Guest blogger Rita Muse ’15 comes from a line of BC Law graduates. Her grandmother, Judge Mary Beatty Muse, graduated in 1950, her aunt, Patricia Muse, in 1990, and her cousin, Julie Muse-Fisher, in 2005. Her uncle, Christopher Muse, though not a BC Law grad, has been a longtime adjunct professor at the Law School. He and Rita’s grandfather, Robert Muse were instrumental in the release of the wrongly convicted Bobby Joe Leaster. Their engagement with Leaster in the 1980s had a lasting impact on the Muse family, including on Rita, who, as a law student, helped to free another innocent man.
Bobby Joe Leaster: A Remembrance
By Rita Miuse ’15
When Bobby Joe Leaster spoke to BC Law students and faculties, his story was the same but his message never got old; he was wrongfully convicted of murder and unjustly imprisoned for almost 16 years, but he dealt with injustice in his own profoundly special way. This past April 26, one of BC Law’s favorite guests and a beloved citizen of Boston, passed away from the severe burns he suffered in a home fire three weeks earlier.
Bobby Joe Leaster, with his lawyers, Robert and Christopher Muse, teaching Judicial Youth Corps students in the courthouse where he was convicted.
This is my remembrance of the person who motivated me as a student, inspired me as a lawyer, and became a friend of my family, two of whom, my grandfather Robert Muse and my uncle Christopher Muse, a longtime adjunct professor at BC Law, helped to free Bobby Joe.
A couple of weeks ago, Dean Rougeau quoted Martin Luther King in his powerful letter to the BC Law community: “We may all have come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now.”
What does this mean?
It means that not a single person in America can remain silent or apathetic in this fight for racial equality. Racism is pervasive and comes in many forms. Racism is police brutality. Racism is microaggressions. Racism is “color-blindness.” Racism is silence.
And silence is violence.
BC Law Dean Vincent Rougeau sent the letter below earlier this week to the BC Law community, and I thought it was important enough to share here on BC Law Impact. I have also written about this issue in my recent post Black Lives Matter.
Dear members of BC Law community:
I know the pain that you are feeling because I am feeling it too. And I am tired. So very, very tired. I am tired of writing these letters over and over again. As a Black man with three sons, I am tired of the fear I must carry when they are out moving through their lives in a country where the lives of people of color are so easily extinguished. I am tired of the sickening legacy of racism in this county and of being told not to talk about it because it makes people uncomfortable. Our nation is in crisis and we cannot continue to ignore the fact that the fabric of our society is being shredded by many among us who refuse to recognize our shared humanity.
“Go home. Be with your family. Live simply and with integrity. Consume only what you need. Be generous with each other.”
That is the gist of much of Leviticus 25, where God issues instructions for the Jubilee. The jubilee is a kind of year-long Sabbath, occurring after “seven weeks of years, seven times seven years”—i.e., every 50th year. But in addition to the typical Sabbath’s rest and worship, the Jubilee is also a time of mercy and compassion: enslaved people are freed, debts are forgiven, and economic relations are subordinated to fundamental human needs. God assures Moses that the land will be capable of feeding and sheltering the people and so they must, “observe my statutes and faithfully keep my ordinances, so that you may live on the land securely.”
Today I am hosting a guest blog from third-year student Eric Jepeal.
This past August I was fortunate to be appointed to serve on the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee (SAC) to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR). USCCR is a federal agency established by Congress to advance “civil rights through objective and comprehensive investigation, research, and analysis on issues of fundamental concern to the federal government and the public.” USCCR is Congressionally mandated to have SACs in each state and the District of Columbia. The members of these SACs advise and facilitate the work of the USCCR, and are colloquially referred to as the “eyes and ears” of the USCCR.
Prior to my time at Boston College, I interned for the USCCR and worked on various projects related to solitary confinement, bail reform, and fair housing. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our SAC released a statement of concern regarding incarcerated persons. As you may be aware, the Supreme Judicial Court recently issued an opinion regarding litigation in Massachusetts brought by prisoners’ rights advocates and organizations to provide relief to incarcerated persons in the Commonwealth (CPCS v. Chief). Unfortunately, the SJC found it lacked authority to provide relief to prisoners who are more than sixty days into serving their sentences.
Today I am hosting the second in a series of guest blogs by Irit Tamir, an adjunct professor at BC Law who teaches Business and Human Rights. The first post is here. Professor Tamir is also the Director of Oxfam America’s Private Sector Department. In her role, she is focused on working with companies to ensure that their business practices result in positive social and environmental impacts for vulnerable communities throughout the world. She leads Oxfam America’s work on business and development including shareholder engagement, value chain assessments, and collaborative advocacy initiatives, such as the successful “Behind the Brands” campaign.
Seven years since the Rana Plaza disaster, the COVID-19 crisis is a stark reminder how businesses have a responsibility to their supply chain workers.
