History of CJI
The Criminal Justice Institute of Harvard Law School:
The Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) is Harvard Law School’s curriculum-based clinical program in criminal law. Under the direction of Professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., CJI specializes in criminal law practice, education, and research. The cornerstone of CJI is a teaching clinic in which third-year Harvard Law students, under the supervision of CJI’s Clinical Instructors, represent indigent criminal defendants and juveniles who have been accused of crimes in the local district and juvenile courts.
Director Emeritus and Founder, Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. explains, “My goal was to go beyond the traditional view of a clinic as one that would train students to represent clients on a wide range of legal service areas. My thought was that we had to create scholarship, develop models, offer opinions, and be considered an important player in debates about the criminal justice system.” Since opening its doors in 1990, CJI has realized these goals. In its first decade, CJI has expanded both the scope and depth of its coverage. In 1990, there were two CJI Clinical Instructors; now there are four – Kristin Muniz, Robert E. Proctor, Gloria Tan and Dehlia Umunna. In addition, Chris Pierce is CJI’s social worker. Anna Pierce serves as Administrative Director and Amy E. Soto serves as Administrative Coordinator.
Students, who are trained in both adult and juvenile practice, represent defendants and juveniles on a variety of matters from misdemeanors to felonies to probation surrenders.
David Deakin ’91, an alumnus of CJI’s first class says, “My CJI experience confirmed for me my fascination with criminal law and my love of criminal trial work. While at CJI, I was exposed to a number of extremely intelligent, highly motivated, and creative criminal defense lawyers. Through their supervision of my work, they taught me the meaning of zealous advocacy on behalf of a client within the bounds of legal ethics. My work at CJI instilled in me a profound respect and affection for my colleagues in the defense bar, and I never lose sight of the importance of their work to our constitutional system of government.”
CJI is a multifaceted institute. In addition to the clinical program, the Institute pursues various criminal justice initiatives and engages in broader public education. According to Professor Ogletree, “We have published articles, op-eds, drafted amicus briefs and handled briefs on appeal on a number of important local and national cases.” In 1995, CJI, in conjunction with the NAACP, published a book entitled Beyond the Rodney King Story: An Investigation of Police Conduct in Minority Communities . Professor Ogletree and CJI staff have consulted with a myriad of organizations, including the NAACP, the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and a number of local community criminal justice groups. Professor Ogletree and CJI’s former deputy director Mary Prosser advocated to the Massachusetts state legislature on a proposed amendment to disenfranchise incarcerated felons by taking away their right to vote. They gave testimony in opposition to the legislation and participated in panels sponsored by the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and other community groups.
CJI has played a major role in a number of criminal cases. In 2000, former clinical instructor David Poole (now a district court judge) persuaded the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to overturn Jermaine Berry’s wrongful manslaughter conviction (a case which former CJI clinical instructor Syrie Davis Fried filed the first appeal in the Massachusetts Appeals Court.) Over the years CJI staff have filed a number of amicus briefs, including briefs challenging the application of preventive bail detention for juveniles and the constitutionality of the DNC collection statute regarding prisoners (co-authored with Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services).
CJI has also been involved in many high-profiles cases. Former CJI deputy director J. Soffiyah Elijah and CJI social worker Chris Pierce, who labored for 5 years, secured the paroled release of a client who had served 31 years in prison on charges stemming from the shooting of a law enforcement official. Former deputy director Mary Prosser and former clinical instructor Abbe Smith, along with several CJI students, including Jennifer Brown ’93, represented Lisa Grimshaw (one of the “Framingham Eight,” a group of women convicted of killing their abusers) in her commutation proceedings. Many CJI students were involved in writing and researching several of the briefs. The research and scholarship that Professor Ogletree and CJI clinical instructors have pursued have been incorporated into the classroom and have enhanced the students’ clinical experience and understanding of broader criminal justice issues.
CJI has sponsored several nationally and internationally recognized conferences on issues ranging from the death penalty to women in prison to juvenile justice. CJI clinical instructors participate in training sessions for new criminal defense lawyers sponsored by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education and the Committee for Public Counsel Services. The instructors have also participated in “The New England Innocence Project” and the Subcommittee of the Boston Bar Association on Reintegration and Parole.
In addition, CJI clinical instructors coach the Harvard Trial Team, which has participated in the National Criminal Justice Trial Advocacy Competition every year since 1991. The team, under the coaching leadership of J. Soffiyah Elijah and Gloria Tan, garnered first place honors in 2004. In many of these competitions, Harvard’s team has won, or has proceeded to the final or semi-final rounds of competition.
In terms of future directions of CJI, Professor Ogletree says that he would like CJI to be a “full service Criminal Justice Institute” for clients who require legal assistance with issues of deportation, asylum and refugee status. “Our clients, many of whom are bilingual and multilingual, not only find themselves facing criminal sanctions, but other real risks of loss of liberty and life if they are returned to countries where they have been critical of governments and military regimes.” Professor Ogletree envisions working more closely with the both the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic on these issues. CJI student Julie Wimmer ('11), under the supervision of clinical instructor Gloria Tan, persuaded the court to vacate the conviction of a client who was facing deportation due to his conviction on simple possession of marijuana from 2003. After the conviction was vacated, the government dropped the deportation proceedings, and the client was able to remain in the country. In addition, one of his goals for CJI is to play a pivotal role in shaping the debate on re-entry programs for former offenders, and finding ways to “deal with the growing population of former prisoners, particularly non-violent drug offenders, who are trying to return to the community and lead successful and productive lives.” CJI students and supervisors help clients seal records so tehy can better pursue work opportunities in their attempts to rehabilitate and improve their lives.
Although the criminal justice system has evolved over the past 15 years, Professor Ogletree believes the central mission of CJI remains the same. In his words, “It’s still, at rock bottom, research, education and practice. The difference is that we have to interface a number of variables – technology, globalization and concerns about client privacy. So our efforts will go beyond individual client representation and look to some of the impacts of technology, globalization and government’s increasing restraints on privacy as key challenges that we face, [and will continue to face], in the 21 st century. And I also think that we will see more sophisticated and complex client problems when we’re looking at a multilingual population, a younger population and legal problems that aren’t strictly criminal but involve immigration, international matters and human rights concerns. It’s more complex and more expansive, and I’m confident we’re ready for the challenge.”