Environmental law professor wins interdisciplinary starter grant

Monday, September 14, 2015

LAWRENCE – The Commons, a partnership at the University of Kansas that encourages cross-disciplinary research and learning, awarded $30,000 to KU faculty research groups in the spring 2015 cycle of its Interdisciplinary Starter Grant.

Each research team was awarded $10,000 to launch its interdisciplinary projects in 2015-2016.

Rachel Krause, School of Public Affairs and Administration; Ward Lyles, School of Architecture, Design & Planning, and Uma Outka, School of Law, received funds for their research, which looks at how local energy transitions can be leveraged to advance local social justice objectives. This research project Localized Energy and Climate Adaptation: Advancing Community-Scale Social Justice Goals is situated at the nexus of two approaches to climate change research — mitigation and adaptation — and explores their intersection through a social equity lens.

Michael Vitevitch, psychology, and Arienne Dwyer, anthropology and Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities, will examine how the emerging field of network science can be applied across disciplines. Using the principles of network science, researchers examine complex systems and the relationships that exist between individuals in that system (e.g., people in a social group, animals in an ecosystem, etc.). A two-day workshop in spring 2016 will bring leading researchers to demonstrate how network science has been applied to examine language, the arts, the humanities and the sciences. Participants can also learn how to apply these analysis techniques in their own work.

Mary Anne Jordan, visual art, and Caroline Chaboo, ecology & evolutionary biology and the Biodiversity Institute, will launch a study on indigenous dyes in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Jordan and Chaboo will expand their collaboration with Nilda Callañaupa, a master weaver and director of the Center for Traditional Textiles, to document the biodiversity of the region as it relates to traditional dyeing practices and investigate the biological and cultural implications for teaching and preserving traditional practices.

The Commons will host the next round of Starter Grants in Fall 2015 with an information session for all interested KU faculty at 2 p.m. Sept. 23.

The Commons is a collaboration of the Biodiversity Institute, the Hall Center for the Humanities, and the Spencer Museum of Art. Its mission is to bring together scholars and students from the sciences, humanities, and arts to explore the reciprocal relationships between natural and cultural systems. Interdisciplinary Starter Grants are made possible through the support of the Office of Research.

Kansas Court of Appeals to commemorate Constitution Day with session at KU

Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Kansas Court of Appeals in session at KU

LAWRENCE — A three-judge panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals will hear five cases Sept. 22 at the Kansas Union at the University of Kansas as part of the court’s observance of Constitution Day.

The court will hear cases at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. in Alderson Auditorium.

Judges Patrick D. McAnany and Michael B. Buser of Overland Park and Judge Steve Leben of Fairway will hear the cases. Leben has been designated the presiding judge for the hearings.

“The cases we will hear at KU were chosen because we think they present interesting constitutional issues for students,” Leben said. “The constitutional rights we all share are tested daily in America’s courts in cases like these.”

Several of the cases involve disputes about a defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment guarantees our freedom from “unreasonable searches and seizures” and provides that search warrants be issued only on “probable cause.” Under what courts call the exclusionary rule, evidence that was obtained illegally — in violation of the Fourth Amendment — is generally excluded from the trial, although there is an exception to that rule when police officers had a reasonable, good-faith belief they were acting legally.

Attorneys for each side will have an opportunity to present arguments to the judges, and the judges will have a chance to ask questions. After the hearings, the court will take each case under consideration and will issue a written decision at a later date, usually within 60 days.

After each session, the judges will be available to talk to students. The KU School of Law will also host a one-hour “Ask the Judges” open forum for students and the public at 12:30 p.m. in Alderson Auditorium. The judges will provide some background about the U.S. Constitution and the court system and will answer questions.

The Kansas Court of Appeals hears cases throughout the state, with monthly hearing dockets regularly scheduled in Topeka, Wichita and Kansas City. During 2015, the court has also had hearings in Beloit, Chanute, Garden City, Lawrence, Overland Park and Paola, and it will have hearings in Hutchinson in November. 

As part of its observance of Constitution Day, which commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution by a majority of delegates to the Constitutional Convention on Sept. 17, 1787, the Kansas Court of Appeals schedules September dockets at Kansas colleges and universities. In addition to the panel at KU, the court this year will have three-judge panels hearing cases at Wichita State University and Kansas State University.

