Law School in the news

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Release of report on oversight of Michigan charter schools

The Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School commissioned the Citizens Research Council (CRC) of Michigan to review the scope and degree of oversight of Michigan’s charter schools and their authorizers. The report, titled “Improving Oversight of Michigan Charter Schools and Their Authorizers,” focuses on the inadequacy of public oversight of charter school authorizers, the entities that are charged under Michigan law with authorizing and overseeing the performance of charter schools in the state. The Levin Center requested the report as part of its ongoing mission to promote effective oversight at all levels of government – federal, state, and local. The Levin Center and the CRC will present the report at a briefing on Wednesday, Feb. 26,  at noon at Wayne State University’s Law School. Speakers include Eric Lupher, president of the CRC of Michigan, and Jim Townsend, director of the Levin Center at Wayne Law.  
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Congress fixes – just a bit – the unpopular, ‘unfair’ rule that stopped injured service members from suing for damages

Robert M. Ackerman, professor of law, wrote an article for The Conversation about recent legislation addressing the law barring members of the military from collecting damages from the federal government for injuries off the battlefield. Ackerman wrote: “The legislation represents progress for injured service members – but still limits who among them may press for damages.” The new law does not cover everyone. That’s because the legislation only allows claims by those who allege to have been victims of medical malpractice by military health care providers. And claims cannot be brought in federal court, as is normally the case under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Rather, they must be pursued through a Defense Department administrative procedure under regulations that the Department of Defense is required to draft.
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Well, impeachment didn’t work – how else can Congress keep President Trump in check?

Kirsten Carlson, associate professor of law and adjunct associate professor of political science, wrote an article about President Trump’s future during post-impeachment, and what measures may be taken regarding oversight of the executive branch. “Oversight is one way to ensure government transparency. The Constitution authorizes Congress to exercise oversight as part of the carefully crafted balance of powers among the three branches of government. Impeachment is an important check on presidential power. However, it is the most rarely used of the multiple tools Congress has to review, monitor and supervise the executive branch and its implementation of public policy. Congress can also exercise oversight through the power of the purse, which allows it to withhold or limit funding. And it can use its power to organize the executive branch, which it uses to create and abolish federal agencies. In addition, Congress makes laws, confirms officials and conducts investigations.”
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Precedent? Nah, the Senate gets to reinvent its rules in every impeachment

Kirsten Carlson, associate professor of law and adjunct associate professor of political science, wrote an article for The Conversation on the rules of impeachment. “Unlike a court of law, prior impeachment trials serve as precedent only in the nonlegal, nonbinding sense. The Senate can look to the procedures it has used in past impeachment proceedings, but those procedures do not have to be followed. The Constitution gives very little guidance on how an impeachment trial should proceed. Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 states, “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.” After requiring that Senators be “on oath,” that the chief justice preside and that a two-thirds vote is required to convict, the Constitution leaves it to the Senate to make its own rules about how to conduct the trial. So the fight over procedures and precedents may not be over yet, especially since the Senate can change the rules by majority vote whenever it wants.
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Estate of Prominent Federal Judge Leaves $100,000 to School

The estate of prominent Judge Damon J. Keith, who was the grandson of slaves and a figure in the civil rights movement, made a $100,000 bequest to a scholarship fund in his name, West Virginia State University announced Wednesday. Keith, who was sued by President Richard Nixon over a ruling against warrantless wiretaps, died in April in Detroit at 96. He spent more than 50 years on the federal bench. Before his death, he still heard cases about four times a year at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. He was a 1943 graduate of what was then West Virginia State College and went on to graduate from Howard University Law School in 1949 and Wayne State University Law School in 1956.
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The power of a subpoena

Kirsten Carlson, associate professor of law, talked about the power and use of subpoenas during the impeachment process. The House moves forward on impeachment, but some subpoenas are still in the air. Energy Secretary Rick Perry declined to provide documents, as did Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Vice President Pence, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In fact, President Trump has often stiffed the U.S. Congress when it sought documents in testimony. Has this Congress made effective use of its subpoena powers in your judgment? “I think they're doing the best they can. You know, the subpoena power is an important part of Congress's investigative power. It's also sort of a last resort. Congressional committees usually try to get the information willingly from the executive branch. And historically, presidents have been willing to negotiate. And so they haven't had to use the subpoena power as heavily as this Congress has had to. We have a president that's on record saying, he's not going to negotiate with Congress, so Congress doesn't have another option. They've got to subpoena the documents and information that they want, and they've got to work it through the courts to get them enforced.”
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Courts have avoided refereeing between Congress and the president, but Trump may force them to wade in

