November 25 - 30, 2007

Issue of November 29 – December 5, 2007
``When Jamaica-native Ven Messem was granted U.S. asylum earlier this month following years of homophobic persecution, it was a remarkable victory. … What’s even more noteworthy about the win, though, is the determined team that fought the case for him: a foursome of Columbia Law students—Jennifer Stark, Simrin Parmar, Jonathan Lieberman and Eileen Plaza—who, in a far cry from the more typical coursework, spent nearly a year gathering evidence and researching gay rights conditions in Jamaica before achieving their hard-won victory. `It’s fantastic,’ said professor Suzanne Goldberg, director of Columbia Law’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, which introduced Messem to the students and, at the same time, has supervised the budding lawyers through several other hands-on projects. `The students demonstrated incredible leadership and made a huge leap forward, from sitting in a classroom to making a difference in the world.’’’

U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Tug of War Over Gitmo
November 30, 2007
``The day may be remembered for launching two legal showdowns that could transform the fate of Guantánamo's detainees—and of the secretive prison itself. … `A critical factor’ in moving detainees to the United States `is can you do so in a way that is both legally durable and doesn't pose a major security risk,’ says Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University Law School professor and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs.’’

NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL: Law Schools Report Record Gains in Bar Exam Pass Rate
November 30, 2007
``A long tradition was smashed by the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, whose 289 graduates sitting for the July bar exam pushed their way into the top rank of New York state's 15 law campuses with a first-time pass rate of 92 percent - marking a steady rise in success over the past five years for the comparatively young institution. … In eclipsing this year's performance by Cornell Law School students, Cardozo Law now ranks third, behind New York University School of Law in first place at 96 percent, and Columbia Law School in second at 95 percent.’’

CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER: Christie Deal with Ashcroft Under Fire
November 29, 2007
``In New Jersey this week, a world of criticism is coming down on U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie. … Columbia University Law Professor John Coffee says that had the deferred prosecution deal been under court order, then perhaps Ashcroft wouldn’t have been chosen as the monitor. `The thing that’s most distinctive about this deal is that there is no court involvement,’ Coffee told Corporate Crime Reporter this week. `If you look at deferred prosecution agreements in the Southern District or the Eastern District of New York, they always involve the court. The court has jurisdiction and everything is subject to the court’s oversight, which is the way it should be.’’’

USA TODAY: SEC limits investors' proxy power
November 28, 2007
``Following a contentious hearing Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission adopted a rule that will make it more difficult for shareholders to nominate their own candidates to serve on the boards of companies. … Former SEC commissioner Harvey Goldschmid, now a professor at Columbia Law School, described Wednesday's vote as a `tragic mistake in terms of the signal it sends.’’’

AMERICAN PUBLIC MEDIA: Marketplace: SEC blocks shareholder-rights effort
November 28, 2007
``Kai Ryssdal: `The Securities and Exchange Commission threw a dose of cold water on the shareholder-rights movement today. It formally approved, as a rule, a guideline it's been following for a long time -- one that makes it harder for shareholders to nominate their own candidates to corporate boards of directors.’ … Nancy Marshall Genzer: `Columbia University law professor John Coffee says this is the most partisan atmosphere at the SEC in half a century.’ John Coffee: `Now we are getting to issues that tend to tip institutional investors on one side and business community and management on the other. And that turns into a Republican versus Democratic split -- and there have not been compromises.’’’

BUSINESS WEEK: Verizon Wireless' Grand Opening
November 28, 2007
``A move by Verizon Wireless to let customers use a broader range of cell phones and wireless features on its network was greeted by many observers as a stunning about-face. … Columbia University law professor Tim Wu, a leading proponent of wireless open access, points out that the old Ma Bell-era phone companies often used testing requirements as a way to control their networks. `There's testing requirements and there's testing requirements,’ says Wu. `One is routine—and there's another thing of deciding what products they don't want on their network. It can become a black hole from which products never emerge.’’’

INFORMATION WEEK: Law Center Steps Up GPL Defense, Seeks First U.S. Test Case
November 28, 2007
``Software Freedom Law Center is again seeking a test case of the provisions of the GPLv2. It's filed suit against two firms, High-Gain Antennas and Xterasys Corp. for not disclosing the code included in their antenna and signal booster devices. … The Software Freedom Law Center makes legal resources available to free software developers to defend their work. It is headed by Columbia law professor Eben Moglen.’’

BLOOMBERG: Florida School Fund Rocked by $8 Billion Pullout Amid Defaults
November 28, 2007
``Florida local governments and school districts pulled $8 billion out of a state-run investment pool, or 30 percent of its assets, after learning that the money- market fund contained more than $700 million of defaulted debt. … Should the withdrawals continue, Florida's pool may have to consider filing for bankruptcy protection, says John Coffee, a securities law professor at Columbia Law School in New York. `A bankruptcy could handle these kinds of problems if they feel they'll become insolvent,' he said. Coffee predicts the pool will likely file lawsuits to recover losses. `I'd expect the pool is going to sue the people who sold them the commercial paper, saying the risks were hidden,' he said.’’

