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Professor Gross Weighs in on Prosecution of Chemical Endangerment Cases

Professor John Gross recently told ProPublica there is a disparity in the way prosecutors in Alabama’s 67 counties have applied the “chemical endangerment of a child” statute.

“Each county is its own little fiefdom,” said Gross, director of the Law School’s criminal defense clinic. “You get vastly different results in terms of how the cases are prosecuted.”

For more, read “When the Womb Is a Crime Scene.”

Expert to Lecture at Law School on Legal Responses to Catastrophes

The University of Alabama School of Law will host Distinguished Visiting Lecturer Kenneth Feinberg at noon Tuesday, Sept. 29, in the Bedsole Moot Courtroom 140. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Feinberg is an expert in mediation and alternative dispute resolution. He has handled financial claims for major crises and disasters. He will lecture on “Unconventional Responses to Unique Catastrophes: Tailoring the Law to Meet the Challenges.”

Feinberg serves as the special master of the Federal Kline-Miller Law, where he oversees private pension plans. He has served as the special master for TARP Executive Compensation, the Federal Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 and as the administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility in 2010 for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

He served as a fund administrator for the GM Ignition Switch Compensation Program; the Virginia Tech massacre; the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shootings; the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings; and the Boston Marathon bombing. Feinberg has taught at Harvard University, Georgetown University, The University of Pennsylvania, New York University, the University of Virginia and Columbia University.

Legal Scholars to Visit and Discuss Law’s Rhetorical Life

Legal scholars will visit The University of Alabama School of Law and discuss law’s rhetorical life Sept. 18 during a symposium.

The Rhetorical Process and Legal Judgments Symposium begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Bedsole Moot Courtroom, Room 140.

Legal scholars will investigate how questions of rhetoric shape the development of legal and judicial decisions, whether judges develop distinct rhetorical styles and what can be learned by examining law as a rhetorical process. The event is free and open to the public.

The symposium will feature:

Linda L. Berger, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law

Bernadette Meyler, Stanford Law School

Teresa Godwin Phelps, American University, Washington College of Law

Christopher W. Schmidt, Chicago-Kent College of Law, American Bar Foundation

Eric Slauter, University of Chicago

Adam Steinman, The University of Alabama School of Law

Alabama Law Ranks 10th Best in Study of Graduates’ Debt Load

Students, academics, and commentators are all paying more attention to the debt load with which law graduates enter the workforce. Many recent articles have detailed the negative impact that large law school debt has on career choices. According to one recent examination, Alabama Law graduates fare well in this metric.

The University of Alabama School of Law is ranked 10th among all law schools in graduates’ debt upon graduation, according to a new U.S. News & World Report study.

“The University of Alabama School of Law has always taken pride in its ability to produce attorneys who can practice law in a wide array of areas,” said Dean Mark E. Brandon. “We will always produce attorneys who practice in large firms and corporations in big cities.  But it is just as important to us that our graduates can choose to be prosecutors, public defenders, public interest attorneys, or attorneys who work in small firms in small towns.”

Alabama Law graduates borrowed almost 40 percent less than the average student borrower nationwide, according to data submitted to U.S. News by 182 ranked institutions.

“By keeping our tuition low, and by helping to ensure that our graduates leave with less debt than they might at comparable law schools, we know that our students have enormous opportunities to pursue their desired career, no matter what – or where – it may be,” Brandon said.

The Law School, which is currently tied for 22nd in the overall U.S. News rankings, is the only top 25 law school to be ranked in the top 10 of the lowest debt list.

Professor Hobbs Discusses Arguments for Opening Bentley Divorce File

Motions filed Monday by state media outlets to unseal Gov. Robert Bentley’s divorce proceedings argue the case file should be open to the public because most of the state’s divorce cases are open.

Professor Steven Hobbs recently told the The Decatur Daily the best argument to unseal the Bentley files may be because it involves the highest elected official in the state.

“I think that the court has the power to seal the record,” Hobbs said. “The question is is there anything that could be related to his public job in the record.”

Hobbs, who specializes in family law, said another unknown is if Dianne Bentley’s divorce petition contains something the public should know that could interfere with the governor fulfilling his duties.

