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Posts from the ‘Law School News’ Category


Battling Public Corruption

Professor Juliet Sorensen penned an opinion piece that is well worth a read: “Why Are Natural Disasters Breeding Grounds for Corruption?” It was published today on Talking Points Memo.

This is a subject on which she writes regularly. Another notable recent op-ed of hers was on the United Nation’s efforts to fight international corruption through the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which was published on Al Jazeera America.

Her writing is based, in part, on the work she does with her Northwestern students. I’m pleased to share with you here an excerpt from a forthcoming article about the exemplary work of students, faculty, and alumni involved with the Center for International Human Rights. The full article will appear next month in the Spring 2014 issue of the Northwestern Law Reporter:

In 2013 the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center for International Human Rights was granted consultative status with the United Nations, an accreditation held by only one other US law school, which allows nongovernmental, nonprofit public and voluntary organizations to play a role in UN deliberations. CIHR’s consultative status enabled clinical assistant professor Juliet Sorensen and two JD students—Akane Tsuruta (JD ’14) and Jessica Dwinell (JD-LLM IHR ’14)—to attend last November’s Conference of the State Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, held in Panama City.

As recently as 15 years ago bribery was regarded in many countries as a legitimate business practice, in some cases even a tax deduction allowed by law. It was not until 2003—when the Convention against Corruption was adopted by the UN General Assembly—that a legally binding international treaty to criminalize corporate bribery, extortion and embezzlement first emerged. As of February of this year, 170 countries have become parties to the treaty, and the Conference of the State Parties to the UNCAC has convened biennially to review signatories’ progress toward preventing corruption, improving international law enforcement and providing mechanisms for the treaty’s implementation.

Northwestern Law’s three delegates to last fall’s conference—the fifth to be held—worked closely with the UNCAC Coalition, a global coalition of anticorruption NGOs, attending plenary sessions and helping the organization to write articles. Tsuruta and Dwinell also blogged about conference proceedings for FCPA Professor, a widely followed online forum devoted to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other international anticorruption laws…

…With substantial input from Chicago law firm Baker & McKenzie, the Center for International Human Rights created a desk reference compendium on UNCAC compliance. Sorensen and her students analyzed data and assembled country-by-country documentation, working together with Baker & McKenzie partner Edwin R. Dunn (JD ’67), attorney Gerardo Calderon-Villegas (who also attended the UNCAC conference), and Bluhm Legal Clinic advisory board member Angela Vigil (JD ’95), who is Baker & McKenzie’s director of pro bono and community service for North America. The compendium was an essential resource for Northwestern Law’s UNCAC conference delegation and will continue to serve as a guide for future UNCAC compliance work.

“This valuable resource would not have been possible without the generosity and talent of Baker & McKenzie,” said Sorensen. “And each of us, regardless of the type of law we practice, can play a role in fighting corruption. As members of the bar, it is our responsibility to advise clients facing the gray areas of corruption to make honest, ethical decisions. In-house lawyers, corporate counsel and litigators—all can help.” –Erin Marks

I’m proud and appreciative of the extraordinary efforts of these members of the Northwestern Law community.


NU Law prof on standing doctrine and the Constitution

from today’s L.A. Times:

Legal ‘standing’: Obama’s executive branch escape hatch

President Obama delivers a statement on the Affordable Care Act in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.


March 2, 2014, 2:00 a.m.

President Obama’s proclaimed strategy to “bypass Congress” — most conspicuously his broad rewriting of the Affordable Care Act — has given unusual prominence to a fairly arcane legal doctrine: standing. Standing is what is preventing a potential blizzard of litigation against the president’s unilateral decrees, and ironically, it’s a doctrine liberal jurists have long decried.

To challenge the government in federal court, it isn’t enough to simply believe that the government’s conduct is illegal or even unconstitutional. Federal courts can hear only specific disputes about the law as applied to particular people. To be heard in court, a person must have a concrete complaint that he or she has suffered or will suffer a distinct injury stemming from the government action.

