Print

May

May 24 - 31, 2009

WASHINGTON POST: Friends Provide Glimpse Into Nominee's 'Very Full Life'
May 31, 2009
BYLINE: Keith B. Richburg, Robin Shulman and Nancy Trejos
“Last November, soon after Barack Obama was elected president, a close friend of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's was hospitalized on Long Island because of a series of strokes. … But another portrait emerges as well in their descriptions, one that sets her far apart from the retiring justice she would succeed, David H. Souter. . . . ‘They couldn't be more different,’ said Ellen Chapnick, dean of the social justice program at Columbia Law School and a close Sotomayor friend. ‘Not talking about judicial philosophy -- talking about personality type and how they spend their time: They couldn't be more different.’
If Sotomayor is confirmed and moves to Washington, Chapnick said, ‘She'll probably find parts of the city to enjoy that other people don't even know are there.’ . . . She has been co-teaching a class at Columbia University since 1999, called the Federal Appellate Court Externship. Once a year, she teaches at the University of Puerto Rico, where she and her mother, who was born on the island, travel around visiting relatives. ‘She reads, she dances, she's a normal person,’ Chapnick said. ‘She's a modern woman and leads a very full life.’ ”

REUTERS: Informant's role questioned in U.S. security probes

May 31, 2009
BYLINE: Edith Honan
“The arrests of four men in a suspected plot to bomb two New York synagogues have drawn fire from critics who say U.S. law enforcement relies on informants who infiltrate extremist groups that otherwise would be incapable of mounting an attack. . . . ‘They look like hapless mopes who, but for the government, wouldn't have been involved in anything, let alone a sophisticated plot,’ said Columbia University Law School professor Daniel Richman. ‘The problem the government faces is the concern that a group of hapless mopes, when visited by the foreign terrorist type, will turn into very willing and effective tools.’ ”

CNN: State of the Union: Same-sex marriage debate heats up in New York

May 31, 2009
BYLINE: John King
“As she lobbies members of the New York Senate these days, the politician in Christine Quinn can understand what the gay rights activist in her sometimes cannot. . . . ‘Not tomorrow. Not likely in the coming year unless the courts move dramatically faster than we are used to seeing them move,’ is how Columbia Law School Professor Suzanne Goldberg answers when asked when the issue of same-sex marriage is likely to make the Supreme Court docket. ‘But certainly some time in the next couple of years we're likely to see the Supreme Court issue a position or two on this issue. . . . What I would say is that she is both a wise person and a thoughtful person and being wise and thoughtful are the right ingredients for reaching what to me is the right answer on this issue, which to me is that equality applies to all people.’ ”

AALS NEWS: Transformation and Training in the Law: Serving Clinical Legal Education’s Two Masters

May 2009
BYLINE: Rachel Moran
“My AALS Presidential Address, reported in the previous newsletter, noted that my theme for next year’s convention will be ‘Transformative Law.’ . . . Philip Genty recently has raised what should be a fundamental concern in exporting American approaches: that much of the world uses a civil law rather than a common law system. He argues that clinical legal education is less well adapted to a civilian system, which depends more than ours on doctrinal analysis rather than case law. Genty notes that a civilian system lacks some features that common law lawyers, at least in the U.S., take for granted.”

NEWSWEEK: Caricature Witness

May 30, 2009 (Issue of June 8, 2009)
BYLINE: Ellis Cose
“In introducing Sonia Sotomayor as his first pick for the Supreme Court, Barack Obama served up the requisite lavish praise. . . . Susan Sturm, a Columbia University law professor who worked with Sotomayor on the law journal, sees the attack as an example of a ‘stereotype shaping public discourse.’ In short, a poor Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx must have gotten into those fancy schools because of affirmative action and therefore, despite her enviable achievements, can't really be all that smart. Sturm believes the Senate Judiciary Committee will easily see past the whispers of intellectual inadequacy. . . . Ted Shaw, a Columbia law professor who attended New York's Cardinal Spellman High School with her, says Sotomayor was ‘not a cause person.’ Her only activism, he says, ‘was to excel in everything she did.’ ”

NEW YORK TIMES: A Long Record on Campaign Finance, Often in Support of Regulations
May 29, 2009
BYLINE: Charlie Savage
“In 1996, Judge Sonia Sotomayor delivered a speech comparing campaign contributions to ‘bribes’ and asking whether elected officials could credibly say they were ‘representing only the general public good, when private money plays such a large role’ in helping them win office. . . . ‘Sotomayor’s replacement of Souter won’t change the balance on the court in this area — so it means they won’t become more hostile to regulation as a result of this change,’ said Richard Briffault, an election law specialist at Columbia Law School who has worked on issues related to the Campaign Finance Board. ‘This may be a good example of where this will be pretty close to a one-for-one substitution.’ ”

THE STIMULIST: The duty of a judge is to follow the law
May 29, 2009
BYLINE: Nathaniel Persily
“As the media exhausts the first round of incendiary soundbites culled from Judge Sotomayor’s Internet-available speeches, attention may soon turn to her actual judicial opinions (if we’re so lucky). One of the most revealing is her dissent in Hayden v. Pataki, a 2006 case that challenged New York’s felon disenfranchisement laws. Sotomayor argued that such laws are challengeable under the Voting Rights Act because they constitute voting ‘qualifications’ with a potential discriminatory impact on racial minorities. The case should interest both Sotomayor’s detractors and defenders, especially given the likelihood that the Supreme Court will soon strike down another section of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional.
Nathaniel Persily is the Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law and Political Science at Columbia Law School and coeditor of Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy (Oxford 2008).”

