Professor argues for 'postracial remedies' to address American racial disparities in constitutional way

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

LAWRENCE — For many people, Barack Obama’s election to the nation’s highest office proved that race is no longer a barrier to the American Dream — that we are living in a “postracial” society. The Supreme Court’s equal protection jurisprudence seems to support this position. However, evidence suggests that lingering racial bias persists in police relations, education, incarceration, employment and other aspects of everyday life. A University of Kansas law professor has co-authored an article calling for “postracial remedies” as a means to fight these disparities in a politically feasible, constitutional way.

The Supreme Court has limited the availability of remedies for racial inequality by blocking race-specific measures such as affirmative action, rejecting constitutional claims based on “disparate impact” and ruling that the Constitution does not prohibit private acts of discrimination. Given these legal precedents, coupled with the fact that racial harmony has not become reality, Richard Levy and Derrick Darby propose “pragmatic solutions for the economic, social and structural problems that disproportionately burden African-Americans without treating people differently because of their race.”

“We are hopeful that creating a rising tide to lift all boats can go a long way toward mitigating racial disparities in America,” they wrote.

Levy, the J.B. Smith Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law at KU, and Darby, professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan, began their collaboration when Darby, who was then a faculty member in KU’s philosophy department, served an intra-university professorship in the law school, and the two co-taught a seminar on socioeconomic rights that require government support, such as a right to education. The two collaborated on an article shortly thereafter and continued to discuss various issues of mutual interest.

“Over the course of our discussions, Derrick would often talk about postracialism and how it’s come to dominate our political landscape,” Levy said. “I drew the connection to legal doctrine, particularly to the Supreme Court’s equal protection jurisprudence.”

Levy and Darby have presented their study at the University of Chicago Law School, Stanford University and the KU School of Law. They don’t agree that the days of slavery, Jim Crow laws and overt racism are completely in the past. Instead, they recognize that race-specific solutions face significant political and legal barriers. While the left wing of the political landscape argues reparations and affirmative action are necessary to compensate for past discrimination and the opposing side argues enough time has passed for African-Americans to “solve their own problems,” Levy and Darby contend there are countless good reasons to address racial disparities, regardless of blame or political persuasion.

The authors argue that it is more effective to target the socioeconomic issues underlying racial disparities on the theory that solving these broader problems will also reduce racial inequality. For example, enhancing investments in public education or offering free college tuition could help counter educational disparities for many people.

Solutions should not come from litigation first, they argue, but through policy, voluntary changes, elections and political work.

“We think the big advantage of this approach is, instead of creating a zero-sum game, it invites bridge building and solutions that are much more likely to withstand legal challenges,” Levy said.

Implementing changes at the local level will help identify approaches that can be followed elsewhere. On the national stage, political divisiveness impedes progress. But at the community level, people are often more concerned with solving problems than with ideology, Levy said.

The article cites improving relationships between police forces and minority communities as an example. This goal is more likely to be achieved by asking, “How can we avoid becoming the next Ferguson, Missouri?” than through a confrontation that accuses both sides of being racist.

“As the current presidential election season makes clear, the nation is deeply polarized about many matters, including issues of race. We disagree about whether race still matters, whether discrimination is still a major factor in perpetuating inequality, and over what role, if any, society should play in addressing such matters,” Darby said. “Our research calls attention to the philosophical, psychological and constitutional obstacles to addressing racial disparities using remedies that focus on race. And we argue that remedies which are sensitive to the problems of race, but that are not race specific, are a promising way forward for dealing with racial inequality in view of these obstacles.”

The authors make clear that pursuing postracial remedies does not require accepting a postracial narrative, nor abandonment of advocacy to combat discrimination.

“We do not suggest that advocates of racial justice should be silent about” ongoing discrimination, implicit biases or systemic barriers, Levy and Darby wrote. “We do, however, suggest that there may be practical advantages to addressing them without the use of race-specific remedies, which are both politically and legally unrealistic at the moment.”

Although the United States is clearly not a postracial nation, Levy and Darby argue that postracial remedies are “sorely needed in our deeply polarized society smitten by the belief that race and racism are no longer significant barriers to living the American Dream.”

