Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

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Category: Clinical Spotlight (page 1 of 19)

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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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.

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.

Crimmigration Clinic Wins Case at the Board of Immigration Appeals

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

Working under the direction of HIRC’s Managing Attorney Phil Torrey, Crimmigration Clinic students Clarissa Lehne ’18 and Mike Ewart ’18 successfully argued before the Board of Immigration Appeals that their client’s conviction should not result in his detention and deportation.

“It was incredibly rewarding to see a tangible result of the work that we put in at the clinic,” said Lehne.  Echoing her sentiment, Ewart further noted that “so much of law school is theoretical, the opportunity to apply the knowledge we learned in Phil’s Crimmigration class to an actual case was invaluable—and easier said than done.”

The client is a longtime lawful permanent resident who was convicted under a statute that criminalizes a broad range of conduct, including relatively minor conduct.  The Department of Homeland Security argued on appeal at the Board that the immigration judge’s initial determination that the conviction did not trigger removal was wrong.  The Crimmigration Clinic’s response brief demonstrated why the conviction did not categorically match a ground of removal in the immigration statute.

“For me this case underscores the importance of access to counsel in the immigration context (where there is no equivalent to the public defender system). Here, our client had a winning argument, but it was one that would have been extremely difficult to make without legal training and the resources we had at our disposal,” noted Ewart.

After the Board terminated the client’s removal proceedings he was released from immigration detention so that he could be reunited with his family.

Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead

Via Harvard Law Today

Experts gather to reflect on a growing movement to end the international proliferation of inhumane and indiscriminate weapons

Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead 1

Credit: Heratch Ekmekjian
In early March, international experts gathered for “Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead,” the inaugural conference of the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) at Harvard Law School.

Earlier this month, about two dozen international experts gathered for “Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead,” the inaugural conference of the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) at Harvard Law School.

Drawing on their own involvement in creating international law, conference participants reflected on the development of the humanitarian disarmament movement, which strives to end civilian suffering caused by inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, and discussed where the movement should go from here. Humanitarian disarmament is a key focus of the ACCPI, which formally launched under the leadership of Associate Director Bonnie Docherty ’01 on March 5.

“I was thrilled to have the key players in humanitarian disarmament on campus, and the energy they brought was inspiring,” said Docherty. “It was the perfect way to kick off the ACCPI.”

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Mid Semester 2018 in the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic

By Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.)

Twenty-seven HLS students, the largest group ever enrolled in the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic and Class, are well into their work with judges throughout the Massachusetts trial courts. Their judicial internships include the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Superior Court, various Divisions of the Boston Municipal Court, and the Newton District Court. Three LLM students are participating including one judge from Korea. Student placements are nicely balanced between the federal court, the Superior Court, and a variety of community courts throughout the neighborhoods of Boston.

Student observations about their experiences during the semester reinforce the value of direct exposure to the realities of our judicial system. A sample of their reflection papers describe different but equally valuable insights:

“…, I can already tell that this clinic will be an invaluable experience for an aspiring litigator. The opportunity to experience firsthand a trial judge’s decision-making adds a practical dimension to something which had been, for the most part, purely academic.”

“A good lawyer clearly has to treat folks with respect and maintain those relationships on a daily basis. You never know when you’ll need them.”

“Attending the hearing was very enlightening but also very sad. Witnessing a real defendant receive a sentence with her family sitting behind her puts into perspective how many lives are impacted by the judicial system every day.”

“Only one defense attorney was a person of color. The disparity made me extremely uncomfortable – here I was witnessing a body of white people locking up black folks. This was the exact dynamic I had studied in college and worked on in various internships addressing criminal justice reform. It was hard to observe in real life.”

“Essentially I got to see what it is like being chastised by a judge who is extremely unhappy with counsel’s conduct. I’ll certainly keep that lesson in mind and carefully read judicial orders when I am practicing.”

“My judge exemplified many of the features extolled in the Excellent Judges reading. The sentence was not a “mathematical” or “logical” application of the guidelines, it was based on his practice with recidivism, his experience of the human character, and his knowledge.”

Whether gaining insight into judicial reasoning, learning lessons for future practice, or observing justice issues in real time, every student in this clinic is broadening their understanding of the judicial process in trial courts.

Cravath Fellows pursue law projects around the world

Via Harvard Law Today

During Winter Term, students traveled to nine countries to do clinical work and research

Headshot of student

Credit: Lorin Granger

Niku Jafarnia ’19 spent Winter Term in Amman, Jordan, undertaking an independent clinical with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). Her commitment to working with refugees and asylum seekers began in college, when she drew on her Iranian heritage and her fluency in Farsi as an intake volunteer. A semester abroad, and later a Fulbright grant, took her to Turkey, where she lived in a city with a large Iranian and Afghan LGBTI refugee community. “I started teaching them English classes and tried to support them along their journey. I essentially chose to come to law school to be a better advocate for these communities.”