This limit, rooted in Article III of the Constitution, is designed to prevent courts from becoming arenas for endless ideological rehashing of the merits of government policies. But the upshot is that federal courts cannot simply review any allegation of illegality by the government. And further, when the government has a policy that does not directly affect particular individuals, there may be no plaintiff with standing.

For example, on Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a major case about the Obama administration’s regulation of greenhouse gases, which the plaintiffs claim vastly exceeds what Congress has authorized. Yet the court will review only a portion of their complaints; several were thrown out in the lower courts for lack of standing.

The counterintuitive thing about standing is that it can result in situations in which the government may well be violating the law, even the Constitution, and yet there may be no vehicle for judicial review. Problems of this sort arise when governmental action affects most everyone uniformly. In such cases, the political process — working through Congress — is a more efficient and proper solution than piecemeal adjudication. Congress is where wholesale policy is made; the federal judiciary works in retail decision-making.

The Obama administration’s unilateral decision to delay implementation of parts of the Affordable Care Act, or give waivers for compliance to certain businesses, is a perfect example. This may well be a violation of the separation of powers. But because the law is not being enforced against anyone — indeed, it is not being enforced at all — there is no one who has a specific beef. Rather, everyone has the same beef: The president is defying the Constitution by in effect rewriting the law, a role reserved for Congress.

An inability of federal courts to immediately deal with such alleged official lawlessness is certainly a cost of the standing doctrine. But it is one that the Constitution accepts as the price for preventing judicial tyranny. If the judiciary could take up any issue it wanted, whenever it wanted, the court would become omnipotent.

This can be seen by looking at countries such as Israel, where a hyper-activist Supreme Court succeeded in eliminating standing limits and emerged as perhaps the most powerful institution in the nation. U.S. federal courts already have great power as the primary arbiters of constitutional cases. But if they could also seek out such cases, they would become a constitutional Spanish Inquisition, with an open mandate to hunt down constitutional heresy.

That is not to say that there is never anyone with standing in situations like the rewriting of the Obamacare mandates. Proper plaintiffs often take time to emerge. One might imagine an employer that already took measures to comply with the law as required, and is now at a competitive disadvantage to companies that hadn’t bothered. But we have to wait for such a plaintiff to surface; this is not a mere ritual formality but a necessary part of limiting the power of courts to decisions on a particular sets of facts, rather than allow a judicial slash-and-burn approach.

Standing is one of the jewels in the Constitution. But it remains a very controversial doctrine, with conservatives supporting it and liberals seeking its contraction. Obama’s former regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, even argued that standing was essentially a constitutional myth. At the Supreme Court, standing rulings often break down 5 to 4 along ideological lines.

Conservatives see standing as essential to the separation of powers, while liberals see it as implicitly favoring old-fashioned property and personal injuries over more inchoate regulatory ones; standing, for example, makes it very hard to challenge governmental mismanagement of the environment.

The standing doctrine enables the White House to “go it alone” by largely keeping the administration out of court and potentially sparing it legal embarrassment. Liberals today seem less vociferous about how standing limits are preventing the courts from defending the substance of the Constitution.

What has been most impressive about the Republican reaction to the legal wall they’ve run into in opposing the White House’s policies is the notable absence of arguments to ignore or dismantle standing. This is constitutionalism at its best: principled limitations on one’s own actions and desired goals out of an understanding that the restraint of government power is ultimately in everyone’s best interest.

Hopefully, the current episode will be a lesson to all sides that the only thing more dangerous than unbridled executive power is unleashing unchecked judicial power to defeat it.

Eugene Kontorovich teaches constitutional law at Northwestern University School of Law.


NLJ data shows Biglaw value of Northwestern Law degree

In addition to high ranking in previous post, here is some additional data from NLJ:

Go-to law firms for selected major law firms.  Baker & McKenzie, Kirkland & Ellis, and McDermott, Will, & Emery are at the top for NU Law.