Law professor Virginia Harper Ho awarded tenure

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

LAWRENCE — Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little has approved promotion and the award of tenure where indicated for 70 individuals at the University of Kansas Lawrence and Edwards campuses and 66 individuals at the KU Medical Center campuses.

Chancellor Gray-Little, Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Sara Rosen, who chairs the University Committee on Promotion and Tenure on the Lawrence campus, and Dr. Douglas Girod, executive vice chancellor at the KU Medical Center, issued a joint statement of congratulations.

“Congratulations to the exceptional faculty and researchers who’ve reached the next milestone in their careers. These faculty represent the comprehensive research and educational excellence of our vibrant campuses. KU’s dedicated scholars and educators are addressing the challenges of our changing world and driving this university forward as a major research institution. Their enthusiasm and involvement further our mission of educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world. The commitment they have to ensure students succeed is inspiring.

“The University Committees on Promotion and Tenure on both campuses did an excellent job evaluating the many eligible candidates. We hope the entire university will join us in recognizing these educators who devote their talents and energy to uphold the institution's ideals through research, teaching and service.”

At the KU Lawrence and Edwards Campuses

To full professor

  • Giselle Anatol, English           
  • Christopher Anderson, business
  • Rafe Brown, ecology & evolutionary biology/senior curator, Biodiversity Institute
  • Roberto de Guzman, molecular biosciences
  • David Fowle, geology 
  • Sherry Fowler, history of art
  • Bruce Frey, educational psychology
  • Brian Haaheim, music
  • Virginia Harper Ho, law, with tenure
  • Alfred Tat-Kei Ho, public affairs & administration
  • Matthew Jacobson, film & media studies
  • Kirsten Jensen, ecology & evolutionary biology/senior curator, Biodiversity Institute
  • Mark Joslyn, political science
  • Clarence Lang, African & African American studies/American studies
  • Gwendolyn Macpherson, geology
  • Lorin Maletsky, mechanical engineering
  • Jeremy Martin, mathematics
  • Kristi Neufeld, molecular biosciences
  • Ebenezer Obadare, sociology
  • Jennifer Roberts, geology
  • Karrie Shogren, special education/senior scientist, Life Span Institute
  • Candan Tamerler, mechanical engineering, with tenure
  • Kevin Willmott, film & media studies
  • Liang Xu, molecular biosciences
  • Jie Zhang, linguistics

To associate professor with tenure

  • Jacquelene Brinton, religious studies
  • Scott Bronson, business
  • Darren Canady, English
  • Eric Deeds, molecular biosciences/Center for Computational Biology
  • John Derby, visual art
  • Prajnaparamita Dhar, chemical & petroleum engineering
  • Christopher Elles, chemistry
  • Mariana De Oliveira Farah, music
  • Jacob Fowles, public affairs & administration
  • Sarah Frisof, music
  • Veronica Garibotto, Spanish & Portuguese
  • Deanna Hanson-Abromeit, music
  • Mathew Johnson, mathematics
  • Chad Kraus, architecture
  • Rachel Krause, public affairs & administration
  • Lingjia Liu, electrical engineering & computer science
  • Marshall Maude, visual art
  • Felix Meschke, business
  • Radu “Alex” Moise, pharmacology & toxicology
  • Peter Ojiambo, African & African American studies
  • Alison Olcott Marshall, geology
  • Jarron Saint Onge, sociology/health policy & management, KU Medical Center
  • Armin Schulz, philosophy
  • Hyunjin Seo, journalism
  • William Leo Smith, ecology & evolutionary biology/associate curator, Biodiversity Institute
  • Antonio Tosta, Spanish & Portuguese
  • Zhuo Wang, pharmaceutical chemistry
  • Jomella Watson-Thompson, applied behavioral science
  • Wei Wu, psychology
  • Molly Zahn, religious studies

Tenure awarded at current rank of associate professor

  • Andres Lepage, civil, environmental & architectural engineering

KU Libraries

  • Karen Cook, to librarian
  • Laura Ada Emmett, to librarian
  • Sara Morris, to librarian
  • Brian Rosenblum, to librarian
  • Miloche Kottman, to associate librarian with tenure

Academic Staff (effective with the start of Fiscal Year 2017)

