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Andrew Manuel Crespo

  • A zoom image of man wearing a blue jacket and white shirt smiling during a talk.

    The art of being a lawyer

    May 5, 2021

    Like artists, lawyers must interpret and decipher the world around them, said Andrew Manuel Crespo ’08, Professor of Law, during his Last Lecture for graduating Harvard Law School students.

  • Can this Latina law professor tapped by Biden help reform the Supreme Court?

    April 15, 2021

    A Latina law school professor has been tasked with examining the future of one of the country's three branches of government. President Joe Biden has signed an executive order creating a presidential commission to study whether the Supreme Court should be overhauled, and he has named Yale Law School professor Cristina M. Rodríguez as its co-chair. Rodríguez and Bob Bauer, a professor at the New York University School of Law, will head the bipartisan commission to examine arguments both for and against a reform. ... The commission includes some of the nation’s best-known legal scholars and experts: Laurence H. Tribe of the Harvard Law School, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and Andrew Crespo, also of the Harvard Law School. Crespo, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, was the first Latino president of the Harvard Law Review.

  • Screenshot of a group of students on Zoom, showing the churros they just made.

    La Alianza provides students space for professional development and activism

    April 14, 2021

    During a remote year, the group launched a mentoring program, hosted alumni panels, and created innovative ways to connect with members around the world.

  • United States Supreme Court in Washington DC

    President Biden appoints 16 Harvard Law School faculty and alumni to panel studying Supreme Court reform

    April 14, 2021

    President Biden appointed 16 members of the Harvard Law School community — seven faculty and nine alumni — to a new presidential commission on the Supreme Court of the United States.

  • Advocates Say How Gun Crimes Are Charged In Washington D.C. Is A Civil Rights Issue

    April 13, 2021

    A struggle is underway over how prosecutors charge gun crimes in Washington, D.C. The Justice Department says it needs flexibility to bring some cases in federal court, where penalties are higher. But civil rights groups say the policy discriminates against Black residents. NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson reports. Featuring Harvard Law professor Andrew Crespo.

  • Biden Justice Department will continue to push D.C. gun cases to federal court

    April 1, 2021

    The new top federal prosecutor in Washington is standing by a Trump-era Justice Department policy of charging certain gun crimes in federal court instead of locally, continuing an initiative that draws stiffer prison sentences and has concerned some city leaders and criminal justice reform advocates...Harvard law professor Andrew Crespo, one of Reed’s lawyers, said it was disappointing that the new leadership of the U.S. attorney’s office was retaining an approach that has been “widely criticized by people who are fighting for racial justice and racial equity in the District and who care about D.C. rights.” “There’s a broad consensus that mass incarceration doesn’t work and doesn’t make us safer,” he said. “President Biden said that his first week in office and he is right. But this is straight out of the old mass incarceration playbook that President Biden was criticizing a few weeks ago.” The government’s assertion that it is now targeting only people deemed violent, Crespo said, is inconsistent with its decision to keep prosecuting his client in federal court.

  • The Racist Justice Department Policy That Shows Why D.C. Needs Statehood

    March 23, 2021

    On Monday, the House of Representatives’ Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing on H.R. 51, a bill that would grant statehood to the District of Columbia...On Friday, however, Biden’s Department of Justice underscored D.C.’s lack of authority over criminal prosecutions, a direct consequence of its lack of state sovereignty. In a court filing, the DOJ confirmed that it would continue the Trump administration’s policy of charging certain firearm offenses in federal court instead of D.C. court—exposing defendants to far lengthier prison sentences...Civil rights advocates were heartened when Biden named Channing Phillips, a proponent of home rule, as acting U.S. attorney for D.C. Their hopes were dashed on Friday, when Phillips informed a federal judge that he would maintain the program. Phillips suggested that his office had solved the racism problem by applying the policy District-wide, but there is no doubt that it will still reflect the broader racial disparities that infect D.C. policing. After all, Black people make up around 47 percent of the District’s population and 97 percent of those charged with being a felon in possession. Andrew Crespo, a Harvard Law professor and head of the school’s Impact Defense Initiative, speculated on Monday that Phillips’ position might be “a mistake,” pointing out that several key Biden nominees to the DOJ still haven’t won Senate confirmation. Crespo highlighted Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, two civil rights luminaries, are awaiting a vote; once they’re confirmed, they may reassess a broad range of criminal justice policies, including this one. A Justice Department fully staffed with Biden appointees may overrule Phillips and demand an end to this holdover policy from the Trump years.

  • Close up of metal handcuffs on top of pile of one hundred dollar bills.

