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Media Mentions

  • Cruel summer

    September 12, 2014

    As President Obama made his case for deepening U.S. military involvement in Syria and Iraq and the country prepared to mark the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, scholars from Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and Harvard Law School (HLS) came together to explore the circumstances surrounding the recent upheavals in the Middle East and the complex forces driving the many strategic challenges to peace. In a Tuesday panel moderated by HLS Professor Noah Feldman, Nicholas Burns, Michael Ignatieff, and Meghan O’Sullivan assessed the global threat now posed by the Sunni jihadist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

  • A Harvard Professor Learns a Little Money Isn’t Enough to Beat Big Money

    September 12, 2014

    Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig just learned a lesson: It takes more than some money to win an election. It takes a lot of money. Earlier this year, Lessig announced the creation of MayDay, a super PAC that would take advantage of newly loosened campaign finance laws to spend lots of money supporting candidates who commit to tightening those same campaign finance laws. The big bet was New Hampshire, where MayDay spent $1.6 million supporting long-shot candidate Jim Rubens in the state’s Republican Senate primary. That’s nearly six times the $270,000 that Rubens’s own campaign spent through Sept. 10 and more than any other outside group spent on the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But it was far less than Scott Brown, a former U.S. senator, had at his disposal, and only a fraction of the total that a coalition of other outside groups poured into the race, including Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, and the liberal Senate Majority PAC.

  • Record Response Urges SEC To Require Disclosure Of Corporate Political Spending

    September 11, 2014

    More than a million comments have been filed with federal regulators urging the government to begin requiring publicly traded corporations to report on their political spending....“The overwhelming support from public comments the petition has attracted, and the strength of the arguments for transparency put forward in the petition, provide a strong case for SEC initiation of a rulemaking process,” Lucian Bebchuk, director of the corporate governance program at Harvard Law School and one of a group of academics who, in 2011, submitted the original petition on the issue, said at a press conference here last week. “Furthermore, opponents of the petition have failed in their comments to provide any good basis for avoiding such a process.”

  • Blindfolds Off: Judges on How They Decide

    September 11, 2014

    For the past 29 years, Joel Cohen has been an accomplished litigator at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan in New York City. He is also the author of a regular column in the Law Journal. And he has somehow found time to write four works of fiction, three of which tackle religious subjects. Blindfolds Off is his first non-fiction work, and it sets out to "examine what goes on in a judge's mind that may not be reflected in the record."...Cohen's technique is the probing interview. Thirteen federal judges, all but two of whom are still sitting, agreed to be interviewed about a significant case over which they presided...Judge Nancy Gertner talks about awarding Peter Limone and others $100 million in their wrongful conviction lawsuit arising out of the FBI's insidious relationship with Whitey Bulger.

  • Apple Pay Could Make You Poorer

    September 11, 2014

    An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. The new Apple payment system has extraordinary promise. With Apple Pay, you might not need a wallet, and you can leave your credit and debit cards at home. In terms of ease and convenience, payment cards represented a big leap from the era of cash. Apple hopes its system will be a comparable leap from the era of cards. Skeptics have focused on questions of security and privacy, but prospective users might want to pause over a different problem: When payment becomes easier, and when people don’t see the money they’re handing over, they tend to spend a lot more. And as payment becomes more automatic, people become less sensitive to what they’re losing. Apple Pay users might find that their thinner phones are making their bank accounts thinner as well.

  • A circle completed

    September 11, 2014

    Aldel Brown grew up just a 20-minute drive from Harvard’s campus, but attending the University seemed like distant possibility. Yet this year Brown — who regularly describes himself as “just a kid from Boston” — has arrived as a member of the Harvard Law School (HLS) Class of 2017. “As far back as second grade, I’ve wanted to go to law school, and attending HLS is a dream,” he said. “I always felt that there were wrongs in the world, and I wanted to help solve those problems. So I was always thinking about the law. It was something I always wanted to pursue.” While Brown’s future lies in a courtroom, his past is rooted in two other courts: basketball and tennis. From a young age, he played both sports in neighborhoods all over Boston. Taking tennis lesson in the summers and after school, and playing basketball after tennis lessons, Brown’s prowess in both games flourished. Tennis taught him self-reliance and focus, while basketball emphasized the importance of teamwork and collaboration.

  • Obama’s Breathtaking Expansion of a President’s Power To Make War

    September 11, 2014

    An op-ed by Jack Goldsmith. Future historians will ask why George W. Bush sought and received express congressional authorization for his wars (against al Qaeda and Iraq) and his successor did not. They will puzzle over how Barack Obama the prudent war-powers constitutionalist transformed into a matchless war-powers unilateralist. And they will wonder why he claimed to “welcome congressional support” for his new military initiative against the Islamic State but did not insist on it in order to ensure clear political and legal legitimacy for the tough battle that promised to consume his last two years in office and define his presidency.