Kirsten Carlson, associate professor of law and adjunct associate professor of political science, wrote an article for The Conversation about President Trump’s refusal to hand over records to Congress and allow executive branch employees to provide information and testimony to Congress during the impeachment battle. Carlson calls these actions “the strongest test yet of legal principles that over the past 200 years have not yet been fully defined by U.S. courts.”
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Larry Inman trial to test limits of campaign cash solicitations

Michigan state Rep. Larry Inman is set to stand trial this week on federal corruption charges for doing what many incumbent lawmakers do: asking a special-interest group to donate for re-election. But federal prosecutors contend the Traverse City-area Republican broke the law with his June 2018 solicitations to union officials by offering to sell his vote on a controversial measure to oppose the state’s prevailing wage repeal law for construction workers. For jurors in the Grand Rapids trial on bribery and extortion charges, the case could come down to a question that’s become familiar in politics: Was there a quid pro quo? “That’s always the key in any bribery case,” said Peter Henning, a professor at Wayne State University Law School and a former federal prosecutor. Prosecutors don’t need to prove Inman followed through on his proposed scheme, only that he attempted to orchestrate one, Henning told Bridge Magazine. Inman ultimately voted for the prevailing wage initiative, bucking opponents from whom he had sought contributions. He later returned an earlier check from the carpenter’s union he had not cashed. “Saying ‘you’ve got to come up with more money’ is sending a message that you better pay up. So that can be enough for an attempted Hobbs Act violation,” Henning said. Inman has maintained his innocence and vowed to fight the charges, but he risks a longer sentence by refusing to consider a plea deal, said Henning. Inman has already likely missed the opportunity for a generous offer, Henning said.
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Wayne Law holds rank as Best Value Law School

For the sixth consecutive year, Wayne State University Law School has been recognized as a Best Value Law School by The National Jurist and its sister publication, preLaw magazine. Of the 58 law schools on the list for 2019, Wayne Law was the only Michigan law school included. The ranking is designed to recognize the law schools where graduates have excellent chances of passing the bar and getting a legal job without taking on a ton of debt, according to the publication. Criteria for selection includes ultimate bar pass rating and two-year pass rate, employment rate, tuition, cost of living and average student debt accumulation. preLaw magazine also recognized Wayne Law among the top law schools in the category of Business Law.
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Impeachment: Two quotes that defined the first day of public hearings

Kirsten Carlson, Wayne State University associate professor of law and adjunct associate professor of political science, and Chris Edelson, assistant professor of government, American University School of Public Affairs, wrote an article on the impeachment proceedings. Wednesday was the first day of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry. Two career diplomats – William B. Taylor Jr., acting ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs – gave testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. Two scholars listened, and each picked one quote to analyze. “What we will witness today is a televised theatrical performance staged by the Democrats”. - Rep. Devin Nunes, Republican of California. “In this highly partisan era, Rep. Nunes’ words come as no surprise,” Carlson wrote. “Nunes was attempting to discredit the impeachment inquiry as a partisan attack on President Donald Trump. But his emphasis on partisanship obscures a vital function of Congress in protecting the public and preserving democratic government: oversight. Oversight is part of the U.S. Constitution’s carefully orchestrated balance of power among the three branches of government. The Constitution authorizes, if not obligates, Congress to exercise oversight over the executive branch.”
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FTC approves toothless settlement with DFW staffing agencies over wage fixing allegations