There are 14 judges on the Kansas Court of Appeals. In 2014, the court resolved appeals in 1,861 cases, including 1,295 in which the court issued a formal written opinion.

The five cases to be heard at KU:

9 a.m.

State of Kansas v. Michelle Canfield, Appeal from Shawnee County
Police entered Michelle Canfield’s Topeka home uninvited to arrest her on a warrant that called for her arrest. They found methamphetamine on her person, and she was convicted of a possession charge. She appeals the district court’s denial of her motion to suppress the evidence found on her that day. She alleges that no recognized exception to the requirement for a search warrant authorized the police to enter her home when a man answered the door and said he wasn’t sure whether she was at home. The state of Kansas contends that the officers had authority to enter the home both because they had been called to check on the welfare of Canfield’s children and because they had probable cause to believe that Canfield, for whom they had an arrest warrant, was in the home.

State of Kansas v. Cornelious Jones, Appeal from Labette County
After police in Parsons made a traffic stop, a passenger in the car ran away on foot. Officers arrested him, took a cell phone from his pocket and then looked on the phone for texts without obtaining a search warrant. The information found led to charges against Cornelious Jones for possession and intent to sell illegal drugs. The district court ruled that the warrantless cell-phone search was illegal under a 2014 United States Supreme Court ruling, Riley v. California, which determined that the data on a cell phone of a person arrested cannot be searched without a warrant. The state of Kansas has appealed. It concedes that the search was illegal but argues that the evidence found should still be allowed in the case against Jones because the search occurred before the Riley decision and the officers acted in good faith.


10:30 a.m.

State of Kansas v. Justin Rice, Appeal from Shawnee County
After Justin Rice pled guilty to several crimes committed in Topeka, including solicitation to commit aggravated robbery, the district court found that the crimes involved the “use” of a deadly weapon, which made Rice subject to a requirement that he register under the Kansas Offender Registration Act. Rice claims on appeal that the district court violated his constitutional right to a jury trial under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He cites a 2000 United States Supreme Court case, Apprendi v. New Jersey, which said that “any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” The state argues that offender registration is for public safety, not part of a defendant’s punishment.


2 p.m.

State of Kansas v. David Wasylk, Appeal from Lyon County
In a case from Emporia, David Wasylk was convicted of four counts of manufacture of methamphetamine and several other drug offenses based on evidence found in a residence by officers who had a search warrant. The district court found that the search warrant shouldn’t have been issued because the information in it came primarily from a single informant without sufficient corroboration. But the district court allowed the evidence to be used against Wasylk anyway because the court found that the officers acted in good faith. On appeal, along with several other issues, the defendant claims that the good-faith exception to the rule that normally excludes illegally obtained evidence should not have been applied.

State of Kansas v. Tiffany C. Hubbard, Appeal from Douglas County
Lawrence resident Tiffany Hubbard appeals her conviction for distribution of cocaine and other offenses. The charges were based on four drug buys and evidence found in her home. At trial, as proof that she lived there, the state presented her license to operate an in-home daycare facility. Hubbard contends that this evidence was irrelevant and prejudicial to her, leading the jury to convict on weak and circumstantial evidence because of concern that children were present when drug transactions may have taken place. She also argues that the prosecuting attorney made improper and prejudicial statements to the jury in closing argument; that the district court violated her constitutional right under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution to present a complete defense in her jury trial (she wasn’t allowed to present some negative information about a witness who was cooperating with the state); and that the district court violated her constitutional right to be present at her own trial by holding a pretrial hearing without her presence.

Read the complete case briefs and judges' bios on the KU Law website

University mourns death of law student Jimmy Gorman

Friday, September 04, 2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas community is mourning the death of a second-year School of Law student, James Gorman. He died Sept. 2 at his home in Lawrence. Gorman was 23.

“I am saddened to learn of the passing of one of our talented and promising law students,” said Chancellor Bernadette-Gray Little. “On behalf of the entire university community, I extend my sympathy to James Gorman’s family, friends and those in the School of Law who knew him as a student, classmate and colleague.”

