April 30, 2012

Gender Imbalance Persists at Law Schools

Posted by Susan Farbstein

I tried all weekend to craft a substantive response to this recent study by Yale Law Women, but each time I sat down to write, my anger and frustration got in the way.  The study confirms what many of us already know—gender imbalance persists at law schools, including our own, with significant consequences for law students and the legal profession.

Many of the problems identified in the Yale study mirror my own observations and anecdotal evidence here at Harvard.  But that’s not what is most upsetting. What I find most depressing is the study’s conclusion that little progress has been made over the past decade.

I wish I could offer some creative solutions to these issues.  Certainly we need more women in leadership positions who can serve as role models and mentors. I’ll keep trying to do that for my own students, male and female, and thinking about how we as a law school community can do better.  In the meantime, if anyone wants to chat about this, my door is always open.

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April 27, 2012

The Power of Procrastination: Reports from the Field

Posted by Cara Solomon

For her first round of finals, Maia Levenson, JD ’13, tore through seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  That was very satisfying indeed.  This spring, she has turned her attention to Sci-Fi—more specifically, a short-lived show called Firefly, which explores the adventures of cowboys in outer space.

“I’m just waiting for the moment of desperation when I watch the full-length movie,” Maia wrote over email.

All across the Harvard Law School campus, students are studying for finals and writing papers.  Or pretending to study for finals and write papers.  Or openly and unabashedly not studying for finals or writing papers.

The value of procrastination has always generated debate in society, with some people calling it a critical part of the studying/writing/life process, and others convinced it is clearly a character flaw.  The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges put it thusly:

“The truth is that we live out our lives putting off all that can be put off; perhaps we all know deep down that we are immortal and that sooner or later all men will do and know all things.”

That’s all well and good, but Yonina Alexander, JD ’12, said the other day that she feels like this.

Some students, like Michelle Dowst, JD ’13, turn to music during times like these.  This week, Michelle found herself deep in mourning for Earl Scruggs, the legendary banjo player who died recently.  To learn more about Earl, Michelle recommends you listen to these recordings and read this.

Then there is Jordan Baehr, JD ’13, who decided that anything was more fun than studying for his tax test.  And so he began to draft a Wikipedia page on Human Rights and Climate Change.

Inevitably, there comes a point in the studying process when students are tempted to ask: why?  Caroline Schneider, JD ’13, reached that point earlier this week.  She turned to the movie Philadelphia for a reminder of why she had chosen to participate in what she described, very simply, as “hell.”

In the movie, Tom Hanks’ character explains the appeal of being a lawyer: “It’s that every now and again—not often, but occasionally—you get to be a part of justice being done. That really is quite a thrill when that happens.”

“AMEN,” Caroline wrote.  “Now back to paper-writing.”

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April 26, 2012

The World of a Florida Citrus Worker

Posted by Cara Solomon

Yesterday we ran a feature about a clinical student, Lauren Estévez, JD ’13, who directed a documentary about citrus workers in Florida.
Today, a profile of one of the workers featured in her film.

The worst days are clear, hot and windless. The sun beats the body on a day like that.  So before the picking begins, C tries to have a good talk with his partners, the men and women who work in the groves.

He’ll ask where they grew up; what they like about this country versus that; get them remembering their favorite childhood memories. Anything positive to start off the day.

“Don’t worry,” he sometimes tells them, when he sees a hard day ahead. “We’re going to get done with this day, and we’re going to get on to the next day.”

After 10 years of picking citrus, C knows how to work the heat. He has learned the best way to position his ladder to save five minutes from the picking of a tree. He knows not to go for weight, even if weight gets you higher wages; better to stick with a half-full picking bag than to risk the force of it making you fall and lose more time and money.

It’s all about technique.

“We’ve been learning from people who have been doing this before we started,” says C. “We pass the word—one generation to another generation.”

The work is hard, and the young ladies from Harvard saw that. They were there for days, filming C and his partners as they carried 90 pound sacks of oranges on their backs. They saw how busy hands can get in the branches. They heard about aches that go deep into bone.

C was glad they came. It’s always nice to meet young people who are getting an education; it’s what he wants most for his own children. And he could tell the students were learning.

“Everything they saw here, it touched their feelings,” says C, one of several workers the students interviewed for their documentary. “And whenever they become lawyers, I know they’re going to have in mind all the things they saw.”

Maybe somebody powerful will watch the students’ film and say: Let’s do something about the wages for the undocumented workers. When C first started picking, more than a decade ago, he made $100 a day. Now he makes about $60 for 10 hours of work.

