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Charles Ogletree

  • Group pushes for automatic voter registration in Mass.

    January 29, 2016

    As Massachusetts nears another presidential primary, thousands of residents interested in voting will have to provide proof of identification, find their polling station, and — most important — register before the government-imposed deadline of 20 days before Election Day. But according to activists with the New Democracy Coalition in Boston, these small actions combine to create a voter registration system that is outdated and favors the wealthy and politically astute. Their solution: a statewide database of eligible voters that effectively ends the need for registration...Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a prominent professor at Harvard Law School and former mentor of President Obama...called the expansion of voter registration a civil rights issue. Because, he said, when voting and voter registration is difficult, the most affected populations are the groups to whom voting has been extended to most recently — women, communities of color, and the poor. “The people voting in this state have to understand that every single vote matters and that they have to reach out to people, and people should be not be denied about their race or gender, or sexual orientation,” Ogletree said. Also, he argued, the creation of a statewide of automatic voter registration system would be an important symbolic step.

  • Corruption or Politics: Supreme Court Weighs McDonnell Case

    January 11, 2016

    Corruption in politics is as old as government itself. But so has been the challenge of interpreting in law what corruption actually means. On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to discuss whether to take up a case that could further sharpen the line that a government official must cross to be convicted of bribery. The case that justices are considering — the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen — is one awash in shades of gray. And if the high court agrees to take it up, the McDonnell case has the potential to further limit the scope of federal bribery laws used to prosecute malfeasance...Former federal judge Nancy Gertner and Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree are also critical of the prosecution’s case. In a friend-of-the-court brief, they and other legal scholars argued that the conviction conflicts with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling on campaign finance. “While Citizens United dealt expressly with political activity protected by the First Amendment, its dicta went further— suggesting that money in exchange for ‘ingratiation’ or ‘access’ is part and parcel of American politics,” their brief says.

  • Death Penalty 2015: Lowest number of executions in 25 years, but marked by disability and impairment

    December 23, 2015

    In 2015, America had the lowest number of executions in 25 years, according to a new report released by Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice. But of the 28 people executed, 68% suffered from severe mental disabilities or experienced extreme childhood trauma and abuse.

  • Harvard Law School: 2015 in review

    December 17, 2015

    Supreme Court justices, performance art, student protests and a vice president. A look back at 2015, highlights of the people who visited, events that took place and everyday life at Harvard Law School.

  • Meet the Press – December 6, 2015

    December 7, 2015

    This Sunday morning, the terror attacks in San Bernardino. Did the killers get help? Why did no one see this coming? And can we prevent these kinds of attacks from happening here in the United States? We'll get the latest on the investigation from the very top. Attorney General Loretta Lynch joins us. Plus, the role of Islam. Are we dealing with a perversion of the religion or a strain of it? We'll have a debate. Also, terror and the campaign. Do the attacks help tough-sounding candidates like Donald Trump pull away from the pack?..Joining me this morning for insight and analysis are Rich Lowry of the National Review, Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report, Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times, and Harvard Law School's Charles Ogletree.

  • Obama still pondering death penalty’s role in justice system

    November 30, 2015

    Even as President Barack Obama tries to make a hard case for overhauling sentences, rehabilitating prisoners and confronting racial bias in policing, he has been less clear about the death penalty. Obama has hinted that his support for capital punishment is eroding, but he has refused to discuss what he might call for...Charles Ogletree, a Harvard law professor who taught the president, said: “Though not definitive, the idea that the president’s views are evolving gives me hope that he — like an increasing number of prosecutors, jurors, judges, governors and state legislators — recognizes that the death penalty in America is too broken to fix.”

  • Police Investigate Vandalism on Portraits of Black Law Professors

    November 20, 2015

    Black tape, stuck systematically across the portraits of black law professors, spurred on Thursday a police investigation into vandalism and a pronouncement from the dean of Harvard Law School that the school has a “serious problem” with racism. ... Law School professor Charles J. Ogletree, whose portrait was among those vandalized, said he was still waiting to learn more about the incident before making too strong of a judgement. “We’re just trying to figure out what happened and try to figure why someone targeted black faculty,” Ogletree said. Still, among students and other Law School affiliates reacting to the incident on Thursday, many condemned it through posts on social media and formal and informal gatherings on campus. Leland S. Shelton, the president of the Harvard Black Law Student Association, described it as “actually one of the most clear-cut, overt instances of very, very vile and disrespectful behavior from somebody”; second-year Law School student Michele D. Hall, who posted photographs of the vandalized portraits in a post on the website Blavity, wrote, “This morning at Harvard Law School we woke up to a hate crime.”