At HLS, Jafarnia became deeply involved in work arising from the executive orders banning travelers from Muslim countries from entering the U.S., gathering a group of classmates to protest at Logan Airport, returning the next week to assist affected travelers and working with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic on its amicus briefs to the 9th Circuit and the Supreme Court. Her Winter Term clinical in Jordan afforded her an opportunity to explore the full effects of the ban, well before the people affected try to enter the U.S. For the two years before the ban, “the U.S. was taking in significantly more refugees than any other place in the world. At the end of the day, even though many more spots have opened up in other countries, it’s just not enough to make up for the decrease in U.S. spots,” she explains.

Working at IRAP allowed her to refine the client intake skills she has been building through the chance to interview clients during her time there. Additionally, drawing on her earlier experience in Turkey, she researched and drafted a memo describing the ways in which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has failed to meet its own standards. IRAP also set up meetings for its interns with a wide range of important actors, from UNHCR and UNICEF to smaller NGOs working on the ground. “It was an amazing opportunity to get an in-depth look as to what issues refugees are facing daily—from a basic, housing-and-needs level, to a policy level in Jordan.”

Traveling to Jordan gave Jafarnia a chance to address these issues from a new comparative lens. “Each country presents a unique set of challenges for refugees”; she notes; Jordan hosts a significant number of refugees, but does not offer employment for them, and is almost entirely landlocked, which makes it more difficult for refugees to leave.

“My hope for the future is to start my own organization, giving refugees legal assistance but also empowering refugees with legal backgrounds to be doing this work themselves,” she explains. “I think countries have to work significantly harder at giving refugees work opportunities. Once you let people in, they need to be given the opportunity to create a life for themselves. There’s an image of people who have been displaced as burdens on the system, when in fact they’re not given the opportunity to be self-sustaining.” Her Winter Term work in Jordan has confirmed for her that this is a change that has to happen very soon.

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One win against weapons could fuel another

Via Harvard Gazette

Successful campaign banning landmines could provide blueprint against nuclear arms, panel says

During "From Landmines to Nuclear Weapons," a panel featuring Steve Goose (from left) and Beatrice Fihn and moderated by Bonnie Docherty of the Law School addressed the origins and evolution of humanitarian disarmament while reflecting on their roles negotiating treaties that ban landmines, cluster munitions, and nuclear weapons.

During “From Landmines to Nuclear Weapons,” a panel featuring Steve Goose (from left) and Beatrice Fihn and moderated by Bonnie Docherty of the Law School addressed the origins and evolution of humanitarian disarmament while reflecting on their roles negotiating treaties that ban landmines, cluster munitions, and nuclear weapons.
Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

When the movement began in 1992, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was considered quixotic, its proponents unrealistically idealistic, its efforts doomed to fail. Twenty-five years and one Nobel Peace Prize later, more than 180 countries have signed its 1997 treaty, agreeing not only to avoid using the weapons but to help remove them from areas where they have been abandoned and remain a danger to life, limbs, and livelihoods.

Nuclear weapons, now a reality of our modern world, could go the same way, say the activists behind the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Indeed, humanitarian rights activists say, they must. On Monday at Harvard Law School’s Austin Hall, the anti-nuclear campaign’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, joined Steve Goose, co-founder of the landmines-ban group and executive director of Human Rights Watch’s arms division, to discuss the origin and evolution of the mine campaign, and how the tactics of the first can be applied to the next.

“Everybody said it was impossible to do,” said Goose, looking back at the long road to the 1997 landmine treaty. “After we finally did it, people said, ‘Oh, that wasn’t that hard. It was a one-off. Circumstances allowed that to happen.’” They also, he reported, said its success could not be replicated.

Monday’s discussion was designed to prove that false. Indeed, this first public event of Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead (moderated by Bonnie Docherty, associate director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection at Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic) started off by outlining the similarities — and the successes — of other recent campaigns.

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Bonnie Docherty Launches Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Bonnie Docherty, Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection, talking with colleagues.

The International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) is thrilled to announce the launch of the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI), which aims to reduce the harm caused by armed conflict through targeted advocacy, leadership development, and the generation of innovative solutions.

The ACCPI will be led by Bonnie Docherty, Lecturer on Law and Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection, who is an internationally renowned leader in the field of humanitarian disarmament. Docherty has worked at the heart of almost every major civil society campaign to ban inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, or curtail their use to minimize the impacts on civilians. She was a critical player in the 2008 cluster munitions ban, as well as the nuclear weapons ban, adopted in July of last year.

“Today’s armed conflicts are causing countless civilian casualties, destroying infrastructure and the environment, and driving people from their homes,” said Docherty, who also works as a Senior Researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. “This initiative represents a unique opportunity to provide focused support to the movement dealing with these issues, as well as to students interested in making a career in the field.”

Since she arrived at the Clinic in 2005, Docherty has put clinical students at the heart of her advocacy, supervising them on everything from field research in Lebanon to lobbying at the UN. Under her leadership, and through her mentorship, students have gone on to work as field researchersadvocates in peace negotiations, and policy analysts, actively working to protect civilians from the effects of armed conflict.