Gorman, originally from Leawood, was a Rice Scholar attending the KU School of Law on a full-tuition scholarship awarded to students with outstanding academic credentials and proven leadership abilities.

He was a staff editor on the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy and was active in the Student Bar Association. Gorman also served as an International Dissertation Writing Fellow, assisting KU’s doctor of juridical science candidates. He spent the summer as a legal intern with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

“The KU Law community offers its deepest sympathies to the friends and family of this accomplished young man,” said Stephen Mazza, dean of the law school. “Jimmy was an outstanding student with strong leadership skills and a promising future in the law. He had also exhibited a caring spirit in service to others through volunteer work in his community.”

Services will be noon Tuesday, Sept. 8, at Church of the Nativity, 3700 W. 119th St., in Leawood. 

Law school alumna named KU Woman of Distinction

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Women of Distinction Calendar 2015-2016LAWRENCE — Twenty-five women with ties to the University of Kansas are featured in the 2015-2016 Women of Distinction calendar. The Emily Taylor Resource Center for Women & Gender Equity, which produces the poster-sized calendar, will host a reception to honor the women and their achievements Monday, Aug. 31.

The women represent KU students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumnae who have distinguished achievements in their efforts at the university or in their community.

“It is so important to recognize and celebrate women's contributions to our campus and the world beyond,” said Kathy Rose-Mockry, director of the Emily Taylor center. “This year, we honor accomplished women who excel in their disciplines while serving as role models and mentors to inspire others to break barriers and reach for the stars.” 

Nine current students, seven alumnae and nine faculty and staff are featured on the calendar. Five areas of service and distinction also receive special attention through the calendar: Disability advocates, Hawks for health, women in flight, mentors making a difference and sisters in service.

A reception to acknowledge this year’s featured women and their contributions will be from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, in the ballroom of the Kansas Union. The public is welcome to attend.

The Women of Distinction calendars are free, although donations are accepted. They are available at several locations, including the KU Bookstore, Jayhawk Ink and the Emily Taylor Center, 4024 Wescoe Hall.   

Individuals featured on the 2015-2016 Women of Distinction Calendar and selected achievements and honors:

Emily Beck 
Doctoral candidate, bioengineering. Hometown: Manhattan, Kansas
National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship (2011)
National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellowship (2011)
Capitol Graduate Research Summit Kansas Bioscience Award (2014)

Prajnaparamita “Prajna” Dhar, Ph.D. Assistant professor, chemical and petroleum engineering
Research featured on the NIH Directors Blog and on the cover of Soft Matter, a Royal Society of Chemistry publication
School of Engineering Miller Scholar Award recipient
Selected for the doctoral dissertation award

Tammara Durham, Ed. D. Vice provost for student affairs and interim vice provost of undergraduate studies
Leadership in in enhancing campus response to student needs 
Work with student leaders, and in particular, Student Senate
Selected to serve as a mentor for the Hesselbein Global Academy, a leadership training program

Amy Long, M.A. Associate director, Student Involvement and Leadership Center
Outstanding Woman Staff Member, KU (2014)
Big Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Douglas County for six years
Helped in the creation the KUnity, a social justice-focused emerging leaders retreat for greek members

Miranda Wagner B.A., economics, KU (2015). Hometown: Shawnee
Student body vice president (2014-15)
Alternative Breaks finance coordinator (2013-14)
Spring Breaks co-coordinator (2012-13)

Paige Whiteside
Senior, biology. Hometown: Jefferson City, Tennessee
Big XII Council on Black Student Government, vice chair (2014-15)
Mordean Taylor Archer Most Outstanding Council Member of the Year Award (2015)
EMMPWR (Exposing Multicultural Males to Personal Wellness Resources) research project assistant (January 2015-present)

Elizabeth Weis
Senior, marketing and supply chain management; Business School Honors Program. Hometown: Leawood
Head teaching assistant for statistics (DSCI 202), School of Business
Dean Neeli Bendapudi Scholarship recipient (2015)
KU representative at the Kansas Hunger Dialogue

