Examining White Privilege

Today I am hosting a guest blog from alumnus Michael B. Goldenkranz ‘78.


Part of what drew this Jewish boy from Brooklyn to BC Law in the mid 70’s was prior Dean Robert Drinan S.J., who left to become a U.S. Congressman shortly before I began law school. Both his and the School’s continuing and unwavering commitment to human rights and social justice, and the mission to “prepare students to not only be good lawyers but lead good lives,” still resonates with me today.

I have tried to instill those values in my now grown children, and to remind them to always question assumptions, as I remember doing during my time at BC Law.  My son David, a former primary/secondary school teacher who has also worked on documentary filmmaking, is taking the opportunity to use today’s calls for racial justice and equality to examine his status as a privileged white male in ways that may be sometimes viscerally painful, but certainly necessary. His recent essays include “Pajamas are a Privilege,” “White American PTSD,” “A Black and White Matter,” “What Kind of a Dog are You?” and “Colorblindness: The Façade of Equality.”

Like the cases we studied at BC Law and the discussions we had in our classes, I find David’s writings thoughtful and provocative. They make me think about uncomfortable but really important issues in ways that I think would please Fr. Drinan. My hope is that we may continue to strive to lead good lives and fight for social justice and equality for all.

David’s website can be found at https://davidgoldenkranz.com.

-Michael B. Goldenkranz, BC Law ‘78

Remembering Bobby Joe Leaster: Saving Boston’s Youth

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

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.

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The Four Best “Good News” Stories You Need Right Now

1. In twist of fate, Dallas Community Serves 1L Connie Lee’s Family Restaurant

First-year student Connie Lee’s parents run a restaurant where she grew up in Dallas, Texas. “When our state began requiring restaurants to only do take-out or delivery, and issuing stay-at-home orders, my family feared what would happen these next few weeks,” Lee said.

In addition to physically endangering essential workers and their families, COVID-19 financially strains restaurants like the Lee’s and other small businesses with each passing day.

“My family has had the restaurant for 21 years now, and most of our customers have been there since day one,” Lee said. In recent weeks, instead of serving the surrounding community as it normally would, the restaurant and the Lee family has found the community serving them.

“Multiple people called my dad and gave him a pep talk for the first few days to not give up and let him know that he would get through this. A few people had sent us a greeting card with some donations gathered by neighbors,” Lee said.

Acts of kindness and selflessness like this sharply contrast the day-to-day drone of dark news and whirlwind of public health and financial variability. Lee says that expressing gratitude and looking forward to the return to relative normalcy is her focus for now: “I really don’t know what to say but thank you to them, and eventually to give everyone a hug once we are able to meet again. It’s really amazing to see how connected we can feel even in a time of distance and uncertainty.”

2. Alum Paul Trifiletti ’10 Negotiates 5-Day Jeopardy! Run

Athens, Georgia-based attorney becomes five-day champion, wins over $100,000

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, Paul Trifiletti’s success playing alongside syndicated Jeopardy! broadcasts encouraged him to try out for the real thing.

Trifiletti passed online qualifying rounds, an in-person audition, and an additional test before Sony Pictures Studios in California called, offering him a shot.

An Assistant District Attorney with the Piedmont Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, Trifiletti fought hard from start to finish. Down $1,400 heading into Final Jeopardy in his first game, Trifiletti correctly answered the ’20th Century Artists’ category to pass the leader and collect $21,000 as the new champion.

Perhaps the most notable moment came when a question drew on Trifiletti’s recollections of 1776 Philadelphia, this time beyond the world of Constitutional law. To a question asking for the nickname of Philadelphia 76’er Joel Embiid that “describes the 76’ers strategy of improving the team,” Trifiletti answered “Do a 180.’” In response, Embiid, known as “The Process,” changed his Twitter handle from “Joel ‘The Process’ Embiid” to “Joel ‘Do a 180’ Embiid???.” He has not changed it back.

Trifiletti finished his five-day run with $106,801. According to Jeopardy’s Tournament of Champions Tracker, he is poised to return for the program’s 15-player tournament of the season’s top champions.

Back in Athens, a young boy approached Trifiletti upon recognizing him from the show. The Athens Banner-Herald reports that Trifiletti told him to keep studying hard in school and that one day he, too, could be on the show.

