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Mana Azarmi wins CLEA’s Outstanding Clinical Student Award

Via Harvard Law Today

Photo courtesy of Mana Azarmi Mana Azarmi spent time in London working on an independent clinical project during her time at HLS.

Photo courtesy of Mana Azarmi
Mana Azarmi spent time in London working on an independent clinical project during her time at HLS.

Mana Azarmi ’17 is the winner of the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). The award is presented annually to one student from each law school for his/her outstanding clinical coursework and contributions to the clinical community.

Azarmi participated in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) for two semesters. Over the course of her three years at Harvard Law, Azarmi logged more than 1,000 pro bono hours in service to the community through the Harvard Immigration Project, the International Human Rights Clinic, the Crimmigration Clinic, and two independent clinical projects which she designed on her own — one in London working with Article 36, a UK nonprofit, and the other in San Francisco working with the Center for Justice and Accountability.

In addition to advocating for HIRC clients, Azarmi spent a substantial amount of time working on crimmigration and Immigration Response Initiative-related projects. She wrote answers to frequently asked questions related to the travel ban, researched legal arguments to oppose a Muslim special registration system, drafted questions for Attorney General Jeff Session’s confirmation hearings on the Muslim ban, and wrote an amicus brief for the American Civil Liberties Union.

In their nomination, Azarmi’s nominators noted her passion for public service work and her commitment to human rights, immigration, and privacy issues, saying her background and considerable skills made her an outstanding candidate for this award.

“Mana is [also] a fantastic manager and motivator of others” they wrote. “For an extensive report on Syrian Refugee Resettlement that the Clinic is writing, Mana rallied a team of over 10 students to help with research and cite-checking. Without Mana’s fantastic research, writing, and advocacy skills, the Clinic could not have taken on all the projects we have been involved with over the past four months since the election.”

‘When we’re needed, we’ll show up’

Via Harvard Law Bulletin, Spring 2017

They don’t all want to be immigration lawyers, but this year, hundreds of Harvard Law School students have made immigrant rights their business

Credit: Mark Ostow

Credit: Mark Ostow

It began with the stroke of a pen: President Donald Trump’s signature on a January executive order banned entry into the U.S. by people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Travelers were detained at airports. Students were unable to return to their schools. Impending travel for an Iranian baby’s heart surgery in Oregon hung in the balance. With airports in chaos and little information about their loved ones, families separated by the executive order pleaded on camera for the opportunity to reunite, awaiting a resolution many of them were unsure would come.

Then the lawyers showed up. They arrived at Boston’s Logan Airport carrying their laptops, turning airport terminal tabletops into makeshift offices, handwriting a habeas corpus petition for each individual in need. Law students clustered around a power outlet to coordinate the effort. Within 24 hours, attorneys around the nation were questioning the legality of the president’s action.

In Cambridge, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program hummed with activity late into the night as students worked on amicus briefs and human rights abuse documentation for clients. Founded and directed by asylum scholar and Clinical Professor Deborah Anker LL.M. ’84, the Harvard Law program has involved students in the direct representation of asylum seekers and refugees for more than 30 years. In the wake of the November election, it mobilized to strengthen protections for that population.

More than 400 students enrolled at Harvard have now joined the HIRC-based immigration awareness effort, called the Immigration Response Initiative. Assignments range from local community outreach in the form of webinars and information sessions for undocumented people, to legal research, litigation support, and legislative advocacy. Some of the students involved in the initiative had never considered practicing immigration law. Others have been familiar with the realities of immigration since childhood. Here are some of their stories.

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A disarming leader: Bonnie Docherty recognized for contributions to human rights, clinical community

Via International Human Rights Clinic

When Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, began the daunting work of documenting torture and mass hangings in a Syrian prison, she was prepared. She knew how to interview survivors of trauma. She knew how to protect the security and confidentiality of witnesses. She knew, when her 50th interview was done, just how to connect the dots.

“There I was, with my pieces of paper all around me, with different highlighters for each different fact I was trying to establish,” said Nicolette, a researcher for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “That’s basically me modeling what Bonnie taught me to do.”

Bonnie on a fact-finding mission in Iraq.

Bonnie on a fact-finding mission in Iraq.

Over the course of her career, as Bonnie Docherty has emerged as an international expert on civilian protection in armed conflict, she has also mentored scores of clinical students, from field researchers in conflict zones to advocates inside the halls of the UN in Geneva.

Her biggest alumni fans call themselves “the Bonnie mafia.” When they heard of her recent promotion to Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection at the International Human Rights Clinic, the reaction could best be summed up in one word: jubilation.

“This is the best news I’ve heard in a while,” said Lauren Herman, JD ’13, a fellow atMake the Road, NJ, an immigrants’ rights organization. “I am just thrilled for Bonnie and the Clinic and all of Harvard.”

The promotion gives Bonnie room to deepen and expand her work on civilian protection. She plans to increase support for civil society organizations working in the field, create a track for students interested in careers in civilian protection, and provide a forum for experts to develop practical innovations.

A senior researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch as well as a Harvard lecturer on law, she’ll continue to dedicate much of her time to humanitarian disarmament, which seeks to eliminate civilian suffering from problematic weapons. It’s an area Bonnie has been working in for 16 years.

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Coding for Justice

Via Harvard Law Bulletin, Spring 2017

A new technology fellowship multiplies the impact of Harvard’s legal clinics

Credit: Tony Luong Bill Palin imagines and builds technology to help HLS clinics expand access to justice.

Credit: Tony Luong

Bill Palin imagines and builds technology to help HLS clinics expand access to justice.

