An op-ed by Noah Feldman: President Donald Trump’s three-tweet sequence on Michael CohenThursday morning was different from the usual presidential stream of consciousness. Compact and carefully reasoned, the tweets sound an awful lot like they were written with a lawyer standing at the writer’s shoulder. Taken together, the tweets signal that Trump and his team are genuinely concerned about the possibility of his being indicted after leaving office — totally separate from any danger of impeachment. That’s significant.
The [Massachusetts] Supreme Judicial Court has announced the appointment of eight new members to the Access to Justice Commission. They are: H. Esme Caramello of Harvard Law School; Northeastern Housing Court First Justice Fairlie A. Dalton; Sandra M. Gant of the Committee for Public Counsel Services; Richard Johnston of the Attorney General’s Office; Jennifer G. Miller, counsel to the state Senate; Susan K. Nagl of South Coastal Counties Legal Services; Anthony Owens, clerk-magistrate of the Dorchester Division of the Boston Municipal Court; and Nutter partner Mary K. Ryan.
Consumers are increasingly entrusting online services with all kinds of personal data — but that trust has been repeatedly abused or taken for granted. If a doctor or a lawyer did that, they’d be kicked to the curb, because they have a legally defined duty to protect privileged data. Why don’t Facebook and Google? They might soon, via the Data Care Act. This bill, proposed today by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and co-sponsored by 14 more Democrats in the Senate, would essentially establish a set of consumer protection duties, defined and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, preventing tech companies from knowingly doing harm to their users. …The idea has been brought up before, notably by Yale’s Jack Bardin and Harvard’s Jonathan Zittrain, whom Sen. Schatz has previously cited.
An op-ed by Noah Feldman: With Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s onetime lawyer and “fixer,” sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison, it’s worth asking: What will be the verdict of history on his crimes? Specifically, the felony campaign-finance violations connected to the payoffs to two women who said they had sexual affairs with the future president? Cohen said the payoffs were directed by then-candidate Trump — and the prosecutors of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York agreed. The answer depends on which of two competing paradigms for presidential wrongdoing the Cohen payoffs ultimately fall into.
After witnessing near-biblical calamities, Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972. The Cuyahoga river in Ohio caught fire in 1969, the same year 26m fish died in Florida’s Lake Thonotosassa, the largest recorded fish kill, because of pollution from food-processing plants. “Dirty Water”, a song from that era about the repellent Charles river, remains an anthem of Boston sports teams to this day. Since the early 1970s the White House has interpreted the statute in different ways. President Donald Trump’s team, who released a draft rule on December 11th, apparently want to take water law back to the 1980s. …Organizations like the Farm Bureau, another lobby group, whipped up fears of government asserting authority over ditches and ponds. In truth both the regulation and the original law already contain generous carve-outs for farmers, says Caitlin McCoy, a fellow at Harvard Law School.
While the bankruptcy fight over failed for-profit educator ITT Educational Services continues, the biggest group involved in the legal battle has scored a big victory. In late November, a federal bankruptcy judge in Indianapolis gave final approval to a $600 million settlement that will affect about 750,000 former students of ITT Technical Institute. … The group of students filed their claims against ITT in bankruptcy court in January 2017. They were represented by the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School and the law firm of Jenner & Block LLP. …“This settlement has done more for the cheated students of predatory for-profit colleges than [Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos has done in her entire administration,” Project on Predatory Student Lending Director Toby Merrill said in a written statement. “At a time when students are being ignored by their government, ITT students stood up to this predatory college themselves and secured the relief they are owed. Now it’s time for Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education to do the right thing and cancel the billions of dollars in remaining fraudulent federal loans.”
An op-ed by James Greiner: It shouldn’t be painfully hard to obtain a divorce that the law says you’re entitled to. And it shouldn’t be that hard only if you’re poor. Ending a marriage requires a lawsuit. To obtain a divorce, one spouse has to sue the other in court. If you’re rich, this isn’t a problem. You just hire a lawyer. But as the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized, divorce is just as fundamental to nonwealthy folks as it is to the Brad Pitts and Angelina Jolies of the world. And if you’re low-income, you probably won’t be able to hire a lawyer because they cost so much. Being trapped in an unwanted marriage can be pretty awful. We define ourselves, and society defines us, by reference to our spouses. Marriage and divorce affect income, property, children, medical care, just about every aspect of life. You can’t marry someone new until you get out of a marriage you’re in.
President Donald Trump’s executive actions aimed at slowing the pace of new regulation and eliminating existing ones (the first part was easier) continued in 2018. …In effect, this amounted to “an impressive form of self-abnegation” of power, as noted by former Obama OIRA Director Cass Sunstein, since Trump’s own agencies can no longer rely on post-DOJ-memo guidance in court. While some left-of-center observers were dismissive, claiming that it “merely restated well-understood and otherwise uncontroversial black letter law,” the concern has been a longstanding one on an official basis in the eyes of the ACUS, going back decades before its 2017 report. A beneficial effect of the DOJ move is that it could induce other agencies to lean toward notice-and-comment rulemaking instead of exploiting the guidance loophole. Former OIRA Director Sunstein maintained that guidance can be “exceedingly helpful,” but deemed the Associate AG announcement a “welcome move” against guidance inadvertently behaving as a “regulatory cudgel.”
Vanguard’s John Bogle didn’t know it at the time, but when he created the first index fund in 1975 he unleashed a monster. Stock index funds have grown so popular that they now command $4.6 trillion in assets. That might seem like a good thing. After all, index funds have “democratized” investing and simplified the process for the average person. But the truth is that index funds have gotten so big that they now pose a major risk to our economy — and even to capitalism itself. Here are three reasons why. … Harvard Law School professor John Coates likes to say that index funds create “social benefits” in the form of lower expenses. That’s true, but it is only captures a piece of the picture.
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein: Suppose that within the next few months, it becomes clear that President Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses. Does the House of Representatives have discretion to decide whether to impeach him? Or does the Constitution require it to do so? The simplest answer, and the best, is that the Constitution requires the House to do so.