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All in a Day’s Work

By: Alexis Farmer

The numerous clinics at Harvard Law School (HLS) are frequently successful in their pursuit of advancing justice. We often read of victories in court cases, positive reactions to dynamic presentations, and the formation of powerhouse partnerships, but how do the clinics get there? On any given day, HLS students, clinical instructors and clinical faculty are actively working on issues – preparing a brief, arguing a motion in court, giving a presentation to community leaders or clinical professionals, or collaborating with community partners on launching a policy initiative. On one particular day in early May, three clinics were in three different courts while others were fortifying partnerships on each of the coasts. The Office of Clinical Programs (OCP) got an inside scoop on what a day in a few of the clinics might look like, and they were just as busy as we suspected.

Tuesday, May 7th

Credit: Emmanuel Huybrechts
Source: Flickr

9:00am The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) heard oral argument in Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court, a case about whether the public has a right of access to records from show-cause hearings in which the clerk magistrate, who presides over the hearing, finds probable cause, but decides not to issue a criminal complaint. The Boston Globe sued the heads of the trial courts last fall, arguing that public access to the records allows for transparency and accountability and is useful in determining whether there is an uneven application of justice in this part of the court system. The action came after The Globe reported that Massachusetts was the only state to have these proceedings out of the public eye and keep many of the documents confidential.

In amicus briefs, the ACLU of Massachusetts, Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) and Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) argued that the hearings provide privacy for subjects of criminal complaints prior to arraignment. The amici also expressed concern that opening records where no criminal complaint is issued could harm individuals’ ability to obtain housing or jobs. HLAB’s brief was written on behalf of Harvard Defenders, the only legal services organization in the state dedicated to pro bono representation of indigent defendants in criminal show cause hearings, and City Life/Vida Urbana, a grassroots community organization dedicated to fighting for racial, economic, social justice and gender equality. Executive Director of Harvard Defenders Dara Jackson-Garrett, who co-authored the brief, told Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, “Those who take out applications for criminal complaints often do not want to see the accused go to jail. Instead, they may just want to have the person apologize or get treatment for substance abuse.” A decision in the case is expected sometime late summer/early fall.

9:30am The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HIRC) at GBLS co-managing directors and HLS lecturers on law Nancy Kelly and John Willshire Carrera, HIRC assistant director and clinical professor Sabi Ardalan, and HIRC teaching fellow Zack Albun attended oral arguments in De Pena-Paniagua v. Barr, currently pending at the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The court held the hearing at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston. Ms. De Pena-Paniagua is challenging a Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision that denied her asylum application by construing Matter of A-B-, a 2018 decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to categorically foreclose asylum to applicants who argue they have a well-founded fear of persecution in the form of domestic violence perpetrated on account of their membership in a “particular social group.” Along with co-counsel at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and HIRC director Prof. Deborah Anker, the HIRC attorneys submitted an amicus brief arguing Ms. De Pena-Paniagua qualified for asylum as a victim of persecution on account of her membership in a particular social group defined by female gender. HIRC alumnus Eunice Lee (Albert M. Sacks Clinical Teaching & Advocacy Fellow 2009–11) appeared on behalf of fellow amicus the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, arguing that Matter of A-B- itself conflicts with the applicable federal statutes and international treaties and should be overturned.

The three-judge panel expressed significant interest in the position advanced in HIRC’s briefing, asking attorneys for both Ms. De Pena-Paniagua and the Department of Justice several questions about her eligibility for relief on the basis advocated. The First Circuit has yet to issue an opinion squarely addressing the legal sufficiency of defining a particular social group by gender.

10:00am Clinical Professor of Law Dehlia Umunna of the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) and CJI student Jillian Tancil J.D. ’19 spent the morning at Roxbury District Court representing a woman that allegedly violated a protection order. The case was scheduled for a jury trial, but was resolved with pre-trial probation.

10:30am HIRC Clinical Instructor Cindy Zapata spoke on a panel about family detention at the AALS Clinical Conference in San Francisco, CA. The panel, entitled “Learning in Baby Jail: Lessons from Law Student Engagement in Immigration Detention Centers,” was a forum for reflection and learning best practices for preparing students to engage in work within family detention centers. The other panelists included Lindsay Harris, University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law; Erica B. Schommer, St. Mary’s University School of Law; Sara Sherman-Stokes, Boston University School of Law.

11:20am The Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic (EL&PC) submitted comments on behalf of a group of leading scientists on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Assessment Plan for methylmercury. Methylmercury is a common pollutant of air and water and highly toxic. The EL&PC’s comments provided recommendations, guidance, and support for the EPA’s reassessments and proposed studies.

Source: iStock

1:15pm The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation’s (CHLPI) Health Law & Policy Clinic held a strategic planning call with the Transgender Law Center, as part of an initiative against the rollback of anti-discrimination protections for transgender and gender non-conforming people. The partnership, formalized in the summer of 2018, has led to conversations among legal experts about how to address and challenge reinterpretations of the Affordable Care Act and other civil rights protections. On May 24th, the Trump Administration released proposed changes to gender identity protections in health programs and activities. You can find CHLPI’s on-going analysis of the law here.

2:30pm The Legal Services Center’s Safety Net Project (LSC) and HLAB are representing a client as she appeals the Social Security Administration’s (“SSA”) decision to deny her disability benefits – the first joint representation between the programs. Despite extensive evidence of her inability to continue working due to symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression stemming from abuse both in childhood and during her marriage, the client’s claims have been denied at each stage of the appeals process and are now before the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. On May 7th, the LSC-HLAB team filed the client’s response memorandum and asked that the case be set for oral argument. The arguments center around the Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) decision, without explanation, to give lesser weight to important evidence from the doctors treating the client, his mischaracterization of the record, various conclusory determinations that render judicial review impossible, and a series of findings that should have been entrusted to experts. HLAB/LSC clinical instructors Stephanie Goldenhersh and Julie McCormack and students Jeremy Ravinsky, JD ’20 and Bryan Sohn, JD ’20 are working on the case. The team is looking forward to their day in court in the fall, when Jeremy and Bryan will present the client’s argument before Judge Casper.

The John Joseph Moakley US Courthouse in Boston, MA.  Source: iStock

All day Sarah Downer and Katie Garfield, from the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, attended the Root Cause Coalition’s Annual Hill Day in Washington, DC. They used the event as an opportunity to educate legislators from both parties about the implications of laws like the Anti-Kickback Statute – a criminal statute that prohibits transactions to induce or reward services or items reimbursed by federal health care programs. Downer and Garfield were also invited to meet with staff from several legislative offices to discuss pathways to integrating critical food and nutrition services into the Medicaid and Medicare programs. Securing coverage of these new benefits within our public insurance programs would expand access to life-saving nutrition for vulnerable individuals living with chronic illness.

15 and Monitored – Not Guilty on All Counts

By: Michaela Strout JD ’19 & Ethan Mendoza JD ’19

CJI Student Michaela Strout (right), JD'19, Clinical Instructor Aditi Goel (middle), and Ethan Mendoza JD'19 (left)

CJI Student Michaela Strout, JD’19, Clinical Instructor Aditi Goel, and Ethan Mendoza JD’19

There is one case and one client in particular – a client whom we represented through the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) – that stands out. Jonathan is a fifteen-year-old Black boy from Mattapan who was wrongfully accused of and charged with possessing and firing a gun inside his own home. Despite the fact that he had no prior criminal record and despite the lack of any real evidence against Jonathan, Jonathan was anchored with a GPS monitor device by the court for the entire year and a half leading up to his jury trial. Jonathan once showed us how the monitor’s abrasive plastic strap–which he could never take off, not even at night to go to bed, to go to class at his high school, or to shower–had worn down the skin on his ankle, so much so that it was raw and peeling.

