May 29, 2015
May 22, 2015
A consent degree similar to the one between the Cleveland Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice was successful in Los Angeles, said Professor Stephen Rushin, who has studied DOJ settlements with police departments.
Los Angeles was supposed to be under consent decree for five years, but the process ultimately took 12 years before the Los Angeles Police Department was deemed to be under compliance and released, Rushin recently told the Christian Science Monitor.
“Critics said this would impair the ability of police to fight crime,” he said. “But LA is a great test case, because they not only saw a reduction in misconduct [by every measure], but they also had one of the largest sustained drops in crime in U.S. history.” Those two facts aren’t necessarily connected, he said, but they showed “that you can have a consent decree that addresses misconduct and can also effectively fight crime.”
For more, read “Cleveland police reform: Why federal oversight matters.”
May 19, 2015
Footage gathered by police body cameras create a “novel issue” in jury trials, Professor John Gross recently told AL.com.
“Now that the Obama Administration is pushing for national guidelines to encourage police departments to use body cameras, the courts haven’t had a chance to weigh on this because it’s a new issue,” he said. “I can understand why a defense attorney says it does create hearsay problems.”
The concern arises because the cameras don’t record the names of every bystander and witness, Gross said.
“A body camera is recording what a person is saying to them,” he said. “That person might leave the scene and (the officer) might not get that person’s contact information. A prosecutor might not call that person as a witness. If you are playing that tape to the jury, you might have hearsay evidence coming and that witness is not available for cross examination.”
For more, read “As Police Body Cameras Proliferate, New Legal Questions Emerge.”
May 14, 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether a defendant’s offer to pay a plaintiff’s complete claim moots the plaintiff’s individual claim and class action claims when it reviews a Telephone Consumer Protection Act case, according to Bloomberg BNA.
In a 2013 case, Genesis Healthcare Corp v. Symczyk, a majority of the court assumed, without deciding, that when a plaintiff declines an offer that completely satisfies a claim that it would moot the individual’s claim, Bloomberg reported.
Prof. Adam Steinman said the Genesis Healthcare case provides some perspective for how the nation’s top court may decide in TCPA.
“It seems clear that the four dissenting justices in Genesis will conclude that an unaccepted offer of complete relief will not
moot the case for purposes of Article III,” he told Bloomberg BNA. “The thing to watch for is whether the Genesis dissenters can persuade at least one justice in the Genesis majority to join them on that point.”
May 13, 2015
The University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal have named the finalists for the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. The three books chosen to compete for the prize are: “Terminal City” by Linda Fairstein, “My Sister’s Grave” by Robert Dugoni, and “The Secret of Magic” by Deborah Johnson. The prize, authorized by Ms. Lee, is given annually to a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.
Five years ago, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, and to honor former Alabama law student and author Harper Lee, The University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal partnered to create The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.
This year there were 16 entries for the Prize, and a team of reviewers chose three books for the Selection Committee’s consideration. The public is invited to cast its votes on the ABA Journal website [www. http://www.abajournal.com] to help determine who the winning author will be. The public will act as the fifth judge, contributing a vote equal in weight to the selection committee members.
The 2015 prize will be awarded in Washington, D.C. at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 3 at the Library of Congress’s Thomas Jefferson Building, in conjunction with the Library of Congress National Book Festival. The winner will be announced prior to the ceremony and will receive a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” signed by Harper Lee.
A distinguished group of panelists will select the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. They are: Roy Blount, Jr., author and humorist; Wayne Flynt, author and Alabama historian; Mary McDonagh Murphy, independent film and television writer and producer; and Michele Norris, NPR host and special correspondent.
May 12, 2015
Prof. Susan Pace Hamill said Alabama’s regressive tax structure helps explain why some of Alabama’s wealthier ZIP codes have lower rates of Alternative Minimum Tax filers and why Alabama has one of the lowest AMT filer rates in the country.
High-tax states with graduated income taxes, like New York, result in a larger federal tax deductions for higher-income earners, according to AL.com.
