February 1-15


John C. Coffee Jr., a Columbia Law School professor, said the charges differ from the civil lawsuits in which banks are accused of lying about the risks of mortgage-backed securities sold to investors. “Credit Suisse could say they were the victims of this crime,” Coffee said. “That’s fairly unusual.”
Columbia Law School professor John Coffee thinks the litigation costs to result from the decision have been overblown. “Some have said this will open the flood gates,” Coffee said. “I think that’s exaggerated. There probably will be a successful effort made by financial institutions to put arbitration clauses in agreements with customers.”
MINTPRESS – February 2
“Obama has effectively told the CIA ‘you’re in charge and if you want to go after them we will,’” Scott Horton, a prominent human rights attorney and professor at Columbia Law School, tells MintPress. “There’s also been a lack of independent discretion by the Justice Department; there was much more under Bush than there is under Obama.”
PR NEWSWIRE – February 3
"It will be a difficult precedent to contain if the SEC permits this." –John Coffee, Columbia Law School professor
“She does come out of the current administration, and she's overseeing them," said Richard Briffault, a law professor at Columbia University. "You want someone who's willing to go wherever the trail takes her.”
Matthew Waxman, a professor at Columbia University who used to be in charge of detainee affairs in the Bush administration, says the world is watching how these military commission trials play out. "The Obama administration wants to show that the new and improved military commissions are a fair, legitimate and effective option," he says.
"The issues surrounding frequent-flier miles are a perfect example of how complex the income-tax law can be concerning everyday transactions for virtually every American," says Michael Graetz, a professor at Columbia University Law School and a former top Treasury official.
IT WORLD (blog) – February 5
A few days ago I wrote a post asking whether Facebook was actively helping law enforcement track down bad guys using facial recognition technology. (The answer: Not really.) I had to publish it before I got a response from Eben Moglen, the Columbia law professor and privacy advocate who inspired the post in the first place by telling New York Observer reporter Adrianne Jeffries that Facebook’s PhotoDNA technology was used “to find people for whom any law enforcement agency in the world is looking.”
BLOOMBERG – February 6
Most states don’t have the resources to go it alone and fight the banks in court, said James Tierney, director of Columbia Law School’s National State Attorneys General Program. States such as California that may reject the agreement must decide whether the time and money needed to fight for a better deal is worth it, given that the settlement provides immediate relief for homeowners, he said.
Marketplace from American Public Media interviews James Tierney, the former attorney general for the state of Maine who now runs the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia University, about state foreclosure settlements.
THE GUARDIAN – February 6
But James Tierney, director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School said the settlement was "a very big deal" and would fundamentally change the accountability of banks.
Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, has been advising island nations on their legal quest: Can one country take another country to court over polluting it out of existence? He answered our questions about rising seas, shrinking islands and the law.
THE NATION – February 6
By Patricia Williams
“We see what we want to see,” my grandmother used to say. This insight visited me recently after I ran across the mall chasing a woman I thought was my cousin. It wasn’t, as it turned out, but I didn’t realize that until after I had puffed up behind her, bopped her amiably on the shoulder and cried out, “Boo!”
"I don't hold that there is no decision to be made," said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School and the author of "The Master Switch" and "Who Controls the Internet."
POLITICO – February 7
“Shareholders are clamoring for this information,” said Robert Jackson, an associate professor at Columbia Law School and one of 10 corporate governance experts petitioning the Securities and Exchange Commission to require companies to report all political spending to investors. “They want to make sure companies are spending that money in a way that is consistent with shareholder interests.”
While the superPAC about-face opens the president up to accusations of hypocrisy, it's more likely to hurt him with Democrats than Republicans, says Nathaniel Persily, a Columbia University professor who specializes in election law.
"These cases do get settled, even though they may be without real merit," says John Coffee, a securities-law professor at Columbia University. "Companies would rather settle than fight, particularly when they are under a time constraint to get their merger closed."
Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia law professor and former federal prosecutor, said that in such high-profile cases, “judges are generally aware that there is a public interest that might be different from that of the parties in moving cases forward.”
