Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

Tag: Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic

Clinical Students Set a New Record of Over 1900 Hours of Legal Research and Writing for Massachusetts Trial Judges

By: Honorable John Cratsley (Ret.), Director of the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic and Class

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

Over the 2019 Spring semester, 20 students in the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic contributed over 1900 hours of legal research and writing to the Massachusetts state and federal judges, a record high for the clinic.  The students’ contribution to our local judiciary is particularly significant in our state courts where budgets are tight and full-time law clerks limited.  Student placements included nine with judges in U.S. District Court, eight with judges in the Massachusetts Superior Court, one with a judge in the Boston Municipal Court, one with a judge in the Newton District Court, and one with a judge in the Boston Juvenile Court.

Student legal research and writing for their judges included the full range of civil and criminal matters, such as motions for summary judgment, motions to dismiss, and motions to suppress, as well as habeas petitions, judicial review of agency decisions, evidence issues, and jury instructions.  Students also had the opportunity to observe all the stages of jury trials – from empanelment to witness examinations to closings and verdict. Several students even had the opportunity to join their judge for a conversation with the members of the jury following the verdict. Lunches and personal conversations with their judges increased the opportunity to gain insight into judicial decision making.

The weekly class accompanying the clinic examines elements of the judicial process that students observe first-hand with their judges, including sentencing, judicial ethics, plea bargaining, mediation, the jury, and access to justice. During the semester, students met four international judges – three from Japan and one from Korea – and visited MCI Concord followed by dinner at Judge Cratsley’s home. The judges from overseas added valuable cross-cultural perspectives on judging and made presentations about their personal experiences with the recent inclusion of citizen jurors in criminal trials. One student who visited MCI was most intrigued by the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS) dog training program run by the inmates.

Student evaluations of their judicial placements describe the variety of gains from their clinical experience. One student emphasized her judge’s candid observations, “My judge shared her insights with us about the cases after the hearing, on whether the lawyers have done a good job and whether the merits of the case are strong.” Two other students wrote about the help they received with legal research and writing skills, “I went through five drafts on one occasion, and the judge made constructive comments about each draft. She was tremendously helpful in improving my legal writing.”  “This clinical placement has led to a huge improvement in my legal writing skill. For every writing assignment, I received direct feedback from the judge and the clerks.”

Overall, students confirmed the unique value of the opportunity to work inside the judicial system directly with a judge; “The chambers were so much more collegial than I anticipated! I was thrilled at how welcoming everyone was.” “The placement exceeded my expectations. The judge and his clerks were absolutely wonderful to work with, and I learned so much from this clinical experience.  The clinic has been the highlight of my law school experience.”

For me, as a clinical teacher, this is all about the value found in so many clinical experiences – the classroom and the law books come alive, become a discernible reality, in the courtroom and in chambers thanks to a remarkable group of sharing judges.

Visiting MCI Concord

By: Liz Archer, JD ’20

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

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

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

First Impressions: Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic

Source: iStock

By: Judge John C. Cratsley (Ret.)

The 2019 Spring Term Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic involves twenty students in placements with federal and state trial court judges. Three judges from Japan and one from Korea attend our weekly classes, adding their international perspectives.  The clinic provides students the unique opportunity to discuss judicial reasoning with the judges. Students shared the lessons they are beginning to learn in their first-day-in-court papers.  Among these are their first impressions of the necessary qualities of a good judge:

“…throughout the day, I found myself thinking about how patient my judge was and how well he matched the ideals of judicial temperament that we discussed in class. . . I was very impressed by his calm demeanor and strong focus on procedural fairness. There were moments that would have tried my patience …”

“…for a judge like mine who is handling many high-profile cases at the center of public controversy and media attention, courage would be a particularly important virtue. It would be challenging to stay strong and unaffected amidst public criticisms or unfair characterizations of her reasoning or ruling in news reports.”

“Sentencing must be one of the most challenging responsibilities that a judge undertakes and having compassion during that process, as my judge exemplified on Tuesday, is critical to criminal justice.”

Another student expressed surprise at the teamwork exhibited by her judge and clerks, “The judge eats lunch with the clerks (and now, the intern) every day. While we sometimes talk over our cases, more often, we’ll discuss current events and our thoughts on the criminal justice system. There is an emphasis on valuing interpersonal relationships and spending time together as a team.”