  • Kathleen Baggett, Life Span Institute, to research professor
  • Susan Earle, Spencer Museum of Art, to associate curator
  • Kris Ercums, Spencer Museum of Art, to associate curator
  • Michael Hock, Center for Research on Learning, to senior scientist
  • Rudy Serbet, Biodiversity Institute, to senior specialist
  • Celka Straughn, Spencer Museum of Art, to associate specialist
  • Janelle Ruisinger, pharmacy practice, to clinical professor
  • Jie Bang “Stephen” Yan, Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, to associate scientist
  • Qiang “Charles” Ye, Bioengineering Research Center, to associate scientist

At the KU Medical Center Campuses

To associate professor (affiliate track, Stowers Institute, nontenure track)

  • Julia Zeitlinger, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

To professor on clinical scholar track (nontenure track)

  • John Dorsch, School of Medicine-Wichita Campus Department of Family and Community Medicine
  • Mike Kennedy, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Family Medicine
  • Richard Korentager, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Plastic, Burn and Wound Surgery
  • Franz Winklhofer, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine

To associate professor on clinical scholar track (nontenure track)

  • Osama Almadhoun, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Pediatrics
  • Jane Broxterman, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine
  • Zachary Collins, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Radiology
  • Krishna Dummula, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Pediatrics
  • Winston Dunn, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine
  • L. Christine Faulk, School of Medicine-Wichita Campus Department of Internal Medicine
  • Ann Genovese, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Psychiatry
  • Kari Harris, School of Medicine-Wichita Campus Department of Pediatrics
  • Archie Heddings, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Orthopedic Surgery
  • Robin Heinrichs, School of Medicine-Wichita Campus Department of Psychiatry
  • Gina Hendren, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Anesthesiology
  • Erica Howe, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine
  • Marc Inciardi, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Radiology
  • Jessica Kalender-Rich, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine
  • Vincent Key, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Orthopedic Surgery
  • Theresa King, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine
  • Deborah Kroeker, School of Medicine-Wichita Campus Department of Pediatrics
  • Angela Lennon, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Pediatrics
  • James Lin, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Otolaryngology
  • Tara Lin, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine
  • Becky Lowry, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine
  • Smith Manion, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Anesthesiology
  • Katherine Palmieri, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Anesthesiology
  • Vishal Pandey, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Pediatrics
  • William Salyers Jr., School of Medicine-Wichita Campus Department of Internal Medicine
  • John Sojka, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Orthopedic Surgery
  • Damion Stevens, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine
  • Kimberly Swan, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

To professor (clinical track, full-time, nontenure track)                                                            

  • Grace Shih, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Anesthesiology

To clinical professor (clinical track, full-time, nontenure track)

  • William Cathcart-Rake, School of Medicine-Salina Campus Department of Internal Medicine

To clinical professor (clinical track, volunteer, nontenure track)

  • Randall Morgan, School of Medicine-Wichita Campus Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Tarris Rosell, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine 

To associate professor (clinical track, full-time, nontenure track)

  • Jennifer Jackson, School of Medicine-Wichita Campus Department of Internal Medicine

To clinical associate professor (clinical track, full-time, nontenure track)

  • Abha Shah, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Anesthesiology
  • Jason Sokol, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Ophthalmology

To clinical associate professor (clinical track, volunteer, nontenure track)

  • Bradley Barth, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Emergency Medicine
  • David Lisbon, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Emergency Medicine
  • Melissa Hague, School of Medicine-Wichita Campus Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Jared Marx, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Emergency Medicine

To associate professor (educator track with tenure)

  • Catherine Satterwhie, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health  

To professor (educator track with tenure)

  • Ming Zhang, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology

To professor with tenure

  • Lemuel Russ Waitman, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine

To professor (previously tenured)

  • Guoqing Chen, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine
  • Cheryl Gibson, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine
  • Benyi Li, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Urology
  • Gregory Reed, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics
  • Michael Werle, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology

Tenure awarded (at current rank of associate professor)

  • Brooke Fridley, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Biostatistics
  • Xiaogang Li, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Internal Medicine

To associate professor with tenure

  • Gretchen Dickson, School of Medicine-Wichita Campus Department of Family and Community Medicine
  • Jeannine Goetz, School of Health Professions Department of Dietetics and Nutrition
  • Severin Gudima, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Microbiology
  • Tami Gurley, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Health Policy and Management
  • Holly Hull, School of Health Professions Department of Dietetics and Nutrition
  • Sarah Kessler, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Family Medicine
  • Sean Kumer, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Surgery
  • Matthew Macaluso, School of Medicine-Wichita Campus Department of Psychiatry
  • Laura Martin, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health
  • Priya Padmanabhan, School of Medicine-Kansas City Campus Department of Urology
  • Neena Sharma, School of Health Professions Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science
  • Catherine Siengsukon, School of Health Professions Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science.