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Concern over a DACA deadline

Via Harvard Law Today

At an HLS event, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic directors will discuss legal strategies for fighting back on DACA deadline

Concern over a DACA deadline

Credit: Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
HGSE Professor Roberto Gonzales is one of the organizers of the DACA seminar at Harvard, a series of events exploring questions about the termination of DACA and TPS, deportations, and the current state of immigration policy.

Between 60 and 80 undocumented students are studying at Harvard, and though they’re a small fraction of the student body, some could have their lives eventually turned upside down.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had pegged March 5 as the end date for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which legally shields young immigrant students from deportation. It has been unclear what the government would do after the deadline passes. However, the Supreme Court said on Monday that it would not rule on the administration plan to end the program. Since federal district judges in New York and California previously issued injunctions against its quick end, the March 5 date likely is now too soon for a program phase-out. Still, the students’ worries remain.

To draw attention to the students’ quandary, three Harvard professors and a Ph.D. student in African and African American studies launched the DACA Seminar, a series of events on campus aimed at sparking conversations about the future of DACA and immigration policy and reform, while working to understand the students’ options.

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Emmett Clinic Drafts Amicus Brief Explaining Dicamba Harms

Via Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

The Emmett Clinic filed an amicus brief in a 9th Circuit case challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of Monsanto’s XtendiMax—a new formulation of the highly-volatile and toxic herbicide dicamba.  EPA conditionally approved the product in 2016, based in part on Monsanto’s assurances that its formulation was less volatile than previous dicamba formulations.  Environmental and farming organizations challenged this decision in court.

Monsanto developed this new herbicide in response to increasing resistance to glyphosate (Roundup) in weeds.  Although dicamba is normally lethal to broadleaf crops such as soybeans and cotton, Monsanto genetically engineered varieties of these crops to be resistant to dicamba.  During the application process, commenters warned EPA that dicamba is very volatile and therefore has a tendency to drift, risking harm to other farmers’ fields or native vegetation.  As the Clinic’s brief explains, EPA’s approval of the herbicide resulted in widespread harm throughout the South and Midwest in 2017: at least 3.6 million acres of soybeans in 24 states were damaged by dicamba drift.  Farmers who want to plant soybeans feel that they have lost their freedom of choice: either they plant Monsanto’s resistant seeds or risk having their crops killed by drift from a neighboring farmer’s field.  EPA should not place farmers in this untenable position.

The Emmett Clinic filed this brief on behalf of several farmer support organizations: Family Farm Defenders, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Iowa Organic Association, Kansas Rural Center, Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing, Inc., Organic Farmers Association, and Save Our Crops Coalition.  Clinic student Heather Romero (JD ’19) and Deputy Director Shaun Goho wrote the brief.

Emmett Clinic Files Brief Supporting Chlorpyrifos Ban

Via Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

The Emmett Clinic filed an amicus brief  in a 9th Circuit case challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to ban agricultural uses of the organophosphate chlorpyrifos.  In 2016, EPA had proposed to remove all food tolerances for chlorpyrifos under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act—an action that would have prohibited all use of the pesticide on food crops.  Last year, however, Scott Pruitt reversed course and decided not to ban the pesticide, citing scientific uncertainty.  A coalition of environmental and farmworkers’ organizations have challenged this reversal in court.  The Clinic, representing the Alliance of Nurses for Health Environments, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, Migrant Clinicians Network, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of PSR, submitted an amicus brief in support of this challenge.

The brief explains that a significant body of research from both epidemiological and animal studies has demonstrated that children are vulnerable to long-lasting neurological harm from exposure to chlorpyrifos during pregnancy, even at levels far below the current tolerances permitted by EPA.  In particular, the studies show that chlorpyrifos can alter the very structure of the brain, as well as leading to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other behavioral problems.  In light of the large and robust research data demonstrating these harms, EPA cannot reasonably cite scientific uncertainty as a basis for failing to take action.

Clinic student Ryan Petty (JD ’19) wrote the brief under the supervision of Deputy Director Shaun Goho.

Clinic Releases Report on How to Address Climate Change in the Farm Bill

Via Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

The Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic has released its new report, “Opportunities to Address Climate Change in the Farm Bill”, which summarizes the Clinic’s proposals for how to address climate change in the Farm Bill, both during the current authorization process and in the future.  The report provides recommendations for both climate mitigation strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase carbon sequestration from agriculture, and climate adaptation strategies to increase the resiliency of farms to the impacts of a changing climate.  The report’s specific recommendations are 1) incorporate resilience measures into crop insurance and conservation compliance to better manage on-farm climate risks under Titles II and XI; 2) ensure the best available science and research—including the outcome of pilot programs—are incorporated into Farm Bill programs; and 3) advance manure management collection and storage methods, as well as biogas development under Title IX to mitigate GHG contributions from livestock.

