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2019 Summer Speakers Series

By: Olivia Klein

Source: Pexels

OCP’s Summer Speaker’s Series is well underway. The annual program features HLS clinicians, alumni and others who share their personal and professional trajectories in their respective fields of law to Harvard Law School staff and summer interns. Below are a few recaps from the talks that kicked off the series.

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Kendra Albert

Kendra Albert, Clinical Instructional Fellow at the Cyberlaw Clinic, was the first speaker in the series. A member of the HLS Class of 2016, Kendra did impactful work in technology law. Kendra worked at companies such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, CloudFlare, and Public Citizen. They were also a Research Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. During their time at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, they argued and won a change in the law that makes it easier for museums and libraries to maintain archives of video games.

After graduating, Kendra worked at Zeitgeist Law in San Francisco, a law firm dedicated to addressing the legal challenges raised by technology. The firm focuses on maintaining privacy and freedom of expression in the digital age, which are matters that Kendra addresses in their own scholarship. At Zeitgeist Law, Kendra co-wrote amicus briefs in Google v. Oracle and Lynch v. Under Seal, while also counseling clients on maters including privacy, contracts, data minimization and security, and handling online abuse.

Since 2017, Kendra has been back at HLS, supervising clinical students as they learn how to practice technology law. Kendra still engages in litigation and produces scholarship covering a wide variety of topics, from transgender privacy to reference rot in legal citations. They filed a brief on behalf of two members of Congress in ASTM v. Public.Resource.org, and worked with security researchers from DEF CON’s Voting Village to publish voting machine vulnerability findings under threat of litigation.

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Phil Waters

On June 21, 2019, Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) Clinical Fellow Phil Waters started his lunch talk with a question: did anyone in the room always know what they wanted to be when they grew up? Only a few hands were hesitantly raised. Phil chuckled, and he said that those few members of the room were lucky, since he never knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. Phil received his undergraduate degree in Business at the University of North Carolina, at the suggestion of his father, who worked in sales. After graduation, Phil was seeking something that sparked more passion in him. Based on the experiences he had so far, he knew that he wanted to help people and was interested in working in health, and he saw the law as an avenue to do both.

While attending University of North Carolina School of Law, Phil worked with Legal Aid of North Carolina as a Healthcare Navigator within their Medical-Legal Partnership. He also served as a summer associate with the National Health Policy Program. In these positions, Phil engaged directly with clients and with fellow attorneys in active cases, giving him a strong perspective that he brings to his clinical work here at Harvard Law School. Now at CHLPI, Phil focuses on litigation and legislative advocacy to defend and implement public health programs aimed to preserve and expand access to care for vulnerable populations.

One student asked Phil what classes stood out to him during law school. Phil said none really stuck out to him, but said that the most important thing he was taught was how to think like a lawyer.  Phil recommended that the students in the room take classes that might not be directly applicable to their field of interest, using his experience in his 1L Criminal Law class as an example. In his current work, Phil says he needs to read and understand complex documents thick with citations quickly – and learned that skill from his 1L Criminal Law class.

After receiving his J.D., Phil returned to the Legal Aid of North Carolina, where he worked one-on-one with consumers to help them understand changing healthcare laws, primarily having to do with insurance. Phil began to feel frustrated by the repetition of issues facing his clients, and he asked himself what could be done to eliminate the issues altogether, starting at the root of the problem. He found a solution in policy work.

Phil is passionate about implementing and preserving the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, in addition to other public health programs that protect vulnerable populations, such as those with HIV and other chronic health conditions. He encouraged students to find their passion in either policy work or direct legal services. Both areas are crucial for helping those in need, he said, so it is important to find out which will create the most passion in you.

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Stephanie Davidson

There wasn’t an empty seat in the room for Stephanie Davidson’s talk – not even for Stephanie, who hopped onto a table to address the room. Davidson ’13 spoke about her path to where she is today, immediately engaging all thirty people in the room with her eloquence and storytelling.

After receiving her undergraduate degree from Columbia University, Stephanie joined the New York County District Attorney’s Office as a Sex Crimes Unit Investigative Analyst, noting that it was the office that Law & Order SVU is based on, and yes, her boss did look just like the main character. The process of working with survivors of sexual abuse moved Stephanie to pursue law school, since she wanted to serve the women she worked with in a different way than she could from within the criminal justice system.

At HLS, Stephanie joined the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) as a family law attorney and relished her time delivering quality legal services. She is now a Clinical Instructor in the Family and Domestic Violence Law Clinic, helping survivors of domestic violence obtain safety, ensuring that domestic violence is not a legal barrier to a client’s legal rights. She finds it crucial to build strong relationships with her clients in order to best serve their needs.

Stephanie sees social justice as essential to the work she does. She hopes to mobilize more people in social justice spaces to find systemic solutions to domestic abuse, though she recognized that one challenge is identifying what to ask for, other than for perpetrators to stop hurting people. She notes that the cycle of domestic abuse can increase the risk of homelessness and poverty of individuals for generations. Despite the hardships her clients face and the intensity of her work, Stephanie enjoys her work thoroughly. “Working in the clinic shows me more and more every day just how resilient humans are,” Stephanie said, which keeps her eager to take on the challenges her clients face.

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Tom Smith and Lenita Reason 

Tom is the Executive Director and Co-founder of Justice at Work, an organization driven to provide legal support for low-wage worker organizations and their members. During the lunch talk, Tom Justice for All’s as falling into three buckets: performing legal intake for workers whose rights have been violated; training staff at worker centers to help their communities “know their rights and know how to access them”; and supporting groups of workers who want to proactively improve working conditions. He stated that his goal in starting Justice at Work was to find a way to create power for organizations like worker centers, such as Lenita’s.

Lenita Reason is Community Organizer, Office Manager, and OSHA Outreach Coordinator at the Brazilian Worker Center (BWC) in Boston, which works in collaboration with Justice at Work. Lenita said that BWC was created by workers for workers, and all of the initiatives the organization takes on come directly from the workers participating in the Center. The BWC provides a wide variety of services, from health and safety training to ESL education to legal services, and Lenita is very well-versed in all areas of the wide-reaching organization.

Justice at Work and the BWC co-founded the Building Justice Committee in 2014, and Lenita and Tom both lit up with joy when discussing the committee. The committee trains workers to t o train and educate each other on their legal rights surrounding topics such as wage theft. Lenita smiled saying that she feels like a proud mother to the men who willingly give time on top of their busy work schedules to come to the BWC and learn how they can help uplift one another. She said that she can see how proud the men are of the work they do with the Building Justice Committee, and they are leaders even if they may not realize it.

Tom also touched on the topic of community lawyering, stating that the term does not necessarily need to mean you work as a public lawyer. Some of the attorneys who most embody community lawyering, he said, do private work. Tom stated that the most important aspect of community lawyering is the way you go about providing the legal service, touching on the importance of cultural competency. Whether there is a language barrier or not, Tom says it is most important to show that you are committed to the work, and you know why you are committed. Lenita backed this up with a “what not to do” attorney horror story that had the whole room aghast.

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Shelley Barron 

Shelley described her upbringing as one of privilege. She was the daughter of two doctors and lived in a wealthy Boston suburb. She wanted to use her privilege to do work that allowed her to give back to others and use her power to do good in the world. She decided on law school.

After receiving her J.D. from Northeastern University, Shelley worked at Community Legal Aid (CLA) in Worcester, MA. At CLA, Shelley learned about and worked in every area of the organization, including family, domestic violence, housing, and immigration law. This experience served her well when she continued on to work as a Staff Attorney at Casa Myrna, a community-based organization which she said allowed her to work with social justice in a different way, with a greater focus on empowerment and creating systemic change.

Timing has been an important part of Shelley’s journey. She applied for her current position as a Clinical Instructor at the TAP right when she was reevaluating her career priorities after having a child. She called her current position a “perfect change.” Working in the HLS environment is exciting, Shelley said. She is able to teach students and work with clients on housing law matters, but she is also surrounded by other clinics doing incredible work that she is eager to help out with wherever she can, once again finding broad knowledge of public service law useful.

One intern asked Shelley what TAP’s work entails on a day to day basis. Shelley explained that TAP is filling a gap in access to justice by assisting people living in public housing who are threatened with an eviction and are facing administrative hearings, which is the step before entering the criminal justice system. Shelley stated that TAP’s goal is “to keep [the case] out of court,” emphasizing the importance of an attorney’s help in these housing law issues.

Shelley shared valuable resources with the interns, including AccessLex to help students plan for potential loan repayment options and receive law school financial education. The interns had many questions for Shelley, many regarding career advice for working in civil legal aid. Shelley also provided tips for making a career in the civil legal aid field, suggesting: get as much practical experience during law school as you can, whether it be through clinics, externships, or pro bono work; be proactive about networking; volunteer and cultivate relationships at the organizations you want to work at, since a foot in the door goes a long way; and if you can be flexible with where you are willing to live, that is always helpful.

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Anna Crowe 

Hailing from New Zealand, Anna first came to HLS to receive her LLM in 2012, going on to receive an HLS Henigson Fellowship to work in Columbia for a year with the International Crisis Group. Anna then joined Privacy International as a legal officer before returning to HLS to work in the Human Rights Program, where she now serves as the Assistant Director, a Clinical Instructor, and Lecturer on Law of the International Human Rights Clinic.

The interns had a lot of questions about Anna’s work in human rights law, and more than half of the hour was spent answering those questions during discussion. Interns asked about truth commissions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the trade-off between peace and justice, the value of living outside the society you grew up in, the difference between theory and practice in her work, and mental health for workers in the human rights field. The interns got a glimpse of Anna’s professorial skills from all the academic and theoretical human rights discussion. It was easy to imagine how engaging and exciting her seminar class might be.

Anna also shared valuable career advice with the interns. Speaking to the beginning of her career, Anna said it is important to look beyond the options you see in front of you. She did not find her passion working as a New Zealand government lawyer after receiving her undergraduate degree, so she made the decision to expand her horizons and come to HLS. On the same note, she emphasized the importance of flexibility in any career field, but specifically in human rights work. “You need to be comfortable with uncertainty” to work in human rights, Anna said. “I never had a ten-year plan. You need to be okay with not knowing where you’ll be in ten years’ time.” When an intern asked how to break into a field as nebulous as human rights, Anna said that mentorship was a big factor in her career, and it is important to be proactive about reaching out to people who have careers you want to emulate.

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Cathy Mondell 

Cathy Mondell is a mediator and a Clinical Instructor in the Harvard Mediation Program (HMP).

Cathy’s professorial nature came out when speaking to the interns, as she paced the room and took questions from many engaged interns. She described her time as a student at Harvard Law School, her entrance into the corporate world of law, where she worked at Ropes & Gray for eighteen years, and her decision to switch from being an advocate to being a neutral: becoming a mediator.

When deciding to make her career switch, Cathy said that she wanted to focus on things she enjoyed the most from her corporate career and do more of them in a new way. “I get to be selfish, it’s my career,” she said, met with laughter and nods from the room. The things she wanted to focus on were mediation, teaching, and jury research – all of which come together in her current work at HLS and in her private practice, Mondell Dispute Resolution.

The question and answer portion of Cathy’s talk started off with one intern asking: “What is mediation?” Cathy was more than happy to explain, and she took the group through an overview of her work in commercial mediation and HMP’s work in small claims court. Cathy and the interns went on to discuss the debate over court-ordered mediation, the potential of online dispute resolution, and mediation on the international level. Another intern asked what the most important skill for a mediator to have is, and Cathy replied that genuine curiosity is crucial, as well as adaptability, since no two mediations are the same.