It takes a lot of preparation to rev up a new case. That’s true in all law offices, including Harvard’s legal clinics. As a clinical law student who was cross-enrolled in an undergraduate computer science course, Jeffrey Roderick ’17 wondered whether he could streamline the process through technology. “Automating certain tasks can help students spend more time in clinics doing what they signed up for, which is to intelligently and creatively represent their clients,” Roderick says. He had the perfect person to turn to for guidance: William “Bill” Palin, Harvard Law’s inaugural Access to Justice/Technology Fellow.

With Palin’s help, Roderick developed a prototype that automates client intake and prepares the initial boilerplate documents that get a case rolling. Roderick estimates that the tool saves five to six hours per case, leaving more time for investigative fact-gathering and legal research.

That’s just one example of how Palin’s presence on campus is improving the ability of HLS’s clinics to represent disadvantaged clients.

A 2012 graduate of Suffolk Law School, Palin opened a solo practice in Cambridge. He added “software developer” to his resume after teaching himself to code with books borrowed from the Cambridge Public Library. He was creating award-winning legal apps, guest-lecturing at Yale Law School, and teaching at Suffolk Law and MIT before he came to Harvard Law School in September 2016. His task: to launch a project called “Developing Justice,” a response to the shortage of affordable legal services for poor and middle-class people who face eviction, child custody and support disputes, foreclosure, consumer fraud, and denials of benefits. Palin’s role is to imagine and custom-build technology that brings efficiencies to legal aid practice, boosts client advocacy, and expands the actionable knowledge of legal clinicians.

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ITT Trustee to Stop Collection on All “Temporary Credit” Accounts

Via Project on Predatory Student Lending

Yesterday, the court overseeing ITT’s bankruptcy case approved a motion to stop collection on all ITT “Temporary Credits.” ITT used unfair and deceptive tactics to get students to sign up for Temporary Credits, including by describing Temporary Credits as grants and threatening to expel students if they did not agree to the debt. Even after ITT filed for bankruptcy, its servicers and debt collectors continued to harass students to collect these Temporary Credits.

Former ITT students have consistently objected to ITT’s ongoing collection efforts. In January, the Project on Predatory Student Lending filed an adversary complaint in the bankruptcy case on behalf of hundreds of thousands of former ITT students, arguing that the debts were incurred as a result of ITT’s unfair and deceptive practices and asking the court to block the estate from collecting these accounts. The students then objected to the trustee’s request to hire more contractors to try to collect these Temporary Credits. The class of former students is currently represented by the Project on Predatory Student Lending and Jenner & Block LLP.

Former ITT students are gratified that the trustee has now decided to stop pursuing these accounts. Stopping collection on Temporary Credits is an important first step, but any ongoing collection on ITT-generated debt continues to harm students unjustifiably. Former ITT students continue to face collections on billions of dollars of federal and private student debts that the company generated by its unfair and deceptive practices.

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Clinic and partners call on ICC to investigate role of Chiquita executives in contributing to crimes against humanity

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Bogota, Colombia, May 18, 2017 – Today, on behalf of affected Colombian communities, a coalition of human rights groups called on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the complicity of executives at Chiquita Brands International in crimes against humanity. To date, no executive has been held to account despite the company’s admission that it funneled millions of dollars to Colombian paramilitaries that killed, raped, and disappeared civilians. If the ICC takes up the case, it would be the first time it moved against corporate executives for assisting such crimes.

In their submission to the court, the coalition of local and international human rights groups traces the executives’ involvement with payments made to the paramilitaries between 1997 and 2004. Even after outside counsel and the U.S. Department of Justice said such payments were illegal under U.S. law, the payments continued. The submission includes a confidential, sealed appendix that identifies by name fourteen senior executives, officers, and board members of Chiquita who the coalition argues should be the focus of the Prosecutor’s investigation.

The coalition, which consists of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), relied on internal Chiquita documents and assistance from the National Security Archive at George Washington University to identify the Chiquita officials and show how they were involved with the crimes.

“The executives who oversaw the funding of paramilitaries should not be able to sit comfortably in their houses in the United States as if they did nothing wrong,” said a member of the Peace Community of San José de Apartado, which submitted a letter to the ICC about how the paramilitary violence personally affected them. “Families across Colombia have been waiting for accountability for too long.”

Chiquita could have acted differently, or could have left the country years before it did, but instead decided to continue its lucrative business while paying paramilitaries for so-called ‘security’ in the banana-growing regions. By 2003, Chiquita’s subsidiary in Colombia was its most profitable banana operation in the world.

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Student perspective: The case for legislative advocacy

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

Kim Quarantello, a member of HIRC’s Immigration Response Initiative, speaking at a Cambridge City Council meeting.

Kim Quarantello, a member of HIRC’s Immigration Response Initiative, speaking at a Cambridge City Council meeting.

As a former Capitol Hill staffer, I was accustomed to drafting talking points. For nearly three years, I wrote “TPs” on foreign policy, defense, and veterans’ issues, including my boss’ favorite vocabulary words so that his voice would come through in press conferences and Senate hearings.

But I’d never written talking points to deliver myself until last month, when I stood up at a Cambridge City Council meeting and urged Massachusetts to end its partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Since I became a graduate student at the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies, I’ve been particularly involved in immigration issues. I started tutoring at the Harvard Bridge Program, which provides English language support to Harvard employees, most of whom are immigrants. I analyzed proposals to enhance resettlement processing and interagency cooperation for HIRC’s Syrian Resettlement Project. I also coordinated events that connected recently resettled Syrian refugees in Lowell with American students studying Arabic at Harvard.

But I never expected to put my legislative advocacy skills to work in academia until the presidential election, when immigration issues changed overnight. Along with more than 300 students at Harvard Law School, I joined the Immigration Response Initiative, volunteering to help HIRC and advocacy groups. Another former Capitol Hill staffer, Annika Lichtenbaum, and I decided to form the legislative advocacy team.

