Arjun Gananathan, a doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School, was recently honoured with the 2024 Ralph D. Gants Access to Justice Award for his exceptional contributions to improving access to justice and advancing fairness.

In an interview with Harvard Law Today, Arjun, 28, expressed his gratitude for receiving the award, highlighting the influence of Chief Justice Gants on his approach to legal advocacy. "Chief Justice Gants shows us that standing up for the marginalized is the greatest honor in our field. I feel lucky to have done this legal work at Harvard Law School’s clinics, and I owe my deepest thanks to my mentors, Crisanne Hazen, Michael Gregory, Jesse Grove, and Alexis Waller," Arjun said.

Established in 2021 to honor the late Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Ralph D. Gants, this award recognizes students who demonstrate a profound commitment to promoting social justice.

Advocating for the Underprivileged

During his time at the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) in Massachusetts, Arjun represented underprivileged clients. He recalled one of his most significant achievements: securing the pre-trial release of a single mother to prevent her separation from her special-needs son. "Last fall, during my first court appearance, I successfully argued to keep my client, a single mom with a young special-needs son, out of jail. The government wanted to keep them apart for 90 days, but I helped prevent that from happening."

In another instance, just before his final exam in Criminal Procedure, Arjun received a surprise call to defend a young client in Dorchester Juvenile Court. He successfully opposed the prosecution's efforts to revoke bail, securing her release until trial. "These accomplishments were special to me because they preserved someone’s freedom," he added.

Academic and Volunteer Work

Arjun's academic journey began at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he earned a degree in Psychology and Linguistics. He has also volunteered for initiatives such as the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project and the Mississippi Delta Project (MDP). At MDP’s Economic Justice Project, he worked on aiding black farmers in Mississippi who faced past discrimination.

Mentor Jesse Grove praised Arjun's dedication, stating, "Arjun really shows what CJI is about—helping people, not just handling cases."

Arjun's achievements underscore the impact of dedicated legal advocacy and the importance of promoting social justice. Congratulations to Arjun Gananathan on this well-deserved honor, making both Harvard and Malaysia proud.

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