Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

Author: Clinical (page 1 of 2)

Welcome, Shelley Barron!

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs would like to extend a warm welcome to Shelley Barron, who recently joined the Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP) as a Clinical Instructor.

After earning her JD from Northeastern University School of Law in 2012, Shelley began working at Community Legal Aid, Inc. in Worcester, MA as a Staff Attorney. While there, Shelley was a part of the Honorable Harry Zarrow Homeless Advocacy Outreach Project, which aims to prevent or reduce homelessness by providing legal assistance to those experiencing or at-risk for homelessness. Shelley focused on representing clients in eviction defense and housing discrimination cases, as well as advocating for access to shelters and affordable housing.

In 2015, Shelley began working as a Staff Attorney at Casa Myrna Vazquez, Inc. (CMV), a non-profit domestic violence agency in Boston. She provided an array of legal services to low-income clients in cases involving abuse prevention orders, family law, housing issues, and immigration matters. Shelley was also involved in managing Medical-Legal Partnerships with two Boston area hospitals while at CMV.

As a Clinical Instructor at TAP, Shelley will be supervising law students as they provide legal assistance to applicants and low-income tenants of affordable housing programs.

HRP Awards Four Post-Graduate Fellowships in Human Rights for the 2018-2019 Year

Via the International Human Rights Program

The Human Rights Program is pleased to announce its cohort of post-graduate fellowships in human rights. This year, Conor Hartnett, JD’18, and Alejandra Elguero Altner, LLM’17, have been awarded the Henigson Human Rights Fellowship and Jenny B. Domino, LLM’18, and Anna Khalfaoui, LLM’17, have been awarded the Satter Human Rights Fellowship.

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Students help challenge the exorbitant cost of calling from jail

Via Harvard Law Today

By Julie Rafferty, June 8, 2018

When does a simple 10 minute phone call from one spot in Massachusetts to another cost nearly $5?

When you are in the county lock-up in Bristol County in the southeast corner of the state.

These exorbitant fees can mount quickly and are a huge burden for families of people awaiting trial or serving sentences. They are now also the focus of a class action lawsuit that has given a pair of Harvard Law School students the opportunity to help frame both the legal and media strategies for prosecuting a high profile case to upend a lucrative prison telephone company contract that exploits inmates while enriching one county sheriff’s coffers.

Kelly Ganon,’19, Dylan Herts ’19 and Harvard Lecturer on Law Roger Bertling

Credit: Martha Stewart

L-R: Kelly Ganon,’19, Dylan Herts ’19 and Harvard Lecturer on Law Roger Bertling

The case was filed in May against Bristol County (Massachusetts) Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson and Securus Technologies, Inc., a Texas-based company that provides phone services for inmates across the country. Brought by four named plaintiffs – two of them inmates—the case alleges that the contract between the sherrif’s office and Securus represents an illegal kickback scheme that nearly doubles the cost of calls made from the county jail.

Organizations filing the litigation on behalf of the plaintiffs were the Consumer Protection Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, the National Consumer Law Center, Prisoners’ Legal Services, and Bailey & Glasser. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to halt the payment scheme and monetary relief to return the money extracted from class members.

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New Clinic Reports Call on NATO Members, Sweden to Join Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

As preparations for a US-North Korea summit highlight the ongoing threat posed by nuclear weapons, proponents of nuclear disarmament should increase their support for the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Momentum has been building. In May alone, three more countries ratified the treaty, bringing the total to 10; another 48 have signed. In addition, several countries have initiated national processes that represent an important step toward coming on board.

In this context, the Clinic is releasing two papers demonstrating why it is legally possible for even allies of nuclear armed states to join the TPN.

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Cassie Chambers’ (JD ’15) work led to the passage of Jeanette’s Law in Kentucky

While in law school Cassie Chambers devoted herself to clinical work at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.  In 2016, after a clerkship year, she received a Skadden Fellowship to work on domestic violence issues in Kentucky.  There she discovered that her divorce client, who was a survivor of domestic violence, was required to pay for a divorce attorney for her incarcerated spouse.   Cassie worked to change that.

Read more. 

Students honored at 2018 Class Day ceremony

Via Harvard Law Today

Class Day 2018 3

Credit: Heratch Ekmekjian

Tabitha Cohen (left) and Edith Sangueza, two of the many students recognized during the Class Day 2018 ceremony for various accomplishments during their time at Harvard Law School. Cohen and Sangueza (along with Annie Manhardt, not pictured) were awarded with the Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Award, given each year to students who demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to improving and delivering high quality volunteer legal services in low-income communities.

A number of Harvard Law students from the Class of 2018 received special awards during the Class Day ceremony on May 23. They were recognized for outstanding leadership, citizenship, compassion and dedication to their studies and the profession.


Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award

This year’s Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award was presented to Tabitha Cohen, Annie Manhardt and Edith Sangueza. (Read more)

Edith Sangueza contributed nearly 2,000 pro bono hours by working with three student practice organizations – Harvard Immigration Project (HIP), Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights, and Project No One Leaves – in addition to working as a student attorney for four semesters with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB). She spent her 2016 Spring Break volunteering with South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project, in Harlingen, Texas, and her 2017 Spring Break volunteering with American Gateways, in San Antonio. Her commitment to social justice also extended throughout her summers – she worked with Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración, in Mexico City, and with the Bronx Defenders, in New York.

