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Martha Minow

  • An orange striped towel rests on the arm of a wooden beach chair that's on the sand facing the ocean. A book and sunglasses on the sand next to the chair.

    Summer 2022 beach reads

    June 27, 2022

    Harvard Law faculty and staff share their reading lists for beachside, poolside, or inside with the AC.

  • New Harvard Law banners hanging on Langdell Hall

    Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery

    April 28, 2022

    A report issued by the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery recounts the many ways Harvard University participated in, and profited from, slavery. Harvard leaders and scholars examine the report and its implications for the future.

  • Harvard Law School unveils memorial honoring enslaved people who enabled its founding

    Understanding the legacy of slavery

    April 28, 2022

    Following the release of a report by the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, Harvard Law Dean John F. Manning has announced initiatives to honor the enslaved people whose labor generated wealth that contributed to Harvard Law School’s founding.

  • Martha Minow is the new chair of the MacArthur Foundation — some of her first work in Chicago was as a copy clerk alongside Royko

    April 7, 2022

    On the March morning she officially became the chair of the board of directors of the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation, Martha Minow sat on a couch in the handsomely appointed apartment of her father and remembered the past. “In the summer after my freshman year at college, I worked as a copy clerk for the Sun-Times and Daily News,” she says, talking about the building that housed both newspapers, now the site of Trump Tower. “It was fascinating, carrying papers, learning layout. I was able to write a couple of obituaries. And I met so many great people, Lois Wille among them. And I used to get coffee for Mike Royko. He was fine but I think I did hear him growl once.”

  • When justice isn’t served, how do we find forgiveness?

    March 21, 2022

    On a cold day in March 2021, Delores White entered a courtroom in Erie, Pennsylvania. Delores, who was 67 years old, was dressed in a white blazer and glasses, her gray hair pulled into a low ponytail and a surgical mask covering her face. The courtroom was large, and Covid-19 restrictions on attendance made it feel empty. As others trickled into the room, Delores sat quietly, occasionally leaning over to confer with her lawyers or wave at family members. She remained composed until her daughter, Jamesha, entered the room. When she saw her, Delores began to cry. ... Forgiveness is not the primary purpose of the law — justice is. But the US legal system is a distinctively unforgiving one. “The United States is particularly punitive in defining, prosecuting, and punishing crimes, especially if the accused is a member of a racial minority,” writes Martha Minow, a professor at Harvard Law and author of the book When Should Law Forgive?

  • Black and white portrait of a man in his office

    Remembering Alan Stone 1929–2022

    February 4, 2022

    Alan A. Stone, the Touroff- Glueck Professor of Law and Psychiatry Emeritus in the faculty of law and the faculty of medicine at Harvard, died Jan. 23. He was 92.

  • Illustration a man at a podium in front of six microphones with a social media logo or a social media response attached to each mic.

    Bad News

    January 31, 2022

    With the rise of social media and the decline of traditional news outlets, especially local news, “constitutional democracy itself is in the balance,” writes Minow in her new book.

  • The Roberts Court, April 23, 2021

    Pragmatic Justice

    January 27, 2022

    Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer ’64, who focused on the consequences of his judicial decisions, has announced that he will step down after more than a quarter century on the Court.

  • Congress must stop Big Tech’s threat to the press

    January 11, 2022

    An op-ed by Martha Minow and Aris Hadjipanteli ’23:Democrats and Republicans agree on almost nothing, not even what to call the incident a year ago at the Capitol. Was it an insurrection or a protest? But they do agree that the technology business is failing both its users and to the media industry from which it pulls so much of its content without paying for it. It’s time for Congress to turn this rare consensus into action by passing the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) to tackle some of the consequences of tech’s monopoly power. As of 2018, Google and Facebook together had nearly four times as much revenue as the entirety of the U.S. news media (TV, print, and digital). They have only grown tremendously since then. When Google users read a news story, 65 percent do not click through to the news publishers’ websites. Google thus disconnects news content from its sources and leaves the journalists without compensation.

  • Woman sitting in a chair at the doorway of an office making a wide hand gesture.

    In Memoriam: Lani Guinier 1950 – 2022

    January 8, 2022

    Lani Guinier, the first African-American woman to be tenured at Harvard Law School and an influential scholar who devoted her life to justice, equality, empowerment, and democracy, died Jan. 7.

