On March 23-24, BC Law will be hosting The Land Loss, Reparations & Housing Policy Conference in partnership with Harvard Law School Food Law & Policy Clinic, The Institute on Race, Power, and Political Economy at the New School, and Institute for the Liberal Arts at Boston College.
The conference will bring national experts in the areas of land loss, housing, and reparations for a two-day discussion of Black land loss, potential strategies for redress, and housing inequality and affordability issues, and is part of Property and Housing Law Week at BC Law, which will take place March 20-24.
The conference is the kickoff event for BC Law’s new Initiative on Land, Housing, and Property Rights (ILHPR), which is the brainchild of BC Law Professor Thomas Mitchell. Professor Mitchell, who joined BC Law’s faculty at the start of this academic year, is a national expert on the ways that the property system can adversely impact marginalized communities in the United States. In particular, his research has explored the ways in which property laws have been used to systematically strip Black landowners of intergenerational wealth. In just one sector (agriculture) between 1920 and 1997, an estimated $326 billion in intergenerational wealth was taken from Black farm families. In addition to conducting research, Professor Mitchell has also drafted the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) – a uniform act promulgated by the Uniform Law Commission, which aims to help preserve family wealth passed on through real property.
The sign-up link for the conference is here and for a more detailed overview of Prof. Mitchell’s work, see this recent BC Law Magazine article.
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The following post was written by 1L, Logan Hagerty. Logan is an avid member of the BC Environmental Law Society (ELS) and serves as a 1L Representative. ELS is the umbrella organization for the BC Land & Environmental Law program. We lead research, service, professional training, social events, and more. As President of ELS, it has been a pleasure working with the new students like Logan who share my commitment to environmental law. -Fiona Maguire
I read dozens of faculty bios and course listings when applying to law school. I keyword-searched more variations of “environmental law” than I thought was possible: “Land,” “energy,” “property,” “environmental justice,” and “natural resources,” just to name a few. You guessed it – I came to law school with an interest in environmental law.
Professor Plater’s bio (and bow tie!) stood out on the BC Law website. I’d struck a gold mine. I explored the BC site some more, finding pictures from the Environmental Law Society (ELS) Barbeque and Winter Weekend events. I was hooked! (I also attended both of these events). Now I view the environmental law program as more than a “gold mine.” The program is an old-growth forest; it offers rich, deep-rooted connections, support, and development.
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School is always a bit of a bubble: something that quickly becomes your entire world and focus. This dynamic is especially true at law school, where balancing the intense schedule of classes, assignments, and reading is frequently compared to attempting to “drink from a fire hose.” Even having been out of school for six years, it was still amazing how quickly I found myself being sucked back into the bubble of campus and studying.
Staying focused on the bigger picture is something I struggled with during my first semester of 1L. While I enjoy the study of law as an academic exercise, I’m not really someone who luxuriates in the minutiae of case law. My decision to come to law school was not driven by the joy of wrestling with esoteric doctrine, reading 150-year-old cases, or basking in Latin maxims; rather, it was the realization that law was often the only route to change. For me, the intellectual challenge of studying law has always been secondary to learning how to use the law as a functional tool to support the causes and communities I care about.
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Re-reading my admissions essay this week was a strange experience.
My aim was to communicate what had ultimately brought me to the point of applying to law school. For me, law school was not something that I’d set my heart on from a young age. I grew up in London, far removed from matters of American jurisprudence, and a severe stutter had frequently left me wanting to avoid any public speaking situations rather than enter a profession where it is so central. My decision to apply was ultimately the culmination of a realization – built gradually over an extended period of time – that law school offered perhaps the only real avenue to pursue my goals in public service and social justice.
Re-reading my essay now, I realize the extent to which the way I ultimately decided to tell my story was impacted by the unique post-March 2020 context: a period indelibly marked by the outbreak of COVID and police murder of George Floyd. Having spent most of the last seven or so weeks getting to know my new classmates, I recognize similarities in many other students’ stories. For the incoming 1L class, all of our applications were forged in this period of tumult and grief where the world seemed to be undergoing a process of deconstruction and re-making in front of our eyes. This cannot help but impact the ways in which we conceive of ourselves as lawyers in training, and ultimately, the way we decide to practice law. I see this reflected in a collective determination to question the status quo and re-examine structural inertias, and ultimately, a commitment to equity among many of my fellow students.
For those interested, I’ve shared my essay below.
It was 2011 when I first fully comprehended the power of the law. My local council had threatened to close our neighborhood library—a vital community resource in what is simultaneously the most diverse and most impoverished borough in the UK. In response, I co-founded a charity with other community members and, when our efforts to pressure local elected officials failed, we took the council to the high court to seek a judicial review of their decision. As I sat in court, enthralled, for two days as our attorney argued that the council had failed to comply with equality legislation, I had a moment of revelation. Decisions from higher up were not something to be simply accepted with resignation; rather, they were something to be interrogated and scrutinized, even overtly challenged. As our attorney deftly navigated webs of associated law and litigation, I had a deeper realization. The law was a guarantor of rights and protections, but it was also a living thing: an inherently participatory project reliant on there being individuals on both sides to make their cases. It requires people to “show up” on behalf of the less powerful, the under-resourced, and marginalized. In order to function, it demands individuals continue to make the case that all groups factor equally into public policy.