Law school ranks among top quarter in nation for employment success

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas School of Law Class of 2015 ranked in the top 25 percent of all law schools nationally in the critical areas of overall and “best jobs” employment outcomes, according to data released by the American Bar Association last week. Overall employment exceeded 91 percent, confirming a return to pre-recession success, while best jobs rose for a fifth consecutive year, topping 81 percent.

For overall employment, KU Law ranks 47th nationally, or among the top 23.3 percent of all law schools reported by the ABA. When law school-funded jobs are removed from the calculation, KU Law leaps to 32nd in the country, placing it in the top 15.9 percent of these schools. 

In the best jobs category, which many define as full-time, long-term positions that require bar passage or where a law degree provides an advantage, KU Law ranked 46th nationally, or in the top 22.8 percent of all schools. This result was the same regardless of whether law school-funded jobs were included in the calculation. 

“This result is extraordinary, and credit rests with the graduates themselves,” said Arturo Thompson, assistant dean of career services for the law school. “Our graduates are committed, focused and highly sought after in law, public service and industry. They lift our benchmark for success each year.” 

Employment highlights for the Class of 2015:

  • Nine students secured federal and state judicial clerkships, a number that will rise again for the Class of 2016 and will include two positions on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
  • Another 2015 graduate accepted a fellowship with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which will be followed by a judicial clerkship on one of Colorado’s federal courts.
  • Two 2015 graduates joined the Judge Advocate General’s Corps with the U.S. Marines, combining a commitment to protecting our national security with the practice of law and continuing a long history of KU Law graduates serving in all four branches. 

Graduates continue to accept positions ranging from new associates with some of the largest law firms in the world to practices in rural communities across the state. 

National Jurist Magazine again ranked KU Law the 18th “best value” law school in the country, based on high bar passage rates, strong employment numbers and affordability. The law school also ranks 30th in the nation for lowest debt at graduation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

“Members of the Class of 2015 are part of a long and proud tradition of Jayhawk lawyers serving the people of Kansas and the nation, defending our rights, creating opportunity and helping ensure a brighter tomorrow for all of us,” said Stephen Mazza, dean of the law school. “We are proud of their success.”

Employment data for KU and all ABA-approved law schools can be viewed on the ABA website and analyzed at Law Jobs: By the Numbers. Find an infographic with complete Class of 2015 employment data on the KU Law website.

Law school’s moot court program ranked among top 20 in nation

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A few of the students who participated in KU Law's nationally ranked 2015-2016 moot court program

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas School of Law’s moot court program ranks 19th in the nation, according to rankings published this month by the University of Houston Law Center.

Headlined by a national championship team, KU Law students accumulated enough points through strong showings at national competitions to break into the top 20 for the first time in the school’s history.

“What our students achieved is no small feat,” said Pamela Keller, clinical professor of law and director of KU’s lawyering skills program. “The ranking system is based on cumulative points, so larger law schools have a distinct advantage. We have fewer teams competing than many schools, so most of our teams have to be successful in order to be ranked.

“I am very proud of how all of our teams performed. It is again proof of what I see year after year – that we have tremendously bright, talented and hard-working students.”

Garnering the most points toward KU’s ranking was its performance at the National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition in early March. Ashley Akers, of Casper, Wyoming, and Maureen Orth, of Prairie Village, won the competition and received the best brief award. Orth was named the second-best oral advocate and received the first-ever G. William Rice Advocate Award for the highest cumulative points in the competition. Corey Adams of Wichita and Nathan Kakazu of Madison, Wisconsin, placed third and received the second-place brief award. Nick Hayes of Lawrence and Jason Vigil of Las Cruces, New Mexico, also represented KU at the competition, held in East Lansing, Michigan.

