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Secretary Napolitano Speaks About Security

Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, visited GW Law in October.

Jessica McConnell

U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told GW Law students that all Americans must assume a shared sense of responsibility in keeping the country safe.

“We will always live with threats,” Secretary Napolitano said. “We can either live with the threats out of fear, or we can be prepared. It’s the responsibility of the individual, the community, the state, and the federal government to share knowledge so that all layers can take appropriate action.”

Secretary Napolitano, the first woman and the first Democrat to hold the position, laid out the department’s core goals and challenges during a talk sponsored by the GW National Security and U.S. Foreign Relations Law LLM Program and the Dickstein Shapiro law firm at GW Law School Oct. 21.

The former governor and attorney general of Arizona is the third secretary of Homeland Security since the department launched in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She told the crowd of students and faculty members that directing the federal government’s third largest department and its nearly 225,000 employees “is not unmanageable,” but that she is focused on prioritizing how the department allocates its $50 billion budget in conjunction with four critical mission areas: continuing the fight against terrorism; securing the nation’s borders; enforcing immigration laws; and responding to disasters of any kind.

GW Law students Joshua Turner and Eric Medoff speak with Secretary Napolitano and Dickstein Shapiro partner Elaine Metlin. Ms. Metlin and Dickstein Shapiro counsel Brian Finch, also an adjunct professor at GW Law, helped organize the event.

Abdul El-Tayef/WPPI

The Department of Homeland Security encompasses a broad range of issues and organizations, including everything from the Secret Service, to the Coast Guard, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. One of the nation’s newest threats, the H1N1 virus, is also at the top of the secretary’s public safety priorities. “One of the best defenses we have right now against this disease,” Secretary Napolitano said, “is hygiene.”

Since assuming the position in January, Secretary Napolitano says the department has concentrated on increasing the use of science and technology for better scanning and detection of containers entering the nation’s sea and air ports. Another main concern is increasing the communication and partnerships among the department’s 22 agencies. “Out of many comes one, and we want one DHS. We’re focused on creating that,” she said. The department, she added, does not yet have a central headquarters, which continues to be a challenge.

After a half-hour talk, Secretary Napolitano answered student questions and gave her perspective on the department’s evolution and its future role.

“I don’t see terrorism, as a fact of life, ever leaving us. I see it changing,” Secretary Napolitano said. “The department began with terrorism as a central theme, and it will continue with terrorism as a central theme.”

—Jaime Ciavarra

Seventh Annual Cohen & Cohen Mock Trial

Mock trial winners Brent Jostad and Natasha Akda flank Hon. William Pauley III and trial sponsor Wayne Cohen.

Abdul El-Tayef, WPPI

Four GW Law students showcased their legal skills during the final round of the Cohen & Cohen Mock Trial Competition held in the Jacob Burns Moot Court Room Nov. 11.

Hon. William Pauley III, U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York, presided over the competition and lent professional guidance to the GW Law students; Jennifer Alvarez and Amanda Biggerstaff represented the plaintiffs for the fictitious case, and Natasha Akda and Brent Jostad argued for the defense.

For the first time, a federal judge headed the competition, which is in its seventh year. Judge Pauley—who has two undergraduate sons attending GW—ruled in favor of the defense.

In the fictitious case, Kendall Jacobs v. Sebring State University, the plaintiffs alleged that Sebring State University was negligent and reckless in setting up bleachers and a bottle toss game and allowing underage drinking to occur at the event, which resulted in student injuries. Sebring State University said the injuries were the result of a student’s individual actions and that the festival was not an official school function. The problem was written by third-year law student Denise Turner.

The two-month mock trial competition earns students one class credit. Preliminary rounds were held in the D.C. Superior Court, where 34 teams of two students vied for eight slots, then four slots, and finally the three-hour final competition in which two pairs battled the case out in a test of lawyering.

Ms. Akda, a second-year law student, says that she and Mr. Jostad, a third-year law student, practiced carefully for the competition.