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I want to make it clear that this article is not reflective of every single immigrant student’s story here at BC Law. Every experience is different, but I hope that my fellow immigrant first-gen students who read this article might relate to the internal conflict I feel as a student in law school. I also fully believe that one does not have to be an immigrant to relate to the sentiments here. I hope this can help other students feel heard and not alone.
Whether it’s the sentiment of feeling like I don’t quite belong, or the constant internal turmoil concerning my career path, a big portion of my experience as a law student has been shaped by my immigrant identity–and perhaps not in the healthiest way.
My mother works from 9AM to 7PM, 7 days a week in her small beauty supply store in Brooklyn. She moved here over 20 years ago when the “American Dream” was still a prevalent sentiment that encouraged immigrants to move and seek out better lives for their children, notwithstanding the fact that the “American Dream” is mostly a myth for people who are not on equal footing with those who were already born with qualities that are favored in this country. While she worries about affording the next rent payment on the store or ordering enough products to stock her shelves, my worries mostly lie with struggling to understand the Rule of Perpetuities.
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On December 10, the BC Law community lost a cherished member. Triple Eagle Kevin Curtin (Law ’88) passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack.
I didn’t know him personally, but I do know that his contributions to BC Law and beyond were tremendous. Mr. Curtin had served as Alumni Board President and an adjunct faculty member, but that just scratches the surface. BC Law Magazine just posted a story filled with faculty, staff and alumni reflecting on his influence. He was also active internationally, helping on rule of law issues in Uzbekistan, for example. Here’s another Magazine story on his work around protecting the rights of Turkish detainees after a coup.
Mr Curtin also wrote a guest blog a few years ago here on Impact, when he was Alumni Board President, called “Remember the Why,” which speaks to his love for the School and for the profession:
My dad, Jack, was a ’57 Boston College Law School graduate. He passed away a year and a half ago. I thought of him a lot at Commencement—how proud he would have been of these young graduates, poised at the threshold. Jack Curtin’s own father graduated from Boston College in 1923, the first in his family to achieve a college degree. My mother’s uncle, Msgr. William J. Daly, graduated Boston College in 1916. My brother Joe graduated BC Law in 1990. Both my sisters are Boston College graduates. My wife and brother-in-law are BC law graduates. I have three degrees from Boston College and teach at the Law School myself. It’s a humbling pedigree.
But the Boston College bond extends far beyond blood. Watching this year’s commencement and seeing so many splendid young men and women celebrating as a community reminded me that we really and truly are one big family. As Professor James Repetti ’80 remarked, being a member of the BC Law community means you will never be alone. The entire community of students, faculty and alumni, stand behind you and with you always.
The entire post is well worth the read. Rest in peace, Mr Curtin.
Devon Sanders is a second-year student and VP of the Impact blog. Contact her at email@example.com.
Over the decade and a half since its start, The Boston College Innocence Program has amassed an astonishing reputation for its work in innocence advocacy and wrongful convictions. Bolstering an impressive record, BCIP both represents innocent individuals and works with policymakers regarding legislative reform, quite literally changing lives every step of the way.
This year in particular, BCIP has secured an impressive amount of exonerations and releases, using new evidence and instances of misconduct, with three major victories in 2020 alone:
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We are witnessing a critical moment in our nation’s history. Over the past few months, we have found ourselves looking inward at the traditional pillars of society, re-evaluating their fairness and justness.
A new organization, the BC Law Chapter of the People’s Parity Project, aims to evaluate and disable injustices within the legal community from the inside out. Writing a guest post today are organization leaders Daniel McLaughlin and Will Petrone, discussing court reform and the organization in general. If you are interested in getting involved with the BC chapter of the People’s Parity Project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before we came to law school, many of us probably thought that the law and the legal system were inherently fair, and judges and justices were non-political. But as law students, we have some insight into the system, and as we’ve progressed through our law school careers, many of us have been surprised to see that judges are human. And importantly, the judiciary is not as insulated from politics and biases as we had once thought. These days, the Court is clearly politicized, and right now in particular, it is dominating the news cycle. Although most Americans think that the next president should fill the seat, Senate Republicans, representing less than half of the U.S. population, have confirmed Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Conservative justices now have a 6-3 majority, and are posed to threaten a woman’s right to choose, the Affordable Care Act, and so much more.
Fortunately, law school’s peek behind the curtain allows us a sliver of hope. Court reform is possible, and it would make sure that the death of one justice does not pose such a drastic threat to civil rights, our environment, and health care for all. It would also help to make sure that courts are not able to block the progress the majority of this country believes is necessary and wants to see. With the election so close at hand, it’s all the more important to advocate for these reforms to the candidates who seek to secure our votes, and channel our frustrations with the current system into momentum for change.
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Today I am hosting a guest blog by Phil Privitera ‘95. You can reach him through the email@example.com email.
At a recent Somerville Redevelopment Hearing — with only selected information in front of them and public input filtered through administrators promoting the public project — an all-white Somerville Redevelopment Board voted in favor of a plan to take and relocate minority immigrant businesses, as well as residential tenants, in order to make a vacant parcel behind them more attractive for a yet-to-be-named, possible developer in the future.
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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.
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