The paper was authored by Clinic students Sara Dewey, JD’17, Liz Hanson, HKS’18, Claire Horan, JD’18, Deputy Director Shaun Goho, and Director Wendy Jacobs.

Clinic’s case against former Bolivian president for role in 2003 massacre to proceed to trial

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Plaintiffs Eloy Rojas Mamani and Etelvina Ramos Mamani and their children, Rosalia Rojas Ramos, Heide Sonia Rojas Ramos, Nancy Rojas Ramos, Maruja Rojas Ramos, and Marlene Rojas Ramos (named after her sister who died), with Thomas Becker, JD ’08, at top right.

February 20, 2018, Miami, FL – A federal judge has ruled that the former president of Bolivia and his minister of defense must face trial in the United States in a civil case alleging that the Bolivian military massacred more than 50 of its own citizens during a period of civil unrest in 2003. This is the first time that a former head of state will sit before his accusers in a civil human rights trial in a U.S. court. Last week, the judge rejected the defendants’ final effort to avoid trial, denying a motion filed by the former Bolivian president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and his former defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, both of whom live in the United States. The trial will begin in the federal court in Fort Lauderdale on March 5, 2018.

“The former president and his minister of defense must now listen as we testify about what happened,” said Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, a member of the indigenous Aymara community of Bolivia, which led the protests where the government security forces opened fire. “We look forward to this historic opportunity to have our day in court.”

In Mamani v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, as detailed in the Court’s February 14 order, the families of eight Bolivians killed filed suit against Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, alleging that they planned the extrajudicial killings. The lawsuit alleges that, months in advance of the violence, the two defendants devised a plan to kill thousands of civilians, and intentionally used deadly force against political protests in an effort to quash political opposition. In addition to the deaths, more than 400 unarmed civilians were shot and injured.

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Cyberlaw Clinic Year in Review: 2017

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

We in the Cyberlaw Clinic believe that the statute of limitations on year-in-review blog posts expires at the end of the first quarter of the following year. (If you require evidence for this claim, we’ll kindly point you to Orin Kerr’s “Theory of Law.”) With that in mind — as we dig into our newest batch of projects during the Harvard Law School spring term — it seems like a good time to look back and reflect on the past year.  It was — to say the least — an eventful one here in the Cyberlaw Clinic, for students and staff alike.

Students

We had two students enrolled in the Clinic during winter 2017, thirty-four in the spring, and 31 in the fall. Three summer interns ably helped to keep our docket of projects afloat during the summer months. We continued in the mode in which we’ve operated in recent years, with a Cyberlaw Clinic Seminar in the spring and fall complementing the day-to-day work of the Clinic and offering students an opportunity for discussions about substantive and procedural aspects of technology law, including through case rounds focused on our own ongoing projects. We are thrilled that we have been able to scale the program, actively engaging our students and zealously representing our clients as the program has continued to expand.

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Working on real-world issues through the Sports Law Clinic

By Matthew Rosenthal,  J.D. ’19

Matthew Rosenthal,  J.D. ’19

Growing up in New England, sports fandom has been a constant throughout my life. And as my interest in the law grew, I gravitated toward areas of the law that tend to intersect with the world of sports (antitrust, intellectual property, labor, and commercial litigation, to name a few). So when I learned that I would be attending Harvard Law School, I was immediately drawn by the opportunities available to students interested in learning about and working in the sports industry. Among these opportunities (which include the courses taught by Professor Carfagna, the Committee on Sports and Entertainment Law, and the Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law), perhaps the most unique opportunity that the law school has to offer is the Sports Law Clinic.

Through my participation in this clinic, I was able to spend my Winter Term working for the National Football League (NFL) in New York City. Over the course of my clinical experience, I received substantive and challenging assignments from my supervising attorneys. Specifically, I was tasked with a range of assignments that dealt with issues relating to NFL team ownership and stadiums—among the most public-facing and important areas of the league’s business. These assignments required me to apply the skills that I’ve gained in the classroom to real-world issues faced by the most successful professional sports organization in the country. Ultimately, I was able to gain practical, on-the-job experience, while learning from all-star attorneys who have worked their way from law school to the major leagues.

The Sports Law Clinic is perhaps the best program in the country for law students who plan to represent and work for clients in the sports industry. Indeed, my time spent at the NFL proved to be an invaluable complement to my legal education, and the knowledge that I gained during this experience will doubtless carry over into my post-graduation professional endeavors.

New Sanctuary Cities Case Study Published

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

Harvard Law School Case Studies recently published a new case study that focused on the work of HIRC’s Assistant Director Sabrineh Ardalan. The case study has students play various roles in a legislative simulation before the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. You can download a free copy here.

When asked why she chose to do this simulation, Professor Ardalan said: “I wanted the students in my immigration law class to engage with the complex legal issues presented by the current debate over sanctuary policies and was eager to facilitate a productive debate.”

