Faculty Spotlight: Professor Michael Cassidy

Take a handful of BC Law students and ask them who their favorite professor is—odds are at least one of them will say Professor Cassidy. Don’t get me wrong, we have so many great professors at BC Law, but between teaching criminal law, professional responsibility, and evidence, most students have had the pleasure of taking a class with Professor Cassidy at least once. 

That said, it isn’t just a matter of variety. Beyond the wide breadth of classes he teaches, Professor Cassidy also keeps students enthusiastically engaged with his breakdown of complex legal topics and lighthearted anecdotes. 

I sat down with Professor Cassidy to ask him about his own law school experience, career, and favorite things about BC Law. 


1) Have you always wanted to be an attorney? Growing up did you think this is where you would end up?

I decided I wanted to be an attorney in the 9th grade when I read “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I was inspired by how lawyers could give voice to the voiceless in our society and be an instrument of change. I didn’t know any lawyers, except those I caddied for at the golf club. My parents were blue collar workers. 

2) What was your favorite thing about law school? Least favorite?

I pretty much hated law school. Harvard Law School in the early to mid 1980’s was not a happy place to be. Several faculty who focused on Critical Legal Studies had left for other schools or had been denied tenure. Back then HLS was nicknamed the “Beirut on the Charles” because all the faculty were at war with each other. Very few of them had a student-focused perspective on their responsibilities. 

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Faculty Spotlight: Professor Dan Farbman

BC Law Impact Editor’s Note: We pride ourselves at Boston College Law School on our unique community that cultivates an incredible student body with a brilliant faculty. This post is part of an ongoing faculty spotlight Q&A series to help students get to know the members of our faculty on a more personal level.


What do you like most about BC and why?

As hokey as it is to say, the answer is the students. I have found it to be universally true that the students are super happy to be here, kind to each other, but also really open minded in the very best sense — the sense of being able to come into class and just engage with wherever we go. So, if we’re talking about something difficult, the students are open to it and respectful with each other, but also really curious. It’s easy to create really rich academic environments because there’s sort of a low barrier of entry for the students. Compared to other teaching I’ve done at other places, I’ve just found it incredibly gratifying to be able to come into a classroom and know that, whatever you bring to the classroom, students are going to be up for it. Even if they’re sometimes surprised or off-balance, they’re not hostile, and so that means you can really do stuff in class that otherwise might be harder to do.

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The Right Choice? LSA Co-President Reflects on BC Law

My name is John Ferraro, and I’m a current 3L and LSA Co-President. In what is admittedly an attempt to put out of my mind the looming fear of imminent Barbri bar prep, I hope I can ask all of you to indulge me in a short adventure in the past.

Before law school, I was a digital programmatic media buyer (for those of you wondering what that means, we are the people that push on you, for the rest of your life, the online ads for that toaster you looked at once on Amazon).

Going from advertising to law school was a bit of a drastic change. But the idea to go to law school had been nagging at the back of my mind since my senior year of undergrad. Even during my time in advertising, law was front and center. IP concerns over trademarks, fonts, and brand colors. As someone mainly supporting the marketing efforts of a large financial institution, crash courses on Fair Lending and FDIC disclosures. And most of all, the one four-letter word for which digital advertisers and lawyers share horror: GDPR. So while I made a significant jump, it was a jump motivated by signs I couldn’t ignore any longer.

I will concede that, for me (as I suspect it is for many), the law school application process felt like shots in the dark. I had some ideas of possible interests, cities I thought might be fun to live in, how I might approach the LSAT and a personal statement. But when working to fit a good picture of yourself into a neat sheath of 8.5×11 papers, uncertainty is an inherent part of the process. In terms of picking a school to attend, I admit that I similarly felt I was on shaky ground. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the choice of picking a law school was one of–if not the–most important choices of my life.

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On Innocence, Factual and Moral

One of the first lessons taught in the year-long Boston College Innocence Clinic concerns the concept of “factual innocence.” It is closely related to the concept of “actual innocence,” though different jurisdictions may refer to one or the other, and the substance and application of those terms can vary. Regardless of which term is deployed, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher when clinic students learn that the legal concept of “actual innocence” entails its own discrete body of thought and doctrine within criminal law. Doesn’t the determination of actual innocence suffuse the entire criminal-legal process?

