Professor Deepa Das Acevedo Publishes Beyond the Algorithm: Qualitative Insights for Gig Work Regulation

 

Professor Deepa Das Acevedo’s edited volume, Beyond the Algorithm: Qualitative Insights for Gig Work Regulation, has been published by Cambridge University Press.

In Beyond the Algorithm, Deepa Das Acevedo and a collection of scholars and experts show why government actors must go beyond mass surveys and data-scrubbing in order to truly understand the realities of gig work. The contributors draw on qualitative empirical research to reveal the narratives and real-life experiences that define gig work, and they connect these insights to policy debates being fought out in courts, town halls, and even in Congress itself. The book also bridges academic and non-academic worlds by drawing on the experiences of drivers, journalists, and workers’ advocates who were among the first people to study gig work from the bottom up. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in gig work, the legal infrastructure surrounding it, and how that infrastructure can and must be improved.

Clinic Thrives During Pandemic

The University of Alabama School of Law’s Criminal Defense Clinic has been operating for more than 25 years.  And despite changes in laws, changes in clinic directors, and even paradigm-shifting changes in technology, perhaps no change has been as big as the change brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The spring was difficult,” said Amy Kimpel, Assistant Professor of Clinical Legal Instruction and Director of the Criminal Defense Clinic. “The students had four misdemeanor trials set for March and April and then courts closed due to the pandemic.”  The trials were postponed and the students enrolled in the spring 2020 Clinic course graduated before new trial dates were set.   

But neither the court closings nor the University of Alabama’s move to virtual instruction stopped the Clinic’s work.  Kimpel quickly re-thought the rest of the semester, remaining committed to providing students opportunities that would help build their skills and serve Clinic clients.  “The Clinic students pivoted to working on template motions to reconsider sentences and bail in light of the coronavirus and started working more on post-conviction relief cases,” she said. 

“I feel like working in the Clinic during the pandemic gave me a glimpse of the future of law practice—digital files, digital communications, digital meetings, and even a digital workroom,” said Allen Slater, a third-year student.  “It gave me some ideas about how I might like to run a practice of my own in the future.” 

In preparing for the fall 2020 semester, Kimpel knew her students would be back in the courtroom and would need to build skill-sets that no faculty member had ever taught before.  “I added pieces to the curriculum about client counseling on Zoom, communicating with clients effectively in masks, and trial practice during the time of COVID-19,” she said. 

“We’ve also used the increased familiarity with Zoom to host panels with public defenders and prosecutors all over the country.”  Panelists logged in from as far away as New York and California and even included a member of the Law School’s class of 2020 and an alumna of the Criminal Defense Clinic.   

 ”It was an incredible experience. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to speak with and learn from them,” Slater said. 

When they aren’t in court representing their clients this semester, Criminal Defense Clinic students are honing their skills with highly realistic practice sessions.  Recently, Northport Municipal Judge Paul Patterson (‘98) hosted Clinic students for a mock suppression hearing.  At the mock hearing, with facts based on an actual past case, students also had the opportunity to examine new officers with the Northport Police Department, who participated as witnesses.   

“The main goal is for us to get simulated exercise on what a suppression hearing looks like,” third-year student Reave Shewmake said. “And also the officers getting practice on being cross examined by different attorneys.” 

Speaking about the value of applying the skills she teaches, Kimpel said, “Students had to think through, on their own, the interactions between officer and client, and had an opportunity to cross-examine an actual police officer.”    

“It was just a collaborative effort from all of us here trying to give back to the community to help law enforcement and the law school,” Patterson said.    

Ultimately, the Clinic is designed to help students apply what they are learning in the classroom to real-world legal problems.  Of the students, Kimpel says, “Many are going right from campus to picking up hefty caseloads. Experiences like these help develop confidence to practice right after the bar. The clinic is a bridge between those experiences.”  

Team Advances to New York City Bar National Moot Court Competition Regional Semi-Final Round

Alabama Law’s moot court team comprised of Joe Barnello, Ben Seiss, and Zach Starr, all 3Ls, gave an outstanding performance in November 2020 at the regional rounds for the New York City Bar National Moot Court Competition. The team wrote one of the top briefs and advanced from preliminary rounds as the tournament’s third seed. The team continued to advance through the quarterfinal to the semi-final rounds.

