Want to Abolish the Death Penalty? Start by Abolishing the Police

On June 16, 1944, the State of South Carolina executed George Stinney, a fourteen-year-old black boy who was convicted of murder by an all-white jury, following a sham trial.  Seventy years later, the State of Ohio executed Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old black boy after no trial.  Twenty-four days after a white police officer executed Tamir, George was finally exonerated.  And so George and Tamir, although executed by different states, in different times, and in different ways, are bound together by their striking commonalities: they were both young, black boys who were executed by the State after doing no wrong.  George was executed via the post-trial mechanism, and Tamir was executed via the no-trial mechanism.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, only 31 US states and the federal government have the death penalty on the books, with 19 states having done away with the practice.  In actuality, all 50 states administer the death penalty, and all but three states have executed at least one person thus far this year.

Continue reading “Want to Abolish the Death Penalty? Start by Abolishing the Police”

Michael Banerjee is a 3L. He is the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Journal on Racial and Ethnic Justice.

The Women’s White Collar Defense Association — Women Making a Difference in the White Collar Defense Bar

In 1999, both of the co-founders of the Women’s White Collar Defense Association (“WWCDA”), Karen Popp and Beth Wilkinson, had recently left government service. Popp had been Associate White House Counsel to President Clinton and before that she was in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice and also had served as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York. Wilkinson had been an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, and later was one of the lead prosecutors in the Oklahoma City bombing cases.  Upon leaving government, the two joined their respective law firms as partners, wanting to be White Collar defense attorneys for corporate America. Popp went to Sidley Austin LLP and Wilkinson went to Latham & Watkins.

Continue reading “The Women’s White Collar Defense Association — Women Making a Difference in the White Collar Defense Bar”

Lea Courington is a member of the Women's White Collar Defense Association.

A Message to Lawyers and Law Students: We Can Always Afford Justice (And No, Your Taxes Will Not Pay for It)

Most Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing: looming fiscal challenges, made more severe by the recent tax cuts, require that something be done about the budget. According to this view, we didn’t have enough money before, and we have less money now, putting ever more spending on the nation’s “credit card.”

Although lawyers and law students might (wrongly) think broad macroeconomic issues such as distribution and entitlements should be left to economists and policy wonks, they should recognize that fiscal policy involves questions of individual rights and justice in a narrow, legal sense. Courts determine what due process requires in part by evaluating the “financial cost.” Cash-strapped government entities rely on fines and fees for funding, inevitably preying on vulnerable communities. There’s also the massive crisis in legal services, with understaffed and underfunded public defender and civil legal aid offices facing overwhelming caseloads. The results are a disaster, and in each instance, individual rights are subject to fiscal considerations.

Continue reading “A Message to Lawyers and Law Students: We Can Always Afford Justice (And No, Your Taxes Will Not Pay for It)”

Danny Sufranski is the outgoing President of the HLS Chapter of the Modern Money Network, an independent nonprofit committed to the right of every person to participate in economic life in a manner consistent with basic principles of justice, fairness, equality and dignity. If you’re interested in learning more, please email Danny at modernmoneyhls@gmail.com.

Progressive Jewish Alliance: Stop Violent Repression of Gaza Protests

We, members of the Progressive Jewish Alliance at Harvard Law School, deplore the Israeli government’s violent response to Palestinian protests in Gaza. We join groups around the world in calling for an end to the wanton killing of demonstrators, an end to the siege of Gaza, and ultimately for a democratic future in which both Israelis and Palestinians may live lives of dignity, security, and freedom.

Nothing occurs in a vacuum. While many who defend Israel’s actions ask, “What would you do in the face of protesters seeking to breach the border?,” we ask a different question: “What level of oppression would drive people to risk their lives protesting against one of the world’s most powerful militaries?”

Continue reading “Progressive Jewish Alliance: Stop Violent Repression of Gaza Protests”

Alyssa Bernstein, Jake Meiseles, Daniel Levine-Spound, Nathaniel Levy, Kika Ziesk-Socolov, Ian Eppler, and Grace Wallack are members of The Progressive Jewish Alliance at Harvard Law School, a new student group.

Why I Am Disappointed with Jeff Flake

What is our Class Day ceremony about? It is a celebration of our hard work as students in law school, and of our induction into the professional world of the law. These are honors whose meaning and value depend in every ounce on the vitality and integrity of the legal system itself.

And so we are lucky, as law school graduates, to be entering into a political environment where the rule of law is of foundational, universal import. And where lawyers wield real, respected authority in the enforcement of law and the pursuit of justice.