But because Jonathan was unwilling to admit to something he did not do, he suffered both the pain and indignity of the GPS monitor until his trial in March of 2019. We spent hours every week for months with our clinical instructor, Aditi Goel, preparing, practicing and reworking and rewriting our cross-examinations of experts and police officers, our opening and closing arguments, and our trial strategy. Before the trial had started, the ADA prosecuting the case had represented to the defense team that she would not ask for any jail time in a sentencing recommendation if our client was found guilty. Over the course of five days – from empaneling a jury to the jury verdict – the government called three expert witnesses, two police officers, and two experienced police sergeant detectives to testify against Jonathan. At the conclusion of the five-day trial, just minutes before the jury was set to come into the courtroom and read the verdict, the prosecutor changed her position—she decided she would be asking that our client be held in custody until he was 18 years old if he was convicted. The prosecutor told us “this isn’t personal.”

We never gave that sentencing argument in Jonathan’s trial—the jury acquitted him on all counts.  Seeing the relief on Jonathan’s face as the weight of this case was lifted from his shoulders and hearing his mother weep in the gallery behind us knowing that her son wouldn’t be taken off to jail are things that we will never forget. But even if we got the best outcome that we could, it is hard to call what happened “justice.” The fact remains that Jonathan had this case hanging over his head for a year and a half and had to comply with onerous conditions of release. Those are traumatic experiences that cannot be changed or erased. Even though the injustices that Jonathan faced will never go away, this is the system we have, and we were able to prevent further harm to Jonathan.

We are fairly confident that in fifteen, twenty, or thirty years, we will not remember what grades we got class. But we can say, without hesitation and without doubt, that for the rest of our lives, we will never forget what it felt like to have six perfect strangers––after five days of trial with seven witnesses––deliver a “not guilty” verdict on all counts. We will never forget what it felt like to have Jonathan squeeze our hands as the jurors read the verdict as if he would never let go. We will never forget what it felt like to have prevented some harm and done some good. To have helped. And we are thankful to CJI for this.

*This client’s name has been changed to protect client confidentiality.

 

The Value of Outrage in Holistic Defense

Source: Pexels

By: Samantha Miller, J.D. ’19

David’s* meeting with the housing coordinator was supposed to be formality. David’s longtime girlfriend, June, was seeking to add his name to her public housing voucher so the two of them could live together. The meeting was scheduled for December 21 and David was excited. He had been homeless for two weeks as he and June waded through the Section 8 bureaucracy, but they were hopeful that they’d both have something permanent before the holidays.

The meeting was an unexpected disaster. Immediately afterwards, David called me in a panic. “They’re saying I can’t stay with June because of my criminal history. They showed me a piece of paper saying I was arrested for drug distribution in 2014. I am so confused—I don’t know what to do.”

David’s confusion was warranted: he and I both knew he had never been arrested for drug distribution.

By the time David called me that Friday in December, I had been representing him on a criminal case for several months through the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute (CJI). I am a third-year law student, which means that in Massachusetts, I can represent indigent clients under the supervision of a barred attorney. CJI’s model of public defense is holistic; I do not represent David directly on his housing needs, but we know that a client’s most serious issues often extend beyond the courtroom. And of course, there is often no neat dividing line that separates a person’s legal matters from the rest of his or her life. This was obviously true for David—he was being denied housing because of a criminal matter from his past.

But what made David’s case so maddening was that the criminal matter keeping him homeless never actually happened. As his attorney, I had access to David’s entire criminal file; he had never been arrested for drug distribution, neither in 2014 nor at any other time in his life. As David panicked on the phone, I knew my job was to reassure him. “This is obviously a mistake,” I told him. “We are going to fix this.”

Within an hour, I was able to confirm with the court clerk that the arrest record sent to June’s housing coordinator was indeed mistaken. The clerk was apologetic and vowed to correct David’s record as soon as she could. But we quickly realized we wouldn’t be able to get the updated record to June’s housing coordinator before the end of the day. This meant that David would remain homeless not just over the weekend, but for at least the whole next week—Monday was Christmas Eve, and the housing coordinator would be out of the office until after the New Year. David was the victim of a clerical error and had done nothing wrong, yet he was the only one suffering.

There are countless clear injustices in the criminal legal system, but perhaps one of its most insidious effects is the process by which these injustices are treated as “business as usual.” The folks I spoke to at the clerk’s and housing offices were polite, apologetic, and competent, but they shared none of my sense of urgency. I was outraged that David was being denied housing, and my outrage was compounded by others’ lack of outrage. No one from the state offered to stay late, come in on a Saturday, or otherwise lift a finger to rectify their own mistake in a timely fashion. David’s homelessness was unfortunate, but seemingly nobody’s actual problem.

My work at CJI has prepared me for a career in public defense in countless ways; I have filed motions, argued in court, and negotiated with prosecutors on behalf of my clients. But the most important lesson I’ll take from this experience is to never lose my sense of outrage. Outrage drove me to advocate for David outside the courtroom—outside of my “area of expertise”—because homelessness (especially due to a clerical error) is unacceptable. My outrage also reminded David that I’m on his side, I’m working hard, and no—I don’t think what’s happening to him is okay.

David and June are now in stable housing, but it took longer than it should have. David’s period of homelessness reminded me that the criminal legal system can harm our clients in unexpected ways. In order to be effective public defenders, we must advocate for our clients creatively, expansively, and with an ever-burning sense of outrage.

*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.

A New Harvard Law Building Opens on Mass Ave

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: NBBJ Boston

By: Clea Simon

Citing its future role in “innovation, deep learning, collegiality, and service,” Dean John F. Manning saluted the opening of the Harvard Law School’s newest building, at 1607 Massachusetts Avenue, on Monday evening. At a joyful reception in the open first floor, guests, faculty and community members nibbled pizza and sweets while taking in enlarged photos of the location’s previous incarnations, watching a time-lapse film of the structure’s 12 months of construction and queuing up for tours of the interior. Raising a glass of champagne, Manning thanked the many individuals from Harvard Law School and the City of Cambridge who had made the building possible, and he hailed the LEED Gold certified building as “designed to inspire and provoke collaboration.”

Indeed, the sleek wood and brick structure, which sits across Everett Street from HLS’s Wasserstein Hall, Caspersen Students Center, and Clinical Wing building, was created to foster and expand the law school’s experiential and clinical learning and tosupport research programs. Along with space for faculty offices and other future uses, 1607 Massachusetts Avenue, the first Harvard Law School project designed by Alex Krieger, a principal of NBBJ and professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, will provide elbow room for Harvard Law’s clinical education and research.  It will serve as the new home for the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, which includes the Health Law and Policy Clinic and also the Food Law and Policy Clinic. The building will also house the Criminal Justice Institute and the Harvard Defenders, a clinical program and student practice organization, respectively, in which students represent clients in criminal hearings; the Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change; the Animal Law & Policy Program; and the Access to Justice Lab.

“This new building reflects a commitment from both former Dean Martha Minow and our current dean to having a law school curriculum that reflects the needs of our law students and the community writ large,” said Clinical Professor Robert Greenwald, director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.

Clinical or experiential learning, Greenwald said, “needs a very different kind of space” than traditional lecture halls or classrooms. As an example, he described the new Health Law and Policy Clinic space, which features open areas, where students can work collaboratively, as well as more private offices and conference rooms. “A lot of the work happens via Skype and other electronic communication,” he said. “So all of our offices are designed for that.”

