Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

Tag: Harvard Defenders

Student Practice Organizations Panel 2019

Students attend 2019 SPO Panel

Student Practice Organizations often provide 1Ls with their first opportunity to gain practical legal experience at HLS. Each SPO is typically led by a student board consisting of 2L and 3L students and is supervised by a licensed attorney. Across the 11 SPOs currently active at HLS, a variety of focus areas including housing, immigration, and prison law are represented. Students participating in SPOs do not receive academic credit, however, their hours can count towards the 50-hour pro bono graduation requirement.

The SPO Panel, held earlier this week, provides an opportunity for students to hear directly from the students boards and members of SPOs. During the 2019 SPO Panel, representatives from all 11 SPOs spoke on focus areas, levels of commitment, attorney supervision and particularly emphasized the communities formed in each individual SPO through the work that they do.

“Community is one of our main priorities. It was a game changer for me. I met some of my closest friends, it reminded me why I decided to come to law school.” said Emma Broches, co-president of HLS Advocates for Human Rights, on her experience with SPOs.

President of Harvard Defenders Martina Tiku also noted how SPOs encourage members to interact with other students and individuals in the field who are committed to and passionate about the work that they do, reflecting the sentiments of several other panel participants.  “You get a chance to talk to people who are passionate about their work.” she said.

For students interested in joining an SPO, the organizations hold information sessions and open houses are coming up. All SPOs require some form of registration or sign-up, with several requiring separate applications. While all SPOs accept students in the fall, some  accept members during the spring term. Information session, open house, and registration/application deadline dates can be found on the  Opportunities for Student Practice Matrix.


SPO Skills Matrix

SPO Sign-Ups

SPO Student Reflections

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.

Harvard Defenders Host 7th Annual Litman Symposium

Via Harvard Law Today

Courtesy of Harvard Defenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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Clinical Instructor John Salsberg Quoted in Boston Globe Article about MA Show Cause Hearings

Inside Our Secret Courts

Via The Boston Globe

Credit: Brooks Kraft

Senior Clinical Instructor for Harvard Defenders John Salsberg was quoted in an article describing Massachusetts’ unique “show cause hearings,” hearings that are presided over by court clerks and usually held in private, to determine if there is probable cause to issue a criminal complaint.

“Criminal defense attorney John Salsberg said he has seen countless cases that have been correctly resolved in clerks’ hearings — cases that should never have gone into the regular criminal justice system. Since the 1980s, he has worked as a supervising attorney with the Harvard Defenders, a Harvard Law School organization that represents individuals at these [hearings]. ‘Just because something’s a crime doesn’t mean it needs to be prosecuted,’ Salsberg said. “And I think the clerks have enough experience to know which complaints should end up issuing and which shouldn’t.’”

John elaborated on his statement to the Globe, saying: “Harvard Defenders is the only program in Massachusetts which provides free legal services to the indigent accused defendant who has not been arrested. At show cause hearings we first identify and challenge charges which are legally deficient. If there’s enough evidence to establish probable cause to issue a complaint, we focus on alternative dispositions so that our clients can avoid the stigma of a criminal record and collateral consequences, such as inability to get a job, loss of public housing and deportation. Oftentimes, the police see the need to bring a case before the court, but provide people an opportunity to change their behavior. One of the benefits of private hearings is to provide a safe environment for an apology, which doesn’t have to be public. The system works well, as it currently operates and doesn’t need substantial change.”

Read the full article here.

SPO Student Reflection: Answering the Call – In Community for Justice

By: Felipe Hernandez, JD ’20

Source: Pixabay

As a first-generation college student, my parents and I, who worked nightshifts as janitors, never dreamed that one day I would attend Harvard Law. As undocumented immigrants living in Los Angeles, our family faced periodic evictions, interactions with the criminal legal system, labor violations, and discrimination without access to legal aid. Throughout my life, and increasingly during 1L, I regularly received frantic phone calls from family members or friends undergoing life altering challenges including incarceration, deportation, eviction, child custody issues, domestic violence, and police violence. While these experiences were my primary motivation for changing my career from the non-profit world to attend law school, they continue to fuel my involvement in student practice organizations (SPOs) and clinics to develop the necessary legal skills to answer these calls.