“The AMT kicks in when a wealthier person has a lot of certain deductions,” she said. “These folks pay a greater percentage of income in taxes.”
Hamill said a high earner in New York with the same income as a high earner in Alabama is more likely to be hit by the AMT.
“Regressivity is not just a poverty thing,” she said.
For more, read “Who Pays The Rich Man’s Tax In Alabama? Check Your County and ZIP Code.”
May 6, 2015
To mark the 70th anniversary of “Thomas & Friends,” NPR explored the economics of the railroad series and interviewed Professor Paul Horwitz, who analyzed the issue in a 2008 blog post after watching Thomas on television with his 2-year-old daughter while he was at home recovering from surgery.
What is the lesson of Thomas the Tank Engine? It strikes me as being a pro-market show, but a genuine, Hayekian coordination-of-information free-market type of capitalism, with maybe a dose of TR-ish trustbusting spirit. Simultaneously, surely it is also a critique of the kinds of market imperfections that arise in a more oligarchical, monopoly-permitting market. Think about Sir Topham Hatt for a bit. He is a caricature of a robber baron, but he’s not simply an unrestrained successful capitalist in an open and competitive market, a Gates or Carnegie. Rather, he runs everything on the island of Sodor: the railroads, the towns, all other means of transportation, etc. He’s not villainous, exactly; but his tentacles extend over the entire economy of the show. On Sodor, Hatt truly controls all the means of production.
Horwitz told NPR, after writing his blog, he found a variety of economic views about Thomas. “If you’re libertarian, you can write about Sodor as a libertarian paradise. And if you hate big industry you can say ‘Down with the capitalist Sir Topham Hatt,’ and if you just want an economy that’s a little more personal in scale, then you can talk about that aspect of the show,” he said.
For more, read “Just How Do ‘Thomas & Friends’ Drive Sodor’s Economy.”
May 4, 2015
Prof. Montre Carodine recently told The Washington Times that President Barack Obama may pursue a more frank discussion on race relations after he leaves office.
“I think this would be a great avenue for him to pursue when he’s out of the White House. Of course he’ll be able to speak more frankly, more openly, more honestly about what’s really going on in the streets of America with black youth. And I think it will be well received,” said Carodine, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law who has written extensively on race relations and the criminal justice system.
“I do look forward to seeing what he does on these issues once he’s out of the White House, once he can speak more frankly,” she continued. “I think we will see him really blossom in this area once he leaves office.”
For more, read “Obama Likely To Focus On Race Relations Post-Presidency.”
May 2, 2015
The University of Alabama School of Law has increased its resources in its Career Services Office to better meet the needs of students as they prepare to begin their legal careers.
Lezlie Griffin, the new assistant dean for career services, will devote most of her time to employer outreach, ensuring that employers know the caliber of students the UA Law School produces and to encourage them to take advantage of on-campus and video-conferencing interviewing opportunities. Meanwhile, new hires Todd Engelhardt and Megan Walsh, both assistant directors of career services, will advise students about job opportunities and how best to use their degree to enter the job market.
“Now that I have these strong assistant directors, serving as the primary counselors in the office, it really frees up more time for me to focus on employer outreach and improving and expanding those relationships with employers,” Griffin said.
The changes come after Thomas Ksobiech, who served as the assistant dean for career services for seven years, was promoted to associate dean for administration and communication on May 1, and Mary Chambers, an assistant director of career services, retired from her position.
With the recent addition of Kimberly Bond in Atlanta, as an employer outreach specialist for that market, the Career Services Office has four formerly practicing lawyers to help students design their legal careers. Engelhardt and Walsh have practiced in the private and public sector, respectively, and they will handle the bulk of the counseling. Bond coordinates job fairs and heads employer outreach in a city that many UA Law School graduates mark as their destination after graduation.
Over the past five years, more than 90 percent of Alabama Law graduates were employed or pursued an advanced degree within nine months after graduation. The Class of 2014 accepted positions throughout Alabama, in major markets around the country, and even in more distant locations, such as Vermont, South Dakota and Alaska.
