yourself.

Thomas Becker

Clinical Instructor

Thomas Becker is a Clinical Instructor at the Human Rights Program. He is an attorney and activist who has spent most of the past decade working on human rights issues in Bolivia. As a student at Harvard Law School, he was the driving force behind launching Mamani v. Sanchez de Lozada, a lawsuit against Bolivia’s former president and defense minister for their role in the massacre of indigenous peasants. After graduating, he moved to Bolivia, where he has worked with the survivors for over a decade. This spring, Becker and his co-counsel obtained a $10 million jury verdict for family members of those killed in “Black October,” marking the first time a living ex-president has been held accountable in a U.S. court for human rights violations. The verdict was overturned by a federal judge and is currently being appealed in the Eleventh Circuit of Appeals. Becker’s human rights work has included investigating torture and disappearance of Adavasis in India, documenting war crimes in Lebanon, and serving as a nonviolent bodyguard for the Zapatista guerrillas in Chiapas, Mexico. When he is not practicing law, Becker is an award-winning musician and songwriter who has recorded with Grammy-winning producers and toured throughout the world as a drummer and guitarist.

Amelia Evans

Clinical Instructor

Amelia Evans is an international human rights lawyer and an expert on business and human rights. She co-founded MSI Integrity in 2012 and continues to spearhead its development. Amelia has investigated and reported on business and human rights-related issues in a number of countries, most particularly in the Central African and Asia-Pacific regions. Previously, she was the Global Human Rights Fellow at Harvard Law School and was a clinical supervisor at Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. She also clerked at the New Zealand Court of Appeal, and worked at the Crown Law Office in New Zealand and the Victoria Government Solicitor’s Office in Australia. Amelia obtained her LL.M. from Harvard Law School, and LL.B. (Hons.) and B.C.A. (Economics and Finance) from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Amelia also works on nonfiction / documentary film projects.


Emma Golding

Program Assistant

Emma Golding is the Program Assistant for the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. Prior to joining the Clinic, she worked in research administration at Boston Children’s Hospital. She has also spent time as an editorial assistant, faculty assistant, legal secretary, bartender, waitress, hostess, busser, catering manager, circus performer, au pair, natural history & ecology educator, and Audubon Society counselor.  She holds a B.A. in Journalism & Political Science from UMass Amherst.


Kelsey Ryan

Program Coordinator

Kelsey is the Program Coordinator for the International Human Rights Clinic. Prior to joining HRP, she worked in the Dean’s Office at Harvard Law School. She holds a B.A. in International Studies and Spanish Language from Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. From 2014-2015 she lived in Athens, Greece while completing a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship Grant. She is currently finishing her master’s in International Relations through Harvard Extension School, and returns to Crete, Greece, each summer to assist with Emmanuel College’s Eastern Mediterranean Security Studies Program.

New Criminal Justice Appellate Clinic Info Session

Come learn more about the NEW Criminal Justice Appellate Clinic!

September 13th, WCC 3016
Lunch will be served.

This is a new by-application winter term clinic offering. Students will participate in an winter externship with the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center (“MJC”) in Washington, D.C., working on appeals before federal circuit courts and/or the U.S. Supreme Court that raise important issues related to civil rights and the criminal justice system.

MJC is one of the nation’s premier civil rights organizations and champions criminal justice reform through litigation, in areas that include police misconduct, rights of the accused, issues facing indigent prisoners, the death penalty, and the rights of detainees. The organization’s Washington, D.C. office focuses specifically on appellate litigation as a vehicle for achieving change in these areas

For more information, please consult the clinic’s webpage:

Spotlight on Student Practice Organizations 2018

Harvard Law School has 11 Student Practice Organizations (SPOs) providing students a wide range of opportunities to gain practical legal experience starting in their 1L year.  Each SPO is headed by 2L and 3L students who serve in leadership positions and one or more supervising attorneys who provide legal oversight and supervision. Most SPOs also work closely with an HLS clinic so students enjoy a cohesive experience in the respective area of the law during their time at HLS.