She also stressed the importance of involving advocates who had participated in Congressional hearings. For her simulation, she had lawyers JJ Rosenbaum, formerly the Legal Director with the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, and Avideh Moussavian, Senior Policy Attorney with the National Immigration Law Center.

Sports Law Clinic: an opportunity to work for teams and connect with alumni

By Jimmy McEntee, J.D. ’18

Portrait photo of Jimmy McEntee, J.D. '18

Jimmy McEntee, J.D. ’18

Thirty-four. That’s how many Harvard Law students participated in the Sports Law Clinic this year. Students worked in all types of sports organizations, such as teams, leagues, agencies, player associations, and athletic departments. The breadth of opportunities available to students is a testament to Professor Peter Carfagna’s vast network in the sports law community. One of the exciting parts of the program is that the number of placements grows each year, as more of Prof. Carfagna’s former students take positions with sports organizations and others learn about the program for the first time.

I was first exposed to working in sports during the summer after my 1L year, when I interned in the Labor Relations Department of Major League Baseball. The following January, I interned in the Legal Department for the National Football League as part of the Sports Law Clinic. I appreciated the opportunity to see the varied types of legal work in league offices and to network with lawyers in those offices.

While I thoroughly enjoyed those experiences, I wanted to see what it was like to work on the team side during my 3L year. I specifically hoped to gain experience working on salary arbitration cases for teams. In Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, select players that qualify for arbitration are eligible to negotiate a raise in salary based on their production. If the team and player cannot reach an agreement regarding a fair salary for the player, the parties then turn to an arbitration hearing to determine that player’s salary for the upcoming season.

After discussing my desire to do salary arbitration work with Prof. Carfagna, he connected me with Daniel Adler ’17, Director of Baseball Operations for the Minnesota Twins, and Don Fishman, Assistant General Manager & Director of Legal Affairs for the Washington Capitals. Through the clinic, I was able to set up placements at the Twins during our J-Term and the Capitals during the spring semester, working on salary arbitration cases with both organizations.

While at the Twins, I prepared research and analysis on a number of the team’s arbitration-eligible players. The salary arbitration process in Major League Baseball takes place in January and February, so the timing of the placement could not have been any better. The experience was incredible, and I loved every minute of my time in Minneapolis. I left the Twins not only with a solid understanding about the salary arbitration process, but also with immense respect for the Twins organization. My placement with the Capitals has just started and I am excited to learn more about the difference in salary arbitration cases between baseball and hockey.

While I am not sure what path my career will take, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to work for a number of different sports organizations during law school. There is simply no program like the Sports Law Clinic at Harvard Law School.

Defending the Indigent in Hawaii

By Cameron Pritchett, J.D. ’18

Photo of Cameron Pritchett, J.D. ’18 in front of Federal Public Defender building sign in Honolulu

Cameron Pritchett, J.D. ’18

During winter term, I spent three fantastic weeks at the Federal Public Defender in Honolulu, Hawaii, through HLS’s Independent Clinical Program. Having spent both my 1L and 2L summers at law firms, this was my first opportunity to see a public interest setting.

Client Contact

At HLS, I have been fortunate to take classes with some of the most brilliant legal minds in the country. But due to inherent limitations, a classroom setting can only accomplish so much. The Defenders immediately put me to work doing something I am familiar with: legal research and writing. However, this time, I saw my research make a tangible impact on someone’s life. Since federal defenders carry a lighter case load than do most state defenders, there is more time to thoroughly research legal issues during plea negotiations and in preparation for trial. For example, one of my projects involved drafting a motion in limine to suppress a piece of evidence the government plans to introduce in an upcoming trial. I had the chance to not only conduct research, but also see how the findings influenced the team’s trial strategy.

Value of Competent Defense

Working with Defenders also affected my view of the criminal justice system overall. In the federal system, to say that defendants have an uphill battle is an understatement. My criminal procedure class, under the instruction of Professor Paul Butler, explored many of the inequities in criminal law. But it was still shocking for me to see how these things developed in reality. Whether it is Miranda warnings, searches and seizures, coerced confessions, and a number of other topics, prosecutors have an advantage.

Accordingly, the constitutional right to attorney representation is a bedrock part of our legal system. The Defenders supply counsel to individuals immediately after they are arrested and booked. As defendants speak with pre-trial services regarding basic facts about their background, the Defenders are there to ensure the person’s right against self incrimination. Similarly, it is the Defenders filing motions to secure a defendant’s release pending trial and it is them arguing to continue sentencing for an additional week so that one person had a few more days with his family. In Honolulu, I observed passionate individuals who were unanimously intelligent, dedicated, and professional. And they had to take on some of the most challenging cases one could imagine.

This opportunity has opened my eyes to an entirely different setting where effective lawyering happens. I am still unsure about my career path, but this J-term has certainly piqued my interest in a career as a defense lawyer.

