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Posts from the ‘Legal Policy’ Category


Barmageddon and its ExamSoft aftermath

Here is a letter sent to me today, and presumably to every other law dean in the U.S., from the CEO of ExamSoft, followed by my response:

Dear Dean Rodriguez,

As you may have already heard, on Tuesday evening last week, there were delays in uploading answer files following the day’s exam sessions. Please accept my sincere apologies to you, your students, your faculty and staff. We take our obligation seriously, and after many years of supporting bar exams across the nation, Tuesday night’s delay was very disappointing to say the least.

Since that night, our core priority has been to assist and support each student and ensure solid technical performance for any remaining bar-related activities. If you would like, in the near future, we would be happy to send you a more robust account of what happened on Tuesday night, including details about the root cause of the delays, what changes have been made to improve performance, and how we can ensure this doesn’t happen again.

With that said, I’d like to take this opportunity to share some general information, which you may have already seen, in the hopes that it is helpful to you:
• Tuesday’s post-exam delay did not impact exam day functionality in SofTest, nor did it impact the integrity of exam takers’ answer file content.
• Based on the accounts we’ve received from site engineers, it seems that the exam sessions themselves went well.
• On Tuesday evening, around 6pm ET, as east coast students were uploading their exams, our internal system began processing files at a slower-than-usual pace for a period of approximately six hours.
• Naturally, this led many exam takers to wonder about the status of their uploads and, in some cases, whether they would be able to upload by their deadlines. Therefore, we worked diligently to communicate with applicants via our call lines, Facebook, Twitter, and our website throughout the evening. The state bar examiners were great partners and extended upload deadlines as needed to accommodate the delay, and we communicated such extensions throughout the night.
• On Wednesday, we made several network configuration changes, and Thursday’s exam upload process went smoothly. We are continuing our diligence and will be making further enhancements in short order.
• This week’s overall exam volume was almost the same as last year’s and lower than other weekly periods for final exams, so the volume itself was not the challenge.
Our performance this past week was inconsistent with the standard we’ve set over the years, and we are committed to doing better. Again, more information will be forthcoming as we complete our internal analysis, and please let me know if you would like to talk with me or a member of my executive team.


Daniel Muzquiz
ExamSoft Worldwide, Inc.

Mr. Muzquiz,

Thank you for your note. I assume that this exact note is being sent to every dean of every ABA-accredited law school in the U.S. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to have a comprehensive accounting of this situation from the perspective of ExamSoft. I believe, and very much hope, that there have been no specific negative consequences on the ability of any graduates of our law schools to process their exam files.

At the same time, there was unquestionably a serious toll taken on the students in their wholly understandable anxiety and worry, perhaps even panic –clearly consequences of the technological problems resulting from your internal systems, just as you note below.

For that reason, it is striking to me that in your boilerplate note, there is no indication that you are making any refunds to any bartaker. Nor is there any indication that you are planning to make financial recompense that would be a tangible, important acknowledgment of what, at the very least, was a serious problem that resulted from technological problems within the scope of control of ExamSoft.

Such a gesture, whether or not legally compelled, would be the right thing to do, in my opinion. While I by no means speak for anyone other than myself, I would respectfully suggest that you consider, if you have not already, some tangible steps that meet this clear moral obligation to make amends. I call upon you to reflect further upon this unfortunate episode and do the right thing.

Dan Rodriguez


NU Prof. David Scheffer on Scottish independence

Learned analysis from our colleague and director of Northwestern Law’s Center on International Human Rights.


Legal automation and law curriculum

cross-posted from Prawfsblawg.


Veterans’-focused high-tech incubator in Chicago

Great initiative, reflecting the work of distinguished alum, Howard Tullman ’71, and his colleagues at Chicago’s high tech incubator, 1871:

Dubbed “The Bunker,” Incubator to House Veteran-Owned Technology Companies Beginning in Fall of 2014.

1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman confirmed today that 1871 will be launching a veterans-focused technology incubator called The Bunker in 2014 as part of 1871’s recently announced expansion plans at its digital startup hub in The Merchandise Mart. The announcement is officially being made in concert with the offices of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn, as well as the Pat Tillman Foundation – all of whom are also expected to provide support and resources for the new program.

Tullman describes the inspiration for the new initiative: “Many years ago in law school, I learned that my most mature classmates and the hardest and most serious competitors in the school were the vets. They had the positive ‘can do’ attitude, the ‘take no prisoners’ drive, and the commitment to success that are precisely what it takes to build a successful startup. In addition, we owe these men and women a great debt for their sacrifices and service to our country. At 1871, we want everything we do to make a difference, not just a living, and we hope in our own way that we can help our vets move forward and make yet another important contribution to our economy.”

The Bunker will be the Nation’s first Veteran Business Accelerator and will harness the leadership experiences of veterans as a strategic differentiator for startup and early stage veteran owned technology enabled businesses. The Bunker will be a veteran-operated, veteran-focused effort that will seek to offer an entry point into the technology economy for hundreds of local and national veteran owned and operated technology businesses, with the dual goal of exploring and tapping into the significant resources available to veterans from government organizations and maximizing the skill and trainings which our veterans developed while serving in the military.

