Current Faculty Headlines

Faculty in the News by Date | By Name

Notable Faculty Quotes, May and June 2014

Margo Bagley was quoted in a May 14 Science article about a recent court decision denying patentability for Dolly, the late cloned sheep, because cloned animals are identical to animals found in nature. Asked to comment on fears that the decision might cause investors to back away from promising areas of biomedical research, she said that innovations will still find their way to patent protection. "For a while now, people have been able to patent, in a sense, the low-hanging fruit," she said. "The fruit may be little higher up on the tree, but the fruit is still definitely on the tree."

In a May 26 NPR story about guns and mental illness, Richard Bonnie said that "we really ought to be thinking about . . . the idea of enabling the police to temporarily seize weapons or remove weapons when there is demonstrably elevated risk of danger or a credible report from a family member that involves an elevated threat." He added that "this is something potentially that could be very useful, particularly for family members who are quite often in the best position to know about this and to provide the evidence that would be necessary to support the warrant."

Darryl Brown was quoted in a May 12 Lynchburg News & Advance article about the conviction of Randy Allen Taylor for abducting and killing Alexis Murphy even though her body had not been found. He said that the success rate in murder trials in which a body has not been recovered is high because prosecutors only can bring strong cases to court, and that the challenge is proving the person has died and not disappeared. "The body is just the ultimate persuasive evidence," he said, explaining that prosecutors can build a case on circumstantial evidence, such as blood or hair, to convince the jury that a person has been murdered.

Anne Coughlin was quoted in a May 6 New Republic article about whether rape should be considered an act without consent or an act of force. "We're working in a world where we're trying to reform this crime so that it's compatible with evolving sexual mores, with standards of decency," she said. Instead of placing responsibility on the victim to say "no," she said, courts should define any sex in the absence of a clear "yes" as rape. Coughlin coauthored a May 8 Slate commentary on the role of university guidelines in reducing sexual assault. "If colleges are to reduce the incidence of campus sexual assault, they must have guidelines about when it is a crime to have sex with a person who is drunk," she wrote. "The key is to make clear exactly when it is a crime to have sex with a person who is too intoxicated to be capable of giving meaningful consent. . . . Sex with someone who is too drunk to consent is a crime even if the perpetrator uses no violence whatsoever to force his way. It is a crime even if the survivor does not physically resist or verbally object. It is a crime even if she is not passed out but is conscious before and during the encounter. It is a crime even if she was not drugged or forced or tricked into drinking by the perpetrator but got drunk on her own."

In a June 25 Fox Business story about the Supreme Court's ABC v. Aereo decision, which ruled that a company could not distribute television programming without paying license fees, John Duffy said the decision "spells perhaps the end of the Aereo business model . . . One message about this decision is that if you've got a really, really clever way to try to circumvent copyright law and you think you've pieced together some way around copyright law, you should think again."

Brandon Garrett discussed the news that Credit Suisse would plead guilty to charges that it assisted U.S. taxpayers in filing false income tax returns in a May 19 Corporate Crime Reporter article. He said that "one conviction of a major bank does not end ‘too big to jail' concerns" about different justice standards for large corporations. "This was not a prosecution of a bank for conduct related to the financial crisis," he said. "This does not answer concerns about individual bankers being held accountable." In a June 23 AP story about a Virginia man's plea deal that included an agreement to get a vasectomy, Garrett noted that the agreement called to mind the eugenic sterilizations carried out during the 20th century in Virginia and other states. "There's a question whether certain options should even be on the table," he said.

A. E. Dick Howard was quoted in a May 3 Richmond Times-Dispatch article about Virginia Attorneys General Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Herring's activist approaches to the office. "If you take the two of them together, it seems to me there is something of a sea change in how attorney generals view their office compared to earlier times when the attorney general was simply the commonwealth's legal officer," he said. "Traditionally, attorneys general had a fairly low visibility; they were not typically involved in issues that were thought to be highly political. That changed with Cuccinelli, and one gets the impression that Herring takes a fairly robust view of the role of his office."

