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Clinic, Human Rights Watch Call for Urgent Action on Incendiary Weapons

Via the International Human Rights Law Clinic  

Source: Pixabay

Countries at an upcoming United Nations disarmament conference, faced with evidence of 30 new incendiary weapons attacks in Syria, should agree to strengthen the international law that governs their use, the International Human Rights Clinic said in a report released this week.

The 13-page report, “Myths and Realities About Incendiary Weapons,” counters common misconceptions that have slowed international progress in this area. Incendiary weapons produce heat and fire through the chemical reaction of a flammable substance. While often designed for marking and signaling or producing smokescreens, incendiary weapons can burn human flesh to the bone, leave extensive scarring, and cause respiratory damage and psychological trauma. They also start fires that destroy civilian objects and infrastructure.

“The excruciating burns and lifelong disabilities inflicted by incendiary weapons demand a global response,” said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of conflict and civilian protection at the Clinic. “Simple changes in international law could help save civilian lives during wartime.”

The report details the exceptionally cruel harm caused by incendiary weapons, explains the shortcomings of existing law, and lays out steps countries should take in response. The report, designed as an accessible overview of the incendiary weapons issue, was jointly published with Human Rights Watch.

Countries that are party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) are scheduled to address incendiary weapons at the UN in Geneva from November 19 to 23. Protocol III to this treaty imposes some restrictions on the use of incendiary weapons, but it does not provide sufficient protections for civilians.

In 2018, the Syrian-Russian military alliance used incendiary weapons in at least 30 attacks across six governorates of Syria, based on Human Rights Watch research. The majority of these attacks involved ground-launched rockets, but air-dropped weapons have also caused harm. For example, an incendiary airstrike on March 16 in Eastern Ghouta killed at least 61 people and injured more than 200.

Human Rights Watch documented an additional 90 incendiary weapons attacks in Syria from November 2012 through 2017. The total number is most likely higher. Syria has not joined Protocol III, but Russia has.

The countries at the UN meeting should address the weaknesses of Protocol III as well as articulate their policies and practices. They should also establish a forum dedicated to reviewing the protocol more formally in 2019 with the intention of strengthening its protections for civilians.

Government support for action against incendiary weapons has grown significantly in recent years, although a small number of countries that view existing law as adequate have opposed proposals to amend the protocol.

Protocol III has two major loopholes that have weakened its impact. First, its definition excludes multipurpose weapons, such as those with white phosphorus, which may be primarily designed to provide smokescreens or illumination, but which can inflict the same horrific injuries as other incendiary weapons. White phosphorus, for example, can continue to smolder in bandaged wounds and reignite days after treatment if exposed to oxygen. In 2017, the US-led coalition used white phosphorus while fighting to retake Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq from the Islamic State. The United States is party to Protocol III.

Second, while the protocol prohibits the use of air-dropped incendiary weapons in populated areas, it allows the use of ground-delivered models in certain circumstances. Because all incendiary weapons cause the same effects, this arbitrary distinction should be eliminated. A complete ban on incendiary weapons would have the greatest humanitarian benefits.

“Nations should make strengthening international law on these weapons a priority for the disarmament agenda,” said Docherty, who is also a senior researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. “Stronger obligations would limit the conduct of treaty countries and, by increasing stigmatization of incendiary weapons, influence the behavior of other countries and non-state armed groups.”

Docherty will present the report’s findings at a side event at the United Nations in Geneva at 1:15 p.m. on November 20 in Conference Room XXII.

Clinical students Molly Brown, JD ’19, Samantha Fry, JD ’20, and Thejasa Jayachandran, JD ’20, worked under Docherty’s supervision to help write this report.

For more on the Clinic’s work on incendiary weapons, please visit:
http://hrp.law.harvard.edu/areas-of-focus/arms-armed-conflict/incendiary-weapons/

What Relevance for ADR in situations of Domestic Violence?

Via the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program 

Source: Pexels

By: Stephan Sonnenberg J.D. ’06

Domestic violence, as we are all by now painfully aware thanks to the #MeToo movement, continues to be a shockingly widespread and under-reported scourge.

The statistics are sobering: The World Health Organization estimates that over 1 in 3 women worldwide (approx. 35%) have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime, with that vast majority of that violence being perpetrated by an intimate partner. The United States is not exempt from this global trend. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that just under 1 in 10 women in the U.S. would experience rape by an intimate partner during her lifetime, and that just under 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 7 men would experience some form of severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. Nor is the situation any different in Bhutan, where a 2013 survey conducted by the National Council on Women and Children (NCWC) found that approximately 1 in 3 “ever-partnered” women would be likely to experience some form of intimate partner violence during their lifetime. And of course, even a cursory look at the front pages of our newspapers reveals just how widespread the impunity still is for these serious crimes, not just in Washington D.C. and Hollywood, but globally.

Can we do a better job addressing this scourge of daily hidden violence, abuse and humiliation? More to the point: can alternative dispute resolution processes, which here I define as “anything-other-than-formal judicial remedies” play a role in that improved justice response?

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CHLPI and Health Leaders Gather to Improve Lung Cancer Policies in West Virginia

Via Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

By: Stephanie Kwan

CHLPI and Health Leaders Gather to Improve Lung Cancer Policies in West Virginia

Lung cancer kills more West Virginians than breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined. On November 1st-2nd, 2018, CHLPI joined hundreds of health and policy leaders at the Second Annual Lung Cancer Conference: Catalyzing Change to Address Lung Cancer. Hosted by West Virginia University Cancer Institute, the Mountains of Hope Cancer Coalition, and the Patient Advocate Foundation, the conference saw more than 200 health and policy leaders gather at the WVU Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown, WV to address lung cancer policy changes.

The conference was designed to raise awareness about the impact of lung cancer across West Virginia and to identify avenues to improve lung cancer screening, early detection, treatment, and survivorship. The two-day program engaged healthcare providers, community-based health workers, public health educators, advocates, and policy makers in implementing changes both in their local communities and on a statewide level.

Current policies and lung cancer in West Virginia

Sarah Downer, CHLPI’s Associate Director for Whole Person Care and Clinical Instructor on Law in the Health Care and Policy Clinic, along with second-year clinic student Stephanie Kwan, welcomed conference attendees with an overview of healthcare policy-making. The overview discussed policy formation and how advocates could work with various entities to effect change. “Even though systemic changes take a long time, keep your eyes on the long term prize and don’t stop telling local policy makers your stories, because your work in West Virginia matters and is shaping national healthcare conversations”, said Sarah.

Graphic documentation of CHILPI’s presentation on “Overview of Healthcare Policy-making”, illustrated by Nora Herting.

West Virginia Delegate Amy Summers, Vice-Chairman of Health and Human Resources Committee of WV House, who not only is a nurse but also has a long family history of cancer, reminded attendees to get to know their legislators. Doing so will allow advocates to understand the expertise, priorities, and passions of their representatives, which will help advocates tailor their policy goals and approaches.

Attendees also heard from West Virginian experts; Dr. Christopher Plein, Professor at the Department of Public Administration at West Virginia University, highlighted the historical roots of many contemporary healthcare issues, while Dr. John Deskins, Director at the Bureau of Business & Economic Research at WVU College of Business and Economics, discussed the economic costs of lung cancer in West Virginia.

Graphic documentation of the expert policy panel that comprised of CHILPI’s Sarah Downer, Christopher Plein, and John Deskins, illustrated by Nora Herting.

Dr. Camara Jones, Senior Fellow at Morehouse School of Medicine and a Past President of the American Public Health Association, addressed the crowd on social determinants of health, including poverty, racism, and institutional disparities that are often ignored by today’s healthcare system.

Healthcare practitioners driving change in the lung cancer space

Following the presentations, conference attendees participated in an interactive policy planning session, identifying local advocacy goals such as rescinding no-smoking ban, establishing primary care partnerships, and engaging insurers to pay for screening. Attendees also examined specific programs that effect lung cancer in West Virginia, including Medicare and Medicaid, lung cancer treatment case studies, opioid Rx regulations, as well as immunotherapy and the use of robotics in surgeries.

Another highlight of the conference was the Shine A Light on Lung Cancer evening reception, where speakers and attendees came together to honor lung cancer survivors, family members, caregivers, and those who have passed.

The two-day event was a highly successful initiative that brought together policy leaders and healthcare practitioners to learn, plan, and act. The conference equipped attendees to be advocates in their respective professions and communities. It was an eye-opening experience for clinic student Stephanie to speak to experienced practitioners and to witness how practitioners could work on policy goals that make a difference in the lives of people they serve.

Graphic documentation of “policy-planning in motion”; produced collaboratively by conference attendees and illustrated by Nora Herting.

The conference’s presenters included:

  • Sarah Downer, JD
  • Camara Jones, MD, MPH, PhD
  • Honorable Amy Summers, MSN
  • Ghulam Abbas, MD, MHCM, FACS
  • Mohammed Almubarak, MD
  • John Deskin, PhD
  • Monika Holbein, MD
  • Malcol Mattes, MD
  • Christopher Plein, PhD
  • Anne Swisher PT, PhD

Sarah Downer and Stephanie Kwan at the WVU Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown, WV, speaking at the Second Annual Lung Cancer Conference.

Local Education on Campus: Education Law Week 2018

By: Advocates for Education Board

Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell, speaking to the HLS community during Education Law Week

Boston and Cambridge are home to to some of the top colleges and universities in the country. For those of us lucky enough to attend Harvard Law School (HLS), we see every day the power of a top-notch education. But within miles of our campus, students in the Boston Public School (BPS) system face immense challenges that too often preclude them from having the option of attending a school like HLS. For this year’s Education Law Week, we aimed to deepen our law school’s understanding of a few of the most pressing issues within the Boston Public Schools. Through this, our hope was to strengthen law students’ connection to, and investment in, the greater community that we are lucky enough to be a part of for at least three years.

 

Day One: Civil Rights Attorney Matt Cregor on Racial Disparities in BPS’s Exam Schools

In recent years, Boston’s exam schools (Boston Latin Academy, Boston Latin School, and O’Bryant School of Math and Science) have drawn increased scrutiny for the racial disparities in their admissions numbers. Most alarmingly, while Black and Latino students make up 75% of BPS students, only 20% of students at Boston Latin School identify as Black or Latino. In response to these alarming numbers, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law produced a report titled “A Broken Mirror,” which lays out the immense disparities in BPS exam school admissions, and calls for BPS to “immediately intensify its review of exam school admissions.” Matt Cregor, who led the production of the report and is currently an attorney with the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, led a conversation about the findings of the report and the solutions that have been proposed through community dialogues.

