Retrial in fire death for 'Chicago' Robinson to start in February

"The retrial of a man charged with the 2006 slaying of a woman who died in a downtown fire will start on Feb. 27, a Shawnee County District judge said Thursday.

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On Aug. 19, Shawnee County Chief Judge Evelyn Wilson issued the ruling overturning Robinson’s murder conviction in the death of Marvina Washington, 53, and ordered that he be tried again.

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Law professors to participate in voting rights program

Thursday, September 08, 2016

LAWRENCE — The Dole Institute of Politics announced today the addition of a Constitution Day program on voting rights featuring Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and KU Law adjunct professor Mark P. Johnson.

The annual Constitution Day program is titled “Protecting Election Integrity, Voter Suppression, or Something Else?” and will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13. It will feature a discussion between Johnson and Kobach on the Constitution and voting rights, including voter ID laws, proof of citizenship laws, the Interstate Crosscheck system and more. Stephen McAllister, KU Law professor and solicitor general of Kansas, will serve as the program’s moderator.

“Voting rights is in the news and in the courts all across the nation, and now it’s at the Dole Institute,” said Associate Director Barbara Ballard.  “This exciting panel will discuss voting rights, and we know the public will want to attend and ask their questions as well.”

The event will be free, open to the public and located at the Dole Institute. It is co-sponsored by the KU School of Law.

The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics is dedicated to promoting political and civic participation as well as civil discourse in a bipartisan, philosophically balanced manner. It is located on KU’s West Campus and houses the Dole Archive and Special Collections. Through its robust public programming, congressional archive and museum, the Dole Institute strives to celebrate public serve and the legacy of U.S. Senator Bob Dole.

More information on all programs, as well as ongoing additions to the schedule, can be found on the Dole Institute’s website, www.doleinstitute.org.

When Detectives Dismiss Rape Reports Before Investigating Them

"Across the country, some police departments claim a vast number of rape reports are false. A BuzzFeed News investigation into a year of “unfounded” rapes in Baltimore County reveals that detectives often don’t investigate them at all — even when the man had been arrested for rape before.

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'The problems Baltimore County police have in handling rape cases are are emblematic of what goes on in police departments across the country,' said Corey Rayburn Yung, a law professor at University of Kansas School of Law, who studies policing and rape nationwide."

Law professor named 2016-17 KU senior administrative fellow

Thursday, August 04, 2016

LAWRENCE — The Office of the Provost has selected the 2016-2017 senior administrative fellows.

The program identifies and cultivates current and potential leaders already on the University of Kansas faculty. Now in its 24th year, the Senior Administrative Fellows Program was expanded to prepare even more tenured faculty for leadership at KU.   

“This year we had an extraordinary degree of interest in the program from faculty in disciplines across KU,” said Mary Lee Hummert, vice provost of faculty development. “We are fortunate to have so many faculty eager to learn more about academic leadership.”

The Senior Administrative Fellows Program offers tenured faculty interested in leadership roles the opportunity to see the nuts and bolts of administrative activities and responsibilities. In addition to learning more about major units of the university, fellows meet with KU’s senior leadership and take part in discussions surrounding academic leadership, public policy and the future of higher education.

“Previous participants in the program have gone on to administrative leadership positions at KU, so this level of interest bodes well for KU’s future,” Hummert said. “I look forward to working with this year’s fellows.”

The class of fellows is selected from applications solicited late in the spring semester of the previous academic year. This year to accommodate interest, two cohorts of fellows have been formed. 

2016-17 senior administrative fellows

Wednesday cohort

  • Jim Backes, professor, pharmacy practice; associate dean, School of Pharmacy
  • Caroline Bennett, associate professor, civil, environmental and architectural engineering; School of Engineering
  • Chris Brown, professor, environmental studies and geography; director of environmental studies, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Florence DiGennaro-Reed, associate professor and chair, applied behavioral science, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • David Fowle, associate professor, environmental studies and geology; associate director of environmental studies, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Mugur Geana, associate professor, William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications
  • Liz MacGonagle, associate professor, history, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Amy Mendenhall, associate professor, School of Social Welfare
  • Laura Mielke, associate professor and associate chair, English, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Jeremy Shellhorn, associate professor, design; associate dean, School of Architecture, Design and Planning
  • Eric Stomberg, professor, bassoon; associate dean, School of Music
  • Margot Versteeg, associate professor, Spanish & Portuguese, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Thursday cohort

  • Genelle Belmas, associate professor, School of Journalism
  • Nate Brunsell, professor and chair, geography and atmospheric science, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Stephanie Fitzgerald, associate professor, English; director of indigenous studies, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Chris Gamblin, professor, molecular biosciences, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Heidi Hallman, associate professor, curriculum & teaching, School of Education
  • Nicole Hodges Persley, associate professor and chair, theatre, School of the Arts, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Elizabeth Kronk Warner, professor and associate dean, School of Law
  • Michelle Johnson-Motoyama, associate professor and associate dean, School of Social Welfare
  • Paola Sanguinetti, associate professor and chair, architecture, School of Architecture, Design and Planning
  • Milena Stanislavova, professor, mathematics, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Mike Wehmeyer, professor, special education, School of Education; director, Bureau of Child Research
  • Bryan Young, associate professor, civil, environmental and architectural engineering; director, University Honors Program, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Hummert leads the program with Jenny Mehmedovic, executive associate to the vice provost for faculty development.

Shawnee County judge overturns man's conviction of murder citing previous trial was unfair

"Ten years after the body of fire victim Marvina Washington, 53, was lowered from a second-floor window of her burned-out central Topeka apartment, the conviction of defendant Frank Jerome 'Chicago' Robinson was overturned this month.

'Upon extensive review of the record and the parties' arguments, this court concludes that (Robinson) was not fairly convicted and, therefore, vacates his conviction,' Shawnee County Chief Judge Evelyn Wilson ruled.

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Kansas Supreme Court asked to order grand jury on Kobach

"A former legislative candidate is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to force a grand jury investigation of Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Steven X. Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, said Tuesday that he has asked the state’s highest court to require that the Douglas County District Court summon a grand jury. Davis said in a statement that the jury needs to investigate Kobach because of rumors that his office intentionally suppressed voter registration. Davis does say that his evidence is slim.

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Professor analyzing decades of data to determine patent value

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

LAWRENCE — For more than two centuries, patents have been considered a key governmental policy tool for economic innovation. And for just as long numerous assumptions have been made about what they mean to an innovation’s value, where the most important ones are litigated and numerous other questions. A University of Kansas law professor is part of a project that is providing definitive answers to these and other patent questions for policy makers through a unique, big-data approach.

Andrew Torrance, the Earl B. Schurtz Research Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law, and colleagues have developed an approach to analyze mountains of detailed U.S. patent data from 1976 to the present day. One application of their research, commissioned by Canada's Ministry of Innovation, has been a comprehensive analysis of how patents having either Canadian inventors or owners compare with those without such connections. One of their most striking findings is that patents listing at least one Canadian inventor are more than 15 percent more valuable, on average, than other patents.

In a separate study, they have shown that litigated patents tend to be much more valuable than those that avoid court, and that federal courts in the southern midsection of the U.S. play host to litigations involving the most consistently valuable patents. Current studies involve comparisons of patent values of so-called “patent trolls” and companies whose goods or services are covered by their patents, an exploration of which parts of the U.S. give rise to inventors of more valuable patents, and which areas of technology give rise to the most valuable patents.

The U.S. Patent Office recently made decades of patent data available online. Torrance and colleagues Jevin West and Carl Bergstrom of the University of Washington used this data to build a huge database which they can use to analyze the data from a myriad of perspectives. Through this approach, they hope to test many questions arising from the perceived wisdom about patents.

“We’ve put that data together in a giant database and added other data to it as well that includes information on every U.S. patent from 1976 until last Tuesday (the day new patent data is released by the United States Patent & Trademark Office each week),” Torrance said. “We have transformed it into an easy-to-use form that allows us to run many different types of analyses.”

The Canadian Ministry of Innovation approached Torrance to learn more about the value Canadian inventors add to American patents. Their goal was to learn more about how Canadian inventors and companies perform in the U.S. patent system. The data provided a number of fascinating insights possible only through a big data approach, including one that should make Canada quite happy.

