In the News

The ‘pay-to-play’ law that snagged California State Senator Leland Yee

Christopher Kutz quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle, March 28, 2014

The law draws a distinction, Kutz said, between the typical politician-contributor relationship—donors give money to office-seekers who generally share their views—and a promise of specific favors in exchange for funds. “The test is whether the relationship between the contributor and the server (in office) becomes too much of an explicit transaction,” he said.


In new case, Supreme Court revisits the question of software patents

Pamela Samuelson quoted in The Washington Post, March 28, 2014

The State Street decision seemed to ignore the Supreme Court’s views altogether. Pamela Samuelson … says it’s “not possible” to square the State Street ruling with the Supreme Court’s precedents. In her view: “They didn’t like the ruling, and so they gave it a narrow interpretation. In effect, they overruled it.”

Wukan: New election, same old story

Stanley Lubman writes for The Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2014

The Chinese Communist Party is reasserting control, stifling local protests and handing out money to the village in the interest of “stability maintenance.” The villagers, meanwhile, are disillusioned by their failure to regain most of the land that the former village government illegally seized. Since the 2012 election, there has been no progress on the land claims, and hopes that “democracy” might change the situation have faded.

Oklahoma told it can’t shield suppliers of execution drugs

Jennifer Moreno quoted in The New York Times, March 26, 2014

Wednesday’s decision in Oklahoma, Ms. Moreno said, reflects the growing concern of courts in several states as they are denied information about drug sources and experimental execution protocols. “We’re seeing a push to hide information at the very time that states are turning to riskier sources like compounding pharmacies and turning to novel or experimental combinations of drugs,” she said.


Rand Paul’s delusions are right at home in Berkeley

John Yoo writes for National Review and cited in The Washington Post, March 25, 2014

“Senator Paul is drunk on the publicity of pulling a stunt like speaking in Berkeley as a libertarian Republican. He’s getting a lot of praise for venturing into the lion’s den (as it were). . . . Paul was clever to raise the single issue on which his extreme libertarian views would find a sympathetic reception from a young crowd who were about anywhere from five to eight years old at the time of the 9/11 attacks and believe they have more to fear from the NSA wiretapping their smartphones (for what possible purpose?) than another terrorist attack.”


Segregated housing, segregated schools

Richard Rothstein writes for Education Week, March 25, 2014

School reform alone cannot substantially raise performance of the poorest African-American students unless we also improve the conditions that leave too many children unprepared to take advantage of what schools have to offer. Social and economic disadvantage depresses student performance; concentrating disadvantaged students in racially and economically homogeneous schools depresses it further.

Why is the US on the defensive?

Kenneth Bamberger and Deirdre Mulligan cited in The Privacy Advisor, March 24, 2014

The only reasonably thorough study comparing actual EU and U.S. privacy levels was conducted in 2006…. It’s about to be joined by Privacy on the Ground: Governance Choices and Corporate Practice in the U.S. and Europe, by Kenneth Bamberger and Deirdre Mulligan, who, after extensive study, also seem to believe it is not a foregone conclusion that the EU has the superior regime.


Oakland police stops blacks at higher rate

Frank Zimring quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle, March 24, 2014 (link inactive)

The data also comes out at time when the department is working to reduce crime and rebuild public trust in one of the most dangerous cities in America, said Frank Zimring…. “This is a real dilemma, because on one hand there’s no evidence that the police are using anything other than crime-controlled criteria to select the targets for their stops, but on the other hand, most of the people they stop are African-Americans,” Zimring said. “There is no clean ‘Everybody wins,’ solution to this.”

Re-entry programs & recidivism: the connection continued

Barry Krisberg quoted in Corrections, March 24, 2014

Barry Krisberg … noted that, “Everything we know from the most rigorous research suggests if you want to reduce recidivism rates, you have to address housing, security, availability of jobs, and social connections.”


