Access to Justice

Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow spoke at the Court of Appeals in Albany Monday during the fifth annual hearing on civil legal services. It was the last of four hearings that started in September to highlight the civil legal needs of low-income New Yorkers. Minow advised New York officials to consider public libraries as potential places to dispense civil legal services.

U.S Troops and Patients Were Used as Malaria Guinea Pigs: Book

Tens of thousands of mental patients and troops unknowingly became malaria test subjects during the 1940s — part of a secret federal rush to cure a dread disease and win a world war, according to a book published Tuesday that exposes vast, previously unknown breaches of medical ethics…“The Malaria Project” — operating via the same covert White House machinery that drove the Manhattan Project — tasked doctors with removing malaria from naturally exposed U.S. troops then injecting those strains into people with syphilis and schizophrenia, reports author Karen Masterson, who researched files at the National Archives…“There are no easy answers,” agreed I. Glenn Cohen, a Harvard Law School professor specializing in medical ethics. “But in trying to reach an answer on a particular case, here is how I look at it: avoid hindsight bias; determine whether the study violated contemporaneous research ethics rules not whether it offends our current understandings,” Cohen said. “In this case, it likely violated even contemporaneous rules.”

Embrace the Irony

Last spring, Lawrence Lessig, a fifty-three-year-old Harvard legal theorist who opposes the influence of money in politics, launched a counterintuitive experiment: the Mayday PAC, a political-action committee that would spend millions of dollars in an attempt to elect congressional candidates who are intent on passing campaign-finance reform—and to defeat those who are not. It was a super PAC designed to drive its own species into extinction. Lessig adopted the motto “Embrace the irony.”

We Can’t All Be Pro Squash Players

An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. Remember George Plimpton’s classic book, “Paper Lion”? In the 1960s, Plimpton decided to find out what would happen if an ordinary person tried to play professional football. Amazingly, the Detroit Lions agreed to give him a tryout, allowing him to come to training camp as a third-string quarterback. The result? Disaster…A few days ago, I followed in his footsteps. Not, thank goodness, on the football field. My sport is squash — played with a racquet and a small ball in an indoor court.

Supreme Court lets stand state rulings allowing same-sex marriage

The Supreme Court’s surprising move to pass on deciding whether state prohibitions on same-sex marriage violate the U.S. Constitution may reflect two things about the justices: a natural inclination for incremental steps and a worry on the part of conservatives that the battle — for now — appears lost…“I’m astonished,” said Richard Fallon, a Harvard law professor who is a student of the court. Neither side of the court’s ideological split has enough motive to insist that the issue be taken up now, he believes. “There are some justices who aren’t in any hurry to take this, and four who are worried they are going to lose,” Fallon said.

Military kill switches (audio)

If we have kill switches on consumer products, why don’t we have them on military weaponry? Jonathan Zittrain is the Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and he argues we should have a way to disable dangerous weapons at a distance.

Justices Just Aren’t Ready for Gay Marriage

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Back in the dark ages in America, coffee didn’t come from sleek, fast Italian machines: it dripped, one painful drop at a time, through a filter into a waiting pot. This, my best-beloved, was called “percolation” — and it provides the central metaphor for how the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to take controversial cases. Today’s decision by the justices to deny seven petitions asking them to decide whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage was a classic example. Impervious to the pressures of the news media or the gay-rights movement, the justices decided to let the issue percolate a while longer.

Deciding on Silence on Gay Marriage

An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. Many people are stunned by the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review any of the recent lower-court decisions requiring states to recognize same-sex marriages. They shouldn’t be. The court’s silence is a fresh tribute to what Yale law professor Alexander Bickel, writing in the early 1960s, called “the passive virtues.” For the Supreme Court, not to decide is often the best course, especially when the nation is sharply divided.

Die richtigen Anreize

Translated from German: Mark Roe, Professor at the Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Michael Troege Professor at ESCP Europe in Paris, … want to tax banks’ debt [instead of profits on their equity]. Equity capital thus becomes more attractive as an alternative form of finance. The idea is that as a result banks would raise less debt and finance more with equity [and be safer]. In return, the corporate taxes on bank profits should decrease or be completely eliminated.”

For the Public Good: Harvard Grants Let Alums Fight for Outcasts

For Alec Karakatsanis and Phil Telfeyan winning cases means getting justice for clients unable to fight for themselves. Clients like the hundreds of people locked up in a Montgomery, Ala., jail because they were too poor to pay their traffic tickets. Equal Justice Under Law, the organization founded by the two Harvard Law alums to provide pro bono legal services, filed a federal lawsuit in March arguing that Montgomery’s system of requiring people who couldn’t pay fines to sit out their debts behind bars at a rate of $50 a day was unconstitutional…Without the seed grant that Karakatsanis and Telfeyan won from Harvard Law’s Public Service Venture Fund in 2013, some of those inmates might still be in jail. The two were the first to benefit from a program designed to help Harvard Law graduates found startups that target unmet legal needs at a time when other sources of funding were drastically reduced by a recession and years of slower economic growth…“We have lots of wonderful students who are willing to forego the big salaries to work longer and take more risks about getting a job,” said Alexa Shabecoff, Harvard’s assistant dean of public service who directs the venture fund. But those students needed “a light at the end of the tunnel – a job or a way to do the work they were passionate about.”