Law School News

Updated: 14 min 51 sec ago

Craig Futterman on the Need for a Federal Consent Decree on Chicago Police

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 12:10
Department Of Justice Lawyers Fear Trump Will Scrap All Their Work To Overhaul The Chicago Police Mike Hayes BuzzFeed May 25, 2017

Craig Futterman, University of Chicago law professor and civil rights attorney, who regularly consults with the DOJ in this process, said he's spoken with members of the team who said they are pushing forward with drafting an agreement. Still Futterman said he remains pessimistic about the Trump administration’s desire to see it through.

"Jefferson Sessions and Donald Trump don't have the political heart to confront this problem. They're not committed to it,” Futterman said. “It's a very sad and tragic day when the feds abdicate their responsibility to enforce our nation’s most fundamental laws—the very Constitution of the United States of America."

Read more at:

Faculty:  Craig B. Futterman

Maria Woltjen on the Trauma of Migrant Children Separated from Parents

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 10:15
Crossing the Border as an Unaccompanied Child Karen Coates Pacific Standard May 24, 2017

Many children who have a parent somewhere on American soil could lose their "unaccompanied" designation if Trump's executive orders on border security are implemented. This means children could be sent into immigration courtrooms that DHS deems "adversarial" and "defensive." Or they might face expedited removal, which could put them briefly in DHS custody until they are sent home without even minimal investigation as to whether that home is safe, says Maria Woltjen, executive director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights.

In March, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told CNN that he was considering separating children from their parents at the border. Kelly's proposal immediately rankled child advocates who said his assertions ran contrary to children's best interests. "We are deeply concerned that the separation of children from their parents is being considered," Unicef USA President and CEO Caryl Stern said in a statement. "We implore U.S. leadership to consider the safety and well-being of all children."

The DHS later said it would not routinely separate families except under extenuating circumstances such as illness or injury, says David Lapan, acting deputy assistant secretary of DHS public affairs. DHS aims to discourage migrants from even beginning the perilous trek to the border, Lapan says. "The journey north is dangerous, and children risk exploitation, abuse, and even death."

Still, Woltjen worries that child migrants and their parents could be separated in individual cases. That has happened in the past for various reasons, she says, and the Young Center has been appointed as a "Child Advocate" to represent those children. The separation from family compounds the trauma they faced in their homeland. "They are absolutely tragic cases. The kids are devastated," she says.

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Faculty:  Maria Woltjen

Law School Teams Win Funding in Social New Venture Challenge

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 12:28
Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Claire Stamler-Goody Law School Communications May 24, 2017

Two Law School-affiliated teams tied for second place on Tuesday in a social entrepreneurship challenge hosted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. JuryCheck, a web-based platform that will allow attorneys, advocates, and courts to detect racial and gender underrepresentation in jury pools, and Flipside, a platform that combines social science research and computer algorithms to help users escape so-called filter bubbles, will each receive $20,000 in startup funding.

JuryCheck, which was developed by Kate Miller, ’17, and Christian Kolb, LLM ’17, and Flipside, an interdisciplinary team that includes Michael Killingsworth, ’18, were among seven teams that competed in the final round of the John Edwardson, MBA'72, Social New Venture Challenge.

“The Law School teaches students to identify, analyze and solve complex problems—a skill essential not only in the practice of law, but also in social entrepreneurship,” said Robin Ross, executive director of the Law School’s Doctoroff Business Leadership Program and an advisor to both teams. “We are thrilled to see Chris, Kate, and Michael use their rigorous legal and business training to create innovative and measureable solutions for these pressing social issues.  We look forward to following both team's progress and success!"

This is the second year that Law School entrepreneurs have placed in the SNVC. Last year, a team of three Law School students tied for first with AccessArc, a technology service that gives prison inmates increased accessibility to legal advocacy. 

"Receiving the $20,000 from the SNVC is amazing,” Killingsworth said. “We couldn't be more thankful for the opportunity the University of Chicago provides and especially the Rustandy and Edwardson families. This grant will give us the resources necessary to fully build out our platform this summer. We all see this as a validation of our hard work the last couple of months, but I think every single person within Flipside is hungrier than ever to make this happen!"