“We found that, when you add a Canadian to a U.S. patent as an inventor, that patent tends to increase in value by more than 15 percent,” Torrance said. “When you add a generic, non-American from another country, the average patent value actually tends to go down. This raises intriguing questions about how Canada fosters more successful inventors.”

What’s not clear is why Canadian inventors tend to increase a patent’s value. It could be due to the particular technology fields in which Canadians tend to invent, characteristics of science and technology education in Canada, or Canadian skill at collaborating with other talented inventors, Torrance said. But he and colleagues are beginning to analyze the data to calculate the average values of patents generated by inventors from every other country to compare them all.

The findings are unique because the data they are drawn from was largely unavailable for decades, which forced people to make assumptions about the patent system and value of patents it issued. Additionally, because the data accessed is comprehensive, the analyses can provide objective answers based on all the data rather than just small random samples.

Torrance compared it to polling: Political polls ask a sample of people questions such as which candidate they plan to vote for, then report who has a lead, based on the representative sample of people they polled. That method, widely used in research for many years, can provide a good idea of the answer to a question, but it comes with built-in error margins. The method Torrance and his colleagues are using, however, gives definitive answers because it relies on all the data. It is akin to being able to access every voter and get a definitive answer on whom they voted for.

“Having these gigantic data sets finally allows us to answer questions about which, until now, people could only speculate – and often speculate wildly,” Torrance said. “Now we can formulate a question about patent law, such as, ‘How valuable do design patents tend to be compared to utility patents,’ write a software script to analyze our huge data set and then see what answer the data give. That simply was not possible before the era of big data.”

Torrance and colleagues have already submitted their preliminary analyses of Canadian inventors and patent owners to the government of Canada, which then hopes to use the resulting insights in future policy decisions regarding the Canadian patent system and how it influences innovation. Torrance and colleagues plan to publish these findings and plan to carry out many more analyses using their data.

“Our big patent data research should keep us busy for a while,” Torrance said. “There are myriad basic questions we can now answer.”

Two projects they’ve already begun are looking at the value of patents that are litigated and where litigation of the most valuable patents takes place. In the former case, there has long been a school of thought that holds patents that are litigated in court are not inherently more valuable than those left unlitigated but are acquired by companies with the resources to hire teams of attorneys to assert those patents against others in legal proceedings.

In the latter, it has long been assumed that most patents are litigated on the coasts, and that the middle of the country is a “patent flyover country” of sorts. Contrary to this assumption, the big patent data analysis has showed that both assumptions, though long-held, are extremely inaccurate. For example, the highest concentration of valuable-patent litigation occurs in the southern middle of the country, with the coasts and the north lagging behind. Publications are forthcoming on both topics.

Torrance was also recently named a senior fellow with the Center for International Governance Innovation, or CIGI, International Law Research Program. The international, nonpartisan think tank focuses on improving international governance through research on the global economy, global security and politics, and international law. The organization brings scholars from around the world together to provide governments information on innovation and how it can address problems such as human rights, avoiding war, fighting terrorism and poverty, improving development and the standard of living for people worldwide.

Torrance hopes his ongoing research, both into patent systems and user, open, collaborative and free innovation, through CIGI, will be valuable in contributing to CIGI’s goals and to questioning assumptions that may not survive rigorous scrutiny.

“It’s great to be able to ask basic questions, then look at the data and see what they say, compared to what the assumptions are,” Torrance said. “We’re already in the age of data and are increasingly able to answer questions that were infeasible to tackle before. My background is in science, and it’s gratifying to be able to apply the scientific method to legal questions, especially when the answers upend long-held, but unjustified, assumptions. This is a great way to improve the law.”

Will new member of Supreme Court Nominating Commission tip balance in Brownback’s favor?

Lenin V. Guerra, an Olathe attorney, was recently chosen by default to fill an open seat on the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission, a group that has significant influence over the naming of Supreme Court justices.

That commission has been the subject of intense and heated debates in the Kansas Legislature in recent years. Critics say it unfairly limits a governor's ability to name justices and gives too much control to the very attorneys who practice in front of the court.

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