Three students win Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Awards 1

Credit: Lorin Granger

Tabitha Cohen and Annie Manhardt

At Harvard Law School, Tabitha Cohen and Annie Manhardt both participated in the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) and the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI). At PLAP, they spent hundreds of pro bono hours as co-executive directors, managing a multitude of daily internal governance and programming issues. Throughout their time, they demonstrated tireless effort and dedication to advocating for the needs of prisoners by conducting investigations, counseling and interviewing clients, and presenting compelling arguments at hearings.

In a precedent-setting case for an elderly disabled parole client Cohen argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court whose ruling extended the Americans with Disabilities Act to mentally and physically disabled prisoners seeking parole. As a result of the case, the state must now help parolees get support systems in place in the community.

While at HLS, Manhardt also worked with Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts and the Office of the Defender General in Vermont. Cohen worked with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program , the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Florida and La Fundacion para el Acceso a la Justicia de Puerto Rico in San Juan.

The Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award is granted each year in honor of Professor Andrew Kaufman ’54, who has been instrumental in creating and supporting the Pro Bono Service Program at HLS.  J.D. students in the graduating class who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to pro bono work receive the award and an honorarium.

HLS requires all students to perform 50 hours of pro bono services but most go far beyond. This year, 10 students exceeded 2,000 hours of service and 112 students volunteered more than 1,000 hours.

In total, the Harvard Law School Class of 2018 contributed 376,532 hours of pro bono legal work.

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An advocate for children, Michael Jung ’18 has taken a wide view

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Lorin Granger

When he was in high school in his native South Korea, Ha Ryong (Michael) Jung ’18 volunteered at a custodial facility for neglected children. “It was wonderful and at the same time heartbreaking,” he remembers. “It seemed like they were isolated from the system and society. I was young at the time myself, so I didn’t really know what I could do as a person. But the more I gained work experience, the more I saw the need for law to help protect these children and their rights.”

A burgeoning interest in poverty and development led him to major in business administration at the University of Michigan; a summer research project on regional poverty and education in Ghana was so engaging that he and his fellow students learned traditional Ghanaian music and dance so that they could perform on campus to raise funds for girls who wanted to go to school. Returning home after college, he completed an internship with Korea’s National Assembly and his mandatory two-year service in the South Korean army, and worked with UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding.

Throughout, “children were still nagging at my heart,” he recalls. “I continuously came across instances where legal frameworks existed, and there was functioning law enforcement, but children were being sidelined. I wanted to understand what the international and national mechanisms were that exist to protect our children, and it was this curiosity that was really my primary motivation for coming to law school.”

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Carol Flores of CJI receives Shatter the Ceiling Award

Amy Soto, Administrative Director of CJI, with Carol Flores

Last month the Harvard Women’s Law Association presented the annual Shatter the Ceiling Award to Carol Flores, Administrative Coordinator of the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI).  In presenting the award the students noted that Carol contributes to the success of a program that makes a big impact on many students as well as criminal defendants.  “Her dedication and love for her job really shows.”  Congratulations, Carol!

Former Clinic Students Present Harvard Law Review Student Notes

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic

Of the four students whose work is represented in the Harvard Law Review’s April 2018 “Developments in the Law” issue, three are former students in the Cyberlaw Clinic and all have taken classes with our staff. The issue of the Law Review focuses on challenges posed by the vast amount of personal information that individuals now store digitally and with third party technology companies. The student authors, Audrey Adu-Appiah, Chloe Goodwin, Vinitra Rangan, and Ariel Teshuva, presented on their work to a packed room on Thursday, April 18, at the Law School, followed by a conversation moderated by Chris Bavitz.

Adu-Appiah presented on her Note, “The Video Privacy Protection Act as a Model Intellectual Privacy Statute,” arguing that while the VPPA is often seen as niche legislation and has been somewhat compromised by recent amendments, as originally passed it could be a strong model for a more general intellectual privacy regime which would apply to written materials as well as audio-visual ones.

Summarizing her Note, “Cooperation or Resistance? The Role of Tech Companies in Government Surveillance,” Goodwin argued that the two narratives that dominate discussion of tech companies’ involvement in government surveillance — that they are either doormats or bulwarks, depending on your perspective — is a vast oversimplification. Goodwin calls for new regulation that will align these companies’ incentives with those of their users.

Teshuva presented on a related topic to Goodwin’s, but focused particularly on the issue of standing to challenge legitimate surveillance of foreign individuals that sweeps up the communication of people located in the U.S., which would otherwise require a warrant from law enforcement. Her Note, “Standing, Surveillance, and Technology Companies,” points out that the present state of the law makes it extremely difficult for individuals to gain standing to challenge these practices, and vests the protection of their interests largely in the tech companies whose platforms they are using.

In what she described as a “hard right turn,” Rangan looked at how trusts and estates law is being impacted by these same developments. In her Note “What is an ‘Electronic Will’?” she argued that state legislatures need to parse the various types of electronic wills in order to instruct probate courts on how to properly evaluate this evidence of testators’ intent.