 Credit: Lorin Ganger

“The new building will provide invaluable space for the clinical programs and modern facilities to engage in the lawyering advocacy and teaching that are at the heart of the clinical programs,” said Clinical Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Experiential and Clinical Education Daniel L. Nagin. “This space will promote collaboration and enhance the ability of staff and students and faculty to interact and think across boundaries,” he added.

Continue reading.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the video of the lecture here.

Learning how to be a lawyer at the Criminal Justice System

By Kathryn Yukevich, J.D. ’17

The criminal justice system is a violent, harsh, and unjust system. In courts across the country, including many courts in the Boston area, people are caught in the system, turned into a number, and fined money that they cannot pay. In too many situations, people are permanently branded by the state as the worst thing that they have ever done.

Kathryn Yukevich, J.D. '17

Kathryn Yukevich, J.D. ’17

In my year with the Criminal Justice Institute, I have seen that the people who work within the criminal justice system have the power to make the system less harsh and less unfeeling. The judges who see your client as a person, the prosecutors who are candid with you, the court clerks who make sure you have the copies you need before an argument, all make the system a little less violent.

But I did not come to Harvard Law School to make the criminal justice system just a little less violent. I came to challenge the foundations of the system and to learn how to fight on behalf of clients who have been marginalized, silenced, and abused. And that’s what I have learned how to do this year from the amazing professors, instructors, and staff at the Criminal Justice Institute. I have been privileged to learn from fierce lawyers who have dedicated their lives to protecting people’s rights that are often ignored in the name of efficiency and expediency.

CJI gives students the opportunity to take full ownership of cases from beginning to end. I started with all but one of my clients at the arraignment stage, which is the client’s first interaction with the criminal justice system in a particular case. I am certain that I will be able to finish out the cases either at trial or through some other resolution. Students take all kinds of cases in the clinic from DUI cases to drug cases to gun crimes, but most of the cases on my docket were domestic violence and abuse prevention order cases.

One of the best things about CJI is how light your caseloads are. Public defenders in the Boston area can have anywhere from 40 to 100 cases on their plate at any given time. I had 5 clients, which is the maximum students will take with CJI. This caseload gave me plenty of time to build a strong relationship with my clients, make sure my cases were thoroughly investigated, and present creative legal arguments to the court on behalf of my clients.

Professor Umunna and the clinical instructors have created a client-centered culture in the CJI office. Our client’s story is always central to our defense strategy. What our clients want and what our clients need is always the first question that we ask before making a decision about what to do in a case. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with clients and communities who have been incredibly gracious and kind, especially considering my inexperience as a student attorney.

I thought coming into CJI that my success would be determined by the number of novel legal arguments I could make about elements of a charge or whether I had a Perry Mason moment with a witness on the stand. I could not have been more wrong. Success at CJI really depends on your ability to communicate and build relationships with people. CJI has helped me become a clearer, more focused communicator. District Court is a busy place, so motions, oral arguments, and off-the-record communications have to be concise and to the point. My clinical instructor, Jennifer McKinnon, has taught me how to make sure that every communication I have with the court or other interested parties is strategic and focused. I have learned how to explain what is going on in a case to a client clearly and realistically.

I have been incredibly fortunate to be a member of the CJI community. The other students in the office are always there to bounce ideas off of, to commiserate when things go badly, and to celebrate when things go right. Professor Umunna and Jennifer McKinnon are inspirational and fierce lawyers. They have taught me the kind of lawyer that I want to be. And my clients have taught me over and over again what strength, optimism, and compassion looks like, particularly in the face of the violence of the criminal justice system. I will be incredibly sad to leave CJI at the end of May, but I know that I will carry the lessons of the clinic with me for the rest of my career.

Catherine Howard ’16 wins the David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award

Catherine Howard ’16

Catherine Howard ’16

Harvard Law School student Catherine Howard ’16 is the winner of the inaugural David A. Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award. To be presented annually, this award recognizes students who have demonstrated excellence in representing individual clients and undertaking advocacy or policy reform projects. It is named in honor of the late Clinical Professor of Law, David Grossman ’88, a public interest lawyer dedicated to providing high-quality legal services to low income communities.

Howard embodies David Grossman’s tireless pro bono spirit. She was chosen for excellence in representing her clients, her compassion in legal practice, and her contributions to the clinical community.

During her 2L year, as a student in the Education Law Clinic, she worked to advance the interests of traumatized children in Massachusetts through the Safe and Supportive Schools Act.  Howard showed extraordinary talent at drafting successful language for a budgetary line item that was passed by the legislature, outstanding analysis of statutory language, and the ability to work on a team in developing an overall strategy to secure passage of the legislation.

Throughout her 3L year, working in the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), Howard demonstrated exceptional skills in and out of the courtroom, representing numerous clients who faced criminal charges and could not afford an attorney. She has advocated for them from arraignment to disposition, in the Dorchester and Roxbury Divisions of the Boston Municipal Courts. Along the way, Howard has earned the praise and respect of the judges, her clients, and her peers.

“As a clinical student, Catherine’s approach to her clients is full-hearted, strategic, and selfless,” said Clinical Instructor Lia Monahon, who supervised her in the Criminal Justice Institute. “One of the hardest things for student attorneys working on criminal cases is to find pride, grace and eloquence in an argument or position that faces bad odds. Catherine’s capacity for this is boundless because she is completely motivated by her client,” she said.

In addition to her work with CJI, Howard has also served as Editor-in-Chief of Harvard’s Journal on Racial and Ethnic Justice and as co-chair of the Leadership and Mentorship Committee of the Harvard Black Law Students Association. She has also engaged the law school community as a member of the Reclaim HLS movement, helping to develop a set of practical demands for achieving diversity and inclusivity.

“My clinical experiences have been the most rewarding moments of my law school career,” said Howard. “The Criminal Justice Institute and the Education Law Clinic have allowed me to live out the passions that brought me to law school in a meaningful way, even as a student. While I am so deeply honored to be recognized by this award, I am most validated by what I am able to accomplish with my clients every day.”

“We are delighted that Catherine is the inaugural David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award winner,” said Lisa Dealy, Assistant Dean of the Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. “Catherine embodies David’s spirit of tireless and excellent advocacy in representing clients and improving the legal system.”

Six trials, Six wins, two appeals, and a successful motion to suppress

This year, faculty and students in the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) have been investigating criminal cases, interviewing witnesses, conducting research, and arguing motions and trials before several courts.

At CJI students find the opportunity to combine their classroom education with hands-on experience, representing indigent criminal defendants and juveniles. Students are assigned cases in local district and juvenile courts and handle everything from arraignment to trial. Under the supervision of experienced clinical instructors, students handle an average of six to eight misdemeanor and felony cases during the semester. Below are some of their recent successes in court.

Via the Criminal Justice Institute

Trial 1

Dehlia Umunna, Clinical Professor of Law

Dehlia Umunna, Clinical Professor of Law

In December 2015, Clinical Professor of Law and Deputy Director of CJI, Dehlia Umunna, along with Clinical Instructor Jennifer McKinnon, had a jury trial in Dorchester Court. Our client was accused of an assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on the mother of his younger daughter. The client has legal custody of his oldest daughter and had been sharing custody of his youngest one for the first two years of her life. The client and the alleged victim, although no longer in a relationship, continued to have an amicable relationship up until he began dating someone new. That is when she began stalking him and making his life very difficult. After she lodged her allegations against him, she did not allow him visitation with their daughter. However, after a two day jury trial, our client was acquitted. The first thing he said after the verdict was read was that he hoped to litigate for visitation of his little girl now that this nightmare was over. Several jurors found our client in the hallway after the trial, shook his hand, and wished him and his girls the best in life.

