Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

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Prepared for the Challenge

via Harvard Law Bulletin Winter 2020

Profile photo of Brianna Rennix, leaning against a white wood railing

Credit: Matthew Mahon

It was just the seed of an idea 35 years ago: a clinic that would train students to work in the emerging field of immigration law. Back then, asylum law was only a few years old.

Today the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, or HIRC, is a leader in the field. The program trains more than 130 students a year in direct representation, policy advocacy and appellate litigation; represents more than 100 clients annually; and supervises a student practice organization, the HLS Immigration Project.

But in the beginning, it was just Deborah Anker LL.M. ’84, who co-founded HIRC with John Willshire Carrera and Nancy Kelly to fill a critical gap in legal services for immigrants and refugees. Although immigrants have a right to counsel in immigration proceedings, it’s at their own expense. And many can’t afford a lawyer. HIRC’s bottom-up approach of representing individuals through all stages of the immigration process—from the trial level up to the Supreme Court—reflects its client-centered practice.

As the law itself has evolved, so too has HIRC. Anker continues to support the program as founding director, and former Assistant Director Sabrineh “Sabi” Ardalan ’02, who specializes in trauma and refugees, now leads the program as HIRC’s recently appointed faculty director. Phil Torrey, managing attorney and lecturer on law, joined the team in 2011 and created HIRC’s Crimmigration Clinic, expanding the program’s docket to tackle the intersection of criminal law and immigration, given how intertwined the fields have become. Several years ago, HIRC became among the few clinical programs to hire a social worker to support the needs of clients, students and staff.

Through the years, HIRC challenged the immigration policy changes of five administrations, from the near-ban on Central American and Haitian asylum claims under President Reagan to the increased immigration enforcement that earned President Obama the nickname “deporter in chief.”

Still, nothing could prepare HIRC for the Trump administration, which has escalated detentions and issued a flood of new directives aimed at deterring refugees and immigrants from coming to the U.S. For years, Anker advocated to get gender-based violence designated as grounds for an asylum claim, ultimately working with the government to issue historic guidelines that set the stage for similar measures internationally. Then in one fell swoop, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a decision in 2018 that attempted to rewrite asylum law to prevent people fleeing gender-based and gang-based violence from getting protection in the U.S. at all.

“We’ve got a real fight on our hands,” said Anker, who wrote the seminal book on asylum law. “But we’re up to the task.”

HIRC has been in overdrive, challenging everything from the intentional separation of thousands of families to the closing of the southern border for the vast majority of asylum seekers.

In addition to direct representation, staff and students are filing appeals in federal court on issues such as gender-based asylum and immigration detention; conducting policy advocacy on everything from sanctuary cities to solitary confinement in detention; and filing amicus briefs that challenge asylum bans and Immigration and Customs Enforcement courthouse arrests. They’re leading Know Your Rights trainings all around Greater Boston. And they’re staffing a Harvard-funded initiative, created in 2017, that provides immigration and legal support to any member of the Harvard community.

“In a constantly changing legal landscape, we’re working as hard and as fast as we can to meet the need,” said Ardalan. “It’s encouraging to know so many of our alumni are out there, doing the same thing.”

Indeed, HIRC alumni are working all across the immigration field, from government to academia to private firms to advocacy organizations. In interviews with several, they framed their work as urgent and necessary—both harder than ever and extremely fulfilling. They also described HIRC as an essential training ground, not only for learning the legal basis of the work, but for understanding the care and compassion it takes to do it well.

Here are a few of their stories.

Brianna Rennix ’18

Staff Attorney, Dilley Pro Bono Project, Dilley, Texas

In a small trailer, surrounded by hundreds of other trailers, encircled by a fence, in the middle of South Texas scrubland, Brianna Rennix does her work. Sometimes it takes 12 hours. Sometimes it takes more. At some point each day, she leaves the largest family detention center in America, drives five minutes through the small town of Dilley, and settles in to work some more at home.

Read more about Rennix »

 

Mark Fleming 97

Partner and Vice Chair, Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Practice, WilmerHale, Boston

Five cases argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Twenty-two years of work as a lawyer. And still, Mark Fleming will never forget the woman from Congo, the first client to trust him with her life.

Read more about Fleming »

 

Geehyun Sussan Lee ’15

Appellate Counsel, Center for Appellate Litigation, New York City

There was a time, not too long ago, when the courthouse was a safe space for Sussan Lee’s clients. Of all the obstacles they faced as immigrants charged with a crime, they did not have to worry about the walk to the courtroom. They did not have to worry about getting the opportunity to present their case.

Read more about Lee»

Gianna Borroto ’11

Senior Attorney, National Immigrant Justice Center’s Federal Litigation Project, Chicago

Gianna Borroto began her career working mostly with unaccompanied minors. representing young people in their claims, often from start to finish. Then something shifted. “Under this administration, seeing all the policy changes and how they were directly impacting my clients, I felt like I needed to do more to create change on a broader level,” she said.

Read more about Borroto»

 

HNMCP Celebrates 2019 Art Award Winners

via HNMCP

The Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP) is pleased to celebrate the winners of its 6th Annual Art Award Contest. The purpose of this annual award is to honor artists who, through their creative expressions, contribute to the work of conflict resolution and peacemaking.

As a clinic, HNMCP seeks to explore challenging interpersonal dynamics leading to conflict and build community around the honing of skills associated with effective dispute resolution.

Given our dedication to the creation of an environment conducive to those goals, we hope that our physical office space is reflective of our values as well as the ambitions we have for our work.

We believe that art has the power to illuminate what connects all of us and to encourage the engagement of empathy. We are fortunate that the artwork detailed below will be on display in our offices for the remainder of the academic year, and in the case of a couple of the pieces, join our permanent collection.

Please visit our offices on the fifth floor of Pound Hall (P513) in the coming weeks to join us in appreciating these awe-inspiring works of art!

 

2019 Winners

Allow Me To Flower One More Time/ Déjame Florecer Una Vez Más”

Painting depicts a large colorful mural. Paintings in the middle show the stages of the undocumented immigrant experience. Images include an angel, a heart with flowers growing out of it, butterflies, a city skyline, hands tearing a heart in half. Smaller rectangular paintings surround the large centerpiece, each with a separate image. Images include flags, a sunset over an ocean, a camera, hearts.

About the Piece: This mural was designed and painted by undocumented, unaccompanied Central American minors currently detained in a maximum security prison in the United States. The mural is the outcome of a six- years art in prisons project that artist Claudia Bernardi has been facilitating, reaching Central American incarcerated minors who had been detained at the US/ Mexico border.

About the Artist: Claudia Bernardi, socially engaged and community-based artist, printmaker and installation artist, whose artwork is impacted by the effects of war and political violence. Born in Argentina, Bernardi endured the military junta (1976-1983) that caused 30,000 “desaparecidos”. Bernardi participated with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team in exhumations investigating human rights violations against civilians. This experience impacted her commitment to community arts. In 2005, Bernardi created the School of Art in Perquin, El Salvador, a community-based art project replicated in Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Switzerland, Germany and Northern Ireland. Bernardi is Professor of Community Arts, Diversity Studies and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts.

Lina

A portrait of a Syrian woman with her arms wrapped around herself. She is wearing a colorful floral print dress. The background behind her is a blue map showing the aerial view of Aleppo.

About the Piece: This artwork is a digital reproduction of Lina 2018, a pastel, gunpowder & powdered graphite drawing of a Syrian woman framed by an aerial view of Aleppo. This work is a companion piece to the artist’s video and mixed-media series, ‘Forced to Flee’, inspired by one woman’s escape from Syria and her ongoing effort to find a safe home for herself and her family. The artist hopes to humanize the abstraction of the crisis in Syria and to communicate her subject’s struggle, courage and tenacity with her work.

About the Artist: Linda Bond is a Resident Scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center and a former faculty member of the Massachusetts College of Art & Design. She was recently awarded a grant from the Chenven Foundation and in 2017 was awarded grants from the Pollock Krasner Foundation and the Puffin Foundation. Her exhibitions include Kean University, Brandeis, Simmons, Southern New Hampshire University, B’NK’R Munich, Germany, Museo de Arte de Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico, the MFA in Boston, Brattleboro Museum, Art Complex Museum, Fitchburg Art Museum, and the Corcoran Gallery. Her upcoming solo exhibition at Drexel University in Philadelphia will open in April 2020.

Mutuality

Two photos are shown side by side. The photo on the right shows an elderly man pouring something into a bowl as a young boy stands beside him holding a lit candle. The rest of the room is dark. The photo on the right depicts two young children, a girl and a boy, in a dark room looking at a candle that burns bright on a table.

About the Piece: Swiss photographer, Saskia Keeley, runs photography workshops in which participants unpack decades of fear and bias through the simple yet profound acts of looking and listening. She is exploring where these workshops can be helpful in global conversations toward peace and coexistence. Since 2016, Keeley has brought together Israeli and Palestinian women for photo workshops at the Roots Center on Israel’s West Bank.

The Roots Center was founded by a Palestinian peace activist and two rabbis for the purposes of promoting dialogue and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians who live in neighboring towns and villages. Saskia’s workshops provide an opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian women to have real contact with one another through a personal interaction. After each session, the participants bring the cameras home to photograph details of their life settings. The objective is for them to capture specific moments that are special and meaningful to them

In between sessions during a recent workshop, a threatening post on Facebook denounced the Palestinian coordinator for his connection to Roots, calling him an instigator and a “Jew collaborator.” The escalating provocations and threats caused great distress and the Palestinian participants were too scared to return. Saskia retrieved the cameras that had been in the women’s homes for 48 hours.

Out of fear of reprisal for this brief encounter with the Israelis, half of the Palestinian women had erased all the images from the memory cards. But in one of the cameras, the anonymous photographer captured the setting she saw a few days prior in the workshop, in the Havdalah photo. From memory, she replicated the image in all of its aspects: subject matter, emotion, and composition. The result is a similar moment in an Israeli home and a Palestinian one.

About the Artist: Saskia Bory Keeley is a Swiss photographer, educated at Geneva University, Sotheby’s, and the New Academy for Art Studies in London. She trained at the International Center for Photography in New York City and is enrolled in the Interspiritual Counseling Program (ISC), a 3-year training at the leading edge of the newly emergent field of Interspiritual Counseling (One Spirit Learning Alliance—NYC).

Saskia runs the Accompagnateur Workshops, photography workshops in which participants unpack decades of fear and bias through the simple yet profound acts of looking and listening. She is exploring where these workshops can be helpful in global conversations toward peace and coexistence (working with NGOs like Roots and Taghyeer in the West Bank) and within divided communities (collaborating with NGOs like Pico Union Project in Los Angeles and the Women’s Prison Association in New York City).

 

Founded in 2006, the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program focuses on cutting edge work in dispute systems design, negotiation, mediation, and facilitation.

Our clients are U.S.-based and international and include private corporations, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and community groups. Our students develop critical problem-solving skills, apply theory to practice, and deliver tailored conflict management solutions to our clients.

‘October Massacre’ victims’ trial highlights traumas in Bolivia

via PRI

by Elana Gordon

Eloy Rojas Mamani, right, gestures towards his wife Etelvina Ramos Mamani, while attorneys stand next to and behind them

Eloy Rojas Mamani, right, gestures toward his wife Etelvina Ramos Mamani, as they speak during a news conference after leaving the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, in Miami, Nov. 19, 2019.
Credit:
Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo

The night before she boarded a plane to the United States last month, Etelvina Ramos Mamani awoke from a terrible dream.

“I saw Marlene,” she said, referring to her 8-year-old daughter. The girl was killed more than a decade ago, on Sept. 20, 2003, by a single bullet through the chest. It had strayed through their bedroom window in their hometown, Warisata, a rural village in Bolivia’s highlands, north of the capital, and pierced the wall behind her.

This dream was difficult for her mother to talk about.

It’s these painful memories that prompted Etelvina and her husband, Eloy Rojas Mamani, to board a plane for Miami the next day. They were on their way to attend a court hearing — the latest chapter in their yearslong quest to seek justice for their daughter’s killing. Their lawyers were asking an appeals court to restore a landmark, $10 million jury verdict against Bolivia’s former president and defense minister over killings that took place during a 2003 period of unrest known as the “October Massacre,” part of Bolivia’s “Gas War.” A lower court judge has overturned last year’s verdict, saying there was insufficient evidence to hold them liable.

But the Mamanis have promised they won’t give up.

Memories of the tragedy still consume them. Etelvina said her daughter was “muy cariñoso,” or affectionate, that she liked to read and was helpful around the house.

The couple, along with seven other Bolivian families, has waged a lengthy legal battle against Bolivia’s former leaders, ex-President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and former defense minister Jose Carlos Sanchez Berzain, who are accused of planning and ordering security forces to use deadly military force against unarmed civilians, including Marlene. In total, security forces killed at least 58 people and injured more than 400, according to court documents — almost all of them from Indigenous communities.

More than 16 years later, tensions between Bolivia’s Indigenous groups and elite ruling class remain unresolved. The country was plunged into turmoil this fall during its presidential elections. Former Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was the country’s first Indigenous leader, was forced to resign and went into exile — first in Mexico, then in Argentina, where he was granted refugee status last week. Conservative interim President Jeanine Añez stepped into the void and shifted foreign and domestic policy to the right, ordering a crackdown on pro-Morales supporters during which at least 33 people have been killed. On Wednesday, Bolivian prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Morales, accusing him of promoting violence.

Eloy said the traumas of the past are connected to the unrest of the present day.

“It’s the same roots,” he said.

Never could the couple have imagined their daughter’s case would take more than a decade of work.

Etelvina Ramos Mamani (right) and Eloy Rojas Mamani (left) sit together in front of a white wall

Etelvina Ramos Mamani and Eloy Rojas Mamani spoke with The World in Boston, after meeting with lawyers from Harvard’s International Human Rights Law Clinic.
Credit:
Elana Gordon/The World

The long road to justice

The Mamanis’ journey to the Miami courtroom began years ago, in the rural highlands where members of the Indigenous Aymara community live.

“[An] Aymara is a person who lives in the countryside, working in the field,” Eloy told The World.

Both husband and wife were orphans and married by age 20, starting a family of their own. Eloy said he dreamed of getting a degree to teach, but did not have the opportunity. The Aymara community lacked government representation for a very long time, too.

“I am indigenous. Sincerely it bothers me that Indigenous people have not been given any value. That Indigenous people could have been discriminated against. That Indigenous people did not have any rights.”

Eloy Mamani

“I am indigenous,” Eloy said. “Sincerely it bothers me that Indigenous people have not been given any value. That Indigenous people could have been discriminated against. That Indigenous people did not have any rights.”

Then, in 2003, Bolivia was roiled by protests, strikes and roadblocks mounted in response to the government’s economic policies, especially a proposal to export natural gas that the protesters said exploited their natural resources. Then-President Sánchez de Lozada responded by deploying the military to the area where the protests took place, including in Warisata, where Eloy and Etelvina lived.

Eloy said he and others ran into the forest to hide, believing that men were being targeted.

In the end, government forces killed at least 58 throughout Bolivia during the crackdown, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the US case. That included 8-year-old Marlene.

Etelvina said her daughter died in her arms. “It has left me traumatized,” she said.

After the deaths, Etelvina, Eloy and others in their town marched for three days, Eloy said, until they reached the presidential palace in Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, to call for Sánchez de Lozada’s resignation.

