Faculty News

David Harris Contributes to CBS News Report on Local Police Department Compliance with Federal Reforms

The Pittsburgh Police Department was the subject of a January 30, 2015, CBS News report on Justice Department efforts to reform law enforcement at the local level. Pitt Law Professor and Distinguished Faculty Scholar David Harris, an expert on law enforcement and regulation, contributed to the report, stressing the need for vigilance and oversight in enforcing such reforms.

“It may be the case that there’s a department that simply doesn’t have the political will behind it to change, or perhaps there are actors within the department who do not want to change.” Watch the entire segment and read the full article here.

Publish Date: 
Friday, January 30, 2015 - 2:00pm

Dean Carter Profiled in 'Personalities of Pittsburgh'

Pitt Law Dean William M. Carter Jr. is featured in the Pittsburgh Business Times Personalities of Pittsburgh series, in the article "Carter Preparing Tomorrow’s Litigators" by Patty Tascarella. Here's a preview:

"William Carter Jr. grew up in Cleveland and started his career at large law firms in Washington,D.C., but soon decided his future was in academia. A year after taking the helm of the University of Pittsburgh's School of Law in 2012, he made the gutsy decision to cut first-year enrollment by 17 percent from 211 to 175. Carter talked about steering the school as the legal environment evolves, what's shaped his own career and why litigation is fascinating."

Download a pdf of the article, available to subscribers only.

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Friday, January 30, 2015 - 2:00pm

John Burkoff Comments on Decision by DA Not to Retry Leon Ford

Pitt Law Professor John Burkoff speaks to both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review newspapers about Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s decision to drop remaining charges against Leon Ford, who was shot and paralyzed by a Pittsburgh police officer. Ford was acquitted in September of aggravated assault but he remained charged with recklessly endangering another person, resisting arrest, and escape.

Read the Post-Gazette article here and the Tribune-Review article here.   

Publish Date: 
Monday, January 26, 2015 - 2:00pm

John Burkoff Speaks to WESA About Election Process for State Supreme Court Candiates

Pitt Law Professor John Burkoff spoke with 90.5 WESA in Pittsburgh Friday about the race for the three open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Six of the 18 candidates gathered Sunday for a forum at Chatham University. Burkoff said it is often difficult for voters to evaluate candidates for the state supreme court, because a written record only exists for those who have served as judges. “It’s almost impossible for an ordinary citizen to figure out who exactly he or she is voting for," he said. "They don’t follow all of the decisions. They don’t understand or want to understand the legal doctrine behind why a case is decided a particular way.” Burkoff believes appellate judges, who are supposed to be nonpartisan, should be appointed rather than subject to partisan elections.

Reference the related article here.

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Monday, January 26, 2015 - 1:45pm

Arthur Hellman Quoted on Probe of Federal Judge Arrested on Domestic Abuse Allegations

Sources say an evidentiary hearing has been scheduled to consider a charge of judicial misconduct against an Alabama federal judge who was arrested on domestic abuse allegations. The Daily Report, the American Law Media newspaper in Atlanta, Ga., on Jan. 16 talked to Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman, an expert on federal judicial ethics, about the significance of this development. The article is only available for subscribers. 

Hellman suggested the hearing may have been called because the investigator hired by the “special committee” encountered conflicting stories from witnesses. In that situation, Hellman said, the judges would be “derelict” to allow the investigator to make credibility determinations himself. “If there are any questions at all about credibility, the special committee members will want to hear and question the witnesses themselves,” Hellman added.

Commentary to the rules on federal judicial discipline proceedings says that a special committee's power to subpoena a judge for a hearing is “subject to the normal testimonial privileges.” Hellman said he thought such privileges would include the Fifth Amendment, adding that the special committee would not have the authority to immunize a judge from prosecution.

