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News@Law, 01/21/2016

News@Law is a selection of the day's news clips regarding Harvard Law School.
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Today's News

Bloomberg
Justices Only Tinker With Death-Penalty Rules
An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Any remaining suspicion that the Supreme Court is soft on the death penalty should be dispelled by Wednesday’s judgment in two cases challenging capital sentences in Kansas. In an 8-1 decision, the justices reinstated death sentences that had been overturned by the Kansas Supreme Court. The state court had said that jurors must be told expressly that mitigating circumstances introduced by the defense didn’t need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, as findings for the prosecution must be proved. But the U.S. Supreme Court said no such instruction was necessary.
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Bloomberg
5 Smart Ways to Cut Red Tape
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. In last week’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama appeared to get his biggest bipartisan applause for this line: “I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed. There is red tape that needs to be cut.” Republican presidential candidates have spoken in the same terms, though more emphatically. One of their most urgent priorities is to reduce the stock of existing regulations, and slow the flow of new ones as well. Sure, Democrats like regulation more than Republicans do, but with the current focus on economic growth and national competitiveness, there’s both a need and an opportunity for bipartisan agreement here -- if not this year, at least in 2017.
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The Harvard Crimson
Law Prof. Laurence Tribe Comments on Ted Cruz’s Candidacy
As the 2016 election season ramps up, Harvard Law professor Laurence H. Tribe ’62 finds himself at the center of a political firestorm. Over the past month, Republican presidential hopeful and Law School graduate Ted Cruz denounced his former constitutional law professor Tribe as “a left-wing judicial activist” while speaking in a mid-January Republican debate, while rival candidate Donald J. Trump has tweeted and debated in support of Tribe...Tribe said he is not particularly invested in the question of natural born citizenship. Rather, Tribe said, his main interest is in “the Constitution and my sense of how dangerous it is when people play fast and loose with it in order to further their political positions.”
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Bloomberg
Judging a Bribe Is Hard If It’s Unsuccessful
An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Who put the quid in the quid pro quo? Was it the same person who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong? The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday that it would consider a version of this eternal question in the appeal of Bob McDonnell, the convicted former governor of Virginia. To be specific, the court will decide whether the federal crime of bribing an official requires that the official actually do something specific in return for the bribe, or whether it’s enough for the official to do his usual job while generally hoping to influence policy in favor of the person who gave the bribe. The issue has major significance for all public officials -- and for the private actors who hope to influence them, whether legally or illegally.
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Boston Magazine
The Ethical Conundrum of The Martian, According to a Harvard Bioethicist
Glenn Cohen liked The Martian, which this morning earned itself seven nominations in the Academy Awards, including a slot in the coveted Best Picture category. The Martian, Cohen says, was one of his top 15 movies of the year, “maybe top 10.” But Cohen isn’t a film critic. He’s a Harvard Law School professor who specializes in bioethics. And the narrative thrust of The Martian—a Herculean effort to save a stranded Matt Damon—tickled Cohen’s inner ethicist. Not long after seeing the film in theaters, Cohen wrote a short blog post titled “Identified versus Statistical Lives at the Movies.” In the post, Cohen argues that we latch onto individuals in peril when they have a name and face and become a sort of cause célèbre in the media. We will go to great lengths to save the identified individuals, financially and logistically. But when populations are in peril, when we’re presented with statistics rather than individuals, we’re less likely to take meaningful action.
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