 

Day Two: Immigration Attorney Elizabeth Badger on the BPS to ICE Pipeline

Students who are immigrants face unique challenges, which BPS may exacerbate through its school incident reporting practices. Boston School Police officers sometimes report school incidents to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), a network of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that includes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While BRIC is designed to be a tool to identify “major players” in crime and pinpoint areas of crime, Boston School Police have input seemingly minor school offenses into the database. As illustration, Badger explained that a lunchroom disagreement among two students, resolved without resort to fighting, could make its way into BRIC. In one case, advocates say that an unsupported gang allegation against a BPS student was input into BRIC and was later used to support ICE deportation proceedings against the student. Badger discussed how local advocates are working to gain additional information about BPS policies and procedures for School Police Officers’ use of BRIC.

 

Day Three: National Women’s Law Center’s Manager of Campaign and Strategies Nia Evans on the Impact of School Dress Codes on Girls of Color

This spring, the National Women’s Law Center released “DRESS CODED: Black Girls, Bodies, and Bias in D.C. Schools,” a groundbreaking report on the impact that student dress codes have on Black girls and their educational experiences. This report, co-authored with 21 Black girls who attend D.C. schools, sheds light on the ways in which dress codes contribute to the disparities in discipline rates between white students and students of color, and sparked a critical national dialogue about the reforms that are needed in school and district policies. Nia Evans, who led the project for NWLC, presented the findings of the research, and discussed the process and effects that the report’s creation had on the students themselves. The conversation raised a number of questions about the use of dress codes in Boston Public Schools, and laid the groundwork for future research and advocacy efforts.

 

Day Four: Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell on the Role of Cities in Education

To conclude Education Law Week, Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell joined students for a conversation on the City’s role in the education of its students. She began by sharing her personal motivation for doing this work, providing us an urgent reminder that laws and policies are more than abstract concepts or interesting topics of conversation: they have real consequences for real people. A graduate of Boston Latin School, Councilor Campbell helped bring Education Law Week full circle by engaging in dialogue about inequities in educational opportunity. While the City Council is able to exert direct influence over education in some ways, Councilor Campbell also discussed the comprehensive progress that is needed in order for the City to truly serve all students within BPS. From housing to safety to access to health services, so much of what students bring into the classroom is dictated by the community that surrounds them. Councilor Campbell discussed the efforts Boston is currently undertaking to strengthen both support and outcomes for students across the City.

Thank you to all who attended the events and supported Education Law Week; a special thank you to all of our speakers!

The events for Education Law Week were co-sponsored by the Advocates for Education, Child and Youth Advocates, and Urbanists, and funded by the Dean of Students’ Grant Fund.

Trump Is Rewriting Asylum Law

Via The Atlantic 

Source: Pixabay

By: Sabrineth Ardalan

Two days after yet another mass shooting, President Donald Trump on Friday issued a proclamation addressing mass migration. “The continuing and threatening mass migration of aliens with no basis for admission into the United States through our southern border,” he wrote, “has precipitated a crisis and undermines the integrity of our borders. I therefore must take immediate action to protect the national interest.”

The mass shooting, like most mass shootings, was committed by an American citizen, a white male. There’s not much detailed information about who is part of the so-called caravan on the way to the southern border. But it seems the migrants hail mostly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, where femicide rates are the highest in the world and government protection is nonexistent. Chances are, they resemble my clients at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program. People like Maria, who was kidnapped by her abuser, an auxiliary for the Honduran authorities, at a young age and subjected to years of rape. And like Jennifer, who was forced to flee El Salvador after gang members threatened to kill her and her family because they had encouraged youths to join the Evangelical Church instead of the gangs. (I’ve used pseudonyms to protect my clients’ anonymity.)

Our clients sit in our office for hours at a time and share horrific stories of the violence they suffered in their home countries, and of the children, parents, and siblings they were forced to leave behind. Despite everything they have lived through, they bring tremendous warmth and generosity. They also bring their tremendous faith in America, a country that they believe can and should offer them protection.

Trump’s proclamation and new interim regulations fly in the face of that belief. The administration plans to restrict asylum only to those who present themselves at ports of entry; people entering the country via the southern border in any other way would be limited to much more circumscribed forms of relief that would not include reuniting with their family members, obtaining a green card, or a path to citizenship. The administration also plans to enter into an agreement with Mexico to force asylum seekers traveling through that country to claim protection there instead of in the United States.

At first blush, these rules may not seem extreme. But the “ports of entry” restriction ignores the fact that Customs and Border Protection routinely turns away people even after they have asked to apply for asylum. As one woman told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “I told [the CBP official] that I wasn’t from here, that I was from Honduras, and that I wanted asylum. He told me that there was no longer asylum for Hondurans … I started to explain why I couldn’t return and what I was fleeing from, but he interrupted me and said that everyone comes with the same story, that he couldn’t help me.”

Continue reading.

Lawyers for Poliquin ask for emergency restraining order to stop ranked-choice voting

Via News Center Maine 

Source: Canva

By: Beth McEvoy

Lawyers representing Rep. Bruce Poliquin and other citizens are asking a judge in Federal Court Wednesday for an emergency temporary restraining order to stop the ranked-choice voting process in Augusta for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District election.

Federal Judge Lance Walker said Wednesday he will not make a decision about the temporary restraining order until Thursday but Sec. of State Matt Dunlap said the vote may be decided sometime Wednesday.

Last week Maine’s 2nd Congressional District election between Rep. Poliquin (R) and Jared Golden (D) failed to produce a candidate with a majority and so has become Maine’s first federal race to be determined by ranked-choice voting.

“No state official should have an interest in rushing ahead, possibly in violation of the Constitution, before the Federal Judge has an opportunity rule. Since the judge told us today that he would issue a ruling tomorrow, I think the prudent course would be for the Secretary of State to give due respect to this federal court and wait for the federal judge’s ruling tomorrow and then decide how best to act,” Lee Goldman, who is representing Poliquin, told reporters following the hearing Wednesday.

“We’re hoping they will count all the votes and run the election is the people decided they wanted to be around,” Peter Brann, the attorney representing Jared Golden. [Peter Brann is a Lecturer on Law for the State Attorney General Clinic at Harvard Law School.]

Poliquin claims he had about 2,000 more votes than Golden on election night. But he did not win a majority of the votes, and under the law passed by voters in 2016, the final result will be determined through ranked-choice voting.

On Tuesday, lawyers for Rep. Poliquin filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the vote, saying the whole ranked-choice process violates the U.S. Constitution.

“I won the election fair and square,” Poliquin told reporters ‪Tuesday afternoon‬.

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Borrowers Face Hazy Path as Program to Forgive Student Loans Stalls Under Betsy DeVos

Via The New York Times 

Source: iStock

By: Stacy Cowley

The students attended institutions with pragmatic names like the Minnesota School of Business and others whose branding evoked ivy-draped buildings and leafy quads, like Corinthian Colleges. Tens of thousands of them say they are alike in one respect: They were victims of fraud, left with useless degrees and crushing debts.

Now the government program meant to forgive the federal loans of cheated students has all but stopped functioning.

No Education Department employees are devoted full time to investigating borrowers’ complaints, according to three people familiar with the agency’s operations. Instead, the agency’s staff has fought in court to reduce the amount of relief granted to some students and to halt a rule change intended to speed other claims along.

That has left more than 100,000 claims for relief in limbo, according to the Education Department’s most recent data.

“It’s just dream-crushing,” said Meaghan Bauer, who owes $45,000 for her time at the New England Institute of Art. The for-profit school, in Brookline, Mass., closed last year and was sued on fraud charges by the state attorney general in July.

“I can’t afford to go back to school,” Ms. Bauer, 27, said. “Will I ever be able to buy a house? Or get married? I spent so much time working on a useless degree, and it could ruin me financially for the rest of my life.”

The relief program, called borrower defense, became a popular way for students to seek debt forgiveness after several major for-profit schools went bust in recent years. During the Obama administration, the Education Department approved about 30,000 claims, more than half of them in the final two weeks before the new administration took over. All of those borrowers had their loans fully forgiven.

But President Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who before taking office invested in companies with ties to for-profit colleges and student-loan debt collectors, has derided the program as a “free money” giveaway and vowed to make changes. She has also appointed a former dean of DeVry University — a for-profit school that is the subject of some 10,000 fraud claims by former students — to oversee the unit that runs the program.

As of mid-2018, her department had approved only 16,000 claims, and Education Department officials confirmed that about 15,000 of those were granted partial forgiveness. Tens of thousands more still await a decision.

“There’s nothing in the regulations to stop the secretary from slow-walking the processing of claims,” said Clare McCann, a senior policy adviser at the department during the Obama administration. “I’m positive there will be more litigation from borrowers who have been sitting in the backlog.”

Under President Barack Obama, the Education Department approved claims involving three schools. In nearly two years, the Trump administration has not granted approvals to students from any additional schools, even failed institutions like the Minnesota School of Business, which shut down after a state court ruled that it had misled students and broken state fraud laws.

The department’s attempts to reduce the amount of forgiven debt and block a new forgiveness rule have drawn rebukes from federal judges.

A judge in California found that the department had illegally obtained data from the Social Security Administration on the earnings of former Corinthian Colleges students as it sought to offer some of them only partial loan relief. Last month, the judge granted class-action status to 110,000 former Corinthian students who have applied to have their loans forgiven and may have been granted partial relief.

Also last month, a federal judge in Washington told the department to institute a rule written by the Obama administration requiring a “clear, fair and transparent” process for handling borrowers’ loan discharge requests. The rule also orders the department to automatically forgive the loans of certain students who were enrolled when their schools closed or who withdrew shortly before then, without requiring borrowers to apply for that relief.

But even after that court victory, critics of the Education Department are skeptical that there will be much progress.

“This rule is only as good as the administration’s intent to implement it,” said Toby Merrill, the director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which has represented dozens of borrowers in lawsuits against schools and the Education Department.

Liz Hill, an agency spokeswoman, said the Education Department would comply with the court’s decision and carry out the new rule “soon.” But she said Ms. DeVos considered the rule “bad policy” and intended to rewrite it.

Many applicants whose claims have lingered might not get much help from the new rule, anyway. The crux of it — establishing a federal standard for determining if a borrower was defrauded — applies only to loans made in 2017 and beyond. Borrowers with earlier loans must prove that their school broke a state law.

Evaluating those claims “is incredibly complex and takes time,” Ms. Hill said.