Trial 2

In February 2016, Umunna and student attorney Brittany Llewellyn J.D. ’16 successfully defended their client, a young man who had been charged with assault. The client had been accused of assaulting two security guards almost three years ago, despite the fact that there was no tangible, unbiased evidence that our client had touched, hit or raised his fists to the security guards at all. At trial, the Commonwealth’s only evidence came from the complaining witnesses who then changed their stories when they testified on the stand. Llewellyn argued the motions and conducted the opening statement for the defense, while Umunna cross-examined witnesses, conducted the direct examination of the defense witness, and closing argument. The result was a not guilty verdict.

Says Llewellyn, “this was my first time trying a case, and the trial was an enriching and rewarding experience. Apart from allowing me an opportunity to develop my speaking, advocacy, and other courtroom skills, this trial experience also reinforced to me the importance of being well-prepared for court, in order to be able to forcefully advocate on behalf of your client. I was nervous during the 15 minutes that we waited while the jury deliberated.  But then I thought about our client, and considered how nervous he must be because he had so much at stake.  The incident at issue in the trial had occurred in 2013, and our client had to wait years to be found not guilty for something he did not do.  It was meaningful to see justice done.”

Trial 3

Kristin Muniz, Senior Clinical Instructor

Kristin Muniz, Senior Clinical Instructor

Sarah Teyssen J.D. ’16 and Jacob Loup J.D. ’16 conducted a trial on a charge of assault and battery. After several delayed trial dates — due to court congestion, delays by the prosecutor, and an absent police officer witness — the trial finally took place on March 15–16. Teyssen gave the opening statement, cross-examined the alleged victim and a civilian witness, and made the arguments for specific jury instructions at the end of the trial. Loup argued the opening motions, cross-examined a police officer, and delivered the closing argument. After about an hour of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The charge had been hanging over the client’s head for almost a year and a half; he was very happy to finally have the matter behind him. The students were supervised by Senior Clinical Instructor Kristin Muniz.

Trial 4

Angel Everett  J.D. ’16 and Aaron Bray J.D. ’16 successfully defended their client at a jury trial in the Roxbury District Court on a criminal charge of Violating a Restraining Order. Everett gave the opening statement, cross examined the complaining witness and conducted two direct examinations of defense witnesses. Bray lead the attorney-conducted voir dire of the jurors, cross-examined the police officer, directly examined a defense witness and delivered the closing argument. After a brief period of time, the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty. The students were supervised by Senior Clinical Instructor Kristin Muniz.

Trial 5

Clinical Instructor, Jennifer McKinnon

Clinical Instructor, Jennifer McKinnon

Clinical Instructor Jennifer McKinnon and student attorney Rena Karefa-Johnson J.D. ’16 tried a jury trial in Roxbury District Court in March. Our client was charged with two counts of indecent assault and battery and two counts of assault and battery. He was in the process of applying for citizenship when these charges were filed against him. The allegations were made by family friends who were fighting over money with our client’s family. The “collateral” consequences for our client if he were convicted included being required to register as a sex offender and, because of his immigration status, deportation. After a two day trial, our client was acquitted of all charges. When the verdict was read, there was not a dry eye on our side of the room, including the interpreter! As the jurors left the building, several came over to us to wish our client well and congratulate us.

Trial 6

In April, two CJI students, Michelle Elsner J.D. ’16 and Taylor Poor J.D. ’16, led their first jury trial on the criminal charges of assault and battery on a household member, a misdemeanor, and strangulation, a felony. With the help of their classmates, they investigated the case and interviewed witnesses. Elsner gave the opening statement, cross-examined the Commonwealth’s main witness, conducted direct examinations of the CJI students who served as rebuttal witnesses, and argued the sentencing. Poor took the majority of the legal motions, including the motions in limine, the cross-examinations of both police officers, a direct examination of one of the rebuttal witnesses, and the closing statement. After almost five days of trial and deliberation, the jury returned a split verdict: not guilty on the strangulation charge, and guilty on the assault and battery count. At the moment, Elsner and Poor are gathering material to pass on to Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) for the next step: appeal. Elsner and Poor were honored to represent and fight for their client, and greatly appreciated the rare chance to lead a trial as law students.

Motion to Suppress

Lia Monahon, Clinical Instructor, Criminal Justice Institute

Lia Monahon, Clinical Instructor, Criminal Justice Institute

In March, CJI won the outright dismissal of a case charging our client with causing serious bodily injury while driving under the influence. The charge arose out of a nighttime car accident in which a pedestrian suffered significant brain injuries. CJI alum Aaron Webman, HLS J.D. ’15, investigated the case over a year ago and litigated several discovery motions. Webman’s pre-trial litigation revealed that the Boston Police Department had a surveillance video that showed the client was driving safely, his view of the pedestrian was likely blocked by a van in the next lane, and the pedestrian stepped into oncoming traffic far from any crosswalk. Before the video could be used to exculpate Webman’s client, it was destroyed by Boston Police, who failed to take any steps to “preserve” it. CJI alums Samantha Gupta, HLS J.D. ’15, and Michael Dziuban, HLS J.D. ’15, brought and litigated a motion to dismiss the case as a sanction for the loss of the video, without which it was not possible for their client to have a fair trial. Based on the testimony of numerous police witnesses, the judge found that no remedy short of dismissal would protect the defendant’s right to due process of law. The students were supervised by Clinical Instructor Lia Monahon.

Appeals Court

On April 5, 2016, Zoe Bedell J.D. ’16 represented a CJI client in appellate arguments in front of Justices Green, Trainor, and Milkey on the Massachusetts Court of Appeals. At arraignment, the judge had dismissed one charge of stalking against our client and reduced one charge of assault and battery with a deadly weapon to simple assault and battery; the Commonwealth appealed the judge’s decision. We argued that the judge had properly dismissed and reduced the charges given the lack of probable cause to support the charges. Clinical Professor of Law Dehlia Umunna wrote the briefs and supervised the oral arguments. The decision is still pending.

Robert Proctor, Clinical Instructor

Robert Proctor, Clinical Instructor

On April 14, 2016, David Victorson J.D. ’16 argued an appellate case in front of the Massachusetts Appeals Court. The panel consisted of Chief Judge Kafker, Judge Kinder, and Judge Neyman. The issue stems from the fact that Massachusetts does not have a broad obstruction of justice statute. The client is accused of swallowing evidence, but since there is no proper statute to cover that charge, the Commonwealth charged her with “Intimidation of a Witness.” The Intimidation statute makes it illegal to “mislead . . . a police officer,” so the Commonwealth’s argument is that obstruction is misleading. The District Court dismissed the charge, saying that misleading conduct must create a false impression — basically that “mislead” does not mean “obstruct.” The Commonwealth appealed and, as it told the court, is looking for a decision that clarifies what “mislead” means rather than a decision based in the specific facts of this particular incident. Mr. Victorson was supervised by Clinical Instructors Robert Proctor and Lia Monahon. The decision is still pending.

Cravath fellows travel globally to experience international and comparative law

Via HLS News

Thirteen Harvard Law School students were selected as the 2016 Cravath International Fellows. The fellows traveled to 12 countries for winter term clinical placements or independent research with an international, transnational, or comparative law focus. Below are accounts of the experiences of four of the new fellows.

Crystal Nwaneri ’17

Crystal Nwaneri ’17 spent winter term in Singapore, conducting research on the legal and technological implications of a court ruling permitting a third party to retransmit over-the-air television without permission of the broadcasters. For Nwaneri, this was a chance to further explore her long-standing interest in the legal challenges brought about by rapidly advancing technology.

