May 29-June 11

A new report by the Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic says that Australia, Canada, Israel and Britain all ended their bans on gays in the military without any disruption or harm to unit cohesion. The director of the clinic, law professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, said in a letter to The New York Times that cohesion and morale improved with the ending of discrimination.
"This time it sounds like intelligence officials have higher confidence that he's actually been killed," says Matthew Waxman, a law professor at Columbia University and a former Pentagon and National Security Council official. "One thing we've seen since 9/11 is al-Qaida decentralizing even further into a looser structure of franchise operations all over the world, and that makes it very difficult to assess the impact of a strike like this.”
In the last few months, conservative AGs have become some of the nation's most prominent opponents of federal power in general and the Obama administration specifically. "There is a sense now among conservative attorneys general that this position could be used creatively and aggressively to pursue conservative ends," says James Tierney, a former Maine AG who directs Columbia Law School's National State Attorneys General Program. "States and their lawyers have long been suspicious of federal power," Tierney says. "That's why we have federalism. It would be unnatural for states not to protect themselves within the federal system."
Some economists question whether the benefits of trade in goods and services apply to trade in finance at all. Jagdish Bhagwati of Columbia University wrote a famous article on these lines in the wake of the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. In this he decried what he called the “Wall Street-Treasury complex”.
“We need the rating agencies, but with fundamental structural reform that changes the current ‘issuer-pays’ model. If we abolish credit rating agencies, and ask each investor to do it himself, and try to evaluate the credit worthiness of complex and opaque instruments like CDO’s, that’s a little like ‘do-it-yourself’ brain surgery—it’s not going to work,” said John Coffee, a professor of corporate and securities law at Columbia Law School. Coffee and Martin Fridson, of BNP Paribas Asset Mgmt., discussed the credibility of credit ratings and their impact on the financial crisis.
Criminal cases brought against several former Madoff employees have already eroded the notion, lodged so powerfully in the public imagination, that Madoff worked alone, said Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School and a former prosecutor. With each additional case, he said, it may well crumble further. “I imagine the paradigmatic Ponzi scheme with the evil genius who keeps all the secrets to himself and engineers this massive crime, like most stick figures, will probably not hold true,” he said.
"I expect there to be continuing legal scrutiny and criticism of drone strikes, especially from abroad, but I don't expect the Obama administration to change course in a major way," said Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University law professor and former Bush administration official who considers the use of drones to be legal.
"I expect there to be continuing legal scrutiny and criticism of drone strikes, especially from abroad, but I don't expect the Obama administration to change course in a major way," said Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University law professor and former Bush administration official who considers the use of drones to be legal.
A new U.N. report questioned that legal logic. Others have raised questions, too.
"The next step in that argument — and where it becomes most controversial — is not only are we in a war with al-Qaida, but this is a war that extends geographically across territorial bounds," said Matthew Waxman, a professor at Columbia Law School and former Pentagon official.
“Eliot Spitzer, whether you like him or not, was a heck of a lawyer. His whole lifetime perspective was one of lawyering,” said James Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine who is now director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School. “Andrew Cuomo is more like Jerry Brown in California, who kind of guided the policies, but wasn’t in there writing briefs.”
All told, is the Internet "a tool for political liberation or for political oppression"? Last month, The Atlantic's James Fallows hosted a panel discussion on this question for the New America Foundation, and has now posted video of the event. Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Alec Ross of the State Department, and Timothy Wu from Columbia Law School debate the subject. 
Is the G20 efficient or has it grown too big to get anything done? The Agenda welcomes American economist and Columbia University professor Jagdish Bhagwati to discuss the G20.
TMC NET—June 7
Susan Crawford argued in a NYT Op-Ed  that the FCC “can regain its authority to pursue both network neutrality and widespread access to broadband by formally relabeling Internet access services as “telecommunications services,” rather than “information services,” as they are called now.”   However, Tim Wu and Susan Crawford subsequently proposed in a recent letter that the FCC reclassify “the transmission portion of high-speed Internet access” and “simply state that transport services should be subject to non-discrimination and interconnection requirements.” 
The Supreme Court's decision could have wide implications for a long list of high-profile cases prosecuted under the "honest services" law. "Within the federal criminal law community, it's being watched intensely," said Daniel C. Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School. "There is a whole number of other statutory vehicles for going after corruption," Richman said. "This one is easier to use than many others just because it relaxes the need to prove in detail precisely what the harm was to the employer or to the state, and it doesn't require that you actually prove precisely what was bought and sold when an office was bought and sold."
"They always have to take kind of a calculated risk about what's going to happen," said Columbia University law professor Richard Briffault. "If they only did the things that were absolutely guaranteed, it would be a more conservative budgeting process. But it would also cause some pain."
Columbia Law School Professor Richard Briffault told The Post, “There would be to be an explicit tie, a quid pro quo, between a candidate’s dropping out of the race and getting a government post or benefit. A looser or more general statement probably wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the standards of a criminal law.”
Jeff Gordon, a law professor at Columbia University, said the issue of salaries seemed likely more a sign that the Obama administration was pressuring BP politically. It could be trying to send a message that if BP picks up the tab for out-of-work oil employees during the moratorium, the government will take that cooperation into consideration when it considers any criminal indictments or other action. "There's a signaling game going on," Mr. Gordon said. "I could imagine that creative interpretation in federal court in Louisiana," which has been hardest hit by the spill, said John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University. "The likely step is judicial relief that would preserve the status quo and even that requires a court to accept a novel and somewhat creative interpretation of the law," he said.
Tim Wu: The interesting thing is that the term “Internet sovereignty” originally had a meaning opposite to what the Chinese define it as. In the mid-nineties, some American academics proposed that, since it has its own rules, and its own citizens (of a sort), the Internet ought be considered “sovereign” in a way.


