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Category: In the News (page 1 of 16)

Amid Pandemic, New Research Provides a Roadmap to Fight Hunger and Climate Change through Increased Food Donation

via Globe Newswire

Today, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) released a first-of-its-kind interactive resource to inspire long-term policy solutions to food waste, hunger, and climate change: The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas. In partnership with The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), and with the support of the Walmart Foundation,  The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas maps the laws and policies affecting food donation around the globe and provides recommendations to prevent unnecessary food waste and improve food distribution to those in need. The research released today focuses on Argentina, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United States, the first five of 15 countries participating in this project.

While hunger everywhere is on the rise due to the impacts of COVID-19,  one-third of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). There has long been a need for countries to bridge the gap between surplus food and the growing need for food for the most vulnerable; the pandemic has profoundly exacerbated that need. The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas provides guidance so food system actors will be more likely to distribute safe, surplus food to food insecure populations, instead of sending it to the landfill.

The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas looks at six main barriers to food recovery: food safety for donations, date labeling, liability protection for food donations, tax incentives and barriers, government grants and funding, and food waste penalties or donation requirements. It identifies several opportunities for governments to prevent unnecessary waste and to promote food donation. Examples of policy recommendations that apply across several countries include:

  • Clarify national food safety guidance as to the rules that apply to donated products;
  • Establish clear, federal guidelines for dual-date labeling, featuring expiration dates to convey when food is no longer safe to eat or “best by” dates for food that may safely be consumed and donated once the date has passed;
  • Offer liability protection to food donors and food recovery organizations that act in good faith; and
  • Remove tax barriers and provide incentives so it is less expensive to donate food than it is to dispose of it.

“It’s more important than ever for policymakers, government agencies, food donors, companies, food banks, and the public to understand the impact of unnecessary food waste in their countries and the need to change it,” said Emily Broad Leib, Faculty Director at FLPC and Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. “The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas is the first research study to compare food donation policies and best practices across the world, providing us with the global perspective we need to address this complex issue,” Broad Leib concluded.

Food banks worldwide depend largely on product donations to provide food to those facing hunger. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many food banks are seeing increases in demand for service. Through a combination of research and on-the-ground field work with food bank staff, food industry professionals, government officials, and food recovery organizations, FLPC researchers developed accessible country-specific legal guides and policy recommendations to outline best practices and long-term solutions for increased food donations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike any situation we have ever experienced before. Food bank organizations in our network are struggling to meet demand and get food to those who need it most,” said Lisa Moon, President and CEO of GFN. “The release of this project is extremely timely as it provides a roadmap for organizations and shines a light on global food system challenges for policymakers.”

FLPC will release similar reports for ten additional countries in the coming year: Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, France, Guatemala, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

“Walmart Foundation has a long-standing commitment to increasing access to healthier foods in communities around the world and we are pleased to support the Global Food Donation Policy Atlas, because of its potential to accelerate effective and sustainable solutions,” said Eileen Hyde, Director of Sustainable Food Systems and Food Access for Walmart.org. “This project provides not only groundbreaking research to address the complexity of public policy relating to food donations, but it also presents clear opportunities to improve how surplus food gets to communities that need it.”

Legal guides, policy recommendations, executive summaries, and an interactive map to compare food donation laws and policies across countries are available at atlas.foodbanking.org/.

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ABOUT THE HARVARD FOOD LAW AND POLICY CLINIC

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) serves partner organizations and communities by providing guidance on cutting-edge food system issues, while engaging law students in the practice of food law and policy. FLPC’s work focuses on increasing access to healthy foods, supporting sustainable production and regional food systems, promoting community-led food system change,  and reducing waste of healthy, wholesome food. FLPC is committed to advancing a cross-sector, multi-disciplinary and inclusive approach to its work, building partnerships with academic institutions, government agencies, private sector actors, and civil society with expertise in public health, the environment, and the economy. For more information, visit http://www.chlpi.org/flpc/.

ABOUT THE GLOBAL FOODBANKING NETWORK
The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) is an international non-profit organization that nourishes the world’s hungry through uniting and advancing food banks in 40+ countries. GFN focuses on combating hunger and preventing food waste by providing expertise, directing resources, sharing knowledge, and developing connections that increase efficiency, ensure food safety, and reach more people facing hunger. Last year, 943 GFN member food banks rescued over 500 million kilograms of food and grocery products and redirected it to feed 9.6 million people through a network of more than 55,000 social service and community-based organizations. For more information, please visit www.foodbanking.org.

ABOUT THE WALMART FOUNDATION

By using our strengths to help others, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation create opportunities for people to live better every day. Walmart has stores in 28 countries, employing more than 2.3 million associates and doing business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are helping people live better by accelerating upward job mobility for the retail workforce; addressing hunger and making healthier, more sustainably-grown food a reality; and building strong communities where we operate. We are not only working to tackle key social issues, but we are also collaborating with others to inspire solutions for long-lasting systemic change. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit giving.walmart.com.

Expect More Litigation Over IRS Penalty Approval Rules

via Bloomberg Tax

by Aysha Bagchi

Street view of the front of the IRS headquarters in Washington.

The U.S. Tax Court is grappling with a legal requirement governing penalties issued by the IRS. Above, the agency’s headquarters in Washington. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Courts are likely to continue examining a requirement that IRS employees get their boss to OK penalty decisions before they are presented to taxpayers, even after the U.S. Tax Court issued a recent string of opinions addressing the issue.

The Tax Court’s 2017 ruling in Graev v. Commissioner interpreted tax code Section 6751(b) as requiring the IRS to obtain supervisory approval in a tax deficiency case by the time it imposes related tax penalties.

Since January, the Tax Court has grappled with multiple aspects of the requirement, trying to establish the exact point in the process when the requirement must be met and which penalties need approval. But recent wins for the agency on large penalty amounts are likely to be appealed and the approval issue is expected to continue to come up in new cases.

Frank Agostino, who represented the petitioners in Graev, told Bloomberg Tax his firm is working on more cases at the Tax Court tied to the approval requirement. Agostino mentioned three specific cases his firm is litigating before the Tax Court, including Grajales v. Commisoner, which questions whether the penalty for taking early withdrawals from qualified retirement plans is subject to Section 6751(b) approval requirements.

“Everyday we find another issue,” said Agostino, founder and president of Agostino & Associates P.C. in Hackensack, N.J.

The court’s interpretation of these issues is significant for the IRS because it can lose out on penalties if judges rule the agency failed to get approval when it should have or got approval too late in the process. The IRS collected billions in accuracy-related penalties from individuals, estates, and trusts in fiscal 2018, according to the IRS’s most recent databook.

Appeals on Divisive Issue

Potential appeals of two recent decisions involving the same legal question—what constitutes an “initial determination” when it comes to assessing whether the IRS got supervisory approval on time—may be the most closely watched going forward.

Eight Tax Court judges signed onto the lead opinion in January 6’s Belair Woods, LLC v. Commissioner, holding that the initial determination occurs when the IRS “formally” notifies a taxpayer of its decision to impose penalties.

But the remaining eight judges disagreed either with the concrete outcome in the case or on whether the initial determination is always the first formal communication of the penalty decision—in this case marked by a 60-day letter informing a partnership of its right to appeal the penalty decision.

The decision from the eight lead judges in Belair was also applied in Tribune Media Co. v. Commissioner to uphold penalties against the Chicago Cubs holding company and former Cubs part-owner Tribune Media Co. In that case, Tribune was hit with a nearly $72.7 million penalty.

“My odds are that both the taxpayers in Belair Woods and Tribune Media will appeal,” said Bryan Camp, a former IRS lawyer who is now a professor at the Texas Tech School of Law.

Waiting for More

In each case, the Tax Court has further issues to resolve before the parties could appeal a final judgment.

Belair Woods LLC unsuccessfully sought an interlocutory appeal, which would have paused the Tax Court’s consideration of the remaining issues to allow for an appeal.

“Given the divided decision of the Tax Court, we think it would be appropriate for an appellate court to review the Tax Court’s decision on the 6751(b) issue and determine whether the standard established by the majority opinion is consistent with the statute and Congress’s intent,” said Michelle Abroms Levin, a shareholder at Sirote & Permutt PC, which represents Belair Woods.

An attorney at Mayer Brown LLP, which represents Tribune Media Co. and the Chicago Cubs holding company, declined to comment when asked if an appeal is planned in that case.

If appealed, Belair Woods would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, while Tribune Media would head to the Seventh Circuit.

The fact that all the judges weighed in on the Belair decision increases the chances that it will get reversed, according to T. Keith Fogg, director of the Federal Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.

“When you look at fully reviewed opinions that get appealed, they get reversed more than other Tax Court opinions that have also been appealed because they’re controversial—they’re close questions,” Fogg told Bloomberg Tax.

Other recent penalty approval cases that could be appealed include: Laidlaw’s Harley Davidson Sales, Inc. v. Comm’rChadwick v. Comm’r; and Carter v. Comm’r.

“I expect appeals in every case the taxpayers have lost involving 6751(b) where the taxpayers are represented by counsel,” said Carlton M. Smith, who formerly directed the Carodozo School of Law’s tax clinic and now is a retired volunteer at Harvard Law School’s Federal Tax Clinic.

VA unlawfully turned away vulnerable veterans for decades, study says, with 400,000 more at risk

via Washington Post

by Alex Horton

Dwayne Smith, seen in Afghanistan in 2009, was issued an other-than-honorable discharge in 2012. (Dwayne Smith)

Dwayne Smith, seen in Afghanistan in 2009, was issued an other-than-honorable discharge in 2012. (Dwayne Smith)

The Department of Veterans Affairs has for decades unlawfully turned away thousands of veterans with other-than-honorable discharges, rendering some of the most vulnerable veterans invisible and desperate for help, according to a study released Thursday.

 

Systemic misunderstanding of the law within VA about which veterans it should care for — and which should be denied services — has triggered improper mass denial of care since 1980, the Veterans Legal Clinic at Harvard Law School said in the study, leaving an estimated 400,000 more at risk of never gaining access to health care they may have earned.

 

The discharges, given for misconduct that can range from drug use to insubordination but not proved in court, are colloquially known as “bad paper” for the lifetime of negative consequences they can have.

 

Experts and advocates have called for VA to properly assess eligibility shown to save lives. Veterans outside the VA system kill themselves at a higher rate than veterans who received recent VA care, the agency has said, and mental health care for veterans with bad paper can lower the risk of suicide, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found last year.

