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Elizabeth Bartholet

  • Controversy Over Harvard Prof Joining Weinstein Defense

    May 13, 2019

    Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet discusses the controversy at Harvard University over Harvard Law Professor Ronald Sullivan, a renowned defense attorney, joining Harvey Weinstein’s defense team. She speaks to Bloomberg’s June Grasso.

  • Harvard Law faculty speak in support of resident dean representing Weinstein

    March 8, 2019

    A Letter to the Editor: We the 52 undersigned members of the Harvard Law School faculty support our colleague Ronald S. Sullivan Jr.’s dedication to the professional tradition of providing representation to people accused of crimes and other misconduct, including to those who are reviled. For the past 10 years while serving as faculty dean of Winthrop House, professor Sullivan has represented alleged victims of sexual assault as well as people accused of sexual assault, murder, and terrorism. [Editor’s note: Sullivan is representing Harvey Weinstein in his current criminal case, which has generated protests at Harvard.] We call upon our university’s administration to recognize that such legal advocacy in service of constitutional principles is not only fully consistent with Sullivan’s roles of law professor and dean of an undergraduate house, but also one of the many possible models that resident deans can provide in teaching, mentoring, and advising students. The university owes a robust response to allegations of sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct. We respect students’ right to protest professor Sullivan’s choice of clients. But we view any pressure by Harvard’s administration for him to resign as faculty dean of Winthrop, because of his representation or speaking on behalf of clients, as inconsistent with the university’s commitment to the freedom to defend ideas, however unpopular.

  • How Incarcerated Parents Are Losing Their Children Forever

    December 3, 2018

    ...Mothers and fathers who have a child placed in foster care because they are incarcerated — but who have not been accused of child abuse, neglect, endangerment, or even drug or alcohol use — are more likely to have their parental rights terminated than those who physically or sexually assault their kids, according to a Marshall Project analysis of approximately 3 million child-welfare cases nationally...To some adoption proponents, immediately finding children a nurturing home should always be the priority in these difficult cases. Elizabeth Bartholet, a professor at Harvard Law School, said that while some parents turn their lives around when they leave prison, their children should not have to wait for a family. “You never know if they’ll just go right back to a life of crime,” she said, “and kids deserve better than that.”

  • 25 Harvard Law Profs Sign NYT Op-Ed Demanding Senate Reject Kavanaugh

    October 4, 2018

    Roughly two dozen Harvard Law School professors have signed a New York Times editorial arguing that the United States Senate should not confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Harvard affiliates — including former Law School Dean Martha L. Minow and Laurence Tribe — joined more than 1,000 law professors across the country in signing the editorial, published online Wednesday. The professors wrote that Kavanaugh displayed a lack of “impartiality and judicial temperament requisite to sit on the highest court of our land” in the heated testimony he gave during a nationally televised hearing held Sept. 27 in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee....As of late Wednesday, the letter had been signed by the following: Sabi Ardalan, Christopher T. Bavitz, Elizabeth Bartholet, Christine Desan, Susan H. Farbstein, Nancy Gertner, Robert Greenwald, Michael Gregory, Janet Halley, Jon Hanson, Adriaan Lanni, Bruce H. Mann, Frank Michelman, Martha Minow, Robert H. Mnookin, Intisar Rabb, Daphna Renan, David L. Shapiro, Joseph William Singer, Carol S. Steiker, Matthew C. Stephenson, Laurence Tribe, Lucie White, Alex Whiting, Jonathan Zittrain