To better understand the criminal legal system afflicting folx back home, I joined Harvard Defenders, where we provide representation to people facing criminal show-cause hearings. The Defenders’ community immediately became a home of diverse, radical, and loving people working to counter the weight of the criminal legal system and exploitative social order on low-income, mostly people of color, in Boston. Practically, I learned how to respond to criminal complaints, interview people we serve through an anti-oppressive method, develop case strategy in team meetings, gather evidence, cross-exam police officers, and advocate zealously for our people in court. The stories of the folx we represented – from domestic violence to struggling with drug addiction and mental health to petty larceny – resonated deeply with the people I was trying to help back home. Understanding the limitations of direct representation in addressing systemic violence, I am most excited when our community discusses strategies to address structural oppression afflicting the people we serve, including engaging in community movement lawyering and cultivating an abolitionist politic and practice within and outside of Defenders.

I also joined the HLS Immigration Project (HIP) to develop the capabilities to help people facing ICE persecution, imprisonment, and deportation. I transferred the skills I learned from preparing asylum applications and for bond hearings in immigration detention and removal proceedings to help family and community members fighting deportation. In HIP, I met students and staff devoted to addressing the consequences of global inequality and imperialism that displaces millions of people, and pushes them to migrate through violent borders. I spent my 2018 Spring Break with American Gateways in San Antonio helping people imprisoned in the South Texas Detention Center prepare asylum applications. Our team included some of the most inspiring, critical, and incredible law students at HLS. This experience was life changing because we witnessed the psychological, physical, and emotional abuse that the U.S. immigration system inflicts onto people fleeing violence. For example, as I worked with one of my clients, Melissa, on her asylum application, she shared her frustrations with the U.S immigration system: “I came here because I thought it would be better, I thought they [the immigration judge] would believe me and help. Instead, I am in prison.” On our final day, as we said goodbye and talked about her next steps, we both exchanged tears of pain, power, and hope. She had been fighting tirelessly for decades for herself and daughter to escape abuse. She won many battles but the structural imbalance of power was overwhelming. As I left, she told me that she felt more energized to kept fighting. That night, I wrote in my journal:

“I came to HLS because I thought I could fix it all as easily as I had helped family members in the past. How naïve. Our immigration system is built to undermine and reject basic notions of humanity. People with the audacity to seek a better life, after decades of abuse, are told ‘We don’t believe you’ by administrative judges sitting back in their cushy chairs and folx are sent back where they are certain to undergo similar, if not worse, traumatic experiences. I wonder if what we did was enough. I wonder how we can dream of and actively work toward building a better world.” – March 16, 2018

The impact of my time at HLS has already had ripple effects on those I promised I’d serve because of the skills I gained through SPOs. For example, I helped a family member fight a criminal charge she did not commit after being overcharged and pressured by a district attorney to take a plea. I helped another family member fight an eviction proceeding initiated because of her partner’s undocumented status. While these skills have improved my ability to respond to some of the ongoing calls for help I receive, I remain frustrated at my inability to substantively dismantle systemic causes of these calls. This is why I decided to serve as a student-attorney with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB); to improve my capabilities in providing direct legal aid and to be in community with an inspiring group of brilliant people who are consciously cultivating spaces and practices to address systemic injustices in coalition with the Boston community.

Being involved in SPOs and clinics has not been easy. Those of us involved constantly struggle to grapple with our evolving critical views of social and reparative justice, realities within and outside the criminal and civil legal systems, and strategic visions of how to engage in long-term movement building yet deal with the urgent needs of people we serve and advocate with. Nevertheless, we persist to answer the calls for justice because of our shared prophetic love for the communities we serve.

Students honored at 2017 Class Day

Via Harvard Law Today

A number of Harvard Law students from the Class of 2017 received special awards during the 2017 Class Day ceremony on May 24. They were recognized for outstanding leadership, citizenship, compassion and dedication to their studies and the profession.

Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award

Credit: Heratch Photography Lisa K. Dicker ’17 and Nathan MacKenzie ’17

Credit: Heratch Photography

Lisa K. Dicker ’17 and Nathan MacKenzie ’17

This year’s Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award was presented to Lisa K. Dicker ’17 and Nathan MacKenzie ’17.