As an undergraduate, Nwaneri examined public policy and how legislators and private organizations shape and regulate the technology industry. Prior to law school, she worked at Dell’s government relations office in Washington, D.C., briefing their executives on the internet technology issues discussed at Congressional hearings.

Upon entering Harvard Law, she enrolled in a reading group with Professor of Practice Urs Gasser about the future of online privacy, joined the Women’s Law Association and the Harvard Black Law Students Association, and began working as an editor at the Journal of Law and Technology. As a 2L, she is focusing on the legal infrastructures that support technology innovation, which may affect access for underserved communities. She also supports clients in the Cyberlaw Clinic and is a research assistant with the Student Privacy Initiative at the Berkman Center.

Continue Reading

Using the law to heal the wounds of racism

By Rena Karefa-Johnson, J.D. ’16

In my law school applications, I wrote that I wanted to be a lawyer to continue my grandfather’s legacy of healing. While he fought to heal the suffering in his colonized, impoverished country of Sierra Leone through public health and politics, I wanted to come to law school to heal this country’s racial wounds, and the rampant inequity those wounds cause, through the law. Though I did not know it then, I was writing in part about the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI).

Rena Karefa-Johnson, J.D. '16

Rena Karefa-Johnson, J.D. ’16

Working as a student attorney and defending members of the larger Boston community in criminal cases has been my most educational, meaningful and all-around best academic experience in law school. As a law student, it’s easy to lose focus on the outward-facing reason why many of us came here: to help change the world for the better. As we focus our brainpower on trying to learn and digest the theory of law, we sometimes forget that the law ultimately is not in a textbook or exam answer but rather it is a real force in the real world with an enormous impact on real lives. And we can get so caught up in thinking about our own, admittedly busy, lives – our schedules, assignments, extracurriculars and job applications – that we inadvertently deprioritize thinking about others.

But if those are some of the pitfalls of law school, then CJI is the ladder out.

There, I have used my classroom education to practice law rather than simply theorizing about it. This has deepened my understanding of how the law actually interacts with communities, specifically low-income communities of color. Not only will I take these realizations with me into my career, I also share them with my classmates and draw on them to enrich other classroom discussions.

In CJI our clients, rather than ourselves, became the priority. CJI is tremendously worthwhile for the students both for the incredible legal experience and the personal fulfillment. But the challenge of CJI is ensuring that we deserve the honor of representing our clients; that we make the experience worthwhile for them, too. It is in trying to meet that high bar – through extremely hard work and dedication, and with the guidance of the most skilled, committed and wonderful clinical faculty and staff – that I got what I came to law school for: the tools to use the law to combat and heal, rather than reinforce, racial inequality.

Fighting Injustice in the Tennessee Court System

Last Spring, a group of HLS students traveled to Tennessee to work with Equal Justice Under Law, a non-profit civil rights organization started by alumni Alec Karakatsanis ’08 and Phil Telfeyan ’08 with the help of a Public Service Venture Fund seed grant to challenge inequalities in the criminal justice system. The pair met during their first year of law school and both participated in Harvard Defenders, a clinical student practice organization, and the Criminal Justice Institute, HLS’s public defense clinic.

On October 1st, Equal Justice Under Law filed a Complaint against Rutherford County and the private company it contracts to collect court debts. The lawsuit, brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), the United States Constitution, and Tennessee law, alleges “an extortion scheme” aimed at extracting as much money from people who could not afford to pay their court fines. An important aspect of the problem, the complaint states, is a private company, acting as a “probation officer” to collect not only court debt but also fees and surcharges “through repeated and continuous threats to arrest, revoke, and imprison” those who can not pay.

Harvard Law students together with Equal Justice Under Law helped uncover the debt collecting practices while working on behalf of indigent defendants and their families in Tennessee over Spring Break 2015.

Karakatsanis said that HLS students observed some unusual things going on and began interviewing people outside the private probation company and reviewing documents. They ended up “discovering the shocking and illegal things alleged in the Complaint.”

For more details on this issue please read How to Fight Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons? Sue the Courts. article published by The Marshall Project.

Two Win 2015 Exemplary Clinical Student Award

Harvard Law School’s Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs recognizes two graduating students who exemplify putting theory into practice through clinical work. The honorees are Seth Hoedl ’15 and Seth Packrone ’15. They have demonstrated excellence in representing individual clients and undertaking advocacy or policy reform projects. In addition, both students are recognized for demonstrating thoughtfulness and compassion in their practice and for contributing to the clinical community at HLS in a meaningful way.

Seth Hoedl, J.D. ’15

Seth Hoedl (Clinical Award)

Credit: Lorin Granger

As a student in the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, Seth Hoedl demonstrated exceptional skills and experience in tackling significant environmental problems. During his four semesters in the clinic, he examined whether a European nation was in violation of the Espoo Convention, developed a legal strategy to help the City of Boston provide energy resilience to its residents through microgrids, and identified new ways that universities and others can decrease and offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

“In each project, Seth demonstrated a level of commitment, initiative, and ability far beyond a typical law student,” said Clinical Professor of Law Wendy Jacobs. “Seth has also contributed to the clinic through his self-reflection and team spirit. In particular, his self-assessments have always been thoughtful and considered. Both through these and through other conversations, Seth has suggested concrete ways that we can improve the clinic and the learning experience for all students.”

“I am originally trained as a physicist and I came to law school to bridge divides between scientists, engineers, lawyers and policymakers with regards to energy and climate change,” said Seth. The clinic enabled me to start building these bridges and help both engineers and lawyers overcome real world challenges before I even graduated. It far exceeded my expectations.”

Seth Packrone, J.D. ’15 

Seth Packrone (Clinical Award)

Credit: Lorin Granger

Seth Packrone spent several semesters in the Clinical and Pro Bono Programs working with the Child Advocacy Clinic, Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), Education Law Clinic, and Mississippi Delta Project. “Seth is the rare combination of hard work, integrity and compassion,” said Clinical Professor of Law Dehlia Umunna who supervised him in the Criminal Justice Institute.

Seth joined CJI in the fall of 2014 and worked on a variety of cases in juvenile and adult court. He represented several clients, including a 55 year old man with mental health and substance abuse issues. Seth visited this client at the jail, arranged for social services to aid with his transition back into the community, and successfully resolved all of his cases.

“Seth has received glowing compliments from judges, prosecutors, other defense counsel and his colleagues,” said Dehlia. “In addition to the brilliant job he did on his cases, he is a kind, helpful member of the clinical community. He is always eager to assist his colleagues with investigating, brainstorming, trial preparation and research. Although he had one of the highest case loads, he never murmured or complained. Seth represents the very best of what a clinical student should be.”

“My clinical work has been the most meaningful part of my time at HLS. I will always be thankful for my experiences working with such incredible clients, students, faculty, and staff and everything they taught me about the important work that public interest lawyers do,” said Seth. “I am truly honored by this award.”

Student finds motivation in her clinical work

Ashley Lewis, J.D. '15

Ashley Lewis, J.D. ’15

By Ashley Lewis, J.D. ’15 

The most memorable moments of law school have been walking out of a courtroom with my client after a favorable decision. In that moment I am smiling, my client is smiling, and we both are ecstatic to have obtained a victory. After weeks or months of preparation the issue is resolved. My client can put the issue behind them and move on.

These are my most memorable moments, because it’s a privilege to be able to help someone successfully navigate the legal system. Fortunately I have had the opportunity to do such work since the first semester of my 1L year.