  • National Call For U.S. Attorney General Probe Of Orange County’s Snitch Scandal

    November 19, 2015

    Citing "grave concern" for the pending "crisis," more than three dozen prominent legal community members today asked Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to launch a formal investigation into "compelling evidence of pervasive police and prosecutorial misconduct" in Orange County. ... Others joining in the sentiment of the communication include Harvard legal theorist Charles Ogletree, criminal justice professor Angela Davis, former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, former Chief Assistant United States Attorney Richard Drooyan and Alex Whiting, a Harvard professor and former prosecutor of international crimes at the Hague as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Constitution Project.

  • Harvard scholar Charles Ogletree Jr. tells Portland audience why Black Lives Matter movement matters

    November 13, 2015

    One of the country's leading scholars on race and justice issues offered simple answers to complex questions during a Wednesday evening talk in Portland. Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree Jr., speaking on Veterans Day about the Black Lives Matter movement, mixed personal anecdotes about his upbringing in central California with pointed responses to questions during a moderated discussion at a downtown Portland church. Ogletree's talk came on a day when Oregon made national news with the revelation that the state had conducted surveillance on Oregonians using the Black Lives Matter social media hashtag and, in Virginia, video emerged of a black man dying in police custody after repeated Tasering while shackled. "It has to stop," Ogletree said, citing repeated deaths of black men and women in police custody. "It just keeps happening."

  • 19 Harvard Law professors pen letter denouncing ‘The Hunting Ground’

    November 12, 2015

    Nineteen Harvard Law professors have written a letter condemning "The Hunting Ground," a film purporting to be a documentary about campus sexual assault. The film has been getting some Oscar buzz, and CNN is preparing to air the program next week. In a press package for the film, CNN singled out a story in the film about a sexual assault accusation at Harvard. The press packet named the accused student, even though he was not identified in the film. The 19 professors want to be sure viewers are aware that the film is highly misleading...The 19 professors include feminist icon Nancy Gertner; outspoken critics of campus rape hysteria Elizabeth Bartholet, Janet Halley and Jeannie Suk; as well as President Obama's former mentor Charles Ogletree.

  • Obama calls death penalty ‘deeply troubling,’ but his position hasn’t budged

    October 26, 2015

    President Obama calls the death penalty "deeply troubling," but he still has not changed his position in favor of using it for particularly heinous crimes. In an interview Thursday with the Marshall Project, Obama said, "At a time when we’re spending a lot of time thinking about how to make the system more fair, more just, that we have to include an examination of the death penalty in that.” ... Charles J. Ogletree Jr. — a prominent death penalty opponent who was a law professor of the president and first lady Michelle Obama when both were students at Harvard Law School — has also urged Obama to alter his position. "He's not there yet, but he's close, and needs some help," Ogletree said in an interview with The Washington Post earlier this year.

  • Honored ‘ambassadors for Harvard Law School’ reflect on long friendship

    October 22, 2015

    The Harvard Law School Association presented its highest award this past spring to William P. Alford ’77 and Charles J. Ogletree ’78 —two of Harvard Law School's most distinguished professors, mentors to generations of jurists, advisers to senators, presidents and world leaders, and celebrated doers of good works—and longtime friends.

  • State foreclosure bill has fans, critics

    October 13, 2015

    A bill aimed at increasing legal protections for people who buy foreclosed homes is working its way through the state legislature, but faces criticism from opponents who say it would disproportionately harm minorities....Several minority leaders, including NAACP New England president Juan Cofield, Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree and city councilors Jass Stewart of Brockton and Dana Rebeiro of New Bedford, wrote a letter to Senate leaders opposing the bill. They claimed it would have disproportionate negative impacts in minority communities ravaged by subprime mortgages. They also argued the bill strips victims of illegal foreclosures of their rights. “These homeowners, from communities of color and more broadly, must retain their rights,” the letter stated. “They must have access to adequate legal redress. Denying them the ability to sue to regain title to their illegally foreclosed home is not justice.”

  • Justices to decide on sentences for young prison ‘lifers’

    October 13, 2015

    Sheriff's Deputy Charles Hurt was on truant patrol when he came across a teenager in a Baton Rouge park on a cool fall morning. The teenager pulled a gun from his jacket, panicked, he said, and shot Hurt dead. That tragic sequence took place more than a half-century ago, nine days before the Kennedy assassination in 1963. The teenager, Henry Montgomery, is now 69 years old and has been behind bars almost ever since, serving a life sentence. He wants the Supreme Court to give him a chance to get out of prison before he dies...Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree is calling on the justices to consider banning life-without-parole sentences altogether for people who commit even the most heinous crimes before their 18th birthdays. Ogletree said the court should take note of the rapid change in sentencing laws to rule out life terms for the young.

