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Harvard Group Recommends Increased Nutrition Education For Doctors

Via Forbes
By Tommy Tobin

Many chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, are related to diet and nutrition. Although many diet-related diseases are highly correlated with poor health outcomes, U.S.-trained doctors receive little or no training in nutrition. A new report published last week by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (“FLPC”) aims to address this knowledge gap by recommending increased nutrition education in undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical training.

With its report, Doctoring Our Diet: Policy Tools to Include Nutrition in U.S. Medical Training, Harvard’s FLPC focused on integrating “nutrition as an essential component of U.S. medical education” and allowing doctors “to support better outcomes for individual patients and to address the most common and costly health risks facing our country.”

Unfortunately, there is a lack of attention to nutrition education in medical training. As one recent headline put it, “[y]our doctor may not be the best source of nutrition advice.” Other researchers writing in a medical journal were less reserved: “It cannot be a realistic expectation for physicians to effectively address obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hospital malnutrition, and many other conditions as long as they are not taught during medical school and residency training how to recognize and treat the nutritional root causes.”

The authors of the Harvard FLPC report identified several medical education stages in which to increase nutrition training and recommended policy mechanisms to address the lack of nutrition training:

  •  For undergraduate medical education, amending accreditation standards to require nutrition training and offering additional grant funding to create nutrition education programming.
  •  For graduate medical education and board certifications, requiring nutrition education in medical schools and incorporating nutrition-related questions in required examinations.
  • After formal medical education, states should integrate nutrition education into continuing education and require—or strongly encourage—physicians to take nutrition education courses as part of maintaining their license.

The report’s authors note that “increased nutrition education for doctors at every stage of their career can ultimately improve outcomes for individual patients, advance population health, and change the healthcare landscape for the better.”

The FLPC report’s publication comes during a dust-up within nutrition science concerning a recent article in the Annals of Internal Medicine on guideline recommendations for meat in consumer diets. According to the New York Times, the article and its associated guidelines “raise uncomfortable questions about dietary advice and nutritional research, and what sort of standards these studies should be held to,” and has faced substantial criticism from public health advocates. It is possible that the increased funding and training in nutrition recommended in the FLPC report could encourage further medical research into nutrition and its role in disease prevention and mitigation.

Given the important association between diet and nutrition and many chronic health conditions, the FLPC report makes considerable sense. Time will tell how palatable the authors’ recommendations are for the relevant decision-makers.

A Cuban Escape: A Daughter’s Admiration

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

I wanted to intern at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) so much that it was the only internship I applied for as a law student during my last year of law school. I know it was a risky move, but thankfully, I got lucky. My time at HIRC has been illuminating. I have actively participated in the asylum process for multiple clients, drafted motions, conducted client interviews, and have visited multiple immigration court hearings. However, nothing has made me happier than being able to for the first time witness an asylum trial and listen to the judge say “I am granting your stay of asylum.” Hearing the judge utter those words, and seeing the client’s tears of joy, keeps assuring me that I am on the right field, and reminded me of my father – who escaped from Cuba and spent nine days in the ocean to seek asylum in the United States.

My father is my light, my rock, my hero. He and his story have influenced my life in so many powerful ways – so much, I decided in middle school that I would attend law school to become an immigration lawyer. I am happy that the day has come where I have the opportunity to put on paper all my thoughts and feelings with respect to his migration, in addition to some of the many details about his journey from Cuba to the United States.

June 3, 1970, is a date that will forever have a place in my heart. On that day, my father embarked on his journey through the Gulf of Mexico in a raft. My father wanted to leave the country, but there was no possible way that he could do it legally. For that reason, he decided to leave his loved ones behind, and take on a decision that could have meant his life.

Imagine leaving absolutely everything you have – your hometown, your family, your roots, your country – and taking only with you the memories of your childhood, six glass bottles of water, one bottle of rum mixed with coffee, and a knife for protection. Those are the exact things my father took with him when he embarked on his oceanic journey. It takes a great deal of inner and mental strength to take this step. Nevertheless, this explains my father today; he is the strongest and most optimistic person I know. I can say this with so much certainty: I have never heard my father complain, never. He finds light in every situation.

My father’s journey started with a plan between him and a group of his friends. After the plan went awry, he decided to build a raft from the inner tube of a truck and to flee Cuba by ocean. Not all of his friends accompanied him. Only one did – one brave soul who is in heaven. His friend, Alfredo, embarked on the journey with him. My father does not know much about Alfredo. He knows that Alfredo needed to leave Cuba because of the political situation at the time. He served two years in a Cuban concentration camp and his father was a pilot for Cubana de Aviacion, which is a national airline based in Cuba since 1929. Alfredo, however, did not make it to land. He died on the seventh day of their journey– only two days before my father was rescued. When he died, my father kept Alfredo’s body next to him.

They say people could survive without water for about three to four days. My father survived nine days adrift. On the third day in the middle of the Gulf, my father and his friend lost their most precious belonging – the only glass bottles of potable water that they had taken with them. At this point, my father’s desperation only grew, but so did his faith. He told himself that he was not going to let that loss keep him from going forward, and so he kept rowing. My father had and still has a strength unlike any other, a strength that had its roots and was built on hope. The power of such hope was key to his survival.

With no tools to fish, no potable water, and for obvious reasons no readily accessible means to any sort of aliment, my father had to look for any possible means and take any possible action to survive. This is the one part of his journey that if I had to describe verbally, it would be very painful for me to verbalize. I am simply of the belief that no one should be able to endure such experience. It breaks my heart that my father did. He had to use a bird as sustenance. I do not think I would have the gut, or even the mental ability to do something similar, even while being in that situation. But perhaps I would, I am my father’s daughter, and I like to think that I would be as strong as he was. Alfredo, my father’s friend, caught the bird and they both ate parts of it. My father ate the bird’s heart. To this day, my father still holds his tears when he describes this part of his journey, and there have been times when my father feels the taste of the bird’s heart in his mouth.

On June 11, 1970, his ninth day adrift, was the day my father thought to himself, “Today, I die.” However, it became the day my father was rescued in the Gulf of Mexico. An American merchant ship saved him. On the day of his rescue, my father who was 19 at the time, was skin and bones, on the verge of death. He was so severely dehydrated that the ship’s personnel could not merely give him large amounts of water. His body could not handle that. Instead, they had to immerse cotton in water and place it softly on his lips. Eventually, the merchant ship transferred him to a U.S. Coast Guard ship, which docked on June 12, 1970, at 12:01 a.m. – my father remembers that day and time clearly. June 12 was the day he was “born again,” as my father enthusiastically describes it.

My father still lives with the memories of his past. Those memories have become a part of him, a part of his foundation. I remember my father taking me to the beach when I was a little girl, and I would see him throw a dozen red roses to the ocean. I always questioned why he did this, but I did not ask questions. When I became old enough, he explained. He has done that every June 12 for the past forty-nine years, to honor the memory of Alfredo, his friend who died before the rescue. My father’s rescue was a miracle. My father was surrounded by sharks on that day. The raft was also already sinking. The U.S merchant ship saw him at exactly the right time and at exactly the right place.

This story likely resonates with those who flee their country looking for sanctuary in the United States. Today, my father is a successful business owner, and has also dedicated a lot of his life helping minority classes. I will be forever grateful to HIRC for trusting me and allowing me to actively participate in the asylum process of its clients, and, most importantly, for allowing me to be a part of bringing light in the lives of those who have been in the position of my father – those who have had no choice but to flee their country, leaving behind their family, their roots…and their lives.

This post was written by Giselle M. Rodriguez, a former HIRC summer intern. She is a law student at the Massachusetts School of Law. 

In Q&A, Bonnie Docherty discusses humanitarian disarmament

Reducing the civilian impact of arms and armed conflict has been the focus of Bonnie Docherty’s career since she was a student at Harvard Law School.

Since 2005, Docherty ’01, an international expert on civilian protection in armed conflict, has served as a lecturer on law at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. She participated in the negotiations of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions and has promoted strong implementation of the convention since its adoption. She recently played a key role in the negotiations of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, successfully advocating for specific provisions and providing legal advice to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the civil society coalition that received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2018, Docherty launched the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) at Harvard Law School, where she serves as associate director.

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, Docherty hosted an event with Hiroshima bombing survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who accepted the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of  ICAN. Accompanying the event, HLS also showcased a photo exhibit, “From the Atomic Bomb to the Nobel Peace Prize”, which illustrates the history of nuclear disarmament.

Over the course of her career, Docherty has mentored scores of clinical students, from field researchers in conflict zones to advocates inside the halls of the U.N. in Geneva. Daniel Moubayed ’20, a student in the International Human Rights Clinic who works closely with the Initiative, sat down with Docherty prior to the talk to discuss the exhibition, Thurlow’s presentation, and the ACCPI.

A Q&A with Bonnie Docherty

Daniel Moubayed: This month, you’ve arranged for Hiroshima atomic bombing survivor Setsuko Thurlow to give a presentation on campus alongside an ACCPI photo exhibition. Could you tell me a little bit about that exhibition?

Bonnie Docherty: The photos trace the journey from the original atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki through nuclear testing up to the present day where a humanitarian approach significantly advanced the disarmament field. We’re trying to highlight both the catastrophic harm that can be caused by nuclear weapons and the successful approach to disarmament that’s been applied lately and in which the Clinic has actively been involved. This is really important, especially now when international tensions are very high. To move forward, we need to look beyond national security to the human impact of these weapons.

DM: And what impact do you hope to achieve by bringing Setsuko Thurlow to HLS?

BD: It’s a real honor for her to visit. She’s a very powerful speaker, and I’m thrilled she’s able to make the trip. She is one of the decreasing number of survivors from the bombings at Hiroshima. It’s remarkable and significant to be able to hear first-hand testimony of this horrible event from over 70 years ago. As a survivor, she’s one of the strongest voices for disarmament. So I’m hoping that her talk will not only increase awareness of the humanitarian harm caused by nuclear weapons but also inspire the audience not to lose faith in the wake of recent events and trying times.

DM: You were also involved with ICAN at the time they won the Nobel Prize. Could you tell me more about that?