  • Man sitting at desk cluttered with papers

    In Memoriam: Philip B. Heymann 1932 – 2021

    December 3, 2021

    When asked what he wanted to be remembered by, longtime Harvard Law Professor and former Watergate prosecutor Philip B. Heymann ’60 replied: “Speaking truth to power.” Heymann, a beloved colleague and distinguished public servant, died Nov. 30 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 89.

  • Coffee cup with whipped cream and open book on a window sill.

    On the bookshelf

    November 30, 2021

    Here are some of the latest from HLS authors to add to your reading list over the holiday break.

  • High angle shot of young people sitting at the table with books and laptops..

    ‘Talent is equally distributed; opportunity is not’

    November 30, 2021

    Future-L, a pilot collaboration between Harvard Law School and the National Education Equity Lab, introduces high-achieving high school students from historically underserved backgrounds to the legal field.

  • Pile of folded newspapers

    Protecting the media to protect democracy

    November 16, 2021

    At a Harvard Law School Library Book Talk, Martha Minow, along with Vicki Jackson and Nikolas Bowie, discussed why the press is in danger — and how to save it.

  • Is education a ‘right’? Case demanding civics classes tests theory.

    November 12, 2021

    Growing up in Providence, Rhode Island, Ahmed Sesay never had a class in civics. When he graduated from high school in 2019, he had to teach himself how to vote and pay his taxes. Now 20 years old, Mr. Sesay is part of a lawsuit being decided by a Boston-based court of appeals this month that argues that students have a constitutional right to an adequate civics education. ... “The insurrection was part of a larger pattern of people showing a lack of understanding of how our system works,” says Martha Minow, a legal scholar at Harvard Law School who filed an amicus brief in the case. She pointed to surveys showing that close to half of Americans can’t name the three branches of government and nearly a third could imagine supporting a military coup.

  • Why civics education should be ‘a right which must be made available to all on equal terms’

    November 1, 2021

    An op-ed by Martha Minow: While no task is more important to a society than educating each next generation, this task is central for a democracy. Self-government needs people equipped to govern — equipped with knowledge, motivation, and ability to pursue their own interests while also recognizing and caring about the rights and needs of others. The Supreme Court of the United States recognized this in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. There, the highest court not only ended government-ordered racial segregation in schools but also enshrined education as the most important function of local and state governments and as “a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” For too many students, that promise has not been realized and the federal courts have avoided recognition of a national, enforceable education right. That could change. Currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit is A.C. v. McKee, a case brought by 14 Rhode Island students who seek to affirm the right to an education that includes at minimum introduction of knowledge, skills, experiences, and democratic values necessary for them to effectively exercise their constitutional rights to vote, to exercise free speech, to serve as jurors, and to participate in their democratic government.

  • Harvard Law School unveils official portrait of former Dean Martha Minow

    October 27, 2021

    On October 22, Harvard Law School dedicated the decanal portrait of Martha Minow, the 300th Anniversary University Professor.

  • Subsidizing Local News: The Hopes And Fears Of A Harvard Law Professor

    October 6, 2021

    The challenge in providing government assistance to ease the local news crisis is to find ways of helping those who really need it while keeping the bad actors out. Which is why Martha Minow said this week that she’s “hopeful” but “fearful” about a federal bill that would create tax credits to subsidize subscribers, advertisers and news organizations. “What I’m troubled about is: What’s local news, who defines it and how do we prevent the manipulation of this by multinational corporations?” she said. “That’s a problem, and I don’t know anyone who’s come up with an answer for that.”

  • Minow, Sunstein and Kennedy launch the inaugural issue of The American Journal of Law and Equality

    September 22, 2021

    This month saw the publication of the inaugural issue of The American Journal of Law and Equality, a project developed by three Harvard Law School professors in collaboration with MIT Press. The first issue features a variety of views from legal, academic and philosophical scholars, including its three editors and founders: 300th Anniversary University Professor Martha Minow; Michael R. Klein Professor of Law Randall L. Kennedy; and Robert Walmsley University Professor Cass R. Sunstein ‘78.

  • Scales of Justice statue

    ‘We have to spend more time on the inequalities that are embedded in the law itself’

    September 21, 2021

    September 2021 saw the publication of the inaugural issue of The American Journal of Law and Equality, a project developed by Professors Martha Minow, Randall Kennedy, and Cass Sunstein, in collaboration with MIT Press.

  • Three banners hanging outside between columns on Langdell Hall. Two read Harvard Law School. Middle one reads Veritas and Lex Et Iustitia.