When the room fell quiet once the interns ran out of questions, Cathy let the pause linger. “This is what’s known in the mediation world as ‘using silence’,” she said, and the silence disappeared as everybody laughed. Cathy encouraged the interns to consider becoming mediators in the future, citing programs all over the country made for people of all backgrounds to become mediators.

A Legal Safety Net at the Library

Via the Legal Services Center

Julia Schutt (right) of the Veterans Legal Clinic speaking to a client as interns Arielle Lui (left) and Sana Gupta (center) observe at the Boston Public Library Community Health Fair.

Picture this: you make the decision to go to college. To afford it, you take out hefty student loans. You work hard, push through, and complete your degree. With even more hard work, you are able to pay off your student loans. Then, out of nowhere, the government reaches out to tell you that you actually haven’t paid your loans. And that they want to collect. Now. Before you can even use your degree, the government starts to take all of your income. What do you do?

This is what happened to Maria*, whom we met at the Boston Public Library’s first ever Community Health Fair on Friday, May 24th. Maria came to the Fair seeking any help she could find, and she found us. As the only legal team at the event, we were thrilled that we were there to respond to legal needs like Maria’s.

Allyson Dowds, Health & Human Services Research Specialist for the BPL and the event organizer, invited us to attend, recognizing that access to legal resources is an integral part of community health: the Legal Services Center provides legal representation to clients fighting housing insecurity, financial abuse at the hands of for-profit colleges or other predatory organizations, unsafe situations in the home or within families, and facing adverse action by the IRS. In the Safety Net Project, we help veterans, disabled individuals, and low-income folks secure the income, food access, and health care they need to protect their material well-being. In short, we work to address a multitude of interrelated community health problems through legal advocacy.

Safety Net Project interns Sana Gupta (top left), Brittney Reed (top right), Arielle Lui (bottom left), and Ellie Schelleng (center) with Julia Schutt, project manager for the Veterans’ Legal Clinic, at the Boston Public Library Community Health Fair. Taking the picture is Julie McCormack, director of the Safety Net Project and coordinator of the People’s Law School.

As a law school clinical program, our mission to “Advocate. Educate. Innovate.” compels us to provide education not just to the law students and interns who join us throughout the year, but also to our community on their rights within the legal system, through our program The People’s Law School. We used our time at the Community Health Fair to do exactly that.

The Fair brought together several key players in the food security landscape, including Project Bread, the Department of Transitional Assistance, and the Department of Public Health. Connecting with folks from these organizations was especially important as we consider our role in closing the Massachusetts ‘SNAP Gap.’ The SNAP Gap refers to those eligible for, but not receiving, SNAP benefits – according to the Mass Law Reform Institute, over 700,000 Massachusetts residents who are likely eligible for SNAP are not receiving benefits. This summer the LSC is reopening our SNAP appeals intake; we will represent those who have been denied benefits when they should have been approved. By helping individuals in complex situations secure SNAP benefits, we hope to take part in a larger movement to close that gap and make food security a reality for all of low-income Massachusetts. Connecting with these groups allowed us to consider future partnerships and to gather materials so that we can increase outreach and education efforts through our office.

Also at the event were many incredible community partners dedicated to serving the people of the greater Boston area. We spoke with many, including representatives of Bay Cove Human Services and Samaritans Inc., about ways we can partner to better serve our communities and share resources – such as workshops and presentations. Often, legal problems are the cause of mental or physical health problems. Other times, the root cause of a legal problem is really a housing or food issue. It was vital for us to connect (and reconnect!) with the government, non-profit, and social service organizations working in health, food, and housing so that we all can provide our clients with the broadest base of assistance available. It is so rare that someone is facing only one issue – to get at the root causes of the problems facing our clients, we need to call on each other.

In addition to talking to partner organizations, we met many people interested in learning how we can help them. We provided advice and referral information on a range of issues including overpayment of benefits, predatory student loans, and veterans’ legal issues. Because our services are free, we don’t have the resources to take every case, so events like this are a great way to get information to people who may not otherwise have access to it. Maria wouldn’t have known about our services if we hadn’t been at the Health Fair.

Plenty of folks also came to our table who didn’t have a specific issue they needed help with; they just wanted to know what kinds of services we offer. We are always happy to talk about our services to anyone who will listen! In addition to providing general information about the Legal Services Center, Julia Schutt of the Veterans Legal Clinic attended the Fair to showcase the project she manages developing an online tool to help veterans and military families learn if they are eligible for state Chapter 115 benefits.

After the Fair, we followed up on Maria’s case and, after consulting with other advocates here at LSC, determined that Maria’s situation would best be handled directly by the Project on Predatory Student Lending. Maria will be directly assisted by our office, thanks to the opportunities provided at the Community Health Fair.

The Community Health Fair was an extremely useful event and we are glad to have been invited. We are excited to see it grow and hope to be included every year!

Visiting MCI Concord

By: Liz Archer, JD ’20

Students in the Spring 2019 Judicial Process in Trial Court Clinic. Credit: Jean Lee JD ’19

On April 22, students in the Judicial Process in the Trial Courts Clinic visited MCI Concord, a medium security prison for men. While in the clinic, some students observed sentencing hearings where individuals where sent to serve time at MCI Concord. Hon. Judge John C. Crastley (Ret.), the Lecturer on Law for the Clinic, organized a trip to the facility to help students understand the consequence of those sentences. On our tour of the facilities, we visited the segregation unit, a general population unit, and the prison’s religious spaces. In the final part of our tour, we were introduced to the NEADS Program through which inmates train service dogs. The participating inmates gave a presentation demonstrating the particular skills that they are developing with their dogs. For example, one inmate is training his dog to identify and respond to different sounds in order to serve a deaf client. This was the most interesting part of our visit to MCI Concord because of the powerful impact that the NEADS Program seems to have on participating inmates and the clients that they serve. Students also had the opportunity to meet and speak with the inmates following their presentation. During those subsequent conversations, the inmates shared some of their experiences and advice about how students could best serve their future clients.

I left our visit of MCI Concord feeling conflicted. On the one hand, I believe lawyers should have an informed understanding of the implications of their work, including the experience of incarceration. Visiting a prison is one way to get a better sense of what that experience is like and speaking with inmates or formerly incarcerated individuals is another, perhaps better, way to develop that understanding. On the other hand, I worry about the invasiveness of prison tours. There were moments where being on the outside looking in felt uncomfortable, and perhaps the inmates felt the same way. Ultimately, I believe our visit was a valuable experience, particularly because students had the opportunity to engage with the inmates about their experiences. But I also think that, when visiting these institutions, visitors should be aware of the privilege they carry and the weight of the activity they are engaging in.

My Experience at the 2019 Food Law Student Leadership Summit

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy 

By: Oliver Brown

This April, I attended the Food Law Student Leadership Summit (FLSLS) in hopes of broadening my knowledge of emerging legal issues in food law. I came to law school with an interest in food and agriculture reform. Through my participation in the Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic, I was able to translate that passion into practical tools for advocacy. FLSLS offered a unique opportunity to further develop that skillset alongside professors, practitioners and students from around the country.

Hosted at Georgetown University Law Center, Washington D.C. was an ideal setting to tackle the public policy and regulatory issues at the heart of food law. Experts like Laura MacCleery and Ricardo Carvajal shared how administrative reforms are enacted and offered insights into legislative advocacy. In a powerful keynote, Navina Khanna, Director of the HEAL Food Alliance, outlined her organization’s comprehensive Platform for Real Food—a roadmap towards a more sustainable food economy. With so many knowledgeable voices in conversation, the outlook for that vision felt a little more hopeful.

Despite the incredible panels and seminars throughout the weekend (David Vladeck’s nerve-wracking lecture on deceit in food marketing was a particular highlight), I was most inspired by the network of passionate food advocates in attendance. It was an incredible opportunity to connect with other aspiring lawyers interested in this practice area. Hailing from law schools nationwide, students came with unique backgrounds and career goals. With food law touching so many legal disciplines (from labor, to intellectual property, to environmental sustainability), each participant brought their own perspective, and weighed how particular policies might impact the issues they cared about most. It was fascinating to see where our interests aligned and where they were in tension. Since the summit, I’ve developed a better understanding of the opportunities for progress in food system reform. I can identify points of collaboration, between farmers and animal-rights advocates, between commercial producers and food-waste NGOs. And most importantly, I have partners I can call on as we work towards meaningful change.

Panelists Discuss Combatting Wrongful Convictions, Reforming the Criminal Justice System

Via The Harvard Crimson

Aditi Goel, a clinical instructor at the Harvard Law School Criminal Justice Institute, spoke about combatting wrongful convictions at a panel event on Monday night. Photo: Amanda Y. Su

By: Amanda Y. Su

Legal experts and criminal justice reform advocates gathered in Tsai Auditorium to discuss mitigating wrongful convictions in the United States criminal justice system Monday evening.

The event, entitled “Fighting Wrongful Convictions in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” featured four panelists and centered on the experiences of Lorenzo Johnson, an activist who has personal experience with the issue of wrongful conviction. The panel was co-sponsored by seven organizations including the Harvard Organization for Prison Education and Advocacy, the Committee on Degrees on History and Literature, and the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice.

Johnson opened the event by sharing the story of his incarceration for being an alleged accomplice in a 1995 murder in Harrisburg, Penn. In 2012, the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals granted him release from his life-without-parole sentence after ruling there was legally insufficient evidence for his conviction. Four months later, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reinstated his conviction, sending him back to prison. In July 2017, he agreed to a plea deal and was released from prison.

After resuming his sentence, Johnson led a nationwide media campaign to educate the public about his experiences with the support of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, a non-profit organization that works to correct wrongful convictions.

During the event, Johnson shared moments when he said prosecutors and the police asked him to provide false statements and forced his alibi witnesses to manufacture or change their statements.

“A lot of people got the misconception that the [criminal justice] system is broken,” Johnson said. “The system was never fixed. The system was never designed to be fair.”

Throughout the event, other panelists discussed aspects of the criminal justice system that can enable wrongful convictions.

Aditi Goel, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute, spoke about “draconian” mandatory minimum sentences, lack of funding for public defenders, and the lengthy amount of time people wait for trial, which can incentivize plea deals.

Rahsaan D. Hall, director of the Racial Justice Program at the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts and a former prosecutor, condemned the “nature and culture” of prosecution itself.

“It is the cultural inertia of white supremacy that uplifts these ideas and practices,” Hall said. “And it funnels through every aspect so that even a black man like myself, as a prosecutor, is an instrument of that white supremacy.”

Radha Natarajan, executive director of the New England Innocence Project, spoke about the preponderance of minor marijuana or driving offenses in criminal convictions as well as prejudice against African American men.

“What is a wrongful conviction? That has to be broader than what people traditionally think of,” Natarajan said. “It has to be about who is brought into the system to begin with.”

Beyond “band-aid” solutions to wrongful convictions, panelists suggested broader solutions and reforms, including using social media as an educational tool and pushing for legislation.

“You can’t just fight the case inside the courtroom,” Johnson said. “You have to fight it outside the courtroom too.”

Joseph R. Feffer ’21, an event attendee and HOPE organizer, said he appreciated the opportunity to learn more about ways individuals can prevent wrongful convictions.

“I think a lot of times people come to panels like these and walk away and go back to our Harvard lives,” Feffer said. “But the things said about going to jury duty, making sure you’re watching court, voting in District Attorney elections, are very easy actions that we all can do. That’s what what I’m going to take away the most from this.”