BD: Well, it was a team effort. I worked with ICAN, four HLS students, and my colleague, Anna Crowe [assistant director of the International Human Rights Clinic]. We acted as a legal adviser to ICAN in 2017, when they were negotiating the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted in July 2017 by 122 countries. Only one voted against it. The U.N. General Assembly mandated the negotiations so they had widespread support. We were on hand if ICAN needed information about precedent for a certain provision, for instance, but we focused primarily on advocating for provisions requiring countries to assist victims of past use and testing and remediate the environment where countries used or tested. We wanted to address the harms that had already been caused, not just advocate to eliminate future harm. Students did a lot of research and wrote papers in advance of the negotiations, and we worked closely with states and other NGOs to successfully get these provisions added to the Treaty. It was a real accomplishment and very rewarding for all of us.

DM: Incredible work. Did you first meet Setsuko during these negotiations?

BD: Yes, and she was the concluding speaker at the adoption. Hearing how long she had waited for this day and how meaningful this treaty is — not just on a geopolitical level, but on a personal one — was very moving. That’s what made me want to invite her to campus, and I believe she has inspired others to want to continue work in this field.

DM: So you were there for both the adoption of the treaty and the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Can you talk more about that?

BD: It was one of the highlights of both my professional and personal life. There’s nothing like seeing a treaty adopted — it’s a sign of hope for the work I do. Most of my projects focus on documenting the harm that’s caused, so it’s nice to see that things can change. At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Setsuko accepted alongside Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of ICAN. What struck me in that moment was how ordinary people can do extraordinary things. I was looking at friends of mine with whom I’ve been working on disarmament issues for the past 18 years, who aren’t heads of states or archbishops or world leaders. They’re ordinary citizens raising awareness and pushing states to action. Setsuko was once a girl buried in the rubble of her destroyed school. Now she’s delivering a Nobel Peace Prize lecture. What an amazing journey.

DM: I love that. “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” Let’s fast-forward: you help win a Nobel, you’re doing your other Clinic work on killer robots and incendiary weapons, and you also have a job in the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch. Yet in March 2018, you launch the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative, or the ACCPI, because clearly you didn’t have enough on your plate. Can you take us back to when the ACCPI was still in the planning stages? What were the goals of setting up the Initiative?

BD: The motivation came from my years of work in civilian protection. I began considering the human rights and humanitarian impacts of armed conflict right when I graduated from HLS in 2001. My fellowship with Human Rights Watch just happened to start the day after 9/11. Six months later, I was in Afghanistan researching cluster munition use, getting my first hands-on exposure. That led to many other field missions, and eventually, I got involved in treaty negotiations.

With the ACCPI, I wanted to enhance advocacy and support NGOs working to reduce the civilian effects of armed conflict. But also I felt that it was important to have it here at HLS. I wanted to provide an opportunity for students to get involved and continue this work after graduation. I’ve always been doing this kind of work at the Clinic, but formalizing it gives it greater influence.

DM: What were the resources in this area while you were a student? The ACCPI didn’t exist. You had to go out and start it. What were discussions like then and how have they changed?

BD: Opportunities were more diffuse; you had to seek out the conversations. I have always been interested in armed conflict, and originally I thought I was going to be a history professor. Then, I had the opportunity to embed with peacekeepers in Bosnia as a journalist between undergrad and law school, which was very influential. At law school, most of my international law and humanitarian law professors were visitors, but now we have permanent faculty that address these issues. There was the Harvard Human Rights Journal and the International Law Journal, which I worked on. But there wasn’t any hands-on experience available like we have now with our clinical and pro bono programs. Luckily, we had a strong human rights community on campus, and I received an HRP summer fellowship to work with Article 19 after my 1L year. Things have changed since then for the better.

DM: As a clinical student, I’m incredibly excited about the ACCPI’s work; there’s really a broad focus on affecting change. We’re now in the second academic year of the Initiative. How are you hoping to galvanize students and accomplish your own advocacy goals?

BD: The ACCPI is really centered on students, on developing the next generation of leaders in this field. We’re laying the foundation for what I call the three pillars of the Initiative. So, first we have advocacy through our ongoing clinic work. That’s not necessarily new but we’ve expanded our focus areas, including environment and armed conflict or cultural heritage and armed conflict. Second, we’ve built a resource database for students interested in pursuing careers in the field. We’ve also had alumni come to campus to do advising. This past spring, we hosted Matt Wells ’09, who is Senior Crisis Advisor with Amnesty International, and Chris Rogers ’09, a Senior Program Officer with Open Society’s Human Rights Initiative. Third, we’re promoting innovation. We’re bringing practitioners to campus to raise awareness but also to do the actual brainstorming and work of disarmament. This includes Setsuko’s visit and the ACCPI’s launch in 2018, when we invited leaders in the field to HLS to meet, strategize, and collaborate around issues we’re facing as a community.

DM: What are your long-term thoughts while directing this Initiative? What’s the vision going forward?

BD: One immediate goal is to develop an alumni mentorship program, which we plan to pilot this fall thanks to Nicolette Waldman ’13, an alum of the Clinic and the Satter Fellowship, who spent last spring as an ACCPI Senior Clinical Fellow. Long term, we hope to create a formal track at HLS and the Clinic for students interested in these issues. We’re providing trainings and resources for students and shaping a more concrete path for them to follow. Off campus, we’re working on framing the humanitarian disarmament issue and increasing collaboration among different organizations in the field. We’ve held workshops for diplomats in Geneva, published reports and pamphlets, and served a convening function for NGOs. We hope to continue those activities and engage students as we go.

DM: So there are things happening here in Cambridge and in Geneva and all over the world, really, a bit of everything.

BD: Yes, a bit of everything. And we respond to real world events. I’m heading to Vienna next week for negotiations on a new political declaration of reducing the effects of explosive weapons — rockets and bombs — when they’re used in civilian areas. I also have a clinical team working on that.

DM: How do you keep it all going?

BD: Adrenaline. And I’m energized by both colleagues and by students like yourself who come in with great enthusiasm who want to immerse themselves in the issues and will go on to make the world a better place.

Clinic Celebrates First Year of the ACCPI

Waldman gives a talk for students on her involvement in an Amnesty International investigation into torture and executions in Syrian prisons.

Via Human Rights @ Harvard Law

By Nicolette Waldman

The Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) recently completed its first full year, and it was a banner one. Launched in March 2018, the initiative has worked both on campus and around the world to advance its goal of reducing the harm caused by war.

The ACCPI brings together students, practitioners, and academics to advocate for civilian protection, cultivate the next generation of leaders, and promote innovation in the field. It is a collaborative endeavor, led by disarmament and international humanitarian law expert Bonnie Docherty. Clinic alum Lan Mei JD ’17 and I have worked closely with Docherty to lay the foundations for the ACCPI’s ongoing success. The initiative has also received invaluable support from faculty and staff across the Human Rights Program and partnered with numerous nongovernmental organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and PAX.

Over the past school year, the team behind the ACCPI achieved a great deal. We led clinical projects on armed conflict and civilian protection; brought experts to campus for trainings, panels, and individual presentations; connected students to these and other practitioners; and created a database of potential host organizations for students. Beyond Harvard, we were especially active in the area of “humanitarian disarmament,” which seeks to prevent and remediate the human suffering inflicted by arms. We played a leadership role in coordinating cross-campaign collaboration and raising awareness of the approach.

An overview of the ACCPI’s activities from September 2018-August 2019, other than clinical projects, is provided below. In the coming months and years, the ACCPI plans to develop a track for Harvard Law students who want to pursue careers in the field and to consolidate the school’s position as center of excellence on civilian protection in armed conflict. Civilians affected by war have far too few advocates, and we aim to do all we can to address this gap.

Stay tuned this fall for updates on new events, trainings, student resources and programs, and publications!

Harvard Law School Events

Organized or co-sponsored the following presentations and panel discussions:

“Humanization of Arms Control: Paving the Way for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” October 17, 2018

“Universal Jurisdiction: Help or Hindrance in the Prosecution of War Criminals?” October 25, 2018

“International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on Crimes against Humanity,” January 2019

“Sustainable Justice: Lessons from Twenty Years of Domestic War Crimes Prosecutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” February 4, 2019

“The Destruction of Culture: The War against Culture and the Battle to Save It,” February 20, 2019

“The Human Impact of Nuclear Weapons,” March 7, 2019

“Hell on Earth: Uncovering Atrocities in Syria’s Prisons,” March 27, 2019

“Investigating Myanmar’s Atrocity Crimes: Human Rights Work Amid Conflict and Crisis,” April 5, 2019

Student Resources

Offered “Fieldcraft: Conducting Research on Armed Conflict and Mass Atrocities,” a two-part workshop by former Amnesty International researcher Nicolette Waldman, March 11 and April 1, 2019

Organized advising sessions with alumni Lillian Langford JD ’13, Chris Rogers JD ’09, and Matt Wells JD ’09, all of whom work in the area of armed conflict and civilian protection

Created a database of relevant organizations that could host interns or post-graduate fellows

Started to build a network of alumni working in the field

Humanitarian Disarmament: Publications, Events, and Messaging

Launched humanitariandisarmament.org website, October 2018

Published Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead, a summary of the ACCPI’s inaugural conference, October 2018

Hosted a strategy session for civil society leaders, New York, October 2018

Wrote and collected 18 civil society organization co-sponsors for a statement on humanitarian disarmament delivered at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, October 2018

Co-organized, with PAX, “Humanitarian Disarmament at the CCW: Examining Incendiary Weapons and Landmines through a Humanitarian Lens,” a side event at the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, Geneva, November 20, 2018

Co-organized, with the Geneva Disarmament Platform, a workshop for diplomats on humanitarian disarmament, Geneva, August 15, 2019

Published Humanitarian Disarmament, a brochure to introduce diplomats, campaigners, and others to the overarching concept, individual arms issues, and key resources, August 15, 2019

The Latest Reports on Betsy DeVos Scamming For-Profit College Students

Via The Project on Predatory Student Lending

TT and Corinthian Borrowers Continue to Fight for Relief as the Department of Education Skirts the Law Every Step of the Way

At the end of last week, there was a great deal of news from the U.S. Department of Education — reinforcing that it skirts the law and epitomizes corruption — and much of it flew under the radar.

