Mitchell faculty in the news through Feb. 27, 2009

Following is a summary of William Mitchell faculty and programs featured in the media through Feb. 27.

Professor Raleigh Levine has been providing expert commentary on Minnesota’s continuing U.S. Senate recount trial.

  • Levine commented on the recount process in a Feb. news article. “It’s sort of like the proverbial sausagefactory,” she said.”You don’t really want to see it being made up close.”She concluded: “I do think we should take heart from its relativeaccuracy. This is so rare for an election to be this close… Given the natureof the system, I think that Minnesota has a pretty good process.”
  • In a Feb. 24 Minnesota Public Radio news story, Levine discussed when an election certification would be issued. “Minnesota law is clear that once a court of proper jurisdiction, whether it’s the three-judge panel if there’s no appeal or the Minnesota Supreme Court if there is an appeal, once that court has finally determined the contest, that’s when the election certificate issues,” she said. Levine also said there are two ways to interpret Gov. Pawlenty’s stance on the law. The first is that Pawlenty is cautious and waiting for direction from the court. “The other is that he’s acting in a politically expedient way on the assumption that Franken will be the winner and he’d like to avoid having to have Franken seated for as long as possible.”
  • Levine was quoted in a Feb. 16 commentary on by writer Jay Weiner about the Minnesota Senate recount trial. “I think it’s the nature of an election contest. The parties are representing themselves, rather than the voters. They tend to make the arguments that are best suited to getting the results that they want. As it happens in this case, the standard Democratic position that you want to be as generous as possible with interpreting election laws is being taken by Coleman … It is ironic that that’s the position Coleman is arguing, but it’s also a very convenient position while Franken is saying stick to the letter of the law … It is ironic, but not surprising.”
  • Levine was interviewed Feb. 5 by Cathy Wurzer on MPR’s Midmorning program about Franken’s request for the Minnesota Supreme Court to provisionally certify the election while the recount trial continues. Levine said that while Franken’s arguments for certification have merit—Minnesota should have a second senator in place—they are “not a slam dunk.” The U.S. Senate has provisionally seated senators while election decisions are resolved, she said.
  • In a Feb. 2 MPR news story, Levine discussed how long Minnesotans may have to wait before their second senator is seated in the U.S. Congress. In “U.S. Senate race may seem like Groundhog Day,” Levine said that if the 11,000 rejected absentee ballots need to be reviewed individually, “we’re talking about a substantial amount of time.”

Professor Peter Erlinder
was featured in the Feb. 24 “Good Question” segment on WCCO-TV’s 10 pm newscast. He discussed whether judges can punish for what you say out of court, following the sentencing of Carl Eller to jail for bad-mouthing the court and police in the media. “I think that the message that was sent was that, if you have critical opinions of the court or of the way your case is being handled, and you express those, those will be held against you by the court,” Erlinder said. “If people get punished because of what they say, not because of what they did, we then are in a situation where not only is the First Amendment undermined, but the idea of government of laws rather than of men or of people, is seriously undermined.”

Visiting Professor Sarah Deer
provided expert analysis to the Dickinson Press and KTTC-TV Rochester, Minn., on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Feb. 24 decision limiting the federal government’s authority to hold land in trust for Indian tribes. She said that while Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion, apparently sought to close the door on tribes that were recognized after 1934 taking land into trust, Justice Stephen Breyer tried to leave an opening that seems to create “wiggle room” for another way tribes can take land into trust. Tribes, such as the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which won federal recognition in 1969, could argue that they although they didn’t have formal recognition prior to 1934, the federal government has acknowledged their existence all along, Deer said. “”It basically just means there’s another box to check off for the tribes.”

Professor Gregory Duhl
has provided expert commentary about the StarTribune’s bankruptcy filing.

