When Justices Disagree, Public May Not Care

The Supreme Court issued a remarkable number of unanimous decisions last term, and in their public remarks the justices seemed unanimous in saying that unanimity was a good thing. But is it? A new study from Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at Harvard, concluded that all of the usual reasons for seeking common ground were open to question. “The arguments in favor of higher levels of consensus,” he wrote, “rest on fragile empirical foundations.”

Same-sex marriage foes hope to turn tide at mega-hearing in Cincinnati

…The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled on Wednesday to hear six cases from four states — Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio — where federal judges have ruled in recent months in favor of gay couples seeking marriage rights. Prior to the persistent string of pro-gay decisions, many legal experts agreed that Campbell’s view might draw some anti-gay rulings. Harvard Law professor Michael Klarman, a same-sex-marriage proponent, saw Kennedy’s opinion in Windsor as unclear and noted that it’s still likely more-conservative federal judges will rule differently, perhaps even at the 6th Circuit, where two of Wednesday’s three panelists were appointed by President George W. Bush. “I would guess that when the cases from the Deep South get decided, the chances will increase that some of the rulings will go against gay marriage,” Klarman said.

Gay marriage arguments flooding federal courts Federal

Federal appeals courts soon will hear arguments in gay marriage fights from nine states, part of a slew of cases putting pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a final verdict…”This is the kind of thing where you could see the conservative with a libertarian bent coming out in favor of gay marriage, but who knows?” said Mark Tushnet, a constitutional law professor at Harvard. “Having done Obamacare and maybe screwed his own chances for the Supreme Court, Sutton may feel liberated to do what he thinks is the right thing and go for marriage equality, or he may try to rehabilitate himself and go against it.”

White House Weighs Actions to Deter Overseas Tax Flight

The Obama administration is weighing plans to circumvent Congress and act on its own to curtail tax benefits for United States companies that relocate overseas to lower their tax bills, seeking to stanch a recent wave of so-called corporate inversions, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said on Tuesday…Just days after the president’s speech, Stephen E. Shay, a former Obama administration Treasury Department official who now teaches at Harvard Law School, suggested in an article in the trade journal Tax Notes that it was within Mr. Obama’s power to act alone. “I’m really concerned that we are losing a significant portion of our corporate tax base that you’re not going to get back,” Mr. Shay said.

Impeaching Nixon, by the Book

An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. When Richard Nixon announced his resignation, 40 years ago today, it was for one reason: Members of Congress had informed him the night before that he would be impeached by the House of Representatives, convicted by the Senate and removed from office. In retrospect, one of the most striking features of the Watergate controversy is the continuity between a pivotal decision of the founding generation and the judgment of congressional leaders more than 180 years later. In 1974, the nation’s representatives focused on precisely the kinds of wrongdoing that prompted the founders to authorize impeachment in the first place.

The promise World War I couldn’t keep

An op-ed by Samuel Moyn. The guns of August 1914 unleashed a debate that is still with us: Can the laws of war actually impose limits on how war is carried out? Germany invaded Belgium, violating that nation’s neutrality — which was guaranteed by treaties stretching back to the 19th century. This act horrified the world — as would the civilian occupation policies that marked German rule in Belgium, Northern France, and elsewhere during the long years of trench warfare. The question of how much international law should be respected during wartime has resurfaced repeatedly through the 20th century — in America, it has come up frequently since 9/11, especially surrounding the “torture debate.”

Transparency about fracking chemicals remains elusive

The website FracFocus.org was built to give the public answers to a burning question about the shale boom: what exactly were companies pumping down tens of thousands of wells to release oil and gas? “Like it or not, FracFocus is now one of the most comprehensive, if not the most comprehensive source of information about the chemicals being used in unconventional oil and gas development,” says Kate Konschnik, director of the Environmental Policy Initiative at Harvard Law School. In a 2013 report, Konschnik gave FracFocus a failing grade as a disclosure tool. She found that the data were often inaccurate or incomplete, and that companies were making “trade secret” claims for chemicals at one well site while fully disclosing the same chemicals at another. “Not maybe as robust a tool as one would hope if something is regulated or required by state law,” she says.

Arrogance Is Good: In Defense of Silicon Valley

…Arrogant or not, Silicon Valley continues to lead the economy. Old-school American optimism is still the rule in the Bay Area, where immigrants are welcome, hard work is rewarded, and everyone believes their children will have a better life…Lawrence Lessig, an author and Harvard Law professor who founded the Center for Internet and Society, has argued that West Coast code (programming) is in conflict with East Coast code (laws). Earlier this year he started a super PAC that’s spending $12 million on ads for candidates that want to get rid of super PACs. Lessig says the inchoate libertarian tendencies of technology leaders in the first decade of this century have been replaced by the practical frustration of dealing with government. “This one Yahoo engineer, a real genius, was talking to me about his research on auction theory,” he says. “I said to him, ‘Do you ever think your talents would be better deployed on health care or Social Security?’ He said, ‘I went to the Department of Health and Human Services that was dealing with drug pricing because I had an idea, and they wouldn’t let me in.’ ” The U.S. has such a backward way of resourcing government, he says, that it can’t make use of novel ideas.

On top of everything else, sexual assault hurts the survivors’ grades

An op-ed by Cari Simon [inaugural fellow, HLS Gender Violence Program]. The semester Deena* was raped, her grades plummeted: She received a “D” in one course and failed another. It was the classes requiring participation in which her grades suffered the most, as some days she was too terrified to leave her dorm room, especially after running into her assailant on campus…Diane Rosenfeld, my mentor and the director of Harvard Law School Gender Violence Program worked with Deena’s school to replace the “D” with a “Pass” and ensure the “F” was removed from her transcript. The change in GPA improved her confidence and allowed her to be eligible for her dream to study abroad.

Faced with Boko Haram’s brutality, ‘the best I can do is to share Goni’s story’ (Commentary)

An op-ed by Elizabeth Loftus [`16]. The news has been bleak, lately — war in Gaza, conflict and tragedy in Ukraine, Ebola in West Africa. I think it is important during these times to remember that there are good people out there doing good things. It is with a heavy heart that I write to commemorate one of the best people, who died, as he lived, doing what was right. Last weekend, I learned that Boko Haram hit a target close to home. Boko Haram, an al-Qaida affiliated, militant Islamist group based in northern Nigeria has become increasingly active over the past few years. Recently, the organization gained international notoriety for perpetrating the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls. Early this month, operatives entered Magdemé, the northern Cameroonian village on the Nigerian border where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2010 to 2012. The attackers looted compounds and, when they reached Goni’s home, they demanded his money and his family. Goni refused, telling the men that Boko Haram was not Muslim and that the group was hurting innocent people. They killed him.