Deena Hurwitz wrote a May 1 Richmond Times-Dispatch commentary on the rights of torture victims to sue CACI Premier Technology "for its actions at Abu Ghraib, including, among other claims, torture, war crimes, negligent hiring and training and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."  She explained that the defendant has tried to have the case dismissed, but that "victims of torture must be allowed access to justice in U.S. courts. Where there is no alternative forum for a hearing, denying a torture victim access to the courts is a violation of international law. Failure to provide victims with meaningful access to the judicial system creates de facto immunity for alleged perpetrators of acts of torture."

In a June 12 NPR story about the twentieth anniversary of the O.J. Simpson saga, Alex Johnson said that rapid demographic changes since the first Simpson trial means the titillation of the Simpson's interracial marriage would not be a factor if the case were being tried today. "Given the prevalence, or the increasing prevalence, of interracial marriages, hopefully you wouldn't see the same perception that OJ Simpson was being persecuted because he was with a white woman, as opposed to someone of his own race," he said.

Leslie Kendrick was quoted in a May 22 USA Today article about the protection of offensive speech under the First Amendment. "Our doctrine on this says that we are more worried about the risk that the government will censor messages that it doesn't like than we are worried about civility and crackpot ideas," she said. In a June 26 story about McCullen v. Coakley, the Supreme Court decision against the Massachusetts law establishing buffer zones for protestors outside abortion clinics, Kendrick said the ruling puts a spotlight on similar laws around the country. "These types of laws suddenly look like they are open to more question than what they used to be," she said, suggesting that "a city or another state entity has to do a lot more work to show that it's justified in imposing a buffer zone rather than using some other form of regulation."

In a June 18 Charlottesville Daily Progress article about the revocation of the Washington NFL team's trademark, Edmund Kitch said the team might be able to keep its name and maintain merchandising revenues by trademarking other logos and slogans, and that it all depends on whether Dan Snyder, the team's owner, is up for a publicity battle. "He might think it's just not worth the trouble," he said. "Or he might think it's the greatest publicity in the world."

Douglas Laycock was interviewed on NPR on May 5 about the Supreme Court's Town of Greece v. Galloway case approving sectarian prayers before government meetings. "This is a green light for local majorities to impose their religious practices on their fellow citizens," he said. "But trying to make these prayers more inclusive is not nearly so difficult as the court makes it out to be. Greece made no effort whatever, absolutely none. If they would simply instruct the clergy that they invite, tell them this is a prayer for all the citizens, not just for Christians, it should be broadly interfaith and inclusive -- clergy know how to do that." In a June 23 CNBC story about lawsuits against General Motors for faulty ignitions, Laycock noted that catastrophic injuries have historically resulted in the biggest payments. "Those very serious life-altering injuries generally bring more money than wrongful death," he said. Each case "can be many, many millions." In a June 30 NPR story about the Supreme Court's Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores decision allowing for-profit corporations to deny birth control coverage to their employees, Laycock said he saw the Court's decision as "extremely narrow." "This is about businesses where every owner agrees on a religious commitment and has demonstrated that commitment over time," he said. "And there just aren't many such cases."

In a June 2 Richmond Times-Dispatch article about the Obama administration's proposal to require power plants to reduce carbon emissions, Michael Livermore said it is "arguably the most important environmental rule ever written," and that the plan would "not lead to any substantial economical upheaval" because there is plenty of time to plan and design methods for reducing the emissions. In a June 23 Newsweek article, Livermore commented on the Supreme Court's Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA ruling that the federal government can legally fight climate change through regulation. "There's a big center of gravity on the court that recognizes the EPA's authority to move forward," he said. Conservatives like Justice Scalia may not be entirely comfortable with the agency regulating greenhouse gases, but "it appears they are not going to interfere too much with the actual implementation of the Clean Air Act—even if they occasionally reprimand the agency in overly harsh language."

