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Jeannie Suk Gersen

  • Federal court officials can be sued for alleged failure to protect public defender from sex bias, 4th Circuit rules

    April 28, 2022

    A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a former assistant federal public defender in North Carolina can sue court officials for constitutional violations stemming from an alleged faulty investigation of sexual harassment. ... Strickland was represented by Jeannie Suk Gersen, a professor at Harvard Law School, who called the decision “a major victory” in a statement published by Law.com and other publications. The unanimous decision “made clear that the federal judiciary as an employer is not immune from suits for sex discrimination,” Gersen said.

  • Court revives sexual harassment lawsuit targeting federal judiciary

    April 28, 2022

    A federal appeals court on Tuesday revived a former public defender’s lawsuit challenging the federal judiciary’s handling of her sexual harassment and discrimination claims about a supervisor’s unwelcome attention at work. ... Strickland’s lawyer, Jeannie Suk Gersen, a Harvard Law School professor, characterized Tuesday’s decision as a landmark ruling because it makes “crystal clear” that the federal judiciary, as an employer, “can be held accountable based on its constitutional obligations” by judiciary employees who experience discrimination.

  • 4th Circ. Revives Sexual Harassment Suit Against Judiciary

    April 28, 2022

    A designated Fourth Circuit panel on Tuesday reinstated some claims in a sexual harassment suit brought by a former North Carolina assistant federal public defender accusing federal judiciary officials of mishandling her complaints, but declined to rule that internal procedures designed to redress workplace misconduct claims are unconstitutional. The three-judge panel said former assistant federal public defender Caryn Devins Strickland can proceed with certain allegations that the Judicial Conference, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the Fourth Circuit and its leaders violated her constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. A district judge dismissed the entire case in December 2020. ... Harvard Law School professor Jeannie Suk Gersen, who is representing Strickland, said the panel's decision "made clear that the federal judiciary as an employer is not immune from suits for sex discrimination."

  • U.S. judiciary can be sued over sex harassment complaint’s handling -court

    April 27, 2022

    A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that a former federal public defender in North Carolina could sue the judiciary for violating her constitutional rights by being deliberately indifferent to her complaints of sexual harassment. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals partly reversed a judge's dismissal of a 2020 lawsuit by Caryn Strickland, who alleged she was sexually harassed by a superior and stonewalled in her efforts to have the judiciary address her complaint. ... "Today’s decision is a major victory," Jeannie Suk Gersen, a professor at Harvard Law School who represents Strickland.

  • If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned, What’s Next?

    April 18, 2022

    An essay by Jeannie Suk Gersen: In 2003, when the Supreme Court held, in Lawrence v. Texas, that criminalizing gay sex was unconstitutional, it insisted that the decision had nothing to do with marriage equality. In a scathing dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “Do not believe it.” Then, in 2013, when the Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, emphasizing the tradition of letting the states define marriage, Scalia issued another warning, saying that “no one should be fooled” into thinking that the Court would leave states free to exclude gay couples from that definition. He was finally proved right two years later, when the reasoning on dignity and equality developed in those earlier rulings led to the Court’s holding that the Constitution requires all states to recognize same-sex marriage.

  • Investigating January 6th

    April 4, 2022

    With a judge declaring that Donald Trump “more likely than not” committed a felony in his attempt to overturn the Presidential election, the congressional committee investigating January 6th is racing to finish its work before the looming midterm elections. Amy Davidson Sorkin and the legal scholar Jeannie Suk Gersen talk with David Remnick about the law and the politics of holding Trump accountable. Ben McGrath explores the troubled but remarkable life of Dick Conant, the subject of his new book, “Riverman: An American Odyssey.” And the music writer Sheldon Pearce shares three artists who didn’t get their due in the Grammy nominations.

  • 4th Circuit replaces federal public defender amid sexual bias lawsuit

    March 30, 2022

    A retired Marine brigadier general will replace the top federal public defender for the Western District of North Carolina after the prior office holder became a defendant in a closely watched sexual discrimination lawsuit against the judiciary. ... Jeannie Suk Gersen, a professor at Harvard Law School who represents Strickland, did not respond to a request for comment.