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Class of 2017 Performs 356,953 Hours of Free Legal Services!

Congratulations to the Class of 2017 for their great accomplishment of 356,953 pro bono hours in service to the community. Students averaged 586 hours each, working at hundreds of different organizations. 78 percent of the graduating class participated in at least one clinic.

94 students contributed over 1,000 hours. Ten students contributed over 2,000 pro bono hours. They are:

  • William  Ahee
  • Michael Gaerman
  • Michele Hall
  • Erika Johnson
  • Simratpal Kaur
  • Anna Kurtz
  • Emma Katherine Rekart
  • Pedro Spivakovsky-Gonzalez
  • Amanda Sweat
  • Liza Freedman Weisberg

Students contribute over 1500 hours of legal research and writing to local state and federal judges

By Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.)

The 23 students in this Spring Semester’s Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic contributed over 1500 hours of legal research and writing to local state and federal judges. This exceeded by hundreds of hours the assistance provided by clinic students in prior years. The value of this effort, particularly in state courts, comes at a time of tight budgets and limited numbers of full-time law clerks plus expanded litigation demands on judges. All of which makes this amount of law student assistance most welcome.

Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic at Judge Cratsley's house for dinner after the prison tour

Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic at Judge Cratsley’s house for dinner after the prison tour

The judicial placements in this year’s clinic included 8 with judges in the U.S. District Court, 9 with judges in the Massachusetts Superior Court, 2 with judges in the Land Court, 3 with judges in the Boston Municipal Court, and 1 with a judge in the Massachusetts District Court. While students began with court observation, including motions practice and jury trials, their participating judges quickly made research and writing assignments. The range of student work included habeas corpus petitions, motions to suppress evidence in criminal cases, social security disability appeals, class actions motions, zoning appeals, and various motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. Students also observed sentencing and mental health proceedings as well as the Aaron Hernandez double murder trial in the Suffolk Superior Court.

Two features of this year’s clinic were the participation of five LLM students, including Judges from Japan and Korea, and the prison tour of MCI Concord. The LLM students bring important comparative observations into both their judicial placements and our weekly classes. For example, both the Korean and Japanese Judges made presentations in our class on juries about the relatively new approach to trial by jury in their home countries. Our prison visit, already described in this blog by an LLM student from China, provided students with a realistic view of the challenges of incarceration and re-entry.

Student evaluations of their clinic experiences mention different learning goals and learning outcomes. Many identified “Insights into Judicial Decision Making” and “Learning Court Procedures” as key objectives before starting, but cited “Recognizing Good and Bad Advocacy” and “Improving My Writing” as significant learning outcomes at the end. This is welcome evidence of the changing impact on students from working so closely with a judge in this clinic. Student comments make this same observation, “He gave me thoughtful candid feedback and was always receptive to my questions/input.”;  “My judge was fantastic. She was very accommodating and keen to ensure that I was having a good experience.”; “I learned a tremendous amount and always felt challenged in an exciting way.”; and “My judge is wonderful, very engaging, and gives interns real work.”

Erika Johnson ’17 wins David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Lorin Granger/HLS Staff Photographer Erika Johnson ’17

Credit: Lorin Granger/HLS Staff Photographer
Erika Johnson ’17

Erika Johnson is this year’s winner of the David A. Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award. The award is named in honor of the late Clinical Professor of Law David Grossman ’88, a public interest lawyer dedicated to providing high-quality legal services to low income communities. The award recognizes students who have demonstrated excellence in representing individual clients and undertaking advocacy or policy reform projects.

Having contributed more than 2,000 hours of pro bono services to clients through the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP), and Project No One Leaves, Johnson is the embodiment of Grossman’s tireless pro bono spirit. She was chosen for her compassion in legal practice and for her contributions to HLS’s clinical community.

Her clinical supervisors at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau recall one elderly client Johnson protected from homelessness. The client had been living in supportive housing for homeless elders for almost ten years, but after the facility went smoke-free he had trouble quitting and faced eviction. Over the next six months, Johnson attended more twelve court hearings, fighting tirelessly to stave off the eviction, but the client’s disabilities made it impossible for him to stop smoking. Realizing that her client had nowhere else to go, Johnson built a relationship with a social worker and found him an apartment with medical support services. Johnson even made sure to find him a bed and then physically moved it and most of the client’s other belongings into his new home on a cold winter’s day.

In another eviction case, Johnson followed her client’s lead in pursuing greater racial and economic justice. The client felt strongly that he had been wronged by his landlord, arguing the language used against him was racially biased. “Erika listened, at length,” said Clinical Professor Esme Caramello, who teaches in the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Johnson convinced the HLAB Board to take the case and then fully devoted herself to researching and drafting legal documents, achieving not only the dismissal of the eviction but also moving to recover damages for her client.

“Erika’s approach [was] creative, but it [was] her persistence in following the client’s lead despite the ‘typical’ trajectory of such a case, and the steadiness of her hard work, that have impressed us the most,” her clinical supervisors said.

“I am grateful to the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau for its support and its embodiment of the values David Grossman modeled as a teacher and lawyer,” said Johnson. “Dave’s compassion, dedication, and commitment to community and to our clients are inspiring to every member of HLAB. I feel honored to have been part of this community, and I will rely on this experience and these values in all of my future work.”

On campus, Johnson has also collaborated with the Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project, a student practice organization that hosted a competition in which students created technology solutions to access to justice problems in the local housing courts. She met with the student leaders of the project, taught them about the court system and the challenges unrepresented tenants face, trained them in basic eviction law and procedure, and then judged the final projects. Her clinical supervisors noted that she did this expertly and almost entirely on her own — all as a second-year law student with a full course load and a substantial docket of housing cases.

