SCOTUS: Employers Can’t Discriminate on Basis of Sexual Orientation

On June 15, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII, the federal anti-discrimination statute, explicitly protects against discrimination on the basis of one’s sexual orientation. To reach its answer, the Court consolidated three cases that all touch on this issue, including Bostock v. Clayton County Board of Commissioners. The plaintiff in Bostock was a gay man who worked for the County as the Child Welfare Services Coordinator for over a decade. In January 2013, Bostock joined a gay recreational softball league, and in June 2013 he was fired from this position.

As a member of Boston College’s Law Review, I spent the Fall semester drafting a comment on the Bostock case, which was published by the journal’s online supplement. My comment ultimately argued that the Supreme Court should follow the guidance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces Title VII, and definitively hold that sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by Title VII.

Although our reasonings were not identical, both the Supreme Court and I agreed that LGBTQ individuals cannot be discriminated against in the workplace. There are still many changes that must be made before sexual orientation discrimination is completely eliminated, but this decision is definitely a historic milestone worthy of celebration.

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All Hands On Deck: Silence is Violence

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. 

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Black Lives Matter.

I grew up in a pretty traditional South Asian household. I’ve tried talking about the Black Lives Matter movement numerous times before, but my family just didn’t seem too invested in it. Most of the time, I would just give up. Because it was just too frustrating.

But that’s the problem, right? These are just events that we hear about or see in the news, just optional conversations that we can opt in or out of. But for black people in America, this is reality. It’s not just another life lost; it is yet another manifestation of the unhinged, systemic racism that we all allow to continue and continue to allow.

Black people in America don’t get to choose to live in constant fear. They don’t get to choose that law enforcement dehumanizes them. So it feels inherently wrong that my community gets to choose whether or not we care.

 

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Transfer Students: The Verdict Is In

Well, it’s officially been a year at my not-so-new-anymore law school. Given the state of the world, it actually feels like I’ve been to three law schools in the last two years: my 1L school, BC, and the Zoom School of Law. This certainly isn’t the “transfer experience” I would have chosen, but that’s true for every person in the world right now experiencing this bizarre era in which we live.

I won’t lie, it’s been a weird year. I felt like right about the time I started to get adjusted to school and feel comfortable, it all got pulled out from under me and we switched to remote learning. Reflecting on this experience is difficult because of the truncated school year. But what I do know is this:

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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.

On Being a Parent in Law School–Covid-19 Edition

In the first days of social distancing, my daughter kept asking about school. She had a vague understanding of how weekends typically broke up her daycare routine but eventually it became clear that this one had stretched on to an absurd degree. Every morning for the first couple of weeks of lockdown she asked, “Baby go to school?” Then she rattled off the names of her teachers and classmates. Those early days were tough. She’s very social. School is thrilling for her. I was not an adequate replacement for ten friends and two loving teachers.

All work spaces and readings are shared.

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I Miss BC, but Mostly the Free Coffee Served During Finals

Studying for final exams in law school is stressful. The stakes are high, the hours are long, and the despair can…fester. I was generally aware of the pressure built into a grading system centered around distributive bell curves when I enrolled, but in my first week at Boston College the reality set in. Something terrible happened: I met my peers, and they were every kind of smart, impressive and terrifying. They were students coming from across the country and around the world, some from THOSE big name schools and others with remarkable professional experience. 

Naturally I compared them to myself, the dumbest person I know. That was a bad move for my self-confidence, but sometimes you just have to keep moving forward. So, that’s what I did heading into finals season. 

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LSA Elections at the Zoom School of Law

As our entire academic reality has shifted onto Zoom, fundraisers have begun to raise money on behalf of the Zoom School of Law which many thousands of law students now joke is where we all go to school.

And yet in some ways the world keeps turning, and that provides minor solace to those who crave a scheduled life. We press on, talking about final exams, registering for fall classes, and daydreaming about future plans.

In that scheduled rhythm, we find ourselves in LSA elections. ‘Tis the time of year where our peers campaign for our vote to lead us through the twists and turns of the next year of law school. It involves campaign promises, town hall style forums, and this year, a very stable internet connection.

Our current LSA president Tyler Hendricks had these wise words to share with us on why we should continue to care about this election cycle:

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What Do Bats and Viruses Teach Us About American Government?

Editor’s note: due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Boston College has moved all classes online and sent students home for the semester. The BC Law Impact blog has suspended its normal posting schedule, and bloggers are now focused on writing about the impact of the shutdown and the current state of the world on their academic and social experiences as law students. We are all in this together; let’s find our way through together.


Recently, I’ve been thinking about a night I spent in Panama trapping bats. More precisely, I was taking pictures of a team of German scientists who were trapping bats. I had been traveling in Latin America when a journalist friend asked me to meet him in Panama and tag along on a story he was doing for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, which studies tropical ecosystems and their impact on human well-being. As the virulence of the coronavirus has shown, bats are especially potent and prolific reservoirs of disease due to their strong immune systems. So every night, this team of scientists would head out into the tropical forest, put nets up between trees, and catalog and take samples from all the captured bats.

The goal was to understand the dilution effect, which refers to the way that biodiversity in the natural world helps prevent the spread of disease from animals to humans. The theory is that when an ecosystem has high levels of biodiversity, it is more difficult for a disease to take hold in any one species. Without any species becoming a potent reservoir for that disease, it is more difficult for it to spill over into human populations. When biodiversity is low, however, a single species can serve as host to a critical mass of disease, facilitating its transmission to humans.

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Student Service Trips: Spring Break Update

Each spring, over 60 BC Law students spend their spring break providing pro bono legal services to underrepresented communities and individuals locally and across the country. As a 1L, this was my first experience with a spring break service trip, and I have to say it’s pretty inspiring. BC Law really does have a committed culture of giving back and delivering justice around the world.

This year, 65 students are volunteering at pro bono placements serving:

  • communities in the District of Columbia, Navajo Nation and 10 states, including AL, TX, MD, NY, GA, LA, TN & OK
  • communities in 12 cities from Harlingen, TX to Baltimore, MD
  • 23 organizations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Navajo Nation, ProBAR, Disability Rights Louisiana, Oxfam America, Volunteer Lawyers Project and Legal Aid of East Tennessee

Here in Montgomery, Alabama, we are spending our spring break working at governmental and nonprofit organizations across the state, and we’re planning on writing more about our experiences when we return. For now, here are some photos from Montgomery of me and my fellow students!

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