Putting compassion into action

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Heratch Photography
Using the Law to Create Economic Justice panelists: (left to right) Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Federal Tax Clinic at LSC Keith Fogg, Michelle Wu ’12, Congressman Joseph Kennedy III ’09, Blake Strode ’15, Haben Girma ’13.

By: Clea Simon

“Reaching out to others is how you find out who you really are,” said Daniel Nagin, vice dean of experiential and clinical education and faculty director of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. He was quoting the late HLS Professor Gary Bellow LL.B. ’60, who in 1979 co-founded the Jamaica Plain center with his wife, senior lecturer on law Jeanne Charn ’70. On April 5, Nagin and others celebrated the center’s 40th anniversary, and the quote strikes at the heart of the center’s mission of improving the legal profession through experiential learning while working with community organizations to enact real and lasting change.

Transformational change may be possible only through such a cooperative effort, said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Giving the keynote address at the celebration, she pointed out that not only have more than 40,000 people used the center’s services over the years — people “who were shown an opportunity to have a life-changing experience” — but also approximately 4,500 students have worked there. “Students who have learned to see life, experience life, through the circumstances of another,” she said.

The Legal Services Center — or, as Bellow had described it in the past, the “teaching law office” — is similar to the teaching hospital model used in medical schools across the country, including at Harvard, and it has helped change the lives of thousands of clients in Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, and other neighborhoods in Boston and beyond. Its programs address issues related to housing, domestic violence, predatory lending, and other community needs. The center offers clinics that specialize in areas including federal taxes, estate planning, and accessing veterans’ benefits. Its reach is broad and its results can often be life-changing.

During the 2017–18 academic year, HLS students provided pro bono legal assistance to more than 4,000 clients in Massachusetts, including more than 2,300 residents in the Boston area. The graduating class of 2018 contributed 376,532 hours of pro bono legal assistance, an average of 637 hours per student over their three years at the Law School. This is part of the effort to, in the words of HLS Dean John F. Manning ’85, “make sure we’re always on the cutting edge of clinical education.”

The day’s events showed how this interaction can work. In the first of a series of roundtable discussions on how to narrow the gap between rich and poor and achieve justice for the most vulnerable, “#Connect: A Law Student and Client Discuss Collaboration” featured 2L student D Dangaran and a client recalling how they had worked together, under the guidance of Stephanie Davidson ’13, a clinical instructor in the domestic violence and family law clinic. The client had been in the process of freeing herself from an abusive relationship when she met Dangaran, and had already obtained a temporary restraining order against her husband that allowed her and her children to stay in the family home. When Dangaran met her, the order was once again up for review — and her husband had already been arrested for violating it.

“My second week in the clinic and it was the biggest trial of the clinic,” recalled Dangaran. But the client was calm, assured by the student’s focus. “[Dangaran] already knew my case as if they’d been with us the entire time,” she said. “I was very comfortable, and it took a lot of my nerves away.”

The preparation that went into the case paid off. The husband didn’t show for the hearing, and the client and Dangaran were called to the bench. The judge granted a permanent restraining order “before we even asked,” said Dangaran.

Charn, who was the center’s director for 28 years, served as the institutional memory for the next panel, “#Spark: The Influence of the Bellow-Charn Model on Legal Education.” The center’s beginning, she said, was rocky. “Almost no one supported what we were doing.” Committed to social justice, the center initially took students from several law schools and recruited experts from other institutions, such as MIT, to help them not only win cases but understand the underlying problems. If design could help a landlord maintain apartments, they would bring in designers, she said. “We were at ground level.”

The discussion then progressed to how the Bellow-Charn approach works. Moderator Sarah Boonin ’04, now a professor at Suffolk University Law School, said the model was built on the idea that clinics should be immersed in the community they serve because “the community was also a teacher.” For Jeffrey Selbin ’89, a professor at UC-Berkeley and director of its Policy Advocacy Clinic, the teaching element was immediately key. “When I walked to the center on my very first day, I was told, ‘You have a client in room one.’” The case involved Social Security benefits for a woman in her 50s. “She just looked at me and said, ‘You’ve never done this before.’ Then she said, ‘I’ve never done this before, either. It’ll be just fine,’ which was an early lesson in ‘client as teacher.’”

The next discussion, “#Uplift: Using the Law for Economic Justice,” began by asking what had inspired the panelists to make a career seeking economic justice. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III ’09 shared his frustration as a Peace Corps volunteer unable to alleviate the grinding poverty of Haitian sugarcane cutters in the Dominican Republic. Haben Girma ’13, who has limited vision and hearing, recounted being turned away from a summer job once her potential employer met her. Today, Girma, who was named White House Champion of Change by President Barack Obama, advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities.

“I provide training from schools to organizations about why choosing inclusion benefits all of us,” she said.

For Blake Strode ’15, the spark came even earlier. Strode, executive director of ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit civil rights law firm in St. Louis, remembered a classmate in his elementary school, an immigrant from Cameroon, who was relentlessly teased for her poverty and accent until he finally gathered the courage to sit with her at lunch and speak up for her.

Credit: Steve Gilbert
Blake Strode ’15 (with LSC co-founder Jeanne Charn ’70) was honored with the Emerging Leader Award for his work as executive director of ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit in St. Louis, Missouri.

“It was my first experience of seeing what it meant to stand with someone as they are enduring injustice,” said Strode, who later in the day was presented with the Bellow-Charn Championship of Justice Emerging Leader Award.“That’s the role of the social justice lawyer,” he concluded, “to create community and stop that oncoming train.”

Videos:

LSC at 40: A Look Inside of WilmerHale Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School

WilmerHale Legal Services Center 40th Anniversary Celebration

Three Clinical Students Receive Weiler Awards

Back row, from left to right: Wonnie Song ’19, Becca Johnson ’19, Professor Peter Cafagna, Kendall Howell ’19, and Heylee Bernstein ’19. Front row: Emeritus Professor Paul C. Weiler.

Three Harvard Law School students participating in the Sports Law Clinic were honored with Weiler Awards at the 2019 Harvard Sports Law Symposium. The annual event gathers academics, practitioners, and students in the sports industry to discuss the pressing business and legal issues in the sports world.

The Weiler Awards were established in honor of Paul C. Weiler. Weiler, the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law (Emeritus) at Harvard Law School, is considered to be the founder of American sports law and the “most distinguished sports law scholar of all time.” The awards are presented to eligible students who have participated in HLS Sports and Entertainment Law courses, the Committee on Sports and Entertainment Law and the Journal on Sports and Entertainment Law, as well as clinical placements through the Sport Law Clinic.

Wonnie Song J.D. ’19 was one of two awardees of the Weiler Scholarship. Song is the Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law. Last year, she received the Weiler Writing Prize and in 2017, Song was awarded the ABA’s Women in M&A Scholarship. She will be joining the corporate practice at Cravath, Swaine, & Moore LLP after graduation.

Becca Johnson, J.D. ’19 also received the Weiler Scholarship. Johnson served as the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and on the executive board of the Women’s Law Association. She received a Weiler Award in 2017 for her work in the corporate department of the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and at Farrell & Resinger LLC through the Sports Law Clinic. This past winter, Johnson worked with the Major League Baseball.

Becca Johnson ’19

Heylee Bernstein, J.D. ’19 and Kendall Howell, J.D. ’19 each received the Weiler Writing Prize for outstanding written work. Bernstein received the award for her paper, “Cheerleaders in the National Football League: Employment Conditions and Legal Claims,” which discusses the legal claims NFL cheerleaders brought against the NFL and teams since the early 2000s. Through the Sports Law Clinic, Bernstein worked as a legal intern for the San Francisco Giants and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Upon graduation, Bernstein will work in Proskauer Rose LLP’s labor and employment department.

Heylee Bernstein ’19 and Professor Carfagna

“Professor Carfagna has been [a mentor] and more,” said Kendall Howell J.D. ’19 as he accepted his award. Howell has taken all three of Professor Carfagna’s sports law classes and has learned many valuable lessons from Professor Carfagna, as a sports lawyer and as a man. “Professor Carfagna always put family first, and that is something I will take with me,” he added. Howell was honored for his paper “You Can Bet On It: The Legal Evolution of Sports Betting.” In the Sports Law Clinic, Howell worked as a legal intern for the Boston Celtics and Concussion Legacy Foundation. After law school, he will be joining the Financial Institutions practice group in Davis Polk & Wardwell’s DC office.

Kendall Howell ‘19

Project No One Leaves and CityLife/Vida Urbana Fighting Against Mass Displacement in Boston Housing

City Life organizers speak passionately about their work at the “Gentrifying Boston” event, hosted by Project No One Leaves. January 10, 2019.

“Without City Life, many people wouldn’t know how they can do anything [to fight for their right to housing,]” said Gabrielle, one of the organizers for City Life/Vida Urbana. City Life is a grassroots group that organizes communities to fight against the forces that fuel displacement in Boston. The Jamaica Plain based organization frequently works with Project No One Leaves (PNOL), a student practice organization at Harvard Law School that informs low-income tenants of their rights. On January 10, PNOL hosted several City Life organizers to speak to the HLS community about the ramifications of gentrification in Boston.

According to City Life leaders, an overwhelming majority of Roxbury residents are at risk of being displaced. The cost of housing in Roxbury increased by 70% between 2010 and 2015. The devastating mix of displacement, capitalism, racialized gentrification, and property exploitation is what some call antithetical to local economic development in Boston. Even still, landlords are aware of the influx of newcomers that can afford to pay higher rents, thereby pushing out current residents in favor of higher profits from new residents. As more and more properties in Boston are becoming increasingly expensive, middle- and low-income individuals and families have fewer options to secure housing. When landlords raise the rents and attempt to evict residents, people are often not given sufficient notice to find suitable housing. The stress of losing one’s home and scrambling to find an alternative has serious consequences on people’s mental, physical, and emotional health. The trauma of housing insecurity affects children and young people, altering how they navigate the world and their feelings about financial security. Long-time residents lose their social ties and networks to their communities, which can in turn affect the physical systems that help fight against chronic conditions and diseases. “The social costs for displaced families, such as intergenerational health impacts, is not borne by the landlords,” said Lawrence, another organizer with City Life. Landlords and urban developers prioritize profit over community welfare. Organizations like City Life develop community leaders to fight against the forces that fuel displacement and its harmful effects through direct organizing of tenants in protest and advocacy strategies, connecting tenants to legal representation, and informing residents of their rights.

It’s an uphill battle for many residents to try and retain their housing through the court system. Landlords and property owners often have legal representation, while many tenants cannot afford a lawyer. Tenants are not fighting a fair fight – starting off with the disadvantage of representing themselves in a convoluted system that can leave people feeling culpable if they lose their home. “People are left to represent themselves in these hearings, and you don’t understand the language of the court,” Gabrielle exclaimed. Gabrielle is determined to spread public awareness of City Life’s work to helps other residents like her. “I came to City Life to get legal help after I attempted to fight with my bank on my own. I couldn’t understand what was going on even though I had nearly ten years of banking experience and a master degree in business. My bank gave me the run around for years until I came to City Life and was empowered with information about my rights. The bank was very deceptive. Many people don’t know their rights, that’s why I have decided to become an ambassador and organizer with City Life.”

Fighting against housing displacement is how City Life and PNOL work jointly to combat racial, social, and economic injustice. PNOL sometimes refers residents struggling to retain their housing to legal aid organizations like the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), which provide representation to low-income and marginalized communities in civil matters. The difference can be life-altering. Keeping people in their homes helps keep families whole and counteracts actions that destabilize communities. Boston is a historic city, but loses significant remnants of its past when communities are removed and remade. “Preserving communities and cultures are more important to me then preserving bricks for historical purposes,” said Lawrence. PNOL plays a critical role in raising awareness of tenants’ legal rights and legal services available to them. In partnership with City Life, both organizations work to develop a community-based model for social and systemic change, one tenant at a time.