Borrowers have sought loan forgiveness after attending institutions large and small — from DeVry, which boasts on its site that it has awarded more than 300,000 degrees, to the Marinello Schools of Beauty, a defunct cosmetology chain that the government said had committed student loan fraud. Julian Schmoke, the former DeVry dean who is the department’s enforcement chief, has recused himself from issues related to DeVry, a department spokesman said.

So far, the program has forgiven nearly $535 million in debt, meaning the government absorbs the loss. That’s one reason Ms. DeVos has said the program should be overhauled.

“Students who have been defrauded and suffered harm should absolutely be made whole,” Ms. Hill said. “The department also has a duty to safeguard taxpayer dollars. It would be irresponsible to give 100 percent relief to every claimant without first assessing their claim and understanding whether or not harm was suffered.”

 

The Education Department is the biggest lender to Americans who borrow for college, with more than $1 trillion going to 33 million students. In the fine print of its promissory notes, the agency spells out its terms: Borrowers must repay what they owe even if they drop out, are unhappy with their education or can’t find a job in the field they trained for.

But there’s one escape clause. If borrowers were significantly misled by their school, they can ask the government to forgive their loans. Just as a bank appraises a house before it issues a mortgage, the Education Department is supposed to ensure that the programs it effectively funds are legitimate.

The provision was mostly overlooked for decades. Between 1995 and 2015, the department received only five such claims, according to a report from the agency’s inspector general. But after the Obama administration and a group of state attorneys general cracked down on vocational schools that lured students in with false promises, several large chains collapsed.

Corinthian was the first. In May 2015, it went bankrupt and closed all of its campuses, leaving 350,000 recent students with job training they called subpar and credits that most other schools would not accept. An activist group, the Debt Collective, dusted off the borrower defense rule and mobilized thousands of former Corinthian students to file claims.

Unable to deal individually with so many cases, the Education Department hired a special master and began to develop a system for investigating and adjudicating claims. It also announced that many Corinthian students would qualify to have their debts erased.

“You’d have to be made of stone not to feel for these students,” Arne Duncan, then the education secretary, said in June 2015. “We will make this process as easy as possible for them.”

The complex work of evaluating the Corinthian claims has taken time. By January 2017, the department had approved nearly 32,000.

But when Mr. Obama’s administration ended, about 41,000 complaints still awaited review. The Education Department had granted relief for borrowers who met specific criteria at two other schools, ITT Educational Services and American Career Institute, but it had not delved into thousands of claims involving other institutions.

After Mr. Trump took office, the existing claims sat untouched for nearly a year as tens of thousands of new ones arrived, according to agency documents.

In December, Ms. DeVos’s department approved nearly 13,000 claims, mostly from Corinthian students, under the criteria established by the Obama administration — but to many, she granted only partial relief. Since then, the department has approved only 4,000 more applications.

Those approvals have barely put a dent in claims against ITT, one of the nation’s largest for-profit educational companies before it closed down in September 2016, just before the start of a new school term.

In January 2017, just days before Mr. Trump’s inauguration, the department’s borrower defense unit circulated a 14-page memorecommending that the debts of some ITT students be fully forgiven. The value of the education the school provided them was “likely either negligible or nonexistent,” the investigators concluded.

On that recommendation, the department forgave the debts of 33 ITT students. It has not yet taken action on claims from 13,000 others, according to data sent to members of Congress.

Joseph White is among the ITT students who say they were cheated. He filed a claim with the Education Department three years ago and has heard little since.

Mr. White, 41, of St. Louis, graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering. But when he landed a position as a web developer, he quickly discovered that he lacked the skills to do his job.

Instead of teaching students to program computers, Mr. White said, instructors had handed out sheets of code and simply had the students retype them. At one final exam, the instructor stood at the front of the classroom and read the answer key aloud, he said.

“My degree,” he said, “was a sham.”

To finance that degree, Mr. White took out loans totaling more than $80,000.

Georgia Voters’ Lawsuit Forces Brian Kemp to Resign Secretary of State Role

Via Protect Democracy

Source: Flickr.com

On November 8, 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp resigned his office as Secretary of State in response to a lawsuit brought by Georgia voters.  The move came moments after a hearing was about to commence in Federal Court in Atlanta on a lawsuit seeking to force Kemp’s removal from any role in overseeing a governor’s race that is still too close to call and has not yet been decided.  Kemp claimed the move was to allow him to begin working on a transition to the governor’s role, but the timing made clear that his move was prompted by the lawsuit.

Larry Schwartztol, Counsel for Protect Democracy, the nonpartisan nonprofit that brought the suit on behalf of five Georgia voters said:

“This is a huge victory for democracy and the rule of law. It is a basic constitutional principle that a person may not be a judge in their own case and that’s what Brian Kemp was attempting to be here. It was manifestly unfair and it is a credit to the voters who stepped forward: LaTosha Brown, Candace Fowler, Jennifer Ide, Chalis Montgomery and Katharine Wilkinson whose bold stand in defense of democracy forced Secretary Kemp’s hand.

It is now critical that the votes be counted fairly and any other irregularities caused by Secretary Kemp’s conflicted role and multiple egregiously unethical and unlawful acts in the management of this election be addressed to the degree that Georgia voters can have full confidence in the result.

And let this be a lesson for the future: government officials may not misuse their offices to unfairly tilt the playing field in elections in which they are a candidate.  Doing so violates the Constitution, and today proves that Americans and our court system stand at the ready to stop that from happening should it ever be attempted again.”

The emergency legal papers in this case, Brown v. Kemp, were filed at 5 PM Tuesday on behalf of five Georgia voters: LaTosha Brown, Jennifer N. Ide and Katharine Wilkinson of Fulton County, Candace Fowler of Dekalb County, and Chalis Montgomery of Barrow County. They are represented in the matter by the nonpartisan nonprofit Protect Democracy, former United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Michael J. Moore, Chuck Byrd, Caroline McGlamry and Wade Tomlinson of Pope McGlamry, and former Department of Justice Voting Rights Section attorney Bryan L. Sells of the Atlanta Law Office of Bryan L. Sells.

More information about the lawsuit is available at protectdemocracy.org/brown-v-kemp/

Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to preventing American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.

Michael J. Moore, Chuck Byrd, Caroline McGlamry and Wade Tomlinson are attorneys at the law firm of Pope McGlamry, which has offices in Atlanta and Columbus, Georgia. Mr. Moore previously served as the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia from 2010 to 2015.  He is also a former member of the Georgia Senate, where he served on the Appropriations, Judiciary, Transportation, and Defense Committees.

Bryan L. Sells is the Principal at The Law Office of Bryan J. Sells in Atlanta, Georgia. Before launching his own practice, Bryan served as Special Litigation Counsel in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice from 2010 to 2015.

For press inquiries, contact  press at protectdemocracy.org

A New Harvard Law Building Opens on Mass Ave

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: NBBJ Boston

By: Clea Simon

Citing its future role in “innovation, deep learning, collegiality, and service,” Dean John F. Manning saluted the opening of the Harvard Law School’s newest building, at 1607 Massachusetts Avenue, on Monday evening. At a joyful reception in the open first floor, guests, faculty and community members nibbled pizza and sweets while taking in enlarged photos of the location’s previous incarnations, watching a time-lapse film of the structure’s 12 months of construction and queuing up for tours of the interior. Raising a glass of champagne, Manning thanked the many individuals from Harvard Law School and the City of Cambridge who had made the building possible, and he hailed the LEED Gold certified building as “designed to inspire and provoke collaboration.”

Indeed, the sleek wood and brick structure, which sits across Everett Street from HLS’s Wasserstein Hall, Caspersen Students Center, and Clinical Wing building, was created to foster and expand the law school’s experiential and clinical learning and tosupport research programs. Along with space for faculty offices and other future uses, 1607 Massachusetts Avenue, the first Harvard Law School project designed by Alex Krieger, a principal of NBBJ and professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, will provide elbow room for Harvard Law’s clinical education and research.  It will serve as the new home for the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, which includes the Health Law and Policy Clinic and also the Food Law and Policy Clinic. The building will also house the Criminal Justice Institute and the Harvard Defenders, a clinical program and student practice organization, respectively, in which students represent clients in criminal hearings; the Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change; the Animal Law & Policy Program; and the Access to Justice Lab.

“This new building reflects a commitment from both former Dean Martha Minow and our current dean to having a law school curriculum that reflects the needs of our law students and the community writ large,” said Clinical Professor Robert Greenwald, director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.

Clinical or experiential learning, Greenwald said, “needs a very different kind of space” than traditional lecture halls or classrooms. As an example, he described the new Health Law and Policy Clinic space, which features open areas, where students can work collaboratively, as well as more private offices and conference rooms. “A lot of the work happens via Skype and other electronic communication,” he said. “So all of our offices are designed for that.”

 Credit: Lorin Ganger

“The new building will provide invaluable space for the clinical programs and modern facilities to engage in the lawyering advocacy and teaching that are at the heart of the clinical programs,” said Clinical Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Experiential and Clinical Education Daniel L. Nagin. “This space will promote collaboration and enhance the ability of staff and students and faculty to interact and think across boundaries,” he added.

Continue reading.

Thanks for Listening!

Via the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program

Source: Pexels

We are pleased to announce that the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program has been awarded a grant to fund a new podcast series called Thanks for Listening, which will launch in November 2018.

This podcast will spotlight efforts to bridge the political divide in the U.S. through dialogue and collaborative processes, profiling the important and often courageous work of individuals and organizations who are helping citizens engage with one another on challenging topics. Episodes will dive deep into such issues as managing difficult family dynamics and relationships affected by partisan differences, bridging the divides so prominent in Congress, the media and in our social media spaces, training youth to move forward with better conflict management skills, when and how to engage in facilitated dialogue, keeping the conversation going in the midst of extremism and highly emotional issues, and civic engagement and the work of restoring communities. We hope to teach and inspire others to embrace dialogue as a valuable tool to engage productively around disagreement and differences, and to promote collaboration among people and organizations in the field.

We’re so grateful to our grantors, the American Arbitration Association International Centre for Dispute Resolution Foundation, for this opportunity!

Keep your eyes out on our websiteFacebook page, and Twitter for a link!

Heartbreak at the Border: Cindy Zapata on Her Trip to Karnes Detention Center

Via the Harvard Immigration and Refugee  Clinical Program

By: Cindy Zapata

There are some memories that remain so vivid in my mind. Some of them are obvious ones, like the day I got married and the day my son was born. Others are not so obvious, like the time my mother made me pay for a 5 dollar chicken shawarma in dimes and nickels. She laughed hysterically from afar as I ashamedly walked over and paid the man in countless coins. She insisted that it was a life lesson on the value of money – money is money, whether it comes in the form of a bill or a coin.