Dicker has devoted her time at Harvard Law to public service, starting her 1L year with HLS Negotiators, serving first as a member and later as its co-president. She spent her 1L spring break in Nashville, TN, working pro bono with Equal Justice Under Law, a non-profit civil rights organization founded by two HLS alumni. During the trip, Dicker and fellow students helped challenge widespread practices that penalize the poor: jail time for failure to pay fines, cash and property seizure in the absence of criminal charges, and the failure to provide competent lawyers.

While at Harvard Law School, Dicker has not only performed more than 1,500 hours of pro bono work, but she also served as part of a corps of trained student facilitators who volunteer to facilitate discussions among members of the HLS community on challenging and politically fraught topics. She also twice served as a teaching assistant for the Negotiation Workshop.

At HLS, MacKenzie participated in Harvard Defenders, the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, and created his own independent clinical placement with the Migrants Rights Clinic at the Center of Law and Business, in Ramat Gan, Israel. 

 MacKenzie’s contributions to the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program have helped transform lives; his legal work was pivotal in obtaining asylum for a teenager fleeing gang violence and in preventing the imminent deportation of a woman who had been unlawfully denied a chance to present her asylum claim. He also worked long hours and late nights orchestrating the research needed for an amicus brief challenging the White House’s executive orders on immigration.

The Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award is granted each year in honor of Professor Andrew Kaufman ’54, who has been instrumental in creating and supporting the Pro Bono Service Program at HLS. The J.D. student in the graduating class who performs the highest number of pro bono service hours receives the award and a $500 honorarium.

HLS requires all students to perform 50 hours of pro bono services but most go far beyond. This year, 10 students exceeded 2,000 hours of service and 100 students volunteered more than 1,000 hours.

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Advocating and making a difference with Harvard Defenders

By Stephanie Schuyler, J.D. ’17

If I had to give one piece of advice to incoming 1Ls at Harvard Law School, I would tell them to join a student practice organization (SPO) as soon as humanly possible. Speaking for myself, I can safely say that Harvard Defenders kept me sane during my 1L year. I have been immensely lucky, because my experience as a Defender has allowed me to connect with and learn from local communities and to use my immense privilege as a law school student to center their stories at the outset of the criminal process.

Stephanie Schuyler, J.D. '17

Stephanie Schuyler, J.D. ’17

Many SPOs here at HLS can provide students with hands-on experience. But what drew me to Defenders was the possibility of centering and lifting the narratives of our clients, who might otherwise be processed by the criminal justice system without anyone hearing or caring about their stories. Harvard Defenders have the potential to make a real difference in the outcomes our clients face. We provide representation to accused individuals at “probable cause hearings,” which are the entry point for many individuals into the criminal justice system. During these hearings, because no criminal process has begun, individuals are not entitled to a court-appointed attorney, and the Defenders are the only organization in the Commonwealth that provides free representation to help clients avoid entanglement with the system of mass incarceration.

Working as a Harvard Defender for the last three years has taught me so much. When I first started taking cases as a Defender, I was certain I would win the day with my fancy legal arguments about statutory language and mens rea. I quickly learned that my role in the process was as much about communicating my client’s story to the magistrate as it was about arguing the law. When we—as advocates—center our clients in the adjudicative process, magistrates often listen, and our clients get the day in court they deserve and avoid the unnecessarily harsh penalty of an undeserved criminal conviction.

In the last two years, I’ve also had the chance to put the lessons I’ve learned to good use. I’ve trained and mentored new Defenders, as both a Training Director and small team leader. I’ve done my best to share some of the things I’ve learned, lessons which have made me a better listener and advocate, and which have helped me not to lose sight of the reasons I came to law school in the first place.

Warm Welcome to Jordana, Daneiris, Alyssa, and Christina

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs extends a warm welcome to Daneiris Heredia-Perez (Administrative Director) of Harvard Defenders, Christina Haines (Program Assistant) of the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP), Alyssa Chan (Program Coordinator) of the Food Law and Policy Clinic, and Jordana Arias (Program Administrator) of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program.

Jordana Arias

Jordana Arias, Program Administrator, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Jordana Arias, Program Administrator, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Jordana Arias is the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic’s Program Administrator. She recently relocated from Washington, D.C. where she worked at the University of the District of Columbia – David A. Clark School of Law for nearly ten years. While there, she also served as a community organizer and volunteered for several pro-immigrant non-profit organizations and faith-based groups where she worked closely with at-risk communities. She is passionate about helping people – especially those in underprivileged and disenfranchised populations.