IRISH TIMES: Barrier-free growth zone
May 29, 2009
BYLINE: Karlin Lillington
“TECHNOLOGY AND communications industry innovation tends to happen in “open” environments with few technology or cost barriers, and one in which a certain amount of lawbreaking happens, says Columbia University law professor Tim Wu. . . . Listen to the full interview podcast at: www.techno-culture.com/ podcasts.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Sanford asks to combine lawsuits in federal court
May 29, 2009
“Mark Sanford is betting his long fight against accepting stimulus cash on a federal judge's decisions – and even one of his most outspoken critics agrees on moving the dispute to that courtroom. It's not a surprising move given the mix of federal stimulus law, said Columbia Law School professor Richard Briffault. It gives Sanford the opportunity to emphasize that federal law could intrude on state affairs. And Sanford could feel that he'd make more headway with a federal judge, rather than a Supreme Court elected by the legislature.”

WIRED: How To Solve The US Broadband Quagmire

May 28, 2009
BYLINE: Nicholas Thompson
“Broadband stinks in this country. . . . The third idea, floated by Columbia professor Tim Wu (who also is the chairman of Free Press), is to let customers own their own fiber connections instead of leasing them from the telecom companies. Cities or communities would decide to invest in a fiber network, which some central group would manage and maintain. They would then pay some construction company to get the lines to their neighborhoods. Individuals, subsidized by the government, would then buy their own lines and decide what services they’d want sent over them.”

ECONOMIST: Red tape and scissors
May 28, 2009
“AMERICA is supposed to be the land of laissez-faire, but it doesn’t seem that way to Erroll Tyler. . . . ‘Patent trolls’ pose another problem. . . . Michael Heller, author of ‘The Gridlock Economy’, argues that such vaguely defined and aggressively asserted property rights stifle innovation and cost lives.”

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES: In Business Cases, Portrait Of Sotomayor Begins To Emerge

May 27, 2009
BYLINE: Corey Boles
“A 2001 ruling by U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor kept alive a class action lawsuit against Visa Inc. (V) and Mastercard Inc. (MA), which led to a $3 billion settlement, one of the largest corporate payouts at the time. . . . ‘I think it's fair to say she's seen as a liberal when determining what rules apply to basic class actions,’ said John Coffee, director of the Center on Corporate Governance at Columbia Law School.”


ASSOCIATED PRESS: NY judge rises from projects to the Supreme Court

May 27, 2009
BYLINE: Larry Neumeister
“Sonia Sotomayor's ascent to a U.S. Supreme Court nomination began in a Bronx housing project, fed by Nancy Drew, inspired by Perry Mason and encouraged by her hardworking mother. . . . Ellen Chapnick, the dean for the Social Justice Program at Columbia Law School, said one of Sotomayor's former students at the university ‘called me today in tears and said today is a wonderful, wonderful day.’ She said Sotomayor's touch with common people is demonstrated whenever she walks through the courthouse, connecting with the guards in the lobby or a clerical worker from another chambers with the same interest as with lawyers and judges.”

WNYC RADIO: Brian Lehrer Show: Sotomayor's Legal History

May 27, 2009
BYLINE: Brian Lehrer
“Patricia Williams, professor of law at Columbia University, who writes the Diary of a Mad Law Professor column for The Nation magazine, discusses President Obama's Supreme Court justice pick Sonia Sotomayor's history of legal opinions.”

CNN: American Morning: Sotomayor behind the robe

May 27, 2009
HOST: T.J. Holmes
“Joining us now to talk about the person behind the robe . . . Ellen Chapnick, Dean of the Social Justice Program at Columbia Law School.”

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: Supreme Court Nominee Was on the Side of Minorities in Key Cases
May 27, 2009
BYLINE: Eric Kelderman
“President Obama's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, has a relatively thin record on cases involving higher education. But in two decisions that could have implications for higher education, she has sided with members of minority groups—in one case supporting a government hiring policy that would benefit African-Americans, and in the other supporting an individual student who challenged a grading policy as discriminatory. . . . Susan P. Sturm, professor of law and social responsibility at Columbia University, cautioned against reading too much into any of the three Second Circuit decisions that could affect higher education. She says she has a sense that Ms. Sotomayor is a ‘a very straightforward person.’
‘She calls it as she sees it,’ Ms. Strum said. ‘She's not bending over backward to defer.’
Ms. Sturm, who attended Yale Law School at the same time as Ms. Sotomayor, recalled her as a ‘tough-minded’ student who maintained her humility even as she excelled there.
And Judge Sotomayor, who has been a lecturer at Columbia Law School since 1999, is also a serious instructor who is interested in the growth and development of her students, Ms. Sturm said. ‘She thinks of teaching as a noble enterprise.’ ”

POPULAR SCIENCE: What the Sotomayor Nomination Means for Technology

May 27, 2009
BYLINE: Stuart Fox
“With their shapeless black robes and lined faces, the justices of the Supreme Court do not project a particularly cutting-edge image. . . . We spoke with Jeffrey Neuburger, the co-chair of the Technology, Media, and Communications Practice Group at the law firm Proskauer Rose, and Timothy Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School who specializes in telecommunications and net neutrality law. Both identified the balance between free speech and intellectual property on the Internet as the most pressing science and technology-related issue likely to come before the Supreme Court. According to Wu and Neuburger, these cases will likely deal with the limits of fair use, what constitutes the public domain, and how news content can be aggregated and redistributed.”

GAY CITY NEWS: When a Client's Not Perfect

May 26, 2009
BYLINE: Duncan Osborne
“At first blush, Bruce Wilborn is not the ideal client for a lawyer. . . . What drew the attention of a leading gay rights lawyer and a group of law students at Columbia University was how Wilborn was treated when he applied for parole in 2006. Three parole board members made comments and asked questions that suggested that Wilborn was denied parole because he was gay, he charged in a later lawsuit. ‘The judge did suggest that the kind of behavior the parole board engaged in would constitute discrimination had it gone to trial,’ said Keren Zwick, one of six law students who worked on the case with a private attorney and Suzanne B. Goldberg, director of the university's Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic.”

