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Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

Tag: Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic (page 2 of 2)

Christopher Melendez ’15 Wins CLEA’s Outstanding Clinical Student Award

Dean Martha Minow (center left) and students who are part of Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic spoke with judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Christopher Melendez, J.D. ’15 (third from the right) with Dean Martha Minow (center left), judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and students who were part of Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic.

Congratulations to Christopher Melendez J.D. ’15, on winning the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA). The award is presented annually to one student from each law school for his/her outstanding clinical coursework and contributions to the clinical community.

Chris was nominated by Clinical Professor of Law Daniel Nagin for his work with the Veterans Legal Clinic. Over the course of his three years at Harvard Law, Chris has logged hundreds of pro bono hours in service to the community and excelled as a clinical law student.

“I have had a fantastic experience working with the Veterans Legal Clinic,” said Chris. “Not only did I receive an immensely practical education, but I was also able to work with engaging clients and novel issues of law. Having left the Marine Corps to attend law school, the Veterans Legal Clinic also gave me the personal satisfaction of connecting with a broad community of Massachusetts veterans.”

Chris first joined the Clinic as a summer intern during his 1L year. He worked long hours crafting appellate briefs, representing clients, and interviewing new clients who contacted the Clinic. He then enrolled in the Veterans Legal Clinic as a 2L clinical student. During his first semester in the Clinic, along with student co-counsel, Chris briefed and argued a significant case before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The case involved a question of first impression regarding whether the Court’s own filing deadline for commencing an appeal from an adverse VA decision could be extended because of a veteran’s difficulties readjusting to civilian life following a combat deployment.

“Chris spent day after day preparing for the argument and worked seamlessly with his fellow students on the team to consider the case from every angle,” said Nagin. In a precedential decision, Ausmer v. Shinseki, 26 Vet.App. 392 (2013), the Court ruled in favor of the veteran and for the first time applied the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to the Court’s own filing deadline.  The decision not only allowed this individual veteran’s disability appeal to be heard on the merits, but protects the appellate rights of other veterans who have service-connected disabilities and experienced multiple deployments.

“Together with his fellow students on the team, it was Chris’ determination, creativity, smarts, and grit that helped bring justice to this veteran and many other veterans who will benefit from the Court’s decision,” said Dan Nagin.

“Arguing Ausmer v. Shinseki  was the highlight of my experience at HLS,” said Chris. “I met esteemed judges, set precedent and was able to see the case through to a successful remand to the VA. Because of this experience, I can head into professional life fully prepared to conduct veterans advocacy throughout the VA appeals process.”

“I am also leaving HLS with a deep sense of the problems—and achievements—of the VA as well as the place that intelligently directed advocacy can play in its reform.”

Chris’s contributions to the Clinic were not confined to a single case.  He returned to the Clinic as a continuing student and worked on countless veterans’ cases involving a range of legal issues. Among other things, he represented disabled veterans in estate planning matters, including drafting a sophisticated trust instrument to help protect the limited assets of one client facing serious health issues. Chris also helped mentor new clinic students. Even after completing his clinic semester, his dedication found new outlets. He helped the Clinic staff the legal assistance tent at Massachusetts Stand Down, a day-long summer event to link homeless and at-risk veterans to services. After graduation, Chris will join the Boston office of the international law firm Morgan Lewis.

Clinic student finds a meaningful experience in representing veterans

Kathleen Borschow, J.D. '15

Kathleen Borschow, J.D. ’15

By Kathleen Borschow, J.D. ’15

I wanted to be involved in clinical work as early into law school as possible, so I joined Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights my 1L fall year. I was assigned to the International Human Rights Clinic’s Right to Heal Project, which sought to bring attention to and seek justice for veterans suffering from the “invisible wounds of war.” It was my first experience working on veterans’ issues, and I was deeply troubled. When it was time to enroll in a clinic my 2L year, the Veterans Legal Clinic was an easy choice.