GLOBE AND MAIL: Executives left to foot their own legal bills
November 28, 2007
``A handful of Nortel Networks lawsuits snaking through Canadian and U.S. courts should have corporate directors and officers drowning in a cold sweat. … John Coffee, a professor of securities law at Columbia University, said U.S. prosecutors have backed away from the Thompson memo in the wake of the KPMG decision, but he doubts that ruling will be of much help to the former Nortel executives who face civil charges.’’

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Verizon hears you now
November 28, 2007
``In a move that could give cellular customers unprecedented freedom and choice, Verizon Wireless announced Tuesday it will be the first major carrier to allow any device or application to connect to its network. … Timothy Wu, a Columbia Law professor who has been instrumental in championing net neutrality and more freedom in the wireless world, said he is excited about the progress Verizon Wireless is making. But he said the key will be how easily Verizon Wireless certifies devices and applications for its network. `The question, of course, is implementation,’ Wu wrote in an e-mail. `It is whether Verizon's testing requirements, for example, create a network that is open in name but closed in practice.’’’

BUSINESS NEWS NETWORK: SqueezePlay: Hooking Up (clip begins at 28:46)
November 27, 2007
``AMANDA LANG, HOST: ‘…Our next big guest may just be the Karl Marx of Google. His work is the basis of the company’s new manifesto on mobile use. … Tim Wu is a professor at Columbia Law School.’’’
Other media outlets to cover this issue include Information Week and Tech Dirt.

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Helping Mental Patients Gain Some Control Over Treatment
November 27, 2007
``After multiple psychiatric hospitalizations, Mary Blake decided she needed to set some treatment terms for times when she is unable to make decisions herself. So she created a document detailing the signs of deterioration that others should watch for, and noting her medication preferences. The drug Haldol, Ms. Blake knew from experience, made her hyper and belligerent and induced painful muscle cramps, whereas Thorazine worked much better. … `The underlying goal is to try to respect patients' choices, their preferences and their autonomy even in circumstances where they're unable to exercise that autonomy themselves,’ says Paul Appelbaum, professor of psychiatry, medicine and law at Columbia University.’’

ABA JOURNAL: Columbia Law Prof Knocks Hired-Gun Academics
November 26, 2007
``Columbia Law School professor William Simon contends in an article that law professors are part of a `vast enterprise’ that provides legal opinions shielding those who hire them. The article (PDF), already published on the Social Science Research Network website, has been accepted for publication in the Stanford Law Review, the National Law Journal reports.’’

DIVERSE: Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Sets a Precedent
November 25, 2007
``So far this year, Columbia University Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic has secured political asylum in the U.S. for a gay Jamaican man and for a lesbian from Turkmenistan, who feared persecution for her sexual orientation and political opinions in that mostly Muslim country. These are just two of the cases being handled by the fledgling clinic embarking on an emerging field — sexuality and gender law. Directed by Suzanne B. Goldberg, who is renowned for her work and teaching in the area of sexuality and gender law, the clinic, which began in September 2006, is the first sexuality and gender law clinic at a law school to be staffed full time by a faculty member. `One of the goals is to encourage and prod other law schools to develop similar clinics,’ says Goldberg.’’


CITIZENS VOICE: New crack sentencing guidelines called ‘almost inconsequential’
November 25, 2007
``Get caught dealing five grams of crack and you will get at least five years in a federal prison. It would take a case involving 500 grams of powder cocaine to get the same minimum sentence. … The mandatory minimum sentences for crack and cocaine were passed by Congress in 1986, just after crack began emerging in urban areas. Dealing crack was often associated with levels of violence that were unprecedented at the time, according to Columbia Law School Professor Daniel C. Richman, J.D., as dealers fought for territory and customers. `There was a feeling in Congress that a crack epidemic was about to hit and we had to be prepared,’ Richman said.’’

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November 18 - 24, 2007

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Enron case legal tab: $700 million
November 22, 2007
``The San Diego law firm founded by William S. Lerach, who is awaiting sentencing in a criminal conspiracy case, is asking a judge to approve nearly $700 million in attorney fees for its efforts to help Enron Corp. shareholders and investors recoup billions they lost after the energy company collapsed. … Harmon chose Lerach as the lead lawyer in the case, noted John Coffee of Columbia Law School, even though other plaintiffs counsel represented states that suffered greater losses when the company imploded. `She wanted Lerach and I think she picked the right person,’ he said.’’

BBC: Business Daily: Mineral Wealth of Congo
November 21, 2007
``There’s a new scramble for the precious natural resources of the Democratic Republic of Congo. … I spoke to Peter Rosenblum, an expert on international human rights law at Columbia University in New York, who’s sponsored by the Carter Center to look at the exploitation of minerals in the DRC.’’

STAR-LEDGER: With profiling still a worry, decision nears on troopers
November 21, 2007
``Gov. Jon Corzine will decide soon whether the New Jersey State Police has ended the practice of racial profiling and should be freed from federal oversight after eight years of top-to-bottom reform that has cost the state $137.5 million. … Another study, released last November by the American Civil Liberties Union and endorsed by a group of Columbia University law school professors, found black motorists were being stopped at `greatly disproportionate’ rates along the southern portion of the New Jersey Turnpike.

MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Investment banks erred by chasing future mortgage profits
November 21, 2007
``Big-name investment banks are taking a financial beating this year, leaving many Americans to ask: Just how did all these Wall Street bankers in their $5,000 John Lobb shoes manage to step in you-know-what? … `We don't know whether we are in a freefall or near the bottom of this trough,’ said Jack Coffee, a law professor at New York's Columbia University and one of the nation's most influential lawyers on stock-market matters. … `We thought after Enron that we had put an end to off-balance-sheet financing,’ said Coffee, who added that even directors of some investment banks were unaware of the take-back provisions. `Just six years after Enron we're seeing some of the same problems surface.’’’

AMERICAN BANKER: Citi Prefers Quiet as Noise Around It Builds
November 21, 2007
``Amid continuing speculation about who will be tapped to fill the open seat atop Citigroup Inc. and stem concerns about its financial strength, the men currently leading the company are choosing to do so quietly. … John C. Coffee, the Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law at Columbia University, said, `It would be very dangerous to make optimistic statements that we have confidence in our business plan, and then, two weeks later, take a $4 billion, $5 billion writedown. It would sound inconsistent.’’’

NEW YORK TIMES: Vick Begins Serving Time Ahead of Sentencing
November 20, 2007
``In an apparent attempt to speed his return to football, Michael Vick began serving his prison sentence Monday on federal dogfighting charges, more than three weeks before he was scheduled to be sentenced. … Daniel C. Richman, a professor of law at Columbia University and a former federal prosecutor, said it was `uncommon’ for a defendant to turn himself in early in order to receive credit for time served but said, `it is a move that will get him out of jail faster, albeit just a few weeks.’’’

REUTERS: Why did fallen hero Vick go to jail early?
November 20, 2007
``Disgraced U.S. football star Michael Vick's decision to go to jail three weeks early was unusual but likely done to show goodwill and get a jump-start on a long prison term, legal experts said on Tuesday. … `It's not usually done,’ said Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School. `There might be some benefit for him -- his sentence will be served slightly sooner than later.’’’

NEW JERSEY VOICES (blog): Man with eagle eye for conflicts has a blind spot
November 20, 2007
``U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the state's crusader against corruption, has always been a big fan of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, his old boss. So it came as no surprise when Christie asked Ashcroft to help clean up a sleazy company that had fallen into his net. … `If you are facing the prospect of criminal indictment, which can destroy you, fees are the last thing on your mind,’ says John Coffee, a Columbia University law professor who has been a critic of Christie. `You have no incentive to do anything that would displease the monitor.’’’

FINDLAW: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Dismisses a Challenge to Warrantless Wiretapping But Leaves Plaintiffs With a Sliver of Hope
November 19, 2007
``Last week, in Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, Inc. v. Bush, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the "state secrets privilege" forbids plaintiffs from going forward with their challenge to the National Security Agency's ("NSA's") warrantless wiretapping program. In order to make their case, the court ruled, the plaintiffs would have to rely on evidence that would compromise national security. Thus, the appeals court reversed a district court order that would have permitted the case to proceed based on recollections of a classified document, rather than the classified document itself.’’ … Michael C. Dorf is the Isidor & Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia University.


November 19, 2007
``China’s leaders have expressed frustration that the country’s growing ranks of nouveaux riches are not doing enough for its poor. … Now, in an effort to encourage a culture of giving, the central government is drafting new legislation aimed at shoring-up accountability in China’s chaotic charitable sector and easing tax breaks for donors. … This type of trial at local or provincial levels before seeking consensus for a change in national legislation is common in China, says Benjamin Liebman, director of the Center for Chinese Legal Studies at Columbia University.’’


BLOOMBERG: SEC Penalties Fall Amid `New Ethos' on Company Fines
November 19, 2007
``U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sanctions fell to the lowest level since 2002 after Republican commissioners complained that heavy penalties hurt investors and the agency brought fewer billion-dollar accounting fraud cases. … The ongoing debate goes to the core of the SEC's role in combating fraud, said former SEC Commissioner Harvey Goldschmid, 67, a Democrat who left the agency in 2005 and is now a professor at Columbia Law School in New York. `There have been lessons taught to the business community in recent years and the decrease in penalties could reflect the students getting the message,' Goldschmid said. `The issue is whether the decrease in civil money penalties and disgorgements will send the wrong message and decrease accountability.’’’

ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Readers Write: Death penalty research loaded with holes
November 19, 2007
``According to Michael Smerconish, recent research demonstrates that every execution carried out in the United States results in 74 fewer homicides in the following year (`Death penalty clear deterrent for slayings,’ @issue, Nov. 16). … Smerconish appears to be cherry-picking the research on this topic to find the few studies that support his own position. After reviewing the evidence presented in these studies, professor Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University Law School, one of the leading scholars in this field, recently concluded that `the omissions and errors are so egregious that this work falls well within the unfortunate category of junk science.’’’

NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL: Scholars cited for 'bad' advice
Issue of November 19, 2007
``A prominent Columbia Law School professor has leveled fierce criticism against a group of fellow scholars in an article set for publication in the Stanford Law Review. Columbia Law School Professor William Simon contends that professors from other law schools gave highly questionable legal advice to the detriment of some 587 plaintiffs suing Nextel Corp. for racial discrimination. In `The Market for Bad Legal Advice,’ Simon uses the article to issue a scathing review of the law professors' conduct that he contends was performed under conditions of secrecy and was immune from public scrutiny.’’

NEW YORK TIMES: Take Me Out to the Courtroom
November 18, 2007
BYLINE: John C. Coffee, Jr.
``Buy yourself some peanuts and Cracker Jack, court fans, as a fascinating trial is coming. Can the government convict Barry Bonds of perjury? Will Mighty Casey strike out? Unless the government has an undisclosed eyewitness who saw Bonds receive injections or heard him admit to steroid use, this trial stacks up as a classic credibility contest.’’ … John C. Coffee Jr. is a professor at Columbia Law School.

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November 11 - 17, 2007

WINDY CITY QUEERCAST: Simrin & Jennifer of Columbia Law’s Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic (interview begins at 00:22:18)
November 17, 2007
``From The Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, we’re joined by Simrin Parmar and Jennifer Stark who talk with us about the case of Ven Messam, a man who would have been persecuted because of his sexual orientation if he had been forced to return to Jamaica. We talk about the asylum process and some of the cases the clinic takes on.’’

NEW YORK TIMES: Shaping the System That Grades City Schools
November 16, 2007
``James S. Liebman
is prone to attempting big-picture corrections, be it by challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty before the Supreme Court or, as happened this month in New York City, by putting the administrative screws to public schools that fail to educate their students. A death penalty litigation expert and tenured Columbia Law School professor, Mr. Liebman became the system’s chief accountability officer after pelting Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein’s e-mail in-box with constructive criticism.’’

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Dole must pay $2.5 million to banana workers
November 16, 2007
``A Los Angeles jury ordered Dole Food Co. on Thursday to pay five Nicaraguan banana plantation workers $2.5 million as punishment for concealing the dangers of a pesticide that rendered them unable to have children. … According to Alejandro Garro, a professor of Latin American law at Columbia University, it is the verdict itself, rather than the amount, that is important. It will make corporations such as Dole `pay attention to what they do abroad,’ he said.’’

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Barry Bonds case could hinge on a single word: 'knowingly'
November 16, 2007
``Barry Bonds, baseball's controversial home run king, displaced Henry Aaron in the record book in August. Now, he joins less distinguished company: prominent Americans, including Martha Stewart and I. Lewis `Scooter’ Libby, who have been prosecuted for lying during a federal investigation. … Columbia University law professor John C. Coffee Jr., a white-collar crime specialist, said the tougher task would be to prove the other element -- that Bonds knowingly made a false statement with the intent of misleading the grand jury. `You can imagine the defense putting on expert witnesses about how Bonds could have believed this was some of exotic’ but legal product, Coffee said.’’

NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL: Judge Hailed for 'Analytical Power,' 'Common Modesty' (subscription required)
November 15, 2007
``Debra Ann Livingston was formally acknowledged as the newest member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last week. Before family, friends and colleagues in the ceremonial courtroom in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse, Judge Livingston was sworn in last Thursday by Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs. The former Columbia Law School professor was described by speakers as someone who was born to be a judge, a person of intellectual rigor, nuance and sensitivity. 'The raw analytical power of her mind is remarkable, even intimidating,' said David M. Schizer, dean and the Lucy C. Moses Professor of Law at Columbia.’’

NEW YORK TIMES: Mitchell Under a Protective Umbrella if Lawsuits Arise From Investigation
November 15, 2007
``Since the outset of his 19-month investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, George J. Mitchell has operated under an indemnity clause stating that Major League Baseball would be responsible for legal costs of lawsuits brought in connection with his investigation. … `By seeking indemnification, Mitchell is doing the best he can to protect himself while acting on behalf of a nongovernmental entity in this investigation,’ said Daniel C. Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School.’’

BLOOMBERG: Public School Funds Hit by SIV Debts Hidden in Investment Pools
November 15, 2007
``Hal Wilson smiles at the blue numbers on his desktop screen. His money is yielding 5.77 percent. For the chief financial officer of Florida's Jefferson County school board, that means the $2.7 million of taxpayer funds he's placed in the state's Local Government Investment Pool is earning more on this October day than it would get in a money market fund. … State-run investment pools should work together to fund independent analysis, says John Coffee, a securities law professor at Columbia Law School in New York who testified before the U.S. Congress in September 2007 about debt ratings. `If you can't understand it and it's not transparent, then you shouldn't buy it,' Coffee says. `The typical public investor simply doesn't have in-house capacity to do its own securities analysis. Structured finance is inherently opaque.’’’

NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL: Memo to Congress: Reform and Its Perils (subscription required)
November 15, 2007
``John C. Coffee, Jr., the Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law at Columbia University Law School and director of its Center on Corporate Governance,
writes that we are now less than a year from the next presidential election and the likelihood that, for the first time since 1994, a Democratic president will be coupled with a Democratic Congress. For the securities bar, this means that "reform" securities legislation will once again be possible and even predictable.’’