  • Ex-Defender In Judiciary Harassment Case Unmasks Herself

    March 23, 2022

    The formerly anonymous attorney suing the leaders of the federal judiciary over their alleged mishandling of her complaints of on-the-job sexual harassment has officially revealed her identity. Former assistant federal public defender Caryn Devins Strickland acknowledged in a court filing Monday that she is the plaintiff known as Jane Roe in the much-watched lawsuit against the Judicial Conference, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the Fourth Circuit and others. The Fourth Circuit issued an order amending the case's caption to replace "Jane Roe" with Strickland's name Tuesday. ... Strickland is represented by Jeannie Suk Gersen and Cooper Strickland.

  • Judiciary Builds on #MeToo Response with New Recommendations (1)

    March 22, 2022

    Monetary remedies for judiciary workers in misconduct disputes and an anonymous nationwide survey for employees are among recommendations in a new report by a working group on judiciary misconduct. Sent to employees internally on Wednesday, the report includes nine new proposed steps that seek to build on changes the judiciary adopted following its own reckoning with the #MeToo movement. ... The report comes ahead of ahead of a House Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Thursday about the flaws in the current reporting system in the judiciary and need for statutory change. Caryn Devins Strickland, a former federal defender who brought sex discrimination claims against the federal courts and officials in a suit currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, is among the scheduled witnesses, her lawyer Jeannie Suk Gersen confirmed. Strickland had been referred to in court documents only as Jane Roe but shed her pseudonym in a Wednesday court document ahead of the hearing.

  • ‘Jane Roe,’ the Attorney Suing Over the Judiciary’s Harassment Policies, to Speak to Congress

    March 22, 2022

    An attorney suing the federal judiciary over its protocols for handling harassment complaints will speak at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing about flaws in the judicial branch’s workplace protection policies. Caryn Devins Strickland, a former North Carolina public defender, filed a notice of intent on Wednesday to withdraw the “Jane Roe” pseudonym from her complaint, which alleges that the judiciary’s protocols for handling workplace misconduct are unconstitutional and failed to protect her from harassment by a supervisor at the Federal Defender Office for the Western District of North Carolina. Strickland is now seeking to revive the lawsuit after a district judge dismissed it last year. Strickland is among several people who will appear before the House members Thursday, according to her attorney, Jeannie Suk Gersen, and an advisory from the committee.

  • Congress to hear from woman suing over judiciary’s harassment policies

    March 18, 2022

    A former public defender, who has been pursuing a high-profile legal challenge to the federal judiciary's process for handling sexual harassment complaints under a pseudonym, is stepping forward to inform Congress about the judiciary's "unfair and biased" procedures. Caryn Devins Strickland, a former federal public defender in North Carolina, said she decided to shed the pseudonym in order to testify publicly before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee examining sexual harassment in the judiciary. ... The case is Roe v. United States, 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-1346. For Roe: Jeannie Suk Gersen of Harvard Law School and Cooper Strickland

  • Panel Says Judiciary Went ‘Off The Rails’ In Harassment Case

    March 3, 2022

    Two of the three out-of-circuit judges assigned by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts to hear an ex-North Carolina assistant federal public defender's Fourth Circuit appeal in her sexual harassment suit suggested Wednesday that the federal judiciary did not seem to have followed its procedures to redress workplace misconduct claims when the public defender aired her allegations. ... Harvard Law School professor Jeannie Suk Gersen, who is representing Roe, rejected what she called false claims by the government that her client failed to file a formal internal complaint with the judiciary. "They were the ones who allegedly forced her to resign and withdraw the claim," Gersen said.

  • The Politics of the Supreme Court Shortlist

    February 18, 2022

    An article by Jeannie Suk Gersen: In September, 2020, when the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg opened up a seat on the Supreme Court, President Donald Trump said that he expected to name a nominee soon, and specified, “It will be a woman—a very talented, very brilliant woman.” A number of female jurists were discussed as top contenders, and he chose Amy Coney Barrett as the nominee. Neither Democrats nor Republicans objected to the stated intention to nominate a woman. Indeed, many would have taken issue with the idea of Ginsburg being replaced by a man—which would have decreased the number of women on the Court from three to two.

