Tag Archives: law

Gerald Leonard on Jefferson’s Constitutions

LeonardProfilePicGerald F. Leonard, Law Alumni Scholar and Professor of Law at the Boston University School of Law, will speak about Thomas Jefferson’s pivotal role in altering the operative meaning of the Constitution between 1787 and the Jacksonian ascendancy of the late 1820s and 1830s. To explain this aspect of Jefferson’s career, Professor Leonard will elucidate Jefferson’s constitutional thought across a half century of constitutional development. The essential themes are democratization and its relation to the rule of law, the emergence of party federalism (states’ rights), and slavery. The accompanying paper is available from radelstein[at]wesleyan[dot]edu.

An informal reception will follow. This is the third of four lectures on Centralization and Decentralization hosted by the Allbritton Collaborative Cluster Initiative.

Date: Tuesday, March 24 – Today
Time: 4:15 PM
Place: PAC 002

For Those Attending (or Protesting) the Hugo Black Lecture by Professor Aharon Barak Tonight: Commentary by Eric Stephen ’13


Tonight, Professor Aharon Barak will be speaking in the Memorial Chapel at 8:00 PM for the annual Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression.

Whether you are attending the lecture or protesting the role Barak’s decisions have played in the development of Israeli settlements, you may want to learn a bit about the Israeli judicial system prior to the lecture. If so, check out this commentary by Eric Stephen ’13. The commentary puts Barak in context, discussing the structure of the Israeli judicial system, how the government deals with freedom of the press, and whether Barak is an “activist judge,” as his detractors within Israel have occasionally said.


Spotted at the Supreme Court: Lezra ’11 Participating in “Most Obscure Protest”

Tons and tons and tons of young activists (including a handful of conservatives) descended on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court this week to express their support or opposition towards same-sex marriage as justices hear arguments that may well strike down the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. Of the many demonstrators, perhaps none are nerdier than a pack of students from the Georgetown University Law Center, who are predominantly peeved about the Court’s decision to “review the arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry using rational basis, the most lenient form of judicial review in the U.S. court system.” Haven’t been to law school yet? DCist’s Benjamin Freed, who dubs it the “Most Obscure Supreme Court Protest,” explains:

In a rational basis review, judges test if a law or other governmental action is in the reasonable interests of that government in a way that passes muster with the Fifth or 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The standard gives a wide berth to state laws, such as Proposition 8.

Spotted among the crew, second from the left in that photo, is former Argus editor, prolific soccer blogger, and all-around friendly dude Gabe Lezra ’11, who elaborates on his crew’s moral indignation:

“Rational basis means that the court will give great deference to any state law passed so long as that it is rationally related to government interests,” said Gabe Lezra, who was propped up one of four posters decorated to look like a court brief.

“We were going to do a table of authorities, but we ran out of time,” he said.

Transitional Justice – Juries – Constitutions

Oh yeah.

Another interesting talk to fill your dull and lonely day. Catherine Chase ’15 writes in: 

Do you like ancient Greece? Do you want to know what ancient Greece can teach us about contemporary institutional design? Are you interested in going to law school?

Then come hear Professor Adriaan Lanni, all the way from HARVARD LAW SCHOOL, talk it.

Date: Wednesday, February 20
Time: 4:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Place: Wyllys 112
Price: Free

Noah Messing: How Lawyers Write

Alexander P. Ray ’13 asks you to cease and desist whatever you’re doing tomorrow at 4:15 and be summoned to Downey House:

Want to be a lawyer? Sorry to hear that. But you might as well come to this talk.

Noah Messing is Yale Law School’s Lecturer in the Practice of Law and Legal Writing. He has worked as a trial and appellate litigator in Washington, D.C. and as Counsel to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The talk will explore the process by which lawyers, through their written work, persuade judges. Messing will provide a brief overview of the U.S. court system, after which he will present examples from some of the highest-stakes cases in recent years to illustrate how lawyers deploy law, facts, policy, and history to advocate for their clients. The examples will include cases about gay rights, a major environmental disaster, and YouTube’s (alleged) massive copyright infringement.

Sponsored by Writing at Wesleyan and the Department of Classical Studies.

Wes Lawyers’ Association meeting

law-order-svuPre-Law Society Meet and Greet:

Networking Information for the Wesleyan Lawyers Association. Would You Like to Join Pre-Law Society? All are welcome- come hear about our future events,  refreshments will be provided.