Daneiris Heredia-Perez, Administrative Director, Harvard Defenders

Daneiris Heredia-Perez, Administrative Director, Harvard Defenders

Daneiris Heredia-Perez

Before coming to Harvard Law School Daneiris was a Team Lead at Boston Medical Center in the Nursing Staffing Office, supporting the hospital with RNs, CNAs and Unit Coordinators to make sure the floors were staffed safely. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Project Management at Boston University. She graduated from Manhattanville College in 2011 with a double major in Communications and Graphic Design.


Alyssa Chan, Program Coordinator, Food Law and Policy Clinic

Alyssa Chan

Alyssa Chan became involved with the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic while still an undergrad, working as a summer intern and, later, as a Research Assistant. In January 2017, she joined the clinic full-time as Program Coordinator. She first became interested in sustainable food systems while working on an organic farm and winery in Argentina. Since then, her focus has shifted to food justice issues, including food access, labor in the food system, and equitable access to land and capital for socially disadvantaged farmers. Alyssa graduated from Harvard College in December 2016 with a joint degree in Chemistry and Earth and Planetary Sciences, and a minor in the Comparative Study of Religion.

Christina Haines, Program Assistant, Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

Christina Haines, Program Assistant, Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

Christina Haines

Prior to joining HNMCP, Christina worked as Manager of the Reimagine Learning Fund at New Profit, a national venture philanthropy firm, where she managed the fund’s communications and engagement with a network of  200+ organizations and supported strategic priorities of the fund including convenings and investment selection. Prior to that, Christina had a 10-year career at Harvard, most recently as the Associate Director for Policy and Institutional Outreach of the Harvard Global Health Institute, a University-wide initiative focused on advancing global health curricula and experiential learning and catalyzing innovative cross-disciplinary research. She managed new initiatives and pilots, including large-scale academic events, fellowships and awards, research partnerships, workshops and seminars. Christina holds a B.A. from Marist College in economics, and an M.L.A. with a concentration in government from Harvard Extension School.

“My time in Defenders solidified my commitment to public interest”

By Tori Anderson, J.D. ’16

Tori Anderson, J.D. '16

Tori Anderson, J.D. ’16

I knew coming into law school that I wanted to work in public interest. Working for people and with people was very important to me and I wanted to spend my three years at HLS pursuing that. I discovered Harvard Defenders during the student activities fair in my first semester. I loved the idea of being a part of a supportive community of 1Ls, 2Ls and 3Ls who were like-minded in their commitment to giving back to the community during their time in law school. Defenders allowed me to help people in hearings where they were not provided representation and to gain experience zealously advocating for those most marginalized in society.

I have been able to represent clients in 10 cases, help with their criminal court issues, as well as connect them with housing resources, immigration consultations and school programs. During my time with Harvard Defenders, I have served as one of the Case Assignment Directors and as President. As Case Assignment Director, I ensured that people who called looking for legal help were connected with student attorneys. I also tracked the organization’s data. As President, I successfully advocated for a social worker for our clients and focused on revamping our referral network. I was able to get to know every one of our 83 members and forge lasting friendships with future public interest leaders. I learned how to research case law, look up criminal code statutes, find Massachusetts jury instructions, strategize for a case, prepare oral arguments and cross examinations and gained skills in how to navigate the often tricky relationship between student attorneys, law enforcement officers and court officials.

But my clients have taught me the most. We often meet our clients at a very difficult time in their lives when they have to face the potential of being prosecuted. They have taught me how to listen and how to be more empathetic. They have been open and showed a great ability to trust a complete stranger with personal details. My time in Defenders truly solidified my commitment to public interest. After graduation, I will be working as a public defender, a choice which was heavily influenced by my time in the organization.