It’s hard for C to blame anything other than the recession. He knows some people living off food stamps now, in one of the richest countries in the world.

“They got to be focused on the main thing, which is the economy for the country,” he says. “After that, they can take care of us.”

Somewhere in the back of his mind, C still has dreams of farming. He grew up on a ranch in Mexico. The soil is rich where he lived. But without the rain to feed it, the soil might as well have been poor. Until his four children are raised, he won’t even consider going back.

Here, they’ve got stability. They’ve got good schools. This country expects children to get educated, from kindergarten all the way to high school.  C wants to see how far they can go.

“I hope they can go as high as they can as students, to be anything they want—doctors, teachers, lawyers, anything,” he says.

His oldest daughter is testing those limits now. She has the acceptance letters to go to college. But she is missing a social security number.

“She’s been losing a lot of scholarship opportunities,” C says.

C tries to stay focused on his goals: to be a good father, a good neighbor, a good partner in the groves. His daughter calls his work the worst thing she’s ever seen. To C, it’s just a living.

He sees new people in the groves all the time now. Maybe they picked another kind of fruit, and slow and steady is how they went, trying to protect the skin. Citrus is all about speed. Work all day, and you might get $37- or you might get $76. Depends on how many thousands of pounds you can pick.

Sometimes the new workers will fumble on their ladders, trying to move too fast. That’s when C will climb down his own ladder and walk over with words of advice. Sometimes they like it. Sometimes they don’t. But this is the way it works, C thinks: pickers as partners, for as long as they have to stay.

 

For more information on the issue of farm worker rights in Florida, click here. For more on the Harvard Law Documentary Studio, which helped Lauren make her film, Naranjeros, click here.

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April 25, 2012

IHRC Student Directs Documentary on Citrus Workers

Posted by Cara Solomon

In the beginning, Lauren Estévez ’13, stuck to her list. There were ten questions on it—everything she knew she needed to know about the lives of citrus workers in Florida.

But there was more. And she often got it just as silence was settling in: the person in front of the camera would start talking again, offering up stories and information Estévez’s questions never reached.

“You find that really interesting stuff happens at the end—after you’ve asked the last question, and there’s a pause,” said Estévez, a first-time filmmaker and member of the International Human Rights Clinic. “It’s important as an interviewer to sit back a little and listen.”

Last fall, the Harvard Law Documentary Studio offered Estévez and four other students the training, funding and equipment they needed to make a short documentary film. It was a challenge, fitting filmmaking into law school. But after months of research, shooting, and editing, Estévez’s 12-minute film about the lives of citrus workers in Florida screened this month at the Harvard Film Archive, part of the Studio’s first annual DOC Festival.

The films at the festival explored a range of social justice issues, from transgender asylum seekers to cultural perceptions of breast feeding. Together they represent the first crop of documentaries produced by the Studio, a student organization that started last spring to support films on social and policy topics.

When Estévez started research for the film in October, her goal was to tackle two issues—immigration and fair food. She found an advocacy group, the Farmworker Association of Florida, that had close ties to citrus workers; negotiated conditions for filming, including non-disclosure of names; and during January term, went down to her home state of Florida to shoot.

The crew followed workers through their days: boarding a hushed bus before dawn, working from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., then boarding the bus back home.

“It was like I had stumbled into a different world,” Estévez said.

With striking cinematography by Desta Tedros ’13, and Nina Vizcarrondo, Harvard College ‘08, Naranjeros shows the grueling work that goes into picking citrus. In other agricultural sectors, a premium is placed on careful picking, so as not to bruise the fruit; in citrus, it’s all about bulk, which means it’s all about speed. Workers are paid by the pound.

For each bin they fill with 1,000 pounds of fruit, the citrus workers earn $9.50 cents. Some workers can fill six bins a day. Others can fill only four.

“You go to bed exhausted, you wake up exhausted,” says one man in the film. “You have to start slow in the morning because your bones hurt.”

Because most of the workers are either undocumented, or working on H-2A visas, they were reluctant to complain about wages, let alone protest. The threat of deportation loomed too large. And that’s when Estévez shifted her focus for the film, away from fair food and toward immigration reform.

Without it, she said, it was hard to see how things might improve.

One citrus worker who agreed to talk by phone the other day said he was glad to share his story with the students from Harvard. He believed they had seen things, and learned things, that would help them in their careers as lawyers.

“I think one thing they learned is: don’t let go of all of the opportunities they have,” he said.

