Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blog on hiatus for the holidays

Loyola Law School is on winter break until Jan. 17. During that time, Summary Judgments will feature only intermittent postings. Happy new year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Getting closer to justice for descendants of victims of Armenian Genocide

By Professor Stan Goldman

Director, Center for the Study of Law & Genocide

Recently, I appeared at second chair before an en banc panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in yet another installment of what has been an ongoing saga to obtain payment of insurance claims due to descendants of victims of the Armenian Genocide. The case, Movsesian v. Victoria Versicherung, stems from unpaid policies sold in 1915 to ethnic Turkish Armenians in the prelude to what would become the Armenian Genocide. In my role as director of the Center for the Study of Law & Genocide (CSLG), I have worked on an amicus curae on behalf of the plaintiffs represented by attorneys including alumni Mark Geragos '84 and Brian Kabateck '89 against defendant insurance companies Victoria Versicherung AG, Ergo Versicherungsgruppe AG and parent company Munich Re.

First, a little back story: The side for which I was writing and appearing originally lost in the three-judge Ninth Circuit panel that had declared California's law unconstitutional as an interference with the federal government's exclusive control over foreign policy. The court then reversed itself, in significant part because of the historical argument we set forth in the CSLG's amicus I filed requesting a rehearing after the initial loss. The nation of Turkey, somewhat shaken by the court's reversal, then filed an amicus requesting yet another rehearing. In response to this, the court ordered a hearing en banc, at which time we filed an additional amicus, which included a reiteration of my earlier historical argument. That argument was that the United States had in fact recognized the genocidal nature of the Armenian massacres as a result of Congress's passage of various legislation in the 1980s and that hesitancy to reiterate that in recent times was insignificant. In other words, though you may not have chosen to renew your vows in the last few years, as long as you have not divorced in the interim you're still a married couple based on the original ceremony.

However, larger issues loom. An additional argument as to why California should be allowed to authorize civil lawsuits in order to redress losses during the Armenian Genocide is U.S. authorities are allowed to criminally prosecute the perpetrators of genocide if they come within U.S. borders. It would seem this is a right granted under the United Nations genocide convention to every signatory (of which the U.S. is one), and my interpretation of federal law is that it in turn allows state as well as federal prosecution. If this is in fact correct, then does that not, as a matter of logic, also authorize the lesser remedy of civil actions arising out of genocides including that of the Armenians? It should be additionally noted that while California's law may allow standing to sue, a total of 43 states acknowledge the Armenian massacre as having been a genocide. That is important because the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes as persuasive any overwhelming state support for a given proposition.

Though it may be historical in nature, the inclusion of the massacre of the Armenians as a genocide is a fitting project for Loyola's Genocide Center. In providing the potential for civil redress by these victims and their descendants, the ground is hopefully paved for claims based upon more contemporary mass atrocities.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Looking back at Prawsfest! 9

By Associate Professor Justin Levitt

As mentioned here, together with David Fagundes over at Southwestern, we had the privilege of hosting Prawfsfest! Nine over the last few days. David Horton and I had the privilege of bookending the workshop -- I offered myself as the first victim of the proceedings, and David batted cleanup; given his Prawfsfest preview, I'm eagerly awaiting the formal unveiling of David's piece. It's an impressive holiday gift to the legal academic world.

There are a few signature elements of the Prawfsfest format, beyond the raw opportunity to connect with some outstanding colleagues: papers are limited in length so that everyone can read all of them, everyone actually reads (and is prepared to discuss) all of them, and just about all of the participants are junior faculty, which makes for a particularly accommodating space to discuss ideas in the early stages of incubation. And, true to form, the workshop was tremendously useful, with plenty of both entertaining and informative besides. (Droid flight dynamics, I'm lookin' at you.) I presented an early-stage work tentatively titled "Motive Matters," assessing the Court's tendency to confuse judicial competence in assessing governmental motive with constitutional forgiveness of motives beyond the pale. I'll be investing more work on the piece, aided substantially by the exceedingly thoughtful feedback that I received. And I'll sincerely hope that the other participants found the conference as enjoyable as I did. Thanks to all -- and particularly thanks to David Fagundes for pulling it all together. Prawfsfest! X, the bar's been set high.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Prop. 14 faces more legal challenges: Is the party over?