Harvard Defenders Host 7th Annual Litman Symposium

Via Harvard Law Today

Courtesy of Harvard Defenders

Harvard Law School’s Harvard Defenders hosted the 7th annual Litman Symposium on Nov. 15. This year’s event, titled “Defining Justice: Building a more equitable criminal legal system,” featured a Q&A with keynote speakers Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Sarah Boyette ’10 and Simmi Kaur ’17, an attorney with the Bronx Defenders.

Credit: Courtesy of Harvard Defenders. The keynote speakers at this year’s Symposium were Simmi Kaur ’17, an attorney with the Bronx Defenders, and Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Sarah Boyette.

The Jack T. Litman Program is dedicated to the memory of Jack T. Litman ’67, a member of Harvard Defenders during his time at the law school and a renowned defense attorney respected for his zealous advocacy on behalf of unpopular defendants. Litman’s sons, Benjamin ’06 and Sacha HKS ’03, established the fellowship in their father’s honor in 2012.

In his introduction, John Salsberg, a clinical instructor at Harvard Defenders since 1980, praised Litman’s dedication to criminal justice work. He said: “If Jack Litman were here today, he would be encouraging everybody to be criminal defense lawyers and he’d be really proud of our two speakers for what they do and what they have contributed to the criminal justice system.”

In their keynote Q&A, Kaur and Boyette shared insights and fielded questions about experiences that shaped their career paths, and their thoughts on the role of the criminal justice system in the United States.

Kaur, who served as president of Harvard Defenders and vice president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau while at HLS, is now an attorney in the criminal defense practice at Bronx Defenders. Born in India, she immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was 5. “Being around folks who were undocumented and with varying immigration statuses, kind of always put us out on the margin of the systems that existed,” said Kaur, “And that really got me thinking about the margins.”

Boyette, who previously worked with Brooklyn Defenders in Kings County, N.Y., joined the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, where she reviews convicted offenders claims of innocence and wrongful conviction. While at HLS, she served on the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, was a member of Harvard Defenders and participated with the Criminal Justice Institute.

Reflecting on the role of the criminal justice system in society, Boyette said the question of how to pursue “the utilitarian goal of making sure to help people not hurt other people without perpetuating this country’s spectacular legacy of racism and marginalization” is a difficult one. “I think the answer is to radically rethink every tenet you have ever relied on and try to be really evidenced-based,” she said. She believes using science-based strategies to identify actual recidivism rates and risk assessments, rather than relying on lay intuition about what works, is a good way forward.

The Litman Fellowship supports three law school students as they work as Harvard Defenders during the summer. Through the fellowship, students gain practical experience in client interaction, legal research and oral advocacy, and they have the unique opportunity to handle all their own cases.

As part of the symposium, this year’s Litman Fellows —Marcos Cabello, Mary Lorenzo, and Sam Faisal —presented academic research on a legal issue they encountered during their fellowship. Cabello, a 2L at Boston University School of Law, presented on show-cause hearings and how hearings should be used as an alternative to prosecution. Lorenzo, a 2L at Boston College Law School, presented on mental health and the courts, and Faisal, second-year law student at Suffolk University, focused on family mediation in the criminal courts.

RAP’s 20th Anniversary Celebration Brings HLS Alumnus Don. S. Passman

By: Rebecca Rechtszaid

Photo Credit: Lester Cohen Simon & Schuster

On Friday, October 26, 2018 the Recording Artists Project (RAP) at Harvard Law School (HLS) celebrated its 20th anniversary by hosting Donald S. Passman, an HLS alumnus and author of the music industry bible, All You Need to Know About the Music Business. Mr. Passman is one of the most respected and well-known attorneys in the music business. Mr. Passman is a partner at Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman where he represents some of music’s true rock stars, including Adele, Taylor Swift, Green Day, Paul Simon, and Stevie Wonder.

For those of us who came to law school determined to practice in the music and entertainment industry, getting to meet a legend like Mr. Passman is a dream come true. Throughout the event, students from HLS and other schools that partner with the Recording Artists Project told Mr. Passman how reading his book inspired them to attend law school or otherwise confirmed their decision to pursue a career in the music industry. Mr. Passman went over the basics of music law for the first half of the event: discussing copyright, royalty streams, and the most common types of agreements that artists enter into in the music industry. He then took questions from the roughly 70 attendees, which ranged from questions about his experiences as a music lawyer to his thoughts on how new technologies will change how musicians make money and interact with their audiences.

Mr. Passman also talked about how, when he attended Harvard, there were no entertainment-focused classes or student groups. We are fortunate now to have a few, including the Recording Artists Project and the Transactional Law Clinics’ Entertainment Law Clinic. Speaking about his practice, Mr. Passman discussed the importance of being able to take the music industry’s complicated concepts and explain them to artists in clear and concise language. He also touched on some new developments in the industry, like the recently-passed Music Modernization Act and the exercise of copyright transfer terminations under Section 203 of the Copyright Act, and how he thinks they might change the industry in the coming years.

Harvard Law School’s alumni network in the entertainment and music community is fiercely dedicated to the cultivation of young legal talent in the industry. Mr. Passman’s generosity in flying out from Los Angeles to speak to our organization shows the lengths that our alumni will go to help students who are truly passionate about pursuing a career in music law. We look forward to seeing the Recording Artists Project continue to grow and strengthen as it enters its next 20 years.

“The Newest Federal Court Experiment”: Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims speaks at Harvard Law School

Via the WilmerHale Legal Services Center

 

Chief Judge Davis and DAV National Adjutant Marc Burgess pose with staff of the Veterans Legal Clinic

On Thursday, November 8th, Chief Judge Robert N. Davis of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims gave the 2018 Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Distinguished Lecture at Harvard Law School to an audience of students, faculty, staff, and members of the veterans community.  The Chief Judge’s Lecture was entitled “The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims:  The newest Federal Court experiment, past, present and future.” Opening remarks were provided by the National Adjutant of DAV, Marc Burgess.

Chief Judge Davis—a Navy veteran who joined the Court in 2004—spoke about the history of veterans law, the origins of the Veterans Court, and present challenges facing the Veterans Court in its role reviewing benefit decisions of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Chief Judge Davis chronicled the evolution of veterans law from World War I to the present day, including discussion of the Veterans Judicial Review Act of 1988 that introduced court review for veterans claims and established the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Chief Judge Davis highlighted the need for continued innovation, noting how much “[o]ur veterans legal landscape has evolved from its early days,” and challenging audience members to use their own voices—as veterans, students, advocates, pro bono attorneys—to prompt the significant change required to provide the services that veterans will need in the future.

Chief Judge Davis also discussed the Court’s structure, accomplishments, and challenges. The Veterans Court is unique in terms of its exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from the Board of Veterans Appeals, as well as the way which the vast majority of appeals are decided by single-judge non-precedential decisions. The Veterans Court has a tremendous caseload, handling over 7,000 cases in 2018. Among its challenges, the Chief Judge stated that the Veterans Court is “grappling with how to efficiently decide more panels, decide class actions, and deal with an increasing case load.”

Looking ahead to the future of veterans’ law, Chief Judge Davis stressed the importance of pushing for overhaul of the veterans claims system. He stated that while many veterans are able to navigate the veterans claims system in a reasonable way, “any time it takes a veteran years to get a final decision on a claim, the system is broken.”

He ended his lecture by urging the veterans community to continue working towards positive change in the veterans claims system, pointing to the progressive evolution of veterans law over time. “Veterans law is maturing. The Court has carried out their vision of a place where veterans can go to get fair, efficient justice.” Finally, Chief Judge Davis left the audience with a call to action, declaring, “We have a voice. We need to start using it.”

 

After his lecture, Chief Judge Davis answered a range of questions from the audience, including the role of pro bono attorneys at the Court, the impact of presumptive diagnoses for disabilities, and the appellate reforms to be implemented under the Appeals Modernization Act.

The event was hosted by the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, in partnership with the HLS Armed Forces Association. The lecture was the 5th annual event in the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Distinguished Speaker Series, sponsored the DAV Charitable Service Trust. The Speaker Series provides a forum for national leaders to address the critical issues facing our nation’s disabled veterans and to engage in conversation with the local community. Prior speakers include then-Secretary of the U.S. Navy Ray Mabus, the founder of the first veterans treatment court Judge Robert Russell, and former VA Secretaries David Shulkin and Robert McDonald.

Harvard Professors Decry Trump Administration Approach to Asylum Policy, Migrant Caravans

Via The Harvard Crimson

By: Ema R. Schumer and Ruoqi Zhang

Harvard professors decried the Trump administration’s asylum policies to a packed room at the Law School Thursday, condemning in particular the administration’s treatment of caravans of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States — the latest flashpoint in the country’s immigration debate.

In the hour-long panel, “The Migrant Caravan and the Law and Politics of the Border,” Anthropology Professor Ieva Jusionyte and Law School Clinical Professor Sabrineh Ardalan spoke about the legal, social, and political issues surrounding migrant caravans. Three Law School student organizations — Harvard Immigration Project, Mexican Law Students Association, and La Alianza — hosted the event.

Ardalan began her remarks with an explanation of asylum laws and their historical origins in the aftermath of World War II.

Ardalan specifically criticized the Trump administration’s effort to prohibit migrants from seeking asylum if they do not enter through a “port of entry.” She referred to this policy as the federal government’s latest effort to “roll back asylum protections” for Central American refugees fleeing violence.

“For purposes of seeking asylum, it doesn’t matter where a person enters the U.S.,” she said after she read excerpts from U.S. asylum law, which empowers migrants to apply for asylum regardless of their immigration status or where they enter the country. “The executive branch can’t just rewrite what Congress did.”

In her remarks, Ardalan also rejected the perception that migrants somehow manipulate the asylum system to gain entry into the United States.

“This isn’t a loophole by any means,” she said. “In fact, it’s really hard to gain access to protections that people have a right to.”

Both professors focused on portrayals of migrants and asylum seekers in political discourses and public media. They specifically described Trump’s portrayal of migrant caravans as an “invasion” as an attempt to dehumanize immigrants. One large caravan from Central America originally grabbed Trump’s attention in the spring. That group has since splintered, and several other caravans have followed in its wake.

“[They are] individuals with stories who have really compelling reasons for making a harrowing journey risking their lives and the lives of their small children to save their lives,” Ardalan said.

“By eliminating that real life context of why people are leaving and dehumanizing them, it’s easier to gain public opinion to push through these draconian policies,” she added.

Jusionyte said the Trump administration is not the only party using charged language around immigration, however. She referenced metaphors members of the media and of the public use when discussing immigration.

“People who have the right to ask for asylum and are running for their lives are portrayed as part of this big ‘wave’ that will ‘overflow’ the United States and destroy all of the border,” she said. “Perhaps the president’s rhetoric is a little harsher but it’s in all of how we talk about migration.”

Both professors underscored students’ capacity to change the narrative around immigration.

Ardalan emphasized the power of storytelling. She suggested reframing immigration debates “to connect people to narratives with shared values — values that we all have in common — that we can come back to to try to unify people around messages as opposed to dividing people.”

Harvard Law student and La Alianza member Perla F. “Fabi” Alvelais, who attended the event, reiterated the speakers’ statements. She said the national discourse surrounding immigrants from Central America is “upsetting” and “completely wrong.”