The moments I described above have all come from victories in criminal proceedings. Since fall of my 1L year I have been a member of Harvard Defenders, advocating for individuals accused of committing a criminal offense in show cause hearings. At this stage of the criminal process an offense is not on the client’s record and the clerk-magistrate is only determining whether probable cause exists. The hearing provides the unique opportunity to help clients avoid a criminal charge and collateral consequences completely.

This year, I had the opportunity to represent clients who have been officially charged with a crime through the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI). To have the opportunity to stand in court beside an individual, to make sure their voice is heard, that their rights are protected, and ensure that they aren’t lost in the criminal justice system is an experience beyond rewarding.

However, all of my cherished moments in law school haven’t come in a courtroom. Through the Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic, I was able to help veterans obtain the benefits owed to them from Massachusetts and the federal government. In the Crimmigraiton Clinic, I answered letters of immigration detainees seeking legal assistance. In both clinics, I had the opportunity to help individuals that didn’t have a right to counsel navigate a complicated system.

These experiences, in conjunction with my experiences in CJI and Defenders, are the memories I will cherish the most after graduation. I came to law school to prepare for a career in public service. These experiences not only helped me prepare for a career, they were also a constant reminder of my goals and motivator for accomplishing them.

First Line of Defense

Via Harvard Bulletin 

Students represent the indigent in courts where judges ask,
‘Is Harvard in the building?’

Credit: Mark Ostow Training ethical, zealous advocates CJI Deputy Director Dehlia Umunna (right) with Amanda Savage ’15, Asmara Carbado ’15 and Cass Luskin ’15 at the Roxbury District Court. The students represented clients through the CJI Criminal defense clinic, handling all aspects of their cases.

Credit: Mark Ostow
Training ethical, zealous advocates CJI Deputy Director Dehlia Umunna (right) with Amanda Savage ’15, Asmara Carbado ’15 and Cass Luskin ’15 at the Roxbury District Court. The students represented clients through the CJI Criminal defense clinic, handling all aspects of their cases.

On a frigid, snow-packed morning in mid-February, the galleries in the Roxbury division of Boston Municipal Court were jammed with people waiting for their cases to be heard, and half a dozen Harvard Law School students, part of the Criminal Justice Institute’s Criminal Defense Clinic, were waiting to defend their clients.

Cass Luskin ’15 was representing a man accused of assault and battery. “It’s been a month, and I have just as little in my file as I did at the arraignment,” he told the judge. He asked the court’s indulgence to speak with his supervisor, Dehlia Umunna, CJI deputy director. After a bit of whispered advice, he continued, asking for an out-of-court compliance date for his discovery request so that the prosecution would be required to give him a copy of the evidence they had against his client before the next court date. The judge agreed to his request. Outside another courtroom, Yorda Yenenh ’15 and one of her clients huddled with Umunna after the judge unexpectedly denied a motion to dismiss his case and instead set a trial date. “You know we believe in you,” Umunna told the client. “We are not giving up.” Yenenh and the client then headed into a room to confer about the next steps.

The students take on anywhere from three to seven cases at a time, a mix of misdemeanors and small felonies, representing both adults and juveniles who cannot pay for their own defense lawyers—mostly in Roxbury and Dorchester courts. As the clinic has expanded in response to increased demand by students (this year, enrollment was up by 58 percent), so has the court system’s familiarity with it; judges have been known to specifically request the HLS clinic.

Continue reading the full story here.

Dehlia Umunna appointed Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law

Dehlia Umunna, Clinical Professor of Law

Dehlia Umunna, Clinical Professor of Law

Via HLS News

Dehlia Umunna has been appointed Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. She has been a lecturer at HLS since 2007, and is Deputy Director and Clinical Instructor at HLS’s Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), in which she supervises third-year law students in their representation of adult and juvenile clients in criminal and juvenile proceedings and arguments before Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals court.

“Dehlia’s students revere her; her colleagues at HLS and nationally look to her as an exemplary advocate, teacher, and mentor,” said Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School. “From her unprecedented win record in criminal defense trials, her deft leadership of the Criminal Justice Institute day-to-day, and her superb coaching of student moot court teams, her published scholarship, to her numerous awards in recognition of her outstanding work as a criminal defense attorney, advisor, and teacher, Dehlia is simply extraordinary, an inspiration to her students and her clients in every way.  It is a true privilege to be her colleague.”

Prior to coming to Harvard Law School, Umunna was a trial attorney with the D.C. Public Defender Service and an adjunct professor of law and Practitioner in Residence at the Washington College of Law, American University. She currently serves as a faculty member for Gideon’s Promise, and is a frequent presenter at Public Defender trainings across the country. She was a board member of the District of Columbia Law Students in Court Clinic and was a guest lecturer for several years at the George Washington University Law School.

She is the author of the article “Rethinking the Neighborhood Watch: How Lessons from the Nigerian Village Can Creatively Empower the Community to Assist Poor, Single Mothers in America,” published in the American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law.

“I am blessed and honored to join Harvard Law School’s remarkable faculty,” said Umunna. “I relish this extraordinary opportunity to continue work that I am truly passionate about, and I am grateful for the deep interest and commitment of the school to issues of criminal justice, mass incarceration, indigent defense and social justice.”

Umunna received her law degree from the George Washington University Law Center. She also holds a Masters in Public Administration (MC) from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a B.A. in Communications from California State University, San Bernardino.

Deputy Director and Lecturer on Law Dehlia Umunna wins Dean’s Award for Excellence

Team CJI

Team CJI L-R: Anna Pierce, Amy E. Soto, Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr., Dehlia Umunna, Kristin Muniz, Jennifer McKinnon, Lia Monahon

On September 30th, Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) Deputy Director and Lecturer on Law Dehlia Umunna won the 2014 Dean’s Award for Excellence. The award recognizes staff members who embody a spirit of excellence in collaboration, commitment, innovation, leadership and learning within the Harvard Law School community.

Dehlia Umunna joined CJI as clinical instructor in 2007 and became deputy director in 2013. She was nominated by the entire staff at CJI for her dedication to the students and clients and for her leadership of the staff and support for their professional development. In addition to her high-quality supervision and mentoring of students in their criminal defense work, she also coaches a mock trial team and teaches an extremely popular reading group The Effects of Mass Incarceration: Experiences of Prison and Parole.

Harvard Law School staff members are nominated by their peers for the award. An advisory committee made up of past Dean’s Award winners, human resources representatives, and additional selected staff members make recommendations to the Dean about who should receive the awards.

A Warm Welcome to Lia Monahon

Lia Monahon, Clinical Instructor, Criminal Justice Institute

Lia Monahon, Clinical Instructor, Criminal Justice Institute

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs extends a warm welcome to Lia Monahon, a new Clinical Instructor at the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI).

Prior to  joining CJI, Lia served as a superior court trial attorney with the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), where she was the lead attorney in serious felony cases, and represented clients in all stages of criminal prosecution from arraignment through post-dispositional advocacy. For the past six years, she served on the advisory committee for the “Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth,” where she guided strategic coordination of multi-state legislative efforts with constitutional challenge to juvenile life without parole (LWOP) before the U.S. Supreme Court. Lia’s efforts were instrumental to the policy recommendations incorporated in Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Diatchenko v. District Attorney for the Suffolk District.

She has previously served as a legal fellow for the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, a legal assistant for New York Legal Aid Society (Special Litigation’s Unit), and as a Law Clerk to the Honorable Kenneth M. Karas of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Lia graduated from Dartmouth with a B.A. in Women’s Studies, and a minor in African-American Studies (Cum Laude). She received her J.D. from Northwestern University School law (Cum Laude).

