Anthony Kennedy to Retire from Supreme Court?

With the current term of the U.S. Supreme Court winding down, there is intense speculation as to any retirement plans for 81-year-old Justice Anthony Kennedy. Although he hasn’t said anything publically one way or another, Kennedy has already hired four law clerks for the upcoming term. That leaves some observers to conclude that Kennedy plans on working through the next term, at least for now. On the other hand, at this point in time, the court has only taken 15 cases for its next term. That might be an indication that the court has been told that Kennedy is retiring. The remaining eight members of the court might not want to take any more cases until such time as a replacement for Kennedy has been confirmed.Kennedy was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Ronald Regan in 1988. The Hill reports that regardless of the fact that Kennedy voted with the liberal side of the court on same-sex marriage, he has always been a moderate who might swing a vote on a case.

If Justice Kennedy does retire, President Donald Trump would be given another opportunity to select another candidate for the open seat. Whoever might be confirmed could profoundly shift the balance of the court to the right. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman. If there’s a retirement coming, Grassley appears to want it done sooner rather than later. This might be the last chance for Justice Kennedy to retire under a Republican president and a senate that is controlled by a Republican majority. It’s entirely possible that Chief Justice John Roberts will announce Kennedy’s retirement at the close of this Supreme Court’s term.

It’s also possible that the speculation of Kennedy’s retirement might be better focused on some other justices. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85 and associated with the liberal wing of the court. One or two other judges are apparently experiencing health issues. We might know more in a few days or a few years.

Pass Rate Falls for California’s February Bar Exam

It’s harder to become a lawyer in California than ever before. California bar officials recently released the results of their February 2018 bar exam. The pass rate is down seven percentage points to 27.3 percent. That means nearly three-fourths of exam takers received bad news about their failing grades.

California offers the bar exam twice per year. That means applicants who want to try again have to wait until July to get their chance. California officials report that 1,282 applicants received passing scores on the exam. There were 4,701 total applicants.

Executive Director of the State Bar of California, Leah T. Wilson, says that she knows that the pass rates are low. For the bar in February 2017, 34.5 percent of examinees received passing scores. The number was 35.7 percent in February 2016.

California has some of the lowest bar passage rates in the entire country. The ABA Journal says that it’s because California has a difficult bar exam. Others say that there are a number of unaccredited law schools in the state. They say that the law schools without accreditation tend to admit less-qualified applicants. They say these applicants are less likely to pass the exam.

If an applicant doesn’t pass the bar exam, they can take the exam again. An applicant can sit for the bar exam as many times as they want to. If an applicant doesn’t pass the bar exam, they can’t practice law, and they are not a lawyer. The bar exam consists of multiple choice questions, essay response questions and an ethics test. The bar exam is administered over multiple days.

First-time test takers are more likely to pass the bar exam than repeat test takers. On the February 2018 bar exam, 39 percent of first-time test takers received passing marks. Still, the passing rate for first-time test takers was 44.7 percent in February 2016.

A survey of licensed attorneys reveals that they favor keeping standards the same. Most currently licensed attorneys don’t want bar examiners to lower the qualifying score from the current cut-off point. Law school deans reported that they support lowering the score. Ultimately, the California Supreme Court makes the decision, and they decided to leave the cut-off score at 1440 for all test takers. Examiners say that they plan to continue to evaluate the test to make sure that it’s a valid test. They say that they want to test for skills that are relevant to modern attorneys.

Supreme Court Will Hear Case Regarding Uranium Mining

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to accept a case on appeal that challenges the right of the Commonwealth of Virginia to enact a ban on uranium mining. The case centers around the limits of the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution.

In 1954, Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act. Part of that act gave authority to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to set standards on uranium and its use as a potential fuel source. The Atomic Energy Act does not state anything specifically about how mining of uranium would be regulated if the mining was being conducted on land that does not belong to the federal government.

In 1982, the Commonwealth of Virginia enacted a law that prohibits the mining of any radioactive metals within the state. The state cited the need to protect the health of the general public when the legislation was passed.