“Almost the entire city of La Paz mobilized,” he said. More provinces joined in.

Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzain were forced to resign and fled to the US, where they still live today. But the Bolivian government waived their immunity, which the US State Department accepted. It paved the way for the Mamanis to sue Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzain in the US under the Torture Victim Protection Act, a federal statute that allows crime victims to sue for extrajudicial killings that took place in their home countries.

The civil lawsuit charges Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzain with “extrajudicial killings, crimes against humanity, and wrongful death.”

The act has been used several times against government officials. But what makes the Mamanis’ case unique, according to their lawyers at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program, is that it involves a living former head of state, sitting in the same courtroom with his accusers.

“If we win, good. If we don’t win, fine. But we have to take the risk,” Eloy told The World.

First filed in 2007, the lawsuit has been long and messy, full of motions to dismiss, appeals and delays.

Closure for the Mamanis appeared within reach last year, when a jury unanimously voted in their favor. A judge overturned the decision. So the Mamanis appealed, bringing them and the former leaders to the 11th circuit court of appeals in Miami, Florida, last month.

Dressed in suits and ties, the Mamanis entered the Miami court on Nov. 19, in traditional Aymara clothing. Etelvina wore a colorful pollera, or skirt.

James Tysse, a pro bono lawyer for the Mamanis, argued before the three-judge panel that the ex-president and defense minister ordered the shooting of the civilians.

“These deaths are the result of essentially widespread killings by soldiers who were ordered to shoot at anything that moves. They were even ordered to shoot at unarmed civilians below the belt.”

Justin Tysse, lawyer for the Mamanis

“These deaths are the result of essentially widespread killings by soldiers who were ordered to shoot at anything that moves. They were even ordered to shoot at unarmed civilians below the belt,” Tysse told the judges.

Stephen Raber, the defense lawyer, told The World there is “no evidence” his clients could be held responsible under the Torture Victim Protection Act.

“The facts alleged in the original complaint did not meet the test for extrajudicial killing,” he told the judges.

Raber argued the killings happened during a chaotic time in Bolivia, which the president and his defense minister were trying to manage and keep secure.

“Ordering the mobilization of a joint police force in a military operation is not an extrajudicial killing. Authorizing the use of necessary force to re-establish public order is not an extrajudicial killing,” he told the judges.

“It’s just obvious that all of us are going to have to read the record with a fine-toothed comb because you’re in total disagreement on the facts,” Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat said.

‘We can’t rest. We won’t tire.’

The hearing lasted less than an hour. The parties now await the judges’ ruling.

Eloy and Etelvina now wait in Bolivia, returning to a country that once again is in turmoil.

At least 33 people were killed since the Oct. 20 election, and last month, the head of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommended the country bring in outside investigators to assess human rights violations.

Meanwhile, Eloy said he and Etelvina would keep pursuing their daughter’s case to the end.

Justice, he said, means breaking the vicious cycle of governments killing its own civilians, and sending a message around the world that it won’t be tolerated.

“We can’t rest,” he said. “We won’t tire.”

Congratulations To The 2020 Skadden Fellows

via Above The Law

by David Lat

Text on the window of a building written 'Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP'

Credit: David Lat

The holiday season is an opportune time to think not just about Biglaw bonuses, Christmas parties, and vacations, but also about the less fortunate. It’s a time to be thankful for our blessings, but also to share those blessings with others.

So it’s appropriate that this time every year is when we learn about the latest class of Skadden Fellows. As we’ve explained in the past, these prestigious fellowships, “the public-interest world’s version of Supreme Court clerkships or Rhodes Scholarships,” allow their recipients to pursue public interest work on a full-time basis for two years.

Skadden Arps started the program in 1988 to commemorate its 40th anniversary as a law firm, and in honor of the firm’s 70th anniversary in 2018, it extended the program for another decade. According to Kathleen Rubenstein, who took over as executive director of the Skadden Foundation earlier this year from longtime executive director Susan Butler Plum, this latest crop of 28 new fellows will take the total number of fellows to 877 in just over three decades.

When I spoke with Plum last year about the selection process for fellows and their projects, she told me, “We try to stay away from what’s sexy and what’s hot. We focus on the work. Nobody knows what the clients need better than the applicants, because they’ve worked closely with the agencies in developing their proposed projects.”

That said, there’s no denying that the fellows and their projects will reflect current events to some degree. So it should come as no surprise that several of the new fellows will be focusing their work on immigration and on serving immigrant communities. In a piece about the new Skadden Fellows for Big Law Business, Elizabeth Olson shines the spotlight on two such fellows — Juan Bedoya of NYU Law School and Iva Velickovic of Yale Law School — both the children of immigrants themselves.

Congratulations to Bedoya, Velickovic, and the 26 other deserving recipients and thank you for the work that you already have done — and will do, as Skadden Fellows — in service of the public interest.

Here are three lists. The first shows the schools that have sent the most graduates into Skadden Fellowships for the past 12 years (fellowship classes 2009 to 2020). The top four remain unchanged from last year, but this year, with an impressive showing of three fellows, UCLA bumped Penn Carey Law Penn Law out of fifth place.

The second list shows all law schools that have sent graduates into Skadden Fellowships for the same period. The third shows the 2020 Skadden Fellows and the organizations they’ll be working for.

Again, congratulations to the 28 new Skadden Fellows, their 14 law schools, and their sponsoring organizations.

LAW SCHOOLS WITH THE MOST SKADDEN FELLOWS (2009-2020 FELLOWSHIP CLASSES)

1. Harvard – 59
2. Yale – 46
3. NYU – 32
4. Stanford – 21
5. UCLA – 17

LAW SCHOOLS WITH SKADDEN FELLOWS (2009-2020 FELLOWSHIP CLASSES)

American University – 4
Boston College – 2
Boston University – 1
Chicago – Kent – 1
City University of New York – 8
Columbia – 12
Denver – 1
DePaul – 3
Duke – 4
Fordham – 4
Georgetown – 12
GW – 1
Harvard – 59
Howard – 1
Indiana – 1
John Marshall (Chicago) – 1
Loyola (Los Angeles) – 2
Michigan State – 3
Northeastern – 6
Northwestern – 4
NYU – 32
Roger Williams – 1
Rutgers – 3
Seattle – 1
Stanford – 21
Suffolk – 1
Tulane – 1
University of Arkansas – 1
UC Berkeley/Boalt Hall – 12
UC Davis – 1
UC Irvine – 2
UCLA – 17
U. Chicago – 8
University of Connecticut – 2
University of Illinois – 1
University of Maryland – 3
University of Miami – 1
University of Michigan – 15
U. Penn. – 16
University of Texas – 2
University of Tulsa – 1
UVA – 5
University of Washington – 1
University of Wisconsin – 1
Valparaiso – 1
Vanderbilt – 4
Villanova – 1
Washington & Lee – 2
Wash U. – 3
Wayne State – 1
West Virginia – 1
Widener – 1
William & Mary – 1
William Mitchell – 1
Yale – 46

TOTAL: 341

SKADDEN FOUNDATION — 2020 SKADDEN FELLOWS

Esther Araya
Yale Law School
Kids in Need of Defense
Washington, DC
Will identify, represent, and promote access to support services for unaccompanied children subjected to mistreatment, due process violations, and/or abuse in U.S. custody.

Eric Baudry
Yale Law School
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
Minneapolis, MN
Will provide direct representation through IRS administrative proceedings of misclassified, low-income Minnesota workers, and coalition building to provide both relief from the negative economic consequences of misclassification and also access to the full range of employment benefits and protections.

Juan Bedoya
New York University School of Law
Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project
Boston, MA
Will provide comprehensive civil legal services for pregnant and parenting immigrants. Will support family unity and stability by providing legal support in child-welfare, education, housing, and public benefits.

Jordan Berger
New York University School of Law
National Center for Law and Economic Justice
New York, NY
Will provide direct representation, policy advocacy, impact litigation, and collaboration with local Social Services Districts in New York State, to achieve systemic reform that protects the rights of people with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness in accessing public benefits.

Alexis Christensen
Georgetown University Law Center
Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
Washington, DC
Will establish a new project based at the DC Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) to provide same-day, on-site advice, and extended representation to low-income clients who are challenging denials, terminations, or reductions in safety net benefits.

Maia Cole
New York University School of Law
Brooklyn Defender Services
Brooklyn, NY
Will provide representation to NYCHA residents facing permanent exclusion from public housing, or seeking to lift a permanent exclusion. Also will develop community education materials and bring affirmative litigation challenging NYCHA’s unjust and illegal practices.

D’Laney Gielow
Yale Law School
Legal Aid Chicago
Chicago, IL
Will revitalize the legal requirement that child welfare agencies make “reasonable efforts” to keep families intact.

Elizabeth Gyori
Harvard Law School
Legal Services NYC, Tenants Rights Coalition
New York, NY
Will vindicate the rights of NYCHA tenants, including those facing privatization of their units under the new Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, through direct representation, affirmative litigation, and policy advocacy.

Emma Halas-O’Connor
Northeastern University School of Law
Pine Tree Legal Assistance
Portland, ME
Will ensure that low-income tenants in rural Southern Maine have safe and affordable housing conditions by representing them in affirmative warranty of habitability actions.

John He
University of Michigan Law School
Public Justice Foundation
Oakland, CA
Will combat the imposition and collection of excessive criminal justice fines and fees through legal outreach, impact litigation, and advocacy.

Carly Hite
Stanford Law School
Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo
Buffalo, NY
Will provide direct representation and policy advocacy to reduce the number of Buffalo Public Schools students with disabilities who are suspended. Will advocate for an integrated suspension diversion program.

Ruby Kish
Rutgers University School of Law
Advocates for Children of New Jersey
Newark, NJ
Provide direct legal representation to youth with disabilities involved in New Jersey’s juvenile justice system in matters related to education, allowing them to successfully return to their communities.

Vail Kohnert-Yount
Harvard Law School
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
Brownsville, TX
Will provide comprehensive legal services for low-income workers who have experienced workplace abuse or labor exploitation.

Lauren Koster
Boston College Law School
Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
Lynn, MA
Will provide individualized, comprehensive legal representation for children in foster care with a special focus on ensuring their educational stability and academic achievement, particularly during times of crisis.

Stephano Medina
University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
Eviction Defense Network
Los Angeles, CA
Will provide direct representation of individuals, community organizations, and coalitions in Los Angeles’ low-income communities of color seeking to fight gentrification and assert their land use rights in the City’s Community Plan Updates, a program which aims to rewrite the local zoning regulations and set the framework for future development in gentrifying communities.

Mariel Mussack
University of Pennsylvania Law School
Justice at Work
Philadelphia, PA
Will address the unique legal needs of workers recruited through temporary labor migration programs, including administrative advocacy, civil litigation, and U & T visas.

Eliana Navarro Gracian
University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
Migrant and Immigrant Community Action (MICA) Project
St. Louis, MO
Will provide holistic legal representation and community-based legal education to support U.S. citizen children living in St. Louis and the surrounding rural areas who are separated from their parents as a result of immigration enforcement.

Jared Odessky
Harvard Law School
Legal Aid at Work
San Francisco, CA
Will provide direct representation and community education to support low-wage LGBTQ workers in Fresno County and Tulare County California facing discrimination, harassment, and other work-related issues.

Emanuel Powell
Harvard Law School
ArchCity Defenders
St. Louis, MO
Will enforce Missouri public records laws, impact litigation, community-driven policy advocacy, and pro se tool creation to support the surviving family members of people killed by the police.

Iva Velickovic
Yale Law School
Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network
Westminster, CO
Will provide direct representation to immigrant children who have suffered abuse, neglect, or abandonment to provide stability and fulfill the promise of recently enacted state legislation.

Kelsey White
University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
Alliance for Children’s Rights
Los Angeles, CA
Will defend the education rights of low-income students of color with disabilities living in foster care, by providing comprehensive direct representation across special education, school discipline, and juvenile court settings.

Vic Wiener
University of Tulsa College of Law
Juvenile Law Center
Philadelphia, PA
Will mobilize communities to end the registration of youth as sex offenders through support and advocacy with individuals and families impacted by youth registration, utilizing a movement lawyering model. Will engage legal service providers to challenge barriers caused by registration.

Jesse Williams
Yale Law School
Legal Aid of North Carolina
Greenville, NC
Will combat land loss in rural North Carolina by directly representing poor, rural landholders — especially those from minority communities and those affected by hurricanes — in consumer debt and property matters; pursuing impact litigation to expand protections for such individuals; and building lasting networks for legal support.

Sam Williamson
University of Maryland School of Law
Homeless Persons Representation Project
Baltimore, MD
Will eliminate barriers to housing, employment, safety, and stability for LGBTQ homeless youth by providing LGBTQ-focused outreach and representation in shelter grievances, discrimination cases, public benefits appeals, criminal record expungements, and petitions to change legal names and gender markers.

Emily Wilson
William & Mary Law School
Equip for Equality
Chicago, IL
Will provide direct representation for transition-age students with disabilities to ensure students receive appropriate transition planning and services that address independent living, education, and employment, in order to improve post-secondary outcomes.

Kath Xu
Yale Law School
American Civil Liberties Union – Women’s Rights Project
New York, NY
Will challenge the use of predictive analytics in the child welfare system through impact litigation, community outreach education, and policy advocacy.

Larisa Zehr
Northeastern University School of Law
Legal Aid Justice Center
Falls Church, VA
Will use individual representation, impact litigation, community education, and policy advocacy to prevent eviction and displacement of low-income Latinx immigrant communities.

Allison Zimmer
New York University School of Law
Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights
New Orleans, LA
Will provide direct representation and policy advocacy to protect the special education rights of New Orleans youth during juvenile incarceration and the transition back into the city’s 100% charter school system.

OCP Welcomes Olivia Klein

Profile photo of Olivia Klein in front of a red brick wall.

 

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs is excited to welcome Olivia Klein as Coordinator!

Olivia initially joined the OCP team in June of 2019 as an intern and has remained with the office throughout the fall. She graduated from Simmons University this December with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Business Management. During her time at Simmons University, Olivia was a Writing Assistant for the Writing Center, where she assisted students in first-year writing seminar classes, and was also a tour guide and orientation leader. Previously, Olivia worked with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as a Development Intern, where she created and maintained donor records using The Raiser’s Edge database and assisted with indexing and museum events. Olivia also completed editorial, marketing, sales, operations, and data management projects in her role as Editorial Intern at De Gruyter Inc.

Facial Recognition Laws Are (Literally) All Over the Map

via Wired

By Susan Crawford

Birds eye view of a large city in black and white, showing streets and cars.

Credit: Diane Bentley Raymond/Getty Images

The current state of rules for use of facial recognition technology is literally all over the map. Next month, the city council in Portland, Oregon will hold a public meeting about blocking use of the technology by private companies, as well as by the government. San Francisco, Oakland, Calfornia, and Somerville, Massachusetts, already have banned the use of facial recognition technology by city agencies; Seattle’s police stopped using it last year; and Detroit has said facial recognition can be used only in connection with investigation of violent crimes and home invasions (and not in real time).

State governments have their own rules too. In October, California joined New Hampshire and Oregon in prohibiting law enforcement from using facial recognition and other biometric tracking technology in body cameras. Illinois passed a law that permits individuals to sue over the collection and use of a range of biometric data, including fingerprints and retinal scans as well as facial recognition technology. Washington and Texas have laws similar to the one in Illinois, but don’t allow for private suits.