  • Duhl was quoted in the Feb. 20 StarTribune about the newspaper’s bankruptcy court motion to abrogate the labor contract for its pressman’s union. “Bankruptcy courts in New York [where the Star Tribune filed] are debtor friendly and are more likely to do so than courts in some other circuits,” Duhl said. “I would not say it is easy to get a union contract voided, but courts do it all the time if that is necessary to help save the company.”
  • Duhl was quoted in a Feb. 16 article on about the unions’ leverage in the court. “Their leverage is to not work, but that doesn’t do them any good in this economy. If the employees stop working, the newspaper is going to go out of business,” he said, adding that some level of negotiating would take place because the court would prefer to see the company and the unions reach deals that all sides can agree to. “Ultimately the court could step in and say for the good of the creditors the old union contracts have to be voided and new contracts have to be issued against the will of the unions.”

Professor Afsheen John Radsan’s
OP-ED exploring the how the Obama administration is likely to view the use of rendition in fighting terrorism was published by Jurist. In the commentary piece, Radsan says that instead of categorically rejecting rendition as a strategy, new CIA chief Leon Panetta and President Obama will likely conclude on that it is a tactic which may be necessary to get bad guys off the street before they do us real harm.

Professor Herbert Kritzer
was quoted in an business article in the Feb. 13 StarTribune on lawyer and staff reductions at Twin cities law firms. “In this economy, there are some areas where you’d expect to see cuts. Mergers and acquisitions is one of those areas,” he said, adding that the job reductions can be tied to the loss of a big client or slower-than-projected growth. “If a lawyer is not producing, then you say, ’Let’s trim and get in line with where we want to be.’” Kritzer also said the legal bloodbath on the East Coast has been exacerbated by the close relationship between big law firms and the financial industry, which has been in turmoil for more than a year.

Adjunct Professor Hassan Mohamud participated in a Feb 12 panel discussion sponsored by the Minnesota News Council on why Somalis don’t trust the Twin Cities news media. Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins reported on the panel discussion, which included Twin Cities journalists and other Somali community leaders, in his Feb. 12 Web blog. During the panel discussion, Mohamud commented on a National Public radio story that ran on MPR about rumors that a Minneapolis mosque had something to do with the disappearance of young Somali men. “Coverage is not beneficial tot he community; it is damaging,” he said. “(It) paints the most important institutions–which is the mosque–in the worst light.”

Professor Herbert Kritzer
was quoted in the Feb. 4 StarTribune article “Bloomington accounting firm faces double whammy over Petters, Madoff: Investors are suing McGladrey & Pullen of Bloomington, blaming it for their losses.” The firm is being sued for its “negligent” auditing work for the companies involved in the top two alleged alleged Ponzi schemes in U.S. history. Kritzer said anyone with deep pockets connected to the case could end up a defendant in a civil lawsuit. “When someone gets screwed, they’re going to look for any possible source of recovery. A law firm will go after anybody who was involved in providing information to their clients or the public that said the investment was good,” he said.

Professor John Sonsteng
is featured in the February/March 2009 issue of Minnesota Law & Politics. In “Learning the Art of Being a Lawyer” Sonsteng discussed his proposal for a Legal Education Renaissance, which he describes as a 17-year plan for revamping the way law students are trained to be lawyers. “Would you read about heart surgery and go do it?” he said. “The best singers, the best musicians, the best knitters, the best actors practice the skill. [But] what do we do? We sit, we read, and we do blue book exams.” Sonteng’s plan includes changes to law schools’ faculty and curriculum structure, including offering more hands-on courses like William Mitchell’s General Practicum and Business Practicum. “This is about changing the nature of the institution,” he said. “We’re not teaching Ph.D.’s in the philosophy of law. We’re teaching people to be lawyers.”

Professor Kimberley Dayton is featured in the February/March 2009 issue of Minnesota Law & Politics. The story is about the creation of the Center for Elder Justice & Policy at William Mitchell. The center allows students to get real-world experience by working with community groups to develop elder law policies, follow trends, and create public awareness of issues affecting older adults. “We are trying to connect William Mitchell’s resources—our library, our students who have the time to do research, and their passion to be engaged—with the community,” she said. “I consider the students I graduated to be huge successes. Now they have the tools to help spread the word and find solutions for these issues that will affect everyone.”