A company called Virginia Energy Resources owns a vast amount of land that contains large uranium deposits. The value of these deposits is estimated to be in the area of $6 billion. In order to be able to mine their land, Virginia Energy Resources petitioned Virginia lawmakers to overturn the state’s ban on uranium mining. The state refused to do this, so the company took the state to court.

The case made its way to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. At that court, the justices ruled in favor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia Energy Resources asked the Supreme Court to hear an appeal, and the hearing was granted.

The Trump administration is filing briefs with with Supreme Court in favor of Virginia Energy Resources. They contend that if a company is not able to mine uranium, it will impede the federal government from providing for defense purposes.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in October. After the arguments are made in court, the justices will assess the evidence, and a ruling is likely sometime in the summer of 2019.

 

Remember About Those Cams During a Traffic Stop

If you’re the subject of a traffic stop, you don’t want to tell the officer what to do or how to address you, and you certainly don’t want to tell that officer to “shut the f**k up,” especially with dashboard and body cameras running. Port Authority Commissioner Caren Turner did just that to a Tenafly, New Jersey Police officer, and now she’s a former commissioner. All of that was over an alleged expired registration on a vehicle that he daughter wasn’t even driving. She was a passenger.

Turner purportedly arrived at the scene of the traffic stop to give her daughter a ride, but she apparently intended to use whatever influence she thought that she had over the stop. When the detaining officer asked her if she was at the scene to give her daughter a ride, she denied that. She stated that she was there as a “concerned citizen and friend of the mayor and been in Tenafly for 20 years.” Since the traffic stop had no connection with her other than her adult daughter passenger, the officer told her that she didn’t need to know the circumstances surrounding it. That’s when the officer referred to Turner as “miss.” She snarled back with “No, don’t call me miss. I’m commissioner. Thank you.” When the officer finished his work on the stop, he told Turner that she could take her daughter and her friend away. She snapped, “You may shut the f**k up and not tell me when I can take my kid and friends who are Ph.D. students from MIT and Yale. You may tell me nothing.”

Caren Turner resigned from her position as a Port Authority Commissioner the next day. It’s likely that it wasn’t a voluntary resignation either. Getting out of your car, being belligerent and swearing at a police officer during a simple traffic stop isn’t going to do anything at all to get you or anybody else out of a ticket, especially when it’s all recorded on a dash cam or body cam. The former Port Authority Commissioner Miss Turner is living proof of the possible ripple effect.

Mueller Files Extent of Investigation Memo With the Court

Robert Mueller was given the task of investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. When Mueller was given this assignment by the Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein provided Mueller with a written memo that outlined what Mueller was supposed to investigate and the limits of that investigation.

During the course of his investigation, Mueller filed a series of indictments against Paul Manafort who was an official in the Trump campaign for a period of time. These indictments stem in part from Manafort’s association with elements of the Ukrainian government.

As part of his defense against the charges filed by Robert Mueller, the Manafort legal team is challenging Mueller’s jurisdiction to bring charges. The Manafort legal team is claiming that Mueller is exceeding the scope of the investigation that he was authorized to perform by the Justice Department.

In court approximately two weeks ago, federal judge T.S. Ellis seemed to side in part with Manafort’s legal team. He stated that Mueller should not have “unfettered power”. As part of his decision making process as to whether or not he should drop the charges against Manafort, the judge has asked Mueller to provide a copy of the memo that outlined the scope of his investigation.

On Thursday, the Mueller team turned over a copy of the memo to the judge as requested. Legal experts are not sure how the ruling will go, but it seems clear from his statements that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein provided wide latitude for Mueller to conduct his investigation.

Rosenstein has stated that Mueller is able to investigate Russian collusion and, “any matters that arose or may arise directly from that investigation.” Rosenstein also directly authorized Mueller to investigate Manafort’s involvement with the Ukrainian government.