 

Automatic Closed School Discharge for 7,000 ITT Borrowers

Betsy DeVos announced that the Department finally began to process automatic closed school discharges for certain borrowers who were cheated by ITT Tech and were enrolled when the company shut down. The Department estimated it would cancel $95 million in loans to ITT students.

The announcement followed demands from elected officials like Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Elizabeth Warren and other senate democrats for the Department to follow the law and process these discharges. 

The Department has fought against discharging bogus student loans from ITT Tech for years. Ultimately, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Department were mandated to process these automatic closed school discharges after a successful lawsuit brought by students (Bauer v. DeVos) ended the illegal delay of the 2016 borrower defense rule, and elected officials like Senator Dick Durbin demanded it.

While this is good news for these select students, many more are still waiting for justice. And the Department of Education continues to go out of its way to prevent them from getting it.

  • Approximately 45,000 students were attending ITT Tech when it closed in September 2016, and were left with massive debt and no diploma. Approximately 16,000 ITT students have already individually applied for and been granted closed school discharges. The Department’s announcement covers about 7,000 additional borrowers.
  • By the end of 2018, more than 19,000 former ITT students had applied for borrower defense, and because of the Department’s inaction, their bogus debts are still hanging over their heads. Secretary DeVos needs to follow the law and cancel the debts of all ITT students once and for all
  • Just three weeks ago, Secretary DeVos published a new borrower defense rulegutting protections for student borrowers and eliminating the automatic closed school discharge provision. This rule would leave students without this safety net if their school abruptly closes.

 

Illegal Collection on more than 16,000 Corinthian Borrowers

At the same time, Secretary DeVos admitted in a court filing that the Department of Education continued to collect from thousands of former Corinthian Colleges students in direct violation of a federal court order.

According to new numbers revealed by the filing, thousands of students were hurt by DeVos’ illegal actions.

  • The filing was made in a class action lawsuit by Corinthian Colleges students represented by the Project and HERA, Calvillo Manriquez v. DeVos.
  • Last year in this case, the federal court ordered Secretary DeVos to stop collecting the loans of thousands of students who were defrauded by Corinthian Colleges. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
  • Instead, the Department demanded incorrect loan payment from 16,034 Of those students, 3,289 borrowers made one or more loan payments because of these demands, which they were not actually supposed to pay. The Department has harmed the credit of 847 non-defaulted borrowers. The Department subjected 1,808 borrowers to involuntary debt collection by garnishing their wages or taking their tax refunds or benefits.

This is part of a pattern by Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education. They callously strip away basic student protections and illegally collect on student loans, all while blaming the courts, blaming servicers, and blaming the students themselves. The court will address these revelations by the Department at a status hearing on October 7.

Click here for the Project’s statement on this news.

Student Voices: Their Perspectives on How Schools Are and Should Be

Via MassAdvocates

By Trauma Learning Policy Initiative

As we welcome students back for the start of a new school year, many of us are embarking on or continuing the work of creating trauma-sensitive, safe and supportive learning environments for all students.

We recently completed this report from eight “Listening and Learning Sessions” with 73 secondary students in urban public schools.  We asked students What do you need in order to do well in school? What could your school do differently to help you do well? and How should your schools be assessed?  We hope you will find it as eye opening as we did, and draw inspiration from it for connecting with students throughout this school year.

We presented this report to the MA Safe and Supportive Schools Commission so that student voices can inform the Commission’s annual recommendations to the legislature. We hope it can foster an increased student voice in education reform.

The importance of safety, connection and belonging are increasingly acknowledged as important foundations for academic and social emotional success at school. Yet we rarely ask students themselves what their experience of school is, what works and doesn’t work for them, or what schools might do differently to support their learning and growth.

Below we share a few samples of thoughts shared by students in the listening sessions.  To read the full report including more from the students, please click here.

What students need in order to do well: relationships with teachers

“When [teachers are] really energetic, like my English teacher for example. She’s the happiest person I know. It’s like I love it because if I’m having a bad day, it’s like her energy just comes and picks me up. It’s just like, ‘Oh,’ because I love English. That’s my favorite subject, favorite class, and favorite teacher.”

Supports students find helpful:

“Imagine I take a test and I fail the test. Then we move on, but the grade that I got on the test, it shows me that I don’t know that topic, but now we move on. It starts a snowball effect. If I just keep failing or if whatever I’m learning is based on what was on that test, then I won’t succeed anymore. I feel like kids that didn’t do as well on that test should get it all and the teacher works with them so they can catch up and not have a shaky base to learning.”

How students want schools to be assessed:

“I think having a Social Grade for the school would help. By that I mean looking at the different factors that play into the social atmosphere of the school, whether that’s…teacher-student ratios, the amount of support that is offered students, whether that means counselors, specific types of classes and other things like that. [So for a parent asking] ‘where should I send my student? This school has really high test scores…and ha[s] high graduation rates, but they don’t really support students or they historically have not supported students who have mental health issues…oh, I probably don’t want to send my child there because I know that this is something that they struggle with or they are dealing with now and the school probably wouldn’t be a good fit for them outside of academics.”

TLPI is grateful to the students who shared their expertise by participating in the listening sessions.  We hope this report informs and advances schools’ efforts to better address the full range of students’ needs.

Brighter Bites to participate in industry-first Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator

Via The Produce News

By: Rich Dachman

ReFED announced the cohort of 10 organizations that will participate in its Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator, which aims to catalyze ideas and inspire actions that lead to a doubling of healthy food available to the 40 million Americans facing food insecurity.

“Brighter Bites is grateful to ReFED for this incredible, game-changing opportunity to magnify our work converting food waste into a public health opportunity,” said Rich Dachman, chief executive officer at Brighter Bites. “We are excited to work alongside the nine other exceptional organizations comprising this cohort, as well as the accelerator’s world-class Expert Network. Our participation in this program will bolster Brighter Bites’ efforts to source more produce for families in a sustainable manner, all while combatting food insecurity and teaching healthier choices to the families we serve.”

More than 125 candidates applied for the accelerator. The selected cohort range from long-standing food recovery organizations with hundreds of employees servicing thousands of donors, to newly formed innovative organizations that leverage concepts from the sharing economy and apply them to food rescue. What unites them is the desire to work together on a shared mission — to become operationally sustainable and deliver more impact at scale in a dignified and convenient way.

“The accelerator’s nationwide open call for applications confirmed ReFED’s hypothesis that this type of program will provide value in the form of helping food recovery organizations overcome some of the biggest barriers to increasing the amount of nutritious food they can deliver in a dignified manner,” said Alexandria Coari, director of capital and innovation at ReFED. “Some of these barriers include funding models dependent on grants versus earned revenue, a reliance on volunteers instead of paid staff, underutilization of technology solutions, and a lack of collaboration and best practice sharing across the sector. These are just a few of the topics we’ll tackle throughout the accelerator.” The accelerator’s one-of-a-kind, highly customized curriculum will combine a virtual classroom with in-person ReFED Learning Labs that focus on co-creating earned revenue models and technology-enabled solutions using human-centered design.

“Growing awareness about the scale of senseless food waste in this country has catalyzed existing organizations to innovate their paradigms and inspired energetic entrepreneurs to launch creative new models that use this surplus food as a resource,” said Emily Broad Leib, assistant clinical professor of law and director of the Harvard Law School Food Law & Policy Clinic. “As an Expert Network member, it has been incredible to see the response to ReFED’s Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator, which will build the needed network and resources for these innovators. I am excited about the announcement of the 2019 cohort, and cannot wait to see them take the next steps to address this major societal issue of our era.”

In addition to Brighter Bites, the other members of the cohort for the first-ever Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator are 412 Food Rescue (Pittsburgh), Boston Area Gleaners (Waltham, MA), Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona (Nogales, AZ), Eat Greater Des Moines (Des Moines, IA), Philabundance (Philadelphia), Plentiful (New York City), Replate (Berkeley, CA), Rescuing Leftover Cuisine (New York City), and Seeds That Feed (Fayetteville, AR).

Each participating organization will receive $30,000, plus an additional $100,000 will be awarded to a selected winner at the end of the accelerator. In addition, organizations will have access to a world-class group of food business and technology executives, capital providers and subject matter experts who make up the accelerator’s Expert Network, which includes Afresh, Albertsons, Aramark, Baldor Specialty Foods, Blue Apron, Bon Appetit Management Co., CalRecycle, Center for EcoTechnology, Chick-fil-a, Cisco, Claneil Foundation, ClimateWorks Foundation, Closed Loop Partners, Compass, DoorDash, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, EPA, Fast Forward, FDA, Feeding America, Fink Family Foundation, Food Donation Connection, Food for Soul, FoodMaven, General Mills, GoodR, Harvard Law School Food Law & Policy Clinic, HelloFresh, Imperfect Produce, Nestle, Next Course LLC, Ovio, Pisces Foundation, Posner Foundation, Rabobank, Sodexo, Spoiler Alert, Starbucks, Taylor Farms, The Ajana Foundation, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Wonderful Company, Tyson Foods, USDA, Village Capital, Wells Fargo, Whole Foods Market and World Wildlife Fund.

Guatemalan Woman’s Asylum Bid Revived Over New Dangers

Via Law360 

By: Kaitlyn Burton

A Guatemalan woman has another shot at asylum after the First Circuit said Friday that the Board of Immigration Appeals must asses her evidence that the Latin American country has become more dangerous for members of a Mayan activist organization she is a part of.

A three-judge panel ruled that the BIA erred in denying Marta Perez-Tino’s bid to reopen her immigration case, saying that her evidence of new dangers for the members of Organizacion Maya K’iche’, or OMK, in Guatemala could excuse her tardy filing, which came more than seven years after the board denied her previous asylum bid.

“It appears that, as Perez-Tino contends, the BIA mistakenly ‘assumed that, because Ms. Perez-Tino voluntarily associated herself with OMK, that condition was a personal circumstance and could not support her motion to reopen,’” the panel said.

