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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
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 email@example.com.
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.
Today I am hosting a guest blog by Phil Privitera ‘95. You can reach him through the firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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 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.
Impact is running a series of posts on student reflections from their Spring Break Service Trips and experiential work last month. Find the first post here, and the second post here. These posts were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think the messages are too important to go unshared. Today’s post is from Marija Tesla, who writes about her experience as part of BC Law’s International Human Rights Practicum visit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Stay safe everyone, and please reach out to us at email@example.com if we can do anything to help, or if you would like us to consider publishing a guest post on your own experiences during the outbreak.
When Professor Daniela Urosa chose me to be a part of the inaugural International Human Rights Practicum, to say that I was elated would be an understatement. It was a dream come true for me! She told me that it was a dream come true for her as well. Having guided instruction from her in our weekly meetings and in her seminar is the best part of my law school experience thus far. I am truly grateful to her and to Boston College Law School for making this clinic a reality. I know that it involved many years of hard work on the part of many, including Professor Judith McMorrow and Professor Daniel Kanstroom.
My partner in the clinic is Nadia Bouquet, who is an LL.M. student from Paris, France, studying at Université Paris Nanterre. We are working on writing an amicus brief to submit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) which relates to a case that is going to be heard by the Court in San José, Costa Rica later this year. There are six of us in the clinic, and we work in pairs of two on one amicus brief, each amicus relating to a different case and a different set of issues. Four of us are J.D. candidates and two are LL.M. candidates, which makes the conversations and the work that much richer. Most of us are also transnational thinkers, speaking multiple languages and having lived in different parts of the globe. We recognize the importance of IACtHR, which is an amalgamation of both the civil and common law, while also being its own unique regional system. It is why it is great to have students with such diverse backgrounds and different lived experiences who also come from both of the legal systems in the clinic, and who appreciate both the importance and complexity of international law and regional systems.