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Monday, January 26, 2015 - 9:45am

Alan Meisel is Quoted in The New York Times on Complexities of End-of-Life Decision Making for Dementia Patients

The rate of dementia among adults, especially those over 85, is steadily increasing, affecting not only those diagnosed with a degenerative illness such as Alzheimer’s but also the family members who often care for them.  A desire to not be a burden on loved ones in the event of their developing a terminal illness leads some to make formal decisions relative to their own end-of-life care. Known as advance directives, these documents might instruct health care professionals not to administer lifesaving treatment like cardiopulmonary resuscitation, ventilators, or feeding tubes. In rare cases, patients might also express a desire for “voluntarily stopping eating and drinking” (VSED). Adding to complexities surrounding this issue, says The New York Times in “Complexities of Choosing an End Game for Dementia,” is whether patients who develop dementia can indicate with an advance directive whether they choose to end their lives through VSED.

Alan Meisel, Pitt Law professor of law and psychiatry; Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote Professor of Bioethics; and director of the University’s Center for Bioethics and Health Law, is an expert on end-of-life decision making. He believes VSED could be among the viable options for people making these decisions. “People in their 50s and 60s frequently say: ‘I don’t want to be in that situation. I don’t want to put my family in that situation.’ And people will increasingly voice those views to others, sometimes in a formal way through advance directives.”

Meisel stresses the importance of not referring to this method of end-of-life care as “starvation,” saying, “It’s the rhetoric more than anything.” He adds that if removing patients from ventilators were suddenly referred to as “suffocation,” that issue might also become contentious.

Read the entire story in The New York Times here

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - 4:30pm

Bernard Hibbitts Receives Prestigious Canadian American Bar Association Award

University of Pittsburgh School of Law Professor Bernard J. Hibbitts has been awarded the John D. Lawson Award from the Canadian American Bar Association (CABA). The award recognizes native Canadians who have excelled in the practice of law and/or made an outstanding contribution to the law or legal scholarship in the United States.

A professor of law at Pitt since 1988, Hibbitts is the publisher and editor-in-chief for JURIST, the law student-generated legal news service that he established in 1996. Prior to joining the faculty of Pitt’s School of Law, Hibbitts served as a law clerk for the Supreme Court of Canada.

A legal historian, Hibbitts’ teaching and research interests focus on the history of law in Western culture. He is especially interested in how communication technology in both print and electronic media has shaped legal education and practice. Hibbitts’ scholarly work has been published in such highly respected legal publications as the Law Library Journal, the McGill Law Journal, the New York University Law Review, the University of Pittsburgh Law Review, and the University of Toronto Law Journal, among others.

In the official announcement for the John D. Lawson Award, CABA President Sarah Robertson wrote: “Professor Hibbitts exemplifies the dedication to legal scholarship through academic achievement and innovation in teaching and communication that the John D. Lawson Award recognizes.”

Hibbitts’ other honors include the University of Pittsburgh’s Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1995 as well as the School of Law’s Excellence-in-Teaching Award in 1993. He also has been recognized with numerous awards and distinctions for his work with JURIST.

A former Rhodes Scholar, Hibbitts earned a Bachelors of Arts degree in Jurisprudence from Oxford University in 1983 as well as a Master of Arts degree from Oxford in 1989. He earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in 1984 as well as Master of Laws degrees at both the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law and Harvard University’s Harvard Law School in 1986 and 1988, respectively. Hibbitts also earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science at Dalhousie University in 1980 as well as a Masters of Arts degree in international affairs at Carleton University in 1981.

Established in 2010, the John D. Lawson Award is named for the noted legal practitioner, educator, and judge, who also was a founding member of the Association of American Law Schools. Past recipients of the award include former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Jonathan Anschell, executive vice president and general counsel for CBS Broadcasting Inc. 

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Publish Date: 
Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - 1:00pm

David Harris Comments for Washington Post on Holder’s Limiting of Seized Civil Asset Sharing

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday announced the effective end of civil asset forfeiture by local and state police, a practice in which police seized citizens’ private property, such as cash and cars, without issuing a warrant or even having to prove a crime had been committed. According to The Washington Post, since 2008—under the Justice Department’s civil asset forfeiture program Equitable Sharing, originally intended to help fund the war on drugs—local and state police agencies have seized cash and property from private citizens worth $3 billion. Police departments would often keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds from the seizures and “share” the rest with federal agencies. David Harris, Pitt Law professor and Distinguished Faculty Scholar, who is an expert on constitutional law and police behavior, supports a reversal of the policy.