 

VA declined to say whether it unlawfully denied care to veterans.

 

Generally, other-than-honorable discharges make it less likely that veterans will qualify for VA services. But the agency is required by law to accept applications, look for mitigating circumstances that could grant them services, issue written decisions and provide appeal information to veterans.

 

It didn’t happen that way for Dwayne Smith, a Marine Corps veteran who served as an engineer equipment operator in Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand province in 2009. He returned with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries, and his best friend died in his sleep days after they came home.

 

“That was one thing that changed me,” Smith, 31, told The Washington Post. His standing in his unit suffered, culminating in an unauthorized absence he used to go home to visit his mother, who was dying of cancer, he said.

 

Senior leaders offered him a way out as his enlistment neared its end: Take an other-than-honorable discharge or risk a dishonorable discharge later. He saw it as a plea bargain to be with his mother, and in 2012, he left the Marine Corps with bad paper.

 

Months later, unmoored and in need of care, Smith drifted to VA in search of help. A front-line worker at the Brockton VA outside of Boston looked over his discharge paperwork and sent him away without documenting his visit, he said. Multiple denials followed during the next two years.

 

“I was supposed to be able to turn to them,” Smith, now an athletic trainer for children, said of VA.

His experience is emblematic of the struggles of many of the half-million veterans issued other-than-honorable discharges since 1980, when certain eligibility requirements began to apply, said Dana Montalto, an attorney for the law clinic and co-author of the report.

 

Many veterans are simply given a verbal denial, while others are told incorrectly that the only solution is to go back to the Pentagon to try to get their discharge upgraded.

 

VA could not produce numbers for how many eligibility decisions it has made involving bad paper. The legal clinic estimated the number was around 100,000.

“VA has done more outreach to other-than-honorable former service members in the last few years than ever before,” VA press secretary Christina Mandreucci said Wednesday, which includes a call center launched in December to contact veterans who left the military in the past year, including those with bad paper.

VA also sent 444,487 letters sent to veterans with bad paper describing some mental-health benefits granted in 2017.

 

However, VA pulled their home addresses from Pentagon records — information that could be decades old for a Vietnam or Gulf War veteran, for instance, who may have used a parent or guardian’s address at the time of enlistment.

 

The result: 2,580 veterans with other-than-honorable discharges received care at VA in 2018, the agency said in a blog post last year, one day after a reporter in Seattle detailed the case of a veteran denied care.

 

“That is horrifically low by any measure,” said Kris Goldsmith, the associate director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America. “It shows how unserious VA’s leadership is in getting these guys and gals into the system.”

It is impossible to know how many veterans VA has turned away without evaluations, Montalto said.

 

In one case detailed in the study, a Vietnam veteran who left with bad paper suffered from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder for 50 years after he was incorrectly told he was ineligible for VA care. An attorney working on his case helped him win the benefits he earned, the report said.

 

Internal guidance from the Pittsburgh VA Medical Center on how to assess other-than-honorable discharges. (Dana Montalto)

Internal guidance from the Pittsburgh VA Medical Center on how to assess other-than-honorable discharges. (Dana Montalto)

Much of the confusion comes from inside VA, the report found, after records requests revealed guidance for staff that was wrong or incomplete at VA facilities across the country.

 

The Pittsburgh VA Medical Center used a clip art image of a thumbs-down to describe other-than-honorable discharges, implying they are a non-starter. VA’s hospital in El Paso incorrectly told a veteran that only honorable and general discharges lead to VA care, the study said. Those cases contradict other guidance VA has provided.

In 2017, VA allowed veterans with bad paper to use VA services in mental-health emergencies, and a law expanded that coverage a year later.

For tracking purposes, the legal clinic characterized bad paper as any discharge besides those considered honorable. Some of the categories — dishonorable and bad conduct — can be the result of serious crimes in uniform. But others, like in Smith’s case, are administrative actions enforced by a commander, not a judge or jury in a military court.

 

Often, they are infractions that mushroom from physical or mental wounds, such as self-medicating with drugs or alcohol after combat or sexual assault. From 2011 to 2015, the drawdown period from the highest troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than half of the 91,764 troops separated for misconduct were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries before discharge, the Government Accountability Office found.

They can also be the result of discrimination — the study found that more than 100,000 veterans in the LGBT community left the military with bad paper from the end of World War II until 2011, when the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed.

 

After a five-year battle, Smith ultimately won his appeal and received VA care and compensation in 2018 for his traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. And that was only after Montalto represented him pro bono.

“That was the biggest win,” he said, “to walk into VA with my head held high.”

Nevada Joins Other States In Fight Against E-Cig Maker

via KXNT

JUUL logo with a warning sign posted above it

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A coalition of 39 states, including Nevada will look into the marketing and sales of vaping products by Juul Labs, including whether the company targeted youths and made misleading claims about nicotine content in its devices, officials announced Tuesday.

Attorneys general from Nevada, Connecticut, Florida, Oregon and Texas said they will lead the multi-state investigation into San Francisco-based Juul, which also is facing lawsuits by teenagers and others who say they became addicted to the company’s vaping products.

The state officials said they also will investigate the company’s claims about the risk, safety and effectiveness of its vaping products as smoking cessation devices.

Juul released a statement saying it has halted television, print and digital advertising and eliminated most flavors in response to concerns by government officials and others.

“We will continue to reset the vapor category in the U.S. and seek to earn the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes,” the statement said.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said, “Preying on children and those looking for help to quit smoking is the one of the most despicable examples of risking people’s lives for corporate profit.”

The scope of the investigation by dozens of states leaves Juul with little choice but to change its marketing practices, said James Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine.

“When you see these kinds of numbers, it means they’re in a world of hurt,” said Tierney, a lecturer at Harvard Law School. “They can’t seriously litigate this.”

The brainchild of two Stanford University design students, Juul launched in 2015 and quickly rocketed to the top of the multibillion-dollar vaping market.

The company initially sold its high-nicotine pods in fruit and dessert flavors, including mango, mint and creme. The products have become a scourge in U.S. high schools, with one in four teenagers reportedly vaping in the past month, according to the latest federal figures. Juul is the most popular brand, preferred by 60% of high schoolers.

Juul’s meteoric rise has been followed by a hasty retreat in recent months amid a nationwide political backlash over vaping.

Although Juul remains the dominant player in the U.S. vaping market, the company has made several concessions, including halting its advertising and pulling all its flavors except menthol and tobacco from the market. The Food and Drug Administration recently put in place flavor restrictions designed to curb use of small, pod-based e-cigarettes like Juul.

The FDA and a congressional panel are investigating whether the company’s early marketing efforts — which included online influencers and product giveaways — deliberately targeted minors.

Nine attorneys general previously announced lawsuits against the company, most alleging that the company adopted the playbook of Big Tobacco by luring teens with youth-oriented marketing while failing to stop underage sales.

Massachusetts’ Maura Healey sued the company this month, citing company records to allege that Juul bought advertisements on websites designed for teens and children, including Seventeen.comNickjr.com and Cartoonnetwork.com.

California sued Juul Labs in November, alleging the company deliberately marketed and sold its flavored nicotine products to teenagers by, among other things, using bright colors and youthful models to attract underage users and failing to adequately verify customers’ ages and identities on its website.

President Donald Trump late last year signed a law raising the minimum age to purchase all tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 nationwide. Juul supported the measure, citing the need to curb underage vaping.

A spokeswoman for Tong said officials could not provide a complete list of the 39 states, saying some states are barred from disclosing investigations.

Other states investigating include Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, according to official announcements.

Juul’s biggest investor is the tobacco giant Altria, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, which owns a one-third stake in the company. Since October, Altria has slashed the value of its Juul investment by more than $8.5 billion, citing the company’s mounting legal challenges.

Attorneys general have repeatedly banded together to force settlements with powerful industries.

In 1998, 46 state officials reached a $200 billion settlement with major tobacco companies for smoking-related diseases and medical expenses.

More recently, nearly all states have sued opioid drugmakers and distributors for their alleged role in the epidemic of drug addiction tied to prescription painkillers.

Crimmigration Clinic wins BIA appeal

via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

red background with 'Crimmigration Clinic Harvard Law School' imposed on it in white

On December 31, 2019, the Crimmigration Clinic celebrated a victory on behalf of a client who had been detained for more than a year. Based on arguments submitted by the Clinic, the Board of Immigration Appeals (the Board) terminated removal proceedings against the client and released him from detention.

“In spite of the injustices our client has faced, I’m thrilled to know that he’ll soon be reunited with his family,” said Niku Jafarnia ’20. Jafarnia, and her case team partner, Joseph Tahbaz ’20, co-authored the appeals brief filed with the Board that resulted in the victory.

Like many immigrants, David* was denied justice in several ways. Although he had a strong case for possible immigration remedies, the Immigration Judge (IJ) denied him relief from removal largely due to a conviction for violating a Florida statute, which the IJ found triggered the “crime of child abuse” removal ground. The IJ’s decision was made in spite of the fact that David had lived in the United States for over 20 years as a green-card-holder, has two elderly U.S. citizen parents, and helps support his U.S. citizen teenage daughter. Additionally, the IJ failed to properly record the favorable testimony from David’s family at the hearing during which the IJ denied his request for relief. Without a transcript of that hearing, it was impossible for the Board to effectively review the IJ’s decision denying his relief. David knew the odds were stacked against him and he sought help.

The Crimmigration Clinic stepped in to represent David with his appeal to the Board. Jafarnia and Tahbaz worked diligently to craft an argument that had not yet been made in David’s case—David was not removable in the first place because his Florida conviction did not actually trigger the “crime of child abuse” ground of removal. Shortly after filing their brief, the Board’s decision was issued. The court agreed that the Florida statute covered criminal conduct that reached far beyond what the removal ground was designed to cover. The Board ultimately held that David’s conviction did not render him removable because the Florida statute criminalizes conduct that does not necessarily result in harm to a child, or even a significant risk of such harm. Without a viable ground of removal, the government terminated proceedings against him and released him from detention.

According to Tahbaz, the legal victory in David’s case is a reminder that even in these troubling times, there is hope that the law will be applied fairly and faithfully. “This case gives me great hope. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead in our client’s future.” said Tahbaz.

*Client’s name has been changed to respect his privacy.