Harvard Defenders: 65 years of legal service to the community

Via HLS News

“The role of a criminal-defense lawyer is rarely comfortable, and never popular,” renowned defense attorney Jack T. Litman ’67 liked to say, “but it remains among the more noble professions.”

bk.hls_.20140415.4057.op_-1024x683 (1)

Credit: Brooks Kraft

For the 85 Harvard Law students who each year participate in Harvard Defenders, a student practice organization in which they represent low-income clients in criminal show-cause hearings, that sentiment informs everything they do. Open to 1Ls and upperclassmen, Defenders over the past 66 years has assisted thousands of indigent people while offering students invaluable courtroom experience and exposure to the realities of the criminal justice system.

“I just ran into a former student who is clerking for a magistrate judge in federal court. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of years, and she said Harvard Defenders was the best thing she did in law school,” says John Salsberg, a criminal defense attorney who’s been the supervising attorney at Defenders for 35 years, and was chosen for a 2015 Dean’s Award for Excellence at Harvard Law School. “Now, if that isn’t gratifying, I don’t know what is.”

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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.

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.

Alumni of the Clinical and Pro Bono Programs receive Public Service Venture Fund “seed grants”

Via HLS News

Two recent Harvard Law School graduates, Shannon Erwin ’10 and Alana Greer ’11, have been selected as recipients of grants from the Public Service Venture Fund, a unique program that awards up to $1 million each year to help graduating Harvard Law students and recent graduates obtain their ideal jobs in public service.

…Erwin and Greer were chosen based on their vision for how to approach a public service problem or help a particular community. Erwin will work with the Muslim Justice League to combat policies that marginalize Muslims and Greer will work with Community Justice Project to empower young people of color. Read more…

Clinical and Pro Bono Programs Pave the Way 

While students at Harvard Law School, these two inspiring women participated in the Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. Shannon Erwin worked with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic and the Human Rights Program, while Alana Greer worked with Harvard Defenders.

Here is what Shannon had to say about her experience in the Clinical and Pro Bono Programs.

Shannon Erwin, HLS J.D. '10

Shannon Erwin, HLS J.D. ’10

“HLS Clinical Programs exposed me to a range of legal tools to promote human rights and global justice, and they also evidence HLS’s high prioritization of public service by its students and alumni. Without the investments that HLS Clinics and the PSVF represent, I likely would not be able to pursue this project.

The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic exposed me to some of the many rewards of working for people seeking protection of their human rights. For example, an asylum applicant for whom I worked had escaped her country after being pressured to become an informant against university student activists. Being entrusted with her story helped me appreciate what a privilege it is to work with and for political dissidents in need of protection. Similarly, the Muslim Justice League will provide free representation to those at risk of political persecution locally — specifically, individuals approached for FBI interviews who may be at risk of coercion to become informants or of pretextual prosecutions.

In the Human Rights Program, I was fortunate to work with Professor Ahmad Amara on the development of a manual to assist Middle Eastern NGOs to access international channels for human rights accountability. That experience helped me to think more creatively about the range of advocacy tools to combat human rights abuses which are not only available to foreign organizations but also domestically.  MJL will also make use of such tools, and we view protection of Muslims’ civil rights in Greater Boston as inextricably linked with universal struggles for human rights and global justice.”

Harvard Defenders Celebrated the Jack T. Litman Fellowship

LitmanBy Meghan Michael, J.D. ’15

On Wednesday, October 22, 2014, Harvard Defenders celebrated its 65th anniversary at its annual Litman Fellowship Symposium, with presentations by keynote speaker Debo Adegbile and Litman Fellows Carson Wheet, Aaron Fields, and Missy Bücher. The event was sponsored by The Harvard Law School Milbank Tweed Fund and the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs.

Mr. Adegbile, an acclaimed civil rights lawyer, spoke of a reality that has driven students in Defenders for more than half a century: “Lawyers make a difference, and the absence of lawyers makes a difference too.”

When Harvard Defenders opened its doors in October 1949, it was a relatively small endeavor. Comprised of only ten 3L students dedicated to providing zealous representation of indigent criminal defendants, it was a full year before the organization was granted official recognition by Harvard Law School. The fledgling organization was then given a $500 budget and a home in Gannett House, which allowed the organization to take up to 20 3L applicants the following year.

