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The Center for Law and Social Responsibility projects allow students to participate in real-world public interest law as early as their first year of study at New England Law.

Professor Dina Francesca Haynes, public interest law projects
Professor Dina Francesca Haynes directs the Human Rights and Immigration Law Project for the Center for Law and Social Responsibility.

Criminal Justice Project

The Criminal Justice Project pursues litigation, legislation, education, and policy reform to make the criminal justice system fairer for low-income people. Activities have included helping clients to seal their arrest and criminal records (CORI Initiative), reviewing case files for the New England Innocence Project; promoting legislation, writing amicus briefs, training attorneys on criminal justice matters, and more. 

    CORI Initiative

    Thousands of people in greater Boston carry the burden of a criminal record. This Criminal Offender Record Information, or “CORI,” can bar otherwise eligible individuals from employment, housing, and financial services. Many people have a CORI record that qualifies for sealing but need help in the process. The CORI Initiative connects New England Law student volunteers with qualified clients to complete the sealing process. 

    The CORI Initiative strives to assist indigent persons in the Greater Boston area with sealing their criminal record, so they can apply for better employment, obtain housing, and positively progress in society. Student volunteers are afforded an invaluable experience of doing real legal work, including directly assisting clients, reading and analyzing the client’s criminal records, and drafting affidavits on the client’s behalf.

    The CORI Initiative welcomes student volunteers in the hopes that with more involvement, more communities can be serviced, and more people can advance in life without discrimination due to their criminal record.

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    Jail Lessons Initiative  

    The U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rate, and it disproportionally affects the poor and racial and ethnic minorities. Combined with reduced economic and educational opportunities, this can lead to a high level of disengagement among detainees. However, learning about the criminal justice process can help people better understand their situation and meaningfully participate in the process. The Jail Lessons Initiative provides students a chance to help these individuals by teaching detainees at the Nashua Street Jail basic evidence and criminal procedure concepts.  

    The Human Rights and Immigration Law Project involves students in immigration, refugee and asylum, migration, and human rights–based work. The project’s areas of focus have included helping local law firms with their pro bono asylum cases and combating human trafficking. New England Law students have contributed to landmark pro bono cases on international human rights issues and refugee status. Students also have opportunities to participate in legal services immigration counseling.

    For example, students participating in the Human Rights and Immigration Law Project recently contributed to the Engendering Exploitation: Worker Stories report, interviewing migrant women to document their experiences and the unjust working conditions they often face. The report was a joint venture between the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.; the Comité de Defensa del Migrante; and the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Transnational Legal Clinic. They have also worked on sanctuary city initiatives, helped asylum seekers, and advocated for survivors of female genital mutilation.

    The project is led by Professor Dina Francesca Haynes, former Director General of the Human Rights Department for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Bosnia-Herzegovina. She has also served as Human Rights Adviser to the OSCE in Serbia and Montenegro and as a Protection Officer with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. She received appointments as a Human Rights Field Investigator with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Rwanda and with UNHCR in Afghanistan as well.  

     

    Identity Affirmation Project 

    The Identity Affirmation Project was created to assist transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people in the name change or gender marker change processes in Massachusetts. 

    Anyone that has undergone a name change knows that the process can often be difficult to navigate. The IAP’s mission is to guide individuals step-by-step through the undertaking at no cost, providing peace of mind along the way. That mission is made possible by student volunteers and the guidance of the project’s faculty advisor, Director of the Center for Law and Social Responsibility, Professor David Siegel (he/him).

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    The Public Service Project allows students to observe and work with experienced attorneys in pro bono public service opportunities. Whether interviewing a client or making an argument in court, students see the impact of their efforts, while becoming skilled in legal procedures. They can receive a transcript notation that recognizes their public service contributions.

    Recent Public Service Project participants have helped homeless families try to access shelter, prepared legal defenses for indigent individuals charged with crimes, and advocated for clients with custody and visitation rights issues. Student attorneys, researchers, and assistants interact with a range of organizations, from state and federal offices, to courts and nonprofit organizations.

    Women’s and Children’s Advocacy Project

    Students in the Women's and Children's Advocacy Project have contributed to successful initiatives and sub-projects focused on protecting victims of domestic and sexual violence. WCAP works to keep shelters and crisis centers up to date on current laws, identify and change inappropriate language in media and judicial decisions, compile children's constitutional rights, and analyze social science research to assess its methodological reliability and admissibility in legal proceedings. 

    One of the most influential sub-projects that New England Law collaborates on is The Judicial Language Project. The Judicial Language Project, beginning in 2005, involves law students using socio-linguistic research to critique harmful language used in law and society to describe violence against women and children. Previously the Judicial Language Project worked to bring awareness to the term "performed oral sex" as it pertained to victims of sexual violence and worked to limit its use in the legal field. The Judicial Language Project is currently working toward removing personal and irrelevant information about victims from appellate decisions. 

    New England Law students have also had the chance to work on research and writing for amicus briefs in high-profile cases and contributing to litigation involving women's issues, including victims' rights, Title IX, and the Equal Rights Amendment. Students are encouraged to pursue their own research and projects under the Women's and Children's Advocacy Project umbrella. Any work, research, or passions students have regarding women and children's rights may be brought to the Women's and Children's Advocacy Project to be considered for a sub-project. 

    For further information, reach out to us via email at wcap@nesl.edu.

    Participating in the Jail Lessons Initiative gave me a chance to empower detainees and give them hope. I know the education and experiences that law school has provided me can do good.” —Anissa Davidson ’19