  • Some Harvard Law Professors Call for Investigation into Kavanaugh Allegations

    September 26, 2018

    Several Harvard Law School professors said they were troubled by the sexual assault allegations recently levelled against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh and called for further investigation into his alleged misbehavior...Law School Professor Michael J. Klarman, a constitutional law scholar, wrote in an email Sunday that, while some have argued that Kavanaugh’s actions as a 17-year-old are not relevant to the judge's ability to serve on the Court, he does not buy that reasoning.“I certainly agree with the idea that we should be pretty forgiving toward youthful mistakes. But attempted rape is a really serious charge. And serving on the Supreme Court is a privilege, not a right,” Klarman wrote...Law Professor Laurence H. Tribe ’62 took his views on the Kavanaugh confirmation process to Twitter Monday. “Closing ranks around Kavanaugh even before Dr.Blasey Ford testifies is proof positive that these Trumpsters either (1) don’t regard an attempted rape and a nominee’s false denials as relevant and/or (2) are ready to disbelieve her without listening,” Tribe wrote. Tribe expanded on his thoughts in an email to The Crimson...Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet ’62 wrote via email that the Thursday hearings should be postponed pending an investigation.

  • Where Is the Outrage Over the Institutionalized Children Denied Adoptive Homes?

    July 18, 2018

    An op-ed by Elizabeth Bartholet. Outrage has been expressed by virtually all commenting on the president’s policy separating migrant children from their parents. Critics have expressed horror at the audios of crying children, and have condemned the harm they will suffer as a result of being torn from parents and placed in institutions or foster homes. This outrage is right. These children will suffer, and innocent children should not be used as pawns in the Administration’s war against immigrants...But where is the outrage at the U.S. government policies requiring that infants and children worldwide be imprisoned in institutions and denied available homes in international adoption?

  • Kavanaugh will be ‘a disaster for the country’ if confirmed to the Supreme Court, says Harvard Law prof

    July 17, 2018

    ...“He will be a disaster for the country if confirmed,” said Elizabeth Bartholet, the Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law at Harvard, in an e-mail Wednesday morning. Bartholet, a former lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and founder of the Legal Action Center in New York, stressed that she was basing her comments on Kavanaugh’s judicial record — not his time at Harvard.

  • States brace for dramatic overhaul to federal foster care funding

    June 26, 2018

    State and local governments are poised to undergo a major shift in the way they think about at-risk children, thanks to bipartisan federal legislation aimed at encouraging families to stay together and out of the foster care system. The Family First Prevention Services Act, a provision within the Bipartisan Budget Act that President Trump signed into law in February, would give states incentives to keep children with parents or relatives, rather than immediately transferring them to foster care or the state’s care...A second phase of the program will restrict federal funding for group care and provide additional funding for mental health and substance abuse programs. That phase has child welfare advocates concerned that the new measure disincentivizes foster care programs at the expense of the children themselves. “It’s really about prevention of foster care, not prevention of abuse and neglect,” said Elizabeth Bartholet, director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School. “I think we do want children removed to foster care when they’re facing serious abuse and neglect at home.”

  • Russian Lawmaker’s Claim on Abuse of Russian Adoptees in the US is Short on Facts

    April 25, 2018

    In an interview early this month with the Russian news agency, Russian lawmaker Irina Rodnina defended the “Dima Yakovlev Law,” which banned U.S. adoptions of Russian children. Key to her defense of the law is her assertion that there were ““a lot of cases” of Russian adoptees suffering abuse...In a statement to, the U.S. State Department said it “condemns the abuse or abandonment of any child” and that “U.S. child protection laws and services apply to all children, regardless of citizenship, country of origin, or dual-nationality.” “It’s a tiny percent,” Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Bartholet, an expert on intercountry adoptions, told, referring to incidents of abuse of adopted children in the U.S. She conceded that precise data is hard to get, but added: “Overall, adopted kids, both domestic and international, are subject to parental abuse at much lower rates than kids raised by their biological parents, as shown by the social science.”

  • ‘Trauma Informed’ Approaches to Sex Assault Are Catching On. They’re Also Facing a Backlash.