David Martin was quoted in a May 1 Washington Post article about Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's determination that undocumented persons who came here as children before June 2007 and have received federal permission to remain under the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program (DACA) are eligible for in-state college tuition. "He was perfectly within his rights to make that determination," Martin said. "He is certainly making pretty ambitious use of the powers of the office, . . . but this decision seems like a pretty solid part of what attorneys general are supposed to do."

Dotan Oliar was quoted in a June 18 Charlottesville Daily Progress article about the revocation of the Washington football team's trademark. He noted the team had little chance of appealing the Patent and Trademark Office ruling, because the legal standard for the rule against trademarks that "disparage persons or bring them into contempt or disrepute" is that a "substantial composite" of a group finds it disparaging. "Under the legal test, if 50 percent of Native Americans like it and 50 percent object, the trademark is out," he said. Oliar commented on the Supreme Court's Aereo decision on a June 25 InsideCville radio program. "We want to induce people to create content, but we also want to induce people to create great and new technologies to play and enjoy this content," he said. "The problem here is that we have to side with one or the other. If we side with Aereo, with the technology side, there's more incentive to create those new and great technologies but then we're disincentivizing the creators of content because they're not being paid."

In a May 19 Inside Higher Ed article about the First Amendment rights of university administrators, Robert O'Neil said that faculty members "who hold academic deanships enjoy somewhat less freedom" than they do in their professorial roles, explaining that a professor may have "complete freedom to speak on gender disparity as an economist but not necessarily as president."

In a June 30 story about the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, Richard Schragger suggested that the decision could create a loophole for other closely-held companies that, for religious reasons, would like to opt out of covering other requirements like vaccines, in vitro fertilization, or blood transfusions. "I think a fair reading of the opinion is that these things will have to be taken on a case-by-case basis and courts will have to decide whether these exemptions should be granted," he said.

Micah Schwartzman coauthored a May 8 Slate commentary on the Supreme Court's Town of Greece v. Galloway decision, arguing that "the constitutional harm worked by official endorsement of religion is . . . that the legal relationship between a government and its citizens has been altered, so that minorities now stand in relation to government as minorities, rather than simply as Americans." He explained that "government expressions of support for particular religious faiths . . . are dangerous because they establish the framework, the rhetoric, in which persecution and shaming of non-adherents is made possible." In a June 9 Chronicle of Higher Education article, Schwartzman discussed whether religious believers should be exempt from laws the rest of Americans must follow, if those laws conflict with the teachings of their faith. "Basically, if you're going to grant exemptions, then you should grant them both to religious believers and nonbelievers who have comparable ethical or philosophical views," he said.

In a June 20 Science article about a Minnesota man who committed suicide after taking part in a clinical trial of antipsychotic drugs, Lois Shepherd said that whether the man killed himself because of the trial is not necessarily the core issue. "The issue is," she said, "why was he involved in this research and how did the system and the people in the system fail him?"

Barbara Spellman appeared on a May 2 KQED program about growing concerns over the validity of published scientific research. She noted the "big splash" received by the first report of dramatic findings, whether or not they can be replicated. "We're living in this world of incentives that wants us to come up with things that are new and flashy and exciting," she said. "To consumers, I would argue that you need to be more cautious about the new, great, best thing, and to see whether it is consistent with other psychological or medical findings."

Robert Turner appeared on Fox News on June 2 to discuss the National Security Agency program gathering digital images for facial recognition program. "The potential for facial recognition software being used for tyranny is tremendous, it scares me tremendously, but what we're talking about here is NSA targeting foreigners," he said. "We have to get intelligence to know who they are, where they are, and what they're planning. Without that, they're going to be killing us."

George Yin was quoted in a May 8 Bloomberg News article about the Internal Revenue Service in the wake of its scrutiny of Tea Party groups. The new IRS commissioner has emphasized openness and said that rebuilding trust in the tax agency will require showing that it can enforce the law in an evenhanded way. "I don't know exactly what he can do," said Yin. "I think it's going to take more than simply his assurance to the American people."


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Faculty in the News is compiled by Kent Olson, Law Library Director of Reference, Research and Instruction; and the Law School Communications department.

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