Other students stressed the value of the opportunity the clinic presents for improving their writing skills:

 “I feel assured that my time this semester will be highly productive, filled with substantive work and real opportunities to think deeply about the legal issues presented at the trial court.”

“First, with respect to the work, I could not be more thrilled. It is clear from my conversations with clerks and an outgoing intern that I will get to work on many of the same assignments as clerks. Indeed, after my trip to HR, I hit the ground running in reviewing a habeas petition. In digging into the material, I could see complex legal issues, remnants of a complex legal battle for the petitioner thus far, and a man’s life hanging in the balance.”

Finally, watching attorneys at work in the courtroom, understanding court practices and procedures, and then evaluating what succeeds, fills out law school experiences such as the Trial Advocacy Workshop (TAW):

“. . .I had the opportunity to observe some outstanding lawyers at work. . .Having recently completed TAW, I was very impressed by the closing arguments given by both sides.”

“I had an extremely rewarding experience. . . I had exposure to opening and closing statement, direct and cross examination from the Trial Advocacy Workshop, but had never seen a jury selection before. I was struck by the judge’s patience and professionalism, but surprised by the repetitive, and even slow nature of the process.”

“My first day in court was incredible. . .  On a single Friday in a community court, I probably saw as many different kinds of cases as I did in the whole semester working in the federal courthouse in Boston.”

All of these first impressions papers contain one truth about experiential education – when students leave the classroom and enter the courtroom, they gain significant new insights about our judicial branch of government.

Mid Semester 2018 in the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic

By Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.)

Twenty-seven HLS students, the largest group ever enrolled in the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic and Class, are well into their work with judges throughout the Massachusetts trial courts. Their judicial internships include the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Superior Court, various Divisions of the Boston Municipal Court, and the Newton District Court. Three LLM students are participating including one judge from Korea. Student placements are nicely balanced between the federal court, the Superior Court, and a variety of community courts throughout the neighborhoods of Boston.

Student observations about their experiences during the semester reinforce the value of direct exposure to the realities of our judicial system. A sample of their reflection papers describe different but equally valuable insights:

“…, I can already tell that this clinic will be an invaluable experience for an aspiring litigator. The opportunity to experience firsthand a trial judge’s decision-making adds a practical dimension to something which had been, for the most part, purely academic.”

“A good lawyer clearly has to treat folks with respect and maintain those relationships on a daily basis. You never know when you’ll need them.”

“Attending the hearing was very enlightening but also very sad. Witnessing a real defendant receive a sentence with her family sitting behind her puts into perspective how many lives are impacted by the judicial system every day.”

“Only one defense attorney was a person of color. The disparity made me extremely uncomfortable – here I was witnessing a body of white people locking up black folks. This was the exact dynamic I had studied in college and worked on in various internships addressing criminal justice reform. It was hard to observe in real life.”

“Essentially I got to see what it is like being chastised by a judge who is extremely unhappy with counsel’s conduct. I’ll certainly keep that lesson in mind and carefully read judicial orders when I am practicing.”

“My judge exemplified many of the features extolled in the Excellent Judges reading. The sentence was not a “mathematical” or “logical” application of the guidelines, it was based on his practice with recidivism, his experience of the human character, and his knowledge.”

Whether gaining insight into judicial reasoning, learning lessons for future practice, or observing justice issues in real time, every student in this clinic is broadening their understanding of the judicial process in trial courts.

A Litigator’s Dream

“No judicial system can be stronger than its trial judges.”
Hon. Henry T. Lummus, The Trial Judge (1937)

With so much classroom emphasis on analyzing appellate decisions, it is refreshing to discover the number of HLS students who seek a trial court experience.  So in addition to the fully enrolled Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic in the Spring Semester, the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs and Hon. Judge John C. Cratsley (Ret.) began offering more Independent Clinical placements with judges in the Fall Semester. The result was an increase of nine students, seven placed with judges in the US District Court in Boston and two with Justice Budd in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. All wrote weekly reflections and will complete a paper on some aspect of the role of courts and the work of the judiciary. These students’ reflections describe their goals as learning the details of court practice and procedure, understanding judicial reasoning, evaluating the advocacy they observe, and improving their writing skills. The following blog by one of this Fall’s students, Jimmy Tsouvalas, tells just how important these outcomes were for him:

By James Tsouvalas, J.D. ’18

Portrait photo of James Tsouvalas, J.D. ’18

James Tsouvalas, J.D. ’18

I always wanted to be a litigator.

