Rick Montgomery wrote: "When she recently obtained a Missouri driver’s license, college student Shrouk Alburj wasn’t thinking of liberation. She was thinking: I need the wheels.
Her native Saudi Arabia is the world’s only country that bars women from driving. But as a movement quietly builds back home to issue licenses to women, Alburj and other Saudi women studying in Kansas City say they’re puzzled by the attention that Americans have given the subject.
. . .
KU law professor Quinton Lucas argued against Jackson County’s proposed half-cent sales tax for medical research.
The University of Kansas is one of several schools now offering a joint degree that allows students to earn a Bachelor's degree and a law degree in six years.
Delece Smith Barrow wrote: "Kansas is one of a few schools that allow students to complete undergraduate and law school in six years. The American Bar Association does not keep count, but legal education experts say fewer than 20 schools in the United States could give students this option.
. . .
These programs move at a grueling pace, and that's not for everyone, experts say.
Missouri became one of several states seeking to override federal gun laws this week.
KU law professor Derrick Darby argues that fifty years after the March on Washington, racial divisions persist.
"Fifty years later, as a Pew Center report reveals, these racial disparities persist and Americans remain deeply divided by race, class, and politics on how we view them and how they should be addressed. Blacks and whites do not see eye-to-eye nor do the rich and the poor nor do Democrats and Republicans.
KU Law professor Raj Bhala expressed optimism that Iran will avoid expanding its nuclear weapons program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. His view counters that of U.S. Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, who harbor reservations about the deal.
Tim Carpenter wrote: "A law professor at The University of Kansas stood apart from U.S. senators representing Kansas by expressing optimism about a deal granting Iran temporary relief from crippling economic sanctions in return for curbing expansion of a nuclear weapon program.
LAWRENCE — Climate change has negatively affected people around the world, but it has hit native and indigenous populations especially hard, driving them from their homes, altering their ways of life and threatening their survival. A University of Kansas law professor has submitted an amicus brief to one of the nation’s top courts on behalf of several native organizations. In the underlying litigation, children are, in essence, suing the federal government for failure to take action on climate change.
On Nov. 12, Elizabeth Kronk Warner, associate professor of law and director of the Tribal Law and Government Center at the School of Law, who wrote the brief, and Michael Willis, counsel of record, submitted an amici curiae brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Filed on behalf of the National Congress of American Indians, The Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, Forgotten People Inc., National Native American Law Student Association and several other organizations and law professors, the brief chronicles the extreme impacts of climate change on native nations. The brief also discusses how federal law applies different to federally recognized tribes.
The underlying action seeks to hold the federal government responsible for failure to take meaningful measures on climate change. This legal action is the first at a federal court to argue that the federal government has not protected the public trust by failing to protect natural resources and air quality. The U.S. Supreme Court has established that the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate greenhouse gases, and the agency began efforts to start regulating such gases several years ago. Because of the EPA’s efforts, the U.S. Supreme Court held that litigants could not sue private parties under federal public nuisance common law in 2011.
“This is a friend of the court brief to show how people in indigenous nations are disproportionately affected by climate change even though they contribute little, if any, to the problem,” Kronk Warner said. “We’re trying to find a way to get a viable climate change claim in front of the federal courts.”
The brief has been submitted, but oral arguments have not yet been scheduled. Once the arguments are made, the court will make a ruling. If the brief is unsuccessful, the parties will need to decide whether they want to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. If it is successful, the defendants will have the opportunity to do the same. Kronk Warner said she hopes the court will make a decision by the end of 2014.
She compares the process to the suits brought against big tobacco in previous decades. It took many years of legal arguments before tobacco companies were found liable for the negative health effects their products caused and were required to pay compensation.
Kronk Warner was approached by Our Childrens Trust to write the brief. An expert in federal Indian law, tribal law, environment and natural resources and property, she co-edited the book “Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies” with Randall Abate, professor of law at Florida A&M University. The book was released earlier this year.
The book examines how climate change has affected native populations around the world. In the United States, native nations in Alaska have been especially hard hit as rising temperatures have melted permafrost, endangered animals that tribes depend on to subsist, flooded villages and hindered tradition and customs. The petitioners in the case are all children, and the brief shares stories of young people who have lived with the reality of climate change.
“These are children who have had to move from their homes due to climate change,” Kronk Warner said. “It’s very compelling to see how this problem has changed their lives.”
Climate change can elicit strong emotions and is often used in political debate, but Kronk Warner said she got involved to both serve indigenous populations and the legal community.
“I don’t see this as a political issue,” she said. “The role we play as advocates is to find a way to express the commonly held view that climate change is negatively affecting people's lives in the courts. It’s been very rewarding to take part in a case that has the potential to affect the law in a positive way.”
LAWRENCE — The idea of transparency is central to Western law and policy. Lawmakers and politicians regularly tout the importance of being clear in why and how laws are made, and in what specific behavior those laws require or prohibit. Things are somewhat different, however, in one of the largest and increasingly powerful nations in the world — China. A University of Kansas professor and alumna have co-authored a book exploring the notion and history of transparency in Chinese law and how an understanding of the concept is central for understanding China.
John W. Head, Robert W. Wagstaff Distinguished Professor of Law at KU, and Xing Lijuan, assistant professor of law at the City University of Hong Kong, wrote “Legal Transparency in Dynastic China: The Legalist-Confucianist Debate and Good Governance in Chinese Tradition.” While the book explores the notion of transparency in China from about 1000 B.C. to 1911, it is not only for those interested in history.
“It looks like it’s really old stuff, from quite far away,” Head said of the subject matter. “It might seem, therefore, that what we’ve written in this book is far removed from current reality. But I think it’s just the opposite.”