  • Citing Conflict of Interest, Ex-Defender Asks Panel to Recuse Itself or Vacate Order in Her Harassment Case

    February 9, 2022

    A former federal public defender is asking an appellate panel to either vacate a lower court’s ruling against her, or disqualify itself from deciding her sexual harassment claims against the judiciary, citing a conflict of interest stemming from the selection of judges. ... Roe’s attorneys, Jeannie Suk Gersen and Cooper Strickland, said records and information the government released related to the assignment process show the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and Judicial Conference participated in selecting judges to hear the lawsuit, even though they’re named defendants. Roe’s lawyers are urging the panel to either vacate U.S. District Judge William Young’s dismissal of the lawsuit, or reassign the case to a new panel that would vacate the lower court’s order.

  • Judiciary Misconduct Spotlighted in Fourth Circuit Sex Bias Case

    February 7, 2022

    A U.S. appeals court will consider reviving a former federal judiciary employee’s sex discrimination claims in a case that could lower the bar for workers to win misconduct lawsuits against the nation’s judicial branch. ... Justice Department spokeswoman Danielle Blevins declined to comment. Roe’s attorney, Harvard Law School professor Jeannie Suk Gersen, didn’t reply to a request for comment.

  • The Case Against the Oath Keepers

    January 25, 2022

    An article by Jeannie Suk Gersen: On January 6, 2021, in the minutes before the storming of the Capitol, I was sending a welcome message to my new class of criminal-law students while keeping an eye on Congress’s certification of the Presidential election. During the next few hours, a violent mob invaded the building, overwhelmed law enforcement, and drove lawmakers to halt the certification process and hide or evacuate. At the end of that semester, I included a new question on the final exam for my criminal-law students, one about the previously little-known crime of “seditious conspiracy,” which includes conspiring “by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States.”

  • Podcast: Jeannie Suk Gersen on the Importance of Due Process

    December 13, 2021

    Jeannie Suk Gersen is the John H. Watson, Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a contributing writer at The New Yorker. She writes widely about the law and its impact on society. In this week’s conversation, Jeannie Suk Gersen and Yascha Mounk discuss the value of robust debate in law school classrooms, the perils of eroding due process in the name of progress, and the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

  • History’s harsh judgment

    December 10, 2021

    During a recent Supreme Court hearing, Justice Brett Kavanaugh advanced this case for reversing precedent and canceling a woman’s right to make critical health decisions for herself: “The Constitution is neither pro-life nor pro-choice on the question of abortion but leaves the issue for the people of the states or perhaps Congress to resolve in the democratic process.” On the surface, that sounds fair. In a democracy, let “the people” decide what the law should be. But Kavanaugh’s argument is deeply disingenuous, and he profoundly misreads the nature of America’s political tradition. In our system, when a right is deemed fundamental, it cannot be abrogated by a popular vote. The founders created a network of checks and balances — especially the federal courts — to protect the rights of individuals, even when they are unpopular. As Harvard law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen wrote in The New Yorker: “The point of a fundamental constitutional right is that it shouldn’t be at the people’s mercy, particularly when the composition of the Court itself has been shifted through political means for this purpose.”

  • A Tragic Conflict of Competing Goods

    December 10, 2021

    Abortion has been discussed intensely this past week due to oral arguments in a Supreme Court case that could significantly alter the constitutional right to the procedure in the United States. At issue is a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, contra current precedent. If upheld, the law will likely inspire new abortion restrictions in many red states. We begin with the law’s sponsor, Becky Currie, a Mississippi state legislator and registered nurse. “I pray my bill will save millions of babies,” she wrote in Newsweek, where she explained that she’s helped to deliver many, including a 14-week-old born too early to survive. ... The Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen framed the law differently. In her telling, it is not an attempt to restore a right to life; it is an attempt to abrogate a constitutional right to privacy and bodily autonomy. “The conservative Justices seemed eager to ‘return’ the question of abortion to the people,” she wrote after listening to oral arguments in the case. “But the point of a fundamental constitutional right is that it shouldn’t be at the people’s mercy, particularly when the composition of the Court itself has been shifted through political means for this purpose.” What’s more, she argued that the Supreme Court would undermine its own authority by overturning a long-standing precedent in response to a state law that ran afoul of it. As she put the argument: “The spectacle of states brazenly flying in the face of the Court’s constitutional precedents, shortly followed by the Court’s discarding those precedents to make illegal actions legal after all, would effectively communicate that the Supreme Court is not, in fact, supreme.”

