May 2012


Special Note:
The Spring 2012 issue of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review published a book-length monograph on May 14 that details the results of a groundbreaking investigation led by Professor James Liebman and a team of his students.  Since then, the investigation and report have been the subject of hundreds of major international news stories, including editorials and opinion pieces, with numerous stories and segments still in the works. In addition, the Carlos DeLuna story has generated significant buzz over social media—with conversations on Twitter, Facebook, and other popular platforms—that continues on a daily basis.
Highlights of media coverage can be found at the end of this report.
NPR – May 1
Columbia Law professor John Coffee, director of the Center on Corporate Governance, argues that any effort to force the Murdochs to step aside will ebb unless their television holdings — and especially Fox News — come under significant attacks.
"If the hacking investigation were to bring a criminal proceeding in the U.S. based on U.S. hacking or if the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act produces evidence that could support an indictment, then the pressure becomes enormous, because a conviction could place in jeopardy News Corp.'s ability to hold U.S. TV licenses," Coffee wrote in an email. But, he added, it's not yet clear whether either will happen.

By Naureen Shah

“In remarks on Monday, US counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan admitted for the first time that US drones have killed civilians. "It is exceedingly rare, but it has happened," he said. With his sources in the intelligence community, Brennan no doubt has more information about the number and identity of individuals killed than do journalists and lawyers who, in the last year, have documented hundreds of what they call "civilian deaths". But the discrepancy between Brennan's view and theirs is not about the facts; it is about definitions. Brennan would call "terrorists" many of the people whom the journalists and lawyers would say are civilians.”

"It's impossible for shareholders to oust the management of the company," said Columbia University law professor Robert Jackson, who studies corporate governance and ethics.
Jackson said the dual-class stock structure is used in many media companies because they "don't want to face shareholder challenges every time they miss earnings."
MINNPost– May 3
As the military court gears up to try the alleged Al Qaeda terrorist who infamously boasted he planned the 9/11 attacks “from A to Z,” the US may also find itself put on a trial of sorts — in the court of international opinion. “This case will be a big test for the Military Commissions system, because these defendants will attract such wide attention,” Matthew Waxman, a professor at Columbia Law School and former Bush Administration policy adviser on detainee issues, wrote in an email. “This case is challenging for prosecutors for many reasons, but it's also an opportunity to demonstrate the credibility of the system.”

Ed Morrison, a bankruptcy professor at Columbia Law School, likened the memo to "putting employees on life boats."
The Court held that due process guaranteed a competent person the right to refuse medical treatment. In line with this thinking is noted Columbia University Law School conservative constitutional law scholar, Henry Paul Monaghan, who writes: "Sustaining the mandate would not give rise to the justices' of boundless federal authority" in the New Republic.
By Matthew Waxman
In recent months, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has come under attack for its counterterrorism intelligence activities, including its alleged efforts to “map” ethnic communities and its surveillance of religious groups. It is easy to view this controversy in familiar terms of security versus privacy or non-discrimination…The natural and important focus on substantive restrictions on police surveillance and intelligence collection, however, should not obscure the broader structural and institutional issues at stake here.
RABBLE – May 4
Columbia Law School has compiled a list of cases by country concerning the impacts of climate change.
Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia University, is concerned the social network giant's emphasis on user controlled privacy is “like a magician who waves a brightly colored handkerchief in the right hand so that the left hand becomes invisible. From a consumer’s viewpoint, Facebook’s fatal design error isn’t that Johnny can see Billy’s data. It’s that Facebook has uncontrolled access to everybody’s data, regardless of the so-called privacy settings.”
The caseworkers' prosecution is "going to be colored by whatever the outcome is in the trial against the mother and the grandmother," said Jane Spinak a law professor at Columbia University who co-founded the Child Advocacy Clinic there. "But it's a much more difficult case to prove," she said. "Even if they didn't do everything they were supposed to do, it doesn't mean they're responsible for her death."
[article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, and dozens of papers across the country.]
LAW.COM – May 8
A lawsuit filed by a major U.S. pension fund against executives and directors of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. marks the latest chapter in the fallout from the company’s alleged bribery scheme in Mexico.
Given that the shareholders are essentially asking the court to disqualify the board of directors, which in this instance would be replaced by the shareholders, “we are dealing with something a little extraordinary,” says Columbia Law School professor and corporate governance expert John Coffee.

