A MLK Day reflection: On our own Jericho road

Perhaps the strangest thing about living in the late 2010s is that everybody seems to talk about how they don’t want to live in the late 2010s. Some of us want it to be the past again. Some of us want it to be the future already. Some of us pine for a time before some technology or politician messed everything up, while others pine for a time after some barrier will be lifted by the next best thing. Indeed, if we are not reminiscing about the good old days — those days before “they” made this, that, or the other happen — then we are likely waiting for the good new days — when “they” finally make this, that, or the other happen. If only, if only it were the 1950s or the 2050s…then everything would be better, we think. We just have to pretend or we just have to wait — and all we have to say, or post, in response to every passing indignity of the present moment is: “Ugh, 2018!”

But many people do not have the luxury of pretending or waiting. They are forced to survive right now, in the harshest conditions of the present. Almost fifty years ago, on the morning of February 1, 1968, Echol Cole and Robert Walker couldn’t pretend or wait — they had to go to work. They were Memphis “tub-toters” — the overworked and underpaid men who rode on the back of garbage trucks, hopping on and off at every suburban house to empty each family’s trash cans into the trucks’ compactors. It was raining that Thursday, and Cole and Walker did not have raincoats. They did not have much at all, in fact — the city gave them, in the words of Memphis historian Hampton Sides, “no benefits, no pension, no overtime, no grievance procedure, [and] no uniforms.” They did not even have a functional machine with which to work. The rickety orange trucks they rode on were known by the city to be dangerous.

To escape the rain after completing their rounds that day, Cole and Walker sat inside the jaw of their truck’s compacting mechanism. A little after 4:15 in the afternoon, the wires to the compacting motor shorted, triggering the truck’s hydraulic ram to begin the compacting process. When they heard what was happening, the two men tried to escape, but they were hampered by their heavy clothes, which were drenched in rain and liquid refuse from a long day’s work. The ram caught part of their clothing, dragged them further into the truck, and crushed them to death. Continue reading “A MLK Day reflection: On our own Jericho road”

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.

Can Environmentalists Eat Meat?

Among the many internecine conflicts within the environmental community, one that seems particularly relevant as we struggle with our 2018 New Year’s resolutions is whether someone can be a card-carrying environmentalist while continuing to consume meat and other animal products.

Besides arguing against meat consumption from the premise that animals have an inherent right to life, one of the main arguments environmentalists put forth against meat consumption focuses on its connection to climate change. According to this argument, methane emissions involved in meat production are one of the biggest contributions to GHG emissions. If you seriously care about stopping climate change, then you should exercise responsible consumption and stop eating meat. In terms of gratuitous consumption, eating a filet mignon for dinner is equivalent to driving a Hummer to work, and no real environmentalist would do that.

Continue reading “Can Environmentalists Eat Meat?”

Tom Wolfe is a 2L.

Meet the Real-Life Justice League

The real-life Justice League. From left to right: Richard Painter, The Honorable Justice Robert Katzmann, Douglas Elmendorf, Lesley Rosenthal, Juan Carlos Botero, and David McCraw.

Move over, Batman. Statman has arrived—and not a moment too soon.

What do Aquaman, Batman, Cyborg, the Flash, Superman, and Wonder Woman all have in common? None can save the world alone. Turns out, the same is true for the rule of law.

Continue reading “Meet the Real-Life Justice League”

Agathon Fric is an LL.M. candidate.

Take the Power Back: Samantha Power Has No Place at HLS

This past April, Samantha Power ’99, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the latter part of President Obama’s tenure, was named to a joint appointment at both the Law School and the Kennedy School. The article from Harvard announcing her appointment cites her work in human rights, diplomacy, and international justice as qualifications for the appointment[1], but a critical examination of her record as ambassador reveals a much more sordid history of promoting American imperialism and enabling the very human rights abuses she sought out to prevent.

Continue reading “Take the Power Back: Samantha Power Has No Place at HLS”

John Froggatt is a 3L.