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June 11-18

John C. Coffee Jr., a law professor at Columbia University, said courts have broad authority to issue injunctions. He also said the Justice Department or even state attorneys general could try to argue that the dividend would represent a "fraudulent conveyance" to keep money from flowing to claimants, though the burden of proof would be high.
Jeffrey Fagan: Rather than establishing a firm principle of discounted culpability that would cabin harsh sentencing for all minors, Graham instead offers eligible juvenile offenders a "meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation." The "means and mechanisms for compliance" are left up to the states.
Jamal Greene: One of the overlooked themes to have emerged on the Roberts Court is an apparent hostility toward the basic rights of individuals to pursue their claims in federal court. The recent decision to shut the front entrance to the Supreme Court building is a powerful metaphor for the current Court's increasing refusal to let litigants — especially plaintiffs — have their day in court.
ZDNET—June 16
But trustworthy open source advocates, like Eben Moglen of the Software Freedom Law Center, were adamant. “For its own business reasons, Oracle will heavily invest in MySQL’s future,” he wrote.
Under South Carolina law convicted felons can’t vote — at least not until after they’ve served their sentence and any probationary period and paid any restitution required, said Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire. “He’s not going to win, so don’t worry,” said Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Columbia Law School in New York and an expert on federal elections law.
John C. Coffee Jr., a professor at Columbia Law School who has known Mr. Feinberg for years, said persuasion was Mr. Feinberg’s real specialty. “Feinberg can get both sides to realize that it’s better to settle and be unhappy than to go to trial and face disaster,” he said. “And that’s the most important skill of all.”
Mr. Shahzad could also have waived his right to be indicted and allowed prosecutors to proceed against him through a document known as a criminal information, which is often used when a defendant is cooperating and intends to plead guilty. The fact that that did not happen, said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia law professor and a former federal prosecutor, “certainly suggests that there hasn’t been a full meeting of the minds as to the disposition of this case.”
NY1—June 17
“The issue of Council integrity is too important to be left to the rules of the current speaker or even to internal Council rules. The charter should be amended to address the problem of member items to specifically require disclosure between the relationships between members, their staff, and people associated with them,” said Columbia Law School Professor Richard Briffault.
“The issue of council integrity is too important to be left to the current rules or the current speaker,” said Columbia Law Professor Richard Briffault — one of the expert panelists last night. Briffault urged the commission to consider more in depth disclosure of the member items, including all of the connections elected officials have with recipients’ staff.
The credit rating agencies are "essentially liability proof and it's not because they're infallible," said Columbia Law School professor John Coffee, who helped craft the liability standard for the Senate bill, the version that was eventually chosen this week by the conference committee. The goal of the new standard is to "make litigation a credible deterrent" by creating an incentive for the firms to step up due diligence measures, said Mr. Coffee.