Disability Advocates

Martha Hodgesmith, J.D.
Associate director, Research and Training Center on Independent Living, KU Life Span Institute
B.A., anthropology, sociology and women’s studies (1974); J.D. (1978)
Kansas Women Attorneys Association - Jennie Mitchell Kellogg Achievement Award (2005)
Women Attorneys Association of Topeka – Chief Justice Kay McFarland Award (2012)
Kansas Bar Association – Distinguished Government Service Award

Ranita Wilks, CESP
Peer counseling specialist and Youth Employment Program coordinator, Independence Inc.
B.S., Journalism, KU (1998).
Mentoring Matters Award-Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy (2014)
Michael Lechner Advocacy Award-Kansas Commission on Disability Concerns (2013)
Appointed to the Kansas Commission on Disability Concerns and State Rehab Council of Kansas

Jean Ann Summers, Ph.D.
Research professor, Life Span Institute; research director, Research & Training Center on Independent Living; director of research, Family Research Unit of the Beach Center
Ph.D., special education, KU (1987); B.G.S., applied behavioral science, KU
Has taken leadership role in generating more than $20 million in grants to develop support for people with disabilities and their families as well as enhance training to professionals during her 40-year tenure at KU 
Has volunteered to help develop funding for various family support organizations, including those serving diverse and low-income communities
Has nearly 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals, books and book chapters on families and disability, young children, fatherhood, self-determination and other research areas

Katerina Birge (not pictured)
Graduate student, public administration, University of Colorado. Hometown: Denver.
B.S., Latin American studies, KU (2011)
Co-founder/president of KU Ablehawks
Co-founder of Project Hope
Columnist, Creaky Joints, A Paso Lento

Hawks for Health

Leigh Loving
Graduate student, public health, Columbia University. Hometown: McPherson
B.S., biology with an emphasis in genetics, KU (2015)
Jayhawk Health Initiative, founder
Rhodes Scholar finalist (2015), Truman Scholar finalist (2014)
Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett Outstanding Contribution Award (2014), Outstanding Woman Student in Leadership (2014)

Rajvi Shah
B.S., neurobiology, minor in psychology, pre-medicine concentration. Hometown: Stilwell
Honors Program Student Council, co-president
Student Health Advisory Board (Student Senate) voting board member
IBM Thomas J. Watson Memorial Fund Scholar

Women in Flight

Emily Arnold, Ph.D.
Assistant professor of aerospace engineering
NASA Earth and Space fellow (2012, 2013)
Amelia Earhart Fellow (2010, 2011)
NASA Group Achievement Award (2011)

Brooke Reid
Junior, aerospace engineering. Hometown: Cota de Caza, California
Self Engineering Leadership Fellow
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, KU Branch, president (2014-15)
Vincent Muirhead Award for Leadership (April 2015)

Lauren Schumacher
Doctoral student, aerospace engineering. Hometown: Rolla, Missouri
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Kansas representative for National Congressional Visit Day (2013)
KU University Scholars Program (Class of 2014)
Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) KU: vice president for undergraduates (2013-15)

Mentors Making a Difference

Grecia Rucoba
Senior, accounting; Business School Honors Program. Hometown: Anthony
Multicultural Business Scholars Program
Megan E. Taylor Memorial Scholarship recipient (fall 2014)

Dale Urie, Ph.D.
Senior lecturer, Humanities and Western Civilization Program
Fulbright German Studies Seminar, Berlin (summer 2011)
Outstanding Woman Educator, KU (2010)
Excellence in Teaching Award, KU Center for Teaching Excellence (2007)

Lisa Browning
Enrollment and student services coordinator, KU Edwards Campus
Helped to build student and enrollment services for the KU Edwards Campus, collaborating with KU Lawrence
Advocate for all Edwards Campus students, especially international students and veterans
Developed the MetroKC program, which serves more than 250 students in Greater Kansas City

Cindy Lynn
Education coordinator, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Office of Graduate Affairs
Graduate student, African and African-American Studies
Ethel Bohning Single Mother of the Year Award, KU (2007)
Boy Scouts of America National Outstanding Cubmaster (2015)
KU Advocacy Corps, vice president