Working for a sports league through HLS’s Sports Law Clinic

By Benjamin Roth, J.D. ’19

Benjamin Roth, J.D. ’19

Over J-term, I worked at the NFL headquarters in New York for their legal department. For me it was a dream come true to work at a place that fused together my two passions: legal analysis and NFL football.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived was just how professional and polished everyone and everything in the office was. My name was on my cubicle, I had a standing desk with a dual screen setup, and I immediately met with my attorney supervisor.

She assigned me two principle projects. The first was to redo the law enforcement training module on identifying authentic NFL merchandise. The main point of the assignment was to dress up the power point presentation and to update it, and it was a really great way for me to learn about the security features that the NFL employs to protect its fans and partners, the common ways in which counterfeiters fail to emulate authentic merchandise, and the tricks they utilize to fool unwitting consumers into purchasing the bootleg products.

My second project was to research the current law in China regarding the copyrightable status of a live sports broadcast. This project was especially interesting because it was an entirely different kind of research from what I was taught in law school. There were no cases in Westlaw, so I needed to go to the web and be creative. I had to find English translations of cases and articles and I reached out to a speaker at a symposium on the topic. After focusing on publicity rights in class during the semester, it was fascinating to explore the different system in China. This was a memo unlike any I had written over the summer or in school as it wasn’t predictive or persuasive, and so it felt like I was learning an entirely new skill set.

Whereas those initial projects were somewhat out of the box, legal research and writing wise, my last two projects were much more conventional, and one of them was almost a direct review of Prof. Peter Carfagna’s Sports Law class I took this past semester. I was asked by my supervisor to assist a different member of the legal team by writing two separate memos about the laws regarding trademark and publicity rights in video games throughout the United States. It was a very typical law school memo, with a ton of research on Westlaw and the like. It was really interesting to deal with the issue of publicity rights, given that we had done an entire class on it, and it was intellectually satisfying to see the legal difference between the rights of publicity and a trademark in the law. It was especially interesting to me to be able to deal with a national organization like the NFL, and really get to focus on which circuit might be best for which claim.

In between researching and writing the memos I was assigned, I had a chance to learn from a lot of people in different departments. I met some wonderful people and forged new connections. I also learned a lot about being in-house counsel to a big company, and I got to see firsthand what working for a sports league entailed.

A Litigator’s Dream

“No judicial system can be stronger than its trial judges.”
Hon. Henry T. Lummus, The Trial Judge (1937)

With so much classroom emphasis on analyzing appellate decisions, it is refreshing to discover the number of HLS students who seek a trial court experience.  So in addition to the fully enrolled Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic in the Spring Semester, the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs and Hon. Judge John C. Cratsley (Ret.) began offering more Independent Clinical placements with judges in the Fall Semester. The result was an increase of nine students, seven placed with judges in the US District Court in Boston and two with Justice Budd in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. All wrote weekly reflections and will complete a paper on some aspect of the role of courts and the work of the judiciary. These students’ reflections describe their goals as learning the details of court practice and procedure, understanding judicial reasoning, evaluating the advocacy they observe, and improving their writing skills. The following blog by one of this Fall’s students, Jimmy Tsouvalas, tells just how important these outcomes were for him:

By James Tsouvalas, J.D. ’18

Portrait photo of James Tsouvalas, J.D. ’18

James Tsouvalas, J.D. ’18

I always wanted to be a litigator.

Growing up, I did not know the job by that name—I had no lawyers in my family—but the idea of fighting for the rights of people who needed help resonated with me. As a kid, I read about lawyers like Thurgood Marshall, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Clarence Darrow, and I was fortunate to know from a young age what I wanted to do with my life.

A few months into my time at law school I got my first chance to represent a client through my work with the Tenant Advocacy Project. Arguing on behalf of low-income individuals before Boston Housing Authority administrative hearings helped me feel confident in my career choice. But it became clear early on in law school that one of the best ways to learn how to be an effective litigator was to spend time working for a judge. Judges see the whole gamut of litigators—and their styles—arguing cases from nearly every area of the law. While assisting a judge deciding cases, I would have the opportunity to evaluate the arguments and techniques of litigators, and to conduct important legal research and writing, all under the guidance of an accomplished jurist.

After graduating in May, I am excited to begin my legal career as a law clerk for Judge Sandra S. Ikuta of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and then Judge Patricia Millett of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. But with both of my clerkships at the appellate level, I scoured the law school for opportunities to gain experience at the trial court level to flesh-out my legal education.

The Independent Clinical Program provided me with such an opportunity. Through the help of the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, and under the supervision of Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.), I was able to land a clinical placement with Chief Judge Patti B. Saris of the United States District Court of Massachusetts. While taking a few classes at the law school, I spent two days a week at the federal courthouse in Boston’s Seaport helping Chief Judge Saris and her clerks prepare for arguments, hear cases, and decide motions. On both criminal and complex civil cases I drafted various memorandums of law on motions pending before the Court—analyzing the arguments of both sides, conducting independent research into the legal questions, and providing recommendations for disposition. And as cases progressed, I was even able to write the drafts of a few opinions. I was also fortunate to spend extensive amounts of time in court with Chief Judge Saris and her clerks. The experience gave me a richer understanding of the trial court process, and of the role of a judge, all under the brilliant example of Chief Judge Saris. I am so grateful to her for the opportunity.