  • Oklahoma may have used the wrong drug to execute an inmate this year

    October 9, 2015

    Oklahoma may have used the wrong drug during an execution in January, just days before the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case challenging the state’s lethal-injection protocol, officials said Thursday...Opponents of Oklahoma’s death penalty called Thursday for more information about what happened. Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a professor at Harvard Law School and prominent critic of the death penalty, said the Justice Department should investigate the situation.

  • Salvo Arena

    A Powerful Platform

    October 5, 2015

    Halfway into his term as president of the Harvard Law School Association, Salvo Arena LL.M. ’00 says one of the questions he hears most often when he meets with other alumni is, What exactly is the HLSA and what does it do?

  • Faculty Books In Brief—Fall 2015

    October 5, 2015

    “Choosing Not to Choose: Understanding the Value of Choice,” by Professor Cass R. Sunstein ’78 (Oxford). Choice, while a symbol of freedom, can also be a burden: If we had to choose all the time, asserts the author, we’d be overwhelmed. Indeed, Sunstein argues that in many instances, not choosing could benefit us—for example, if mortgages could be automatically refinanced when interest rates drop significantly.

  • High Court Must Undo Clear Case of Juror Racism (registration)

    September 29, 2015

    An op-ed by Charles J. Ogletree Jr. and David J. Harris. Raise your hand if you believe that a juror could make this statement and still be considered fair and impartial. “I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that’s what that n----- deserved.” There’s no mistaking that this statement was actually made. The juror himself signed a sworn affidavit admitting he made the statement. On Sept. 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a request to review whether the injection of the juror’s racial bias violated the rights to an impartial jury and a fair trial of a man sentenced to death in Georgia. We believe that it did.

  • Friends, foes of Vergara ruling file briefs to appeals court

    September 24, 2015

    Two former Republican governors joined an impressive array of law professors, education scholars, teachers of the year, civil rights advocates and state and civic leaders submitting briefs on both sides of the appeal of the Vergara lawsuit. Last week was the deadline for experts supporting or opposing the lawsuit to submit friend of the court briefs, called amicus curiae, to the judges of the Second District of the California Court of Appeal. The court will review the landmark ruling of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu, who struck down five state teacher protection statutes affecting tenure and the processes for teacher dismissal and layoffs based on seniority...Law professors supporting the ruling: Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, Rachel Moran of UCLA Law School and Dawinder Sindhu of University of New Mexico School of Law submitted the brief. (Full brief here.)...Law professors opposing the ruling: Dean Irwin Chemerinsky and Catherine Fisk of UC Irvine Law School, Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School, and Pam Karlan of Stanford Law School submitted the brief. (Full brief here.)

  • Biden’s ‘Anita’ problem

    September 21, 2015

    If Joe Biden gets into the presidential race, allies and supporters of Hillary Clinton say there are just two words that will make a difference as he seeks support among women and African-Americans: Anita Hill...Charles Ogletree, the Harvard Law School professor who represented Hill (and once had President Barack Obama as a student), said he's still mad about how Biden handled himself back then. “I was shocked and dismayed that Joe Biden was asking questions that didn't seem appropriate and was not in her corner as a Democrat,” Ogletree said. “The point is that he's supposed to be neutral, but his questions to Anita Hill were as piercing as anyone's.” Ogletree said he's brought up the hearings with Biden in the years since, but hasn't been satisfied with the response. “He's said that this job was to control the hearing, that he was surprised by the result as well,” Ogletree said.

  • Supreme Court Urged to End Life Without Parole for All Juveniles

    August 27, 2015

    (Registration required) The U.S. Supreme Court this term will decide whether its 2012 ban on mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile murderers is retroactive. But some of those offenders and their lawyers hope for more from the justices. The high court has had several opportunities since its ruling in Miller v. Alabama to take up the question of its retroactive effect, but for unknown reasons, it passed until Montgomery v. Louisiana. The justices will hear arguments in Montgomery on Oct. 13. ... In an amicus brief supporting neither side, Harvard Law School’s Charles Ogletree, on behalf of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice and the Criminal Justice Institute, proposes: “A more straightforward way to resolve the case would be to answer the question this court has explicitly left open: whether ‘the Eighth Amendment requires a categorical bar on life without parole for juveniles.’”