Often these memories evoke the emotion I felt in that very moment – joy, happiness, embarrassment – but there are some memories that not only evoke the emotion, but, in a way, transport me to the very moment of the experience. An example? Volunteering at the Karnes Family Detention Center.

During the four day stretch we were there, we met with countless fathers and sons. We helped represent some for their credible fear interviews or drafted affidavits. For others, we represented them for their reasonable fear redetermination appeal before an immigration judge. In three days, we had more than ten hearings.

Each had a very unique story, but they all shared a similar sentiment: they were scared of returning to their home country. Each had suffered or witnessed unimaginable horrors – sexual violence, physical assault, and death.

In my work, I’ve visited various different prisons and detention centers. As one can imagine, it’s a challenging experience. They’re physically and emotionally cold, and you can almost feel the desperation and lack of liberty in the very air you breathe.

But Karnes. Seeing fathers and children in detention. Seeing a three-year-boy in detention. It’s an image I can’t get rid of.

There were so many moments in our time there where I saw the law simply not protect the people that it was intended to protect. I saw the law fail miserably in upholding due process and basic fundamental rights. Individuals with valid asylum claims were not even allowed to explain their fear and experiences in court or they were denied interpreters or legal representation despite their affirmative requests. One father told me he had been separated from his five-year-old son – he was simply taken away. During that time of separation, he received his credible fear interview (CFI). I read his CFI and it was clear that this heartbroken man was incapable of understanding the questions before him. The only questions he asked over, and over, and over again were – Do you know where my son is? When will he come back? Can you help me find my son? Questions the asylum officer could not answer.

By the time I met this father, I was helping him finalize his affidavit to request a new interview before the asylum office. He was closing in on approximately three months in detention. He was tired and desperate. Despite having an extremely strong political asylum claim, he just couldn’t handle the thought of him and his son being in detention even a week longer. He was close to giving up.

My return home from Karnes was difficult. I’d see my son playing and I’d be immediately overwhelmed with guilt, knowing that I’d never have to make the impossible decisions these parents have made. I couldn’t shake the thought that at any given moment this father and his son, and countless other parents and children, are in detention.

Whenever I see kids coloring, I sometimes find myself back at Karnes. The kids weren’t allowed to color.

Whenever I see an image or a drawing of a dove, I sometimes find myself back at Karnes. An indigenous boy I met with had drawn a dove on his school folder. He was very talented.

I find that individuals in detention often draw doves.

A symbol of hope for a new beginning.

Cindy Zapata is a Clinical Instructor at HIRC and supervises the HLS Immigration Project (HIP).

Crimmigration Clinic Submits Amicus Brief on Behalf of Immigration Law Scholars

Via the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

HIRC’s Crimmigration Clinic, directed by Philip Torrey, recently co-authored an amicus curiae brief with Professor Kari E. Hong of Boston College Law School on behalf of immigration law scholars. The brief was filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a petition asking the full court to reconsider its prior decision in a case that significantly expanded a specific crime-based deportation ground.

The amicus brief argues for a narrow interpretation of the “crime of child abuse” removal ground that is more in line with the ground’s purpose to target child predators for removal. In doing so, the brief illustrates the over-inclusive nature of the removal ground’s current interpretation by immigration authorities, which may sweep in relatively minor conduct, including “free-range” parenting and child endangerment statutes that Congress did not intend to result in the deportation. To be clear, child abuse has no place in our society, but the current broad interpretation of the statute may render the parent who allows an older child to walk a half-mile home from a park a child abuser and, therefore, subject to deportation and permanent separation from her family. The brief argues that Congress did not intend to target that type of conduct.

The full brief is available here.

HIRC Submits Comments on Proposed Expansion of Family Detention

Via the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

Source: Pixabay

On November 6, HIRC, along with the HLS Immigration Project (HIP) and the Immigration Unit of Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), submitted comments on the Trump administration’s proposal to end the Flores v. Reno settlement, which requires that the government release children from immigration detention without unnecessary delay to their parents or other adults. The Flores agreement has been in place since 1997.

In their comments, HIRC and GBLS staff and HIP students used client stories to highlight the flawed logic in the Trump administration’s proposal:

“Last year, we represented a 21-year-old Salvadoran woman who, when fleeing abuse in El Salvador at age 17, was held for three days at gunpoint by gang members of Los Zetas in Mexico. Like the young Salvadoran, many of our clients often do not have the luxury of making a choice about whether to leave their home countries. Life-threatening violence related to powerful gangs and abusive security forces is a major problem throughout much of the Northern Triangle. This violence has pushed growing numbers of people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to seek asylum. Furthermore, Central American women, children, and families often have no option but to flee the ongoing threat of gang or gender-related violence experienced back at home. New regulations will not deter these individuals who are trying to save their lives and the lives of their children.”

They also emphasized the dire effects of the indefinite detention of children, citing studies that show long-term mental and physical harm suffered by detained children.

The complete comments from HIRC, HIP and GBLS are available here.

Special thanks to Krista Oehlke ’20 for her work on this letter!

Academy of Food Law and Policy Conference at Harvard Law School

Via Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Written by Erika Dunyak, FLPC Clinical Fellow and AFLP Conference attendee.

On October 5th, 2018, the Academy of Food Law and Policy (AFLP) held its inaugural conference at Harvard Law School, co-hosted by Harvard Law Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC). The conference welcomed over 40 attendees and featured a series of workshops, moderator-led discussion groups, and a lunchtime panel led by past and current AFLP board members. The conference connected the food law and policy community and highlighted parameters of the field through group-driven discussion of scholarship, teaching, and growth of the AFLP.

Championed by Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law Food Law and Policy Clinic and Susan Schneider, director of the LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law at the University of Arkansas, AFLP seeks to stimulate intellectual discourse, encourage and recognize scholarship, enhance teaching, support student interest, and promote the academic field of food law and policy. Now in its second year, the Academy connects legal faculty from across the globe to create a foundation for the long-term stability of food law as an academic discipline.

As a conference attendee, it was refreshing to be among peers and mentors in the food law space. Academy members gathered to evaluate and labor over each other’s writing in hopes of contributing meaningfully to academic discourse. The conference’s workshops helped attendees develop their positions and find new angles and new resources to strengthen their work. It was an exercise without judgment, and most importantly, will improve the research and writing of authors contributing to the food law academy.

Some AFLP members are adjuncts, teaching in undergraduate programs, clinical professors, or other non-traditional academic roles for the doctrinal legal academy. Other members are tenured faculty; the Academy even counts a dean amongst its members! But at the conference, the traditional academic barriers that exist were broken down; attendees were eager to learn from one another. Conference attendees also noted actions to increase inclusivity as an exciting next step for the legal academy and the future of food law.

Getting to Know You: Kelly Ganon

Via  adMISSIONS: HLS

Kelly Ganon is a current 3L and one of our Admissions Fellows. We recently sat down to hear her reflections on her HLS experience. Read on to learn about how she navigated the opportunities at Harvard, and her advice for prospective students!

Tell us about your path to Harvard Law.

When I was a high school freshman, I joined my high school’s mock trial team. I know how corny this sounds, but it’s true: the first time I stood up in a courtroom and gave a (fake) opening statement, I knew I had found what I wanted to do with my life. As I headed to college, my primary goal was to see the law from as many angles as possible. I attended Northeastern University, in part because the school has a robust internship program built into its undergraduate curriculum. Through that program, I spent half of my third year working for federal prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, and half of my fourth year in Switzerland helping to train public defenders in developing countries with a Geneva-based NGO. When I returned stateside, I finished up my classes and returned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston full-time as a paralegal. I provided litigation support in the Economic Crimes Unit there for two years before shipping off across the Charles River to start at HLS.

Why did you pick HLS?

Like many prospective HLS students, at the end of my admissions cycle, I was faced with a choice between a Harvard education and some sizable scholarships elsewhere. As fortunate as I felt to be in a position where I couldn’t make a bad choice, for a period of time I was paralyzed with fear that I wouldn’t make the best choice. I reached out to every HLS alum in my personal and professional networks (and even some folks I’d never met before) and asked them for their thoughts. They were at various stages of their careers, but each and every one of them talked about the many doors that this institution had opened for them. They talked about the career flexibility they felt they had as a result of the enormous Harvard network and the top-notch educations they received. In one conversation I’ll never forget, a prominent alumnus I was lucky enough to get on the phone said, “Kelly, let’s get real. If you go anywhere else, you’re going to be sitting in your 1L classes and day dreaming about being at Harvard.” In my heart of hearts, I knew he was right. I’ve never looked back.

Have you been able to work closely with professors? How are those relationships established?

My best working relationship with an instructor came through my 2L fall semester at the Consumer Protection Clinic at Harvard’s Legal Services Center (LSC). Like all of the clinical instructors at LSC, Roger Bertling is both a teacher and a practitioner, so he is able to bring theory and practice together in a way that I found to be incredibly exciting. In my view, the two best things about forging a good relationship with a clinical instructor are first, that they are able to provide immediate and constant feedback on your work in a way that academic professors who give one assessment at the end of a semester cannot, and second, that as they see you growing as an advocate, they are able to give you increasing responsibility in real time. But there are a lot of different ways that students can form close academic and/or professional bonds with professors outside of the clinical setting. For example, I have a friend who hit it off with a professor when she was a student in his 1L reading group. She worked as his Teaching Assistant during the fall of her 2L year, and he later agreed to supervise her independent writing project — so they’ve now worked together in three different capacities. Office hours are always an option, too. Every professor who is teaching in a given semester has office hours weekly, and many do not require students to sign up in advance. So if there is a professor whose work you find particularly interesting, you can often easily seek them out regardless of whether you are taking a class with them.

What do you pursue outside of the classroom? How do you balance activities with coursework?

In addition to giving tours and leading info sessions as an Admissions Fellow, I am an Executive Editor for the Harvard Law & Policy Review and serve as a committee chair for the Women’s Law Association. Off campus, I spend most of my time at the dog park with my 2 year-old Black Lab, Luna, and distance running. Of course, it can be hard to balance law school and extracurriculars. But even during the busiest times of the school year, I have found that I’ve been able to make time for the activities and people I love as long as I am disciplined about it. I block out time in my schedule every week to do non-law school things, and I hold myself to it — no matter if that means staying up a little later or waking up a little earlier to read that one last case before class. And for my fellow runners reading this blog, my best advice is to sign up for a couple of races for weekends during the school year! Having a race entry on the books will keep you motivated to hit the road even when the coursework starts to feel overwhelming.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone who is considering applying to HLS?