The import of what I learned as a soon-to-be lawyer cannot be overstated: observing the intricacies of trial court proceedings and various styles of advocacy, and honing my legal research and writing skills under brilliant and experienced attorneys, will serve me greatly in my burgeoning career. But even more valuable were the mentorships and friendly conversations with Chief Judge Saris and her law clerks, judicial assistant, courtroom clerk, and docket clerk—a group I could not have developed more admiration for. I am so grateful for the work they do, and as I begin my career, I hope it is one for which they can soon say the same.

The Cyberlaw Guide to Protest Art

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

In the wake of Trump’s election and the resurgence of political art inspired by movements like the Women’s March, the Cyberlaw Clinic was approached by artists seeking clarification of their rights and responsibilities as creators and activists online. In response, a team of Berkman Klein staff, Clinic students, and allied creative folks created this Guide. It’s in plain language, meant to be accessible and helpful for folks across the political spectrum who are using art to engage in civic dialogue, to minimize their risks and maximize their impact.

We took on this project because art plays a significant role in American democracy. Across the political spectrum, protest art — posters, songs, poems, memes, and more —inspires us, gives us a sense of community, and provides insight into how others think and feel about important and often controversial issues.

While protest art has been part of our culture for a very long time, the Internet and social media have changed the available media and the visibility of protest artists. Digital technologies make it easy to find existing works and incorporate them into your own, and art that goes viral online spreads faster than was ever possible in the analog world. Many artists find the law that governs all of this unclear in the physical world, and even murkier online.

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Cyberlaw Clinic Assists with Amicus Effort in Byrd v. U.S.

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments last Tuesday, January 9th, in Byrd v. United States, Case No. No. 16-1371.  The case concerns the question of whether a person can assert Fourth Amendment protections in connection with a search of a rental car in which that person was not an authorized driver.  The case raises important questions about privacy in response to law enforcement, including about standing to assert defenses under the Fourth Amendment and about the interplay between private contracts (such as the contract between one renting a car and the rental car company) and Fourth Amendment rights.

The Supreme Court has posted a transcript and audio recording of the oral argument. Helpful reports about the case and argument include:

The Cyberlaw Clinic was pleased to have had the opportunity to support our friends and regular collaborators Restore the Fourth with the drafting of an amicus brief, filed in support of petitioner Terrence Byrd.  The brief focuses on the interplay between contracts and Constitutional protections, arguing that private agreements should not limit Fourth Amendment rights.  Fall 2017 Cyberlaw Clinic students Chloe Goodwin, Matthew Sacco, Devony Schmidt, and Brian Yost worked on the brief alongside Kendra Albert and Vivek Krishnamurthy on the Clinic’s teaching team, and Mahesha Subbaraman, Restore the Fourth’s counsel.

Gaining a global perspective on securities regulation

By Elizabeth Ferrie, J.D. ’19

Photo of Elizabeth Ferrie, J.D. ’19 standing infront of ASIC sign

Elizabeth Ferrie, J.D. ’19

This January, I interned at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in Sydney, Australia. I was fortunate to have dedicated supervisors and mentors that provided me with a broad range of experiences to enhance my knowledge of international capital markets.

My 3 weeks at the ASIC were a great learning opportunity and instilled in me the importance of a global business perspective. Indeed, most of my assignments involved an intricate understanding of global market structures and coordination with foreign securities regulators in investigations. I performed research and drafted memos on a variety of cases tackling market manipulation. Having taken a Securities Regulation course in the fall provided useful background knowledge since there are many fundamental commonalities in the approaches taken by securities regulators in both the U.S. and Australia. For example, I noticed striking similarities between U.S. and Australian securities laws while helping advise senior attorneys about ASIC’s disclosure obligations to a third party under the Freedom of Information Act. 

I have a strong interest in international law and business, especially as it relates to the Asia-Pacific region. Previously, I spent my 1L summer at a corporate law firm in Seoul, South Korea and I will be working at a corporate law firm in NYC for my 2L summer. However, this was my first experience performing legal work for a government organization and it was incredibly meaningful to gain experience outside of the private sector in a foreign jurisdiction.

For the 15-page paper requirement that accompanies the independent clinical project, I will be writing a paper comparing the approaches of securities regulators around the world in regards to cryptocurrency regulation under the supervision of Professor Kathryn Spier. It is an emerging area and there is notable variation in the approaches of different countries in classifying and regulating cryptocurrencies. I am excited to gain a deeper understanding of this fascinating topic.

Community Enterprise Project Helps Empower Small Business Owners in Boston

By Alex Glancy, J.D. ’19

Caption: Alex Glancy (J.D. ’19) and Michael Trujillo (J.D. ’18) present to a group of community leaders and small business owners in Jamaica Plain about commercial lease basics. This workshop was co-hosted by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC).