In other words, we’re headed for a major clash. The potential benefits of facial recognition, and biometric data generally, are just too great for governments and corporations to pass up. Existing bans of public-sector use that are based on its present, inaccurate, and discriminatory implementations likely won’t be sustainable long-term as the technology improves. At the same time, completely unfettered use of private biometric systems seems incompatible with American values. We’re not China, or at least not yet.

This situation is crying out for policy development: Government needs to act to determine where the lines of appropriate use should be drawn. This is not likely to happen on the federal level, though, anytime soon: Even as pressure from activists builds, Congress has so far been unable to pass even a basic federal online privacy law; this month’s House Oversight Committee hearing on facial recognition has just been punted to next year. (A proposed bipartisan bill to constrain the use of the technology by federal law enforcement officers would address just a sliver of the issues raised by the use of biometric identifiers.) That leaves the issues to be worked out in different ways in different places, as a patchwork of local laws. Tech and telecom companies often moan about just this sort of outcome, complaining that it makes compliance difficult and drives up production costs—but in this case, it’s a good thing.

When federal policy is absent, ham-handed, or hopelessly captured by industry, local governments can act as testing grounds for new ideas, providing proof that the status quo can change. This is not a new idea: As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in 1932, a “state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” That approach—of using local laws as laboratory trials—worked when it came to spreading the power grid across the country. States and localities led the way in making electricity a publicly governed utility. The same thing happened in health care: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has said that “without Romneycare [in Massachusetts] we wouldn’t have had Obamacare.”

The patchwork can work for tech too. In October, the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia circuit issued a 186-page opinion allowing states to continue to impose their own “open internet” laws and executive orders in the absence of any federal regulation of high-speed internet access. As telecom commentator Harold Feld wrote, this gives the industry “significant incentive to stop fooling around and offer real concessions to get some sort of federal law on the books.” In other words, the patchwork is usefully painful for companies: The agony stimulates them to come to the table.

Similarly, as I described earlier this year in my book, Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution―and Why America Might Miss It, hundreds of cities and localities across the country have taken their destinies into their own hands by calling for the construction of fiber-optic internet access networks. They’re not waiting for the federal government to act to make world-class fiber a basic element of a thriving life. Instead, the cheap, ubiquitous, reasonably priced public option that cities have been pushing will—someday—shame national policymakers into action. It’s clearly possible to have sensible communications policy, but it takes action at the local level to

So we should be glad to have all these local takes on the ethics of biometric data use. Thank goodness that Somerville, with its public sector ban, applies a different logic than, say, Plano Texas, which has enthusiastically adopted facial recognition technology with little public oversight. Thank goodness Portland is looking at a wholesale ban on commercial facial recognition technology within its borders. All of these places can do the hard work of figuring out where use of facial recognition and other biometric data by either private companies or public bodies is unethical, inappropriate, or immoral.

As more Somervilles, Planos, and Portlands decide on their different approaches to biometric identifiers, the public will continue to focus on this issue—and that will keep the pressure on both companies and government to reach a much-needed, national consensus on the use of biometric data. The hope is that someday, when all the good arguments are on the table and the pain of vendor compliance with a continued patchwork is too great to bear, the federal government will be shamed by the existence of good local laboratory test cases into adopting strong, basic rules for data use.

These might include: sharply constraining real-time use (as opposed to forensic or investigative use with a warrant in the criminal justice system) of biometrics for any purpose; permitting easy opt-outs from the use of biometric data for commercial purposes; greatly limiting the retention of all biometric data; requiring continued, intrusive auditing of (and public reporting about) the use of biometric data by both companies and government; swiftly punishing misuse of this data; and prohibiting biometric use in particular contexts that are prone to discriminatory activities, such as selecting people for particular jobs, insuring them, or admitting them to educational programs. That list is just a start. We have a great deal of policy work to do.

If we end up with sensible national policies constraining the use of biometric data—which is by no means certain—it will largely be thanks to the role of local government in America.

Why Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting Could Go National

A voting ballot it spread out neatly on a table, with a pen to the left.

Set of voting ballot ready to be send.

Via Campaigns & Elections

By Peter Brann

For many years, Maine’s gubernatorial election was held in the September of presidential election years. That made it a bellwether for the subsequent presidential election two months later — leading to the phrase, “As Maine goes, so goes the nation.”

Maine no longer conducts its gubernatorial election in September or even in presidential years. But Maine has taken the lead in a new way. In 2018, Maine became the first state in the country to conduct federal congressional elections using ranked-choice voting. Our experience shows that voters can and will embrace new ways of conducting elections, which could help improve voter turnout.

Indeed, Maine saw more than 47 percent of its eligible voters cast ballots in the first general election using ranked-choice voting — a half-century high for midterm elections and substantially higher than the national average.

For instance, in Maine’s second congressional district, incumbent Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin won a plurality, but not a majority, of the first-choice votes in the 2018 general election. When the lower-ranked candidates were eliminated and their second-choice selections were counted, Democrat Jared Golden won a majority of the votes and was declared the winner.

As the lawyer who successfully defended Golden in the federal constitutional challenge to his election, I believe that Maine could be the ranked-choice voting bellwether for other states. The 2018 election proved that it not only works quite well, but that it is court-tested.

Historically, court challenges to ranked-choice voting almost always fail and the same held true in Maine. In the three state court and two federal court challenges to ranked-choice voting the courts rejected every constitutional and statutory objection to its use in congressional elections, and its use in state primary elections.

This includes equal protection, due process, free speech, freedom of association, the constitutional provisions concerning congressional selection and qualifications, and the Voting Rights Act. In other states that have adopted ranked-choice voting for various local elections, every single court challenge likewise has failed.

In the specific federal court challenge brought by Poliquin and his supporters, they didn’t produce evidence of a single voter who was confused by the process. Probably that’s because ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, is simple to describe.

In a multi-candidate race, voters have the option to rank their choices from first to last. Or they just vote for one candidate or rank just some of the choices. If anyone wins a majority on the first round, that candidate wins the election. If no one wins a majority, the lower-ranked candidates are eliminated, and their voters’ lower-ranked choices are counted, and this process continues until someone wins a majority.

Maine is a good petri dish to test the efficacy of ranked-choice voting given its rich history of electing independent or third-party candidates. One of Maine’s two senators is an independent. In three gubernatorial elections since 1974, independent candidates have defeated both major party candidates. In virtually every other gubernatorial election since 1974, independent candidates have either finished second or been the margin of difference between the two major-party candidates.

Even though other states don’t have this tradition, every state holds multi-candidate local or primary elections that might benefit from ranked-choice voting. In most elections, the winning candidate is the one who wins a plurality of the votes, even if a majority prefers someone else. In multi-candidate elections, a small base of dedicated followers often is a winning strategy over a broad base of lukewarm supporters. Voters are discouraged from voting for “spoiler” candidates who are unlikely to win, and instead, are encouraged to vote for the “lesser of two evils.”

In the second most popular form of elections, separate run-off elections, the top-two finishers in a multi-candidate race face off if no one wins outright in the first round. The major objections to this form are the cost and delay of holding a second election and the usual drop in voter turnout for the run-off election. Also, “I wish there were another month of political ads,” said no voter ever.

Ranked-choice voting has been billed as a panacea for all of these evils. I must confess that I was skeptical at first, thinking that it would appeal only to political junkies and political scientists, but no one else. In the various primary and general multi-candidate elections held in Maine in 2018, the ranked-choice voting process actually worked quite smoothly. The election officials collected the relevant ballots from across the state, fed them into a computer, and winners were declared with a push of a button, all within a couple of weeks of election day.

When Maine voters were given the opportunity in 2018 through public referendum to repeal ranked-choice voting, they rejected the referendum by a fairly wide margin. Maine voters appear to understand and like ranked-choice voting.

So, what’s not to like? Maine’s state motto is Dirigo, which means, “I lead.” Perhaps one again, as Maine goes, so goes the nation.

Peter Brann is a Maine lawyer and visiting lecturer at Harvard Law School. He defended the winning candidate in a federal lawsuit challenging the use for the first time of ranked-choice voting in a congressional general election and wrote the chapter on ranked-choice voting for the American Bar Association’s election law book.

Human rights seminar tackles barriers to women’s leadership

Via Harvard Law Today

By Dana Walters

Susan Farbstein sits to the left at the head of a conference table, hands gesturing, as she speaks to a table of studentss

Credit: Lorin Granger

Susan Farbstein ’04, clinical professor of law and co-director of the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), stands with chalk in hand under a blackboard bearing the word “inspirational.” For the third session of “Human Rights Careers: Strategic Leadership Workshop,” Farbstein has kicked off the discussion by asking students to identify qualities of effective leaders. Adjectives like “empathetic” and “selfless” are enthusiastically shouted across the room.

Throughout the conversation, students are outspoken about considering words like “nurturing”—often traditionally associated with women—along with words like “assertive” and “decisive”—characteristics traditionally coded as masculine, according to “What Makes a Leader?”, an article assigned for class that day. With Farbstein at the helm, the seminar aims to accomplish two goals: to explore the strategic considerations critical to protecting and promoting human rights across the globe, and to investigate the barriers that women face in professional settings, especially in the human rights field.

“The further along I’ve advanced in my profession, the more I’ve become aware of the ways that one’s identity can be both a huge benefit and a huge obstacle,” Farbstein said. Over a 15-year career, she has practiced and taught in the areas of transitional justice, accountability litigation, community lawyering, and economic, social, and cultural rights. Now after working her way into a leadership position at Harvard Law School, she is “trying to make a small intervention for a necessary discussion,” she says. “I want to create space for a conversation that I wish had been taking place more often when I was in law school.”

Alongside Salomé Gómez Upegui LL.M. ’18 and current S.J.D. student Regina Larrea Maccise, Farbstein curated materials on women’s leadership and considered how this topic might be integrated into existing elements of an International Human Rights Clinic seminar, “Advanced Skills Training for Human Rights Advocacy.” Farbstein previously co-taught the class with Tyler GianniniHuman Rights Program and clinic co-director and clinical professor of law. Scenarios and readings in the seminar enable students to target entrenched, structural challenges—inequality, corporate power, climate change—as they prepare to enter the workplace after graduation. The seminar has changed frequently over the years, with students’ interests informing the direction of the class. Throughout, Farbstein and Giannini have always asked students to consider leadership and its interaction with identity.

Over the last year, however, Farbstein realized that she wanted to focus more deeply on the issue of women’s leadership. “It’s so clear from a variety of recent events and public conversations—around unconscious bias, the #MeToo movement, the Kavanaugh hearings, the electability of a woman as president—that we’re struggling with how to achieve true gender parity in our society, including in the workplace,” said Farbstein. “I wanted to do something to respond to this particular moment by bringing those conversations very thoughtfully and intentionally into the classroom and into a field—human rights—where my students aspire to build their careers.”

Susan Farbstein stands in front of a black board, writing the word 'inspiration' in white chalk

Credit: Emma Golding

For the third session of “Human Rights Careers: Strategic Leadership Workshop,” Farbstein kicked off the discussion by asking students to identify qualities of effective leaders.

Farbstein worked with Gómez Upegui and Larrea Maccise to develop four new sessions for the advanced seminar. An introductory session frames the idea of women’s leadership using an intersectional lens, while later classes dissect themes like workplace culture, bias and stereotypes, harassment, and microaggressions within institutional and human rights contexts.

In the first of these four new sessions, Farbstein assigned readings that address the grim statistics around harassment, diversity, and bias. McKinsey’s 2018 Women in the Workplace review, for instance, describes how microaggressions impact a woman’s ability to function in the workplace, with 40 percent of black women surveyed indicating that colleagues routinely question their judgment in their areas of expertise. A Forbes piece on the widespread gender bias faced by female lawyers notes that male law firm partners earn 44 percent more than female partners and that women are more likely to be interrupted when speaking, including at the Supreme Court, where nearly 66 percent of all interruptions are directed at the three female justices.

“To be a working woman is always an act of rebellion,” said Fabiola Alvelais ’20 in response, reflecting on the ways the system simply fails to support professional women.

Beyond exposing the sheer scale of the problem, the statistics serve an additional purpose: They allow Farbstein to engage with her class’s needs and approach the material flexibly, depending on students’ comfort levels. “If they need to stay at a general and abstract level, the numbers are there for them to discuss and reflect on. And if they are comfortable going deeper, which they have been, it gives students who have experienced or encountered gender discrimination in some form the feeling that they’re not the only one out there,” Farbstein said. The statistics hold personal stories within them.

Farbstein’s classroom has a casual intimacy. In part, this is a result of the relaxed tone that she sets and the deep bonds that she develops with her students. The International Human Rights Clinic itself has a community-oriented spirit, and students in the advanced seminar have all spent at least one, and often several, prior semesters together, working on clinical teams or in introductory advocacy seminars.

(From left to right) Fabiola Alvelais ’20, Jillian Rafferty ’20 and Daniel Moubayed ’20 sit in a classroom in front of a blackboard while Rafferty speaks.

Credit: Emma Golding. Students in “Human Rights Careers” describe Farbstein as a professor who fosters an inclusive and comfortable environment. From left: Fabiola Alvelais ’20, Jillian Rafferty ’20 and Daniel Moubayed ’20.

Students in “Human Rights Careers” describe Farbstein as a professor who fosters an inclusive and comfortable environment. From left: Fabiola Alvelais ’20, Jillian Rafferty ’20 and Daniel Moubayed ’20.

Student Monica Sharma ’20 echoed many of the same words her classmates used to define good leadership when asked to describe Farbstein, in particular noting the way she actively listens to students and lets discussions evolve naturally. Sharma described the advanced seminar as unique, a place where one can formally “consider your power as a Harvard student or as a lawyer.” The discussion, while academic, is inclusive and comfortable, allowing students to draw on their own experiences as well as the readings.

“When you’re talking about ethics or morality, personal narrative comes into play,” Sharma said. “We like to dissociate the law from human experience in a lot of ways, but this class helps you to confront both as they exist in reality and in your work.”

Early in the semester, student Daniel Moubayed ’20 had already found it personally enriching to be brought into the conversation on women’s leadership. “Too often those conversations happen in informal environments. It’s critical that we’re doing this inside the classroom and in a professional setting with a cross section of students,” he said.

In her own teaching, Farbstein seamlessly integrates legal expertise with lived experience. She recognizes that students are not blank slates: they have histories and subjective perspectives that contribute to the debate.

“Part of being a good human rights practitioner is sometimes being vulnerable, drawing on your own life experiences without prejudging the experiences of others, and engaging with the emotions that people carry with them,” Farbstein said. She added, “It’s good practice for students to consider: what is your comfort level when you start to enter this kind of territory?”

For Gómez Upegui, the work she did with Farbstein demonstrated how endemic and culturally rooted the difficulties are, creating situations in which women are dispersed across organizations, lack support networks, and are isolated as they attempt to confront significant challenges.

Still, the breadth of research did not adequately address the marginalization Gómez Upegui, who is Colombian, has witnessed in the legal and human rights fields. “There’s a tremendous lack of intersectional content out there,” she said. “We found endless amounts of work in the business sector and much in the corporate law sector within a white feminist context. Once we narrowed to look at the human rights and social justice fields, the literature winnowed. And we had to fight to find research addressing the lives of women of color or women of low socioeconomic status.”

