Prof. Epps on Kentucky county clerk: Find another job

Saying she was acting “under God’s authority,” Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples on Tuesday, hours after the Supreme Court refused to back her position.

The brouhaha at the Rowan County Courthouse, which reached a fever pitch on Tuesday as same-sex couples demanded Davis issue marriage licenses, has been building for months, ever since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June — and Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses to all couples, saying that in so doing she would protect her religious beliefs against gay marriage without discriminating against anyone.

“It is not a light issue for me,” Davis said, according to The New York Times. “It is a Heaven or Hell decision.”

Professor Garrett Epps discussed the case in an Aug. 16 Atlantic column, “When Public Servants Refuse to Serve the Public.”

“Government in particular has an obligation to dismiss any employee who claims a right to discriminate against citizens,” Epps wrote. “It’s not good enough to say, ‘Go to another county if you want a license.’ It’s not good enough to say, ‘I won’t let anyone get married.’ Those aren’t a clerk’s decisions to make.”

Concluded Epps: “Kim Davis needs to find another job.”

On Tuesday afternoon, a federal judge in Ashland, Ky., ordered Davis and her staff to appear Thursday to explain why Davis should not be held in contempt of court. Two motions for contempt were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Kentucky and cooperating attorneys.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Professor C.J. Peters analyzes gloom-and-doom op-ed

UB 3-3248_Peters

In a post on his Matter of Dispute (MOD) blog, Professor C.J. Peters analyzes a recent New York Times op-ed, “Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs.”

While Peters accords some points to op-ed writer Steven J. Harper — a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis and the author of The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis — he takes him to task on others.

Writes Peters: “Based on Harper’s piece alone, one might get the impression that law school enrollments have steamed along at a breakneck pace over the past few years, blissfully unaffected by the stark realities of the legal job market. Harper asserts that ‘law schools have been able to continue to raise tuition while producing nearly twice as many graduates as the job market has been able to absorb,’ and he focuses on a group of for-profit law schools owned by an outfit called Infilaw, whose graduating class size ‘almost doubled’ between 2011 and 2014, even ‘as the demand for new lawyers continued to languish.’ In fact, as Harper acknowledges in passing, overall U.S. law school enrollment declined steeply during this period, from about 52,000 in 2010 to about 38,000 in 2014 — a drop of 27% in just five years. The decline in enrollments reflects, not surprisingly, a corresponding decline in applicants to law school: the number of individuals applying to American law schools in 2015 looks like the lowest in at least 15 years.”

Learn more about Professor Peters.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Professor Colin Starger’s Supreme Court Mapping Project joins forces with Free Law Project

Professor Colin Starger, the creator of the Supreme Court Mapping Project, has joined forces with the Free Law Project to build a web-based version of his mapping software that will allow users to create their own visualizations of Supreme Court doctrine as it has evolved over time. The mapping project, currently a desktop software tool, will be incorporated into the Free Law Project’s CourtListener platform.

Writes Starger on his In Progress blog:

“Social justice informs this collaboration at its deepest level. As its name suggests, the Free Law Project (FLP)  is committed to providing free access to primary legal materials and to sophisticated legal research tools. The idea is to provide a platform for folks to find the law they need without forking over hefty sums to big providers like Lexis and Westlaw. The FLP is also committed to making all of their software open source and providing useful APIs so that the technically inclined can improve, tweak, or change the underlying software as they please. The radical openness of the platform insists on putting people before profits and community before competition.”

Learn more about Professor Starger.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Prof. Dionne Koller discusses Baylor football scandal

Dionne -- small file

Professor Dionne Koller, the director of UB’s Center for Sport and the Law, is quoted in an Inside Higher Ed story about a controversy involving Baylor University’s football team. While the Baptist institution, led by former judge and prosecutor Kenneth Starr, did not take action against a football player charged with assaulting a female student, a Texas jury this month found the athlete guilty of sexual assault. It was the second such conviction involving a Baylor football player in the last two years.