Even if the judge in Virginia dismisses the case, the charges have also been filed in a court in Washington, DC. The judge in Washington, DC has already ruled against Manafort in this same manner, and the charges filed by Mueller will proceed in that case regardless of what should happen in the Virginia courtroom of judge Ellis.

So far, the Mueller investigation has handed down a number of indictments. Many are calling for the investigation to wrap up quickly, but the investigation does not yet seem to be in the wrapping up stages.

Cannabis Legalization in New York would create a $3.1 billion Market

Scott Stringer, the Comptroller for New York City, said that the legalization of pot in the state of New York would lead to the creation of a $3.1 billion market. The state of New York would gain an annual tax revenue of $435.7 from the legalization of Cannabis. Out of the entire revenue for the state, the city of New York would be getting the largest share of $336 million. Stringer was speaking during a power lunch where he indicated that the passing of pot legalization legislation by the state legislature would lead to the creation of a new stream of revenue. He added that such a move would add the revenue allocation to the sectors that affected the residents of New York such as health care and education.

The US minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said that the Democratic Party had drafted a plan to have marijuana decriminalized by federal law. As of today, the bill to legalize the use of pot in the state of New York is still pending in Albany. A recent state report that had been prepared by Stringer broke down the revenue stream for the state if marijuana was legalized. It was quite difficult to tally the number of adult pot users in New York City and the state of New York. This is because cannabis is illegal according to the stipulations of the state laws.

Instead, the New York Comptroller referenced the states of Colorado and Washington where both recreational and medical cannabis is legal. Stringer used the data from these states to adjust for population size and determine the number of users in New York. The report compiled by Stringer suggested that out of the 15 million adults who reside in the state of New York, between 8 and 10% of them consumed marijuana. About of the 15.1 million people in the state of New York, 6.7 of them resided in the city.

The statistic suggested that about 1.5 million residents of New York were marijuana users. The report also indicated that 548,000 residents of Big Apple were cannabis consumers. Based on the numbers, the average marijuana user would have the annual spending of $2,080 on pot. Stringer said that all that cash would be filtered back to the New York economy. The New York Comptroller added that pot legalization would also serve to increase tourism in the state in the same way it did for Washington and Colorado.

United States To Join Whistleblower Case Over Kickbacks Against Insys

The Justice Department for the United States has decided to join in on the whistle-blower case that is accusing the company, Insys Therapeutics Inc, for trying to get more profits for their company by paying doctors with kickbacks for them prescribing their patients with very powerful and addictive opioid prescription medications. This new involvement of the government was made public on Monday when it was disclosed in a filing. This will add major firepower for the case as civil litigation probes more into Insys. The case is looking into more about how the company was marketing their spray form of the drug fentanyl. Their product is called Subsys.

There are six states which have joined the civil litigation case against the company. They are North Carolina, Colorado, New York, California and Virginia. The names of these states were released during a filing done at the Los Angeles United States District Court.

According to Reuters.com, this case is beginning during a wave of other medically-criminal cases against many doctors and medical practitioners. The case is also against many sales representatives and executives who were employed by the Insys company. Also included in the cases is the founder of the company, John Kapoor. He is the billionaire founder being included in the civil litigation case against his company and anyone else involved in illegally pushing the medicine on their patients.

During a separate filing, the U.S. Justice Department had asked for the litigation case to be put on hold while the other criminal cases get resolved.

The drug, Subsys, is a spray often prescribed to patients who are suffering from severe pain due to cancer. The patients who were prescribed this drug were typically already getting and tolerating other opioid therapy options. The government is accusing the company of offering doctors lavish meals and incentives in order to get them to give their patients this drug.

The company is also being accused of causing federal health care programs such as Medicare to have to pay for these drugs when they were not actually medically necessary for the patients. The doctors were encouraged by the company to prescribe the opioid medication to their patients when it was not necessary by misrepresenting the diagnoses of their patients to get it approved through their government health care program.

Back in March, the president had called for litigation himself against any companies involved in roles such as these. He feels this is becoming a countrywide epidemic that needs to be addressed.

