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Dehlia Umunna

  • Formerly incarcerated people have become major voices for reforming a broken criminal justice system

    April 4, 2022

    This week on Under the Radar with Callie Crossley: The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Two million people are in the nation’s prisons and jails. According to The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy center, that’s a 500% increase over the last 40 years at an annual cost of $80 billion. That reality has helped drive a movement for criminal justice reform which is now front and center in the national conversation. The cause has drawn together a motley group of advocates, from grassroots organizers to celebrities like Kim Kardashian and the conservative Koch brothers, where they are part of a roiling debate about systemic racism, reformative justice, no-knock warrants and sentencing policies. More recently, the formerly incarcerated have become major voices in the reform movement. How can their leadership help shape the effort to fix the broken system? Guests: John Valverde is the president and CEO of the global nonprofit YouthBuild USA. Dehlia Umunna is a clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School and the Faculty Deputy Director of the law school’s Criminal Justice Institute.

  • Nora McDonnell

    Nora McDonnell ’21 receives the inaugural Kristin P. Muniz Memorial Award

    May 26, 2021

    Nora McDonnell ’21 is the inaugural winner of the Kristin P. Muniz Memorial Award.

  • 4-up Zoom screen image with one women talking, two women and one many listening

    Harvard Law professors discuss the Derek Chauvin trial, its implications, and potential paths forward

    April 22, 2021

    A panel of Harvard Law professors discussed the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, which proved an occasion for cautious optimism, a bit of anxiety, and questions about what comes next.

  • Martha Minow and Emily Broad Leib

    COVID and the law: What have we learned?

    March 17, 2021

    The effect of COVID-19 on the law has been transformative and wide-ranging, but as a Harvard Law School panel pointed out on the one-year anniversary of campus shutdown, the changes haven’t all been for the worse.

  • Molly Brady wearing a bright red jacket sits in front of a computer and teaches her class in Zoom

    2020 in pictures

    January 5, 2021

    A look back at the year at HLS.

  • A straw hat with sunglasses on top of a pile of books on the sand, illustration of clouds, birds, and water in the background.

    Harvard Law faculty summer book recommendations

    July 30, 2020

    Looking for something to add to your summer book list? HLS faculty share what they’re reading.

  • A Killing in Broad Daylight

    July 23, 2020

    In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, legal scholars see a moment of reckoning.

  • Professor Dehlia Umunna Calls In

    June 1, 2020

    Professor Dehlia Umunna calls into iHeartRADIO's Matty in the Morning to discuss race and policing in the United States.

  • Lyla Wasz-Piper and Kennedi Williams-Libert

    Lyla Wasz-Piper and Kennedi Williams-Libert receive 2020 CLEA Outstanding Clinical Student Team Award

    May 21, 2020

    Lyla Wasz-Piper ’20 and Kennedi Williams-Libert ’20 have received the 2020 Outstanding Clinical Student Team Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association, recognized for their unique partnership and exemplary teamwork during their time as student attorneys at the Criminal Justice Institute.

  • Portrait of Dehlia Umunna

    Last Lecture: “Every traumatic event is an opportunity to reset for greatness,” says Dehlia Umunna

    May 20, 2020

    On May 12, Harvard Law School Clinical Professor Dehlia Umunna urged students to maintain a sense of gratitude as she kicked off the Last Lecture series for the graduating Class of 2020.

  • Dehlia Umunna, Daphna Renan, Ruth Okediji, Naz Modirzadeh

    Harvard Law School Last Lecture Series 2020

    May 20, 2020

    The 2020 Last Lecture Series is an HLS tradition where selected faculty members impart insight, advice, and final words of wisdom to the graduating class. Speakers this year included Dehlia Umunna, Daphna Renan, Ruth Okediji, and Naz Modirzadeh.

  • On the Bookshelf: HLS Library Book Talks, Spring 2018 2

    On the Bookshelf: HLS Authors

    December 11, 2019

    This fall, the Harvard Law School Library hosted a series of book talks by Harvard Law School authors on topics ranging from forgiveness in law, transparency in health and fidelity in constitutional practice.