Other highlights from the 2015-2016 moot court season:

  • Bryce Langford, of Amarillo, Texas, and Luke Hangge, of Yakima, Washington, advanced to the regional finals of the American Bar Association’s National Appellate Advocacy Competition in Boston, marking KU’s best finish ever in the competition.
  • Ashley Akers and Abby Hall, of Overland Park, made it to the regional semifinals of the National Moot Court Competition in Lawrence, missing the final round by the smallest of margins.
  • Adam Sokoloff, of Overland Park, and Kendall Kaut, of Olathe, advanced to the semifinal round of the Federal Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall National Moot Court Competition in Washington, D.C.
  • Matthew Rogers, of Wellsville, and Bradley Thomas, of Mission Hills, made it to the quarterfinals of the Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition in White Plains, New York.
  • Nicki Rose, of Topeka, and Brendan McNeal, of Boulder, Colorado, argued their way into the quarterfinal rounds of the Seigenthaler-Sutherland Cup National First Amendment Moot Court Competition in Washington, D.C.
  • KU’s Jessup International Law Moot Court team made it to the quarterfinals of the Rocky Mountain Regional rounds in Denver and captured the award for third-best brief. Team members included Skyler Davenport, of Blue Springs, Missouri; Bill Madden, of Topeka; Jacque Patton and John Truong, both of Wichita; and Yarhmaan Peerbaccus, of Waukee, Iowa.

Most KU Law students who compete in national tournaments were the top finishers in the school’s in-house moot court competition during their second year of law school. Competitions generally consist of writing an appellate brief and presenting a mock oral argument before an appellate court.

Professor explores how cities can switch to low-carbon grid

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

LAWRENCE — Although many cities across the nation have pledged to improve their energy sources to mitigate climate change, they are often stymied by reliance on an electric power industry fighting new policies at the local, state and federal level. A University of Kansas law professor has authored an article detailing innovative approaches of cities and communities to cut carbon emissions and how the efforts will affect energy governance in years to come.

Uma Outka, associate professor of law, authored “Cities and the Low-Carbon Grid,” forthcoming in the journal Environmental Law. The article examines the evolution of cities and the modern electric grid, legal context for cities’ electric power, cites examples of cities making innovative transitions and argues that, increasingly, cities can influence the transition to a low-carbon energy sector.

Boulder, Colorado, is one such environmentally conscious town. More than a decade ago, the city was among the first in America to develop a local agenda for climate change mitigation and even offered support of the Kyoto Protocol for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, even though the United States did not sign the international treaty. Yet in 2013 city leaders realized they were dependent on investor-owned utility company Xcel, which provided more than 75 percent of the city’s power through fossil fuels, primarily coal. To change that, the city is pursuing a public ownership model that would give it local control and flexibility in obtaining power from renewable sources.

"They have been totally dependent on the resource decisions Xcel would make,” Outka said of Boulder. “Reading about that situation made me want to dig deeper into what cities could do on energy use and climate change. It’s a varied landscape, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but I think this transitional moment for the electricity sector presents new possibilities that motivated cities can explore.’”

Boulder voters approved ballot measures in 2011 and 2013 to form a public utility. The city has since been in the process of acquiring generation and distribution infrastructure, while ending its partnership with Xcel.

Minneapolis, Minnesota, faced a similar situation when it realized its Climate Action Plan on cutting greenhouse gas emissions likely couldn’t be met because the city’s utility supplier generated the majority of its electricity from burning fossil fuels. The city determined for several reasons not to form a municipal utility, but it still found a way to make a change when it negotiated a new contract with provider Xcel, forming a City-Utility Clean Energy Partnership designed to be a clean energy collaboration between the city and private utilities. The partnership has been widely touted as a “first-of-its-kind” innovation, Outka said.

However, like Boulder’s approach, the Minneapolis partnership model will not necessarily be possible for every city to pursue.

“People will definitely be watching what happens in Minneapolis,” Outka said. “They took advantage of the expiration of their contract and re-negotiated in an innovative way. The fact that there was an option for the city had to have had an impact in bringing the utility to the negotiating table.”

Outka also shares examples of cities such as Burlington, Vermont, which has succeeded in securing 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and San Diego, a major city that has pledged to do the same within 20 years.

