Late Night in the Phog
Oct. 09, 12:00 am
Thodos in Residence
Oct. 09, 08:00 am
Jayhawk Day
Oct. 09, 09:00 am
Jayhawk Day
Oct. 09, 01:00 pm
Oct. 09, 05:30 pm

Late Night in the Phog
Oct. 09, 12:00 am
Soccer vs Baylor
Oct. 09, 07:00 pm
Soccer vs. Baylor
Oct. 09, 07:00 pm
Football vs Baylor
Oct. 10, 12:00 am
Volleyball vs Iowa State
Oct. 10, 12:00 am

KU students win top writing prize at transactional law competition

Thursday, March 12, 2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Law made a strong showing at the recent Transactional LawMeet Regional Competitions in Kansas City and Chicago.

The draft agreement, written by Paul Budd of Deephaven, Minnesota; Kerry Hillis of Austin, Texas, and Chris Keyser, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, was deemed the best at the competition hosted by Northwestern University School of Law, while students Maria Caruso of Leawood, Trevor Jennings of Olathe and Dylan Long of Overland Park were named regional semi-finalists of the competition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The Transactional LawMeet offers a “moot court” experience for aspiring transactional lawyers.

“The competition gave me hands on-experience with transactional law by simulating an asset purchase deal between a buyer and seller,” said Caruso, a third-year law student. “I had to go through the steps of understanding my client's interests and positions, drafting those interests into a contract, marking up a contract drafted by another team on the other side of the deal and then negotiating to come to some agreement while upholding my client's interests.” 

To prepare for the competition, team members interviewed their client, conducted research, then drafted an agreement that followed legal precedent, yet was still tailored to the client’s individual needs, Keyser said.

“I was able to work on a large, complex business transaction from beginning to final negotiations,” Budd said. “As a 3L looking to work as a transactional attorney, I think this is an experience that very few law students receive.”

Team coach Kenneth Lynn, adjunct law professor, was impressed with the students’ effort.  

“Their collective performance throughout the competition was outstanding,” he said.

The team also benefited from the expertise of alumni Stan Woodworth, L’78, Craig Evans, L’85, and Kelley Sears, L’74, who served as advisers.

“It was the first chance I've had to interact with attorneys representing an opposing party's interests in a business deal, which is a great deal different from drafting or analyzing a contract from one side,” Hillis said. “That was a very valuable experience for me.”

The National Transactional LawMeet tests students’ contract and negotiation skills. This year’s case simulation involved the sale of a family-owned business to a publicly traded international corporation.  Eighty-four teams participated in seven regional competitions.

Last year, KU brought home Best Draft Agreement from the Kansas City competition and advanced one team to the final rounds in New York.

Photo: Pictured from left are Paul Budd, Kerry Hillis and Chris Keyser.

Professor analyzes role of trade sanctions against Iran

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

LAWRENCE — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress on Tuesday as about 50 Democratic lawmakers threatened to boycott the address, offering the latest and one of the most clear microcosms of the debate about Iran’s nuclear program and strained relations among nations. A University of Kansas professor has authored an extensive look at the history of trade sanctions against Iran, noting that while they have had their intended effect, the problems are far from over.

Raj Bhala, associate dean for international & comparative law and Rice Distinguished Professor at the KU School of Law, has published “Fighting Iran With Trade Sanctions” in the Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law. 

“Iran has been a part of my life since high school. I’ve been fascinated by it; I’ve been frustrated by it for many years,” Bhala said. “I’ve had professional, educational and personal experiences with Iran ever since. The purpose of this article is to explain, analyze and critique the most comprehensive set of trade law sanctions ever imposed by the United States, or any country, against another country.”

Iran’s nuclear ambitions are at the heart of the disagreements. While Iran claims it is not interested in nuclear weapons and only wants to pursue peaceful nuclear energy, the U.S., Israel and many members of the United Nations claim the world simply cannot allow the country to develop nuclear weapons.