Susan Farbstein sits at the head of conference table along with three students

Credit: Lorin Granger

“These students are each going to be leaders in their own way, and I can already see our conversations informing their decisions and actions,” said Farbstein (center). “Hopefully they will be inspired, and also better equipped, to create more opportunities for women leaders in human rights, and in the legal profession more broadly.”

In addition to the seminar, Farbstein is leading a project in the clinic that investigates gender equity in the human rights field. The team aims to unpack the barriers women human rights advocates face in their professional advancement. Over the course of the year, they will interview a variety of practitioners to provide qualitative evidence to support their findings.

Sharma, who is also a member of Farbstein’s project team, said that engaging with the movement on a self-referential level was vital. She noted that the way lawyers jump to find remedies can often lead to institutional and systemic problems.

Reflecting on the larger importance of the clinical project, Sharma said, “Sometimes in human rights, there is an idea that you sacrifice yourself to the work. Things get lost in the drive to fulfill the mission. It’s important to take a good look and ask, ‘Do organizations practice as they preach?’ I really believe that if you make an atmosphere supportive and encourage diversity of thought, then the work itself will be better.”

The clinical team has already identified factors that may impede gender equity in the human rights field—from the tightly-knit network of practitioners and organizations, to the notion that this is already a progressive space, to a mission-driven “martyr” culture that fosters a sense of selfless dedication to the cause. These initial ideas have, in turn, found their way into the classroom as students consider such obstacles as well as potential strategies to overcome them.

Farbstein hopes that her seminar will help students imagine the kinds of leaders they want to become. “Human rights practitioners talk a lot about how to make the movement more effective and inclusive, but this class is a very concrete step in the right direction,” she said. “These students are each going to be leaders in their own way, and I can already see our conversations informing their decisions and actions. Hopefully they will be inspired, and also better equipped, to create more opportunities for women leaders in human rights, and in the legal profession more broadly.”

Clinic Files Law Scholar Briefs, Supporting Public.Resource.Org

via Cyberlaw Clinic

On Friday, November 22, 2019, the Cyberlaw Clinic and local counsel Marcia Hofmann filed amicus briefs in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in two related cases, ASTM v. Public.Resource.Org (.pdf), and AERA v. Public.Resource.Org (.pdf). The cases involve copyright infringement claims brought by standards development organizations (SDOs) against Public.Resource.org. The cases are back before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The core issue in front of the Court is whether PRO’s provision of free online access to codes that were developed by the plaintiffs — but incorporated by reference into binding law — constitutes fair use.

The Clinic filed the amicus briefs on behalf of a group of law scholars (Ann Bartow, Brian Frye, Elizabeth Townsend Gard, James Gibson, Stacey M. Lantagne, Jessica Silbey, and Rebecca Tushnet), who assert that provision to the public of standards incorporated into law is permissible under the fair use doctrine. Fair use (embodied in Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act) must be understood in the light of the ultimate purpose of copyright, which is to benefit public welfare through the dissemination knowledge and ideas. Providing access to the content of our governing laws is fundamental to a just, democratic society and thus goes to the heart of the public interest that fair use seeks to promote.

The Clinic has filed amicus briefs supporting Public.Resource.org in prior stages of the case. In 2016, when the case was initially brought to the district court, the clinic filed two briefs on behalf of law scholars in ASTM v. Public.Resource.Org and AERA v. Public.Resource.Org. The clinic also filed an amicus brief on behalf of two members of Congress, Zoe Lofgren and Darrell Issa, after the two cases were consolidated on appeal.

Fall 2019 Cyberlaw Clinic students Katie Lin, Ari Sillman, and Elizabeth Strassner wrote this amicus brief with assistance from clinical supervisors Mason Kortz and Christopher Bavitz. The Clinic team also worked closely with Professor Rebecca Tushnet to develop arguments in the brief.

Image E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, courtesy Wikimedia user AgnosticPreachersKidCC BY-SA 3.0.

 

Where a Lawyer Makes All the Difference – And Only One Side Has One: Adjartey and the Urgent Need for Court Reform and a Right to Counsel in Eviction Cases

via Boston Bar Journal

by Esme Caramello, Joel Feldman, and Geraldine Gruvis-Pizarro

Each week, more than 750 tenants across Massachusetts face eviction in the courts of the Commonwealth. While the vast majority of landlords bringing eviction cases have counsel—almost 80% in the state’s Housing Courts last year—fewer than 9% of people faced with losing their homes have a lawyer to represent them. See Housing Court Department, Fiscal Year 2019 Statistics (2019). This disparity in access to counsel would create an unjust power imbalance in any legal setting. In the context of eviction cases, with their tight timelines and complicated procedural rules, the advantage that represented landlords enjoy over their unrepresented tenants is even more troubling.

In the summer of 2019, the Supreme Judicial Court took up this systemic inequality in Adjartey v. Central Division of the Housing Court Department481 Mass. 830 (2019). In a striking opinion on behalf of a unanimous Court, Chief Justice Gants reached far beyond the individual claims of the parties to describe an onerous summary process system and the barriers that pro se litigants face in trying to navigate it. In its breadth and detail, the opinion illustrates how “the complexity and speed of summary process cases can present formidable challenges to individuals facing eviction, particularly where those individuals are not represented by an attorney.” Id. at 831.

The decision makes a compelling case. Summary process is procedurally complex to begin with, id. at 834, and this complexity is “exacerbated by the web of applicable statutes and rules.” Id. at 837. The Uniform Summary Process Rules are just one part of the procedural maze. Id. at 836-37. The Rules of Civil Procedure also apply, but only sometimes, as do an array of statutes and standing orders. As the Court observed, “[d]eciding when to apply which of these rules—and how to resolve inconsistencies among them—is [a] formidable challenge for an unrepresented litigant seeking to comply with fast-moving deadlines, especially when that litigant is also facing the stress of a potential eviction.” Id. at 837.

Further complicating the task of the pro se litigant, the Court noted, is the speed at which a summary process case proceeds. Id. Once a case is filed, it is scheduled to go to trial on the first court date, just ten days later. Upon receipt of the Summons and Complaint, a tenant must figure out that an “answer” is required, and file and “serve” it, within a week after the case is filed. If she does not properly assert a “jury demand” in that answer, she waives her Constitutional right to trial by a jury of her peers. The tenant also must understand what “discovery requests” are and make sure her landlord receives them within that same short week. Overall, the time from service of process to judgment and execution can be as little as 19 days. Two business days later, a constable can remove the tenant from her home. As the Adjartey Court observed, “[t]he swiftness of this process … leaves little room for error.” Id. at 837.

As noted above, beyond the inherent complexity and speed of summary process, the vast majority of tenants are attempting to figure out the process on their own. In the words of the Court, “summary process cases are complex, fast-moving, and generally litigated by landlords who are represented by attorneys and tenants who are not.” Id. at 834. Because “in most cases, … the landlord has an attorney who understands how to navigate the eviction process and the tenant does not,” the system is not just out of reach for tenants, but also out of balance. Id. at 838. This imbalance presented an injustice the Adjartey Court could not ignore.

In an “Appendix” following the Adjartey decision, the Court attempted to gather, in one place, all the procedural laws governing summary process cases. Doing so took 35 slip opinion pages. While the Adjartey Appendix might be a useful primer on summary process for a lawyer or experienced advocate, it looks different from the perspective of a low-income mother with limited English proficiency and severe anxiety facing eviction. For her, and for most unrepresented tenants, the Appendix primarily highlights what the rest of the Adjartey decision implies: the eviction system is too hard to understand and navigate without the assistance of a lawyer. And where landlords generally have this assistance and tenants do not, the Appendix is an indictment of a system that aspires but fails to offer equal justice to all.

In a study of summary process judgments listed on masscourts.org from 2007-2015 in three out of the then-five divisions of the Housing Court (Boston, Central and Western), the Access to Attorneys Committee of the Access to Justice Commission found that landlords won judgment a shocking 98% of the time. See Shannon Barnes et al., Final Report of the Access to Attorneys Committee of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, 9 (May 2017). With Adjartey, the Supreme Judicial Court has shown us why.

Court Reform as a Necessary Step

Reforming the summary process system is an urgent need. To that end, the Trial Court has recently created a committee that has begun to work on simplifying court forms. Developing plain-language, accessible forms that the typical pro se litigant can understand and use is a necessary first step.  But forms alone will not level the playing field in a process that is too complicated and too fast to navigate without counsel.

There are many simple changes that would make summary process more accessible for pro se litigants. At a recent meeting convened by the Trial Court’s summary process reform committee, for example, most tenant lawyers and landlord lawyers agreed that the first court date in an eviction case should not be a trial. Instead, it can be an opportunity for the parties to explore settlement through mediation, and for unrepresented litigants to learn more about the process and seek help from a volunteer lawyer. It also can be a time for tenants to prepare the answers, jury demands, and discovery requests that they may be learning about for the first time when they arrive at court. We are hopeful that the court will soon implement this popular and sensible reform.

A range of other simple reforms are outlined in detail in a December 2017 report that Massachusetts submitted to the Public Welfare Foundation after a yearlong examination of “Justice for All” in the Commonwealth led by a team of judges and practitioners that included Chief Justice Ralph Gants. See The Massachusetts Justice for All Project, Massachusetts Justice for All Strategic Action Plan, 34-56 (Dec. 22, 2017). From rethinking cellphone bans that exclude unsuspecting tenants (and their evidence) from courthouses—a step the Trial Court has recently agreed to take—to promoting flexible scheduling that enables low-wage workers to avoid missing work, the Justice for All report is full of small and big ideas that would make the system fairer. The authors of this article sit on a committee of the Access to Justice Commission tasked with pursuing the report’s recommendations, but a much broader effort is needed for real change to happen.

If Landlords Have Lawyers, Tenants Need Lawyers, Too

In an ideal world, our housing dispute resolution system would be simple enough for people to use on their own, and the systemic power imbalances created by dramatic disparities in representation would be eliminated. But in a system designed for lawyers where only one side has one, access to substantive justice is not and cannot be equal. Tenants need lawyers to make the system work fairly.

Existing fee-shifting statutes should entice private attorneys to represent tenants in many eviction cases, and a few lawyers around the state have built financially successful practices representing tenants, but for reasons the Access to Justice Commission is still studying, fee-shifting statutes are underutilized. “Lawyer for a day” programs are meaningful and certainly help. But the problems Adjartey describes cannot be solved by last-minute limited assistance representation, even with experts doing the work. Too much has transpired by the time the lawyer-for-a-day steps in, when answers and jury trials and discovery have been waived by the unsuspecting tenant and the opportunity to investigate or gather admissible evidence has passed. As a 2012 Boston Bar Association study showed, only vigorous full representation enables tenants to fairly litigate their claims. See Boston Bar Association Task Force on the Civil Right to Counsel, The Importance of Representation in Eviction Cases and Homelessness Prevention (Mar. 2012) (summarizing research by Harvard Professor James Greiner and Harvard College Fellow Cassandra Pattanayak showing dramatic differences in outcomes for tenants receiving full representation by experienced litigators as opposed to advice through lawyer-for-a-day program).

New York City, San Francisco, Newark and Cleveland have all recently implemented a right to counsel for tenants in eviction cases. Massachusetts is poised to follow suit with several bills under consideration on Beacon Hill. The active support of the bar for these bills is crucial to bring balance, and legitimacy, to our summary process system. Adjartey is our call to action.

 

Esme Caramello is a Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the Faculty Director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.  She is a Trustee of the Boston Bar Foundation and a member of its Grants Committee, as well as a member of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission and co-chair of its Housing Working Group.

Joel Feldman is a shareholder in the law firm of Heisler, Feldman & McCormick, P.C..  He serves on the Executive Committee of the Access to Justice Commission,and co-chairs the Commission’s Housing Working Group.

Geraldine Gruvis-Pizarro has been representing tenants in eviction cases for the past four years and is currently a staff attorney at Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) in the housing and family law units. She is also the VLP Chairperson at the statewide Language Access Coaliton. Attorney Gruvis represents VLP at the BBA Real Estate Public Service Committee working alongside private attorneys, the court and the Boston Bar Association to maintain high quality services to the public at the Eastern Division of the Housing Court in Boston.

Clinic Stories: Prepping for the U.S. Court of Appeals

via Harvard Law Today

Through Harvard Law School’s Federal Tax Clinic, students have the unique opportunity represent low-income taxpayers in disputes with the IRS, both before the IRS and in federal court. Working individually and in teams, they represent taxpayers involving examinations, administrative appeals collection matters, and cases before the United States Tax Court and federal district courts.

In this video, we follow Adeyemi “Yemi” Adediran ’21, a second year student in the Clinic, as he prepares to argue an appeal on behalf of a military veteran with PTSD in the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Chicago. The veteran’s appeal to the Seventh Circuit centered on his eligibility for innocent spouse relief under the Internal Revenue Code. Over a three year period, the veteran’s wife embezzled $500K from the Appleton, Wisconsin Blood Bank—where she worked as a bookkeeper. She was arrested and sentenced to jail, but because the couple filed taxes jointly and embezzled money is taxable, they were both legally responsible for back taxes on the money.

As an important part of his preparation, Adediran participated in a mooting session before a panel of “judges” including Keith Fogg, clinical professor and director of the Federal Tax Clinic, and Clinical Professor Daniel Nagin, vice dean for experiential and clinical education and faculty director of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School (LSC), of which the Tax Clinic is a part.

You can read more about the Federal Tax Clinic and other LSC clinics and services at legalservicescenter.org.

2019 Litman Symposium

by Kenneth Crouch

On November 13th, the Harvard Defenders hosted accomplished practitioners to discuss the imagined futures and fraught present of the criminal legal system and criminal defense representation. The evening featured Criminal Justice Institute’s Faculty Deputy Director and HLS clinical professor Dehlia Umunna, and Committee for Public Counsel Services’s Legal Training Director Karen Smolar. Via a question-and-answer format, the panelists covered a wide variety of topics, from contemplating the practical challenges posed by ‘restorative’ criminal legal system, to the role of nascent progessive prosecution movements today. Finally, the Harvard Defenders Litman Fellows, law students from across the country who manage the clinic’s cases over the summer, facilitated table discussions around criminal legal topics of local and national significance.

HLS Legal Services Center: A Veteran’s Story

via Harvard Law School YouTube

The Legal Services Center’s Veterans Legal Clinic provides legal representation to veterans and their family members when they cannot afford an attorney. The Clinic serves the legal needs of veterans in cases involving VA benefits, Massachusetts Veterans’ Services Benefits, discharge upgrades, and estate planning matters. Watch the story of how Paul, a Vietnam veteran who was denied veterans benefits for decades, was finally able to access those vital benefits thanks to the Veterans Legal Clinic.

Toby Merrill ’11 named to the TIME 100 Next list

Toby-Merrill-TIME-100-Next

credit: Martha Stewart

 

Via Harvard Law Today

Toby Merrill ’11, founder and director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, has been named to the first-ever TIME 100 Next list, an expansion of the TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world. The list highlights 100 rising stars who are shaping the future of business, entertainment, sports, politics, health, science and activism, and more. Others on the TIME 100 Next list include Pete Buttigieg, Kyrsten Sinema, Aly Raisman. The full list and related tributes appear in the November 25, 2019 issue of TIME, available on newsstands on Friday, November 15, and now at time.com/next.

