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An inside view from Powell, complete with regrets
In a visit to Harvard Law School, retired four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell shared lessons from his service as a close adviser to three presidents, tips on negotiating with difficult foreign leaders, and his thoughts on strengthening support for families and children in the United States. Powell on Friday took part in the American Secretaries of State Program developed jointly by the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Business School. Law School Dean Martha Minow
introduced the afternoon session, which was moderated by HLS Professor Robert H. Mnookin
, HBS Professor James Sebenius, and HKS Professor Nicholas Burns.
Ohio Rejects Pot, But Its Constitution Gets Weird
An op-ed by Noah Feldman.
Pot is news, and Ohio voters’ rejection of an amendment to legalize marijuana Tuesday deserves the headlines it’s gotten. But a more important story is easy to miss: Those same voters amended the Ohio Constitution to make it very difficult for future initiative promoters to give themselves a monopoly through the state referendum process. The new amendment was targeted at the marijuana growers, who wanted a monopoly in exchange for having advocated legalization. Yet the new amendment is an important example of a very unusual constitutional phenomenon: an entrenching amendment that makes future amendments much harder.
The New York Times
The Risks and Rewards of Short-Termism
The debate has been raging in various forms for the last 30 years — whether corporate short-termism is a problem and, if it is, is it hurting American businesses and the economy? Short-termism is exactly what it sounds like: companies managed for the short term, with decisions driven by the need to meet shareholder expectations about quarterly earnings and stock prices...Mark J. Roe
, a professor at Harvard Law School, is not ready to demonize short-termism and activist investors. He said some of the consequences of activist investor efforts have been good for companies. “On average I think activist investors are probably a good thing, with some problems,” Mr. Roe said. “The good thing is that managers and boards can get complacent and rest on their laurels. Activist investors can give them a kick when they aren’t moving fast enough.” However Mr. Roe is not a fan of those investors pushing companies to borrow more so they can deduct more interest from their tax bill. “I don’t think we should be producing wealth by creating more leverage and a bigger tax deduction,” he said. The way to fix the problem is not to stop activists, he added, but to change the tax code so that debt and equity are taxed equally.
The Worst Lawyers
An op-ed by Robert J. Smith,
senior fellow at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute...Last year marked the lowest number of new death sentences in modern American history. Nationwide, in the five-year period from 2010 through 2014, only 13 counties imposed five or more death sentences. Maricopa County is one of those 13. With 24 new death sentences between 2010 and 2014, Maricopa is the nation’s second highest producer of death sentences, after Los Angeles County, which is twice as populous. One explanation for why counties like Maricopa hang on to capital punishment is that the prosecutors in these places are outliers who continue to pursue death sentences with abandon, mitigating circumstances and flaws in the system be damned. But prisoners sentenced to death in these counties often suffer a double whammy—they get both the deadliest prosecutors in America and some of the country’s worst capital defense lawyers.
The Boston Globe
Undoing the damage of mass incarceration
An op-ed by Nancy Gertner.
Over a 17-year judicial career, I sent hundreds of defendants to jail — and about 80 percent of them received a sentence that was disproportionate, unfair, and discriminatory. Mass incarceration was not an abstraction to me. Sadly, I was part of it. Last weekend’s release of 6,000 prisoners from federal prison is an encouraging start to reform, but it’s only a start.
Harvard Law School Turns the Page — Big Time
Harvard Law School has announced that it will be digitizing its vast collection of U.S. case law and making it available free online. Ravel Law, a commercial research and legal analytics company is partnering with Harvard and funding the substantial cost of converting the collection from print to electronic format. The project is called “Free the Law.”...Harvard’s undertaking is evidence of the electronic format’s predominance and the (relative) ease by which vast resources can be shared to advance the public interest. Talk about pro bono! Dean Martha Minow
of Harvard Law School is quoted in The Times piece saying that “Improving access to justice is a priority” and that Harvard feels “an obligation and an opportunity here to open up our resources to the public.” While I suspect Dean Minow would readily concede that access to information is not the panacea for solving the access to justice crisis — affordable access to lawyers is — sharing resources is a great step in the right direction. And her rationale for doing so is laudatory.