Opinion: Indiana didn’t actually pass an anti-gay bill

If you want to know why the so-called wisdom of crowds is a load of B.S., just take a look at the widespread reaction last week to Indiana’s new religious-freedom law. If you listened to all the voices who have weighed in on this subject, from TV to radio to the Internet, you’d think Indiana just passed a law giving a green light to anti-gay bigotry. But after talking to some legal experts who had actually read the law in question, I found out Indiana had done no such thing…Mark Tushnet, a professor at Harvard Law School, said the law might be used to justify discrimination against gays — if the courts agree that that was the intent of the legislators who passed it, and if the courts cannot find a compelling public interest against such discrimination.

What Was Ted Cruz like at Harvard?

Presidential candidate Ted Cruz loved to argue as a Harvard student and boasted he’d get the best grades in his class, only to lose out to two other classmates. In a series of exclusive interviews with Metro, several of his former classmates painted a complex portrait of the Tea Party’s most beloved presidential candidate. Laurence Tribe, a longtime Harvard law professor, said Cruz took his constitutional law class, challenged his teacher in interesting and “invariably right-leaning” ways at every turn…Renowned legal scholar Alan Dershowitz recalled Cruz was “not a very smiley guy,” and he thought would become an “extraordinarily able appellate lawyer.”…Another longtime Harvard law professor Charles Fried said he worked with Cruz when the latter was the editor of the Harvard Law Review. “I have a vivid recollection of a very smart, very disciplined man,” he said. “I’ve been reading all these sharp elbow stories but I didn’t see that. He was, I would say, correct. Respectful and correct.”

Judges Need to Set a Higher Standard for Forensic Evidence

An op-ed by Nancy Gertner. The National Commission on Forensic Science was formed in response to widespread concerns that forensic evidence that lacked any meaningful scientific basis was being regularly permitted in trials. The concerns were not just about the “expert” witnesses, but about the judges who, according to the National Academy of Sciences report that led to the commission’s creation, have been “utterly ineffective” in assessing the quality of research behind the evidence. The evidence used to win convictions has often been based on bad science. In about half of the cases in which D.N.A. evidence led to exoneration, invalid or improper forensic science contributed to the wrongful conviction.

Collection claims abuses move up to higher courts

It was 2009 when the state’s highest court moved to curb abuses by debt collectors in small claims courts. Since then, debt collection attorneys have been required to certify they have sued debtors at the correct address and have evidence that the debt is actually owed. But the Supreme Judicial Court did nothing to provide the same protections to the tens of thousands of debtors who are sued in the civil sessions of the 62 district courts and the Boston Municipal Court…At municipal court, which is under separate jurisdiction than district courts, attorneys with the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Harvard Law professor James Greiner have found evidence that some civil claims appear to have been sent to defendants’ old addresses…Greiner, who has a PhD in statistics, said that when researchers looked at the first 87 cases, they found 28 where the address used by the plaintiff did not match the defendant’s address contained in the commercial database. In 14 of those cases, the plaintiff had filed with the court an address that appeared to be the defendant’s prior address.

Free Speech Inc.

An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. The most illuminating free-speech case of 2015 has nothing to do with political speech, or civil-rights protests, or hate speech, or any other issues we used to associate with the First Amendment. It has to do with an obscure provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that directs the Securities and Exchange Commission to require companies to inform the public if their products use conflict minerals. The case, brought by the National Association of Manufacturers, is the culmination of a stunningly successful corporate movement to transform the First Amendment into an all-purpose shield against even modest regulation. Let’s give the movement a name: Free Speech Inc.

Law School Food Justice Conference Draws Crowds

A conference focusing on interdisciplinary examination of justice in the food system drew hundreds to Harvard Law School’s Wasserstein Hall this weekend for “Just Food?,” a joint project between the Harvard Food law Society and Harvard’s Food Literacy Project. Featuring guest speakers, workshops, panels, movie screenings, and exhibits, the conference solicited over 500 registrations. Several notable guests spoke at the conference, including Law School Dean Martha L. Minow, who delivered a welcome address. Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, was originally scheduled to deliver a keynote talk on Sunday but was unable to attend, according to conference organizers…Margiana R. Petersen-Rockney, the Food Literacy Project coordinator, and Alexandra M. Jordan, a second-year Law School student and president of the Harvard Food Law Society, organized the two-day conference under the Food Better campaign, an initiative launched by the Deans’ Food System Challenge “to raise awareness about food systems issues,” according to its website.

