Guerrilla Warfare at the Supreme Court

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Is there a guerrilla war under way against the death penalty? Justice Samuel Alito proposed the idea Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the use of the drug midazolam while administering lethal injections. The answer, to put it bluntly, is yes: Death-penalty abolitionists, unable to persuade either the public or the courts to prohibit the death penalty absolutely, rely on all the legal means available to them. Their arguments before the court are politics by other means — Clausewitz’s famous description of war.

Small groups, dangerous technology: Can they be controlled?

Attempting to usher in the apocalypse in the 1990’s, the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo managed to procure VX nerve gas and a military helicopter. Fortunately a botched chemical weapons deployment limited the casualties to only a few thousand injured and about a dozen killed. Despite having a doctorate in molecular biology, Aum Shinrikyo’s Seiichi Endo couldn’t access any truly catastrophic bioweapons—in 1995 nation-states were still by and large the only entities that could realistically kill millions. How long this limitation will hold is still an open question…We’re entering an era in which smaller and smaller groups can project violence in unprecedented ways, even rivaling the destructive capacity of states. This shift in power dynamics is the topic of The Future of Violence, a new book by Benjamin Wittes at the Brookings Institution and Gabriella Blum at Harvard Law School. The book addresses one of the most fundamental challenges of our century—how can we structure our society so that these newfound technological powers don’t end in catastrophe?

Beyond Quid Pro Quo: What Counts As Political Corruption?

The presidential hopefuls haven’t spent much time so far with voters. Instead, they’ve committed many days to courting the millionaires and billionaires who can fuel a White House bid. And at the same time, activists on the left and right are seeking to redefine political corruption, which they believe this is. …Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School, founded of Mayday PAC, a superPAC intended to fight unlimited money in superPACs. He and Teachout agree on the idea that corruption is a system problem. Lessig presents the issue as one not of equal political speech, but of equal rights. “We are talking about equal rights as citizens, equal right to participate in the political process,” he says. “That’s precisely the equality which has been destroyed by the way we’ve allowed campaigns to be funded.”

This for-profit college failed, but its students are left with the wreckage

Last week, one of the country’s biggest career college chains completed its collapse. Corinthian Colleges once ran 107 campuses of Everest Institute, WyoTech and Heald Colleges that served more than 100,000 students. It was a darling of Wall Street for its lucrative model of offering degrees to low-income students who borrowed heavily from the government to pay their tuition…“It is supremely unfair for the government to hold students feet to the fire on loans that were made to finance what the government should have known were valueless products,” said Toby Merrill, director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School.

Police, Harvard near deal to mediate civilian complaints

After years of false starts, the Boston Police Department is nearing a deal with its three unions and Harvard Law School to set up a simpler, speedier system for resolving many of the civilian complaints lodged against officers, police and Harvard officials say. Under the system, mediators from the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program at Harvard Law School would handle dozens of the more moderate disputes that clog up the department’s Internal Affairs Division, to the frustration of plaintiffs…Rachel A. Viscomi, the Harvard program’s assistant director, said she expected to complete an agreement once police unions approve the policy. She said mediators would be drawn from a pool of Harvard Law School students and local residents trained in dispute resolution and provided by the program at no charge. “It doesn’t always mean they’ll agree or want to resolve it right there,” she said, “but the opportunity for greater connection is very important.”

Harvard researchers suggest dialogue to calm conflict in Sudbury

Two Harvard Law student-researchers urged residents of Sudbury, a town rife with political and social conflict, to voice their opinions and to more thoroughly consider opposing viewpoints during a Sunday afternoon forum in the town center. The residents convened at Grange Hall, where Seanan Fong and Jiayun Ho [`15] presented findings from “The Sudbury Listening Project,” a first-of-its-kind diagnostic report overseen by the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Fong and Ho compiled the report over two months, interviewing and meeting with Sudbury residents to evaluate the sources of townwide tension…Fong and Ho told the audience that many of the people they interviewed said they felt threatened and hurt by hostility within the town government.

Obama Administration Steps Back From Effort to End Federal Death Penalty

For a moment last year, it looked as if the Obama administration was moving toward a history-making end to the federal death penalty. …“It was a step in the right direction, but not enough of a step,” said Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a Harvard professor and a death penalty opponent who met with administration officials as part of the review. The Justice Department, he added, has been refusing to say what he thinks senior officials there believe: “We’ve had too many executions that didn’t work and killing somebody’s not the answer.”

5 Investigates: Man jailed for 30 years wants new trial after FBI error

A Massachusetts man imprisoned for 30 years for a crime he says he didn’t commit is asking for a new trial after the FBI admitted making serious mistakes with one of the few pieces of physical evidence in the case. …Retired federal judge Nancy Gertner, who has written about faulty forensic science, called the FBI’s review of old hair analysis cases “extraordinary.” She credited the FBI for launching the nationwide review. “We’re not talking about a minor mistake. We’re taking about a mistake that implicated a man’s liberty,” Gertner told 5 Investigates’ Karen Anderson. “Before DNA we didn’t know what the truth was.”

Deans’ Challenges winners

Focusing on health and life sciences, cultural entrepreneurship, the food system, and innovation in sports, five student-led teams were named winners in the third annual Deans’ Challenges. Each of the four Deans’ Challenges awarded $55,000 to the winning teams and runners-up, for a total of $220,000…“I saw firsthand through our Food System Challenge this year how the challenge process ignites imagination, collaboration, and focused excellence, along with excitement and fun,” said Dean Martha Minow of Harvard Law School.

Harvard Law Wins Webby, Quinn Emanuel an Honoree

Harvard Law School’s Perma.cc — a website dedicated to keeping internet URLs operable — has won the Webby Award for best legal site of 2015. Perma.cc, a website for organizations in the “forever” business, is an online preservation site that tackles the problem of inoperable links, a phenomena known as “link rot,” which can undermine research by scholars and courts. It was developed by Harvard Law School Library in conjunction with university law libraries nationwide. Project Manager Adam Ziegler explained that link rot is “hugely damaging” to legal scholarship, noting that prior to Perma.cc’s 2013 launch, Harvard researchers determined that half of the links in all U.S. Supreme Court opinions no longer worked and more than 70 percent of law journal links were defunct…Over the last 20 months Perma.cc has enabled the creation of nearly 100,000 permanent links, Harvard Library Innovation Lab director Kim Dulin told Big Law Business, and garnered participation by 91 law libraries and nearly 300 legal journals.