Growing up, I did not know the job by that name—I had no lawyers in my family—but the idea of fighting for the rights of people who needed help resonated with me. As a kid, I read about lawyers like Thurgood Marshall, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Clarence Darrow, and I was fortunate to know from a young age what I wanted to do with my life.

A few months into my time at law school I got my first chance to represent a client through my work with the Tenant Advocacy Project. Arguing on behalf of low-income individuals before Boston Housing Authority administrative hearings helped me feel confident in my career choice. But it became clear early on in law school that one of the best ways to learn how to be an effective litigator was to spend time working for a judge. Judges see the whole gamut of litigators—and their styles—arguing cases from nearly every area of the law. While assisting a judge deciding cases, I would have the opportunity to evaluate the arguments and techniques of litigators, and to conduct important legal research and writing, all under the guidance of an accomplished jurist.

After graduating in May, I am excited to begin my legal career as a law clerk for Judge Sandra S. Ikuta of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and then Judge Patricia Millett of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. But with both of my clerkships at the appellate level, I scoured the law school for opportunities to gain experience at the trial court level to flesh-out my legal education.

The Independent Clinical Program provided me with such an opportunity. Through the help of the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, and under the supervision of Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.), I was able to land a clinical placement with Chief Judge Patti B. Saris of the United States District Court of Massachusetts. While taking a few classes at the law school, I spent two days a week at the federal courthouse in Boston’s Seaport helping Chief Judge Saris and her clerks prepare for arguments, hear cases, and decide motions. On both criminal and complex civil cases I drafted various memorandums of law on motions pending before the Court—analyzing the arguments of both sides, conducting independent research into the legal questions, and providing recommendations for disposition. And as cases progressed, I was even able to write the drafts of a few opinions. I was also fortunate to spend extensive amounts of time in court with Chief Judge Saris and her clerks. The experience gave me a richer understanding of the trial court process, and of the role of a judge, all under the brilliant example of Chief Judge Saris. I am so grateful to her for the opportunity.

The import of what I learned as a soon-to-be lawyer cannot be overstated: observing the intricacies of trial court proceedings and various styles of advocacy, and honing my legal research and writing skills under brilliant and experienced attorneys, will serve me greatly in my burgeoning career. But even more valuable were the mentorships and friendly conversations with Chief Judge Saris and her law clerks, judicial assistant, courtroom clerk, and docket clerk—a group I could not have developed more admiration for. I am so grateful for the work they do, and as I begin my career, I hope it is one for which they can soon say the same.

Presentation for Judicial Externships at AALS Conference

Hon. Judge John C. Cratsley (left) and Kate Devil Joyce (right)

Hon. Judge John C. Cratsley (left) and Kate Devlin Joyce (right)

Kate Devlin Joyce and retired judge John Cratsley, who direct the judicial externship clinics and classes at Boston College and Harvard Law Schools, recently presented their innovative poster at the 40th Annual Conference on Clinical Legal Education in Denver. Recognizing that students in both of their clinics spend many hours doing court observation and assisting their judges with legal research and writing, they developed three simulations, essentially advocacy role plays, for students to do in class. Their poster and accompanying handouts contained these role plays, each of which challenges students with advocacy exercises reflecting moments in court they will likely encounter in practice.

The first contains two jury selection exercises involving the Batson/Soares (MA SJC) issue of the improper use of peremptory challenges, first, by a prosecutor to exclude Hispanic jurors and, second, by defense counsel to exclude female jurors. The second role play challenges students to marshal the arguments necessary to persuade a judge to keep their client in a drug court rehabilitation program.  And the third contains two scenarios in which various degrees of judicial participation in civil case settlement raise questions of moving to disqualify the judge from continuing with the trial.

Each role play is illustrated in the poster and the accompanying handouts contain learning outcomes and performance measurements, a teaching guide, and the role play scripts. The overall goal of the poster and the handouts is to provide teachers of judicial externship clinics with options for more active and engaging classroom activities.

Students contribute over 1500 hours of legal research and writing to local state and federal judges

By Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.)

The 23 students in this Spring Semester’s Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic contributed over 1500 hours of legal research and writing to local state and federal judges. This exceeded by hundreds of hours the assistance provided by clinic students in prior years. The value of this effort, particularly in state courts, comes at a time of tight budgets and limited numbers of full-time law clerks plus expanded litigation demands on judges. All of which makes this amount of law student assistance most welcome.

Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic at Judge Cratsley's house for dinner after the prison tour

Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic at Judge Cratsley’s house for dinner after the prison tour

The judicial placements in this year’s clinic included 8 with judges in the U.S. District Court, 9 with judges in the Massachusetts Superior Court, 2 with judges in the Land Court, 3 with judges in the Boston Municipal Court, and 1 with a judge in the Massachusetts District Court. While students began with court observation, including motions practice and jury trials, their participating judges quickly made research and writing assignments. The range of student work included habeas corpus petitions, motions to suppress evidence in criminal cases, social security disability appeals, class actions motions, zoning appeals, and various motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. Students also observed sentencing and mental health proceedings as well as the Aaron Hernandez double murder trial in the Suffolk Superior Court.

Two features of this year’s clinic were the participation of five LLM students, including Judges from Japan and Korea, and the prison tour of MCI Concord. The LLM students bring important comparative observations into both their judicial placements and our weekly classes. For example, both the Korean and Japanese Judges made presentations in our class on juries about the relatively new approach to trial by jury in their home countries. Our prison visit, already described in this blog by an LLM student from China, provided students with a realistic view of the challenges of incarceration and re-entry.

Student evaluations of their clinic experiences mention different learning goals and learning outcomes. Many identified “Insights into Judicial Decision Making” and “Learning Court Procedures” as key objectives before starting, but cited “Recognizing Good and Bad Advocacy” and “Improving My Writing” as significant learning outcomes at the end. This is welcome evidence of the changing impact on students from working so closely with a judge in this clinic. Student comments make this same observation, “He gave me thoughtful candid feedback and was always receptive to my questions/input.”;  “My judge was fantastic. She was very accommodating and keen to ensure that I was having a good experience.”; “I learned a tremendous amount and always felt challenged in an exciting way.”; and “My judge is wonderful, very engaging, and gives interns real work.”

Reflection from the Fatherhood Program at Quincy District Court

By Takaaki Ishii LL.M ’17

The Five Principles of Fatherhood

As a father it is my responsibility to:

  1. Give affection to my children
  2. Give gentle guidance to my children
  3. Provide financial support to my children and the mother of my children
  4. Demonstrate respect at all times to the mother of my children
  5. Set a proud example for my children by living within the law and without the taint of alcohol drug abuse.
Takaaki Ishii pictured left

Takaaki Ishii pictured left

Every Wednesday, the Fatherhood Program in the Quincy District Court, starts with the reading of these five principles. This program began in 1994 with the mission of teaching probationers to be positive and attentive parents to their sons and daughters. In the program, fathers who are under probation supervision make a circle with probation officers and discuss what the responsibility of the father is.

I am an LL.M. student from Japan taking the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic headed by Hon. Judge John Cratsley (Ret). As part of my clinical work, I visited Quincy District Court every Wednesday and worked with Judge Mark Coven. I observed jury trials, bench trials, pre-trials, mediations, and more. Prior to coming to Harvard Law School, I worked as an associate judge in Japan for about three years, and dealt with criminal trials and civil trials. The reason I took this clinic is to observe the practice of law in the Massachusetts State Courts and bring back lessons and insights to Japan.

One day, the probation officer in the Quincy District Court invited me to observe the Fatherhood Program. Even though I am single and do not have any children, I decided to join the discussion because I believed I would learn more about the state’s criminal justice system. Doing so was a great experience for me.

Every Wednesday night, I joined the circle of probationers and probation officers who talked about their experiences as fathers. The probationers had various backgrounds and thought seriously about how their crime influenced their relationships with their children and how to improve their future relationships with their children. The probation officers also talked about their experience as fathers and shared personal life stories. In addition, the program invited guest speakers – judges, clergy, social service providers and representatives from state agencies. One night, Judge Casey came to the program as a guest speaker. He joined the circle and talked with probationers at the same eye level. He also responded sincerely to probationer’s criticism about the court system. I could see the actual departure from the traditional trial judge who sits on the bench and remains distant from the defendants.

As I head into the graduation ceremony on May 25, 2017, I will think about the probationers who finished the Fatherhood Program and the open discussion about fatherhood.