In recent years, four Mass. jails got $164 million in federal money to house ICE detainees

An ICE officer badge in gold and blue is shown clippped to a belt of an officer

Credit: FRANCISCO KJOLSETH/THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE VIA AP

via The Boston Globe

by Danny McDonald

The state has received more than $160 million in funding from federal immigration authorities since 2012, mostly in exchange for keeping and transporting ICE detainees in jails run by four Massachusetts sheriff’s departments, a Globe review has found.

The sum, brought into the state’s coffers through controversial contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has raised the eyebrows of some advocates and immigration attorneys who oppose the agreements and think there are better alternatives.

The sheriff’s offices, meanwhile, have defended the arrangements, with at least two departments saying their relationship with ICE has made Massachusetts residents safer.

The funding in question stemmed from agreements between ICE and the sheriff’s offices for Plymouth, Bristol, Franklin, and Suffolk counties, according to spreadsheets and invoices obtained through public records requests. Suffolk announced in October that it would end its relationship with ICE so it can provide rehabilitative services to more women who will soon be housed at its South End jail commonly referred to as South Bay.

Congratulations To The 2020 Skadden Fellows

via Above The Law

by David Lat

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

Credit: David Lat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOTAL: 341

SKADDEN FOUNDATION — 2020 SKADDEN FELLOWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facial Recognition Laws Are (Literally) All Over the Map

via Wired

By Susan Crawford

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

Credit: Diane Bentley Raymond/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

via Boston Bar Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Court Reform as a Necessary Step

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

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

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

If Landlords Have Lawyers, Tenants Need Lawyers, Too

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

DHS Bid To Collect Social Media Info Sparks Privacy Concerns

Via Law360

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Editing by Orlando Lorenzo.

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

Via Boston Herald

By Maria Szaniszlo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, veterans should visit MassVetBen.org.

Animal welfare groups sue government over treatment of research primates

Via Boston Globe

By David Abel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foster children, parents push for outside review of DCF cases

via Mass Live

foster care review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Continue Reading this article at Mass Live

Questions the Democratic Presidential Candidates Haven’t Been Asked

By: Alexis Farmer

Democratic Presidential Debate in Detroit, MI. July 30, 2019. Credit: Alexis Farmer

Affordable housing has yet to be addressed in a presidential debate, even though a national public opinion poll revealed that 85% of Americans believe ensuring everyone has an affordable place to live should be a “top national priority.” Housing is an issue that rarely surfaces in a presidential election, but there is growing national concern about the shortage of affordable housing. Nearly half of all renters spend a third of their income on housing, leaving little room to pay for other necessities such as food, healthcare, childcare, and transportation. Some argue that those data points understate the housing problem, particularly for low-income individuals living in high cost cities.  A national plan on housing affordability is critical to addressing growing inequality.

In June, President Trump signed an executive order establishing the White House Council on Eliminating Barriers to Affordable Housing Development. The council, chaired by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson, seeks to reduce the regulatory barriers at all levels of government that hinder the development of affordable housing. Housing advocates are concerned that the council won’t make significant progress to address the problem and may in fact exacerbate it. The administration has already suggested cutting HUD’s 2020 budget and denying federal housing aid to families with mixed-citizenship status.

A number of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls have announced plans addressing the policy challenges involved in preserving and expanding affordable housing, but have yet to discuss them in a debate. Some of the proposals call for reforming the Section 8 housing subsidy program and providing tax credits to people who spend a large fraction of their income on rent. At Harvard Law School, four clinics and students practice organizations – Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP), Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), Housing Law Clinic, and Project No One Leaves (PNOL) – that work with low-income households to retain and secure housing want to hear the candidates expand upon their ideas in the next debate. Here’s what students from TAP and HLAB have to say about the new housing plans.

Anna Carlsson, JD/MUP 21 and Sam Gilman, JD/MPP 22

The Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP) serves public and subsidized housing tenants and applicants in administrative matters involving housing authorities throughout the Greater Boston Area. TAP represents clients in a range of case types, including evictions and subsidy terminations, application and transfer denials, and reasonable accommodation requests. Because TAP’s work deals largely with HUD-funded, HUD-regulated housing authorities, federal housing policy deeply affects our clients’ ability to access and retain quality housing.

In our casework, we frequently see housing authorities violate federally mandated due process requirements, suggesting that reform could start with more robust enforcement of existing rules and regulations at the local level. Many of TAP’s clients who receive Section 8 or Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) vouchers also face the threat of voucher termination because they are unable to “lease up” (find housing on the private market) in time, due to well-documented landlord discrimination against subsidized tenants–a threat that could be alleviated by Section 8 regulatory reform and/or expansion of FHA protections to include source of income discrimination.

In the next debate, we’d like to see the presidential candidates answer the following:

  • Since the early 1990s, few new public housing developments have been created, and many have been demolished, with federal policy favoring vouchers over public housing. What is your position on public housing and its role in the landscape of affordable housing? What is your plan to fund it?

 

  • We are currently seeing a wave of expiring rental affordability restrictions, resulting in loss of affordable units. With continuing Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion of public housing to project-based assistance, and the continuing use of temporary affordability restrictions for publicly assisted private housing developments, won’t this problem recur indefinitely? How can we invest more sustainably and effectively in long-term affordability?

 

  •  How does your housing plan recognize and attempt to remedy the disproportionate effect of rising housing costs and displacement on communities of color, particularly low-income communities of color?

 

  •  We’ve witnessed TAP clients being taken advantage of by public housing authorities that ignore existing policy, and deny their tenants and voucher recipients due process as required by state and federal law (e.g., violation of reasonable lookback periods, warranty of habitability standards, notice and hearing requirements, etc.). This results in arbitrary and unjust terminations, evictions, and application denials. How do you plan to ensure that existing protections for public and subsidized housing tenants are more robustly enforced?

Kiah Duggins, JD 21 at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB)

I am a Black American student in HLAB. My opinions about the 2020 presidential candidates’ housing policies center around one thing: my unshakeable belief that housing policies must expressly provide reparations for all of the ways that the United States has systemically and intentionally prevented marginalized communities from obtaining housing and – consequently – generational wealth. I have ranked each presidential candidate’s housing policies with my reparations framework in mind.

  1. Elizabeth Warren – Warren directly addresses the historical housing inequalities that marginalized people have faced, and her plan directly implements reparations through her down-payment assistance program. She specifically intends to close the White-Black racial wealth gap by providing qualifying Black families with a grant that they can use for a down-payment towards a home. She also plans to strengthen the Fair Housing Act and remove barriers to affordable housing.
  2. Cory Booker – Booker’s housing plan directly implements reparations through his “Baby Bonds” initiative, which literally gives money to low income children. Booker indirectly implements reparations through his promises to fully fund the Housing Trust Fund and invest in affordable housing for Native communities. His promises to combat housing discrimination, expand right to counsel for tenants facing eviction and reform restrictive zoning laws will also help marginalized communities obtain housing.
  3. Bernie Sanders – Sanders directly addresses how discrimination and the 2008 financial crisis disproportionately affected Black people, and attempts to right historical wrongs through ending redlining, investing in housing funds and strengthening the Fair Housing Act.
  4. Kamala Harris – Harris’ housing plan attempts to right historical wrongs with policies that include investing billions of dollars in down-payment and closing-cost assistance to people living in red-lined communities and strengthening anti-discrimination lending laws. However, citizens who apply to receive the increased funding have to meet several convoluted and strict criteria. These criteria may create a barrier to entry that restricts her plan from having wide-spread effects.
  5. Pete Buttigieg – Buttigieg’s housing plan, entitled the 21st Century Homestead Act, explicitly focuses on reparations for Black Americans. However, the mechanism through which these reparations are distributed is convoluted and partial. Cities would have to apply for funding, and then residents in the pre-selected cities would have to apply for land ownership after meeting several strict criteria. Although this plan drastically improves the lives of residents who make it through the process and receive absolute ownership of land, it is unlikely that this plan would have the wide-spread effects that reparations requires.
  6. Julian Castro – Castro has several detailed plans that would help marginalized communities by increasing rental and homeownership affordability, ending homelessness, implementing the Fair Housing Rule and combatting gentrification. Although some of these programs may have similar effects as reparations programs would, Castro does not mention an obligation to right historical wrongs in his proposal.
  7. Joe Biden – Biden plans to expand rural Americans’ access to housing. This plan does not go far enough. There are people outside of rural areas who also need increased access to housing

Hopefully the moderators will ask the candidates to address these issues tonight as they take the stage at Otterbein University. The debate, hosted by CNN and the New York Times begins at 8pm.

Facebook, Google Face Multi-State Antitrust Regulations

Via WBUR 

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

A coalition of state attorneys general launch antitrust probes into Facebook and Google. They tell us why.

Guests

Phil Weiser, attorney general from Colorado. Served in the Obama Administration as a deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice. Served in President Clinton’s Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. (@pweiser)

James Tierney, founding director of StateAG.org, an educational resource on the office of state attorney general. Lecturer in law at Harvard Law School. Attorney General of Maine from 1980 to 1990.

Tim Wu, professor of law, science and technology at Columbia Law School. Author of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age.” Former senior adviser to the Federal Trade Commission for consumer protection and competitions issues that affect the internet and mobile markets. (@superwuster)

Stephen Houck, special counsel at Offit Kurman Attorneys at Law. Chief of the Antitrust Bureau at the New York State Attorney General’s Office from 1995 to 1999. Lead trial counsel for the 20 state plaintiffs in the government lawsuit against Microsoft. He’s on retainer with Google for general advisement about antitrust issues.

From The Reading List

Statement From Google

Google’s services create choice for consumers, and spur innovation in the U.S.

Kent Walker, SVP, Global Affairs

Google’s services help people, create more choice, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the United States. Google is one of America’s top spenders on research and development, making investments that spur innovation: Things that were science fiction a few years ago are now free for everyone—translating any language instantaneously, learning about objects by pointing your phone, getting an answer to pretty much any question you might have.

At the same time, it’s of course right that governments should have oversight to ensure that all successful companies, including ours, are complying with the law. The Department of Justice, for example, has announced that it’s starting a review of online platforms.

We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us. The DOJ has asked us to provide information about these past investigations, and we expect state attorneys general will ask similar questions. We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so.

We look forward to showing how we are investing in innovation, providing services that people want, and engaging in robust and fair competition.

Facebook did not respond to requests for an interview or statement.

New York Times: “New Google and Facebook Inquiries Show Big Tech Scrutiny Is Rare Bipartisan Act” — “There is a major force uniting America’s fiercely partisan politicians: big technology companies. Democrats and Republicans at the federal and state levels are coming together to scrutinize the power of the Silicon Valley giants and, potentially, to rein them in.