TIME 100 Next says of Merrill: “Years before student debt would be widely considered a national crisis—Americans now owe a combined $1.6 trillion—Toby Merrill started using litigation to fight what she calls the ‘worst-of-the-worst student debt,’ the kind incurred by students who enrolled in predatory for-profit colleges that burdened them with debt and provided them with worthless degrees.”

Merrill has been a fierce advocate for students cheated by for-profit colleges since she founded the Project on Predatory Student Lending in 2012, and has since led the Project’s team of attorneys in winning groundbreaking court victories in landmark cases, protecting and advancing the rights of defrauded students—restoring critical Borrower Defense rights and, most recently, holding Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education in contempt for illegally collecting on students’ invalid loans in violation of a court order in one of the Project’s cases.

“It is an honor to be included on the TIME 100 Next with so many inspiring leaders and advocates,” Merrill said. “This recognition is really a testament to the hard work and bravery of so many student borrowers who have been willing to stand up for their rights and fight back, despite being repeatedly cheated and let down by their schools and their government. Our team and our clients will make student debt from predatory for-profit colleges history.”

Of the list, TIME editor in chief and CEO Edward Felsenthal writes, “When we first published our TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people 15 years ago, it was dominated by individuals who rose through traditional power structures: heads of state, CEOs of public companies, actors from big-budget blockbusters, leaders of global foundations. What has been striking about more recent editions is the growing number of individuals who did not need an establishment to command international attention—people like the Parkland, Fla., students (in 2018) and Greta Thunberg (in 2019). TIME has always been a barometer of influence—and the nature of influence is changing.”

The Project on Predatory Student Lending represents over one million former for-profit college students across the country. The Project, which is part of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, has cases against for-profit college companies, and against the Department of Education for enabling and supporting this predatory industry. Many of the Project’s clients are people of color, veterans, and immigrants. Most are the first in their family to attend college. The Project’s work supports its broader goals of economic justice and racial equality.

DHS Bid To Collect Social Media Info Sparks Privacy Concerns

Via Law360

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security‘s proposal to collect social media handles from foreign citizens has been met with backlash from civil rights and higher education groups that caution it will chill free speech and discourage international students from studying in the U.S.

DHS had indicated in September that the department planned to begin asking for information on foreign citizens’ social media accounts for the past five years on visa applications and traveler forms, opening its proposal up for public comment through Nov. 4.

But in dozens of comments filed over the following two months, national civil rights and legal and immigrant advocacy organizations, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association and American Civil Liberties Union, have urged DHS to withdraw that proposal, warning that it could suppress protected free speech and promote self-censorship.

“The proposed rule may pressure applicants to engage in self-censorship like deleting their accounts, disassociating with online connections, limiting their social media postings, or sanitizing their internet presence for fear of reprisal,” more than 40 organizations wrote in comments on the proposal.

This would affect not only foreign citizens seeking immigration benefits, like green cards, or considering a visit to the U.S., but also the American citizens who communicate with them online, the groups said.

“Consider, for example, how an American citizen who wants her brother in Iraq to visit or emigrate might think twice before posting tweets criticizing U.S. policy or remaining Facebook friends with someone who does,” the organizations wrote.

Their joint comment is one of 80 filed responding to DHS’ proposal to collect the additional information under President Donald Trump’s March 2017 executive order to ramp up screening and vetting practices.

The U.S. Department of State, which processes visa requests made from foreign citizens looking to move to the U.S. from abroad, already requests this information, after updating its forms in June.

DHS’ proposal would authorize U.S. Customs and Border Protection to request social media handles from any foreign citizen entering the U.S.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes visa petitions from within the U.S., would also ask for social media handles on permanent residency applications, applications for U.S. citizenship, and asylum and refugee applications.

Social media accounts that foreigners would need to disclose include Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, TwitterLinkedIn, MySpace, Reddit and YouTube. Vine, a video platform that was shut down in 2017, is included on the list, while TikTok, a newer short-video platform, is not listed.

DHS could not, under the proposal, request passwords for social media accounts. Immigration officers also may not follow or friend request users to gain access to private account information.

But the ACLU and other organizations argued that this will nonetheless undermine the ability to communicate anonymously online, which could be important for political activists or members of the LGBTQ community who hail from countries where they may not be safe to identify themselves publicly.

In its own comments, the New York City mayor’s office also raised privacy concerns, saying that it is “committed to upholding privacy protections for New Yorkers irrespective of their citizenship or immigration status.”

The Harvard Law School Immigration Project and Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program flagged a recent incident that made national news when a Palestinian student at Harvard College was denied entry to the U.S. because of political messages posted by his “friends” on social media, even though he had not posted any political messages on his own account.

“This example illustrates the potential dangers of the department’s proposed policy,” the school’s immigration clinic wrote in their comment. “If noncitizens can be denied admission or an immigration benefit based on their friends’ social media activity over the past five years, many would likely refrain from engaging in associational activity freely on social media or even from using social media at all — which in turn would seriously and impermissibly burden their First Amendment right of free association.”

The National Association for College Admission Counseling, the American Council on Education and other higher education associations also warned that the social media collection would deter foreign students from attending American universities.

It would likely also “further strain” USCIS’ resources, one group of education associations said, referencing recent work authorization processing delays for the Optional Practical Training program, which gives foreign citizens who just graduated from U.S. universities one extra year to live and work in the U.S.

“The goals of protecting our security while ensuring that the United States remains the destination of choice for the world’s best and brightest students, faculty and scholars are not mutually exclusive,” the associations wrote.

A DHS spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

–Editing by Orlando Lorenzo.

New online tool tells Mass. veterans if they qualify for financial aid

Via Boston Herald

By Maria Szaniszlo

For years, Massachusetts has had a program that provides financial aid for food, housing, clothing and medical care to veterans and their dependents with limited incomes. There’s only one problem — many veterans have never heard of it.

On Tuesday, the Veterans Legal Clinic at Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center unveiled the Massachusetts Veteran Benefit Calculator, an online tool the clinic created to help veterans easily determine if they’re eligible for financial assistance through the program known as Chapter 115.

“We’re proud to be able to launch it statewide this Veterans Day,” said Betsy Gwin, associate director of the Veterans Legal Clinic. “Spreading the word about this tool and increasing awareness about Chapter 115 benefits is something that is tangible; it’s a concrete thing that we can all do together right now to help support low-income veterans and their families in Massachusetts.”

Under Chapter 115, low-income veterans can be eligible for state financial assistance ranging from a few dollars to more than $1,000 per month if they fall below 200% of the federal poverty level and meet other eligibility requirements. But there has been a persistent gap between the number of veterans eligible for these funds and the number of veterans who actually apply for them.

A 2017 State Auditor’s Office report found that between 2014 and 2016, only 14,390 Massachusetts veterans received Chapter 115 benefits. The Veterans Legal Clinic estimates that thousands more are likely to be eligible. The Chapter 115 program also supports veterans’ dependents and survivors, Gwin said, but many are unaware of the program.

“No veteran or survivor in Massachusetts should be struggling to avoid homelessness, to keep the lights on or to feed their family,” she said, “and this financial assistance can make all the difference.”

Many veterans also are hesitant to ask for help, Gwin said.

“This is not a handout; it’s a hand up,” said Francisco Urena, Massachusetts secretary of veterans affairs. “Most of our veterans are successful upon returning home, but if certain circumstances of economy, circumstances of employment ever lead them to being without, the safety net programs that we have here in Massachusetts make that veteran a better candidate for success.”

Wesley Bigham, 31, of Abington enlisted in the Army in January 2011 and served in Afghanistan from January to October 2013.

“The first time I heard about Chapter 115 benefits was nearly five years after enrolling in VA care,” Bigham said. “… At that time, when I was struggling to find a job and attempting to resettle with my family, I had no idea Chapter 115 even existed. … We’re fortunate that we … were able to stay with our family.”

For more information, veterans should visit MassVetBen.org.

Animal welfare groups sue government over treatment of research primates

Via Boston Globe

By David Abel

Five years ago, animal rights advocates called on federal regulators to improve the conditions of non-human primates used in federally funded research studies.

The government still hasn’t responded to their petition, and now a Harvard Law School program, the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, and other animal welfare groups have sued the US Department of Agriculture, alleging that the agency has failed to ensure adequate living conditions for primates, including rhesus macaques, baboons, and marmosets.

“We are bringing this case to compel the USDA to put in place clear, enforceable laws that will ease the burden of suffering on non-human primates, some of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom,” said Brett Richey, a Harvard Law School student who helped file the lawsuit on behalf of the school’s new Animal Law & Policy Clinic. “These animals deserve our protection.”

Officials at the USDA said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

There were nearly 106,000 non-human primates held in captivity last year for experiments, according to the complaint, which was filed Wednesday in US District Court in Boston.

In Massachusetts, primates were held in 15 USDA-licensed facilities, including ones at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Medical School, Boston University, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Charles River Laboratories, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

The plaintiffs submitted their petition to the USDA a year after the National Institutes of Health adopted standards in 2013 to protect the psychological well-being of chimpanzees used in federally funded research.

Animal rights groups have urged the federal government to recognize that the primates require environmental enrichment, such as being able to live in social groups, have access to the outdoors, and have opportunities to forage for food, climb, build nests, and make choices about their activities.

“There is overwhelming evidence demonstrating the psychological capabilities and needs of primates,” said Nathan Herschler, executive director of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, a Boston-based advocacy group that has called for a ban on using animals for research.

Many institutions have failed to allow such enrichment, the groups said. Between 2010 and 2012, for example, four monkeys died at Harvard’s former New England Primate Research Center in Southborough. The university was fined $24,000 by federal regulators.

After the deaths became public, the Globe reported that a dozen monkeys between 1999 and 2011 had been found dehydrated and dead in their cages, or had been euthanized for poor health.

The complaint, filed in conjunction with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the International Primate Protection League, contends that the government has a duty to improve primates’ living conditions, saying they share many cognitive abilities and needs with humans. Like humans, the primates exhibit complex emotions, develop relationships, and require mental stimulation.

“The USDA’s failure to implement appropriate standards protecting primates’ psychological well-being is causing animals to suffer in isolation and without adequate enrichment,” said Christopher Berry, a senior staff attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a California-based advocacy group.

Primates living in confined conditions often develop pathological behaviors and suffer severe stress. Behaviors include biting themselves, repetitive circling, grooming to the point of damaging their skin, and other forms of self-harm.

Severe stress can have a negative impact on the validity of the research, the plaintiffs said.

The complaint also accused the agency of violating rules that require it to respond to formal petitions within a reasonable period and asked the court to compel the agency to respond.

“We have waited far too long for the USDA. . . to upgrade these minimum standards,” said Katherine Meyer, director of Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic. “These primates, who have been used in research to help us, deserve to be treated as humanely as possible.”

Pro Bono Week 2019 Recap

Every year, the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP) at Harvard Law School (HLS) participates in the American Bar Association’s National Celebration of Pro Bono. Held from October 21st – 25th, 2019, Pro Bono Week serves as a time where HLS celebrates and reflects on the pro bono work that staff, faculty, and students do throughout the year.

The theme of this year’s Pro Bono Week, Stand Together, Stand for Justice, emphasized the importance of collaborative advocacy and how lawyers working together with clients, partner organizations, and communities can inspire change that positively impacts public interest. In line with Stand Together, Stand for Justice, OCP hosted a series of panels featuring attorneys and experts from a variety of fields to speak about their work.

 

Yee Htun (left) and Nadia Aziz (right) during their conversation on combating hate speech and hate crimes in communities.

 

Stopping Hate: A Conversation with Yee Htun and Nadia Aziz

Yee Htun of HLS’ International Human Rights Clinic and Nadia Aziz of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law shared a conversation on topics surrounding hate speech and hate crimes. Aziz, who currently serves as the Interim Co-Director and Policy Counsel of the Stop Hate Project, spoke about the project’s work to create strategies on how to combat hate in local communities. The Stop Hate Project manages a resource and reporting hotline for hate incidents, works collaboratively to enhance the response of law enforcement and community organizations to hate crimes, and engages in the public interest sphere. Additionally, she spoke about her work on the lawsuit against The Daily Stormer representing Taylor Dumpson; as well as how hate speech and hate crimes have evolved over the past decade given the presence of social media.

 

Tony Marino (left), Dr. Fiona Danaher (middle), and Robert Greenwald (right) after their discussion on reinstating care for critically ill immigrants.

 

A Critical Win: The Fight to Reinstate Care for Critically Ill Immigrants

HLS Clinical Professor Robert Greenwald hosted a discussion with Tony Marino, the Director of Legal Services at the Irish International Immigrant Center, and Dr. Fiona Danaher, a pediatrician with Massashusetts General Hospital (MGH) and co-chair of the MGH Immigrant Health Coalition. Both were involved in the fight to reinstate the Medical Deferred Action program, which allows immigrants to remain in the U.S. while they or their relatives receive life-saving medical care. Marino and Danaher spoke about how the partnership between lawyers and medical professionals developed around this issue, with Marino also mentioning the role of the press and public outcry. Both Marino and Danaher emphasized the necessity of working together to create a space where advocacy can be effectively accomplished and how important inclusive legal work is.

 

Kendra Albert (left) and Ria Tabacco Mar (right) as they speak about cases regarding LGBTQ discrimination.

 

LGBTQ Discrimination before the Supreme Court: Reflections from Employees’ Counsel

In light of the October 8th Supreme Court cases regarding LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace, Kendra Albert, Clinical Instructor with the Cyberlaw Clinic, hosted a conversation with Ria Tabacco Mar, a senior staff attorney with the National ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. Tabacco Mar discussed her experiences with litigating on issues of LGBTQ discrimination and spoke about her work on LGBTQ Title VII discrimination cases before the Supreme Court as well as her previous work on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. She also spoke more broadly on challenging pre-existing notions of how concepts such as gender and sexuality are used and interpreted in law. She also touched on the necessity of considering intersectionality when dealing with issues surrounding identity, particularly those relevant to the LGBTQ community.

 

Food as medicine: Massachusetts bill would give Medicaid recipients fresh food and grocery money

via The New Food Economy

by Jessica Foo

 

Massachusetts lawmakers want to know: What happens when Medicaid recipients get healthy food as part of their healthcare?

The answer might sound obvious and even tautological—newsflash: healthy eating makes people healthier—but Democratic state senator Julian Cyr and house representative Denise Garlick want details. So this week they introduced a first-of-its-kind bill that would establish a pilot program to give individualized nutrition services—including meals, groceries, or grocery money—to residents enrolled in Medicaid and then measure the impact of doing so on people’s well-being and the state’s bottom line.

“If you look at the amount of dollars that we spend on healthcare in Massachusetts, we spent over $60 billion last year,” Cyr said in a phone interview, referring to a finding in a recent state report on the expenditures through Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance.

MassHealth, the state- and federally funded Medicaid program that provides health insurance to low-income Massachusetts residents, spent $17 billion on health care in 2018. The program has varying eligibility thresholds for residents, based on factors including age, disability, and family size. A family of four must earn under $34,248 per year to qualify.