Miller and Kolb were also grateful for their experience in the competition, and look forward to using their winnings to help get JuryCheck off the ground.

“Competing in the SNVC has been such an exciting journey for us,” they said. “We are incredibly proud of the progress that we, Flipside, Provide, and all of the other teams made over the last few months. We are particularly grateful to the all of the judges and coaches who helped us prepare for the finals. Thanks to the momentum and support we received during the competition, we are more committed than ever to making JuryCheck a reality and hope to have a pilot program running soon.”

 The SNVC is organized by Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation in partnership with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Provide, a project devoted to lowering administrative burdens for childcare providers took first place.

Photo by Heidi Zeiger Photography.

Read more about Flipside and JuryCheck.


Daniel Hemel on How to Make Robert Mueller's Investigation Truly Independent

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 09:54
Free Robert Mueller: here’s how to make his investigation truly independent Daniel Hemel Vox May 24, 2017

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should take a page from the playbook of the man whose firing he recommended: former FBI Director James Comey. Comey once stood in Rosenstein’s shoes: He served as deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005. And Comey’s handling of the investigation into the CIA leak scandal that rocked the George W. Bush administration holds valuable lessons for the current inquiry into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

There are strong similarities between the challenges facing Rosenstein and the ones that Comey previously encountered. Today, the possibility of political interference hangs over the investigation by Robert Mueller, a former FBI director selected by Rosenstein to serve as special counsel. Similar doubts swirled around Patrick Fitzgerald, a US attorney from Illinois whom Comey picked to investigate the CIA leak in 2003.

Much to his credit, Comey recognized that regulations laid out by the prior attorney general, Janet Reno, failed to give the special counsel sufficient independence from higher-ranking officials at the Justice Department. So Comey implemented a more robust set of safeguards to shield his special prosecutor.

Rosenstein has thus far failed to follow Comey’s lead. That’s unfortunate, because it leaves Mueller’s investigation vulnerable to interference by political appointees. A few simple changes would raise the confidence of the American people that Mueller is free to follow the evidence where it leads.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Daniel Hemel

Record Number of Graduating Students Complete Pro Bono Pledge

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 13:20
Becky Beaupre Gillespie Law School Communications May 23, 2017

Eighty-one Law School students were honored earlier this month for completing the Law School’s annual Pro Bono Pledge, a record high since the founding of the public service program seven years ago. Those students logged a combined 10,568 pro bono hours during law school.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment, and our students' pro bono service makes our city and our country better,” Dean Thomas J. Miles, the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Law and Economics, said in his opening remarks. “Increasingly our students are known not only for their intellectual acumen as lawyers but also for their dedication to pro bono service and to the public good. It is wonderful that the Pro Bono Pledge has become a way for Law School students to embrace the value of service at the very beginning of their careers. Each year, we have set a new record for the number of students fulfilling the pledge.”

The Pro Bono Pledge, launched in 2010 by Susan Curry, the Law School’s Director of Public Interest Law and Policy, challenges students to complete 50 hours of law-related volunteer work by graduation. Between 2011 and 2017, 713 students took the pledge and 313 completed the pledge.

“People often wonder how our students find the time for pro bono work, and when we’ve asked them, they give the answers you’d expect: to help those in need, to gain practical experience, develop networking contacts, and to expand their career choices,” Curry said. “But they also find the time because it very simply makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel that their training, their experience, and their judgment can do some good. They do it because it makes them feel like lawyers.”

Added Nura Maznavi, director of the Law School’s Pro Bono Service Initiative: “The students' commitment to public service and work on behalf of the legally underserved is incredibly motivating.”

This year, Alexa Perez, ’17, received the 2017 Pro Bono Award of Excellence for logging the most pro bono hours: more than 910 during her three years at the Law School, much of it focused on immigrants’ voting and educational rights. In addition to her pro bono work, Perez is a PILI Fellow at the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under the Law, where she has worked on voting issues that affect low-income and underrepresented communities, and a child advocate with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. She has also been a legal intern at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and at the US Attorney’s Office in Chicago.