An immigration judge denied Perez-Tino’s asylum application in April 2009, and in October 2010, the BIA rejected her appeal of that decision. She then filed a bid in February 2018 to reopen her immigration case, but the BIA denied her request last August, saying that it was too late since she had not proved that circumstances in her country had changed.

However, the First Circuit also said that the BIA was wrong to have rejected another argument from Perez-Tino that the expected deportation of former paramilitary commander Juan Samayoa, whom she alleges tortured and murdered her relatives, from the U.S. to Guatemala would put her in added danger.

The BIA had found that Perez-Tino failed to adequately explain why she did not mention Samayoa’s attacks during her earlier immigration hearing in 2009. But the circuit court said that Perez-Tino had clearly explained that she did not mention him because he had not been arrested until 2017, eight years after her hearing.

“We fail to see why this explanation does not ‘adequately explain’ Perez-Tino’s decision to refer to Samayoa for the first time in her 2018 motion to reopen,” the panel said, noting that Perez-Tino had also provided the BIA with multiple affidavits from friends and family attesting to her claims.

However, the panel did not disagree with the BIA rejecting Perez-Tino’s argument that the shifting political landscape in Guatemala amounted to changed country conditions.

“Perez-Tino develops no argument that the BIA’s determination that there had not been a ‘material change in circumstances’ with respect to this aspect of her attempted showing to the contrary was unsupported by substantial evidence,” the panel said.

A representative for the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment. A representative for Perez-Tino did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Perez-Tino is represented by Nancy J. Kelly, John Willshire Carrera and Maggie Morgan of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic at Greater Boston Legal Services.

The government is represented by Jacob A. Bashyrov of the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation.

The case is Perez-Tino v. Barr, case number 18-1860, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

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.

Read more.

Clinic Files Amicus Brief Arguing for Broader Access to Government Databases Through FOIA

Via the Cyberlaw Clinic

Source: Pixabay

The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (pdf) this week in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of a group of data journalists and media organizations, advocating for a different approach to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests relating to databases. The brief supports the Center for Investigative Reporting in an appeal arising out of a FOIA request submitted by CIR to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

CIR requested data from ATF’s firearm trace database, seeking records about firearms that were originally owned by law enforcement. In its denial of the FOIA request, ATF cited the Tiahrt Amendment, a rider contained in annual appropriations acts from 2003 to 2012. The Tiahrt Amendment prohibits disclosure of firearm trace information in response to FOIA requests, but allows the release of “statistical aggregate data.” Unfortunately, some courts have held that agencies are not required to release aggregate data that they have not already compiled because it constitutes production of a “new record,” which is not required under FOIA.

The lower court ruled in favor of ATF,  finding that CIR’s request would require ATF to create a new record. A Ninth Circuit decision on this case has the potential to shape FOIA jurisprudence relating to databases, which will have wide-reaching effects since more and more records are being stored in database format.

The Cyberlaw Clinic’s amicus brief focused on whether searching, filtering, sorting, and other forms of database manipulation constitute the creation of a new record. Amici explain how databases like the one used by ATF are structured, and how a database can be queried to yield information in various arrangements. While courts have previously analyzed databases as analogues to massive filing cabinets storing thousands of records, amici show that a database is like no filing cabinet that has ever existed. In fact, databases may have more in common with the famed Room of Requirement at Hogwarts than with how documents were stored on paper.

The amici include sixteen individual data journalists and professors of journalism, and five media-related organizations. All of them have a significant interest in a strong right of access to records held in government databases based on their extensive experience with government transparency processes, including FOIA, and with the technical aspects of working with structured data, including databases.

The media-related organizations are:

  • Investigative Reporters and Editors, a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting.
  • The Media Law Resource Center, a non-profit professional association for content providers in all media, and for their defense lawyers, providing a wide range of resources on media law and policy issues.
  • MuckRock, a journalism and government transparency non-profit that has helped thousands of requesters around the United States better file, share, and understand Freedom of Information requests.
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports and defends public interest journalism focused on transparency and accountability.
  • The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, an unincorporated nonprofit association whose attorneys provide pro bono legal representation, amicus curiae support, and other legal resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists

The individual journalists include Matt Carroll, Meredith Broussard, Dhrumil Mehta, Cheryl Phillips, Dan Keating, Lucia Walinchus, and Zita Arocha.

By focusing on real-world uses of databases, amici show that there is no practical difference between accessing full records from a database and compiling a list of entries. Amici then point out that the content-index distinction has led to murky jurisprudence in the past and continuing to apply this distinction to databases would require arbitrary line-drawing and lead to absurd results. In the database context, almost any presentation of the data is a record that already exists, and agencies should be required to produce records accordingly.

The Cyberlaw Clinic is honored to have represented these amici and hopes the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will seriously consider their input. The brief was written by Clinical Instructor Mason Kortz, Clinical Instructional Fellow Kendra Albert, and Spring 2019 clinical students Alena Farber, Ariel Hoffman, and LeHeng Li.

Employees entitled to fees under Wage Act settlement

Via Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly  

Liz Soltan J.D. ’19

Employees who obtained a favorable settlement of their Wage Act claim were considered “prevailing parties” entitled to attorneys’ fees under the statute’s fee-shifting provisions, the Supreme Judicial Court has determined.

The defendant employers argued that the plaintiff employees were not eligible for a fee award because they were not prevailing parties under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2001 decision in Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Dep’t of Health & Human Resources. In Buckhannon, the Supreme Court found that under federal fee-shifting statutes, a litigant must obtain judicial approval or “imprimatur” of a private settlement to be deemed a prevailing party.

But the SJC disagreed, emphasizing that it had previously found Buckhannoninapplicable to Massachusetts state law fee-shifting statutes and determining that the “catalyst test” was the applicable standard. The catalyst test requires only that the plaintiff’s suit be a “necessary and important” factor behind the favorable settlement result.

“We hold that the catalyst test applies to Wage Act claims and that the trial judge correctly found that the plaintiffs satisfied that test in the instant case, and we therefore affirm the award of attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs under the fee-shifting provisions of the Wage Act,” Justice Scott L. Kafker wrote for the court.

The 16-page decision is Ferman, et al. v. Sturgis Cleaners, Inc., et al., Lawyers Weekly No. 10-036-19. The full text of the ruling can be found here.

Small dollars, big impact?

Harvard Law School student Elizabeth Soltan, who argued on the plaintiffs’ behalf, said she hopes the decision enables more attorneys to take on Wage Act cases.

“The real impact will be on cases involving small dollar amounts which are more likely to involve workers who make a lower wage to begin with,” said Soltan, who became involved in the case through the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau clinical program (see sidebar).

HLAB clinical instructor Patricio S. Rossi, plaintiffs’ counsel of record, noted that it is difficult for low-wage workers to get representation for Wage Act claims because such cases typically do not involve enough money to be worthwhile for lawyers to take on contingency.

“A decision like this makes attorneys more confident they can get their fees without having to take the case all the way to trial,” he said.

Liliana Ibara, managing director of the Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration at Northeastern University School of Law, co-authored an amicus brief on behalf of the Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative. She called Ferman “a great decision.”

“Because of the way treble damages awards are structured, the idea is that if the worker has more income, it’s a bigger case with higher damages,” she said. “For a minimum wage worker, even if they’ve worked a lot of hours, it’s still a really low amount of money [at issue] overall. So those attorneys’ fees become incredibly important.”

Meanwhile, Ibara said, parties can still agree on counsel fees as part of the settlement as opposed to having a judge issue a fee award. That creates more options going forward, she said.

Ibara’s co-author, Joseph J. Michalakes of Greater Boston Legal Services, said the decision will have a particularly important impact on immigrant workers.

“They’re the most powerless workers in society, but this gives them power to enforce their rights under wage and hour law,” he said.

Swampscott trial attorney Andrew F. Caplan called the decision a “big deal,” commenting that it could have broad applicability beyond the Wage Act.

“The SJC’s expansive approach to awarding attorneys’ fees to plaintiffs under the Wage Act might be applied in future cases to other statutes that award attorneys’ fees to the prevailing or successful party, such as employment discrimination statutes,” he said.

Margaret E. Monsell of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute also submitted an amicus brief and said her organization was gratified that the SJC continues to recognize the importance of ensuring access to the courts for all.

“The court’s ruling affirms that the long-standing catalyst test for measuring the success of litigation is the best way to advance that goal,” Monsell said.

The defendants’ attorney, John J. McGlone III of Quincy, could not be reached for comment prior to deadline, but Daniel S. Field of Boston, who represents employers, said the ruling would have limited ramifications from a management perspective.

“It’s really unusual to settle a case — whether it’s a single plaintiff case, a multi-plaintiff case like this one, or a collective or class-action — without accounting for attorneys’ fees in the settlement agreement,” he said.

“A decision like this makes attorneys more confident they can get their fees without having to take the case all the way to trial.”

— Patricio S. Rossi, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

Wage Act claim

Plaintiffs Belky Ferman and Veronica Guillen worked for defendant Sturgis Cleaners, a dry cleaning business in Boston.

The plaintiffs sued the defendant and its owner, defendant Peter Triantos, in Suffolk Superior Court in November 2014, alleging non-payment of $28,000 in regular and overtime wages in violation of the Wage Act. In their complaint, the plaintiffs claimed treble damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.

After a nearly two-year period that included entry and lifting of a default judgment against the defendants as well as discovery and the filing of several pre-trial motions, the case was scheduled for a November 2016 trial.

Several weeks before trial, the case went to mediation, where the parties agreed to settle the case for $20,500 while reserving the issue of attorneys’ fees for resolution by the court.

The settlement also included language stating that it was the result of a compromise and did not constitute an admission of liability or wrongdoing. The parties then filed a stipulation with the court stating that the case would be dismissed with prejudice and waiver of all rights of appeal once the court made a fee determination.

In their motion for attorneys’ fees, the plaintiffs claimed roughly $40,000 in fees and $1,000 in costs.