By Associate Clinical Professor Jessica Levinson

This op-ed was originally published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

In June of 2010, voters passed Proposition 14, the open primary, top-two election law. Since that time a number of lawsuits have been filed seeking to overturn it. (Full disclosure, I have been consulted by at least one group opposing Proposition 14). Just a few weeks ago, yet another challenge was lodged against the new law.

Proposition 14 provides that any voter can vote for any candidate in the primary election and that only the top-two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation proceed to the general election. In some districts this could mean that the general election will be a battle between two Republicans or two Democrats. Candidates will list their party preference, or lack of party preference, on the ballot.

Proposition 14 was put on the June 2010 ballot as part of a compromise to pass the 2010 state budget. Then-state Sen. Abel Maldanado (R) agreed to vote for the budget in exchange for placing his pet project, an open primary, top-two election law on the next ballot. The primary purpose of the law is to increase the number of moderate legislators. The idea is that the winner of an election under Proposition 14 will have had to appeal to a broad spectrum of the electorate.

The latest challenge alleges that the new law is impermissible because it limits minor party access to the general election ballot and makes it more difficult for minor parties to remain ballot qualified in California. Members of California's four minor parties - American Independent, Green, Libertarian, and Peace and Freedom - constitute 4.5 percent of registered voters.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Loyola Hosting Gathering of Law Professor Bloggers

This Wednesday and Thursday, Loyola will be hosting "Prawfsfest." This is a gathering of law professors who have contributed to Prawfsblawg (which the ABA recently David Horton and Justin Levitt, we are pleased to welcome Addie Rolnick (UNLV), Michael Helfand (Pepperdine), Brendan Maher (Oklahoma City University), Franita Tolson (Florida State University), Tun-Jen Chiang (George Mason University), Sarah Lawsky (UCI), Jake Linford (Florida State University), and Dave Fagundes (Southwestern). Welcome all!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Loyola hosts Legal Writing Institute

Loyola Law School's Lawyering Skills Faculty hosted the Legal Writing Institute One Day Conference 2011 on Friday, Dec. 2. Moderators included several Loyola faculty members: Bob Brian, Saran Bensinger and Cindy Archer. The program, which featured interactive lectures and workshops, featured several substantive sessions:

-"New Media:" Its Effect on How and What We Teach, which featured the talks "There's an App for That: Integrating the iPad into the Legal Writing Classroom"; "How What We Can Learn from Popular Culture Can Affect the LRW Curricula" and "Legal Research for a New Age," presented by Library Director and Professor Dan Martin.

-Writing Problems: Reflections from the "Pros";

-Grading and Commenting: New Techniques for a New Generation, a roundtable discussion on the most effective ways to grade and comment on student papers for a new generation of students;

-Curriculum: What Are We All Doing and How Are We Doing It? A roundtable discussion about use of memos, appellate brief v. points and authorities and what has worked.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Proposed Juvenile Court Order Subjects Youth to More Harm

By Maureen Pacheco

This op-ed was originally published in the Nov. 28 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

As a former public defender and current clinical director of the delinquency clinic at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, I've seen far too many children charged with crimes. It is especially heartbreaking when I see young people whose poor behavior can be traced back, in part, to a dependency system that failed to meet their needs.

I want nothing more than to strengthen the dependency system and improve outcomes for young people who deserve our protection and support. Unfortunately, a proposed blanket order from Los Angeles Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash to presumptively open juvenile dependency court proceedings - hearings for foster children and youth - to the public and the media would do more harm than good.

That's the conclusion legislators reached earlier this year, when they listened to youth and attorneys for both children and families and squarely rejected a bill to presumptively open dependency courts. Yet Judge Nash is moving forward with an order that circumvents the legislative process, contradicts current law, and disregards the youths' desire for privacy.

Youth have put forward an alternative that would both protect them and accomplish the goal of opening the system to greater analysis: allow the youth or his attorney to "opt out" of the automatic opening of a public hearing. Judge Nash should listen to the youth and adopt this alternative, or scrap his damaging blanket order.