After graduation, Erika will pursue a career in public interest law, a choice that she says was shaped by her HLAB clients and colleagues.

Reflection from the Fatherhood Program at Quincy District Court

By Takaaki Ishii LL.M ’17

The Five Principles of Fatherhood

As a father it is my responsibility to:

  1. Give affection to my children
  2. Give gentle guidance to my children
  3. Provide financial support to my children and the mother of my children
  4. Demonstrate respect at all times to the mother of my children
  5. Set a proud example for my children by living within the law and without the taint of alcohol drug abuse.
Takaaki Ishii pictured left

Takaaki Ishii pictured left

Every Wednesday, the Fatherhood Program in the Quincy District Court, starts with the reading of these five principles. This program began in 1994 with the mission of teaching probationers to be positive and attentive parents to their sons and daughters. In the program, fathers who are under probation supervision make a circle with probation officers and discuss what the responsibility of the father is.

I am an LL.M. student from Japan taking the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic headed by Hon. Judge John Cratsley (Ret). As part of my clinical work, I visited Quincy District Court every Wednesday and worked with Judge Mark Coven. I observed jury trials, bench trials, pre-trials, mediations, and more. Prior to coming to Harvard Law School, I worked as an associate judge in Japan for about three years, and dealt with criminal trials and civil trials. The reason I took this clinic is to observe the practice of law in the Massachusetts State Courts and bring back lessons and insights to Japan.

One day, the probation officer in the Quincy District Court invited me to observe the Fatherhood Program. Even though I am single and do not have any children, I decided to join the discussion because I believed I would learn more about the state’s criminal justice system. Doing so was a great experience for me.

Every Wednesday night, I joined the circle of probationers and probation officers who talked about their experiences as fathers. The probationers had various backgrounds and thought seriously about how their crime influenced their relationships with their children and how to improve their future relationships with their children. The probation officers also talked about their experience as fathers and shared personal life stories. In addition, the program invited guest speakers – judges, clergy, social service providers and representatives from state agencies. One night, Judge Casey came to the program as a guest speaker. He joined the circle and talked with probationers at the same eye level. He also responded sincerely to probationer’s criticism about the court system. I could see the actual departure from the traditional trial judge who sits on the bench and remains distant from the defendants.

As I head into the graduation ceremony on May 25, 2017, I will think about the probationers who finished the Fatherhood Program and the open discussion about fatherhood.

Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab aims to challenge legal exceptionalism

Via Harvard Law Today

Jim Greiner presenting to audience

Credit: Lorin Granger/HLS Staff Photographer

Since its founding nine months ago, Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab has aimed to revolutionize thinking about access to legal help. Often misunderstood and sometimes controversial, the lab sponsored a five-hour symposium in April that drew scholars from across the country to Harvard Law School.

As a response to the shortage of affordable legal services for poor and middle-class people who face debt-related legal problems, denial of benefits, domestic violence and divorce, the lab seeks to compile rigorous evidence of what works in law and what doesn’t, using randomized control trials. What the lab does, explains Faculty Director Jim Greiner, is apply scientific and statistical research to the questions of who gets legal assistance and how much difference it makes. “We are researchers and scientists, and we’re all pretty nerdy,” he said in an interview last week. “Our instinct is to go into our caves to find out truths about the world, but that isn’t very useful by itself. Being a Southerner, I’d describe the event as coming-out party for the Lab — and also an opportunity for objections to be raised and answered.”

The lab displayed different facets of its work during the afternoon sessions on April 19. Beginning with remarks from Greiner and Dean Martha Minow, the afternoon included presentations from the lab’s Research Director Christopher Griffin and Associate Director of Field Research Erika Richard ’10, who outlined studies now underway. The class then split into groups for a problem-solving exercise, and compared results when the class reconvened. Finally, Greiner led a wide-ranging discussion on the lab’s future direction.

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Beyond a Judicial Philosophy: My Time in the Harvard Mediation Program

By Lauren Godles J.D. ’17

Lauren Godles J.D. '17

Lauren Godles J.D. ’17

In law school, we spend three years studying cases, with the expectation that by the end, we will develop a personal judicial philosophy. This judicial philosophy will consist of a set of legal principles and preferred modes of interpretation that will guide our analysis of legal issues for years to come. While I would say that my legal philosophy has certainly evolved during my time at HLS, perhaps even more important is the “human philosophy” I have developed through my experiences at the Harvard Mediation Program (HMP).

I trained as a mediator during my very first semester at HLS, and I immediately clicked with the members and their way of thinking. The people I met in HMP were kind and thoughtful. They had arrived at law school wanting to spend time learning how to listen. On the first day of training, we learned about the core principles of the program: self-determination, informed consent, and neutrality. It was the self-determination piece that made the most lasting impression on me. Because of HMP’s commitment to self-determination, as mediators, we don’t suggest solutions to parties in court. Rather, we provide a safe, open forum where litigants feel heard and brainstorm solutions that will work best for them.

At HMP, we teach mediators about the power of self-determination through the parable of a parent with two children fighting over an orange. The parent, desperate to stop the fighting, suggests cutting the orange in half and giving a half to each child. However, when the children continue to protest, the parent instead asks why each child wants the orange. Then, the children reveal that one wants to eat the fruit and the other wants to use the rind to make a cake. Only by inquiring about the children’s interests does the parent help them reach a solution that is better than the one initially proposed. Sometimes, during mediation, I have felt like the parent. The parties may be close to reaching an agreement and I have to refrain from suggesting they split the difference. I realize that is what I must do because so often there is an underlying interest that is causing the continued disagreement, and I know that the problem won’t be resolved until the parties are ready to ready to address that interest directly.