Judge Karen F. Green, in rejecting the defendants’ argument that Buckhannongoverned the case, found the plaintiffs to be “prevailing parties” according to the catalyst test, reasoning that they obtained 70 percent of their initial demand, resulting in a “practical benefit” from their attorneys’ efforts.

After Green entered a fee award of $16,153 and the entire amount of costs, the defendants appealed and the SJC granted their motion for direct review.

Catalyst test

The SJC found that the catalyst test was indeed applicable to the fee dispute in the case.

“Although we have never expressly applied the catalyst test to determine prevailing party status under a State fee-shifting statute, we have, as previously stated, expressly rejected the alternative,” Kafker wrote, referring to Buckhannon. “In this case, we take the logical next step and conclude that the catalyst test applies in the context of determining prevailing parties under the Wage Act.”

The court also stated that that finding was rooted in the two major purposes behind fee-shifting provisions: to deter unlawful conduct and to incentivize attorneys to accept cases that otherwise would not be financially prudent to take, leaving clients that lacked either resources or a high-value case without access to justice.

Kafker further stated that the catalyst test would promote the prompt settlement of meritorious cases, avoiding the need for protracted litigation or unnecessary court involvement solely to “prevail” in a formalistic sense to ensure a fee award.

Accordingly, the SJC concluded, Judge Green’s award should be affirmed.

Ferman, et al. v. Sturgis Cleaners, Inc., et al.

THE ISSUE: Were employees who obtained a favorable settlement of their Wage Act claim considered a “prevailing party” entitled to an attorneys’ fee award under the statute’s fee-shifting provisions?

DECISION: Yes (Supreme Judicial Court)

LAWYERS: Elizabeth Soltan and Patricio S. Rossi, of Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Cambridge (plaintiffs)

John J. McGlone III of Giarrusso, Norton, Cooley & McGlone, Quincy; David T. Norton of Quincy (defense)

Report: Australia Should Join Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

Via the International Human Rights Clinic

Source: Pixabay

Australia’s alliance with the United States need not stand in the way of Australia joining the 2017 treaty banning nuclear weapons, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic said in a report released today.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) would require Australia to end its reliance on US nuclear arms for defense. But it would not undermine the countries’ broader collective security agreement established under the 1951 ANZUS Treaty.

“Australia has long claimed to support nuclear disarmament,” said Bonnie Docherty, lead author of the report and the Clinic’s associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection. “Joining the ban treaty would advance that goal without creating insurmountable legal obstacles to ongoing military relations with the US.”

The 13-page report “Australia and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” explains why Australia can renounce its nuclear defense arrangement with the US (under the so-called “nuclear umbrella”) while maintaining military ties to its ally. The report also shows the compatibility of the treaty with Australia’s disarmament commitments under other treaties and policies.

The Labor Party is expected to discuss the TPNW at its national conference from December 16 to 18, 2018. The conference will provide a forum for Labor to develop a new party platform.  In its last platform, adopted in 2015, the Labor Party called for negotiations of a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

“Labor should continue to back a nuclear weapons ban and urge Australia to sign and ratify this landmark treaty,” Docherty said.

The TPNW was adopted at the UN by 122 countries on July 7, 2018. The United States, Australia, and most other nuclear-armed and nuclear umbrella states boycotted the negotiations.

Nevertheless, many Australian parliamentarians and the larger public have expressed support for the ban treaty. In 2017, the Senate passed a Labor-initiated motion urging the government to participate in the negotiations. Since then, two-thirds of the current Shadow Ministry have pledged to work toward the treaty’s signature and ratification. A survey of Australians, released last month, found that almost 80 percent of the public supported joining the treaty.

The TPNW requires its states parties to renounce their nuclear umbrella arrangements. Such arrangements would violate the treaty’s prohibition on encouraging other countries to possess nuclear weapons.

But as the Clinic’s new report explains, the ANZUS Treaty makes no reference to nuclear weapons. Australia’s public claims to protection under the nuclear umbrella are based on policy statements that began in 1994.

An affirmative rejection of the nuclear umbrella would not breach Australia’s ANZUS Treaty commitment “to act to meet the common danger” in the case of an attack on an alliance member or in the Pacific. It would also allow Australia to comply with the relevant TPNW prohibition. While the US could object to Australia’s new position and use nuclear weapons in Australia’s defense, the TPNW does not hold states parties responsible for their allies’ choice of weapons.

The TPNW allows parties to participate in military alliances and joint operations with nuclear armed states.  If Australia ratified the treaty, it could not assist the US with certain nuclear-weapon-related activities, such as the planning of strikes with nuclear weapons. But it could continue to provide intelligence for counter-terrorism efforts or engage in non-nuclear military operations, such as those of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan.

According to the new report, the TPNW is consistent with some of Australia’s other legal and policy commitments. The TPNW helps states parties, such as Australia, meet their obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to work toward nuclear disarmament, including in the form of a treaty. The TPNW strengthens the NPT’s safeguard measures to ensure countries do not develop nuclear weapons.

Australia has also committed to nuclear disarmament through government policy papers and ratification of the Treaty of Rarotonga, which establishes a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone.

“By signing and ratifying the nuclear ban treaty, Australia would join with its regional neighbors in the Asia-Pacific and become a disarmament leader among nuclear umbrella states,” Docherty said.

For more information, contact Bonnie Docherty, bdocherty@law.harvard.edu. Read the full text of the report here.

Clinical students Molly Brown, JD ’19, Samantha Fry, JD ’20, and Thejasa Jayachandran, JD ’20, worked under Docherty’s supervision to help write this report.

Thanks for Listening!

Via the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program

Source: Pexels

We are pleased to announce that the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program has been awarded a grant to fund a new podcast series called Thanks for Listening, which will launch in November 2018.

This podcast will spotlight efforts to bridge the political divide in the U.S. through dialogue and collaborative processes, profiling the important and often courageous work of individuals and organizations who are helping citizens engage with one another on challenging topics. Episodes will dive deep into such issues as managing difficult family dynamics and relationships affected by partisan differences, bridging the divides so prominent in Congress, the media and in our social media spaces, training youth to move forward with better conflict management skills, when and how to engage in facilitated dialogue, keeping the conversation going in the midst of extremism and highly emotional issues, and civic engagement and the work of restoring communities. We hope to teach and inspire others to embrace dialogue as a valuable tool to engage productively around disagreement and differences, and to promote collaboration among people and organizations in the field.

We’re so grateful to our grantors, the American Arbitration Association International Centre for Dispute Resolution Foundation, for this opportunity!

Keep your eyes out on our websiteFacebook page, and Twitter for a link!

Lessons Learned with the Federal Tax Clinic

By Jonathan Holbrook, J.D. ’16

When I began working in Professor Keith Fogg’s Federal Tax Clinic, I already knew that I was interested in tax and would be practicing in the field after graduation. But I did not know how the clinic would operate, nor exactly how my clinical experience would relate to future practice. I now move forward from a semester in the Tax Clinic with three major takeaways: a better idea of how part of the IRS functions; a set of practical lawyering skills; and an understanding of how to use those skills to help low-income taxpayers.

Working with the Federal Tax Clinic meant learning a great deal about how the IRS works, the pressures it is under, and how taxpayers interface with its system. The cases I worked on offered an opportunity to interact with IRS employees and to strategize about how best to persuade them of our client’s case. It was particularly interesting to discuss clinical work with other students in the Clinic. Together, we were able to put into practice what we learned in the Clinic’s accompanying class sessions.

As part of the Clinic we were also able to attend the Tax Court when it visited Boston. We observed and assisted as Professor Keith Fogg helped pro se taxpayers prepare their cases. It was a valuable opportunity to see cases at a different stage than we saw in our day-to-day clinical work, as well as to get a taste of tax litigation.

Working with the Federal Tax Clinic also helped me develop practical lawyering skills and, in particular, a sense of legal judgment. In my classes thus far, examinations have typically involved synthesizing a defined set of rules, then applying them to discrete scenarios. It is a relatively straightforward process to determine whether the answer is “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” In the real world, some clients’ issues match that model. With some base level of knowledge, it is possible to mechanically match the scenario up to the rules to produce the right answer. But the most interesting questions are those for which there is no preexisting, easily-accessible answer. In my experience with the clinic, I ran into many such situations. I suspect that is because: (1) low income taxpayers typically settle their cases with the IRS before litigation; and (2) low-income taxpayers have relatively few interested commentators producing secondary source materials relating to their problems. Thus, working with the Clinic meant often making judgment calls in filling out forms, drafting letters and offering advice. By the end of the semester, I had become much more comfortable making such judgment calls.

A final key aspect of the clinical experience was learning from the clients. Hearing about their multiple jobs, disabilities, split-up families, struggles to pay or receive child support and incomprehensible communications from the IRS made real what had previously only been a theoretical understanding of the challenges facing low-income taxpayers. Helping the Clinic’s clients work through their issues with the tax system and come into compliance felt very meaningful.

In sum, the fall semester was a very challenging and educational experience. The Clinic let me do more than I thought was possible. Whatever path my career takes, I’ve gained the skills to be a better lawyer and the tools to effectively help low-income taxpayers through pro bono work. I am grateful to the school and to Professor Fogg for making the Clinic possible.

Happy Holidays!

happyThe Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs wishes HLS students and staff a wonderful holiday season! We hope you all will have lots of fun and exciting moments on your travels and with your families!

Our office will reopen on January 5, 2015.

Reaching Out to Rosie’s Place

L-R: Courtney Lynch '16, Marissa Benavides '16, Nora Mahlberg '15, Antonia Domingo '15, and clinical instructor Maureen Devine

L-R: Courtney Lynch ’16, Marissa Benavides ’16, Nora Mahlberg ’15, Antonia Domingo ’15, and clinical instructor Maureen Devine

Via the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

HLAB launched an exciting new partnership this fall with Rosie’s Place, which was founded in 1974 as the first women’s shelter in the United States. Today, Rosie’s Place offers thousands of women each year emergency services, educational opportunities, advocacy, and ongoing outreach.
 
Every week, HLAB students set up a table on site at Rosie’s Place and run a family law clinic to assist pro se litigants with guardianship, divorce, child support, and restraining order petitions. Women in need, also known as “guests,” who visit the clinic receive on-the-spot assistance in filling out the right legal forms in order to achieve their goals as well as education on their legal rights, the court process, and timelines.
 