Following the students’ presentations, Professor Bavitz led an engaging discussion, highlighting issues such as the role of individuals in effecting change that drew connections between all four of the Notes presented.

Making Change: A Harvard Law School clinic helps the homeless earn a living

Via Harvard Law Today

Making Change: A Harvard Law School clinic helps the homeless earn a living (video)

 

CHLPI to present at Second annual “Food Is Medicine” symposium in Indianapolis

Via Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana will hold the second annual “Food Is Medicine” state symposium Thursday, April 12  in Indianapolis. The symposium will take an in-depth look at how medically tailored food plays a essential role in outcome-driven, cost-effective health care models.

Medically tailored food is prepared under the direction of a physician to individuals who are chronically ill with the individual patient’s specific nutritional needs in mind.

The symposium, which is in its second year, stems from Meals on Wheels’ involvement in the Food Is Medicine Coalition, a national association of medically tailored food and nutrition service providers. Meals on Wheels  joined the coalition in 2015 as part of an effort to strengthen its services to critically and chronically ill individuals.

“By partnering with medical providers, community organizations, and chronic disease experts to ensure low-income Hoosiers with critical and chronic diseases have access to medically tailored meals and more customized nutritional plans, we have the potential to positively impact their overall health while lowering health care costs,” said Barb Morris, CEO of Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana.

According to a study by The New England Journal of Medicine, food insecurity is one of the top ten causes for costly hospital readmissions. With a food intervention upon discharge, studies show this number can be reduced to as low as eight percent.  The problem is further exacerbated when patients are discharged from the hospital and return home to a bare pantry.

The symposium will bring together leaders representing health care organizations, state and local policymakers, elder care experts, academic and statewide advocacy groups.

Presenters:           

 

Understanding Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation under the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

By Bonnie Docherty

The humanitarian impact of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) depends on both its comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons and its obligations to assist victims and remediate the environment affected by use and testing. The former aims to prevent future harm, while the latter addresses harm that has already occurred.

The Clinic is releasing new papers on victim assistance and environmental remediation in order to increase awareness of these elements of the treaty. The short publications provide an overview of the provisions in the TPNW and guidance from other humanitarian disarmament treaties as to how they might be implemented.

The TPNW’s so-called “positive obligations” establish a framework of shared state responsibility for helping victims and cleaning the contaminated environment

During last year’s treaty negotiations at the United Nations, the Clinic worked closely with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. A team from the Clinic, along with advocates from Article 36, Mines Action Canada, and Pace University, played a leading role in ensuring that the treaty included the positive obligations.

Natalie Trigo Reyes ’19 wants to help vulnerable communities—starting at home in Puerto Rico

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Mark Ostow
Natalie Trigo Reyes ’19

After Hurricane Maria roared over Puerto Rico in September 2017, crippling the island where Natalie Trigo Reyes ’19 grew up and where much of her family still lived, she felt “completely overwhelmed.” Within days, however, she put together an event that raised about $40,000 for relief efforts, collected enough emergency goods to fill three large trucks, and joined Harvard Law Professor Andrew Manuel Crespo ’08 and Lee Mestre of the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs to plan the school’s response to the disaster.

Using her contacts (Trigo Reyes co-founded a non-profit in San Juan in 2012 to support public-private partnerships), she helped to organize a mission to Puerto Rico over the law school’s spring break to provide legal and humanitarian aid. “Natalie was our connection to this world of different NGOs, community leaders and charitable organizations,” says Crespo. “Any time we hit some sort of issue, bump, or question, Natalie said, ‘I’m on this.’”

Months after Maria hit, tens of thousands of Puerto Rican residents are still living without adequate shelter. About a dozen of the 29 Harvard Law students on the trip helped to repair houses damaged by the storm.  The others, including Trigo Reyes, worked with local lawyers in the Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Recovery Centers located around the island, helping residents file appeals to try to claim disaster relief they had been denied. About 60 percent of the claims filed with FEMA by Puerto Rico’s residents for money to rebuild homes have been rejected for insufficient documentation, according to reports.  Many houses have been passed informally from generation to generation, so much of the work focused on establishing a chain of ownership through affidavits, old land registry forms, or death certificates. This was complicated by the fact that Puerto Rico, which was a Spanish colony until 1898, has a legal code different from the rest of the U.S., based partly on the Spanish civil system. Trigo Reyes and the other students tried to get through as many FEMA appeals as they could—she remembers one morning when she filed 11—yet at the same time they wanted to take time for people who were traumatized by the storm and its aftermath, and needed to tell their stories. “Having the opportunity to go to these remote locations and help people claim [what is] rightfully theirs was really emotional for me,” says Trigo Reyes. “These are U.S. citizens, and they are entitled to these FEMA benefits.”

The work she did in Puerto Rico grew naturally out of her personal values and professional experience. She came to HLS with a degree in economics and six years of work in federal government, including in the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Chambers of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (as special assistant to the justice, she accompanied her on two trips to Puerto Rico). The HLS trip this spring also tied in with Trigo Reyes’ quest to seek out creative ways to use the law on behalf of vulnerable communities.

