Follow HLS on
The New York Times
Locking in Votes and Doling Out ‘Dogs’: How Roberts Assigns Opinions
When the chief justice is in the majority, he gets to decide who will write the Supreme Court’s opinion. This is, Justice Felix Frankfurter once wrote, “perhaps the most delicate judgment demanded of the chief justice.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has approached the task with characteristic rigor. In one sense, a new study concluded, he is scrupulously fair: Every justice gets very close to the same number of majority opinions. In another sense, he plays favorites, doling out major assignments and unappealing ones with keen attention to strategy. Chief Justice Roberts finished his 10th term in June. In those years, he was in the majority 86 percent of the time, according to the study, which was prepared by Richard J. Lazarus
, a law professor at Harvard, and published in The Harvard Law Review Forum...“One of the easiest ways to reduce the risk of the swing justice swinging the other way is to assign the opinion to that justice, thereby ensuring that the opinion is one he or she will be willing to join, even if the court’s holding may be far narrower as a result,” Professor Lazarus wrote.
The New York Times
Regulation Is Just Another Word for Law
An op-ed by Joseph Singer.
Americans are skeptical about regulation. But when we read the news about faulty ignition switches and falsified environmental equipment, we see that the temptation to make short-term profits may blind us to the harms we cause. And it is for that reason, above all, that government needs to do the regulating...We make these choices through law — and that means regulation. Neither free markets nor private property exist without regulation. The question is not whether to regulate. The question is how to regulate.
Labor union dissenters influence political speech more than shareholders: law profs to SCOTUS
Scathing commentary about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has tended to focus on the court’s refusal to restrict corporate political spending. As you know, the justices struck down campaign finance reforms as an unconstitutional violation of corporations’ free speech rights, triggering an avalanche of predictions that corporate donors would wield outsized political influence. The other free speech beneficiaries of Citizens United – labor unions also subject to the invalidated campaign finance restrictions – haven’t been the subject of nearly as much fear and loathing. That’s going to change, at least a little, later this term when the Supreme Court hears Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association...The point of the amicus brief, according to law professor John Coates
of Harvard, was to highlight the relative rights of union beneficiaries and shareholders, particularly because in this case, the justices are being asked to give non-union members even more control over political expenditures they don’t support. “It seemed like a good opportunity to intervene – even better than a corporate case,” said Coates, who said he wrote the initial draft of the brief and circulated it to likely co-signers. He said he was pleasantly surprised that so many corporate law professors – 19 in all – ended up joining a brief in a case that nominally has nothing to do with corporate law. (Among the amici are Lucian Bebchuk
Harvard Startup Has House Hunters Try on a Tiny Home for Size
How big is your house? If you're like most other Americans, it's probably around 2,600 square feet -- the average size of a house according to the 2014 Census. But growing ever-more popular is the tiny house movement -- essentially when people decide, for any number of reasons ranging from financial to environmental choose to drastically downsize their living space...Getaway, a project born out of Harvard's Millennial Housing Lab with the mission of growing the tiny house movement, has built three tiny houses -- just 160 square feet each -- in the woods of southern New Hampshire, about two hours from Boston. The idea, its founders Pete Davis [`18] and Jon Staff, of Harvard Law and Harvard Business Schools, respectively, is to "build tiny houses, place them on beautiful rural land and rent them by the night to city folks looking to escape the digital grind and test-drive tiny house living."
The Harvard Crimson
Blaming Citizens United Is an ‘Oversimplification,’ Tribe Says
Harvard Law School professor Laurence H. Tribe
’62 argued Monday that holding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 case Citizens United v. FEC primarily responsible for campaign finance issues is “a dangerous oversimplification.” In a large Law School classroom where attendees outnumbered seats, a discussion dubbed “If Citizens United Isn’t the Problem, What’s the Solution?” centered on the 2010 ruling that the government could not restrict independent political expenditures by nonprofit corporations. “The American people are disgusted by the current state of campaign finance,” Tribe said, but he argued that focusing the narrative of American political ills on Citizens United would increase political cynicism and alienation without addressing real issues.