As HLAB has committed to a weekly clinic on site, Rosie’s Place guests can return to the table to seek out additional assistance as their legal cases develop. “The partnership with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau allows our guests to meet with a legal advocate and discuss their specific needs and receive tailored legal information,” said Casey Shupe, Staff Attorney at Rosie’s Place.
 
Nora Mahlberg ’15, HLAB’s Outreach Director, worked extensively with Rosie’s Place staff to set up this new clinic. “Rosie’s Place was understandably cautious about bringing in outsiders to their site, which serves as a safe place for vulnerable women who may have been abused,” said Nora. “We worked hard to make sure that any concerns regarding the privacy and confidentiality of the women on the site would be addressed.”
 
Nora began searching for a family law partner organization in the spring of 2014, in response to HLAB students’ desire to provide support for pro se family litigants. HLAB had historically run a pro se divorce clinic out of its offices but had experienced dwindling attendance over time. “Getting to our location in Cambridge was potentially a barrier for people who needed help,” said Nora. “We decided to get closer to our client population and to go out to Rosie’s Place in Boston.”
 
Along with Nora, a group of HLAB students – Cassie Chambers ’15, Kellie MacDonald ’15, Jocelyn Keider ’15, and Donna Harati ’15 – worked with Rosie’s Place staff over the course of months to develop a curriculum tailored to the needs of Rosie’s Place guests. The curriculum was built from the existing pro se divorce clinic curriculum with additional material on child support, guardianship and restraining orders, and worksheets for guests to be able to identify the areas where they may need assistance.
 
Starting a new clinic is always a slow process, requiring flexibility by both organizations as they test and refine a new curriculum. Both HLAB and Rosie’s Place are excited by how the clinic has developed and improved over the course of the fall.

Courtney Lynch ’16 helped staff the legal aid table during the first week of HLAB’s partnership with Rosie’s Place. “When we first arrived, the women seemed nervous about talking to us, but they eventually got comfortable opening up and sharing their stories with us,” said Courtney. “It felt really rewarding to be able to earn the trust of the guests and to help them achieve a better legal outcome.”
 
“Rosie’s Place welcomes the chance to work with such wonderful students who have already shown a strong commitment not only to fulfilling our guests’ needs but also to our overall mission of affirming self-empowerment and dignity through support and legal advocacy,” said Casey.
 
Nora said, “HLAB looks forward to the continued growth of this partnership to better serve low-income women in Boston.” 

Gallery: The 2014 Chayes International Public Service Fellows

Via HLS News

Since 2001, a select group of HLS students have undertaken public service internships under the auspices of the Chayes International Public Service Fellowship, dedicated to the memory of HLS Professor Abram Chayes ’49. This past summer, 22 students traveled to 14 countries—the following are snapshots of several of their experiences.

HLS alumn appointed Executive Director of GLAD

Janson Wu, Executive Director, GLAD

Janson Wu, HLS ’03, Executive Director, GLAD

Via GLAD

Janson Wu, HLS ’03, deputy director and senior staff attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), has been appointed the organization’s new executive director.  Wu, who has been with GLAD for eight years, will start his new position on December 1, 2014.

“We are thrilled and proud to name Janson our new executive director at such an important and forward-looking time for the movement and for GLAD,” said Board President Dianne Phillips.  “Janson’s set of skills and talents are uniquely suited to this moment.  Beyond his deep knowledge of GLAD, the movement, and the issues facing our community both in New England and nationally, Janson brings to the table vision, impressive leadership abilities, and the strategic thinking of a successful litigator.” The selection was made after a national search conducted by the firm Isaacson, Miller.

Continue reading the full story here.

‘Our justice system has become inaccessible to millions of poor people,’ says Dean Martha Minow

Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School  Credit: Justin Ide/Harvard University News Office

Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School
Credit: Justin Ide/Harvard University News Office

Via HLS News

“Our justice system has become inaccessible to millions of poor people and so every day, we violate the ‘equal justice under law’ motto engraved on the front of the grand United States Supreme Court.”

That is the message shared by Harvard Law School Dean and Vice Chair of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board of Directors Martha Minow in a recent opinion piece in the Boston Globe. In media interviews and in testimony before state boards, Minow has been outlining the challenges faced by civil legal servicesand the critical need to expand access to justice.

In an Oct. 23 op-ed for the Boston Globe, “We must ensure everyone has access to equal justice,” Minow highlights the crisis in access to justice stating that although poverty levels have increased, federal contributions toward nonprofit organizations have decreased significantly over the past 20 years: “In Massachusetts, nearly 1 million people qualify for legal aid services. Despite steady funding from the Legislature, and the excellent donation of services and money by lawyers in the Commonwealth, the 15 legal aid organizations supported by Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation must turn away some 64 percent of those eligible for help.”

These findings are based on a recently released report by the Boston Bar Association’s Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts, where Minow has served as a member for more than 18 months. The report,Investing in Justice: A Roadmap to Cost-Effective Funding of Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts,” indicates that an annual $30 million in new state funding is required to help bridge the gap between existing resources and what is needed to provide appropriate civil legal aid to all who are eligible.

On Oct. 6, at a public hearing on the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, at the Appellate Division, First Judicial Department, Supreme Court of the State of New York, Minow testified on the need to improve access to justice for low-income legal aid clients.

In her testimony, Minow said helping the disadvantaged aids the population as a whole: “Americans who cannot afford legal help routinely forfeit basic rights. Neither the facts of their situation nor governing law are to blame. Lack of legal assistance is the problem. When people forfeit their rights simply because they cannot afford legal help, we all suffer.”

Minow was also recently profiled in LawDragon and the Harvard Gazette, “My life was gong to have to deal with issues of social injustice.”

Established by Congress in 1974, the Legal Services Corporation is the single largest provider of civil legal aid for the poor in the nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 statistics on poverty, 63.6 million people were eligible for LSC-funded services. LSC-funded programs helped approximately 1.8 million people in 2013. The clients served are at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level threshold, an income of $29,813 a year for a family of four.

Minow, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law, has taught at Harvard Law School since 1981, where her courses include civil procedure, constitutional law, family law, international criminal justice, jurisprudence, law and education, nonprofit organizations, and the public law workshop. An expert in human rights and advocacy for members of racial and religious minorities and for women, children, and persons with disabilities, she also writes and teaches about privatization, military justice, and ethnic and religious conflict.

Besides her many scholarly articles published in journals of law, history, and philosophy, her books include In Brown’s Wake: Legacies of America’s Constitutional Landmark (2010); Government by Contract (co-edited, 2009); Just Schools: Pursuing Equality in Societies of Difference (co-edited, 2008); Breaking the Cycles of Hatred: Memory, Law and Repair(edited by Nancy Rosenblum with commentary by other authors, 2003); Partners, Not Rivals: Privatization and the Public Good (2002), and others.

The Road Next Travelled

Michael Haroz, Director at Goulston & Storrs

Michael Haroz, Director at Goulston & Storrs

By: Michael Haroz, HLS ’ 70 
Director at Goulston & Storrs  

On the way to a meeting with human rights activists on a rural road in Croatia after the Balkan Wars, the driver of our car asked if I wanted to take a detour to see a very old church. I enthusiastically said yes. As we disembarked from the car, I heard him comment that he was pretty sure landmines from the recent war had been cleared from the area. Somehow I could not get the words “pretty sure” out of my mind. For a moment it even made me less sure about the wisdom of accepting the invitation that had brought me from my corner office at a major Boston law firm to a recent war zone after 35 years of corporate practice.

The invitations go by different names with each inviting someone to leap. Some are called “second acts”, “the next phase” or “encore”. But all are directed at retired or near retired boomers that are not ready to slip into the night quietly or fade away. You are invited to take the “retire” out of retirement and replace it with “engage”, as in engagement in giving back to the community. For me it was a redo of an earlier phase. For other boomers it may be finally getting to giving back.

Several years ago I accepted an invitation from the International Senior Lawyers Project to do volunteer work with human rights organizations. I stepped down from a busy private law firm practice to engage in international pro bono legal work. For almost a decade, I have worked with groups in Croatia, Kenya, The Czech Republic, South Africa and Burma. I have learned important lessons in that process that may be helpful to fellow boomers contemplating moving to encore community service.

I had started my legal career as a public interest lawyer and then spent 35 years as a corporate lawyer. College grads are commonly advised to follow their passions. That is what I did when I decided to enter law school in 1967. My passion was not a love of the law but a sense that the law could and should be used to advance human rights. The civil rights and antiwar issues of the ‘60”s spawned the passion.

My present encore phase is a circling back. I want again to use law to build justice. I had kept my early passion alive by doing my share of pro bono work and kept it smoldering. The spark came with the invitation to go to Croatia. That relit the passion I had felt as a 20 year old. It was the same thing I had learned in 1967, which is to find and follow your passion. I was lucky perhaps to have an old flame to go to but the lesson learned is more general. An encore needs a reason to be produced. Passion about something gives you that reason. It does not have to be the same passion you once had. It can be entirely new or a diluted version of the past. But you need passion for the next act to get older bones and brains moving and cranking when age begins to suggest it is time to stop. Find and follow your passion is the first lesson.

The second lesson came from fear. It was the fear that many overachievers have. The fear of failure and the fear that I did not know anything that could be useful or relevant outside my specialty. I had handled finance transactions involving 100 plus million dollars loans. There were not many human rights involved in those transactions and initially I doubted my ability to really be useful in a different setting. But my recent experience has shown me that my past experience was relevant. As a corporate lawyer I did learn the importance of getting things done, not letting trees obscure the forest (or to forget that forests are composed of trees), being prompt and responsive, maintaining an ethic of service, digging for facts, and forming judgments. It turns out that I did know a lot that is relevant and useful. It is a matter of looking at what I had learned as a set of general attributes, experiences, attitudes and skills. So the second lesson is have no fear, you know more than you think.