CNN: Sotomayor 'always willing to speak up' at Yale Law

May 26, 2009
BYLINE: Elizabeth Landau
“In their first year at Yale Law School, many of the students who would graduate in 1979 were nervous about raising their hands. They often felt intimidated by their professors and complained to one another outside of class. . . . Sotomayor demonstrates passions for the law and questions of justice, said Susan Sturm, a Columbia Law School professor and classmate of Sotomayor at Yale. The two women still keep in touch, Sturm said. ‘She's someone who really respects and admires the law as an institution and, within that, the law's capacity to really respond to concerns running the spectrum of people who are currently disadvantaged and those who have responsibilities,’ Sturm said.”

DAILY BEAST: A Persistent Pioneer
May 26, 2009
BYLINE: Patricia J. Williams
"President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor just plain fills me with delight. She’s brilliant, she’s fair, she’s an inspiration on many, many levels. That she is the first Puerto Rican or Latina nominee, appointed by the first Afro-Hawaiian-Kansan-Kenyan-American president, just makes this moment all the more extraordinary in our history. But the trajectory of Judge Sotomayor’s career owes much to the collective efforts of the civil-rights movement, in its most encompassing sense."

WASHINGTON POST: Sotomayor expected to base judgments on reason

May 26, 2009
BYLINE: Keith Richburg
“Sonia Sotomayor's journey to a seat on the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit began in a public housing project in the Bronx in the 1950s, as the neighborhood was changing from majority white to predominantly Puerto Rican. . . . ‘She's really tough to pigeonhole,’ said Susan Sturm, a Columbia Law School professor and a colleague of Sotomayor's from the Yale Law class of 1979. ‘This is something I saw evolving over time.’ Sturm added, ‘She does not have an ideological litmus test for her clerks. They run the gamut.’ ”

THE TAKEAWAY: Sonia Sotomayor: Obama's Supreme Court Pick

May 26, 2009
HOST: John Hockenberry
“Early reports say that President Obama has made his choice for the U.S. Supreme Court. . . . The Takeaway turns to Columbia Law Professor Nate Persily for more.”

BLOOMBERG: U.S. Financial Regulations Need Overhaul, Panel Says

May 26, 2009
BYLINE: Ian Katz
“U.S. financial regulations must be ‘entirely reorganized’ by merging agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, adding to the Federal Reserve’s powers and setting rules for derivatives, an industry group said. . . . The panel ‘wants to remain relevant in a world where they are not,’ Harvey Goldschmid, a former Democratic SEC commissioner, said in an interview. ‘Wiser heads are now at work. One hopes they will come up with the right answers, including preserving and enhancing the SEC.’ ”

SMART MONEY: Sotomayor on Court: The Upshot for Investors

May 26, 2009
BYLINE: Will Swarts
“What would Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor mean for investors if she was to weather the contentious Congressional vetting process and take her place on the bench? . . . Now plunged into the national spotlight, legal experts will be picking over her career record. John Coffee, a professor of securities law at Columbia Law School, says Sotomayor was heavily influenced early on by her time as a prosecutor in Manhattan. She is ‘at least receptive and more favorably disposed to government regulators and their roles as enforcers.’ Coffee points to a case involving the New York Stock Exchange and alleged violations by the seven specialist firms that control its trading. ‘She ruled that the New York Stock Exchange had absolute immunity against certain claims’ by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the nation's largest public pension fund. ‘But it was also a careful, nuanced opinion that upheld the right of the plaintiff to sue for other grounds, and to that extent, you can call it a pro-investor opinion.’ ”

NEW YORK TIMES: When the Justices Ask Questions, Be Prepared to Lose the Case

May 25, 2009
BYLINE: Adam Liptak
“A few years ago, a second-year law student at Georgetown unlocked the secret to predicting which side would win a case in the Supreme Court based on how the argument went. . . . ‘Quite often the judges are debating among themselves and just using the lawyers as a backboard,’ Chief Justice Roberts said at Columbia Law School last year.”

INVESTMENT NEWS: FPA, NAPFA and IAA to fight SEC's pop-quiz proposal

May 24, 2009
BYLINE: Sara Hansard
“The financial advisory industry is bracing for a battle over the Securities and Exchange Commission's efforts to subject thousands of investment advisers to surprise exams by outside auditors. . . . John Coffee, a professor at Columbia University School of Law in New York, agrees. ‘An independent custodian is needed,’ regardless of the size of the advisory firm, he said. ‘If the investment adviser serves as its own watchdog, it's no watchdog.’ ”

 

Back to top

May 17 - 23, 2009

REUTERS: Cayman bankers lobby Washington to redefine image
May 22, 2009
BYLINE: Kim Dixon
"A group from the Cayman Islands lobbied Washington this week to redefine the image of its banks and other financial institutions after President Barack Obama singled out the British territory as a tax haven. . . . 'I'm not terribly sympathetic,' said Alex Raskolnikov, a professor and tax expert at Columbia University Law School. 'Is it true that there are worse offenders? Yes. But it is also probably true that they have been facilitating tax avoidance.' "

NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL: Standing, Delay and Other Issues In Survey of 2008 SEQRA Cases

May 22, 2009
BYLINE: Michael B. Gerrard
"The courts decided 62 cases under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) in 2008. Of the 10 cases in which an environmental impact statement (EIS) had been prepared, plaintiffs won two (20 percent). Of the 35 cases without an EIS, plaintiffs won seven (also 20 percent). The remaining cases could not be classified this way.
This annual survey reviews the decisions.
. . . Michael B. Gerrard is professor of professional practice and director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, and senior counsel to Arnold & Porter."

