House Overturns Student Loan Forgiveness Rule

The House voted 231-180 to overturn new regulations introduced by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that critics argue limit student loan forgiveness when a college closes due to fraud. The Obama-era rules, known as borrower defense to repayment, allow students to have their federal student loans forgiven if a school employed illegal or deceptive practices to encourage the students to borrow debt to attend the school. Without these rules, students are potentially on the hook to repay federal student loans even if they didn’t find gainful employment or finish their degree before their school closed…Attorneys general from 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, sued DeVos and the Education Department for delaying the borrower protection rule that was scheduled to take effect beginning July 1. A federal judge previously ordered DeVos to comply with the borrower defense rule. However, rather than comply with the judge’s order, the Education Department instead did the following, according to the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School: “The Department demanded incorrect loan payment from 16,034 students. Of those students, 3,289 student borrowers made one or more loan payments because of these demands, which they were not actually supposed to pay…”

White House Counsel Shouldn’t Act as Trump’s Impeachment Lawyer

An article by Noah Feldman:  White House counsel Pat Cipollone will reportedly lead the team that represents President Donald Trump in the Senate impeachment trial. Superficially, this may sound logical. The opposite is true. It’s highly problematic for Cipollone to represent Trump in the Senate. For starters, Cipollone is the author of the letter to executive […]

Gig economy bills move forward in other blue states, after California clears the way

California was the first state to challenge tech companies such as Uber and Lyft with bold laws meant to reshape the gig economy by converting workers into employees. And now a handful of other states are following its lead. Legislators in three other states with Democratic majorities, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, are considering similar bills that could open the door for a wide range of freelance workers. The bills would benefit not just app gig workers but janitors, construction workers, truckers and educational workers…“It’s a moment in our politics, where people are understanding, especially in progressive states, these tensions between big corporations and corporate money and ordinary people,” Terri Gerstein, the director of the State and Local Enforcement Project at Harvard Law School. “These work issues and issues of economic inequality have come to such a fever pitch.”

With stakes beyond task at hand, John Roberts takes central role in Trump’s impeachment trial

With an oath of impartiality, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Thursday became only the third American sworn to preside over a presidential impeachment trial. How he fulfills that pledge will have obvious consequences for President Trump. But it also will shape the public image of the nation’s 17th chief justice, and it holds ramifications for the Supreme Court and federal judiciary he leads. He portrays both as places where partisan politics have no purchase. “And now he crosses First Street, where it’s all about partisan politics,” said Harvard law professor Richard Lazarus, referring to the roadway in Washington that separates the Supreme Court from Congress. There are obvious risks for Roberts, but Lazarus said he doesn’t believe the chief justice will be particularly “risk-averse.” “I don’t think he’s going to look like a potted plant,” said Lazarus, who has known Roberts since law school and has taught summer courses with him after he became chief justice. “He’s not going to erode the stature of the chief justice and the Supreme Court in the process by looking like an insignificant person.”

How people decide what they want to know

When we live in an age of information, what information do we choose to absorb? And once we have absorbed information, which factors influence how we process it? Cass Sunstein ’78, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard, examines those questions in a study published this week in the scientific journal Nature Human Behaviour. The paper, “How people decide what they want to know,” was co-authored by Tali Sharot, a professor of cognitive neuroscience in the department of Experimental Psychology at University College London. … Sunstein discussed his research with Harvard Law Today in an email interview that took place this week as he was en route to London.

Who is right about political ads, Twitter or Facebook?

As the 2020 federal election draws closer, the issue of online political advertising is becoming more important, and the differences in how the platforms are approaching it more obvious. Twitter has chosen to ban political advertising, but questions remain about how it plans to define that term, and whether banning ads will do more harm than good. Meanwhile, Facebook has gone in the opposite direction, saying it will not even fact-check political ads. So whose strategy is the best, Twitter’s or Facebook’s? To answer this and other questions, we convened a virtual panel of experts…Harvard Law student and Berkman Klein affiliate Evelyn Douek, however, said in her view neither company is 100 percent right. “The best path is somewhere in the grey area in between,” she said. “It’s not obvious that a ban improves the quality of democratic debate. Facebook’s position, on the other hand, seems to rest on a notion of free expression that is nice in theory, but just doesn’t match reality.”