But as much as I knew, I needed to learn new things and attitudes. Some were obvious like learning newer substantive law concepts that are very much a part of modern human rights advocacy and never existed 30 years ago. Others were not so obvious. As a commercial lawyer everything had to be done the day before today. There was a fast pace and tangible conclusions that built in immediate accountability. It was inherent in the work and satisfying to accomplish something tangible. Not so with human rights work. Seeking justice for persons with disabilities or helping displaced small farmers in Burma regain their land are not short-term efforts. In completing a business transaction, I could feel like the master of a universe. In working on human rights issues, I have learned (again perhaps) that the fruits of my labor may not ripen for many years, if at all. In that is the third lesson. You need to learn and unlearn. You may be an old dog but you can and will need to learn new tricks. You will also have to leave behind old habits and expectations as you move from one world to another.

My “next phase” has been eased by my past. I have recycled more than invented. Public interest work still happens in settings that are not different than what I experienced in the 1970’s. The offices are still mostly shabby and located in 4th floor walk up buildings in poor areas. Office coffee still sits and bakes in grungy coffee pots. Even so, it has been like returning home. And, I will add, safely so, as my Croatian driver was right. That detour area was clear and I was soon back on the road to the next stop on a 35-year, variable but consistent effort to use law to promote justice.

Harvard Portrait: Deborah Anker

Deborah Anker is Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School. Photograph by Stu Rosner

Deborah Anker is Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School. Photograph by Stu Rosner

Via the Harvard Magazine

“THIS IS MY CAUSE,” thought Deborah Anker, M.A.T. ’70, LL.M. ’84, upon her first encounter with immigration law. A second-generation American whose Jewish grandparents crossed the Atlantic to escape the Holocaust, she got her start at a Boston-based refugee-assistance organization, where she worked for a few years after earning her law degree. Her family history sparked her passion for the subfield of asylum law, on which she later wrote the treatise that made her one of the discipline’s most prominent scholars. The clinical professor of law notes that she inherited her deep sense of social justice from her parents, both public servants with progressive values. “I have grown up with a tremendous passion about civil rights,” she recalls, adding that even her family was not progressive enough for her rebellious spirit. When Anker joined the Law School faculty in the mid 1980s, she notes, immigration “wasn’t even considered an area of law.” In addition to teaching the first full immigration-law course offered at the school, in 1984 she co-founded the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, an initiative that engages students in the direct representation of asylum applicants. “The best doctrine is shaped by the experience of representing clients,” explains Anker, whose career has unfolded at the intersection of scholarship and practice. “I was born into a community that had just suffered so much,” she says of her choice not to pursue a “happier” field. Coming into close contact with the sadness of her clients has been for her a cathartic experience. During three decades of lawyering, Anker has witnessed “the resiliency of the human spirit” in her clients, which she says has been profoundly transformative.

A Warm Welcome to Brandie Grant

Brandie Grant, Staff Assistant, Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Brandie Grant, Staff Assistant, Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs extends a warm welcome to its new staff assistant Brandie Grant. Brandie is replacing Melissa Korta, while she is on leave.

Brandie is a recent graduate of Howard University where she studied International Business with a concentration on Latin American countries. She previously held a position with the Washington D.C. Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, focusing on grants coordination and the grassroots initiative to increase knowledge of the Language Access Act. She is a former corps member of JumpStart, America, and upon moving to Boston, she taught fourth grade at a summer enrichment program. She has a passion for education and the realm of international business.

We are excited to have Brandie in our office! Please stop by and meet her.

Spanish for Public Interest Lawyers – Fall 2014

Description

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

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

Student Requirements

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

Enrollment

  • Enrollment is limited to 18 students.
  • 2L and 3L students currently in a direct services clinic or SPO who are conversational in Spanish will receive priority.
  • Students meeting the criteria will be accepted through a randomized selection process.

To Apply

Email  clinical at law.harvard.edu with the following information by 5PM on Wednesday, October 15:

  • Name
  • Year (2L, 3L)
  • Name of clinic or SPO you are working with
  • Rank in order of preference ideal class time:

Tuesdays 7-9PM
Wednesdays 7-9PM

  • At least one paragraph, in Spanish, describing prior or current experience you’ve had speaking Spanish, any experience with Spanish-speaking clients, and what you hope to learn by taking this class.

Students will be contacted on October 17 with the results of their application. Students who are accepted will receive information about the class meeting time. Classes will be held weekly. The first class will meet the week of October 20 and the last class will meet the week of December 1.

Students who meet the criteria but are not accepted for the fall semester will be given priority in the spring semester.

Food Law and Policy Clinic Works with Dean Minow to Launch i-Lab Deans’ Food System Challenge

logoBy Ona Balkus, Clinical Fellow, Food Law and Policy Clinic of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Have you ever considered working for a start-up or pursuing your own innovative business idea? Are you creative and do you like brainstorming with others about how to solve social problems? Are you concerned with the negative impacts of our current food system?

This school year, students will have the exciting opportunity to participate in the i-Lab Deans’ Food System Challenge, which invites creative and entrepreneurial students to develop innovative ideas to improve the health, social, and environmental outcomes of the food system in the United States and around the world.

Each year the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-Lab), a cross-University resource serving Harvard students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship, organizes a series of Dean’s Challenges that encourage students from across the university to develop innovative solutions to pressing social issues. This will be the first Dean’s Challenge sponsored by Dean Martha Minow, who is co-sponsoring the Challenge with Dean Julio Frenk of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Attorneys and students from the Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation have been thrilled to work with Dean Minow to develop and plan this Challenge.

Why is the Food System Challenge timely and important?
Our current methods of producing, distributing, and consuming food are damaging both for human health and for the planet. Rates of diet-related disease, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, are rising in both developed and developing countries, and the fertilizers, chemicals and fuel used to produce and transport food are causing devastating pollution and contributing to global climate change. Further, the food system does not meet the basic social justice goals of ensuring access to food for all or supporting fair-paying, safe jobs for those working in the agricultural or food service sector.

Students will be able to submit proposals for ideas in the following four topic areas: (1) Producing Sustainable, Nutritious Food, (2) Innovating in Food Distribution and Markets, (3) Improving Our Diet, and (4) Reducing Food Waste.

What are the guidelines and timeline for the Challenge?
On October 27th, the official Kickoff event for the Challenge will feature Dean Minow and keynote speaker Ayr Muir, founder and chief executive of Clover Food Lab. All students and faculty interested in learning more about the Challenge are invited to attend. In early February, teams will submit their proposals. Teams must include at least one current Harvard student in order to participate in the challenge. Teams are encouraged to be interdisciplinary, with members from at least two disciplines. In early spring, several teams will be selected as finalists and given $5,000 and a mentor to incubate their ideas. At the end of the year, the winning team and two runners-up will receive larger cash prizes.

How can law students get involved in the Challenge?
Law students can participate in several key ways in the Deans’ Food System Challenge.
First, students can start or join a team of students to develop a proposal for the Challenge. Law students can make many unique contributions to Challenge teams, including analyzing the relevant legal and policy frameworks and helping to develop the business plan.

Second, students can participate on the Challenge’s crowd-sourcing website, where students, faculty, and others engaged in the food system can have an open dialogue about pressing food system problems and promising solutions, and provide real-time feedback on Challenge contestants’ ideas. Students can meet other potential teammates on this website, or brainstorm and give feedback without joining a team.

Third, FLPC has partnered with Harvard Sustainability Office and Harvard University Dining Services to launch a year-long “Food Better” campaign that includes events focused on food system issues to be hosted all across the university. Students interested in learning more about the Challenge and the food system more generally should attend these great events.

What do law students work on in the Food Law and Policy Clinic?
Food law and policy is a rapidly emerging field with complex challenges that require innovative and creative attorneys and experts in a wide range of disciplines. FLPC provides law students with opportunities to work with a broad range of clients and communities to improve their food systems. In the 2014-2015 school year, students enrolled in the FLPC will work on a wide range of projects, including working with advocates in Puerto Rico to establish the Island’s first food policy council; working to improve type 2 diabetes treatment and prevention by helping to develop and implement strategic law and policy reform (a joint project with the Health Law and Policy Clinic); supporting reform of the current expiration date system, which contributes to high rates of food waste in the U.S.; and drafting comments to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on ways to make proposed food safety regulations friendlier to small-scale and sustainable food producers. FLPC welcomes law students to enroll in the Clinic in future semesters!

Learn more about the i-Lab Deans’ Food System Challenge and Food Better events here.
Learn more about the Food Law and Policy Clinic here.

Student Perspective: Supporting the Transnational Fight to Protect Workers’ Rights

Atzin Gordillo, at left, an organizer with ProDESC, gives a presentation to the workers of the Sinaloa Coalition about their rights under the H-2 visa program.

Atzin Gordillo, at left, an organizer with ProDESC, gives a presentation to the workers of the Sinaloa Coalition about their rights under the H-2 visa program.

Via the International Human Rights Clinic 

Posted by Lily Axelrod, JD ’15

One January afternoon in 2012, two hundred men and women gathered at the Captain Morgan Bar in the sunny, Mexican coastal town of Topolobampo, Sinaloa. Their spirits were strong; recruiters had arrived to sign up workers for temporary H-2 visas to the United States. In a region where unemployment is high and the minimum wage is less than $5 a day, the recruiters brought hope. Applicants handed over deposits of several hundred dollars, representing years of savings or serious debt.

Weeks went by, and then months, as recruiters promised the Sinaloans that the visas were “almost ready.” But there were no jobs, and no H-2 visas. By April, it became clear: hundreds of applicants had been defrauded.

This summer, I had the opportunity to support the Sinaloan workers as a fellow with Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC), a human rights organization based in Mexico City. Having lived in Mexico and studied social movements there, I was drawn to ProDESC’s model, which balances a broad international vision with a focus on meaningful participation and leadership from local, marginalized communities. I contributed this summer to the organization’s Transnational Justice for Migrant Workers project, which seeks to promote humane, legal migration by protecting migrant workers’ human rights.