This year’s problem was legally and factually dense, weaving together an only somewhat fictitious global pandemic with civil RICO claims, Fourth Amendment doctrines, and sovereign immunity. In addition, the team had to navigate an all-too-real pandemic that fundamentally changed how they practiced and presented their arguments. As the first Alabama Law moot court team to compete in a virtual competition, Joe, Ben, and Zach were trailblazers, adding a host of technical issues to the normal moot court preparation. With the help of their coach, Professor Cameron Fogle, they handled all of this with the grace and poise befitting students of the School of Law.

Justice Sotomayor Delivers 2020 Albritton Lecture

 

The University of Alabama School of Law hosted Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, for the Albritton Lecture on Nov. 10.  The Lecture, held virtually, was moderated by W. Harold Albritton, Senior District Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, and Mark Brandon, Dean and Thomas E. McMillan Professor of Law. 

In the question-and-answer format event, Justice Sotomayor spoke to students, faculty and invited guests on a wide range of topics from collegiality on the Court and its public image to advice for current law students.

“I really do believe that the law can help society, and I hope all of you will maintain that in your work and in your ambitions in what you do as lawyers,” she challenged the students in attendance.  “Will you take pride in being a lawyer? Will you do it with a sense of pride and honor and decency and commitment to working as hard as you can to protect your clients and advise the people who depend on you? That’s what I expect. That’s what I hope.”

“It was an honor to welcome Justice Sotomayor to the School of Law.  The fact that this year’s lecture was held virtually didn’t dampen excitement within the Law School community,” said Brandon. “The Justice’s talk was informative, insightful, engaged, and even joyful,” he added.  

Wading into the question of public perception of the Court, Justice Sotomayor remarked, “Are we suffering from a crisis of legitimacy? I can say to you that we are.”  She added, “That is very, very concerning to all of us.”  She discussed her view of how political groups have taken terminology and discussion from the academic sphere and used it to try to predict how judges would rule. “They have created, I think, in the public perception, a sense that judges are political because politicians tell you how they’re going to rule from their philosophy,” she said. “I do fear that our legitimacy crisis has been created by the political branches, using judges and their appointment and the discussions as political weapons rather than the academic and philosophical underpinnings that were originally intended.”

In this time of deep division in our country, Justice Sotomayor praised her colleagues on the Court for their ability to passionately disagree and yet maintain caring friendships.  “It’s an example I wish more of the country would follow,” she said.  “You can disagree but still be agreeable to each other as human beings.”

Justice Sotomayor also spoke about oral argument and opinion-writing.  She acknowledged that in some cases, she enters oral argument unsure about what the outcome should be, and is influenced by the arguments.  She also said she finds some arguments useful in informing her reasoning as she is writing.  But citing the extensive work of the lower courts and the briefs they receive when grappling with a case she said, “In a good majority of the cases, argument doesn’t change our mind because we’ve heard or read the counter[arguments] before.” 

When describing the difference between writing an opinion of the Court and writing a dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor pointed to the importance of the authorial voice.  When writing an opinion of the Court, “you’re writing for the voice of the Court and so you have to write with more care and more narrowly to say only as much as necessary to resolve the issue in front of you.” She went on to say, “When you’re a dissenter, however, it’s your own voice.”  

“My Court right now is stagnant in its professional experiences,” Justice Sotomayor said of the Court’s lack of breadth in background of practice among the Justices. “I think that’s very, very dangerous,” she added. Citing as examples civil rights, immigration, environmental and criminal defense law, she talked about the importance of lived experiences as the Court makes decisions having an impact on individuals.   

“Take work that you find exciting. Do it well,” Justice Sotomayor told students, concluding her remarks. “It’s been a real pleasure to be with you,” she added.  

“This was a treat, and we are grateful that Justice Sotomayor was willing to carve out time from a very busy schedule to talk with us,” Brandon said of the event.

Justice Sotomayor is the 12th United States Supreme Court Justice to deliver the Albritton Lecture. The Albritton Lecture Series was established by Judge Albritton, a 1960 graduate of Alabama Law.  It is supported by The Albritton Fund, created by the Albritton family of Andalusia, Alabama, a family that includes four generations of Alabama Law graduates.  

Two at Alabama Law Win Pro Bono Awards

 

During the October 2020 celebration of Pro Bono Month, the Alabama State Bar highlighted recipients of the Pro Bono Awards, including two members of the Alabama Law community.  Susan Donovan, the director of the Mediation Law Clinic, won the Mediator Award, and Mindy Kidd, third-year student, won the Law Student Award.