Bernie Sanders says Citizens United has been ‘disastrous.’ Is he right?

Bernie Sanders is a fierce critic of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which removed most limits on corporate and union spending on politics. The “disastrous” decision, he repeatedly warns voters, is transforming America from a democracy to an “oligarchy” where billionaires can “buy elections”…After reviewing dozens of studies analyzing the impact of contributions on lawmakers’ voting records, the researchers settled on what seemed like a pretty clear answer: Donations don’t buy you much…Lawrence Lessig disagrees. Vehemently. A Harvard law professor who ran for president in 2016 on an anti-corruption platform, he says you can’t learn much by analyzing the effect of lobbyists’ donations on representatives’ final votes on legislation. “There are 10,000 places between the idea and the final vote where influence can be exercised — and that’s indeed what we see,” he says. “The lobbyists don’t stand on the floor of Congress and say, ‘don’t vote for this’ or ‘do vote for that.’ They go to a committee and say, ‘Look, we don’t want this bill to come up. And if this bill comes up, we want it to be amended in the following way.’”

The Hidden Dangers of the Great Index Fund Takeover

If you hold a stock market index fund, congratulations. The S+P 500’s total return was a thumping 31.5% in 2019, and a fund that passively tracks that benchmark delivered almost all those gains, minus a tiny fee—perhaps just 0.04% of assets. Now here’s something you probably weren’t thinking about when you clicked on the box to choose an index fund in your 401(k) or IRA: You were also part of one of the biggest shifts in corporate power in a generation…Lucian Bebchuk, a Harvard law professor, says index fund managers don’t have incentives to invest the time into actively supervising companies. That’s because any effort to increase the value of a company would also increase the value of the index, which in turn benefits every fund that tracks the index. As a result, the fund that pushes management can’t stand out from its peers and attract more money—yet it incurs higher stewardship costs. The concern is that such deference will “result in insufficient checks on corporate managers,” Bebchuk says.

Demagogic Stress and Constitutional Growth

An article by Laurence TribeThe United States is living through a remarkably convulsive period in its history. Donald Trump has reshaped the American presidency, and his norm-shattering behavior has tested the US Constitution in profound ways. He has placed stress on points of constitutional vulnerability, particularly when it comes to judicially unenforceable norms of respect for fact-based reality, for orderly decision-making, and for investigatory and prosecutorial independence. Trump’s rise to power has also raised questions about some of the Constitution’s most solidly entrenched provisions. His victory in 2016 highlighted the dangers posed by the Electoral College in the face of changing demographic realities, and now his presidency is testing the viability of the impeachment process to cope with a demagogue who has captured the machinery of an entire political party and controls one chamber of Congress.

Can California rein in tech’s gig platforms? A primer on the bold state law that will try.

A new law in California seeks to rewrite the rules of work and what it means to be an employee. Known informally as the gig-economy bill, or AB5, the legislation went into effect on Jan. 1, seeking to compel all companies ― but notably those like Lyft and Uber ― to treat more of their workforce like employees. The law represents a cataclysmic shift for workers who depend on apps to get gigs, and it has inspired similar efforts in New York, New Jersey and Illinois. Heavyweight presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have championed the measure…A coalition of tech companies have pledged a reported $110 million for a new measure on the November ballot to exempt app-based drivers. Lyft and Uber, which together have more than 500,000 drivers in California, say they believe the law does not apply to their drivers, while simultaneously pursuing other avenues to exempt themselves from its provisions… “We are in this place because we have these really big companies that will put tens of millions up for the right to deny basic protections for workers,” said Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.