“It’s high time we put an end to this damaging practice,” he said. “It has been a civil-liberties debacle and a stain on American criminal justice.”

Holder’s decision allows for exceptions such as illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives, and materials used for child pornography, which represent a small portion of seized assets.

Read the entire story, which originally ran in The Washington Post, here. 

Publish Date: 
Monday, January 19, 2015 - 3:00pm

David Thaw on Cybersecurity

Cyber attacks on major retailers, banks, even movie production companies, are becoming more commonplace, leading to increased awareness of cybersecurity and anxiety over the ever-looming threats against it. President Barack Obama announced Tuesday revised legislation related to cybersecurity that would give companies legal protections for sharing information with each other and the government about hacking threats. Obama believes such legislation is necessary to help prevent attacks like the one that occurred last month at Sony Pictures.

Pitt Law Assistant Professor of Law and Information Sciences David Thaw, an expert on cybersecurity, cybercrime, and cyberwarfare, appeared January 14 on Bloomberg Radio’s Bloomberg Law program to discuss cybersecurity and the law. Listen to the archived show here.

Thaw also appeared on an episode of “Where We Live” on the subject, which aired January 13 on WNPR in Hartford, Conn. The expert panel, which also included Professor Bryan Ford, who leads the Decentralized/Distributed Systems research group at Yale University, and Arthur House, chair of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, discussed, among other things, the cost of these attacks and what can be done to prevent them.

Learn more and listen to the complete broadcast.

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, January 14, 2015 - 1:45pm

David Harris Quoted in New York Times on Charges Filed Against Officers in Death of Homeless Man

Prosecutors will pursue murder charges against two Albuquerque, New Mexico, police officers, Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez, saying they acted with “deliberate intention” in the killing last March of James Boyd, a homeless man with a history of mental illness. The case, which led to large protests against police and a federal criminal investigation, is likely to be among the first to rely on video evidence from a body camera worn by an officer.

The shooting occurred after a standoff in which the police said Boyd had two knives, but in a video recorded by one of the officers' helmet camera, he appeared to be turning away as he was shot. The New York Times asked Pitt Law Professor and Distinguished Faculty Scholar David Harris, an expert on police behavior and regulation, for comment.

With the video evidence, Harris said, “it becomes impossible to deny some of the very basic facts. That means you start an investigation on an entirely different foundation.”

Read the full story here.

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, January 13, 2015 - 1:00pm

David Garrow Called on as Leading National Expert on MLK

During the month of January, when the country pays tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Pitt Law Research Professor of Law and History David Garrow continues to be called on as a leading national expert on King’s life and legacy, including recent events surrounding his children's ongoing battles over his estate and controversies related to the depictions of King and President Lyndon B. Johnson in the movie Selma, now in theaters. 

Garrow spoke about the latest legal entanglement among King’s children during an interview that aired live on CBS This Morning. “This is just one more chapter in an ongoing saga,” he said. “Dr. King himself was an utterly, completely selfless individual. Unfortunately, none of the children has been a good inheritor of what his message—what the meaning of his life—should represent.” Watch the entire segment here.

Garrow is the author of Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Morrow, 1986; HarperCollins paperback, 2004), which won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, as well as The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Norton, 1981) and Protest at Selma (Yale University Press, 1978).

Garrow’s opinions have been featured this month in the Los Angeles TimesNew York Times, Washington Post, TIME magazine, and on MSNBC and National Public Radio’s Marketplace and Marketplace Weekend, among others.


Los Angeles Times

Legal battles of Martin Luther King Jr.'s children threaten his legacy

The New York Times

Protesters Out to Reclaim King's Legacy, But in Era That Defies Comparison

Depiction of Lyndon B. Johnson in ‘Selma’ Raises Hackles

A Historical Controversy About ‘Selma’

Washington Post

The story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s first secretary, Maude Ballou

This powerful image perfectly captures how divided America was when MLK died

‘Selma’ distorts the truth about LBJ

TIME magazine

Why You Should Care That ‘Selma’ Gets LBJ Wrong


A Day of Reflection

'Selma' Draws Criticism for LBJ Depiction

National Public Radio


Marketplace Weekend (segment begins at 26:00)

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Publish Date: 
Tuesday, January 13, 2015 - 10:45am

Pitt Law Professor Arthur Hellman is Quoted on Controversy over Case Assignments in Ninth Circuit

Allegations of panel packing to favor liberal outcomes in the Ninth Circuit have generated controversy. A story in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, available to subscribers only but quoted extensively by Ed Whelan at National Review Online, presented the views of Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman.