NEWSDAY – February 8
John Coffee, a securities law expert and professor who teaches at Columbia University School of Law, said the Supreme Court seems unlikely to grant the Wilpons a full hearing. The net equity issue isn't a constitutional issue, said Coffee. He explained that the Supreme Court only takes nonconstitutional issues if they are part of an emergency situation or involve disagreements among a number of federal appeals courts. Neither situation exists with the net equity issue, Coffee said.
THE AMERICAN INTEREST (blog) – February 8
By Jagdish Bhagwati
President Barack Obama infamously killed the multilateral Doha Round last December by instructing his representative at the World Trade Organisation to be a “rejectionist” negotiator. He compounded the folly by instead floating the trans-Pacific Trade Initiative that is conceived in a spirit of confronting China rather than promoting trade, and is also a cynical surrender to self-seeking Washington lobbies that would have made John Kenneth Galbraith blush. Not content with these body blows to the world trading system, which his predecessors had built up over decades of US leadership, Mr Obama pulled off the remarkable feat of making things yet worse with his State of the Union address.
THE HUFFINGTON POST (blog) – February 8
By Katherine Franke
Rainbow flags and corsages were waving high in front of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village last night. There's much to celebrate about the 9th Circuit's ruling issued yesterday confirming the lower court finding that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. As I noted yesterday and Nan Hunter pointed out as well in her reading of the opinion, the reasoning used by the court minimizes the likelihood that the Supreme Court will take it up on appeal.
Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University and a member the advisory committee, said the idea is to have a court determination compelling developed nations to control emissions of the greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming in the absence of an international treaty.
The Supreme Court’s recent actions “have indicated that Section 5 is living on borrowed time,” Columbia University law professor Nathaniel Persily told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights last week. “Assuming the personnel on the court remains constant, the question is not whether the court will declare Section 5 unconstitutional, but when and how.”
By Katherine Franke and Elizabeth Sepper
“Should Catholic and Other Religious Institutions Have to Cover Birth Control?” The better way to frame the question is: Should employers with a corporate relationship to organized religion be permitted to avoid constitutionally protected health measures that every other employer must follow? Of course not.


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested Friday that her predecessors on the high court mistimed the milestone 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.
"It's not that the judgment was wrong, but it moved too far too fast," Ginsburg told a symposium at Columbia Law School marking the 40th anniversary of her joining the faculty as its first tenure-track female professor.
Democrats said that the map -- prepared by Columbia University Professor Nathaniel Persily and which slightly altered their original proposal to the former bipartisan Reapportionment Commission -- is a fair breakdown of the state's five congressional districts.
THE STREET – February 10
Columbia University Securities law Professor John Coffee agrees that it is unusual for the SEC to have so direct an effect on the share price of a major company. "The SEC actions against Enron and WorldCom may have had that effect; I cannot remember precisely, but you are correct that it is rare," he wrote via email.
Columbia Law School professor Suzanne Goldberg has also been a part of the legal opposition to Prop 8. In October 2010, Goldberg—who is the director of Columbia’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law—filed an amicus brief in appeals court on behalf of the center, arguing against Prop 8. Any person or organization can file an amicus brief to provide information that might assist the court in reaching a decision. The appeals court’s ruling adopted some of the arguments presented in Columbia’s amicus brief, Goldberg said, adding that many organizations filed briefs.
SALON – February 13
Last Friday, some of the most distinguished scholars and litigants working on gender and the law gathered to honor a foremother and inspiration, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as Columbia University Law School marked the 40th anniversary of Ginsburg becoming the first tenured female professor there.
THE GUARDIAN – February 13
Professor John Coffee, a specialist in white-collar crime at Columbia law school in New York, said that executives were at risk of prosecution in cases where they failed to ask relevant questions about a suspicious persistent pattern of payments. He gave the metaphorical example of a driver used by a Mexican drugs cartel to transport cocaine across the border who was aware that the vehicle contained a secret storage panel but made no attempt to find out what packages had been placed inside.
TIME – February 13
But it remains unclear what legal framework will be used to get investors to write down the value of these mortgages. According to Merritt Fox, a securities law professor at Columbia University, the securitization agreements made over the past several years make it hard to modify loans and, “from a legal point of view I don’t see how any deal the attorneys general and the federal government enter into with the banks could alter that.”