A great deal has changed in 65 years. The organization has grown to include more than 80 students from all three years of law school, as well as LLMs. Harvard Defenders now focuses exclusively on criminal show cause hearings, which are hearings to determine whether there is probable cause to issue a criminal charge. Working under the supervision of attorney John Salsberg, students prepare their cases by interviewing clients and witnesses, preparing factual and legal research, and orally presenting their cases to clerk magistrates in criminal courts. Last year, Defenders represented clients in more than 145 show cause hearings in 20 courts.

At the 65th celebration, Mr. Adegbile spoke of the commitment to and belief in criminal justice that drives many lawyers who work in criminal defense. “Criminal justice is the mark of a democracy,” said Mr Adegbile. “It’s actually definitional.” Responding to the allegation that defense lawyers lacked compassion, Mr. Adegbile insisted that criminal defense lawyers must have a very strong connection with humanity. “It’s not that absence of humanity, but an embrace of humanity that allows you to step into that breach.”

An acclaimed civil rights attorney, Mr. Adegbile worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund for ten years and has argued before the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act. He was a nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Justice and Civil Rights Division and is now a partner at the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. Mr. Adegbile spoke of some of the challenges he has faced in his career, including the Senate block of his confirmation due to his representation of a death row inmate. “In your career, there are a lot of things you can’t control,” said Mr. Adegbile. “You can control the principles for which you stand.”

This year’s Litman Fellows —Missy Bücher, Aaron Fields, and Carson Wheet — also presented at the Sympoisum. The Litman Fellowship was established in 2012 and is dedicated to the memory of Jack T. Litman, HLS LL.B. ’67, a renowned New York criminal defense attorney who was a member of Harvard Defenders during his time at the law school. The Fellowship supports three law school students as they work as Harvard Defenders during the summer. The Litman Fellowship offers Fellows the opportunity to gain practical experience in client interaction, legal research and oral advocacy, and they have the unique opportunity to handle all their own cases.

At the Symposium, the Litman Fellows presented academic research on a legal issue they encountered during their fellowship. Mr. Fields, HLS ’16, discussed the challenges of advocating for juvenile clients, and Ms. Bücher, a 3L at Tulane Law, presented her research on international insights into plea-bargaining. Mr. Wheets, HLS ’16, shared best-practices for clients suffering from addictions based on his experience this summer.

“It was truly inspirational to be in a room full of people who have dedicated their lives to defending the principles that they believe in,” said Mr. Wheet. “Sharing the stage with Debo Adegbile, Benjamin Litman and the other Litman Fellows will always be one of my proudest moments at Harvard Law.”

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

Via HLS News


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 ’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.

Two from HLS awarded 2014 Soros Fellowships for New Americans

Alexander Chen ’15

Alexander Chen ’15

Via HLS News

This year, two Harvard Law School students, Alexander Chen ’15 and Bianca Tylek ’16, were selected from a field of more than twelve hundred applicants to receive the Paul and Daisy Soros New American Fellowship. Thirty scholars, all of whom are immigrants or children of immigrants, will receive $90,000 grants each to pursue graduate studies at U.S. universities.

Chen, who was born in Colorado, is the son of Chinese immigrants. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Oxford University and an M.A. from Columbia University. He hopes to focus his legal career in civil rights advocacy, combining litigation, policy work, and academic research to advance civil rights for trans people.

Chen interned with the ACLU’s LGBT & AIDS Project cases during the summer of 2013, and he will be working at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and at the National Center for Transgender Equality this summer. He has also written on trans issues for the Harvard Law Review.

Bianca Tylek ’16

Bianca Tylek ’16

The child of a Polish father and Ecuadorian mother, Tylek was born in New York and grew up in New Jersey, raised by non-English speaking relatives. Despite struggles with academic and delinquency issues during high school, Tylek was accepted at Columbia University, and, after graduating, she pursued a career in investment banking. She later worked in growth strategy for Teach for America, and she developed College Pathways, an innovative program that prepares inmates at Rikers Island for college-level education.

At HLS, she is a member of Harvard Defenders, the Prison Legal Assistance Project, and the Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review. She hopes to pursue a career in the social sector, focused on using results-based management in the prison system to reduce recidivism.

The Soros Fellowships were established to help immigrants to continue to make a positive impact on the nation. The selection is based upon rigorous criteria that include academic performance and leadership skills.

Congratulations to our Friend and Colleague John Salsberg on his Clarence Gideon Award!

