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Big win at NLRB for Northwestern athletes

UPDATE: Professor Zev Eigen discusses implications of the NLRB ruling on public radio


The National Labor Relations Board today decided that Northwestern University football players are employees, and that means the players can vote on whether to form a union.

Peter Sung Ohr, Director of the NLRB’s Chicago office, wrote in his ruling:

College Athletes Players Association (“the Petitioner”) is a labor organization within the meaning of the Act. At the hearing, the Employer stipulated that the Petitioner was a labor organization if two conditions were met: (1) its football players who receive grant-in-aid scholarships are found to be “employees” within the meaning of the Act; and (2) the petitioned-for-unit was found to be an appropriate unit within the meaning of the Act. I find that both of these conditions have been met.

Here is a link to the decision, with thanks to Inside Higher Ed for posting it. It’s a lengthy document but well worth a read. It describes some of the cultural and financial mechanics that operate behind Northwestern football—mechanics that are certainly not unique to one school.

Many legal experts were not optimistic that the students would prevail, including my colleague Zev Eigen, who is one of the media’s go-to experts on this subject. In January Zev wrote a great post for this blog in which he described the relevant history and precedents, and suggested the law be revisited to clarify “…categories of work that now dominate the employment landscape.”

It’s fascinating stuff.

The NCAA, not surprisingly, disagrees with the decision, and the University will likely appeal, so this is a story that is only beginning to be told. Judging from the incredible public interest—this exploded on social media today, in case you didn’t notice—we can expect a lot of conversation around these issues. And that’s a big win, too.


Justice John Paul Stevens Wants to Change the Constitution

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the swearing-in ceremony for 40 new Northwestern Law alumni members of the Supreme Court Bar. Carter Phillips, JD ’77, one of the stars of the appellate bar (who recently argued his 77th case before the Supreme Court), led the ceremony.  It was a wonderful event and I was proud to be there.

In chatting with these distinguished Northwestern Law alumni, I was reminded of another—retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (JD ’47) who recently wrote an interesting book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. It won’t be on sale until April 22, 2014, but it is already lighting up the blogosphere. ThinkProgress reported on Justice Stevens’ call for an amendment to prevent gerrymandering rather gloomily: “…the Republican Party has six very good reasons not to support an anti-gerrymandering amendment…” Breitbart hastened to illustrate the error of Justice Stevens’ thinking about the Second Amendment by explaining that “…The rights protected by the Second Amendment are individual rights, as are the rights that are protected, but not created, by the First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments…” These are but two examples of how people are reacting to this book. I’m confident there will be many more, and I’m pleased to see it—we need robust public discussion on the essential issues of our own governance.

Congratulations to the newest members of the Supreme Court Bar, and to Justice Stevens on the book.



In Memoriam: Don H. Reuben, JD ’52

A great friend of the Law School passed away earlier this week. Don H. Reuben, valedictorian of the Northwestern Law Class of 1952 and a passionate supporter of the University and the Law School throughout his life, died Monday, February 3, 2014, at the age of 85.

His legal career spanned sixty-five years, during which time he became one of Chicago’s most prominent First Amendment lawyers. He litigated or served as counsel to over 700 libel and First Amendment cases, and represented prominent media organizations including Time, Look, and Life magazines; the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal; as well as broadcast outlets including ABC, CBS, and NBC. He began his career at Kirkland, Fleming Green, Martin & Ellis (now Kirkland & Ellis) in 1952 and continued there until he established his own firm, Reuben & Proctor, in 1978. Later Reuben & Proctor merged with Isham, Lincoln & Beale in 1989, and a few years after that Don became Of Counsel at Winston & Strawn.

Many of you remember his generosity with his time and expertise. Don was a member of Law Board and served on several committees at the Law School. He was elected to Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees in 1977 and he became a Life Trustee in 1990. The University awarded him the Alumni Merit Medal in 2002. He was also an active member on the boards of a number of charitable, cultural, and educational organizations in Chicago and in California.

He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Jeanette Hurley Reuben, and his five children, two stepchildren, and eleven grandchildren. Services will be held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 43775 Deep Canyon Road, Palm Desert, California on Tuesday, February 11 at 11:00 a.m.


Recent Thinking on the Anti-Injunction Act of 1793

Leave it to Jim Pfander to find something new to say about a statute that’s over 200 years old.

Here’s his take, with co-author and former NU student Nassim Nazemi, on the Anti-Injunction Act of 1793, recently published in the Texas Law Review.


(south)westward ho!