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June 18-25

With the help of Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, an Uzbekistan man was granted asylum for fear of persecution because of his sexual orientation if forced to return to his country. The grant, issued by the US Department of Homeland Security, comes at a time when gay people in Uzbekistan face serious threats, both from police and the surrounding community.
John Coffee, a corporate governance expert with Columbia University’s law school in New York, said a deal that goes to shareholders without a board recommendation, or without a third-party fairness opinion, should usually be marked with warning signals.
“You know that something is being repressed when they won’t give you a fairness opinion, because it takes a lot of adverse evidence to keep investment bankers from giving a fairness opinion,” Prof. Coffee said in an interview.
We asked Carol Sanger, a professor who specializes in family law, gender, and how laws relate to our culture at Columbia Law School to explain what this bill means for married ladies. Sanger: The new law changes divorce in New York by allowing couples to get divorced without one person having to prove that the other one is "at fault" for the breakdown of their marriage.
Others say the chance of the court actually striking down the entire Sarbanes-Oxley Act is slim to none, especially since the Roberts court has already "shown a preference for narrow, incremental rulings."  Gillian Metzger, who teaches constitutional law at Columbia Law School, told the Journal of Accountancy that Sarbanes-Oxley doesn't need a severability clause for the court to decide parts of the law can stand on their own.
NPR (All Things Considered)—June 24
"There's still a willingness on the part of several of the justices to accommodate arguments that disclosure will lead to serious harassment," said Columbia Law School professor Richard Briffault. "There's just some disagreement over how much proof you need to have and how early in the process that proof can be put forward."
NPR (All Things Considered)—June 24
John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School, who specializes in white-collar crime, notes the decision will have a particularly dramatic impact in public corruption cases, where state and local officials will find themselves immune from federal prosecution for a wide variety of misdeeds that do not involve kickbacks or bribery.
Prosecutors have used the honest-services fraud statute "when all else fails . . . whenever they encounter something that looks sleazy, corrupt, unethical and other statutes don't clearly apply," said John C. Coffee Jr., a professor at Columbia Law School. For example, a charge of securities fraud would fail if the conduct at issue did not have enough of an impact on shareholders to be considered material, he said.
In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that the concept went beyond existing law. So the following year, Congress explicitly included the honest-services provision in the federal mail fraud statute. Over time, prosecutors began applying it to a wider range of cases, such as undisclosed conflicts of interest, in which there need not be proof of any illicit monetary gain. It was used "for any kind of corporate skullduggery," according to Columbia University law professor John Coffee.
"An undisclosed conflict of interest would not be good enough anymore," said Columbia University Law Professor John Coffee.

The purpose of the Senate bill was to give credit-rating companies an incentive to conduct “adequate due diligence,” without subjecting them to lawsuits that could “easily bankrupt” them, John Coffee, a securities law professor at Columbia University in New York, wrote in a June 16 paper.

