University of Pittsburgh

Faculty News

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 11:21am

Dean William M. Carter, Jr. has received the Leadership Diversity Award from the National Diversity Council and the Pennsylvania Diversity Council. Criteria for the award include an extraordinary background of developing and improving organizations, demonstrating honesty, integrity, and fairness, serving as a role model for other individuals in the profession, inspiring a shared vision, and fostering innovation.

Awardees will be recognized at the 2014 Leadership Excellence Awards Luncheon, which will be held at the University of Pittsburgh on October 29, 2014.

Read more about the award here.  

 

 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 4:37pm

One of the judges recently appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will have her chambers in San Jose, rather than at the “iconic” court headquarters in San Francisco. This development prompted the Recorder, the California legal newspaper of American Law Media, to look at judges who “stray from headquarters” in establishing their chambers. The Recorder asked Pitt Law Professor Arthur Hellman, an expert on the Ninth Circuit, to comment.

Circuit judges were once encouraged to deliberate under the same roof, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit famously prodding new appointees to relocate to Chicago, Hellman noted. But that philosophy has lost traction as telecommuting takes hold, he said.

“The idea that judges should move to the seat of the court would just seem laughable to some people now,” he observed.

Hellman also noted that when judges move into existing courthouses, it can pay dividends for circuit judges to work alongside their peers in the lower courts.

“There’s a natural tension between appellate and district court judges,” he said. “If they’re in the same building having lunch together now and again, I think it promotes understanding.”

Read the full story here.  

 

Monday, August 18, 2014 - 11:12am

Pitt Law Professor and Distinguished Faculty Scholar David A. Harris, a legal expert in police misconduct and accountability, was interviewed for an NBC Nightly News segment covering the Ferguson, Missouri police brutality crisis. The segment Should All Police Be Outfitted With Body Cameras? discusses police accountability through greater surveilance and monitoring with body mounted cameras. Professor Harris has written frequently on the topic of police procedure and accountability, most recently with the NYU Press book Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science.

Watch the NBC Nightly News segment here.

Friday, August 15, 2014 - 10:30am

AP Photo

In The New York Times story Ferguson Images Evoke Civil Rights Era and Changing Visual Perceptions, Pitt Law Professor Dr. David J. Garrow offered analysis of the war of images over the protests and police clashes in Ferguson, MO in response to the police shooting and killing unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The story observes that the general population’s interpretation of the events in Ferguson is shaped more by who they follow on Twitter and Facebook, or what filters they have set when they search for information on the crisis. The story notes “David J. Garrow, a historian at the University of Pittsburgh’s law school and the author of several books on the civil rights movement, noted that when he searched for images of Ferguson on Google, roughly half showed what appeared to be looting. Such images look “more like Watts in 1965 or Newark in 1967, not Birmingham in 1963 or Selma in 1965,” Dr. Garrow said in the story. And historically, he said, such photos were “deadly when it came to white public opinion.”

Read the New York Times story Ferguson Images Evoke Civil Rights Era and Changing Visual Perceptions.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 11:27am

A federal judge in California has ruled that the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s ban on paying college athletes for use of their likenesses violates federal antitrust law. The NCAA has announced that it will appeal the decision, but the appeal will be heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is not likely to be a favorable venue for an antitrust defendant, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Journal quoted University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman, an expert on the federal courts, who said: “I’m sure the NCAA would rather be in some other circuit.” In several major antitrust cases, the Ninth Circuit has ruled in favor of the plaintiff, only to be reversed by the United States Supreme Court.

Read the full story here.   

 

Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 10:48am

 

Pitt Law Professor David A. Harris, a legal expert in police misconduct and author of Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science was quoted extensively in a New York Times cover story on the deteriorating situation in Ferguson, Missouri. On Saturday an unarmed 18-year-old black man, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a police officer in the St. Louis suburb. In the days since, demonstrations and protestors have clashed with a militarized police force armed with rubber bullets, tear gas, high-powered assault rifles and armored trucks.

The New York Times story penned by Julie Bosman and Erik Eckholm details arrests and detainments of journalists reporting on the crisis and the hacker collective known as Anonymous which has broken into municipal government servers to retrieve and disseminate information on the police and city officials in a practice known as “doxing.”

“Police departments do not welcome disclosure or the input of outsiders,” Harris said in the story. “So when you have a problem like this, it’s hardly surprising to see that they are very reluctant to give out information.”

In the story Harris said that while it was understandable that police officials would try to protect their officers from threats and unfair accusations, silence also had its risks. “This case is not being tried yet, but the narrative is being forged in the public arena. When that goes on, information is put out selectively and withheld selectively.”

“There is real danger in that,” he said, “because ultimately law enforcement depends on the trust of the people they serve.”

Read the New York Times story Anonymity in Police Shooting Fuels Anger in Missouri.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 10:37am

Molly! Masich, '14, works with an Immigration Law Clinic client who has recently been granted asylum.

A version of this article previously appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of the Pitt Law Magazine. Words by Christine H. O’Toole

United States’ Senate passage of a new immigration law in June punctuated a historic quarter century: the United States has received more immigrants in the past 25 years than at any previous period of its history. These newcomers confront daunting requirements for visas and work permits; undocumented immigrants may also be subjected to largescale immigration roundups, the denial of due process in deportation proceedings, and abusive detention conditions. As a result, efforts to guarantee immigrants’ basic rights and help them navigate paths to citizenship have grown. For one Pitt Law graduate, immigration law grew to become an absorbing cause.

