In my time as an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility working in the law library, I’ve learned some startling facts about what indigent defendants can face. Indigent defendants—more than 80 percent of total defendants—often receive substandard counsel. A defendant may be innocent but still be convicted or urged to plead out by an attorney for a variety of reasons: The attorney is unwilling to argue a case before a jury due of a lack of confidence, a lack of skill or experience, or a lack of resources to bring a solid case. (I’ve also been repeatedly astonished by the errors I’ve encountered in legal briefs filed by degreed attorneys, but that’s another story.) Worse, when defendants are counseled to plead in order to avoid a jury trial, their attorneys may neglect to mention two important rights as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution: the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel and the Fourteenth’s right to due process.
Who’s to blame for this egregious failure to protect the rights of our nation’s underserved? We could blame state and local legislatures—and the federal government—for choosing to fund prison expansion rather than legal aid societies. We could blame those judges who merely rubber stamp cases in which prosecutors have done the hard work of interpretation and adjudication. We could also point a finger at the Supreme Court which has decided many cases on the subject of ineffective assistance of counsel—Strickland v. Washington, Padilla v. Kentucky, just to name two—decisions that have reduced a defendant’s claim to being unwinnable and meaningless. What’s happened here is a transformation of the American criminal justice system, from one where adversaries meet on neutral ground to seek justice to a de facto administrative regime committed to processing as many people as possible. Continue reading “Dispatch from Attica Correctional Facility — “…And justice for all”?: Indigent Defendants and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel”→
One year ago, I sat alongside hundreds of my future Harvard Law School classmates at Admitted Students Weekend. I was excited to come to law school and to learn how to further social justice in the law; but the economic reality of law school did not seem compatible with that goal— at least for someone like me. Without generations of wealth as a safety net, I would have to take out nearly $150,000 in “base loan[s]” to even have access to grant aid. Such an obligation made it seem unrealistic, to say the least, for me to use my legal education to fight for access to justice or against racial discrimination.
We conducted interviews with candidates who will be up for positions in Student Government. Voting will take place on April 4 and 5. For every vote counted in the election, Leilani Doktor and Jonathan Herzog have committed one minute of their time to volunteering at polling locations during the 2018 midterm elections.
We, the Coalition to Improve LIPP and the undersigned HLS student groups, are writing to urge you and the financial aid committee to enact changes to the Low Income Protection Plan to enable all Harvard Law School graduates to pursue the careers of their choosing.
The Texas Club has attempted to wage a rivalry on the West Coast Club through email and social media puffery. Our response: that’s cute.
They are desperately trying to convince students to move to the Lone Star state. After all, Texans are leaving and joining California in droves. But you can see through their propaganda. You didn’t need to be swayed by an ad to come to Harvard Law School, and you don’t need one to move out to the West Coast either. We’re just here to remind you of what the West Coast has to offer.
There is an unfortunately widespread belief among Harvard Law students that young lawyers must wait before they can begin using their newly-acquired lawyering skills to confront the great public problems of our time. “I agree there are problems,” many think. “But who am I to attempt to solve them— and, let alone, solve them now?”
The life and work of David R. Zwick, who passed away this month, belies this belief.
Zwick, a member of the Harvard Law School class of 1973, did not even wait for graduation! In November 1972, The Record ran a full page story on the then-3L, titled: “Phantom 3L Attacks Pollution, Congress.” The lead reads:
“Author, pollution control advocate and 3L David R. Zwick has taken his time in getting his law degree. Since 1967 when he began his studies at HLS the young pro bono lawyer-to-be has authored two books, directed a national task force investigating water pollution under the auspices of Ralph Nader’s Center for Responsive Law, and completed most of the work toward a degree in public policy in the Kennedy School. The law degree seems anticlimactic.”
In late 2017, a notable white supremacist group posted recruitment fliers around Stanford Law School (SLS). Last quarter, racist anti-immigrant hate mail was stuffed in a student’s mailbox at SLS. In response, a group of women of color at SLS hung a banner in the law school that read “Racism Lives Here Too.” Racist acts are not surprising or unique to SLS, or even to HLS. The reality is that as law students of color, we know that racism and other -isms live here, too.
Alumni can make an important contribution to students presently enrolled in their alma mater by calling attention to frames of reference often unmentioned or little discussed at Harvard Law School as the curriculum focuses on developing analytic legal skills and discerning legal concepts. Some alumni wish that they were accorded these larger perspectives when they attended Harvard Law School. A brief mention of a few advisories that might enhance your grasp of the meaning of legal education in addition to legal training:
During the HLS admissions process, prospective students are often wooed by information about opportunities like clinics, independent studies with professors, and the ability to cross-register for courses throughout Harvard University. HLS delivers on all counts. However, the current reality is that many students are not able to pursue as many of these opportunities as they would benefit from and be willing to prioritize due to one of HLS’s stricter degree requirements: the upper-level law classroom requirement. This article is about that requirement, why it is problematic, and how it could easily be fixed.
There is no doubt in my mind that anybody reading these words is keenly aware that Harvard Law School can be an alienating place. We need look no further than to popular culture to remember that this institution has been plagued by a history of promoting and fostering a toxic environment of cutthroat competition and destructive impulses. Recent events in national news should prompt each one of us to reflect more deeply on the just exercise of power and how to wrest it from those who abuse it.
I’ve observed Professor Mark Wu quite closely during my time as a student. Professor Wu embodies the qualities needed to elevate the standard for leadership necessary to effect positive change at this institution. HLS desperately needs faculty and administrators like Professor Wu—people who work to normalize a model of compassionate leadership to shape future leaders who will graduate from this institution and exert their influence in their respective sectors—as jurists, practitioners, and adherents to the rule of law.
Imagine that registering to vote were actually easy. Imagine that you did not have to navigate an antiquated signup process, remember to update your registration every time you moved, or navigate arbitrary registration deadlines just to exercise a constitutional right. Imagine that you could just show up to your polling place on Election Day and vote.
You might not have to imagine much longer: the Massachusetts legislature could make simpler voting a reality by passing the Automatic Voter Registration (“AVR”) bills currently before both chambers. The state legislature should do so before the committee reporting deadline on February 7th. AVR would not only reduce the headache of registering to vote – it would also add 700,000 people to the voter rolls in Massachusetts alone, and increase voter turnout and the diversity of the electorate in the process.
I’ve had the good fortune of taking the Trial Advocacy Workshop (TAW) over Jterm. Workshop activities occur in the afternoon. After that, we have dinner with visiting faculty (judges and trial lawyers from around the country). We end the day with an evening trial demonstration put on by visiting faculty.
On Wednesday evening of the final week of class, I trudged through the tunnels from Wasserstein (where we have dinner) to the Ames Courtroom (where evening demonstrations occur). I noticed a man at the front of the room in the “jury” seating whom I hadn’t seen before. He looked out of place because he clearly wasn’t a student, but he was dressed very casually. (The TAW faculty wear business attire.)
Professor Sullivan began the evening’s proceedings, as he had on some other occasions, by talking about various opportunities the workshop can lead toand the varied career paths that TAW graduates go on to have. He made a joke about this including a very brief stint as White House Communications Director. I was confused for a few seconds and then put things together. That out of place man was Anthony Scaramucci. And Anthony Scaramucci was a graduate of TAW.
Dear Readers, Given that this is a new year and the start of a new semester, there’s no better time than the present to announce that we now have an entirely new executive board. I am happy to tell you that I am your new Editor-in-Chief.
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.