According to the story, Hellman, an authority on judicial ethics, said he's convinced the Ninth Circuit is in the clear but believes a probe is warranted.

“I have known [the circuit’s executive officer] Cathy Catterson for many years, and I have absolute confidence that she would never countenance any kind of panel packing,” Hellman wrote in an email.

Hellman's comment came with a strong suggestion that the circuit nevertheless address the claims publicly.

“In this as in so many other aspects of federal court operations, 'trust me' is no longer an adequate response,” he wrote.

Hellman called for a formal investigation of the allegations and a report to the public of the findings.

Beyond the specifics of what exactly went on, Hellman wrote, “I was surprised by [former Chief Judge Alex] Kozinski's apparent lack of curiosity—not to mention his apparent ignorance of court procedures and their evolution.”

Access the National Review Online article here.

Publish Date: 
Monday, January 12, 2015 - 2:15pm

Truthout Quotes Pitt Law Professor Thomas Ross Article On Race And Presumed Innocence And Guilt

In a Dec. 10 Op-Ed, non-profit news site Truthout quoted Pitt Law professor Thomas Ross’ William & Mary Law Review article “The Rhetorical Tapestry of Race” following the announcement of police officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo’s non-indictments in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

The editorial cites Ross’s article, quoting "White innocence is the insistence on the innocence or absence of responsibility of the contemporary white person" and observing, “What this means is that white people will not be considered guilty of a crime simply because on the color of their skin. This is due to the fact that white innocence is historically predicated on the criminalization and violation of (primarily) black bodies. The framing of whites throughout United States as inherently innocent and blacks as guilty not only encourages the continued perpetuation of white violence against black people, such as physical police violence, the discriminatory enforcement of laws, and mass incarceration, but also makes it a necessary condition of the state, as the state maintains its power and dominance through the criminalization of (mainly) black people.”

Read more at Truthout in Claudia Garcia-Rojas’ op-ed “The Long History of Presumed White Innocence and Black Guilt."

Publish Date: 
Thursday, December 11, 2014 - 1:45pm

Pitt Law Professor David Harris Speaks To AP About Sheriff Arpaio Racial Profiling Case

Pitt Law Professor and racial profiling expert David A. Harris offered analysis to the Associated Press in a Dec. 4 wire story about embattled Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio's potential contempt of court case. The Arizona Sheriff has been under scrutiny for racial profiling. According to the AP, eighteen months ago, the judge found the sheriff's office had systematically singled out Latinos in regular traffic and special immigration patrols. The AP story quoted Prof. Harris as saying he wouldn't expect the judge to jail Arpaio and instead would probably gradually ramp up the severity of his punishments if the sheriff continued to defy the judge.

On the possibility of jailtime for the Sheriff, Harris told the AP, "I don't think that's very likely, simply because he is an elected official."

Read more in the Associated Press story "Arpaio's Racial Profiling Case Enters New Phase" on ABCNews

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Thursday, December 4, 2014 - 10:30am

Pitt Law Professor David Thaw Speaks to KDKA About High School Cell Phone Seizure

A KDKA news segment aired yesterday covering the North Huntington police seizure of Norwin High School students’ cell phones in an investigation possibly about the intent to sell sexually explicit pictures. KDKA spoke with University of Pittsburgh School of Law Professor and technology law expert, David Thaw on the matter.

KDKA reporter Harold Hayes reported in the news segment that the involvement of the police indicates not only the potential criminal nature of the probe, but the complicated legal landscape of cell phone examinations.

“If there’s nothing apparent and the school officials turned [the phones] over to law enforcement on the grounds of, ‘well, we heard some rumors,’ then law enforcement on the basis of that can conduct an investigation,” Thaw told KDKA.