Under the supervision of Clinical Professor of Law Daniel Nagin and Clinical Fellow Betsy Gwin, students in the clinic get to work on various types of cases. I helped veterans seeking a discharge upgrade, which can be crucial for eligibility to receive medical and educational benefits as well as basic employment. I guided them through the challenges in navigating the vast VA bureaucracy: requesting and waiting for records from various entities, submitting claims to remote decision makers, understanding the sometimes complex procedural posture of their claims, and waiting months—or years—for a decision. I also assisted an unemployed veteran appealing termination of Massachusetts’ public assistance program for indigent and disabled veterans. Although we were unable to represent him, I advised him on how better to advocate for himself in a system that seems unsympathetic and unfair to unrepresented claimants.

I spent half of my semester working on an appeal brief to the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims challenging a denial of VA disability benefits for post-traumatic stress as a result of military sexual trauma. One in three military women is sexually assaulted, and one in five women veterans will develop post-traumatic stress (PTS) as a result of military sexual trauma and other traumatic experiences while in service. Few of these women can successfully access the VA healthcare system, disability benefits, or educational loans to receive the assistance they so desperately need to rebuild their lives post-service. This leads tens of thousands of women veterans into poverty and homelessness—many are single mothers, and suicide rates are staggering.

As is all too common in cases of military sexual trauma, our client had not sought treatment or applied for benefits until decades after her separation from the military during the Vietnam Era. Working with Dan, Betsy, and two other clinical students, we appealed the Board of Veterans Appeals’ decision denying her claim. Our brief was wholly successful: opposing counsel did not file an opposition brief and instead made our client an excellent settlement offer. After decades of neglect by an unfair system, with our help, our client finally attained a measure of justice—and an opportunity for income assistance—she so needs and deserves. It was unquestionably my most meaningful experience in law school.

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.

CLEA Files Amicus Brief in VA Attorneys’ Fees Case

Via the Clinical Law Prof Blog

CLEA has filed an amicus brief in the case of Rogers v. McDonald in the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The case involves a successful claim by Harvard’s Veterans Clinic and the VA’s refusal to pay attorneys fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act. 

The brief is available at CLEA’s site here. 

From the introduction:

A federal judge once said, “[W]hen all else fails . . . , consult the statute.” Here, the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) is clear. Under the terms of the statute, Mr. Rogers is the prevailing party, the government’s position was not substantially justified, and there are no special circumstances that make an award unjust. The Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) does not dispute any of these points. Therefore, the plain language of the statute dictates that the “court shall award . . . fees and other expenses.” 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A).

VA fails to identify any statutory text modifying this clear directive or otherwise supporting its position that the EAJA does not authorize recovery for work performed by law students in law school clinics. Instead, VA relies on misapplied law and misplaced policy in proposing a bar on EAJA awards that would decrease access to legal counsel, disincentivize work done by law school clinics, and diminish law students’ ability to serve unrepresented citizens. . . .

Fresh start at the VA

Photo by Heratch Photography “I think the VA is heading in a new direction, and I would argue the right direction, and making progress,” U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert McDonald told his Harvard Law School audience. Among ongoing issues, he described a “critical shortage” of doctors and nurses, and the need to provide better facilities for women.

Photo by Heratch Photography
“I think the VA is heading in a new direction, and I would argue the right direction, and making progress,” U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert McDonald told his Harvard Law School audience. Among ongoing issues, he described a “critical shortage” of doctors and nurses, and the need to provide better facilities for women.

Via the Harvard Gazette 

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert McDonald says the troubled agency is making slow progress in getting its house in order, citing more — and more timely — appointments and authorizations to see private doctors for veterans who live far from VA hospitals.

McDonald was confirmed in July to take over the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after a scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital revealed enormous wait lists for appointments, resulting in delayed treatment that may have cost lives.

McDonald, speaking at Harvard Law School on Monday, said that from May to September the VA had 1.2 million more appointments than during the same period a year earlier, and 98 percent of them were completed within 30 days of the patient’s preferred time. On top of that, he said, between May and November, 1.5 million authorizations were made for private care — a 50 percent increase over the same period a year earlier — for veterans who lived far from a VA clinic or hospital. The department also is reorganizing and building more facilities.

“I think the VA is heading in a new direction, and I would argue the right direction, and making progress,” McDonald said. …

McDonald was the inaugural speaker in a new lecture series at Harvard Law School, the Disabled American Veterans Distinguished Speaker Series, supported by the nonprofit organization Disabled American Veterans. The group’s past national commander, Alan Bowers, said the series is a recognition of both the work Harvard Law School has done for disabled veterans through its legal clinic, and the help that a future generation of lawyers can give to veterans fighting for their benefits.