Richard Briffault, a campaign finance expert and professor of law at Columbia University, said super PACs are going to home in on close races where “they think their money could make a difference.”
“Sometimes it’s a good thing; people might become more attentive—something real is happening, something exciting,” he said.
SLATE (blog) – February 14
By Tim Wu
In the 1950s, entrepreneurs started selling people with bad TV reception a wired connection to a large, community antenna. That was the start of cable television, now the dominant way of selling television to Americans.
THE STREET – February 14
Critics of the Commission, such as Columbia University securities law professor John Coffee, have argued it has been too willing to settle lawsuits it has brought. Instead, Coffee contends showing it has the resolve to try and win a cases would force defendants to accept tougher settlements.
On a cold Friday evening in February two years ago, with a historic blizzard bearing down on the Eastern Seaboard, a small crowd of people bundled into a New York University lecture hall to hear a talk that would become something of a legend, a shot heard 'round the Internet.
The speaker of the evening was Eben Moglen, a professor at Columbia Law School and the founder of the Software Freedom Law Center. A stocky man with a white beard, glasses, and a high, nasal voice, Moglen spoke casually and rocked back and forth on his heels as he turned to make eye contact with his audience.
THE NEW YORK TIMES – February 14
Edgardo Buscaglia, a senior scholar in law and economics at Columbia Law School and longtime researcher of organized crime in Mexico and elsewhere, said, “The capture of Chapo would represent huge political capital” both for Mr. Calderón, whose party is trailing in presidential polls, and for the Obama administration, anxious to show results of the increasing United States involvement in Mexico’s drug war.
“It’s not clear that it has a uniform partisan effect,” Nathaniel Persily, a law professor and political scientist at Columbia, said of those findings. But he added that “it is now pretty clear that Democrats want to enact measures that make voter registration easier, and Republicans fear that would be an invitation to fraud.”
FOX BUSINESS – February 15
Columbia law school professor John Coffee said that the SEC may be simply showing “an excessive level of suspiciousness.”
“I think Rosenfeld is saying that we are nervous about what companies are telling analysts when analysts make calls directly to the company after earnings calls,” Coffee said. “But it’s unrealistic to say that stuff is surprising because of the obvious need to get more information and clarification.”
LAW360 – February 15
In testimony before the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, Columbia Law School professor Robert J. Jackson Jr. said rules put forward by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and other banking regulators do not force banks to provide enough information about the compensation for lower-level executives that could bring down a major financial institution.
By Katherine Franke
Thirty years ago, Columbia’s new president Michael Sovern decided that the time had come to admit women into the undergraduate program. Columbia was quite the latecomer to change its male-only identity—our peer schools survived the decision to become coeducational more than 10 years earlier.
THE NATION – February 15 (print – March 5-12)
By Patricia Williams
Michigan is a model of fiscal recuperation. At least that’s what the headlines said as I stepped off a plane in Detroit recently: its spending was slashed so ruthlessly in the past few years that the New York Times quoted a former state budget director as moaning, “We were so far down that the floor looked like up to us.” But now there is a budget surplus projected for 2013, of anywhere from half a billion to a billion dollars, with yet sunnier fiscal predictions ahead.
THE NEW YORK TIMES – February 15
On Tuesday afternoon, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke in Washington about the Internet and human liberty, a Columbia law professor in Manhattan, Eben Moglen, was putting together a shopping list to rebuild the Internet — this time, without governments and big companies able to watch every twitch of our fingers.


Back to top

February 16 - 29

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Friday in the trial of Dharun Ravi. The former Rutgers University student is charged with using a webcam to spy on his roommate Tyler Clementi, who later committed suicide. Ravi faces 15 counts. The most serious charge, bias intimidation, is a hate crime, which carries a possible sentence of 10 years in prison. Suzanne Goldberg directs the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University. She says this is a complex case that will be watched closely.
SUZANNE GOLDBERG: It seems clear that Ravi would not have done what he did had Tyler Clementi not been gay. On the other hand, college students do many stupid things, and not all of them are hate crimes.
HOUSINGWIRE – February 17
Columbia Law School Professor Robert Jackson told the Senate committee that they shouldn't expect these new rules to change bonus practices at the largest banks. The rule, he said, constricts lending to top executives but not to those who caused the systemic damage in 2007.
