Laurence Tribe, Obama’s legal mentor, attacks EPA power plant rule

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is attaching himself to an unlikely bedfellow in his growing efforts to take down President Barack Obama’s climate plan. Liberal legal lion Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor who taught constitutional law to President Barack Obama, is the new GOP darling in the fight against the Environmental Protection Agency’s upcoming climate regulations for power plants. Tribe handed Republicans a ready-made talking point during a House hearing this week, when he accused his former student of “burning the Constitution” in the effort to combat global warming. And two days later, McConnell pointed to Tribe in a letter Thursday to the governors of all 50 states, urging them to refuse to comply with EPA’s climate rules.

A better Big Brother: Liberty, privacy and security must be re-thought

Imagine a robot drone the size of a spider that can crawl into the shower and inject poison into a political opponent while being operated by an assassin thousands of kilometres away. Imagine an aerial drone flying through a sold-out football stadium, spraying deadly anthrax spores. Imagine some creep getting teen girls to download malicious software that allows him to take sexually explicit photos and videos of them through their webcams and then post them on the Internet. Wait. That last one really happened. The spider assassin and the anthrax drone haven’t happened yet — but they could, warn Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum in The Future of Violence. Wittes is a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. Blum is a professor of human rights and international humanitarian law at Harvard Law School. Together they direct the Harvard Law School-Brookings Project on Law and Security. Both have written previous books in the field. This is their first book together.

Harvard law profs spar over EPA’s ‘Clean Power’ plan

Earlier this week, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe testified before Congress on the legality of the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. Tribe’s testimony garnered attention because he challenged the lawfulness of EPA plans and raised several constitutional concerns…Tribe’s criticisms of the EPA attracted attention not just because he is a prominent liberal law professor, but also because he briefly worked in the Obama Administration (though not on environmental matters) and was one of the president’s professors (and has sometimes been described as a “mentor”). Tribe’s testimony, and his suggestion that the EPA’s climate plans involved “burning the Constitution,” also prompted some pushback. Most notably, two of his colleagues at Harvard Law School — Richard Lazarus and Jody Freemanpenned a response on the HLS Web site, challenging Tribe’s legal and constitutional analysis, with an emphasis on the latter. Tribe, in turn, wrote a lengthy rejoinder, also on the HLS Web site. This back and forth is a preview of the legal battle that awaits the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

DA Conley: ‘skunk at the garden party’ (subscription)

An op-ed by Nancy Gertner. Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley referred to himself as the “skunk at the garden party” at the Second Annual Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition Summit, when he called for the continuation of mandatory minimum drug sentences. The summit was designed to bring together experts from all quarters, to look critically at incarceration, using advances scientific research to address issues that have too often been shouted in legislative sound bites or strident political debates. In this very thoughtful setting–with all voices decrying mandatory minimum drug sentence–Conley’s “skunk” reference doesn’t begin to describe his remarks.

Winning the Too-Big-to-Fail Battle

An op-ed by Mark Roe. Headlines about banks’ risks to the financial system continue to dominate the financial news. Bank of America performed poorly on the US Federal Reserve’s financial stress tests, and regulators criticized Goldman Sachs’ and JPMorgan Chase’s financing plans, leading both to lower their planned dividends and share buybacks. And Citibank’s hefty buildup of its financial trading business raises doubts about whether it is controlling risk properly. These results suggest that some of the biggest banks remain at risk. And yet bankers are insisting that the post-crisis task of strengthening regulation and building a safer financial system has nearly been completed, with some citing recent studies of bank safety to support this argument. So which is it: Are banks still at risk? Or has post-crisis regulatory reform done its job?

McConnell Urges States to Help Thwart Obama’s ‘War on Coal’

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has begun an aggressive campaign to block President Obama’s climate change agenda in statehouses and courtrooms across the country, arenas far beyond Mr. McConnell’s official reach and authority. The campaign of Mr. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is aimed at stopping a set of Environmental Protection Agency regulations requiring states to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions…To make his case, Mr. McConnell is also relying on a network of powerful allies with national influence and roots in Kentucky or the coal industry. Within that network is Laurence H. Tribe, a highly regarded scholar of constitutional law at Harvard Law School and a former mentor of Mr. Obama’s. Mr. Tribe caught Mr. McConnell’s attention last winter when he was retained to write a legal brief for Peabody Energy, the nation’s largest coal producer, in a lawsuit against the climate rules. n the brief, Mr. Tribe argued that Mr. Obama’s use of the existing Clean Air Act to put forth the climate change regulations was unconstitutional.

EPA Regulations Accused of Overstepping Constitutional Bounds

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) intent to use the Clean Power Plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions is unconstitutional, says Laurence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard University. Tribe recently filed comments with the EPA saying that the Clean Power Plan is “a remarkable example of executive overreach and an administrative agency’s assertion of power beyond its statutory authority.”

Call for repeal of law enabling ‘midnight’ arrests

…The Ward or Village-Tract Administration Law was passed in 2012 to replace two laws enacted under British rule in 1907. It requires residents to inform local authorities when visitors spend the night at their homes. In its report, Midnight Intrusions: Ending Guest Registration and Household Inspections in Myanmar, released yesterday, NGO Fortify Rights called on the government to stop searches of homes without a warrant and abolish requirements to register overnight guests…Matthew Bugher, a pro bono researcher with Fortify Rights and a global justice fellow at Harvard Law School, said the provisions violated three rights in international law, the right to privacy, the right to freedom of movement and the right to freedom of association. “International law allows some limits to be placed on those rights, but these provisions do not even come close to meeting those standards,” he said.

Wall Street Executives from the Financial Crisis of 2008: Where Are They Now?

…[former Lehman Brothers C.E.O. Dick] Fuld remains fabulously wealthy, although just how wealthy remains a subject of some dispute. During the same October 2008 congressional hearing in which he sparred with Mica and Henry Waxman, the committee chairman, about how much money he had made at Lehman, Waxman released a chart showing that Fuld had been paid $484 million between 2000 and 2007. Under oath, Fuld argued he had received closer to $310 million. Later in the hearing he conceded that it may have been $350 million. A subsequent analysis by Harvard law professor Lucian Bebchuk and colleagues concluded that the figure was $522.7 million.

Gunmen Strike at Tunisia’s Idealism

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. When the front gate to the Tunisian national parliament was locked, during my visits from 2012 to 2014, my research associate and I discovered we could walk around to the back gate, which was always open so the public could access the national museum. Eventually we realized we could even park there, no questions asked. Unfortunately, terrorists noticed this, too — and 17 tourists were killed Wednesday in Tunis during an attack on the Bardo, as the parliament-museum complex is called. This loss of life is more than a blow to the Tunisian tourism industry or the newly elected government. It represents a loss of innocence for the one country that has emerged from the Arab Spring as a constitutional democracy. Tunisia will now have to admit that it has a homegrown terrorist movement that wants to undermine the vibrant new institutions the country is so justly proud of having created.