Ashley Kruger, M.S.E.
Career adviser, KU Business Career Services Center
Spearheaded a successful overhaul for the School of Business Mentorship Program
Overhauled web presence of BCSC services and resources (spring 2015)
Initiated an event to address the unique career needs of LGBTQ+ students (April 2015)

Sisters in Service

Shelby Webb
Graduate student, public health, emphasis in epidemiology, KU Medical Center. Hometown: Ottawa
B.S., biology with a concentration in genetics, KU (2015)
Alternative Breaks, co-director (2014-15)
Board of Class Officers, Campanile Award Winner (2015)
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences student senator (2013-15) 

Ally Briggs
B.S., biochemistry, minor in leadership studies, KU (2015). Hometown: Ottawa
Alternative Breaks, co-director (2014-15)
Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute graduate (2014)
Phi Delta Epsilon pre-medical fraternity, community service chair

Laura Lyndall Fagen
B.S., theatre and journalism - strategic communications, KU (2015). Hometown: Wichita
She’s The First* {KU}, founder and president
Her Campus KU, president
Center for Community Outreach, communications director

Erin Calhoun
Senior, behavioral neuroscience. Hometown: Naperville, Illinois
Chrysikou Cognitive Neuroscience Lab research assistant
Northwestern Memorial Health Care pre-medical intern (2014)
Center for Community Outreach managing director (2014-2015); development director (2013-2014).

New edition of international trade law textbook addresses rapidly expanding issues

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

LAWRENCE — On the surface, international trade law may seem like a specialized topic that affects only a niche subsection of the population. But as international headlines surrounding trade sanctions against Iran and negotiation of the Trans Pacific Partnership and alleged currency manipulation by China demonstrate, the field has grown exponentially and is felt in daily life around the world. To that end, Raj Bhala, one of the world’s foremost experts in international trade law, has authored the fourth edition of International Trade Law: An Interdisciplinary, Non-Western Textbook.

The seminal work, originally published in 1996, has grown as the field has evolved in the last 20 years. Originally a single, 800-page volume, the text is for the first time a two-volume, 100-chapter, nearly 3,000-page comprehensive analysis of international trade law. It became available Aug. 18, in time for the 2015-16 academic year.

The book is a “textbook” in the classic sense. Rather than rely on excerpts of readings, as do “casebooks,” Bhala researched and wrote almost the entirety of both volumes. The work is a synthesis of the enduring, the contemporary and the avant-garde. It embodies time-honored precepts, highlights their modern-day relevance and anticipates the world trading system over the next 50 years, when his students will practice law.

“Since 1996, which was just after NAFTA and the World Trade Organization were born, the field of international trade law has greatly broadened and deepened. The broadening has come in that the field is now viewed at two levels, both theoretical and practical. The deepening is largely because of the proliferation of items put on the international trade agenda,” said Bhala, associate dean for international and comparative law and Rice Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law.

The textbook is separated into two parts, fundamental obligations and remedies and preferences. The volumes can be used as part of a two-semester, yearlong course or either could be used individually as a single-semester class. Part one examines moral, economic, historical, institutional, adjudicatory and legal foundations of free trade as well as customs law and trade rules about three critical sectors: agriculture, services and intellectual property. Part two explores remedies against “unfair” trade, unilateral trade remedies, national security, free trade agreements, trade and labor, trade and environment, and preferences for poor countries.

One of the first textbooks on the topic, International Trade Law and its ensuing editions are in use in more than 100 law schools across the United States and the world and have been translated into several languages, including Vietnamese. Nineteen top international trade scholars and experts from the United States, Australia, China, India, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom have endorsed the fourth edition.

“In my experience, few books set a first-rate standard for students and teachers alike. This textbook does. Its interdisciplinary, non-Western orientation, coupled with its coverage of time-honored precepts and contemporary issues, is a novel and timely synthesis,” said Jagdish N. Bhagwati, University Professor of Economics, Law, and International Affairs at Columbia University.

As implied by the book’s title, international trade law is a discipline requiring knowledge of the laws, customs and cultures of nations around the world. Bhala said the text, published by LexisNexis, is called a non-Western book because it is intended to help prepare students to work in a changed global society.