Every fall semester, Student Practice Organizations host information sessions to familiarize new students with their work and application process. A list of these events and deadlines can be found here. Most (but not all) SPOs require an application and all of them require students to complete a training. Everyone, including LL.M. students, is welcomed and encouraged to participate in SPO practice.

While students do not receive academic credit for participating in SPOs, their hours can count towards the 50-hour pro bono graduation requirement starting 1L year.

Student responsibilities and time commitment vary across SPOs. Students who participate have found the experience to be positive and meaningful. They report they enjoy the community they build with other students while helping real people and communities in need of legal services.

SPO Student Reflections

Grab the Opportunity to Build a Better HLS

Via The Harvard Law Record

Credit: Martha Stewart

By: Leilani Doktor

Walking into the hallowed halls of Harvard Law School, past the pillars of Langdell Hall, and under countless portraits of Supreme Court Justices can be a hefty experience for anyone and is especially weighty for new students. This establishment brings with it years of history, institutions, and tradition. But the secret of this place is that despite all the pomp, privilege, and circumstance—the thing HLS needs the most to continue being HLS is you.

When I first arrived on campus to pick up my ID Card, room key, and packet of fliers I never read, I met my first classmates: a veteran who had served several tours in Iraq, an elementary school teacher who taught for 5 years in Japan, a Goldman Sachs Analyst who talked about numbers in the billions, and a former 8th grade heavy weight wrestling champion with an uncanny wit for capturing a room. I was so enraptured by how brilliant, sharp, and impressive my classmates were. As I lugged my two overweight suitcases up the stairs to my dorm room and heaved them to the floor of the empty room, I was surprised to find myself crying of happiness. The rat race of high school, college, and jobs had landed me here next to some of the smartest, most capable people I have ever known.

But what is truly amazing about this story is that after two years of intense course work, competitive job searches, and endless reevaluation, I still feel this way about my classmates. Over the years, my classmates have continued to surprise me beyond their intelligence with their humor, see Parody, their compassion, see the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau or the multitude of Student Practice Organizations and Clinics, and their drive to be a part of better world. Yet, in learning and practicing the law I have also been exposed to the cruelty, unfairness, and imperfections of people and our society. Fortunately, we are uniquely positioned to change that reality. But, we can only invoke that change by looking beyond our textbooks and reinvesting in people and our communities.

80% of newly admitted students stated that “the opportunity to be of service to society” was among the reasons they came to law school.[1] While there is a lot of room for improvement in society writ large, there is no better place to start than right here within our own HLS community. In working towards a more open, innovative, and inclusive HLS, we can create one microcosm of the world we want to see. So, I urge you to get involved in this community. Run to be the elected Student Government representative of your classmates. Invest in your new relationships with kindness and generosity. Cultivate a community that inspires new ideas and act on them. Bring your full abilities and diverse experiences to the table unapologetically and join me in building our best HLS.

If anything, this school has taught me that it is the students, with their specificities, experiences, and unique capabilities that have built HLS into the mountain of accomplishment that it is. It is the greatest asset we have here, and deserves to be put to good use. I am thrilled to welcome you to a new year full of possibilities and look forward to seeing what we can collectively create.

[1] Jenee Desmond-Harris, “Public Interest Drift” Revisited: Tracing the Sources of Social Change Commitment Among Black Harvard Law Students, 4 Hastings Race & Poverty L.J. 335, 346 (2007)


Via Harvard Magazine

By: Marina N. Bolotnikova

Source: Phil Torrey

“It often happens,” says Phil Torrey, managing attorney of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC), “that I’ll get a phone call from criminal-defense counsel somewhere random in the country, like the one last week I got from Tennessee. The lawyer says, ‘Hey, I’m about to go into the courtroom, here’s the plea deal that’s on the table—and my client’s not a U.S. citizen. What’s gonna happen?’” Torrey is addressing the four law students in his “crimmigration” clinic, who are learning how to advocate for criminal defendants who are not American citizens. A complex tangle of state and federal offenses—from petty theft to murder and drug crimes—can lead to detention or deportation for non-citizen immigrants, even those with green cards who have lived in the country for many years.