I have internalized the lessons I have learned about self-determination and incorporated them into other areas of my life, including my work at the Family Law and Domestic Violence Clinic housed at the Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain. For example, after hearing about the abuse my clients endured at the hand of a spouse, my gut reaction is to try to prevent that spouse from spending time with the clients’ children. However, sometimes my clients want their partners to spend time with the children, because the partner is good with the kids or my client thinks a continued relationship with two parents will be beneficial. Even though this is sometimes hard for me to accept, I value my client’s self-determination and trust they are making the right decision.

Finally, I have carried the lessons of HMP into my personal relationships. In fact, my partner likes to refer to it as “mediation black magic” when I ask him open-ended questions about why he wants to buy a boat, rather than telling him he can’t. All jokes aside, I know that making a daily commitment to self-determination has made my relationships stronger. Since my mediation training, I have tried my best to put faith in people’s abilities to understand their situations and come up with solutions that best address their needs. As I think about graduation and what lies ahead, I know my judicial philosophy will serve me well as an attorney. But even more importantly, I know that the human philosophy I formed through HMP will make me a better person and member of the legal community.

With a path to law school shaped by hardship and doubt, Nguyên hopes to empower the powerless

Via Harvard Law Today

This is the first in a series of profiles of students from the Harvard Law School Class of 2017.

Mario H. Nguyên ’17

Credit: Lorin Granger
Mario H. Nguyên ’17

In his work for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Mario Nguyên ’17 often represented survivors of domestic violence. While meeting with him, one woman, crying, confided that she worried her children would be damaged forever by the violence they had seen.

Nguyên reassured her that he thought her kids would turn out just fine. It wasn’t an empty platitude. He understood very well that kids who experienced domestic violence could become successful. And his client understood that too when he told her he was living proof.

As he prepares to graduate, Nguyên can stand as an example as someone who has overcome hardship and doubt, who has achieved more than he ever thought possible and plans to achieve much more. He will soon begin a job at a firm in his native Texas, with a goal of using his legal skills to bring about systemic change to benefit disadvantaged and marginalized people.

In addition to his work in the Legal Aid Bureau, where he also handled juvenile immigration cases, Nguyên founded the Supero Law Students Association at HLS, which supports low-income and first-generation college students like him. He participated in national moot court competitions on immigration and LGBT issues, and in HLS Lambda. His activities reflected life experiences that have given him a different perspective than most students at HLS, he says.

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A Call for Pro Bono Attorneys Interested in Serving Veterans

In 2015, the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School established the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership (VJPBP) to help veterans who were discharged with a less-than-honorable discharge to upgrade their discharge status. Over 200,000 service members have been discharged with a less-than-honorable discharge since 9/11. In many cases, service-related trauma contributed to the conduct that led to their less-than-honorable discharge. A service member who was discharged with a less-than-honorable discharge status can have lifelong difficulties accessing healthcare and educational opportunities and securing stable employment and housing. Though the need is tremendous, most veterans do not have access to the critical legal representation necessary to help them upgrade their status.

VJPBP aims to close this access to justice gap by helping to train and support pro bono attorneys who are interested in providing pro bono assistance to service members seeking discharge upgrades. The VJBP screens and refers veterans seeking discharge upgrades to private pro bono attorneys and provides these attorneys with ongoing support, training, and expert resources throughout the case. Attorneys who are interested in serving as pro bono attorneys with the VJPBP are eligible to participate in the partnership after attending a training related to discharge upgrades. Attorneys can be licensed in any state but they should work in one of the New England states to join this pro bono partnership. For attorneys interested in becoming pro bono attorneys with VJPBP, the Boston Bar Association is sponsoring the next training on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 from 4pm to 5:30pm at 16 Beacon Street in Boston. The training is titled Representing Veterans in Discharge Upgrades: Building a Persuasive Case.

Dana Montalto

Dana Montalto

Dana Montalto of the Veterans Legal Clinic and Robert Cuthbert of the Urban Justice Center will conduct this training with a focus on how to build a strong evidentiary record to support a discharge upgrade application. Since VJPBP’s establishment, there have been two other previous trainings – an introductory training in June 2015 and a more advanced training in May 2016.  Attorneys who did not attend the prior trainings are welcome to attend this upcoming advanced training. Attorneys without prior training are encouraged to watch the introductory training beforehand, which is available online. Please email Cassandra Shavney at cshavney@bostonbar.org for access to those trainings. The 5/23 training is eligible for 1.5 hours of CLE credit. Law students are welcome but are not eligible to take pro bono referrals from the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership.  Harvard Law School students who are interested in representing veterans in these types of matters are eligible to register in their second and/or third years to participate in HLS’s Veterans Legal Clinic.

For attorneys who are interested in taking on a pro bono case through VJPBP, you can contact Dana Montalto at  dmontalto@law.harvard.edu.  Dana is also happy to connect attorneys from other states with the pro bono panel in their geographic area.

To register for this upcoming training, click here:  Pro Bono Training:  Representing Veterans in Discharge Upgrades: Building a Persuasive Case.

FLPC Receives 2017 Environmental Merit Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency – New England

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

FLPC staff and students were on hand to receive the award on May 3, 2017. (l-r) FLPC staff Alyssa Chan, students Molly Malavey, Dominique Trudelle, and Katherine Sandson, FLPC Director Emily Broad Leib, and EPA staff Christine Beling and Geoffrey Trussell.