Isabella Nascimento, ’18, was given the 2L Public Service Award, which recognizes a second-year student whose dedication to public service both before and during law school, and whose accomplishments and leadership during law school, reflect a strong commitment to public interest work. Nascimento, who is part of the Law School’s Federal Criminal Justice Clinic and has interned for the Legal Rights Center in Minnesota, is an aspiring public defender. She has already logged 350 pro bono hours, Curry said.

Andrew MacKie-Mason, ’17, who has logged more than 700 pro bono hours for organizations such as First Defense Legal Aid, the Woodlawn Clinic, LAF, and other organizations, was awarded the James C. Hormel Public Service Award. In addition to pro bono service, he has worked on both the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic and the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Clinic, and been involved with Defenders, the Public Interest Law SocietySpring Break of Service, and other student organizations. MacKie-Mason has worked for the Alaska Public Defender Agency, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, and the Public Defender Service in Washington, DC.

The Domestic and Sexual Violence Project (DSVP) was given the inaugural Student Organization Pro Bono Award. For the past several years, DSVP has worked with the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services to train law students to represent victims of domestic violence in Order of Protection Hearings. This year alone, volunteers with DSVP represented more than 10 clients, successfully obtaining Emergency Orders of Protection for each one. DSVP ended the academic year with a new project—recruiting law student volunteers to work with Rise (a sexual assault legislative advocacy nonprofit), the American Constitution Society, and Law School Republicans to draft legislation supporting survivors of sexual assault.

Faculty:  Susan J. Curry

Nura Maznavi, director of the Law School’s Pro Bono Service Initiative, presents Alexa Perez, '17, with the Pro Bono Award of Excellence for logging the most hours—more than 910—during her three years at the Law School.

Photo by Claire Stamler-Goody


Daniel Hemel: "Recuse Yourself, Rod Rosenstein"

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 10:49
Recuse Yourself, Rod Rosenstein Daniel Hemel Slate May 22, 2017

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stands at the center of the controversy over the president’s apparent attempt to obstruct an FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties. Rosenstein played a key role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey earlier this month, as well as last week’s decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel in charge of the Russia inquiry. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions having recused himself from the case back in March, Rosenstein is the highest-ranking official in the Justice Department overseeing Mueller’s efforts to uncover how exactly the Russians interfered with the 2016 election, what kind of help they might have received from members of the Trump team, and whether Trump himself has taken steps to cover anything up.

The fact that Rosenstein is both a central character in the story Mueller is investigating and the man responsible for supervising that investigation raises an obvious but underdiscussed question: Should Rosenstein follow Sessions’ lead and recuse himself from the Russia inquiry?

The case for Rosenstein’s recusal grows out of the case for Trump’s guilt. At this point, we have mounting evidence that the president pressured Comey to end the FBI’s inquiry into links between the Russian government and Trump’s top advisers. When Comey refused, the president fired the FBI chief and claimed he had acted based on the “clear recommendations” of Rosenstein and Sessions. Sessions, for his part, said in a letter to Trump that his recommendation was based on “the reasons expressed by the Deputy Attorney General in the attached memorandum.” That three-page memorandum from Rosenstein, in turn, faulted Comey’s handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

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Faculty:  Daniel Hemel

Daniel Hemel Asks, "Why Hasn’t Rod Rosenstein Recused Himself From the Russiagate Probe?"

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 11:37
Why Hasn’t Rod Rosenstein Recused Himself From the Russiagate Probe? Daniel Hemel Whatever Source Derived May 21, 2017

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should recuse himself from the probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and the President’s apparent attempt to obstruct the FBI’s inquiry. Rosenstein himself played a key role in the events at the center of the controversy, and his continued involvement casts a shadow over the ongoing investigation.

So far, the core of the case against President Trump is as follows: The President pressured FBI Director James Comey to end the Bureau’s inquiry into links between the Russian government and Trump’s top advisers. When Comey refused, the President fired the FBI chief and claimed he had acted based on the “clear recommendations” of Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions, for his part, said that his recommendation was based on “the reasons expressed by the Deputy Attorney General in the attached memorandum.” That three-page memorandum from Rosenstein faulted the FBI head’s handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

Put more bluntly: The allegation is that President Trump fired Comey to impede the Russia investigation and then tried to pass it off on Rosenstein.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Daniel Hemel

Daniel Hemel on What a Special Counsel Is and How Much Power It Has (Audio)

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 11:23
A Special Counsel Wields Power, But How Much? WBEZ Morning Shift May 22, 2017

The Justice Department appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate possible links between associates of President Donald Trump and Russian officials Wednesday.

