To help address the impact of COVID-19 on students’ summer work plans, the legal needs of individuals and public interest organizations, and to support ongoing research projects, BC Law faculty and staff have come together to offer two new opportunities.
The BC Law COVID-19 Legal Services Project (CVLSP) provides legal assistance and advice to individuals and organizations affected by COVID-19 disruptions or who provide public interest services. In this virtual law firm, law student volunteers, under the supervision of experienced practitioners, will advocate for and assist those in need. The anticipated work includes habeas corpus petitions and bond hearings in the Federal District Court on behalf of ICE detainees; interviewing and counseling individuals to facilitate receipt of unemployment benefits under the CARES Act; consumer debt assistance; compassionate release legal assistance; and legal research to organizations and entities.
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.
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.