Harvard Defenders and Criminal Justice Institute alumni challenge debtors’ prison in Alabama

Via HLS News

alec-karakatsanis-sm

Alec Karakatsanis ’08

Until last month, scores of destitute people—virtually all of them African Americans— languished in the city jail of Montgomery, Ala., for unpaid traffic tickets they couldn’t pay off, sentenced to one day in jail for every $50 they owed. They could earn another $25 credit daily by providing free labor, scrubbing blood and feces off jail floors and cleaning buildings.

phil-telfeyan-sm

Phil Telfeyan ’08

But on May 1, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction barring the imprisonment of three debtors for non-payment of fines, citing a 1983 Supreme Court decision that prohibited imprisonment for debt, in a lawsuit that had been filed on their behalf by Alec Karakatsanis ’08 and Phil Telfeyan ’08, two Harvard Law School graduates who brought the case through Equal Justice Under Law, a nonprofit civil rights firm they launched in March to challenge the profit motive in the criminal justice system.

Continue reading the full story here.

5 Weeks, 5 Trials, 5 Wins plus 2 Appellate Arguments

From Arraignments to the Supreme Judicial Court: A Year at Harvard’s Criminal Justice Institute

Jeanne Segil, J.D. ’14

Jeanne Segil, J.D. ’14

By Jeanne Segil, J.D. ’14

When I walked through security at the courthouse for our last mock trial as part of the Trial Advocacy Workshop, the security guard looked at my trial partner and I (we are often confused for being younger than our actual ages) and he said, “someday you will be real lawyers.” I smiled to myself as I doubted that he knew that one week later we would be at arraignments in district court in Massachusetts, representing our very own clients as student attorneys.

My experience at CJI has been a rollercoaster of emotions—it can be heartbreaking to navigate our way through a broken criminal justice system with our clients depending on us to fight for just outcomes. I have one client who was seventeen at the time he allegedly committed an offense and the Massachusetts legislature unanimously passed a bill to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include seventeen-year-olds. His alleged offense occurred shortly before the passage of the bill, thus we worked tirelessly to argue that the bill should be applied retroactively. Another case raising the same issue was ultimately heard in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), where the SJC held that it was not retroactive.

While I understood that the Commonwealth had valid legal arguments regarding retroactivity, I couldn’t help but wonder, why make those arguments? Why oppose having seventeen-year-olds in the more lenient juvenile justice system when the Massachusetts legislature unanimously believes they belong there? We confronted this same unquestioning stance every day in court. We heard our clients’ stories, we understood their situations, and we became disillusioned when nobody else seemed to take that time. During those moments, I remembered words by Bryan Stevenson, the Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, who said we need “more hope, more forgiveness, more justice.” And that is one of my takeaways from this year at CJI—while the problems within the criminal justice system are complex and overwhelming, some of the solutions are beautiful and simple. Our clients are capable of achieving great things in their lives; we need to start viewing people in a way that recognizes their humanity and enables them to reach their potential.

These views brought me from trial court all the way to an oral argument with a single Justice at the SJC, the first time a CJI student has argued at the SJC in 15 years. The issue being heard regarded the authority of the trial court to allow pretrial diversion for a first-time OUI offense. Pretrial diversion would allow my client to complete an educational program and not have a criminal record. My client graduated high school with honors while working to support his family, received an academic scholarship to attend college, and has made the Dean’s List at college. He is a unique and wonderful young man who deserves a second chance. I am still awaiting the results of this case but it was a truly remarkable experience to be heard in that courtroom and have an SJC Justice devote time to learning about my client, his amazing achievements in the past, and his potential to make a positive difference in this world. That experience reminded me to be hopeful that our system can change for the better.

And amidst these ups and downs, I feel so grateful for the constant support within CJI. We have incredible supervising attorneys who are always there for us and ensure that we never feel alone. And we have each other, my colleagues at CJI who will drop whatever they are doing to deliver a subpoena, go on an investigation, and do whatever it takes to help another CJI student. We share in each other’s victories and comfort one another in hard times. It is through getting to know my CJI colleagues, our supervising attorneys and staff, and our tremendous and resilient clients, that I have faith that we can slowly move mountains and make changes in our criminal justice system.

Punitive damages

Ronald S. Sullivan, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Criminal Justice Institute

Ronald S. Sullivan, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Criminal Justice Institute

Via the Harvard Gazette

Q&A on the economic and social costs of rising U.S. incarcerations,despite dipping crime rates

The Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative of the Brookings Institution, published a memo earlier this month that highlighted the economic costs of crime and incarceration in the United States.

While crime rates have fallen 45 percent since 1990, the memo said that the incarceration rate is now at a “historically unprecedented level,” jumping 222 percent between 1980 and 2012. An African-American man who never graduated from high school has a 70 percent likelihood of being imprisoned by his mid-30s; for similarly educated white men, the rate is about 15 percent. And the United States imprisons at a rate six times greater than most peer nations, including those of the European Union, Japan, Israel, and Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced rules last month that would give the Obama administration wider latitude to extend clemency or reduce sentences for drug-related prisoners who don’t present a threat to public safety. In addition, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously in April to reduce sentencing guidelines for certain nonviolent criminals, a move now before Congress that could go into effect Nov. 1 if lawmakers don’t take any further action.

Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. is a clinical professor of law and director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. The program focuses on criminal practice, education, and research, and hosts a teaching clinic for third-year law students to represent indigent criminal defendants in local and juvenile courts. Sullivan spoke with the Gazette about racial and national sentencing disparities, the economic and social costs of mass incarceration, and the sentencing reforms now under consideration.

Continue reading the full interview with Clinical Professor Ronald Sullivan here.

Clinical Spotlight: Robert Proctor

Robert Proctor, Clinical Instructor, Criminal Justice Institute

Robert Proctor, Clinical Instructor
Criminal Justice Institute

This is my third academic year teaching at Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute (CJI).

My legal interests include criminal law and procedure, indigent defense representation, street law, and civil rights. At CJI, under the supervision of four clinical instructors including myself, our students represent indigent defendants charged with misdemeanors and felonies in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Clinical Instructors also provide consultation and representation to people who contact us for legal assistance locally and nationally. We represent everyone from Harvard students charged with crimes or under investigation to people who have been deported because of a criminal conviction.

Currently, our clinic is in full swing and I am overseeing approximately 50 criminal cases scheduled for substantive motion hearing or trial in the next two months. On the research and writing front, I am outlining a paper on integrating critical legal studies and pedagogy with clinical legal education.

A few months ago, with the help of Boston College Law School’s Post Deportation and Human Rights Project, we successfully represented a client whose conviction was vacated, enabling him to return to the U.S. and reunite with his family. It was a long journey and I am still on could nine.

I work with amazing people at CJI. Under the strong leadership of Professor Ron Sullivan and Deputy Director Dehlia Umunna, we strive to maintain positive energy and a supportive workplace for the students to better serve our clients. My colleagues and students are intelligent and highly motivated and truly want to improve the world. The students are passionate about providing zealous advocacy for our most vulnerable citizens, and are easy to teach. It is very inspiring, yet humbling for me to have the opportunity to work  closely with such committed and fine people on a daily basis.

When I am not working I try to spend as much time as I can with my three beautiful daughters. I love any kind of physical activity whether it is working out at the gym, running outdoors, or playing basketball. I am very competitive. One of my goals is to compete in a tough mudder competition. I also love cooking and I enjoy rolling up my sleeves and taking on little projects around the house which usually require me to hire a professional to fix later.

Professor Ronald Sullivan testifies on ‘Stand your Ground’ laws

Ronald S. Sullivan
Clinical Professor of Law
Director, Criminal Justice Institute

On October 29th, Harvard Law School Clinical Professor Ronald Sullivan ’94, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on the implications of the expanded use of deadly force, and what is known as the “Stand your Ground” laws.