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June 25-July 2

“The bottom line is this legislation makes things better,” says Harvey Goldschmid, a former commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “It also puts an awful lot of the burden on regulators. I hope they’re up to the task.”
Theodore M. Shaw, a Columbia Law School professor who specializes in civil rights, said the city would have to show that its new procedures were sufficient. “My starting place is not to say the city could never eliminate boxes,” Mr. Shaw said. “My starting place is to ask whether the new system has been tested and works at least as well for handicapped people, if not better, than what it will replace.”
NY1—June 27
Under threat of losing federal funding, Harvard abandoned the policy on military recruiters. Today, Kagan strongly disputes she's anti-military. "I don't get the sense that this is going to stick a lot, although I think that Republicans are certainly going to use it," says Jamal Greene of Columbia University Law School.
THE H—June 28
Eben Moglen, Chairman of the SFLC, said "The confusion and uncertainty behind today’s ruling guarantees that the issues involved in Bilski v. Kappos will have to return to the Supreme Court after much money has been wasted and much innovation obstructed."
KCBS RADIO (San Francisco)—June 28
"A public university or in this case a public law schoolcan require all recognized student organizations to admit all students," said Columbia Law School Professor Suzanne Goldberg, who co-directs Columbia's Center for Gender & Sexuality Law.
CNET—June 28
"The landscape of patent law has been a cluttered, dangerous mess for almost two decades," Eben Moglen, chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center, said in a statement. "The confusion and uncertainty behind today's ruling guarantees that the issues involved in Bilski v. Kappos will have to return to the Supreme Court after much money has been wasted and much innovation obstructed."
Eben Moglen, chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center, a group that provides law services to developers of free, open-source software, also characterized the Supreme Court's decision as a vote for the status quo, though he's not enthusiastic about the ruling. "The Supreme Court has launched us into the same miasma of uncertainty that we were in," he said in a phone interview. "This absurdly over-broad granting of monopolies on ideas is an acute difficulty in the world of information technology."
EWEEK—June 29
Supreme Court Renders Narrow Decision in Patent Case
The Court also rejected the idea that business processes and methods aren’t patentable, according to Professor Harold Edgar at Columbia University School of Law. “Justice Kennedy talked about the need for a high bar for patents on business systems,” in his opinion on the case, he said. Professor Edgar said that the Court’s decision was really quite narrow.
John Coffee, business law professor at Columbia Law School, said the ruling was a victory for the PCAOB and Sarbanes-Oxley. "The PCAOB can go on merrily ... in effect the plaintiff won the battle but lost the war," he told the Financial Times.
John Coffee, professor of law at Columbia Law School, said: “The likelihood is that US investors who bought BP on a foreign exchange will be unable to sue in a US court.”
AOL NEWS—June 30
AOL News spoke to Jane Spinak, a law professor and the co-founder of the Child Advocacy Clinic at Columbia University, to learn about what may be in store for the children of the accused agents. Where are Katie and Lisa likely to be right now?
“They're likely to be living in a foster family. I don't know if New Jersey is concerned somehow about their safety in a way that would suggest that they're having them in a more secure setting, but I would find that very unusual.”
Abbe R. Gluck, a Columbia law professor who was deputy special counsel to the 2005 charter commission, said Mr. Goldstein’s commission had prompted some cynicism by moving swiftly on so many issues. “One challenge for the commission is to convince the public that they’ve actually deliberated enough and received sufficient public input,” Ms. Gluck said. “Why are we rushing?” she added. “These are huge issues.”
Even though they are behind bars, the parents will retain full custodial rights to their children, and will therefore be able to made decisions about their care, said Jane Spinak, a professor of law at Columbia University School of Law in New York. The two girls are with child protective services while authorities reportedly vet the guardians their parents have designated for them. Those children will undoubtedly have a hard time handling this trauma. "Even if the child ultimately ends up being able to go home to the parent or relative of close friend, it's still traumatic to see this happen to the parents," Spinak told "Good Morning America."
There are plenty of legal scholars who disagree, however. Gillian E. Metzger, a Columbia Law School professor who joined with several other academics to file a friend of the court brief supporting the Obama administration's motion to dismiss the Virginia case, said those who choose not to buy insurance aren't sitting out the health care market. "These suits shouldn't succeed under existing doctrine -- they're really political suits," she said. "The decision to forego health insurance is not inaction. It's a decision to spend your money on health care in a different ways."

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