Bhala details the four main types of sanctions, imposed by the U.S. and endorsed by the United Nations:

  • Foreign direct investment or FDI
  • Import and export
  • Financial sanctions
  • Human rights sanctions.

The sanctions have had the intended effect of weakening Iran’s economy, Bhala said. The FDI sanctions alone forbid countries from making investments of more than $20 million in Iran’s energy sector.

“We all know Iran is blessed with abundant energy resources. However, it needs to pump that oil and natural gas out of the ground, export it, have it refined, re-import it and sell it, either domestically or internationally,” Bhala said. “Not being able to reap those foreign investments has clearly damaged that vital sector.”

The financial sanctions have also been effective, as any transactions with Iran became illegal under the orders. The sanctions also outlawed correspondent banking, a major feature of international banking and letters of credit involving Iran, the primary instrument of trade finance.

While effective, the sanctions have evolved because they did not quell the behaviors they were intended to stop, Bhala said. In the case of energy exports, Iran has worked around the limitations because of strong demands in nations such as China and India with burgeoning populations in the process of industrialization.

Iran also could circumvent import and export sanctions as transporters, insurers and others did not always know whether the cargo they carried or insured was of Iranian origin or destined for Iran. So, the U.S. brought freight companies and insurers within the ambit of the sanctions regime.

The ability to circumvent sanctions not only led to tightening of restrictions over time, they also generated significant lessons, Bhala said. History shows that sanctions work best when the United States does not act alone and imposes sanctions in concert with allies. The record also suggests the United States should work closely with friends and allies to help them comply with sanctions. 

“It’s not reasonable for India to shift all of its energy needs away from Iran overnight, for example,” Bhala said. “That’s impossible to do and not something that we should expect.”

Actions can have unintended consequences, and they should be monitored to help improve sanctions as well, he wrote. One example is the high rate of plane crashes in Iran due to lack of modern spare parts and high-quality aerospace engineering servicing. Loss of innocent life is not acceptable and can and should lead to improvements to sanctions when it is shown to happen, Bhala said.

With updates, sanctions have achieved their intended outcomes and brought Iran to the bargaining table as an interim nuclear deal is now in place, which Bhala details in the article. While disagreements persist, they are still practical teaching tools for anyone hoping to enter the field of law. The sanctions affect business, real estate, financial, economic and many other sectors of law.

“It’s an incredibly diverse array of sanctions, and there are criminal penalties for violating them,” Bhala said. “It would be malpractice if we were not teaching our students about them, and as a moral issue, it’s a fascinating question of, ‘Do sanctions work, and do we have the right to impose them?’”

The strained relationship between the U.S. and Iran also has the potential to improve. If both sides were able to prevent nuclear armament through sanctions, it would be a triumph of international law and show that negotiations on complex, decades-old problems can work, if they are undertaken in good faith and with empathy.

“I think there’s a lesson of hope here,” Bhala said. “For almost 40 years our relationship with Iran has been extremely poor. I don’t want to see these problems passed on to my daughter and her generation. This is a problem my generation should fix, and I think we can.”

Marysville student finishes among top-five moot court competitors

Friday, February 27, 2015
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Law brought home fourth place and third-year law student Katie Malott was named the fifth-best oral advocate at the Jessup International Law Rocky Mountain Regional Competition in Denver, which was Feb. 19-22.

The event pitted KU law students’ written and oral advocacy skills against 20 teams and approximately 75 individual speakers from 11 states. The KU team includes third-year students Kasey Considine of Dartmouth, Massachusetts; Katie Malott of Marysville; Michael Wise of Olathe, and Steven Wu of St. Louis, as well as second-year student Jacqueline Patton of Wichita.

“Participating in this competition taught me that you can never be too prepared,” Malott said. “It would be wrong to think a judge might not ask you a specific question and then not research that issue, because likely, if you thought of the question, the judge will, too. Collaborating with other people, whether it be on the team or in an office, is important. We all had to work together and help one another.”

The Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition is the world's largest moot court program. It features participants from more than 550 law schools and 80 countries. The competition involves a simulated dispute between nations before the International Court of Justice.

“This year’s team continued the tradition of KU’s success in the Jessup program,” said John Head, Robert W. Wagstaff Distinguished Professor of Law  and the team’s faculty adviser. “It gave these students a great opportunity to learn a vast amount of international law in a short time and to hone their advocacy skills in a highly prestigious program. I’m so pleased for them, and of course especially proud that Katie Malott received special recognition for her talents and performance.” 

The Jessup team’s success comes on the heels of KU Law’s moot court victories last year. KU had a top-five speaker at the Jessup regional competition and brought home first-place honors for their written brief at the Stetson International Environmental Law Moot Court competition in 2014. The Jayhawks also advanced to the final rounds of the 2014 National Transactional LawMeet.

Top competitors in KU’s in-house moot court competition represent the university at national and international competitions. Clinical Associate Professor Pam Keller oversees the moot court program. 

Pictured above, from left: Steven Wu, Kasey Considine, Katie Malott, Jacqueline Patton and Michael Wise.

Law professor's book explores role of international development bank

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas law professor has authored a book that thoroughly examines the operations of the Asian Development Bank, both to help people understand how the institution works and to help consider how the institution that invests billions of dollars every year in developing Asian and Pacific nations can improve.

John Head, Robert W. Wagstaff Distinguished Professor of Law, has written the third edition of The Asian Development Bank, part of the International Encyclopedia of Law series. This edition of the publication was co-authored by Xing Lijuan, law professor at the City University of Hong Kong and a KU Law alumna.

One of four of the world’s regional multilateral development banks, the Asian Development Bank was founded in 1967 as a way to help countries develop through infrastructure projects such as roads, airports, hospitals, schools, power generation, irrigation systems, rural credit and many others. Over the years, much criticism has been leveled at the bank for how it operates, where its funding comes from and its resistance to change and improvement.

“Enormous misunderstanding of the multilateral development banks — including the Asian Development and the World Bank as well — exists around the world,” Head said. “In other books, I have offered my own critiques of these institutions, including the ADB. In this book I try to explain more about how that particular institution works, hoping this can serve as a firm factual foundation for considering how it can and should be improved.”

Among the most frequent criticisms of the Asian Development Bank is that it is operated on a weighted voting system. Nations that invest more heavily in the bank can have more influence on what projects are funded, leading to charges of bias, favoritism and other criticisms in how funding is assigned. In the book Head and Xing explain in detail how the weighted voting system works, why that is the system in place and the legal implications it has. Similarly, many claim the United States, Canada, France and other wealthy Western nations have too much influence. The authors explain the two largest reasons Western nations are involved: First, it is in their interest to help insure a stable Asia; second, only with the involvement of rich nations can the Asian Development Bank mobilize the financial means to provide large amounts of funding for all manner of projects.

Similarly, there are common misconceptions about the sources from which the Asian Development Bank derives its funding. Most of the money is not collected from taxes but instead from private sector investors buying bonds, the integrity of which are backed by the bank’s member nations, the authors explain.

“Therefore they’re safe investments,” Head said of the investments. “A lot of people, and especially institutional investors, will buy those bonds from the Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and others because they’re safe and have a high AAA rating.”

Head is quick to point out he is not an apologist for the Asian Development Bank or other regional multilateral development banks. His goal with the book was to increase understanding, because unfounded criticism can prevent improvement among the banks.

“There is a lot of noise, and unfortunately it drowns out much of the valid criticisms,” Head said. “The Asian Development Bank and its sister institutions are too important to allow silly or unfounded criticisms to dominate the discourse over how to bring about the dramatic reforms they need to undertake.”