“It’s very upsetting to see how much that rhetoric has stuck with a lot of people and how a lot of people have accepted that,” Alvelais said. “So I think our job in La Alianza as law students is to pushback and show how talented and committed and great our community is.”

Jusionyte applauded students’ passion for the issue. Some Law students have worked with immigration clinics and humanitarian organizations at the border.

“Even for people who are not necessarily studying law,” she added, “there are such ways as to just donate to [American Civil Liberties Union] or these shelters in Mexico or on the U.S. border.”

Local Education on Campus: Education Law Week 2018

By: Advocates for Education Board

Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell, speaking to the HLS community during Education Law Week

Boston and Cambridge are home to to some of the top colleges and universities in the country. For those of us lucky enough to attend Harvard Law School (HLS), we see every day the power of a top-notch education. But within miles of our campus, students in the Boston Public School (BPS) system face immense challenges that too often preclude them from having the option of attending a school like HLS. For this year’s Education Law Week, we aimed to deepen our law school’s understanding of a few of the most pressing issues within the Boston Public Schools. Through this, our hope was to strengthen law students’ connection to, and investment in, the greater community that we are lucky enough to be a part of for at least three years.

 

Day One: Civil Rights Attorney Matt Cregor on Racial Disparities in BPS’s Exam Schools

In recent years, Boston’s exam schools (Boston Latin Academy, Boston Latin School, and O’Bryant School of Math and Science) have drawn increased scrutiny for the racial disparities in their admissions numbers. Most alarmingly, while Black and Latino students make up 75% of BPS students, only 20% of students at Boston Latin School identify as Black or Latino. In response to these alarming numbers, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law produced a report titled “A Broken Mirror,” which lays out the immense disparities in BPS exam school admissions, and calls for BPS to “immediately intensify its review of exam school admissions.” Matt Cregor, who led the production of the report and is currently an attorney with the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, led a conversation about the findings of the report and the solutions that have been proposed through community dialogues.

 

Day Two: Immigration Attorney Elizabeth Badger on the BPS to ICE Pipeline

Students who are immigrants face unique challenges, which BPS may exacerbate through its school incident reporting practices. Boston School Police officers sometimes report school incidents to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), a network of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that includes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While BRIC is designed to be a tool to identify “major players” in crime and pinpoint areas of crime, Boston School Police have input seemingly minor school offenses into the database. As illustration, Badger explained that a lunchroom disagreement among two students, resolved without resort to fighting, could make its way into BRIC. In one case, advocates say that an unsupported gang allegation against a BPS student was input into BRIC and was later used to support ICE deportation proceedings against the student. Badger discussed how local advocates are working to gain additional information about BPS policies and procedures for School Police Officers’ use of BRIC.

 

Day Three: National Women’s Law Center’s Manager of Campaign and Strategies Nia Evans on the Impact of School Dress Codes on Girls of Color

This spring, the National Women’s Law Center released “DRESS CODED: Black Girls, Bodies, and Bias in D.C. Schools,” a groundbreaking report on the impact that student dress codes have on Black girls and their educational experiences. This report, co-authored with 21 Black girls who attend D.C. schools, sheds light on the ways in which dress codes contribute to the disparities in discipline rates between white students and students of color, and sparked a critical national dialogue about the reforms that are needed in school and district policies. Nia Evans, who led the project for NWLC, presented the findings of the research, and discussed the process and effects that the report’s creation had on the students themselves. The conversation raised a number of questions about the use of dress codes in Boston Public Schools, and laid the groundwork for future research and advocacy efforts.

 

Day Four: Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell on the Role of Cities in Education

To conclude Education Law Week, Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell joined students for a conversation on the City’s role in the education of its students. She began by sharing her personal motivation for doing this work, providing us an urgent reminder that laws and policies are more than abstract concepts or interesting topics of conversation: they have real consequences for real people. A graduate of Boston Latin School, Councilor Campbell helped bring Education Law Week full circle by engaging in dialogue about inequities in educational opportunity. While the City Council is able to exert direct influence over education in some ways, Councilor Campbell also discussed the comprehensive progress that is needed in order for the City to truly serve all students within BPS. From housing to safety to access to health services, so much of what students bring into the classroom is dictated by the community that surrounds them. Councilor Campbell discussed the efforts Boston is currently undertaking to strengthen both support and outcomes for students across the City.

Thank you to all who attended the events and supported Education Law Week; a special thank you to all of our speakers!

The events for Education Law Week were co-sponsored by the Advocates for Education, Child and Youth Advocates, and Urbanists, and funded by the Dean of Students’ Grant Fund.

Academy of Food Law and Policy Conference at Harvard Law School

Via Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Written by Erika Dunyak, FLPC Clinical Fellow and AFLP Conference attendee.

On October 5th, 2018, the Academy of Food Law and Policy (AFLP) held its inaugural conference at Harvard Law School, co-hosted by Harvard Law Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC). The conference welcomed over 40 attendees and featured a series of workshops, moderator-led discussion groups, and a lunchtime panel led by past and current AFLP board members. The conference connected the food law and policy community and highlighted parameters of the field through group-driven discussion of scholarship, teaching, and growth of the AFLP.

Championed by Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law Food Law and Policy Clinic and Susan Schneider, director of the LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law at the University of Arkansas, AFLP seeks to stimulate intellectual discourse, encourage and recognize scholarship, enhance teaching, support student interest, and promote the academic field of food law and policy. Now in its second year, the Academy connects legal faculty from across the globe to create a foundation for the long-term stability of food law as an academic discipline.

As a conference attendee, it was refreshing to be among peers and mentors in the food law space. Academy members gathered to evaluate and labor over each other’s writing in hopes of contributing meaningfully to academic discourse. The conference’s workshops helped attendees develop their positions and find new angles and new resources to strengthen their work. It was an exercise without judgment, and most importantly, will improve the research and writing of authors contributing to the food law academy.

Some AFLP members are adjuncts, teaching in undergraduate programs, clinical professors, or other non-traditional academic roles for the doctrinal legal academy. Other members are tenured faculty; the Academy even counts a dean amongst its members! But at the conference, the traditional academic barriers that exist were broken down; attendees were eager to learn from one another. Conference attendees also noted actions to increase inclusivity as an exciting next step for the legal academy and the future of food law.

Stacie Jonas on the Frontlines in the Fight to Protect Immigrant Survivors of Abuse

The Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA) encourages law school students and lawyers to incorporate an enduring commitment to public service throughout their careers. The office offers advising sessions for students to discuss career options, plans events to expose students to the wide range of public interest opportunities available, and invites public interest leaders and mentors to HLS through its Wasserstein Public Interest Fellows Program.

As a part of National Pro Bono Week, Wasserstein Fellow Stacie Jonas discussed her commitment to serving those on the margins of society through her work in human trafficking. Human trafficking is a growing global epidemic. While sex trafficking is often what captures the media’s attention, labor trafficking is a prevalent problem. Jonas serves as the managing attorney for the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid’s (TRLA) human trafficking team, which aims to protect those who have fallen victim to labor and sex trafficking due, in part, to the gaps in our country’s immigration and labor laws. During her lunch time discussion, Jonas dispelled the myths of human trafficking, distinguished it from smuggling, and discussed how structural policy and legal flaws in labor and immigration are “weaponized” by abusive employers and traffickers that make immigrants more vulnerable to abuse and harm instead of protection.

TRLA provides comprehensive legal services to survivors of labor and sex trafficking in Texas and six other southern states. At TRLA, attorneys help survivors report their trafficking to law enforcement, apply for immigration relief and represent survivors in civil lawsuits and administrative agency proceedings. Survivors of labor and sex trafficking are often reluctant to speak out and engage in a process to hold traffickers accountable out of fear of deportation. Recent policies and rhetoric have caused widespread concern among immigrants, and people are reluctant to report their abuse, fearing that the threat of arrest and deportation is just around the corner, Jonas said. She told Politico EU that “[Traffickers] take complete advantage of the increased climate of fear. So many of them use threatened abuse of the legal process, threats of deportation, threats to report people to law enforcement on phony allegations, like threatening to accuse them of theft, or threats to have their kids taken away from them as a big part of their scheme to coerce someone to work.” TRLA helps these individuals prepare to speak with law enforcement about the trauma they have endured and assists in helping them obtain the legal safeguards to protect their welfare.

Unlawful immigration and/or smuggling may be synonymous to human trafficking for some, but Jonas informed the audience that, under federal law, they are actually quite different. Even U.S. citizens and immigrants who enter the country lawfully can become victims of trafficking. Nearly 70 percent of labor trafficking victims enter the U.S. on lawful visas. Jonas differentiated smuggling, which centers on the unlawful transporting of individuals to a foreign country, from trafficking, which involves the exploitation and coercion of an individual for labor or commercial sexual acts. Jonas also noted in a Texas Standard article, that “Victims of human trafficking are eligible for certain legal remedies and protections that are not always available to people who were smuggled.” Labor trafficked individuals can still be paid, and do not necessarily have restriction of movement. She gave an example of a man who was promised wages and free room and board in exchange for trucking-related work. But the work the man was required to perform was different and more labor intensive and dangerous than original described, and he received less pay than promised. He was injured on the job multiple times. The trafficker and his family also belittled the man, provided him sub-standard housing, and even threatened to get him deported or that he could be harmed if he ever left the job. Other truck drivers noticed signs of the man’s abuse, and he was referred to TRLA for services. Jonas and her team were able to get him out of the situation and helped him successfully apply for various legal remedies.

Jonas also currently works part time with Justice in Motion, helping to ensure that migrants fleeing abuse or violence can remain safely in the U.S. and to reunite migrant parents who were separated from their children while in the U.S. Jonas said that organizations like TRLA, Justice in Motion, and other similar organizations continue working to help trafficked individuals subjected to abuse and harm, who are often times trying to escape poverty, improve their lives, and support their families.

Thank you to OPIA and the Labor and Employment Action Project (LEAP) for putting this event together

Community Enterprise Project Participates in Boston Ujima Project’s Citywide Assembly

Boston Ujima Project citywide assembly, October 6th – October 7th 2018

By: Samy Rais

Over Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend, more than a hundred community members, business owners and activists assembled to celebrate and participate in the Boston Ujima Project’s second official citywide assembly. The Ujima Project was founded in 2017 with the mission to create a new community-controlled economy in Greater Boston, initially focusing on[1]:

  1. Good Business Certification and Alliance: establishing community standards (and supporting businesses) that consider business practices like living wages, Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI)-friendly hiring, local purchasing, environmental impact and affordability.

 

  1. Community Capital Fund: pooling savings and investments to engage in participatory budgeting to meet the enterprise, housing and consumer needs of the community. The fund will be democratically governed by historically divested communities, giving every member an equal vote on the fund’s investment priorities, loans and equity transactions.

 

  1. Worker Services Network: growing employee satisfaction and security by organizing human resource programs.

 

  1. Alternative Local Currencies: establishing alternative local currencies (like time banking) that would allow members to trade their skills and labor and incentivize circulation of resources within the community.

 

  1. Anchor Institution Advocacy: building community power and advancing campaigns for the City, State and large nonprofits to direct investment, subsidy and procurement dollars to Ujima’s network of certified good businesses and developers.

 

Since early 2016, the Community Enterprise Project (CEP) of Harvard’s Transactional Law Clinics has been supporting the Ujima Project’s inception and community-driven mission. CEP students have provided the Ujima Project with legal analysis on various transactional matters, namely corporate and nonprofit law, corporate governance structures, 1940 Investment Company Act and securities laws implications, consumer protection laws, and secured transactions. These areas of law are customarily associated with the law firm-world, but are a critical need in the public interest space. Currently, CEP students are building on work completed last semester by helping to finalize the initial documents for the Ujima Project’s Community Capital Fund to begin making investments in community-supported businesses.