Make sure that the person you present through your application materials actually sounds like you! Given the kinds of accomplishments people tend to have if they are competitive candidates for admission at top-tier law schools, putting yourself in the running against them for a spot in the incoming class can feel immensely intimidating. You might be tempted to massage your application materials until you look like a “typical” candidate. But typicality is not a virtue for a school that is focused on being exceptional. Additionally, don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel like you’re not giving off the “I can be a successful law student!” vibe at all times. I was positive I’d blown my chances at Harvard because I made a VERY lame joke in my admissions interview. But here I am, a rising 3L, still making terrible jokes.

Stacie Jonas on the Frontlines in the Fight to Protect Immigrant Survivors of Abuse

The Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA) encourages law school students and lawyers to incorporate an enduring commitment to public service throughout their careers. The office offers advising sessions for students to discuss career options, plans events to expose students to the wide range of public interest opportunities available, and invites public interest leaders and mentors to HLS through its Wasserstein Public Interest Fellows Program.

As a part of National Pro Bono Week, Wasserstein Fellow Stacie Jonas discussed her commitment to serving those on the margins of society through her work in human trafficking. Human trafficking is a growing global epidemic. While sex trafficking is often what captures the media’s attention, labor trafficking is a prevalent problem. Jonas serves as the managing attorney for the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid’s (TRLA) human trafficking team, which aims to protect those who have fallen victim to labor and sex trafficking due, in part, to the gaps in our country’s immigration and labor laws. During her lunch time discussion, Jonas dispelled the myths of human trafficking, distinguished it from smuggling, and discussed how structural policy and legal flaws in labor and immigration are “weaponized” by abusive employers and traffickers that make immigrants more vulnerable to abuse and harm instead of protection.

TRLA provides comprehensive legal services to survivors of labor and sex trafficking in Texas and six other southern states. At TRLA, attorneys help survivors report their trafficking to law enforcement, apply for immigration relief and represent survivors in civil lawsuits and administrative agency proceedings. Survivors of labor and sex trafficking are often reluctant to speak out and engage in a process to hold traffickers accountable out of fear of deportation. Recent policies and rhetoric have caused widespread concern among immigrants, and people are reluctant to report their abuse, fearing that the threat of arrest and deportation is just around the corner, Jonas said. She told Politico EU that “[Traffickers] take complete advantage of the increased climate of fear. So many of them use threatened abuse of the legal process, threats of deportation, threats to report people to law enforcement on phony allegations, like threatening to accuse them of theft, or threats to have their kids taken away from them as a big part of their scheme to coerce someone to work.” TRLA helps these individuals prepare to speak with law enforcement about the trauma they have endured and assists in helping them obtain the legal safeguards to protect their welfare.

Unlawful immigration and/or smuggling may be synonymous to human trafficking for some, but Jonas informed the audience that, under federal law, they are actually quite different. Even U.S. citizens and immigrants who enter the country lawfully can become victims of trafficking. Nearly 70 percent of labor trafficking victims enter the U.S. on lawful visas. Jonas differentiated smuggling, which centers on the unlawful transporting of individuals to a foreign country, from trafficking, which involves the exploitation and coercion of an individual for labor or commercial sexual acts. Jonas also noted in a Texas Standard article, that “Victims of human trafficking are eligible for certain legal remedies and protections that are not always available to people who were smuggled.” Labor trafficked individuals can still be paid, and do not necessarily have restriction of movement. She gave an example of a man who was promised wages and free room and board in exchange for trucking-related work. But the work the man was required to perform was different and more labor intensive and dangerous than original described, and he received less pay than promised. He was injured on the job multiple times. The trafficker and his family also belittled the man, provided him sub-standard housing, and even threatened to get him deported or that he could be harmed if he ever left the job. Other truck drivers noticed signs of the man’s abuse, and he was referred to TRLA for services. Jonas and her team were able to get him out of the situation and helped him successfully apply for various legal remedies.

Jonas also currently works part time with Justice in Motion, helping to ensure that migrants fleeing abuse or violence can remain safely in the U.S. and to reunite migrant parents who were separated from their children while in the U.S. Jonas said that organizations like TRLA, Justice in Motion, and other similar organizations continue working to help trafficked individuals subjected to abuse and harm, who are often times trying to escape poverty, improve their lives, and support their families.

Thank you to OPIA and the Labor and Employment Action Project (LEAP) for putting this event together

Salma Waheedi Co-Authors Article on Muslim Family Law Reform

Via the Human Rights Program

Salma Waheedi, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at the International Human Rights Clinic and Associate Director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change, has co-authored an article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender with Kristen A. Stilt, Professor of Law and Director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program, and Swathi Gandhavadi Griffin, practicing attorney. The article, “Ambitions of Muslim Family Law Reform,” examines Islamic legal arguments and strategies used to support family law reform.

The co-authors state:

“Family law in Muslim-majority countries has undergone tremendous change over the past century, and this process continues today with both intensity and controversy. In general, this change has been considered “reform,” defined loosely as the amendment of existing family laws that are based on or justified by Islamic legal rules in an effort to improve the rights of women and children. Advocates seeking to reform family law typically make legal arguments grounded in Islamic law, thus explicitly or implicitly conceding the Islamic characterization of family law. This ‘reform from within’ approach has grown in recent years and the legal arguments have become more ambitious as women’s groups have become more involved and vocal.”

The article identifies and examines the landscape of legal arguments that are used and are needed to support change and analyzes the ambitious, possibilities, and limitations of reform in Muslim family law today.

Clinic Students Support International Advocacy to Advance Rights of Women in Mauritius

Via the International Human Rights Clinic 

In October, the Musawah Movement for Equality in the Muslim Family submitted a thematic report to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee advocating for codification of family law provisions to protect the rights of Muslim women in Mauritius. International Human Rights Clinic students Samantha Lint JD’20 and Natalie McCauley JD’19 contributed to drafting the report and developing its legal recommendations, working in close collaboration with Mauritian attorney and family law expert, Narghis Bundhun.

As the report notes, a major cause of the lack of rights protection and inequality for Muslim women in Mauritius is the absence of a clear legal framework that protects rights in the context of religious marriages. The report highlights this legal ambiguity and key resulting inequalities that harm Muslim Mauritian women and in turn damage families, communities, and society as a whole. The report encourages the State of Mauritius to leverage its robust framework of diversity and inclusion to promote equality for Muslim women and take concrete steps to ensure all women in Mauritius enjoy full legal protection.

The report will be considered by the CEDAW Committee in its Constructive Dialogue with the Government of Mauritius.

Health Groups Upgrade R.I. Hepatitis C Medicaid Access to ‘A-’

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Source: Pexels

Originally published by the Providence News Journal on October 29, 2018. Written by Rob Borkowski.

The R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services removed all restrictions on curative hepatitis C treatments for its Medicaid patients on July 12, a move that the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable and the Center for Health and Law Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School took note of in upgrading the state’s report card for the Hepatitis C: The State of Medicaid Access project from a “D-” to an “A-”.

Rhode Island’s decision improved access to the treatments for Medicaid patients in both its Fee-for-Service and Managed Care Organization Medicaid programs. Previously, the state restrictions on access to hepatitis C treatments were not in line with federal medical necessity requirements for Medicaid.

But the state worked in conjunction with the Center for Health and Law Policy Innovation, the Rhode Island Center for Justice and other community partners to make the policy change.

“We commend Rhode Island for expanding access to hepatitis C medications for all Medicaid beneficiaries, ensuring that more Rhode Islanders can receive curative treatments. CHLPI encourages other states to follow in Rhode Island’s footsteps and remove their discriminatory restrictions,” said Robert Greenwald, clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School and the director of CHLPI.

Rhode Island’s Fee-For-Service program previously required hepatitis C patients to demonstrate severe liver damage (a fibrosis score of F3 or greater), undergo screening and concurrent alcohol and substance use counseling for beneficiaries actively using, and obtain a prescription from a specialist that is approved by the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services. With these restrictions in place, very few patients diagnosed with hepatitis C had access to treatment. Each year, it is estimated that only 250 Rhode Islanders who are Medicaid beneficiaries receive access to curative hepatitis C medications.

“After years of strong advocacy efforts in Rhode Island, all Medicaid patients diagnosed with hepatitis C can now receive access to treatment without restrictions. We continue to encourage all Medicaid patients at risk to undergo screening and learn about available treatment options,” said Tina Broder, interim executive director of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable.

Community Enterprise Project Participates in Boston Ujima Project’s Citywide Assembly

Boston Ujima Project citywide assembly, October 6th – October 7th 2018

By: Samy Rais

Over Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend, more than a hundred community members, business owners and activists assembled to celebrate and participate in the Boston Ujima Project’s second official citywide assembly. The Ujima Project was founded in 2017 with the mission to create a new community-controlled economy in Greater Boston, initially focusing on[1]:

  1. Good Business Certification and Alliance: establishing community standards (and supporting businesses) that consider business practices like living wages, Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI)-friendly hiring, local purchasing, environmental impact and affordability.

 

  1. Community Capital Fund: pooling savings and investments to engage in participatory budgeting to meet the enterprise, housing and consumer needs of the community. The fund will be democratically governed by historically divested communities, giving every member an equal vote on the fund’s investment priorities, loans and equity transactions.

 

  1. Worker Services Network: growing employee satisfaction and security by organizing human resource programs.

 

  1. Alternative Local Currencies: establishing alternative local currencies (like time banking) that would allow members to trade their skills and labor and incentivize circulation of resources within the community.

 

  1. Anchor Institution Advocacy: building community power and advancing campaigns for the City, State and large nonprofits to direct investment, subsidy and procurement dollars to Ujima’s network of certified good businesses and developers.

 

Since early 2016, the Community Enterprise Project (CEP) of Harvard’s Transactional Law Clinics has been supporting the Ujima Project’s inception and community-driven mission. CEP students have provided the Ujima Project with legal analysis on various transactional matters, namely corporate and nonprofit law, corporate governance structures, 1940 Investment Company Act and securities laws implications, consumer protection laws, and secured transactions. These areas of law are customarily associated with the law firm-world, but are a critical need in the public interest space. Currently, CEP students are building on work completed last semester by helping to finalize the initial documents for the Ujima Project’s Community Capital Fund to begin making investments in community-supported businesses.

