University of Pittsburgh

Faculty News

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 2:13pm

Pitt Law Professor Arthur Hellman was quoted by the Washington Post in an article on opposition to some of President Obama’s judicial nominees by members of the President’s own party.

One nominee who has aroused opposition is Michael Boggs, nominated to serve on the federal district court in Atlanta, Georgia. According to the Post, Boggs “supported keeping the Confederate emblem on the Georgia state flag; backed measures that would have required parents to accompany a daughter to an abortion clinic if she was younger than 18 and would have posted the names of abortion doctors and how many procedures they had performed; and voted to ban same-sex marriage.”

Hellman said it is rare for a district court nominee to inspire such opposition because such judges lack the power and reach of circuit court judges.

“You have three red flags there in one nominee, so it creates this huge controversy,” Hellman said. “These fights are more important to the outside groups than to the senators, but because they’re important to the outside groups, they become important to the senators.”

Read the full story here.  


Friday, May 16, 2014 - 2:32pm


Pitt Law J.D. students Yelena Cheskidova and Eduardo Santaolalla took home the Best Written Submission prize at the 13th Annual Law Student Tax Challenge in January. They’ve shared their retrospective experiences at the competition in the latest spring issue of the ABA Section of Taxation NewsQuarterly in an article by their competition coach, Pitt Law Professor Anthony Infanti.

“Looking back on it, this was one of the most rewarding experiences of our law school careers,” the students said in the article. “It not only challenged our tax knowledge but allowed us to grow as individuals and come together as a team even though our values regarding risk aversion are very different.”

Read more from the winning team in the latest issue of NewsQuarterly at the American Bar Association website (PDF download).

Thursday, May 15, 2014 - 10:52am


Oxford University Press has announced the publication of the fifth volume in the CILE Studies series. In a collaboration between CILE, headed by Pitt Law Professor Ronald Brand, and Oxford University Press, Conflicts in a Conflict: A Conflict of Laws Case Study on Israel and the Palestinian Territories, written by Prof. Michael Karayanni, the Bruce W. Wayne Chair in International Law at the Faculty of Law of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, provides an in-depth look at conflict of laws issues in conflict territories.

The book will be released May 28, 2014. According to Oxford University Press, Conflicts in a Conflict “outlines and analyzes the legal doctrines instructing the Israeli courts in private and civil disputes involving the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, since 1967 until the present day.”

Interested readers may include scholars of Conflict of Law and Public International Law and those interested in the legal, historical and political aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This study of the conflict of laws in a war setting and conflict of laws in a jurisdictionally ambiguous location, will greatly serve scholars and practitioners in similarly troubled and complex legal situations elsewhere.

View Conflicts in a Conflict at the Oxford University Press.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 2:11pm

Professor Jules Lobel Quoted By Post-Gazette On PA’s Same-Sex Marriage Case

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently sought comment from Pitt Law Professor Jules Lobel on the PA Supreme Court case concerning the constitutionality of the state’s 18-year-old same-sex marriage ban. The case be close to a quick ruling this May by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III of the Middle District of Pennsylvania. According to the Post-Gazette, if the judge opts to decide the case on the motions, he could do so any time after the May 12 deadline for reply briefs.

Prof. Lobel told the Post-Gazette that the state faces “rough sledding” in making a case against same-sex marriage.

“The rational basis test has not proven in the last 10 years or so to be a savior for the states” that are defending bans on same-sex marriage, Lobel said to the Post-Gazette.

Courts have tended to rule that "pandering to the prejudices of the citizenry is not a rational basis for legislation,” Lobel said.

Read more on this story in the Post-Gazette.

Monday, April 21, 2014 - 1:45pm

Professor Arthur Hellman was quoted extensively by the Recorder, the west coast legal newspaper, in an article on the impact of President Obama’s appointees on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. If one pending nominee is confirmed, the Ninth Circuit will have its full complement, 29 active judges, with Democratic appointees outnumbering Republicans, 20-9. “This will be a moment in history—29 active judges with this very substantial imbalance politically,” Hellman said.