As part of CEP’s support of the Ujima Project, I attended the citywide assembly with CEP director and clinical instructor, Carlos Teuscher. CEP’s attendance at the citywide assembly had two purposes: first, in following the community and movement lawyering approach, CEP believes in supporting organizations that are working to dismantle and radically restructure current systems of law and power, and it is essential to be present in order to be in solidarity with such movements; and second, it was critical to hear the voices of the community that the Ujima Project was supporting and are the most impacted, in order to effectively prepare the Ujima Project’s Community Capital Fund loan documents.

As mentioned above, the Ujima Project is creating the first-of-its-kind investment fund that is controlled by the community. While my involvement in transactional cases generally consists of undertaking legal research, drafting contracts, or forming a legal entity, it was obvious from the start that working with the Ujima Project was going to be different. Because of its community-driven approach, as its legal counsel, we need to ensure that the Ujima Project’s legal documents are able to adapt to its members’ ideas, struggles and demands, no matter how unconventional.

In that sense, the Ujima Project is both a unique project and a large-scale illustration of recurrent challenges in our work at CEP. This semester, student advocates in CEP have been advising several groups looking to form worker cooperatives in Greater Boston, which, like the Ujima Project, require democratic voting. By giving workers collective ownership in their business, worker cooperatives enable collaborative entrepreneurship and help tackle many of the issues poverty lawyers interact with on a day-to-day basis – wage-and-hour violations, health and environmental issues, immigration, criminal justice, and many others. As with the case in the Ujima Project, we need to ensure that the voices of all the members in the cooperative (undocumented/documented, low-wage workers/management, reentering citizens, etc.) are heard and reflected. At the same time, it is challenging to balance the need for urgency in the day-to-day operations and democratic management.

As we pass the mid-point of the semester, I am excited to have been able to interact with communities experimenting with and implementing alternative economic models. As an aspiring lawyer, I have appreciated the need to better understand the community you work for and their needs. Further, as a foreign student at Harvard Law School for the semester, I discovered communities in the United States, who, although being disadvantaged, gather and spare no effort or ingenuity to fight and overcome the systemic struggles they face.

[1]Ujima Concept Paper available at https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/40c717_f16102d86a644584af4c47c72ea2794b.pdf.

Veterans Legal Clinic Welcomes DAV General Counsel for Conversation About His Role & Career Path

Via the Legal Services Center 

Christopher J. Clay, General Counsel of Disabled American Veterans (DAV), shared his perspectives on current challenges facing disabled veterans and his experiences as general counsel of national non-profit organization during a talk at Harvard Law School on October 2. The event was hosted by the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, and was cosponsored by the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, Armed Forces Association, National Security and Law Association, and The Transactional Law Clinics.

Clinical Professor Daniel Nagin—director of the Veterans Legal Clinic—gave opening remarks, introducing both Mr. Clay and Richard E. Marbes, Chair of the Board of Directors of the DAV Charitable Service Trust, who was in attendance at the event. Nagin described DAV’s role as an important resource for veterans seeking access to benefits and supportive services. This year marks the sixth year that the DAV Charitable Service Trust has provided funding to support the work of the Veterans Legal Clinic.

Mr. Clay—a Ph.D-trained philosopher turned lawyer—spoke about his background, his unique career path, and his duties as the general counsel of a large nonprofit.  He answered questions from the audience on a wide range of topics, including how DAV collaborates with other veterans organizations, DAV’s relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and whether the role of general counsel differs between non-profit and for-profit organizations.

Mr. Clay also discussed DAV’s origins, structure, and accomplishments. DAV is a congressionally-chartered organization that was founded in Cincinnati with about 20 members and has now grown to over 1 million members. DAV offers a range of services to veterans, from no-cost advocacy before the VA to free rides to medical appointments. According to Mr. Clay, DAV handled over 250,000 VA disability claims last year and has donated over 4,000 vans and countless volunteer hours over the past few years to transport veterans to medical appointments at VA medical centers nationwide.

In addition to helping veterans access benefits and services, Mr. Clay discussed how DAV has sought to encourage veterans to live fuller lives. One program brings together severely disabled veterans to participate in winter sports and other activities that, Mr. Clay said, help veterans feel that “if I can do this, I can do anything.” Finally, he emphasized that the DAV’s veteran members are the ones that ultimately run DAV, which “ensures that the passion that began DAV remains with DAV.”

Students Receive Wisdom on Building a Pro Bono Practice in a Large Law Firm

Pictured from left to right: Sue Finegan, MintzLevin, William (Rob) Roberts ’10, Ropes & Gray, and Tory Hartmann ’17, WilmerHale

Three influential law firm attorneys committed to serving their community spoke to a room full of students about how law firm associates can get involved in pro bono work at a large law firm. Susan (Sue) Finegan is a nationally recognized pro bono leader. She is the Pro Bono Partner at Mintz Levin, and was driven to the law profession to help people. She has served as the lead counsel in a number of high profile litigation matters, such as the Trump administration’s travel ban and seeing through the passage of a Massachusetts restraining order law for sexual assault survivors. She current serves as co-chair of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission. The two other panelists, William (Rob) Roberts ’10 and Victoria (Tory) Hartmann ’17, are HLS alums who built a foundation for their pro bono work throughout their time at HLS. Roberts, who is an associate in the Litigation and Enforcement group at Ropes & Gray, participated in the Predatory Student Lending Clinic as a student. His current practice at Ropes focuses on complex commercial disputes, bankruptcy litigation, and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance. He also serves as the family law team leader for the firm’s partnership with Dorchester House. Tory Hartmann is an alum of the Food Law and Policy Clinic. Now at WilmerHale, Hartmann advises public and private companies on an array of corporate matters, including strategic investments, cross-border outsourcing deals, and SEC filings. Each of the panelists spoke to the breadth of issues they have worked on in their pro bono portfolio, ranging from protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), reuniting separated families, working with domestic abuse survivors and homeless women, to helping farmers and other individuals and entities providing food get established. The panelists described how their intentional efforts to get involved in pro bono work and their firm’s support of that work allowed them to frequently engage in public service opportunities.

Finegan emphasized that the three firms represented on the panel had a long history of commitment to the community and are strategic about hiring lawyers with special skills that can be helpful in serving the community: “I think a lot of these firms, and these three in particular, have decades long commitment to certain initiatives in the community of Boston and in other cities that we operate in. Even before pro bono was a defined thing, the founders of our firms were doing things in the community for free . . . There’s a real obligation as lawyers, [and] as professionals, to use [these special] skills in any way we can.”

Roberts agreed that law firms believe in doing meaningful pro bono work, stating that, “Firms are looking for these types of issues that make an impact.” Roberts recounted a year where he performed an impressive 1,100 hours of pro bono work, exceeding his billable hours. When asked about how the firm viewed this imbalance, he replied, “at the end of the day people see if you’re doing good work and they appreciate the work you’re doing whether it’s pro bono or billable.” The challenge, he said, is in maintaining organization and flexibility to bounce between different issues.

There can be tremendous leadership growth for associates to initiate a pro bono project and take the helms of leading a case. Finegan said that it is a great professional development opportunity for associates to be primarily responsible for someone’s well-being when leading a pro bono project, a chance that occurs less frequently in some of the firm’s bigger cases when the partners largely drive the work. The panelists encouraged students to get the experience and exposure of leading a project and driving a litigation strategy early on in one’s career.

Hartmann encouraged students who were planning to work in law firms, but have a strong inclination for public interest, to ask the firms up front about their pro bono work. She encouraged students to ask summer associates during interviews and meet and greet sessions about the kinds of pro bono projects they had worked on. “Everyone should have an answer,” she declared. She also encouraged students to ask if pro bono hours count the same as billable hours and to make sure the projects include challenging and substantive work. That way, she said, a student can tell how much a firm values their pro bono practice. Finegan highlighted that at Mintz Levin, “Our pro bono matters are just as important as our client matters, and in some ways, in my perspective more important because these are clients who would otherwise not get helped.”

Thank you to the Harvard Women’s Law Association for co-sponsoring the event.

Climate Defense Project Emphasizes Movement Lawyering to Empower and Protect Climate Activists

Pictured left to right: Climate Defense Project Co-Founders Alice Cherry ’16 and Ted Hamilton ‘16

“We like to think of ourselves as climate activists with bar licenses . . .” said Ted Hamilton, one of the co-founders of the Climate Defense Project (CDP). CDP was founded in 2016 by three HLS alumni (Alice Cherry ’16, Ted Hamilton ’16, and Kelsey Skaggs ‘16) to “use the legal system as its own avenue of activism” in climate defense work. Since its founding, the organization has represented a number of climate activists who engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to combat climate change, who would otherwise lack access to reliable legal support. CDP addresses this need by providing legal support for activists, connecting attorneys with communities and campaigns, and pursuing climate impact litigation.

Before CDP was born, the founders themselves were active participants in the climate movement. In 2014, seven students, including the three founders, filed a lawsuit against Harvard University over its fossil fuel investments. The plaintiffs claimed that Harvard was violating its charitable mission by contributing to environmentally and socially harmful activities through investing in fossil fuel companies’ business actions. The group knew their chances of success were slim, but still found it important to put political pressure on the university to take immediate action to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The case was dismissed by the Massachusetts Appeal Court nearly two years later, but Cherry and Hamilton said that the experience of litigating, speaking to the press, and making political arguments in the court and the court of public opinion prepared them for their current roles in running a nonprofit. From their experience pursuing litigation, Hamilton said, “We realized there was a real need for this sort of proactive movement lawyering for the climate movement . . . . and to proactively use the legal system and legal ideas to advance the movement’s goals.”

CDP primarily provides criminal defense for climate activists. Increasingly, climate activists are using civil disobedience tactics as a call to action, urging politicians and other powerful decision makers to immediately address the problems contributing the climate’s deterioration. “The planet is dying and our clients are getting arrested for trying to do something about that,” Cherry remarked. In their cases, CDP often uses the climate necessity defense, a common technique used by climate activists, which states that a person’s actions were justified by the climate emergency, or the need for drastic action to reduce the need for fossil fuels. In one such case, protestors were arrested for demonstrating against a liquid natural gas plant in Tacoma, Washington that was built on indigenous land. CDP spoke to a local indigenous elder, who served as an expert witness in the case. She gave a history of the land and the violations of treaties over the land throughout the years. Her testimony, in addition to fact that the indigenous group granted permission for the protestors to take action, helped the protestors to be cleared of the trespass and obstruction charges against them. CDP was also involved in a case in Minnesota, where the activists from Oregon and Washington, known as the “Valve Turners” manually shut off the emergency valves on the tar-sands pipelines that transports tar-sands oil from Canada to the U.S. The activists justified their actions as necessary because of the imminent threat that fossil fuels pose. Three of the five protestors were tried and convicted of felony charges, but in a win for the activists, a state judge dismissed all charges earlier this month.

These court cases, victorious or not, often helps to spread a message and adds legitimacy to the climate action movement, Cherry said. The two also discussed that political trials provide a forum and process for fact finding, adds procedural safeguards and opportunities to vet information, and can facilitate democratic deliberation on important social issues. Cherry stated, “Through jury verdicts, people get to be the voice of the community. They get to participate in a form of direct democracy at a time people are kind of shut out of other democratic institutions.”