As part of CEP’s support of the Ujima Project, I attended the citywide assembly with CEP director and clinical instructor, Carlos Teuscher. CEP’s attendance at the citywide assembly had two purposes: first, in following the community and movement lawyering approach, CEP believes in supporting organizations that are working to dismantle and radically restructure current systems of law and power, and it is essential to be present in order to be in solidarity with such movements; and second, it was critical to hear the voices of the community that the Ujima Project was supporting and are the most impacted, in order to effectively prepare the Ujima Project’s Community Capital Fund loan documents.

As mentioned above, the Ujima Project is creating the first-of-its-kind investment fund that is controlled by the community. While my involvement in transactional cases generally consists of undertaking legal research, drafting contracts, or forming a legal entity, it was obvious from the start that working with the Ujima Project was going to be different. Because of its community-driven approach, as its legal counsel, we need to ensure that the Ujima Project’s legal documents are able to adapt to its members’ ideas, struggles and demands, no matter how unconventional.

In that sense, the Ujima Project is both a unique project and a large-scale illustration of recurrent challenges in our work at CEP. This semester, student advocates in CEP have been advising several groups looking to form worker cooperatives in Greater Boston, which, like the Ujima Project, require democratic voting. By giving workers collective ownership in their business, worker cooperatives enable collaborative entrepreneurship and help tackle many of the issues poverty lawyers interact with on a day-to-day basis – wage-and-hour violations, health and environmental issues, immigration, criminal justice, and many others. As with the case in the Ujima Project, we need to ensure that the voices of all the members in the cooperative (undocumented/documented, low-wage workers/management, reentering citizens, etc.) are heard and reflected. At the same time, it is challenging to balance the need for urgency in the day-to-day operations and democratic management.

As we pass the mid-point of the semester, I am excited to have been able to interact with communities experimenting with and implementing alternative economic models. As an aspiring lawyer, I have appreciated the need to better understand the community you work for and their needs. Further, as a foreign student at Harvard Law School for the semester, I discovered communities in the United States, who, although being disadvantaged, gather and spare no effort or ingenuity to fight and overcome the systemic struggles they face.

[1]Ujima Concept Paper available at https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/40c717_f16102d86a644584af4c47c72ea2794b.pdf.

National Institutes of Health will study “Food is Medicine”

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Source: Pexels

Written by Hanh Nguyen, Whole Person Care Project Assistant. 

When the Committee on Appropriations recently passed H.R. 6557, The Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act for 2019, they also submitted a report accompanying the bill that encouraged the Office of Director of the NIH to work with Institutions and Centers, including NIDDKNHLBINIA, and NICHD, to report on research that has been conducted on Food is Medicine related topics. This may include “medically tailored meals, meal nutrition therapy, produce prescription programs, the role of proper nutrition in aging, and the role of proper nutrition in reproductive health”.

The report also draws attention to the access challenges and out-of-pocket costs of prescribed medical diets. The Committee encouraged the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services to work proactively with stakeholder communities to identify and address improper barriers to nutritious food access.

CHLPI is excited to see the language of Food is Medicine (FIM) used among policymakers. We are hopeful that a focus on nutrition research will improve our health care delivery system.

There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the impressive results of FIM interventions in improving health outcomes, increasing patient satisfaction in health care, and reducing health costs. In a recent congressional briefing, it was reported that patients who received home-delivered medically tailored meals showed a 16% net reduction in monthly healthcare spendings. Likewise, a new study from Project Angel Heart, a non-profit food and nutrition program serving individuals living with life-threatening illnesses in Colorado, reported that the provision of medically tailored meals resulted in a 13% drop in hospital admissions and 24% overall cost reduction for patients with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and congestive heart failure.

Despite such results, there is still not a federal funding stream dedicated to medically tailored food and nutrition within healthcare, leaving those who chronically ill, too sick to shop and cook for themselves, or too poor to afford nutritious food at risk for life-threatening conditions that are preventable with proper nutrition.

We believe that a critical analysis of existing FIM research will set the stage for future innovative policies that will increase access to medically tailored meals. Check out our FIM State Plan to learn more about how CHLPI is working to increase access to FIM interventions in the Commonwealth!

A Victory for Software Preservation: DMCA Exemption Granted for SPN

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic

Source: Pixabay

By: Kendra Albert

The Library of Congress handed a significant win to digital preservationists. On October 26, 2018, the Library of Congress granted an exemption to the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision for libraries, archives, and museums to circumvent technological protection measures on certain lawfully acquired software for the purposes of preserving software and materials that depend on it. This exemption will significantly reduce the legal risk involved in preserving software that is no longer available for purchase. The new exemptions [went] into effect on October 28, 2018. The announcement came after a year of rulemaking proceedings before the Copyright Office, and the involvement of several semesters of Clinic students, including Evelyn Chang, Anderson Grossman, Jillian Goodman, Erika Herrera, Austin Bohn, and Erin Thomas. You can read our previous blog posts about the Clinic’s involvement here and here.

Background

17 U.S.C. § 1201 prohibits circumvention of a “technical measure that effectively controls access” to a copyrighted work. This provision has the effect of forbidding someone from breaking “digital rights management” or “DRM” technology – think, for example, of the copy-control technologies that restrict copying of DVDs or CDs (containing film or software). Under Section 1201, the circumvention of the access control measure is itself a violation — one can be held liable for violating Section 1201 by breaking DRM even if the underlying use of the work protected by that DRM is lawful. This can lead to strange results — e.g., someone copies a clip from a DVD for educational purposes (clearly a fair use under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, no liability) but breaks DRM on the DVD in doing so (thus violating Section 1201 and incurring potential liability for that violation).

Recognizing this problem, the law provides that the Copyright Office shall conduct a rulemaking proceeding every three years to consider requests for exemptions from liability under Section 1201. Since the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking initiating the seventh triennial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) rulemaking proceedings last fall, the Cyberlaw Clinic has represented the Software Preservation Network (SPN) before the Copyright Office. The SPN and the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) sought an exemption to the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions to allow libraries, archivists, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions to preserve software and software-dependent materials. SPN is an organization dedicated to digital preservation and ensuring long term access to software. The LCA represents librarians in the United States and Canada in addressing copyright and related IP issues.

Why Software Preservation Matters

Software is an important part of our daily lives, and it has changed how we interact with the world. Many writers turn to word processing software instead of the typewriter, and many artists turn to graphics tablets instead of the canvas. As a result, many creative works today are “born digital,” unlike traditionally analog works like literary manuscripts or paintings. We even rely on software to create digital copies of these old analog works to protect their contents from the inevitable degradation of the physical media.

This increased dependence on software as a medium for creative expression has led to increased efforts for preservation of software and software-dependent materials by university libraries and research institutions. Preservation of these works indisputably serves two laudable purposes: to allow historians to document an important aspect of modern culture, and to enable researchers to understand how older software worked and how past users experienced that software.

But the unrelenting march of technology stymies the efforts of digital preservationists. New software products become outdated and obsolete rapidly due to continuing advancements in hardware and software. The modern practice in the software industry of periodically releasing new products and versions while dropping support for old products and versions means that archivists and preservationists may never be able to obtain copies of certain software for preservation purposes. And since computer programs often use proprietary file formats that can change across versions, losing access to software also means losing access to digital files that can only be opened using that software. For example, current versions of AutoCAD do not support opening old AutoCAD files. And even if some computer programs currently support backward compatibility, there is no guarantee that they will continue to support old filetypes going forward.

How the Law Gets in the Way of Preserving Software

Despite the importance of software preservation and the known technological challenges faced by digital preservationists, current legal frameworks frustrate, rather than facilitate, preservation efforts. Even if a copy of old software can be located, preservationists may have difficulty seeking licenses or permissions because the current holders of rights to the old software may not be identifiable. The older the software, the more difficult. And even if rightsholders can be located, they may have little incentive to incur the transaction costs associated with licensing their old software because no market exists for the software.

Legally obtaining copies of old computer programs is not the end of preservationists’ troubles. Computer programs often include built-in technological protection measures (TPMs) to prevent access by unauthorized users. TPMs may require the user to provide product keys or passwords, insert a CD or dongle, or connect to an Internet server for authentication. But preservationists may not be able to access the software using TPMs in the manner intended by the developers, especially for older software. Old TPMs may require using obsolete operating systems, or inserting floppy disks despite modern computers no longer supporting floppy disk drives. If librarians or preservationists circumvent these TPMs in their efforts to study and preserve old computer programs and files, they would be subject to legal liability under the DMCA. Even if rightsholders never actually bring lawsuits against preservationists for circumventing TPMs, as friend of the Clinic Brandon Butler’s recent report suggests, the mere threat of legal liability causes a chilling effect. The consequence is forever losing software and software-dependent materials to the ages.

The Exemption

Most parties, including the opponents, agreed that software preservation is a worthwhile endeavor. While the opponents objected to the broad scope of SPN’s proposed exemption, the Acting Register of Copyrights agreed that librarians, archivists, and preservationists need more latitude in their ability to access computer programs and computer program-dependent materials. And after a year of public comments and hearings, the Librarian of Congress, adopting the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, issued a final rule containing an exemption that encompasses much of what the SPN requested.

The final rule allows eligible libraries, archives, and museums to circumvent technological protection measures on certain lawfully acquired computer programs (including video games) to preserve computer programs and computer program-dependent materials. The final rule includes the SPN’s suggestion, in consideration of the opponents’ concerns about breadth, that the exemption be limited to computer programs that are no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace. The Library of Congress did create some limitations on the exemption, requiring that the computer program is not distributed outside the physical premises of the eligible library, archives, or museum.

Conclusion

On the whole, the new exemption gives digital preservationists significantly more leeway to continue their important work without living under a cloud of litigation risk. The Cyberlaw Clinic will continue to work with the SPN and other software preservation groups to ensure that the law does not inhibit continued access to software for scholarship and research, and will release a more comprehensive guide to the new exemption for preservationists in the coming weeks.

Veterans Legal Clinic Welcomes DAV General Counsel for Conversation About His Role & Career Path

Via the Legal Services Center 

Christopher J. Clay, General Counsel of Disabled American Veterans (DAV), shared his perspectives on current challenges facing disabled veterans and his experiences as general counsel of national non-profit organization during a talk at Harvard Law School on October 2. The event was hosted by the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, and was cosponsored by the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, Armed Forces Association, National Security and Law Association, and The Transactional Law Clinics.

Clinical Professor Daniel Nagin—director of the Veterans Legal Clinic—gave opening remarks, introducing both Mr. Clay and Richard E. Marbes, Chair of the Board of Directors of the DAV Charitable Service Trust, who was in attendance at the event. Nagin described DAV’s role as an important resource for veterans seeking access to benefits and supportive services. This year marks the sixth year that the DAV Charitable Service Trust has provided funding to support the work of the Veterans Legal Clinic.