USA TODAY: Obama Expected To Sign Credit Card Reform Friday
May 22, 2009
"In the most sweeping changes to the credit card industry in 40 years, President Obama is expected to sign a bill Friday to restrict practices that consumers say have pushed them deeper into debt. . . . Overall, the legislation's shortcoming is that it won't help consumers escape from the 'sweat box' of credit card debt, says Ronald Mann, a professor at Columbia Law School, which he says is the 'pattern of relatively low monthly payments that mean the balance never gets completely paid off.' "

NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL: 'Pay-to-Play' Reform: What, How and Why?
May 21, 2009
BYLINE: John C. Coffee Jr.
"Just about everyone wants to crack down on 'pay to play' in the pension field. By this, most mean payments or political contributions by, or on behalf of, placement agents and/or investment advisers to obtain funds from public and union pension funds. Although investment advisers will not typically make under-the-table payments to the pension fund's officers or employees, they may pay magnificent retainers to placement agents (who are usually old time politicos) to do this for them - no questions asked. It reminds old-timers of the 'good old days' of corruption when U.S. defense industry firms paid placement agents to bribe foreign defense officials, because the U.S. companies were 'too ethical' to pay the bribes themselves. Those practices persisted even after the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act because U.S. firms could maintain 'plausible deniability' as to knowledge of their agents' activities in the foreign country. . . . John C. Coffee Jr. is the Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law at Columbia University Law School and director of its Center on Corporate Governance."

NEW YORK TIMES: Room for Debate: Obama’s Blueprint and America’s Enemies
May 21, 2009
"President Obama spoke on Thursday morning about forging a new direction in fighting terrorism, rejecting Bush administration policies. . . . Matthew Waxman, professor at Columbia Law School: 'Few Details About the Trade-Offs'." To jump directly to Matthew Waxman's post: http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/21/obamas-blueprint-and-americas-enemies/#waxman.

DAYTON DAILY NEWS: Huge windfall possible for local law firm in securities fraud case
May 20, 2009
BYLINE: Laura A. Bischoff
"Dayton lawyer Dennis Lieberman is known for his work as a criminal defense attorney and as a local Democratic party leader.

But Lieberman could soon be known as a 'rainmaker' — the guy who makes it rain money in a law firm. . . . Columbia University law professor John Coffee, an expert in securities litigation, said the Bank of America case is a candidate to crack the top 10 list of biggest securities cases — all of which have settled for $1 billion or more and generated millions of dollars in legal fees. 'The class fees go to the class counsel (who represent everyone in the case). In a typical securities class action, you are likely to get a fee award of 25 percent up to $100 million and a declining percentage thereafter,' Coffee said."

WASHINGTON POST: Supreme Court Will Hear Sarbanes-Oxley Challenge
May 19, 2009
BYLINE: David S. Hilzenrath
"The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to consider a challenge to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the centerpiece of the government's response to the watershed accounting scandals at Enron and Worldcom. . . . But if Congress were forced to revisit the legislation, the result could be a legislative free-for-all for interest groups, including those seeking to change other aspects of Sarbanes-Oxley, said Columbia law professor John C. Coffee."

HUNTERDON COUNTY DEMOCRAT: Highlands Groups Appeal Sewer Line: Development In Holland Is Issue
May 19, 2009
"The N.J. Highlands Coalition and the Friends of Holland Highlands filed a Superior Court Appellate Division appeal on Monday seeking to overturn state Department of Environmental Protection approval of an extension of a sewer line to the proposed Huntington Knolls development proposed for 87 acres west of Route 519 and south of the Fox Hill development. . . . The Columbia Law School Environmental Law Clinic signed on to represent the groups."

THE BIG MONEY: 

May 19, 2009
BYLINE: Chris Thompson
"Last month, four men who run the Pirate Bay, perhaps the largest movie-piracy Web site on the planet, were convicted in a Swedish court of promoting copyright infringement and sentenced to a year in prison apiece. . . . Some people, like Columbia law professor Tim Wu, are tempted to think that even though Pirate Bay is still functioning, the conviction proves that as a business model, movie piracy is dead in the water. Last year's box-office figures went through the roof, and when your biggest foe is a motley collection of coders and performance artists, it's hard to imagine that Hollywood is expiring anytime soon. 'There's a difference between a life and death, existential threat and an irritation,' Wu says. 'An elephant might complain a lot about mosquitoes, but is that elephant in any danger of dying?' "

FOX NEWS: Political Battle Over Obama's Supreme Court Pick Hits the Web
May 19, 2009
BYLINE: Stephen Clark
"President Obama has yet to announce his pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, but already a political battle is brewing over the nomination online. . . . 'Most Supreme Court picks tend to generate organized campaigns in favor and against the nominees,' said Nathan [sic] Persily, a professor of law and political science at the Columbia University. 'The fact that interest groups have adopted the newest forms of technology to achieve their ends is unsurprising,' he told FOXNews.com. 'Just as the Obama campaign showed what was achievable electorally through the Internet, so too the interest groups are trying to break new ground by using the Internet in campaigning for and against judicial nominees.' "

MARKETWATCH: Government could force bank CEO heads to roll
May 19, 2009
BYLINE: Ronald D. Orol
"U.S. banking regulators have the authority to oust executives and directors of institutions receiving federal bailout dollars, leaving many analysts and academics to wonder whether government officials will move to shake up the corporate leadership at reeling banks. . . .
Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee agrees that government will use its power over bank resources to extort some concessions. However, he argues that it would be difficult to oust a major bank CEO, in part, because of the potential political fallout. 'By forcing out a CEO, they might pick someone worse, pushing the bank into an even more troubled situation and then hurting the Obama administration even more,' Coffee said. 'The GOP wouldn't mind criticizing Democrats for being too interventionist.' "

FOX BUSINESS NEWS: Report: Madoff Investors Probed by U.S. Prosecutors
May 18, 2009
BYLINE: Dunstan Prial
"Bernard L. Madoff claimed during his March 12 guilty plea allocution that he acted alone in perpetrating likely the largest investment fraud in history. . . . Columbia University law school professor John C. Coffee said prosecutors seeking indictments against potential Madoff co-conspirators need to prove a 'willful' intention to deceive people -- 'willful' being the key element for moving ahead with a criminal case; attorneys in civil cases need only prove gross negligence. Coffee said proof of kickbacks from Madoff would go a long way toward proving not only willful intent, but also explaining why money managers who claimed to be investing clients’ funds themselves 'were dumping their money with Madoff' instead."