COLUMBIA SPECTATOR: Law Students Help Jamaican Obtain Asylum
November 15, 2007
``Law school students have been putting their education to work outside of the classroom lately. … Parmar, Stark, and two other students from Columbia’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, Jonathan Lieberman, Law ’08, and Eileen Plaza, Law ’09, spent months preparing Messam’s application for asylum.’’

REUTERS: NYSE CEO walks to Merrill Lynch
November 14, 2007
``John Thain, who led NYSE Euronext for four-years, is leaving his job to take over the top spot at Merrill Lynch. SPEAKER: John Coffee, director of corporate governance, Columbia University.’’

GLOBE AND MAIL: Suddenly, everyone is listening to analysts
November 14, 2007
``The past fortnight could well be called A Nightmare on Wall Street, as one blue-chip firm after another trudged before investors to reveal the grisly aftermath of its flirtation with subprime mortgages. … `Analysts have new impact, though I think partly it's because everyone's trying to establish what the rating agencies are going to do,’ said John Coffee, a professor of securities law at Columbia University. `I think they're doing this in a world that is already on the edge of its seat in a state of near panic.’’’

COLUMBIA SPECTATOR: A Lifelong Columbian Tells All
November 14, 2007
``According to Jack Greenberg, Brown v. Board of Education is “the most important case of the 20th century.” And he should know. The current Columbia Law School professor and former dean of Columbia College served as co-counsel for the landmark 1954 desegregation case at age 27. He then went on to serve as the Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense Fund.’’

COLUMBIA SPECTATOR: Panel Sounds Alarm On Future of City’s Schools
November 14, 2007
``The future of New York City’s public schools was up for discussion Tuesday night at a Teachers College symposium on equal education opportunities. … Those who organized and participated in the symposium said they hoped to find a way to use the law to advance educational equality. `We need to put our heads together and think,’ said Susan Sturm, Professor of Law and Social Responsibility at Columbia Law School. `Law is only as meaningful as its implication on the ground.’’’

COLUMBIA SPECTATOR: Professors Clash Over Bollinger
November 14, 2007
``Faculty members presented a letter to top administrators Tuesday condemning University President Lee Bollinger for creating a `crisis of confidence’ and accusing the University’s administration of inadequately protecting academic freedom on campus. … Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law who signed the anti-Bollinger petition, said academic freedom is the `life-blood’ of all the University’s constituents, not just the faculty. He said that `the currency of discourse on academic freedom is the focus on ideas, not on individuals, on analysis and argument, not invectives ... On the President’s remarks on the visit of President Ahmadinejad, President Bollinger lost sight of the distinction between civil discourse and uncivil discourse.’’’

FINANCIAL TIMES: Hershey Trust proves it has some bite
November 13, 2007
``LeRoy Zimmerman, a lawyer based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s state capital, has taken on a new job as a member of the board of Hershey’s, the largest US chocolate maker. … John Coffee, a professor at Columbia…said the changes reflected a struggle at Hershey `between two boards of management: the trust board and the company board. Now the trust has stepped up and shown us which is more powerful. There are few US corporations where you have a single controlling shareholder that is as strong and as dominant as the Hershey Trust,’ he added.’’

HARDBEATNEWS.COM: Gay Jamaican Man Wins US Asylum
November 13, 2007
``A gay Jamaican man has been granted asylum by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Ven Messam, according to Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, won the immigration petition based on his claims that he feared persecution because of his sexual orientation if he was forced to return to Jamaica. … Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, director of the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic which lobbied for Messam, insisted that the asylum approval ‘highlights the particularly severe dangers facing gay Jamaicans. From election campaigns that use songs which promote burning and killing gay people to police support for violent, anti-gay mobs, the Jamaican government is actively menacing and endangering its gay citizens,’ said Goldberg.’’

COLUMBIA SPECTATOR: Sandra Day O’Connor Discusses Tenure on Bench, Life on Ranch
November 13, 2007
``Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor discussed the influence of her childhood experiences on a ranch and the balance between civil liberties and national security in front of a 300-person crowd at the law school Monday night. O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the nation’s highest court, served on the bench for a quarter of a century. She was widely recognized for her judicial pragmatism, and served as a key swing vote for much of her career. The law school hosted O’Connor for the 2007 edition of a yearly tribute to the late Harold Leventhal, Law ’36 and judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for 15 years.’’

NEW YORK TIMES: Cellphone Straitjacket Is Inspiring a Rebellion
November 12, 2007
``First come the grumblings, then the torches and pitchforks. Consumers have never been happy about their cellphone carriers and the services they provide — or refuse to provide. … Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, said the relationship between software developers, carriers and handset makers can only change because the way that consumers relate to their phones is changing too. `On a personal level, the phone feels more like property,’ said Mr. Wu. `Once you start to make it yours, you feel like you have more rights to it. It will have a huge effect if you don’t feel free to do what they want.’ His view is that now that entrants like Apple and Google are in the game, companies like AT&T and Verizon are going to have to adjust. `Little companies are not going to change industry practices,’ said Mr. Wu. That happens, he said, `when you have big, powerful players with a different ideology.’’’