The EPA’s Environmental Merit Award Program honors teachers, citizen activists, business leaders, scientists, public officials and others who have made outstanding contributions on behalf of the region’s public health and natural environment. On Wednesday, May 3, EPA New England presented the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) with a 2017 Environmental Merit Award, recognizing the Clinic’s ongoing work to reduce food waste, and the resulting emission of over 18 million tons of greenhouse gases each year.

FLPC has contributed legal analysis and policy expertise to the issue of food waste for several years. In 2013, the Clinic published The Dating Game, which exposed the confusing system of food date labels in the US and its impact on food waste. Since then, FLPC has authored numerous reports, including the most recent Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill, and convened events, such as the Reduce and Recover: Save Food for People Conference (June 2016). During the award ceremony, Christine Beling, Project Engineer at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, commended FLPC: “The energy and analysis the Clinic brings to the issue of food loss and waste is groundbreaking.”

Getting to know Boston through Project No One Leaves

By Michele Hall ’17 

Group photo of HLS students participating in Project No One Leaves

Group photo of HLS students participating in Project No One Leaves

The only way I’ve gotten to know Boston over the past three years is with my feet. I spent much of the fall of my 1L year protesting the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the subsequent state failure to hold their killers accountable. It was through those protests that I learned Boston: by walking through the Boston Commons, holding signs in front of the State House, marching past TD Garden and over the Tobin Bridge. Through civic action, I felt in community with Boston in a way that was impossible poring over my casebooks in Langdell.

In the spring of my 1L year, I was determined to find another way to be in community with Boston. That’s when I found the Project No One Leaves (PNOL), a student-run organization, whose mission is to empower citizens to protect their homes and communities through grassroots organizing, legal education, and civic engagement. Every Saturday, HLS students, public health students, alumni, and community members go door-to-door in Boston neighborhoods experiencing a high rate of foreclosures and evictions, and inform people of their legal rights. Throughout most of my time here at HLS, we’ve focused on bringing the news of people’s housing rights directly to them. Often times people don’t know that only a judge can order an eviction, that they don’t have to accept cash for the keys to their home, or even that their home has been in foreclosure. As PNOL foot soldiers, we sought to dismantle knowledge barriers so that people had the tools to fight for their homes; so that they did not leave. We connected people with the community organization City Life/Vida Urbana, which has expanded from doing anti-foreclosure work in Jamaica Plain to anti-gentrification and mass displacement work in East Boston. In other words, PNOL connects people with organizing movements dedicated to protecting their community.

Through the hours that I’ve spent Saturday mornings over the past three years driving to Roxbury, Dorchester, East Boston, and countless other places, I’ve not only been able to feel Boston’s pulse, but I’ve also found my community at HLS. With our ragtag team of canvassers bundled up in cars brimming with people, we’d talk about everything from how the lack of dental care in low-income communities is a public health crisis to whether Bagelsaurus’ bagels are bagel-y enough (the jury is still out on this one, but no one can debate that they fix a fine sandwich). I met regular canvassers and board members who became my co-counsel in City Life cases that we took at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, close friends, and even my fiancé. We’d share in excitement when we’d talk to people who were starting to pack up all of their belongings to get out of their homes because they got a “cash for keys” letter and didn’t know they had an option to stay; we held each other in silence when we walked down deserted blocks of East Boston as cranes towered over the buildings they were poised to raze and gentrify. PNOL became a home for me, as I worked in community to help keep Boston’s inhabitants in their homes.

This year, I served as co-president of PNOL, though that label means little to me because our board is so egalitarian. In January, in response to the executive orders that prioritized deportation, our board decided to expand the meaning of No One Leaves to include no one leaving this country. We quickly mobilized to adapt our canvasses to include Know Your Rights components, and handed out fliers at the Maverick train stop in 20-degree weather. What I’m most proud of as part of my work with PNOL is that I’m surrounded by a community of people, lawyers and non-lawyers alike, who are dedicated to keeping this community that we have right here in Boston; who are dedicated to making sure that no one leaves.

Advocating for students with HLS’s Education Law Clinic

By Lauren Greil J.D. ’17

Lauren Greil J.D. '17

Lauren Greil J.D. ’17

I taught for two years in Northern Florida before I came to Harvard Law School to be a student again. The school where I taught was a difficult place to work. It lacked resources: there weren’t enough desks in my classroom and the land-line phone did not work. Even my teacher laptop, provided by the school, was missing the space bar. More problematic was the shortage of teachers, particularly in the math department where I taught. My classes were packed. For example, it was normal for my Algebra classes to have 40 or more students in them. There were so many vacancies that some math classes were run by permanent substitutes.

The lack of resources, however, was not the most unpleasant thing – the school culture was. Students brought a great deal of trauma with them to school, and the school environment was further traumatizing. Physical fights were common and many of them spent more days in in-school suspension than in the classroom. They were required to put on bright orange vests before they could leave the classroom to walk to the restroom to signal to security guards that they were not skipping class.

I do not think about my students as much as I used to think about them, but, when I do, I feel sadness because school should be a place where young people feel safe, not a site of further trauma.

The Education Law Clinic is working to make schools in Massachusetts trauma sensitive and to make students feel more safe and supported. To accomplish its mission, the clinic works with the Safe and Supportive Schools Commission in Massachusetts (a commission created by a law that the clinic itself advocated for) to develop recommendations for improving school culture across the state. The clinic engages in legislative advocacy for laws and policies that support schools to develop safe and supportive environments for students.