    Harvard Law School unveils new shield

    August 27, 2021

    The new Harvard Law emblem is the result of extensive consultations by a working group of students, faculty, staff, and alumni led by Professor Annette Gordon-Reed.

  • Books aligned on window sill with a seaside sunset background.

    Harvard Law faculty summer 2021 book recommendations

    July 1, 2021

    Looking for a new book to enjoy at the beach, park, or on your couch? Six HLS faculty members share what they’re reading this summer. 

  • Minow named University Professor

    ‘We’re on a collision course with sanity’

    June 22, 2021

    Harvard University Professor and former Harvard Law School dean Martha Minow argues for a new Fairness Doctrine and other reforms in a National Constitution Center panel on free speech and media.

  • Human Rights, Legal Systems, Technology, and Law School: An Interview With Martha Minow

    May 24, 2021

    Martha Minow, the 300th Anniversary University Professor and former Dean of Students at Harvard Law School, has taught at the law school since 1981. Before teaching at Harvard, Minow clerked for Judge David Bazelon of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. She is an expert in human rights law and minority advocacy and has written numerous books and scholarly articles. Minow has also served on the Independent International Commission Kosovo, has received nine honorary degrees from schools around the world, and was appointed to the Legal Services Corporation by President Barack Obama in 2009. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, her master’s degree in education from Harvard, and her law degree from Yale Law School. This interview was conducted in March 2021. It has been edited for length and clarity.

  • iPhone 11 Pro showing Social media applications on its screen

    Should the internet be treated like a public utility?

    April 20, 2021

    At the annual Klinsky Lecture, Visiting Professor John G. Palfrey ’01, president of the MacArthur Foundation, says we need a regulatory regime for technology.

  • Justice Rosalie Abella

    Canadian Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella appointed Pisar Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School

    April 7, 2021

    Harvard Law School announced today the appointment of Canadian Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella as the Samuel LL.M. ’55 S.J.D. ’59 and Judith Pisar Visiting Professor of Law effective July 1, 2022.

  • 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.

  • A line of people waiting to get their vaccine.

    Calling the shots

    March 17, 2021

    Disheartened by tales from family and friends frustrated by his home state of Pennsylvania's vaccine distribution system, Seth Rubinstein ’22, a second year student at Harvard Law School, knew he wanted to get involved.

  • Randall Kennedy, Martha Minow, Cass Sunstein

    Kennedy, Minow, Sunstein found new American Journal of Law and Equality

    February 23, 2021

    Three Harvard Law School professors have teamed up with MIT Press to launch a new journal focused on issues of inequality.

  • Lawyers Call Trump’s Defense ‘Legally Frivolous’

    February 8, 2021

    Taking aim at a key plank of the former president’s impeachment defense, the lawyers argued that the constitutional protections do not apply to an impeachment proceeding...Signed by Charles Fried, Martha Minow, Gerald Neuman, and Laurence Tribe.

  • How do we get to a more stable democracy? 6 writers chart a course

    January 21, 2021

    As soon as the videos began streaming in on Jan. 6, it became clear that the nation was experiencing something unprecedented and dangerous but also, in many ways, unsurprising. The storming of the Capitol in the service of false conspiracy theories had no single cause, and no single Biden executive order can undo the threats and divisions it exposed. Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to ferret out the causes and game out solutions to America’s disinformation crisis. The Times gathered six writers who have been examining these issues for years...Annette Gordon-Reed: “I would add the loss in status of whites, particularly white males. The talk about political correctness is a cover for this deep concern about a loss of status. Income inequality is part of it, but there’s a group of people like the lawyer couple standing on their lawn with the guns — that just feel lost. The New York Times asked a group of people to suggest books for President Biden. I suggested W.E.B. DuBois’ ‘Black Reconstruction,’ because we’re in a moment where there are people who fear the growing political power of minority groups and Black groups in particular. And this has been a problem from the era that I studied, the early American Republic: Who are the folks who count? One thing that could be done about it would be for the government to actually be efficient, to actually work. We’ve become anti-government since the 1980s. And we have this entity that we pay taxes to that’s not supposed to do anything.” ... Martha Minow: “The Republican Party in particular for 50 years has bet on these divisions. We’ve seen this, sadly, in other countries where there are the ingredients of status anxiety and economic inequality. The question is, what do the leaders do? If leaders appeal to those fears and amplify them, that is a toxic environment. I hate to be grandiose about it, but that has given rise to genocides.”