Get highlights, extras and notes from the hosts sent to your inbox each week with On Point’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

“Letitia James, the Democratic attorney general of New York, announced on Friday that attorneys general in eight states — four Democrats and four Republicans — and the District of Columbia had begun an antitrust investigation of Facebook.

“Next up for state regulators is Google. A similarly bipartisan group led by eight attorneys general is set to announce on Monday a separate but comparable investigation. The search giant is expected to be the focus of the inquiry, according to two people familiar with the plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity before the official announcement. Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas, a Republican, is taking a leading role in the Google investigation, the people said.

“The state inquiries coincide with bipartisan scrutiny of the tech giants in Washington, by House and Senate committees, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. Federal officials are examining the practices of Amazon and Apple as well as those of Facebook and Google.”

Washington Post: “Facebook, Google face off against a formidable new foe: State attorneys general” — “The nation’s state attorneys general have tangled with mortgage lenders, tobacco giants and the makers of addictive drugs. Now, they’re setting their sights on another target: Big Tech.

“Following years of federal inaction, the state watchdogs are initiating sweeping antitrust investigations against Silicon Valley’s largest companies, probing whether they undermine rivals and harm consumers. Their latest salvo arrives Monday, when more than 40 attorneys general are expected to announce their plan to investigate Google, delivering a rare rebuke of the search-and-advertising giant — and its efforts to maintain that dominance — from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The states seek to probe allegations that the tech industry stifles start-ups, delivers pricier or worse service for Web users, and siphons too much personal information, enriching their record-breaking revenue at the cost of consumer privacy.”

Bloomberg: “FTC Chief Says He’s Willing to Break Up Big Tech Companies” — “The head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said he’s prepared to break up major technology platforms if necessary by undoing their past mergers as his agency investigates whether companies including Facebook Inc. are harming competition.

“FTC Chairman Joe Simons, who is leading a broad review of the technology sector, said in an interview Tuesday that breaking up a company is challenging, but could be the right remedy to rein in dominant companies and restore competition.

“‘If you have to, you do it,; Simons said about breaking up tech companies. ‘It’s not ideal because it’s very messy. But if you have to you have to.’ “

New York Times: “How Each Big Tech Company May Be Targeted by Regulators” — “Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have been the envy of corporate America, admired for their size, influence and remarkable growth.

“Now that success is attracting a different kind of spotlight. In Washington, Brussels and beyond, regulators and lawmakers are investigating whether the four technology companies have used their size and wealth to quash competition and expand their dominance.

“The four firms are lumped together so often that they have become known as Big Tech. Their business models differ, as do the antitrust arguments against them. But those grievances have one thing in common: fear that too much power is in the hands of too few companies.

“The attorney general of New York, Letitia James, said Friday that the attorneys general in eight states — she and three other Democrats, plus four Republicans — and the District of Columbia had begun an antitrust investigation of Facebook.”

Allison Pohle produced this show for broadcast.

This program aired on September 10, 2019.

DeVos tightens rules for forgiving student loans

Via Politico

By: Michael Stratford

Source: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday finalized rules that make it more difficult for federal student loan borrowers to cancel their debt on the grounds that their college defrauded them, scaling back an Obama-era policy aimed at abuses by for-profit colleges.

The rules, which the Trump administration weighed for more than a year, set a more stringent standard for when the Education Department will wipe out the debt of borrowers who claim they were misled or deceived by their respective colleges.

The overhaul of the rules — called “borrower defense to repayment” — is a response to conservative criticism that the current federal standards, set by the Obama administration, are too lenient and expensive for taxpayers. The Obama-era rules were written following the collapse of for-profit college company Corinthian Colleges in 2015, when tens of thousands of former students flooded the Education Department with requests for loan forgiveness.

DeVos previously said those standards allowed students to raise their hands and receive “free money” from the government. For-profit colleges have also long criticized the rules as unfair.

In an announcement about the new rules, DeVos said on Friday that fraud in higher education “will not be tolerated” by the Trump administration. The rules, she said, include “carefully crafted reforms that hold colleges and universities accountable and treat students and taxpayers fairly.”

The tighter standards will reduce the amount of loan forgiveness provided to students by more than $500 million each year compared to the amount under the current Obama-era policies, the department estimated. The entire package of regulations — which also curtails loan discharges for students whose schools suddenly close — is projected to save taxpayers more than $11 billion over the next decade.

The final policy, which takes effect July 1, 2020, sets a more stringent standard for loan forgiveness than exists under the Obama-era policy. But it’s not as restrictive as the one DeVos initially proposed last year.

The initial Trump administration plan would have required borrowers to prove that their college intentionally misled them in order for them to have their loans forgiven. It considered forcing student loan borrowers to wait until they had defaulted on their debt before allowing them to file a fraud claim, an obstacle that would have threatened borrowers’ credit history and could have jeopardized security clearances for military servicemembers.

“We made substantive changes to our proposed rule based” on public input, DeVos said.

But those changes did not go far enough for consumer advocates and Democrats, who said Friday that the Trump administration was gutting important protections for students defrauded by their college.

“This rule is another Trump-DeVos giveaway to their for-profit college cronies at the expense of defrauded student borrowers,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House education committee, said that “the Trump administration is sending an alarming message: Schools can cheat [their] student borrowers and still reap the rewards of federal student aid.”

Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending — whose successful lawsuit last year forced DeVos to implement the Obama-era rules — vowed on Friday to bring a new legal challenge “in the coming days” to stop the latest regulations from taking effect.

“If Betsy DeVos won’t do her job and stand up for students, then we will fill that void,” the organization’s legal director, Eileen Connor, said in a statement. “That is why we will be filing a suit challenge these harmful new regulations that give a green light to for-profit colleges to continue scamming students.”

The new rules narrow the type of misconduct by colleges that could trigger loan forgiveness and also require that borrowers provide more extensive documentation about the financial harm they faced. Borrowers will also have to file their claims within three years of leaving school.

In addition, the final rule allows colleges to resume using mandatory arbitration agreements in their enrollment agreements with students, reversing an Obama-era ban on the practice, which was common at for-profit schools.

DeVos first proposed a rewrite of the “borrower defense” rules more than a year ago. Since then, she’s been forced to implement the Obama administration’s version of the rules after a federal court last fall struck down the Trump administration’s efforts to delay them.

The Trump administration separately is facing criticism and a proposed class-action lawsuit over the backlog of existing “borrower defense” claims, which now exceeds 170,000 applications. The Education Department hasn’t approved or denied any claims in more than a year.

Here’s how we solve the planet’s food waste problem

Via Grist

By: Maddie Stone

Celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott at the launch of the campaign “Love Food, Hate Waste,” which found that the UK is throwing away a third of all food bought in the country. Source: David Parry, PA Images via Getty Images

Earlier this month, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a dire report highlighting the enormous environmental impact of agriculture. But the report also pointed to a clear way for us to feed more mouths without causing more planetary destruction: We can stop wasting food.

Globally, we humans squander up to a third of the food we produce, according to the U.N. We leave it to rot in fields and refrigerators. We cull it because it’s too ugly to sell. We stack it in overflowing supermarket displays where some is inevitably squashed. All of this uneaten food required energy to produce; if food waste were its own country, it would have the third highest carbon footprint on Earth—right behind China and the U.S. and just ahead of India. That’s a harsh reality in a world where 821 million people don’t have enough to eat.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can streamline the supply chain to reduce spoiled and lost food, and we can change the way we eat at home. Already, simple technologies like better storage bags, are making a big difference, and wonkier solutions like national policies that standardize food labels are in the works.

To eat or not to eat

In wealthier countries, the biggest food-waste culprit is easier to pinpoint: It’s us.

In the U.S., individuals throw away some 27 million tons of food a year, amounting to 43 percent of all food waste nationwide. In the UK, household waste accounts for 70 percent of losses beyond the farm.

Trashing food happens for many reasons: We buy too much. We don’t use it in time. We forget to eat the leftovers. To Liz Goodwin, director of Food Loss and Waste at the World Resources Institute, it all boils down to the fact that food is now a throwaway item. “We know we can get more, so it doesn’t really matter,” she said.

Raising awareness that food waste does matter can work. The UK’s “Love Food Hate Waste” initiative, which Goodwin described as “the single best-evaluated campaign there is,” led to a 20 percent reduction in household food waste between 2007 and 2012, she said.

Somewhat surprisingly, meal kits can also help reduce waste. A recent study by Miller’s team in Michigan showed that meals prepared from Blue Apron recipes resulted in one-third less carbon emissions on average than the same meals prepared from grocery store ingredients. The difference was largely due to the fact that the kit portioned ingredients very carefully, resulting in less wasted food — which more than compensated for the climate impact of all the extra packaging.

“We have this great understanding of plastic and packaging waste as major environmental impacts, but for whatever reason we don’t have that same idea associated with food,” Miller said.

Standardizing date labels could also make a difference. They became common in the 1970s as a marker of food quality, but many of us today wrongly assume that once the “sell by” date has passed, the food’s spoiled. In fact, these dates are often a manufacturer’s arbitrary estimate of when the food will taste most fresh — and different states have different standards. The result is we throw out loads of food that’s still fine to eat, according to Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law School Food and Policy Clinic.

Read more.

Tenants Pushed Out as Developers Buy Single-Room-Occupancy Properties

Via WGBH Radio

Source: John Tlumacki

DAVID GREENE, HOST: In many American cities, the cheapest rental housing is single room occupancy, or SRO units or rooming houses. These are tiny rooms with no kitchens and shared bathrooms out in the hallway. As investors buy up SRO properties in urban neighborhoods, several cities have seen low-income tenants pushed out. Chris Burrell from WGBH’s New England Center for Investigative Reporting found such renters are struggling to hold on.

RICHARD: Don’t be shy (ph). Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go. Good girl.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAT MEOWING)

CHRIS BURRELL, BYLINE: That’s Richard, a 62-year-old tenant in an SRO north of Boston. As he opens the door to his room, he makes sure his cat doesn’t dash into the hallway. NPR’s not using his full name because he is fearful of reprisals from his landlord for talking to the media.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAT MEOWING)

RICHARD: Her prior owner was a heroin addict who had OD’d. And if I have to move out, who’s going to take care of her?

BURRELL: He’s worried because the 72-unit SRO, where he lives in a windowless room, was sold last year for $2.2 million. Since then, the owner has sent eviction notices to 20 tenants; in April came notice of rent hikes. For tenants like Richard, it’s a 27% increase, from $550 to $700 a month.

