Students Part of 1st Place Win at ABA JusticeHack Miami

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Teams of community, legal, law enforcement, criminal justice and technology stakeholders came together recently for the American Bar Association’s JusticeHack Miami including seven students from Miami Law.

Feras Ahmed (3L), Leigh-Ann Buchanan (JD ’09), Ellen Degnan (2L)

In a day-long, intensive sprint characteristic of hackathons, these multidisciplinary collaborators designed innovative and technology-based solutions to address tension points between law enforcement and communities of color. Leigh-Ann Buchanan, JD ’09, executive director of Venture Cafe Miami, hosted the event in collaboration with the New Leaders Council and the Community Justice Project. Buchanan, who has been involved in social justice since her days at Miami Law, currently participates as a guest lecturer for students taking the Social Justice concentration.

During morning break-out sessions, six teams of ten to twelve people brainstormed ways to overcome barriers and  ease tensions perceived by various types of users, including youth, immigrants, bystanders, impacted individuals, and law enforcement. Each team articulated a problem statement and technology-aided solution, then dedicated the afternoon to building a prototype to address the issue.  

“I chose to participate because community issues being addressed with the help of those who are involved is the only way to combat injustices,” said 1L Haley Cove. “To have police officers, lawyers, law students, and minorities working together to create solutions regarding brutality and authority-driven fear help to build progress and was an incredible platform to be a part of.”

The winning team was comprised of concerned community members, lawyers, technologists, a former law enforcement executive, a student in the Miami Gardens Police Explorers program, and three Miami Law students - Cove, 2L Miami Scholar Ellen Degnan, and 3L Miami Scholar Feras Ahmed.

Their solution was an artificially intelligent chat application named Juvo (pronounced hu-vo). Juvo, which means “to provide help” in Latin, is designed to help individuals, particularly immigrants, who are fearful of law enforcement to have more productive and meaningful interactions with law enforcement.

At the end of the day, the team presented a live demonstration of its functional prototype in front of a panel of judges who represented the tech, legal, and community advocacy sectors. The demonstration showcased Juvo’s ability to speak to the user in a friendly and conversational style to anonymously report an incident and connect the user to a local law enforcement officer for a conversation.

The team will continue to develop its solution and will compete in the National ABA Conference in August.