Under Griffin’s leadership, the Career Services Office will continue to build on its excellent employment record, and she has developed three goals to ensure the office meets students’ needs. First, she would like to boost communication and use several social media platforms to help increase student engagement. Second, she plans to expand resources and provide information about career opportunities so that students can make more informed decisions and about what they can do with their law degree. And finally, she plans to draw on the expertise of the new staff to enhance student programming and counseling strategies.
“We all have very different backgrounds, but at the same time, we all have the shared interest of helping students reach their career goals,” Griffin said.
The two newest members of the staff have diverse legal backgrounds. Engelhardt practiced law for 10 years in Florida, and is the former director of the Pre-Law program that is housed in College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alabama. When counseling students, he focuses on developing relationships.
He begins consultations by asking students about their practice area interests and which part of the country they would like to live in. From there, he advises them on writing cover letters, crafting resumes and how to take advantage of opportunities.
“I try to get to know them a little bit and then based on the personalities I can use any strategies we need to resolve problems and set them up for a better career path,” he said.
Walsh will employ a similar strategy, while drawing on her expertise. She clerked for Circuit Court Judge Philip N. Lisenby during and immediately after law school, and she was later hired by the Tuscaloosa County District Attorney’s Office, where she prosecuted child support cases. When she counsels students, she views consultations as a collaborative experience.
“I think there are so many different avenues to explore, and I’m really looking forward to working with students to figure out those employment opportunities,” she said.
Visit http://www.law.ua.edu/career-services/ for more information about the University of Alabama’s Career Services Office.
May 1, 2015
Mark Crosswhite, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Alabama Power Company, challenged The University of Alabama School of Law’s graduates to work in Alabama, take advantage of opportunities and enjoy the legal profession.
“Develop yourself for the service of Alabama,” he said, borrowing words from Riverboat Captain and Alabama Power Company Founder William Patrick Lay. “Regardless of where you go to work – or what you do – or where you live, you can serve our state. You can work to make our state a better place. You’ve already shown your leadership qualities. People expect you to do great things, and I know that you will. Consider doing those things right here in Alabama because we need you here – to help Alabama grow and flourish.”
Crosswhite, ’87, said the graduates shouldn’t be afraid to take a “left-hand turn.” He said he didn’t think he would be a “power company” lawyer but instead thought he would have a general practice in his hometown of Decatur.
After his first year at Alabama, he spent the summer clerking at Balch and Bingham in Birmingham and was assigned to work in the utility section. He clerked at the firm a second summer and asked to work in the utility section. By the time he was invited to join the firm, he made it a condition of his employment to work in the utility section.
“My point is that it was absolutely not what I had envisioned. It was a left-hand turn, an unforeseen opportunity. And left hand turns have happened time and time again in my career,” he said.
Crosswhite’s final piece of advice: “Wherever you go, whatever you do, enjoy it. You’ll have days when you don’t win, and when you put in lots of hours, and when you’re exhausted. We all do. But if you enjoy what you do, it won’t seem like work.”
After Crosswhite’s address, the Law School conferred 152 law degrees. Fifteen students received the Public Interest Certificate for completing the program’s academic and externship requirements, while 34 students received the Order of the Samaritan honor for performing 50 hours of pro bono legal service and 40 hours of community service during Law School.
Degree candidates were hooded by Kimberly Boone, Director of Legal Writing Program; Bryan Fair, Thomas E. Skinner Professor of Law; and Susan Lyons, Ira Drayton Pruitt, Sr. Professor of Law.
A reception honoring graduating students was held immediately following the ceremony on the Camille Wright Cook Plaza in front of the Law School.
The Tuscaloosa County Bar Association recently awarded the Pillar of the Bar award to Judge Joseph Colquitt. The award recognizes bar members who have practiced law for more than four decades in Tuscaloosa County. Judge Colquitt was a Circuit Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Alabama from 1971 to 1991. He is the Jere L. Beasley Professor of Law and director of trial advocacy. He teaches criminal law, capital litigation, criminal procedure and criminal sentencing.