“Volunteer work led me to law school,” said Kidd in a video created by the State Bar.  “After several years volunteering in that capacity, it seemed like the next logical step was to attend law school.”

Donovan highlighted the impact of pro bono legal work in her video interview.  “There are a lot of people in our state that can’t afford lawyers and yet they need legal services; so in some small way, I like to give back.”

Of the relationship between pro bono service and the legal skills and training she is receiving at The University of Alabama School of Law, Kidd said, “[it] made me see the value of what my education can do for not just my own benefit but hopefully for those around me, too.”

The Alabama State Bar Pro Bono Awards are given annually, recognizing students, mediators, attorneys and firms.

Professor Vars Publishes Essay about Gun Registry in The Wall Street Journal

Professor Fred Vars, along with Ian Ayres, published an essay in The Wall Street Journal about a proposal that would allow individuals at risk of suicide to voluntarily place their name on a gun registry.

For more, read “Suicide Accounts for Most Gun Deaths. A Libertarian Approach Could Help.”

Professor Grove Discusses Confirmation Hearings of Judge Amy Coney Barrett

Professor Tara Leigh Grove served as a guest on Bloomberg TV‘s “Balance of Power” and discussed the potential effect Judge Amy Coney Barrett could have on the U.S. Supreme Court. 

For more, watch “Balance of Power.”

Professor Elliott Receives Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award

Professor Heather Elliott recently received The University of Alabama’s Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award. See Prof. Elliott at the 10:40 mark.

 

Brilliant. Approachable. Great. Dedicated. Caring.

When you ask Alabama Law students about Professor Heather Elliott, these are words you hear repeated often. When she received The University of Alabama’s Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award at the 2020 Virtual Campus Assembly on October 12, students as well as her colleagues on the faculty and staff were thrilled for this well-deserved recognition.

Second-year student Tucker Crain has Elliott as his academic advisor. “Interacting with Professor Elliott outside of class is awesome,” he says. “She’s one of the smartest people ever, but she’s super approachable and always willing to help with any issue.”

Elliott teaches civil procedure, land use law and planning, water law, legislation and regulation, and professional responsibility, and researches in the areas of Alabama water law and policy and the role of courts and agencies in a democratic society. Having joined the faculty in 2008, she is the Alumni, Class of ’36 Professor of Law.

“Not only has she done terrific scholarship in areas as diverse as environmental law, federalism, administrative law, and the constitutional doctrines of standing, but she has also built a record as a spectacular teacher,” said Mark Brandon, Dean and Thomas E. McMillan Professor of Law.

“She always fully explained the material and was very in tune with specific areas of the course that could be confusing to us. Everything she did had a purpose, and it resulted in a better experience for all of us,” said second-year student Jesse Westerhouse of her legislation and regulation class. “I took her class when we transitioned to online class because of COVID, and the transition was seamless. She set up multiple times a week to meet [virtually] in small groups with students to make sure we had a chance to discuss the material, recorded videos explaining the material, and was generally accessible at just about any time to talk about the class or life in general.”

Second-year student Madelyn Beatty also took Elliott’s legislation and regulation class. “An example of Professor Elliott’s commitment to her students and our law school as a whole came up the spring of my 1L year when she and a few other professors conducted a panel for us on how to choose upper level courses to enroll in,” she said. “After this panel, Professor Elliott let me discuss the specific courses I wanted to take on more than one occasion. She genuinely cared that I found a good upper level course plan.”

The Outstanding Commitment to Teaching award was created in 1976 by the University of Alabama National Alumni Association. The award recognizes four faculty members annually, based on the faculty members’ commitment to teaching and the impact they have had on students through the teaching and learning process.

Professor Vance Weighs in on Voting by Mail

Professor Joyce White Vance, along with Jenny A. Durkan and Peter F. Neronha, writes an op-ed for USA Today about voting by mail.

For more, read “Voting by Mail Protects Our Democracy and Our Families.”

 

Professor Vars Discusses His Proposal to Reduce Gun Suicides

Professor Fredrick Vars appears on WBRC and discusses his proposal to reduce gun suicides. He developed the proposal that would allow those at risk of suicide to voluntarily place their name on a registry, prohibiting gun stores from selling them a firearm. The proposal has been adopted in Virginia and Washington state.

For more, read “UA Law Professor Proposes Program to Reduce Gun Suicides.”