This semester, I had the opportunity to work on a report for the Safe and Supportive Schools Commission and also to engage in legislative advocacy for the Safe and Supportive Schools line item in the state budget. For the Commission, I, with a team of law students from the clinic, worked on a report about parent engagement in Massachusetts schools. To develop our report, we engaged in qualitative research by interviewing parents, students, and providers across the state—in places as varied as Boston, Pittsfield, and the Cape. We learned so much from those whom we interviewed. One student told us:

“I feel like parent engagement is extremely important. I go to school for 6 hours but the rest of the time I’m with my mom. Whoever is your guardian has a huge impact on your life. If you make parent-school teacher relationship seem less important, it will push students out as well. If my mom doesn’t care, why should I care? You crave approbation from your parents. If you push parents out, it will push students too.”

There is so much wisdom housed in students and parents across the state. I am hopeful that our report will lead to policies that will further support parent engagement in Massachusetts.

The clinic is also a great opportunity for students interested in the legislative process. I met with dozens of state representatives and senators, advocating for the Safe and Supportive Schools line item. Our lobbying efforts had a real impact: the house budget now includes 500,000 dollars designated for Safe and Supportive Schools—a 100,000 dollar increase from last year’s budget.

I know from my own experience teaching that the work that the education law clinic is doing is vitally important. I only wish that there were similar organizations operating in more places.

FLPC, ReFED, and FPA Release New Report Calling on Congress to Prioritize Food Waste Reduction in the 2018 Farm Bill

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Today, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), with support from ReFED and Food Policy Action, released Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill, a report detailing how Congress can take action to reduce food waste, with a focus on opportunities to make such changes in the next farm bill. Passed every 5 – 7 years, the farm bill is the largest piece of food and agriculture-related legislation in the United States that addresses virtually every aspect of our food and agriculture system, from crop insurance to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Yet, although each farm bill appropriates nearly $500 billion to support our food system, not a single dollar is spent to ensure that the food produced in this country makes it to people’s plates instead of the garbage.

In the US, we waste approximately 40% of the food we produce, and this waste has tremendous economic, social and environmental costs. As we throw 62.5 million tons of wholesome food into the landfill each year, approximately 1 in 7 Americans is food insecure. We spend precious natural and economic resources—about 20% of fresh water, farmland, and fertilizer and $218 billion per year—to produce, process, distribute, and dispose of this food. The farm bill provides a predictable and visible opportunity to address food waste on a national scale.

Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill outlines 17 recommendations organized to reflect the priorities outlined in the EPA’s food waste reduction hierarchy. Similar to the EPA hierarchy this report breaks food waste recommendations into categories based on whether they are intended to reduce food waste at the source, recover more food for those in need, or recycle food scraps through composting or anaerobic digestion. The report also proposes a system of government coordination to ensure that food waste solutions can be effectively implemented and remain a federal priority. Each recommendation is followed by implementation opportunities, which describe how the policy change could be incorporated into the farm bill or other federal legislation.

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William Ahee ’17 and Lam Nguyen Ho ’08 are the 2017 Gary Bellow Award winners

Via Harvard Law Today

Harvard Law School student William Ahee ’17 and alumnus Lam Nguyen Ho ’08 have received the Gary Bellow Public Service Award, established in 2001 to honor HLS Professor Gary Bellow ’60, his commitment to public service, and his innovative approach to the analysis and practice of law. Professor Bellow was a pioneering public interest lawyer who founded and directed Harvard Law School’s clinical programs.

Each year, the HLS student body selects a graduating student and an alumnus/a who best exemplify Bellow’s commitment to advancing social justice. This year, the honorees were celebrated at an award ceremony and reception on April 12. The Bellow Award committee members kicked off the event together with Dean Martha Minow, who cited Professor Bellow as one of the reasons she decided to go to law school.

Ahee and Ho have worked in a wide variety of practice areas — including housing law, immigration law, and civil rights — to educate and advocate for social justice.


William Ahee ’17

William Ahee

William Ahee ’17

Prior to coming to Harvard Law School, William Ahee attended Wayne State University in Detroit. There, he was involved in a number of food justice and farming initiatives — working closely with multiple urban farms to develop training and entrepreneurial projects. He also helped to develop and implement an initiative to expand access to fresh foods using the existing infrastructure of corner stores in Detroit neighborhoods. After witnessing friends unjustly convicted of crimes, coworkers’ families deported, and entire neighborhoods suffering a lack of basic services, William decided to go to law school.

At HLS, he has participated in Harvard Defenders, the Housing Law Clinic, and the Criminal Justice Institute. He is also the current co-executive director of the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project, a student practice organization in which students represent inmates in Massachusetts prisons. During his law school summers, William worked at Equal Justice Under Law, in Washington, D.C., and Metropolitan Public Defender, in Portland, Oregon.

After graduation, Ahee will move to McAllen, Texas, for a job with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, where he plans to provide direct services to clients while simultaneously seeking to address some of the underlying issues that bring clients in the door.

Lam Nguyen Ho ’08

Lam Nguyen Ho

Lam Nguyen Ho ’08

Lam Nguyen Ho said he is in his “dream job” as the executive director of the Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA), which he founded with an HLS Public Service Fund Venture Grant. CALA uses a social justice community-lawyering model, “community activism lawyering,” to unite lawyers and activists for greater social change than what lawyers alone could achieve. CALA serves clients in their communities: mostly undocumented immigrants, day laborers, and sex workers who cannot access assistance from other legal organizations. Importantly, CALA impacts many thousands more by supporting activist partners’ grassroots activism, while also trying to change the legal aid industry.

CALA is the culmination of Lam’s community work, education, and legal experiences. He came to Harvard Law School seeking to combine the law with his background as a gay, immigrant activist of color, having escaped poverty.

He discovered community lawyering at Reaching Out About Depression, supporting low-income women health activists. He further explored models of community-and movement-based lawyering at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, where he was president; Harvard Defenders; ACLU National Litigation Department, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, and Urban Justice Center.