Cherry also discussed the intersection of climate change with other issues. “You really can’t understand climate injustice without understanding racial and gender injustice, and of course, capitalism. We exploit people as well as resources.” She said that intersectionality is going to be key for the climate movement going forward to make climate change feel “immediate, tangible, and morally compelling for people.”

Both Hamilton and Cherry spoke highly of the decision to start their own organization, and encouraged students to do so also if there was a need they felt was currently unaddressed. They shared the challenges of building a nonprofit, but also how having connections both within and outside of Harvard gave them the support and resources to be successful.

Thank you to the Harvard Environmental Law Society for co-sponsoring this event.

Protecting Civil Liberties and Rights with Oren Nimni of Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston

Pictured left to right: Harvard Law School Professor Nikolas Bowie ’14 and Oren Nimni, Lawyers for Civil Rights

Harvard Law Professor Nikolas Bowie ’14 and Oren Nimni of Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) Boston sat down to have a conversation about the LCR’s recent litigation efforts to advance civil rights and economic justice. Nimni spoke about his commitment to advancing justice for people of color and immigrants and described his grassroots approach to developing legal strategies.

Nimni is currently litigating a case against the Trump administration to protect immigrants from Haiti, Honduras, and El Salvador with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In the mid-summer of 2018, the Trump administration announced it was terminating TPS status for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal, and Sudan. In light of the announcement, immigration and civil rights advocacy groups like the LCR initiated litigation to prevent the terminations. They claimed that the cancellation of the program had a discriminatory motive that violated the law. In early October, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ordered the administration to halt its plan, ruling that the administration violated the Equal Protection Clause by basing its decision “on animus against non-white, non-European immigrants.” Nimni emphasized the importance of the decision nationwide, but especially in Boston which has a high immigrant population. He highlighted that speaking with community members and prioritizing their needs was central to developing the legal theories they pursued.

Nimni has also been involved in other efforts to combat racial discrimination, including LCR Boston’s suits against the Boston Police Department (BPD) for racial profiling and internal discrimination within employment. He has also helped with reunifying families who were separated at the border due to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. LCR filed a lawsuit on behalf of children seeking damages from federal officials for forcibly separating families. Nimni was quoted in WBUR 90.9 saying that the lawsuit seeks to “hold the government accountable” and petition for “. . . the government [to] attempt to repair some of the harm that they’ve done to these kids.”

Nimni distinguished LCR as an organization that embodies the community-lawyering approach, letting communities drive the litigation. It is a model that appealed to him and one that he uses as he develops new legal strategies. He also said the organization had a strict focus on protecting the rights and interests of marginalized communities. “We’re in a really particular moment right now in the law where things are really bad and that provides a pretty sober reminder of the way that law works,” he told the audience. But, Nimni said, there are a number of organizations nationally and in Boston that are engaging in exciting and creative litigation strategies around immigration, mass incarceration, and education, among others. Nimni concluded by encouraging students to participate in direct services work through clinics or other opportunities. He also advocated that students stay in Boston, arguing that there are underserved communities in cities that are not well-established civil rights hubs that need creative, and talented lawyers to help defend their interests.

Thank you to the National Lawyers Guild – HLS Chapter for co-sponsoring this event.

Lee Gelernt: A Fierce Advocate Reuniting Separated Families

Lee Gelernt, Deputy Director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project

In the spring of 2018, the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy on immigrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border by separating families and children.  A new report from Amnesty International cites that over 6,000 people, half of whom are children, were separated from their families at the border since the policy was implemented. The ACLU promptly sprung into action, initiating a national class action lawsuit against the Trump administration to stop the practice. The case sought to reunite a mother and daughter who had been forced apart and detained separately 2,000 miles away from each other. The pair was seeking asylum in the U.S. after fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lee Gelernt, Deputy Director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who spearheaded the lawsuit, spoke to HLS staff and students about the litigation’s claims and the ongoing efforts to reunify families.

The lawsuit claimed that Trump’s separation policy violated the Constitution’s due process clause, the asylum statute, which protects asylum seekers, and the government’s own directive to keep families intact. On June 26, federal Judge Dana Sabraw issued an injunction declaring Trump’s separation policy unconstitutional and required the administration to reunite the families. The administration suggested that the ACLU should use its networks to find the parents, but the judge retorted that it was “100%” the government’s responsibility to find the migrant parents it had separated and deported. The ACLU did organize efforts to help, and first prioritized reuniting children 5 and under with their parents. The task was quite daunting. In September, NPR reported that 304 parents had been deported and remained outside of the U.S. – many of whom were in Guatemala. Gelernt said the government kept poor records of the individuals they deported, and that they were “sitting on information, including phone numbers, [that they had] that could help find these parents.” Gelernt himself traveled to Guatemala to search for some of these parents. “I never expected to be in Guatemala looking for parents.” For those parents that he and other volunteers found, they explained to them their rights and presented them with a distressing choice: to be reunited with their children or to let them remain in the U.S. to pursue asylum independently. Gelernt said that two-thirds of the parents who were deported let their children remain in the U.S., reasoning that having their children return to their home country was too dangerous.

In his 25 plus years of civil rights work, Gelernt said the family separation policy is worst thing he’s ever seen. “It’s as The Washington Post described it: “gratuitous cruelty.” Being detained is a traumatizing experience in and of itself, especially for a child, Gelernt said, compounded with the fact that these children were being forcibly torn from their parents. In some cases, young children had been separated from their parents for so long, their children no longer recognized them. Judge Sabraw asserted the severe consequences of policy and leaving families broken, warning that, “For every parent who is not located there will be a permanently orphaned child.”

As heart wrenching as the issue was, Gelernt says it rallied political unity among conservatives and liberals. Immigration policy is a polarizing issue in Washington, but the public outcry denouncing Trump’s “crack down” on immigration mobilized politicians from both sides of the aisle to speak out. A Harvard CAPS/Harris poll found that eighty-eight percent of voters opposed the policy, and said that the families should remain together while their cases move through immigration court. While the bipartisan calls against inhumane policies helped stop the administration, lasting immigration reform won’t come from this administration any time soon, Gelernt said. Any real, substantive change will have to be through the courts and through large public outcry, as many civil rights victories in the past have occurred. Gelernt noted that the ongoing challenge will be to maintain public scrutiny on the administration’s immigration policies and decisions, and not letting the public lose focus on the issue. He encouraged students to organize, volunteer, and to continue to keep the issue in the public light.

Thank you to our co-sponsors, HLS ACLU, Child and Youth Advocates (CYA), HLS Immigration Project, and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC).

RAP Presents HLS Alum Don S. Passman to Talk about the Inside of the Music Industry

Join the Recording Artists Project at Harvard Law in welcoming back Harvard Law School Alumnus Don S. Passman, author of music industry bible All You Need to Know About the Music Industry. Mr. Passman is a partner at Beverly Hills music law boutique Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown. Mr. Passman’s impressive client list includes superstars like Adele and Taylor Swift, among others.

You don’t want to miss out on this amazing opportunity to hear from one of the most respected attorneys in the industry. Please direct any inquiries to  hlsrap at gmail.com.

The Recording Artists Project (RAP) is a student practice organization at Harvard Law School providing pro bono legal assistance to local artists, musicians, record labels, clubs, and new media companies. It has been mentioned in The Hollywood Reporter’s article America’s Top 10 Entertainment Law Schools.

The event will take place on Friday, October 26 from 4-6pm.  Register for the event here.

Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute Honors Jemele Hill as its 2018 Trailblazer Lecturer

On September 19, 2018, Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) presented its 4th Annual Trailblazer Lecture Series: A Discussion with Jemele Hill.  Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) is the nation’s premier public defender clinic.  Its students learn to provide client-centered representation, developing their advocacy skills to help their clients both in and out of the court room. Led by both CJI’s Director, Professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and its Deputy Director, Professor Dehlia Umunna, CJI provides law students with a rigorous educational experience while also ensuring that clients accused or convicted of crime and/or delinquency are provided with high quality legal representation.  The mission of CJI is to educate Harvard Law School students in becoming effective, ethical and zealous criminal defense lawyer-advocates through practice in representing indigent individuals involved in the Massachusetts court system as well as to research and present issues and debates about the criminal and juvenile justice systems in order to affect local and national reform.

CJI’s annual Trailblazer Lecture honors and recognizes individuals pioneering social, legal, and political change. Jemele Hill, an award winning journalist and sports commentator was named CJI’s 2018 Trailblazer Lecturer. The Trailblazer Lecture, as Professor Ron Sullivan described, honors “people who are bold enough to make an impact in our country and in our world.” Jemele Hill’s commitment to use her voice to speak truth to power and her platform as a catalyst for change has opened up a new dialogue about sports culture.

Former ESPN personality Jemele Hill garnered national attention for calling President Trump a “white supremacist” on Twitter shortly after the Charlottesville riots. The White House quickly called for her dismissal, stating that Hill’s tweet was “a fireable offense.” ESPN issued a statement saying that Hill’s comments were inappropriate and not reflective of the company’s views. Hill was also in the midst of another controversy over remarks she made on Twitter about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who said that players who “disrespect the flag” will not play, referencing the recent NFL protests during the national anthem. ESPN suspended her for two weeks for a second violation of its social media policy. Hill withstood the backlash, but shortly thereafter, Hill and ESPN split ways.

In a field where championships, athletic success, and outcomes dominate sports journalism, Hill had a desire to raise awareness about the intersection of race, sports, culture, and gender. Her identity as a black female sports journalist put her in a unique position to cover complicated issues in sports. Oftentimes, Hill was the only black woman covering sports in the newsroom. In 2005, while Hill was working at the Orlando Sentinel, she was the only black female sports journalist on a daily newspaper in North America – 1 out of 305 sports journalists. “That is something I thought was an embarrassing statement about sports journalism in North America,” she said. “Because there was no way I was the only person gifted enough—that was a black woman—to write about sports. It was just representative of the lack of representation that we had in our industry – still have in our industry – that is still largely white and male.”

Hill stated that the lack of diversity within sports journalism and who makes news judgment decisions contributes to the deficiency of the conversations about the intricacies of sports, race, and politics. But Hill thinks sports might be the best place to have these conversations. Hill cited the Ray Rice scandal as an example of the complex dynamics of domestic violence, race and sports. Rice, a professional football player, punched his then fiancée in an elevator to the point of unconsciousness. Hill discussed how domestic violence for women of color is complicated, not just because the issue itself is difficult, but also because “black women know the cost of calling the police on a black man and what that could do to him.”

Hill also talked about the rise of activism among athletes particularly since the era of Michael Jordan. “Michael Jordan taught athletes how to globally brand themselves while remaining apolitical . . . His activism was showing that a black man could be a marketing dynamo . . . however it came at a cost.” She contrasted Jordan’s legacy with that of LeBron James, who was a leader in the Miami Heat’s decision to wear hoodies honoring Trayvon Martin’s death. She discussed how many Heat players come from communities where they have been profiled by the police before, and have an understanding of the fractured relationship between minority communities and the police. She noted that these athletes are raising black children and black sons in mostly white, affluent neighborhoods, and they know if one of their kids is in the neighborhood playing around and someone doesn’t recognize their child, they could very well experience the same nightmare as Trayvon Martin’s parents.

Instead of having these tough conversations, Hill says, the focus on sports news has been on not aggravating sports fans who prefer that the networks just “stick to sports.” But sports is embedded in politics from its very core, Hill argues. It is a political act for residents to vote on building a new stadium, allowing municipalities to use taxpayers’ funds to subsidize corporate wealth. Hill says that issues such as racism, police brutality, inequality, and social justice aren’t simply politics, but issues of morality. “We have decided to put everything the political crockpot. Everything is not politics – some things are just right and wrong.”