“In choosing cases and illustrations, the book is tenacious in using non-Western examples,” Bhala said. “It’s not a Euro-centric or Washington insider-centric book. The reason is the non-Western world is the one in which our students will be practicing. They will work in a world in which India is the largest free-market democracy and most religiously diverse country, in which China’s rise is undeniable but its future uncertain, and in which European economies aren’t dominant, as Greece’s recent troubles demonstrate. It’s imperative to prepare students for that future, even if they plan to work completely domestically. What happens ‘over there’ already affects them ‘right here’ and besides, there is plenty of empirical evidence that people change jobs and careers multiple times.”

Bhala gives credit to students for the book’s success as well. Research assistants who have worked on the book’s four editions are credited. Those students have gone on to practice law across the world, in centers like Bangkok, Brussels, Dubai, Hong Kong, Mexico City, New York, Tokyo, Chicago, Houston and Washington, D.C. Some have also earned highly prestigious clerkships on the United States Court of International Trade in New York and Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.

“In working to convey the breadth and depth of a field as complex as international trade law, I have been extremely fortunate to work with fantastic research assistants here at KU Law,” Bhala said. “I love producing something for students to learn from, that earns them a reputation for being trained at a world-class level. I absolutely could not do it without them, and to see them flourish after our time together is an abiding joy.”

KU's Project for Innocence wins murder conviction reversal in federal court

Monday, July 20, 2015


LAWRENCE – A learning experience for one University of Kansas law student turned into a second chance last week for a woman serving life in prison in connection with a high-profile Topeka murder.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 15 ruled that Kimberly Sharp was unconstitutionally convicted in the 2006 slaying of a Topeka homeless advocate. The court handed down the decision based on an appeal by KU’s Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies.

“We determine Ms. Sharp’s confessional statements following the promise of no jail time were involuntary, the state trial court erred by admitting them at trial in violation of Ms. Sharp’s Fifth and Fourteenth amendment rights, and the error was harmful,” judges wrote in a 3-0 decision.

Abby West, a 2015 KU Law graduate from Shawnee, authored the brief in the Sharp case while enrolled in Project for Innocence last summer. She spent hours poring over trial documents and prior decisions, including an unsuccessful appeal to the Kansas District Court. Project Director Jean Phillips supervised West’s research and writing.

“It was overwhelming at the beginning because I had never done any criminal defense work before,” West said. “At the same time, it was really interesting to familiarize myself with the case. I never got to meet Kim, but I read so much about what happened to her.”

In challenging the constitutionality of Sharp’s conviction, West set out to prove that her client’s rights to due process and equal protection under the law were violated when the trial court admitted statements Sharp made to police that were not freely and voluntarily given.

Sharp made those statements to police during the course of their investigation into the murder of David Owen, a self-professed homeless advocate known for ransacking homeless camps. In June 2006, he confronted Sharp and her three male co-defendants at a Topeka homeless camp.

After a brief altercation, two of the men dragged Owen into the woods and tied him to a tree, where he was later found dead. During an interview and re-enactment with police, Sharp made statements that implied she was a minor participant in the events and was subsequently charged in state court with first-degree felony murder and kidnapping.

Sharp moved to suppress her confessional statements, arguing they were involuntary because the police promised she wouldn’t go to jail and to help find shelter for her and her two young children. That effort failed in Shawnee County District Court, and a jury found Sharp guilty on both counts. The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas denied Sharp’s petition for habeas relief.

After reviewing the interrogation videos, however, the 10th Circuit agreed that Sharp cooperated with the interviewing officer because he promised no jail time and that any statements she made after that promise should not have been admissible in court. The state now has the option to retry Sharp.

Federal habeas corpus cases are nearly impossible to win, said Phillips, a clinical professor of law at KU who presented oral arguments in Sharp’s case before the 10th Circuit. West deserves high praise for the latest victory, Phillips said.

“Our goal in the project is for students to take ownership of their cases. We don’t want them to be glorified paralegals,” Phillips said. “I’m the safety net to make sure that nothing gets missed and everything gets argued. But Abby took ownership. She did a great job with that brief.”

West, who is studying for the bar exam and finalizing her job plans, was excited to learn about the court’s favorable decision. Working on Sharp’s case and others in the Project for Innocence proved to be the best experience she had in law school.