  • Account/Ability

    January 19, 2021

    Juliette Kayyem, Anne Milgram, and Melissa Murray are joined by Martha Minow, Harvard University Professor, author, and renowned scholar on how divided nations unify, during one of the most historic and tumultuous weeks in US history, to discuss Trump's second impeachment, the storming of the U.S. Capitol, and how we begin to pick up the pieces of our fractured country.

  • Can The Senate Try An Ex-President?

    January 19, 2021

    President Trump, having reached the historic — and infamous — landmark of being impeached twice, now faces trial in the Senate. But unlike the first time, he will no longer be in office. So, does the Senate have the power to try an ex-president on impeachment charges? The Constitution says that after the House of Representatives votes to impeach a president or any other civil officer, the case is sent to the Senate for a trial, which "shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification" from future office. Conviction requires a two-thirds vote, but barring Trump from future office would take only a majority vote. Scholars disagree about what the Founders intended. Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe and University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck note that there are six references to impeachment in the Constitution -- references that make clear removal is only one of the purposes of impeachment...Former Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow explains that the court in that 1993 case viewed impeachment as a "political question," not reviewable by the court because under the Constitution, impeachment "is given over entirely to Congress." "I don't think any member of this current court would want to get into this mess," she adds. "This is one of the most controversial political moments in the history of the United states, dealing with an exceedingly unpopular president but one with devoted followers and a most divided Congress.” "Were the court to insert itself," she says, "it would put at jeopardy the one thing that the courts has, which is an arm's distance from the direct political process."

  • 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.

  • criminal justice illustrations

    ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change’

    November 19, 2020

    HLS faculty on COVID-19 and the pressing questions of racism, racial injustice, and abuse of power that have driven this difficult year—and that are the focus of three new lecture series at the school.

  • Zoom meeting with five HLS faculty

    Election 2020 debrief: What happened and what’s next?

    November 5, 2020

    In an “Election 2020 Debrief” event, a panel of Harvard Law School professors agree that the essential divisions of the American electorate remain unresolved, but find cause for some highly cautious optimism.

  • grid of headshots of speakers at Gantz tribute

    Remembering Justice Ralph D. Gants: ‘A living example of what lawyers can do to make our world better’

    October 29, 2020

    Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants ’80 wasn’t just a legal giant, a pride to Harvard Law School and a tireless advocate for social and racial justice. He was also, as former Governor Deval Patrick ’82 put it, “a mensch.”

  • Harvard Law School honors Ginsburg

    September 28, 2020

    During her first year as the sole woman on the US Supreme Court in 2006, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a foreword for a biography of the 19th-century lawyer Belva Ann Lockwood and presented the book to a new law clerk in her chambers. On Thursday, the clerk, Daphna Renan, now a professor at Harvard Law School, highlighted the foreword as an example of how Ginsburg broke barriers for women while simultaneously honoring her predecessors in the fight for equality. “Justice Ginsburg was a giant in the law, a luminary, and a leader, as you’ve heard, but she was always ... keenly aware of those who paved the way for her even as she trained her sights on how she could better pave it for others,” Renan said. She delivered the remarks during a virtual Harvard Law School event honoring Ginsburg, who died last Friday...Harvard Law’s current dean, John F. Manning, said the institution regrets the discrimination Ginsburg endured on campus. “It is hard to imagine a more consequential life, a life of greater meaning, and more lasting impact. And Justice Ginsburg did all of this while carrying the heavy weight imposed by discrimination,” he said. “To our eternal regret, she encountered it here at Harvard Law School.” The virtual event included tributes from Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Harvard Law professors Vicki Jackson, Martha Minow, and Michael Klarman...Brown-Nagin’s remarks explored what Ginsburg’s death means to the civil rights movement and comparisons between Ginsburg and the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black man to serve on the Supreme Court. Beyond fighting for women’s rights, Brown-Nagin said, Ginsburg had a deep understanding of racial discrimination and poured that insight into cases dealing with race. She cited Ginsburg’s dissent in a 1995 school desegregation case in Missouri in which the justice wrote it was too soon to curtail efforts to combat racial segregation given the state’s history of racial inequality. “The Court stresses that the present remedial programs have been in place for seven years,” Ginsburg wrote. “But compared to more than two centuries of firmly entrenched official discrimination, the experience with the desegregation remedies ordered by the [lower court] has been evanescent.” Ginsburg was, Brown-Nagin said, a “tremendous intellect, a courageous human being, and a giant of the law.”