  • Defending scarce leg space in flight: A right or grounds to sue?

    September 10, 2014

    Bringing something onto a plane that blocks others from reclining their seats is legal. But should it be?...John Goldberg, Harvard Law School professor and an expert on torts, says that someone prevented from reclining might be able to make the unlikely argument that they were held against their will. “The cute way to do it would be to argue this is almost false imprisonment,” Goldberg says. Granted, it would be a stretch, since you can still get up and go to the bathroom and walk around. Someone using Knee Defender might even have a better chance of winning in court than the recliner does. Goldberg says, “If the person could actually show—and it’s a big if—that the reclining passenger acted carelessly with respect to their physical well-being, then they’d have a case. But it’s a tough showing.”

  • Twenty-three from HLS receive Public Service Venture Fund grants

    September 10, 2014

    Twenty-three public service visionaries and social entrepreneurs from Harvard Law School have been selected as recipients of grants from the Public Service Venture Fund, a unique program that awards up to $1 million each year to help graduating Harvard Law students and recent graduates obtain their ideal jobs in public service.

  • With Apple Pay, the tech leader takes its shot at replacing the wallet

    September 10, 2014

    Apple, which built its iconic brand by making cool, shiny electronics, on Tuesday entered the daunting world of consumer finance with a new mobile payment system built to resist the relentless attacks of cybercriminals who have ravaged the nation’s retail industry...“It won’t be too long before we look back on this era and think it’s nuts,” said Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain. He and other technology experts noted that Apple has a history of solving business riddles that have eluded others, as it did with the iPod, which thrived not only because of its stylish hardware but also because big record companies agreed to distribute their music through Apple’s iTunes store.

  • Cracked Granite

    September 9, 2014

    In little New Hampshire’s big money U.S. Senate primary, Republican Jim Rubens should be an afterthought at best. This former New Hampshire state senator, after all, hasn’t occupied elected office since the late 1990s. He then lost a bid for governor, and failed to win back his old state Senate seat in 2000. But when a quixotic, out-of-state super PAC with a million-plus dollars to burn suddenly backs you, the atmospherics change...“This is exactly why we’re in there—to effect change and change how he’s doing,” said Larry Lessig, the Harvard Law School professor who founded Mayday PAC: “We’re optimistic we’re going to be effective.”

  • Constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe takes on Cape Wind

    September 9, 2014

    After losing in U.S. district court in May, opponents of the Cape Wind energy project in Nantucket have taken their case to the U.S. District Court of Appeal and added a new voice to their legal team. Laurence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, who also works with Washington D.C. law firm Massey & Gail LLP, is representing the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound...In his appellate court brief, Tribe argues that the judge’s ruling was “gravely flawed.” In an email exchange with reporter >Mary Moore, Tribe explains why.

  • Americans’ Costly Failure to Refinance

    September 9, 2014

    An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. Suppose you learned that during the recent recession the national government adopted a policy that cost American homeowners $5.4 billion. Or that the nation’s banks adopted a policy that had exactly the same effect. You’d probably be outraged. Fortunately, that didn’t quite happen, but something similar did. Whether or not it’s outrageous, we should do something about it. For many people, buying a home is the most important financial decision they ever make. Interest rates rise and fall, and when they fall, many homeowners have an opportunity to refinance and to save a lot of money. From 2010 to 2012, rates dropped significantly. In late 2012, they reached an all-time low, falling well below 4 percent. Someone whose original loan came with a rate of 6.5 percent could, by refinancing, save more than $100,000 over the life of the loan. The standard economic assumption is that homeowners consider such benefits and make rational decisions about whether and when to refinance. But behavioral economists suspect this isn't what really happens -- that lots of people fail to refinance even when they stand to save many thousands of dollars.

  • Scott Brown Threatens Lawsuit Over Being Called a ‘Washington Lobbyist’

    September 9, 2014

    The campaign for New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown threatened to sue Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig Sunday over a mailer calling Brown a “former Washington lobbyist.” Lessig’s Super PAC to end Super PACs, Mayday PAC, wrote the mailer in support of one of Brown’s Republican rivals, former state Sen. Jim Rubens, and to decry special interests’ influence in Washington...Lessig responded to the letter quoting the words of Clint Eastwood’s character “Dirty Harry” Callahan — “Go ahead; Make my day” — and offered to openly debate whether Brown was a “lobbyist.” Lessig also asked Brown if it was better to call Brown a former Massachusetts senator “who sold his influence to a DC lobbying firm.”