Nationally, housing advocates say SROs are vital unsubsidized shelter for the poor, low-wage workers, the elderly and people with mental illness or drug addiction. SROs don’t have a great reputation. Considered substandard housing, cities in the last 50 years eliminated hundreds of thousands of rooms in the name of urban renewal.

NAN ROMAN: There’s no question that the loss of a lot of these units is a major contributor to homelessness in places where they existed.

BURRELL: That’s Nan Roman, the head of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. She says SROs, once seen as blight, are now viewed as one solution to homelessness. Several cities – Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. – are trying to preserve SROs before owners convert them to higher-end housing.

Back in Massachusetts, Richard has lived in this tiny SRO room for three years, surviving on a $700-a-month disability check. His hands tremble as he shows me the ceiling fan dangling from thin wires. He and three other tenants share a bathroom with cracked floor tiles and decayed caulking around the tub. As bad as it is here, Richard wants to stay put.

RICHARD: One of the big problems for most people in the building is, where are we going to go? We can’t afford the rent anymore, and you’re talking about elderly, disabled people.

BURRELL: He’s not alone. In San Diego, city officials last spring were helping nearly 200 people relocate after a large SRO closed. In Boston, housing advocates see a similar pattern. Eloise Lawrence is an attorney at Harvard Law School’s legal clinic, defending SRO tenants against eviction.

ELOISE LAWRENCE: People are being thrown out. That’s happening across the city because these properties now are so valued. What was considered sort of housing at the last resort is now seen as desirable and profitable.

BURRELL: But developers say running rooming houses is hard, and when the economy is booming like it is now, there may be easier options, like converting to condos. Alan Hope ran two rooming houses north of Boston.

ALAN HOPE: It’s very difficult, I think, if you’re not a professional, in maintaining a rooming house to the standard that’s required. Real estate, in general, is becoming more higher-priced, valuable. So investors are trying to get the most they can out of it. Maybe having other form of more stable type of tenants, tenants that are probably living – earning a living, and they’re not depending on subsidies.

BURRELL: Housing experts say demand for such SRO-type housing is increasing as the number of single households in America who are renters has grown to 16 million in the last decade, and many of them are facing rent levels that eat up at least a third or half their income. Building new SRO housing is one response. Places like New York and Portland, Maine, are looking at proposals to do just that.

For NPR News, I’m Chris Burrell.

Climate Change Case is Heard in Court of Appeals

By: Olivia Klein

Source: Robin Loznak

A group of young people are fighting to sue the U.S. government in an ongoing case about climate change, which has recently returned to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Juliana v. United States was filed in 2015 by 21 children and young adults who argue that their basic constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are being violated by the government’s inaction in the face of climate change and subsidizing of fossil fuels. Their direct constitutional argument is that they have a right to a stable climate system. In addition, they claim that the public trust doctrine, which gives the government the responsibility to hold resources such as land, water, and fisheries in trust for its citizens, has been violated. The plaintiffs of Juliana argue that as a trustee of the atmosphere, the government has failed to take measures protecting it, such as limiting fossil fuel use and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, despite having explicit knowledge that combustion of fossil fuels adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, harmfully accelerating climate change.

Numerous people have signed on to plaintiff-side amicus briefs filed by international lawyers, members of Congress, and leading public health experts alike. Harvard Law School’s Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic is one such supporter of the case; the clinic filed its own amicus brief in March, authored by Clinic Director Wendy Jacobs, Deputy Director Shaun Goho, and a clinical student, Grant Glovin, ’20.  At the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, Jacobs and Goho supervise students working on litigation and other projects that address a variety of environmental issues, including climate change, renewable energy, and water pollution. In the amicus brief, the authors from the clinic write, “This generation is suffering – and will continue to suffer as they age – harms different from those of prior generations.”

In their argument, Juliana plaintiffs cite public health consequences caused by climate change, such as asthma and allergies from exposure to wildfire and smoke, worsening infectious disease exposures, and food and water insecurity. “There’s a really robust body of scientific literature that supports each of these different kinds of health impacts that are already being observed and are projected to get worse and worse,” Goho told Inside Climate News.

In addition to these immediate bodily harms, experts also point to the future threats facing the next generation, such as the health risks and stress that go along with hurricanes, wildfires, and rising sea levels threatening their homes. “The Juliana generation is going to feel and suffer from those impacts in a way that’s really different and more extreme than what any previous generation has felt,” the amicus brief states.

The federal government has continuously fought for the case to be dismissed, arguing that no single judge can require the government to stop global climate change. Government lawyers point towards the young people’s argument as a “generalized” grievance and suggest that their injuries do not directly correspond to government actions.

On June 4, 2019, the case returned to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where three judges held an hour-long hearing to listen to arguments from both sides. Judges raised questions for both parties, suggesting that the plaintiffs’ approach was too broad while the government’s arguments to shut down the case were too narrow.

The decision the Ninth Circuit Court makes will determine whether the Juliana case will be allowed to proceed to trial in district court.

Elizabeth Warren Took On Obama Over Student Debt Forgiveness. How She Won Is Central To Her 2020 Campaign

Via Buzzfeed News

By: Molly Hensley-Clancy

Source: Doug Mills, NYT

In 2015, when she found herself on Air Force One with then-president Barack Obama, Sen. Elizabeth Warren seized the chance to pressure the most powerful man in the world about an obscure part of federal tax law.

Warren — along with activists, consumer lawyers, and a group of other Democratic senators — was in the midst of what would become a years-long fight to get loan forgiveness for tens of thousands of students who had been defrauded by Corinthian Colleges, a collapsed for-profit college chain.

Earlier, Warren and others had helped convince the Education Department to agree to cancel the loans for some of those for-profit college students, opening the door to forgiveness for hundreds of thousands of people. Now, Warren was waging a new battle against Obama’s Treasury Department, which was planning to hit students with steep tax bills on their forgiven loans.

The Treasury was refusing to budge. The agency said it had no choice: The law was the law, and if Warren wanted to stop the students from having to pay taxes, she’d have to convince Congress. Warren had other ideas.

Warren’s policy team had come up with a detailed letter that explained why students should not have to pay taxes on their debts, and how, exactly, the Treasury Department could carry that out. On Air Force One, she went through those points with Obama.

Warren’s goal, according to people familiar with the conversation, was not just to convince Obama that it was possible to do something that his own administration was telling him was impossible. It was to persuade him to spend some of his political capital — which was in short supply as he battled against a Republican Congress — on a group of struggling low-income students who had been defrauded by a now-defunct for-profit college chain.

Implicit in that conversation was a threat: If he didn’t act, Obama could have a public image problem on his hands in the form of a loud, popular senator who had already been raising hell about his Education Department.

Not long after the Air Force One flight, the Treasury Department told Warren it had found a way to stop the students from being hit with tax bills after all.

It was a key victory in Warren’s work on behalf of for-profit college students — a battle that has come to help define who Warren believes the federal government’s power should be used to help, and, more importantly, how best to instigate that change.

BuzzFeed News spoke to activists, consumer lawyers, congressional staffers, and former Obama administration officials about Warren’s work to secure loan forgiveness for Corinthian students, which began in 2014. Warren, they agree, played a pivotal role in the battle.

She did it by turning to what had become the core tool of her political life: a potent combination of grassroots activism, intense political pressure, and detailed analysis of consumer law. And she used that tool in part against her own party’s administration, strengthening a political identity that cut against what was then the mainstream of American liberalism.

Warren took a lasting lesson from the fight, she told BuzzFeed News in a recent interview, one that is now central to her presidential campaign: “Progress in America doesn’t happen without a grassroots army.”

But for someone who often presents herself as a political outsider, Warren also worked extensively within the boundaries of power to help get Corinthian students loan forgiveness — an approach that draws a contrast with Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has put far greater focus on large-scale outside pressure than on internal movements and incremental details.

One former Education Department official called it an “inside/outside strategy”: Warren would hammer the administration publicly at the same time she worked behind the scenes with those government officials, acting, many felt, as an ally.

In the end, the drawn-out political battle resulted in something that was entirely unprecedented: the loans of at least 30,000 students who were defrauded by Corinthian and other for-profit schools were wiped out entirely, at a cost to taxpayers that is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“It’s really easy and popular today to take punches at Betsy DeVos,” said Eileen Connor, an attorney at Harvard University’s Project on Predatory Lending who works on behalf of for-profit college students, of President Donald Trump’s education secretary. “But Sen. Warren was in the fight even when the administration was run by Democrats.”

An often overlooked detail of the Corinthian fight, attorney Eileen Connor said, was how Warren personally involved herself with individual students. Warren hosted a clinic in Massachusetts alongside the state attorney general, Maura Healey, to help students file borrower discharge paperwork. After Warren’s office worked with Connor to collect and document the stories of defrauded borrowers, Warren’s staffers sent signed copies of the report they produced to each of the students they had spoken with.

“That speaks volumes,” Connor said.

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Home Cooking for Profit? Sure, Just Not in New Jersey

Via NYT

By: Amelia Nierenberg

Source: Jeenah Moon, NYT

FRANKLIN, N.J. — With just a little white chocolate and some sprinkles, Heather Russinko can make a wedding gown in under seven minutes. Give her five minutes more, and she can dress a groom, too. Three buttons, a bow tie, and a tuxedo swell over a round white chest.

Ms. Russinko uses dips and drips instead of pins and pleats to outfit the couple, who are cake pops, lollipop-size pastries made of batter and frosting. She has made beach-themed pops for a Sweet Sixteen party and lopsided, whimsical monsters with googly eyes for Halloween.

“If I could sell these at a Starbucks price, at $2.75 a piece? That’s his college,” said Ms. Russinko, 40, speaking of her 16-year-old son. “I want to be able to say, ‘O.K., Jared, you can go to college. Go ahead. You need money for books? Yeah, I have that right here for you.’”

But she lives in New Jersey, the only state where it remains illegal to sell homemade foods for profit, so she can only give away her creations or donate them to bake sales. If she tried to sell them, she could be fined up to $1,000. Every other state has dropped such restrictions.

“There’s this rogue law standing in my way and preventing me from earning an income,” said Ms. Russinko, one of three named plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Health. “It’s not like I am out there trying to sell drugs or do anything illegal. It’s a cookie. Or in my case, a cake pop.”