It turns out it does not, and factual innocence is largely a claim raised in the post-conviction setting to overturn a wrongful conviction. That claim often finds little legal purchase. In Herrera v. Collins, for instance, the Supreme Court held that a claim of actual innocence does not entitle a person to federal habeas corpus relief under the 8th Amendment’s proscription of cruel and unusual punishment. Constitutionally and procedurally intact convictions can remain undisturbed by the truth. In Herrera’s case, a capital case, the Court ruled it was not cruel and unusual to execute an innocent man. That kind of antiseptic, procedural logic is one striking example of how the banality of evil manifests itself within the criminal legal system.

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A Year in Review of a Transfer Student

August:

The Friday before the start of classes, the school held a social event for new students at The Horse, a local pub. I was extremely nervous, to the point that I was sweating profusely. I went to the bathroom to cool myself down, and noticed a girl I thought I recognized doing the same thing. It was Meg Keown, the other transfer student who had come to BC Law with me. I had looked her up on social media the moment we were put on an email thread together.

From the moment we met in person in that bathroom of The Horse, Meg and I became instant best friends. We always joke that we’re so lucky we liked each other, because if not, we wouldn’t have someone to experience all these firsts with. It was nice to have someone in the same boat as me, who understood the particular anxiety and excitement that came with being a new student transferring from another law school.

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On Being a Parent in Law School, Part IV: Children’s Stories for Lawyers

When I first wrote about parenting in law school, I complained that my classmates were reading case law while I was reading Moo, Baa, La La La! Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s still clear that book had no educational value for me. But my daughter loved it. So, what can you do? Fortunately, in the years since then, my increasingly sophisticated daughter has brought me into contact with increasingly stimulating stories.

Early on she tried out periodicals before turning to farm-based fiction.

For instance, our new farmhouse-themed go-to is Click, Clack, Moo, a pro-labor story about the power of the pen. In it, cows gain access to a type-writer and use it to demand better working conditions from Farmer Brown. They then go on strike until their demands are met. The revolution will not be pasteurized. The movement for animal dignity spreads to the chickens. They bring in a duck to mediate as a neutral party. But he is radicalized and brings the insurgency to the other ducks. Fellow classmates going into labor law: get this book if you want to explain to children what you do.

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Students Respond to Dobbs V. Jackson: Part Two

Student organizations have issued two joint letters in response to the recent leaked SCOTUS draft opinion. BC Law Impact has agreed to publish these letters in the interest of continuing a respectful dialogue within our community on this important issue. The following letter was issued by the organizations listed below.


By now you have probably seen the student statement regarding the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Inc. draft opinion from the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, this statement may create the impression that it represents our entire community. It does not.

While we understand many students feel strongly opposed to the draft opinion, we are also aware that pro-life students are just as much a part of the BC Law community. BC Law has always been a place where people with different ideas and beliefs can learn from and befriend one another.

We hope it is made clear that not all student leaders agree to the statement put out earlier today through the Law Student Association email account. As the most recent Diversity and Inclusion Statement notes, we acknowledge and welcome a range of viewpoints. Those with principled disagreements can still share the same community. Diversity of thought makes our community strong. We are confident that tradition will continue.

The draft opinion represents a major victory for our democracy. In 1973, the Supreme Court ended debate on the contentious issue of abortion. They hoped then, and later in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that the issue would be settled. Despite perhaps good intentions, they were wrong. Abortion raises significant moral questions about a woman’s liberty, medical care, and the rights of the unborn. Since abortion was erroneously crystallized as a constitutional right, court battles have led jurists with no expertise to attempt to determine when life begins. Many believe that this question should be answered by us and our representatives, not the judiciary.

As law students, we know that the courts are powerful. When properly constrained, regular people are free to decide through their elected officials what values our law will reflect. We encourage all students to respectfully speak their minds on this issue. We applaud the effort to return this important topic to the people. We agree with our classmates that this dispute is far from over. Should the draft opinion be adopted by the Court, the debate would only just begin.

At BC Law, we sincerely hope that an exchange of different ideas and beliefs continues respectfully.

Signed,
BC Law Republicans
International Law Society

Students Respond to Dobbs v. Jackson: Part One

Student organizations have issued two joint letters in response to the recent leaked SCOTUS draft opinion. BC Law Impact has agreed to publish these letters in the interest of continuing a respectful dialogue within our community on this important issue. The following letter was issued by the organizations listed below.


By now you have heard of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Inc. draft opinion leaked from the Supreme Court overturning the decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The draft, written by Justice Alito, sets the stage for millions of Americans to lose their constitutionally protected right to a legal and safe abortion. 