An article in Texas Monthly alleged that Baylor had been warned about the student player’s violent history by the coach at his previous school, Boise State University. The Baylor coach denies having received any such information.

The player was sentenced to six months in jail and 10 years on probation, according to Inside Higher Ed.

“At this point, I’m afraid that even this won’t be a galvanizing or watershed moment,” Koller said. “In the market of college sports, there’s always a team that’s willing to take these guys. And we will keep tuning in. It’s another sad day for sports, and I still wonder how many more sad days we’ll have to see before fans and alumni and faculty really demand some accountability.”

Learn more about Professor Koller.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Watergate revisited: Epps outlines the legal legacy

In an Aug. 22 interview on C-SPAN Radio, Professor Garrett Epps discusses the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon and the legal legacy of the case. Said Epps: “It shapes the entire landscape of executive power to this day.”

Epps (a former Washington Post reporter) also discusses the role of The Post’s Watergate investigation, led by reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and the enduring impact of the case on American journalism.

“They kept asking the next question,” Epps said of the reporters, whose investigation was chronicled in the book and movie All the President’s Men.

Nixon resigned the presidency in August 1974.

The C-SPAN program is titled “Radio: Historic Supreme Court Oral Argument: U.S. v. Nixon (1974).” Epps’s interview begins at the 17:30-minute mark and runs for eight minutes.

Learn more about Professor Epps.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dean Weich refutes portrayal of Sen. Edward Kennedy as a builder of ‘Prison America’

In an Aug. 20 article in The Crime Report, Dean Ronald Weich refutes an assertion by Princeton professor Naomi Murakawa that former Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) was among the lawmakers responsible for building “Prison America” by enacting harsh federal sentencing laws.

Murakawa is the author of The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America.

Weich, who served as chief counsel to Kennedy – and, before that, as special counsel to the U.S. Sentencing Commission – takes issue with the subtitle of Murakawa’s book.

“No fair observer of criminal justice policy could conclude that liberals – or conservatives or Democrats or Republicans – bear sole responsibility for the spike in incarceration over the past half century,” Weich wrote. “Rather, these disastrous criminal justice policies were a bipartisan misadventure that reflected the nation’s anger and fear about crime.”

Weich noted that every crime bill enacted by Congress in the 1980s and 1990s passed with broad bipartisan majorities and with the support of leaders from both parties. He also noted that the Senate often passed crime bills by unanimous consent.

Weich also says Murakawa’s book fails to take into account the complex, collaborative nature of the legislative process, of which he says Kennedy was a master.

“Yes, [Kennedy] was a lead sponsor of the Sentencing Reform Act, but he did not write the law in a vacuum,” Weich wrote. “The bill’s text is the product of years of negotiations with [Republican Sen. Strom] Thurmond and many other members of the Senate, as well as committee markups and floor debates.”

Continued Weich: “In all of these efforts Kennedy never lost sight of his progressive ideals. But he recognized that in a legislative body whose rules reward consensus, the only way to advance his goals was to negotiate and compromise with influential members on the other side of the aisle.”

Murakawa also does not adequately emphasize the “huge influence” of the Justice Department in shaping the final law, Weich said: “It is no surprise that a bill first introduced during President Jimmy Carter’s administration became more conservative by the time it was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.”

Learn more about Dean Weich.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

91 student-attorneys sworn in by Judge Shirley Watts

Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Shirley M. Watts delivered the oath to this semester's 91 student-attorneys. At right are Watts, Dean Ronald Weich and clinic director Robert Rubinson.

Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Shirley M. Watts delivers the oath to this semester’s 91 student-attorneys. At right are Watts, Dean Ronald Weich and clinic director Robert Rubinson.

Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Shirley M. Watts officiated Tuesday, Aug. 18 at a swearing-in ceremony for this semester’s 91 student-attorneys, who will take part in the School of Law’s 10 clinics.

Congratulations to all!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment