Law professor will argue death penalty, bank discrimination cases before Supreme Court

Monday, October 05, 2015

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas law professor will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court twice this week in a pair of cases: one involving the Eighth Amendment and capital punishment, and the other alleged discrimination in banking.

Stephen McAllister, the E.S. & Tom W. Hampton Distinguished Professor of Law, will appear before the court today, Oct. 5, in the case Hawkins v. Community Bank of Raymore. On Wednesday, Oct. 7, he will appear on behalf of the state of Kansas in Kansas v. Jonathan Carr and Kansas v. Reginald Carr Jr. These arguments will be McAllister’s eighth and ninth appearances before the high court, respectively.

The Carr case is centered on brothers Jonathan and Reginald Carr, who were convicted of capital murder for brutal quadruple murders they committed in Wichita in December 2000. They were sentenced to death, but the Kansas Supreme Court overturned their sentences in 2014, holding both that the jury instructions in the Carrs’ sentencing were inadequate and they should not have been tried jointly in the same proceeding.

“They are arguing the jury instructions were erroneous because they may have misled the jury into believing it could not consider some evidence in favor of imposing a sentence less than death,” McAllister said of representatives of the Carrs. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt will argue for Kansas on what the Supreme Court has labeled the “mitigation instruction” issue.

The second issue in the cases is whether it was constitutional error to determine the Carr brothers’ sentences in a single proceeding, rather than severing those proceedings so that each brother had his own sentencing proceeding. McAllister will be arguing for Kansas on this question, which the Supreme Court has labeled the “severance question.” He argues that the joint proceeding was consistent with the Eighth Amendment, is part of a longstanding tradition in the United States of joint trials and that jury instructions properly informed the jury to determine each brother’s ultimate sentence on an individual basis.

McAllister, who is also Kansas Solicitor General, will have 20 minutes to make his argument in the Carr cases, and Kansas is supported in its argument by the United States, which frequently conducts joint capital proceedings under federal law.

Two days prior to his appearance regarding capital punishment, McAllister will argue on behalf of the bank at the center of Hawkins v. Community Bank of Raymore. The case is a test of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, designed to prevent discrimination in lending against women based on gender, marital status and other factors. The plaintiffs in the case originally sued because they claimed female spouses were required to sign guaranties for loans to their husbands’ business. The federal statute, however, allows only the “applicant” for  credit to bring a claim against the bank, and lower courts held that the spousal guarantors are not applicants and thus could not bring a claim, although the business itself that received the loan could do so. McAllister is arguing for the bank and defending the holding of the lower courts. Allowing extra parties, who did not receive the credit, to bring suit would “open Pandora’s box” in terms of banking litigation.

“Bottom line, the statute makes clear that it is only the person who applies for the credit and is denied, or who receives credit on discriminatory terms, who has the claim and should be able to bring suit,” McAllister said.

McAllister said that while two appearances before the court in three days may be unusual, it will provide both unique professional experience and invaluable teaching material he can bring to his classes. Both cases involve issues he teaches and writes about, including federal constitutional law.

The cases are both scheduled for argument the first week of the Supreme Court’s term, and decisions may be issued anywhere from a few months to several months after the arguments, although certainly by the end of June 2016.

Editor’s note: McAllister is in Washington, D.C., this week arguing cases before the Supreme Court and not available for interviews. Elizabeth Cateforis, clinical associate professor of law and supervising attorney in the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies in the KU School of Law, is available to speak with media about capital punishment, the Carr brothers and Gleason cases and Kansas death penalty statutes. To schedule an interview with McAllister upon his return or with Cateforis, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860 or

Trans Pacific Partnership 'largest free trade agreement in human history,' professor says

Monday, October 05, 2015

LAWRENCE — Trade negotiators from 12 Pacific Rim countries finalized agreements on the Trans Pacific Partnership in Atlanta over the weekend. The controversial free trade proposal is intended to expand trade and establish trade rules among the nations that China would eventually have to follow.

Raj Bhala, associate dean for international & comparative law and Rice Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law, is available to speak with media about the TPP, its ratification, what it will likely mean for the 12 countries, the process of negotiations, issues of contention in the partnership and related topics. An international trade law expert, Bhala has closely followed the TPP negotiations and can comment on issues that drove the heated negotiations, including importation of auto parts in the United States, dairy imports in Canada and others.

Bhala said the agreement is a landmark that will have ramifications throughout the world and across the spectrum of business and law.

“This is the largest free trade agreement in human history. It’s the most important event in international trade since the birth of the World Trade Organization in 1995,” Bhala said. “It has enormous economic, political and national security consequences. No matter what one’s specialty area in business or in law, the TPP will affect that specialty. It’s one of the instances where the word ‘game changer’ is not overused. It’s actually quite surprising that so little attention has been paid to it in the United States.”

Bhala has a global reputation in the scholarship of international trade law and Islamic law. He is the author of the book “Understanding Islamic Law (Shari’a),” published by LexisNexis. He has also written an acclaimed two-volume treatise, “Modern GATT Law” and recently published the fourth edition of International Trade Law: An Interdisciplinary, Non-Western Textbook, which includes coverage of the TPP. Bhala practiced international banking law at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York before entering academia, and he currently serves as a legal consultant to Cheniere Energy and other prominent organizations and firms. He has worked in 25 countries, including TPP nations such as Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and New Zealand.

To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860 or

International law scholar to reflect on debt crises at KU’s Casad lecture

Monday, October 05, 2015

Richard BuxbaumLAWRENCE — Since the Greek debt crisis began in 2010, the country has grabbed international headlines with its staggering unemployment and plummeting GDP, international bailouts and strict austerity measures, and speculation that Greece may leave the eurozone. While noteworthy, Greece’s experience is not new. The country’s path is reminiscent of Germany’s attempts to rebuild after World War I, and considering German history may shed light on how leaders can restore growth in Greece.

The University of Kansas School of Law will welcome Richard Buxbaum, the Jackson H. Ralston Professor of International Law (Emeritus) at the University of California-Berkeley, to discuss the parallels at the third Robert C. Casad Comparative Law Lecture at 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, in 107 Green Hall. The public is invited to attend the free lecture and reception to follow.

Buxbaum’s presentation, “Twentieth-Century Sovereign Debtors: From Germany to Greece,” will explore the effects of the Treaty of Versailles on the German Reich after World War I. The Versailles terms required Germany to repay steep war debts, resulting in depression and instability. Germany defaulted on its debts, unleashing an economic crisis that helped usher in Hitler’s rise to power, led to war and economic collapse, and instigated the country’s division.

Buxbaum practiced law in Rochester, New York, and with the U.S. Army before joining the Berkeley Law faculty in 1961. He studies corporation law and comparative and international economic law and is a past editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Comparative Law. Buxbaum has also served as chair of UC Berkeley’s Center for German and European Studies and Center for Western European Studies and as dean of international and area studies. He holds an LL.M. from UC Berkeley and an LL.B. and bachelor's degrees from Cornell University.

The Casad lecture series is named in honor of Professor Emeritus Robert C. Casad, who was on faculty at the KU School of Law from 1959 to 1997. Casad is internationally known for his scholarship in comparative civil procedure. The inaugural Casad lecture was held in 2008, featuring George A. Bermann of Columbia Law School. H. Patrick Glenn of McGill University delivered the second Casad lecture in 2012.

KU Law to host Midwestern Law and Economics Association Conference

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Law will welcome legal scholars to Lawrence this week for the annual meeting of the Midwestern Law and Economics Association. Scholars will explore the economic aspects of current issues in contract law, tort law, corporate law, tax law and health care law, covering topics ranging from executive compensation to IRS reform to inequality and family law.

“This is the second time we've hosted MLEA at KU, and we are looking forward to having the group back this year,” said conference organizer Christopher Drahozal, associate dean for research and faculty development and John M. Rounds Professor of Law at KU. “The conference provides KU faculty and students the chance to interact with law and economics scholars not only from the Midwest but from all over the United States and the world.”

The conference will be held Friday and Saturday, Oct. 2-3, at Green Hall on the Lawrence campus.

MLEA is a group of scholars who study the intersection between economics and the law. Members have gathered annually since 2001 to share their work and exchange ideas.

Drahozal’s work focuses on dispute resolution with an emphasis on arbitration. He has written multiple books and articles on commercial arbitration and has presented on the subject in Europe, Asia, Canada, and before Congress and state legislatures.

 Visit the KU Law website for a complete schedule and list of presenters.

KU Prof and Kobach Wrangle over Voter ID Law

"Kansas adopted a voter ID mandate in 2011, requiring all voters in the state to show a picture ID. But not everyone is pleased with the measure, notes The Topeka Capital-Journal. Last week a law professor from the University of Kansas and Secretary of State Kris Kobach clashed over the measure. The two sharply disagreed over the likelihood that illegal immigrants would come out of hiding and risk arrest in order to vote.

Fight Over Kansas Court Funding Attracts National Attention - KPR

"A legal fight over funding for Kansas courts has attracted national attention. At issue is a state law that changes the way chief judges are selected. A subsequent budget bill stipulated that the Kansas court system would lose all of its funding if the judicial selection law was struck down. A district court has struck down the law. That decision is on hold while there’s an appeal, but it still leaves questions about funding for the courts.

Fight Over Kansas Court Funding Attracts National Attention - KMUW

"A legal fight in Kansas over funding for the courts is attracting national headlines and attention from advocacy groups outside the state. At issue is a law that changes the way chief judges are selected. A later budget bill was tied to the law.

As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, that means if the judicial selection law is struck down, the Kansas court system’s funding is also eliminated.


Kris Kobach’s dual voter registration system in Kansas is illegal and should be dumped, ACLU says

"An odd repercussion has arisen over Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship requirement for residents who register to vote.

So odd that the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has asked a state court to put an end to the two-tiered voter registration system that Secretary of State Kris Kobach has created, a system that critics call the law’s 'unintended consequence' or, less kindly, 'collateral damage.'



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