As China becomes increasingly central to the global economy and more politically important, Head says it would behoove those in charge of maintaining relationships with that country and its leaders to understand their legal history. Throughout the many centuries the book examines, a dominant line of thinking in Chinese law was not that it was imperative for laws to be written down and made known publicly. It was more vital that society was governed by the overwhelming influence of a highly educated, virtuous and enlightened elite class of virtuous people whose sheer power of example would lead the general population to behave properly.
The book examines how Confucianist thought led to the idea that an elite class should govern society as much as possible without written laws. It also traces the challenges that Confucianist thought received from a competing school of thought — that of the so-called legalists — and how the resulting debate led to a compromise around the 3rd century B.C. that resulted in a “Confucianization” of the law. The authors go on to explain ways in which the competing ideologies determined how Chinese law — a system that many consider one of the most effective in human history — functioned for many centuries.
While the Chinese legal system eventually embraced transparency to a certain extent, the Confucianist ideals never disappeared. Head said China’s legal system is now largely a mix of a traditional system that embraces opaqueness and what Western society might consider a relatively “modern” system with an impressive array of published laws, a somewhat transparent process for enacting those laws, and a full complement of law schools, judges, legal practitioners and other features that look similar in many ways to those of the West. However, the last five to 10 years have seen a resurgence in Confucianist thought in China — a development strongly supported by the government to help manage dramatic cultural changes occurring in the country. An official policy of urbanization continues to expand very large cities, absorbing thousands of citizens who were formerly agricultural peasants. Those changes are leading to questions of identity not only among the citizens but those in power — questions that the government hopes a return to Confucianist values will help address. The political motto of establishing a harmonious society put forward by the Chinese government in 2004 has its deep roots in Confucianism.
“Taking all these factors into account, it strikes me that there is great contemporary value in understanding how Confucianism dealt with legal transparency and opaqueness throughout Chinese dynastic history,” Head said.
The book goes on to examine how the idea of legal transparency fits into current Chinese law, and how the influence of Western powers have sought to increase its presence there. Throughout, the book provides a narrative of how the idea of transparency has been addressed in more than 2,000 years of Chinese history.
Head and Xing began work on the book in 2011-2012 when the latter was a doctoral student at KU’s School of Law. Head, drawing from legal training in both the U.S. and England, has broad experience in international and comparative law, with some special emphasis on China. Xing has graduate degrees and practical experience in both U.S. and Chinese law, with specializations in international trade and legal history. Moreover, Xing provided extensive translations of Chinese legal and historical documents as well as cultural insights that were central to the collaborative research.
The result is a book that is of value not only to historians or those interested in Chinese law, but also to policy makers internationally and “those in charge of relationships with a changing China,” Head said. “Some things, if not eternal, are very, very long-lasting. This idea of the rejection of transparency, I think, is one of them — and it’s worth understanding.”
LAWRENCE — What makes the difference between being a have and a have-not in America?
A millionaire might attribute his fortune to hard work and initiative. He might also say the poverty-stricken simply don’t put the same effort into becoming successful.
A low-income American might explain his financial troubles as the result of being born to poor parents in a bad neighborhood, lacking access to quality education and other tools that could have helped him achieve wealth and power.
Both perspectives are understandable, but they’re not so useful when it comes to actually solving injustices of economic equality, said Derrick Darby, philosophy and law professor at the University of Kansas.
“When either side feels like it has to take all the responsibility for a problem, they’re less inclined to help fix that problem,” he said. “That’s why we have to stop finger pointing and playing the blame game.”
In a new research article, Darby and KU psychology professor Nyla Branscombe examine why people disagree, not only on the causes of economic injustice, but also on what constitutes injustice and whether society is obligated to respond to it. They argue that dwelling on the causes of inequality hinders society’s ability to move forward in solving it.
The article, “Egalitarianism and Perceptions of Inequality,” appears in a forthcoming edition of the journal Philosophical Topics.
“We’re not saying the causes of inequality don’t matter,” Darby said. “But to make positive change, we have to find ways to develop solidarity amongst a very broad group of people.”
Drawing on several previous studies, the authors write that several social psychological factors are critical to understanding why some groups perceive inequality differently from others.
For historically disadvantaged groups such as women and racial minorities, equality is typically a more important goal than it is for their more advantaged counterparts. They’re more likely to compare existing circumstances to the ideal or end point of full equality.
Advantaged groups are more likely to judge the present circumstances to the past, when discrimination was legal or more widely accepted. In other words, they may define equality as being free from overt or institutional segregation.
Advantaged and disadvantaged groups also differently view the current realities of equality.
While 72 percent of white Americans believe the racial wage gap has decreased over the past 10 years, only 38 percent of black Americans believe the gap has become smaller.
Men reported that 40 percent of women would need to have salaries lower than men’s for them to call the gender wage gap unfair. “By setting a more severe standard for judging inequality, men were able to conclude that the inequality that exists is less unfair,” the authors wrote.
“Human psychology has shown us that people are invested in protecting the groups they belong to,” Darby said. “It’s just how people operate. They cling to their own groups.”
Even if everyone agrees about what constitutes inequality and what causes it, group membership has its own powerful effect on whether inequality is seen as fair or unfair.
“Those who are disadvantaged know that discrimination affects their choices and outcomes; in effect choice and circumstances are inextricably bound together for them,” the authors wrote. “In contrast, advantaged groups do not experience exclusion and discrimination as typically defined, but they do at times experience privilege — benefits based on their group membership.”
“Ironically enough, privileged group members are quite motivated not to perceive their own circumstances as a determinant of the choices and options available to them,” the authors wrote. “Doing so would undermine their perceived responsibility for those favorable outcomes.”
Darby and Branscombe will address how society can respond to the ethical challenges presented by perceptions of inequality in a followup article, to be published in the journal Midwest Studies in Philosophy.