Continue reading the full story here.

HLS legal clinic lands victories for veterans

HLS student Andrew Roach ’13 (left) and Clinical Professor Daniel Nagin meet with a veteran at HLS's Veterans Legal Clinic to discuss the status of a case on appeal. The clinic’s value is manifold, Nagin said, noting, “It’s a privilege to be able to advocate for someone who’s sacrificed for the nation.”

HLS student Andrew Roach ’13 (left) and Clinical Professor Daniel Nagin meet with a veteran at HLS’s Veterans Legal Clinic to discuss the status of a case on appeal. The clinic’s value is manifold, Nagin said, noting, “It’s a privilege to be able to advocate for someone who’s sacrificed for the nation.”

Via the Harvard Gazette

Standing in near-frozen water while guarding a bridge during the notorious Battle of the Bulge in 1945, the infantryman sustained such severe frostbite he almost lost a foot. Evacuated to a hospital in England, he avoided amputation but had serious problems with his feet the rest of his life. When he died in 2008 from a variety of health problems, his widow — who had very little income — applied for a type of benefit for survivors of veterans whose death had resulted, at least in part, from a service-related disability. But a doctor with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) said losing the use of his feet had nothing to do with her husband’s death.

It took nearly six years and a trip to federal court, but with the help of the Harvard Law School (HLS) Veterans Legal Clinic the widow finally prevailed, winning a monthly payment from the VA that completely changes her financial health. While two other VA doctors concurred with the first opinion, the clinic retained two experts of its own who reached the opposite conclusion. Under the guidance of Clinical Professor of Law Daniel Nagin, who founded the clinic in 2012, Christopher Patalano ’14 wrote a winning brief that persuaded the Board of Veterans Appeals that the VA was wrong. Chris Melendez ’15, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, also worked on the case as a summer intern at the clinic.

“I hardly had [any] income. Now I know I have something I can stand on. I’ve got more to live for,” the elderly client said as she thanked the students and Nagin for her victory.

“After knowing that she had fought so hard and so long for these benefits,” said Patalano, “it was an extremely happy day when we received the final decision from the VA.”

In just two years, more than 30 HLS students have enrolled in the Veterans Legal Clinic — housed at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center (LSC) in Jamaica Plain, with Nagin as its faculty director — and represented more than 100 clients in areas of federal and state veterans’ benefits, discharge upgrades, and estate-planning matters. They have landed numerous victories before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) and in veteran-related federal and state agencies, and assisted many more vets in companion programs at the Legal Services Center in such areas as combating predatory student lending, foreclosure defense, family law, and tax law.

Among other victories, they obtained service-connected disability benefits for an Afghanistan war veteran diagnosed with cancer; won a female veteran’s appeal to the CAVC of the VA’s decision to deny her PTSD benefits for military sexual trauma; and successfully represented a veteran in an appeal of a state agency’s decision to deny benefits based on the character of his military discharge. The clinic also offers veterans estate planning under the guidance of Clinical Instructor Tamara Kolz Griffin, an excellent opportunity for students looking to develop their skills outside the courtroom.

Continue reading the full story here.

Clinic awarded $1M for veterans’ advocacy

Credit: Tony Rinaldo (From left) Christopher J. Clay, general counsel, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust; Elizabeth Gwin, attorney and DAV Charitable Service Trust Fellow in the Veterans Legal Clinic, Legal Services Center; HLS Clinical Professor Daniel Nagin; Richard E. Marbes, chairman of the board of directors, DAV Charitable Service Trust; HLS Dean Martha Minow; Juan Arguello, ’15; Zoe Bedell ’16; Lisa Dealy, assistant dean, Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs at HLS.

Credit: Tony Rinaldo
(From left) Christopher J. Clay, general counsel, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust; Elizabeth Gwin, attorney and DAV Charitable Service Trust Fellow in the Veterans Legal Clinic, Legal Services Center; HLS Clinical Professor Daniel Nagin; Richard E. Marbes, chairman of the board of directors, DAV Charitable Service Trust; HLS Dean Martha Minow; Juan Arguello, ’15; Zoe Bedell ’16; Lisa Dealy, assistant dean, Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs at HLS.