Reflection on a visit to the prison

Students in Hon. Judge John C. Cratsley's (Ret.) Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic

Students in Hon. Judge John C. Cratsley’s (Ret.) Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic

By John Zhou, LL.M. ’17

“Woof, Woof… ” A black Labrador barked desperately to give out alarm that someone was knocking at the door. She ran back and forth, gently rubbing the thigh of her human friend, until the man slowly approached the door and opened it. Everything was comforting, as a service dog training facility should be. The bars on the window, however, reminded me that it was nothing close to a routine one.

In fact, we, the 20-some students in the Judicial Process at Trial Court Clinic, and Judge Cratsley, our Clinic Director, were at the Massachusetts Correction Institution (MCI) in Concord, a state prison with medium-level security. These lovely and capable service dogs are the products of the Prison PUP partnership initiated by the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS). For nearly 20 years, NEADS has worked with correctional facilities and their inmates around New England to train service puppies for those in urgent need. In the training room of MCI Concord, training inmates kindly showed us what their puppies could do, e.g. searching and fetching, turning lights on and off, waking up and alarming, etc. The trainers meticulously and skillfully presented their achievements with the dogs, and everyone present was impressed.

But MCI Concord is not supposed to be impressive in this way: each section of the facility is strictly segregated and inmates, who are generally felony convicted, are placed into confined spaces, almost identical to the settings of prisons pictured on TV.  If inmates violate prison regulations,  they can be punished by solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. In other words, they will only have one hour of access to another human being. It seems here, a man can be an island, entirely of its own.

However, the presence of the Prison PUP partnership can provide inmates with a semblance of normalcy. The trainers who demonstrated for us had served almost 20 years in the prison and they claimed that living with and training the dogs was simply the best thing that had ever happened to them. Before we left, we commended the inmates for their presentation with their canine friends, and wished them every success in the future. Rehabilitation is probably the hardest part of the entire criminal justice system, and these inmates will face hardship when they become free again after years of imprisonment. However, companionship with their dogs and the chance to contribute to the society will definitely be a good start.

Students’ first day in court

Twenty-three students, enrolled in the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic and class, recently started their work with judges throughout the Massachusetts trial courts. Below, some of them reflect on the impact of their first days with their judges and confirm the value of leaving the classroom for the courtroom.

“My first day in court had a more profound impact on me than the mere opportunity to see and hear things I had only read about in books and learned in the classroom. Experiencing firsthand all the elements of a trial, albeit only for the closing arguments portion of it, as one living whole rather than discrete parts to be analyzed in the abstract made me rethink my attitude toward the “practice of law” and indeed helped me appreciate the fact that law is not only a subject area to be studied in law school but a “practice” and a way of life. This insight has both humbled and reinvigorated me, and I hope that during the remainder of my internship I can continue to broaden my understanding of the law and my capacity to practice it.” — Aaron Seong, J.D. ’18

“I could see in the hearing and the briefs the disparity between the quality of prosecution and defense in low-level criminal cases that I have read about for years. It confirmed my prior expectations that the criminal justice system is a hard place for defendants. This type of experience is one of the reasons I wanted more time in the courtroom.” — Nicolas Mendoza, J.D. ’18

“[my judge] was, in a word, dazzling. She casually listed the legal issues she was concerned about, slipping effortlessly from one to another while I struggled to make mental notes. It was in this moment that I fully appreciated the need for focus, commitment, and diligence in chambers. … I left the courthouse eager to come back the next day…”
— Marina Shkuratov, J.D. ’18

“During lunch, we all discussed both the upsides and downsides of each side’s argument and what each party could have done to improve their case. It was a great opportunity to understand what made an effective argument from the judge’s perspective.” — Gawon Go, J.D. ’17

“[my judge] is incredibly kind and helpful. I can tell that he enjoys working with law students, and he took the time to answer any questions I had. The work in interesting, and I know that what I work on actually matters. It is not “busy work” . And I learned a great deal from simply watching my judge and the attorneys that appeared before him.” — Caleb Wolokek, J.D. ’17

“Overall I had a challenging and eye-opening first week in court. I learned a lot and I am looking forward to the coming months. I think I underestimated how challenging it may be to become involved with criminal trials involving real defendants and victims. I think the clinic will be good preparation not only in terms of learning about rules of evidence and procedure, but also in learning how to deal with these more difficult, interpersonal aspects of being a trial lawyer.” — Nasheen Kalkat, J.D. ’18


Judicial Process in Trial Court Clinic: A highlight of my time at HLS

Julie Hamilton, J.D. '16

Julie Hamilton, J.D. ’16

By Julie Hamilton, J.D. ’16

As I trudged through growing piles of snow blanketing the Boston sidewalks in January 2015, I was unsure what awaited me at Boston Municipal Court (BMC). It was the first day of my clinical component of the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic, and, embarrassingly, it was the first day I ever stepped inside a community court. After a semester of observing courtroom proceedings, discussing cases with a BMC judge, and sitting in on attorney-judge conferences, I can say sincerely that the clinic was worth that first trek in the snow and each one that followed.