Date: Friday,  Oct. 30
Time: 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Place: COL Lounge in Butt C

MGMT to Sue French President

A hilarious bit of MGMT news – France’s conservative UMP party, led by President Nicolas Sarkozy, illegally used “Kids” in two online videos and at campaign events. And MGMT is suing their asses for compensation. From NME:

Sarkozy has admitted using the song at the UMP party’s national congress, but claims the lack of permission was a mistake and offered the band one euro as a gesture, reports BBC News.

The duo rejected the offer and are now seeking compensation. Their lawyer, Isabelle Wekstein, said, “This offer is disrespectful of the rights of artists and authors. It is insulting. We are dealing with acts of counterfeiting, an infringement of intellectual property.”

A fee of 53 Euros (£47) had initially been paid to gain use of the song, but Wekstein said that the sum was not enough to cover repeated plays of the song in the online videos.

According to Prefix, ideological opposition to the conservative organization is also a motivating factor. This is additionally funny because the UMP is strongly in favor of copyright laws, and is currently pushing a law calling for tougher penalties for infractions.

If anyone can find these campaign videos online, we will post them. In the meantime here is a video of MGMT on French television, apparently explaining the meaning of Thanksgiving:

Prefix Mag: French Political Party Steals “Kids”
: MGMT to sue Sarkozy for Music Use
NME: MGMT Suing Nicolas Sarkozy Over ‘Kids’
Pitchfork: MGMT Grapple with the President of France

[Thanks to Sayre Sundberg ’11 for sending this in like, a week ago]

Weed, the State of the Art

The New Yorker has a fascinating in-depth piece about the effect that the legalization of medicinal marijuana usage is having on the now semi-legal pot economy in California, which is centered around proliferating cannabis dispensaries, and is stimulating a thriving subculture of growers and buyers infused with organic food and Tibetan prayer flags:

Since 1996, when a referendum known as Proposition 215 was approved by California voters, it has been legal, under California state law, for authorized patients to possess or cultivate the drug. The proposition also allowed a grower to cultivate marijuana for a patient, as long as he had been designated a “primary caregiver” by that patient. …The language of the proposition was intentionally broad, covering any medical condition for which a licensed physician might judge marijuana to be an appropriate remedy—insomnia, say, or attention-deficit disorder.

The [Tibetan prayer] flags identify their owners with serenity and the conscious path, rather than with the sinister world of urban dope dealers, who flaunt muscles and guns, and charge exorbitant prices for mediocre product. …The people I met in the high-end ganja business had an affinity for higher modes of thinking and being, including vegetarianism and eating organic food, practicing yoga, avoiding prescription drugs in favor of holistic healing methods, travelling to Indonesia and Thailand, fasting, and experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs. Many were also financially savvy, working long hours and making six-figure incomes.

…The limited legal protections afforded to pot growers and dispensary owners have turned marijuana cultivation and distribution in California into a classic “gray area” business, like gambling or strip clubs, which are tolerated or not, to varying degrees, depending on where you live and on how aggressive your local sheriff is feeling that afternoon.

…Only a small percentage of consumer marijuana sales in California occur within the medical-marijuana market. Even so, the dispensaries, by serving as a gold standard for producers and consumers, have fuelled the popularity of high-end strains in much the same way that the popularity of the Whole Foods grocery chain has brought heirloom lettuce to ordinary supermarkets. To serve these sophisticated new consumers, growers in California and elsewhere are producing hundreds of exotic new strains, whose effects are more varied, subtle, and powerful than the street-level pot available to tokers in the nineteen-seventies and eighties.

Medical marijuana has made it easy for people like Emily, the Kid, and Captain Blue to see growing pot as a casual life-style choice. By going into the pot business, Emily had made the kind of compromise with reality that idealistic people often make when they get older and lose faith in their ability to effect wholesale change, and when they need the money.

Growing ganja lets you feel that you’re still living on the edge, especially when you’ve become a little complacent politically. Emily nodded, and took another puff. “The forest is still getting cut down or whatever,” she said, watching the fragrant smoke swirl in the breeze. “But you’re still working out here. You’re still subverting the Man. And you’re getting people high.”

This just might be the future of cannabis in the rest of America. Anyway, the article’s a lot more informative/reality-based than the various plot machinations of Weeds, which until now has been my main source of knowledge about the American shadow marijuana economy.

The New Yorker: Dr. Kush: How Medical Marijuana is Transforming the Pot Industry

Slotkin on Gun Ownership

The Atlantic Monthly looks into its archives for some context on the Supreme Court’s monumental decision this past week on gun ownership in D.C. v. Heller. In case you missed it, the Supreme Court ruled that Washington, D.C.’s longtime strict ban on private handgun ownership, meant to combat gun violence, violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Big deal!