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HIRC files amicus brief on latest travel ban

Via the Harvard Immigration & Refugee Clinical Program

On March 30th, HIRC filed an amicus brief challenging President Trump’s latest immigration order. The brief argues that the travel ban violates federal immigration statutes and that this latest version, like its predecessors, is not based on any exigent situation involving diplomacy or military affairs. It replaces individualized determinations of risk with blanket prohibitions and thus reinstates a discriminatory system that Congress eliminated in 1965.

Dozens of immigration scholars from across the country signed on to the amicus brief, which was written in collaboration with Fatma Marouf (HLS ’02).

Read the brief here.

In Clinic Case, Jury Finds Former Bolivian President Responsible for Extrajudicial Killings of Indigenous People; Awards $10 Million in Damages

Via International Human Rights Clinic

April 3, 2018 – In a landmark decision today, a federal jury found the former president of Bolivia and his minister of defense responsible for extrajudicial killings carried out by the Bolivian military in September and October 2003. The decision comes after a ten-year legal battle spearheaded by family members of eight people killed in what is known in Bolivia as the “Gas War.” It marked the first time in U.S. history a former head of state has sat before his accusers in a U.S. human rights trial. The jury awarded a total of $10 million in compensatory damages to the plaintiffs.

Both the former Bolivian president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and his former defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, have lived in the United States since they fled Bolivia following the massacre known as “Black October.”  During that period, more than 50 people were killed and hundreds were injured. In Bolivia, in 2011, former military commanders and government officials who acted under Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín’s authority were convicted for their roles in the killings. Both Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín were indicted in the same case, but could not be tried in abstentia under Bolivian law.

The lawsuit originated in the International Human Rights Clinic, and dozens of students have worked on the case since 2006.

“After many years of fighting for justice for our family members and the people of Bolivia, we celebrate this historic victory,” said Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, a plaintiff and member of the indigenous Aymara community of Bolivia, who were victims of the defendants’ decision to use massive military force against the population. “Fifteen years after they fled justice, we have finally held Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín to account for the massacre they unleashed against our people.”

In Mamani v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, the families of eight Bolivians who were killed filed suit against Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín in 2007. Today’s verdict affirms the plaintiffs’ claims that the two defendants were legally responsible for the extrajudicial killings and made decisions to deploy military forces in civilian communities in order to violently quash opposition to their policies.

“To me, it was the biggest honor of my life to work with the plaintiffs and learn from them in their struggle for justice,” said Thomas Becker ’08, who brought the idea for the lawsuit to IHRC after spending time in Bolivia and learning about the massacre there. “It’s an extraordinary privilege to witness this and be a small part of this.”

The three-week trial included the testimony of 29 witnesses from across Bolivia who recounted their experiences of the 2003 killings. Twenty-three appeared in person. Eight plaintiffs testified about the deaths of their family members, including: Etelvina Ramos Mamani and Eloy Rojas Mamani, whose eight-year-old daughter Marlene was killed in front of her mother when a single shot was fired through the window; Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, whose pregnant wife Teodosia was killed after a bullet was fired through the wall of a house; Felicidad Rosa Huanca Quispe, whose 69-year-old father Raul was shot and killed along a roadside; and Gonzalo Mamani Aguilar, whose father Arturo was shot and killed while tending his crops.

One witness, a former soldier in the Bolivian military, testified about being ordered to shoot at “anything that moves” in a civilian community, while another recounted witnessing a military officer kill a soldier for refusing to follow orders to shoot at unarmed civilians. Witnesses recounted how tanks rolled through in the streets and soldiers shot for hours on end. Others testified about how the president and minister of defense committed to a military option instead of pursuing dialogue with community leaders to reach a peaceful resolution.

In 2016, a U.S. appeals court held that the plaintiffs could proceed with their claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), which authorizes suits for monetary damages in U.S. federal court for extrajudicial killings. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín then sought and were denied a review by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017, and the case moved forward in U.S. District Court. After a review of the evidence gathered by both sides, District Court Judge James I. Cohn ruled on February 14 that the plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

“There are just no words for what the plaintiffs have done over the past ten years to seek justice for their lost loved ones as well as many others who were killed in Bolivia,” said Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. “Today the jury gave the plaintiffs a huge victory, and showed that the former president and his defense minister are not above the law.”

“When I heard the verdict, I almost couldn’t believe it,” added Susan Farbstein, Co-Director of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. “The only thing I could think of was: We didn’t let down the plaintiffs, we didn’t disappoint them, we did our jobs.”

The plaintiffs and their litigation team.

The plaintiffs and their litigation team.

As co-counsel, the International Human Rights Clinic has been involved in all phases of the litigation from the outset, including researching and drafting for the complaint and various motions and briefs, assisting with oral arguments, and undertaking more than a dozen investigative missions to Bolivia since 2007. Over the past year, during the discovery phase, students traveled to Bolivia numerous times, and assisted with document review, interrogatories, and the depositions of plaintiffs, witnesses and experts; more than a half dozen students worked on every facet of the case during the three weeks of trial.

