Malaysian gets award for justice and racial equity efforts in US

PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian, who is an editor-in-chief of the Harvard International Law Journal, has won an award in the United States for his work on justice and racial equity.

Arjun Gananathan (pic) was announced as the winner of the Ralph D. Gants Access to Justice Award, which has been given out since 2021 to honour the late Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice known to advocate for social justice.

“The award recognises a student dedicated to advancing access to justice and racial equity and who has displayed leadership in helping eliminate systemic barriers to justice,” said Harvard Law Today.

Arjun, 28, graduated from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a degree in linguistics.

He is also a JD (Juris Doctor) student of Harvard Law School.

He said that Chief Justice Gants’ work serves as a reminder that “the representation of the marginalised is the greatest honour of our profession” and that he felt privileged to receive the award.

“I am fortunate to have engaged in such legal work through Harvard Law School’s clinics,” he said, as quoted in Harvard Law Today.

He has also spent time as a student attorney in the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), a criminal defence clinic representing poor clients in Massachusetts.

“At my first court appearance last fall, I successfully argued for a client’s pretrial release,” he said.

Referring to the case, he said there had been attempts to separate his client, who was a single mother, from her special needs son, for a period of 90 days.

“We defeated the prosecution’s bail revocation motions and got her released from custody pending trial,” he said.

Jesse Grove, who was one of Arjun’s mentors, said: “In his time at CJI, Arjun has shown a deep compassion and empathy for each and every one of his clients.

“He has exhibited a true investment in their lives and their stories that leaves him uniquely suited to advocate for their specific goals.”

Arjun’s clinical work began with an externship placement at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office – Child Protection Unit through the Child Advocacy Clinic.

Crisanne Hazen, who is the Child Advocacy Clinic director, said Arjun had wanted to better understand the forces at play through first-hand experience.

“He engaged in this experience as he does with everything – with a tremendously thoughtful and measured approach, an ability to see both sides of a complex problem, and a willingness to acknowledge his positionality and role in a system that disproportionately burdens Black and brown people,” she said.

Arjun, who enjoys learning languages and playing the jazz guitar, will be joining an American multinational law firm in Washington, DC, in September.

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