NEW YORK TIMES: Room for Debate: Credit Card Wars: A Penalty for Thrift?
May 18, 2009
"Ronald J. Mann, a law professor and author of 'Charging Ahead,' offers his view that recent growth in debit card use could have a bigger effect on the credit card industry than any new legal restrictions."
To jump directly to Ronald Mann's post 'Different Users, Different Revenue Streams': http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/18/credit-card-wars-the-thrift-penalty/#ronald.

BARRON'S: No Pig Heaven
May 18, 2009
BYLINE: Alan Abelson
"WHAT MAKES TRYING TO GUESS HOW THE STOCK market will react to some unexpected piece of news such exciting sport is that the blamed thing more often than not is guided by a rationale all its own to which ordinary beings are not privy. . . . LOUIS LOWENSTEIN died last month. From his post as a professor at Columbia University specializing in business law, Louis kept a skeptical eye cocked on Wall Street and its multiple sins. Unlike most academics who turn their gaze on the investment scene, he had met a payroll and his exceptions to dubious Street practice and corporate shenanigans were grounded in a wonderful mix of pragmatic experience and exquisite intelligence."

INVESTMENT NEWS: Finra walks fiduciary/suitability tightrope
May 17, 2009
BYLINE: Sara Hansard
"Finra chief Richard Ketchum's call for a fiduciary standard for all advisers, even as he indicated that he would not want to significantly alter suitability rules for broker-dealers, highlights the difficulties inherent in harmonizing the two regulatory standards as the strife-torn industry moves towards establishing a single self-regulatory organization for advisers. ... Suitability rules 'are precise and bright-line,' said Columbia University School of Law professor John Coffee. By contrast, fiduciary principles 'are much more aspirational and general.' If brokers assumed fiduciary duties and also had to comply with suitability rules, 'that would be optimal,' Mr. Coffee said."

TIMES: Sub-prime king for ‘boiling in oil’
May 17, 2009
BYLINE: Dominic Rushe
"Angelo Mozilo looks like what he is - a butcher’s boy from the Bronx made very, very good. His dazzling white teeth are set in a perma-tanned face that tops a suit so loud it should come with ear plugs. . . . With the new SEC boss Mary Shapiro desperate to show she has taken the muzzles off her enforcers, legal experts believe the odds are that Mozilo will be charged. 'It’s more than likely that the SEC will press charges,' said John Coffee of Columbia Law School. . . . 'These are somewhat more difficult cases,' said Coffee. 'I think Fuld was overtaken by events. It wasn’t that he was either crooked or that there was insider trading. It was a combination of high leverage, sudden change, financial panic and the markets. I don’t know that we are going to see senior executives at Bear Stearns, Lehman or AIG prosecuted.' He believes, however, that less senior executives may be vulnerable. 'I’m not saying Mozilo is the most culpable but he is the most high profile.' ”

Back to top

May 10 - 16, 2009

NEW YORK TIMES: DealBook: A Hedge Fund Manager’s Farewell
May 15, 2009
BYLINE: Joe Nocera
"Two weeks from now, a seven-year-old hedge fund called Alson Capital Partners will return around $800 million to its investors, and shut its doors for good. ... He was also tired of the ways the business had changed. 'When I first started in 1998, we used to send out quarterly numbers. Now investors want weekly numbers. Professor Louis Lowenstein' — the iconoclastic and recently deceased Columbia University business law professor — 'has a great line in one of his books: "You manage what you measure." ' "

INTERNET NEWS: Envisioning a Re-Regulated Internet
May 15, 2009
BYLINE: Kenneth Corbin
"Internet policy folks who style themselves as progressives have high hopes that the new administration will reverse some of the deregulatory policies that have left the media and telecom industries operate under their own devices. ... 'We are at the end of the era of deregulation,' said Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University and chairman of Free Press. 'The ideas that powered the deregulation movement have essentially run their course.'"

NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL: Commentary: Protect Afghan Women
May 14, 2009
BYLINE: Vivian Berger
"The Afghan Constitution affirms a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In the United States, women and their advocates mount battles for fair treatment on the job. The law generally supports these efforts, although enforcement can be problematic. On the household front, married couples decide for themselves how they wish to order their affairs; the state maintains a hands-off stance. But if, say, a man assaults his wife or tries to imprison her in the home, she can seek legal redress. In Afghanistan, by contrast, women belonging to the Shiite minority (15 percent to 20 percent of a population of 30 million) do not have the 'luxury' of focusing upon respect in the workplace and equitable division of family tasks. On April 15, confronting both vilification and physical attack, about 300 hardy souls marched in the streets of Kabul to protest new impositions on their lives, which range from the dreadful to the merely demeaning. This is Talibanism redux. . . . Vivian Berger is professor emerita at Columbia Law School."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: SEC staff recommends civil fraud charges against Mozilo of Countrywide
May 14, 2009
BYLINE: E. Scott Reckard and William Heisel
"Former Countrywide Financial Corp. boss Angelo R. Mozilo, whose embrace of exotic loans helped fuel the mortgage boom and meltdown, will face Securities and Exchange Commission fraud charges unless his lawyers prevail in an eleventh-hour appeal, people familiar with the SEC's investigation said Wednesday. ... John Coffee, a Columbia University securities law expert, predicted the commission would follow the staff recommendation because Schapiro 'wants to send a strong signal that she stands behind her enforcement staff.' "

