“All Rise!”, Episode 4: Alex Whiting

The Harvard Law Record’s first podcast — All Rise! has just released its fourth episode: an interview with Harvard Law professor and former International Criminal Court prosecutions coordinator Alex Whiting. All Rise! is a longform interview podcast in which Harvard Law 1Ls Brady Bender and Pete Davis interview members of the Harvard community. You can subscribe to All Rise! on iTunes here and listen to this week’s episode below:

When Life Begins: A Reply to Dr. Matthew Borths

This article is a response to Josh Craddock’s opinion piece The Least Safe Space,” which ran on March 7, 2016, and Dr. Matthew Borths’s letter to the editor, A Response to ‘The Least Safe Space’,” which ran on March 8.


Dr. Borths’ response to Josh Craddock’s article appears to make two main points:

  1. Craddock’s credibility is questionable; and
  2. Craddock does not adequately support the proposition that human life begins at—that is, a human organism begins to exist at the moment of—conception. [1]

But the arguments Dr. Borths offers in support of these points are not only weak; they are also hypocritical.

Continue reading “When Life Begins: A Reply to Dr. Matthew Borths”

OCS Responds to Ralph Nader’s Concerns about Firm Violations

This letter is a response to Ralph Nader to Dean Minow: Inform Students About Firm Violations, which ran on April 25, 2016.

Dear Mr. Nader,

I am responding to your open letter to Dean Minow in the Harvard Law Record on April 26, 2016.

 We share your belief that students should have the best information about potential employers. We prepare students to take full responsibility for every aspect of their academic and professional lives, and to be educated consumers and their own best advocates. Our students are superbly equipped to find all relevant information and then make well-considered judgments on the basis of that information. And through this experience, they learn and develop a set of professional life skills that will serve them well throughout their careers as they change jobs and evaluate future employers. Continue reading “OCS Responds to Ralph Nader’s Concerns about Firm Violations”

Mercy For Animals General Counsel Vandhana Bala Describes Animal Welfare and the Power of Undercover Investigations

Vandhana Bala’s talk at HLS on April 6 provided a first hand perspective of some of the Animal Welfare Movement’s biggest hurdles and greatest successes, particularly as they relate to farmed animals. As stated on its website, Mercy For Animals “is an international non profit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassion food choices and policies…”

MFA has conducted over 40 undercover investigations in efforts to shine light on the agricultural industry and the secrets it keeps from consumers with respect to its treatment of animals. Ms. Bala made clear that MFA operates on the premise that the public has the right to know and ought to know what’s going on behind closed doors. Such investigations have cohesively revealed that standard working conditions on farms include grinding up live male chicks (as only the females are useful to the egg industry), throwing male chicks into trash bags, leaving them to die,, burning off beaks, castrating piglets, cutting off tails of cows, among numerous other equally barbaric practices. Luckily, consumers themselves are demanding greater transparency, which makes investigative footage all the more valuable, as consumers today are willing to watch and listen. The investigations have helped enforce existing animal protection laws, although such laws are few. There are even fewer that protect farmed animals, and a majority of U.S. states have common farming exemptions within animal protection laws, making the above practices entirely legal. Further, if the exemptions aren’t explicitly stated, prosecutors are prone to reading them into the law. It is for this reason that animal cruelty suits are only brought for the most “malicious, sadistic acts of cruelty.”

With respect to the enactment of new laws, investigative footage was instrumental to the advocacy for a ban on cruel confinement in Ohio and in California, MFA released two investigations of egg factory farms before their proposition on cruel confinement was passed. Investigative footage has also led to significant corporate policy changes, resulting in to the improvement of billions of animal lives. Nestle and Wal-Mart have both been investigated and relevant footage led to improved Animal Welfare policies by both; Nestlé’s improved policies proved internationally expansive, as they affected their supply in 90 countries. These investigations are reported on by some of the biggest media outlets globally, and surveys have confirmed that the public does want humane treatment of farmed animals regardless of whether the animals are ultimately slaughtered for consumption. Ms. Bala specifically cited a study done by Kansas State University in which it was shown that every time an investigation was released to the public, the demand for animal products would go down, regardless of the subject matter-i.e. an investigation on broiler chickens could reduce the demand for pork, beef or dairy products.[1]

