Prof. Bessler receives second top award for most recent book

Professor John Bessler, author of "The Birth of American Law: An Italian Philosopher and the American Revolution," which recently won two top book awards.

Professor John Bessler is the author of “The Birth of American Law: An Italian Philosopher and the American Revolution,” which recently won two top book awards.

In an email to faculty and staff, Dean Ronald Weich congratulated Professor John Bessler, who has won a second award for his most recent book (see previous blog post for news of the first award):

“In addition to the INDIEFAB Book Award, John has now been awarded the prestigious Scribes Award by the American Society of Legal Writers for his book The Birth of American Law: An Italian Philosopher and the American Revolution. As you can see by clicking on this link, John is among many prominent legal scholars who have received this honor.

“We are proud of John’s accomplishments!”

Learn more about Professor Bessler.

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Prof. John Bessler’s most recent book takes top history prize

Professor John Bessler‘s most recent book, The Birth of American Law: An Italian Philosopher and the American Revolution, was named the 2014 Gold Winner for History in the INDIEFAB Book Awards, which were announced June 26 at the American Library Association’s annual conference, held in San Francisco.

Click here to learn more about Bessler’s book and about the 15 other finalists in the History category.

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U.S. Justice Department lawyers hear from residents about Baltimore police at public hearing

Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, talks to Baltimore residents  about the department's investigation of  Baltimore's police department.

Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, talks to Baltimore residents about the department’s investigation of Baltimore’s police department.

The University of Baltimore School of Law was the site of a public meeting Thursday night led by lawyers from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice who are investigating Baltimore’s police department. The attorneys are examining whether Baltimore police have engaged in a pattern or practice of violating residents’ constitutional rights or in discriminatory policing.

After introductory remarks by Professor Michael Higginbotham, Civil Rights Division chief Vanita Gupta and Tim Mygatt, the special counsel to the Civil Rights Division who will lead the investigation, the Justice Department lawyers met with individuals and small groups of Baltimore residents to hear about their experiences with the Baltimore police.

Mygatt told the audience in the Moot Courtroom that the investigation will entail interviews with police officers and citizens, as well as a review of thousands of documents and sophisticated data analysis. He said the investigation could take more than a year to complete.

Mygatt also said the investigation was not prompted by the death of Freddie Gray, though he added that any instance of police misconduct is “a piece of the investigation.”

“We don’t open an investigation because of one incident,” Mygatt said. “It’s not just a single incident, it’s not just a single event. It’s something we’re hearing from a whole variety of sources to make sure we have good cause and reasonable cause to investigate.”

Read about the public meeting in The Baltimore Sun.

The event was covered by several other media outlets, including The Associated Press, whose story was picked up by The Washington Post, among other publications and programs.

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Tonight at UB: Open meeting with Justice Department attorneys investigating Baltimore police department

Attorneys from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice will hold a public Town Hall-style meeting tonight (June 25) at the University of Baltimore’s John and Frances Angelos Law Center to discuss their investigation of the Baltimore City Police Department.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Moot Courtroom, on the building’s lower level. The law center is located at 1401 N. Charles St. in Baltimore, at the northeast corner of N. Charles Street and Mount Royal Avenue.

The event will be live-streamed to rooms 102 and 202 in case the Moot Courtroom fills up. A Spanish translator will be present in Room 102.

The event will be live-streamed on the law school website. You can click here to watch the proceedings beginning at 7 p.m. on June 25.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Baltimore police officers engage in a pattern or practice of violating constitutional rights by using excessive force; by making unlawful stops, searches and arrests; or by discriminatory policing.

The Civil Rights Division attorneys leading the investigation will answer questions from the community and will meet separately with anyone who has relevant information.

The meeting is open to all members of the public.

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Prof. Garrett Epps in The Atlantic: Justice Clarence Thomas takes on a symbol of white supremacy


Professor Garrett Epps, the Supreme Court correspondent for The Atlantic, focused his June 18 column on Justice Clarence Thomas, who last week joined the court’s four moderate-liberals to back Texas’s refusal to print a Confederate flag on the state’s license plates (Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc.).

Writes Epps in “Clarence Thomas Takes On a Symbol of White Supremacy”: “Why would Thomas cross over in the Sons of Confederate Veterans case? To state the obvious, Thomas is the Court’s only African American. Much has been made of his rejection of contemporary civil-rights orthodoxy. But it is equally clear that Thomas retains vivid and bitter memories of his poverty-stricken childhood in the Jim Crow South—and that he retains a particular hatred for the symbols of Southern white supremacy.”

Learn more about Professor Epps.

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Prof. Kenneth Lasson decries U.S. policy on status of Jerusalem


In a June 22 Jerusalem Post op-ed, Professor Kenneth Lasson decries U.S. policy on the status of Jerusalem, the result of what he calls the State Department’s “heavy-handed reluctance to offend Arab populations in the region.”

In the op-ed, “America’s foolish policy,” Lasson recalls a visit to the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem to get his grandson a U.S. passport so he could travel with his American-born parents to the United States.

“All went smoothly until I asked the woman processing the forms why there was no country listed after ‘Jerusalem’ on the application,” Lasson wrote.

The clerk responded that because Jerusalem’s status was in dispute, no country was listed after the city’s name.

Lasson says he asked what would happen if he inserted the word “Israel” next to “Jerusalem” on his grandson’s passport.

“The best that could happen is that you’d be cited for unlawfully tampering with an official government document,” she replied. “The worst would be that you could be stopped at the border and thrown in jail.”

Writes Lasson: “Lo and behold, that policy has now been endorsed by the US Supreme Court, which recently ruled that the president has virtually exclusive authority to determine national policy on things like the status of Jerusalem.”

Learn more about Professor Lasson.

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Prof. Steven Grossman in The Sun: It’s past time for Maryland, others to ban Confederate flag license plates

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Dean Julius Isaacson Professor of Law Steven Grossman contributed an op-ed to The Baltimore Sun, “It’s past time for Maryland and others to ban Confederate flag license plates” (June 22).

From the op-ed:

“A day after the racially motivated massacre in South Carolina sickened the country and reopened the debate about whether that state should take down the Confederate flag flying in its capital, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the state of Texas to deny a request from car owners to use specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag. The court majority held that messages appearing on license plates are government speech more than private speech and that the government has the right to espouse or oppose certain positions.

“Nine states currently permit the use of the Confederate flag on their license plates. Eight of those states, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia and Tennessee, seceded from the Union and were part of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. The one state allowing the flag that was not part of the Confederacy is Maryland. While Maryland permitted slavery and had many residents in 1861 who were partial to the views of the southern states, the fact remains that it never seceded and always remained part of the Union, albeit by means that were controversial.

“It is long past the time for Maryland as well as the other states to ban the use of the Confederate flag on the license plates they issue. Most will agree that slavery was the greatest abomination ever perpetrated in the United States. Without getting into the endless debate about whether slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War, no one can argue that the secessionist states were, among other things, the defenders of this abominable institution. For a state to endorse a symbol of the defenders of slavery by putting the Confederate flag on representations of government speech is unconscionable.”

Learn more about Professor Grossman.

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