“It was fascinating to work under the legal team and have complete faith in their talent and ability to manage such a complex case,” said Amy Volz ’18, who traveled to Bolivia on four fact-finding trips. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

After the jury announced its verdict, the defendants made a motion asking the judge to overturn the jury’s finding of liability against both defendants. Both parties will submit briefing on this issue in the coming weeks.

“We’re not one to leave halfway through the fight,” said Baltazar Cerro. “We will struggle until the last moment.”

In addition to the Clinic, a team of lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the law firms of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman, LLP, and Akerman LLP are representing the family members. Lawyers from the Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia) are cooperating attorneys.

Spring Break with Project Citizenship

By Andrew Patterson, J.D. ’20

Over Spring Break, I had the opportunity to work with Project Citizenship, a Boston-based organization that exists to help Legal Permanent Residents become United States citizens.  I had an amazing experience that enabled me to jump right into working with clients, including providing direct representation at a USCIS citizenship interview.

The naturalization process is complex and expensive.  The forms can be daunting, filled with confusing language and oddly intrusive questions.  The application process can cost up to $725 in fees, posing a high financial hurdle.  Because of these obstacles, many Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) avoid the naturalization process and forego the benefits of citizenship – among them the right to vote and, increasingly important, security from deportation.

Project Citizenship exists to assist LPR’s overcome these difficulties by helping them determine eligibility, prepare the forms, and obtain fee waivers.  Much of my work with them consisted of screening applicants for citizenship eligibility, often in Spanish, and then setting them up with an appointment to attend one of the Project’s workshops.  During my week there I also got to work with clients at a day-long workshop, assisting them with citizenship applications and fee waivers alongside dozens of pro-bono attorneys.  That day we submitted close to 80 citizenship applications, and with Project Citizenship’s 95% approval rate, the great majority of those applicants will soon be U.S. citizens.

Project Citizenship also does important work advocating for LPR clients who have a disability.  Prospective citizens usually have to show proficiency in English and U.S. civics and take the oath of citizenship, but certain applicants can be exempted from those requirements, namely those whose disability prevents them from learning English and Civics or from understanding the oath.  Applicants seeking a disability waiver must provide a written determination from a medical doctor explaining why they cannot prepare for these tests or understand the oath.  Even with this completed form, applicants for these waivers can be met with stiff resistance from the USCIS officers adjudicating their applications.  Project Citizenship and their pro-bono attorneys have encountered USCIS officers who are hostile to these applicants and who look for any pretext – such as minor mistakes in the paperwork – to reject these waiver requests.  Occasionally they also violate their own regulations by substituting their judgment for a doctor’s and by inquiring into other facets of the applicant’s life that have no bearing on the specific issue of ability to learn English and Civics.  Project Citizenship and its pro bono lawyers play an important role in these situations by challenging illegitimate grounds for rejection and ensuring that USCIS follows its own regulations.

Project Citizenship’s attorney Mitchell Montgomery, who serves through the AmeriCorps Legal Advocates of Massachusetts program, provided training and mentorship that enabled me to represent one of these clients.  I attended a citizenship interview with an applicant who had a cognitive disability, along with one of her family members who would answer questions and take the oath on her behalf.  The interview went smoothly and my client became a citizen that day.  My most valuable assistance ended up being simply describing the process to my client’s daughter and advising her on which parts of the application would elicit questions from the interviewing officer, and then helping her answer questions.  A big part of my role was decoding the process for the client to make it less intimidating.

Overall, the week provided great experience in improving interviewing skills and exposed me to direct representation in an administrative advocacy scenario.  Project Citizenship provided outstanding training and struck the right balance between stretching one beyond the comfort zone and ensuring adequate preparation.  I highly recommend that any HLS student interested in immigration and naturalization issues spend time working with Project Citizenship.

Upcoming Clinic Application Deadlines

Please note the upcoming clinic application deadlines:

Making Rights Real: The Ghana Project Clinic – Application Deadline Extended to August 25, 2017

Government Lawyer: Semester in Washington Clinic – Applications Due By August 25, 2017

Spanish for Public Interest Lawyers Fall 2017

Spanish for Public Interest Lawyers is a non-credit class that offers HLS students the opportunity to learn Spanish language skills in a legal context, emphasizing language most commonly used in civil and criminal legal services practice. The class will strengthen existing Spanish speaking and comprehension abilities and teach Spanish legal vocabulary to students involved in public interest legal practice. The class will introduce students to general legal Spanish vocabulary (e.g. immigration, human rights, legal aid, etc.). Students will work to develop stronger attorney-client relations by improving communication with Spanish-speaking clients.

STUDENTS MUST HAVE AT LEAST ADVANCED PROFICIENCY IN SPANISH.

To Apply: Email clinical@law.harvard.edu with the following information by 5 PM on Wednesday, August 30:

  • Name
  • Year (1L, 2L, 3L, LL.M.)
  • If applicable, name of the clinic or SPO you will be working with in the spring and any clinic or SPO you have previously worked with.
  • At least one paragraph, in Spanish, describing your general interests and your focus in law sch
  • Bullet points (also in Spanish) that list past or current experiences you’ve had speaking Spanish or working with Spanish-speaking client

Students will be contacted by September 1 with the results of their application. Students who are accepted will receive more information about the class schedule and location. Classes will be held weekly. The first class will meet the week of September 11 and the last class will meet the week of November 13.