She also outlines strategies in use in other cities such as community choice aggregation. Under the approach, where authorized by state law, cities can choose electricity providers and are not limited to investor-owned utilities with territorial entitlement. Cities using the approach can leverage buying power by aggregating local load — possibly­ with other cities — to purchase electricity at lower rates. Depending on program design, cities may also be able to choose their generation sources while still receiving transmission and distribution services from their existing provider. Six states currently have community choice aggregation programs and at least six more are exploring the model.

Within five years of enacting its CCA law, Illinois had more than 600 communities participating, and average customers were saving 25 to 30 percent on electricity costs. By the end of 2013, more than 90 local governments in the state were using CCAs to purchase 100 percent renewable energy for their communities, Outka wrote. States such as Ohio have had similar successes. The study also details community solar and wind/shared renewable programs. Through the programs customers can subscribe with the utility to buy a set amount of their power from solar energy or own or lease a share of remote solar or wind installations.

Both CCA and community power projects also have unique legal hurdles that can make them difficult for certain communities to enact. But, given the success of various models used by cities to transition to low-carbon models, cities across the country are learning that it can be beneficial to explore new ways to reduce fossil fuel-reliant power, and where necessary, advocate for state law changes to facilitate their goals, Outka said.

Outka recently secured a starter grant from The Commons at KU, which is funding a collaboration with Rachel Krause, assistant professor of public affairs and administration, and Ward Lyles, assistant professor of urban planning, all of KU, to further explore energy, climate adaptation and social justice. The researchers will lead a symposium from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28, at The Commons featuring local and national speakers discussing social justice as it relates to the ongoing transition to low-carbon energy models.

“Cities have been leading forces for demanding change in the area of low-carbon energy, even though electricity is still one of the hardest issues for cities to influence,” Outka said. “That is appropriate in an era when the majority of our population lives within cities and the success of those leading in the low-carbon transition offers examples for other cities that want to do more to drive change locally.”

Photo: View of Boulder, Colorado. Picture by user Hustvedt, via WikiCommons.

NHL Players’ Association executive to speak at Media & the Law Seminar

Friday, April 22, 2016

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI — Media and legal professionals in Kansas City will be able to hear one of the most prominent figures in professional sports law during the 29th Annual Media & the Law Seminar, which will be Friday, April 29, at the InterContinental Hotel at the Plaza.

Donald Fehr is the current executive director of the NHL Players’ Association and formerly was executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association. He is scheduled to speak during the seminar’s luncheon.

“Don Fehr is one of the leading figures in American sports law,” said Bryan Clark, an associate at law firm Vedder Price. “He has been involved with some of the largest sports stories of the last few decades, including the arbitration decision that created free agency in Major League Baseball, a successful challenge to MLB owner collusion, the 1994–95 MLB strike and the 2012 NHL lockout.”

The Media & the Law Seminar is an annual continuing legal education event hosted by the University of Kansas School of Law and the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association Media Law Committee.

The seminar theme in 2016 is “Fair Play or Out of Bounds? The Use and Abuse of the First Amendment in Sports, Entertainment and Popular Culture.” In addition to Fehr’s speech, the seminar will feature sessions addressing right-of-publicity issues for NCAA athletes in video games and creative works, lessons to be learned from celebrity defamation and copyright cases, and protecting free speech rights in the era of internet lynch mobs and online harassment.

A Thursday pre-conference session, “Lights! Action! Insurance! – Insuring Sports, Stars and Super Events,” is also offered.

The event website,, provides additional information, including registration details for those in the legal and media professions as well as educators, students and the general public.

Nine hours of CLE credit will be available for legal professionals, including one hour of Legal Ethics and two hours of Insurance CE in Kansas and Missouri. A registration discount is offered for Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association members.

Law professors honored for work that freed innocent man from prison

Thursday, April 21, 2016

KU Law Professors Alice Craig, Elizabeth Cateforis and Jean Phillips

LAWRENCE – Three University of Kansas law professors were recognized this week for demonstrating “compassion, dedication and tenacity” through nearly a decade of work to free an innocent man from prison.