Big Law Harms Society

The purpose of this article is to introduce a new perspective around the discussion about career choices at HLS. Some argue that the school should become more civic-minded and encourage people to go into public service. Others argue that working for a Big Law firm is socially beneficial. Notably missing from this discussion is the idea that working for Big Law harms society.

Continue reading “Big Law Harms Society”

Josh Komarovsky is a 3L.

Open Letter: We Condemn President Trump’s Incitement of Violence

To our students and the wider HLS community,

We write to condemn a series of acts by President Trump that incite violence and are inconsistent with a democratic legal order.  On November 29th, the President circulated unverified videos that explicitly vilified members of a religious community as dangerous.  In his tweet, the videos appeared without any comment, context, or explanation, as if the fact that they concerned “Muslim” actors itself established their relevance.   In that way, the videos justified hostility towards individuals on the ground of their faith alone.  The President’s message further endorsed violence insofar as it expressly retweeted, thus apparently approving, a source convicted of religiously aggravated harassment.

Continue reading “Open Letter: We Condemn President Trump’s Incitement of Violence”

Letter to the Editor: Don’t Use the R-Word in Football Coverage

Dear Editorial Board,

As a Native American and proud alumnus of Harvard Law School, I was very disappointed to see your esteemed publication use the dictionary-defined R-word slur last week in your coverage of the Washington NFL team. I am writing today to respectfully request that you join other leading media organizations in refraining from using the offensive epithet in your future reporting.

Continue reading “Letter to the Editor: Don’t Use the R-Word in Football Coverage”

Ray Halbritter is the Nation Representative for the Oneida Indian Nation. He is a member of the Harvard Law School Class of 1990.

You Should Move to Texas

We know this is a little out of the blue, but … we think you should move to Texas. Let us explain.

Not long ago in the Gulf of Mexico near Palacios, Texas, Vietnamese refugee and fisherman Vin Nguyen explained how he decided to make his home in Texas.

“It’s very good for shrimping,” he said. “Make money more.”

Vin’s right, of course. The opportunity to make more money is what led New York real estate speculators to found Houston in 1836, and is what continues to make Houston the most diverse city in the country, and Texas the top destination in the United States for refugees. No offense to the up-and-coming HLS West Coast Club, but more people are moving to Texas than any other state, and Californians are leading the exodusNew Yorkers aren’t far behind.

Continue reading “You Should Move to Texas”

Jimmy Chalk and Arthur Munoz are 3Ls, and Samuel Garcia and Oscar Leija are 2Ls. They are all members of the Texas Club.

3Ls: This Holiday Season, Give More Than Thanks

If you’re at HLS, you likely have many reasons to give thanks. For example, you are receiving a world-class education, are likely to be financially secure for the rest of your life, and now have the political access that comes with a degree from this institution.

You are also (currently, at least) living in a country where no war rages, death by infectious disease has been nearly eliminated, functional-if-flawed public health and education infrastructures exist, infant mortality is low, and almost nobody lives in the extreme poverty that still afflicts hundreds of millions of people around the globe.

Continue reading “3Ls: This Holiday Season, Give More Than Thanks”

Carolyn Killea, Matt Reardon, Vivian Dong, and Adam Savitt are 3Ls, and Cullen O'Keefe is a 2L. They are individual board members of HLS Effective Altruists.

Boston Should Lead the Way Toward the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

Everyone in Boston knows that when a house catches ablaze, lives are saved by pulling the fire alarm. Sirens wail, trucks race down the street, and a fire crew comes to the rescue. But what if the fires haven’t started, yet are close to being ignited, on a scale that would dwarf – by more than a thousand-fold – the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire that killed 492 Bostonians?

Today and every day, those fires could be only minutes away, ignited by the detonation of even a single nuclear warhead in Boston, perhaps as a result of a Russian computer malfunction, perhaps from a ship in which a single terrorist warhead lies smuggled in a disguised shipping container. But what can Bostonians do? Continue reading “Boston Should Lead the Way Toward the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons”

Lachlan Forrow, MD and Philip Lederer, MD are nuclear weapons abolitionists.