Through these opportunities, he contributed more than 3000 pro-bono hours in service to clients. He also ran the Giving Tree, which raised nearly 2000 gifts for families served by HLS’ clinical programs.

“I’m extremely grateful for the Gary Bellow Award and its recognition of the work that CALA is doing to bring free lawyers directly to and in partnership with underserved populations, at a time when access to justice is both limited—80% of the legal needs of low-income families are unmet—and under threat” said Lam.

“And it was a privilege to hear about William Ahee’s shared understanding that lawyers cannot work alone but instead must support, work with, and be directed by our communities and activist partners. Professor Bellow’s vision of combining law and organizing is central to CALA’s work, and an inspiration to me and my colleagues. We’re proud to be a part of his legacy, and we hope to continue to pushing the boundaries of what lawyers view as their roles in creating social change.”

My time at the Cyberlaw Clinic: lessons in tech law and human rights

By Alicia Solow-Niederman J.D. ’17

Alicia Solow-Niederman, J.D. '17

Alicia Solow-Niederman, J.D. ’17

The choice to enroll in the Cyberlaw Clinic was easy for me. Having worked as a project manager at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society before law school, I knew I wanted to participate in this Clinic even before I began 1L year. Yet the night before my first meeting with my clinical supervisor, my mind raced. I worried that this opportunity to combine my three years of legal training and my interest in technology policy would not live up to my expectations.

Fortunately, my fears were allayed as soon as I met my project team. My first assignment was to prepare a paper for a panel at RightsCon, an annual human rights-focused summit on the future of the internet. Working alongside Cyberlaw Clinic Assistant Director Vivek Krishnamurthy, Clinic Advisor Nani Jansen Reventlow, and LL.M candidate Javier Careaga Franco, I was asked to connect academic theories with real-world adjudication through an empirical study of how legal actors in different jurisdictions are currently treating requests to remove online content. For instance, if an administrative agency in France demands that Google take down all links on a particular topic across not only Google.fr, but also across all of its global platforms, how is the claim legally resolved? This work was right up my alley because it allowed me to take theoretical issues and legal questions surrounding freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy rights and apply them in the context of concrete disputes across the globe.

Through this project, I was privileged to collaborate with experts in not only tech law, but also human rights and international public law, which allowed me to learn a great deal about core principles of jurisdiction, territoriality, and sovereignty. I was then able to immediately apply this learning as I collected consistent information regarding each case (e.g., country of origin, party identity, cause of action, etc.), and created the actual taxonomy within which to catalog the cases. I really enjoyed the challenge of how to cogently discuss and arrange cases ranging from requests that an internet service provider block defamatory content to orders that a search engine delist copyright-infringing content to demands that a website remove obscene content.

Next, I had the opportunity to analyze doctrine, theory, and pending legal controversies by taking primary responsibility for the opening portions of the RightsCon working paper. My goal was to provide a concise, balanced, and accessible summary of the ongoing debate over whether and if so, how, legitimate national laws and preferences should be applied and enforced online with regard to content takedown requests. As our working paper describes, “at the core of this dispute is whether public international law doctrines of territoriality extend to digital spaces, or whether different presumptions should govern online.” I am hopeful that our contribution is merely the beginning of this broader dialogue about how to translate human rights and sovereignty principles into the digital ecosystem.

Reflection from my work with the Public Education Policy and Consulting Clinic

By Ian Zhang J.D. ’17

Prior to coming to law school, I worked as a math tutor/academic advisor at a Title I middle school in Texas through The Princeton Review program. The majority of my students came from low-income families and experienced a host of educational, social, and mental health challenges. I collaborated with colleagues and school officials and designed daily in-class materials as well as long-term lesson plans, and provided daily tutoring sessions to ensure students received necessary help to be successful in passing the state exam. While I was fortunate enough to achieve extraordinary results with my students, I was frustrated that many challenges my students faced in their community continued to overshadow the gains they experienced inside the classroom. It was this type of frustration that led me to apply to law school in the first place.

At the Public Education Policy and Consulting Clinic, I was able to collaborate with students from different educational backgrounds, ranging from former teachers to current MBA students, to tackle some of the biggest problems facing the education sector in the U.S. The goal of my project is to develop a targeted discussion of shared objectives and mutually attractive education-based litigation strategy that would create opportunities for effective collaboration across the civil rights activists and education reform advocates. At the same time, we are trying to explore opportunities to alleviate conflict and establish common ground between civil right activists and education reform advocates in support of a concerted nationwide effort to achieve increased access to high quality public schools by all students.

The clinic is as much as a legal clinic as it is a strategy-consulting clinic. In addition to honing my analytical skills in understanding and dissecting various legal issues and theories, the clinic also helped me to learn how to analyze and break down a problem in a structured manner. But the most important skill I developed here is to quickly and methodically identifying the core drivers to add value without boiling the ocean. The overall experience is something I had not experienced either in law school classes or previous clinics, it was amazing to think about how our research and collaboration had led us to develop, from scratch, a coherent strategy that the client was excited to implement.

First Circuit Hears Oral Argument in Unusual Copyright Case

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

By Leo Angelakos, J.D. ’17

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

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

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

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Student Spotlight—Patricia Alejandro ’17

Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

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

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

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

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Reflections on the Intersection of Alternative Dispute Resolution and Activism

Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

Grande Lum and Bob Mnookin - HNLR Symposium

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

By Lisa Dicker ’17 and Amrita Narine ’17

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

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

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

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

Via Legal Services Center

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

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

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Diane Ramirez, J.D. ’17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection on a visit to the prison

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

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

By John Zhou, LL.M. ’17

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

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

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

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

HIRC co-authors amicus brief on material support bar

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

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

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

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

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

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

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