While he cautioned that political pedigrees don’t dictate results from case to case, over the long haul Hellman expects two more Obama appointees to increase liberal outcomes, particularly when the court is deciding which important, thorny issues to review en banc. “It may not be a huge shift, but I think we will see something of a shift in that direction,” he said.

Hellman believes the addition of two more Democratic appointees will be felt when the court holds votes on whether to take cases en banc. He points out that even if five Democratic appointees were to side with Republicans, the remaining Democrats could still form a majority to call a case en banc.

Read more here.  

Monday, April 21, 2014 - 1:41pm

On April 15, 2014, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s energy news site, PowerSource, published an article "Slicing the Corporate Pie," concerning top executives' pay, particularly in the energy industry. Author Anya Litvak interviewed and quoted Professor Douglas Branson: "[S]ome executive compensation experts, such as Doug Branson, a professor of business law at the University of Pittsburgh, say [use of all or nearly all equity-based compensation] ignores a company's other constituents: employees, suppliers and customers. "We're finding that excessive stock options are not a good thing," he said, as they incentivize "taking excessive risk, and taking excessive risk is antithetical to sustainability."

Read the full article here.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 2:18pm

Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law Tony Infanti was quoted in an MSNBC story regarding the continuing tax hassles for same-sex couples following the Supreme Court's landmark decision in United States v. Windsor last summer, striking down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Read the full story here.  


Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 11:46am

Pitt Law Professor Arthur Hellman commented in The Legal Intelligencer on the surprisingly close Senate votes to confirm two of President Obama’s nominees for the federal district court in Philadelphia. One of the nominees had run as a pro-life candidate for Congress in the mid-1990s; the other had supported gun control legislation in the late 1990s. Hellman noted that the two issues—abortion and gun control—rarely come before a district court judge; “a judge could go an entire career without handling an abortion case” or a gun case, he said. But, he added, trial judges do decide whether to grant preliminary injunctions when they are faced with those kinds of cases, which changes the status quo for a period of time.

Hellman also pointed out that the “no” votes might have been predicated on concerns about the nominees’ approach to legal issues that go beyond the two hot-button issues. He said that some senators might see the judges’ positions on those issues as being “reflective of a larger worldview.”

Read more here.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 4:21pm


For the first time in its history, the Pitt Law Securities Arbitration law clinic has filed an amicus curiae brief asking the Supreme Court to consider a Bear Stearns hedge fund investment fraud case stemming from the sub-prime mortgage crisis and subsequent questions about arbitration neutrality.

The clinic, composed of Pitt Law students Kieran O’Leary, Jeremy Papp, Stuart Carney, Fangxing (James) Li, Kelly Horejs, Joseph Fladung, Sydney Normil, Joseph O’Neill, and Andrew Karas, researched the case heavily in two teams before filing the 27-page brief with the nation’s highest court Mar. 14.

While the Supreme Court handles 10,000 case requests in a year, typically only 70 to 80 go to oral argument. However the filing of the friend of the court brief gives the clinic students the opportunity for real world case experience in research and navigating the motions of court filing.

In comments to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, clinic director Alice Stewart said the case has serious implications for small investors. “Ms. Stewart said the way the arbitrators and courts treated Mr. Stone has serious implications for all small investors.

"The holding in the [appeals court] opinion unduly burdens small investors, and that concerns me," Stewart said to the Post-Gazette. “This is an important issue. Just about everybody over 30 has an investment account, so it affects a lot of people.”

Read more about the case Stone v. Bear Stearns and the Pitt Law clinic’s related actions in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 11:06am

Professor John Burkoff was quoted in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on the death by drowning in Jamaica of a man awaiting trial on homicide charges in Pennsylvania. Burkoff questioned why he was allowed to travel outside the United States while serious charges were pending. There are no automatic restrictions imposed under state law in such cases, he said. “It's a surprise to me he was allowed out of the country,” Burkoff added. “It's unusual. Maybe the judge thought he wasn't a flight risk.”

Read the full article here.

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