Read Bessler death-penalty essay in Brookings Institution blog

Professor John Bessler contributed an essay today to the Brookings Institution’s Medium blog.

The essay, “The American Death Penalty: a changing legal landscape,” begins:

“The death penalty has long been a fixture of the world’s laws. In Draco’s Athenian code, ancient Mesopotamia’s Code of Hammurabi, and England’s ‘Bloody Code,’ a large number of crimes were punishable by death. Colonial and early American legal codes also made multiple crimes capital offenses.

“The use of capital punishment, however, came under criticism and scrutiny during the Enlightenment. In 1764, the Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria, in his book, Dei delitti e delle pene, openly questioned the efficacy of torture and state-sanctioned killing. That book, a runaway bestseller, was quickly translated into French and then into English in 1767 as On Crimes and Punishments.

“In the two and a half centuries since the publication of Beccaria’s book, an anti-death penalty manifesto carefully read by Sir William Blackstone and Jeremy Bentham and by American founders such as Dr. Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the number of countries utilizing death sentences has gradually dwindled. And that process continues apace in the twenty-first century.”

Brookings recently published Against the Death Penalty, which was written by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and edited by Bessler.

Learn more about Professor Bessler.

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77 new student-attorneys are sworn in by Judge Shirley Watts

Swearing-in, 8-23-16

Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Shirley Watts (standing at microphone at right) administers the oath Tuesday morning to 77 student-attorneys who will take part in the UB School of Law’s clinical program this semester. The law school now has 13 clinics, with the addition of the new Pretrial Justice Clinic, led by Professor Colin Starger and clinical fellow Zina Makar. Also pictured at right are Dean Ronald Weich and Venable Professor of Law Michele Gilman, the director of the clinical program.

Learn more about the clinical program.

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Dog days: Alumna and four-footed friend featured in The Sun

Myshala Middleton, J.D. '10, who was featured on the cover of Baltimore Law magazine last year.

Myshala Middleton, J.D. ’10, appeared on the cover of Baltimore Law magazine last year.

Myshala Middleton, J.D. ’10, was featured in an Aug. 16 Baltimore Sun article and video about dog owners who dine out with their four-footed friends.

Middleton, an assistant attorney general in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, recently adopted an eight-year-old beagle named Lady, whom she described as “laid back.”

“If you’re socializing with friends, why not bring your dog?” she said in the video, which showed her with friend Michelle Wilson and their pups. “Dogs can socialize as well.”

Middleton and Wilson were enjoying an al fresco meal at Belvedere Square in North Baltimore.

A city restaurant owner interviewed by The Sun said he was not bothered by canine visitors.

“Unlike children, most dogs are well-behaved,” he said.

Until May Middleton was an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore City.

Thanks to Professor Max Oppenheimer for alerting us to the story.

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Tiefer in Post on $1B procurement deal, in Forbes on proxy war

Professor Charles Tiefer

Professor Charles Tiefer

Professor Charles Tiefer has had a busy week and it’s only Tuesday.

Tiefer was quoted in a front-page Washington Post article, “Inside the administration’s $1 billion deal to detain Central American asylum seekers” (Sunday, Aug. 14).

Tiefer, who served on the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, was asked by the Post to review a contract that the newspaper said offered “generous terms” to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to build a huge detention facility for women and children from Central America seeking asylum in the United States.

An investigation by the Post showed the Obama administration skipped the public-bidding process and agreed to pay CCA $1 billion to build and operate the South Texas Residential Facility in Dilley, Texas. The 2,400-bed facility now holds most of the nation’s mother-and-child detainees, who, the Post said, until two years ago were rarely held in detention.

After reviewing the byzantine deal that allowed the administration to bypass federal contracting laws, Tiefer said, “This is the arrangement of a no-bid contract by twisting and distorting the procurement process past recognition.”

In addition, Tiefer, a regular contributor to, wrote an Aug. 13 article titled “A Proxy War Between India and Pakistan Is Under Way in Afghanistan” that at this writing has received nearly 70,000 views.