For many people, a community court is the first, and most, interaction they will have with the judicial process; what happens in that courthouse shapes their perceptions of their city’s, their state’s, their country’s justice system and can impact their lives in deep and lasting ways. The Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic not only enabled me to step away from the Chevrons of law school into the messy intersection of real life and the law, but it also provided me with unfettered access to a uniquely experienced guide and interpreter—a judge.

Perhaps what surprised me most about my clinical experience was the willingness of the judge for whom I worked to give me honest, thorough answers to the many questions I asked. In his chambers at the end of the day, we discussed why the judge decided as he did on motions or fees or sentences; how lawyers’ courtroom behaviors or actions struck the judge and what that meant; why something unfolded the way it had in court that day; and issues pertaining to and affecting local, state, and national judicial processes. I observed arraignments, motion hearings, civil trials, criminal trials, and sentencing. I sat in front of the judge’s bench with his clerk, so I was privy to sidebars and pertinent documents. I witnessed skillful and not-as-skillful lawyering, and, from that, developed a better sense of what kind of attorney I hope to be. I saw a part of the justice system that Massachusetts residents see, and I learned, a lot.

As my impending graduation begins to sink in, I have started to reflect on my time at HLS. The Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic, for the opportunity it gave me to pick a judge’s brain on a weekly basis and all it taught me about the community court system, stands out as a highlight.

A conversation with the Center for Court Innovation

By Michael Zuckerman, J.D. ’17

Judge John Cratsley’s Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic hosted the Center for Court Innovation’s Adam Mansky this past Monday for a lunchtime conversation on the Center’s work to drive criminal justice reform in New York. Mansky, who serves as the Center’s director of operations, also led discussion in the clinic’s class component on Monday night.

The Center for Court Innovation is a nonprofit headquartered in New York City that seeks to reform local criminal justice systems so that they both treat defendants better and produce better social outcomes. To those ends, the Center both develops knowledge and put that knowledge into practice by launching innovative operating projects — including groundbreaking courts like the Red Hook Community Justice Center and programs like Newark Community Solutions — that model effective change.

The Center’s work, as Mansky explains, is based on two core ideas: First, that using community interventions other than jail are likely to increase public safety in lower-level cases. Second, that if defendants feel that they’ve been treated fairly — if their adjudication is procedurally just — they’ll be more likely to meet their obligations to the community going forward. A wide and growing body of empirical research, Mansky notes, supports both.

Mansky’s talk emphasized that the current “critical time in criminal justice” — with growing awareness of mass incarceration, racial inequities in sentencing, and police misconduct — has created “an opportunity to rethink how we do things.” And he noted that the system in New York City is beginning to respond: the use of stop-and-frisk is way down, nonjailable offenses that used to lead to arrest warrants when fines weren’t paid are now being shifted into civil territory, and a commission has been convened to explore closing the City’s infamous Riker’s Island.

Mansky praised the current progress but also questioned whether it contained enough of an “articulation” of what should replace our existing, flawed system. “We see triage, but not really a vision. No one is asking the bigger question: OK, so, what should the system look like?”

The Center is working hard to produce that kind of vision. Key to that effort are the Center’s pioneering courts, which, Mansky explained, provide “community-based interventions in lieu of incarceration and criminal conviction.” In Red Hook, for example, available programs range from trauma counseling and drug treatment to a Navajo peacemaking circle, community service, a youth court, and other forms of restorative practice. The Center has also spurred a police-and-prosecutor-led diversion program for first-time, 16-and-17-year-old offenders in a handful of police precincts — a program that is now ready to expand throughout Manhattan and eventually throughout the city. And they have launched a supervised-release program that allows several of their courts to interpose an alternative between money bail and personal-recognizance release.