  • The Mississippi Abortion Case and the Fragile Legitimacy of the Supreme Court

    December 6, 2021

    An article by Jeannie Suk Gersen: The legal landscape of the past weeks and months has prompted questions of which people and entities are legitimate interpreters and enforcers of the law and what happens when you take the law into your own hands. Mississippi and other states took the recent changes in personnel on the Supreme Court as an invitation to defy the Court’s constitutional rulings on abortion, and those states now seem likely to prevail. During oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, last Wednesday, the three liberal Justices often seemed to be delivering dirges, as though they had accepted a loss and were speaking for posterity. Mississippi’s ban on abortions after fifteen weeks of pregnancy, which boldly flouts the Court’s precedents setting the line at around twenty-four weeks, is likely to be upheld by the conservative Justices. The arguments offered scant reason for hope that Roe v. Wade will be reaffirmed; the newest conservative Justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, signalled no qualms about overruling Roe as wrongly decided, which would make a majority of at least five. At a time when the Court’s legitimacy appears extremely fragile, it is telling that the majority’s response to having the supremacy of the Court’s decisions defied seems to be acquiescence and approval.

  • The front of the US Supreme Court. Cloudy skies overhead.

    Debating the future of Roe 

    December 3, 2021

    At the recent Rappaport Forum, panelists discussed abortion rights and whether the Supreme Court should honor precedent — or jettison Roe v. Wade. 

  • The Department of Education Must Commit to Free Speech and Due Process | Opinion

    December 1, 2021

    Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote in October to confirm Catherine Lhamon to lead the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). When Lhamon held the same position under the Obama administration, her office enforced Title IX—the federal statute prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education—in a manner that endangered fundamental free speech and due process rights. ... Last year, the Department of Education enacted new, balanced regulations that protect the rights of all students, consistent with many judicial rulings. ... Prominent feminist legal scholars, including Harvard Law professors Jeannie Suk Gersen and Janet Halley, as well as the University of San Francisco Law School's Lara Bazelon, heralded the regulations for their overall fairness and for rectifying injustices in OCR's prior policies.

  • If Roe v. Wade Goes, What Next?

    November 22, 2021

    Podcast featuring Jeannie Suk Gersen, John H. Watson, Jr. Professor of Law: Will the Supreme Court Overturn Roe v. Wade? Critical cases on abortion rights are being heard by a 6–3 majority of conservative Justices. The decisions will have repercussions for everyone of childbearing age.

  • Detroit residents voting on whether to decriminalize ‘magic mushrooms’ and other psychedelic drugs

    November 3, 2021

    Detroit could be the latest big city to decriminalize "magic mushrooms" and other psychedelics drugs as residents take to the polls Tuesday. Voters will be asked under proposal E: "Shall the voters of the City of Detroit adopt an ordinance to the 2019 Detroit City Code that would decriminalize to the fullest extent permitted under Michigan law the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults and make the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults the city's lowest law-enforcement priority?" ... Harvard Law School launched the Project on Psychedelics Law and Regulation this summer to examine the legal framework around psychedelic research. "Preliminary research suggests that psychedelics could hold major benefits for people experiencing trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder," Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen said in a statement. "By analyzing social, legal, and political barriers to access in this context, we hope to advance the understanding of their potential impact as therapeutics."