SLATE: The Squint Test
May 13, 2009
BYLINE: C. Scott Hemphill and Jeannie Suk
"In time for prom and bridesmaid season, knockoffs of Michelle Obama's Jason Wu inauguration gown will soon hit the stores. ... Currently, both the knockoff and the inspired-by approaches to fashion are entirely legal. U.S. copyright law considers items of apparel 'useful articles,' which are not legally protected the way books, music, and movies are. But all this could change if Diane von Furstenberg and the Council of Fashion Designers of America get their way. ... C. Scott Hemphill, a law professor at Columbia, and Jeannie Suk, a law professor at Harvard, are co-authors of an article out this month in Stanford Law Review, The Law, Culture, and Economics of Fashion."

HUFFINGTON POST: Supreme Court Picks: Readers Speak Up
May 13, 2009
BYLINE: Jason Linkins
"Last week, we asked the HuffPost readership to weigh in on the upcoming vacancy in the Supreme Court of the United States. Specifically, we asked for people to ruminate on this quality of 'empathy,' which President Barack Obama put forth as being a guiding criteria, and to suggest some not-necessarily-on-the-short-list picks of their own. ... Kimberle Crenshaw: Civil Rights law expert, teaches classes at UCLA and Columbia."

STAR-LEDGER: N.J. conservation groups sue DEP for approving housing project in Highlands
May 12, 2009
BYLINE: Brian T. Murray
"New Jersey conservation groups filed a lawsuit today to overturn the state Department of Environmental Protection's approval of a Hunterdon County housing project on the edge of the state's environmentally sensitive and protected Highlands region. ... The lawsuit was filed with an appeals court in Trenton by the Columbia Law School Environmental Law Clinic on behalf of the preservation group known as the New Jersey Highlands Coalition and a local Hunterdon County group called Friends of Holland Highlands."

RH REALITY CHECK: Queer-Baiting: A Homophobic Strategy Whose Day Never Came
May 12, 2009
BYLINE: Katherine Franke, Columbia Law School
"We now know that David Souter plans to step down from the Supreme Court at the end of this term. Nominated by President George H. W. Bush in July of 1990 on the expectation that he would be a dependable conservative vote on the Court, Justice Souter has instead marked his time on the Supreme Court as a reliable member of the Court's left. Not only has his judicial ideology departed from that which was expected of him, but the Court's center has shifted markedly to the right, making his rather moderate views seem "left-ish" in comparison. Rumors of Justice Souter's resignation set off the usual parlor games among bloggers and law professors alike. Rather than weigh in on who I think is likely to replace Justice Souter, a little back story on his nomination in 1990 may put the current nominatory climate into some perspective."


THE TAKEAWAY: State-by-State Trends in Gay Marriage

May 11, 2009
BYLINE: John Hockenberry, Farai Chideya, Chelsea Merz
"Gay marriage has been a longtime wedge issue in the United States, but the pace of change has quickened in the last few months. ... Joining us to talk about this latest round of legislation and to look ahead at whether this momentum could carry across the country is Suzanne Goldberg. She is a professor at Columbia Law School and the director of the Gender and Sexuality Law Program."

POPULAR SCIENCE: The Science of Justice

May 11, 2009
BYLINE: Stuart Fox
"When Supreme Court Justice David Souter announced on May 1st, 2009 that he would retire, the Court lost one its most agile thinkers on the intersection of science, technology and law. ... In light of Souter’s retirement, PopSci.com spoke with Jeffrey Neuburger, Co-Chair of the Technology, Media and Communications Practice Group at the law firm Proskauer Rose, and Timothy Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School who specializes in telecommunications and net neutrality law, about the science and technology bona fides of the candidates most likely to replace Souter on the bench."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The Indian Elections
May 11, 2009
BYLINE: Jagdish Bhagwati
"The Indian elections will likely produce a shift of the kaleidoscope again. No one really knows what the new political outcome will be. Who had predicted, for instance, that the BJP would lose to a Congress Party that had been declared dead as a dodo but which came back from the ashes, true to the Indian belief in rebirth. … Jagdish Bhagwati, world-renowned economist from Columbia University."

INVESTMENT NEWS:SEC set to issue post-Madoff audit rule changes for investment advisers that self-custody
May 10, 2009
BYLINE: Sara Hansard
"The Securities and Exchange Commission will issue a rule proposal as early as this week that would lead to surprise audits of investment advisory firms that held custody of their clients' assets. ... Only about 1,000 advisory firms out of more than 11,000 SEC-registered firms hold custody of their clients' assets, according to John Coffee, a professor at Columbia University School of Law in New York. 'They're all vulnerable' to abuse, he said. While requiring surprise audits by accounting firms regulated by the PCAOB would be an improvement, it would not put an end to fraud entirely, Mr. Coffee said. 'Auditors don't always catch everything,' he said. 'The most obvious reform is to require the investment adviser to use an independent custodian.' "

Back to top

May 1 - 9, 2009

NEW YORK TIMES: City Room: On a Matter of Marriage in New York
May 8, 2009
BYLINE: Sewell Chan
"New York legal experts who support same-sex marriage gathered in a conference room at the New York City Bar on Thursday evening for a panel discussion on the effort to legalize it in the state. ... It was left to the final participant, Katherine M. Franke, a Columbia law professor, to raise questions — supportive, yet skeptical — about the approach used by advocates. 'Is marriage the only vehicle through which comprehensive rights can be made available to a couple?' she asked."

