It was the early 1980s, and Mary Bonauto was a college student in upstate New York, struggling to come out as gay. She turned to a priest for help but left convinced her church would not accept her. Unsure where to turn, she felt her life might “be over.” “The law was one way of making sure my life wouldn’t be over,” she recently recalled. “I could either just suffer from the system or change the system. I decided to opt on the change-the-system side.” …“Mary Bonauto’s contributions to the gay rights movement are analogous to those of Thurgood Marshall to the civil rights movement and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the women’s rights movement,” Michael Klarman, a Harvard Law School professor, said in an e-mail.
A service that enables courts and researchers to make permanent links to research found on the Web has won a Webby Award for best legal site of 2015. Perma.cc, developed by the Harvard Law School Library and supported by a network of more than 60 law libraries, takes on the widespread problem of broken or defunct Web links, also known as “link rot,” which can that can undermine research by scholars and courts. The problem was explained in a 2013 paper by Harvard Law professors Lawrence Lessig, Kendra Albert and Jonathan Zittrain. Their research detailed in, “Perma: Scoping and Addressing the Problem of Link and Reference Rot in Legal Citations,” revealed that 50% of URLs in U.S. Supreme Court opinions no longer link to the originally cited material. Perma.cc has developed a process to preserve and “vest” links used in research.
An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Predicting exactly what the justices will say at oral argument is a tricky business — but predicting the reaction is more tractable. After the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in the gay-marriage cases Tuesday, you can expect a moment of serious anxiety among those who hope that the court is about to declare a fundamental constitutional right to marry the partner of one’s choice. The reason is simple: Justice Anthony Kennedy isn’t going to declare from the bench how he’s going to rule. At least some questions from some justices are likely to raise the question of whether the court should decide the issue now or wait for some unspecified time. The result will be a feeling of letdown and nervousness among gay-marriage supporters. Because expectations are so high right now, anything short of a Supreme Court lovefest is going to produce a feeling of vertigo — and the worry that perhaps, after all, Kennedy might not be ready to do the right thing.
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. The same-sex marriage cases, which will be argued Tuesday, may well rank among the most important constitutional disputes in American history. The best analogy is Brown v. Board of Education, the iconic 1954 decision in which the Supreme Court struck down school segregation. The parallel is very close, and it clarifies what the same-sex marriage cases are really about. Almost everyone now celebrates Brown as self-evidently correct. But beware of hindsight. It obscures the intense disagreements that preceded that decision, and the firestorms that followed it. At the time, eminently sensible people insisted that the court had overreached, not least because racial segregation was entrenched in many states, and because it was not at all obvious that the Constitution stood in its way.
Columbia University is one of the many schools to be accused of failing to protect the rights of sexual assault victims. This week, it became one of the first to be singled out for failing to protect the rights of the accused. On Wednesday, Paul Nungesser, the male student who was the target of the now-famous “Carry That Weight” campaign filed a federal complaint against Columbia University, its board of trustees, and President Lee C. Bollinger…These cases beg the question: will students accused of sexual assault be headed to court en masse? Legal experts interviewed for this article say that may, in fact, be the next phase in national campus sexual assault reform—and they say the federal government is to blame. “I think the next wave will be students suing the universities. I think there will be an escalating wave,” said Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet…“When you get things like the federal government pressuring universities to create a sexual assault process that lacks adequate due process for those accused, you’re going to get students trying to protect themselves,” said Bartholet. Under current campus policy, she believes “there’s the risk we will find a lot of people responsible for sexual assault when they shouldn’t be. That will lead to some of them fighting back with the help of lawyers against the university and the government. I think that’s a good and healthy thing because what the federal government has done is outrageous,” she said.
Relatives of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are under federal government protection in a Revere hotel, officials said Friday, and are widely expected to assist the defense team as it prepares to present its case next week that Tsarnaev should be spared the death penalty….“So far Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a cardboard figure for the jury,” said former federal judge Nancy Gertner, who now teaches at Harvard Law School. “Anything that humanizes him is a good thing for the defense.”
An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Every weapons system, from the bow and arrow to the intercontinental ballistic missile, sometimes kills the wrong people. So why has the revelation that a U.S. drone strike accidentally killed two al-Qaeda hostages – a U.S. citizen and an Italian aid worker — created such a storm of drone “rethinking”? Part of the answer is that liberal critics of drone strikes, who’ve questioned their legality, are using the opportunity to repeat and reframe their criticisms. I’ve joined in some of that criticism in the past and stand by it. But the deeper reason for the renewed discussion is a pernicious myth: the fantasy that drones are uniquely precise.
An op-ed by Nancy Gertner. DNA testing and videotaping of police-citizen encounters may have more in common than you might think. Both show not what arguably happened but what is true (or as close to true as we can get). DNA exonerations have enabled us to examine the behavior of lawyers, judges and prosecutors in order to understand how a wrongful conviction happened. Videotaping of police-citizen encounters could well do the same for policing and civil rights challenges to police misconduct.
Loretta E. Lynch, who was confirmed Thursday as attorney general, will meet with local police officers nationwide this summer as she tries to strike a new tone for the Justice Department amid a roiling controversy over the use of lethal force, aides said….But her friends and relatives say she has never viewed her job in government as one of a civil rights advocate. “She’s not an ideologue,” Annette Gordon-Reed, a Harvard law professor and longtime friend, said recently. “She’s not going to do things to please some wing. She’s not a caricature of anything. She is a prosecutor.”
When it was announced a little more than a year ago, it felt to many like a sure thing. After all, government regulators had approved Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011…The president may have been speaking about net neutrality, but the implications for the merger were clear. “That was just huge,” said Susan Crawford, a co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. “It signaled that the cable industry was no longer calling the shots.”