Even in re-trying the same case, “Every trial is different, and it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen,” Mr. Jostad adds. By the final trial, the winning pair had been through four rounds and had argued for the defense one time. With only one and a half weeks to prepare for the final, the duo decided that the standard defense wasn’t going to work, so they came up with an entirely new defense and switched witnesses before the final trial. “You have to be able to roll with the punches and still make your point,” Ms. Akda says.

To make the trial as realistic as possible, Capital Reporting Co. donated a court reporter, explains Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Professorial Lecturer in Law David Johnson, who acts as an administrator for the fall mock trial. “Just like in a real trial, the court reporter would interrupt the lawyers and say, ‘Slow down, speak up,’ so it’s not just a matter of talking as fast as you can,” Mr. Johnson says. “The real world throws a lot of curves at you.”

Such experience is valuable training, says mock trial sponsor Wayne Cohen, an adjunct professor at GW Law who sits in the center of the jury box each year.

“In order to be a good trial lawyer, you’ve got to practice,” Mr. Cohen says. “The competition provides a forum for students to improve their skills and ultimately provide better representation early on in their careers.”

—Carrie Madren

Claire Duggan

Sports Law Advice From the Pros

Richard P. Slivka, JD ’69, (right) general counsel and senior vice president of the Denver Broncos Football Club and Stadium Management Co., and Curtis J. Polk, JD ’88, (right, back) business/investment manager to Michael Jordan and former executive vice president of SFX Basketball and president of SFX Financial Advisory Management, spoke with students about the field of sports law at a Career Development Office event in November.

Restructuring the Supreme Court

GW Law conference debates the court’s complex issues

Attorney Kenneth Starr, BA ’68, and GW Law Professor Amanda Tyler discuss altering the certiorari process at the conference.

This fall, prestigious legal minds came to GW Law School to rethink the law governing the structure and operation of the Supreme Court.

The full-day conference, held in GW Law’s Moot Court Room on Nov. 20, tackled complicated issues, such as the regularization of Supreme Court appointments, term limits for the chief justice, altering the certiorari process, and how to confront the disability of a justice who may be unable to perform the duties of office.

Pepperdine Law School Dean Kenneth Starr, BA ’68, best known for his role in the Monica Lewinsky investigation that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, was a panelist and critiqued the certiorari process during the conference.
He called for an increase in the annual number of cases reviewed by the Supreme Court by writ of certiorari, saying that the cert pool of Supreme Court law clerks created by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger in 1973 is inadequate.

“It was a terrible idea to create the pool to begin with,” said Mr. Starr, a former federal judge and solicitor general “The law clerks that make up the cert pool are paid to say ‘no’ and have not yet had enough experience in the field of law. These decisions require much greater maturity and wisdom. There must be more responsibility taken for the cases marked for review by the Supreme Court.”

GW Law Professor Amanda Tyler was also on the panel. Her suggestion that the Supreme Court be mandated to take “certified questions” from the federal courts of appeals—something the high court isn’t required to do and often sends the questions back unanswered—was met with agreement.

The conference included other distinguished panelists, such as Hon. Gerald B. Tjoflat, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit; Hon. Gilbert S. Merritt, United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit; and journalist Linda Greenhouse. GW Law students and faculty members asked questions during the panels, and Hon. Louis H. Pollak, senior district judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, gave the keynote luncheon address. The conference was developed to encourage the political branches to take a serious look at these Supreme Court issues for the first time since the 1920s. It was moderated by Professor Paul Carrington of Duke University School of Law and Alan B. Morrison, associate dean for public interest and public service at GW Law.

—Aria Gray

Claire Duggan

Competition Law

In June, the GW Competition Law Center and the Academic Society for Competition Law jointly hosted a two-day conference at the Law School titled “More Common Ground for International Competition Law?” From left to right, Josef Drexl, chair of ASCOLA and the managing director of the Max Planck Institue for intellectual property competition and tax law; Hon. Diane P. Wood, Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit; Eleanor Fox, professor, NYU Law; and Edward T. Swaine, GW Law professor and the center's director, gather before Judge Wood’s keynote address, “Competition Policy Around the World: Emerging Consensus, or Differing Concepts?”