Before becoming a legislator, Cyr worked at the state department of public health. Inspired by the local food initiatives taking hold in his district, which includes Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, he says he wanted to know how centering nutrition in the healthcare system would affect people statewide. He teamed up with Rep. Garlick, who also has a background in nursing and public health, to sponsor the legislation in the house. (Garlick didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

Food as medicine is an age-old idea—some people speculate that Greek physician Hippocrates was a proponent of the approach—that has gained popularity in the American medical system in recent years. Today, plenty of localities fund programs to give food stamp users with specific health needs money to spend at farmers’ markets. A California hospital is piloting a program that places doctors in grocery stores to guide shoppers towards healthier purchases. And the state of California itself is currently experimenting with delivering pre-made meals to people with congestive heart failure.

Plenty of localities fund programs to give food stamp users with specific health needs money to spend at farmers’ markets.

These examples illuminate the wide scope that medically tailored nutrition can encompass. The proposed pilot program in Massachusetts would include all of the following: pre-made meals, pre-selected groceries, and money for nutritious foods. The range speaks to the various and specific needs that patients have. For example, people with relatively severe health issues, such as congestive heart failure, type 2 diabetes, and kidney disease, might receive pre-made meals delivered to their homes, while those with high blood pressure or pre-diabetes might get subsidies to use at the grocery store.

“There are different populations that are in need of different nutrition interventions,” explains Sarah Downer, an associate director and law instructor at Harvard Law School’s health law and policy clinic. She says that pre-made and delivery meals “are really for people who have […] trouble shopping and cooking for themselves—it’s not the right nutrition intervention for everyone.”

“This [pilot program] would look at the efficacy of a suite of those services, the ability to triage individuals and find the correct service for them, link them to it, and then see what the impact is on utilization and costs across the board.”

Pre-made and delivered meals were correlated to a halving of inpatient hospital admissions and a 16 percent reduction in health care costs.

Downer led the research team that recently published a comprehensive report on the potential benefits that food can have on the Massachusetts health care system, which in turn informed the development of this proposed legislation. The report highlighted a range of findings linking nutrition with health. In a 2019 study of over 1,000 participants, for example, pre-made and delivered meals were correlated to a halving of inpatient hospital admissions and a 16 percent reduction in health care costs.

The exact details of the pilot program still need to be hammered out. As it stands, implementation would be guided by a commission of public health officials, medical experts, and representatives of nonprofit health care organizations. By incorporating nutrition into the daily lives of MassHealth recipients, the state—which devoted nearly a quarter of its budget to the program last year—also stands to benefit economically.

As mentioned above, it feels increasingly redundant to spout how healthy eating can benefit health. Massachusetts lawmakers appear to have decided that it’s time to calculate just how valuable that benefit is.

Foster children, parents push for outside review of DCF cases

via Mass Live

foster care review

Morriah Bosco testifies on a bill related to foster care reviews at a Statehouse hearing on Oct. 29, 2019. (Shira Schoenberg / The Republican)

Morriah Bosco spent 18 years in the foster care system. She was moved 40 times.

Bosco said the Department of Children and Families wrote on her placement plan that her goal was reunifying with kin — but no one actually looked for a family member to take her in. She was never given a permanent placement or a plan to help her age out of the system.

“I confronted a supervisor and she said ‘What are we supposed to put down? There’s no plan for you,’” Bosco said.

No one, she said, oversaw DCF. While federal law requires every foster care case be reviewed every six months, Bosco said she once went 18 months in a restrictive setting without a review.

Bosco was among the former foster children, parents and advocates who testified at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities on Tuesday about the need for an independent office to oversee foster care reviews.

The bill, H.112/S.29, sponsored by Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke, and Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, would establish an independent Massachusetts foster care review office. The office would be responsible for regularly reviewing every case in which a child is removed from their home, ensuring the child has a plan for permanency, and collecting information from the reviews to inform DCF policy.

These reviews are mandated by federal law, and today, they are conducted by a special unit within DCF. But advocates for children have long complained that these reviews are inadequate and done in a pro forma way that does not provide sufficient oversight.

Sandy Bravo, a business professor and adoptive mother of two children, said businesses hire outside firms to conduct audits, but that is not the case at DCF. She said an outside review would provide a fresh set of eyes to ensure children are being cared for appropriately.

“The consequence to a child of falling through the cracks is abuse and even in many instances death,” Bravo said.

Child Advocate Maria Mossaides, who is the state’s independent advocate for children in state custody, acknowledged that until two years ago, foster care reviews were not being done according to legal guidelines and were treated by the department “in a more pro forma fashion.”

But Mossaides asked lawmakers to postpone making a decision on the bill to give her office more time to work with DCF on a plan that was developed in fiscal 2018 to improve the system. This includes overhauling the computer system to ensure all parties are notified of reviews, recruiting more independent reviewers, ensuring interpreters are available, allowing families to submit testimony in advance, allowing children over age 14 to participate in reviews by phone, and developing management reports.

According to DCF, the department updated its foster care review policy in 2019 to emphasize permanency planning, clarify the role of DCF workers in preparing parents and allow attorneys to give documents to DCF 10 days before a review. DCF also implemented an automated scheduling system.

“I’m hoping the committee will consider giving DCF and the Office of the Child Advocate … an opportunity to fully implement these changes,” Mossaides said.

But advocates say those changes are not enough. Crisanne Hazen, assistant director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School, called the data tracking and operational changes “the bare minimum that need to be made to ensure that our children are safe.”

“This independent office will provide a system of checks and balances, transparency and oversight that will truly show the commitment of this commonwealth to the safety and care of our children,” Hazen said.

Several people with firsthand experience with the foster care system testified why more oversight is necessary. Nelly Medina, who previously spoke to The Republican / MassLive about the challenges of aging out of the foster care system, talked about being separated from her siblings with no contact for a year. She talked about being placed in places where she was bullied as the only student of color in her class. She said a caseworker denied her access to medication that was prescribed to her at age 11 for attention deficit disorder, because there was a history of drug use in her family. As a teenager, she was advised to emancipate herself in order to get an abortion, then miscarried, and soon after, attempted suicide. DCF never offered her any therapy.

“I would attempt to take my life twice more before aging out of the system with nowhere to live,” Medina said.

Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, who used to work for an adoption agency that placed adolescents, said cases often linger in the system for too long “with the workload of DCF case workers, schedules of attorneys, and rights of parents taking precedence over children.” Sullivan said DCF workers, concerned with immediate challenges, often do not have the capacity to reflect on a child’s long-term well-being.

Sullivan said DCF, like any agency, has blind spots about its own performance. “When asked about foster care reviews, two retired DCF workers referred to these reviews as ‘a joke,’” Sullivan said in testimony submitted to the committee.

Farley-Bouvier said having an agency that polices itself is not good for children or for the agency, which lacks data on what is working and what is not. She noted that the agency, in reviews, rarely disagrees with itself.

“I’m sorry to say that often times within DCF we take bad situations and we make them worse,” Farley-Bouvier said.

Some states, like Nebraska, already have reviews conducted by an outside agency.

 

Continue Reading this article at Mass Live

Balancing Optimism and Realism in Attenuated Wins

By Alev Erhan

During my first year of law school, I was eager to get away from the HLS bubble and our classroom hypotheticals by meeting and helping people in Greater Boston. I was thrilled to be selected into the Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP), which provides representation and advice to tenants of affordable housing who are facing eviction or subsidy termination.

 

Just over a month into my first semester, upon mindlessly refreshing my inbox, I saw that I had been assigned to my first case and promptly forgot how to breathe. I was to advocate on behalf of a mother facing eviction from public housing for allegedly allowing her daughter’s father to stay in her apartment more days than the arbitrary maximum allowed by her lease. My initial shock at the absurd disproportionality between the violation and subsequent penalty was soon diminished by the understanding that my client’s experience was apparently a fairly standard type of case for TAP, for which there is a fairly standard legal solution. I prepared to suggest to my client a “No Visit No Reside” or NVNR agreement in which tenants agree that a particular person no longer visits or (you guessed it) resides in the unit. Though seemingly straightforward, these agreements can be sinister in that they often involve one member of the family being kicked out of the residence, many times forcing parents to ask their own children to leave, in order to prevent the eviction of everyone on the lease.

 

The next day I met with my client for the first time, waiting until the end of our discussion to launch into my carefully scripted spiel about a possible NVNR. Within seconds her eyes shot wide open and she rolled her chair back, repeating “no, no, no” so vehemently I was reeling to somehow take back every word that had come out of my mouth. Despite diminished odds that my client would successfully overcome eviction proceedings without signing this agreement, our role was to advocate for her goal—and her goal was to ensure that her daughter’s father would still be able to visit the unit while maintaining her tenancy. I never met my client’s daughter but over the following months she became very present in my life, from the late night phone calls from my client I couldn’t bear to ignore to the sense of injustice I felt every time I thought about the case.

 

All our preparatory work with TAP was leading up to an ‘informal conference’ hosted by the housing authority to supposedly reach a settlement favorable to all parties. While the more ‘formal’ administrative hearings already lack many aspects of due process a person should be guaranteed in court, such purportedly informal meetings are often nothing more than a conference table in which attorneys can wield their gross power imbalance and the threat of eviction to present tenants, who rarely have legal representation, with coercive agreements.

 

At our conference, my client had two representatives from Harvard Law School (myself and my supervisor), a psychiatrist, and two social workers in the room advocating to keep this young girl’s father in her life. Our request was merely that he be able to visit the apartment on occasion. In response to our concerns, the housing authority attorney leaned back in his chair, put his knee up on the conference table, and scanned the room as he said that with so many supportive figures in this young girl’s life he felt confident that she would be just fine. I don’t believe the attorney could have said this statement if my client’s daughter was in the room and could not stop thinking about how many voiceless people, just like my client’s daughter, are ignored by the eviction process.

 

Ultimately, TAP was successful in preserving housing for a woman and her child through a negotiated settlement. Our client was empowered to demand an agreement on her terms, refusing to accept the housing authority’s “take it or leave it” approach despite abundant intimidation. However, it would be a disservice to allow these wins to blind us from the absurdity that is a world in which tax dollars go towards preventing a child from hanging out with her dad in her own home.

Harvard Law School & NVHR Launch Updated Data on Discriminatory Hepatitis C Treatment Restrictions in 52 Medicaid Programs and Send Letter to CMS Urging an End to State Violations of Federal Medicaid Law

Via CHLPI

The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) and the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI) today launched an update to “Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access,” an interactive project grading all 50 state Medicaid programs, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, according to access to curative treatments for hepatitis C, the nation’s deadliest infectious disease. NVHR, CHLPI and other leading viral hepatitis advocates today also sent a letter to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) urging the agency to take action to end discriminatory state treatment restrictions, which, according to CMS guidance, violate federal Medicaid law. More than half of all state Medicaid programs still impose some form of illegal restriction.

“The hepatitis C virus is the deadliest infectious disease in the U.S., killing 20,000 Americans every year, and the opioid epidemic and an increase in unsafe injection drug use have caused acute cases of hepatitis C to more than triple since 2010. Eliminating treatment access restrictions is a necessary step toward ending HCV in the United States,” said NVHR Director Lauren Canary. “The collaborative advocacy of NVHR, CHLPI, and the entire viral hepatitis community have created real momentum and led to a significant reduction in treatment restrictions; however, there is still more work to do, as some states persist in imposing these discriminatory restrictions.”

Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access grades each Medicaid program according to its overall “state of access.” Each grade is determined by curative treatment restrictions related to three areas: 1) liver disease progression (fibrosis) restrictions, 2) sobriety/substance use requirements, and 3) prescriber limitations – all of which contradict not only CMS guidance but also recommendations from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). The analysis provides suggestions for each state to reduce its treatment access requirements.

“At least 2.4 million Americans are currently infected with the hepatitis C virus and HCV is contributing to an increase in liver cancer, the fastest-growing cause of cancer mortality in the U.S. We have the tools to eliminate hepatitis C, but turning the promise of a cure into reality for all requires leadership, resources, and the removal of all discriminatory HCV treatment access restrictions,” said Robert Greenwald, Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the director of CHLPI. “CHLPI and NVHR are dedicated to ensuring that all individuals living with HCV are able to access a cure for the disease, and we urge all states to stop illegally restricting access to treatment.”

Highlights of the Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access analysis, as well as notable advocacy successes since the 2017 launch of the report, include:

  • When CHLPI and NVHR launched the report in 2017, more than half of Medicaid programs (52 percent) received a “D” or an “F” for imposing discriminatory restrictions on hepatitis C cures. Currently, only 15 percent of programs (8 jurisdictions) receive those grades;
  • States that received a “D” or “F” grade due to access restrictions: Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, and Texas;
  • States that received an “A” grade: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington;
  • Washington (A) removed Medicaid restrictions after a federal court declared for the first time that widespread restrictions to hepatitis C treatments were illegal. The removal of restrictions paved the way for the state’s groundbreaking plan to eliminate the hepatitis C virus entirely;
  • In Rhode Island (A-), strong local advocacy and the threat of litigation led the state to remove liver disease restrictions and cover treatment for all beneficiaries living with HCV;
  • Illinois (B-), which once had the most severe liver disease restrictions, has since removed those restrictions. However, some managed care organizations in the state have not followed suit;

“Although the advent of highly effective curative therapies has helped avert thousands of premature deaths from hepatitis C, we are still seeing troubling trends related to the disease, including a three-fold spike in acute cases of hepatitis C since 2010; an increase in vertical transmissions of the disease from infected pregnant adults to infants – in 2017 alone, there were 18,927 newborns exposed to hepatitis C; and people from certain racial and ethnic minorities are dying at disproportionate and increased rates from hepatitis C infections,” added Canary. “The consequences of hepatitis C treatment restrictions are not academic for people living in places like Texas (Grade: D+), which has the highest liver cancer mortality rate in the country; or Montana (Grade: F), which has one of the highest rates of perinatal HCV exposure; or West Virginia (Grade: C), which has the highest rate of new HCV infections.”

Americans insured through Medicaid have a 3-fold higher prevalence of hepatitis C compared to their privately insured counterparts. In 2015, CMS issued guidance that prior authorization requirements should not result in the denial of access to treatment. NVHR, CHLPI and other leading hepatitis advocates today sent a letter to CMS urging the agency to take action to end illegal access restrictions by states.

“Since the release of Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access and the increased transparency to egregious treatment restrictions in state Medicaid programs, many states have loosened or removed restrictions…Unfortunately, several state Medicaid programs are still standing in the way of the medical standard of care by imposing discriminatory prior authorization criteria to restrict access based on liver disease severity, provider specialty, and substance abuse,” said the advocates in the letter. “Despite clear [CMS] guidance…state Medicare programs still deny coverage to Medicaid enrollees with hepatitis C infection…We call upon CMS to take seriously this continue state-sanctioned discrimination impacting persons living with hepatitis C throughout the United States. Please do your part to prioritize this issue and to call upon state Medicaid programs to open access to curative hepatitis C therapy.”

To view the full “Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access” report, visit www.stateofhepc.org

Cyberlaw Clinic Files Amicus Brief Arguing Dr. Seuss/Star Trek Mash-Up Is Fair Use

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus curiae brief (.pdf) last week in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix, on behalf of several individuals and non-profit organizations (including groups that advocate for freedom of expression and individual science fiction authors). The brief supports the creators of Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! (“Boldly”), a Star Trek-inspired mash-up of several Dr. Seuss works, including Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Horton Hears a Who!, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The case has implications for the scope of fair use protection for mash-ups and other works that incorporate original works.