Jean Phillips, Elizabeth Cateforis and Alice Craig of KU Law’s Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence & Post-Conviction Remedies received the Sean O’Brien Freedom Award from the Midwest Innocence Project during its annual Faces of Innocence benefit Tuesday evening in Kansas City, Missouri.

The three were singled out for their leading role in winning the exoneration of Floyd Bledsoe, who spent 16 years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit. Students and faculty in KU Law’s Project for Innocence worked on Floyd’s case for nearly a decade before new DNA evidence and a suicide note confession from his brother cleared his name.

“The best feeling a lawyer can have is walking out of court or prison with an innocent client who is finally being freed after a decade or more of wrongful incarceration. Everybody would love to have that feeling, but few lawyers are willing to do what it takes to get there,” said Sean O’Brien, associate professor at the UMKC School of Law and the award’s namesake. “The work of Jean, Beth and Alice reminds me of something Mother Teresa said: ‘There are no great deeds, only ordinary deeds, done with great love.’ That’s what these lawyers are all about.”

Through its partnership with KU Law, the Midwest Innocence Project provided funding for new DNA testing in Floyd’s case.   

“The MIP working with KU Law is a model of what legal partnerships can be,” said Oliver Burnette, executive director of the MIP. “Since the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence is such a recognized source of expertise and dedication, MIP’s resources and legal team can act as a force-multiplier for the good work already being done.”

All three honorees graduated from the KU School of Law in the 1990s and worked on the Project for Innocence – then known as the Defender Project – during law school. Phillips has served as director of the project since 1999. She hired Cateforis as a supervising attorney that same year, and Craig joined the team in 2004.  

“I had the good fortune to learn from David Gottlieb, and he taught me the dangers of passing judgment and failing to see that human beings are worthy of respect and compassion. I left that experience knowing that I was put here to battle against simply putting people in prison and forgetting about them,” Phillips said. “We look forward to a time when we actually work ourselves out of a job. One client at a time – one Floyd Bledsoe at a time – we get a little bit closer to that goal.”

The Project for Innocence was founded by former KU Law Professor Paul E. Wilson as the Defender Project in 1965 to help prisoners who otherwise might not receive legal representation. Working under the supervision of faculty attorneys, students in the clinic represent state and federal prisoners in appellate and post-conviction litigation in state and federal courts. The program has won more than 40 direct appeals, constitutional challenges and actual innocence cases since 2008.

The Midwest Innocence Project, a member of the national Innocence Network, is dedicated to the investigation, litigation and exoneration of wrongfully convicted men and women in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa and Nebraska. The MIP partners with KU Law’s Project for Innocence and other regional innocence organization by providing legal and financial support to enhance local exoneration efforts.

Law professor calls for 'risk-related activism' to avoid new financial crisis

Thursday, April 21, 2016

LAWRENCE — Since the financial crisis of 2008, debate has raged over how to prevent the next one. A University of Kansas professor has published a study arguing that institutional investors, like mutual funds and pension funds, need to be part of the solution.  

Virginia Harper Ho, associate professor of law, Docking Faculty Scholar and Webb Hecker Jr. Teaching Fellow at the KU School of Law, has published “Risk-Related Activism: The Business Case for Monitoring Nonfinancial Risk” in the Journal of Corporation Law. The article calls for leading investors to engage in risk-related activism — the use of shareholder power to promote firm management, mitigation and disclosure of risk.

Harper Ho argues that there are potential economic payoffs to investors, firms and capital markets when leading investors pay closer attention to nonfinancial or “environmental, social and governance” (ESG) risks, like those associated with executive compensation practices, global supply chains and climate change. Financial risks are typically hedged, but many of these nonfinancial risks may not even be on companies’ radar screens.

A recent example of risk-related activism cited in the paper is the “boardroom accountability” campaign kicked off in 2014 by New York City ’s public pension funds. The campaign targeted 75 major public companies and pushed for proxy access — corporate bylaw changes that would open certain corporate board seats to candidates nominated by shareholders. Its backers hoped shareholder nominees might take their concerns about ESG risks more seriously, and the campaign has been a clear success. During the 2015 proxy season, more than 70 percent of proxy access proposals were approved, creating momentum for more companies to adopt proxy access this year. 

