Judge Dismisses Divestment Lawsuit

A Massachusetts Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of Harvard students against the University late last year, which urged Harvard to divest from fossil fuel companies. “Plaintiffs have brought their advocacy, fervent and articulate and admirable as it is, to a forum that cannot grant the relief they seek,” reads the memo, signed by Superior Court Justice Paul D. Wilson. The 11-page complaint, filed last November by seven Harvard students who call themselves the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition, claimed Harvard’s investment in fossil fuels is “a breach of [Harvard’s] fiduciary and charitable duties as a public charity and nonprofit corporation.” The plaintiffs, all members of the activist group Divest Harvard, also charged that the University is misallocating its funds by investing in “abnormally dangerous activities.” The group plans to appeal the decision, according to Harvard Law School student Joseph “Ted” E. Hamilton, [`16] one of the plaintiffs.

License To Kill

‘As a thought experiment,” write Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum, “imagine a world composed of billions of people walking around with nuclear weapons in their pockets.” If such an exercise doesn’t strike you as bonkers, then I’ve got an enthusiastic book recommendation for you. Sadly for the rest of us, the fear-mongering in “The Future of Violence” is no laughing matter but rather a depressingly accurate summation of how centrist Washington has come to view the democratization of technology: with a distrust bordering on panic. Mr. Wittes and Ms. Blum, from their respective perches at the Brookings Institution and Harvard Law School, are worried chiefly about what they almost pejoratively describe as “technologies of mass empowerment”—the Internet, gene-splicing, nanotechnology, robots, 3-D printing and so forth.

In ‘Uncommon Event,’ Law School Profs Spar Online over EPA Plan

At Harvard Law School, contentious legal debates are commonplace. Whether in a classroom, over lunch, or in the pages of one of the school’s many legal journals, professors and students respond to, critique, and question one another’s views. But notably, over the past week, University professor Laurence H. Tribe ’62 and Law School professors Richard J. Lazarus and Jody Freeman, in what Tribe described as an “uncommon event in Harvard Law School’s history,” took the discussion to the Harvard Law Today website. The exchange began after Tribe testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Power on the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan.”

First Amendment, ‘Patron Saint’ of Protesters, Is Embraced by Corporations

Liberals used to love the First Amendment. But that was in an era when courts used it mostly to protect powerless people like civil rights activists and war protesters. These days, a provocative new study says, there has been a “corporate takeover of the First Amendment.” The assertion is backed by data, and it comes from an unlikely source: John C. Coates IV, who teaches business law at Harvard and used to be a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, the prominent corporate law firm. “Corporations have begun to displace individuals as the direct beneficiaries of the First Amendment,” Professor Coates wrote. The trend, he added, is “recent but accelerating.” Professor Coates’s study was only partly concerned with the Supreme Court’s recent decisions amplifying the role of money in politics. “It’s not just Citizens United,” he said in an interview, referring to the 2010 decision that allowed unlimited independent spending by corporations in elections. His study, he said, analyzed First Amendment challenges from businesses to an array of economic regulations…In a recent essay, Laurence H. Tribe, a law professor at Harvard, offered a cautious partial defense of the Citizens United decision. But he said it was an instance of a larger phenomenon. “It is part of a trend in First Amendment law that is transforming that body of doctrine into a charter of largely untrammeled libertarianism,” he wrote, “in which the regulation of virtually all forms of speech and all kinds of speakers is treated with the same heavy dose of judicial skepticism, with exceptions perversely calculated to expose particularly vulnerable and valuable sorts of expression to unconvincingly justified suppression.”

Why We Need Law Schools

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Who needs law school? For centuries, the answer in the English-speaking world was: no one. You prepared for the bar by serving as an apprentice or an intern alongside practicing lawyers. Sure, you had to read a lot of cases. At first, they probably made no sense. But over time, you learned by watching and doing to connect the decisions in the books with real cases and real clients. Today there’s renewed talk of returning to a world where you could join the bar after extended internships rather than formal legal study. I’m a law professor, so you’d expect me to defend the current system. Before I do, however, let me make a big admission: Law school isn’t really necessary for lawyers or their clients…Yet law school is absolutely essential — not for lawyers with clients, but for our society as a whole. The reason has everything to do with what makes law distinct as a social phenomenon.

Will You Be Murdered By a Robot?

With a bit of technical knowledge and a good imagination, any malevolent person may soon be able to eradicate the human race. This is a mildly exaggerated version of a fundamental claim in The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones—Confronting a New Age of Threat, an alarming and informative new book by Benjamin Wittes and Gabriela Blum.

For millions of Americans, the 401(k) is a failure

You need to know this number: $18,433. That’s the median amount in a 401(k) savings account, according to a recent report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Almost 40 percent of employees have less than $10,000, even as the proportion of companies offering alternatives like defined benefit pensions continues to drop…”Nobody thought they were going to take over the world,” said Daniel Halperin, a professor at Harvard Law School. who was a senior official at the Treasury Department when 401(k) accounts came into being…”401(k)’s changed two things: you could choose not to participate, and you chose your own investments, which a lot of people, I think, screw up,” Halperin said.

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.