While there are a substantial number of city, state and federal veteran assistance programs, it is sometimes a challenging and complex process – especially for novice business builders – and one of the focus areas of the 1871 veteran’s incubator will be to work closely with the city and the state as well as the vets to help smooth, streamline and accelerate these interactions. 1871’s huge population of volunteer mentors (especially in the legal and accounting fields) will be of invaluable assistance in these areas. The Bunker will be run by Todd Connor, an Operation Iraqi Freedom Navy veteran and successful entrepreneur who most recently led the city of Chicago’s military high schools program.

The Bunker will be a part of the new 25,000 square foot expansion coming from 1871 this October, which was announced on Tuesday, June 17, in conjunction with Governor Quinn. Fueled by a $2.5 million investment from the State, the 25,000-square foot space will house alumni companies, venture capital firms, and incubators and accelerators, including this effort.

“Illinois’ veterans are some of the most talented and skilled individuals in our state’s workforce,” Governor Quinn said. “By supporting veteran-owned and operated businesses, we can ensure that our men and women service members have what they need to continue contributing to our communities while driving our economy forward. We owe a debt of gratitude to the many brave Illinois men and women who have answered the call to serve and I commend The Bunker and 1871 for launching this innovative platform on their behalf.”

“Great startup businesses need great leaders who know how to ‘get it done’ amidst uncertain and challenging circumstances. This is what veterans bring.” stated Todd Connor, CEO of The Bunker. “This represents a truly different model for the veteran community that is not about defining the veteran population as a group that needs help, but rather capitalizing on the talent pool of some of the highest performing veterans.”

The Bunker is expected to maximize use of 1871’s existing shared facilities for housing its companies and hopes to bring companies to Chicago and 1871 for long-term, permanent stays that will allow integration into the 1871 community as well as the broader Chicago business community.

# # #

About 1871

1871 is an entrepreneurial hub for digital startups. Located in The Merchandise Mart, the soon-to-be 75,000-square-foot facility provides Chicago startups with programming, access to mentors, educational resources, potential investors and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs that help them on their path to building successful businesses. 1871 is the flagship project of the CEC.


On religious liberty and the Constitution

Thoughtful article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, highlighting, inter alia, NU Prof. Andy Koppelman’s influential work.


Machines v. Lawyers

Prof. John McGinnis in City Journal.


American Law Institute annual meeting

Nice general description here by Prof. Bard.

ALI is truly an extraordinary organization.  Made up a distinguished group of lawyers, academicians, and judges, it works in a collaborative fashion to develop principles and restatements on myriad areas of law.  I am pleased to serve on its Council and so have a good vantage point to see the sausage being made!



Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, R.I.P.

Rubin Carter died this morning at age 76.  Immortalized in Bob Dylan’s song from the mid-70’s and in a film several years ago in which he was portrayed by Denzel Washington, Rubin was exonerated for a triple murder he didn’t commit.  Sadly, this came after many years of incarceration.

When I was dean at the University of San Diego, my wife and I have the great pleasure and honor of meeting and spending time with Rubin.  He came to USD at the behest of our colleague, Judge Lee Sarokin, the federal judge who released Carter from prison after overwhelming evidence showed his innocence.  Carter, ebullient, sensitive, and at peace, spoke easily and movingly about his experience.  For all the years following his release, he campaigned tirelessly on behalf of criminal justice reform, efforts to release the wrongly convicted, and against the death penalty.

His legacy, like the legacy of others wrongfully convicted, endures through their powerful stories and, in the case of Rubin and so many others, through their voices on behalf of justice and against injustice.  And, in a concrete way, it endures through the good works of initiatives such as our Center on Wrongful Convictions and other importance advocacy groups.


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.


An End to Mandatory Life without Parole Sentences for Juveniles in Illinois

Earlier this week the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in People v. Davis, deciding that the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama is retroactive in Illinois. The Miller case decided that children under the age of 18 at the time of their offenses could not receive a sentence of life without parole without consideration of their specific circumstances. Now, individuals currently serving mandatory juvenile life sentences without parole in Illinois will have an opportunity to have resentencing hearings. These hearings will allow judges to weigh all of the circumstances in the 80-odd cases that were subject to these mandatory sentences.

An article in today’s edition of the Chicago Tribune focused on the perspective of judges in particular: “Ruling offers hope to some imprisoned as youths: Judges also pleased by end to mandatory life terms for juveniles.” The article highlights the tireless efforts of lawyers in the Children and Family Justice Center to, in the words of Alison Flaum, Clinical Associate Professor of Law and Legal Director of the CFJC, “…demonstrate the problems with mandatory, one-size-fits-all sentencing.”

“These are but two of the many examples of the impact of Bluhm’s work in the representation of clients and on justice reform,” Tom Geraghty, Director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic (and Northwestern Law alum!) told me earlier today. “Working with others, Bluhm faculty provide important leadership in an impressive array of justice-related activities. Our faculty-led initiatives provide unequaled educational experiences for our students.  It is my hope that we will be able to capture and convey what Bluhm faculty are accomplishing while, at the same time, continuing to work collaboratively with the justice community (and with other leaders in clinical education) and modeling the best of professionalism for our students.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

If you are interested in additional information and perspectives on this decision, the Children and Family Justice Center published a recap of the Davis case and its implications on their blog, Youth Matters, and Joshua Tepfer published a thoughtful article about how this relates to his work on innocence cases on the Center on Wrongful Convictions blog.

Thank you to my colleagues for their extraordinary work in this area, and for their important contributions to juvenile justice.