Associates to partner has Northwestern in the high echelon.

Here is a chart that juxtaposes go-to law firm ranking with U.S. News rankings.  NU Law overperforms more than any other law school in the T14.

Finally, the last chart is interesting.  It puts NU Law in the highest quintile for overall value (placement/cost).

This is actual data, not surveys.  Gives some very useful perspective on the question of comparative success in one (though certainly not the only) measure of law school success.


Go-to law schools for Biglaw

Northwestern Law is #6 in NLJ rankings for 2013.

The overall percentage is comparable to last year.

We have been as high as #2 (2012) and have been always in the top 10 in these rankings.


Flipped classroom at NU Law

Nice article in Chicago Daily Bulletin about Savner gift of $1 million to enable new classroom for innovative education.

While the focus here is usually on the technology, the critical point is that this type of innovation allows for teamwork and collaborative education, all central to new and improved ways of teaching and learning.


U. S. Senator Dick Durbin to Deliver Keynote at “Guns in America” Symposium

United States Senator Dick Durbin will deliver the keynote at the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology’s 2014 symposium, “Guns in America.” The Senator will discuss the gun lobby’s efforts to fight new and existing firearms regulations. The symposium also features an opening address by Northwestern Law Professor James Lindgren and a panel discussion with distinguished experts including Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, McDonald v. Chicago plaintiff’s attorney David Sigale, University of Chicago criminologists Jens Ludwig and Harold Pollack, and Northwestern Law clinicians Stephanie Kollmann and Dominique Nong. Topics include the Second Amendment, gun access and how it impacts gun crime, conceal and carry laws, sentencing and gun laws, as well as mental health and guns.

The symposium will be held on Friday, February 7, from 4:15 to 6 p.m. in Lincoln Hall here at Northwestern Law. I hope you can join us for what promises to be a very interesting series of conversations.

Consistently ranked among the most influential legal and criminology publications, the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology is one of Northwestern Law’s student-run publications. Since its inception in 1910, the Journal has captured legal scholarship on crime through the publication of legal articles, criminological research, book reviews, and symposia.

Congratulations and thanks to Kelsey B. Shust, editor-in-chief, and Vanessa Szalapski, symposium editor, who have done a great job organizing this event.


Securities regulation institute in San Diego

In southern California for the 41st Annual SRI Conference – perhaps the nation’s premier meeting of securities lawyers and business professionals.  I was proud to welcome the distinguished conferees and also to introduce keynote speaker, Mary Jo White, chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Northwestern Law has partnered successfully with the SRI for many years.  It is a brilliant marriage, as it brings together the best and the brightest in the dynamic world of securities law while enabling us to highlight NU Law’s innovative programs in law and business.  The SRI represents an important component of our professional outreach efforts.

These outreach efforts are especially critical as law schools respond creatively to the shifting winds of the legal market.  Our core endeavor will always be comprehensive legal education for future lawyers.  But it will be increasingly vital to connect our initiatives and our talented faculty with practicing lawyers and other professionals in the private and public sectors.  The SRI is one particularly wide-ranging and prestigious element of this outreach strategy.  And there are many other substantial projects underway.

Stay tuned to this blog for more exciting news about these ventures!


Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Civil Rights and the Supreme Court

Our annual commemoration of the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. includes a three-part lecture series, “Dismantling the Dream,” hosted at Northwestern Law. The third and final program, “The Wheels of Inevitability? An Examination of the Current Supreme Court’s Civil Rights Precedents,” will be held on Thursday, January 23, 2014, at 4 p.m. and will feature a panel of Northwestern Law faculty members, including Steven Calabresi, Clayton J. and Henry R. Barber Professor of Law; Erin Delaney, Assistant Professor of Law; and Miguel de Figueiredo, Visiting Assistant Professor. Leonard Rubinowitz, Professor of Law, will moderate.

The panel will examine the Roberts Court’s recent civil rights decisions and the current state of civil rights legislation. The program is open to the public, and CLE will be available. A reception celebrating the lecture series will follow in the Law School Atrium.