One of the relevant articles dredged up is our own Professor Richard Slotkin‘s important 2000 review of Arming America, a book about the cultural significance of America’s historical relationship with guns. Blogger Andrew Sullivan excerpts a section on his blog:

The militia issue highlights a critical difference in the way American and European cultures permit violence. American culture has tended, from the eighteenth century on, to assign an extraordinary value to individual rights, desires, and property. So we came to treat weapons, and the right to use them, as we treat all forms of private property—granting the widest possible latitude of action to the owner.

Our self-defense statutes are more permissive than those of any other industrialized nation. Under English law if a person menaced with deadly force is able to flee, he is obliged to do so. American laws since the Jacksonian period have typically declared that a man may defend himself with deadly force when he has a credible belief that he is menaced with deadly force. Under this rule a Louisiana man was acquitted in 1993 after having shot an unarmed Japanese exchange student who came to his door looking for a Halloween party.

I doubt that many Wesleyan students are gun owners, but this is an interesting read regardless of your NRA status.

Atlantic: Guns Out of Control– Ashley Johnson
Atlantic: The Fall Into Guns – Richard Slotkin

Harvard Law Professors to RIAA: Take a Hike

June’s newsletter from Havard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society featured this response to the RIAA authored by Professors Charles Nesson and John Palfrey:

Recently, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, Cary Sherman, wrote to Harvard to challenge the university administration to stop acting as a “passive conduit” for students downloading music. We agree. Harvard and the 22 universities to which the RIAA has sent “pre-litigation notices” ought to take strong, direct action…and tell the RIAA to take a hike.

This Spring, 1,200 pre-litigation letters arrived unannounced at universities across the country. The RIAA promises more will follow. These letters tell the university which students the RIAA plans on suing, identifying the students only by their IP addresses, the “license plates” of Internet connections. Because the RIAA does not know the names behind the IP addresses, the letters ask the universities to deliver the notices to the proper students, rather than relying upon the ordinary legal mechanisms.

Universities should have no part in this extraordinary process. The RIAA’s charter is to promote the financial interests of its corporate members – even if that means preserving an obsolete business model for its members. The university’s charter is quite different. Harvard’s charter reflects the purposes for which it was founded in 1636: “The advancement of all good literature, arts, and sciences; the advancement and education of youth in all manner of good literature, arts, and sciences; and all other necessary provisions that may conduce to the education of the … youth of this country….”

The university strives to create knowledge, to open the minds of students to that knowledge, and to enable students to take best advantage of their educational opportunities. The university has no legal obligation to deliver the RIAA’s messages. It should do so only if it believes that’s consonant with the university’s mission.

We believe it is not.

Universities are special places, set off in time and space for students to have an opportunity most will not again have: to learn together in a community that cherishes openness above all else. If the university is perceived as doing the bidding of any particular industry, the message we’re sending to students is that the university is willing to let commercial interests intrude.

Of course there are times when that intrusion is warranted. The horror of Virginia Tech is on all our minds and in our hearts. There are far lesser justifications for allowing the arms of government and commerce to interrupt the secular sanctity of the university’s educational space. But protecting claims of copyright – whether or not legitimate claims – by passing along messages requiring students to pay lump sums to record companies just doesn’t warrant the betrayal of student’s trust and privacy.

The university does have an obligation to teach our students to be good citizens. Good citizens should be accountable for their actions. If our students are breaking the law, they should pay the price. That’s not the issue here. The RIAA has already sued well over 10,000 people, including many students, directly. They seem to be engaging in a classic tactic of the bully facing someone much weaker: threatening such dire consequences that the students settle without the issue going to court. The issue is that the university should not be carrying the industry’s water in bringing lawsuits.

The subtitle of the RIAA’s own press release puts a far more pleasant gloss on this: “New Program Invigorates Campus Conversations About Consequences For Illegal Downloading.”

If the RIAA wants to stimulate conversation, then it should engage in genuine dialogue. Come join us on campus. Come talk to the digital natives who are our students, to the faculty who care about fair intellectual property protections, and to the university counsel and technical teams who manage our strategies and operations in cyberspace. The RIAA should be asking, along with the rest of us, if we can come up with models that reward artists for their work while allowing the maximum circulation and use of their creations, as our Founding Fathers intended.

We should also be discussing the most important issue of all. Universities provide an open space in which every idea can be heard and discussed. Every limitation on the circulation of ideas works directly against the university’s mission. How can we open up more ideas, more works, more conversations, while, of course, preserving the legitimate rights of creators? How can we make the university far more open than it is now? How can universities – just like the RIAA – embrace a digital future and make the most of its opportunities?

Being the unpaid enforcement arm of the provincial interests of the RIAA is no part of the answer to these questions.