“Crimmigration”—the intersection of criminal and immigration law—is the newest policy area for HIRC, one of oldest clinical programs at Harvard Law School (HLS). In addition to its broader Immigration and Refugee Advocacy clinic, HIRC offers Torrey’s crimmigration clinic in the spring: an opportunity for students to gain direct experience working on and contributing to case law in this young field. When she co-founded HIRC in 1984, says clinical professor of law Deborah Anker, it “was at the bottom of the pile”; immigration issues were barely recognized as a subfield of law. But student interest has spiked since the 2016 election, and now, she says, the Immigration and Refugee Advocacy clinic has one of “the longest waiting lists among [HLS] clinics—about 100 students.”

Continue reading.

Matters of Life or Death

Via The Harvard Gazette

Credit: Kris Snibbe

It was a chilly afternoon outside the Allan B. Polunsky Unit, a maximum-security prison for death-row inmates in Livingston, Texas. Inside, the mood was somber. An execution was scheduled for later that day, and a sense of foreboding filled the air.

Law School student Jake Meiseles, J.D. ’19, was talking to his client by phone through a thick glass window when he saw the condemned man walking behind the cubicle, followed by corrections officers. The man smiled and nodded at Meiseles, who did the same. The brief human exchange left Meiseles distraught.

“It was sad and upsetting,” said Meiseles, who was there as an intern with the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs in Austin, Texas. “But it kind of put into perspective the work we’re doing.

“It was like the worst-case scenario kind of looked me in the face, because if the work we’re doing fails, that’s the end.”

Meiseles was at the prison as a student in the Capital Punishment Clinic at Harvard Law School (HLS). Clinic students work remotely on the capital cases they began work on as interns with legal organizations around the country during J-term, interviewing witnesses, conducting field investigations, and drafting briefs, habeas petitions, and other motions. For Meiseles, meeting inmates on death row was memorable and deeply meaningful.

“Once you meet people who are facing the injustice that the death penalty is, that is something you can’t walk away from easily,” he said.

Led by Carol Steiker, the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law and faculty co-director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program, the clinic tests the complex body of constitutional law that regulates the death penalty and its troubled history. The U.S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in 1972 but it was reinstated in 1976. The U.S. is the only Western democracy that carries out executions.

“The death penalty is a window into American history and the criminal justice system,” said Steiker, who was drawn to capital cases when clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

“As a law clerk, you see the whole landscape of capital punishment in the U.S. laid out before you, and you see it’s concentrated substantially, almost exclusively, in the states of the former confederacy,” she said. “You see its roots in slavery, racism, and its current practice today reflects that.”

Nineteen states have abolished the death penalty. Of the 31 that retained it, only seven actually carry out executions. Its practice is concentrated in 10 counties across California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. Texas executes more prisoners than any other state.

Continue reading.

When Truth Isn’t Truth

Via the Harvard Negotiation & Medication Clinical Program 

By: Andrew Mamo, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law

I should start by acknowledging that it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. Rudy Giuliani’s infamous claim that “truth isn’t truth” was preceded by an attempt to distinguish “somebody’s version of the truth” from “the truth.” When interviewer Chuck Todd responded that “truth is truth,” Giuliani then stuck his foot in his mouth.

No doubt the statement was interpreted as it was because it fit a larger pattern about our “age of alternative facts,” in which the political right has been accused—since the beginning of this century, at least—of denying objective reality and the possibility of truth. The phrases “merchants of doubt” (describing a concerted effort to muddy scientific claims about climate change) and “the reality-based community” (as distinguished from the policy-makers of the Bush administration) have entered the lexicon, as has the phrase that “reality has a liberal bias.” Within this framing, it’s all too easy to attribute the worst meaning to Giuliani, as part of this right-wing movement.

It was not always thus.

I’m just old enough to remember when it was the academic left that was accused of denying the possibility of truth. Not content to remain on the sidelines of the “science wars,” I went west to get my Ph.D. in the history of science, a discipline that was often perceived as denying the existence of objective reality. The truth of science studies was never quite so grand. Studying the work of science—in the lab, in the classroom, in public; in the journals and conferences where ideas were reviewed and refined and debated—showed that “the truth” wasn’t just out there, waiting passively to be found; it had to be assembled piece by piece, and even then remained subject to further contestation. These studies showed that the theories that we use to make sense of the world influence what we are able to perceive in it. It’s hard to understand what the fuss was about.

