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John Goldberg

  • Opinion: The most disturbing aspect of Vanessa Bryant’s case

    September 15, 2022

    CNNAn op-ed co-written by John C.P. Goldberg: Vanessa Bryant’s recent verdict against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and Fire Departments represents a federal…

  • Tragedy on Trial: Everything You Need to Know About Astroworld Lawsuits

    November 12, 2021

    Victims from Friday’s deadly disaster at Astroworld are now headed to court in droves, but what exactly will their attorneys need to prove in order to win their claims against Travis Scott, Live Nation and others? We asked top legal experts. ... That punk-rock persona was a big part of Scott's personal brand, but according to John Goldberg, a deputy dean at Harvard Law School who has written treatises on tort law, well-documented troubles with crowd control will help victims show that Live Nation and other organizers should have seen Friday coming. "If Astroworld was on notice that Scott's concerts tend to be more chaotic than other performers’ concerts," says Goldberg, "it would be required by negligence law to take the extra degree of danger or risk into account in deciding what sort of security measures to put into place."

  • Outrage Defense Stretches Texas Abortion Law Into New Territory

    November 10, 2021

    Even the staunchest conservative on the Supreme Court was taken aback when the Texas solicitor general said outraged feelings would be suitable grounds to sue doctors and others who violate the state’s ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. ... Lawsuits brought under Texas’s abortion law, really have nothing to do with tort law, said John Goldberg, a Harvard law professor and expert in tort law and theory. “Getting an abortion that’s legal under Roe v. Wade is not, in the eyes of the law, mistreating a third person who is upset by the fact that you’re getting an abortion,” he said. So why did the Texas solicitor general make the comparison? Goldberg said Stone was trying to use tort of outrage as an analogy to convince the Supreme Court that it can’t block these lawsuits because they are being brought by private individuals, who are suing on their own behalf, not by people who are acting in concert with the state. Stone didn’t respond to requests for comment.

  • Abortion Access Hurts Pro-Lifers’ Feelings, Texas Attorney Argues to Supreme Court

    November 8, 2021

    ... Over three hours, lawyers representing abortion providers, the state of Texas, and the federal government volleyed with the nine justices over Texas’ Senate Bill 8, a law that effectively bans abortion after six weeks, before many people even know they are pregnant, with no exception for rape or incest. ...The “tort of outrage” is a real legal concept. In most states it’s known as “the intentional infliction of extreme emotional distress.” But legal experts familiar with the statute are skeptical of Stone’s argument. To satisfy the law, John Goldberg, a Harvard Law School professor and expert in tort law and theory, says that the behavior in question has to be not only both “extreme and outrageous,” but specifically “intended to cause severe emotional distress.” And, Goldberg adds, ”the intended victim” — the person suing under Texas’ law, in this scenario — “actually has to experience the severe distress.” There are two big problems with Stone’s logic, Goldberg explains. First, the Texas law is very clear that it doesn’t require an injury — anyone can sue under S.B. 8. But, he adds, if someone did sue for “outrage,” they would still have to prove that the person seeking the abortion caused them emotional distress “intentionally and through extreme and outrageous conduct.”

  • “Defund the police” made headlines. What does it look like now?

    March 12, 2021

    "Defund the police" became a rallying cry during Black Lives Matter protestsacross the U.S. and around the world in the summer of 2020, following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others at the hands of police. But in the months since, how has the debate developed, and what does it mean for American communities? ... At its most basic, "defund the police" means reallocating money from policing to other agencies funded by local municipalities. Advocates are split on the question of how far it should go: whether to reduce funding and reform some aspects of policing, or completely abolish police forces as we know them...Many reform advocates argue police departments are overburdened, and that other agencies would be better equipped to deal with civil matters like mental health and homelessness. "I think at the core of the defunding movement is the idea that we want to take money out of city and local budgets that has traditionally been devoted to paying for police services, and to redirect it [to] better housing for low-income people, better schools, better mental health treatments," Harvard Law professor John Goldberg told CBSN Originals.

