In the News

NYC crime stats show homicides dropped 2.4 percent in 2014

Franklin Zimring quoted in Newsday, December 31, 2014

“If it stays this low it remains unmitigated good news in ways that couldn’t have been anticipated, even just a decade ago,” said noted criminologist and law professor Franklin Zimring.

What it will take for China’s anticorruption drive to succeed

Stanley Lubman writes for The Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2014

If China’s leadership is genuine about wanting to clean up the party, it should explore the possibility of moving the power to investigate and adjudicate cases of corruption from the party’s internal disciplinary body to the same prosecutors who handle criminal wrongdoing by non-party members, or to a new government agency.

Whites more optimistic than blacks on race relations in the US

Ian Haney López interviewed by NPR, December 30, 2014

We need to get beyond the opinion, beyond the ideas and really ask, ‘How is race really working in terms of allocating power and resources in our society?’” says Ian Haney López.

Drought spurs new court rulings, legislation governing state water rights

Holly Doremus quoted in Daily Journal (registration required), December 30, 2014

The case over the Scott River “will become important I think as pressure on groundwater increases as an outcome of the drought,” said Holly Doremus.

Whistle-blower awards lure wrongdoers looking to score

Steven Davidoff Solomon writes for The New York Times, December 30, 2014

Traditionally, blowing the whistle brought either fame or infamy. Karen Silkwood and Frank Serpico both became the subject of movies, but they suffered mightily for their efforts. They did not become rich. But in the new era, whistle-blowing can make you wealthy.

Should a shoplifting conviction be an indelible scarlet letter? Not in California

Jeffrey Selbin, Eliza Hersh and Keramet Reiter write for Los Angeles Times, December 28, 2014

Significantly, the clean-slate process itself — not just the outcome — appears to create a kind of status enhancement ritual, or rite of passage, helping people move from their old life into a new one. Proposition 47 takes an important step toward addressing the consequences of mass incarceration in California.

Grading success and failure in a year of prominent deals

Steven Davidoff Solomon writes for The New York Times, December 23, 2014

It was a year of innovation and heightened deal-making as inversions became the rage, shareholder activists adopted more aggressive and novel strategies, the hostile takeover rose from the dead and the American deal market revived while Europe and Asia were moribund.

Was revenge a hidden rationale for torture?

Avani Mehta Sood writes for Los Angeles Times, December 23, 2014

Although 96% of U.S. respondents surveyed say that coercive techniques should be used only to retrieve information that could prevent future harm, I have found that people are actually more likely to endorse the use of harsh interrogation if they think the target “deserves” to be punished.

Scandal-rocked utilities commission struggles with leadership challenge

Steven Weissman quoted in San Francisco Business Times, December 19, 2014

Weissman … says the California Legislature “in its wisdom,” decided not to make the agency subject to stricter California rules regarding “back-channel” communications between other state agencies and those they regulate.

Costs for LAUSD special ed services climb as parents feel the pinch

Stephen Rosenbaum interviewed by KPCC, December 19, 2014

Stephen Rosenbaum … said it’s up to Congress to increase spending. “They’ve never come close to doing it, so this became the bane of everyone, from administrators to parents to the students themselves.”

White House issues new draft NEPA guidance

Steven Weissman quoted in E&ENews PM, December 18, 2014

“Basically, they’re saying you could level over 160 acres’ worth of trees before you reach any level of significance, or burn 25 million pounds of coal,” he said. “It’s all very interesting because there’s no particular number that’s magical here; this is just an effort to set a benchmark [to prevent] too much attention on projects that would have smaller effects.”

China’s corruption fight inseparable from economic reform

Stanley Lubman writes for The Wall Street Journal, December 17, 2014

The campaign is intended to increase discipline within the party as well as to target corruption. Recent media reports suggest, however, that the anticorruption campaign is hampered by both bureaucratic resistance and the limited effectiveness in general of political campaigns in today’s China.

Throwing money at start-ups in frenzy to find the next Uber

Steven Davidoff Solomon writes for The New York Times, December 16, 2014

Companies are going from zero to billion-dollar valuations faster than ever before, despite a lack of revenue and, perhaps, even a market plan. In the frenzy, ideas that once were discarded as failures are being recycled into billion-dollar start-ups.

How we outsourced CIA torture and why it matters

Eric Stover quoted in The Huffington Post, December 16, 2014

While the contractors could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, it’s extremely unlikely that will happen, said Eric Stover. … If it decides to take action at all, the court is more likely to go after the high-level officials who authorized the torture, rather than the contractors who carried it out. “They usually go after those most responsible for the most serious crimes,” Stover said.

Does desire for revenge explain CIA practice of severe interrogation?

Avani Mehta Sood and Kevin Carlsmith study cited in The Huffington Post, December 15, 2014

Kevin Carlsmith and Avani Mehta Sood argue that the effectiveness of torture, as measured in terms of genuine intelligence collected, may in fact not be the key issue at all. Instead, much more important might be the desire to harm those who have attacked us (or those who are associated with them), and humiliate those who have made us feel vulnerable.

Supreme Court to consider IDing executioners

Megan McCracken quoted in The Tennessean, December 14, 2014

“Generally speaking, a trend we see is states attempting to enhance the secrecy surrounding their execution procedures,” McCracken said. “That is a real problem for condemned prisoners, but also for the public, because without disclosure of the information, there’s no way to analyze the procedures and ensure they comport with the Constitution.”

Law shouldn’t be encouraging sprawl

Ethan Elkind writes for Daily Journal (registration required), December 12, 2014

“When it comes to analyzing transportation impacts, the current regime perversely penalizes transit-oriented infill projects and instead rewards outlying sprawl projects.”

Death Row Stories: Gloria Killian

Mary Louise Frampton quoted in CNN Death Row Stories, December 12, 2014

“Here we had it in writing. And it was so clearly exculpatory.”

The small and surprisingly dangerous detail the police track about you

Catherine Crump cited on, December 12, 2014

A very unsexy-sounding piece of technology could mean that the police know where you go, with whom, and when: the automatic license plate reader. These cameras are innocuously placed all across small-town America to catch known criminals, but as lawyer and TED Fellow Catherine Crump shows, the data they collect in aggregate could have disastrous consequences for everyone the world over.

The long reach of Delaware’s corporate influence

Steven Davidoff Solomon writes for The New York Times, December 10, 2014

“Delaware’s courts have not only changed how deals are done, but a recent spate of decisions shows that the state is king of the deal universe, setting and changing the rules by which deal makers play.”