“I encourage people who want to try to take the test,” Trifiletti said. “You could end up like me, end up getting on the show, end up winning five games. You never know.”

3. Professor Chirba Invokes Krazinski, Hamilton in Pedagogical Pep Talk

Newton hometown hero John Krazinski and the cast of Hamilton brought Professor Mary Ann Chirba’s Law Practice II class “full circle.”

At the beginning of the year, nearly every student in Professor Mary Ann Chirba’s Law Practice class was completely unfamiliar with legal research, analysis, and writing. BC Law’s flagship first-year Law Practice program introduces students to the work of a lawyer through legal problem solving in a simulated law practice setting. To set the stage, Professor Chirba showed students the clip of Lin-Manuel Miranda singing the opening song from Hamilton for the first time in public. She emphasized Miranda’s masterful display of linguistic precision, cogent argument, and word economy.

Off-broadway workshops were years away for Hamilton at that point, not to mention the popular adoration and critical acclaim it continues to enjoy. Similarly distant yet attainable, Professor Chirba explained to her students, was the endgame of the Law Practice journey: becoming efficient and effective legal practitioners.

“That was then, this is now,” Professor Chirba wrote in an email to her Law Practice class earlier this month, linking to the Hamilton cast’s surprise appearance on John Krazinski’s mini-series, Some Good News. “You are working on your final memos and need to focus on precision, concision, and TONS of large and small choices” regarding the content, phrasing, sequence, emphasis, and cohesion of the final product. Parting with words of encouragement relevant not only to her class but to anyone grasping for a ray of inspiration, Professor Chriba wrote of the clip:

“It will remind you that people are good, your future is bright, and you cannot throw away your…”

4. Multigenerational Teaching, Learning Offer Lessons in Law and Levity

To give his first-year Constitutional Law students a needed boost on April Fool’s Day, Professor Daniel Farbman turned to uncommon teaching assistants.

Professor Farbman posted two “administrative” videos on the course website, titled “Class Mechanics Update Video” and “Grading Policy Update Video.” He then instructed the class to watch them in preparation for a discussion to follow.

It turns out that they were videos of his two adorable children — one giving a lecture on her bouncy ball and another reading The Pigeon Needs a Bath.

“I was having a tough week, but these videos cheered me up!” said 1L Yeram Choi.

Earlier this month, Professor Ingrid Hillinger’s Bankruptcy class unexpectedly became a continuing legal education session.

A student revealed that her father, a bankruptcy attorney at a major national firm, tuned into the virtual class to brush up on his doctrinal footing, and he said he loved the experience.

Boston College Law faculty and staff’s extra efforts to keep student learning on track with some levity along the way have made the past few weeks brighter.


Ryan Kenney is a first-year student and loves to hear from readers. Email him at ryan.kenney@bc.edu.

Earth Day in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

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.

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What I’ve Learned About Networking and Giving Back

“Who should we talk to?” I whispered to my fellow networking newbie, scanning the reception room.  

“I don’t know,” she whispered back. “I feel awkward.”

Thinking back to that night last September at the 1L Boot Camp Kickoff hosted by WilmerHale, I realize that I’ve come a long way in just a few months. I, like many of my peers, didn’t think I was the “networking type of person.” What did I—straight out of college with no legal experience or background—possibly have to talk about with big-deal attorneys who’ve been in the legal profession for longer than I’ve been alive?

Recognizing that I’m still far from an expert at this game, here are some things I’ve learned. Lesson one: with practice, networking does get easier.

Lesson two: the payoff can be enormous.

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Why BC Law was the Right Choice for Me

I am happy to host a guest blog today from Vincent Lau, ’97, on why BC Law’s community continues to make it the right choice. 


I still remember the very first week when I was a 1L years ago when Dean Avi Soifer both informed and assured us that the Boston College Law School was an extended community. While I haven’t thought too much more about the actual speech until now, his characterization of BC Law was definitely accurate. Looking back at the different stages of my relationship with the school, I couldn’t agree more.

BEFORE

When I was accepted to BC Law I was very excited but also torn. At the time, I was living in California and was offered admission into one of the reputable state schools in California, with an in-state resident tuition price tag. And, having grown up on the East Coast, I wanted to stay longer in California. What convinced me was that all of the BC Law alumni with whom I spoke were very pleased with their education and the experience they received. In fact, they freely shared with me how much they enjoyed their time there. How could I say no?