“What makes the claim at least colorable is that Wal-Mart appears to have known about Mexican bribery since at least 2006,” he adds.
MSNBC – May 8
In its latest employment contract with CEO Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake Energy Corp. gave him permission to trade commodities for himself after he already had begun doing so.
"In 2004, they had a contract that was not nearly as long, not nearly as precise," said John Coffee, a contract law professor at Columbia University. "It looks like the board learned something over the years and was increasingly beginning to restrict his activities," Coffee said of McClendon.
An interview with Columbia Law School professor George Bermann about the growth in graduate courses on international arbitration, the demands of his role as chief reporter of the American Law Institute's Restatement, and the "cataclysmic" implications of the Chevron v Ecuador case.

By Naureen Shah  

“Revelations of a foiled airplane bomb this week reinforced the CIA’s old Hollywood image: a slick spy agency adept at thwarting international plots. But the agency is more than this espionage fantasy. It is quietly transforming into a de facto branch of the armed forces — while still operating outside public scrutiny.”

Matthew Waxman, a professor at Columbia Law School and member of the Council of Foreign Relations, explains the legality of the US policy on drone warfare.
"In general, lethal force is legally permissible against enemy fighters in an ongoing war, and such force may be used on the territory of a foreign state, if that state consents, or if it is unwilling, or unable, to take action itself to deal with the threat," said Waxman, who served in the Bush administration.
“Banks that are too big to fail can’t be allowed to lose their shirt,” said Columbia Law School professor John Coffee. “The Volcker rule faces overwhelming opposition in the financial community, but this is sort of a poster boy for just what can go wrong.”
Is Coal Dead?
Are the EPA's pollution regulations reducing the use of coal, or just shifting trade patterns?
“Because the impacts of CO2 emissions are global in nature, it makes no difference from a climate change perspective whether coal mined in Wyoming is consumed in Chicago or Shanghai,” said a July 2011 report by the Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change.
“What is China doing which is really that heinous?” asks Jagdish Bhagwati during this interview that covered topics of international aid and development.
According to analysis by Columbia University law professor Jeffrey Fagan, who will provide expert testimony in the case, even after adjustments are made for other factors – including crime rates and allocations of police resources – race is a primary factor determining NYPD stops.
WNYC – May 19
"You can talk to anyone about an issue and what the right policy should be," said Barbara Schatz, a law professor at Columbia University who specializes in non-profits. "There's no problem with that. What's defined as lobbying is talking to people involved in the legislature about a particular piece of legislation."
“Some of the investigations pursued by the enforcement agencies feeding cases to the White Plains courthouse would not have been pursued with the same intensity by downstate agencies,” said Daniel C. Richman, a law professor at Columbia University.
In response to charges throughout the day that directors “failed” to prevent runaway pay, Robert J. Jackson Jr., associate professor at Columbia Law School, argued that directors are far more vigilant than ever about pay.
CARE2.COM (BLOG) – May 22

Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in prison beginning on May 31 after being found guilty of using a webcame to sply on his Rutger University roommate, Tyler Celementi.  Suzanne B. Goldberg, a law professor at Columbia University, pointed out that the sentence must be the same to what others would get. “Most 20-year-olds who commit serious crimes don’t get community service,” she said in The New York Times. 

Investors want to know about direct donations to candidates and hard-to-track contributions to trade groups. Residents also have been flooding the SEC with comments in support of a petition calling for mandatory reporting. The petition was filed last year by a group of academics led by Lucian Bebchuk of Harvard Law School and Robert Jackson Jr. of Columbia Law School.
John Coffee, professor at Columbia Law School says despite the difficulty of proving illegal or unethical behaviour, US regulators have a lot to work with. "There is something strange and probably inappropriate about allowing selective disclosure in public offerings," Professor Coffey told the BBC this morning.
A decision to permit hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in New York state will trigger a cool response from drillers, the state’s environmental regulator said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a flood of drillers coming into New York,” Joseph Martens, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation said at a conference at Columbia Law School.
(also featured in Bloomberg News)
WITN – May 25
A pair of lawsuits filed in New York and California allege that retail investors were harmed when material information about the company's finances weren't disclosed to them.  "The real issue is how adequate a warning was the May 9 registration statement language," said Merritt B. Fox, a professor at Columbia Law Scho