International Business Times
Killer robots: Activists call for negotiations on banning autonomous weapons to be stepped up
A leading human rights body is calling for all governments to step up formal international negotiations in order to pre-emptively ban killer robots, as the annual UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) debates use of autonomous weapons for the third year in a row. Human Rights Watch has published a report urging nations to turn the informal experts meetings that have been held over the past two years at the CCW conference into formal negotiations in order to ban the technology before too much investment is put into it...I think there's a recognition amongst member nations that this is a problem, that these autonomous weapons could be developed in years, not decades. There's also diplomatic pressure as next year there's the fifth year review conference. Every five years this review is held at the CCW, and it is often used to initiate formal negotiations and adopt new protocols," Bonnie Docherty
, a senior researcher in the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, told IBTimes UK...The more states invest in this technology, the less likely they will be to give it up," said Docherty, who also lectures in international human rights law at Harvard University.
Injured in an Accident? Supreme Court Will Weigh In
An op-ed by Noah Feldman.
Which do the conservative justices hate more: personal-injury lawyers or interpreting a law loosely to expand the power of lower courts? That question will be on the table Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices are hearing oral argument in a potentially important case about whether you have to pay back your insurance company for medical bills after you’ve sued and recovered from the person who injured you in the first place. Montanile v. National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan has all the marks of a case only lawyers could love. It involves insurance, money, a drunken driver and what may arguably be the most complicated statute in the entire U.S. Code, the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act of 1974, known as Erisa.
Following the Law Isn’t Exxon’s Only Obligation
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein.
The attorney general of New York, Eric T. Schneiderman, is investigating Exxon Mobil for possible legal violations in connection with its public statements about climate change...While the legal issues are likely to be technical and complex, the investigation also raises fundamental questions about the ethical responsibilities of corporate officials, both to their investors and to the public as a whole.
The Washington Post
A medical mistake happens. Who pays the bill?
...When things like this happen, questions arise: Who’s responsible? If treatment makes things worse — meaning that a patient needs more care than expected — who pays? It depends...But lawyers who collect only when there’s a settlement or a victory may not take on a case unless it’s exceptionally clear that the doctor or hospital was at fault. That creates a Catch-22, said John Goldberg,
a professor at Harvard Law School and an expert in tort law. “We’ll never know if something has happened because of malpractice,” he said, “because it’s not financially viable to bring a lawsuit.” That leaves the patient responsible for extra costs.
Harvard Is Offering Its Entire Collection Of U.S. Case Law To The Internet
If you aren’t a lawyer, you may be surprised to learn that much of the country’s legal rulings aren’t freely accessible to the public, despite the crucial role many played in the shaping and organization of American society. While the documents are part of the public domain, a byzantine patchwork of outdated government interfaces and expensive paywalls restrict access to them. Now, as part of an ambitious multiyear project, Harvard University is liberating that information. Home to the country’s most comprehensive collection of U.S. case law, second only to the Library of Congress, Harvard is partnering with technology startup Ravel Law to digitize its legal library — more than 200 years’ worth of cases — making it fully and freely searchable...“Not only will the law become accessible, but all sorts of interesting things might be done with it as a database,” Jonathan Zittrain
, a Harvard law professor and director of the law library, told BuzzFeed News. “To me it’s kind of like seeing Google Maps for the first time after having only used MapQuest,” he said, referring to new, possible insights a user might glean from analyzing and visualizing case law.
The Washington Post
Chief justice favors some when assigning court’s major decisions
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is a stickler for evenly distributing the workload of the Supreme Court, but he plays favorites among his eight colleagues when assigning the court’s most important decisions. Not surprisingly, Roberts calls his own number more than anyone else’s and assigns the second-highest number to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the pivotal justice on the ideologically divided court, according to a new study by Harvard law professor Richard J. Lazarus
, published in the Harvard Law Review. On the other hand, Roberts has never assigned Justice Sonia Sotomayor the court’s opinion in a major case in her six terms on the court, Lazarus found, an omission that he wrote “could be a bit portentous.” In looking broadly at the chief justice’s 10 years on the job, Lazarus found that Roberts hesitates in assigning big decisions to the court’s most conservative and liberal members — Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas on the right, and Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the left.