“It was the one chance I had to work for a client who really needed my help. There are people out there who don’t have access to the justice system,” West said. “It showed me how important it is – even if you do corporate law – to try and do pro bono work or donate to people who do. As a law student, I see it as a privilege to be able to get this education. I think we have a duty to the public to give back.”

Photo: Recent KU Law graduate Abby West, left, discusses with clinical professor Jean Phillips last week’s favorable federal appeals court decision in a case that West handled as a student in KU’s Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies.

Researchers: Indigenous knowledge can be key to fighting climate change

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

 

 

LAWRENCE — While indigenous communities have developed knowledge over centuries to manage their lands and adapt to challenges such as rising sea levels or wildfires, they are still deeply affected by climate change. Two University of Kansas professors have authored research exploring cases of indigenous communities that have had success in applying traditional knowledge to fighting climate change and how American and international law falls short in preventing exploitation of those tribes and methods.

Joseph Brewer II, assistant professor in environmental studies, and Elizabeth Kronk Warner, professor and director of the Tribal Law and Government Center at the School of Law, have published a working paper, “Guarding Against Exploitation: Protecting Indigenous Knowledge in the Age of Climate Change.” The study shares examples of tribes that have developed knowledge in how to ameliorate drastic effects of climate change on their native lands as well as indigenous communities that have developed their own laws on ways which their traditional knowledge can be used outside of their communities. 

“The inspiration for this article was everyone would talk aspirationally about how we should be using traditional knowledge to help fight climate change, but none of us knew exactly how to do that,” Kronk Warner said. “Unfortunately, we came to the conclusion there really isn’t a good legal remedy in the existing categories of intellectual property law to protect traditional knowledge.”

The authors explore several examples of traditional knowledge: One prime example is the Alaskan village Huslia, an interior community of roughly 300 residents, mostly Native Alaskan or Koyukon Athabascan, located in the boreal forest climate system. Like much of Alaska, the area has seen drastic temperature changes in the last 15 years and intense fires in the summer. Residents have long known ways to manage types of trees in the area to build buffers around the community and suppress fire by planting and culling undergrowth at certain times. That knowledge, like flood prediction methods of other Alaskan communities, could help countless people, yet the potential for someone to commercialize the knowledge without sharing the benefits is very real.

“Alaska is the face of climate change,” Brewer said. “Many communities don’t want to see their traditional knowledge commercialized or used in a way that can damage the tribes. There are examples of tribes that will share knowledge, but it’s paramount to honor tribal protocols first and foremost in the relationship-building process on the road to sharing knowledge.”

American intellectual property law is not effective in protecting indigenous knowledge because it tends to favor a small group of innovators or one person who developed an idea in a definable time period.

Brewer, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and Kronk Warner, a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, argue perhaps the most effective way for native communities to both protect and share indigenous knowledge is to develop their own tribal laws governing the use of traditional knowledge as it applies to climate change. The benefits would include tribes' ability to practice sovereignty, decide how traditional knowledge can be used and ensure the community benefits from its use while helping others fight and adapt to climate change. There are challenges to enacting such laws and codes, including communities often not knowing such a method is an option, lack of funding and other community problems taking priority.

Without tribal environmental laws in place, tribes are left to primarily rely on academic Institutional Review Boards to protect their interests. This is because academic researchers are often the ones who interact with indigenous communities most extensively. Researchers are often governed by Institutional Review Boards of their own universities, which can provide an ethical framework on how researchers and communities can work together, but fall short of legally preventing exploitation of traditional knowledge.

There are, however, several examples of communities that have had success. The authors point out three tribes: The Colorado River Indian Tribes, Ho-Chunk Nation and Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate have enacted laws to protect traditional knowledge while allowing for partnerships with academic researchers and sharing of valuable ideas. 

“In my view, this can be a way to show policy makers that indigenous knowledge has value,” Kronk Warner said. “We have been practicing adaptation for a long time. Indigenous communities have a strong history of resiliency.”

Photo: 2005 King County Creek fire, Alaska, courtesy WikiCommons. Public domain.

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  • KU’s Project for Innocence: 34 conviction reversals since 2009
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