Students Work on High Court Amicus Brief

Attorney Kathleen A. Behan (center) with GW Law students Julia Tamulis and Aaron Sussman. Ms. Behan hired the students to work on an amicus brief that was read by the Supreme Court.

Claire Duggan

Last year, Washington, D.C., attorney Kathleen A. Behan contacted GW Law’s Career Development Office about hiring two students for the summer to help her on a legal project. It was not an ordinary legal project. Not only would the students’ work contribute to Ms. Behan’s goal of helping to save the life of her longtime client, Georgia death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis, but they would collaborate on an amicus brief that would be read by the high court.

Ms. Behan is the amicus counsel to Mr. Davis and has been working with him and his family for years to try to get a new trial after evidence supporting his innocence emerged. He was convicted by a jury of murdering off-duty Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. Ms. Behan was contacted by Mr. Davis’s sister, Martina Correia. Ms. Behan has been involved in the case for years, including arguing the habeas petition before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

This summer, Ms. Behan hired GW Law 2Ls Julia Tamulis and Aaron Sussman to help with an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court that represented 27 former judges and prosecutors. Ms. Tamulis and Mr. Sussman were paid a stipend for their work by Ms. Behan’s firm, Behan Law.

“It was amazing,” Mr. Sussman says. “Who would think that, as a rising 2L, I’d be writing something that would be read by the Supreme Court? It’s strange to say it, but it gave me a huge adrenaline rush.”

In August, after the amicus brief and others had been filed and considered, the Supreme Court ordered Mr. Davis’ case sent back to a federal district court for it to determine if evidence not available at the time of his trial clearly establishes his innocence or not.

“The fact that the Supreme Court decided to make this rare determination to grant Troy’s habeas claim reinforces my faith in the procedural safeguards of our legal system,” Ms. Tamulis says. “When we were writing the brief, we all recognized the uphill battle presented by the fact that the Supreme Court had not granted this type of habeas claim in nearly 50 years, but we were motivated by the compelling facts of Troy’s case.”

“Together, we had a very important role in obtaining reconsideration of Mr. Davis’ case after more than 20 years,” Ms. Behan adds. “I feel certain that the work of both Julia and Aaron was critical to the work of the court in remanding the case to the District Court.”

Ms. Behan said she was impressed that Mr. Sussman and Ms. Tamulis were able to quickly grasp the key concepts of habeas corpus law and assist in preparing a compelling brief to the Supreme Court. “I have very much enjoyed working with George Washington University Law students, and I look forward to doing so again in the future,” she says.

Mr. Sussman is now working as a research assistant to GW Law Professor Paul Butler, and Ms. Tamulis has continued to work for Behan Law, including continuing to work on the Troy Davis case. Ms. Behan and Ms. Tamulis will next head off to a hearing on the evidence. They do not yet know when it will take place.

“After participating in conference calls with Troy, I was very impressed by his determination but also by his knowledge of the law,” Ms. Tamulis says. “I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to assist in a case that stands to impact future death penalty litigation and to seek procedural justice for Troy Davis.”

In Confidence: When to Protect Secrecy and When to Require Disclosure

Claire Duggan

Washington, D.C.,-based attorney and author Ronald Goldfarb presented his new book, In Confidence: When to Protect Secrecy and When to Require Disclosure, at an event co-sponsored by GW Law and the Constitution Project. Meredith Fuchs, general counsel to the National Security Archive based at GW, and GW Law professors Orin Kerr (far right) and Jeffrey Rosen (second from left), gave talks that elaborated on concepts found in the book.

Wrongly Convicted Student Speaks Out

GW undergraduate student Mario Rocha (fifth from left) with GW Law Professor Paul Butler and students Timothy Kelly, Ekene Avery, Amy Ramsey, Amanda Pickens, Charles Ludd, and Mikhail Petersen.

