From Ferguson to New York to Baltimore: How BU Law Is Responding

The tragic death of Freddie Gray, and the ensuing riots in Baltimore, are affecting our law school community on many levels. A number of our students come from Baltimore and dozens of our alumni live and practice in the city. As lawyers, we have a responsibility to not only uphold the law and put justice and truth at the center of our society, but to be a resource for those struggling to understand how these events continue to happen in the United States.

I am proud that our faculty, staff, and students are taking part in the discussion on social justice and are passionate about responding to, and examining how, the issues evidenced by tragedies and unrest in Ferguson, MO, New York City, and Baltimore affect the entire country, and specifically, the legal profession. These are complex times, and it is the obligation of BU Law to take on that complexity as we prepare students to lead in the legal profession.

This year, the BU Law community came together at a number of events to voice opinions, fears, and questions. BU Law was well represented at university-wide events, such as the “We are Ferguson” discussion hosted by BU Dean of Students Kenn Elmore, “BU #Standtogether,” February’s Black Lives Matter Symposium, and the Vigil for Ferguson held on Marsh Plaza. Our community was present at protests and debates on police accountability; community policing; prosecutorial discretion; and civic responsibility.

The Black Law Students Association hosted the “Know Your Rights” training session in the Redstone Building, and the BU Law ACLU held a dynamic program titled: “Black, Brown, and Targeted: Police Accountability in Boston.” Faculty, staff and students came together for the “Safe Space for Ferguson: Study Break to Break the Silence,” as well as a Legacy Series Forum on “Grand Juries and Race,” addressing prosecutorial discretion, the grand jury process, and federal regulations affecting the process.

In addition to these events, BU Law faculty contributed to the national dialogue with their expertise. Professors Jack Beermann and David Rossman wrote FAQs explaining the grand jury process and federal civil rights statutes to help our community better understand the legal issues in the cases in Ferguson and in New York. Professor Beermann, who was interviewed by the International Business Times about the Ferguson case, opened a class session that featured Assistant US Attorney Theodore Merritt talking about the federal charges that are considered in these types of cases.

Through these efforts, our students and the larger BU community continue to express their concerns and ask the questions weighing on our minds. We will continue to host events to discuss these complex matters. We will continue to challenge and assess the status quo through legal analysis, faculty research and in-class discussions. We will continue to bring national leaders to campus to explore issues of social justice and the role of lawyers as social engineers. And BU Law will continue to engage with the community through our clinics, our externships, our alumni, and our networks to do our part in ensuring the legal system is a just one.

Professor Rossman has authored a FAQ regarding the events in BUnitedBaltimore, and one of our students has taken the lead to plan “BUnited for Baltimore” this Friday, May 8, where students can share their thoughts and listen to guest speaker and Professor of Ethical Leadership, Dr. Walter Fluker. We encourage students to talk to each other and to our faculty and staff about their concerns. BU Law’s response to these events, and the deeper issues that are at the root of them, will continue as it is our mission and our responsibility to meet the needs of the students and an ever-changing world.

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