The HLS 300 Project: Vocational Goals

Last year, in advance of the bicentennial, we invited students, staff and faculty to reflect on who we are and what we believe in as a school community.  With a focus on vocation-building, we asked three questions: (1) As we look to the past, who should we admire? (2) As we look to the future, what challenges are important? (3) As we look at the present, what are we being called to do?

We received dozens of submissions of: first, Harvard Law alumni, living and historic, with important legal vocations; second, important public challenges that merit the attention of our generation of lawyers; and third, exciting vocational goals of current Harvard Law students. To spur our collective reflection on who we are and where we want to go as a vocational community, below are submissions in response to the third question, “what are your vocational goals?”:

Vocational Goal #1: Apply advances in information technology and data science to make healthcare more efficient

(Submitted by Hugh McSwain ’18)

Modern healthcare in the US intersects medicine, business and law. I came to HLS to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities available for students who want to pursue entrepreneurship and non-traditional legal careers.

My experiences at HLS—including the Health Law and Policy Clinic, the Entrepreneurship Project, and course work—have expanded my knowledge base and skillset by allowing me to participate in advising local start ups, to advocate for changes within the healthcare system, and to learn from venture capital attorneys and investors.

I am proud to say I am an HLS student, and I fully believe HLS provides me with skills and resources to succeed in health IT/digital health entrepreneurship.

Vocational Goal #2: Protecting at least one child — and hopefully many more.

(Submitted by Ha Ryong Jung ’18)

Recognizing that children have specific rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, I aspire to understand the variety of frameworks used around the world to protect children and to find the most effective combination of these systems to deliver the much-needed protection for this overlooked population.

Child-sensitive measures should exist whenever children come into contact with the justice system, and core principles of the child’s best interest and non-discrimination should be upheld. I hope to contribute to these efforts in working for and with children. Continue reading “The HLS 300 Project: Vocational Goals”

Nate Szyman and Pete Davis are members of the Class of 2018 and co-directors of The HLS 200, a campaign of the Third Century Project, an initiative aimed at imagining how Harvard Law can better live out its stated mission of “educating leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and well-being of society.”

The HLS 300 Project: Legal Challenges

Last year, in advance of the bicentennial, we invited students, staff and faculty to reflect on who we are and what we believe in as a school community.  With a focus on vocation-building, we asked three questions: (1) As we look to the past, who should we admire? (2) As we look to the future, what challenges are important? (3) As we look at the present, what are we being called to do?

We received dozens of submissions of: first, Harvard Law alumni, living and historic, with important legal vocations; second, important public challenges that merit the attention of our generation of lawyers; and third, exciting vocational goals of current Harvard Law students. To spur our collective reflection on who we are and where we want to go as a vocational community, below are submissions in response to the second question, “which challenges should we be tackling?”:

Legal Challenge #1: How can we promote economic development without displacement?

(Submitted by Dan Traficonte ’17)

Across the US and the rest of the world, economic growth demands space for new infrastructure, housing, and businesses. But new development often comes at the cost of displacing people—sometimes even entire communities.

Development without displacement is possible. e terms of economic development projects, most of them hashed out in contracts and in local land-use provisions, can be structured to minimize the displacement of communities and maximize the locally shared benefits of each new project.

Lawyers should work to create development for people, not just profit.

Legal Challenge #2: How can we restructure the family law system to reflect how families actually function

(Submitted by Gillian Schaps ’18)

Lawyers like rules—and we craft the law to function as a set of clear-cut, predictable rules. But if there is one thing that breaks this mold, it’s family.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and thus far the law has been unable to keep up. Today outdated laws rip families apart when they don’t meet the two (cisgender, heterosexual) parent model.

We need to build flexibility and creativity into the laws that define and govern family life, rethinking parental rights and zero-sum frameworks. It’s time family law moves beyond white, normative views of the nuclear family to support the wide variety of loving, stable environments that enable people to grow and thrive. Continue reading “The HLS 300 Project: Legal Challenges”

Nate Szyman and Pete Davis are members of the Class of 2018 and co-directors of The HLS 200, a campaign of the Third Century Project, an initiative aimed at imagining how Harvard Law can better live out its stated mission of “educating leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and well-being of society.”