On a short adventure to Houston (and then to Denver).

Perhaps not natural to think of Chicagoland and Houston in the same breath, for all sorts of reasons I will leave to readers’ imagination.  But those in the know are bullish (!) about Houston legal market and business community.  This is a vibrant, economically prosperous region of the country, with significant progress in the legal market.  Of course, much of this stems from the energy of the energy biz.

Houston transplants, and also natives, speak glowingly of the strong opportunities for lawyers in excellent law firms on the one hand and the advantages of a major metropolitan area (with the cultural amenities befitting such a city).

When our superb Northwestern law graduates think of pursuing professional opportunities outside the Midwest and the two coasts, they should think about Texas.



Brought a smile to my face, or was that a wince?

Looking at the blog stats page, I skimmed the section on “search engine terms.”  Someone put in as a search:  “dean rodriguez famous works and accomplishments.”

Let me know if you find something good!!!


Ambassador Scheffer awarded Fall 2013 Berlin Prize Fellowship

I’m delighted to share the news that our esteemed colleague, Ambassador David J. Scheffer, was named a Fall 2013 Berlin Prize Fellow.

The American Academy in Berlin was established in 1994 by Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke to promote dialogue and understanding between Americans and Germans. As part of this mission, they sponsor the Berlin Prize to create an opportunity for scholars and artists to have the time and resources to expand their work through independent projects, and to engage with their German counterparts.

David will use his Fellowship to develop an in-depth examination of American policy-making during the Yugoslav wars, with particular focus on the years 1993 through 1996. During the first term of the Clinton Administration, he served on the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council and as senior counsel to Dr. Madeleine Albright, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. He will draw upon those experiences to write a comprehensive narrative about how policy was formulated and executed by the United States as war and atrocities swept over Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, and how initiatives at the United Nations and within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization confronted realpolitik in national capitals and among the major players on the ground.

David is the author of All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals, which chronicles his work in the Clinton Administration, including during its second term when he served as the first U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes issues and was instrumental in creating war crimes tribunals for atrocity crimes in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. He led the U.S. delegation in negotiations creating the International Criminal Court. In addition to his writing and teaching, David also serves as the UN Secretary-General’s special expert on United Nations assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials.

His excellent scholarship and advocacy help has aided greatly in the development of meaningful international justice mechanisms. This Fellowship will allow him to expand that important work.

Congratulations to David!


Blog is back!

After a two month hiatus.

Looking forward to posting on a variety of topics, including pressing issues in legal education, the state of the legal economy, the role Northwestern Law is playing in this new normal, and, as always, the myriad issues percolating here at the law school.  Going forward, I will (usually) enable the comments function so that you should certainly contribute your own thoughts and perspectives to this blog.  Please:  non-anonymous and constructive comments only.


Dr. King’s birthday

As we celebrate MLK day, I would urge readers to reflect on the contributions legal educators and their students — at Northwestern and other law schools — have made to the legacy of Dr. King.  We are in the justice business, after all.  Our profession demands scrupulous attention to the rule of law and to promoting equal justice under the law.  Hard to see this as anything but rather banal in the face of client service, billable hours, and other severe demands of the day-to-day practice of law.  Yet, law schools are the place for deep, sustained reflection, nested in a coherent training program, on what it means to strive through our work for equal justice.  Out from under the particulars of our law school curriculum, we ask in myraid ways the question “what is the purpose of law?”  Dr. King and so many others understood this in idealistic terms.  The purpose centrally is to develop structures, instiutions, and rules to implement ordered liberty, to safeguard civil rights, and to facilitate and maintain justice for all individuals.

The “purpose” question can also be understood in quite practical terms.  And so we as legal educators work on our teaching, our research, and our service to carry out specific, constructive strategies to realize the aims of law and the legal profession.  We frequently fail, to be sure.  And the demands of the profession crowd out the larger matters which undergird our central objectives.  But, on this day of remembrance, we should remember why the legal profession plays such a central role in contemporary society and why legal education ought to be focused on justice considerations, that is, on the objectives that were so powerfully reflected in Dr. King’s life and achievements.  Moreover, we should commit ourselves to making real improvements in this vein in both the profession and the academy.



Greetings from the Crescent City

Happy New Year to readers!

Returning to blogging after short holiday hiatus.

I am writing from New Orleans, where the Association of American Law Schools is holding its annual meeting.

Be on the lookout for recent and new posts on legal education, as well as the other eclectic content that makes up “Word on the Streeterville” version 2013.