These ideas from the world of science studies accord in many respects with some basic premises of alternative dispute resolution: we expect that each party to a dispute comes to the table with a different set of facts and a different narrative of the situation. We recognize the multiplicity of perspectives, we acknowledge that perceptions of the truth often matter more than a coherent, agreed-upon factual accounting of “the truth,” we accept that any given perspective on the truth is not equivalent to “the truth,” and then, if it isn’t important to work through these narratives to get a better handle on the facts (as sometimes it may be), we move forward. What goes unsaid—but perhaps ought to be said—is that the reason we don’t seek out some definitive truth is because doing so is hard, and time-consuming, and expensive. Sometimes it just is not worth the effort.

Why belabor the obvious? Because when we stop at “you have your story and I have mine,” it is all too easy to make the inference that any story is as valid—as true—as another. Which brings us back to Giuliani. In attempting to explain himself, he said “Trump says I didn’t tell them and the other guy says that he did say it. Which is the truth? Maybe you know because you’re a genius.” In a later tweet he added that “Sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth other times it doesn’t.” The implication is that in this instance there is simply no way of knowing what happened as between two competing stories, that each story has equal weight, and we should give up hope of getting any deeper.

And so we return to considering the work that must be done to ascertain facts, the institutions and processes that give us the possibility of reaching rough agreement on the facts, the culture that believes this is a worthwhile endeavor. Collectively, these provide us with the possibility of producing something like “the truth,” imperfect as it may be. The question raised for me by Giuliani’s statement is whether we continue to have faith in the possibility that thorough investigations by principled and hard-working individuals, following established rules, within institutions consciously designed for these purposes and continually refined, can point us toward a more accurate understanding of the truth—or whether the inevitable existence of gaps in our knowledge and in our practices dooms the entire enterprise. If we reject the possibility that principled investigations can bring us any closer to understanding, must we then fall back on the position that defining truth is purely a function of power?

This should not be read as a claim that there are unproblematic, principled ways of ascertaining the truth, or that we shouldn’t be critical of facts or fact-finding processes. We must continue to be critical. Even in the midst of what one of the grandees of science studies describes as a “war” to regain some authority for science, Bruno Latour insists that we cannot fall back on naïve, idealistic descriptions of scientific method, and that we must continue to make the uncertainties and controversies explicit. So too in the process of divining the truth as amongst competing narratives. We mustn’t shy away from recognizing the ways in which systematic attempts to ascertain the truth of competing narratives can be biased or coercive, even if we insist that such investigations can tell us important things about the nature of our world. We can’t deny the exercise of power in what purport to be reason-based investigations, but neither must we deny the possibility of having principled ways of finding truth solely because power also influences how we do so. When it matters that we get the facts right, we cannot let the practical limitations on our ability to search for truth deter us from doing our best to do so.

How Curbs Became the New Urban Battleground


Susan Crawford of the Cyberlaw Clinic explains what cities should consider when gathering data to assess how curb spaces may be rezoned:

“It’s common knowledge that city curbs are fiercely contested places, what with Ubers and Lyfts hovering inconveniently and blocking traffic; piles of shared bikes and scooters being dropped off and picked up; rapidly climbing numbers of deliveries being made by double-parked trucks; and buses and taxis pulling up—not to mention all the private-car parking going on. These daily dramas will only get more boisterous and difficult in the years to come, when fleets of city-licensed driverless cars join the fray.

Yes, dramas. Calvin Trillin wrote an entire 2002 novel about parking in New York City (Tepper Isn’t Going Out), in which the main character, Murray Tepper, finds a sense of purpose in securing a Beautiful Spot; once he’s in, he usually stays in his car until the meter runs out, reading the newspaper and waving away anyone who asks whether he’s leaving. That’s a use of the curb that planners call, somewhat derisively, “storage”—today’s private vehicles spend 95 percent of their existence waiting to be used.