An expert in international commerce and investment, international economic law and comparative law, Head is intimately familiar with the book’s topic. In the 1980s he was a staff attorney for the Asian Development Bank, headquartered in Manila, Philippines, and later served as a legal counsel for the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. In those roles he learned the value of possessing a deeper understanding of varying legal systems and cultures before offering criticism. Both legal and cultural problems are much more likely to be understood and workable solutions reached, he said, when cross-cultural understanding is attempted and accomplished.

Head emphasizes that such large institutions do not change easily, but through understanding and reasoned criticism the Asian Development Bank and others can address their problems and achieve changes. In Head’s view, these would include improving the weighted voting system, broadening participation by non-state actors, strengthening funding structures and placing ever more emphasis on environmental protection, social justice and gender equity.

“The main goal that Dr. Xing and I have for this book is to provide an objective and non-value-laden descriptive account of how the institution works,” Head said. “If anyone is interested in learning about and critiquing how the Asian Development Bank works, they can take a look at what we have written in this book.”

Law school symposium to explore access to justice 50 years after passage of the Criminal Justice Act

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

LAWRENCE – In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Criminal Justice Act, a federal judge and scholars from across the country will explore issues surrounding access to the nation’s courts during a University of Kansas School of Law symposium this week.

“Access to Justice” will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, at the Adams Alumni Center, 1266 Oread Ave. Co-sponsored by the Shook, Hardy & Bacon Center for Excellence and Advocacy and the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy, the program is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

“Access to justice is more than just helping people approach the courts,” said Paige Blevins, third-year KU law student and senior symposium editor for the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy. “People have the right to seek some kind of remedy for conflicts through our legal institutions. Without access, those remedies are only available to a certain subsection of our society and not to all.”

The Criminal Justice Act of 1964 and its subsequent amendment in 1970 established a comprehensive system for appointing and compensating lawyers to represent defendants who are “financially unable to obtain an adequate defense.”

Judge Edward C. Prado of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit will open the program with a keynote address on “The Criminal Justice Act: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” Other panelists, who will discuss access to justice in both criminal and civil settings, include:

  • Russell Engler, professor of law and director of clinical programs, New England Law
  • Ronald Flagg, general counsel, corporate secretary and vice president for legal affairs, Legal Services Corporation
  • David Gottlieb, professor, Wake Forest University School of Law
  • Peter Joy, Henry Hitchcock Professor of Law and director, Criminal Justice Clinic, Washington University in St. Louis School of Law
  • Rebecca Love Kourlis, executive director, Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, University of Denver, and former justice for the Colorado Supreme Court
  • Laurel A. Rigertas, associate professor of law, Northern Illinois University College of Law

Scholarship from the symposium will be published in a 2015 issue of the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy. Three hours of continuing legal education credit, including one hour of ethics, will be offered for Kansas and Missouri.

For more information and a complete agenda, visit the symposium website. Questions? Contact Paige Blevins at

Professor: Amanda Knox trial shows problems with comparing legal systems

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

LAWRENCE — When American Amanda Knox was prosecuted for allegedly murdering her roommate in Italy, the trial grabbed sensational headlines on a nightly basis. Both her conviction and eventual acquittal in 2011 drew criticism from the public, who followed the trial and verdict without knowledge of the Italian criminal justice system and assumed American legal traditions applied, a University of Kansas professor has written.

John W. Head, Robert W. Wagstaff Distinguished Professor of Law at KU, has authored a journal article examining the Knox trial and the consternation it caused, both in America and Italy, and pointing out that there were two major problems — translational and transplantational — in most criticisms of the case.

“If someone is going to offer broad criticisms of an entire legal and criminal justice system, they ought to at least have an understanding of the culture of the country and its legal system,” Head said. “I doubt that was the case with most of the people who were offering the loudest criticisms in the Amanda Knox trial.”

Head was living and working in Trento, Italy, in 2009 on a Fulbright Fellowship when the Knox trial was being conducted. In Italy, as in the U.S., it garnered sensationalist coverage in the media every day for weeks. A specialist in comparative law, Head was fascinated by the trial.