The appeal arises from a copyright infringement action brought against the creators of Boldly by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the current copyright holder of Dr. Seuss’s works. Last spring, a lower court granted ComicMix’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Boldly constituted fair use. In applying factors one and four of the fair use test, the court found that the purpose and character of Boldly’s use of Dr. Seuss works was transformative and that it was thus not presumed to infringe on the market for Dr. Seuss works.

Amici have an interest in advocating for the interests of creators and promoting freedom of expression. Based on decades of experience, Amici urged in the brief that the Court of Appeals affirm the lower court’s ruling in favor of defendants. The brief explains that, for purposes of a fair use analysis, Boldly is a transformative work that comments on both Star Trek and the works of Dr. Seuss. More generally, works like Boldly (i.e., works that fall in the category of mash-ups) have significant transformative value as they can add commentary, humor, or insight to the underlying works and can imbue those works with new meaning. Fair use should protect the creation of these kinds of culturally-valauble works, the creation of which might be chilled under a system that requires licensing.

Amici on the brief include:

  • the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a member-supported, non-profit civil liberties organization that works to protect free speech and privacy in the digital world;
  • the Organization for Transformative Works, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving non-commercial fan works based on existing works, including popular television shows, books, and movies;
  • Public Knowledge, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the openness of the Internet, promoting creativity through balanced intellectual property rights, and protecting the rights of consumers to use innovative technology lawfully;
  • Francesca Coppa, a Professor of English and Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Muhlenberg College;
  • David Mack, a New York Times bestselling author who has written episodes for Star Trek: Deep Space and several Star Trek novels; and
  • Magdalene Visaggio, the writer and creator of the Eisner-nominated comic series Kim & Kim and Eternity Girl.

EFF has its own writeup of the case and the amicus brief here.

Fall 2019 Cyberlaw Clinic students Katie Lin and Tyler Bowen contributed to the writing of the brief, along with former Clinic interns Shenelle Salcido and Michelle Rodriguez, former EFF intern Carmen Sobczak, Professor Francesca Coppa, and Chris Bavitz and Mason Kortz from the Clinic.

New TLPI Video: A School’s Journey to Trauma Sensitivity

Harvard Group Recommends Increased Nutrition Education For Doctors

Via Forbes
By Tommy Tobin

Many chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, are related to diet and nutrition. Although many diet-related diseases are highly correlated with poor health outcomes, U.S.-trained doctors receive little or no training in nutrition. A new report published last week by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (“FLPC”) aims to address this knowledge gap by recommending increased nutrition education in undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical training.

With its report, Doctoring Our Diet: Policy Tools to Include Nutrition in U.S. Medical Training, Harvard’s FLPC focused on integrating “nutrition as an essential component of U.S. medical education” and allowing doctors “to support better outcomes for individual patients and to address the most common and costly health risks facing our country.”

Unfortunately, there is a lack of attention to nutrition education in medical training. As one recent headline put it, “[y]our doctor may not be the best source of nutrition advice.” Other researchers writing in a medical journal were less reserved: “It cannot be a realistic expectation for physicians to effectively address obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hospital malnutrition, and many other conditions as long as they are not taught during medical school and residency training how to recognize and treat the nutritional root causes.”

The authors of the Harvard FLPC report identified several medical education stages in which to increase nutrition training and recommended policy mechanisms to address the lack of nutrition training:

  •  For undergraduate medical education, amending accreditation standards to require nutrition training and offering additional grant funding to create nutrition education programming.
  •  For graduate medical education and board certifications, requiring nutrition education in medical schools and incorporating nutrition-related questions in required examinations.
  • After formal medical education, states should integrate nutrition education into continuing education and require—or strongly encourage—physicians to take nutrition education courses as part of maintaining their license.

The report’s authors note that “increased nutrition education for doctors at every stage of their career can ultimately improve outcomes for individual patients, advance population health, and change the healthcare landscape for the better.”

The FLPC report’s publication comes during a dust-up within nutrition science concerning a recent article in the Annals of Internal Medicine on guideline recommendations for meat in consumer diets. According to the New York Times, the article and its associated guidelines “raise uncomfortable questions about dietary advice and nutritional research, and what sort of standards these studies should be held to,” and has faced substantial criticism from public health advocates. It is possible that the increased funding and training in nutrition recommended in the FLPC report could encourage further medical research into nutrition and its role in disease prevention and mitigation.

Given the important association between diet and nutrition and many chronic health conditions, the FLPC report makes considerable sense. Time will tell how palatable the authors’ recommendations are for the relevant decision-makers.

A Cuban Escape: A Daughter’s Admiration

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

I wanted to intern at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) so much that it was the only internship I applied for as a law student during my last year of law school. I know it was a risky move, but thankfully, I got lucky. My time at HIRC has been illuminating. I have actively participated in the asylum process for multiple clients, drafted motions, conducted client interviews, and have visited multiple immigration court hearings. However, nothing has made me happier than being able to for the first time witness an asylum trial and listen to the judge say “I am granting your stay of asylum.” Hearing the judge utter those words, and seeing the client’s tears of joy, keeps assuring me that I am on the right field, and reminded me of my father – who escaped from Cuba and spent nine days in the ocean to seek asylum in the United States.

My father is my light, my rock, my hero. He and his story have influenced my life in so many powerful ways – so much, I decided in middle school that I would attend law school to become an immigration lawyer. I am happy that the day has come where I have the opportunity to put on paper all my thoughts and feelings with respect to his migration, in addition to some of the many details about his journey from Cuba to the United States.

June 3, 1970, is a date that will forever have a place in my heart. On that day, my father embarked on his journey through the Gulf of Mexico in a raft. My father wanted to leave the country, but there was no possible way that he could do it legally. For that reason, he decided to leave his loved ones behind, and take on a decision that could have meant his life.

Imagine leaving absolutely everything you have – your hometown, your family, your roots, your country – and taking only with you the memories of your childhood, six glass bottles of water, one bottle of rum mixed with coffee, and a knife for protection. Those are the exact things my father took with him when he embarked on his oceanic journey. It takes a great deal of inner and mental strength to take this step. Nevertheless, this explains my father today; he is the strongest and most optimistic person I know. I can say this with so much certainty: I have never heard my father complain, never. He finds light in every situation.

My father’s journey started with a plan between him and a group of his friends. After the plan went awry, he decided to build a raft from the inner tube of a truck and to flee Cuba by ocean. Not all of his friends accompanied him. Only one did – one brave soul who is in heaven. His friend, Alfredo, embarked on the journey with him. My father does not know much about Alfredo. He knows that Alfredo needed to leave Cuba because of the political situation at the time. He served two years in a Cuban concentration camp and his father was a pilot for Cubana de Aviacion, which is a national airline based in Cuba since 1929. Alfredo, however, did not make it to land. He died on the seventh day of their journey– only two days before my father was rescued. When he died, my father kept Alfredo’s body next to him.

They say people could survive without water for about three to four days. My father survived nine days adrift. On the third day in the middle of the Gulf, my father and his friend lost their most precious belonging – the only glass bottles of potable water that they had taken with them. At this point, my father’s desperation only grew, but so did his faith. He told himself that he was not going to let that loss keep him from going forward, and so he kept rowing. My father had and still has a strength unlike any other, a strength that had its roots and was built on hope. The power of such hope was key to his survival.

With no tools to fish, no potable water, and for obvious reasons no readily accessible means to any sort of aliment, my father had to look for any possible means and take any possible action to survive. This is the one part of his journey that if I had to describe verbally, it would be very painful for me to verbalize. I am simply of the belief that no one should be able to endure such experience. It breaks my heart that my father did. He had to use a bird as sustenance. I do not think I would have the gut, or even the mental ability to do something similar, even while being in that situation. But perhaps I would, I am my father’s daughter, and I like to think that I would be as strong as he was. Alfredo, my father’s friend, caught the bird and they both ate parts of it. My father ate the bird’s heart. To this day, my father still holds his tears when he describes this part of his journey, and there have been times when my father feels the taste of the bird’s heart in his mouth.

On June 11, 1970, his ninth day adrift, was the day my father thought to himself, “Today, I die.” However, it became the day my father was rescued in the Gulf of Mexico. An American merchant ship saved him. On the day of his rescue, my father who was 19 at the time, was skin and bones, on the verge of death. He was so severely dehydrated that the ship’s personnel could not merely give him large amounts of water. His body could not handle that. Instead, they had to immerse cotton in water and place it softly on his lips. Eventually, the merchant ship transferred him to a U.S. Coast Guard ship, which docked on June 12, 1970, at 12:01 a.m. – my father remembers that day and time clearly. June 12 was the day he was “born again,” as my father enthusiastically describes it.

My father still lives with the memories of his past. Those memories have become a part of him, a part of his foundation. I remember my father taking me to the beach when I was a little girl, and I would see him throw a dozen red roses to the ocean. I always questioned why he did this, but I did not ask questions. When I became old enough, he explained. He has done that every June 12 for the past forty-nine years, to honor the memory of Alfredo, his friend who died before the rescue. My father’s rescue was a miracle. My father was surrounded by sharks on that day. The raft was also already sinking. The U.S merchant ship saw him at exactly the right time and at exactly the right place.

This story likely resonates with those who flee their country looking for sanctuary in the United States. Today, my father is a successful business owner, and has also dedicated a lot of his life helping minority classes. I will be forever grateful to HIRC for trusting me and allowing me to actively participate in the asylum process of its clients, and, most importantly, for allowing me to be a part of bringing light in the lives of those who have been in the position of my father – those who have had no choice but to flee their country, leaving behind their family, their roots…and their lives.

This post was written by Giselle M. Rodriguez, a former HIRC summer intern. She is a law student at the Massachusetts School of Law. 

In Q&A, Bonnie Docherty discusses humanitarian disarmament

Reducing the civilian impact of arms and armed conflict has been the focus of Bonnie Docherty’s career since she was a student at Harvard Law School.

Since 2005, Docherty ’01, an international expert on civilian protection in armed conflict, has served as a lecturer on law at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. She participated in the negotiations of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions and has promoted strong implementation of the convention since its adoption. She recently played a key role in the negotiations of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, successfully advocating for specific provisions and providing legal advice to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the civil society coalition that received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2018, Docherty launched the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) at Harvard Law School, where she serves as associate director.

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, Docherty hosted an event with Hiroshima bombing survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who accepted the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of  ICAN. Accompanying the event, HLS also showcased a photo exhibit, “From the Atomic Bomb to the Nobel Peace Prize”, which illustrates the history of nuclear disarmament.

Over the course of her career, Docherty has mentored scores of clinical students, from field researchers in conflict zones to advocates inside the halls of the U.N. in Geneva. Daniel Moubayed ’20, a student in the International Human Rights Clinic who works closely with the Initiative, sat down with Docherty prior to the talk to discuss the exhibition, Thurlow’s presentation, and the ACCPI.

A Q&A with Bonnie Docherty

Daniel Moubayed: This month, you’ve arranged for Hiroshima atomic bombing survivor Setsuko Thurlow to give a presentation on campus alongside an ACCPI photo exhibition. Could you tell me a little bit about that exhibition?

Bonnie Docherty: The photos trace the journey from the original atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki through nuclear testing up to the present day where a humanitarian approach significantly advanced the disarmament field. We’re trying to highlight both the catastrophic harm that can be caused by nuclear weapons and the successful approach to disarmament that’s been applied lately and in which the Clinic has actively been involved. This is really important, especially now when international tensions are very high. To move forward, we need to look beyond national security to the human impact of these weapons.

DM: And what impact do you hope to achieve by bringing Setsuko Thurlow to HLS?

BD: It’s a real honor for her to visit. She’s a very powerful speaker, and I’m thrilled she’s able to make the trip. She is one of the decreasing number of survivors from the bombings at Hiroshima. It’s remarkable and significant to be able to hear first-hand testimony of this horrible event from over 70 years ago. As a survivor, she’s one of the strongest voices for disarmament. So I’m hoping that her talk will not only increase awareness of the humanitarian harm caused by nuclear weapons but also inspire the audience not to lose faith in the wake of recent events and trying times.

DM: You were also involved with ICAN at the time they won the Nobel Prize. Could you tell me more about that?

BD: Well, it was a team effort. I worked with ICAN, four HLS students, and my colleague, Anna Crowe [assistant director of the International Human Rights Clinic]. We acted as a legal adviser to ICAN in 2017, when they were negotiating the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted in July 2017 by 122 countries. Only one voted against it. The U.N. General Assembly mandated the negotiations so they had widespread support. We were on hand if ICAN needed information about precedent for a certain provision, for instance, but we focused primarily on advocating for provisions requiring countries to assist victims of past use and testing and remediate the environment where countries used or tested. We wanted to address the harms that had already been caused, not just advocate to eliminate future harm. Students did a lot of research and wrote papers in advance of the negotiations, and we worked closely with states and other NGOs to successfully get these provisions added to the Treaty. It was a real accomplishment and very rewarding for all of us.

DM: Incredible work. Did you first meet Setsuko during these negotiations?

BD: Yes, and she was the concluding speaker at the adoption. Hearing how long she had waited for this day and how meaningful this treaty is — not just on a geopolitical level, but on a personal one — was very moving. That’s what made me want to invite her to campus, and I believe she has inspired others to want to continue work in this field.

DM: So you were there for both the adoption of the treaty and the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Can you talk more about that?

BD: It was one of the highlights of both my professional and personal life. There’s nothing like seeing a treaty adopted — it’s a sign of hope for the work I do. Most of my projects focus on documenting the harm that’s caused, so it’s nice to see that things can change. At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Setsuko accepted alongside Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of ICAN. What struck me in that moment was how ordinary people can do extraordinary things. I was looking at friends of mine with whom I’ve been working on disarmament issues for the past 18 years, who aren’t heads of states or archbishops or world leaders. They’re ordinary citizens raising awareness and pushing states to action. Setsuko was once a girl buried in the rubble of her destroyed school. Now she’s delivering a Nobel Peace Prize lecture. What an amazing journey.

DM: I love that. “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” Let’s fast-forward: you help win a Nobel, you’re doing your other Clinic work on killer robots and incendiary weapons, and you also have a job in the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch. Yet in March 2018, you launch the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative, or the ACCPI, because clearly you didn’t have enough on your plate. Can you take us back to when the ACCPI was still in the planning stages? What were the goals of setting up the Initiative?

BD: The motivation came from my years of work in civilian protection. I began considering the human rights and humanitarian impacts of armed conflict right when I graduated from HLS in 2001. My fellowship with Human Rights Watch just happened to start the day after 9/11. Six months later, I was in Afghanistan researching cluster munition use, getting my first hands-on exposure. That led to many other field missions, and eventually, I got involved in treaty negotiations.

With the ACCPI, I wanted to enhance advocacy and support NGOs working to reduce the civilian effects of armed conflict. But also I felt that it was important to have it here at HLS. I wanted to provide an opportunity for students to get involved and continue this work after graduation. I’ve always been doing this kind of work at the Clinic, but formalizing it gives it greater influence.

DM: What were the resources in this area while you were a student? The ACCPI didn’t exist. You had to go out and start it. What were discussions like then and how have they changed?