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg arriving at the State of The Union, wlaking down the aisle surrounded by justices and members of Congress.

    ‘It’s hard to imagine a more consequential life’

    September 25, 2020

    Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s influence on Harvard Law School runs deep. On Thursday, September 24, a star team of Harvard deans and HLS professors remembered Ginsburg as a teacher, boss, colleague, inspiration and friend.

  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remembered by entire generations of lawyers

    September 21, 2020

    She entered Harvard Law School in 1956 as just one of a few women enrolled in a class of 500. A few years later, the woman who would one day sit on the US Supreme Court was famously rejected by dozens of New York City law firms because of her gender. But over the decades that followed, Ruth Bader Ginsburg built a remarkable career as a legal and cultural icon who used her intelligence and courage to fight fearlessly for social justice. And after her death was announced on Friday, entire generations of lawyers — women and men alike — grieved for a jurist whose legacy somehow transcended even the highest court in the nation. “Justice Ginsburg personified the best of what it meant to be a judge,” Harvard Law School Dean John F. Manning said in a statement. “She brought a deep intellectual and personal integrity to everything she did. Her powerful and unyielding commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice under law place her among the great Justices in the annals of the Court.” Martha Minow, a former dean of Harvard Law School, recalled Ginsburg’s impact on her own legal career. “I am one of countless people she directly encouraged and deeply inspired to use reason and argument in service of justice and humanity. Justice Ginsburg also showed that it is possible to build deep and meaningful friendships with people despite severe disagreements. At this time of deep social and political divisions, there is much to learn from her life and her commitments,” Minow said in a statement...Nancy Gertner, a retired US district court judge and a professor at Harvard Law School, said Ginsburg had inspired generations of women and wound up a reluctant pop culture icon while approaching the law as “a craftsperson who cared about the court’s precedents and was going to work within them.” “Ruth Ginsburg was more than just a brilliant scholar, and a liberal, which is what the press reduced her to,” Gertner said by phone. “She essentially created the law of gender and race discrimination. From the time she was a lawyer, a litigator, she was raising issues about the nuance of discrimination.”

  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remembered

    September 19, 2020

    She entered Harvard Law School in 1956 as just one of a few women enrolled in a class of 500. A few years later, the woman who would one day sit on the US Supreme Court was famously rejected by dozens of New York City law firms because of her gender. ...“Justice Ginsburg personified the best of what it meant to be a judge,” Harvard Law School Dean John F. Manning said in a statement. “She brought a deep intellectual and personal integrity to everything she did. Her powerful and unyielding commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice under law place her among the great Justices in the annals of the Court.” ... Martha Minow, a former dean of Harvard Law School, recalled Ginsburg’s impact on her own legal career.“I am one of countless people she directly encouraged and deeply inspired to use reason and argument in service of justice and humanity. .. At this time of deep social and political divisions, there is much to learn from her life and her commitments.” ... Nancy Gertner, a retired US district court judge and a professor at Harvard Law School, said Ginsburg had inspired generations of women and wound up a reluctant pop culture icon while approaching the law as “a craftsperson who cared about the court’s precedents and was going to work within them.”

  • ‘We have lost a giant’: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020)

    September 19, 2020

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’56-58, whose lifelong fight for equal rights helped pave the way for women to take on high-profile roles in business, government, the military, and the Supreme Court, died on Sept. 18. She was 87. “Justice Ginsburg personified the best of what it meant to be a judge. She brought a deep intellectual and personal integrity to everything she did,” said John F. Manning ’85, Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. “... We have lost a giant.” ... “Very few individuals in history come close to the extraordinary and significant role played by Justice Ginsburg in the pursuit of justice before she joined the bench,” said former Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, the 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard. ... “The Constitution’s heart aches at Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing,” Laurence Tribe ’66, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School. ... Harvard Law School Professor Daphna Renan, who served as a law clerk for Justice Ginsburg during the 2006-2007 term, said: “RBG was tenacious, unflappable, and deeply wise.

  • ‘We have lost a giant’: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933–2020)

    September 19, 2020

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’56-58, whose lifelong fight for equal rights helped pave the way for women to take on high-profile roles in business, government, the military, and the Supreme Court, died on Sept. 18. She was 87.

  • An unbalanced scale weighing COVID against a dollar sign, house, medical symbol, pyramid, and a man teaching

    The law is ‘tested and illuminated during this pandemic’

    September 16, 2020

    In the first colloquium of a sweeping new series, “COVID-19 and the Law,” five Harvard Law faculty members grappled with the challenges, limitations, and opportunities of governmental powers during a public health crisis.