Mansky spoke to a full seminar room that included participants in Judge Cratsley’s clinic, other HLS students, and members of the community. Judge Cratsley’s clinic places twenty-five HLS students, the largest group ever enrolled, in clinical internships with trial judges throughout the Massachusetts court system, including the Boston Municipal Court, the Massachusetts Superior Court, and U.S. District Court.

Mansky closed by emphasizing the tensions between accountability and humanity in criminal justice — twin goals that have both proved elusive for many local systems in recent years. “I’ve been to many community meetings where I’ve heard some people say, ‘Why are the police stopping my son?’” Mansky recalled. “But there are also a lot of people saying, ‘What are you going to do about this condition in my hall, or the dealers on the corner?’” The Center continues to work, Mansky said, to “figure out what’s a meaningful and proportionate response rather than just jumping to the most draconian response of incarceration.”

Beginnings in the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic

By Hon. John Cratsley (Ret.)

Twenty-five HLS students, the largest group ever enrolled in the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic and class, have just started their work with judges throughout the Massachusetts trial courts. Their judicial internships include the U. S. District Court, the Massachusetts Superior Court, Boston Municipal Court, Quincy District Court, Boston Juvenile Court and the Land Court.

I am pleased with the variety of placements achieved this year as they both meet the range of student interests and provide for a lively exchange of experiences in the classroom. The four LLM students, including judges from Japan and Korea, further enrich the class with comparative international observations.

Student reflections on their first days with their judges confirm the value of leaving the classroom for the courtroom. Four student comments, each give a different perspective on the value of their clinical opportunity to work with a judge:

  • “I very much enjoyed my first day in court. The judge was incredibly nice to me and impressive on the bench. The trial I watched was complex and emotionally intense.”
  • “This proved a great opportunity to watch lawyers in the courtroom and review their work with a judge. I learned a tremendous amount about how I should act in a courtroom and what proved successful.”
  • “I realized that I’d gained a new-found appreciation for the role of demeanor in helping judges manage their various duties at the head of the court.”
  • “It was totally different from anything I had ever seen before, which was exactly what I wanted in choosing juvenile court; a different perspective on issues that affect children.”

Whether a student gains a new understanding of the judicial role or learns how to be effective in the courtroom, having an inside perspective on the work of the judiciary is a unique opportunity.

Judge John Cratsley (Ret.): A mediation and arbitration champion of the community

Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.)

Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.)

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs offers its heartfelt congratulations to Lecturer on Law and Director of the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic, Judge John C. Cratsley (Ret.) on his Community Peacemaker Award.

The award was presented on October 14, 2015 by the Community Dispute Settlement Center (CDSC), a private, not-for-profit mediation and training center dedicated to providing an alternative and affordable forum for resolving conflict. The award celebrates the accomplishments of the mediation community. CDSC also honored the Founder and Executive Director of InnerCity Weightlifting Jon Feinman and the Cambridge Rindge & Latin Mediation Team with similar Community Peacemaker Awards.

Community Dispute Settlement Center’s Profile of Judge John Cratsley 

The Honorable John Cratsley (Ret.) is a mediator and arbitrator in the JAMS Boston Office. JAMS is an internationally recognized ADR firm. His mediations and arbitrations frequently involve business and employment disputes as well as construction and commercial matters.

Prior to joining JAMS in early 2012, Judge Cratsley served on the Massachusetts Superior Court from 1987 to 2011 and on the District Court from 1973 to 1983. In the interim period, 1983 to 1987, he was Chief of the Public Protection Bureau for Attorney General Frank Bellotti. While on the Superior Court, Judge Cratsley served as Regional Administrative Judge in both Suffolk and Norfolk Counties.

Judge Cratsley was instrumental in the passage of the Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution which were developed during his tenure as Chair of the Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution from 1999 to 2004.

Judge Cratsley currently teaches both at Boston College and Harvard Law School as well as in MCLE and Bar Association continuing education programs. He currently volunteers as a mediator in Suffolk Superior Court for those who cannot afford private mediation. He also serves on the Planning Board and the Community Preservation Committee in his hometown of Concord.

Judge Cratsley is a member of the Board of Directors of Communities for Restorative Justice, a community-based restorative justice program working with police departments in twelve suburban cities and towns. He recently completed two years as one of the five retired judges appointed Special Judicial Magistrates to hear cases resulting from the faulty state drug lab work of the now convicted chemist Annie Dookhan.

On and off the bench, Judge Cratsley’s work continues to reflect his commitment to community peacemaking, an outstanding lifetime achievement.