Please join us for what promises to be an engaging and interesting discussion of the appropriate role of legislation and the courts in enforcing civil rights.

The lecture series is co-sponsored by the Black Law Students Association and the American Constitution Society, and is presented by the 2014 DREAM Committee of Northwestern University School of Law and Feinberg School of Medicine. Additional information about other Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration activities can be found on the Northwestern University website.


J. Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern Law

A remarkable center, as its director, Locke Bowman, describes it:

The MacArthur Center is a “law firm like no other,” as the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin once reported.  The Center was founded in 1985 by the family of J. Roderick MacArthur to fight for the civil and human rights of persons in the criminal justice system whose interests might otherwise not be vindicated.  We have become one of the premier civil rights organizations in the United States by taking cases that others wouldn’t or couldn’t litigate.

In the past several years, the MacArthur Center has won over $45 million in settlements and verdicts in lawsuits in which the Center has represented persons who were convicted or charged with crimes they did not commit.  More important than these monetary victories, though, is the work of Center attorneys in a variety of different cases that have systemically challenged features of the Illinois criminal justice system.  For example, Center attorneys are currently engaged in litigation to reform the procedures for deciding whether to re-incarcerate persons accused of violating the conditions of parole.  A recent MacArthur lawsuit helped end the use of closed circuit video to conduct bond hearings for persons arrested by the Chicago Police.  In another case, we ended a Chicago Police practice of detaining witnesses against their will and holding them for questioning.  We won the appointment of a Cook County Special Prosecutor to investigate the death of David Koschman by persuading the court that the original investigation may have been tainted by political interference.  In earlier litigation, the Center attorneys persuaded the Cook County court to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate criminal charges against Jon Burge, a disgraced Chicago Police officer who systematically tortured African American suspects in his custody on the south side of Chicago.  We have represented several of Burge’s victims and are currently using class action litigation to win hearings for all still-incarcerated persons with potential claims that their convictions rest on confessions that Burge tortured from them.  Another MacArthur case helped to dramatically improve the handling of criminal appeals brought by indigent persons convicted within Cook County.  The list could be expanded.  None of these cases were “easy,” all were costly and labor intensive and most of them were handled without any expectation of a fee.

Following on the track record of success in Chicago, the MacArthur Center recently opened a second office in New Orleans, where our attorneys are working on similar projects, including pursuing a massive class action challenge to the treatment of prisoners in the Orleans Parish Prison and fighting for the rights of men and women on the Louisiana death row.  We have plans to open a third office this fall at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.



Law school of big shoulders

(I’ll trust readers to get the “shoulders” reference.)

After an early January of quite wacky weather, Northwestern Law has moved past the polar vortex — or perhaps it is more accurate to say the reverse is true.  We have begun classes a couple days late, but with an undaunted amount of optimism about the spring term to come.  For second-semester 3Ls, I can say that we wish you the best as you begin your final semester in law school and focus, undoubtedly, on the transition looming before you.  For second-semester 1Ls, congrats on finishing your first term and best to you as you sharpen your focus on law school beyond the beginning.  Last, but not least, for second-semester 2Ls, you are halfway through!!

The remarkable energy at NU Law peers out from the snow and shows itself in the vital academic work of the faculty, the extraordinary public service contributions of our students, the new and renewed modalities of experiential learning in our legal clinic, the focus on exemplary teaching throughout the law school, and great achievements of our alumni, and the often unsung contributions of our able staff.

I can certainly see the energy manifest in the hard work of all those involved in our strategic planning efforts, efforts which focus on curriculum, new academic initiatives, outreach, law school economics, and student life.  We have very high hopes for these efforts and a resolute commitment to putting these great ideas into action.

A little ice and snow doesn’t get us down.  We just put on an extra layer of clothes, heavier gloves, and go forth to do good things — to make big plans and also small contributions, all in the unbending, incomparable city of Chicago.