  • Forgiveness in an age of ‘justified resentments’

    November 8, 2019

    Dehlia Umunna remembered seeing the fear. “His eyes were dark,” Umunna recalled. “And he was close to tears. And he looked at me and said, ‘Will I be going to jail and will I be going to jail for a very long time?’” “He was shaking,” she said. “I looked over at his mom and his mom was shaking. She was nervous. She was holding the hands of her 13-year-old boy.” Umunna, a clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School and deputy director of the Criminal Justice Institute, subsequently learned that the boy, who suffered from bipolar disorder and ADHD, had been surreptitiously videotaped playing video games in his living room wearing only his underwear. By the time he arrived at school the next day, the video had been posted online, where it had been seen by 300 of his peers, who proceeded to tease him. Frustrated and angry, he was heard to say, “I understand why the Parkland shooter did what he did.” ...“And as I looked over the case, I said to myself, this is exactly what [Prof.] Martha [Minow]’s book talks about,” she recalled. “This is a prime example of where we should nudge the courts and the decision-makers to exercise forgiveness.”...Umunna’s comments came during a panel discussion of “When Should Law Forgive?”, a new book by Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor and former dean of HLS. The book explores the complicated intersection of the law, justice, and forgiveness, asking whether the law should encourage people to forgive, and when courts, public officials, and specific laws should forgive. In addition to Umunna and Minow, panelists included Carol Steiker ’86, the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law and co-director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program; Toby Merrill ’11, an HLS lecturer on law and director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending; and Homi K. Bhabha

  • Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor

    Forgiveness in an age of ‘justified resentments’

    November 6, 2019

    At a recent Harvard Law School Library book event, Martha Minow and panelists discussed her recent release, "When Should Law Forgive?", which explores the complicated intersection of the law, justice, and forgiveness.

  • Classroom of students

    JET-Powered Learning

    August 21, 2019

    1L January Experiential Term courses focus on skills-building, collaboration and self-reflection

  • Boston professors criticize Globe over Rollins

    July 16, 2019

    A letter to the editor by 19 Boston area faculty members, including Laurence Tribe, Dehlia Umunna, and David Harris.  WE ARE 19 FACULTY MEMBERS at universities across the Boston area, including Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, and Northeastern University. We wish to respond to The Boston Globe’s recent article, “Stopping injustice or putting the public at risk? Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins’s tactics spur pushback,” which contained reporting that appears to us to be, at best, seriously misleading.

  • Former state chief justice will review Harvard student’s arrest

    May 29, 2018

    Officials in Cambridge have tapped the former chief justice of the state’s highest court to review the Police Department’s internal probe of the forcible arrest last month of a visibly distressed black Harvard University student who was naked and allegedly hallucinating on drugs. In a statement Friday, City Manager Louis DePasquale and Police Commissioner Branville Bard Jr. announced that former chief justice Roderick L. Ireland of the Supreme Judicial Court will conduct “an independent review of the Police Department’s internal review associated” with the April 13 apprehension of Selorm Ohene...City officials said the Police Department’s internal review of the incident is ongoing, and that once it’s completed, Ireland will “review the findings and issue his report.” Ireland’s findings will be made public, but there’s no timetable for completion. “No charges have been filed against the student,” the release said. Ohene’s attorneys, Harvard Law professors Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and Dehlia Umunna, also weighed in Friday, saying in a separate statement that they were “delighted to learn that no charges will be filed” against their client.

  • HLS200 finale celebrates clinics

    HLS 200 finale celebrates clinics

    May 2, 2018

    On April 20, HLS in the Community wrapped up a year-long celebration of Harvard Law School's bicentennial by highlighting the contributions made by HLS clinics and students practice organizations (SPOs).

  • Faust Forms Committee to ‘Review’ Lead-Up to Arrest of Black Student

    May 1, 2018

    University President Drew G. Faust has formed a “review committee” to determine the exact “sequence of events” leading to the forcible arrest of a black undergraduate April 13 and to undertake a “systematic examination” of a wide variety of Harvard policies. “The committee will start by determining the sequence of events leading to the student’s events,” Faust wrote in an email to students Monday. The results of that determination will then "inform a more systematic examination of opportunities for improvement across a range of institutional activities," Faust wrote...Harvard Law School and History professor Annette Gordon-Reed will chair the committee, according to Faust’s email. The group will include six other individuals including professors at the Business School, Kennedy School, Graduate School of Education, and Medical School, as well as a House faculty dean...BLSA has called the incident an instance of police brutality, and Cambridge Mayor Marc C. McGovern and Faust later called the incident “disturbing.” Harvard Law professors Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and Dehlia Umunna, who lead the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute, are now legally representing the student.

  • Condemning Police Brutality at Harvard

    April 20, 2018

    On Friday night, the Cambridge Police Department arrested a black undergraduate on Massachusetts Avenue just outside the Law School. The incident has drawn national attention as Harvard affiliates and onlookers nationwide question whether the arrest and the proceedings leading up to the arrest were in accordance with University and Cambridge city protocol.Those who have witnessed or watched video of the arrest have seen what can only be described as a case of police brutality...we stand with the Black Law Students Association and others in strongly criticizing the arrest...n the aftermath of this troubling event, we call on Harvard to do everything it can to defend the student’s legal rights and rights as a student and are grateful for the work of the Law School professors, Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and Dehlia Umunna, who will represent him.