The move came during a spate of near-non-stop breaking news about the Trump White House related to the investigation.

For context and analysis, Morning Shift turns to Daniel Hemel, assistant professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School.

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Faculty:  Daniel Hemel

Eric Posner in The New York Times: "Will the Presidency Survive This President?"

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 11:13
Will the Presidency Survive This President? Eric Posner The New York Times May 22, 2017

As President Trump stumbled from crisis to crisis this past week, he reminded the country of a lesson it didn’t really need to learn: A president’s greatest asset is trust. Once he has lost it, he can’t govern. Mr. Trump’s serial recklessness may change not just the course of his presidency but also the office itself. Whatever happens to him, it’s not too soon to wonder what will happen to the presidency when he’s gone.

For decades, the power of the executive branch has been growing, a trend that Congress has encouraged, both actively and by default. And the courts, the other check on the executive, have often been willing to defer to the president’s prerogatives.

But President Trump’s words and actions are straining the relationship between the executive and the other branches of government in ways that may ultimately diminish the power of the office. By showing he’s unworthy of the trust that a president customarily enjoys, Mr. Trump has essentially been daring Congress, the courts and even the bureaucracy to act against him.

And those institutions are taking him on.

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Faculty:  Eric A. Posner

Craig Futterman on Chicago Police's New Limits on Use of Force

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 09:36
Chicago Police Adopt New Limits on Use of Force Mitch Smith and Timothy Williams The New York Times May 17, 2017

Chicago officials, and even some longtime skeptics of the department, hailed the new regulations as a sign that the police here are improving even though federal scrutiny of the department has eased since President Trump was inaugurated.

But the rules set fewer limits on officers than a draft published in October, and some said they did not go far enough to prevent police abuses. The draft would have required officers to use the “least amount of force necessary,” while Wednesday’s version said only that force must be “objectively reasonable, necessary and proportional.”

The new regulations were perceived as one early measure of how cities under pressure to overhaul their police departments may proceed under an administration that does not favor federal consent decrees as a way to compel change.

Craig B. Futterman, a law professor at the University of Chicago, said the “watered-down” 42-page policy “shows a significant retreat” from a promise by Chicago’s leaders to address a pattern of civil rights violations described by federal investigators in the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency. Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged then to work toward a federal consent decree, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions is skeptical of such agreements, and one seems unlikely to materialize.

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Faculty:  Craig B. Futterman

Mark Templeton on Illinois' March Toward Clean Energy

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 10:47
Illinois Issues: State Marches Toward Clean Energy Jake J. Smith NPR May 18, 2017

The Waukegan Generating Station, owned by NRG Energy, sits on the Lake Michigan shoreline, just one mile from Ortiz’s home. Three years ago, when Ortiz was diagnosed with asthma (a condition that also affects children in 16 percent of households in Lake County, where the plant is located), she began to suspect that emissions from the plant may have been exacerbating her asthma symptoms.

“Recently our air quality was rated an F because of the pollution, and they’re the biggest polluters,” says Ortiz. She and fellow activists had high hopes that the CPP would change that.

Finalized in October of 2015, the CPP targeted greenhouse gas emissions that emanated from power plants, which account for nearly a third of US emissions nationally, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data. Under the CPP, the U.S. EPA would set carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets for each state. “Each state would then have to come up with a plan that it would propose to U.S. EPA for how it would achieve those emission reductions inside of its state, and U.S. EPA would have to bless or reject it,” says Mark Templeton, director of the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School.

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Faculty:  Mark N. Templeton

Mark Templeton on East Chicago Residents Pushing For Say in Cleanup Case

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 10:40
East Chicago residents continue push for say in court case Craig Lyons The Chicago Tribune May 17, 2017

A group of East Chicago residents continue to push for the ability to intervene in court proceedings between federal officials and the companies held responsible for the pollution in the Calumet neighborhood.

Residents of the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site objected to a ruling from Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry who found the residents could not intervene in court proceedings, primarily citing the proper time to step in had passed, a move their attorneys say doesn't account the years it took the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to finally start cleaning up the contaminated neighborhoods.