Professor Kamil Idris Comments on Intellectual Property Laws

Globalization and its Effect on Intellectual Property

Globalization has produced a society that is more cosmopolitan and interconnected than ever before.  Those in developing countries can benefit from globalization by obtaining cheaper goods from abroad, which leaves them with more money in their pocket.  Developed countries such as the United States can benefit by globalization by earning greater money through selling exported goods.

As Dr. Kamil Idris, former Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, notes, intellectual property can be important for developing countries, especially in the context of an economy.  Knowledge, information, and ideas are the drivers of economic growth.

Globalization is a driver of export markets and can lead to greater collaboration between countries, and has boosted the number of patent applications submitted globally.

credit: MetalMiner
credit: MetalMiner

However, although it confers significant benefits to developing countries, globalization presents new challenges for countries seeking to operate in the new international economy.  The transfer of intellectual property between countries can pose many problems.

The problems with intellectual property in a globalized world include legal pitfalls and lead to the theft of patents and other trade secrets in the tech world, as countries with unequal technical expertise seek to work collaboratively in the tech sphere.

China versus the U.S.: Examples of Intellectual Property Theft

An unfortunate example of the effect of globalization is the intellectual rift between China and the United States. The two companies have been embroiled in some bitter disputes regarding intellectual property in recent years.

Most recently, China has been accused by the Trump Administration of stealing patents and other information from American tech firms.  President Trump recently blocked China from the purchase of the telecommunications company Qualcomm, as this acquisition by the Chinese government would make American tech secrets available to the Chinese.

Intellectual property theft costs America up to $600 billion each year, with Chinese intellectual property theft accounting for the largest portion of that loss, according to the New York Times.

Read related: Important Senator Wants Supreme Court Justices Considering Retirement to Leave Now

The intellectual property theft between countries in the new globalized w=orld is not always overt.  Chinese government entities seeking to collaborate with American companies often require that the U.S. companies surrender significant portions of their technical secrets in order to operate in China.

Currently, social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter must work with the Chinese government in order to be able to develop a product that is approved by the Chinese government so they can market it to the people who use the product in China.

For example, Facebook recently worked with the Chinese government to develop a photo-sharing app called “Colorful Balloons.”  While Colorful Balloons did not become popular with the Chinese, it required Mark Zuckerberg’s company to surrender information on how the Facebook app works in order for Chinese developers to create Colorful Balloons.  Chinese agents have attempted, in past years, to steal information related to the Space Shuttle, Patriot Missiles, and various military aircrafts.

Kamil Idris Urges Protecting against Intellectual Property Theft

Professor Kamil Idris notes that intellectual property is important for development, and the transfer of information and knowledge between countries is essential for economic growth.  Particularly in our increasingly technological economy, intellectual property has gained unparalleled importance in recent years.

show-photo
credit: Prabook Kamil Idris

Idris identifies piracy and counterfeiting, as well as increased backlogs in the processing of patent applications, as negative consequences of globalization on intellectual property.

Because of these consequences, he explains, countries must focus greater resources on developing intellectual property resources, and develop a number of skilled IP professionals and a policy environment that promotes innovation and creativity.

Kamil Idris suggests that the most important aspect to consider in combating the threat of intellectual property theft is to first, consider the importance of an IP infrastructure.  Countries must hire and develop IP specialists and build an infrastructure of intellectual property professionals who are equipped to deal with these 21st century challenges.

Read more: Legal Connections of the U.S. President’s Personal Attorney Face Scrutiny

In particular, developing countries and economies require such infrastructure and resources in order to be able to compete in today’s economy.  Only with knowledge and recognition of the importance of intellectual property will developing countries be able to advance in today’s increasingly globalized and high-tech world.  Threats to intellectual property will only increase with the passage of time, Idris suggests, due to increased globalization.

A challenge for developing countries, in particular, is the ability for richer countries to control patent purchasing, which will leave more poor countries behind.  He believes that reform on international agreements on trade and intellectual property is a significant first step in ensuring that all countries have access to free markets and liberalization of information.

