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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.

Intern Spotlight: Kayla

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

What does the day-to-day look like for a social work intern at HIRC? Well, it could look like many different things. At HIRC, we work with a diverse population of clients. Our work consists of providing both emotional support and case management support based on a case-by-case basis. Depending on a client’s needs, a general workday could consist of facilitating cognitive behavioral therapy focused interventions during an office or home visit, supporting attorneys during client interviews that may consist of discussing emotionally heavy topics, or accompanying clients to their local clinic to help them apply for health insurance. Each day can look different depending on the clients’ needs and goals for the day.

There are many highlights and some challenges in doing this work. I enjoyed being immersed in the different cultures and backgrounds of our clients. Social work interns get the chance to build a different kind of relationship with clients through home visits and consistent communication. Another highlight is the relationship that is formed between attorneys, law students and social work interns. This experience is one-of-a-kind as the social work interns and the legal clinic create a team atmosphere where each person supports and learns from one another.

Two challenges that comes to mind include the locations that some of the clients live in and adapting certain clinical interventions for the specific population being worked with in a way that is relevant and helpful for clients. Some clients live very far from Cambridge and this can make it more difficult in terms of providing consistent emotional support and trying to schedule home or office visits. Another challenge I was faced with was learning how to provide emotional support in a way that is validating and supportive to a population that is going through difficult circumstances, which can bring up valid fears and concerns. As an intern, it is important to take the time to check in with attorneys about current laws that could affect a client’s well-being, as well as to be aware of any current policy changes that may be relevant to the case to better understand how to support any needs that may arise.

Lastly, an important part of the social work intern role at HIRC is the intersection of law and social work. The intersection of law and social work is one of the most intriguing aspects of this work. As a social work intern, you are considered to be apart of the legal team, which means that you work with attorneys and law students on mutual cases together. Therefore, in addition to supporting clients’ needs, you also check in and coordinate with attorneys in regards to any important topics that may have come up during individual social work visits that may help the legal team build their client’s case. As a team we learn from one another and support each other with recommendations within our area of expertise. Social work interns learn about current laws and policies that may or may not affect the clients we work with in regards to accessing resources and general mental health, and attorneys and law students learn tips in regards to social work skills, such as positive communication tools, and sharing empathy when interviewing and meeting with clients who may come in with a history of trauma. It is a unique dynamic that is not common among many field placements.

A large takeaway that I will bring with me from this internship is how diverse the role of a social worker can be. Before working at HIRC, the intersection of social work and law was something that never crossed my mind. This experience made me realize that social workers can play an important role in various settings, not just in common settings such as a school or a clinic.

This post was written by former HIRC social work intern Kayla Peña. Kayla is currently pursuing a Masters in Social Work (MSW) at Simmons College.

OCP Welcome Communications Coordinator Grace Yuh

 

Grace Yuh joined the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs as the Communications and Administrative Coordinator in September 2019. Yuh received her B.A. in Political Science from Tufts University this May.

Yuh spent three years as the executive features editor for The Tufts Daily, an independent student-run newspaper. She wrote over 20 feature-length articles about Tufts alumni and student groups committed to addressing gun violence, disability rights, and body positivity, among other issues. She also served as a communications and development intern at BUILD Boston where she developed content for social media and led recruitment campaigns. A member of the Asian American Journalist Association and the Tisch College of Civic Life Honos Civicus Society, Yuh has advocated and led efforts to promote fair coverage of communities of color and diversity in media organizations.

In addition to many other responsibilities, Grace will be writing stories for OCP’s blog and publishing stories that your clinics and SPOs generate.

Student Practice Organizations Panel 2019

Students attend 2019 SPO Panel

Student Practice Organizations often provide 1Ls with their first opportunity to gain practical legal experience at HLS. Each SPO is typically led by a student board consisting of 2L and 3L students and is supervised by a licensed attorney. Across the 11 SPOs currently active at HLS, a variety of focus areas including housing, immigration, and prison law are represented. Students participating in SPOs do not receive academic credit, however, their hours can count towards the 50-hour pro bono graduation requirement.

The SPO Panel, held earlier this week, provides an opportunity for students to hear directly from the students boards and members of SPOs. During the 2019 SPO Panel, representatives from all 11 SPOs spoke on focus areas, levels of commitment, attorney supervision and particularly emphasized the communities formed in each individual SPO through the work that they do.

“Community is one of our main priorities. It was a game changer for me. I met some of my closest friends, it reminded me why I decided to come to law school.” said Emma Broches, co-president of HLS Advocates for Human Rights, on her experience with SPOs.

President of Harvard Defenders Martina Tiku also noted how SPOs encourage members to interact with other students and individuals in the field who are committed to and passionate about the work that they do, reflecting the sentiments of several other panel participants.  “You get a chance to talk to people who are passionate about their work.” she said.

For students interested in joining an SPO, the organizations hold information sessions and open houses are coming up. All SPOs require some form of registration or sign-up, with several requiring separate applications. While all SPOs accept students in the fall, some  accept members during the spring term. Information session, open house, and registration/application deadline dates can be found on the  Opportunities for Student Practice Matrix.

Resources:

SPO Skills Matrix

SPO Sign-Ups

SPO Student Reflections