Molly! Masich, ‘14, spent the summers of 2012 and 2013 working with non-profit organizations, helping immigrants find ways to achieve permanent legal status. Her most recent experience was a stint in the Legal Services for Immigrants and Internationals department of Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS), which provides legal help as well as humanitarian aid for immigrants and refugees in Pittsburgh. She took responsibility for 57 cases, contacting nearly 150 individuals—many of whom speak limited English—about services provided by Jewish Family and Children’s Services. A public interest scholarship funded through Pitt Law student fundraising efforts of the Pitt Legal Income Sharing Foundation (PLISF) allowed her to take the post. Over the course of the last academic year, PLISF raised $27,000 and provided 14 full scholarships to students working in non-paid positions.

For Masich, finding the relief for immigrants seeking to enter or remain in the country is painstaking and rewarding task. “Everything about immigration is onerous,” she observes. “And if you make something hard, it encourages deceit.”

Born on the U.S./Mexico border in Arizona, Masich’s lifelong interest in immigration issues stems from having worked to provide social services to at risk immigrants’ before matriculating at Pitt Law. After a previous public interest legal internship and her experience in the three-year old immigration law clinic directed by Prof. Sheila Vélez Martínez, that grew into a passion. Student work on JFCS’s most complex cases frees the non-profit’s limited staff to handle others. “We take referrals for criminal immigration cases. People who have a criminal history have burdensome issues,” she explains. Each semester, eight to ten students tackle the cases that other non-profits will not touch. In the spring 2013 semester, Vélez Martínez estimates that students performed 1,600 hours of pro bono work, with good results. The clinic has won all of the cases it has shouldered since its founding in 2010.

Observing the difficulties clients face has helped Masich pinpoint gaps in their understanding of their rights.

“Often, immigrants make their first contact with the legal system through traffic violations, particularly DUI cases,” she explains. “A DUI violation can affect immigrants’ eligibility for immigration reliefs, but many aren’t aware of that penalty until after the fact.” While working for JFCS, Masich also completed a separate, for-credit externship with Vélez Martínez, researching the problem for a presentation to faith-based organizations and non-profits that serve the local immigrant community.

“One of the changes in the bill, as proposed right now, is to include a third DUI conviction as a ground for inadmissibility to the U.S.,” says Vélez Martínez of the immigration bill passed by the Senate June 28, 2013. “Members of the immigrant community in Pittsburgh have identified this as an issue. We’re creating a legal perspective on the immigration consequences, and working with criminal law attorneys, social activists and health professionals to address this problem from a holistic perspective.”

The current Senate proposes a path to citizenship in 13 years for adults (five years for youth). Masich says that time frame is a significant improvement. “Thirteen years is fast. Right now, it can take up to 20 years, depending on what country you’re from. That doesn’t encourage anyone to follow the laws.”

Vélez Martínez agrees that immigrants will require continued legal assistance to reach citizenship. “The proposed process is complicated. It’s costly. It has obstacles. We have agreed that about nine million people are undocumented and part of our economy. We’re going to let them stay, but will make it very difficult. The strength of the bill is that it recognizes that we have to deal with immigration reform in a comprehensive fashion. And it will finally allow immigrants to travel abroad to visit their families.”

Fast Fact: Pennsylvania was home to 756,410 immigrants in 2011, according to the American Immigration Council, with over 52 percent of them already naturalized citizens. Unauthorized immigrants comprised 1.3 percent, or 160,00 residents, in 2011. That number includes just over 3,000 refugees resettled by the U.S. Department of State within the Commonwealth, placing it fourth after Texas, California and New York. Nationals of Burma, Bhutan, and Iraq made up almost three-quarters of the refugee arrivals nationally and in Pennsylvania.

Monday, July 21, 2014 - 12:10pm

President Obama’s judicial nominees have been moving increasingly quickly to Senate confirmation, and the Legal Intelligencer (part of ALM Media Properties) asked Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman why this is now happening.

Hellman suggested that the gutting of the filibuster in favor of a simple majority was the reason for the speedier pace.

The nuclear option changed the landscape, Hellman said.

“The dynamics are completely different” now, he said, explaining that when something as significant as changing the 60-vote threshold is changed, it changes the game since interest groups that might have once put money into fighting a nominee might lose interest and some senators who might have voted against a nominee might change their minds in the face of an, essentially, impossible fight.

Hellman also cited the midterm elections as putting pressure on the White House to move its nominees through while it has a majority in the Senate, saying of Obama before the midterms, “He has a window now that is going to close soon.”

Read the full article here.        

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 11:13am

Pitt Law Professors Debbie Brake and Ben Bratman were quoted extensively in an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on July 12, 2014, about a recent settlement of a lawsuit alleging employment discrimination and retaliation.

Read the full story here.  

 

Monday, July 14, 2014 - 5:17pm

 

A front page Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article details the story of the suicide of 23-year-old Brandon Palakovic in July 2012 in a troubled, now-closed state prison outside of Altoona. Pitt Law graduate, Bret Grote, a prisoners’ rights advocate familiar with the Palakovic’s matter, was quoted by the Post-Gazette on the Palakovic family’s recent lawsuit against the Department of Corrections seeking answers and reform about Brandon’s death.

Mr. Grote said to the Post-Gazette that the Palakovics have one goal in their case. "They don't want other people to go through the pain and the loss that they have,” Grote said. “If Brandon's story in this lawsuit can hit home the life and death consequences of this issue, and contribute to publicizing the serious human rights violations that go on in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, then that is their ultimate intention.”

Mr. Grote with The Abolitionist Law Center has taken on the Palakovics’ case under the representation of Mike Healy of the firm Healy and Hornack and Pitt Law Professor Jules Lobel.

Read more about the Palakovics’ story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Read more about the case Palakovic v. Wetzel at the Abolitionist Law Center.

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