It’s Worse than Paul Ryan: The right has a new ugly, racial dog whistle

Ian Haney-López writes for Salon, March 22, 2014

Race-baiting superficially aims at minorities and hits nonwhite communities hard, including the 24 percent of food stamp recipients who are black. But just as cuts to food aid also afflict the 38 percent of program participants who are white, dog-whistle politics savages Americans of every race. And it devastates every class, too, for this sort of racial politics doesn’t just slam the poor, it imperils all who are better off when government protects the broad middle rather than serves society’s sultans.


A better direction for California’s climate change policy

Mark Gergen and David Gamage write for The Sacramento Bee, March 22, 2014

The proposed carbon tax is a much better mechanism for making those who burn fossil fuels pay for the privilege of doing so. The carbon tax is more transparent, specifying the sums that must be paid for the privilege of emitting greenhouse gases. And unlike cap and trade’s auction proceeds, revenue from a carbon tax can be returned to Californians through direct tax relief.

With strike on horizon, public labor board issues complaint

David Rosenfeld cited in The Daily Californian, March 20, 2014

The issuance of a complaint … only means the board believes there is sufficient evidence to go forward with a hearing or settlement conference, not that the university is at fault, said David Rosenfeld, a lecturer specializing in labor relations at the UC Berkeley School of Law.

My dinner with Jan

Paul Schwartz noted in Privacy Perspectives, March 18, 2014

I suggested Jan for the keynote slot to conference organizer and Berkeley Law Prof. Paul Schwartz, thinking him to be a “long shot.”… Prof. Schwartz’ prominence, charm, power of persuasion and German language skills, as well as Berkeley’s prestige no doubt were compelling factors.

Death penalty spurs Wild West scramble for drugs

Megan McCracken quoted in USA Today, March 17, 2014

“So it makes it really virtually impossible for a death sentence prisoner to know how he or she will be executed,” says Megan McCracken.

Michigan battery companies fall short of job claims

Jennifer Granholm quoted in Detroit Free Press, March 16, 2014

Granholm still doesn’t regard Michigan’s incentives for battery makers as wasted money. “Just because the jobs haven’t happened ‘yet,’ it doesn’t mean that cracking the code to vehicle batteries was the wrong strategy,” said Granholm, who is teaching at the University of California-Berkeley.

Is Paul Ryan racist?

Ian Haney-López writes for Politico, March 14, 2014

These instances of racial pandering typically have been treated as disconnected eruptions, when in fact the GOP has made a concerted effort to win support through racial appeals. This pattern is so entrenched—and so well known—that two different chairs of the Republican National Committee have acknowledged and apologized for this strategy.

Why for-profit prisons house more inmates of color

Barry Krisberg interviewed on KPCC, March 13, 2014

Barry Krisberg … says the findings surprised him. “I had assumed private prisons were taking a lot of low-risk inmates,” he says. “That if you went to a private prison, you’d find a lot of old, Anglo prisoners. That’s not the case.”

Finally, a way to diversify Cal universities?

Jesse Choper quoted in California Magazine, March 10, 2014

Beyond that, says UC Berkeley Law professor Jesse Choper, even if the state’s affirmative action ban were to be repealed, times have changed since 1996—and so has the Supreme Court of the United States. “There’s a big hurdle now,” he says. Unlike previous courts, which granted institutions a bit more leeway in crafting diversity-boosting programs, the philosophy of this court is clear: “Race-based programs are a bad thing and we can only use them in extremis.”

Climate change threatens energy infrastructure

Steven Weissman quoted in Climate Central, March 10, 2014

The GAO report does not question scientific findings on global warming, and it shows that many energy companies recognize the risk they face from climate change, said Steven Weissman….“This nonpartisan report should shift the burden of proof for any firms or agencies that are dragging their feet,” Weissman said, adding that the report could focus the attention of the public and policymakers on the need to strengthen all public infrastructure to better stand up to climate change.


Time to shine a light on litigation funding

Carol Langford writes for The Recorder, March 6, 2014 (subscription required)

Litigation funding is booming. It is also completely unexamined and unregulated, with even hedge funds getting in on the action. Surprisingly, there is little to no real guidance to lawyers on the ethical issues that arise from working with ALFs in California. Even most legal malpractice policies do not address the liability of a lawyer for issues involved in litigation funding.