SLATE – February 17
Slate’s “Explainer” checks with Professor Briffault on whether—and when—to donate to a candidate or to a Super PAC.
By Patricia Williams
I teach a Justice and Bioethics class that, over the years, has attracted not only law students, but students from a grand variety of disciplines including medicine, engineering, biology, anthropology and journalism. At the beginning of every semester I do a silly little exercise as a way of putting on the table all the romantic images they might be harboring: I ask them to draw a cartoon depicting the DNA in their own bodies. Very few draw molecular topology. Indeed, no matter how sophisticated their backgrounds in biochemistry or genetics, whatever they draw is almost always relentlessly pre-modern: little men scurrying about with messenger bags; "a womb inside each cell"; mini-drones circulating just beneath the skin; "a golden fully-formed-but-microscopic Me, floating in the thorax"; a Harvard beanie; Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man; a "biological Torah in the Ark of the body."


If you’re looking for a strong, new American Jewish leader to defend Israel and US Jewry, Richard B. Stone may be the man. When it’s necessary, he knows how to pack a punch. Stone looks like a law professor from the film The Paper Chase, and speaks like one too. Actually, he is a professor of law at Columbia University, where he has held the Wilbur Friedman Chair in Tax Law since 1991.
FORBES – February 18
Eben Moglen of the Columbia Law School has long been a proponent of opening the airwaves to this new style of broadcasting. I gave him a call the other day to get his take on the latest FCC spectrum sale and he instantly supplied the historical parallels above. As well as a typically Moglenian blast of criticism, visionary thinking and downright implausible ideas (such as shutting down the FCC as a violation of the First Amendment).
On the other hand, says Michael Graetz, a former top Treasury official now teaching at Columbia University's Law School, the election results could mean that "for 'millionaires and billionaires' with more than $250,000 of income, there may be a substantial tax increase."
ASSOCIATED PRESS (via ABC News) – February 21
Tax-increment financing districts "are a very popular economic tool. In effect, they are a way of raising money without raising taxes," said Richard Briffault, a Columbia University law professor who has written about the growth of TIFs. "They are widespread, but there's also pushback out there."
CITY&STATE – February 21
“Most discussions of Indian Point are strongly in one direction or the other,” said Michael Gerrard, an environmental law professor at Columbia University who will moderate a panel about the plant next month. “There’s a lot of polarization on the issue.”
FOX BUSINESS – February 21
“Will the hedge fund business survive this? Yes I think so,” said Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee. “But it will likely cripple the hedge fund whose name is associated with any insider trading charges.”
JEZEBEL – February 21
According to some, though, an even bigger problem is the second injustice Quinones says she faced: fake drug charges. Her complaint cites four other lawsuits where plaintiffs say they were arrested because they happened to be near someone else who had drugs. And Jeffrey Fagan, a professor at Columbia Law School, told me that an even bigger problem than illegal strip searches was "false arrests that expose innocent defendants to unregulated punishment."
REUTERS – February 21
Columbia University law professor Ted Shaw, who previously worked at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said the court decision was "potentially troubling news for colleges, universities and those who support efforts to diversity institutions of higher education."
TAX NOTES TODAY – Feburary 21
Besides working for the IRS, the usual way for researchers to examine IRS microdata is to pair up with a government counterpart, according to Alex Raskolnikov, a professor at Columbia Law School. Having an intermediary gives researchers the ability to use microdata, but is also limiting in that the researchers cannot actually view that data.
Columbia Law School professor Theodore Shaw, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, served as lead counsel in the coalition that defended affirmative action in 2003.
“This is a case that I think I would prefer not to see before the court,” Shaw said. “I am concerned because this is a different Supreme Court—it is an even more conservative court, and the Grutter court was a conservative court.”
Professor Graetz asks audience, why shouldn’t we impose tax on things we want less of?
REUTERS – February 22
"It would be exceedingly rare for anyone who was just a customer to be roped into a federal prostitution prosecution," said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who is a professor Columbia Law School in New York.
John Coffee, a Columbia University law professor, said the decision on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law was not surprising. “The Rico count was overreaching by the trustee from the start,” he said.