BD: Opportunities were more diffuse; you had to seek out the conversations. I have always been interested in armed conflict, and originally I thought I was going to be a history professor. Then, I had the opportunity to embed with peacekeepers in Bosnia as a journalist between undergrad and law school, which was very influential. At law school, most of my international law and humanitarian law professors were visitors, but now we have permanent faculty that address these issues. There was the Harvard Human Rights Journal and the International Law Journal, which I worked on. But there wasn’t any hands-on experience available like we have now with our clinical and pro bono programs. Luckily, we had a strong human rights community on campus, and I received an HRP summer fellowship to work with Article 19 after my 1L year. Things have changed since then for the better.

DM: As a clinical student, I’m incredibly excited about the ACCPI’s work; there’s really a broad focus on affecting change. We’re now in the second academic year of the Initiative. How are you hoping to galvanize students and accomplish your own advocacy goals?

BD: The ACCPI is really centered on students, on developing the next generation of leaders in this field. We’re laying the foundation for what I call the three pillars of the Initiative. So, first we have advocacy through our ongoing clinic work. That’s not necessarily new but we’ve expanded our focus areas, including environment and armed conflict or cultural heritage and armed conflict. Second, we’ve built a resource database for students interested in pursuing careers in the field. We’ve also had alumni come to campus to do advising. This past spring, we hosted Matt Wells ’09, who is Senior Crisis Advisor with Amnesty International, and Chris Rogers ’09, a Senior Program Officer with Open Society’s Human Rights Initiative. Third, we’re promoting innovation. We’re bringing practitioners to campus to raise awareness but also to do the actual brainstorming and work of disarmament. This includes Setsuko’s visit and the ACCPI’s launch in 2018, when we invited leaders in the field to HLS to meet, strategize, and collaborate around issues we’re facing as a community.

DM: What are your long-term thoughts while directing this Initiative? What’s the vision going forward?

BD: One immediate goal is to develop an alumni mentorship program, which we plan to pilot this fall thanks to Nicolette Waldman ’13, an alum of the Clinic and the Satter Fellowship, who spent last spring as an ACCPI Senior Clinical Fellow. Long term, we hope to create a formal track at HLS and the Clinic for students interested in these issues. We’re providing trainings and resources for students and shaping a more concrete path for them to follow. Off campus, we’re working on framing the humanitarian disarmament issue and increasing collaboration among different organizations in the field. We’ve held workshops for diplomats in Geneva, published reports and pamphlets, and served a convening function for NGOs. We hope to continue those activities and engage students as we go.

DM: So there are things happening here in Cambridge and in Geneva and all over the world, really, a bit of everything.

BD: Yes, a bit of everything. And we respond to real world events. I’m heading to Vienna next week for negotiations on a new political declaration of reducing the effects of explosive weapons — rockets and bombs — when they’re used in civilian areas. I also have a clinical team working on that.

DM: How do you keep it all going?

BD: Adrenaline. And I’m energized by both colleagues and by students like yourself who come in with great enthusiasm who want to immerse themselves in the issues and will go on to make the world a better place.

Harvard Law School’s ‘outstanding’ housing rights advocacy work honored by Boston Bar Association

Lisa Owens (City Life/Vida Urbana), Zoe Kronin (Greater Boston Legal Services), Maureen McDonagh (Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School), and Eloise Lawrence (Harvard Legal Aid Bureau) accept the 2019 John G. Brooks Legal Services Award on behalf of their organizations. Photo courtesy of the Boston Bar Association.

By Grace Yuh

In September, two Harvard Law School clinics and their community partner organizations were recognized by the Boston Bar Association (BBA) for their collaborative efforts to fight housing displacement in greater Boston.

WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School (LSC), Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), and City Life/Vida Urbana, received the BBA’s John G. Brooks Legal Services Award for a “creative, combined strategy of community organizing and legal defense to advocate with and for tenants and homeowners across the city.” The award, presented annually by the BBA, recognizes “professional legal services attorneys for their outstanding work on behalf of indigent clients in greater Boston.” This was the first time since its establishment that the award was received by a collective of four groups.

“These four organizations represent the very best in collaboration and commitment to finding solutions for Boston’s housing crisis,” said incoming BBA President Christine Netski, managing partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen. “Their innovative partnership is an excellent model for others looking to bring lawyers and community organizers together to create positive change.”

The cost of housing in greater Boston has increased significantly over the past 10 years. As more and more properties are becoming increasingly expensive, middle- and low- income individuals and families have fewer options to secure housing.

Eloise Lawrence, a community lawyering Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at HLAB, provided insight into how the evolution of the Boston Housing crisis makes it a persistent legal issue, noting how widespread gentrification and foreclosure in the greater Boston area continues to displace community members.

“The real crisis in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis was when a lot of speculators and investors came into communities that had been devastated. They took advantage of the fact that the prices of the homes had decreased dramatically and they started buying them up, which set off yet another speculative frenzy.” she said.

Maureen McDonagh, LSC Managing Attorney and Lecturer on Law at the Housing Law Clinic, also elaborated on why this issue is more relevant than ever to the legal community.

“Over the years we’ve seen cuts to legal services. That means there are even fewer attorneys representing folks in housing courts.” said McDonagh. “For unrepresented people, finding representation is virtually impossible. To find an apartment that is affordable, safe, clean is near impossible. People who are being evicted are finding themselves more and more homeless and this includes families. That’s why I think the BBA has concentrated more on [this issue].”

Lawrence noted that the collaborative nature between the four organizations developed in part through the work of the late David Grossman, Clinical Professor, who worked at LSC before becoming the Faculty Director at HLAB. Grossman brought students from LSC and HLAB into the anti-foreclosure movement that GBLS and City Life/Vida Urbana were already participating in. Since then, the partnership between all four organizations has expanded and grown. A hallmark of the partnership between these four organizations, the Sword and Shield method relies on the concerted and joint effort of local and legal communities; and focuses on empowering and encouraging individuals to stand up for their rights.

“The Shield is legal defense and the Sword is public protest and public pressure.” explained Steve Meacham, Organizing Coordinator at City Life/Vida Urbana. “There are procedures of the law that we can take advantage of and … legal proceedings allow the public pressure to then really work.”

City Life/Vida Urbana, whose primary mission is fighting against forced displacement, represents the “sword” through work such as organizing tenant associations and doing eviction blockades. HLS students and attorneys from LSC and GBLS complete the “shield” of the Sword and Shield method by providing legal services and advice. This can range from partial to full representation in court, with the City Life/Vida Urbana meetings in both Jamaica Plain and East Boston providing a space in which law students and attorneys can meet with individuals or client unions looking for legal aid. Additionally, GBLS, LSC, and HLAB participate in the “Lawyer for the Day” program, in conjunction with the BBA and Volunteer Lawyers Project.

“We go to housing court to help people who are being evicted that day, who don’t have a lawyer. We pick up cases right there.” said McDonagh on the program, which has assisted more than 18,000 individuals since 1999.

Outside of the direct services that the four organizations provide, they also convene for monthly Sword and Shield meetings that provide a space for lawyers and organizers to discuss and reflect on issues regarding partnership and individual work. Lawrence explained how these meetings are a good opportunity for organizers and lawyers to connect beyond shared clients.

“I think there’s huge synergy that happens when organizers and lawyers work together. I view it as part of my job to teach law students, especially those that have never worked with organizers before, to understand where the role of lawyer and organizer overlap and where they are distinct. I think that [to be] a good lawyer or an organizer, you need to be an empathetic human, you need to listen and learn. It sounds simple but it often gets overlooked in legal education.” she said.

Additionally, Meacham emphasized the strengths of community lawyering in a movement like the anti-foreclosure movement, where it is important to empower the collective of those in need of help.

“It’s been a privilege to work with all of them.” Meacham said, “In addition to being on the right side of cases about tenants, they are very skilled community lawyers, which is why they’re here taking short consultations. They understand that they’re representing collectively the movement … in terms of their practice outside of the client-attorney relationship, they’re practicing community lawyering so they’re looking at cases that will help a movement.” he said.

McDonagh also emphasized the nature of the collaboration between the four organizations and their relationship with the greater Boston community. “We are honored to be recognized for our efforts but the people who are the real heroes are the ordinary individuals standing up for their rights.” she said.

GBLS Executive Director Jacquelynne J. Bowman says receiving the Brooks Legal Services Award is a wonderful recognition of what impactful, collaborative advocacy can really look like.

“Greater Boston Legal Services is greatly honored to have been chosen by the Boston Bar Association as a co-recipient of the 2019 John G. Brooks Legal Services Award”, she said.  “This is a testament to the impactful advocacy efforts of our Housing Unit advocates and partners at the Harvard Legal Assistance Bureau, WilmerHale Legal Services Center, and City Life/Vida Urbana to help low-income families avoid or delay their displacement from increasingly unaffordable neighborhoods.”

Lawrence echoed this sentiment, noting the implications for how the legal community might best approach large-scale socio-economic issues in the future.

“It’s a recognition … that effective advocacy happens when people work together, especially when lawyers and non-lawyers work together.” Lawrence said. “When you’re dealing with complex problems like lack of affordable housing and the displacement of people from their homes, lawyers are never going to do this alone. The recognition from the legal community, which the BBA [represents], shows a more complex understanding of how problems are going to be addressed and that’s wonderful.”

 

 

Clinic Celebrates First Year of the ACCPI

Waldman gives a talk for students on her involvement in an Amnesty International investigation into torture and executions in Syrian prisons.

Via Human Rights @ Harvard Law

By Nicolette Waldman

The Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) recently completed its first full year, and it was a banner one. Launched in March 2018, the initiative has worked both on campus and around the world to advance its goal of reducing the harm caused by war.

The ACCPI brings together students, practitioners, and academics to advocate for civilian protection, cultivate the next generation of leaders, and promote innovation in the field. It is a collaborative endeavor, led by disarmament and international humanitarian law expert Bonnie Docherty. Clinic alum Lan Mei JD ’17 and I have worked closely with Docherty to lay the foundations for the ACCPI’s ongoing success. The initiative has also received invaluable support from faculty and staff across the Human Rights Program and partnered with numerous nongovernmental organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and PAX.

Over the past school year, the team behind the ACCPI achieved a great deal. We led clinical projects on armed conflict and civilian protection; brought experts to campus for trainings, panels, and individual presentations; connected students to these and other practitioners; and created a database of potential host organizations for students. Beyond Harvard, we were especially active in the area of “humanitarian disarmament,” which seeks to prevent and remediate the human suffering inflicted by arms. We played a leadership role in coordinating cross-campaign collaboration and raising awareness of the approach.

An overview of the ACCPI’s activities from September 2018-August 2019, other than clinical projects, is provided below. In the coming months and years, the ACCPI plans to develop a track for Harvard Law students who want to pursue careers in the field and to consolidate the school’s position as center of excellence on civilian protection in armed conflict. Civilians affected by war have far too few advocates, and we aim to do all we can to address this gap.

Stay tuned this fall for updates on new events, trainings, student resources and programs, and publications!

Harvard Law School Events

Organized or co-sponsored the following presentations and panel discussions:

“Humanization of Arms Control: Paving the Way for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” October 17, 2018

“Universal Jurisdiction: Help or Hindrance in the Prosecution of War Criminals?” October 25, 2018

“International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on Crimes against Humanity,” January 2019

“Sustainable Justice: Lessons from Twenty Years of Domestic War Crimes Prosecutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” February 4, 2019

“The Destruction of Culture: The War against Culture and the Battle to Save It,” February 20, 2019

“The Human Impact of Nuclear Weapons,” March 7, 2019

“Hell on Earth: Uncovering Atrocities in Syria’s Prisons,” March 27, 2019

“Investigating Myanmar’s Atrocity Crimes: Human Rights Work Amid Conflict and Crisis,” April 5, 2019

Student Resources

Offered “Fieldcraft: Conducting Research on Armed Conflict and Mass Atrocities,” a two-part workshop by former Amnesty International researcher Nicolette Waldman, March 11 and April 1, 2019

Organized advising sessions with alumni Lillian Langford JD ’13, Chris Rogers JD ’09, and Matt Wells JD ’09, all of whom work in the area of armed conflict and civilian protection

Created a database of relevant organizations that could host interns or post-graduate fellows

Started to build a network of alumni working in the field

Humanitarian Disarmament: Publications, Events, and Messaging

Launched humanitariandisarmament.org website, October 2018

Published Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead, a summary of the ACCPI’s inaugural conference, October 2018

Hosted a strategy session for civil society leaders, New York, October 2018

Wrote and collected 18 civil society organization co-sponsors for a statement on humanitarian disarmament delivered at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, October 2018

Co-organized, with PAX, “Humanitarian Disarmament at the CCW: Examining Incendiary Weapons and Landmines through a Humanitarian Lens,” a side event at the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, Geneva, November 20, 2018

Co-organized, with the Geneva Disarmament Platform, a workshop for diplomats on humanitarian disarmament, Geneva, August 15, 2019

Published Humanitarian Disarmament, a brochure to introduce diplomats, campaigners, and others to the overarching concept, individual arms issues, and key resources, August 15, 2019

Student Voices: Their Perspectives on How Schools Are and Should Be

Via MassAdvocates

By Trauma Learning Policy Initiative

As we welcome students back for the start of a new school year, many of us are embarking on or continuing the work of creating trauma-sensitive, safe and supportive learning environments for all students.

We recently completed this report from eight “Listening and Learning Sessions” with 73 secondary students in urban public schools.  We asked students What do you need in order to do well in school? What could your school do differently to help you do well? and How should your schools be assessed?  We hope you will find it as eye opening as we did, and draw inspiration from it for connecting with students throughout this school year.

We presented this report to the MA Safe and Supportive Schools Commission so that student voices can inform the Commission’s annual recommendations to the legislature. We hope it can foster an increased student voice in education reform.

The importance of safety, connection and belonging are increasingly acknowledged as important foundations for academic and social emotional success at school. Yet we rarely ask students themselves what their experience of school is, what works and doesn’t work for them, or what schools might do differently to support their learning and growth.

Below we share a few samples of thoughts shared by students in the listening sessions.  To read the full report including more from the students, please click here.

What students need in order to do well: relationships with teachers

“When [teachers are] really energetic, like my English teacher for example. She’s the happiest person I know. It’s like I love it because if I’m having a bad day, it’s like her energy just comes and picks me up. It’s just like, ‘Oh,’ because I love English. That’s my favorite subject, favorite class, and favorite teacher.”

Supports students find helpful:

“Imagine I take a test and I fail the test. Then we move on, but the grade that I got on the test, it shows me that I don’t know that topic, but now we move on. It starts a snowball effect. If I just keep failing or if whatever I’m learning is based on what was on that test, then I won’t succeed anymore. I feel like kids that didn’t do as well on that test should get it all and the teacher works with them so they can catch up and not have a shaky base to learning.”

How students want schools to be assessed:

“I think having a Social Grade for the school would help. By that I mean looking at the different factors that play into the social atmosphere of the school, whether that’s…teacher-student ratios, the amount of support that is offered students, whether that means counselors, specific types of classes and other things like that. [So for a parent asking] ‘where should I send my student? This school has really high test scores…and ha[s] high graduation rates, but they don’t really support students or they historically have not supported students who have mental health issues…oh, I probably don’t want to send my child there because I know that this is something that they struggle with or they are dealing with now and the school probably wouldn’t be a good fit for them outside of academics.”

TLPI is grateful to the students who shared their expertise by participating in the listening sessions.  We hope this report informs and advances schools’ efforts to better address the full range of students’ needs.

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