"The opinion raises an important question: When a community has been subject to decades worth of pollution and delay, how quickly should the community be required to act to enforce its legal rights," wrote David Chizewer and Emily Gilman, of Goldberg Kohn, Nancy Loeb and Debbie Chizewer of Northwestern's Environmental Advocacy Clinic, and Mark Templeton of the University of Chicago Law School Abrams Environmental Law Clinic, in the residents' objection.

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Faculty:  Mark N. Templeton

Eric Posner: "Impeachment Pros and Cons"

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 09:49
Impeachment Pros and Cons Eric Posner May 17, 2017


1. Trump is unfit to govern. As explained in an excellent piece by Bob Bauer in Lawfare, we are experiencing an ongoing “governing crisis,” as a result of Trump’s character flaws. Vice President Mike Pence, who (unlike Trump) has political experience and seems at least competent, would ascend to the presidency. While liberals might worry that a unified Republican government led by a competent president would pass damaging legislation, the alternative—an incompetent government mired in a continuous crisis—is worse.

2. An impeachment could help strengthen political norms that Trump has broken. Chief among them:

a. The norm against conflict of interest and concealment of financial interests.

b. The norm against political interference in law enforcement functions.


Read more at:

Faculty:  Eric A. Posner

The Role of Law in Military Strategy

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 11:37
Claire Stamler-Goody Law School Communications May 18, 2017

Last month, Former General Stanley McChrystal visited the Law School to discuss how legal counsel shapes military decisionmaking.

The role of legal counsel in military strategy is to offer a starting point toward the most principled outcomes of difficult situations, former General Stanley McChrystal told Law School students during a lunch talk last month. McChrystal—who is best known for commanding the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) for five years during the mid-2000s—drew upon his decades of military experience to discuss the subject with Deputy Dean Daniel Abebe, and in doing so revealed the complex relationship between the legal and military spheres.

During the talk, “Adapting Domestic and International Law to Shifting National Security Concerns,” which was organized by the International Law Society and Law School Veterans, McChrystal drew three nested boxes on the board. The outside box represented what was physically possible, the middle was labeled “Legal,” and the innermost “Moral.”

McChrystal drew the boxes after a student asked whether legal advice was seen as an obstacle or an aid to JSOC operations, particularly when difficult, or even morally gray, issues were involved.

“This is the way it worked in my mindset,” McChrystal said referring to the boxes. “You’re trying to get inside the moral box, because you want to live there. If you start living out here,” he said pointing to the legal box, “and here,” he said pointing to the outermost box, “you end up in places you don’t want to be. It’s a slippery slope, and expedience is the thing that drags.”

For instance, when McChrystal took command of JSOC in the Fall of 2003, he had the authority to use sleep deprivation and stress positions—but he didn’t because he felt that those techniques fell outside of the moral box.

In response, Abebe, whose scholarship focuses on US foreign affairs law, public international law, and international politics, questioned the relevance of law given the significance of moral over legal constraints on strategic decision-making.

“Much has been made about the increasing judicialization of military decision-making and the presence of lawyers in these situations,” said Abebe, the Harold J. and Marion F. Green Professor of Law. “But based on that particular story, it makes me wonder to what extent the legal rules are really constraining, and maybe it’s the moral decision that really matters?”

McChrystal clarified that without the lawyers’ insight and expertise, it would have been much more difficult to determine a moral solution in the first place.

“The legal box wasn’t constraining, it was guiding,” he said. “It started you somewhere and got you closer to that moral box. We knew if we didn’t stay within the legal box, it was going to come back and hurt us in the long run. Once you’re on the wrong moral or legal side of something, it’s indefensible over time.”

At the beginning of the talk, McChrystal discussed the changing approaches to counter-terrorism and cyberwarfare in light of social media and advancing technology. He compared cyberwarfare to nuclear warfare, because both require holding opponents at risk in order to deter the other from making an attack.

“If you think about cyber, we’re in this gray area, because the idea of holding at risk is hard,” McChrystal said. “We haven’t defined it well enough to know how we’re going to respond, and they don’t know how we’re going to respond, so they may not feel we have them at risk.”