In his testimony, Professor Sullivan highlighted the case of Regina v. Dudley and Stephens as the essence of the Ango-American juridical tradition, and model decision for self-defense laws. “Human life is sacred” he said, and the law should insist in upholding that principle. Building on this argument, Professor Sullivan explained the origins of Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law, the expansion of similar laws in other states, and the drastic judicial and social consequences that have come as a result.

Please read Professor Sullivan’s written testimony (PDF) and the full article on Harvard Law School News.

CJI Alumnus Jon McCoy Wins Motion for New Trial

By Rob Proctor, CJI Clinical Instructor

A judge found Criminal Justice Institute alumnus Jon McCoy’s (JD ’13) motion and exhibits so compelling that she granted a new trial. Jon’s client, a 19 year-old who held a green card and was raised in the United States, was deported and separated from his family after being convicted of a drug charge. At the time of his arrest, he had no prior criminal record and there was no evidence of drug use. Additionally, Annie Dookhan, the chemist who “analyzed” the substance found with the client, admitted to purposely tainting evidence during that period. Dookhan is currently at the center of a crime lab scandal and “is accused of falsifying test results in as many as 34,000 cases” (NPR). Criminal Justice Institute attorneys are hopeful that they will be able to reunite this young man with his family.

Alex Smith and Lisa Sullivan Win Harvard Law School Exemplary Clinical Student Award

Congratulations to Alex Smith and Lisa Sullivan, winners of the inaugural Harvard Law School Exemplary Clinical Student Award!

This award recognizes a graduating student who exemplifies putting theory into practice through clinical work. The student winner has demonstrated excellence in representing individual clients, undertaking group advocacy or policy reform projects. In addition, in keeping with the clinical teaching model, the student has been self-reflective and shown thoughtfulness and compassion in their practice and has contributed to the clinical community at HLS in a meaningful way.

Alex Smith

Alex Smith has spent more than 22 of the past 32 months since entering law school providing direct legal services to the poorest and most marginalized disabled Boston residents through his work at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center (LSC). Julie McCormack and the Community Lawyering Program team nominated Alex for:

“…his firm adherence to the quiet, less heroic, everyday practice of ethical lawyering across literally hundreds of intakes and cases, his attention to conflicts of interest, his careful explanation to clients of their and our rights and responsibilities, his consistent care with highly confidential medical, personal and legal information, his comprehensive assessments of the broad range of legal issue presented in each case, his thoughtful examination of the social and political contexts implicated, his deeply generous mentoring of several rounds of new clinical students and interns, his insightful and constructive critique of systems and practices, and the intelligent compassion he has shown to each and every individual he has encountered (so much so that his clients are genuinely distressed that he is now leaving)”.

Lisa Sullivan

During her time at HLS, Lisa Sullivan participated in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, Harvard Defenders and Criminal Justice Institute (CJI). CJI Clinical Instructor Rob Proctor has high praise for her work in the clinic, writing:

“Lisa embodies all the characteristics I think are important for all HLS clinical students: compassion for the clients and for other students, an unwavering commitment to justice, zealous advocacy, attention to detail, thoroughness in preparation, and inspiring optimism…. Lisa was certainly a zealous client advocate, which is always paramount, but what sets Lisa apart is that she was able to establish the same goodwill, respect and attention of the courtroom in a matter of months that takes a seasoned trial lawyer years to achieve. Many court personnel: judges, prosecutors, clerks, and court officers, who have seen hundreds (if not thousands) of lawyers, pulled me aside and spoke very highly not just of her advocacy and zealous representation of her clients, but more importantly, of her decency, respectful demeanor, and humanity which influenced others around her to respond in kind.”

Best of luck to Alex and Lisa as they embark on the next stage of their careers!

CJI Student Will Dreher Wins Dismissal for Client

By Rob Proctor, CJI Clinical Instructor

This past spring, Criminal Justice Institute student Will Dreher successfully argued in Roxbury Division Court for the suppression of physical evidence and statements seized from his client, an elderly and severely disabled man who was unlawfully seized by the police, searched, and arrested when he was observed standing outside of his sister’s home with another family member hours after his nephew passed away. Will’s oral argument and memorandum of law were so convincing and thorough that the judge asked Will if he was willing to waive additional arguments cited in his brief (which was over thirty pages long). After the judge’s ruling, the Commonwealth moved for immediate trial and answered not ready for trial, effectively hastening the dismissal of the case.

Roundup: Gloria Tan Featured in HLS News

Gloria Tan

Former Criminal Justice Institute Deputy Director Gloria Tan was sworn in on May 2, 2013 as a judge on the Massachusetts Juvenile Court. Read more in HLS News about her experience in the clinical programs at Harvard Law School, her interest in juvenile justice, and her journey to becoming a judge.

CJI Says Goodbye to Gloria Tan

CJI Staff. Back from left: Kristin Muniz, Ron Sullivan, Chris Pierce, Rob Proctor. Front from left: Amy Soto, Gloria Tan, Dehlia Umunna, Anna Pierce.

Former CJI Deputy Director Gloria Tan was recently sworn in as an Associate Justice of the Juvenile Court in Middlesex County. Ms. Tan was a clinical instructor at the Criminal Justice Institute since 2003.  Prior to joining HLS, Ms. Tan worked representing juveniles and adults for the Committee For Public Counsel Services, the Massachusetts state wide public defender agency. As a judge Ms. Tan will continue her lifelong commitment to public service.  The CJI family will miss her greatly!

CJI Deputy Director Gloria Tan confirmed for judgeship

HLS Clinical Instructor Gloria Tan was unanimously approved by the Governor’s Council for a judgeship on the Juvenile Court in Middlesex County. As a judge on the Juvenile Court, Tan will rule on cases regarding delinquency, care and protection petitions, adoption, guardianship, termination of parental rights proceedings, and youthful offender cases.

Ms. Tan is the deputy director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. She has also worked as a public defender for the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Boston and as an attorney in the Youth Advocacy Project. Ms. Tan has also served as chair of the Massachusetts Bar Association Criminal Justice section council, as a member of the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, and on the Board of Directors of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.

2013 Gary Bellow Public Service Award student finalists all involved in HLS clinics

The Gary Bellow Public Service Award was created in 2001 to recognize excellence in public interest work at HLS and to honor Professor Bellow (’60). The awards are given annually by the student body of Harvard Law School to a student and alumnus/a for their commitment to social justice.

The three student finalists for the 2013 Gary Bellow Public Service Award are all HLS clinical students. Their involvement spans a range of HLS clinics and SPOs.

Crystal Redd: Prison Legal Assistance Project, Harvard Defenders, The Mississippi Delta Project, Post-Foreclosure Eviction Defense Clinic, Employment Law Clinic, and Criminal Justice Institute.

Lara Berlin: International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Mediation Program.

Stephanie Davidson: Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.

Read more about finalists’ work and vote for student and alumnae candidates by March 27th.

Gary Bellow was the founder and former faculty director of Harvard Law School’s Clinical Programs, and a pioneering public interest lawyer. His career was dedicated to providing legal services to the poor and to teaching law students practical skills. Commenting about his time from 1962-1965, when he was serving as deputy director of the Legal Aid Agency for the District of Columbia, and when he and his colleagues faced an enormous caseload with no job training, Professor Bellow told the Harvard Law Bulletin, “We discovered the best legal education America had to offer didn’t teach us how to get someone out of a cell block.”

Professor Bellow co-founded the WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, the school’s major legal clinic, located in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston.

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