  • After Full Circuit’s Recusal and Lawyers’ Request, Panel of Judges Hearing Case Is Revealed

    November 2, 2021

    The panel of judges hearing a lawsuit from which all the judges on a circuit have recused themselves was revealed Monday, after the lawyers behind the case requested to know which judges would preside over the appeal. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is recused from the lawsuit filed by “Jane Roe,” a former federal public defender who is alleging harassment while in her job and mounting a challenge to the way the federal judiciary handles misconduct complaints. The complaint names the circuit, as well as its chief judge and judicial council. Federal public defenders fall under the scope of the federal judiciary. ... The Fourth Circuit typically does not reveal the panel of judges hearing a case until the morning of arguments. Cooper Strickland and Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen, who are representing Roe in the case, on Oct. 29 filed a motion to publicly post the judges presiding in the case, noting that orders had been issued but it was unclear who was behind those orders.

  • An Entire Circuit Is Recused From a Case. These Lawyers Want to Know Which Judges Are Handling It Instead

    November 1, 2021

    The attorneys behind a former federal public defender’s lawsuit challenging the judiciary’s approach to handling misconduct claims want to find out which judges are considering the case’s appeal, after the entire circuit recused itself from the case. The Jane Roe lawsuit is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The full circuit recused itself soon after the appeal was filed, presumably because the complaint names the circuit, its chief judge and judicial council. Lawyer Cooper Strickland and Jeannie Suk Gersen, a professor at Harvard Law School, on Friday filed a motion requesting that orders “resulting from this intercircuit-assignment process” be filed on the public docket for the case. “This public disclosure is required by statute, as well as constitutional principles of fairness and transparency in judicial proceedings,” the filing reads. The opposing parties in the case, represented by the Justice Department, have no position on the motion, according to the filing.

  • Jeannie Suk Gersen: How can understanding divorce help a marriage?

    October 1, 2021

    Marriage takes a lot of work. And part of preventing eventual heartache, says law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen, is seeing marriage and partnership through the lens of divorce. Jeannie Suk Gersen is the John H. Watson, Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where she has taught courses on constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, family law, and sexual assault and harassment.

  • What If Trigger Warnings Don’t Work?

    September 29, 2021

    An article by Jeannie Suk GersenEarlier this year, Brandeis University’s Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center released a “Suggested Language List,” developed by “students who have been impacted by violence and students who have sought out advanced training for intervening in potentially violent situations.” The students’ purpose, they wrote, was “to remove language that may hurt those who have experienced violence from our everyday use.” They proposed avoiding the idioms “killing it,” “take a stab at,” and “beating a dead horse.” I was struck that one of the phrases they recommended avoiding was “trigger warning,” and that the proffered explanation was sensible: “ ‘warning’ can signify that something is imminent or guaranteed to happen, which may cause additional stress about the content to be covered. We can also never guarantee that someone will not be triggered during a conversation or training; people’s triggers vary widely.”

  • Fed. Court Workers Watching ‘Emblematic’ Harassment Case

    September 23, 2021

    A novel lawsuit challenging the federal judiciary's handling of sexual harassment is "emblematic" of all that is wrong with the courts as a workplace, say advocates, who warn that a ruling favoring the judiciary could leave its employees with few options to combat misconduct. ... That lack of statutory protections is one of the reasons why Roe's suit claims the judiciary's failure to address her harassment complaints violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fifth Amendment, according to professor Jeannie Suk Gersen of Harvard Law School, who is serving as lead counsel on Roe's appeal. “Roe cannot bring a claim under Title VII, or any other federal employment statute, because it does not cover the 30,000 federal judiciary employees,” Gersen said. “That would be an unacceptable gap in legal protection against employment discrimination, if the Constitution did not protect those employees from discrimination.”

  • Sounds Legit

    September 20, 2021

    Leah is joined by Jeannie Suk Gersen and Deeva Shah to discuss an important case, Roe v. United States, about the procedures for addressing workplace misconduct in the federal courts.