Marty Lipton’s War on Hedge Fund Activists (registration)

In November 2012, the corporate law guru who is most revered by managers faced off against the corporate law guru who is most feared by managers, at the Conference Board think tank in New York, in a friendly debate that was about to turn hostile. Martin Lipton has defended CEOs against all comers since forming Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz 50 years ago. Lucian Bebchuk, a Harvard Law School professor, champions the “activist” hedge funds that assail CEOs in an intensifying struggle for control of America’s boardrooms…Lucian Bebchuk, age 59, likes to attack blue chip stocks. His astonishing success has made him the only law professor listed among the 100 Most Influential People in Finance by Treasury and Risk magazine. A lowly student clinic led by Bebchuk—the Shareholder’s Rights Project—has destaggered about 100 corporate boards on the Fortune 500 and the S&P 500 stock index since 2011. As a critic of CEO compensation, Bebchuk paved the way for the Dodd-Frank Act rules that give shareholders more “say on pay.” Shareholder activism has drawn him into debates with Lipton in 2002, 2003, 2007, and more or less continually since 2012.

Michelle Obama, Race and the Ivy League

In 1988, a group of black students at Harvard Law School compiled a report designed to recognize the growing achievements of black students on campus and share their wisdom with newcomers. The longest essay in the 50-page newsletter was written by a 24-year-old third-year student named Michelle Robinson, who devoted more than 3,000 words to an appeal for greater faculty diversity. “The faculty’s decisions to distrust and ignore non-traditional qualities in choosing and tenuring law professors,” she wrote, “merely reinforce racist and sexist stereotypes.” … During her three years on campus, Michelle represented indigent clients, worked on a law journal focused on African-American perspectives and sought to inspire a greater sense of purpose in her fellow students. Her friends were not surprised. “Michelle always, everything she wrote, the things that she was involved in, the things that she thought about, were in effect reflections on race and gender,” said Charles Ogletree, a Harvard professor and mentor to Michelle. “And how she had to keep the doors open for women and men going forward.”

Mentor to Tormentor: Laurence Tribe, Obama, and Big Coal

Climate-change activists and advocates seldom have trouble finding villains. But recently, they’ve found a new one in a strange place: famed legal scholar and Obama mentor Laurence Tribe, in his office at Harvard Law School. Tribe has been the highest-profile legal scholar to criticize the Obama administration’s rules for carbon-dioxide emissions from coal plants, which were formally proposed in June 2014. (He’s one of the few law professors who is frequently and plausibly referred to as an “icon.”) In a formal comment submitted to the EPA, a Wall Street Journal column, a House energy committee hearing last week, and other venues, Tribe has argued against the rule, suggesting both that it runs contrary to the relevant statute and that it violates the Fifth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution. … And Tribe’s opponents also bring significant legal firepower to the discussion. One opponent is Richard Revesz, dean emeritus of New York University Law School, who testified in favor of the rule in last week’s House hearing and wrote a New York Times op-ed Thursday disagreeing with Tribe. Two others are Richard Lazarus and Jody Freeman, colleagues of Tribe’s at Harvard Law.

An Obama Friend Turns Foe on Coal

Laurence H. Tribe, the liberal icon and legal scholar, has grabbed headlines in recent weeks for publicly attacking President Obama’s signature climate change initiative — the Clean Power Plan — which would regulate carbon emissions from power plants. He was retained as an independent expert by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, and is representing it in a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the plan…In the estimation of his Harvard Law School colleagues Jody Freeman and Richard Lazarus, “Were Professor Tribe’s name not attached to” these arguments, “no one would take them seriously.” But even if his claims don’t help Peabody in federal court, they are undoubtedly useful in the court of public opinion, where sentiment can be swayed by legal arguments, however weak, from a scholar of Professor Tribe’s reputation.