Countries must educate themselves on intellectual property topics in order to stay competitive in the current economy and market climate.  This need for greater education on IP-related topics is, of course, much greater in the developing world.

About Kamil Idris

Kamil Idris is the President of the International Court of Arbitration and Mediation (ICAM) and the Former Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  Idris specializes in globalization and intellectual property (IP) issues, including IP laws and economic development.

As a Sudanese national and former diplomat, and international civil servant, Dr. Idris also possesses significant experience in East African politics.  Idris graduated with a Bachelors of Law (LLB) with honors from Khartoum University in Sudan and holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Philosophy, Political Science, and Economic Theories from Cairo University in Egypt.

Credit: Kamil Idris
Credit: Kamil Idris

Kamil Idris has honorary doctorates from 19 universities internationally and has authored many books on issues of intellectual property, international law and development. Idris is the author of the autobiography My Nile Odyssey, which details his life experiences working in labor factories in Egypt, traveling through Europe in his teens, and being threatened by fishermen on the Nile River who thought he was an evil spirit.

My Nile Odyssey fulfills a promise Idris made to the great South African leader Nelson Mandela to write his memoir and is available on Amazon.  In addition to his autobiography, Kamil Idris has authored many books on the topics of intellectual property, international law, and development.

Follow Kamil Idris on Linkedin and Facebook.

Continue reading Professor Kamil Idris Comments on Intellectual Property Laws

US Supreme Court’s decision On Legal Sports Betting

The day that has been waited for by gamblers and sports fans for a long time in the United States has come. The US Supreme court annulled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The decision is going to bring the monopoly on sports betting in Las Vegas and Nevada to a screeching halt. The federal legislation prevented other states from making unilateral decisions on issues concerning the legalization of betting on professional sports. Many businesses are set to take advantage of this development. William Hill, who is a sportsbook operator, says that they have the intentions to offer locations in New Jersey with sports betting as soon as possible.

The company’s CEO said that the board was looking to start offering sports betting in a few weeks’ time. Jim Murren, who serves as the chief executive for MGM Resorts International, said on Monday that the company was making plans to start offering sports betting in the entire United States as quickly as possible. Murren added that his company had already established the necessary architecture for the deployment of sports betting as soon as the state gives the green light to do so. He noted that the company already had the required software and had developed a mobile application known as PlayMGM. Murren added that the mobile application was already in use in Nevada.

Las Vegas in Nevada is regarded by many as the party capital of the world. The stocks for many casinos in the United States increased in value after the Supreme Court ruling. Some of the companies that came out of the stock market laughing include MGM and the owners of a dominant sports teams such as Mark Cuban. Cuban is an internet billionaire who owns Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban said that the decision would see the increase in the value of most sports teams by as much as 100%. However, the ruling was not taken positively by professional sports leagues. These leagues still have many questions regarding the legalization of sports gambling by the United States federal government.

National leagues such as the Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association had initially pushed for an integrity fee of 1%. However, the amount they will receive after legislation is passed will be less than 1% and could differ from one state to the other. The state of New York has already proposed an integrity fee of 0.25% as part of the sports betting legalization law. Other states like West Virginia have come out categorically to say that they will not be paying any fees to the leagues.

For more details, visit https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2018/05/14/sports-gambling-status-every-state-after-supreme-court-ruling/607334002/.

Facebook Hit with Class-action Lawsuits

A class-action lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California stating that Facebook violated the user rights of those using an Android device. The suit alleges that Facebook collected data including people’s phone lists that went beyond what was reasonable. The suit says that there was no indication to the normal user that this invasion of their privacy would occur. The suit continues by saying that there are no available legal alternatives that would make users whole again.

Facial Recognition Class-action Lawsuit

This is the second class-action lawsuit that Facebook has been hit with in recent weeks, reveals siliconrepublic.com. The first indicated that the social media company’s facial recognition and “tagging” technology was a violation of the person’s privacy.