Mr. Clay—a Ph.D-trained philosopher turned lawyer—spoke about his background, his unique career path, and his duties as the general counsel of a large nonprofit.  He answered questions from the audience on a wide range of topics, including how DAV collaborates with other veterans organizations, DAV’s relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and whether the role of general counsel differs between non-profit and for-profit organizations.

Mr. Clay also discussed DAV’s origins, structure, and accomplishments. DAV is a congressionally-chartered organization that was founded in Cincinnati with about 20 members and has now grown to over 1 million members. DAV offers a range of services to veterans, from no-cost advocacy before the VA to free rides to medical appointments. According to Mr. Clay, DAV handled over 250,000 VA disability claims last year and has donated over 4,000 vans and countless volunteer hours over the past few years to transport veterans to medical appointments at VA medical centers nationwide.

In addition to helping veterans access benefits and services, Mr. Clay discussed how DAV has sought to encourage veterans to live fuller lives. One program brings together severely disabled veterans to participate in winter sports and other activities that, Mr. Clay said, help veterans feel that “if I can do this, I can do anything.” Finally, he emphasized that the DAV’s veteran members are the ones that ultimately run DAV, which “ensures that the passion that began DAV remains with DAV.”

Lessons Learned: Facilitating a Conversation about Remembrance

Via the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program 

Source: Pexels

By: Neha Singh ’19

When Zikaron BaSalon first asked me to facilitate a discussion about Holocaust Remembrance on Holocaust Memorial Day, the task seemed easy even though the subject matter was weighty. After all, many people who were similarly inexperienced in leading group discussions had successfully hosted similar events with Zikaron BaSalon in the past. Moreover, I was working with a great team of fellow students and mentors in the Harvard alternative dispute resolution (ADR) community who would help me make the discussion a success. And I had learned about facilitating conversations in my classes taught by expert facilitators.  With so much going for me, how could I not be an amazing facilitator?

Well, pride goes before the fall.

The more I prepared for the event, the more nervous I became. Despite receiving support from Zikaron BaSalon, despite the help of my team, and despite all my coursework in this area, I felt out of my depth. I had two major concerns with whether I could facilitate the upcoming discussion well.

My first concern was that maybe I was just the wrong person to be facilitating this discussion. How could I, a non-Jewish person with no family connections to the Holocaust possibly do justice to such an important topic? What could I, a second-year law student with nothing but book knowledge about ADR principles, have to offer to people with rich and deep connections to the Holocaust? Who was I to tell them how to share their feelings with each other? I seriously considered the idea that my most useful contribution to this event could be just remaining silent for an hour while others talked.  Unfortunately, remaining silent, while tempting, would not solve my second concern.

My second concern was that I would be unable to stop the discussion from becoming heated in a manner that would be counterproductive to our goal of encouraging Holocaust Remembrance. It was all too easy to imagine the conversation transforming into an angry yelling match. What would I do if people began to discuss and have intense political disagreements about Israel-Palestine relations? Or about the political climate in the US? Or about the refugee crisis in Germany? All of these are topics worth discussing in detail, but I was unconvinced that heated discussions on these topics would further our goal of Holocaust Remembrance.

Eventually, I was able to address both my concerns and facilitate a discussion that I thought was honest, welcoming, and respectful. While I will not pretend I did everything perfectly, it was a rewarding experience that taught me a lot. If I were to host an event like this again, I would make some changes that I think would make the discussion even better.

To address my first concern of not having the right background to facilitate this discussion, I asked for help from a colleague who had a different background that complemented mine. Specifically, one of my former Teaching Assistant colleagues, Max, was available to help facilitate the event with me. Max brought with him his lived experience as a Jewish person and his history of facilitating conversations about the Holocaust in other contexts; this made him an invaluable addition to the team, as he was able to suggest facilitation strategies that created an environment that was conducive to a rewarding discussion. In addition, the two of us as facilitators made a good team because we could model for the rest of the group how Jewish and non-Jewish people could talk together about the Holocaust. During the event itself, no one questioned or seemed offended by the fact that I was co-facilitating the discussion, which I took as a sign that I had addressed my first concern well enough.

To address my second concern of not wanting the discussion to turn into a heated argument, Max and I worked together to prepare a plan for how we would stop off-topic heated arguments, if those occurred. A big part of this process was deciding what counted as “off-topic” in the first place. After all, people have different thoughts about the subject of the Holocaust, and we did not want to stifle any expression that was respectful and sincere. We ended up creating a list of topics that we thought were off-topic and would lead to arguments, and decided that if the discussion veered into these topics, we would re-direct the conversation by asking a new question or prompting a different participant to speak. I was the major driving force behind this strategy, because I felt uncomfortable with allowing conflict in a discussion that I was facilitating. I was uncomfortable because I would hold myself responsible if a participant in my discussion felt disrespected or offended; thus, I wanted to eliminate the chance that any participant would have to participate in a conflict that could lead to disrespect or offense. In retrospect, I think I could have handled this concern better. We were lucky that no heated arguments came up during our discussion, but if one had, I do not think our proposed approach would have been the best way to deal with it. If such an argument had come up, we would have changed the topic, which may have led to resentment at being cut off, confusion about why we were not allowing the discussion to continue organically, and unwillingness to participate further. I think a better approach would have been to be more open about my discomfort and thought process. For example, I could have told the participants that I felt conversations about X, Y and Z topics would lead to heated arguments that I wanted to avoid, and then allowed them to respond regarding whether they agreed with me or not. This way, the discussion would be more democratic, instead of being restricted to topics that I thought would not generate conflict that made me uncomfortable. This more open process would take the burden of guiding the conversation off my shoulders, and allow all participants to feel responsible for the direction of the conversation.

I still treasure the discussion we had that night. Many attendees offered constructive feedback about changes we could have made, but all attendees appreciated the chance to have had such a meaningful discussion. However, looking back on the experience with the benefit of hindsight, my biggest takeaway from hosting the Zikaron BaSalon event is not that I managed to pull it off. My most powerful learning comes from all the questions I still think about. How do I best connect with people who have different histories than me, and help them talk freely with me? How do I handle heated, but important, discussions? I found a way to address my concerns for the duration of the Zikaron BaSalon event, and I am grateful to have had the chance to see how wonderful conversations can be when these questions are considered and engaged.

The Art of Listening: A Mediator’s Experience

HMP students Quent Fox, Laura Bloomer, Pratik Mehta, and Margaret Huang with Clinical Instructor Cathy Modell at Harvard Law School’s Bicentennial Celebration event showcasing clinical programs and student practice organizations.
Credit: Martha Stewart

By: Laura Bloomer, J.D. /MPP ’19

Two years ago, I would not have listed “great listening skills” as one of my top attributes. Yet at its core, being a good mediator requires you to be an active, engaged listener. We listen to what the parties are telling us and use that information to move the conversation forward. We help the two people sitting across from us create their own resolution to whatever issue brought them into court that day. The model we use at Harvard Mediation Program (HMP) discourages offering solutions and taking sides. Instead, we empower parties to develop and agree upon solutions themselves.

We’re not always successful, in which case the parties can return to the court and have their case heard by the clerk magistrate. But when we are successful, parties sign an agreement of their own making and can walk out of court a few minutes later after getting approval from the clerk. As opposed to a blunt solution imposed by the court, the mediated agreement can be flexible and tailored to the parties themselves. We add efficiency to the court system, sure, but we also strive to add a space for people to talk and to better understand each other. We believe that when parties create their own solution to a problem, they are more likely to feel that the result is equitable and will be more likely to abide by the requirements in the future.

I joined HMP for two reasons. On a personal level, I wanted to improve my listening and facilitation skills. On a professional level, I believe in alternative dispute resolution and wanted to get hands-on experience in the field. Over the past couple years, I keep returning to HMP for those same reasons, as well as a third: some of the most caring, thoughtful, and fun students at the law school are also members of HMP. After all, many of the best listeners find their way to mediation, meaning HMP has an incredible support system. It’s also a place of engaging conversation, where discussions range from how to build stronger relationships to improvements to the legal system that would lead to a more inclusive, fairer process.

Since I began training with HMP, I’m confident that not only have my listening skills improved, but also, I now have a greater understanding of the legal system and its effect on people’s lives. I’ve mediated a variety of different disputes: landlord-tenant, small claims, and harassment prevention orders. Some cases are as simple as the parties seeking a payment plan to ensure the money owed gets paid in a reasonable time period. Some are incredibly difficult and involve decades of fraught relationships coming to a head. Many are in between the two extremes.

As mediators, we have to be comfortable with whatever level of emotions parties bring to the table. We strive to acknowledge their feelings and allow the parties to be heard. One of the greatest privileges of HMP is the chance to serve as a trusted neutral through which parties will share their experiences and put genuine effort into trying to reach a resolution that feels fair to both sides.

For many people, this day in their local court will be the only time they directly interact with the legal system. Mediation can redefine this day for them. It brings parties away from the hierarchy of the court room, where the judge sits behind a bench higher than the parties, Latin and antiquated words are intermixed with English, and only the lawyers may freely step in front of the bar. Mediation brings folks to a table to sit together and engage in a productive discussion. Being a small part of making the legal system more accessible by all members of society has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my time at HLS. I hope to continue this type of work in the future and to keep practicing my listening skills, whether through mediation directly or other activities.

A Winning Streak for Student Borrowers

Source: Pexels

By: Casey McTiernan

Students Won Several Major Victories This Month Against the Department of Education.

After years of delay by the Department of Education, student borrowers represented by the Project on Predatory Student Lending are finally winning their rights in courts. On four separate occasions this month, judges rebuked the Department, struck down illegal policies, and ruled in favor of students.

These recent rulings and decisions demonstrate that student borrowers have, and can enforce, their rights against the Department of Education and predatory for-profit colleges. These wins are a testament to our clients’ perseverance and willingness to stand up to the Department and drive change for student borrowers who attended for-profit colleges across the nation.

In the past three weeks alone, student borrowers won the following cases:

The 2016 Borrower Defense Rule is Now in Effect.

Students thwarted the Department of Education and the for-profit college industry’s attempts to prevent the implementation of the 2016 borrower defense rule. This rule includes a set of important protections for student loan borrowers from predatory schools, including their right to bring their claims in courts instead of in arbitration if their school participates in the federal student loan program. The Department finally backed down from its stubborn delays after all of its arguments were rejected by the court. The judge also rejected an industry attempt to stop the 2016 borrower defense rules from taking effect. As a result, the rule took effect on October 16, 2018 after more than a year of illegal delays.