  • The Manifold Threats of the Texas Abortion Law

    September 7, 2021

    A column by Jeannie Suk Gersen: In “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Hannah Arendt observed the early tendency of a totalitarian regime to draft private citizens to conduct “voluntary espionage,” so that “a neighbor gradually becomes a more dangerous enemy than officially appointed police agents.” Echoes of this fear could be felt in the dissents from the Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday not to block enforcement of a Texas law that prohibits abortion after roughly the sixth week of pregnancy. The statute, enacted in May, authorizes citizens to file a lawsuit against a party that performs or even unintentionally “aids or abets” such an abortion, and to exact damages of at least ten thousand dollars for each forbidden abortion from that defendant if they win the case. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor put it in her dissenting opinion, “The Texas Legislature has deputized the State’s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical procedures.” Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan also dissented; each penned dissenting opinions emphasizing the novel structure of the legislation, which delegates enforcement to members of the general populace.

  • Comments on body parts. Questions about pregnancy. Court filing alleges ongoing harassment in judiciary.

    September 1, 2021

    ... In support of a lawsuit filed by a former public defender in North Carolina, more than 20 current and former law clerks and employees of federally funded public defender’s offices and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts in Washington offered firsthand accounts of a system that they say still lacks protections and procedures to hold officials accountable. ... On appeal at the 4th Circuit, Roe is represented by Harvard Law School professor Jeannie Suk Gersen and has the backing of more than 40 public-interest and civil rights organizations, in addition to constitutional scholars. Gersen said in a court filing last week that the judiciary’s internal complaint system was rife with conflicts of interest and failed to provide meaningful review or to stop the harassment. The system “facilitated and aggravated the hostile work environment, which became so intolerable that Roe was forced to resign and lose her career as a federal public defender.”

  • The new puritans

    August 31, 2021

    ... Right here in America, right now, it is possible to meet people who have lost everything—jobs, money, friends, colleagues—after violating no laws, and sometimes no workplace rules either. Instead, they have broken (or are accused of having broken) social codes having to do with race, sex, personal behavior, or even acceptable humor, which may not have existed five years ago or maybe five months ago. ...Conversations between people who have different statuses—employer-employee, professor-student—can now focus only on professional matters, or strictly neutral topics. Anything sexual, even in an academic context—for example, a conversation about the laws of rape—is now risky. The Harvard Law School professor Jeannie Suk Gersen has written that her students “seem more anxious about classroom discussion, and about approaching the law of sexual violence in particular, than they have ever been in my eight years as a law professor.”

  • Grid of still head shots and archival shots from a movie

    The Influence of Critical Legal Studies

    August 11, 2021

    By the time Jeannie Suk Gersen ’02 was a first-year law student at HLS, the Critical Legal Studies movement had been pronounced dead. And yet “every corner you turned and every closet you opened at the law school, there it would be, in some sort of zombie or ghost-like form,” she recalls.

  • A line of trees with a blue sky in the background

    Petrie-Flom Center announces new research initiative on psychedelics law and regulation

    July 7, 2021

    The Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School has announced a new research initiative, the Project on Psychedelics Law and Regulation, to promote safety, innovation, and equity in psychedelics research, commerce, and therapeutics.

  • Broadway Tickets, Anthony Bourdain’s Final Book, Snapchat & Free Speech, Nicole Chung’s Memoir

    May 12, 2021

    Helen Shaw, theater critic at New York Magazine, joins us to discuss the return of Broadway ticket sales in anticipation of September’s reopening. WNYC planning editor Kate Hinds joins us to discuss the stories that the newsroom is covering this week. Laurie Woolever joins us to discuss World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, the final book Anthony Bourdain worked on, completed almost entirely after his death in 2018. Woolever, who was Bourdain's assistant and friend, served as co-author for this entertaining and practical guide to travelling to, eating at, and staying in some of Bourdain’s favorite places. The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a case that could determine public school's abilities to police student's speech off campus. The case began when a young woman named Brandi Levy sent out an curse-laden Snapchat expressing her frustration at not making the Varsity cheerleading squad, and was suspended from the JV team. Jeannie Suk Gersen, John H. Watson, Jr., Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and New Yorker contributing writer, joins us to discuss the case, known as Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.