Claire Duggan

In November, more than 100 GW students watched a documentary about Mario Rocha, who, as a 16-year-old in Los Angeles, was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Afterward, they heard from the film’s subject himself.

The award-winning documentary, “Mario’s Story,” follows the post-conviction legal process that eventually set Mr. Rocha free after more than 10 years in state penitentiaries. The law firm Latham & Watkins represented Mr. Rocha pro bono and filed a habeas corpus petition, losing at the state trial level but winning in an appeals court where the judges found sufficient evidence of ineffective counsel to overturn his conviction completely, a rare occurrence. The California Supreme Court later affirmed the ruling.

Mr. Rocha, now 30, has a new role in his life: GW freshman. While he said he is enjoying being a student and is dedicated to his studies, he is also spending time continuing to advocate for causes like criminal justice reform and youth justice issues. He may like to attend law school after college, he said.

After the documentary viewing, Mr. Rocha and GW Law Professor Paul Butler held a question and answer session where students learned more about Mr. Rocha’s life story, the legal issues behind his case, and how they can get involved in the GW Law Pro Bono Program. The standing-room only event was organized by the Native American Law Students Association under the leadership of 2L Amanda Pickens. It was co-sponsored by the Criminal Law Society, the ACLU, and the Equal Justice Foundation.

Business Law Conference

“The Emerging Regulatory Landscape: A Roundtable Conference” was co-sponsored by GW Law and the Institute for Law and Economic Policy with support from Huntington Bank. The event, one in a series of major conferences at GW Law on financial regulation reform, emphasized the need for the total rethinking of approaches to financial markets, legislation, regulation, and enforcement. Pictured here, from left to right, are ILEP Special Counsel Laura Stein; Duke Law Professor James D. Cox; SEC Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar; ILEP President Edward Labaton; GW Professor Lawrence A. Cunningham; and ILEP founder Sandra Stein.

Privacy Scholars and Think Tank Partner

GW Law School and Washington-based think tank the Future of Privacy Forum announced a partnership to advance programs focused on the future of privacy law and policy.

“FPF and GW Law have come together to create something quite new: a formal partnership to examine the privacy challenges presented by new technology,” FPF Co-Chair Christopher Wolf says. “By bringing together some of the best-thinking people from academia, the private sector, and government, we can ensure critical examination of the social, legal, and policy implications of the digital age.”

GW Law boasts a prestigious roster of privacy scholars on its faculty, including professors Jeffrey Rosen, Daniel Solove, and Orin Kerr. FPF, which is led by founder and co-chair Mr. Wolf (who leads the privacy and data security law practice at Hogan & Hartson) and co-chair and director Jules Polonetsky (formerly chief privacy officer of AOL), is known for its efforts to advance responsible data practices. FPF and GW Law will jointly present programs on privacy issues of scholarly interest, as well as address policy issues to government, businesses, and advocates. The partnership will also help support the Privacy Law Scholars Conference, an annual gathering of top privacy academics organized by GW Law and Berkeley School of Law.

“GW Law is one of the leading law schools in the country for privacy scholarship,” says Mr. Solove, author of numerous books on privacy issues and policy. “At a time when privacy models are being debated by government and industry, this relationship will enhance the opportunities for faculty and students to participate in some of the most important privacy developments in our nation’s capital.”

As part of the new partnership, GW Law and FPF will host a series of public events and panel discussions throughout the year to explore a variety of different privacy issues. FPF will also provide fellowship opportunities for two GW Law students each summer. These students will research the privacy implications of issues posed by technologies such as behavioral profiling, mobile devices, and smart grid technologies.

“FPF is focused on advancing responsible data practices in both the United States and abroad,” Mr. Polonetsky says. “This partnership will bring a greater visibility and more thorough discussion of the legal intricacies involved in privacy-related public policies.”