Via HLS News

In August, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust significantly increased an existing grant to expand its support of the Veterans Legal Clinic and other veterans’ advocacy program at Harvard Law School’s WilmerHale Legal Services Center. The grant, which now totals $1 million to cover four years of veterans’ advocacy, supports the clinic’s work in a number of practice areas including federal court appeals of veterans’ benefit denials, discharge upgrades, estate planning, combatting predatory student lending, and IRS tax controversies. Among other things, the grant enabled the clinic to hire attorney Elizabeth R. Gwin as the DAV Charitable Service Trust Fellow, where she works across several of these practice areas.

A portion of the grant is devoted to launching the DAV Distinguished Speaker Series at HLS in collaboration with the HLS Armed Forces Association (AFA). The first lecture will be delivered by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald, who will be introduced by Senator Jack Reed ’82, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. McDonald, also a West Point graduate and former CEO of the Proctor & Gamble Company, will speak at the law school on November 24.

HLS Dean Martha Minow said: “This exceptionally supportive grant from the DAV Charitable Service Trust is real cause for celebration because it supports expansion of critically important legal services for our veterans and great opportunities for our talented and dedicated students.  Even in the short span of time since the launch of our Veterans Clinic, our students’ advocacy has produced landmark victories on behalf of veterans, and I am so grateful that with this terrific grant so many more can obtain help in securing benefits and fair treatment for those who have so selflessly served our nation.”

Continue reading the full story here.

A case for veterans

L-R: Brad Hinshelwood (3L), Juan Arguello (2L), Dean Martha Minow, Chief Judge Bruce E. Kasold, Christopher Melendez (2L), Judge Mary J. Schoelen, and Judge William S. Greenberg

Via: Harvard Gazette

The average week for a typical law school student involves poring over a list of daunting cases and deconstructing complicated arguments. But last week the work of three Harvard Law School (HLS) students included something else: an appearance in federal court.

The students, who are part of the School’s Veterans Legal Clinic, stood before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims last Wednesday to argue for the rights of their client, a decorated U.S. Army veteran.

As part of its annual educational and outreach campaign, a three-judge panel traveled from Washington, D.C., to Harvard’s Ames Courtroom to hear oral arguments in the case of Ausmer v. Shinseki, involving a disabled combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The case involves the rights of deployed service members who also have benefits claims pending at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“The fact that we have a service member here who was deployed, who had some difficulty imposed upon him by that deployment, and allegedly missed the deadline to appeal the VA’s decision, presents the opportunity to argue before the court not just the facts, but the law, and find out what his rights are and establish those rights in the future,” said HLS student Christopher Melendez, who helped argue the case.

Melendez, along with fellow students Bradley Hinshelwood and Juan Arguello, represented Lt. Col. Wilson J. Ausmer Jr., who was recalled to active duty in 2011, after he had filed a claim for disability compensation. The Veterans Board of Appeals decision was delivered to Ausmer’s home while he was stationed in Afghanistan. At issue in the case is whether he missed the deadline by filing the appeal after he returned home.

Ausmer’s legal team argued that there were defects in mailing the decision and that the VA did not consider the challenges Ausmer faced upon returning to civilian life.

“The case really turns on the question of what rules, what appeal deadline should apply when a denial is issued by the VA but the veteran is redeployed,” said Daniel Nagin, a clinical professor of law at HLS who directs the School’s community lawyering program and the Veterans Legal Clinic, which are based at Harvard’s Legal Services Center. Nagin supervised the team of HLS students who worked on the case.

“We are arguing to the court that the veteran being overseas when the decision was issued should prevent the appeal clock from starting to tick because of the way that the decision was mailed,” said Nagin, “and alternatively that the court should give him extra time to file his appeal because of his particular circumstances.”

The court, which also heard arguments on Wednesday from VA representatives, will likely issue its ruling on the case in the coming months. It’s a decision that could have far-reaching implications for veterans regularly recalled to active duty.

“One of the hallmarks or signatures of these recent conflicts, in terms of military personnel, is multiple deployments,” said Nagin. “We don’t think our client is the only one grappling with how these appeal deadlines would apply.”

The group Disabled American Veterans has been assisting throughout the proceedings.

