On Jan. 28, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) student attorneys Nicholas Pastan ’15 and Breana Ware ’14 found themselves conducting a trial in federal court and asking a judge to decline to enforce a petition brought against their client pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. In a one-day trial in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the students helped their client testify about the years of sexual and emotional abuse she and her children suffered. They fled in mid-September 2013, when they walked across the Canadian border to the United States.
Although Pastan and Ware knew from the beginning that this case was not the typical HLAB case, they never imagined that they would find themselves in a federal courtroom only 12 weeks after signing on as the client’s student attorneys.
In early December, Pastan and Ware received notice from the U.S. State Department that the children’s father had filed a petition pursuant to the Hague Convention in Federal District Court in Massachusetts. “We realized that under the Hague Convention, the case had to go to trial in no more than six weeks,” Pastan said. “That’s the amazing thing about HLAB; the second we looked back and said we wanted to represent this woman the whole organization got on board to help.”