  • Study spotlights racial disparities in state criminal justice system

    September 10, 2020

    A new report prompted by the huge overrepresentation of blacks and Latinos in Massachusetts prisons zeroes in on disparities at various stages of the court system’s handling of cases that are factors behind the disparate incarceration rates. The report, commissioned by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants and carried out by researchers at Harvard Law School, found that among those who are incarcerated, black and Latinx defendants receive sentences that are, on average, about five months longer than sentences for white defendants. Meanwhile, white defendants are more likely than black and Latinx defendants to have cases resolved through pretrial probation or other dispositions that don’t lead to incarceration. Four years ago, Gants highlighted the huge racial disparities in incarceration rates in his annual address on the state of the judiciary, and announced that Harvard Law School dean Martha Minow had agreed to launch an independent evaluation of the factors driving those inequities. In the report released on Wednesday, researchers from the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School found that racial and ethnic differences in the type and severity of the initial criminal charge against defendants account for over 70 percent of the disparities in sentence length. “The initial charging decision is in fact a huge driver of these large disparities in who is incarcerated,” said Felix Owusu, a Harvard PhD student and co-author of the report. It was already well known that people of color are overrepresented in Massachusetts state prisons. A 2014 report of the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission found that the state was imprisoning black people at a rate of 7.9 times that of white people and Latinx residents at 4.9 times the rate of whites. The new report, using administrative data from the Massachusetts Trial Court, Department of Criminal Justice Information Services, and Department of Correction, attempts to break down racial disparities at various points as defendants move through the legal system.

  • Harvard Law’s Martha Minow On How Law Can Encourage Forgiveness Over Vengeance

    September 1, 2020

    When can the law be used as a tool for reconciliation and repair instead of punishment? That’s the central question of Harvard Law Professor Martha Minow’s “When Should Law Forgive?” which explores how entities and communities in the United States and abroad utilize truth commissions, reparations, and debt forgiveness—alternatives that fall under the mantle of what’s known as restorative justice—to address wrongs and create a better future. The idea of forgiveness and reconciliation as an alternative to vengeance is hardly new, but the recent focus on racial injustice and the school-to-prison pipeline is breathing new life into the restorative justice movement. We recently caught up with Minow to find out more about restorative justice and the inroads it is making...You have been writing about law and forgiveness for more than a decade. How did you get interested in the topic? "I started from a different direction. I wrote a book published in 1998 on legal responses to mass atrocities and called it, 'Between Vengeance and Forgiveness,' because I came to see prosecutions, truth commissions and reparations as efforts to use law and other social instruments to help society steer a path between vengeance—which seemed to me terrible—and forgiveness—which seems to me beyond the capacity of most human beings, including me. As I worked on that, there were many interesting reactions. I kept hearing over and over again, 'We need a truth and reconciliation commission in our school or community.' That really led me to think more about it. And I had many people say, 'Why can’t law itself forgive?' It was the result of being in conversations with a lot of people."

  • American Autocracy

    August 10, 2020

    The late innings of Donald Trump’s four-year campaign in the White House come to look stranger than the big-league baseball season—both of which are in the deep shadow of the pandemic (13 St. Louis Cardinals tested positive this week). It’s the president who has to answer for a thousand COVID deaths a week in midsummer U.S.; China has next to none. Another president might wilt at the breaking of his boom economy, or the prosecution coming from Manhattan on charges of bank and tax fraud in the Trump organization. But this man surges, Trump-style: he’s all for U.S. military shock troops to quell local protests that he’s provoked; he tweets his preference that the election ninety days away be cancelled. What we know about our presidential race 90 days from the finish, perhaps all anyone knows, is that a wounded Donald Trump will not go quietly, if he goes at all, if he does not invoke emergency powers to cancel the election. The thought this hour was—and still is—to draw out the astute Russian-and-American diagnostician Masha Gessen, a resistance figure in two countries and author of a new book titled Surviving Autocracy. But then the plot thickened, particularly around the mayhem in Oregon after federal shock-troops had landed, over the objections of state governor, city mayor, and a militant wall of moms. A grave but lonely warning turned up in a New York Times guest-opinion piece. It was written by the sometime Colorado senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart, who joined this week’s conversation from his cabin a few mountains away from Denver. Martha Minow, a professor at Harvard Law School, also joins.