  • Dominion and Smartmatic have serious shot at victory in election disinformation suits, experts say

    February 25, 2021

    Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic USA have a good shot at winning their billion-dollar defamation suits against a host of conservative personalities and, in the case of Smartmatic, Fox News, but they still have a lot to prove in court, experts say. Each of the two election technology firms has sued several boosters of former President Donald Trump, saying that they worked to spread conspiracy theories about each company’s products in order to cast doubt on President Joe Biden’s electoral victory...The lawsuits against Giuliani and Powell are likely to be more straightforward than the case against Fox News and its hosts, according to Harvard Law School professor John Goldberg, an expert on defamation. “I think with respect to Giuliani and Powell, there is pretty good evidence that will allow a jury to find actual malice by those defendants,” Goldberg said. “For example, Dominion has pointed out in its complaint that Giuliani, in his public statements out of court, was routinely talking about fraud, but every time he was in court and was under oath, so to speak, he said, ‘No, we are not alleging fraud, Your Honor.’” “They have a shot against Fox News and the Fox personalities, but it’s a little harder,” Goldberg said.

  • Rudolph Giuliani pointing to a U.S.map highlighting states that could help win the 2020 election

    Disinformation on trial

    February 17, 2021

    Tort law expert and Harvard Law Professor John C.P. Goldberg explains what election technology companies Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems must do to prove their claims of defamation against former former Trump allies, how likely they are to succeed, and whether these types of lawsuits might have an impact in the fight against disinformation.

  • No Special Duty

    October 5, 2020

    What are the police for? Producer B.A. Parker started wondering this back in June, as Black Lives Matter protests and calls to “defund the police” ramped up. The question led her to a wild story of a stabbing on a New York City subway train, and the realization that, according to the law, the police don’t always have to protect us. Producer Sarah Qari joins Parker to dig into the legal background, which takes her all the way up to the Supreme Court... and then all the way back down to on-duty officers themselves. Featuring Harvard Law professor John Goldberg.

  • How to reform police liability without involving McConnell or Trump

    August 17, 2020

    An article by I. Bennett Capers, John C.P. Goldberg and Benjamin C. Zipursky: Police officers enjoy almost complete immunity from civil suits in federal court. They can shoot someone, taser someone, choke someone, or press their knee into someone’s neck until they can’t breathe. They can brutalize peaceful protesters. And yet, in large part because of the court-made rule of qualified immunity, officers rarely face liability. The calls for ending qualified immunity have not gone unheard. The House of Representatives passed a bill that would eliminate it and enable victims to obtain remedies for violations of their civil rights. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Senate have balked at this change, as has President Trump. Likewise, the Supreme Court recently declined to revisit the subject. The good news is that changing federal law is not the only way to erase the grave accountability deficit for unlawful police violence. There’s an alternative hiding in plain sight: state law. While no state can change federal law, each state has the authority to change its own rules. State tort law has long empowered individuals who have been choked, shot or maimed to sue the person who victimized them. And, while the states have their own sorry track record when it comes to police accountability, it is the prerogative of state lawmakers — not the federal government — to change rules of state law that stand in the way of imposing legal responsibility for police violence. There are already some hints of progress at the state level.

  • João Marinotti ’20

    João Marinotti ’20 wants to know how the world works

    May 27, 2020

    “I’ve always had a passion for engaging in my curiosity,” says João Marinotti ‘20, a linguist turned lawyer whose work focuses on sustainability, business, property, and private law.