NEW YORK TIMES: Will Success, or All That Money From Google, Spoil Firefox
November 12, 2007
``Only a couple of years ago, Firefox was the little browser that could — an open-source program created by thousands of contributors around the world without the benefit of a giant company like Microsoft to finance it. … To an outside observer like Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia who focuses on the Internet, the alliance still makes a lot of sense. `We’re living in a cold war between open and closed systems, and Google is happy to lend support to entities that it sees as allies,’ he said. While acknowledging that he does not know the secret terms of their contract, he said, by way of analogy, `No one is surprised that Turkey would get aid from the U.S. during the cold war.’’’

THE ADVOCATE: Gay Jamaican Granted Asylum
November 12, 2007
``A gay Jamaican man who feared persecution if forced to leave the United States for his home country was granted asylum Thursday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. `I am grateful to the United States government for saving my life,’ Ven Messam said in a statement released by the Columbia Law School's Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, which assisted him with his case.’’


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November 4 - 10, 2007

PINK NEWS: US grants asylum to gay Jamaican
November 9, 2007
``A gay man who feared persecution because of his sexual orientation if forced to return to Jamaica has been given asylum in the United States. … Columbia Law School's Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic secured asylum for Mr Messam. Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, director of the clinic, said: `This asylum grant highlights the particularly severe dangers facing gay Jamaicans. From election campaigns that use songs which promote burning and killing gay people to police support for violent, anti-gay mobs, the Jamaican government is actively menacing and endangering its gay citizens.’’’

NEW YORK TIMES: John M. Kernochan, Copyright Defender, Dies at 88
November 9, 2007
``John M. Kernochan, a leading professor of copyright law and the founder of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at Columbia University, died on Oct. 29 at his home in Jamaica Plain, Mass. He was 88. … Mr. Kernochan, the Nash professor emeritus at Columbia’s School of Law and the son of a music publisher and composer, was an early advocate for composers and authors facing the challenges of protecting intellectual property rights in the Internet age. In 1984, when the literary agent Morton L. Janklow donated more than $1 million to Columbia to establish the Janklow Fund, the country’s first legal advocacy program for the arts, Mr. Kernochan spoke of the need for such a program.’’

November 9, 2007
``This year’s Lawrence A. Wien Prize for Social Responsibility, given by Columbia Law School to alumni who ‘put their resources and legal skills to work for the public good’ were awarded to New York City Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo and Gertrude G. Michelson, former senior advisor to R.H. Macy & Company. The prizes were given Monday by Dean David M. Schizer…’’

REUTERS: Democrats mull short list of SEC candidates
November 9, 2007
``Senators have narrowed a list of candidates to fill two Democratic commissioner seats at the Securities and Exchange Commission, a source familiar with the matter said on Friday. … `The White House is in no hurry,’ said John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School. `I've heard all kinds of names mentioned.’’’

OUTQ NEWS (SIRIUS Radio): US government has awarded asylum to a gay Jamaican man
November 9, 2007
``The U-S government has awarded asylum to a gay Jamaican man. With the help of law students at New York's Columbia University, Ven Messam was awarded asylum at a time when the Jamaican gay community finds itself under increasingly dangerous conditions. Since September, students at Columbia's Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic made preparing Messam's asylum application a top priority.’’

ABC WORLD NEWS: Vioxx Agrees to Pay $4.85 Billion to Settle Claims
November 9, 2007
``For years, the drug, Vioxx, relieved the pain of arthritis and other conditions. … [John Coffee]: This is a victory for both sides. Merck has gotten its stock price up. And it's settle this case for under $5 billion, when many analysts projected it would cost them $20 billion.’’

BUSINESS WEEK: Tim Wu, Freedom Fighter
November 8, 2007
``On Nov. 5, Google…unveiled what many in the phone business had long awaited. CEO Eric Schmidt explained how the search giant was ready to create new software for mobile phones that would shake up the telecom status quo. … Behind the scenes, they owe a sizable debt to a man nearly unknown outside the geeky confines of cyberlaw. He is Tim Wu, a Columbia Law School professor who provided the intellectual framework that inspired Google's mobile phone strategy. One of the school's edgier profs, Wu attends the artfest Burning Man, and admits to having hacked his iPhone to make it work on the T-Mobile (DT) network.’’

MSN Finance: Preying on investors' subprime fears
November 7, 2007
``Whenever investors get a bad case of the jitters because intense fears grip a sector, you can bet that scam artists will come out of the woodwork to make some easy money by playing on fears to manipulate stocks. … Still, it may be tough for regulators to get a conviction in the market manipulation cases because of the need to prove intent, which is hard to do, says Allen Overby, a partner at the law firm Bass, Berry & Sims in Tennessee. Players who profited from the rumors may have heard them from someone else and believed them, says John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School. `If you believed the rumor, you are not manipulating the market,’ he says. `They might have believed these things, too, and then pushed the rumors even harder.’’’