Emily Broad Leib: Named One of the 5 Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink

Time Magazine has named Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, and Deputy Director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, Emily Broad Leib, as one of The 5 Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink.

Time compiled the list by highlighting their top 5 honorees from a report by Food & Wine Magazine where she was named as one of the 20 Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink. She was chosen due to her work related to food date labeling and food waste.

Congratulations, Emily!

Read the story here.

Spanish for Public Interest Lawyers – Fall 2015

Description

Spanish for Public Interest Lawyers is a non-credit class that offers HLS students the opportunity to learn Spanish language skills in a legal context, emphasizing language most commonly used in civil and criminal legal services practice.

The class will strengthen existing Spanish speaking and comprehension abilities and teach Spanish legal vocabulary to students involved in public interest legal practice. The class will introduce students to general legal Spanish vocabulary (e.g. immigration, human rights, legal aid, etc.). Students will work to develop stronger attorney-client relations by improving communication with Spanish-speaking clients.

Student Requirements

  • Students must have at least advanced proficiency in Spanish.
  • This class is not for credit, but regular attendance is required. The class will meet once a week for two hours (7-9PM, day of the week TBD).
  • Class participation is vital and outside homework is minimal. Language practice and listening to Spanish between classes is encouraged.

Enrollment

  • Enrollment is limited to 20 students.
  • 2L and 3L students currently in a direct services clinic or SPO who have at least advanced proficiency in Spanish will receive priority.
  • Students meeting the criteria will be accepted through a randomized selection process.

To Apply

Email clinical at law.harvard.edu with the following information by 5 PM on Monday, August 31:

  • Name
  • Year (1L, 2L, 3L)
  • If applicable, name of the clinic or SPO you will be working with in the fall and any clinic or SPO you have previously worked with.
  • Rank in order of preference ideal class time: (Tuesdays 7-9PM) (Wednesdays 7-9PM)
  • At least one paragraph, in Spanish, describing your general interests and your focus in law school.
  • Bullet points (also in Spanish) that list past or current experiences you’ve had speaking Spanish or working with Spanish-speaking clients.

Students will be contacted on September 2 with the results of their application. Students who are accepted will receive information about the class meeting time. Classes will be held weekly. The first class will meet the week of September 8 and the last class will meet the week of November 10.

 

DEADLINE EXTENDED (1/15/15 at 5PM) – Spanish for Public Interest Lawyers, Spring 2015

Spanish for Public Interest Lawyers is a non-credit class that offers HLS students the opportunity to learn Spanish language skills in a legal context, emphasizing language most commonly used in civil and criminal legal services practice.

The class will strengthen existing Spanish speaking and comprehension abilities and teach Spanish legal vocabulary to students involved in public interest legal practice.  The class will introduce students to general legal Spanish vocabulary (e.g. immigration, human rights, legal aid, etc.).  Students will work to develop stronger attorney-client relations by improving communication with Spanish-speaking clients.

Student Requirements

  • Students must have at least advanced proficiency in Spanish.
  • This class is not for credit, but regular attendance is required.  The class will meet once a week for two hours (time TBD).
  • Class participation is vital and outside homework is minimal. Language practice and listening to Spanish between classes is encouraged.

Enrollment

  • Enrollment is limited to 20 students.
  • 2L and 3L students currently in a direct services clinic or SPO who have at least advanced proficiency in Spanish will receive priority.
  • Students meeting the criteria will be accepted through a randomized selection process.

To Apply

Email clinical@law.harvard.edu with the following information by5PM on Thursday, January 15:

  • Name
  • Year (2L, 3L)
  • Name of clinic or SPO you will be working with in the spring and any clinic or SPO you have previously worked with.
  • Rank in order of preference ideal class time:

Tuesdays 7-9PM
Wednesdays 7-9PM

  • At least one paragraph, in Spanish, describing your general interests and your focus in law school.
  • Bullet points (also in Spanish) that list past or current experiences you’ve had speaking Spanish or working with Spanish-speaking clients.

Students will be contacted on January 16 with the results of their application. Students who are accepted will receive information about the class meeting time.  Classes will be held weekly.  The first class will meet the week of January 26 and the last class will meet the week of April 20.

A warm welcome to Ina Spaho

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs would like to extend a warm welcome to its new Office Coordinator, Ina Spaho. Ina will serve as a point of contact for the Clinics to communicate their achievements to the Harvard Law School Community and to the public.

Prior to joining the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, Ina worked at the Massachusetts State House, first with the Joint Committee on Education and later on with Joint Committee on Financial Services. Her experience includes managing legislation, constituent services, media relations, and  office administration. Ina also served as a Legislative Specialist for InstaTrac, where she reported on public testimony, researched policy issues, and liaised with the Senate, House, and Joint Committees at the State House.

Ina received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Affairs magna cum laude from Northeastern University. She was also recognized as the Department of Political Science Outstanding Senior in Experiential Education for her accomplishments in working with the European Parliament, the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office, and volunteer activities with the College of Arts and Sciences Tutoring Department and the “Linking Education and Diversity” Program.

Please stop in and meet Ina!

Harvard Community Dialogue: Reflecting on Syria – Fri, 9/13, 2-4pm (WCC 2019)

Rachel Viscomi ‘01 Joins The Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program

Rachel Viscomi ‘01

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs would like to extend a warm welcome to the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program’s new Clinical Instructor and Assistant Director, Rachel Viscomi.

Prior to joining HNMCP, Rachel Viscomi `01, was a civil litigator at Bingham McCutchen, LLP then worked as a Principal in the Corporate Education Practice of Vantage Partners.  Rachel also taught for several summers with Prof. Bordone at the Harvard Negotiation Institute, a summer program geared towards practitioners in the field.

Rachel is very enthusiastic about returning to HLS: “I cannot imagine a more exciting opportunity. There’s no question that the work that Bob and HNMCP are doing is on the very cutting edge of the dispute resolution field and it is a delight to be joining such a vibrant and dynamic team,” notes Viscomi. “Personally, it is a great joy to return to HLS and to give back to the program that shaped my career.”

Note: This post was adapted from the HNMCP website

The Intersection of Immigration and Criminal Law

Phil Torrey, Clinical Instructor

Clinical Instructor Phil Torrey and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic are featured on the HLS website.

Read more: Clinical Opportunities and a new class at the intersection of immigration and criminal law

 

A Warm Welcome to Liala Buoniconti

Liala Buoniconti, HIRC Social Worker

The HLS Clinical community welcomes Liala Buoniconti, HIRC’s first staff social worker.  Liala brings over 10 years of experience working with immigrants and refugees to her position, and will be an invaluable addition to the HIRC team.

Read more: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/harvardimmigrationclinic/

HIRC is the third HLS clinic to have a social worker on staff.  Chris Pierce is at the Criminal Justice Institute and Anne Eisner is at the Education Law Clinic at the Trauma Learning Policy Initiative.

A Canadian intern reflects on her work at HIRC

L-R: Lily Axelrod, HLS ’15 and Isabelle Sauriol, HIRC Summer Interns 2013

By Isabelle Sauriol, a 2013 L.L.B. graduate of the University of Montreal

The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HIRC) is an intern’s dream come true. While the place is unique in and of itself – filled with natural light, welcoming photos and captivating artwork – it’s the people occupying it that make the Clinic so special. One immediately feels at home in the friendly work environment of HIRC, where laughter, opinions (and candy consumption!) are encouraged.

Working with refugees can be challenging at times, given the constant need to adapt oneself to the cultural and religious backgrounds and often tremendously difficult pasts of each client. But as HIRC Fellow Emily Leung puts it, it is first and foremost an “incredibly rewarding experience.” Professor Deborah Anker and her team have made it their mission to help out this vulnerable population by extending the limits of the law by way of amicus briefs and conferences on topics such as gender-based asylum claims and gang-related asylum, as well as by exploring creative interpretations of asylum law.

Interning at the HIRC provided me with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with various immigration processes such as asylum, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and protection under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), under the supervision of two amazing lawyers, the Clinic’s own Phil Torrey and Sabrineh Ardalan. Together, we conducted interviews with asylum seekers and gathered evidence to corroborate our clients’ cases through country conditions research, medical expertise and psychological reports.  I also had the privilege of exploring some of the fascinating course material offered to HLS students, such as Crimmigration: The Intersection of Criminal Law and Immigration Law and a reading group on Trauma, Human Rights and Refugee Law.

Boston Globe highlights the questionable foreclosure practices of many banks in Massachusetts

Via The Boston Globe:

Some homeowners who say they were not treated fairly during the foreclosure process are going to court and — increasingly — winning rulings that force lenders to reverse completed property seizures.

Eloise Lawrence, an attorney at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau in Cambridge, said she has helped more than two dozen homeowners overturn their foreclosures in Lynn alone based on problems with right-to-cure notices.

Lawrence said it is especially important that lenders follow the letter of the law in Massachusetts, a state where foreclosures do not go before a judge for final review.

“The bank can take your house without ever going to court, and so properly notifying homeowners of their rights is a critical safeguard against wrongful foreclosures,” she said.

Nnena Odim: A Top Women of Law Honoree

Nnena Odim, Senior Clinical Instructor

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly has named Nnena Odim at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center as one of its Top Women for 2013.  A lunch time event will be held on October 31st at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel to recognize Nnena and the other honorees.

Read more:  Top Women of the Law posted on Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

HLS Clinic Launches Mattapan Initiative to Avert Foreclosures

L-R: Julia Devanthery, Roger Bertling, Maureen McDonagh, Charlie Carrier and Brandon German

HLS News, recently profiled the efforts of the Mattapan Initiative, a program dedicated to combating foreclosures in Mattapan:

With a $415,000 grant from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office—and the help of a groundbreaking new law that offers homeowners strong pre-foreclosure protections—the HLS WilmerHale Legal Services Center (LSC) has launched a new program to help fight foreclosures in Mattapan, one of Boston’s most challenged neighborhoods.