On a winter afternoon, I met with Mehedi* at CVC Unidos, a community center in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. Mehedi is a convenience store owner. He has a bright smile and will never let you leave without offering you a soda or water bottle. He was opening a second convenience store and had recently received the lease for that property. CEP was holding office hours, and he came to get legal advice. He handed me the 6-page unsigned lease agreement, filled with dense contract language. I took a deep breath and started reading.

As Mehedi waited for my opinion on his lease, he asked, “So did my landlord give me a good lease?” I began scrutinizing Mehedi’s lease. I noticed a problem. The lease contained a subordination provision, which meant that his lease could be terminated if the landlord’s mortgage lender ever foreclosed on the property. “You could lose your lease if your landlord defaulted on his loan,” I explained. This was a risk Mehedi did not want to take.

During my time in the Community Enterprise Project (CEP), we developed a presentation and corresponding Commercial Leases 101 Toolkit  designed to assist small businesses in Boston and Somerville. To develop these materials, we met with numerous community partners, canvassed commercial districts in Boston (such as the Bowdoin-Geneva area, where I first met Mehedi), and consulted with experienced clinical instructors familiar with real estate law.

Caption: This is a flyer for one of numerous commercial lease workshops held around Boston during Fall 2017. We distributed the flyer throughout Dorchester. This workshop was co-hosted by the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation (DBEDC)

Unlike residential tenants, commercial tenants have virtually no rights outside of their lease. Any rights are described in the lease agreement, so it is important to sign as good a lease as one can. How can small-business owners, especially the poor or non-English speaking, sign better commercial leases? In navigating the Wild West of commercial real estate, they could use attorneys. But even more crucially, they need community organizations that fight for increased economic and political power. We designed our project to assist small business owners one on one, and also to lay the groundwork for systemic change in the ongoing defense against gentrification.

A transactional lawyer is a luxury for the majority of small businesses, including those in low-income communities facing more pressing legal issues, such as lack of housing or public benefits. Retaining a lawyer might seem so unattainable that the thought does not even cross one’s mind. Although transactional lawyers might seem like last priority, their impact can be long lasting. A transactional lawyer knows that you never know until you ask, and can suggest minor changes that make a big impact. As a first step, transactional lawyers remind clients that a contract is a two-way street, with room to create solutions that will benefit both sides.

At the conclusion of our meeting, we advised Mehedi to add a “non-disturbance” provision to his lease, so that the landlord’s mortgage lender could not unilaterally terminate Mehedi’s lease. We also advised Mehedi to delete certain ambiguous provisions. Mehedi planned on signing the next day, and he walked away jolly knowing that he would be better protected. Small business owners like Mehedi should negotiate their leases in this manner.

With rents on the rise, however, a landlord might not be willing to negotiate. Increasingly, landlords are commercial developers with whom it is difficult to forge a personal relationship. In fact, the majority of land in Boston is owned by a handful of these developers.

Thus the community-wide effort to resist displacement is crucial. We often catered our workshops to community organizers working on these systemic issues. In the case of recent evictions of El Embajador Restaurant and De Chain Auto Service, JPNDC and City Life/Vida Urbana, among others, created a campaign to resist displacement of these neighborhood businesses.

A long-term solution will be city or statewide legislation to create more statutory rights and protections for commercial tenants. Students in CEP next semester are planning to collaborate with community groups to devise such a policy proposal and help these community groups push proposals through Boston’s political machine. By forming a coalition of community groups, our goal is to help empower the community as they fight for increased economic opportunities.

*Name has been changed to protect confidentiality

Cyberlaw Clinic files amicus briefs in patent and online privacy cases

Via Harvard Law Today

The Berkman Klein Center’s Cyberlaw Clinic, which provides pro-bono legal services to clients on issues relating to the internet, technology and intellectual property, has written in support of a number of technology cases in recent weeks.

In December, the Clinic filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy Joseph Cannataci in the case United States v. Microsoft, Case No. 17-2. The case—commonly known as the “Microsoft Ireland case”—presents the question of whether a search warrant can compel Microsoft to produce to the US government the contents of an email account stored on Microsoft servers in Ireland.

Also in December they filed an opening comment on behalf of the Software Preservation Network and the Library Copyright Alliance, asking the Library of Congress to grant an exemption for libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions to circumvent technology protection measures in order to preserve software and software-dependent materials (digital files that require on software access to be readable).

Last week they helped file an amicus brief with Professor Bernard Chao of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law on behalf of eighteen intellectual property law professors, supporting petitioners’ request that the Supreme Court review a decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  That decision—Mentor Graphics v. Eve-USA, (Fed. Cir. March 16, 2017)—awarded patent damages against petitioners. But, as amici argue in the brief, the Federal Circuit failed to properly apportion those damages when assessing respondent’s lost profits.

For more information on these and other Cyberlaw Clinic endeavors, visit their blog.

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