Planners want curbs and sidewalks, the essential public ways of any city, to go through a phase change from the Tepper storage state (“Where can I leave my car for the day?”) to mobility. (“How will I move along with my day?”) The District of Columbia, along with several other cities, is piloting shared used mobility zones, and city officials are thinking about both how to rezone curb space and what to charge for its use so that the work of the city can be supported appropriately.”

Continue reading.

FLPC Welcomes New Clinical Fellow

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Brian Fink joins the Food Law and Policy Clinic in September 2018 as a Clinical Fellow. Brian was the Farm and Food Legal Fellow at Yale Law School. In that position, Brian oversaw the launch of a legal services program that connects income-eligible farmers and food entrepreneurs to pro bono attorneys. Also while at Yale, Brian worked closely with students on legal and academic projects related to food-system matters.

During law school, Brian worked on agricultural, food, and environmental issues as a fellow at the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy and as a legal volunteer at the Sustainable Economies Law Center. He earned his J.D. from UCLA School of Law, where he was an editor of the UCLA Law Review and president of the Food Law Society, and his B.A. in Journalism from University of Washington.

FLPC Releases Cottage Food Laws in the United States Report

Via the Center for Health Policy and Innovation

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) announces a new report, Cottage Food Laws in the United States. Building on its 2013 report, FLPC’s new report examines trends in cottage food laws and provides recommendations to strengthen these laws that allow food entrepreneurs to sell their homemade foods. FLPC has found that since 2013, several new states now allow cottage foods, and many states have updated their cottage food rules to expand the types of products or scale of production that is allowed under their provisions.

Under the laws in every U.S. state, food generally must come from regulated and inspected food establishments. In recent years, however, almost every state has created exceptions to these requirements for certain “cottage foods” (homemade low-risk foods such as baked goods, jams, and granola). These laws balance food safety concerns with local business development by allowing home cooks to make and sell certain low-risk foods without undergoing the full inspection and other regulatory requirements of certified kitchens.

Currently, laws in forty-nine states and Washington, D.C. allow for cottage food sales, but these laws vary widely as to what types of foods, producers, and sales they allow. Cottage Food Laws in the United States offers a primer on cottage food laws and their function in our state and federal food safety systems. It also documents and explains trends in the differences between states’ cottage food laws regarding:

  • The types of foods that may be sold;
  • Where those foods may be sold;
  • Registration, licensing, permitting, or inspection requirements;
  • Labeling requirements; and
  • Tiered systems for different types of foods, producers, or sales.

Cottage Food Laws in the United States also includes recommendations to strengthen cottage food laws. Key recommendations include making cottage food laws easier for producers to find and to understand, lowering barriers to entry, and broadening the types, venues, and scope of cottage food sales in ways that allow local food businesses to thrive while protecting food safety.

In response to the many requests we received after our 2013 report for more information on each state, the updated 2018 report also includes a detailed appendix that documents and explains the cottage food laws in every state and shares citations and links to state materials. This resource provides a starting point for producers and anyone curious about cottage foods to locate information that is often scattered across statutes, regulations, and guidance documents in each state.

Across the country, food entrepreneurs, lawmakers, and regulators are all part of a cottage food movement that is bringing homemade foods to market and supporting small-scale food producers. FLPC’s new report provides a starting place for cottage food producers to learn about what they are allowed to do in their states as they are planning their new businesses. The report also helps cottage food producers, lawmakers, and advocates compare and contrast the varying requirements and provisions among states to see how they can improve their state laws in the future.

CAP Graduate Program Open House Fall 2018

Join the Child Advocacy Program (CAP) for a:

CAP Graduate Program Open House
Mon, Sept. 17, 2018
Noon – 1:00 PM
23 Everett Street, Suite G-24 (the CAP suite, Ground Floor)
*We intend to begin the event promptly at noon.

The CAP Open House will provide an informal opportunity for Graduate Program students to get to know others at HLS who share an interest in children’s issues. CAP faculty and affiliates will provide information about the Child Advocacy Program and describe CAP’s Working Paper Luncheon Series coming this spring 2019.

This event is targeted to Graduate Program students – SJD candidates, LLMs, Visiting Researchers and Scholars – but other HLS affiliates are welcome.

A light lunch will be provided.

Click here to RSVP for the CAP Open House.

« Older posts