In March 2017, Neeraj Jindal had a problem. He ran a Richland Hills staffing agency that provided home health care agencies with therapists to do house calls. One of those agencies had just informed him that it was reducing the amount it would be paying for each house call. Jindal knew if he passed this pay cut down to the therapists, they would find another staffing agency to work with, threatening his business. So Jindal did what squeezed contractors often do: He decided to screw his workers. Jindal directed one of his physical therapists to send a text message to Sheri Yarbray, the owner of a competing staffing agency. The message disclosed the new, lower rate that Jindal planned to pay his therapists. Yarbray responded: “Yes I agree[.] I’ll do it with u.” Jindal then contacted four other DFW therapist staffing agencies requesting that they lower their rates the same amount. Laura Padin, a senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, called this a “blatant example” of wage fixing, which particularly threatens gig workers — independent contractors, like many of these therapists — who are vulnerable to collusion by the large firms that typically employ them. The Federal Trade Commission investigated, and confirmed that Jindal and Yarbray had indeed broken the law. But, in a move that seemed to rile nearly everyone, from legal scholars and unions to one of the agency's own commissioners, the agency declined to levy any punishment. Sanjukta Paul, a law professor at Wayne State University,.said that monetary penalties are necessary in a case like this to change the “decision calculus for these middlemen businesses” and make wage fixing less attractive. Generally, such schemes are difficult to identify, making this a rare opportunity to penalize perpetrators. But she’s encouraged by the public statements being made by the FTC’s Democratic commissioners, which she said could mark a change in the agency’s antitrust enforcement strategy. “There's kind of been this bipartisan consensus that overall antitrust law doesn’t do much,” she said. “I think that antitrust law can be leveraged to make this a slightly less terrible place for American workers,” Paul added.

Bringing the student startup dream to life at Wayne State

Armed with care packages, clothes and clinical supplies, medical students in Detroit are learning outside the classroom. They are putting their knowledge and boots to the pavement, providing free health care to the city's homeless. Each week, students under the supervision of a registered physician or nurse practitioner get on their bikes and look for those in need. Programs such as Michigan State University's Detroit Street Care, Wayne State University's Street Medicine Detroit and the University of Michigan's Wolverine Street Medicine work together to treat as many of the city's homeless as possible. Jedidiah Bell, a fourth-year med student at Wayne State University and president of Street Medicine Detroit, says seeing issues from lack of health care access in his home country of Zimbabwe made him want to participate. "When I moved to the states for university and medical school, I saw the similar things [lack of access] with the homeless population," said Bell. "When I saw street medicine, I appreciated the model of how can we take medical care to the street and build up trust to bridge the gap between the homeless and the medical world." While the programs provide a vital service to the community, Bell says the real-world experience teaches students things the classroom or clinic can't. "It teaches medical students to hone-in on, not just medical conditions of patients, but to be able to sit down and form relationships and discuss other things that might be contributing to [patients'] health but might not come up during a traditional medical encounter." Bell says there's a widespread belief that the "students take away more from people on the streets than they take away from us." Anneliese Petersen, a second-year medical student at Wayne State University and volunteer with Street Medicine Detroit, says the experience also shows upcoming medical professionals another side of health -- the social determinants. "Things that are not strictly medical-based but have a strong impact on health and well-being. Income, access to health care, access to medication, being able to eat well, sleep well, to be able to relax and not be under chronic stress."
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UAW corruption investigation casts shadow at the bargaining table as GM workers strike

GM workers have been on strike since midnight Monday. Company and union leaders are back at the bargaining table in Detroit. They’re trying to hammer out a new contract after GM workers walked off the job for their first strike since 2007. But there’s a third, unseen presence at the bargaining table this time. It’s the U.S. Justice Department, and its investigation into alleged corruption by some UAW officials. Peter Henning is a professor of law at Wayne State University and a former federal prosecutor. He says that when the feds investigated union leaders in the past, it was usually over suspected ties to organized crime. But this may be something entirely different. “It appears that it was essentially treating some of the funds like their own little piggy bank,” said Henning. Some UAW officials allegedly devised a scheme to use union member dues for personal expenses, like California luxury accommodations and golf. These are only allegations, and neither Jones nor Williams has been charged. Despite GM’s profits right now, the automaker is looking at a possible looming recession, weakening demand, and tariff challenges. It’s leaning heavily on truck and SUV sales, as the industry is becoming more technologically complex and electrified. Marick Masters teaches business and labor studies at Wayne State. He says the UAW will inevitably have to make a less-than-perfect deal for its members—but with many union members’ skeptical of the leadership’s credibility, leaders are more likely to “play to the crowd” and less likely to make a deal. “And that becomes a vicious circle in which inflexibility on one side leads to inflexibility on the other side,” said Masters. “I think at this point in time, the company has the leverage, because of the cloud that hangs over the UAW leadership.”
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Former radio talk show host now a ‘LawStart’ student at Wayne State