INTER PRESS SERVICE: RIGHTS-US: Gov't Pillories Avant-Garde Academics
November 7, 2007
``A week after 20-year-old charges were dropped against the last two defendants in the longest-running federal prosecution in U.S. history -- the so-called `L.A. Eight' -- another case threatens to take its place. … Patricia J. Williams, professor of law at Columbia University, questions whether the Kurtz-Ferrell prosecution is part of a larger government reaction against anti-administration expression in the arts. She writes, `Recently scholars from around the world have been barred from the United States for reasons stated and unstated, but all in the name of Homeland Security. They include a South African peace activist, a Canadian anti-poverty worker, an Iraqi epidemiologist, most Cuban academics, a Greek economist, a British musician, a Bolivian historian.’ She adds, `As other countries have adopted their own versions of Homeland Security, the tables are turning on our own: Medea Benjamin, founder of the exuberant antiwar group Code Pink, was denied entry to Canada because of her numerous arrests for peaceful acts of civil disobedience.’’’

WASHINGTON POST: Why the Rush on Trade?
November 7, 2007
``The House is set to vote today on a free-trade pact with Peru. What's not clear is why. … But Mark Barenberg, a Columbia University law professor who has drafted petitions for the AFL-CIO protesting the lack of labor rights in China, questions whether the Peru accord signals a breakthrough at all. The agreement, he argues in a paper released yesterday by groups opposing the pact, `does not require the Parties to comply with core labor rights’ but rather with `vague, undefined, and unenforceable labor 'principles' and with their own domestic labor laws.’ Rangel and Levin have won a pledge from the Peruvian government to toughen its labor laws, but, writes Barenberg, the agreement actually imposes lighter sanctions for labor standard violations than current trade law does.’’

NEW YORK SUN: High Court May Protect States' Taxation of Bonds
November 6, 2007
``The Supreme Court appears hesitant to declare unconstitutional the widespread practice among states of giving tax breaks for in-state municipal bonds. … `This issue has been pretty much below the radar,’ the director of the national state attorneys general program at Columbia Law School, James Tierney, said. `If most governors were told they couldn't do this any more, they would say, 'Why not?' I don't think the issue has really percolated to the top of the agenda.’’’

HUFFINGTON POST: Fair Traders Whipping Opposition to NAFTA Expansion
November 6, 2007
Lots of big news as we approach this week's expected vote on the Peru Free Trade Agreement - the first of the secretly-crafted, lobbyist-written agreements that expands the job-killing, wage-destroying NAFTA trade model into South America. … In a stunning new report on the eve of the congressional vote on the Peru Free Trade Agreement, a Columbia University legal expert shows the pact may weaken the United States' ability to enforce basic labor standards in trade agreements. The report by Columbia Law professor Mark Barenberg finds that the much-touted labor protections in the Peru deal are `even worse than existing law,’ actually undermines the few powers the U.S. does have to enforce better labor standards, and `in no respect do the Agreement's labor provisions mark a significant improvement.’’’

November 5, 2007
``Global financier and philanthropist George Soros joins Patricia Williams, professor of law at Columbia University, and Farnaz Fassihi, senior Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, to discuss what George Orwell would think about the state of political discourse in 2007.’’

AMERICAN LAWYER: Daring and Controversial Legal Structures Help Fortress and Blackstone Avoid Tax and SEC Scrutiny
November 5, 2007
``It was ingenious and audacious, and officials at the Internal Revenue Service were upset. In November 2006 Fortress Investment Group LLC filed its first documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission in advance of going public. … Corporate law expert John Coffee of Columbia Law School isn't as adamant that Blackstone should be regulated: `On pure formalism, I think it is an investment company. [But] I think the SEC could have gone either way.’ Coffee has a much bigger problem with Blackstone's corporate governance, which he calls `pathological.’ In congressional testimony in July, he complained that the company's shareholders are `voiceless, voteless, and stripped of legal remedies.’ Coffee added in an interview: `There's no reason that the decision to use an LP rather than an LLC should make all the corporate governance rules irrelevant.’’’

ST. PETERSBURG TIMES: Biden stretches COPS success
November 5, 2007
``Rudy Giuliani isn't the only presidential candidate taking credit for making New York City safer. A senator from Delaware is, too. And like Giuliani, Sen. Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, often overstates his role in the falling crime rates of the 1990s. … `Nationally, it's hard to imagine how the COPS program would make a difference,’ said Jeffrey Fagan, co-director of the Center for Crime, Community and Law at Columbia Law School in New York. He has studied city and national crime trends for years. `This is akin to a small dose of medicine. Can a small dose cause a big effect? Only if it's a wonder drug.’’’

NEW YORK TIMES: By Opting Out, Rodriguez Really Wants In
November 4, 2007

``To the New York-centric sports fan, the most newsworthy event of the past week was not the Boston Red Sox’ sweep of Colorado in the World Series, but the decision of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez to opt out of his contract to pursue the siren song of free agency. Indeed, the opt-out decision was announced during the final Series game, at virtually the earliest possible moment under the contract. Many believe that Rodriguez really means to leave the Yankees and has no class. From a bargaining perspective, however, the story up to now shows strong evidence of the reverse. Rodriguez wants to stay a Yankee — albeit after proving his open-market value — and has gone out of his way to make it possible for the Yankees to climb down from their posturing and match any offer.’’ … Jeffrey N. Gordon is the Alfred W. Bressler Professor of Law at Columbia University Law School.