New Jersey’s sanitary code, like most states’, is derived from federal food laws based on a 1906 act; these codes have long excluded home kitchens from the definition of retail food establishments.

But one by one, states have eased those limits or enacted so-called cottage food laws, which allow the sale of homemade foods like breads, granola, dried herbs and jams. Many of these laws set a cap on annual gross sales and require that home kitchens pass safety inspections.

In just the last decade, 19 states and the District of Columbia have moved to allow sales of homemade foods, said Emily Broad Leib, the director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and a lead author of an August 2018 report that documented a “dramatic increase in small-scale food production” nationwide.

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DeVos sued by students seeking college loan relief

Via Detroit Free Press

By: Andrea Perez Balderrama

Source: Zach Gibson, Getty Images

 

Former students of predatory, for-profit colleges are suing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, claiming the U.S. Department of Education intentionally refused to process their applications for federal loan relief.

According to the Huffington Post, DeVos halted the implementation of the Borrower Defense to Repayment regulation in June 2017, leaving the plaintiffs of the lawsuit, and many other students who were not listed, in crippling debt and without a clear path to financial recovery.

“It’s time to take a step back and make sure these rules achieve their purpose: helping harmed students,” Education Secretary DeVos said in a statement to CNN.

Alicia Davis a former student at Florida Metropolitan University, now Everest University, attempted to pursue a criminal justice degree from the university in 2006, oblivious to the fact that it was taking out loans in her behalf.

The school never made the cost of her education transparent, instead telling her not to worry, that everything would be covered by federal aid, grants and scholarships, said the Huffington Post.

Davis had to transfer schools after two years when FMU stopped communicating with her. She decided to go to the University of Central Florida, and when she finished her degree, she had accrued about $100,000 in debt, said the Post.

When Davis learned she couldn’t claim her debt from Florida Metropolitan University back, she decided to sue DeVos. But she is not the only student that has been affected by predatory universities taking out loans in their behalf.

“Literally 160,000-plus people cannot move on with their life because of this non-decision by Besty DeVos,” Davis told the Huffington Post.

The lawsuit, filed in June, claims DeVos is violating the students’ rights by not responding to their requests promptly while being aware of the harm the debt is causing.

“We’re suing Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education to hold them accountable and protect students across the country,” said Project on Predatory Student Lending  Director Toby Merrill in a news release.

Animal Law and Policy Clinic launches at Harvard Law School

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Chris Green
Rising 3L Boanne Wassink pets Charlotte, a rescued pig who was on campus for a screening of the documentary “The Last Pig.” Wassink will be one of the inaugural group of students working in the Animal Law & Policy Clinic this September.

Harvard Law School today announced the launch of the new Animal Law & Policy Clinic. Animal protection is one of the fastest developing areas of public interest law. Reflecting this interest, the number of schools in the United States offering Animal Law courses has increased dramatically from only nine institutions in the year 2000 to 167 such law schools today.

The Animal Law & Policy Clinic will provide students with direct hands-on experience in litigation, legislation, administrative practice, and policymaking, both in the U.S. and internationally. The clinic will work on a broad range of issues affecting farmed animals, wildlife, animals in captivity, and the overarching threat to all forms of life from climate change. Establishing such a clinic at HLS will leverage all of Harvard University’s institutional strengths and resources to develop creative strategies utilizing law, science, and public policy. These educational opportunities will enable Harvard Law School students to make crucial contributions to the field while HLS trains a new generation of leaders for the animal protection movement.

The clinic will be part of the Animal Law & Policy Program, led by Faculty Director Professor Kristen Stilt. Announcing the clinic, Stilt said: “The Animal Law & Policy Clinic at HLS will train and prepare our graduates to embark on careers in the animal protection field, produce impactful litigation and policy analysis to benefit the animal protection movement, and provide an internationally renowned platform for educating the broader public about the many pressing issues involving animal law and policy.”

The clinic will be led by Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor Katherine Meyer and Clinical Instructor Nicole Negowetti. Recent HLS graduate Kate Barnekow ’19 will be returning to serve as the first Clinical Fellow, and Sarah Pickering will be joining the team as Communications Manager for both the clinic and the program.

Katherine Meyer

Nicole Negowetti

The Animal Law & Policy Clinic’s inauguration is made possible by major gifts from the Brooks McCormick Jr. Trust, the Brooks Institute for Animal Rights Law and Policy, the Animal Welfare Trust, and other generous supporters.

“Animal law is a vitally important and rapidly growing field,” said Harvard Law School Dean John F. Manning ’85. “Our new Animal Law & Policy Clinic will  give students real-world experience in this burgeoning field, build on Harvard Law School’s long tradition of innovative pedagogy, and prepare future graduates to address significant societal challenges. I am delighted to welcome Katherine Meyer to the Harvard Law School community and congratulate her, Kristen Stilt, and Nicole Negowetti on the launch of this terrific initiative.”

Katherine Meyer joins HLS as one of the most experienced animal protection litigators in the country, having founded the nation’s leading environmental and animal public interest law firm 26 years ago. At Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks, Meyer developed a long track record of training many other leading attorneys now practicing in the animal protection movement––as she did while also teaching Civil Litigation and Public Interest Advocacy at Georgetown University Law Center.

“I am thrilled to become part of the team that is launching the new Animal Law & Policy Clinic at Harvard, and very much look forward to mentoring and working with HLS students to advance the very important cause of fighting for non-human animal rights, protection, and conservation,” Meyer said.

Richard Lazarus ’79, the Howard and Katherine Aibel Professor of Law, praised both Meyer’s experience and the contributions she will bring to students.

“This is truly thrilling news for our law students and for the entire law school community. Katherine Meyer’s contributions as a public interest lawyer and animal welfare advocate in Washington D.C. are legendary,” said Lazarus, who teaches environmental law at HLS. “She has been a consistent path-breaker and it is wonderful that Harvard Law students will now have the tremendous advantage of learning from Katherine in the law school’s new Animal Law & Policy Clinic.”

Nicole Negowetti is a nationally recognized food systems policy expert, and comes to the Animal Law & Policy Clinic from the HLS Food Law and Policy Clinic, where she was a clinical instructor and lecturer on law. Prior to that she was the Policy Director for the Good Food Institute and an associate professor of law at Valparaiso University. Negowetti has focused her teaching, scholarship, and advocacy on the impacts of industrial livestock production on animal welfare, the environment, and human health. In addition to her work at the Animal Law & Policy Clinic, she will also teach the reading group “Disruptive Food Technologies: Law, Politics, and Policy” in the fall semester.

“I am honored to help launch the Animal Law & Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School,” said Negowetti. “The clinic will provide outstanding training for a new generation of advocates as we identify and pursue high-impact legal strategies to achieve a resilient, healthy, and just food system—for the benefit of human and non-human animals alike.”

One of Negowetti’s current students said: “Nicole’s drive to help others and her unique background, particularly her expertise related to plant-based and cell-based meat regulation, make her an invaluable resource for students like me at Harvard Law. Nicole is patient and supportive of student learning, and has gone out of her way to serve as a mentor to me. It is great news that she will be joining the new Animal Law & Policy Clinic,” said Kelley McGill ’20, co-president of the HLS Animal Law Society.

As Gabriel Wildgen ’20, co-president of the HLS Animal Law Society, explained, “Having advocated for animal protection laws with Humane Society International for over six years, HLS was my obvious first choice because it was the only top law school with a program dedicated to animal law and policy. The world-class faculty and visiting fellows in the Animal Law & Policy Program have exposed me to cutting edge issues, enabling me to focus on my particular interest in the intersection between cruelty to farm animals and the food innovations that are making animal products obsolete. The new Harvard Animal Law & Policy Clinic will be another huge step forward for Harvard and for the field of animal law as a whole, and I am excited to be taking part in its groundbreaking work.”

The Animal Law & Policy Clinic will develop and strengthen synergies across HLS’s wide-reaching clinical program, given that many of the harmful impacts to animals from major commercial uses have adverse effects on a range of other public interest concerns, including environmental protection, labor rights, human rights, and other social justice issues. As one example, the externalities of industrial animal agriculture, such as air and water contamination, food safety risks, worker exploitation, and greenhouse gas emissions, present an opportunity for collective legal action by a consortium of affected constituencies. The Harvard Animal Law & Policy Clinic will be able to convene and represent a diverse coalition of stakeholders who are injured by such practices, and thus build a strong foundation for catalyzing change.

At the US Education Department, applications for loan forgiveness languish

Via CNBC 

By: Annie Nova

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When Morgan Marler’s 5-year-old daughter, Lilian, asks her why she doesn’t work anymore, Marler doesn’t know what to say.

“I can’t explain debt to her,” Marler, 29, said. “And how I went to school and it was all for nothing.”

Marler attended ITT Technical Institute, a now-shuttered for-profit school, between 2013 and 2016. The school has since been found to have misled students with false advertisements. Marler, for her part, was told students typically went on to make $70,000 a year. After she graduated, the best jobs she could find were at call centers that paid $10 an hour — less than she’d been making before she enrolled at the school.

Her associates degree at ITT left her with $30,000 in student loans, and she’s asked the Department of Education to cancel her debt, but has yet to hear back. That was nearly three years ago.

A federal judge ruled last year that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ delays of an Obama-era regulation aimed at forgiving the student debt of defrauded students were illegal. Still, advocates say, the department continues to neglect the applications of those like Marler.

More than 180,000 claims for student debt forgiveness remain “pending” and no borrower has had their request approved or denied in more than a year.

“The Department of Education under Betsy DeVos is just ignoring the claims,” said Eileen Connor, the director of litigation at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which is currently suing DeVos. “These people can’t plan for the future.

“They’re losing faith in the government.”

Nearly 900 former for-profit school students recently described the consequences of their education to the Project in written testimonies. Their stories make clear that a few years at a bad school can cast a shadow over the rest of someone’s life.

More than two-thirds of the defrauded student debtors said they struggled to get a mortgage or auto loan, half of them said the uncertainty around whether or not their debt will be cancelled has caused them to delay marriage or children, and nearly all of them said their lives are worse off today than before they went to school.

Continue reading.

Island embraces Food Is Medicine state plan

Via MV Times 

By: Brittany Bowker

Courtesy of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

If nutritious food prevents chronic disease and promotes long-term health, why shouldn’t it be included in our healthcare plans? That’s the notion behind Food Is Medicine, a Massachusetts coalition dedicated to increasing access to vital nutrition services for every community in the commonwealth.