Requirements for a Class-action Lawsuit

This case was also filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. A judge has ruled that the second case meets all four requirements for a class action lawsuit. Those conditions are:

  • The class is large enough that the action of bringing all members together is impractical
  • All members may have been hurt by the law in the same way
  • The parties’ claims are typical of those of other people in the group
  • The named parties have proven that they would protect other members of the group

Cambridge Analytica LTD

Facebook has recently been asked to testify in front of the United States Congress over its behavior in Cambridge Analytica LTD scandal. In that case, Cambridge Analytica has been accused of harvesting data from over 50 million Facebook users.

It still remains to be seen what action a judge will take in this most recent court case. It also remains to be seen if Facebook can survive with new cases being put forth each day.

Akron Civil Case Moving Forward

Stories in the news of examples of police brutality and other serious situations are becoming increasingly commonplace. In many situations, some of these stories and up resulting in lawsuits that take place as a form of punishment and compensation for those that feel they were wronged. This past week, a new lawsuit emerged related to an unfortunate situation that took place in Akron, OH (http://fox8.com/2018/05/10/family-of-akron-teen-who-died-in-police-custody-files-civil-lawsuit-against-police-department/).

In August of 2017, Xavier McMullen was arrested with several of his friends and placed in the backseat of a squad car. During the initial arrest, the police officers completed a quick check to make sure that McMullen and his friends did not have any weapons on them. Unfortunately, they did not check hard enough and he actually had a gun in his back pocket. When he was placed in the backseat of the car, he was placed in a certain position that accidentally discharged the weapon. McMullen ended up getting hit in a very serious spot and died shortly after being shot.

At the time of the incident, McMullen was only 17 years old and his family is now looking to file a civil lawsuit against the city of Akron and the police department. The lawsuit was filed in the Summit County Common Pleas Court by a local attorney and is expected to start moving forward very quickly. The situation at the time was heavily covered by the press due to the unusual nature of the situation. While McMullen was shot by his own weapon, there are a variety of odd situations with the case that could make it a very interesting court case.

The primary part of the lawsuit claims that the police officers did not properly search McMullen during the arrest. This then directly led to the gunshot wound and ultimate death of the teen. Another odd thing about the situation was that one of the cameras for the vehicles was not working, which caused the police to lose some very important tape footage that could have been great evidence for the case.

At this point, the police department is not answering any questions about the situation or the case. The police officer that was on the scene was disciplined for not searching the teen properly, but was not fired over the situation. He is also not likely to face criminal charges due to the situation as its not clear that there was any intent.

 

 

Professor Sujit Choudhry is Signatory on Amicus Brief that Opposes Texas’ Anti-Abortion Law

Professor Sujit Choudhry of the Center for Constitutional Transitions is one of several academics in the field of international and comparative law who are signatories on an amicus curiae brief concerning the improper view of international perspectives on abortion law. The brief, led by Aziza Ahmed, professor at Northeastern University School of Law, supports the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood as co-counsel representing abortion clinics and doctors in a case examining a challenge to a Texas law that bans dilation and evacuation, an otherwise commonly used and safe second trimester abortion procedure. More narrowly, the law seeks to ban the safest, most common method of second-trimester abortions after approximately 15 weeks, and as such Texas is in direct contradiction to the norms recognized in international law. The law was preliminary enjoined by a federal district court as it finds it to be likely unconstitutional. The state of Texas has appealed.

 

States are required by international human rights law to enable access to safe and legal abortion services. In line with this international norm, the global consensus is such that individual nations with legal traditions similar to those of the U.S. lean towards liberalization of abortion access. This reflects an expanding understanding of the close links between abortion access, gender equality and women’s health. Rather than acknowledging this international consensus, Texas presents a misleading and erroneous analysis of foreign law in the support of the state’s aim to pass a law that restricts access to safe abortion care.

 

The brief first elaborates international law as a counterpoint to the comparative analysis on which Texas exclusively relies. It then highlights the flawed methodology as well as the irrelevancy of the points mentioned by the expert witness who introduced comparative law evidence in support of Texas as they do not speak to moral or ethical consensus. Professor Choudhry is among the amici who, as international and comparative law scholars, has an interest in correcting this improper view of international law and Texas’s deeply flawed comparative law analysis.