    April 6, 2018

    ..."Trauma informed" approaches toward investigating campus assault complaints are changing the way investigators interpret inconsistent reports or jumbled timelines. Where lapses in memory or chronological glitches once were seen as holes in an account, trauma-informed practices encourage investigators to start with an open mind. Proponents of the practices are quick to point out that that open mind should extend to the accused, as well...Elizabeth Bartholet, a professor at Harvard Law School who has challenged policies she thinks are unfair to accused students, agrees that trauma-informed approaches tip the balance further against accused students. "I’m concerned that some of the ‘trauma informed’ instructions tell adjudicators to treat what are typically considered signs of a witness not being credible as instead signs of the witness having been traumatized by sexual assault, and this risks feeding into a generally biased fact-finding system," Bartholet wrote in an email to The Chronicle.

  • When adoption agencies can turn away gay prospective parents, what happens to the kids?

    March 26, 2018

    Oklahoma lawmakers may soon sanction private adoption agencies turning away same-sex couples and other prospective parents who don’t meet their religious criteria, a possibility cheered by the Roman Catholic Church and many evangelical Christians and lambasted as discriminatory by gay rights groups. It’s a conflict playing out across the nation, and both sides say that if the other wins, the number of children placed in loving homes will fall...“I don’t know of any empirical evidence on the topic,” said Elizabeth Bartholet, faculty director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass. “In general, any barriers to adoption are likely to decrease numbers of homes for kids in need,” Bartholet added in an email. “But, of course, it’s possible that religious agencies would shut down rather than put their religious principles aside.”

  • HLS Profs Sign Letter Slamming ‘Victim-Centered’ Sexual Harassment Policies

    February 28, 2018

    Two Harvard Law professors have joined nearly 140 professors from universities across the country in signing a public letter that critiques what the authors call “victim-centered practices” in higher education sexual harassment policies and procedures. Law professors Janet E. Halley and Elizabeth Bartholet ’62 signed the letter three weeks ago, along with academics hailing from institutions including Northwestern University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School...“I signed it because I thought it was correct. I’ve seen the bad effects of politically slanted training,” Halley said.

  • Harvard prof argues #MeToo eschews ‘basic fairness’

    January 22, 2018

    A professor at Harvard Law School recently criticized supporters of the #MeToo movement for failing to uphold “principles of basic fairness.” Elizabeth Bartholet, who teaches civil liberties and family law, extensively detailed her concerns with the #MeToo movement in an editorial for The Harvard Crimson. Despite her approval of #MeToo’s ability to deliver justice when needed, and its power in supporting victims of sexual assault, Bartholet expresses deep concerns over whether due process may be falling by the wayside...Speaking to Campus Reform, Bartholet said that she was motivated to speak up after witnessing the rise of sexual harassment policies at Harvard Law, explaining that the school has devised harassment policies that “[ignored] fairness to the accused, and that went too far to shut down romantic and sexual conduct that was consensual.”

  • #MeToo Excesses

    January 16, 2018

    An op-ed by Elizabeth Bartholet. Like many others, I am outraged by the egregious incidents of sexual misconduct made public recently through carefully documented journalism. I applaud the removal of many alleged perpetrators who have clearly abused their positions of power, often through force and even violence. I celebrate those who have stepped forward to call out sexual misconduct and demand changes in the degrading culture that has characterized working conditions for women in too many settings for too long. However, I am concerned that in the recent rush to judgment, principles of basic fairness, differences between proven and merely alleged instances of misconduct, and important distinctions between different kinds of sexually charged conduct have too often been ignored.

  • The Politics of #HimToo

    December 14, 2017

    The issue of sexual misconduct has emerged as a centerpiece of Democratic strategy for taking on President Trump and the Republican Party... Elizabeth Bartholet, the director of the child advocacy program and a professor at Harvard Law School, who is no fan of Donald Trump, wrote in an email: I think this is another moment we may look back on as a moment characterized by madness and sexual panic even though it is a moment that is important in recognizing serious abuses that deserve to be called out.