Watch and read the news segment “Police Seize Cell Phones From Norwin High School Students” on KDKA.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 11:45am

Closing the Gap: WQED Special on Equal Pay For Women Features Commentary From Pitt Law Professor Deborah Brake

In a special WQED segment of Pittsburgh 360 that aired Oct. 2, Pitt Law Professor Deborah Brake offered analysis and commentary along with Sabina Deitrick. Afterward WQED premiered a live talk show special Closing the Gap: 50 Years Seeking Equal Pay, which also featured commentary from Professor Brake.

The talk show special is the kick-off of a two-year campaign produced by WQED in partnership with the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh. Simultaneously with the live special was an online moderated social screening event where viewers had concurrent discussions about the program.

In part with the special, is the launch of the Closing the Gap website at http://www.womenwagegap.org. The advocacy website explores why the pay gap between men and women persists and how to improve it and works to arm women with information and skills to assist them in earning fair pay throughout their own careers and toward a secure retirement.

Professor Brake offers commentary in several videos on the site that provide extra content that did not air on the television program, such as commentary on the Fair Pay Act.

Read more at Closing the Gap

Publish Date: 
Friday, October 10, 2014 - 3:30pm

Pitt Law Professor David Harris Speaks to Essential Pittsburgh 90.5 WESA About What Supreme Court Cases Will Be Heard This Term

Pitt Law Professor David A. Harris spoke with Essential Pittsburgh on 90.5 WESA yesterday about possible Supreme Court cases to be heard this term. From WESA: The 2014-2015 session of the Supreme Court began on Monday. The court wasted no time in making news by refusing to rule on same-sex marriage. There are a number of other issues on the docket including first amendment rights in the digital age and whether to hear a challenge to the affordable care act. The current term also marks John Roberts’ 10th year as chief justice. Joining us for an overview of the cases the Supreme Court could be ruling on is University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris.

Listen to the Essential Pittsburgh episode on 90.5 WESA

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Friday, October 10, 2014 - 11:15am

David Harris on Changing Police Practices In Ferguson

David Harris was interviewed by St. Louis Public Radio about Pittsburgh's experience under a federal consent decree, in light of the likely imposition of a consent decree in Ferguson, MO. Harris said that the consent decree had markedly improved the Pittsburgh Police Department, but that the improvement had not proven to be permanent. Subsequent city and police administrations did not maintain the commitment to the positive changes that were made under the consent decree, and backsliding resulted.

Read the full story here.  

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 11:45am

Arthur Hellman Quoted by Wall Street Journal on Judicial Impeachment

Several members of Congress have called for the resignation of Federal District Judge Mark Fuller, who was arrested on charges of domestic violence. But if Judge Fuller does not resign, the only way of removing him from office is through the process of impeachment, Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman told the Wall Street Journal.
This was a deliberate choice by the Framers, Hellman said. He added that the protections accorded by the Constitution to federal judges are especially important when passions are running high.
“Federal judges have life tenure, and the reason for that is to enable them to resist popular and legislative pressure,” he said. “There is a long history of popular calls for impeaching federal judges, though generally for their [legal] decisions.” A federal judge can’t be forced from the bench outside of the impeachment process even if convicted of a felony, he added.

Read the full Wall Street Journal article here.  


Publish Date: 
Friday, September 26, 2014 - 3:45pm

Arthur Hellman’s Comments Selected as “Quotation of the Day” by the New York Times

Publish Date/Time:  September 22, 2014

Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman’s comments on the arrest of Federal Judge Mark Fuller on domestic violence charges were selected as the “Quotation of the Day” by the New York Times. Hellman said, “The judge is brought down to the level of football players. You don’t normally see people talking about those two occupations in the same paragraph.” The Times story also quoted Hellman’s comments on the dilemma that the case poses for the federal judicial disciplinary process. Hellman described the self-policing role of the judiciary as “a very difficult line to walk.” He added: “How can you maintain public confidence without yielding to the passions of the moment? There’s no formula for that.”

Read the full article here.  

Publish Date: 
Monday, September 22, 2014 - 1:15pm