 

 

Professor Choudhry is internationally recognized as an expert on comparative constitutional law and politics. He has also been a constitutional advisor for over two decades, and his expertise encompasses facilitating public dialogue sessions with civil society groups and other stakeholders, leading stakeholder consultations, performing detailed advisory work with technical experts, training civil servants and bureaucrats, engaging party leaders and parliamentarians, and drafting technical reports and memoranda in the field. Professor Choudhry globally advises on the process of constitution building in a number of countries. He is currently a member of the United Nations Mediation Roster and consultant to the World Bank Institute at the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program.

 

Choudhry is the founding Director of the Center for Constitutional Transitions that assembles and leads international networks of experts and partners with a global network of multilateral organizations, think tanks, NGOs and universities in order to conduct thematic research projects that offer evidence-based policy options to practitioners. This is part of the Center’s effort to both create as well as mobilize knowledge in support of constitution building.  To date, the Center for Constitutional Transitions has worked with over 50 experts from more than 25 countries. The Center is partnered with with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, whereby Choudhry co-leads three global collaborative research projects. These include Dealing with Territorial Cleavages in Constitutional Transitions, Security Sector Reform and Constitutional Transitions in Emerging Democracies, and Security Sector Oversight: Protecting Democratic Consolidation from Authoritarian Backsliding and Partisan Abuse.

 

Sujit Choudhry is the I. Michael Heyman Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley – School of Law. His previous academic engagements include having been the Cecelia Goetz Professor of Law at New York University, and the Scholl Chair at the University of Toronto. In his research, he focuses on several comparative constitutional law and politics issues. These include constitutional design as a tool to manage the transition from violent conflict to peaceful democratic politics; constitutional design in ethnically divided societies; federalism, decentralization and secession; semi-presidentialism; constitutional courts; official language policy, minority and group rights; bills of rights and proportionality; constitutional design in the context of transitions from authoritarian to democratic rule; constitution building; security sector oversight; and basic methodological questions in the study of comparative constitutional law.

 

His publication record includes over ninety articles, books, book chapters, working papers and reports. Choudhry is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Society of Public Law, the International Advisory Council of the Institute for Integrated Transitions, the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Journal of Constitutional Law, the Editorial Board of the Constitutional Court Review, the Editorial Advisory Board for the Cambridge Studies in Constitutional Law, and is an Honorary Member of the Advisory Council of the Indian Constitutional Law Review.

More information on Sujit Choudhry can be found on his personal website sujitchoudhry.com as well as on LinkedIn, Twitter (@sujit_choudhry), Instagram (@sujitchoudhry) and on Facebook. More information regarding the Center can be found on constitutionaltransitions.com.

Legal Connections of U.S. President’s Personal Attorney Face Scrutiny

In the common law system of the United States, attorney-client privilege is considered one of the most sacred principles of the legal practice; however, the multiple investigations surrounding New York attorney Michael Cohen are really putting this principle to the test.

As personal attorney to U.S. President Donald Trump, Michael Cohen came to notoriety a few months ago after investigative reporters from the Wall Street Journal exposed the clumsy handling of Stormy Daniels, an adult film star who had a sexual relationship with Trump in 2016. Cohen sought to pay off Daniels with a shaky non-disclosure agreement that never quite managed to keep the actress silent about her affair with the billionaire who is now U.S. President.

Just as the Stormy Daniels scandal was developing into a news media spectacle, federal agents and prosecutors raided Cohen’s office, filing cabinet and home; this action was pursuant to a search warrant that originated from the ongoing Special Counsel investigation into alleged collusion between Russian operatives and the Trump political campaign.

Sifting through Cohen’s files for the purpose of organizing discovery has been complicated due to attorney-client privilege issues. The federal judge in this case appointed a special master to ensure that privileged communications between Cohen and certain clients does not leak out in the course of prosecution; nonetheless, what has been revealed thus far appears to be very questionable.