The coalition, which stems from a team at the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School, launched June 18, and aims to connect food and nutrition with health and wellness, as well as legislative policy. On Monday, representatives from Food Is Medicine met Island stakeholders at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH) to discuss goals, ideas, and initiatives.

“Food and nutrition are at the cornerstone of health and wellness,” said hospital CEO Denise Schepici to a group of about 30 gathered over lunch in the hospital’s community room. Representatives from Island Grown Initiative (IGI), the hospital, Island Health Care (IHC), Family Planning, Social Services, Elder Services, and the Island Food Pantry, among other invested community members, attended.

According to a study from the Greater Boston Food Bank and Children’s HealthWatch, food insecurity costs the state $1.9 billion in annual healthcare costs.

“The cost of the healthcare system increases as severity of food insecurity increases,” said Sarah Downer, primary author of the Food Is Medicine state plan. “If someone is in the hospital and they’re malnourished, it’s going to be more expensive to the system … We want to explore what role the healthcare system plays when it interacts with the food system.”

The Food Is Medicine coalition came up with four intervention initiatives:

    • Medically tailored meals designed by a registered dietitian to respond to a specific medical condition.
    • Medically tailored groceries, a package of nonprepared grocery items selected by a registered dietitian as part of a treatment program. The recipient is usually capable of picking up the food and preparing it at home.
  • Produce prescription/voucher programs for free or discounted produce distributed by healthcare providers to address a specific health condition. Redeemable at retail grocery stores, farmers markets, or CSA (community-supported agriculture) programs.
  • Population-level healthy food programs, where antihunger programs partner with healthcare providers to distribute healthy food to any patient regardless of health status.

The hospital and IHC, along with health providers across Massachusetts, have begun adopting these initiatives. The hospital has rolled out two food insecurity primary-care screening questionnaires developed by Hunger VitalSign and Children’s HealthWatch to identify young children and families who may need assistance, with inquiries like these:

  • Within the past 12 months, we worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more.
  • Within the past 12 months, the food we bought just didn’t last, and we didn’t have money to buy more.

“People are more frank when asked to answer a questionnaire,” said Aletheia Donahue, primary-care physician at MVH. “It’s an effective, validated screening tool where we can get data and compare it with other institutions.”

IHC is rolling out a similar screening questionnaire for all social determinants of health, according to Kathleen Samways, chief quality officer at IHC. “We know we have something really big to tackle,” Samways said.

Just this week, IHC launched a produce prescription pilot in partnership with IGI. Six chosen patients will receive free locally grown produce and free cooking classes.

“We’ll start getting a sense for the way these programs can influence blood pressure, weight, and shopping habits,” said Noli Taylor, community food education director at IGI.

“Patient profiles show the need is huge,” said IHC nurse practitioner Marcia Denine.

Food Is Medicine is also focused on getting food access resources ingrained in statewide healthcare systems. “We want to make sure healthcare providers are equipped with all the information they need to screen a patient for food insecurity,” Downers said. “It would be ingrained in the system. There would always be something in the community for the patient to be referred to.”

Taylor gave an overview of the existing food-equity services on Martha’s Vineyard. Among them are the Food Equity Network, a group of over 22 organizations focused on tackling food equity issues on the Island. There’s the Island Food Pantry, which doubled its number of clients between 2017 and 2018, and is seeing a 30 to 80 percent monthly increase in 2019, according to Island Food Pantry executive director Kayte Morris. The Island also has robust SNAP, WIC, and HIPservices. According to Taylor, more than 600 Islanders utilize SNAP, which represents a fraction of individuals who could sign up for those services. “More outreach and coordination are necessary, and I’m looking forward to being a part of that,” said Eve Gates of Dukes County Social Services.

The Island clergy are another robust food and grocery voucher distributor. Mandi Moran of the Good Shepherd Parish said they distributed 75,000 pounds of food in one year. There’s a food resource hotline, 508-693-7900, ext. 410, launched by Martha’s Vineyard Community Services in partnership with IGI. IGI’s gleaning program has collected and redistributed 25,000 pounds of produce from local farms, and 1,000 pounds of produce from grocery stores. IGI also has a processed-food programand a partnership with Kitchen Porch Catering to prepare and freeze food to make it easier for Islanders to eat. IGI is expanding its processing program with Camp Jabberwocky this winter. IGI also offers a free lunch program, and a year-round Mobile Market.

“Even though so many of us are working on this, we know we’re not reaching everyone,” Taylor said. “We’re excited to be working with the hospital and health center. Together we can have a stronger food-equity support structure, and our programs will be more impactful.”

“The hospital is committed to being a ‘Food Is Medicine’ leader,” Donahue added.

Food Is Medicine is working closely with state policy and legislation. “We’re in the business of making sure we’re on the agenda,” Downer said. Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, was supposed to appear at Monday’s gathering, but had a prior engagement. Cyr, who represents the Island in the state Senate, has been instrumental in getting Food Is Medicine through to policymakers, according to Downer. “In the healthcare legal and policy world, it’s hard to get people to pay attention until you have studies,” Downer said. “We now have bodies of emerging research showing things we’ve been witnessing.”

“This is all very heartening to me,” IGI executive director Rebecca Haag concluded. “The only way we start making a difference is if we collaborate and cooperate — just sharing information. Let’s get back together in a year and see how far we’ve come.”

Representatives Pingree and Newhouse Introduce Legislation to Standardize Food Date Labels

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Last week, Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced the Food Date Labeling Act of 2019 (H.R. 3981), federal legislation to standardize date labels on food products. The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) enthusiastically supports this legislation, which will reduce consumer confusion and food waste.

40% of food in the U.S. goes to waste each year, and confusion over date labels is a significant contributor to food waste. Currently, date labels are not regulated at the federal level. In the absence of federal legislation, manufacturers use a dizzying variety of date labeling phrases, most of which are meant to communicate when food will be at its peak quantity. However, many consumers misinterpret these date labels to be indicators of food safety, leading them to throw out food prematurely. Moreover, states have developed their own date labeling requirements, resulting in a patchwork system of inconsistent state laws.

FLPC has championed federal legislation to standardize date labels and alleviate this confusion since 2013 when we released our report, The Dating Game, in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). According to ReFED, standardizing date labels is the most cost effective solution to food waste.

Legislation to standardize date labels was first introduced in 2016, when Representative Pingree and Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced the Food Date Labeling Act of 2016. Date label standardization was also proposed in the Food Recovery Act of 2017. The Food Date Labeling Act of 2019 builds on these previous legislative efforts with changes that make the standards more flexible for food labelers.

Under the new legislation, manufacturers or retailers may choose whether or not to use date labels on food products. However, if they choose to use a date label, they must use one of two prescribed phrases. This gives industry the freedom to decide whether or not to use date labels on their products but still ensures that labeling language is consistent on food products across the country. If a labeler wishes to indicate a food’s peak quality, the labeler must use the phrase “Best if Used By.” If a labeler wishes to communicate when a food should be discarded for safety, the labeler must use the phrase “Use By.” These phrases are consistent with voluntary date labeling initiatives developed in recent years (discussed below), and a national survey shows that most consumers understand these phrases to convey quality and safety.

This legislation will address the current patchwork system of state-level date labeling laws by pre-empting any state labeling regulations that require alternative date labeling language. The legislation also bars any state-level prohibitions on the donation of past date food based on a quality date. This will help ensure that wholesome food can be donated to food rescue organizations. Finally, the legislation requires the creation of a national consumer education campaign to inform consumers about the meaning of the new standard labeling language.

In recent years, federal agencies and industry leaders have taken important steps towards standard date labeling language. On May 23rd of this year, the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, Frank Yiannas, penned an open letter to the food industry encouraging the adoption of the standard term “Best if Used by” for quality dates on food products. This FDA recommendation mirrors USDA’s 2016 revised guidance, which similarly encourages the use of the phrase “Best if Used by” to indicate quality. Two years ago, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) launched the Product Code Dating Initiative, a voluntary call to the industry to adopt standardized quality and discard date phrases. Federal legislation will bolster the success of these existing initiatives and allow for complete uniformity nationwide.

With so much recent momentum in support of standardized date labels, the time is now to pass legislation to establish a uniform national system. FLPC is pleased to support this bill, which will alleviate confusion over date labels and ensure that more safe, wholesome food gets eaten.

To follow the status of the legislation, click here. For Representative Pingree’s press release, see here.

How to balance safety and privacy with a car tracker

Via The Parallax

By: Kristin Burnham

Source: Pexels

Last month, North Carolina teenager Macy Smith credited a GPS tracker on her phone, along with a Bible within reach, for her survival after she lost control of her car during a heavy rainstorm. It hydroplaned, flipped, and slid down a ravine, pinning her below it. Hours later, her family used the Find My Friends app to pinpoint her location.

Smith, who suffered neck and nerve injuries from the crash, was lucky that her phone, which she couldn’t reach, had battery power, cellular connectivity, and an active location-tracking app that she’d shared with loved ones. For parents terrified about what might happen when their fledgling drivers hit the road without them, an always-on car-tracking device can help alleviate a fear or two.

By tracking details like location, speed, and sudden braking, these devices can help people keep tabs on where and how their cars are being driven, not to mention whether their teens are obeying curfews. On the other hand, privacy experts caution that car trackers can be used to stalk, intimidate, or otherwise invade drivers’ privacy.

“The No. 1 thing people should remember is that once data exists, it can be a challenge to keep it secure and private,” says Nate Wessler, staff attorney with the ACLU Project on Speech, Privacy, and Technology. “A long-term record over time can give away information about which doctors you visit, which people you spend time with, people’s love lives, and more.”

This data might be valuable to a number of parties: data brokers and marketers, which may gain access to it through corporate data-sharing partnerships; law enforcement agencies, which often (but not always) need to obtain a search warrant to access it; and hackers, who find ways to access it through unsecured cloud storage or data leaks.

“Individual location data is incredibly valuable to companies who are trying to serve up ads and do marketing analysis,” Wessler says. “People should not have their location data leaked in that way without express consent and full knowledge of what’s happening. Location data is part of a huge gray market of data brokers who are packaging it and reselling it to end users.”

Before purchasing a GPS tracker, Wessler advises gathering some data yourself. Read the company’s privacy policy for information on whether it resells or shares user data with third parties, how long it retains data, and what measures of security and privacy it has in place.

Another important consideration, he says, is the legality of installing such devices. According to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures, it’s legal for individuals to install GPS tracking devices on vehicles they own, either as a private citizen or as an employer.

