Guess Who is Teaching My Class?

A couple weeks into my 1L year, on my drive into school, I heard a report on public radio about a recent Supreme Judicial Court (the Massachusetts state supreme court) decision. The court had found that black men might have a reason, even if they were not guilty of a crime, to run from the police. Even as a greenhorn law student, I could tell that this sort of decision was radical. When I got to school, I printed the opinion, pushed Torts, Contracts, and CivPro to the side, and raced through it.

Citing to a study conducted by the Boston Police Department, which found that black men are more likely to be stopped and questioned by police officers, and repeatedly so, the court noted that a black male, “when approached by the police, might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity.” This was the outcome I hoped to (but did not often) see in judicial decisions. I looked at the opinion’s author, Justice Geraldine Hines. The first black woman to serve on the Massachusetts Appeals Court and Supreme Judicial Court, she had worked in civil rights and defense before joining the bench. It seemed like the coolest career possible, and controverted the typical image of a judge as a stuffy old white man. Maybe if I was lucky, I thought, one day I would get to meet her.

That day would come sooner than I thought.

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My Sister Sarah: A #BCLawImpact Story

Not long after graduating from college my sister, Sarah, who recently entered her 30s, found herself at a convent in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, helping the nuns run an orphanage. She wasn’t taking vows, but she was beginning, unbeknownst to her, a life path focused on service to others. She has spent the bulk of the past five years working for the Human Resources department for Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontiers, MSF).

When I think of HR, I think of Toby from the show The Office. That was not my sister’s HR. She spent months working in Kurdistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Haiti again, to name a few. These are not vacation destinations, and that’s in part what drew her to the work: the ability to go into Afghanistan to work with and learn from a culture that most folks will never get to experience. Her HR department is likely unlike those that you have worked with. One of her first assignments was to maintain a list of every employee’s location for MSF’s entire 120-person mission in South Sudan, in case they needed to evacuate the country. Every day, she would email or call to each field hospital to see who was moving where, so that if disaster struck and the entire team needed to leave the country quickly, they could. She was barely twenty-four.

This week, the Impact blog is showcasing those people in our lives who have made an impact on us, who have helped us arrive at where we are today, and who keep us motivated towards our goals in the future. If you want to share a story about that person in your life, join us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and post your story using the hashtag #BCLawImpact. Students from the Law Students Association (LSA) and the blog will be in the Yellow Room on Thursday at lunch with a BC Law backdrop and a dry-erase board so you can take a picture with a message thanking someone who has made an impact on you and post it. We will post some of our favorite pictures and messages on the blog, and they will be collected in a Tagboard.

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Who Are These Kids?

“You can tell who the law students are because they’re all kind of old and really stressed out.”  These were the words of a freshman to her friend, overheard by an old and stressed law student, while walking around Boston College’s Newton campus.

BC Law is located within the quiet Boston suburb of Newton.  BC’s main campus is located a mile and a half away, in the Newton neighborhood of Chestnut Hill, which directly abuts Boston.  The law school shares its home with dorms for about half of the Boston College undergraduate freshmen.  For us law students, it can be invigorating and refreshing to be surrounded by such passionate youth.  They, however, are unhappy about the arrangement.  While all of BC Law’s classes are held on the Newton Campus, all of the undergrad classes, and administrative offices, and social engagements, and sporting events, and access to public transportation are located on main campus.  The Newton freshmen are a shuttle bus away from all of these offerings.  The other half of BC’s freshmen, in a luck of the draw, reside on main campus, in an area called “Upper.”  When I was a freshman at BC, I had the great fortune of living on Upper.  One of my friends, relegated to Newton, spent many nights sleeping in Upper’s student lounges, with stashes of toiletries and spare clothes scattered throughout our more fortunate friends’ rooms.

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Que esta passant aqui?

Walking the streets of Barcelona with my father used to involve a mild amount of embarrassment. In the city, where he was born and raised, and where most residents speak both Catalan and Spanish, there is a social convention: If you speak to someone you don’t know in Catalan, and they respond in Spanish, you should follow their cue and switch to Spanish because they do not speak Catalan.  When someone responded to my father’s Catalan in Spanish, he persisted in Catalan.  Sometimes they would call him out, explicitly telling him that they did not speak Catalan.  Sometimes he would respond, “But we are in Catalunya.”  I would stand by, hand blocking my face, hoping the interaction would end quickly.  After seeing the national police bludgeon citizens throughout Catalonia with truncheons in a feeble attempt to block the October 1 independence referendum, I have a harder time seeing my father’s obstinacy as embarrassing.

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Arming Underrepresented Communities with Legal Power

I’m pleased to host a guest post from 2L Yetunde Buraimoh, discussing the Black Law Student Association’s recent “Know Your Rights” training.

When I sat down with the Black Law Students Association’s  (BLSA) E-board last spring to plan programming for the 2017-18 academic year, we unanimously agreed that it was necessary to increase BLSA’s presence in the greater Boston community. Given our nation’s current social climate, particularly the increased exposure of police brutality, we felt that it was crucial to facilitate programming that would equip individuals in over-policed communities with the knowledge necessary to make the best decisions for their safety.

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Behind Closed Doors

When people asked me about my summer (How was work? Did you like what you did?), I found it difficult to provide an adequate account of what I was doing. I spent my summer with the Child Protection Unit at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. The Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) there form part of the team that investigates and, if appropriate, prosecutes instances of child physical and sexual abuse in Suffolk County, which includes Boston, Revere, Chelsea, and Winthrop. At the Superior Court level almost all of the cases they handle deal with allegations of sexual abuse involving children. To be clear, the following will include a discussion of those cases, and some of it may be difficult to read. Continue reading

The Infamous Cold Call: Should You Be Terrified?

In law school, the primary method of teaching, at least in larger classes and especially during the first year, is referred to as the Socratic method. A professor will call on and question a student (usually at random) about the day’s assigned reading, typically a judge’s written decision or case. You’re asked what happened to cause the dispute, what position the opposing sides took and argued, and how the court reasoned through the issue. This happens in front of the eighty or so other students in class.  Public speaking consistently ranks among our greatest fears. The cold call in law school has you speaking in public without much preparation because you cannot know exactly what question will be put to you.

I didn’t know cold calling was a thing in law school until family and friends started asking me if I was nervous about it. I did some research and became terrified – and while it’s normal to feel that way, let me tell you why it might not be justified.

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Unlock the Vote: Restoring Felons’ Rights

In April, I had the privilege of presenting a talk to the Boston College community as part of BC’s Graduate Student’s Association’s program GradTalks. It’s an annual event that provides a forum for a diverse selection of graduate students to present ideas that interest them. I spoke about felon disenfranchisement, and what we have to do in Massachusetts to overcome barriers to voting rights.

Watch the video after the jump.

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Stories from the Public Interest Front Lines

It has been and continues to be a privilege to witness some of the most vulnerable moments of a person’s life, to stand with them, and try to help. The young people with whom I’ve worked have radically different stories than my own, and I imagine different from most law students. My years spent working with them have shown me that while ongoing assistance and intervention in domestic, educational and religious environments is crucial, it can only do so much in the face of a legal system which, for example, occasionally punishes children for problems for which they are not directly responsible. These young people deserve someone fighting on their side who has walked alongside them and experienced a piece of their story. Here are three that have stayed with me. I’ve changed names, but otherwise told them as they happened.


When Jackson’s foster mom dropped him off at the ER, she gave the nurses a piece of advice: don’t let him play dinosaur inside. This was passed along to the director of the behavioral and mental health unit at a different hospital where he ended up, and was repeated to every staff member who worked with him: no dinosaur inside.

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