  • The Complicated Case of the Pennsylvania Cheerleader

    May 6, 2021

    An essay by Jeannie Suk GersenThe story of Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. began when Brandi Levy, a high-school freshman in eastern Pennsylvania, was passed over for the varsity cheerleading team. Levy took to Snapchat to express frustration...According to a coach, some students who saw the posts were “visibly upset” and found them “inappropriate.” Levy was suspended from cheerleading for a year for violating the team’s rules, which require that students “have respect” for the school, coaches, and teammates, avoid “foul language and inappropriate gestures,” and refrain from sharing “negative information regarding cheerleading, cheerleaders, or coaches...on the internet.” The coaches as well as the school district also maintained that she violated a school rule that athletes must conduct themselves during the season “in such a way that the image of the Mahanoy School District would not be tarnished in any manner.” Levy, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit, alleging that her suspension from the team violated the First Amendment. Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case, which the Justices understood not only to raise the question of whether public schools may discipline students for speech outside of the school-supervised setting but also to implicate public schools’ power to punish students for discrimination, harassment, and bullying.

  • 2021 Last lectures grid

    Harvard Law School’s 2021 Last Lecture Series

    May 5, 2021

    The Last Lecture Series at Harvard Law School, sponsored annually by the 3L and LL.M. class marshals, is an HLS tradition in which selected faculty members impart insight, advice, and final words of wisdom to the graduating class.

  • A zoom image of a woman speaking with a bookshelf and work surface in background

    ‘We’ve become more accepting of the acknowledgment of humanity, of vulnerability’

    May 5, 2021

    Professor Jeannie Suk Gersen ’02 introduced this year’s inaugural Last Lecture by reminding the graduating class of its special place in history.

  • 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.

  • The Vital Role of Bystanders in Convicting Derek Chauvin

    April 21, 2021

    An essay by Jeannie Suk GersenThe jury trial as we know it evolved from a medieval English practice in which jurors were people in the neighborhood who were already familiar with the parties or the events at issue. They were chosen precisely because they represented the local community’s knowledge of the case. Today, a “jury of one’s peers” consists of fellow-citizens whom we instead ask, ideally, to serve as blank slates: they are chosen for their lack of connection to the events and the ability to put prior views and influences aside in examining the evidence that is presented, and sometimes even dramatized, at trial. On Tuesday, after ten hours of deliberation over the course of two days, a Minneapolis jury found the former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter, for killing George Floyd, last May. In many ways, it was a conventional trial, in which eyewitnesses testified and experts weighed in on the disputed facts. Yet it called to mind a bygone mode in which the jury’s role was grounded in the act of witnessing.

  • The Simple Facts of Derek Chauvin’s Trial

    April 12, 2021

    An essay by Jeannie Suk GersenWhen I teach criminal law, I always begin with a deceptively simple case. A police officer shot and seriously injured a man who resisted arrest for a misdemeanor of illegal fishing. Did the officer commit the crime of assault? I’ve long thought that the force that police may use in making an arrest reveals one of the most basic facts about our society: that the state has power to inflict violence on us in certain circumstances, in the name of enforcing law. We consider it justified for police officers, unlike ordinary citizens, to inflict violence on individuals—with fists, batons, pepper spray, tasers, guns—up to the point of death, so long as the officer embodies valid legal authority and the amount of force is proportionate to what is needed to get the individual to submit to that authority. So, when police actions result in a person’s death, it is not necessarily a criminal homicide; that depends on whether the police are found to have used an excess of force. The killing of George Floyd, in May, 2020, set off worldwide protests of the deadly and pervasive subordination of Black Americans by the police. The homicide trial of the officer accused of killing Floyd, Derek Chauvin, which began in Minneapolis on March 29th, is focussed on a more discrete question.

  • The Politics of Bad Sex

    April 1, 2021

    An essay by Jeannie Suk GersenWhen I was an undergraduate at Yale, in the early nineteen-nineties, I went to the university’s gymnasium one evening each week for a women’s self-defense class. We were instructed on how to fight off would-be rapists with physical force, using our knees, elbows, fingernails, and keys, being sure to mark an attacker’s face for police identification. Walking to my dorm in the dark, I was alert to not being a victim. It was part of the informal feminist curriculum that also included Take Back the Night marches and the slogan “No Means No,” one that dates me to an era when women were trying to defy vulnerability. As a rape counsellor in those days, I remember chuckling with feminist peers when we heard about a new Sexual Offense Prevention Policy at Antioch College. The rules said that consent had to be asked for and given at each new level of sexual activity, with silence conveying a lack of consent. Saturday Night Live mocked the policy: “May I elevate the level of sexual intimacy by feeling your buttocks?” “Yes, you have my permission.” This stilted picture of how sex should proceed seemed absurdly unrealistic and made a small college’s policy a national punch line, despite its serious and understandable aim to prevent rape. At the time, even the category of “date rape,” on which I was trained to educate others, mostly envisioned a forcible act or one imposed on an incapacitated person.