Two identical bills introduced in the New York senate and assembly, called S6779 and A8688 respectively, would ban anonymous online commenting, according to Time magazine. Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia University Law School, told the Guardian, "There are lots of good reasons to ban anonymous comments, and also a lot of good reasons to have anonymous comments, and the state assembly weighing on the issue is strange and slightly ridiculous, slightly goofy."
Taxing carried interest as regular income might raise about $13.5 billion in revenue over the next 10 years, according to a Treasury Department estimate. As Michael Graetz, a professor of tax law at Columbia Law School, told the Wall Street Journal recently, that's enough to fund the Secret Service, or most of the budget of the Food and Drug Administration. Or, we might add, four years' worth of funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Capitol Hill is eyeing new tax penalties for citizenship "renouncers"
Sens. Charles Schumer and Bob Casey called for strengthening the “exit tax” that renouncers are required to pay on their way out. Michael Graetz, a professor at Columbia Law School and former top Treasury official, hopes the proposal goes nowhere: “This is a good example of bad anecdotes making bad legislation.”
CNN– May 29
A 'bat signal' to defend the open Internet

"This is the first real test of the political strength of the Web, and regardless of how things go, they are no longer a pushover," Tim Wu, from Columbia Law School, told the New York Times during the Web protests in January. "The Web taking a stand against one of the most powerful lobbyers and seeming to get somewhere is definitely a first."
LINEX LEGAL– May 30 (registration required)
Godfrey & Kahn | Columbia Law School Midwest Caravan

On March 11th, 10 Columbia Law School students arrived in Wisconsin for a week-long trip providing pro bono services to several of Wisconsin's Indian nations.
LAWFARE – May 31
In all the last two days’ coverage of the Obama administration’s targeting program…there’s a remarkable lack of discussion of Congress…It’s remarkable for several reasons.
"It is quite difficult to obtain asylum in the U.S.; most applicants are rejected by the Department of Homeland Security," Columbia Law Professor Suzanne Goldberg told EDGE. "An applicant’s chances of obtaining asylum increase if they are represented because advocates and lawyers can help the asylum seeker present their strongest case."
Highlights of Media Coverage of “Los Tocayos Carlos,” a Book-Length Monograph Published in the Spring 2012 Issue of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review

Agence France Presse, Chantal Valery, "Wrong Man was Executed in Texas, Probe Says," May 14 (picked up by dozens of outlets including Yahoo News, Wall Street Journal blog, and Roland Martin Reports blog, as well as international sites in countries including France, Oman, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, India, and Kazakhstan)

Salon, Rania Khalek, “Another Innocent Executed?” May 14 (Featured on the homepage of, which has nearly 1 million page views per day)
Houston Chronicle, Alan Turner, “Texas Executed the Wrong Man, Report Claims,” May 14
Sentencing Law and Policy Blog, "Carlos DeLuna Execution: Texas Pu to Death an Innocent Man," Columbia University Team Says," May 15
USA Today Blog, Melanie Eversley, “New Book Aims to Show Executed Man Was Innocent,” May 15
National Public Radio Blog, Mark Memmott, “Questions About Another Texas Execution: Was Wrong Man Condemned?” May 15 (Picked up in over 30 public broadcasting affiliates, including affiliates in Austin, New York, San Francisco, and Atlanta)
Harper’s Magazine Online, Scott Horton, “Columbia Study Suggests Texas Executed an Innocent Man,” May 16 (Linked to on The Daily Beast: Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish)
Time Magazine, Erica Ho, “Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man?” May 17
Opinion-Editorial   [there have been dozens of opinion pieces and editorials published. Below is a sampling:]
New York Times, EDITORIAL, “A Routine Execution in Texas,” May 15
Los Angeles Times, EDITORIAL, “Yes On the SAFE California Act,” May 21
Dallas Morning News, EDITORIAL, “Carlos DeLuna Death Case is Unnerving,” May 16
Houston Chronicle, Opinion, Governor Mark White, “Texas Must Take Steps to Ensure Guilt in Capital Cases,” May 19
New York Daily News, Opinion, Shawn Crowley and Andrew Markquart, “Texas Killed the Wrong Carlos; A Clear-Cut Case of Wrongful Execution,” May 23
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NOTE TO FACULTY: This report captures mentions of faculty members cited in the media, including newspapers, magazines, TV broadcasts, online outlets, and blogs. However, it is not inclusive of every media mention. If you have an article or op-ed being published, or have an interview or speaking engagement scheduled, please inform the Public Affairs office at This will allow us to better track coverage, stay informed, and promote your work. You can contact the office at 212-854-2650 for help facilitating interviews and coverage.