The HLS 300 Project: Inspiring Careers

Last year, in advance of the bicentennial, we invited students, staff and faculty to reflect on who we are and what we believe in as a school community.  With a focus on vocation-building, we asked three questions: (1) As we look to the past, who should we admire? (2) As we look to the future, what challenges are important? (3) As we look at the present, what are we being called to do?

We received dozens of submissions of: first, Harvard Law alumni, living and historic, with important legal vocations; second, important public challenges that merit the attention of our generation of lawyers; and third, exciting vocational goals of current Harvard Law students. To spur our collective reflection on who we are and where we want to go as a vocational community, below are submissions in response to the first question, “Which alumni had inspiring careers?”:

Inspiring Career #1: Cornelius Hedges (Class of 1856) became the intellectual father of Yellowstone National Park

(submitted by Shaun Goho, Clinical Instructor, Environmental Law and Policy Clinic)

Hedges, a 1856 graduate of HLS, moved to the then-territory of Montana in 1864, where he would live until his death more than 40 years later. There, he held a variety of public offices, including U.S. District Attorney for Montana Territory; territorial superintendent of public schools; member of the 1884 Constitutional Convention; and State Senator from 1889-1893.

In 1870, Hedges was part of the Washburn Expedition that explored the Yellowstone region. Near the end of the journey, the participants sat around the campfire and discussed Yellowstone’s future. Many of them said that they planned to file land claims, intending to profit from the anticipated influx of tourists eager to see the region’s natural wonders. Hedges, however, suggested that Yellowstone “ought to be set apart as a great National Park.” In the following years, he actively campaigned for the creation of the park. In 1872, Congress enacted and President Grant signed into law the statute establishing Yellowstone National Park—the first of its kind in the world.

“Thoughtful, kind, charitable, ever ready to heed the call of the unfortunate, without selfishness or guile, no better man has ever lived in Montana, nor to any is there a higher mead of praise for what he did and gave to Montana.”

Inspiring Career #2: Lam Nguyen Ho (Class of 2008) is setting a standard for community activism lawyering in Chicago.

(Submitted by Tess Heligren ’18)

After graduating from HLS in 2008, Ho moved to Chicago where he set up free community-based legal clinics. In 2014, with support from HLS’s Public Service Venture Fund, Ho founded the Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA).Under Ho’s leadership, CALA sets an innovative example of community activism lawyering by working with local activists to help advance social justice for undocumented immigrants, sex workers, day laborers, and other underserved populations.

Under Ho’s leadership, CALA sets an innovative example of community activism lawyering by working with local activists to help advance social justice for undocumented immigrants, sex workers, day laborers, and other underserved populations.

“My background (immigrant, poverty, domestic violence, queerness) exposed me to the dehumanizing consequences when our justice system fails. It instilled a sense of responsibility to help others struggle against similar, and harder, challenges.” Continue reading “The HLS 300 Project: Inspiring Careers”

Nate Szyman and Pete Davis are members of the Class of 2018 and co-directors of The HLS 200, a campaign of the Third Century Project, an initiative aimed at imagining how Harvard Law can better live out its stated mission of “educating leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and well-being of society.”

Preventing Death by Underride

On the one hand, installing comprehensive underride protection on every truck in this country will cost a lot of money. On the other hand, doing so will save a lot of lives and, furthermore, protect the trucking industry and taxpayers from the costly expense of underride tragedies.

I know this all too well after losing my two youngest daughters in a truck crash. On May 4, 2013, I started out in our Crown Vic with the youngest three of our nine children. Caleb (15) sat in the front seat with me, while AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13) were in the back seat.

We were headed from our home in North Carolina to Texas where four of their siblings were set to graduate from college and their oldest sister, Rebekah, was getting married. While on I-20 in Georgia, we came upon a back-up from an earlier crash. We slowed down. However, a truck driver did not and hit us, sending our car into a spin so that we went backward into the rear of another tractor-trailer.

Continue reading “Preventing Death by Underride”

Marianne Karth is a traffic safety advocate.