THE NEW YORK TIMES – February 22
By Patricia Williams
Does anyone really believe that we have “moved past race” considering that American schools are more segregated along the black-white divide than when Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954? Yes, there are new categories of the historically disenfranchised, like Hispanics and Native Americans — who ought to be more visibly integrated in the quest for “diversity.” But the recognition that we need to expand the number of groups who ought to be on the playing field — or ought to have been included long ago — does not mean that underlying impediments to full citizenship have been resolved.
By Tim Wu
It begins with a political leader or a businessman who hits on a powerful new idea, one that puts him miles ahead of everyone else. It could be a new innovation, like the financial derivative, or a new way of doing business, like Microsoft selling software. It could be something destructive, like Hitler's blitzkrieg, which ran over France in two months. No matter the specifics, it leaves everyone else flat-footed and looking foolish.
Many of the participants expected to see harsh conditions, but the physical reality deeply disturbed the members of the group. "All of us were deeply, deeply moved and devastated by what we saw," said Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia Law School and a delegate on the trip.
BUSINESSWEEK – February 24
Corporate-governance experts say that requiring a majority vote gives shareholders more influence over board composition. More than 80 percent of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index already have majority-voting measures, said Robert J. Jackson Jr., an associate professor at Columbia Law School.
NPR – February 24
"No doubt this is a very special case," said Matthew Waxman, who was a senior policy adviser on detainee affairs in the Bush administration and is now a professor at Columbia Law School. "And the administration will go to great pains to say this is not an expansion. However, having worked in this area for a while, I've come to learn that there will always be other special cases."
TIMES UNION – February 24
By Richard Briffault
The redistricting plans for the state Legislature designed by its own leaders set a new low in the sordid history of gerrymandering in New York. Cobbled together behind closed doors in total secrecy, the district lines would fragment neighborhoods and sprawl across counties and cities, in disregard of local concerns and communities. To entrench themselves in office, the majority party in each chamber created these districts to avoid competition and force incumbents of the minority party to run against each other.


THE NEW YORKER – February 27
Watch a conversation about Internet piracy and free speech, featuring Lori Andrews (“I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did”), Pablo Chavez (Public Policy Director, Google), Clay Shirky (“Cognitive Surplus”), and Tim Wu (“The Master Switch”), and moderated by the New Yorker senior editor Nicholas Thompson.
An EPA loss on any part of the cases could be a problem for the agency because the partisan split in Congress means it is difficult to pass technical fixes to the law, said Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School.
“I think what we’ve seen in the current redistricting process, if you can call it a process, is the Legislature having hit bottom,” Richard Briffault, the vice dean of Columbia Law School, said during a conference call on Tuesday, one day after a federal court became involved in redrawing New York’s Congressional lines because state legislators failed to do so. “I don’t think they’ve ever done such a bad job. It’s not just the lousy lines that were published — they actually haven’t done the job.”
THE NEW YORK TIMES – February 28
In federal court in Brooklyn on Monday, a panel of judges began to take control of the Congressional portion of the redistricting process. They instructed a magistrate, Roanne L. Mann, to prepare a map, and set a March 12 deadline for her to furnish a proposal for the judges’ consideration. The judges said Judge Mann would function like a special master, and they enlisted Nathaniel Persily, a redistricting expert who is a professor at Columbia Law School, to assist her. The judges said they would be prepared to impose a new Congressional map by March 20, when the petitioning process for prospective Congressional candidates is scheduled to begin.
FOX BUSINESS – February 29
Columbia Law School professor John Coffee says that in obtaining a court order to wire tap telephone conversations, prosecutors “must show there are no other alternatives” to obtaining information and “there is probable cause” involving potential illegal activity.
This week, a panel of federal judges took control and told Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann and Prof. Nathaniel Persily to come up with their own lines within two weeks.
Mr. Persily specializes in drawing lines for states that can't decide for themselves. He teaches a class on it at Columbia Law School, called "Redistricting and Gerrymandering." He recently did the job for Connecticut. But things were simpler there—he only had to balance out the five existing districts so their population was closer to equal. In New York, he must turn 29 districts into 27 since the state didn't gain residents as fast as others in the past decade.


Back to top