To prepare for the case, the HLS students took on the role of lawyers, spending countless hours researching and reviewing previous rulings and writing and filing briefs with the court. Working closely with Nagin and their co-counsel from the law firm Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick, the students also challenged themselves in rigorous moot court sessions.

“You have to be prepared for pretty much anything,” said Hinshelwood, who was tested early when the judges interrupted his opening statement with a barrage of questions. But Hinshelwood stayed calm, carefully responding to each query. In an interview before the session, he said the opportunity to participate in the case was likely “the best practice you can get for actually being a lawyer.”

“So much of the law school education is really oriented around reading case law, thinking about the policy implications of legal rules, or learning those legal rules,” he said. “There really aren’t many opportunities, other than clinics, to apply the stuff you learn in class to actual facts and actual situations. And so to have the opportunity to do that is hugely valuable.”

Melendez, a former Marine, and Hinshelwood, who knew many people who served in the military from his small hometown in Virginia, said working with the Veterans Legal Clinic has inspired them to work on similar issues in the future.

“This will not be the last time that I do veterans work,” said Melendez.

“I’d love to continue to do this kind of work, if not full-time, in some kind of pro bono capacity, because there is a lot of work out there,” said Hinshelwood. “It’s obviously an area of huge need.”

The court was created in 1988 to review decisions on claims handed down by the Veterans Board.

The judges posed for photographs with the students before the proceedings and held a question-and-answer session with the courtroom audience following the oral arguments. They explained that the court started traveling to law schools as part of an educational campaign in 2001. “We want to introduce students to the idea that there is veterans law,” said Chief Judge Bruce E. Kasold.

It is “an area that they can either pursue working at the court, or in private practice or [with] the VA, or potentially as a pro-bono counsel,” added Judge Mary J. Schoelen. “We have a very robust pro bono program before our court.”

United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims comes to Harvard Law School

L-R: Christopher Melendez (2L), Brad Hinshelwood (3L), Juan Arguello (2L)

Written by Sarah Flowers, Student in the Veterans Law Clinic.

For the first time in its history, today Harvard Law School hosted the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims (CAVC). The CAVC is a court of national jurisdiction based in Washington, D.C., with authority to sit anywhere in the United States. Notably, this morning’s oral argument in the Ames Courtroom represents one of only two instances in the Court’s history that law students have presented oral argument to the Court. Harvard Law students Brad Hinshelwood (3L) and Christopher Melendez (2L)—participants in the HLS Veterans Legal Clinic—presented oral argument on behalf of client Lieutenant Colonel William Ausmer in the case Ausmer v. Shinseki. HLS 2L Juan Arguello is also on the Ausmer legal team, as were 3L Abigail Dwyer Matltz and Michael Lieberman ’13 during the prior semester’s Veterans Legal Clinic.

Importantly, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is not part of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Veterans Administration (VA). Rather, the Court was created in 1988 to provide independent judicial review of final decisions given by Veterans Law Judges on the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). BVA decisions represent final determinations at the agency level. These agency determinations were not subject to independent judicial review before the creation of the CAVC in 1988, as VA had heretofore operated virtually free of judicial oversight.

At the agency level, up until a case is appealed to the CAVC, proceedings are not adversarial in nature. Indeed, the VA has a “duty to assist” each veteran filing a new claim and appealing a decision at the agency level. When a veteran chooses to appeal the final agency determination issued by the BVA, he or she is bringing a legal action against the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The Court—either as a single judge, a three-judge panel, or sitting en banc—reviews the BVA decision, the written record, the briefs of the parties. Occasionally the Court will allow (or require) oral argument for cases which present novel questions on potentially precedential issues.

Today, HLS students advocated on behalf of LTC Ausmer on the question of whether LTC Ausmer (the appellant), who was serving in Afghanistan when the Board of Veteran’s Appeals (Board) mailed notice of its decision to his home address stateside, is entitled to statutory and equitable tolling of the 120-day period to file a Notice of Appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claim. The HLS students also argued that tolling isn’t required at all if the Court finds that VA provided inadequate notice to LTC Ausmer of his procedural rights and/or improper notice of the underlying decision. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals denied LTC Ausmer’s claim for disability benefits for an injury to his lower extremities, but the decision was handed down while he was serving in Afghanistan, and he was unable to pursue his right to appeal until after he returned from his deployment and readjusted to civilian life—after the appeal deadline has passed. The Court is expected to issue its decision in Ausmer v. Shinseki in the coming months.