These victories are a rebuke to both the Department of Education and the for-profit college industry. Students did not stop fighting to get this rule implemented, and now, because of their willingness to fight, these important and long-delayed rules are in effect.

Read more about the borrower defense rulings and the cases Bauer v. DeVos and CAPPS v. DeVos.

The Department Cannot Seize Tax Refunds from Borrower Defense Applicants.

On October 25, 2018, a federal judge ruled that the Department of Education had illegally taken the tax refunds of two former Corinthian College students to pay their student loans, without addressing the assertion, made in borrower defense applications, that their loans are fraudulent and unenforceable. As a result of this ruling, all student loan borrowers are protected from having their income tax credit seized to pay their federal student loans while their borrower defense applications are pending. This win is one step toward stopping the Department’s long-standing and utter disregard for the rights of students who have been subjected to the harmful practices of the predatory for-profit college industry.

Read more about the victory in Williams v. DeVos.

Corinthian Colleges Students Win Class Certification, and Elected Officials Call on the Department to Cancel All Corinthian Debt.

On October 15, a judge certified a class of Corinthian Colleges borrowers, allowing these students to team up to fight for the full loan cancellation they legally are owed. The Project on Predatory Student Lending and Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA) represent the students in the class action lawsuit Calvillo Manriquez v. DeVos.

That same day, a group of elected officials and organizations from across the country called on the Department of Education to cancel the debts of all Corinthian College students once and for all.

Read more about the #CancelCorinthian campaign.

Should We Just Ban “Best By” Labels on Food?

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation 

Source: Flickr.com 

Originally published by Modern Farmer on October 12, 2018. Written by 

Food labels, as we’ve written about before, are awful: they can be misleading, outright lies, not include enough information, or, in the case of one particular label, encourage bad habits.

Tesco, one of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains, announced this week that it will remove “best by” date labels from 116 fruit and vegetable items. The move builds on a smaller reduction in the label earlier this year. So why are those labels bad?

The “best by” label, along with its siblings “best before” and “best if used by,” are not federally regulated in any way; they are not only not required, but there aren’t even any rules about how to determine which product gets which date. (It’s sometimes done by anecdotal evidence, sometimes by lab tests, more often by just following other labels and assuming that, say, the best time to drink milk is earlier than two weeks after it was processed.)

But over the past few years, resistance to the “best by” label has grown. A 2016 survey from the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic found that 84 percent of respondents occasionally throw away food that’s past its labeled date, and a third of respondents “usually” or “always” do. This is a significant issue because that food isn’t actually bad; the “best by” date is not the same as a spoilage date. The “best by” label is, unexpectedly, a major contributor to food waste, and food waste is so rampant in the US that an estimated 40 percent of the entire country’s food never makes it to the plate.

Tesco’s own research indicated that 69 percent of respondents supported removing the “best by” label, with more than half stating that they believed it would reduce food waste. This isn’t a trick to get you to buy spoiled food; you can tell if a tomato is rotten, or about to be rotten, in a way that’s much more precise than a stamped generic label. It’s a way to discourage people from walking past food that’s perfectly good.

Lawyers: Forget The Client, Welcome The Community. How Chicago Is Working For Justice For All.

Via Forbes

By: Ashoka


Forbes interviewed social entrepreneur and HLS alum Lam Nguyen Ho ’08 on his work to get legal aid powered by the community through working with community-allied lawyers and community groups in Chicago.  Ho is the executive director of the Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA), which he founded with an HLS Public Service Fund Venture Grant.  CALA unites lawyers and activists to help their communities access justice and pursue social change. In 2017, Ho received the Gary Bellow Public Service Award for his efforts to improve the legal aid industry and  he contributions of over 3000 pro-bono hours in service to clients.

Read a snapshot of the interview about his work with CALA below:

Q: In broad brush strokes, how does legal aid work now?

A: Legal Services Corporation, a federal government program set up in 1974, largely controls what we know as legal aid in this country and funds it about half a billion dollars every year. It serves a great good and reaches many low-income people and communities. I’ve worked as a legal aid lawyer for more than a decade and I’ve seen and done remarkable work with LSC support. But there are big and growing gaps. One is that overall funding has dropped 60 percent in the past decade, making the system and its lawyers completely overstretched and locking out many who urgently need legal help. Even beyond funding, though, there are real structural limitations in how legal aid operates.

Q: What are the limitations?

A: For one, legal aid lawyers and organizations funded through this system can take on only some cases. Over 20 case “types” are excluded, including people facing gross injustices and civil liberty infringements like undocumented immigrants, sex workers, anyone who’s in prison. Class action lawsuits and anything related to organizing are also excluded which basically limits lawyers to individual not systemic level legal work. Another excluded case type is school segregation — I mean, it’s 2018 and if a legal aid lawyer sees a case with school segregation issues, they can’t be involved in it.

Q: What’s the relationship of lawyer to community?

A: Lawyers and legal aid programs tend to work by themselves, in silos, not really connecting to the communities they support or the changemakers working on the bigger changes. What I saw in my time in traditional legal aid was basically this: we’d take on individual cases and we would “solve” somebody’s eviction, we would “solve” their domestic violence situation. But we would never connect with those groups working at the systemic level to correct, say, gentrification causing displacement and mass evictions of entire communities, or cultural currents that make violence at home more likely. So the relationship of  lawyer and community is critical and we’re missing opportunities for impact. It’s where we see the biggest chance for change.

Q: So what you are proposing… how does Community Activism Law Alliance step in?

A: At CALA, we believe the law should be a vehicle of social change. In our model, legal aid is community located, community operated and, most importantly, community directed. This means that everything we do — deciding who gets legal services, what types of cases we handle, what hours, what location — is co-created with and ultimately directed by the community partner. Why? Because our partners are the ones connected to social movements. By letting them lead we end up leveraging the movement work and the movement priorities. This adds up to bigger impact, beyond what most individual cases can contribute. It also shifts the power of the law into the hands of communities and people most directly impacted.

Q: You started CALA in 2015 in one community, Little Village in Chicago. What’s your reach now?

A: We’re working in and with 16 community groups and 20 programs across Chicago and Lake County, and we have more demand than we can meet at current capacity. The work is philanthropically supported, giving us more freedom to do what we know is needed most. And because we’re embedded with communities, we are supported with office space, language and translation services, and administrative support, making this model cost effective, with greater potential to scale nationally. We’re starting to build our vision of an alternative network of legal programs that are powered by the people, by the community.

Continue reading.

Corruption-fighting AG? Easy to say, harder to do.

Via Crain’s Chicago Business

Source: Flickr.com

By: Tim Jones

Come election time, it’s popular for Illinois Republicans and Democrats, when political circumstances suit them, to clamor for the state’s top lawyer to investigate corruption—almost always, to no avail.

But a few weeks ago, Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan began investigating the Rauner administration over how it handled a spate of Legionnaires’ Disease-related deaths at the state home for veterans in Quincy.

And the GOP cried foul.

“Clearly partisan,” charged Travis Sterling, executive director of the Illinois Republican Party.

Even though 14 people have died, and WBEZ news reports show the Rauner administration waited nearly a week to notify the public about the initial outbreak, the Quincy case vividly illustrates why laws in Illinois and almost all other states make it very difficult for elected attorneys general to lead the very anti-corruption crusades partisans often call for.

What one party may hail as a righteous quest for justice, the other likely will condemn as a politically tainted abuse of power.

Yet candidates often cannot resist taking up the cudgel of anti-corruption, sometimes identifying their targets by name.

“If I say, ‘Elect me and I’ll go after Donald Trump or Speaker (Mike) Madigan or Jared Kushner,’ anyone who says that is absolutely wrong,” said James Tierney, former attorney general of Maine and now a lecturer at Harvard Law School. “That is the opposite of what our criminal justice system is supposed to be about.”

Read the full article here.

Humanizing Individuals in the Criminal Justice System

PLAP students representing a client in a parole hearing

By: Regina Powers, J.D. ’19

I joined the Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) the fall of my 1L year at a time when I knew very little about the criminal justice system. I knew, however, that PLAP provided important services to prisoners in Massachusetts. These services include representing prisoners in disciplinary hearings and in their bids for parole before the Massachusetts Parole Board.

In January of my 1L year, I took my first case. When I visited my client, he was only able to speak to me behind a glass wall and in handcuffs. I learned he was in “segregation,” which is a term the Department of Corrections (DOC) uses to describe the Massachusetts system of solitary confinement. Those in solitary usually receive one hour of recreation a day, while spending the remaining 23 hours in a small cell. I could not witness a client handcuffed behind a glass wall while speaking with his student attorney without becoming enraged and devoting my time in law school to this work. Our criminal justice system is used as a tool of racial oppression and the horrors of solitary confinement and other terrible conditions in prisons are inflicted disproportionately on men and women of color.

I continued in PLAP throughout the rest of my 1L and 2L year, and I was fortunate enough to represent a client before the Massachusetts Parole Board. PLAP represents “lifers,” or clients with life sentences who are eligible for parole. Many of these men have been imprisoned for decades, and they often committed a crime as teenagers or young adults––a time before the brain is fully developed. My representation included developing a detailed memorandum asking for parole, gathering letters from friends and family members, extensively preparing my client for opening and closing statements, and preparing a closing statement myself. Through this, I developed skills in client interviewing, which can be a particularly difficult skill to gain during law school because of limited opportunities to interact with clients. Additionally, I developed the type of skills relevant to trial work, as I prepared arguments and presented them before a panel.

I describe this as a fortunate experience for me because of the opportunity to meet and spend time with my client, and the honor bestowed upon me in advocating for him. Although society marginalizes and demonizes prisoners, and especially prisoners serving life sentences, many of our students, including myself, view our clients as genuine, wonderful people. Most importantly, we view our clients as humans deserving of fundamental rights. It is horrifying and demoralizing that the rest of society does not view them as such. Students should join PLAP for the privilege it is to advocate for prisoners. You will learn not only about the criminal justice system, but also the wisdom of those who have spent countless years in prison.

My experience in PLAP has been the single most important experience during my time in law school. It has led me to fully realize the level of injustice present in our criminal justice system as a whole, as well as the inhumane conditions in our prison system. I plan to pursue criminal justice work and hopefully prisoners’ rights work more specifically. Many other PLAPers attribute their passion for this work to our organization, and I encourage students to consider joining. Several students staff each office hour under the direction of student mentors, who offer mentorship about the work and law school advice in general. PLAP also hosts happy hours, speaker series, and other bonding events, which fosters a unique community for those who want to work in criminal justice and more specifically on prisoners’ rights.

 

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