    Banking on crime: The economic contours of policing in America

    February 18, 2021

    Experts discuss the myriad ways money and wealth influence criminal processes and outcomes as part of the yearlong "Policing in America" colloquium series, led by Harvard Law Professors Alexandra Natapoff and Andrew Manuel Crespo.

  • Premal Dharia

    Premal Dharia joins Harvard Law School as inaugural executive director of the Institute to End Mass Incarceration

    February 10, 2021

    Premal Dharia, founder and director of the Defender Impact Initiative, is joining Harvard Law School as the inaugural executive director of the Institute to End Mass Incarceration.

  • 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.

  • Will the Liberal Justices Find New Alliances?

    October 13, 2020

    Andrew Crespo, a Harvard Law School professor, discusses how Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death leaves the court's three remaining liberals looking for new alliances. Steve Sanders, a professor at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law, discusses how two conservative justices used the court's rejection of an appeal, to complain that the court's 2015 same-sex marriage ruling threatens religious liberty. June Grasso hosts.

  • Night Time Police Intervention

    A ‘reckoning’ for policing in America

    September 23, 2020

    In the first of a seven-part series about policing in America, experts discuss how this moment may be an inflection point.

  • D.C. crackdown on gun crime targeted Black wards, was not enforced citywide as announced

    September 4, 2020

    An initiative cracking down on gun crimes in the District targeted three predominantly Black wards and was not enforced citywide as announced, U.S. prosecutors acknowledged in court records, drawing attacks that the policy disproportionately subjected African American defendants to lengthier prison terms. The geographic targeting of the program launched in February 2019 — under which felons caught illegally possessing guns are charged under federal statutes — was recently disclosed after a defendant challenged the program backed by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D)...The initiative’s original scope was disclosed by prosecutors in litigation with defendant John Victor Reed, who moved this March to dismiss his one-count indictment from March 2019 of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. Represented by federal defenders and Harvard law professor Andrew Crespo, Reed argues the program unlawfully nullifies the authority of local gun statues and courts, is arbitrary and capricious and retaliates against defendants who sought pretrial release in D.C. Superior Court... “It’s bad enough that D.C. is the only city in the country without any control over its local prosecutor,” Crespo said. “At a minimum, it deserves honesty and transparency from its U.S. attorney.” Crespo declined to comment on the U.S. attorney's office reported modification of the program, saying the change has not been reported to the court.

  • Unpacking DHS’s Troubling Explanation of the Portland Van Video

    July 27, 2020

    An article by Andrew Manuel CrespoOver the past few days, millions of people have seen a now-viral video in which two federal agents dressed in full combat gear removed an apparently peaceful protester from the streets of Portland, Ore., and carried him away in an unmarked van. Stories have emerged of other people being taken or pursued by federal agents in a similar fashion. Meanwhile, troubling videos show federal agents in Portland beating a peacefully resolute U.S. Navy veteran and, on a separate occasion, shooting a man in the face with a nonlethal munition, which broke his skull. As criticism of these events rolled in—including from virtually every relevant state and local official in Oregon—the Department of Homeland Security scheduled a press conference earlier this week to try to reclaim the narrative. If the point of that press conference was to reassure an anxious nation that this unfamiliar and recently constituted federal police force is following the law, it likely achieved the opposite effect. In particular, there is a two-minute segment of the press conference that is both revealing and highly disturbing. It shows that one of the top commanders of this new paramilitary federal police force—Kris Cline, Deputy Director of the Federal Protective Service—apparently does not know what the word “arrest” means. To say as much might seem like harping on semantics or, worse, like picking on Cline for speaking inartfully. But it is absolutely critical to unpack and examine Cline’s words—because the word arrest is one of the most important words in the constitutional law of policing.Simply put, for an arrest to be constitutional it must be supported by probable cause. This means that the arresting officer must be able to point to specific facts that would cause a reasonable officer to believe that the person being arrested has committed a specific crime.

  • Trump’s Power and Limits in Policing U.S. Cities

    July 27, 2020

    Enforcing law and order in U.S. cities, traditionally the function of local, county and state police, is a new priority of the federal government. President Donald Trump said the deployment of federal agents in Portland, Oregon, will be replicated in Chicago, Seattle and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to help combat violent crime and civil unrest. At least some state and local leaders say they don’t welcome the assistance. Isn’t policing a local issue? Generally speaking, yes -- the U.S. Constitution reserves police powers for states to exercise. The federal government’s involvement at the local level is limited to specific purposes such as combating crimes covered by federal law (examples are bank robbery, kidnapping, weapons possession and counterfeiting), protecting federal properties like courthouses and safeguarding U.S. constitutional rights...Can cities decline help or kick out federal officers? Again, not if those officers are protecting federal rights and enforcing federal crimes such as vandalizing a courthouse or post office. “Portland can’t say, ‘We don’t want you in our cities -- go home,’” said Andrew Crespo, a professor at Harvard Law School. Federal authority generally prevails under the Constitution when it conflicts with state authority, he said. More plausible legal challenges might focus on the conduct of the officers -- for instance, whether they are violating free-speech rights by discouraging demonstrations or protections against unreasonable seizures and searches. Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, unsuccessfully sought a court order to block federal agents from detaining protesters without explanation.