There is some debate as to which cyberattacks are considered traditional acts of war, and whether the United Nations Charter or international law should redefine what is permissible as technology continues to advance, Abebe said.

“Many argue that the current regime is sufficient and that we just look at a particular set of factors—what was targeted, how many casualties have there been, what’s the likelihood of repetition—and maybe that’s enough to figure out whether it’s an act of war,” he said. “But others say no, cyberwarfare is completely different, it’s much more complicated, and we need to come up with a new regime.”

After discussing the obligations that McChrystal faced when developing military strategy as commander of JSOC, a student asked whether the legal and moral boxes could also apply in a civilian context.

“I changed the rules of engagement in Afghanistan when I got there, because if we didn’t gain the support of the Afghan people we would lose the war,” McChrystal said. “Corporations in particular need to keep talking about how to operate as good corporate citizens—it’s a moral point as well as a practical one.” 

Faculty:  Daniel Abebe 20170417_mcchrystal_5650.jpg

Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic Student Joshua Pickar, ’17, Argues Before Seventh Circuit

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 14:23
Law School Communications May 16, 2017

Law School student Joshua Pickar, ’17, presented oral argument to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on May 16 in United States v. Vincent Jones. The Jenner & Block Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic was appointed to represent Jones on appeal in the case.

Pickar and other clinic students—Bryan Beaudoin, ’18; Jeong Gim, ’17; Annie Gowen, ’17; Alex Waleko, ’17; and Josh Wilson ’17—spent extensive time preparing the opening and reply briefs. They argued that the officers’ warrantless search of Jones’ residence and safe violated the Fourth Amendment, and that the evidence uncovered in the search therefore should have been suppressed. Pickar, who argued the case before Judges Joel M. Flaum, William J. Bauer, and Michael S. Kanne, also prepared at length for today’s oral argument, including by participating in moots with clinic students, Law School faculty, and Jenner & Block attorneys.




William Baude Co-Authors New Constitutional Law Casebook

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 09:56
A new constitutional law casebook for our unsettled age William Baude The Volokh Conspiracy May 15, 2017

I spent much of last year doing something somewhat unusual for a junior faculty member — working on a constitutional law casebook. With most law students’ and professors’ semesters ending (we here at the University of Chicago still have a few weeks to go in our quarter), I thought I’d write a little bit about why.

The book I joined — “The Constitution of the United States,” by Michael Stokes Paulsen, Steven Calabresi, Michael McConnell and Samuel Bray — had already been through two editions. Each edition, including the third, has reflected a fairly substantial overhaul that has made the book (I think) better and better, but it has retained a basic organizing principle that sets it apart from most other constitutional law casebooks — the centrality of the Constitution itself. Without speaking for my co-authors, who have been on the book for far longer than I have and have written an excellent preface, I thought I’d explain why I think that organizing principle is so important to teaching constitutional law.

Read more at:

Faculty:  William Baude

With Flipside and JuryCheck, Law Students Use High-Tech Ventures to Address Social Issues

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 09:09
Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Claire Stamler-Goody Law School Communications May 16, 2017

When Kate Miller, ’17, was working last summer at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center in New Orleans, she saw how cumbersome it could be to collect data on jury composition. If lawyers needed to prove racial disparity or examine trends, they’d have to send interns to collect juror surveys—sometimes from far-flung rural parishes—and enter the information into a spreadsheet by hand. It was time-consuming, limiting, and potentially costly.

Miller thought there had to be a better way. And so that fall, she teamed up with a classmate from her Coding in the Law class, Christian Kolb, LLM ’17, to create one. The result: JuryCheck, a web-based platform that allows criminal defense attorneys, courts, and criminal justice reform advocates to detect racial and gender underrepresentation in jury pools in real time.

“JuryCheck is an ideal law and tech product because it solves a pain the founders personally experienced, and helps protect fundamental constitutional rights, fair jury representation, that are often overlooked,” said Lecturer Nikhil Abraham, JD/MBA ’11, who taught Miller and Kolb in Coding and the Law. “The people who will benefit the most from this app, the accused in a jury trial, are likely not able to pay, and the SNVC has solved the ‘who pays’ and ‘who benefits’ problem many times. I hope JuryCheck's success strengthens the jury trial process, and shows the outsized impact lawyer-coders can have on the legal system.”