DURING

While attending BC Law has been over 20 years ago, what sticks out in my mind about my experience is the access that I had to my professors. While BC Law attracts some of the brightest legal minds, these are also professors who are dedicated to the learning process and ensuring that they set aside time for their students. I was floored by the attention that I received. This you don’t find in many other places and again emphasizes the sense of community there.

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A Grateful Listener: Family Court Judge Reflects on Lessons Learned

Today I’m very pleased to be able to host a guest blog from the Hon. James V. Menno ‘86, who recently retired after more than two decades of service as an associate justice of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court.

Despite the number of people sitting on the hard benches in this sunlit courtroom, there is a respectful silence.  An ordinary person is sitting in the witness box.  She has taken an oath to tell the truth.  Her descriptive answers to her attorney’s questions begin to weave together a story.  It is a deeply personal story that provides unique insight into her and the children of her fractured family.  She tells this story to another ordinary person, me, who also happens to be the judge. We are separated by a bench, a black robe and the roles we play.  But we are joined together as co-participants in the daily unfolding of the actual Rule of Law.

Her role is to honestly tell the difficult story that has led to this moment. Tomorrow, her husband will sit in the same chair and do the same.  My role is to listen to them as unique individuals, determine which facts are true, and (utilizing the applicable law) make a decision that will allow them and their children to transition from one family to two single-parent families.  Whew! What a daunting task this is for both of us, the storyteller and the listener.

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Our Woman of the Year

I am pleased to host a guest post from co-presidents of the Boston College Law School Women’s Law Center, Liz Dwyer and Stacey Kourtis.

The Women’s Law Center aims to impact both its student members and the entire BC Law community by providing networking opportunities with women in the legal community, maintaining strong ties with women alumni for mentorship, and by providing a forum for discussion about women’s issues at BC Law and beyond. For us, the WLC has served as a supportive and engaging group here at BC Law. We’re proud to be members of the Women’s Law Center where we have both had the opportunity to meet wonderful women at BC Law, alumnae, and faculty.

Every year, the Women’s Law Center at BC Law  chooses one alumna who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to advancing an area of the legal profession and recognizes her as the WLC’s Woman of the Year. This year, the Women’s Law Center nomination committee chose to present the 10th Annual Woman of the Year Award to Josephine McNeil ’87.

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An Inside Look at Judicial Clerkships

I am pleased to host a Q&A with Andrew Trombly, ’14, who gives his insights on his clerkships with Judge Paul Barbadoro, USDC, District of NH and Judge Robert Bacharach, US Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit.

Why did you decide to apply for a clerkship?
I thought that clerking would offer a good opportunity – particularly for somebody just out of law school – to write a lot and to learn about a wide variety of areas of law. Also, I wanted to observe the judicial process from a judge’s perspective. Short of actually becoming a judge, clerking is probably the only chance a litigator will ever have to do so.

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A Film to Make Our Alma Mater Proud

I am pleased to host a guest post today from Vincent Lau, BC Law ’97. Alumni, please note that the Sung sisters will be special guests speakers for the Alumni Assembly at this year’s Reunion on November 3. If this is your reunion year, we hope you will attend! ABACUS will be screened earlier that day on the Law School campus, and the Rappaport Center will also host a panel discussion after the screening, open to all.

ABACUS premieres on PBS Frontline on September 12.


I was recently invited to a special screening of the new PBS documentary film ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail. First of all, a disclaimer: this is not a film review. I have no credentials to dissect whether ABACUS was well done from a technical or an artistic standpoint. What I can share are my reactions, and this documentary resonated with me on several fronts. The fact that the story (and film) involves several BC Law alumnae makes it even more compelling for our community. I would encourage everyone to go see it.

Abacus is a community bank located in the heart of New York’s Chinatown. Thomas Sung, an immigrant and a lawyer, opened the bank so that he could meet the needs of the people there. He later convinced two of his four daughters (one a BC Law alum) to join him, by arguing that working in a community bank lending money to local entrepreneurs is an important and effective way of giving back to the community. Continue reading