  • The federal police in Portland don’t even understand what ‘arrests’ are

    July 24, 2020

    An article by Andrew Manuel Crespo: This past week, the Department of Homeland Security held a news conference to clear up a few things about the federal paramilitary police force grabbing protesters on the streets of Portland, Ore. If the goal was to reassure everyone that these armor-clad agents were acting lawfully, it did not go well. Instead the conference revealed, with painstaking clarity, a very big problem: The deputy director of President Trump’s new federal police force does not know what the word “arrest” means. This isn’t just semantics. In our legal system, the definition of the word “arrest” is critical because it marks an important dividing line under the Fourth Amendment. For an arrest to be legal, it must be supported by probable cause. That means the arresting officer must be able to point to specific facts that would make a reasonable person think that the person being arrested committed a specific criminal offense. By contrast, if the police have a noncoercive, consensual interaction with a civilian (sometimes called a “contact” or an “engagement” in law enforcement lingo), then the person has not been “seized” for Fourth Amendment purposes, and the police do not need to explain or justify why they approached the suspect in the first place. In other words, you can think of the word “arrest” as an on-off switch for the Fourth Amendment’s essential protections. When the police arrest someone, they are constrained by the Constitution. Before then, the Constitution’s protections are substantially weaker — if they exist at all. Given the central importance of the word “arrest” in the constitutional law of policing, it is chilling to see a commanding officer of a law enforcement agency demonstrate a basic misunderstanding of its meaning.

  • How the federal police in Portland are avoiding accountability

    July 24, 2020

    There’s no dispute that the federal government’s decision to dispatch officers to Portland, Ore., has exacerbated protests in the city. The Department of Homeland Security pointed to weeks of vandalism at the federal courthouse as a rationale for the deployment, but the presence of the DHS officers and their often heavy-handed tactics has resulted in an expansion of the size of the protests and the number of conflicts...Harvard law professor Andrew Crespo, on Twitter earlier this week, outlined a significant constitutional problem with the Portland detention captured on video. He pointed out that the official excuse for seizing the demonstrator was that he had been in an area where another person was pointing a laser device at officers’ eyes. But that isn’t sufficient for probable cause, Crespo noted, meaning that the arrest violated the protester’s Fourth Amendment rights. In a phone call with The Post, though, Crespo highlighted a more significant part of the incident. Instead of charging the protester with something, they simply let him go. The same thing happened to Pettibone. To a layperson, that seems like good news. But from an accountability standpoint, it's problematic. “If you push them out the back door of the station house and they never get charged, there’s not a case,” Crespo said. “They’re not going to be a defendant who can to raise the Fourth Amendment issues in a protective posture by trying to suppress any evidence.” “Which means that if there’s going to be judicial review,” he said, “it’s got to come the other way: That person has to go out and sue these agents or the department.” “It’s much harder to bring that sort of suit as a plaintiff,” he said, “than to raise these questions as a defendant. And the government gets to control who’s going to be a defendant or not by deciding who to charge or not.”

  • A Harvard Law Professor Explains Why Federal Officers’ Tactics In Portland Are Unlawful

    July 24, 2020

    Unidentified federal officers in Portland  — and soon, in Chicago and Albuquerque —have been arresting and detaining protesters in unmarked vehicles, sometimes far away from the federal buildings they're purportedly there to protect. In one notable instance, two federal officers grabbed a man off the sidewalk and, without identifying themselves or giving a reason, put him in an unmarked van and drove off to question him. The Department of Homeland Security claims the officers' tactics here are lawful. Harvard Law professor Andrew Manuel Crespo says they are decidedly not. "The person in charge of this newly beefed-up, paramilitary federal police force doesn't know what an arrest is," he says of Federal Protective Services Deputy Director Chris Cline. "It means he doesn't know when they're violating the fourth amendment — like they unquestionably did." Listen to Professor Crespo explain why the officers' conduct is unconstitutional — and why he finds it frightening that authorities seem to think otherwise.

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    Distance Learning Up Close

    July 23, 2020

    Teaching and learning at Harvard Law School in the first months of the pandemic

  • A Killing in Broad Daylight

    July 23, 2020

    In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, legal scholars see a moment of reckoning.