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Posted August 7, 2014

UVA Law's Summer Research Assistants Help Write the Latest Chapters in Legal Knowledge

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Carrington Giammittorio and Richard Bonnie

Rising second-year law student Carrington Giammittorio discusses her recent research findings with Professor Richard Bonnie.

Students working with University of Virginia School of Law professors this summer are gaining valuable experience contributing to cutting-edge legal analysis.

Contact: Eric Williamson

The 60 students serving as part- or full-time research assistants have contributed to professors' books and articles, and at least one is co-authoring a paper. Research assistants, most of whom are rising second-year law students, receive a stipend for their efforts, and some continue to work for professors during the school year.

As the inaugural recipient of the Nathalie Gilfoyle Fund for Law and Psychology, rising second-year law student Carrington Giammittorio worked with Professor Richard Bonnie to update "Criminal Law: Cases and Materials," which is co-authored by Professors Anne M. Coughlin and John C. Jeffries Jr., and Professor Emeritus Peter W. Low. Giammittorio researched such topics as criminal responsibility and how the legal system handles those judged not guilty by reason of insanity.

"Issues relating to the determination of criminal responsibility are important in order for the entire system to function effectively," Giammittorio said. "I especially think the issues surrounding mental illness and criminal law are not only fascinating, but tend to be subject to a certain misunderstanding in the popular media. It's nice to be able to help correct some of those misunderstandings in some way."

Her contributions included writing memos on the material, editing down cases and revising chapters, and suggesting additional note material. 

Nathalie Gilfoyle '74, General Counsel for the American Psychological Association, on Supporting Research

Nathalie Gilfoyle"One of the highlights of my law school years was working for Richard Bonnie as a research assistant on his book 'The Marijuana Conviction' during the summer of 1973. His office was in the Watergate and the TV was always on so we could watch the Senate Watergate hearings while working. Working for Richard gave me a life-long interest in the intersection of law and psychology and on the occasion of my 40th Law School reunion, I was very grateful to be able to work with the Foundation to set up a fund to encourage work by Law School students at that intersection. There is so much exciting research happening now that is relevant to important legal issues such as risk factors for false confessions, the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, brain development as it affects juveniles, the intellectually disabled and others in the context of sentencing, particularly the death penalty, and, of particular recent importance, application of rational basis and strict scrutiny standards to legislation adversely affecting minority rights, such as marriage equality and affirmative action challenges. The areas where social science research bears on important public policy are many and varied. There’s important work for lawyers to do in bringing that research to the courts."

"One of the most difficult challenges for casebooks is getting to the finish line, even after you have the basic architecture in place," Bonnie said. "Taking that wording and making it a good teaching book takes a lot of work. It is indispensable to have a good student to do that."

It wasn't coincidence that Giammittorio was the first research assistant to benefit from the Gilfoyle Fund, created through the support of Nathalie Gilfoyle '74, the American Psychological Association's general counsel. Gilfoyle herself was a research assistant for Bonnie in law school and contributed to his influential book "The Marijuana Conviction: The History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States" (co-authored with the late Charles Whitebread, then a UVA Law professor).

In addition to contributing to books, research assistants frequently help professors analyze background material for scholarly papers, and receive a co-author credit when the contribution is significant enough.

That will be the case for rising second-year law student Brian Barnes, who worked this summer for Michael Gilbert, an expert in democratic processes. Barnes is co-authoring the tentatively titled "Corruption Without Coordination" with Gilbert. The paper explores whether an expenditure can convey value to an identifiable candidate for office even if the payment is not technically coordinated with the candidate.

"Campaign finance plays an increasingly important role in our government, and is likely to continue to do so," Barnes said. "Understanding the practical implications of our campaign finance law is critically important to understanding how our government functions."

Barnes said he learned an "immense amount" from working with Gilbert.

"My experience this summer has given me the opportunity to research and write in an area of complex and controversial law," Barnes said. "This experience will be beneficial as I encounter other areas of law, both academically and professionally."

What have other students worked on this summer?

Julie Mann '16 helped Bonnie and Ruth Gaare Bernheim complete their book “Public Health Law, Ethics and Policy,” which will be published by Foundation Press in 2015.

Nate Bilhartz '15 summarized current state laws on psychiatric hospitalization of minors for Bonnie's report to a committee of the Virginia General Assembly. He also helped Mimi Riley review recent regulatory developments pertaining to “meaningful use” of electronic medical records.

Brian Rho '16 contributed to a report examining eyewitness evidence that criminal justice expert Brandon Garrett is working on as a member of a National Academy of Sciences committee.

Lainie Singerman '16 reviewed trial transcripts from Virginia death penalty cases for Garrett.

Angela Porter '16 studied false confessions in DNA exoneree trials for Garrett.

Amelia Nemitz '16 assisted legal historian Jessica Lowe in her research of 18th-century pardons.

Emily Riff '16 helped update the casebook "Insurance Law and Regulation" for torts and insurance law expert Kenneth Abraham.

Paul Ritchey '16, Dave Soltes '15 and Will Grossenbacher '16 worked with Jon Cannon to finish his book on the environmental movement and the U.S. Supreme Court.

J. Robert Duncan III '14 assisted Mildred Robinson with research comparing tax lawmaking processes on the federal and state levels.

Austin Kim '16 analyzed U.S. Census data on elderly divorce rates for Thomas R. White.

Mike Raymond '16 helped research and edit Kim Forde-Mazrui's upcoming casebook "Law and Race: Consensus and Controversy in Twenty-First Century America,"

Sarah Rafie '16 read through campaign finance cases in order to separate two different types of arguments for Deborah Hellman. She also helped Douglas Laycock produce the 2014 supplement to his remedies casebook and write a U.S. Supreme Court brief on behalf of an Arkansas prisoner who wants to grow a beard in order to comply with the obligations of his Muslim faith. (More – add link)

James West '16 helped Cynthia Nicoletti work on a book manuscript and also conducted original research into the legal basis for the seizure of property in South Carolina during the Civil War, which included looking at the handwritten correspondence of former Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase.

Murad Salim '16 researched the relationships between climate change, economic growth and social and political institutions for environmental law expert Michael Livermore.

Layton Bell '16 helped Andrew Hayashi research the relationship between property taxes, estate taxes, gift taxes and household liquidity.

Anna Stark '16 surveyed case law on judicial review of prosecutor discretion and state statutes on post-conviction disclosure of state evidence for Darryl Brown.

Andrew Jones '16 helped draft patent and utility model forms for Margo Bagley's project on behalf of the new Namibian Intellectual Property Act.

Jennifer Talbert '16 researched the origins of the rational basis test in constitutional law for Thomas Nachbar.

Jamie Weatherby '16 compiled a historical overview of the U.S. fiscal management structure for inclusion in the seminar The Monetary Constitution, taught by Edmund Kitch and Julia Mahoney.

Austin Roop '16 researched the Speech or Debate Clause, which prevents members of both Houses of Congress from arrest during session, for tax expert George Yin.