NEW YORK TIMES: White House looks at details of closing Guantánamo
November 4, 2007
``Bush administration officials are considering granting Guantanamo detainees substantially greater rights as part of an effort to close the detention center and possibly move much of its population to the United States, according to officials involved in the discussions. … Matthew Waxman, a former detainee-affairs official at the Defense Department who now teaches at Columbia Law School, said the proposal to involve federal judges and detainees' lawyers in hearings on detainees' status had been discussed previously in the administration. But, Waxman said, the proposal now `is gaining currency because you have greater recognition of the strategic costs of maintaining Guantanamo, combined with the legal risks of leaving it to the Supreme Court to decide what legal rights exist at Guantanamo.’’’

This story was picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle.

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November 1 - 3, 2007

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Norman Hsu case on ice amid rumors of a plea deal
November 3, 2007
``Gaunt and glancing nervously at reporters, disgraced Democratic moneyman Norman Hsu appeared in a California court yesterday and agreed to spend another 10 weeks behind bars while his lawyers do `research.’ …
Columbia law Prof. Daniel Richman said California and New York authorities could be in `some sort of negotiation toward a global resolution’ of Hsu's cases. `It might also serve [Hsu's] purposes to stall until the presidential campaign is over,’ Richman said. `It's not because the federal charges will go away, but it might be a more hospitable environment.’’’

CBS NEWS: SEC Investigates Merrill Lynch Deals
November 2, 2007
``The Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly looking into the possibility that Merrill Lynch & Co., the nation's biggest broker, parked billions of its mortgage investments in off-the-books hedge funds, perhaps `to sweep problems under the rug … out of view from investors.’ … `But if the facts are as bad as the Journal has suggested, this could be the same kind of fraud that we saw Enron practicing 5 years ago, when they also parked assets, ironically with Merrill Lynch,’ said professor John Coffee of Columbia Law School.’’

COLUMBIA SPECTATOR: Hellman Discussed at Women in Law Lecture
November 2, 2007
``Professor Alice Kessler-Harris prioritized playwright Lillian Hellman’s role as a liberal advocate over her allegedly mysterious persona as part of a lecture series on women and law Thursday night. … The lecture attracted a mostly older crowd—`old lefties,’ as Professor Carol Sanger put it, as she remembered admiring Hellman when she was young.’’

NEW YORK SUN: Law Firms Racing To Boast Best Pay for Associates
November 2, 2007
``The race is on to see which of the city's top law firms will boast the best-paid associate. … But the $160,000 figure, still less than a year old, may not last for much longer. It has already spread to other cities across the country, causing discontent among associates here who contend with New York's higher cost of living. That parity between associate pay here and elsewhere `can't last long’ a professor at Columbia Law School, John Coffee, said. `It's natural that New York will distance itself from the national salary scale. There will be some jockeying among the firms to see who can lead the race.’ … `Some firms are going to be embarrassed and won't be able to match any new increment,’ Mr. Coffee, who worked at Cravath 30 years ago, said.’’

CNET NEWS: Thanks to BitTorrrent, Net neutrality debate reignites
November 2, 2007
``Net neutrality, as it's often called, is the principle that all content transmitted over a cable or a phone company's network be treated equally and without preference. … Now Net neutrality is back in the political spotlight after a string of potential abuses have come to light. … `The broadband market is really at an inflection point,’ said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia University Law School and a supporter of Net neutrality legislation. `And it's important to establish laws now because it will essentially set the ground rules for how the market will play out in the future.’ … But Wu believes the issue is not really about bandwidth management. It's about who controls the Internet. `The whole Net neutrality issue is really about a power struggle,’ he said. `It all comes down to a scenario where the phone companies and cable operators want to call all the shots about which applications enter the market. And while that may be good for them, I'd argue it's very bad for the country.’’’

This story was picked up by the New York Times.

INFORMATION WEEK: First Lawsuit Over GPL Settled Before It Goes To Court
November 1, 2007
``The Software Freedom Law Center has settled its first U.S. lawsuit to uphold the GPL license without going to court. The target of the suit, Monsoon Multimedia, on Tuesday agreed to appoint an open source compliance officer to monitor its use of GPL code. … Columbia law professor and Software Freedom Law Center founder Eben Moglen filed a case on behalf of BusyBox in U. S. District Court in New York Sept. 19. It was settled out of court on Oct. 30.

BUSINESS WEEK: Prisoners of Debt
November 1, 2007
``In a financial version of Night of the Living Dead, debts forgiven by bankruptcy courts are springing back to life to haunt consumers. … [T]he legal parameters remain murky. … `These laws were not written for the way this industry has been transformed,’ says Ronald J. Mann, a law professor at Columbia University.’’

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