At the conclusion of oral argument—with the Court in recess—the three CAVC judges returned to Ames Courtroom to participate in a lively question & answer session with event attendees. The judges were able to field many interesting questions concerning the Court’s approach to the unique issues facing veterans. In conclusion, the judges expressed enthusiasm toward further development of clinics and pro bono practices which serve the needs of our country’s service men and women.

A Hot Bench!

L-R: Professor Daniel Nagin, Juan Arguello (2L), HLS Dean Martha Minow, Brad Hinshelwood (3L), Christopher Melendez (2L)

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims convened in HLS’s Ames Courtroom to hear the case of Ausmer v. Shinseki.  The court is based in Washington D.C. but is authorized to hear cases anywhere in the United States.  A legal team from our own Veterans Legal Clinic (Professor Daniel Nagin, 3L Bradley Hinshelwood, 2L Christopher Melendez and 2L Juan Arguello) was co-counsel with Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick for the Appellant. Brad and Chris shared the 30 minutes they were allocated for oral argument.  Brad was first up and was not able to complete his first sentence before he was peppered with questions from the three-judge panel.  Chris had 10 minutes for rebuttal and was also questioned closely.  Both students were very composed and certainly did us and their client proud!  In thanking everyone at the end of the post-hearing Q and A, Dean Martha Minow noted that it was a tremendous honor to see a court serving veterans who had in turn served our country.  At the All Staff Luncheon soon afterwards, she told everyone present about the event and said “it made this Dean’s heart grow large”.


HLS Students Serve Veterans in New Clinic

Andrew Roach ’13 and Dan Nagin meet with a veteran. [Photo by Martha Stewart]

The summer issue of Harvard Law Bulletin highlights the new Veterans Legal Clinic, which provides legal services to veterans in cases involving benefits, discharge, military records, and healthcare, among other issues. The article provides insight into Clinical Professor Dan Nagin’s goals for starting the clinic, how students handle complex cases, and the clinic’s partnership with the law firm Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick, which enables students to gain experience in federal court. As professor Nagin reflects, “[Veterans] cases are very good teaching tools to expose students to legal issues that are rich and complex, not to mention the human dimension of the cases”. More…

Events: April 1 – 14

What: Clinical Registration Opens for 2013-14 Academic Year
When: Wed, April 3, 9am
Note: Clinical registration is for the entire 2013-14 year.

What: Veterans Legal Clinic Panel
When: Wed, April 3, 12-1pm
Where: WCC 2019 Milstein West A
Details: With featured speaker Coleman Nee (Secretary of MA Department of Veterans’ Services), Zach Stolz (Chisholm, Chisholm & Kilpatrick) and Dan Nagin (Clinical Professor and Director of HLS’s Veterans Legal Clinic). Join panelists and student members of the Veterans Legal Clinic to learn about the urgent needs of local veterans and the exciting work students are undertaking on their behalf. Lunch provided. (Flyer below)

What: Clinical Registration Closes for 2013-14 Academic Year
When: Fri, April 5, 12:59pm
Note: Clinical registration is for the entire 2013-14 year.

What: Toward a Civil Gideon: The Future of Legal Services
When: Sat, April 6, 10:15-3:30pm
Where: Wasserstein Hall 1015
Details: This symposium will feature scholar-practitioners from around the country discussing the access to justice crisis and how to solve it. Panelists include: Scott Cummings (UCLA); Russell Engler (New England School of Law); Jim Greiner (HLS); David Grossman (HLS); Gene Nichol (Center on Poverty); Deborah Rhode (Stanford); Rebecca Sandefur (U of I); and Richard Zorza (UCLA). If you can’t make it the whole day, feel free to stop by when you are available!

What: The People’s Law School: Community Education Workshops & Open House
When: Sat, April 13, 1-5pm
Where: 122 Boylston Street Jamaica Plain, MA. 02130
Details: Presented by the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School This is a Free Event, Registration Not Required. For More Information Call 617-522-3003 (Flyer below) Continue reading

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