The COVID19 pandemic highlights, more than any recent crisis, the duty of Governments to provide social protection. For workers, social protection ensures strong labor policies, living wages, safe and healthy working conditions, and the ability to have a voice in the workplace — in particular, to raise issues when they arise without fear of retribution. It also means there is a safety net in place when disaster strikes and workers and producers are no longer able to make a living by providing unemployment compensation, sick leave, and insurance.
But, many governments have not lived up to this duty, because they lack the resources to be able to do so, they espouse a race to the bottom approach in attracting foreign investment, and/or because they have been corrupted by business sector influence.
I am pleased to host a guest blog on Earth Day from Claudio Ferreira Ferraz, BC Law LLM ’15, of Ferraz, Pinto, Lino & Nemer. As a student, Claudio taught in BC Law’s unique seminar program, where senior law students teach their own individualized course in environmental law and policy to Boston College undergraduates, under the supervision of BC Law professor Zygmunt Plater.
This post was also published today at the Bar Association of Espirito Santo State, in Brazil.
Claudio Ferreira Ferraz, BC Law LLM ’15
On April 22, the Earth Day is celebrated all over the world.
The idea started 50 years ago in the United States, when activist Senator Gaylord Nelson, influenced by the environmental disaster caused by the oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969, decided to unite the energy of student movements against the Vietnam War and the growth of environmental awareness in the country
Nelson initially devised an educational event on university campuses aimed at fostering academic discussions focused on environment protection. He chose April 22nd as the ideal date to maximize student participation, since it was a Wednesday, that is, in the middle of the week, and it was located between Spring Break and the final exams.
This guest blog from Italian student Maria Antonietta Sgro came to us from BC Law professor Katie Young. Professor Young had been scheduled to co-teach a course on law and technology in Italy this spring with professor Amedeo Santosuosso at the University of Pavia, but when his students went into lockdown amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the class was canceled. Professor Young invited the students to share their reflections on how their lives had been impacted by this disease, and Maria’s post below is one particularly moving answer.
It’s not a random number. Maybe for some it’s insignificant, and for others it doesn’t mean anything. But for me it represents a barrier. A wall of distance that separates me from what has been my home, full of love, life, laughter, the sea and–last but not least–my family for 19 years.
I’m writing from my desk, illuminated with a lamp, because here in Pavia (in the northern part of Italy) it’s already dark at 6:45 p.m. Even though I can’t see anything from my window, I used to be able to know the difference between the sunrise, when the morning flowed fast, and the sunset, when the silence became comfortably pleasant after a long day full of noise. But now there seems to be no difference between day and night. Silence is my master, and I am always seeing gray.
I no longer hear the little birds singing; in good weather, their singing was pleasant. I no longer hear the children leaving school, screaming with happiness. I no longer hear my neighbor. Sometimes it seems that I no longer feel myself.
It’s like everything is rumbling, a deep echo with no return.
Today I am hosting a guest blog by Irit Tamir, an adjunct professor at BC Law who teaches Business and Human Rights. She is also the Director of Oxfam America’s Private Sector Department. In her role, she is focused on working with companies to ensure that their business practices result in positive social and environmental impacts for vulnerable communities throughout the world. Irit leads Oxfam America’s work on business and development including shareholder engagement, value chain assessments, and collaborative advocacy initiatives, such as the successful “Behind the Brands” campaign.
Business has an important role to play in addressing the health and economic impacts of this crisis. Here’s a checklist of what companies can, and should, do.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for governments to take their duties seriously in protecting people and their human rights. Society’s ills can never be solved by business and markets alone. For several decades, the US government has taken a back seat as it relied on the private sector to solve public challenges—a system that is now being shaken to the core as benefits tied to employment are lost with jobs, and business is forced to shut down.
In the past few weeks the world has changed in ways most of us could never have imagined. While much remains unknown, one thing remains stable—the sense of community that both comforts and uplifts us, even in the midst of trying times.
The post below is a riveting reflection from 1L Ryan Kenney, who was among a group of BC Law students on this year’s Gulf Coast Pro-Bono Spring Break trip to Montgomery, Alabama. It was scheduled to be posted several weeks ago, but was postponed due to the emergency situation COVID-19 created. That said, we think the message is too important to go unshared. We will share several other related service trip stories this week.
Stay safe everyone, and please reach out to us at email@example.com if we can do anything to help, or if you would like us to consider publishing a guest post on your own experiences during the outbreak.
When people asked us where we were from and we replied that we were on spring break from Boston College Law School, gently raised eyebrows and clarifying questions invariably followed. As if on cue, our neighbor on the puddle jumper from Charlotte, then the barista, the lobbyist in the state house elevator, and virtually everyone else we encountered who wasn’t already expecting us conferred a “Well, welcome to Alabama!” and a warm smile.
This week, we witnessed how people make, interpret, and execute laws in Alabama.