As reported by the American Bar Association Journal, the investigation into Cohen’s business indicates that he referred major clients to firms such as Squire Patton Boggs, and he also took on clients such as AT&T and Novartis on his own, but the scope of the work that was promised to these companies could be troublesome for President Trump.

In the case of the U.S. Immigration Fund, the client referred to Squire Patton Boggs, it is alleged that Cohen promised direct access to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser. The U.S. Immigration Fund is dedicated to facilitating HB-5 visas to wealthy foreigners who can apply for green cards in exchange for investing in projects that create jobs for American workers. Kushner has already been criticized for peddling his influence to Chinese investors.

As for AT&T and Novartis, their respective CEOs have embarrassedly admitted that retaining Cohen was a strategy to advance their lobbying efforts. Prosecutors are also focusing on Russian investors who transferred nearly one million dollars to Cohen, although the reasons as to why the embattled attorney received these funds is unclear.

Important Senator Wants Supreme Court Justices Considering Retirement to Leave Now

Right now, the Supreme Court of the United States is almost evenly balanced. There are four justices that almost always rule on the more conservative side of issues, and there are four justices whose rulings are usually on the more liberal end of the political spectrum. One justice is seen as a swing vote as Justice Kennedy votes on each side depending on the issue.

Because the Supreme Court is so balanced, anytime that there is a vacancy on the court, the political stakes are high. When President Obama wanted to get his nominee Merrick Garland confirmed for the vacancy left upon the death of Justice Scalia, Senator Charles Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, would not even let the nomination come up for a vote.

According to Reuters, Senator Grassley is causing a political and legal controversy by suggesting that any justice who is thinking about retiring soon do so right now so that the Senate will have time to confirm the appointment before the 2018 mid-term elections.

Observers believe that this is directed straight at Justice Kennedy. If he were to retire right now, President Trump would be able to appoint a conservative and change the balance of the court to one that is overwhelmingly conservative.

At this time, Justice Kennedy has not even hinted that he is thinking about giving up his seat on the court. Most observers do not believe that any other justice is contemplating retirement.

Justice Ginsberg is the oldest member of the court, and she has firmly stated that she has no plans to retire. She would probably not retire unless a more liberal president was in power. Justice Breyer is the next oldest justice, and he has made no announcement that he plans to retire anytime soon either.

If the Republicans were to lose control of the Senate in the mid-term elections, it is possible that Supreme Court justices would not be approved at all. A Democratic Senate is very unlikely to approve anyone nominated to the Supreme Court by President Trump.

Legal Technology Has A Diversity Problem

A recent report has shown that minorities and women are underrepresented in the field of legal technology. The report showed that minorities made up 13.6 percent of the people in the field. Women make up 26.5 percent of the people in the legal tech field. Women make up 50.8 percent of the total population. Minorities make up 38.7 percent of people in America.

Kristan Sunday is the co-founder of Paladin. This is a pro bono management platform. She stated that she did not realize that women and minorities were under-represented in the field. Kristan is also a Latina. She is more concerned about the lack of women in the legal technology field.

Kristan believes that minorities and women who are in the field need to speak out and let their voices be heard. According to ABA Journal, not only are minorities and women under-represented, but many people do not have access to legal services. Eighty-six percent of the low-income people who have legal problems do not have access to any help. In 2005, 80 percent of low-income people did not have access to legal services.

Minorities and women are also under-represented in the entrepreneurial field. Latino founders only make up 2.3 percent of the legal tech founders. Black founders only make up 3.1 percent of the legal tech founders. Middle-Eastern, Indian and Asian make up 21.1 percent of the legal founders.

Kristan stated that increasing opportunities for women and minorities will help more people get into the field. She is doing her part to make sure that everyone is represented in the legal technology field. She will be releasing new data on minorities and women in the legal technology field in the near future. She has raised over $1 million to support her endeavors. There are 269 legal technology companies in the United States.