Miller and Kolb are among several Law School students who are working to address complex societal issues through high-tech entrepreneurial ventures. An interdisciplinary University of Chicago team that includes Michael Killingsworth, ’18, reached the finals earlier this month in the social venture category of a Stanford University start-up challenge with Flipside, a platform that combines social science research and computer algorithms to address the “filter bubbles” that many believe have stymied American political discourse. And last year, a team of three Law School students tied for first in Booth’s Social New Venture Challenge with AccessArc, a technology service that gives prison inmates increased accessibility to legal advocacy. Both JuryCheck and Flipside will be competing in this year’s SNVC, which moves into the final round on May 18.

“It’s exciting to see UChicago law students apply their rigorous analytical training to help solve complex social issues with innovative, entrepreneurial solutions,” said Robin Ross, executive director of the Law School’s Doctoroff Business Leadership Program and an advisor to Flipside. “Helping our students connect their legal training with the world of business, entrepreneurship, and social impact is at the heart of the Doctoroff Program’s mission. It’s also gratifying to see law students work as part of a team—with students at the Law School and across the Midway—and learn valuable lessons about collaboration, communication, and leadership.”  

Flipside, which was created by a team that includes undergraduate computer science majors, a former Shark Tank winner, and the former editor in chief of the Maroon, uses a complex algorithm that assesses the political ideology and moral leanings of each user and then serves up stories that reflect opposite points of view. The algorithm, however, also tracks language and tone preferences to ensure that the stories it presents actually resonate with the user and, perhaps most importantly, avoid triggering the kind of emotional response that leads many to discount across-the-aisle perspectives.

“Our intuition was that people find it jarring to read something they don’t believe. But that’s not the case,” said Sidd Sachdeva, a third-year undergraduate with a major in statistics and minor in computer science who first developed the idea.

Rather, “when you read opposing viewpoints, if it is grounded in your same moral foundation, you’re more likely to engage with that material and to seek out other material that represents opposing viewpoints,” said Killingsworth, who earned his undergraduate degree in political science, psychology, and sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Using data collected from a “get-to-know-you” survey, as well as a user’s Facebook “likes” and other social media profile information, the app creates a palatable flipside for each of its users. The more they engage, the more the app learns about their leanings and preferences. And as the offerings get better, social science suggests that they’ll also become more open to the opposite perspective.

“They become more diverse in their points of view, they become more engaged in the political process—and sometimes they even change their point of view, which is something that seems impossible in today’s political environment,” Sachdeva said. “Ideology, it turns out, is correlated with culture—and when you separate those variables you can broaden people’s horizons while continuing to make it comfortable for them. And the way you do that is through algorithms and natural language processing.”

It essentially offers users the experience Killingsworth has when he engages in respectful debate at the Law School.

“At the Law School, we get the debate between people of the left and people of the right, and you can sit there and debate with other people without it escalating into ad hominem attacks,” said Killingsworth. “That’s how it should be for everyone. Everyone should be able to sit down and have a conversation with someone from the other side.”

The Flipside team—which also includes Jason Li, a fourth-year economics/computer science undergraduate who founded the social enterprise iReTron as a high school sophomore and won a $100,000 investment on Shark Tank; Julia Zhou, who is working on a masters in computational social science; Forrest Sill, a third-year computer science undergraduate and the former editor-in-chief of the Maroon; and Baxter Stein, a third-year public policy studies undergraduate who serves on the student advisory board for the Institute of Politics—said University of Chicago values of interdisciplinarity and rigorous debate are woven into their group ethos.

“The culture of the marketplace of ideas is something that permeates every part of this university, and it is something all of us have internalized deeply,” Sachdeva said.

An environment that prizes a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving is also what led Miller and Kolb to create what they describe as a relatively simple step toward addressing a complex, systemic problem.

“Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act over 150 years ago, the courts and Congress have been trying to weed racial disparities out of the system of jury selection. But it hasn’t happened, largely because of these data problems,” said Miller, who was in the Law School’s Exoneration Project for two years and the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project for one. “This is something that impacts the lives of criminal defendants, because the racial composition of a jury has a huge impact on the outcome of the trial result and in sentencing. Also, the criminal justice system at large has been de-legitimized in a lot of ways. We’re hoping to restore some faith in the process—both for making sure that people in the community are able to serve on juries and from the perspective of the defendants.”