The Agro industry, however, is fighting back through “Ag-gag” legislation. Ag-gag laws are enacted to prevent investigators from successfully documenting the conditions on factory farms by making such documenting illegal. The American Legislative Exchange Council reportedly “masterminded” the idea of Ag-gag; this council has “prepared sample legislation to protect corporate interests” and have been behind such laws as the Stand Your Ground gun laws and Voter ID laws. Ag-gag laws are typified by whether they 1. ban falsifying any portion of a job application (the application will ask the job candidate if he/she has affiliations with Animal Protection organizations), 2. ban the use of any photography/video on such facilities or 3. require that any documentation of cruelty to farmed animals be immediately provided to law enforcement. The third type is cleverly framed as a way to promote prompt reporting of such cruelties.

The genius/evil of Ag-gag is that “instead of doing something affirmatively to improve conditions” its goal is to simply make awareness of any deplorable conditions inaccessible to the public. Ag-gag is a “slap in the face of transparency,” and “infringe[s] upon our right to know something about an issue as important as the food that we’re eating.” Legislators are, however, aware that Ag-gag laws are incredibly unpopular with the public, and those in favor of Ag-gag will ensure that passage of such laws are as speedy as possible or will sneak them into animal protection legislation, so as to avoid media and public outrage. Although the public is evidently against Ag-gag, Ag-gag’s success is due to the enormous influence of powerful and well-endowed lobbyists of the agricultural industry on certain corrupt legislators. In Iowa, the first state to pass Ag-gag laws, it was revealed that the agricultural industry had provided hefty campaign contributions for the elections of officials who went on to enact Ag-gag laws.

Ms. Bala provided a sense of hope, however, by proposing that Ag-gag is evidence of the agricultural industry’s growing need to fight Animal Welfare groups. While in the past Animal Welfare, as a concept, has been scoffed at by Agro-businesses, it is more recently, and particularly with the growing use of undercover investigations, that the agricultural industry is beginning to realize the impact Animal Welfare groups are having with the public. Ms. Bala went on to encourage the audience, and the public at large, to withdraw financial support from such industries, by cutting back or cutting out meat from our diets and to spread awareness of factory farming practices through social media and word of mouth. Also critical, said Ms. Bala, was the need for writing to legislators about these issues and questioning political candidates about their views on these issues. Ultimately, “there’s work we can all do.”

[1] http://www.mercyforanimals.org/files/Kansas_State_Media.pdf

Taking the Bitter with the Sweet

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent…The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men [and women] of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.

-Justice Louis D. Brandeis

Let’s make a deal: I’ll give you the opportunity to join a sports team, be its captain, and then go on to win a Rhodes Scholarship to study in England. The only catch? You have to associate with the people I want you to. You have to do what I say and let them in. If you resist, if you cry for help, if you refuse to comply, well, none of these opportunities for you. Have fun with your friends.

But see, it’s OK. I can do this. Because I’m the one who let you in. I’m the one with the high standards, who picked you out of thousands, who let you have that “H” emblazoned onto your chest. I’m the one who feeds you. I’m the one who lets you learn. I’m the one who builds legacies. And though I’m not the one to control your little private club over there, I’m the one with the Power on this side of the street.

And you can’t say a thing. Because you’re the one who discriminates. You’re the one who extends the invitation to a specific few, decides they’d be a good fit, and lets them have that phoenix or that bee or that Greek letter emblazoned onto their chest. You’re the one who lets them party. You’re the one to fear.

I know that I haven’t provided safe spaces in the past.

I know that I don’t provide enough social spaces now.

But I’m just trying to be fair. Sure, some of my volunteer clubs still require people to apply. And I know that there is a lot of pressure to be smart and perfect and kind—to make some mistakes but not too many, to engage in debate but not disagree too much, to admit that you’re struggling but not too loudly. To say you’re OK when you’re really not.