  • Mentors, Friends and Sometime Adversaries 4

    Mentors, Friends and Sometime Adversaries

    November 29, 2017

    Mentorships between Harvard Law School professors and the students who followed them into academia have taken many forms over the course of two centuries.

  • Our View: Not all parents who neglect their kids are monsters

    November 7, 2017

    Some crimes against children are so horrendous you can only see the perpetrators as inhuman creatures. It’s understandable. But that perception hurts the majority of kids in the system...Reunification is the case plan goal for more than half the more than 16,000 children in out-of-home care in Arizona. Helping their biological parents succeed is essential to safely moving those children out of foster care and back home. In fact, helping families before children are removed is best of all because it spares children the trauma of being taking away from everything familiar. But families are hurting in Arizona. Addressing poverty is “the best prevention program going,” says Elizabeth Bartholet, who teaches civil rights and family law at Harvard Law School and specializes in child welfare.

  • Trump administration putting new hurdles on international adoptions

    November 7, 2017

    When the Trump administration withdrew proposed regulations last April that international adoption agencies worried would price them out of their jobs, the agencies breathed a collective sigh of relief. But just seven months later, it appears to be harder than ever to adopt a child from overseas...Elizabeth Bartholet, director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard University, said the administration has been implementing the regulations despite withdrawing them. “They have basically driven the Center on Accreditation out of business,” she said. Bartholet said the result would “destroy international adoption.” She said that while the Trump administration has been eager to rescind other Obama-era regulations, it has not paid adequate attention to the actions of the State Department on international adoption. “It’s really, really unfortunate,” she said.

  • Surprisingly, some feminist lawyers side with Trump and DeVos on campus assault policy

    September 15, 2017

    When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week announced plans to revise the nation’s guidelines on campus sexual assault, the predictable din of outrage drowned out the applause from some unlikely corners of college campuses: Many liberals actually approve...“Betsy DeVos and I don’t have many overlapping normative and political views,” said Janet Halley, a Harvard Law School professor and expert on sexual harassment who supports the change. “But I’m a human being, and I’m entitled to say what I think.”...Also among them were four feminist professors who wrote a letter to the Department of Education last month beseeching DeVos’s department for a revision of the rule. Definitions of sexual wrongdoing are now far too broad, they wrote...The authors — Halley, Elizabeth Bartholet, Nancy Gertner, and Jeannie Suk Gersen — have all researched, taught, and written about sexual assault and feminist legal reform for years. Halley, who has represented both accusers and the accused in campus cases, said her colleagues maintain universities should have robust programs against sexual assault.

  • DeVos Pledges to Restore Due Process

    September 8, 2017

    ...As four Harvard law professors— Jeannie Suk Gersen, Janet Halley, Elizabeth Bartholet and Nancy Gertnerargued in a recent article, a fair process requires “neutral decisionmakers who are independent of the school’s [federal regulatory] compliance interest, and independent decisionmakers providing a check on arbitrary and unlawful decisions.” The four had been among more than two dozen Harvard law professors to express concerns about the Obama administration’s—and Harvard’s—handling of Title IX.

  • Federal guidelines on campus sexual misconduct ‘seriously overbroad’ say some Harvard law faculty

    September 5, 2017

    Four Harvard Law School academics have asked the U.S. Department of Education to revisit policies regarding campus sexual misconduct investigations...The Harvard memo (PDF) was signed by Janet E. Halley, Elizabeth D. Bartholet, and Jeannie Suk Gersen, all of whom are Harvard law professors, and Nancy Gertner, a lecturer at the school who is also a retired federal judge. They submitted the memo to the Department of Education Aug. 21. “Definitions of sexual wrongdoing on college campuses are now seriously overbroad. They go way beyond accepted legal definitions of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. They often include sexual conduct that is merely unwelcome, even if it does not create a hostile environment, even if the person accused had no way of knowing it was unwanted, and even if the accuser’s sense that it was unwelcome arose after the encounter,” the memo reads.