The Mattapan Initiative, which will have a special focus on pre-foreclosure efforts as well as expanding post-foreclosure work, is under the direction of Roger Bertling, a Senior Clinical Instructor and Director of the LSC’s Predatory Lending and Consumer Protection Unit. The grant has provided for the hiring of two full-time attorneys with expertise in fighting foreclosures as well as a community outreach coordinator to inform Mattapan residents of the initiative and their rights under the new law.

“We feel very fortunate that the money came in at the same time the law came into place,” says Bertling, who has been supervising HLS students in anti-foreclosure work at LSC since the foreclosure crisis first emerged over six years ago. “It places us in the forefront of people doing [anti-foreclosure] work, and in keeping with the tradition of LSC being at the edge of where legal work meets community need.”

In February 2012, 49 state attorneys general and the federal government announced an historic $25 billion settlement with the country’s five largest mortgage servicers over fraudulent mortgage practices. In addition to direct payments to some former homeowners, the settlement also provided funds to the states; Massachusetts, which received $44.5 million, has used some of the money to establish the AG’s HomeCorps program and for anti-foreclosure grants.

“These grants are designed to help Massachusetts homeowners impacted by the foreclosure crisis with direct financial and legal assistance,” says Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, “and Harvard Law School—through the Mattapan Initiative—is doing just that. We are pleased to see this funding being used for critical foreclosure prevention efforts and mitigation services as we work to stabilize communities across the Commonwealth.”

Meanwhile, the new state law—unlike any other in the country, Bertling says—offers homeowners who’ve been victimized by predatory loans strong new protections including requiring lenders to offer loan modifications before they can proceed with foreclosure, in many circumstances. In the past, homeowners usually had to wait until foreclosure began to have any success in fighting back. The Act Preventing Unnecessary and Unlawful Foreclosures was passed by the Massachusetts legislature last August, and the Mattapan Initiative will be at the leading edge of making sure banks comply with it, Bertling says.

“It puts another tool in the legal services attorney’s tool box for getting the homeowner some leverage so they can stay in their home at an affordable payment, which is our goal,” adds Charlie Carriere, who was hired as a clinical fellow in the Predatory Lending Practice through the grant to focus on pre-foreclosure cases. Carriere joined the Mattapan Initiative in March after serving as a clinical fellow at the California Monitor Program, where his work focused on enforcement of the National Mortgage Settlement.

Since launching in March, the Mattapan Initiative has interviewed scores of Mattapan residents, although full representation of most of them has been on hold until recently, when the precise parameters of the law became clear. Brandon German, a marketing expert with community organizing experience hired with the grant funds to head community outreach for the Initiative, has been going door-to-door in Mattapan to inform residents of the new law and the work of the LSC, as well as attending community events and holding information sessions. “Our whole goal is to find people before they are displaced,” he says. “We want to prevent displacement and homelessness, and protect neighborhoods.” His message has been enthusiastically received, he says, although the biggest hurdle is convincing homeowners that LSC doesn’t charge them for its legal services.

Now that regulations related to the act were finally promulgated, in June, Bertling expects pre-foreclosure legal activity to ratchet up in the next weeks as lenders and attorneys react to the new requirements—just in time for the clinical students in the new academic year. Starting in the fall, students in two LSC units—the predatory lending/consumer unit and the post-foreclosure housing unit—will participate in the Mattapan Initiative, presenting them with exceptional education opportunities, Bertling says.

“They will be looking at an entirely new law with new regulations that no one has interpreted before,” says Bertling. “There is no case law. So it’s a whole new version of learning the law, with no precedent to rely on. They’ll have to figure out what the law means and how it will be implemented. That’s a rare opportunity.”

HLS is a national leader in fighting the foreclosure crisis. Both LSC and the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau have been working for years to assist tenants and homeowners fight wrongful evictions, especially since the foreclosure crisis of 2008, including through the nationally renowned Project No One Leaves, launched by two former bureau students.

The Mattapan Initiative is an expansion of those efforts, with a unique slant: focusing on particular section of Boston. Bertling says they chose to focus on Mattapan for a number of reasons, including that it is a traditionally underserved area, has an overwhelming minority population—primarily African-American and Haitian-American—that have difficulty accessing legal help, and has an unusually high percentage of single-family homes for Boston.

“Folks are still struggling and bearing the brunt of these incredibly predatory loans made some time ago that only now are rearing their ugly heads and making it so families can’t make their mortgage payments, which sets off the foreclosure process,” says Julia Devanthéry, who was hired with the grant money as a staff attorney for the Initiative, and will focus on post-foreclosure work in Mattapan.  “The roots of this crisis are in the bad loans that were made in a totally deregulated environment and were predatory to begin with, and were never meant to succeed.”

“It’s a really exciting opportunity for all of us,” says Bertling. “We have a longstanding, great relationship with the [state] Attorney General’s office, and this is another way they’re showing how highly they think of our work.”

Read more: Hope for homeowners facing foreclosure in Mattapan from the July 30, 2013 Boston Globe.

By Elaine McCardle

The Mattapan Initiative was also profiled on August 1, 2013 in the Dorchester Reporter.

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