Wrote Tiefer: “Important but overlooked news this week: the U.S. command in Afghanistan has asked India to step up military aid to Afghan forces. India provided four attack helicopters to the Afghan military in Dec. 2015; the U.S. and the Afghans want more, as well as spare parts for Russian-made military equipment, to be used in part against the Islamist network built up by Pakistan called the Haqqanis.

“Every aspect of this cries: ‘Proxy War.’”

Learn more about Professor Tiefer.

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U.S. Tax Court counsel, UB law adjunct Robert Pomerance dies

Robert S. Pomerance

Robert S. Pomerance

Robert S. Pomerance, counsel to the chief judge of the U.S. Tax Court from 1992 to 2011 and an adjunct law professor at the University of Baltimore, died June 23, 2016.

Pomerance, who also served as an adjunct at several other law schools in the Washington, D.C., region, taught appellate advocacy at UB. In addition, he taught an introductory course in the law of the United States as part of UB’s postgraduate LL.M. LOTUS program.

Professor Jaime Lee, director of the UB School of Law’s Community Development Clinic and a friend of Pomerance and his wife, lawyer Betty Ferber, remembered Pomerance as a “modest, friendly, warm and welcoming” person with a wonderful sense of humor. In particular, she noted that, when his two daughters were young, he wrote “volumes” of letters to them in the persona of a “deeply creative, very witty Tooth Fairy.”

Lee said she learned a lot about teaching from Pomerance.

“Bob loved teaching, and I was fortunate to assist with his class occasionally and to learn from the way that he gave his students meaningful yet supportive critiques by drawing on his deep expertise and impressive career,” she said.

A graduate of Harvard College and Boston College Law School, Pomerance spent much of his career with the Appellate Section of the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he started out as a line attorney and then earned a promotion to reviewer, according to a remembrance on the website of the George Washington University Law School, where he also worked as an adjunct professor.

After leaving the Justice Department, Pomerance moved to the U.S. Tax Court, where he held the senior position on the legal staff until his retirement in 2011. He also mentored law clerks and, every fall, as part of an orientation program for new clerks, gave a talk about how to draft opinions, GW Law reported.

Said Lee: “Bob is very much missed.”

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New Pretrial Justice Clinic is a focus of Daily Record article

The new Pretrial Justice Clinic was highlighted in a Daily Record story, “New law school courses, clinics delve into criminal justice issues” (Aug. 15).

The clinic, led by Professor Colin Starger and clinical fellow Zina Makar, will focus on reforming the cash-bail system, as well as on other pretrial issues.

“Any time money is involved, it is going to unfairly affect people of low incomes,” Makar told the newspaper. “The Pretrial Justice Clinic hopes to remedy that situation.”

Starger emphasized that the clinic’s work was part of an effort to rein in practices that have led, and continue to lead, to mass incarceration.

Four 3Ls will take part in the inaugural Pretrial Justice Clinic class. The students’ “bread and butter” work will involve representing clients in challenging bail determinations, Starger said.

Learn more about Professors Starger and Makar and about the Pretrial Justice Clinic.

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National Law Journal highlights Bessler book on death penalty

Professor John Bessler.

Professor John Bessler

A new book edited by Professor John Bessler is the focus of an Aug. 10 National Law Journal article by Marcia Coyle, J.D. ’86, the magazine’s chief Washington correspondent.

The book, Against the Death Penalty, includes Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent in Glossip v. Gross, a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found death row prisoners in Oklahoma had failed to prove the use of a sedative in a three-drug lethal injection cocktail violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The prisoners’ suit alleged the sedative, midazolam, does not block pain from the two other drugs, which cause paralysis and cardiac arrest.

The book also discusses the history of the death penalty in the United States, the background of the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause, and the Supreme Court’s treatment of capital punishment.

Learn more about Professor Bessler, who is the author of several works on the death penalty.

Bessler will speak Tuesday, Aug. 30 at Kramerbooks & Afterwords in Washington, D.C. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. Click here for details.

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