  • Treasury’s Lew Says Anti-Inversion Decision Will Come Soon, But Offers No Hints About What Or When

    September 8, 2014

    In a speech today at the Tax Policy Center, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the agency will decide “in the very very near future” how it will respond to the recent wave of tax-motivated corporate inversions...After his presentation, a panel of tax and regulatory experts debated whether Treasury has the authority to act administratively against inversions and, if so, whether it should take such a step. Not surprisingly, the panelists disagreed...Even Steve Shay, who has been an outspoken advocate of Treasury action, acknowledged that regulations could only limit—but not stop—inversions. “Some deals would still go forward,” he said, “to the extent they are good business deals.”

  • One million Americans want corporations to reveal political spending

    September 8, 2014

    A coalition of academics, good-government advocacy groups and shareholder activists announced last week that one million Americans have written the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asking for a rule to make corporations reveal how they spend money for political purposes...In a blog post, Jackson and fellow petitioner Lucian Bebchuk noted that the issue had attracted far more comments than any other the SEC had ever considered. Asked why, Bebchuk, a widely cited professor of law, economics and finance at Harvard, said, “The case for transparency in this area is clear and compelling to a broad spectrum of people, including individuals who would otherwise not consider expressing a view on SEC matters. The current freedom of public companies to spend money on politics without telling their investors is clearly unacceptable to a large number of people who care enough about it to write to the SEC.”

  • Want to Reform the NSA? Give Edward Snowden Immunity

    September 8, 2014

    An op-ed by Yochai Benkler. But national security is different. There are limited protections for internal whistleblowers, and none at all for those who go to the press. Defenders of that approach argue that the critical nature of national security justifies complete secrecy. But that very critical nature also means that mistakes can have devastating effects, while the secrecy that national-security organizations demand makes them more likely to get stuck in erroneous patterns. Secrecy disables many of the mechanisms that other systems use to correct failure dynamics.

  • The Alitomayor Effect

    September 8, 2014

    An article by Laurence Tribe. At the Supreme Court, the spotlight often jumps from justice to justice...Yet the coverage often passes over two of the court’s more junior members, Justices Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor. Too often we hear only that both justices are predictable partisans, neither idiosyncratic nor unique, representing the new extremes of right and left on the court. But while they do frequently disagree on hot-button issues, neither is so easily reduced to caricature. Closer analysis reveals distinct perspectives that strongly differentiate them from their fellow justices and unexpected commonalities that unite them—and can bend the whole gravitational field of the court in their direction. So ignore them no more: Understanding Alito and Sotomayor, both where they divide and where they converge, is essential to understanding the future of the Supreme Court.

  • Gay Marriage? ‘Go Figure’

    September 8, 2014

    An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. The movement for marriage equality yesterday received its greatest legal victory. Judge Richard Posner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, wrote a powerful opinion ordering Indiana and Wisconsin to recognize same-sex marriages. In the process, he eviscerated the states’ efforts to defend their discriminatory laws. The author matters in this case. Posner was appointed by Ronald Reagan, and he isn't known for favoring an active judicial role or for thinking that courts should promote social change. He is also widely admired, and probably counts as the most influential lower court judge of the past 50 years. When he speaks, people listen.

  • The high price of freedom

    September 8, 2014

    It was the luckiest of breaks, in a life long overdue for one. Manuel Ordonez-Quino sat in a detention center in El Paso, awaiting deportation to Guatemala. Swept up in the massive raid on a New Bedford factory in 2007, immigration officials said he had agreed to leave the country. But some of his fellow detainees told lawyers that was impossible. Ordonez-Quino was deaf, they said. An indigenous Maya, he spoke only Quiché, not English or Spanish. He could not have understood what was happening to him, let alone agreed to it. So John Willshire-Carrera and Nancy Kelly of Greater Boston Legal Services and the Harvard [Immigration and Refugee [Clinical] Program took on his case. That one stroke of good fortune will change not only Ordonez-Quino’s life, but many others.

  • Another reason to expand medicaid in NC: Rising cost of treating diabetes

    September 8, 2014

    Diabetes is a costly epidemic in North Carolina, and it is rapidly expanding. That’s a disturbing finding headlining a report by Harvard University researchers released earlier this year. While North Carolina is fortunate to be the focus of a diabetes study by the Center for Health Law and Policy at Harvard Law School, the reason for the attention is ominous: North Carolina has a huge problem.