Continue Reading…

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April 23, 2012

This Thursday: HRP Alum Shows “Code of the West” At Independent Film Festival Boston

Event Notice

April 26, 2012

“Code of the West”

A Documentary by Rebecca Richman Cohen

Award-Winning Filmmaker, HLS Lecturer on Law

7:15 pm
Somerville Theater
Independent Film Festival Boston: Tickets Here

At a time when the country is rethinking its drug policies large and small, one state rises to the forefront of national attention. Once a pioneer in legalizing medical marijuana, the state of Montana is poised to become the first in the nation to repeal its medical marijuana law. Set against the sweeping vistas of the Rockies, the steamy lamplight of marijuana grow houses, and the bustling halls of the State Capitol, “Code of the West” follows the 2011 Montana State Legislature as it debates the fate of medical marijuana. This is the story of the many lives and fraught emotions tied to one of the most heated policy questions facing the country today.

More info, including a trailer, here: http://www.codeofthewestfilm.com

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April 18, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court Decides Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority

Posted by Susan Farbstein and Tyler Giannini

In a 9-0 decision authored by Justice Sotomayor, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the use of the term “individual” in the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) encompasses only natural persons.  Consequently, the TVPA does not impose liability against organizations for acts of torture and extrajudicial killing.  The full decision is available here.

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April 16, 2012

Today, April 18: A Talk by Aryeh Neier, Co-Founder of Human Rights Watch, President of the Open Society Foundations

Event Notice

April 18, 2012

“The International Human Rights Movement: A History”

A Talk by Aryeh Neier, President of the Open Society Foundations

2:00- 3:00 pm

Wasserstein 3013

Aryeh Neier is a giant in the world of human rights advocacy: the President of the Open Society Foundations, a Co-Founder of Human Rights Watch, and a former national director at the American Civil Liberties Union. The author of seven books, next week he will discuss his latest, “The International Human Rights Movement: A History.”

Neier has taught law at New York University, Georgetown University Law School and the University of Siena (Italy). In the fall of 2012, he will become a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Paris School of International Affairs- Sciences Po.

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April 13, 2012

Tomorrow, April 14: Harvard Law DOCS Film Festival

Posted by Cara Solomon

For anyone interested in film or social justice, tomorrow will be a treat: Harvard Law Documentary Studio is presenting its first annual festival of student films. The topics run the gamut, from citrus workers in Florida to transgender asylum seekers to life on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico.

We’ll have more on the festival  next week, with a focus on one of the filmmakers, Lauren Estévez, who is a member of the International Human Rights Clinic. For now, check out the excellent trailer for the event here.

Event Notice

April 14, 2012

“Doc Festival 2012”

2:00- 4:30 pm
Harvard Film Archive
24 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

The Harvard Law Documentary Studio proudly presents its first annual festival of Harvard student films. Join us for a celebration of stories that capture the human condition, challenge our assumptions, and imagine a better world. HLS lecturer and filmmaker Rebecca Richman Cohen will moderate the post-screening panel. Please RSVP on Facebook to help spread the word.

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April 9, 2012

TODAY, April 10: “Causes and Consequences of the Stalemate in Syria”

Event Notice


“Causes and Consequences of the Stalemate in Syria”

12:00- 1:00 pm

Wasserstein B015

As the crisis in Syria continues to unfold, please join us for a discussion with two experts in Middle East affairs: Roger Owen, the A.J. Meyer Professor of Middle East History at Harvard University and the author of the forthcoming book The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life; and Elaine Hagopian, Professor Emerita of Sociology at Simmons College.

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April 3, 2012

Belated Thanks

Posted by Cara Solomon

A big and belated thanks goes out to the 3Ls and 2L who showed up at the Clinical Fair last Wednesday to help us introduce the International Human Rights Clinic to prospective students.  We were lucky enough to have a steady stream of 1Ls at our table, and our students engaged them all, offering insight into the clinical experience, and advice on how to get the most out of it.

A special thanks goes to Russell Kornblith, JD ’12, who kept up his enthusiasm through two straight hours of talking.  We’re also grateful to Yonina Alexander, JD ’12, Christina Chinloy, JD ’12, Poppy Alexander, JD ’12, Daniel Saver, JD ’12, Clara Long, JD ’12, and James Tager, JD ’13.

We appreciate all you did that night, and all you continue to do to strengthen and improve the Clinic.  Pics of yourselves (and two of our clinicians) below!

Christina Chinloy, JD ’12, talks to a student about her clinical experience, working on projects in Panama and Brazil, among others.

Continue Reading…

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