  • Will the Most Important Voting-Rights Bill Since 1965 Die in the Senate?

    March 30, 2021

    No sooner had Joe Biden won the Presidential election than Republican state legislatures began introducing measures to make voting more difficult in any number of ways, most of which will suppress Democratic turnout at the polls. Stacey Abrams, of Georgia, has called the measures “Jim Crow in a suit and tie.” Congress has introduced the For the People Act, known as H.R. 1. Jelani Cobb looks at how the bill goes beyond even the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in its breadth, and how it will likely fare in the Senate. And Jeannie Suk Gersen speaks with David Remnick about the Supreme Court’s views on voting rights. The Court is currently weighing an Arizona case that will help decide what really counts as discrimination in a voting restriction.

  • Will the Most Important Voting-Rights Bill Since 1965 Die in the Senate?

    March 29, 2021

    The performer Derek DelGaudio—he’s a little uneasy with the label “magician”—talks with Michael Schulman about the nature of deception, onstage and in life. Jelani Cobb and Jeannie Suk Gersen discuss the most important measure on voting rights since 1965, and its uncertain fate in the Senate and possibly the Supreme Court. Plus, a scholar considers how trans rights look different through an African lens.

  • We See the Left. We See the Right. Can Anyone See the ‘Exhausted Majority’?

    March 25, 2021

    Does Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 represent the last gasp of an exhausted moderate tradition or does a potentially powerful center lie dormant in our embattled political system? Morris Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford, argues in a series of essays and a book, “Unstable Majorities,” that it is the structure of the two-party system that prevents the center — the moderate majority of American voters — from asserting their dominion over national politics...Fiorina has many allies and many critics in the academic community. Those in general agreement include Jeannie Suk Gersen, a law professor at Harvard and a contributing writer to The New Yorker, who wrote in an email: “The fact that Joe Biden was the Democratic nominee and won the presidency in 2020, when there were many great candidates left of him, is evidence that a political center is not only viable but desired by the public.” For a centrist candidate, Gersen argued, “the main principle is compromise rather than all or nothing.” In the case of abortion, for example, the principle of compromise recognizes that the majority of Americans favor keeping abortion legal, but also favor some limits on abortion. Retaining a core right of abortion that respects both autonomy of adult individuals to make reproductive decisions and the value of potential fetal life is the approach that will seem acceptable to the majority of Americans and consistent with the Constitution.”

  • The Story of the Comfort Women, in Korean and Japanese

    March 15, 2021

    An essay by Jeannie Suk GersenTwo weeks ago, The New Yorker published my article “Seeking the True Story of the Comfort Women.” I reported on recent claims by J. Mark Ramseyer, a Harvard Law School professor and Japanese legal-studies scholar, who said that the story of Korean “comfort women” forced into sexual servitude for the Japanese Army during the Second World War was, in his words, “pure fiction.” In an article published online by the International Review of Law and Economics, a peer-reviewed journal, Ramseyer asserted that the women were prostitutes who had freely entered contracts for compensated sex work. But, by following investigations into the article by historians of Japan and Korea, and speaking to Ramseyer himself, I found that he had made a multitude of basic errors and that he had no evidence of such contracts. “I thought it would be cool if we could get the contracts” for Korean comfort women, Ramseyer told me. “But I haven’t been able to find it. Certainly you’re not going to find it.” The history of the comfort women has presented a persistent obstacle for decades in the relations between Korea and Japan, which have been characterized by cycles in which Japan alternately acknowledges and denies responsibility, and Korea demands apology and rejects resolutions as insufficient.