It’s generally illegal to install GPS-tracking devices on vehicles you don’t own, though you may be able to legally install one on the car of someone (like a child or an incapacitated adult) for whom you are a legal guardian.

The privacy and security concerns of these devices are not unlike those associated with mobile devices and vehicles’ built-in GPS capabilities, Wessler notes.

“Unless you turn these settings off, the phone you carry with you in the car is already tracking your location,” he says. “Modern cars have GPS-enabled systems with mapping functions. Think twice before purchasing other devices that do the same thing—but know that there are things you can do to help ensure that you data is safe.”

If you’re in the market for a car tracker, you might feel a sense of relief hearing that some of today’s best-selling devices (listed below) have a privacy policy that indicates safe data practices, including detailing security tools and disclosing how they use customer data. That said, the policies often prioritize corporate flexibility over technical specificity, says Kendra Albert, clinical instructional fellow at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic.

“Companies that have reasonably good practices for notifying consumers of privacy policy or terms of service changes tend not to make them incredibly specific,” Albert says. “Vagueness can provide companies flexibility to do legitimate things with data that consumers don’t need details on, such as switching from [Amazon Web Services] to another provider.”

Continue reading.

Ex-EPA Leaders: 1st Circ. Should Revive ‘Purge’ Suit

Via Law360 

By: Andrew Kragie

Source: Pexels

Five former senior U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials have backed a First Circuit appeal by scientists aiming to revive litigation against the EPA over what they call its 2017 “purge” of current EPA grant recipients from the agency’s advisory committees.

The former officials, who include an Obama-era acting administrator and a Reagan-era assistant administrator, argued in an amicus brief filed Thursday that the ban is preventing the agency from making decisions based on the best science available, as required by law.

The EPA under the Trump administration said when it announced the policy that it was needed to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure independence. But the agency veterans said in their brief that the true effect is to undermine a carefully calibrated diversity of viewpoints and give unrestrained influence to industry.

The order “tries to solve a problem that does not exist,” the former officials said, and “prevents some of the most qualified scientists from serving on EPA science advisory committees.” These boards do not award or control the grants, and their members are not compensated beyond travel expenses.

The ex-policymakers, joined by a former head of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, argued that researchers who receive EPA grants are not biased by the support. Rather, they said the recipients may well be the best candidates.

The agency’s highly competitive grants often go to leading researchers at the cutting edge of environmental science and its real-world applications, the former officials said. EPA-funded projects often yield publications that are cited widely in their fields, suggesting their originality and widespread impact.

The governmental veterans also asked why the agency could ban recipients of EPA grants while welcoming and promoting researchers who get their funding from industry groups, regulated companies or other sources that could theoretically pose conflicts of interest.

“The practical effect of the directive has been to make the science advisory committees less independent by increasing the representation of industry scientists,” they said in their amicus brief.

The six former officials are Bob Perciasepe, an acting administrator and deputy administrator from 2009 through 2014; Bernard Goldstein, an assistant EPA administrator under President Reagan; Lynn R. Goldman, an assistant EPA administrator from 1993 through 1998; Terry Yosie, the director of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board from 1981 through 1988; and David Michaels, who led OSHA from 2009 to 2017.

They wrote to support an appeal by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Elizabeth Anne Sheppard, a University of Washington scientist who left a project partly funded by the EPA to keep her seat on the agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. The plaintiffs were backed at the trial court by 10 state attorneys general.

The appeal comes after the lawsuit was dismissed in March by a Massachusetts federal judge who found that the EPA adequately explained the directive. U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV also decided that the ban was not governed by other federal regulations on conflicts of interest.

The scientists argued in their appeal earlier this month that the ban failed “the most basic requirement” of the Administrative Procedure Act and that the lower court incorrectly decided the EPA’s directive was not reviewable.

Two similar lawsuits were dismissed in New York and Washington, D.C., federal courts.

The policy was first announced on Halloween 2017 by then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt resigned his post in July 2018 after a series of scandals and more than a dozen investigations into his actions. He was succeeded by his deputy, former coal-industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler.

Wheeler met with leaders of the Union for Concerned Scientists but kept Pruitt’s directive in place, according to Genna Reed, the nonprofit’s lead science and policy analyst.

Reed told Law360 that the former officials “understand both the value of the best available science (as well as how having) real, qualified experts serving on these advisory committees serves as a check and a vital accountability mechanism for our science agencies.”

The Harvard Law School attorney representing the ex-policymakers, Shaun Goho, emphasized that there’s a bipartisan outcry over science at the EPA, and across the Trump administration. Academic scientists have gotten more involved in the policy realm during the current administration, he said.

“They are speaking up for science and fact-based decision making,” Goho said. “I would hope that that is not a partisan issue.”

Counsel for the EPA declined to comment Monday.

The former officials are represented by Shaun A. Goho and Lynne I. Dzubow of Harvard Law School’s Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic.

The scientists are represented by Justin Florence, Benjamin L. Berwick and Jamila G. Benkato of The Protect Democracy Project Inc., and Lindsay C. Harrison, Samuel C. Birnbaum, Zachary C. Schauf and Julian Ginos of Jenner & Block LLP.

The EPA is represented by Jeffrey E. Sandberg of U.S. Department of Justice‘s Civil Division.

The appeal is Union of Concerned Scientists et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency et al., case number 19-1383 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

–Additional reporting by Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Craig Clough and RJ Vogt. Editing by Peter Rozovsky.

Correction: An earlier story mischaracterized a response from counsel for the former officials. The error has been corrected. 

Update: This story has been updated with comment from an attorney for the former officials.

FLPC Clinic Director Emily Broad Leib to be Featured in New Food Waste Documentary

Via Forbes

Food Law and Policy Clinic Director and Assistant Clinical Professor of Law Emily Broad Leib is one of six experts in food law that will be featured in a new documentary titled, “Robin Hoods of the Waste Stream.” The film will look into scalable solutions to the problem of food waste through interviews with a large cast of leading crusaders including Tristram Stuart, “the godfather of the food waste movement”, food waste warrior Dana Gunders, and Ben Simon of Imperfect Produce.

Read more about the documentary here.

The unpredictable legal implications of Trump’s Twitter-blocking defeat

Via The Verge

By: Adi Robertson

Source: Twitter

Earlier this week, a federal appeals court ruled that President Donald Trump couldn’t block his critics on Twitter. More specifically, the court determined that Trump’s Twitter account is a “public forum” where citizens have a right to engage with his comments, the same way they’d be able to attend a town hall. This ruling could shape how all government officials use social media — from the US president to local garbage collectors.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued Trump in 2017, arguing that Trump had violated the First Amendment rights of seven Twitter users — all of whom had been blocked after tweeting criticism at the @realDonaldTrump account. The Knight Institute argued that Trump was preventing these users from participating in a public discussion since these discussions were taking place in replies to Trump tweets.

A lower court ruled in favor of the Knight Institute last year. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed on Tuesday, saying it was unlawful for “a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise‐open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”

As Cornell Law School professor James Grimmelmann puts it, “Of course Trump can say whatever he wants” on Twitter. And he can choose to boost specific posts by retweeting them. But he can’t make it harder for certain people to participate in the conversation around those tweets, which is exactly what blocking somebody on Twitter does.

Grimmelmann says the facts in this case were “particularly stark” since Trump clearly uses Twitter as an official White House communication tool. But it raises questions for other politicians and governmental agencies. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was recently sued for blocking Republican primary candidate Joseph Saladino, and courts will have to decide whether she’s created the same kind of public forum with her social media presence. “[Trump] made this a very easy case. It’s a harder question if a politician is using it to interact with the public but is not claiming to use it for official business,” he says.

Overall, “what this case pushes toward is a pretty strong separation of official and personal capacities,” says Grimmelmann. If you’re a politician maintaining a mostly campaign-focused or personal account, the ruling might not matter. Otherwise, “it pretty much tells you that your social media presence kind of has to be one-way: you can respond to interact with people, but you’re not going to be able to use anything stronger than muting on inbound content.”

Kendra Albert, an instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, believes the Second Circuit’s decision is unnecessarily ambiguous. The Trump administration has argued that its account is government speech, or speech that the government is performing on its own behalf, which isn’t regulated by the First Amendment. Albert argues that the original ruling clearly separated the account’s “government speech” content from the interactive forum in the replies. “The lower court decision actually does a really good job of explaining why it matters that people are blocked, even if they can just log out of Twitter and see the president’s tweets otherwise,” Albert said, “and it’s because there’s sort of this discursive space going on underneath the tweet.”

The new ruling refers to Trump’s whole account as a public forum, then draws finer lines between tweets that are government speech and independent tweets by other users. “I think it’s still a case that can be cited by plaintiffs in order to show that government officials can’t sort of just be willy-nilly blocking people from their official Facebook or Twitter pages,” Albert says. “But it’s certainly less clear than the district court opinion and it means they have to spend more time explaining why things aren’t government speech.”

Government accounts will need to block some users if they want to keep their digital spaces usable. The ruling doesn’t prevent this, but administrators will have to avoid doing it in a way that’s politically biased, which could lead to some difficult decisions. What if, Grimmelmann says, a municipal waste authority accepts comments on a Facebook page about trash collection? “Does this case now mean that they can’t remove comments screaming at them that recycling is a communist plot?” he asks.

The same difficult decisions could come up with harassment. “It may be difficult to ban or block someone for harassing you kind of generally, unless you have a sustained pattern of harassment,” says Albert. The best solution, they suggest, would be for officials to establish clear moderation rules that could be enforced across the board, the way a town hall could expel people who genuinely disrupt a meeting, even if they’re engaging in political speech.

There’s tension between First Amendment protections and social media moderation rules. White supremacist rhetoric is protected under American law, for instance, but it’s banned as hate speech on Facebook. Grimmelmann says that this speech could still be removed as long it’s based clearly on Facebook’s moderation guidelines, not the government’s.

Crucially, this case doesn’t discuss whether Twitter itself is a public forum or determine how Twitter can moderate users. It just rules on the actions that individual government-related accounts can take.

It’s also not the final say on government social media accounts. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that county officials couldn’t bar critics from their Facebook pages. But a different court has maintained that Kentucky’s governor can block constituents on Facebook and Twitter. “I think that as different circuits coalesce around a kind of collective test — or at least a way of handling things like Twitter and Facebook and maybe Instagram,” says Albert, “it’ll sort of become more consistent over time.”

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