After twelve years at ESPN, Hill has decided she wants to be a part of the larger political dialogue in a deeper and a meaningful way. Hill is now a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she will focus on the intersection of race, sports, and politics. She is also the narrator for LeBron James’ documentary Shut Up and Dribble.

Watch the video of the lecture here.

Delegation from the Philippines Visits HLS Clinical Program

By: Alexis Farmer

A delegation of thirteen dignitaries from the Philippines touring law school clinical programs on the east coast made their first stop at Harvard Law School (HLS). Comprised of law school deans, Supreme Court justices, attorneys, U.S. Embassy representatives, and a representative from the Asia Foundation, the delegation spent two days visiting HLS and meeting clinical students and faculty to discuss how our clinical programs are structured. The group is interested in implementing new clinical programs in various law schools throughout the Philippines. Harvard is one of three law schools the delegation will visit.

A cozy brick building near the Stony Brook stop in Jamaica Plain is usually not the first image that comes to mind when one thinks of Harvard Law School, but this is where the delegation made its first campus stop – the Legal Services Center (LSC). Vice Dean for Experiential and Clinical Education Dan Nagin gave a brief history of clinical legal education and an overview of the clinical pedagogy at HLS. He described the significance of having a legal services center rooted in an underserved and high-need community, and the importance of having legal services accessible to populations who might otherwise not know where to find help or who find it difficult to travel to Cambridge.  A panel of LSC clinicians and students expanded on the impact their work has on the community and on students’ professional development. They discussed the type of work students are engaged in and what skillsets students acquire in the hands-on, experiential learning environment. The delegation was interested in hearing the nuts and bolts of the program’s design and asked questions about balancing client and student needs, how to grade students and evaluate their skills, how to prepare them to show up in court and represent clients, and how the clinical program is integrated into the curriculum.

The delegation was able to have their questions answered by learning about of the various structures and formats of the clinics – from the coordinated programming at LSC, to the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic’s hybrid format with in house and community based placements, to the student-led Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB). The group saw the variety in autonomy and direction students had in deciding the cases they wanted to pursue and the type of work they engaged in. The group also got the opportunity to see HLAB and LSC students in action.

On the 5th floor of the Edward Brooke Courthouse, students staffed the Attorney for the Day table, as unrepresented litigants facing hearings and deadlines began to line up and seek legal guidance from the students and their clinical instructors.

On this particular Thursday in housing court, the hallways were bustling with commotion – attorneys and clients met quickly before entering the courtroom; a woman called for medical attention for a man who had fallen ill in the courtroom, and young children looked for ways to keep themselves entertained. Maureen McDonagh, LSC Managing Attorney, arranged for the delegation meet with retired Judge Jeffery M. Winik, who was serving on recall. He spoke about the value of students representing real clients in the courtroom and how much it helped the court. After speaking with the judge, the delegation had the opportunity to sit in the jury box as they witnessed an HLAB student, Emanuel Powell, powerfully and confidently present his case. Emanuel, and his supervising attorney Esme Caramello, represented a client challenging her landlord for failing to conduct a lead inspection while her daughter and infant grandchild occupied the apartment. The delegation was very impressed with Emanuel’s presentation, and remarked that he was well prepared and persuasive. They saw firsthand how comprehensive clinical training could prepare students to be active, and thoughtful practitioners.

Following the court session, the delegation visited the Family Court Services Center, where they heard an overview of the support services offered in Massachusetts trial courts. The centers are designed to help people navigate the intimidating court system, by serving as a welcoming and friendly space open to all court users. Sheriece M. Perry Esq., Acting-Co Director of the Department of Support Services, shared with the group the critical role that clinical students, interns, and volunteer attorneys have in advising individuals that need legal help, but often cannot afford it.

The group had lunch time discussions about clinical legal education with Lisa Dealy, Dean for Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, and the Hon. John C. Cratsley (ret.).

The trip concluded with a reception for the delegations, where JD and LLM students from the Philippians, faculty, and staff joined the group in celebrating their visit. The group left with a lasting impression of the clinical program’s commitment to providing opportunities for students to develop critical legal skills while simultaneously advancing access to justice.

LSC Engages in Outreach to Homeless Veterans at Stand Down 2018

Via The Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School 

LSC’s Betsy Gwin, Dana Montalto, Dan Nagin, Julia Schutt, Keith Fogg, Steve Kerns, and Evan Seamone volunteering at Greater Boston’s Stand Down 2018

A team of volunteer students and staff from LSC partnered with Veterans Legal Services to provide legal advice to over 120 veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness at Greater Boston Veterans Stand Down 2018. The event, which was held on Friday, September 7, at City Hall Plaza, brings together over 100 community providers in order to provide veterans with access to medical, housing, employment, legal, and other services.

Alongside Veterans Legal Services and pro bono attorneys, LSC staff volunteered in the legal assistance tent to advise veterans on areas of law such as VA benefits, Chapter 115 state veterans’ benefits, other public benefits, tax debt issues, and discharge upgrades. In addition to offering legal advice, LSC staff provided referrals to other service providers and in a few cases has followed up to explore potential legal representation.

Clinic Attorney Evan Seamone, whose work is supported through a generous grant from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in order to provide legal assistance to underserved veterans, reflected on the impact of Stand Down as an outreach event:

“In a noteworthy trend this year,  a number of veterans at the legal tent shared that they had learned valuable information at the Stand Down after years of failed attempts. An answer awaited them, but finding it had been a major hurdle. This year’s Stand Down underscored the incomparable value of concentrating essential services and resources in a single and accessible place.”

The event was coordinated by the New England Center and Home for Veterans.  More photos from the event are online here.

 

CAP Graduate Program Open House Fall 2018

Join the Child Advocacy Program (CAP) for a:

CAP Graduate Program Open House
Mon, Sept. 17, 2018
Noon – 1:00 PM
23 Everett Street, Suite G-24 (the CAP suite, Ground Floor)
*We intend to begin the event promptly at noon.

The CAP Open House will provide an informal opportunity for Graduate Program students to get to know others at HLS who share an interest in children’s issues. CAP faculty and affiliates will provide information about the Child Advocacy Program and describe CAP’s Working Paper Luncheon Series coming this spring 2019.

This event is targeted to Graduate Program students – SJD candidates, LLMs, Visiting Researchers and Scholars – but other HLS affiliates are welcome.

A light lunch will be provided.

Click here to RSVP for the CAP Open House.

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.

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A lunch talk on Ashker v. Governor of California

Via Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project

Professor Jules Lobel speaks to HLS students

Professor Jules Lobel speaks to HLS students

On March 2 the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project hosted a lunch talk on solitary confinement by Jules Lobel, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Pittsburg School of Law and President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). Professor Lobel began his talk by giving a brief history of Ashker v. Governor of California, a federal class action lawsuit filed in May 2012, challenging the practice of solitary confinement based on the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment at California’s notorious “super max” Pelican Bay State Prison. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of prisoners held in solitary confinement at the prison’s Security Housing Unit for over a decade. The case was part of CCR’s efforts to challenge mass incarceration and abusive prison policies.

In 2013, the state agreed to settle the case and enter into a consent order, on terms that were acceptable to the prisoner plaintiffs. Lobel explained that the Pelican Bay State Prison has one of the largest solitary confinement units of its kind. Prisoners were locked 23 hours a day in an 8-by-10 feet cell, without access to sunlight. Studies have shown a consensus that such conditions of sensory deprivation contribute to mental illness and serious behavioral problems, even over a relatively short period of time.

Lobel focused on the challenges of obtaining and enforcing a positive settlement for his prisoner clients in 2013 and 2014. He described how he had to overcome objections from the state when he wanted to consult directly with the prisoners to ensure the proposed settlement terms were acceptable to them. He also discussed how much effort was required to monitor and reinforce the agreement, and the considerable work still to be done to eliminate abusive solitary confinement practices in the California state prison system as well as nationally.

Professor Lobel concluded by encouraging students to consider legal careers in helping marginalized populations such as prisoners, giving as an example two of his recent former students who started a prisoner rights advocacy center on a shoestring budget that has now won several important cases and grown to include a staff of additional lawyers. His enthusiastic message was that if they could succeed in living their dream of starting their own civil rights litigation practice, the students attending the law talk could too, offering his Pitt Law contact information to anyone who wanted to follow up with any questions.

A celebration of immigration

Via Harvard Gazette

With DACA in place for now, day’s events focus on protecting students, and on the artistry that other cultures bestow

Jason Corral and Cindy Zapata of the Immigration and Refugee Clinic advised students of their legal rights during "A Day of Hope of Resistance," part of a series of events exploring questions about the termination of DACA and TPS, deportations, and the current state of immigration policy.

Jason Corral and Cindy Zapata of the Immigration and Refugee Clinic advised students of their legal rights during “A Day of Hope of Resistance,” part of a series of events exploring questions about the termination of DACA and TPS, deportations, and the current state of immigration policy.
Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Life for undocumented immigrants is full of risks. Any encounter with law-enforcement officials — on the sidewalk, while they are driving, or in their homes in the middle of the night — can lead to arrest and possible deportation.

But in all such cases, undocumented immigrants have rights. They have the right to remain silent, to refuse to consent to a search, and to decline to open the front door unless officials have a warrant.

At a workshop on immigrants’ rights held Monday morning at the Memorial Church, attorneys Jason Corral and Cindy Zapata of the Harvard Immigration & Refugee Clinical Program shared legal advice on how to deal with the more aggressive enforcement of immigration laws under the Trump administration. Corral has provided legal services to at least 60 undocumented students studying at Harvard.

“In this new day and age, any evidence you can provide, you can end up in removal proceedings,” said Corral.

The event was part of the DACA Seminar, a series of daylong events on campus to highlight, among other things, the future of the federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era initiative that protects young immigrants from deportation.

Nearly 800,000 young immigrants have benefited from the program, but last September the Trump administration announced its end and set March 5 as a deadline for Congress to come up with a solution for those under its protections. But the deadline lost much of its meaning when the Supreme Court said that it would not rule on the administration’s plan to end the program. Federal district judges in New York and California had blocked the move to end DACA.

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HIRC hosts “Women Refugees And Why Law Matters” event for HLS bicentennial

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

On October 27th, in honor of the bicentennial celebration of the Harvard Law School, HIRC led a conversation on gender asylum titled “Women Refugees And Why Law Matters.” The session, which was organized and moderated by HIRC’s Sabi Ardalan (HLS’02), brought together a diverse group of speakers who offered unique perspectives on the state of immigration law.

group shot for website

HIRC founder and director Deborah Anker (HLS ’84) started off the discussion, along with Nancy Kelly, co-director of HIRC at Greater Boston Legal Services. They provided a brief history of gender asylum law and the critical role HIRC played in developing this jurisprudence.

“Through direct representation, our clinic, along with others, has helped shape the thinking of decision-makers, changed the culture of legal institutions, and put pressure on higher level decision-makers,” said Anker, to a full room of HLS students and alumni.

Many of the speakers focused on the challenges immigrants face in the legal system. The Honorable Norman H. Stahl (HLS ‘55) spoke about his experience as a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Marina Basseas (HLS ‘14), an asylum officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), detailed the backlog of 20,000 cases that USCIS is facing and how that affects those who are waiting to be granted asylum. Elizabeth Nehrling Sotiriou, from the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition, spoke about the challenges facing children who are detained at the U.S./Mexico border, and Julina Guo (HLS ‘15), from the New York City Commission on Human Rights, shared her experience working with survivors of sex trafficking.

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