LAW TECHNOLOGY NEWS: Get Your Free Case Law on the Web

May 8, 2009
BYLINE: Robert J. Ambrogi
"Free is good. But free is not necessarily equal. Below are 10 sites that provide free access to case law. ... 5. AltLaw. A joint project of Columbia Law School and the University of Colorado Law School, AltLaw is devoted to making federal case law easier to search and freely accessible to the public. Its library includes only federal cases, and now has all Supreme Court opinions since 1803, all published federal circuit opinions since 1950, and all unpublished federal circuit cases since 1996. The site features a number of sophisticated search options, including Boolean, proximity and wild card searching."

THE ADVOCATE: Marriage: "Too Big to Fail"
May 8, 2009
BYLINE: Julie Bolcer
"A panel of legal experts discussed the recent nationwide progress toward marriage equality on Thursday evening in New York City, where they devoted a portion of their presentation to some of the more provocative marriage-related questions in the LGBT community.  'Is marriage the only vehicle through which comprehensive rights can be made available to same-sex couples?' Columbia Law School professor Katherine Franke asked the crowd gathered at the New York City Bar Association. She suggested that the hyper-focus on marriage casts a “judgmental shadow” on people who choose not to marry, while it risks exerting a 'crowding-out effect' on other important issues."

CCH WALL STREET: Hopes for Regulatory Overhaul Grow Dim

May 8, 2009
BYLINE: Colin Dodds
"The financial services industry is due for a major regulatory overhaul, agreed a panel at this week’s FINRA annual conference in Boston, Mass. But it appears that the political will for such a change may dry up before it can get started, they said. 'Don’t underestimate the status quo,' said John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University, who has testified at a number of Congressional hearings on the ongoing financial crisis."

NEW YORK TIMES: Elite Unit’s Problems Pose Test for Attorney General

May 7, 2009
BYLINE: Charlie Savage
"A week after shutting down the criminal case against former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska because it had been botched by prosecutors, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. delivered a pep talk to Justice Department lawyers. ... 'Holder faces calls for more autonomy and freedom from political influence on one hand — consider the torture memo and the U.S. attorney firings — and demands for more supervision and training on the other — consider the public integrity unit,' said Daniel Richman, a Columbia University law professor and former federal prosecutor."

NEW YORK TIMES: Former Comptroller McCall’s Firm Is Subpoenaed in Pension Inquiry
May 7, 2009
BYLINE: Danny Hakim
"H. Carl McCall, the former state comptroller, said Wednesday that his firm was among a number of businesses that have been subpoenaed by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s office in the latest phase of its sprawling pension fund corruption inquiry. ... Speaking generally, John C. Coffee Jr., a securities law professor at Columbia University, said, 'You could be in violation of the law if you are an unregistered broker/dealer,' but the wording of securities law could allow wiggle room for firms that did only a single deal and did not make referrals a recurring business. 'It probably requires you doing this professionally and recurringly,' he said."

BLOOMBERG: UBS Said to Get Subpoena From Trustee Liquidating Madoff Firm
May 7, 2009
BYLINE: David Glovin, David Voreacos and Christopher Scinta
"UBS AG, the Swiss bank that helped wealthy Americans evade U.S. taxes, was subpoenaed by the bankruptcy trustee liquidating Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, a person familiar with the matter said. ... Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at Columbia University, said Picard may be seeking to identify funds from which he can clawback assets. He said it’s possible that Picard will consult with Florida prosecutors in the UBS case as well as New York prosecutors in the Madoff case. 'At the very least, one would expect coordination,' Richman said in an interview."

INVESTMENT NEWS: Merging of financial regulators not in cards, experts say
May 7, 2009
BYLINE: Sue Asci
"Although regulatory reform will result in more-stringent enforcement in the wake of the financial crisis, the authorities in charge of that enforcement are not likely to change much, according to a panel of experts speaking today at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. at its annual conference in Boston. ... 'Never underestimate the power of the status quo,' said John Coffee, the Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law at Columbia Law School of New York. 'I think what we may see is that they give each of the half dozen existing regulators some systemic-risk authority. I don’t know if we will see one regulator. The political obstacles and frictions are high.' Currently, there is a different regulator for every class of financial institution, he said. 'I don’t think we’ll move far away from that model,' Mr. Coffee said."

THE BUZZ BIN: Net Neutrality Still an Issue
May 7, 2009
HOST: Irena Slutsky
"Anyone involved in the Internet for a long time knows that net neutrality has been a long-term issue. ... She interviewed Dr. Tim Wu 'the guy who even the FCC trusts to help them make fair laws about such things as the AT&T and BellSouth merger.' "

FORBES: A Debtor's Tale

May 6, 2009
BYLINE: Melanie Lindner
"Theodore DelGaizo had a nice little engineering business pulling in $1.5 million in annual revenue. One bad contract almost wrecked it. ... Last year business bankruptcy filings hit 43,500, up 121% from 2006. 'We will likely see more firms filing for Chapter 11, not because they're bad companies but because they can't meet their short-term cash needs,' says Edward Morrison, who teaches small-business law at Columbia Law School."

WASHINGTON POST: Detainee Compromises Likely

May 4, 2009
BYLINE: Peter Finn and Carrie Johnson
"Nearly six years ago, President George W. Bush declared Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri an enemy combatant and had him swept out of federal court and into a U.S. Navy brig so he could be interrogated without the legal protections afforded by the criminal justice system. ... Marri 'is a good example of how the government is going to have to accept some compromise outcomes in tough cases, and we will see this kind of outcome over and over again as they go through the Guantanamo cases,' said Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University law professor and a former Pentagon official in charge of detainee issues during the Bush administration. 'The history and controversy of this case boxed in the current administration and they were probably loath to litigate it, in part not to have to defend past practices but also because of litigation risks, including acquittal.' "

BOARDS AT THEIR BEST: Louis Lowenstein (1925-2009): 'A Stitch in Time...'