But people don’t remember all of that. There’s a lot of “diversity” on my side. And they smile oh so nicely. So what if I don’t do a lot to actually make you all interact? You’re the bad one. I may create the problems on this side of the street, but it’s on your side where victims fall prey.

Maybe I’ve crafted an environment where everyone feels the need to be included — where instead of being free to say “no” and be OK with that, there is an overwhelming need to say “yes” and not be rejected. Sure, it could be better for all of your sakes to realize that you don’t have to bend to the will of others, that the world will not end if that one says “bye” because eventually someone will say “hello.”

Could I do more to make my side of the street more positive and healthy? To care for you when you get assaulted instead of putting you through the wringer? Could I admit that I’ve contributed to your plague, that sexual assault and gender discrimination happen in my sphere as well, that I’ve made you sick then sent you to the slaughter?

I could.

But first, I’m going to make you change. I’m going to force this pill down your throat. If I have to impose a quota, I’ll do it. If I have to deprive you of your social-moral freedoms of speech and association, I will. Because remember, I’m the good one.

I’m going to make you remember that I hold all the cards. I’m going to make you like it. Maybe not now. Maybe not tomorrow. But you don’t have a choice. You’ll like it eventually.


Adabelle U. Ekechukwu is a 1L. She graduated from Harvard College in 2014 as an active member of Pleiades Society and co-captain of the Varsity Women’s Track and Field team.

Letter to the Editor: 1L Reflection

This time last year I was finishing up my pre-law life. I had no conception of what law school, let alone Harvard Law School, would really be like. I couldn’t get time off work to come to an admitted students weekend, so the large blanks in my imagination were blurry, made up of whatever I could glean from books, friends and the internet.

From the outside, law school was alleged to be a vicious environment, where study groups evaluated résumés and the curve set everyone on edge and against each other. Professors stalked the classrooms, obsessed with humiliating the weak students, socratically eviscerating the unsuspecting and unprepared.

But of course, it wasn’t really like that. Perhaps I’ve been lucky in my experiences; I certainly feel that way. After all, there’s only one Professor Hanson. How can we ever thank him, our section leader, sufficiently? The deft fashion in which he bonded us together and set a high bar of mutual support and love will forever be my model for effective leadership. Or Professors Frug, Lahav, Gersen, Goldsmith and Wu, whose occasional piercing cold calls were so clearly borne out of a genuine and abiding passion for the subject, and the desire to instill knowledge in us, that it never stung too badly, if it hurt at all.

Continue reading “Letter to the Editor: 1L Reflection”

More Harvard Lab Cruelty Exposed? Enough is Enough.

Ever wondered what happens to animals in laboratories?

A whistleblower has just leaked photos and allegations of animal abuse at a Harvard lab. If you’re thinking, “Haven’t I heard this one before?” it’s because you pretty much have. The source, a Harvard Medical School (HMS) insider, reached out to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The whistleblower describes HMS experimenters injecting mice and rats with caustic materials, and killing and decapitating the animals.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, PETA then secured correspondence between HMS and the National Institutes of Health Continue reading “More Harvard Lab Cruelty Exposed? Enough is Enough.”

Dean Minow Encourages Students to Create a “Community of Respect”

The following letter was emailed to students by Dean Minow on May 3, 2016:

Dear students,

As the term ends, I write to express my best wishes for a productive and successful finish after a year of many accomplishments, challenges, and important discussions — and for all that is yet to come.

The idealism and concern demonstrated by so many this year point toward ways to build stronger communities here and elsewhere. I commend the creative and generous efforts by so many in clinics, journals, and student organizations, and the compassion and care that you have shown for each other during some difficult moments. These gifts of personal generosity and community are vitally important, especially when constructive dialogue has sometimes been overshadowed by expressions of prejudice, misguided fears and other emotions. Continue reading “Dean Minow Encourages Students to Create a “Community of Respect””

HLS Affinity Groups to Dean Minow: “Upstand” For Your Muslim Students

On Thursday, April 21st, one of our classmates woke up to defamatory allegations and a barrage of hate mail following the Tzipi Livni event. Some of these allegations linked to articles she had written in the past. Some found and posted her picture online. Some went so far as to demand that her recently awarded fellowship be revoked. All called her an anti-Semite.