But that political environment is currently in crisis. The president’s politics, apparently shared by a large number of high-up Executive and Congressional officials, betray a consistent thread of anti-democratic, authoritarian values. Between denying objective truth, threatening the free press, indulging nativist demagoguery, endorsing racist stereotypes, persecuting unauthorized immigrants, interfering in the free market, laughing off due process[1], selling public influence for private gain, compromising American interests to hostile foreign governments, undermining public faith in the judiciary, and obstructing independent prosecutorial and intelligence agencies, it is not too alarmist to say that the political foundation of this country, and the place of law within it, are under threat. Continue reading “Why I Am Disappointed with Jeff Flake”

Emil Nacham is a member of the Harvard Law School Class of 2018.

Harvard Law School’s Glass Ceilings

I. Introduction

This May marks the 65th anniversary of the first class of women to graduate from Harvard Law School. In 1953, 12 women walked with their class; next month, 280 women will cross the stage and enter the ranks of HLS alumni. In the intervening years, this law school has seen changes of which we should be proud. We now have more than one bathroom for women to use, for starters. Women are no longer just a fraction of the student body: this year’s graduating class is 47.5 percent female, and next year we will have the first majority-female graduation ceremony. Women are on the faculty and in the administration, and feature prominently in accounts of the school’s most illustrious alumni. The Women’s Law Association (WLA) is the largest organization on campus, and female students hold 52 percent of the leadership roles in student organizations.

Continue reading “Harvard Law School’s Glass Ceilings”

Molly Coleman is a 1L. She is the co-chair of the 2018-19 Women's Law Association Shatter the Ceiling Committee.

Is law (still) an honorable profession?

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, was a lawyer. Each year, when the Torah portion pertaining to Jethro is read at Central Synagogue in midtown Manhattan, a person is asked to give a talk relating to the law at a dinner following Friday night services. On 13 February 2009, New York University School of Law professor of ethics Stephen Gillers gave the Jethro talk. With minor changes, it is reprinted below:

When Ron Tabak e-mailed me about giving the Jethro talk this year, I was in Cambodia speaking about the American legal system to graduate law students at the Royal University of Law and Economics. That experience offered one further example of the intense interest globally in the rule of law in the United States. To my mind, the rule of law is America’s best export. If, in other nations, we can instill our respect for the rule of law, an independent bar and an independent judiciary, we will go a long way toward the creation of democratic institutions worldwide.

But our achievements in establishing a nation based on the rule of law should not be allowed to obscure problems with the work of lawyers here at home. When Ron and I agreed on the title of the talk, I was not yet clear on what I would say about honour and the legal profession although I had some vague ideas. Events this autumn, however, have clarified what needs to be said. When talking of honour, one could hardly begin in a better place than the events surrounding the fall of Bernard Madoff. I will then move to the question posed in my title and conclude with references to the Bible.

What I find most remarkable about the Bernard Madoff story so far is that his sons turned him in. Bernard Madoff confessed to his sons and on the advice of counsel, they turned him in.1 And the whole business came crashing down. Continue reading “Is law (still) an honorable profession?”

Open Letter From Alumni to Dean Manning: Respond to Our Bicentennial Crisis

On April 23, 2018, seven prominent alumni sent an open letter to Dean Manning requesting a public response to and public hearing on Our Bicentennial Crisis, the Record report on Harvard Law’s public interest mission. The letter is copied below:

Dear Dean Manning,

Last October, during the two hundredth anniversary of Harvard Law School, Pete Davis (3L) and his colleagues issued a report titled, Our Bicentennial Crisis: A Call to Action for Harvard Law School’s Public Interest Mission. Its contents were of considerable interest to more than a few students, faculty, and deans from other law schools. As you know, on February 7, 2018, four faculty members met with a sizable number of students for an evening discussion. In addition, The Harvard Law Record has devoted considerable space to the report and the reactions to its recommendations and analyses. Continue reading “Open Letter From Alumni to Dean Manning: Respond to Our Bicentennial Crisis”

Poll Results: Do Harvard Law 3Ls Want Jeff Flake to Speak?

Editor’s note: We used a Google Form to conduct this poll, and as such, it was impossible to prevent 1Ls and 2Ls from voting without identifying all voters. The voters in this data set should not be treated as a sample size representative of the Class of 2018. It is possible that this poll was circulated in some social circles and not others, and we did not share it anywhere except on our website and on our Facebook page.

Continue reading “Poll Results: Do Harvard Law 3Ls Want Jeff Flake to Speak?”

Kate Thoreson is a 3L. She is the editor-in-chief of The Harvard Law Record.

Want to Fight Student Debt? Vote #UnionYes

American student debt has reached a crisis point. At nearly $1.4 trillion, student debt burdens graduates for years; and has long-term, deleterious effects on the American economy.

