Anthony Ray Hinton spent thirty years on death row for a crime he did not commit.
Commanding a spellbound crowd on the Boston College Chestnut Hill Campus (where undergraduate classes are), Mr. Hinton took students, faculty, and members of the public through three decades of despair, faith, fury, friendship, and humor. He was often emotional, always passionate, and amazingly graceful. For nearly an hour and a half, it was impossible to think of anything but spending thirty years in a five by seven cell.
As a freshman at Boston College High School, Boston’s all-boys Jesuit school nestled in Dorchester along the outer reaches of Boston harbor, I heard about vaunted “triple eagles,” guys who went to BC High, BC, and BC Law. It sounded like too much school, and I never understood the appeal. I certainly never thought I’d be one of them.
Although my father and his father had gone to a Jesuit high school in Barcelona, following suit was never on my horizon, and I wasn’t even aware of that legacy until I applied to BC High. I had never heard of the Jesuits, could count on my fingers the number of times I’d been to church, and was ambivalent about single-sex education. But my mother suggested applying, I did well enough on the entrance exam, and one day I found myself riding the commuter rail on my way into the city and my new school. Despite this somewhat thoughtless initiation (at least on my part; my mom knew what she was doing), entering the Jesuit tradition of education changed my life, giving me a sense of purpose that I didn’t know I needed and that is driving me through law school and into a career dedicated to public service.
Four hours north of Phoenix, situated almost exactly on the Arizona/New Mexico border, Window Rock is the capital of the Navajo Nation. On March 2, I made the journey west with seven of my classmates to spend a week with the Navajo, learning about their government, law and culture, and doing our best at placements with the Presidents Office, the Department of Justice, and the Supreme Court.
I was fortunate to spend a week at the Supreme Court. The Court itself handles about a dozen cases each year, as well as countless orders and motions relating to those cases. The two of us assigned to the Court spent most of our time researching and writing orders, putting our Law Practice skills to the test. While I personally have a long way to go before I’m comfortable tackling research and writing problems on my own, honing my skills under the direction of the Supreme Court staff was immensely helpful.
I’m pleased to host a guest post from 3L Jared Friedberg, who spent some time last year working in BC’s Immigration Clinic.
With the semester winding down and people thinking about next year, I wanted to provide a recommendation: enroll in the immigration clinic. I spent my 2L year in the immigration clinic, and as I look back on my time at BC, it was the most impactful experience that I have had in law school.
The purpose of a clinic is to give students the opportunity to work directly with clients. In the immigration clinic, that means visits to immigration court, detention facilities, the clients’ homes, and anywhere else that the case requires you to go. Over the course of two semesters, I had five clients. While representing our clients, my classmates and I met their families, friends, and coworkers. Some of them lived a few streets from where I grew up and some lived across the world.
On a whim, I opened my personal statement for the first time since hitting ‘submit’ nearly a year ago. Preparing to face my tendency to over-write, a habit which lends itself to often-cringeworthy grand pronouncements, I queued up the Aspiring Public Interest Lawyers Greatest Hits: “Is It Still Worth It? (After Signing that Promissory Note),” “Oh, Really? You’re Going to Save the World?” and the classic, “Naiveté.”
Instead, I came face-to-face with the prospect that the young, impressionable, wannabe lawyer nursing the cheapest drink on the coffee shop menu in exchange for five hours of Wi-Fi knew everything he needed to know.
See? Grand pronouncements.
Sure, one year ago, I would have failed every single first year course. I couldn’t brief, or outline, or read, or write, or even speak effectively. My Lexis points stood at zero and I had nary a dollar of Westlaw Starbucks gift cards. Every one of my classmates would have prayed to the almighty curve I was in their section. One year ago, I was a terrible law student.
This year Boston College gifted its students and faculty an extra day of reprieve on Columbus Day weekend, creating a new, four-day “fall break.” I took advantage of the extra time by heading down to visit my father in New York City, where we decided to spend a morning visiting Ellis Island and the immigration museum there. We set out with high hopes that were, unfortunately, chastened by missed opportunities.
Stepping off the boat at Ellis Island, you walk up to the main building that houses the exhibits and the only one that the standard ticket gets you into. The museum opens with a walk through the nation’s immigration history, beginning before Jamestown and stretching to the 1890s, when Ellis Island opened. The Trail of Tears, the Slave Trade, the mix of cultures that produced the likes of Jazz are all addressed. The history is deep and serves as a proper warm up to the story of the island itself, but, as my father pointed out, they might as well just hand you a book when you step off the boat. Displaying few artifacts, the exhibit doesn’t engage its visitors. You mostly step precariously around others, trying to stay out of their line of sight. I found myself gazing at the floor, which is a beautiful white tile, and wondering if it is original (it is).
I left the Jesuit Volunteer Corps with an Orleans Public Defenders shirt, heavy emotional scarring, and a strong idea of justice. I was prepared to ride into law school on a wave of virtue and morality, certain I knew what needed to be done and how I was going to do it. That wave crashed me right into Civil Procedure and Pennoyer and Rule 12(b)(3) and Contracts and estoppel and intent, and it wasn’t long before I realized it was going to be a while before I was certain of anything again.
Pretty dramatic, but the spirit is true. Law school is a change. There is a transition from being a normal person to a person who thinks legal jokes are funny. Still, overall, most of my preconceived notions have been proved wrong. Cold calls are not that bad, my classmates are also not that bad (fine, they’re pretty great), and six weeks in I have yet to muster any dazzling legal wisdom for family or friends.
I am pleased to host a guest blog today from Jason Giannetti, a 2003 graduate of Boston College Law School.
I have been an immigration attorney in Massachusetts for fifteen years and I’ve never been as proud to be one as I am now.
Let’s face it, in American popular opinion, lawyers are not exactly considered super heroes. In fact, in films such as The Incredibles, lawyers are the anti-superhero. It is due to them and their litigation and lobbying that the “supers” have to renounce their superpowers to be like all the rest of us. In the 1993 film Philadelphia, though attorney Joe Miller (played by Denzel Washington) turns out to be the hero of the film, Andy, his client (played by Tom Hanks), asks, “Joe, what do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean?” The answer: “A good start.”
Be that as it may, America is one of the most litigious nations on the planet. Perhaps Americans have low regard for lawyers because they are such “a necessary evil” in the eyes of most. The only profession with lower regard is politician and, as we all know, many of those politicians are themselves lawyers.
However, I think that besides hemming in people’s exercise of strength (Incredibles) and creating bureaucratic and structural obstacles to swift justice (Philadelphia), the real source of America’s collective ire with attorneys is that they seem to disregard the truth: they are mercenary warriors, defending whatever position (right or wrong, truthful or not) that pays the bills. The most egregious example of this to date is Rudy Giuliani’s statement, “Truth is not truth.”
I am pleased to host a guest blog today from Meg Ziegler, a 2L at Boston College Law School.
The outrage over the separation of migrant children from their families at our border is necessary and should be unrelenting. But family separations are happening in Massachusetts, too, and one root cause is that schools unnecessarily (or inappropriately) involve the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the courts in the lives of children and their families for school-based issues.
This occurs in a number of ways. If a student is deemed a “Habitual School Offender” or a “Habitual Truant,” schools can file a Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) with the juvenile court. Once a CRA is filed, the school and family attend a preliminary hearing and may potentially have to attend a bench trial, a conference, and/or a disposition hearing. At a disposition hearing, the court may ultimately remove the child from his/her/their family and place the child in DCF custody.
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.
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.