My work focused specifically on the H-2 temporary worker visa program, one of the few avenues for Mexicans to work legally in the United States without advanced degrees or immediate family members with status. ProDESC has been tackling abuses related to the program since 2007. Due to fear of reporting and lack of oversight, it is impossible to know how many applicants were promised visas and never received them, but ProDESC believes the problem is widespread. Even when job offers are legitimate, workers often go into debt to pay illegal “recruitment fees,” and fear blacklisting or violent retaliation if they speak up about their rights.

For years, both the Mexican and American governments turned a blind eye to these abuses, leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation, human trafficking, and forced labor. But ProDESC and the Sinaloan workers have been collaborating to change the status quo. In 2013, with support from ProDESC’s community organizers and attorneys, the workers formed a coalition and brought a groundbreaking collective criminal complaint against the fraudulent recruiter operating in Sinaloa. That coalition, in turn, strengthened ProDESC’s domestic and international policy advocacy to prevent abuse in the H-2 visa program overall.

Together, their activism captured the attention of both the Mexican government, which recently issued new regulations targeting recruiters, and the U.S. Departments of Labor and State, which have committed to cooperate with their Mexican counterparts and with NGOs to educate migrant workers about their rights.

With attention turning now to implementation of Mexico’s new recruitment regulations, I worked under the guidance of ProDESC Director Alejandra Ancheita (Harvard Wasserstein Fellow 2012-13) this summer to draft a policy memorandum requested by Mexico’s Secretary for Labor and Social Welfare. The memo, now published in English and Spanish, was co-authored with undergraduate intern Mica Pacheco Ceballos (Harvard ’16) and with support from Fordham Law Professor Jennifer Gordon, JD ’92.

I also conducted research on creative legal strategies to hold American companies accountable for their recruiters’ human rights violations. ProDESC’s attorneys consistently challenged me to think outside the box and draw from diverse fields, from international human rights law to contracts and negotiation.

In my last week at ProDESC, the mood at the office was jubilant: the Mexican government had considered the Sinaloan case, and imposed a substantial fine on the fraudulent recruiting agency for violations of the Federal Labor Law and related regulations. Still, it will take significant additional work to ensure that the rights of other workers seeking H-2 visas are truly protected. Now that the Mexican and American governments have committed to taking this issue seriously, ProDESC and its allies are pushing for both governments to work together to hold U.S. companies accountable for abuses in recruitment.

Learn more about how to support that movement at ProDESC’s website or follow through work on Facebook.

Lily S. Axelrod, JD ‘15, is Co-President of the Harvard Immigration Project and Review Editor of the Harvard Latino Law Review. After graduation, she plans to practice immigration law.

Student Perspective: Protecting Freedom of Expression, in Ethiopia and Beyond

reeyot-AlemuVia the International Human Rights Clinic 

Posted by Lindsay Church, J.D. ’16

In July 2012, Eskinder Nega was sentenced to 18 years in prison. In June 2011, Reeyot Alemu was arrested and convicted to 14 years of imprisonment, reduced to five on appeal.

Their crimes? Practicing journalism in Ethiopia.

Nega and Alemu are award-winning journalists who shared the prestigious Human Rights Watch Hellman-Hammett Award in 2012. For Nega, whose first child was born while he and his wife were in custody for treason , the arrest came days after publishing a column that criticized the Ethiopian government’s detainment of journalists as suspected terrorists. For Alemu, a former high school English teacher, the arrest came days after she critiqued the ruling political party in an independent newspaper later shut down by the government.

The basis for the charges against these journalists is Ethiopia’s 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which contains overly vague provisions that have been used by the government to silence its critics. Since the Proclamation was adopted, more than 30 journalists have been convicted on terrorism-related charges.

Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of working on behalf of Nega and Alemu as a fellow with the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI). The small London-based non-profit works directly with journalists and bloggers who have been prosecuted for exercising their protected right to freedom of expression. With the help of partner organizations, MLDI’s staff are currently working on 107 cases in 41 countries; the organization’s success rate in receiving favorable decisions hovers around 70 percent.

eskinder2Because I studied journalism before coming to law school, I know the range of challenges American journalists face, from accessing information to protecting sources to the threat of civil liability. Still, it was always clear to me that the First Amendment by and large provides a greater amount of protection to journalists than any other national legal system. As my work at MLDI made clear this summer, freedom of expression is severely restricted in other countries—by censorship, regulations, state-operated monopolies, criminal liability, and physical threat, among others.

For example, on my very first day, I worked on a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concerning the case of Le Quoc Quan, a Vietnamese human rights lawyer and blogger who was wrongfully prosecuted on trumped up charges of tax evasion. Throughout my internship, I also researched case law from regional courts on freedom of expression, helped with an amicus curiae submission before the High Court of South Africa in a case about criminal defamation, and worked on a case in defense of a blogger in Singapore who is being sued by Lee Hsien Loong, the country’s prime minister.

When Nani Jansen, MLDI’s legal director, filed a submission to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on behalf of Nega and Alemu, I had the opportunity to do preparatory work for the submission. I also helped in the filing of submissions to international and regional courts on behalf of Nega and Alemu.

At this point, their chances for release are still unknown, but the situation remains dire. In a New York Times Op-Ed, “Letter from Ethiopia’s Gulag,” Nega wrote about gruesome prison conditions, including three toilets for about 1,000 prisoners. Alemu’s health continues to deteriorate: After receiving an operation to remove a lump in her breast—without the use of anesthesia—she was immediately sent back to the prison without proper recovery time, and she has since been denied further treatment.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights remains one of the last options for these two journalists. When the Commission convenes its next session on October 22nd, I am hopeful it will recognize their case is admissible and that the Ethiopian government has used the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to systematically violate the right to freedom of expression. Even if the Commission decides the case is admissible, a decision on the merits is far away. While the ruling on admissability will not immediately free Nega and Alemu, together with more international pressure, the Commission may eventually persuade Ethiopia that the cost of jailing journalists is too high.

Learn more about how to advocate on behalf of Nega and Alemu.

Lindsay Church, JD ‘16, will join the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy at the University of Oxford this January as a visiting research fellow. While there, she will work on a paper she began this summer, “International Influence on Freedom of Expression in Ethiopia: An Analysis of the Impact of Ethiopia’s Relations with the United States and China.”

A Warm Welcome to Gabriela Follett

Gabriela Follett, Program Assistant, Human Rights Program

Gabriela Follett, Program Assistant, Human Rights Program

Via the Human Rights Program 

Gabriela Follett is the Program Assistant for the Human Rights Program. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of Vermont, where she studied Environmental Studies with a focus on Food Justice. Gabbie’s passion for advocacy work about gender-based sexual violence on college campuses began while she was an undergraduate student at the University of Vermont. She worked closely with the Women’s Center on the launch of a campaign, “You Could be the First to Know,” a video guide for friends who are the “first to know” about an assault.

In her current position, she assists with the administration of post-graduate and summer fellowships, organizes various conferences and events, and supports the Visiting Fellows Program.

A Warm Welcome to Katherine Talbot

 

Katherine Talbot, Program Associate, International Human Rights Clinic

Katherine Talbot, Program Associate, International Human Rights Clinic

Via the International Human Rights Clinic  

Katherine Talbot is the Program Associate for the International Human Rights Clinic. Prior to coming to Harvard Law School, she supported three faculty members at Harvard Business School as a Faculty Assistant.

Katherine has an M.A. in International Relations from St. John’s University in Rome, Italy, and a B.A. in Government and Politics from St. John’s University in Queens, New York.

A Warm Welcome to Stephanie Davidson

Stephanie Davidson, Attorney and Clinical Fellow, Family and Domestic Violence Law Clinic

Stephanie Davidson, Attorney and Clinical Fellow, Family and Domestic Violence Law Clinic

Via the Legal Services Center (LSC) 

Stephanie Davidson joined the Legal Services Center (LSC) in July as an Attorney and Clinical Fellow. The Clinic primarily serves clients through the Passageway Health Law Collaborative, a partnership with the Brigham and Women’s Hospital where attorneys, law students, and Passageway social workers to work together to confront domestic violence from a public health perspective. 

Davidson’s addition to LSC will allow the Family Law and Domestic Violence Clinic to accept more students and cases for the upcoming academic term, and to engage in more extensive community outreach throughout the year. Davidson will be representing clients in family law cases, conducting community education programs, and assisting in the supervision of law students.

Davidson joins Nnena Odim, Senior Clinical Instructor and Associate Director of the Family Law Clinic, who states “I am really looking forward to working with Stephanie. She comes to LSC with such dedication and commitment to improving the lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence. While we will never be able to fully satisfy the unmet needs of the population that we serve, having Stephanie join our team means that we will be better able to address the legal needs of people affected by domestic violence, particularly families with children.”

Davidson has already begun representing clients and preparing the Clinic’s docket for the next set of clinical students. Returning from The Suffolk Family and Probate Court after her first court appearance as an LSC staff member, Davidson said, “I’m thrilled to be providing desperately needed legal services to domestic violence survivors in a clinical setting. These cases provide excellent clinical experiences for students, not only because of the severity of the problem, but also because the legal issues domestic violence survivors encounter illustrate how poverty, violence, and gender intersect in the lives of Boston-area families.”

A Warm Welcome to Andy Sellars

Andy Sellars, Corydon B. Dunham First Amendment Fellow, Cyberlaw Clinic

Andy Sellars, Corydon B. Dunham First Amendment Fellow, Cyberlaw Clinic

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

Andy Sellars is the Berkman Center’s Corydon B. Dunham First Amendment Fellow, and works at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic. He previously was the Assistant Director of the Berkman’s Digital Media Law Project.

He received his J.D. with high honors from the George Washington University Law School, where he was awarded the Peter D. Rosenberg Award for Patent and Intellectual Property Law and the Jan Jancin Award from the American Intellectual Property Law Association. During his summers in law school he interned at the Cyberlaw Clinic, working on a wide variety of intellectual property and cyberlaw matters. Prior to law school, Andy worked in the music industry, including for the festival production and promotion company Great Northeast Productions and as assistant tour manager and stage manager for the band moe. He received his undergraduate degree in music, summa cum laude, from Northeastern University in 2008, where he interned at the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts (now part of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston). He is also a trustee with the Boston chapter of the Awesome Foundation.

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