John Salsberg, Clinical Instructor and Attorney Supervisor, Harvard Defenders

On Wednesday, John Salsberg was honored with the Clarence Gideon Award. Presented from time to time by the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the award recognizes champions of the noblest principle that all persons shall stand equal before the law.

As a teacher and public defender, John Salsberg has always worked tirelessly to ensure justice and due process for those accused of crime. His influence is far reaching – in addition to representing clients and his work with Suffolk Lawyers for Justice, the bar associations and the courts, he has been the Clinical Supervising Attorney for Harvard Defenders since 1985 where he has trained more than 1,000 Harvard Law School students to become thoughtful, zealous, ethical, and competent lawyers. The award is a testament to his dedication, incredible teaching and mentorship over the years.

Harvard Defenders Celebrate the Jack T. Litman Fellowship

L-R: Kate Bargerhuff, Keron Morris, Daniyal Iqbal, Benjamin Litman and Sacha Litman

This Fellowship was established in 2012 and dedicated to the memory of Jack T. Litman, HLS LL.B. ’67, a renowned New York criminal defense attorney who was a member of Harvard Defenders during his time at the law school. In his introductory remarks,  Benjamin Litman said “My dad really wanted to afford people the opportunity to get their feet wet.” This year’s fellows did just that.

Keron Morris, Kate Bargerhuff, and Daniyal Iqbal spent the summer representing indigent clients in criminal show cause hearings in Boston area courts. In addition, they conducted research on legal issues they encountered in their work. At the 2nd Annual Jack T. Litman Fellowship Symposium, on November 18th, 2013, they presented their findings to a large audience of students, clinicians, and the Litman brothers.

Keron researched issues related to representing clients with mental illness. Kate explored the collateral consequences of criminal charges and Daniyal researched the challenges that attorneys face when rebutting damaging character evidence.

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!

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.

Student Voices: Learning About Land Rights in Mississippi

Jamal Khan (HLS ’13), Jack West (Ole Miss ’13), and Rob Barnett (HLS ’14) at the Mississippi River after a day of research

Today’s “Student Voices” post comes from Kimberly Newberry (JD ’14), who traveled to Mississippi during an HLS pro bono spring break trip. Kimberly is a member of PLAP and Harvard Defenders, and plans to go into capital appeals.

The Mississippi Delta is populated by more juke joints than Starbucks (and rightly so as the birthplace of the blues). Nightly strolls are accompanied by the faint strums of guitar in the distance and you can imagine how Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil right in the middle of it all. The blues are part of a shared cultural identity among the Delta’s inhabitants, and there is still plenty of heartache to keep the musical tradition alive.

Six of us headed down from HLS to Clarksdale, Mississippi for spring break, where we were joined by Ole Miss students. We were surprised to find that a lot of the regional heartache stemmed from concepts we had covered in our 1L Property classes – easements, color of title, types of estates, and even adverse possession (when a person who is not the legal owner of land can become its owner after having occupied it for a specified period of time). The seemingly difficult task of adversely taking someone’s land is frequently accomplished in parts of Mississippi, and with serious impact on the lives of farmers. From disputes between siblings about what to do with inherited land to questions about how to preserve farmland well into the future, we saw our textbooks come to life.

We also learned about the challenges faced by small, family-owned farms. A few days into our trip, we met with Dustin and Ali, two young farmers whose business growth is constrained by regulations designed for industrial farms but that also apply to them. As a result of Dustin and Ali’s commitment to sustainable farming, they run their farm under different standards than those adhered to by commercial sellers and, as a consequence, cannot sell their goods to larger, more popular grocery stores. These mandatory standards are both prohibitively expensive and largely inapplicable to small-scale sustainable farming, to the detriment of the availability of locally and sustainably grown food. As Dustin put it, “We vote for our president once every four years, but we vote for what to put in our bodies three times a day. And what we vote for today will affect our children tomorrow.” Prior to running their own farm, Dustin and Ali interned at Polyface Farms, which is featured in Michael Pollen’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

After seeing how the issues of inheritance, ownership, and land use impacted the lives of residents, we had the opportunity to conduct additional research and then present a tutorial to the farmers. When the workshop was over, the farmers compared notes and shared their experiences with each other. Much was left unanswered but we appreciated the opportunity to learn more about property rights in Mississippi, contribute our knowledge, make a few friends, and soak in the culture and music of the Delta.

