An Update from New Orleans

I have the privilege of spending my summer in New Orleans, working on indigent capital appeals. A lot of my day is spent in the organization’s library, digging into criminal law research questions. I’ve also had the opportunity to join an attorney at a status conference for a federal civil suit challenging the heat conditions on death row, and to visit some of our clients there.

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This is my house for the summer, a carriage house converted into a studio. A few things about New Orleans: it’s humid (imagine living in the moment when you step out of a hot shower), the streets flood (past your ankles), the cockroaches are prolific (and big), and it’s one of the most amazing cities I’ve been in.

I’m looking forward to the next eight weeks here, learning more about the city and meeting more incredible attorneys who are dedicating their lives to saving those of others.

A Thin Yellow Line

This spring, BC Law Impact is excited to present guest posts from current students about the factors that drove them to BC Law and the impact the community has had on their lives. Today’s post comes from 2L Hannah Jellinek.


Cheshire Correctional Institution sits atop an uncharacteristically tall hill given the generally flat land surrounding the prison. Perhaps because of this elevation, the long thin driveway, and the large red brick façade, the prison has a haunting and overwhelming presence. The front doors lead to a separate world. One where razor sharp barbed wire sits on top of chainlink fences and seemingly cuts into the bright blue skies and puffy white clouds. One where you see kids running around freely, smiling and laughing, but then realize their obstacle course and hide and seek spots are the long wooden benches of the visitation room. The Cheshire world is separate from the small houses of the town, separate from the run-down basketball courts across the street, separate from what I have previously known outside of the gates.

Once I go through the weekly routine of submitting my license, clearing the metal detector, and gathering the light pink VISITOR pass, I walk out of the waiting room and through the lobby. A bright yellow line on the dark brown floors divides the hallways of Cheshire. It is what separates us from them. The free individuals who can decide their next step, their next meal, their next shower, from those on the other side of the line who decide nothing.

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The One Shift That Could Change the War on Drugs

After I wrote about the failures of the War on Drugs for BC Law Magazine last semester I waited anxiously for the backlash. I spent ten years in the U.S. Coast Guard before law school, six of them chasing international drug cartels at sea, and I had the opportunity to work with some of the most professional and dedicated military and law enforcement personnel in the world. I was terrified about how they’d respond when I called the drug war a “lost cause,” and it took less than a day for the responses to start flooding my inbox. The volume wasn’t surprising, but the content shocked me.

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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

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

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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Criminal Justice Reform Tackled at BC Law

At BC Law, your education does not only consist of the material you learn in your courses. BC hosts many conferences, functions, presentations, and discussions on just about every subject you can think of, from panels put on by professors addressing recent political actions to all-day events sponsored by BC’s journals and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy. Recently, the Rappaport Center sponsored an all-day conference on criminal justice reform in Massachusetts that was open to both students and practitioners. There were three panels as well as a keynote address by Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

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Crime Documentaries: Are They Really Helping?

I’m happy to be able to host a guest blog today from first-year student Christina Sonageri.

Technology has changed the way we do a lot of things—including the way we stream content. With the advent of platforms like Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime and Hulu, society has access to movies and shows at the click of a button. The change in how we are able to watch has helped to facilitate a more efficient way for producers and writers to share their stories.

One genre that I think has really flourished as a result is the crime documentary. Now, even when I hear the word “documentary,” my mind begins to swirl with mug shots of Steven Avery, the subject of Netflix’s Making a Murderer series, and images of the countless other subjects whose faces define the genre. Every time a new crime story is released, it seems it’s the only thing that anyone can talk about.

However, growing up the daughter of two lawyers initially made me skeptical of anyone who was trying to fit a whole case into just a few hours of television or film. So I decided to sit down and explore whether these types of documentaries are helpful or detrimental to the people involved in the crime—and what their impact on society’s faith in the justice system might be.

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It’s Baltimore, Gentlemen; The Gods Will Not Save You

Let’s talk about Baltimore.  Most people outside of the D.C. area know Charm City from David Simon’s The Wire. The Wire is a masterfully conceptualized piece of work that truly transcended television (full disclosure: I took an entire course on it in undergrad).  Simon, in an interview, once said that:

The Wire is a Greek tragedy in which the postmodern institutions are the Olympian forces. It’s the police department, or the drug economy, or the political structures, or the school administration, or the macroeconomic forces that are throwing the lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no decent reason. In much of television, and in a good deal of our stage drama, individuals are often portrayed as rising above institutions to achieve catharsis. In this drama, the institutions always prove larger, and those characters with hubris enough to challenge the postmodern construct of American empire are invariably mocked, marginalized, or crushed. Greek tragedy for the new millennium, so to speak.

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Tinker Bell or Prison Time? (Paradigms of Criminal Law Part One)

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sujatha baliga, Restorative Justice Project and Associate Director, NCCD, speaking at the Rebellious Lawyering Conference at Yale Law School, Feb. 21, 2015 (photo taken by me)

“What do crime victims actually want?”

That is a question that sujatha baliga is asked quite frequently as a facilitator in restorative justice programs that focus on making a victim whole after a crime rather than punishing the person who committed the crime. “You can never really predict what will make a victim whole. Sometimes, it’s Tinker Bell,” balinga said. Continue reading