  • Two Harvard law school professors will represent student arrested by Cambridge police

    April 17, 2018

    The Harvard College student whose arrest by Cambridge and Transit police officers has sparked debate over police use of force is now represented by two Harvard Law School professors who said their client won’t be speaking publicly any time soon. Selorm Ohene, 21, a mathematics major at Harvard, was arrested by police last Friday during an encounter...In a statement Tuesday, Harvard Law School professors Ronald F. Sullivan Jr. and Dehlia Umunna said they now represent him. Sullivan is the director and Umunna is the deputy director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard. “He is currently recovering from injuries sustained during his encounter with the Cambridge Police Department,’’ the attorneys wrote in a joint statement. “This has been and continues to be a trying ordeal for Selorm and for his family.”

  • Video Shows Police Tackling and Punching Black Harvard Student

    April 17, 2018

    The Cambridge police have launched an internal investigation into an incident on Friday night in which officers tackled and punched a black Harvard student they were trying to arrest as he stood naked in the median of a busy street. The police, who released a video of the scene on Sunday amid complaints about the officers’ conduct, said that the student, Selorm Ohene, 21, was apparently high on drugs and acting in an aggressive and unruly manner when they approached him and tried to calm him down. He came at them, the police said, with clenched fists...Mr. Ohene is studying mathematics, according to a statement from his lawyers, Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. and Dehlia Umunna, both of whom are professors at Harvard. They said he is still recovering from his injuries, but offered few other details about the arrest on Friday. The lawyers said it had been a trying ordeal for their client and his family, and they asked the public and the media to respect his privacy.

  • New England Patriots players seated at table

    On the way to the Super Bowl, a visit to Harvard Law

    February 1, 2018

    On Jan. 5, New England Patriots Defensive Captain Devin McCourty, teammates Johnson Bademosi, Matthew Slater and Duron Harmon, and team president Jonathan Kraft participated in a 'Listen and Learn' event at HLS, organized by the Fair Punishment Project and the Office of Public Interest Advising, featuring panel discussions on inequities in the criminal justice system.

  • Law School Professors Sign Letter Opposing Sessions Nomination

    January 6, 2017

    Sixteen Harvard Law School faculty members have joined thousands of other law professors across the country in signing a letter opposing Republican U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions’s nomination as United States Attorney General... Law School professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., who signed the letter, said Sessions’s record on voting rights, especially for minorities, is deeply troubling to him. “The aim of the letter is to raise the significant issues about voting, which is fundamental to our democratic experiment and, once these issues are raised, we hope that the committee and the citizenry in general would not support this nominee,” Sullivan said. “We certainly think that, party affiliation aside, no Attorney General should have taken such a radical view about voting rights laws.”

  • Harvard Law community rallies after demands not met

    December 8, 2015

    Members of the Harvard Law School community and the group called “Reclaim Harvard Law” hosted a rally Monday after demands they presented to the administration Friday were not met...Shay Johnson, a third-year law student, went to the dean’s office Monday morning. “She’s apparently out of town. A lot of the recent inertia started with the black tape incident,” she told, referring to a lack of response students feel came after black tape was placed over the portraits of black professors in the law school...“Thinking about what happened Friday, it was beautiful to see that there are so many folks at this law school who want to see change,” Jeohn Favors, a second-year law student said. Dehlia Umunna, a clinical professor who has worked at Harvard since 2007, came out of her office to join the rally. “I got a text that said ‘There’s a rally,’” she said, “I thought, ‘I have work to do,’ and then it dawned on me, ‘What is more important than now?’”

  • Officer Stephen LeBert’s hearing set for Oct. 15

    September 16, 2015

    Medford Police Detective Stephen LeBert will face a disciplinary hearing Oct. 15 to determine a course of punishment after he was caught on video threatening to “blow a hole” in a driver’s head July 26, an incident that became national news overnight....According to the hearing notice, Coates, the 26-year-old Malden driver involved in the incident, will testify at the hearing. Coates’ attorneys, Kristin Muniz and Dehlia Umunna of Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute, would not say whether Coates planned to file charges against LeBert. “We will not comment at this time regarding other legal action against Police Office LeBert other than to say that all options are being considered,” Umunna wrote in an email response. “Our main focus at this point is to await the results of the disciplinary hearing.”

  • Seth Hoedl ’15 and Seth Packrone ’15 win Exemplary Clinical Student Award

    May 27, 2015

    Harvard Law School’s Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs has recognized graduating students Seth Hoedl ’15 and Seth Packrone ’15 for exemplifying putting theory into practice through clinical work.

  • HLS students at the Roxbury District Court.

    First Line of Defense

    May 4, 2015

    Students represent the indigent in courts where judges ask, ‘Is Harvard in the building?’