U.S. Supreme Court justices appalled by details of Kansas murder cases

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed likely to rule against three Kansas men who challenged their death sentences in what one justice called 'some of the most horrendous murders' he’s ever seen from the bench.

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Kansas Solicitor General Stephen McAllister, who is also a professor at Kansas University’s School of Law, argued that requiring the state to conduct separate sentencing hearings would lead to inconsistent results and unfairly allow defendants to preview the state’s evidence."

KDHE Issues Birth Certificates to Same-Sex Kansas Couples

"The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has agreed to issue birth certificates for two same-sex couples. In both cases, the women had children through artificial insemination. Kansas law says a married couple can both be listed on the birth certificate for a child born through artificial insemination, but KDHE initially declined to list two women as the parents.

Attorney David Brown represents a Lawrence couple in a lawsuit over the issue.

Sue the Bank? You May Get Your Shot

"The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is moving toward new rules giving borrowers more rights to sue banks and credit-card companies, the agency's latest attempt to shift the balance of power to consumers from financial institutions.

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The proposals under consideration would ban companies from including arbitration clauses that block class-action lawsuits in their consumer contracts for a broad range of financial products.

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TPP Should Alarm Gulf States as US Turns to Pacific Rim

"On Monday, 12 Pacific Rim countries, including the United States, reached a consensus on the wording and subject matter of the TPP free trade agreement.

'This TPP ought to send shockwaves across the Gulf, because… it is showing that the United States is serious about re-balancing its focus out of the Middle East and towards the Asia Pacific region,' Raj Bhala, who is also a University of Kansas Law Professor, said."

 

Kansas A.G. Derek Schmidt: 'State has a very strong argument' in Carr brothers case

"Carr, along with his brother, Reginald, had been arrested as suspects in a crime spree that included the abduction, sexual assault and murder of four people in an abandoned soccer field in Wichita. The brothers were charged, convicted and sentenced to die for the crimes.

Fifteen years later, the fate of the Carr brothers remains irresolute. On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear two hours of oral arguments in which the state of Kansas will attempt to convince the nation’s high court that the Kansas Supreme Court erred in vacating the brothers’ death sentences.

Carr cases to be heard by a U.S. Supreme Court increasingly skeptical of the death penalty

"On the final day of a U.S. Supreme Court term that will long be remembered for legalizing same-sex marriage, two justices boldly and bluntly challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty in America.

Dissenting from the majority in Glossip v. Gross, a case centered on Oklahoma’s use of the drug midazolam in executions, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote June 29 that “the death penalty, in and of itself, now likely constitutes a legally prohibited ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ ” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concurred with Breyer’s dissent.

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 mkrings@ku.edu.

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 mkrings@ku.edu.

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.

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