May 4, 2009
BYLINE: James Kristie
"Hang around long enough as a publication's editor and one thing that happens, sadly, is you begin to see a steady stream of your past authors move on to the big boardroom beyond. A loss this past month was Louis Lowenstein. ... As this Great Recession grinds on with its profusion of accounting and disclosure atrocities (hello Citigroup and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, et al), Mr. Lowenstein's paean to accounting integrity and full disclosure should be Exhibit A in the reading list for all new board members, especially those assigned to audit committees. From my past interactions with this famed Columbia Law School prof and former president of Supermarkets General Corp., I believe he would approve."

NEW AMERICA MEDIA: A Latina Supreme Court Judge?
May 4, 2009
BYLINE: Gebe Martinez
"It is supremely ironic that on the same day House Republicans released a web video equating Hispanic lawmakers to terrorists, conservatives faced the great possibility of a first-ever Hispanic appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. ... Sotomayor 'happens to be very able. She’s a hard, hard worker,' said Henry Paul Monaghan, a Columbia Law School professor, in the school’s magazine. It was a candid assessment, given his preference for conservatives like U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito."

DOMAIN-B.COM: ONGC Videsh to invest around $1.5 billion in Iraq oil block
May 4, 2009
"ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), plans to invest around $1.5 billion in an Iraq oil block that was awarded to it by the erstwhile Saddam Hussein regime, reports quoting ONGC sources said. ... ONGC as the leading Indian multinational enterprise (MNE), in a list of 24 top Indian corporates, according to a recent survey by the Indian School of Business (Hyderabad) and the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment (VCC) at Columbia University in New York."

NEW YORK TIMES: David H. Souter: Justice Unbound
May 3, 2009
BYLINE: Linda Greenhouse
"David H. Souter had no agenda 19 years ago when he took his seat on the Supreme Court, but he did have a goal: not to become a creature of Washington, a captive of the privileges and power that came with a job he was entitled to hold for the rest of his life. ... Nathaniel Persily, an election law expert at Columbia Law School who was in the courtroom audience, wrote later on an election law listserv that Justice Souter looked 'visibly angry' during the argument. Professor Persily, reflecting the growing expectation that Justice Souter might soon announce his retirement, added: 'I got the sense that he was disappointed that he might be leaving the Court with a dissent in this case as being his parting gesture.' "

NEW YORK MAGAZINE: A Torturous Decision
May 3, 2009
BYLINE: Jeffrey Rosen
"While repeatedly stressing that he wants to look forward, President Obama two weeks ago left the door ajar for looking back. ... 'You could peddle the theory that Cheney knew he was on shaky constitutional ground and found lawyers he knew to be outlandish,' says Daniel Richman of Columbia Law School. 'But whatever people say about Cheney, few people think he didn’t believe in his own arguments.' "

NEW SCIENTIST: Unknown internet 5: Is there only one internet?
May 3, 2009
BYLINE: Ben Crystall
"Probably - for now. The internet is a disparate mix of interconnected computers, many of them on large networks run by universities, businesses and so on. What unites this network of networks are the communication languages known as the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol, collectively TCP/IP. ... 'The language changes will accelerate national fragmentation of the internet,' warns Tim Wu, professor of technology and law at Columbia University in New York. He predicts this will lead us down a road towards a divided internet: one part controlled by the US, one by China, and another by Russia."

HUFFINGTON POST: Dictatorial Powers Unchallenged As US "Enemy Combatant" Pleads Guilty
May 1, 2009
BYLINE: Andy Worthington
"For five years and eight months, the Bush administration held Qatari national and legal U.S. resident Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri without charge or trial as an 'enemy combatant' in the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina. ... This, I think, is undoubtedly true, although Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University law professor who was also the Bush administration's deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs in 2004-05, nailed another uncomfortable truth when he told the Times, 'The Obama administration inherited a tough dilemma: On the one hand, it wants to distance itself from controversial Bush administration positions. But on the other hand it wants to preserve options and executive powers. Given the history of this case, the administration didn't want to litigate it, and courts will be happy to be rid of it.' "

HUFFINGTON POST: Souter Replacements: Obama's Five Likely Picks
May 1, 2009
BYLINE: Sam Stein
"News of Justice David Souter's plan to retire at the end of the Supreme Court's current term immediately set off one of Washington D.C.'s most cherished parlor games: speculating who will take his place. ... In a recent Columbia Law School Magazine, Professor Jamal Greene and legal affairs reporter Joseph Goldstein had the following exchange about her prospects."

THE HILL: Court opening presents choice for Obama
May 1, 2009
BYLINE: Reid Wilson
"Supreme Court Justice David Souter's impending retirement gives President Obama an opportunity to put an early stamp on how he will approach judicial nominations. ... Given that Souter’s retirement comes so early in his term, Obama can feel reasonably assured this will not be his last appointment. That might be an argument for selecting a centrist with the first pick, said Nathaniel Persily, a Columbia Law School professor and Supreme Court watcher. 'He's going to have more than one Supreme Court pick, so in terms of whether he's going to pick a true liberal or not, he may want to bide his time,' Persily said."

WNYC RADIO: Analysis Suggests Racial Profiling in NYPD Stop and Frisk
May 1, 2009
BYLINE: Bob Hennelly
"A new analysis of NYPD stop-and-frisk data is prompting critics to raise new questions about the tactic's effectiveness. ... Columbia University Law Professor Jeffrey Fagan did his analysis for the City Council, and he based it on the NYPD's 1.7 million stop and frisks from 2004 to 2007. Fagan says 90 percent of those stopped were people of color. Only about 10 percent produced an arrest or summons. He says the NYPD's own data show that officers were much more likely to draw their weapon on black pedestrians."

Back to top