“While I was in Italy, I was working on a comparative law course book. One of the angles I was working on was comparing criminal procedures in Europe, the United States and China. So this case and all the attention it was getting really grabbed my interest,” Head said.

Knox and her co-defendant, Raffaele Sollecito, were accused of murdering Knox’s British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in 2007. She was convicted in late 2009 but was granted a retrial in 2011 and was eventually found not guilty and returned to the U.S. The original verdict was widely seen as flawed, especially in the United States. The first problem with most of the criticism, Head argues, was translational in character, in the sense that many observers are not able to “translate” their own expectations of criminal procedure into a foreign cultural setting.

The complaint was often made, for instance, that the jury in the Amanda Knox trial was not sequestered. What people failed to understand was that Italian juries are rarely sequestered as they are in the States. And instead of 12 jurors of the defendant’s peers, the Italian system employs three judges and six “lay assessors of facts,” Head said. The latter are allowed to consult with the former for a number of reasons, including offsetting any potential prejudice they may have from exposure to the media.

Another fundamental difference is that in European systems, the societal expectation if someone is found guilty is to decide what the criminal justice system can do to mend the tear in the fabric of society and reintegrate the person back into that society. That concept is all but forgotten in America, Head said. Those differences failed to translate to an understandable reality for most American critics, he added.

Those complications contribute to a second problem, transplantational misunderstandings. While it is true that Italian, European and many other justice systems around the world have been “Americanized” to a certain extent over the last three decades, it is difficult to pick and choose which aspects of a legal system to “transplant” or impart into another. A prime example of that problem was an aggressive prosecutor in the first trial who was similar to what one would see in American courts.

“The rest of the system was not ready for that sort of aggressiveness,” Head said. “And many thought the other side — that is, the Amanda Knox side of the trial — was not ready for that, especially without an equally aggressive defense.”

Those problems and misunderstandings, when coupled with a changing society, can pose significant and unprecedented challenges for legal systems, such as the Italian criminal justice system. Growing immigration and multinationalism can stand at odds with nationalist and traditional understandings, Head said. While the tradition may be to re-integrate someone into society after committing a crime, people from other parts of the world may not want to be re-integrated.

“That, I think, throws questions on the tried and true system of criminal procedure and what the process will be 10, 20 years from now when things seem to be changing so quickly,” Head said.

On top of all that, the intense media scrutiny in multiple countries placed a strain on the legal system as well, he added. This also made the trial troubling

Head’s article was published in a “Festschrift,” or special journal published in celebration of the 70th birthday of Feridun Yenisey, a world-renowned legal scholar from Turkey. Yenisey, who has a long association with the KU School of Law, is well-known for his expertise in criminal procedure and in Turkey’s campaign for legal reform. This made an examination of a fascinating criminal procedure case especially appropriate, Head said.

Knox and Sollecito are still in the midst of legal battles concerning the case. Their murder conviction was reinstated, and they are awaiting a final ruling, which is expected as early as next month. In the meantime, Knox lives in Seattle and is working as a writer.

Cases such as the Knox trial are a poignant example of the value of comparative law and even more so the value of cross-cultural understanding.

“I think we simply miss a lot because we don’t pay close enough attention to the underlying cultural differences between legal systems and especially nations,” Head said. “Unfortunately, our response is often inadequate because of that.”

KU law students and Legal Services for Students assisting with free tax preparation

Thursday, February 05, 2015

LAWRENCE – As tax season gets under way, two University of Kansas groups are offering free tax preparation services for those who qualify.

KU School of Law students with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program will prepare returns for taxpayers who are residents of Kansas, Missouri or Illinois; who make less than $53,000 per household per year; and who do not itemize their deductions. The program runs from Feb. 16 to April 15.

Legal Services for Students (LSS) is also offering free tax assistance through a VITA partnership with the Internal Revenue Service. Any U.S. resident taxpayer may prepare and electronically file their federal and state tax returns for free via the LSS website if their income was $60,000 or less in 2014. International students and staff at KU may also prepare their taxes using free software with no income limit.

Last year, KU Law students prepared about 200 federal and state tax returns.  LSS directly prepared 150 returns in 2014 and assisted more than 1,600 individuals in preparing their own returns through the tax workshops at the Budig computer lab. View the workshop schedule (PDF). For more information about tax assistance provided by Legal Services for Students, contact the office at 785-864-5665 or

“The tax preparation workshops are a great way for students and staff to learn about properly preparing and filing their own tax returns,” said Jo Hardesty, director of Legal Services for Students.  “The workshops are staffed by LSS tax attorneys and KU Law student interns who are prepared to answer any questions that may arise.”

The KU Law program operates on a first-come, first-served basis, and the number of preparers varies by site. Those seeking assistance are encouraged to arrive near the start of each session. Please bring proof of identification and all relevant documentation, including proof of income, expenditures and health insurance-related documents. For more information, call 785-864-9227.

Law students Trevor Bond and Matthew Schippers are coordinating this year’s VITA program, with about 25 other law students helping to prepare returns. Stephen Mazza, dean of the law school and professor of tax-related law, serves as the VITA faculty coordinator.

“VITA provides great value to the community and KU students,” Bond said. “It gives individuals an alternative to paying a professional or risking error in preparing their own returns, and it gives KU students firsthand experience with tax law and customer service.” 

Spring 2015 Schedule

Monday 6 – 8:45 p.m., Green Hall, 3rd Floor Computer Lab, 1535 W. 15th St.
Wednesday 3 – 5:45 p.m., Green Hall, 3rd Floor Computer Lab, 1535 W. 15th St.
Thursday Noon – 2 p.m., Penn House, 1035 Pennsylvania St.
3 – 4:45 p.m., Ballard Center, 708 Elm
5:15 – 6:30 p.m., Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority Resident Services, 1600 Haskell Ave., #187
Saturday 10 – 11:45 a.m., Green Hall, 3rd Floor Computer Lab, 1535 W. 15th St.

Sessions run Monday, Feb. 16 through Wednesday, April 15. No sessions will be held Saturday, Feb. 21, Saturday, Feb. 28, or March 14 – 21 (spring break).

Professor: Universities underreporting sexual assault by as much as 44 percent

Monday, February 02, 2015

LAWRENCE — Universities across the country are likely underreporting on-campus sexual assault, new research by a University of Kansas researcher shows. While there is not one clear reason why the crimes might be underreported, data show that the numbers of sexual assaults were low, increased during periods of audit, only to return to the lower numbers after the audits were over. To address the problem, increased audits and fines may be necessary, said Corey Rayburn Yung, professor of law.

Yung analyzed crime-reporting data from 269 universities in the United States and found that sexual assault is likely an estimated 44 percent higher than reported numbers. More than 11,000 schools in the United States are required to submit campus crime information to the Department of Education by the Clery Act. He limited the study to schools with 10,000 or more students to get consistent, comparable statistical data. The article was published in the journal Psychology, Public Policy, and Law.

Since 2001, only 31 of the 269 institutions with 10,000 or more students were audited in regard to their crime numbers. Many schools, especially smaller institutions, often reported zero sexual assaults.

“It just seemed like the norm was to assume there is nothing wrong,” Yung said. “I looked at those 31 to see how their numbers changed before the audit, during the audit and after the audit. Based on their interactions with auditors there seems to be a systematic undercounting.”

The numbers showed that during the 31 investigations, reported sexual assaults rose nearly 44 percent. However, after the investigations the rates dropped back to a level statistically indistinguishable from the rates before the audit. Yung also examined the reported rates of aggravated assault, robbery and burglary. No statistical variations appeared for those crimes during the investigations. While they are different crimes, the numbers paint a troubling picture, he says.

