Blog: Ben Hoffman

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December 5, 2011

A Tale of Two Friends: Marissa Vahlsing, JD ’11, and Ben Hoffman, JD ’11

Posted by Cara Solomon

This article was originally published in The Harvard Law Bulletin

It’s hard to remember now what she said.  But it was vintage Marissa—something others would not have thought, or had the courage to say.  She raised her hand in the first week of law school, and spoke her mind.

Ben and Marissa were among several students to staff the Clinic’s table during last year’s annual Clinical Fair.

Right away, Ben wanted to be her friend.  He flagged her down on the crosswalk after class.  He asked if she wanted to bat around some ideas.  And that was how Ben Hoffman and Marissa Vahlsing started Harvard Law School: side by side.

Three years later, they graduated the same way.

“The joke is that Ben has become more like Marissa, and Marissa has become more like Ben, and they’re starting to blur into the same person,” said Susan Farbstein ’04, associate clinical director of the Human Rights Program, a mentor and teacher to both.

This fall, along with the rest of the Class of 2011, Marissa and Ben have headed out into the world to make their way.  Specifically, they’re working in Peru, helping EarthRights International set up an office to support indigenous communities in the fight to protect their land.

When Marissa heard they had received funding for the project, she could not stop smiling.

“We were going anyway,” she said. “Now we’ll have the money to eat.”

**********

In high school, Marissa wanted to be a potter.  Or maybe a writer.  Then one day, talking to an activist on a banana plantation in Costa Rica, she asked what he needed most.

A lawyer, he said.

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November 22, 2011

What We’re Reading Now . . .

Posted by Cara Solomon

As we wind down for Thanksgiving week, here are a few recommendations for bus/train/plane reading.  We’ve enjoyed these blogs and Web sites over the past few months—and hope you will too.

The first is a series of in-depth interviews the Harvard Law School Human Rights Journal is running on its Web site.  In the first installment, James Tager, JD ’13,  interviews Osama Siddique, an Associate Professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences, recent S.J.D. graduate from Harvard Law, and Pakistani legal scholar.  The topic:  Siddique’s recent scholarship on Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws.

We’re also religiously checking the blogs by Ben Hoffman, JD ’11, and Marissa Vahlsing, JD ’11, who are helping to set up an office for EarthRights International (ERI) in Peru.  Ben and Marissa were fixtures on HRP’s blue couch last year; this year, they’re working as Henigson fellows, focusing on indigenous land rights and the environment in the Amazon.

Ben’s latest post explores the protest by thousands of indigenous people in Bolivia over a proposed highway through their territory.  Marissa most recently wrote about a trip into the Amazon to meet indigenous leaders in the Ucayali region of Peru.  The leaders’ main concern: a proposed highway that would cut through some indigenous communities, and expose others to unwanted contact with the outside world.

If you have suggestions for what we should read, and/or encourage others to read, please email me at csolomon@law.harvard.edu.  We’d love to hear from you.

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April 14, 2011

Ohio Residents Challenge Board’s Failure to Discipline Guantánamo Psychologist

Yesterday, Ohio residents asked a state court to compel the State Psychology Board of Ohio to take action against Dr. Larry James, a local psychology dean who oversaw abusive interrogations at the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Working with Toledo civil rights attorney Terry Lodge, the International Human Rights Clinic filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, representing Dr. Trudy Bond, Michael Reese, Rev. Colin Bossen, and Dr. Josie Setzler.  Clinical Fellow Deborah Popowski and students Sara Zampierin, JD ’11, Deonna Gaskin, JD ’12, and Ben Hoffman, JD ’11, went to Columbus this week to file the petition, meet with clients and supporters, and talk to the press.

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