Eric Decker once reached a large audience as a radio talk show host under the name Eric Thomas. He launched his career at Banana 101.5, a rock radio station in Flint, then worked all over the country, including several years blogging and hosting at 97.1 The Ticket sports radio station in Southfield where he covered the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons. Now Decker hopes to reach people as an attorney. Recently wrapping up his 1L year at Wayne State University Law School, he is clerking this summer at Maiorana PC, a small patent law firm in St. Clair Shores. “Radio was certainly good preparation for the public speaking aspect of law, but I really benefitted from all the show prep I did over the years,” he says. “The time I spent researching in radio was a good warm up.” A political science major at WSU after studying at Mott Community College and Oakland Community College, Decker is one of two “LawStart” students who were the first in the program to be accepted into Wayne Law. The highly competitive program allows students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to earn both their bachelor's degree and law degree from Wayne State in six years, instead of the usual seven.  
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Supreme Court delays redrawing districts in Michigan gerrymandering case

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a temporary hold on a federal court order to redraw legislative and congressional districts in Michigan by August. The justices on Friday issued a brief order that stayed the April 25 decision pending the disposition of the appeal of the case or further order by the court. Republican lawmakers two weeks ago filed an emergency request asking the Supreme Court to suspend the judgment of the lower court, pending the outcome of similar cases that the justices are expected to decide by July. The Supreme Court heard arguments in March in alleged partisan gerrymandering cases from North Carolina and Maryland. The high court's five conservative justices asked at oral arguments whether unelected judges should police the partisan actions of elected officials. The court is simply holding off on the Michigan case, including deciding the appeal, until it rules in the North Carolina and Maryland cases, said Robert Sedler, a constitutional law expert and professor at Wayne State University Law School. "It’s not surprising that the court stayed this case until it decides the cases from North Carolina and Maryland," Sedler said. "That will determine whether the claim in this case — that the Constitution prohibits political gerrymandering — is a viable claim. This is what the court typically does when the result in a lower court case is going to be controlled by cases that the court is already hearing."
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Wayne Law students honored by National Lawyers Guild

Two Wayne State University Law School students have been named student honorees by the Michigan and Detroit Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Cait De Mott Grady of Ithaca, New York, and Phillip Keller of Frankenmuth, received the honor at the chapter’s 82nd Anniversary Dinner on May 11. Both students graduated Monday, May 13. While at Wayne Law, De Mott Grady was a member of the executive board of Wayne Law’s NLG chapter, a member of the Student Board of Governors and was a junior member on the Mock Trial National Team for the American Association of Justice for the winter semester. In 2018, she was elected student national vice president of the NLG. De Mott Grady is a champion for public interest law. She has interned with the Juvenile Lifer Unit at the State Appellate Defender Office in Detroit and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and has worked for Wayne Law’s Criminal Appellate Practice Clinic and Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic.
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Power play: Hockey player takes aim on a legal career

A former University of Michigan hockey player, Wayne State University law student Max Shuart likens preparing for a test to preparations to a hockey game—“Down to having a pre-game meal and listening to music before an exam to get pumped up,” he explains. “Along with that, I’ve found that being competitive, prepared to work hard, and managing time properly have been extremely helpful in the first year of law school, which is often very demanding and time intensive.” Approaching the end of his 1L year at Wayne Law, Shuart will spend this summer as a Levin Center legal intern working on the House of Representatives Ways & Means Subcommittee on Oversight in the nation’s capital. “I’m thrilled for this opportunity to continue developing my legal skills and represent Wayne State, Detroit and Michigan while working alongside people who day after day want to make the world a better place,” he says. In his upcoming 2L year, Shuart will serve as vice president of the school’s Federalist Society, which brings in speakers for dialogue on various topics; he also is a member of the Entrepreneurship & Business Law Society, which recently brought in a panel of Michigan lawyers to discuss their practices and career paths. “All of the people at Wayne Law make it a great place, from professors to students,” he says. “I’m pleasantly surprised to not have any 1L horror stories about any professors, they all conducted class each day in a way that was never too daunting while maintaining high expectations.”   
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Leaders pay respects to late Judge Damon Keith

Federal Judge Damon Keith of Detroit died Sunday morning at 96. Dignitaries from around Michigan weighed in to offer their respects. Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson: "It’s a sad day. Judge Damon Jerome Keith passed away earlier today, and we are all mourning the loss of this outstanding civil rights pioneer, federal judge and great friend of Wayne State. I had the honor of being sworn in as the 12th president of Wayne State University by Judge Keith, but it meant even more to me to have met the man..."