Continue reading “Want to Fight Student Debt? Vote #UnionYes”

Kwame Newton and Rachel Sandalow-Ash are 1Ls. They are on the board of the Coalition to Improve LIPP.

Voting #UnionYes Because #TimesUp

In February, we were dismayed but unsurprised to learn that Harvard allowed a professor in its government department to sexually harass over a dozen of his female graduate students and colleagues, for over thirty years. The university’s own investigation found that Dominguez had committed “serious misconduct” as early as 1983 — but they kept him on staff, leaving students at risk, until intense media pressure forced him to resign.

The Dominguez reports prove that students can’t just rely on Harvard to follow Title IX and fight sexual harassment on campus (in case the three separate federal Title IX investigations faced by the University aren’t proof enough). Instead, graduate workers need the power of a union that can push Harvard to adopt best practices and end pervasive gender discrimination in academia.

Continue reading “Voting #UnionYes Because #TimesUp”

Sejal Singh and Vail Kohnert-Yount are 1Ls. They are members of the Pipeline Parity Project fighting sexual harassment and discrimination in the legal profession.

Jeff Flake’s shameful record on civil legal aid for the poor

Civil legal aid is in crisis. Stanford Law School professor Deborah L. Rhode estimates that about four-fifths of the civil legal needs of the poor, and about half of the civil legal needs of the middle class, remain unmet. The Legal Services Corporation’s estimate is even more dire: by their count this year, “86 percent of the civil legal problems faced by low-income Americans in a given year receive inadequate or no legal help.” Less than $1 out of every $100 spent on lawyers is spent helping advance the personal legal interests of poor Americans. Since only 1 percent of American lawyers are in legal aid practice, the nation with one of the highest concentration of lawyers provides less than one legal aid lawyer for every 10,000 low-income Americans living in poverty.

When the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index ranked high-income nations by terms of the accessibility of their civil justice systems, the United States ranked 20th of 23. On their ranking of nations in terms of the ability of people to obtain legal counsel, the United States ranked 50th of 66. As Jim Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation, the federal program established to distribute civil legal aid grants, told National Public Radio for their 2012 report “Legal Help for the Poor In ‘State of Crisis’”: “We have a great legal system in the United States, but it’s built on the premise that you have a lawyer… and if you don’t have a lawyer, the system often doesn’t work for you.” Continue reading “Jeff Flake’s shameful record on civil legal aid for the poor”

Pete Davis is a civic reformer from Falls Church, Virginia and a member of the Harvard Law School Class of 2018. Email Pete at Pete@CivicIdeas.org. Tweet at Pete at @PeteDDavis.

The Ref Has Been Worked: Harvard Law’s Flake-Out

There is an idea in sports called “working the ref.” You accuse the ref of being biased toward your opponent, and the ref starts being biased toward you to make up for it. It’s a clever tactic for bending an easily-rattled referee to your will.

In institutional politics, the right-wing establishment has honed working the ref into an art form. It’s a two-part dance. First, they take institutions that see themselves as “neutral referees” and accuse them of having a “left-wing bias.”  Then, they repeat themselves over and over and over again — no matter what the truth of the matter is — until the institution is so rattled by being called biased that it, in an attempt to affirm its neutrality, starts doing whatever the right-wing wants.

Dozens of institutions that see themselves as referees have been worked. PBS has long been accused of being left-wing, so it finally gave in this year and launched its own conservative talk show. The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Atlantic editorial boards got accused of being left-wing so much that they just went on a hiring spree for conservative columnists. The Obama administration so internalized the accusation of being left-wing that  it started implementing conservative agenda items, like cutting entitlements and deporting thousands of American families, to prove its neutral bona fides. Continue reading “The Ref Has Been Worked: Harvard Law’s Flake-Out

Pete Davis is a civic reformer from Falls Church, Virginia and a member of the Harvard Law School Class of 2018. Email Pete at Pete@CivicIdeas.org. Tweet at Pete at @PeteDDavis.

For HLS Student Workers, #UNIONYES is the Right Choice

On April 18th and 19th, student workers from across Harvard will head to the polls and decide whether we should have a voice in our community, by voting for the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers.

Harvard has fought the graduate student union every step of the way, from illegally excluding over 500 graduate student workers from voting in our first union election, to using our tuition money to hire expensive union-busting law firms, to filling our mailboxes with deceptive anti-union emails and mailers.

We’re concerned about the lengths to which Harvard has gone to actively mislead its students about the potential impact of unionization. As HLS students and graduate workers ourselves, we’re here to correct the record and demonstrate why #UnionYes is the right choice for HLS.

Continue reading “For HLS Student Workers, #UNIONYES is the Right Choice”

Marissa McGarry and Jake Meiseles are 2Ls and student workers at Harvard Law School.