While the authenticity of the draft was confirmed, we still do not know whether this is the Court’s final opinion. Today, abortion is still legal in all 50 states. But if this is the Court’s opinion, it soon will not be. States have already been empowered to pass increasingly draconian and restrictive abortion bans in recent years. Twelve states have trigger bans that immediately go into effect if Roe and Casey fall. Some states have pre-existing anti-abortion laws still on the books. In all, abortion will be protected in less than half of U.S. states and territories if Roe and Casey are overturned. We also acknowledge that while Roe and Casey reified the right to abortion, access to this fundamental reproductive freedom is not accessible for all, especially low-income women of color, trans men, other pregnant people, and those living at the intersection of marginalized identities. Furthermore, coinciding with the uptick in laws modeled after Texas’ S.B.8, this decision opens the door to surveillance and criminalization of pregnant people and those who perform abortions.  In a criminal judicial system that has been built on systemic oppression, it is no surprise that the increased targeting of pregnant people will disproportionately criminalize Black, Brown and Indigenous people. Those who are disenfranchised in this country will experience the greatest impact from this decision. 

We also recognize that many people may fear the broader implications of this decision and what precedents may be overturned next. While people throw out the names of cases like Lawrence and Obergefell to illustrate the potential catastrophic consequences of the Court’s actions in Dobbs, the fear that many people have that their liberties and identities are threatened is very real. Even without the decision in Dobbs, the rights of LGBTQ youth and adults have been in peril–from “Don’t Say Gay,” to attacks on transgender youth, the community has a lot to fear. The Court’s decision–which will also inevitably impact trans pregnant people seeking healthcare at a higher rate– only adds to that. We stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ communities and communities of color.

As student leaders we realize the role we have to offer comfort, information, and solidarity in moments such as these. We want to acknowledge the deep sadness, anger, and fear many students–particularly those assigned female at birth–are feeling right now. We recognize that this comes at a very stressful time in the semester, making the news even harder to stomach. We will aim to create spaces to understand the intellectual and emotional implications in the fall and over the summer. Your community at BC Law is here to support you. 

As law students, we know the law is malleable, ever-changing, and a way to influence society. We encourage those of you who feel disempowered or frustrated by these decisions to use your power as a law student to effectuate changes you want to see. Whether that means donating to abortion funds or legal defense funds, explaining doctrine to others, engaging in legislative advocacy in your home state or at the federal level, or even joining the profession as a reproductive rights/justice advocate, this fight is far from over. 

Signed, 

American Constitution Society 
If/When/How: Law Students for Reproductive Justice
Law Students Association (LSA)
Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA)
Black Law Students Association (BLSA)
Boston College Law Democrats
Disability Law Students Association
Health Law Society
Holocaust/Human Rights Project
Immigration Law Group
Lambda Law Students Association 
Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA)
Middle Eastern Law Students Association (MELSA)
Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF)
Women’s Law Center

Faculty Spotlight: Professor Mark Brodin

I had Professor Brodin for Civil Procedure during 1L, and I had a great time in his class. I also ended up taking Evidence with him during my 2L year, which was actually one of my favorite law school classes. I am currently in his employment discrimination class this semester, as well. I recently had the chance to interview him and learn a bit more about his background, his BC Law story, and his hidden talent for music.


To begin, can you tell us a bit about your background?

I was born in the Bronx and then moved to Queens as a young child. Around age 9, we moved to Long Island, where I went to public school. I moved back to Manhattan for both college and law school at Columbia. After law school, I moved up here to Boston since I ended up clerking for a judge at the federal district court here.

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We Need More Blood Donors: The FDA Ban on MSM Donations Must End

Tomorrow, Boston College Law School holds its last blood drive of the year at a time when the nation’s blood supply is critically low. Due to the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Red Cross had to declare its first-ever national blood crisis in January. Even prior to the pandemic, meeting the country’s needs was a challenge; 4.5 million Americans require a blood transfusion each year, but less than forty percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood. And less than ten percent donate annually. The BC Law community includes many people who have committed themselves to lives in service of others. But the prospect of donating blood remains a significant psychological hurdle for many. We have had to conduct constant outreach to fill the blood drive schedule. In fact, we still need more donors. If you are able, please sign up to donate here: Boston College Law Blood Drive Registration Page.

Given this state of affairs, it is all the more frustrating that we have had to turn away gay or bisexual men who are eager to donate blood. Despite the urgent need for blood and the difficulty of finding donors, we have had to tell friends, colleagues, and classmates that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for regulatory oversight of the U.S. blood supply, prohibits donations from “Men who have sex with Men” (MSM). The FDA instituted a lifetime ban on blood donations from MSM in 1985. This was early in the HIV/AIDS epidemic, when the incidence of HIV among gay men was high, the virus was poorly understood, and there were no available screening methods for donated blood.

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