For more, read “Decatur Daily Among State Media Seeking To Unseal Bentley Divorce Proceedings.”

Professors Rushin and Delgado Comment on Trial of Alabama Police Officer

Federal prosecutors plan to retry the Alabama police officer who was charged with violating an Indian man’s civil rights after a jury deadlocked Friday and a mistrial was declared in the case.

Madison police officer Eric Parker was accused of using unreasonable force when he slammed Sureshbhai Patel, 58, to the ground in February.

Professor Stephen Rushin recently told the Associated Press he has used video of the encounter in lessons on police misconduct and said prosecutors’ burden of proving an officer’s willfulness in criminal cases makes it very difficult to secure convictions.

Professor Richard Delgado also weighed in.

“The best course of action in both kinds of case, civil and criminal, is to use the department’s rules of conduct, manual, or training guidelines as the standard of care and go on to show that the officer violated his department’s own rules,” Delgado said in an email.

For more, read “Prosecutors Planning Retrial Of Officer In Civil Rights Case.”

Professor Krotoszynski Weighs in on Marriage License Case in Kentucky

Professor Ronald Krotoszynski Jr. recently told The New York Times and “Background Briefing with Ian Masters” same-sex couples in Kentucky who have been denied marriage licenses will ultimately receive them.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to allow a county clerk in Kentucky who objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds to continue to deny marriage licenses to all couples, gay or straight.

“There’s no doubt about how this saga comes to an end,” said Krotoszynski, a constitutional law expert who has followed same-sex marriage cases. “The couples in Rowan County who seek marriage licenses will have them.”

For more, read “Kentucky Clerk Denies Same-Sex Marriage Licenses, Defying Court.”

For more, listen to “A County Clerk Gets Her Authenticity From God.”

For more, read “Why Can’t The Kentucky Clerk Get Bail?”

For more, read “Can Alabama Judges Go To Jail For Not Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses?”

Professor Bryce Says Alabama Is in Final Budget Countdown

Professor James Bryce recently told that Alabama may join other states where tax issues have delayed budgets.

Gov. Robert Bentley has proposed tax increases to help close the state’s $700 million budget gap, but the legislature has passed — and Bentley has vetoed — budgets that rely on spending cuts. Alabama’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

“They have passed budgets, but without any tax increases,” said Bryce, who has frequently advised the state on tax reform. “Now we’re on a countdown.”


Professor Vars Launches

Professor Fredrick Vars has an idea that could significantly reduce the number of firearm suicides every year.

He wants anyone at high risk of suicide to confidentially add their names to a federal background check system, making it more difficult for them to buy a gun during a suicidal crisis. The database would give the power to protect lives to the very people who may take their own.

Vars has launched, and his idea was recently endorsed by Yale Law professor Ian Ayres at

“There is every chance that Vars’s registry could save hundreds of lives each year – without causing a huge new bureaucracy, but merely by supplementing the national list that already exists,” Ayres said.

After names are entered into the database, participants would not be able to purchase firearms from licensed dealers.

“Participants could have their names removed after a seven-day delay or, if they choose greater protection up front, only after a judicial hearing,” Vars said.

Vars has started a petition on, urging Congress to enact his proposal.

For more, read “Stop Gun Suicide.”

Essayist and Literary Critic Praises ‘The Secret of Magic’

Philip D. Beidler, the Margaret and William Going Professor of English at The University of Alabama, appreciates the literary prose of “The Secret of Magic,” winner of the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

Beidler writes: Here in “The Secret of Magic,” we encounter the familiar omniscience of traditional realism, but with a stunning versatility—narration, description, dialogue, interior monologue, along with flashback, jump cut, interweavings of parallel texts. Altogether it makes for a completeness of what Henry James called “density of detail, solidity of specification, the air of reality”—or, to cite his fellow combatant in the realism wars, W.D. Howells, the world brought back to us “in faithful effigy.”

The novel, written by Deborah Johnson, will be celebrated at a ceremony Thursday, Sept. 3 at the Library of Congress.

For more, read “Book Note: An Appreciation Of ‘The Secret of Magic,’ A Novel By Deborah Johnson.”