“Each of those crimes has a very different dynamic,” Yung said. “I don’t mean to say they are a direct comparison. But the only one that shows this fluctuation during the audit is sexual assault.”

There are many potential reasons campuses could underreport sexual assaults, he said. While all schools need to attract new students, none want to portray themselves as a dangerous place with high crime numbers. Campus police, like municipal police departments, can often be under pressure to show they are reducing crime as well. Sexual assault, especially on a campus setting, often involves an acquaintance and questions of consent or incapacitation. Given that there are often two competing stories, sexual assault can often be more easily dismissed than other crimes due to “lack of evidence” or contradictory statements, Yung said.

Further complicating matters, campuses are required to adjudicate claims of sexual assault within 60 days; however evidence including DNA and drug and alcohol analysis are often not available within such a short timeframe. The public nature of the Clery Act crime statistics — data must be provided to both the Department of Education and students — could also be an incentive to undercount.

“I think it varies substantially from campus to campus why sexual assaults may be underreported, but the evidence shows that undercounting is taking place,” Yung said.

Two clear steps can be taken immediately to help address the problem of underreporting. First, Yung suggests that more audits take place. Currently, the Department of Education can launch an investigation either at random or if it is triggered by a specific on-campus event or notable problem. Since 2001, only 54 such audits have been conducted. Second, stronger fines should be levied against universities that are shown to have knowingly underreported crimes. Currently the cap for such fines is $35,000. Data shows that even institutions that were fined for underreporting returned to rates of reporting sexual assault before an audit. The Campus Accountability and Safety Act, currently before Congress, would increase maximum penalties from $35,000 to $150,000.

Whatever the reason for undercounting sexual assault, the biggest problem is that it can allow serial rapists to prey on more victims if they are not prosecuted for previous offenses. A 2010 study by Kimberly A. Lonsway of End Violence Against Women International showed that more than 90 percent of rapists are serial rapists, Yung said. Legislation, combined with more scrutiny and treating sexual assault as a public safety crisis could help combat the problem of underreporting as well as preventing future crimes and serving justice for victims.

“I think increased auditing and more severe punishments for those shown to be undercounting are certainly the first steps,” Yung said. “As it is, schools could undercount for decades. There’s almost no deterrent. It would be good to have an incentive for schools to count these crimes accurately.”

Professor argues standards for cutting-edge science need to consider intellectual property

Monday, January 12, 2015

LAWRENCE — The development of a new “open language,” or standard means for communicating data and results between researchers, to guide collaboration in the cutting-edge science of synthetic biology shows valuable potential. But it must take intellectual property issues into account at the outset to avoid legal problems that can be destructive to the process of standards setting, a University of Kansas law professor argues.

Andrew Torrance, also a visiting scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, co-authored a commentary in the leading journal Nature Biotechnology, arguing that if intellectual property concerns are not included in the development of a Synthetic Biology Open Language, or “SBOL,” scientific progress could be thwarted and wasteful legal battles ensue. The commentary was written as a response to an SBOL proposal written by Galdzicki et al., previously published in Nature Biotechnology. Torrance co-authored the commentary with professors Jorge L. Contreras of the University of Utah and Arti K. Rai of Duke University. All three specialize in law, biology, intellectual property and technical standards setting.

The Synthetic Biology Open Language is a set of technical standards intended to serve as a common language to allow diverse research groups to collaborate in the field of synthetic biology without need for technical translation. The language would be part of standards “accelerating scientific progress in synthetic biology and for the eventual commercialization of resulting technologies,” Torrance and co-authors wrote. However, patent and other intellectual property issues highly relevant to the adoption of SBOL were not mentioned and should be considered.

