Lambda Removes Diversity Amendment Following DOS Disapproval

Earlier this semester, members of Lambda conducted a comprehensive review of the organization’s policies and drafted amendments to its constitution and bylaws. Thirty-eight measures were approved in all, with one in particular igniting controversy: a requirement that election results be invalid if a single racial or gender group constitute two-thirds majority or more of the Board.

According to Lambda’s co-presidents, Lior Anafi and Sean Cuddihy—who wish to clarify that they speak as individuals, and do not represent any official position of Lambda—technical issues with the amendment and “opposition to its core mechanism” became apparent during the final stages of the review process.

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Reactions to Dershowitz Allegations Stir HLS

Alan Dershowitz, Professor of Law, Emeritus, has adamantly denied accusations that he engaged in sexual relations with an underage woman, referred to in court documents as Jane Doe #3. The allegations stem from a civil filing before a federal district court in Southern Florida that challenges the plea deal offered to Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire who was sentenced to 18 months in prison, of which he served 13 months, for soliciting prostitution. Dershowitz was a member of the legal team that negotiated Epstein’s plea deal.

Two Harvard Law students—Anna Joseph, 2L, and Kerry Richards, 1L—wrote a piece to the Record that charged Dershowitz with victim-blaming a child involved in trafficking. Joseph and Richards criticized the “trivialization of sex trafficking by victimizers and by the media at large” and questioned why Dershowitz’s courage has been commended while Jane Doe #3’s experience has been discounted.

After reading the piece, Professor Dershowitz felt compelled to respond in an opinion piece to the Record. In it, he criticizes Joseph and Richards’ comments as “trivializ[ing] the seriousness of being falsely accused of a heinous crime such as child rape.” The piece also counters specific allegations made by Jane Doe #3.

“Of course I am sympathetic to actual victims of abuse, rape, and trafficking,” Dershowitz said in an interview with the Record. “But in this case, I am the victim. She made up the story. This is not a matter of perception—it is a matter of black and white. It simply did not happen.”

Joseph and Richard’s opinions have even prompted a response from Harvey Silverglate, a criminal defense lawyer and civil liberties litigator who graduated from HLS in 1967. Silverglate asserts that the piece is a “disservice,” as the authors “appear to have little regard for the painful, somewhat Kafkaesque conundrum of Dershowitz’s position.”

“When I read the student‐authored piece in the Record, I thought it unfair to Dershowitz,” Silverglate told the Record over email. “He had been the victim of a quite awful attack accusing him of having perpetrated a heinous and disgusting attack.”

Silverglate’s letter, which was not written in any consultation with Dershowitz, focused on the failures in the legal system that allow formalistic accusations without the opportunity to respond in a legal capacity.

“My sense is that we are now in an era when allegations of sexual abuse, especially child sexual abuse, are taken as true, even beyond question, by too many people and even media people,” Silverglate said. “I’ve had cases in which I’ve seen this first-hand. I am calling for a return to due process protections in cases involving such accusations.”

Silverglate further noted that due process would not help Dershowitz in this situation since he has no standing to defend himself in court.

In a joint statement to the Record, Joseph and Richards said, “Our article does not opine on Mr. Dershowitz’s role in Jane Doe #3’s prolonged abuse—his involvement remains unknown. The issue is with the ancillary comments Mr. Dershowitz made while denying his involvement, including that when Doe was fifteen-years-old she was a ‘prostitute,’ and ‘made her own decisions in life.’ His op-ed in the Harvard Law Record does not address concerns about those statements. Instead he just implies that once above a certain age, victims of child trafficking should stop discussing their experiences; and that you can cross any line to try to protect your reputation.”

In additional to the pending federal lawsuit, the plaintiff’s lawyers have initiated a lawsuit against Professor Dershowitz for defamation. As for what is next, Dershowitz has countersued for defamation and is confident in his chances and will also push for further punishment.

“When I establish—as I will—that they have no basis of making this charge, I will move to administrative sanctions.”