  • Businesses Seek Sweeping Shield From Pandemic Liability Before They Reopen

    April 29, 2020

    Business lobbyists and executives are pushing the Trump administration and Congress to shield American companies from a wide range of potential lawsuits related to reopening the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, opening a new legal and political fight over how the nation deals with the fallout from Covid-19. Government officials are beginning the slow process of lifting restrictions on economic activity in states and local areas across the country. But lobbyists say retailers, manufacturers, eateries and other businesses will struggle to start back up if lawmakers do not place temporary limits on legal liability in areas including worker privacy, employment discrimination and product manufacturing...In theory, Congress could set uniform federal standards and take away the right to file lawsuits in state courts, said John Goldberg, a Harvard law professor who specializes in torts, or the law of civil wrongs and injuries. The Constitution gives Congress the right to regulate interstate commerce, and restarting a national economy wrecked by a national pandemic would probably qualify. “Saying we’re doing this to restart a national economy that has basically collapsed — it would be pretty hard to say that isn’t directly related to interstate commerce,” he said. But what Congress could do and what it is politically likely to do are two different things.

  • Ending Virus Shutdowns Too Soon Poses Legal Risk for Businesses

    April 20, 2020

    Whenever U.S. stores, restaurants and theaters reopen from coronavirus shutdowns, they may face an unexpected problem: lawsuits from sick patrons and workers. Business owners hit hard by Covid-19 are eager to get back to work as the outbreak shows signs of slowing and the Trump administration pushes for a quick restart of the nation’s economy. But with no vaccine for the easily transmitted virus, companies opening too soon could be blamed if more people get sick...A wave of personal-injury cases could bankrupt businesses, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is recommending government protections. And though it may be difficult to prove that any one company was responsible for spreading Covid-19, legal experts say a surge in such claims could strain the court system...For those that reopen before eradication, there is an increased risk that customers will claim they got sick and suffered due to the company’s negligence, said John Goldberg, a professor at Harvard Law School and an expert in tort law. Plaintiffs must show, among other things, that the business breached a duty of care owed to the customers and that its actions caused them harm, Goldberg said.

  • Illustration

    Getting the Law of Wrongs Right

    April 7, 2020

    In “Recognizing Wrongs,” Goldberg and his co-author argue that much of the criticism of tort law comes from failing to appreciate its character and purposes.

  • Illustration of two rows of three people in suits, one person in the middle of the second row with a bowtie

    Faculty Books in Brief: Winter 2020

    January 7, 2020

    From conformity and the power of social influences to felony and the guilty mind in Medieval England

  • On the Bookshelf: HLS Library Book Talks, Spring 2018 2

    On the Bookshelf: HLS Authors

    December 11, 2019

    This fall, the Harvard Law School Library hosted a series of book talks by Harvard Law School authors on topics ranging from forgiveness in law, transparency in health and fidelity in constitutional practice.

  • JET-Powered Learning

    August 21, 2019

    1L January Experiential Term courses focus on skills-building, collaboration and self-reflection

  • Linda Fairstein, Once Cheered, Faces Storm After ‘When They See Us’ A Netflix series about the Central Park jogger case has led to intense criticism of the famous prosecutor-turned-novelist who oversaw the investigation.

    June 11, 2019

    For much of her life, Linda Fairstein was widely viewed as a law enforcement hero. As one of the first leaders of the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crimes unit, later the inspiration for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” she became one of the best known prosecutors in the country. She went on to a successful career as a crime novelist and celebrity former prosecutor, appearing on high-profile panels and boards. But since last Friday and the premiere of “When They See Us,” Ava DuVernay’s Netflix series about the Central Park jogger case, Ms. Fairstein has become synonymous with something else: The story of how the justice system wrongly sent five black and Latino teenagers to prison for a horrific rape...In a statement, a lawyer for Ms. Fairstein, Andrew T. Miltenberg, accused Netflix and Ms. DuVernay of “misrepresenting the facts in an inflammatory and inaccurate manner” and threatened to take legal action. (John C.P. Goldberg, a Harvard law professor and expert on defamation law, said that Ms. Fairstein’s position as a public figure would make it difficult for her to win a defamation suit.)

  • Robert Sitkoff

    Sitkoff, HLS authors contribute to the study of fiduciary law

    April 29, 2019

    Harvard Law School Professor Robert H. Sitkoff has co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Fiduciary Law, a handbook, slated for release today, that features important contributions from Sitkoff and from several other HLS scholars to the growing field of fiduciary law throughout its 48 chapters.