“Standardization and the standards setting process has greatly benefited other fields of scientific endeavor, such as engineering and computer science, and is similarly important to synthetic biology,” Torrance said. “Just as standard worldwide language for air traffic control has enhanced both efficiency and safety, thus spurring air travel, standard language for information exchange should lead progress in synthetic biology to be faster and more meaningful. However, the biological research landscape is replete with patent rights, so standard setting must grapple about intellectual property at the outset.”

Torrance and colleagues recommend including patent holders and legal experts in ongoing negotiations to develop standards such as the Synthetic Biology Open Language. Failing to do so could result in patent holders filing lawsuits, either immediately or once the standard has been adopted, thereby slowing, frustrating or thwarting scientific progress. Such dangers could also drive up the cost of innovation. Failing to consider legal issues has “bedeviled standard developers over the past two decades in industries ranging from wireless networks telecommunications to computer networking to semiconductor memory,” the authors wrote.

Designing standards without considering legal implications would be like designing a top-of-the-line automobile without ensuring there will be a road system on which to drive it, Torrance said. Not only would the vehicle be unable to show off its power and speed, it would almost certainly hit damaging potholes before it got anywhere.

One of the guiding philosophies in the field of synthetic biology is to be open and to share progress with all who are interested. The authors salute and support the “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” ethos this reflects, but they urge those trying to set technical standards not to overlook intellectual property issues with the potential to derail progress in service of that ideal.

“In general, I think the synthetic biology community has shown impressive awareness of potential legal hazards,” Torrance said. “Our letter was a way of reminding the synthetic biology community that issues of law, especially patents, are of vital importance and impossible to ignore. We urge such issues to be considered as an integral part of the standards-setting process so that technical standards are free from legal impediments from their initial adoption. Synthetic biology promises to be one of the great beneficial technologies, generating powerful medicines, more efficient and cleaner industrial processes, and perhaps even self-repairing consumer goods. We want to help ensure that legal impediments to achieving such worthy goals are avoided.”

Professor to argue before Supreme Court on states' rights

Monday, January 12, 2015

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas law professor will make his second appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, arguing on behalf of Kansas and more than 20 other states in a case focused on natural gas, alleged price fixing and authority between state and federal governments.

Stephen McAllister, E.S. & Tom W. Hampton Distinguished Professor of Law, will argue on behalf of the plaintiffs in ONEOK Inc. v. Learjet Inc. at 9 a.m. CST today, Jan. 12, at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. He also argued before the court in October on behalf of Kansas in a case regarding water rights between the state and Nebraska. A ruling in that case is expected soon.

At issue in today's case is natural gas and setting prices for the commodity. The federal government controls the wholesale part of the market, while states can regulate commercial sales, McAllister said. The states are arguing their consumer protection laws prevent federal laws on the transportation and sale of natural gas from setting prices artificially high, or “price fixing.”

“It is an interesting collection of entities represented in the suit,” McAllister said. “There are hospitals, school districts and other private entities such as Learjet. They all have a common interest here and were required to pay way more than they should have for natural gas.”

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked McAllister, who is also solicitor general for Kansas, to write the amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs. McAllister, who regularly offers legal assistance to the state, will make his seventh total appearance before the Supreme Court. He will dispute the defendants’ and federal government’s position that state antitrust laws are pre-empted by the federal Natural Gas Act. The defendants argue the pre-emption extends to the retail market.

Kansas-based entities Learjet Inc. and Topeka Unified School District No. 501 are among the plaintiffs who claim the defendants illegally drove up the price of natural gas. Similar cases from across the country were consolidated into a multidistrict case in Nevada, and the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the plaintiffs to proceed with their claims.

McAllister said he was drawn to the case not only for the chance to serve the state and to appear before the highest court in the land but also for the chance to relate the experience to his students. He teaches classes and conducts research in federal and state constitutional law, civil rights actions and tort law.

“It’s a thrill for me both personally and professionally,” he said. “I think it speaks well for Kansas and the voice of Kansas when cases such as this show up at the Supreme Court. Plus, it always gives me something I can bring back to the students and my scholarship.”


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