Harvard Students Go to Court Over Climate Change

Harvard students went to court on February 20th to enjoin the Harvard Corporation’s investments in oil, gas, and coal companies. The students, members of the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition, argued in their complaint that these investments violate the University’s public charitable duties. The plaintiffs also brought suit on behalf of future generations, arguing that the Corporation knowingly funds business activities that cause severe and irreparable harm to future generations and that it should therefore be liable in tort. The defendants filed motions to dismiss the complaint, which were the subject of last Friday’s hearing.

The Corporation, represented by counsel from Foley Hoag, argued that principles of fiduciary discretion give it broad latitude to invest in any industry so long as it is profitable to do so, and that all such decisions should be shielded from judicial scrutiny. The plaintiffs appeared pro se, arguing that their special interest in the well being of the university gives them standing to bring their claims. They sought to persuade the judge that the case is inappropriate for resolution through a motion to dismiss. Discussion in the courtroom focused on the standing question and on the extraordinary nature of climate change. The court is expected to issue a ruling in coming weeks. For more information, visit www.divestlawsuit.org.

Ndaba Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s Grandson, Speaks at Harvard Law School

Last week, Professor Charles Ogletree’s ‘Understanding Mandela’ class welcomed guest speaker Ndaba Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s grandson, to campus. Ndaba Mandela offered a candid look into his grandfather’s legacy—and also how he was creating his own with the Africa Rising Foundation.

“For him, it was really important that everyone who lived in South Africa felt like a South African,” Ndaba Mandela said of the country’s former president.

He remembers meeting the anti-apartheid leader for the first time when he was 8 years old: his parents told him he was going to meet his grandfather in jail. Amidst negotiations with the government, Nelson Mandela had been transferred to a private house inside Victor Verster Prison. Ndaba Mandela recalled that the house was nice, and after leaving he even told his parents that he too wanted to go to jail when he grows up.

Weeks later, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years and reached out to his grandson, who later moved into the Presidential Palace. Ndaba Mandela told stories of his grandfather’s routine concerns about how he was doing in school, and even the occasional scolding for having a messy room. Ndaba Mandela also talked about Nelson Mandela’s compassion for people—he treated all people the same, whether meeting with state leaders like George W. Bush and Fidel Castro or talking with the woman cooking dinner.

After constantly hearing about the negative perceptions of Africa, Ndaba Mandela decided it was time to do something about the continent’s perception—just the motivation necessary to establish a new non-profit organization: Africa Rising. The goal was to shift international conversations from violence and disease to economic development and cultural celebration.

“For us, we needed somebody—we needed an entity—to say I am African, and know what it means to be an African, and I am proud of it,” Ndaba Mandela said.

The talk was part of a new course offered by Professor Charles Ogletree this semester called ‘Understanding Mandela.’

“In my opinion, it would be myopic—and almost too formulaic—to merely study apartheid law in South Africa, the effects of apartheid, and Nelson Mandela’s life and work,” said second-year student Shay Johnson, who is also a teaching assistant for the class. “The course seeks to go beyond the surface of each of these aspects, and considers history, culture, and current events in South Africa, among other topics, to provide a full context to the work of Nelson Mandela. I love being able to see this course come to life during every class meeting—watching the readings and course media unfold through class discussion so far has been truly exceptional.”

Other members of the community also attended the talk. Opening the class was Caroline Hunter, a former research bench chemist at Polaroid who organized the Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement (PRWM) after learning her employer was behind the production of South Africa’s oppressive passbook system. After Hunter’s talk, a group of high school students from Boston’s Young Man’s Success Series, a life management program that teaches young men skills for success, introduced themselves. One student eloquently remarked how impressed he was that people from Harvard Law come together—regardless of differences in background—to effect change in the world.

Despite the normalcy with which Ndaba Mandela spoke of his grandfather, it was clear that he carried much admiration for Nelson Mandela’s important role in history.

“For you to spend 27 years in jail and come out and say peace, it’s time to build, goes against human nature,” Ndaba Mandela said. “For me, I really don’t know if I would have been able to do that.”