Recent Coverage of HLS Pro Bono Trips
Event HLS Students Discuss Spring Break Trip to Alabama
Student Voices: Collaboration and Community in Alabama
Student Voices: Anti-Immigration Law in Alabama (Video)

Julian Smoller (HLS ’12) gives a presentation to Mississippi growers about conservation easements

HLS students collaborated with Ole Miss Law students to host a workshop for local farmers

Events and Deadlines This Week

There are a bunch of clinical events this week in anticipation of clinical registration, which runs from Wed, Mar 28-Mon, Apr 2. As always, don’t hesitate to stop by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs with questions!

Clinical Advising Appointments
WCC 3085
Schedule a half-hour appointment with clinical advisors who can speak with you about the diverse array of HLS clinics and answer your specific questions. More…

Open House: Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program
Mon, Mar 26, 4-5:30pm
Austin 102
The Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program provides HLS students with practical, real-world experience in the fields of negotiation, dispute resolution and conflict management, with a focus on conflict mapping and dispute systems design. Learn more about available opportunities and chat with current clinical students. Sweets and soda provided.

Open House: International Human Rights Clinic & Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic
Mon, Mar 26, 4-6:30pm
HRP/HIRC lounge, WCC 3103 & 3139
Meet clinical instructors and enjoy refreshments while learning about International Human Rights Clinic and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic.

Info Session: Semester in Washington Program
Wed, Mar 28, 12-1pm
Hauser 104
Are you interested in law and government, and want to gain practice experience in these areas while in law school? Students in the Semester in Washington Program spend the spring semester studying and working on policy, legislative, and regulatory matters. Join us to learn more. Lunch provided.

Clinical 101: Tips and tools for getting the most out of your clinical experience
Wed, Mar 28, 5:30-6pm
WCC 2012
Gain insight into what a clinical experience can do for you, what a clinical commitment entails, how to enroll, and what questions to ask clinics during the Clinical Fair. More…

Clinical Fair
Wed, Mar 28, 6-8pm
Milstein East BC, WCC
Speak directly with clinical students, attorneys, and faculty to learn more about the work experience, potential projects, types of client interaction, time commitment, and opportunities that are unique to each clinic. Dinner and snacks will be served. More…

And a few clinical deadlines just for fun:

Opportunity: Litman Summer Fellowship Program with Harvard Defenders
Deadline: ASAP
Details: HLS Admin Updates

Opportunity: Making Rights Real: The Ghana Project
Deadline: Fri, Mar 30
Details: HLS Admin Updates

Opportunity: SEC Boston Office Internship
Deadline: Fri, Mar 30
Details: OCP Blog

Opportunity: Year-Long Slot in Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic
Deadline: Fri, Mar 30
Details: HLS Admin Updates

Clinical Events: Mar 5-9

There’s always an event (or two or three) to attend at HLS. A few clinical events are highlighted below but for a complete listing of HLS events, please visit the HLS calendar.

Harvard Legal Aid Bureau 1L Info Session

Tue, Mar 6, 6–7:30pm
Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, 23 Everett Street

Stop by the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) – the nation’s oldest student legal services organization – to learn more about the application process, the types of cases handled by HLAB, and the HLAB community.

Contesting Childhood: When Law and Politics Go to School
Thu, Mar 8, 12–1pm

WCC 4133

Harvard Law School SJD Candidate Lisa Kelly discusses mandatory schooling in North America and how the seeds of “family privacy” were sewn – and retroactively invented – in response to the shifting relationship between family and state.

Hosted by the Child Advocacy Program.

HLS Advocates for Education Conference – Closing the School to Prison Pipeline: Redirecting our Future
Thu, Mar 8, 9am–6pm

WCC, Milstein East ABC

The HLS Advocates for Education Conference will take a multidisciplinary approach to evaluating the issues that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline while discussing potential solutions. Professor James Forman Jr. of Yale Law School will be the keynote speaker.

Co-sponsors include Child and Youth Advocates (CYA), Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP), Harvard Defenders, La Alianza, Black Law Students Associations (BLSA), Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review (CRCL), Women’s Law Association (WLA), and Harvard Mississippi Delta Project.