In addition to the cyber harassment and threats, some of our classmates confronted her about her involvement in an event that she did not attend and knew nothing about. She was targeted for no reason other than her affiliation with the Muslim Law Students Association.

Continue reading “HLS Affinity Groups to Dean Minow: “Upstand” For Your Muslim Students”

Conquering Cold Calls

“Ms. Everett.”

My heart thumped; my stomach jumped; and I felt my face heating up. I knew it. Just like 1L. I knew I’d get called on the first day again. Here we go. I looked up at her, signaling I was ready for the inescapable interrogation.

“Ms. Everett. How is the Freedom of Religion Clause implicated in this case?”

“You mean like what does it say?”

She stepped forward. My voice had compromised my position in the auditorium, and she focused her gaze. “Yes. What is the Freedom of Religion Clause? What does it say?”

“Well, um, it says. It says that Congress can’t establish…” Wait. Is it that Congress can’t make a law that establishes a certain religion? Or that it can’t prohibit someone from practicing …  “Um. The government can’t make one religion…” Crap. Now my voice is getting all shaky. Just read, Angel. Continue reading “Conquering Cold Calls”

An Open Letter to the Harvard Law Review: Break Open HLS’ Inner Ring

Dear Editors of the Harvard Law Review,

In 1944 at the University of London, C.S. Lewis gave a speech entitled “The Inner Ring,” in which he warned the audience about a perennial human failing that would not be unfamiliar to Harvard Law School students a half a century later. In the speech, he described how inside any community — in “whatever hospital, inn of court, diocese, school, business or college you arrive” — you will find Inner Rings: exclusive internal communities on which you find yourself on the outside.  If you break into any of the Inner Rings, Lewis explains, you will find “that within the ring there [is] a Ring yet more inner.”  To Lewis, the desire to enter the next Inner Ring — and the terror of being left outside — is one of the dominant forces in our lives. Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Harvard Law Review: Break Open HLS’ Inner Ring”

When a perceived injustice breeds injustice

Fighting against injustice means saying something that might be unpopular. Fighting against injustice means saying something that could—actually will—offend some. So today, I stand up to say that the anti-Semitism claim against Husam El-Qoulaq, although an understandable initial interpretation of a perceived injustice, should henceforth retire. Our community has irresponsibly relied on an isolated use of the word “smelly”—rather than on context, conversations, and attempts to discern the intent behind El-Qoulaq’s actions—to substantiate this claim. This faulty dependence is a threat both to our sense of community, and to the ethical standards to which we should hold ourselves as future lawyers and future leaders. Continue reading “When a perceived injustice breeds injustice”

Where Are Ringling Elephants Really Headed?

On May 1, after more than a century of featuring elephants in its shows, the Ringling Bros. circus will wrap up its very last shows with these majestic animals. We’re told that the elephants are being “retired,” but where are they actually going?

While SeaWorld recently pledged to stop breeding orcas, Ringling has made clear that, though it will no longer use elephants in traveling circus acts, it has every intention of continuing to use them as breeding stock at its Florida compound— Continue reading “Where Are Ringling Elephants Really Headed?”

Letter to the Editor: Do not rush to judge Husam El-Qoulaq

To the editor:

I am a Jewish 3L classmate of Husam El-Qoulaq who would also like to remind readers not to rush to judge Husam.

I will start by distinguishing myself from other recent signatories. I believe that the State of Israel is the most moral government in the world, a government that has shown its unwavering commitment to human rights even in the face of endless provocation from Palestinian terrorism. I also believe the disproportionate criticism and demonization of Israel is a sign that anti-Semitism is still very alive and growing in 2016.

Nevertheless, as someone who has known Husam for quite some time and as someone who has had the opportunity to discuss Israeli-Palestinian issues with him on several occasions, I am very confident in saying that Husam is not the anti-Semite the online world is trying to make him out to be. Continue reading “Letter to the Editor: Do not rush to judge Husam El-Qoulaq”