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”

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

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”

At The Harvard Law Forum: Rep. Keith Ellison

Congressman Keith Ellison represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and is the Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee. He was the first Muslim elected to the House of Representatives.

On April 2, 2018, he came to Harvard Law School to share his thoughts and experience on what the path forward for the Democratic Party is in the Trump era.

The video is below:

At The Harvard Law Forum: Chuck Marohn on What Lawyers Can Do to Build Strong Towns

Charles “Chuck” Marohn is the Founder and President of Strong Towns, a leading non-profit advocating for models of city planning and development that allow for financially strong and resilient cities, towns and neighborhoods. Marohn is a Professional Engineer licensed in Minnesota, a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and the lead author of Thoughts on Building Strong Towns (Volumes 1, 2, and 3) and A World Class Transportation System. In 2017, he was named one of the 10 Most Influential Urbanists of all time by Planetizen.

On March 29, 2018, he came to Harvard Law School to share what lawyers and law students can do to help advance sustainable and resilient models of urban development.

The video is below:

Review: Reputation by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift released Reputation in November of 2017. Having listened to the album in its entirety over 250 times since then, I feel qualified to share my detailed thoughts with the general public. I also recently found out we’ve got the same Enneagram type, which is probably irrelevant but still kind of cool.

“But Megan, Taylor is problematic/a snake/playing the victim/failing to use her platform as a role model for young women to promote social and political issues that matter to herself and her fans!” I know. She knows. Nearly all the promotional materials for this album – not to mention the “Look What You Made Me Do” music video – explicitly address the fact that she has heard all of these criticisms. And she doesn’t really care. Or maybe she does, but wants you to think she doesn’t? Unclear.

The bulk of this review – like the best parts of Reputation – isn’t about the (valid) criticisms of Swift as a person. Instead, it is an in-depth, track-by-track analysis of the album, focusing on the music and, to the extent possible, looking past the baggage that inherently comes with Taylor Swift.

Continue reading “Review: Reputation by Taylor Swift”

At The Harvard Law Forum: Isabel Sawhill on A Post-Trump Agenda for a Divided America

Isabel V. Sawhill is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution. She has served as co-director of the Center on Children and Families, a senior fellow at The Urban Institute, an Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and co-founder of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Her research has spanned a wide array of economic and social issues, including fiscal policy, economic growth, poverty and inequality. Over the past decade, her major focus has been on how to improve opportunities for disadvantaged children in the U.S.

On April 5, 2018, she came to Harvard Law to share her thoughts and experience on what inclusive growth policies could unite a post-Trump America.

The video is below:

At The Harvard Law Forum: Pastor Donna Hubbard and Carl Route on Building a Better Prison Re-entry System

Carl Route and Pastor Donna Lynne Hubbard are civic and religious leaders in Atlanta, Georgia. Formerly incarcerated citizens themselves, they are inspiring advocates for a better prison reentry system.

Route is the co-founder of both the National Association of Previous Prisoners, a community agency providing support for returning citizens, and the Young Fathers of Metro Atlanta, a community agency that provides fatherhood services to young Atlantans.

Pastor Hubbard is the founder of the Woman at the Well Transition Center, a non-profit ministry providing services to formerly incarcerated persons, and the author of the Parenting from Prison Project, an active program in many county jails around Atlanta.

On March 28, 2018, they came to Harvard Law School to share with students their experiences, insights, and wisdom from decades of prison reentry work.

The video is below:

At the Harvard Law Forum: Joshua Matz on Legal Resistance to the Trump Administration

Joshua Matz is a constitutional and appellate lawyer involved in many cases against the Trump Administration. He is also the Publisher of Take Care, an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law, and the co-author (with Larry Tribe) of “To End A Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.” He is of counsel at Kaplan & Company LLP and Gupta Wessler PLLC.

On April 3, 2018, he came to Harvard Law School to share his experience and expertise on the legal backlash against the Trump administration: the source of its intensity, the judicial response to it, and how lawyers can use litigation to restrain the Trump administration in the coming months.

The video is below

Dispatch from Attica Correctional Facility — “…And justice for all”?: Indigent Defendants and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

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”

Making Public Service a Choice, Not a Privilege

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.

Continue reading “Making Public Service a Choice, Not a Privilege”

Meet the Candidates for Student Government, 2018-2019

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.

Here is where to find these interviews:

Leilani Doktor and Jonathan Herzog: Candidates for Co-Presidents
Princess Daisy Akita: Candidate for Director of Student Organizations
Hannah Dawson, Daniel Egel-Weiss, and Radhe Patel: Candidates for 2L Representative
Pamela Gaulin and Jared Lax: Candidates for 3L Representative

Pamela Gaulin and Jared Lax: Candidates for 3L Representative

Interview with Pamela Gaulin

Record: Why are you running for 3L Rep?

Pamela Gaulin: I have been involved in SG the last two years, and I think there is a lot of value they can bring to the students here. I think that it’s important to have people here who are committed to bringing about change through interacting with the administration.

R: So what would you like to get accomplished during 3L?

PG: I think a key thing in the past is that people maybe are not aware of who their representatives are, or what it is that we can actually do or accomplish, so empowering students to bring their issues to us, so that we can then take action through student
government.

Continue reading “Pamela Gaulin and Jared Lax: Candidates for 3L Representative”

Leilani Doktor ’19 and Jonathan Herzog ’20: Candidates for Student Government Co-Presidents

Record: Why did you decide to run?

Leilani Doktor: I decided to run my 1L year. I had a really incredible section that I was very close with. They had a bunch of great ideas, and I felt like I could represent them well [in] Student Government [SG]. I had worked on SG in the past and had a lot of success in terms of getting concrete policies done and getting facilities and services delivered. I joined SG as a 1L and found that I was able to do that, so I just want to continue doing that as co-president, and I think that I have the kind of experience now that allows me to really lead this organization to continue all the great stuff that it’s doing.

Jonathan Herzog: We ran because we thought in our capacity as student reps, and now as co-presidents, we can make HLS a little bit better for everyone to thrive. It really came down to seeing what we could get done, the experience we had being on student committees and as reps, what we could achieve to make life a little bit better here, and our excitement and passion to keep going.

Continue reading “Leilani Doktor ’19 and Jonathan Herzog ’20: Candidates for Student Government Co-Presidents”