With Jury Check, information would be entered in real time and “within seconds, a public defender or attorney would have an indication of whether a minority was underrepresented, or that there may be overrepresentation of a particular racial group,” Kolb said. “It would also give the benefit of data aggregation, so instead of having one public defender office inputting the information into one spreadsheet, we would have the collective power of multiple public defenders inputting that information and aggregating it in a central place.”

For Kolb, the experience has been a great opportunity to engage with other emerging entrepreneurs.

“Meeting all these young people who are trying to do something with technology and really tackling social problems has been one of the best parts for me. It has really enriched my LLM and Law School experience,” Kolb said. “The entrepreneurial spirit is really encouraged at the Law School and also at Booth. I didn’t ever think I’d be doing something like this before I got here. It’s been great.”

Seven finalists in the Booth competition will be announced on May 18 and will compete for the title on May 23. Those who wish to attend the Social New Venture Challenge Finals can register online

Faculty:  Nikhil Abraham

Randal Picker and Lisa Bernstein Elected to the Council of the University Senate

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 14:51
Professors Elected to the Council of the University Senate Feng Ye The Chicago Maroon May 12, 2017

Two weeks ago, the University Senate elected 17 new members to serve on the Council of the University Senate. This past Tuesday, the Council elected seven members to form the new Committee of the Council, a smaller group of faculty that communicates directly with the president and the provost.  

Law School professor Randal Picker, spokesperson for the 2016–17 Committee of the Council and chair of the Committee on University Discipline for Disruptive Conduct, was re-elected to be spokesperson of the 2017–18 Committee of the Council, according to newly elected members of the Council.


Law School professor Lisa Bernstein, another newly elected member of the Council, told The Maroon that having different voices across disciplines is incredibly valuable. “I personally love meeting my colleagues across campus. When smart people who care about the institution come together, something good comes out of it,” Bernstein said. 

Bernstein also told The Maroon that one of the issues she wishes the Council to address next year. “From my perspective, the most important issue is maintaining the integrity of free speech on campus. I want my voice for free speech to be heard,” Bernstein said.

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Faculty:  Randal C. Picker Faculty:  Lisa Bernstein

Prof. Stephanopoulos's "Efficiency Gap" Measurement May Be "The Holy Grail of Election Law Jurisprudence"

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 11:34
When Does Political Gerrymandering Cross a Constitutional Line? Adam Liptak The New York Times May 15, 2017

The Supreme Court has never struck down an election map on the ground that it was drawn to make sure one political party would win an outsize number of seats. But it has left open the possibility that some kinds of political gamesmanship in redistricting may be too extreme.

The problem, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in a 2004 concurrence, is that no one has come up with “a workable standard” to decide when the political gerrymandering has crossed a constitutional line.

Finding such a standard has long been, as one judge put it, “the holy grail of election law jurisprudence.”

In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court will consider an appeal from a decision in Wisconsin that may have found that holy grail. The case, Gill v. Whitford, No. 16-1161, arrives at the court in the wake of a wave of Republican victories in state legislatures that allowed lawmakers to draw election maps favoring their party.

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Faculty:  Nicholas Stephanopoulos

Daniel Hemel: Border Tax May Be Bad Idea, But It's Not Unconstitutional

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 11:18
Border tax may be bad idea, but it's not unconstitutional Daniel Hemel The Hill May 12, 2017

The House Republicans’ plan for a “border-adjusted” corporate tax is still a long way away from becoming law, but already a number of prominent lawyers and law professors have called into question the proposal’s constitutionality. Just last week, Theodore Olson, who served as U.S. solicitor general under President George W.  Bush, said that if the border-adjusted tax becomes law, the Supreme Court should strike it down.

All this is an unfortunate distraction from an important debate about the substantive merits of the House Republicans’ proposal. There are lots of legitimate reasons to oppose a border-adjusted corporate tax, but the claim that it would be unconstitutional is borderline frivolous.

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Faculty:  Daniel Hemel