Although large institutional investors haven’t played a real monitoring role historically, Harper Ho argues that New York City’s campaign and others like it show that they can and many already do. In fact, Harper Ho says, asking whether investors should play a role or not in monitoring corporations is the wrong question. The reality is that in “the post-financial crash landscape, investors have more power to influence corporate practice not just because of their voting power but because Congress has given them more of a voice,” she said. “The real question now is how investors should use that power.”

Her article goes on to argue that more investors should push for better risk management and oversight from the firms they invest in. As Harper Ho writes, enterprise risk management, known as ERM, and risk oversight is already a top priority for publicly traded firms, and many recognize the importance of looking at risk broadly, but she notes “investment advisers and the legal community will remain skeptical, or even hostile, toward risk-related activism and related responsible investment practices so long as they believe them to be value-depleting, risk-enhancing or otherwise at odds with investors’ fiduciary duties and economic interests.”

Harper Ho’s article responds by countering potential objections from conventional finance theory and presenting evidence that institutional investors can improve and protect portfolio value if they pay more attention to nonfinancial risk. For example, she points to a wide range of studies showing that lowering ESG risks can lower companies’ cost of capital and also protect portfolio value in volatile markets. The business case for ESG investment strategies, she argues, also explains why more investors might reap financial rewards from engaging in risk-related activism or voting in favor of those who do.

Harper Ho also outlines steps institutional investors and policymakers can take to reorient how corporate boards address nonfinancial risk, but she acknowledges that market-driven investor oversight alone cannot prevent excessive risk-taking by corporate managers. She argues instead that a sustainable financial system, in every sense of the word, will also mean taking seriously how institutional investors’ own behavior contributes to excessive risk-taking by corporate managers and may even pose systemic threats to modern financial markets.  

Her article points to steps the United Kingdom, the European Union and other leading markets are taking to improve investor monitoring of portfolio firms, and she calls for regulators in the United States to adopt similar policy guidelines. Such measures could encourage institutional investors to monitor the companies they invest in and would also have the added benefit of requiring greater accountability from investors for how they use their power.

“Although this article offers starting points that could facilitate risk-related activism, ESG integration and better institutional monitoring, the real barriers to these reforms are not regulatory, but conceptual,” Harper Ho writes. In the end, simply realizing that nonfinancial risks are real, and that they matter to investors, might be a great place to start.

Law school will honor 3 with Distinguished Alumni Award

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

LAWRENCE — An attorney, a legal scholar and a federal judge will be recognized with the University of Kansas School of Law’s highest honor.

Great Bend attorney Larry Keenan, Class of 1954; KU Law Professor John Peck, Class of 1974, and U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil, Class of 1975, will receive the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award, which celebrates graduates for their professional achievements, contributions to the legal field and service to their communities and the university. The awards will be presented at a private dinner April 16 in Lawrence.

After completing his joint undergraduate and law degree in 1954, Larry Keenan served for three years in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. He returned home to Great Bend in 1958 to practice with his older brother at the Keenan Law Firm, where he still practices today. Keenan served as Barton County Attorney for four years and is a past chairman and member of the Farmers Bank & Trust Board of Directors. He currently serves as president of Globe Exploration Inc. in Great Bend. Keenan is an avid supporter of his alma mater and a past president and lifelong member of the KU Law Board of Governors.

John Peck received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Kansas State University in 1968. After working for three years for the U.S. Public Health Service and the EPA in Washington, D.C., he began law school at KU, where he was an articles editor for the Kansas Law Review and graduated Order of the Coif in 1974. Peck practiced for four years with Everett, Seaton, Peck in Manhattan, then joined the KU Law faculty in 1978. A recognized authority on Kansas water law, Peck teaches contracts, land transactions, water law and family law and has received numerous teaching accolades. He is a member of the KU Law Dean’s Club and a past Medallion recipient and serves as chair of the Rice Scholarship Committee. In addition to his tenured faculty position, Peck is special counsel to Foulston Siefkin LLP, where his focus includes water and real estate law. He has been listed in the Best Lawyers of America in the areas of natural resources law and water law since 2003.

Judge Kathryn Vratil graduated from KU with an American studies degree in 1971. She completed law school in 1975 at KU, where she served on the Kansas Law Review and was named to the Order of the Coif. Following graduation she clerked for Judge Earl O’Connor for three years on the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, then practiced commercial and business litigation law for 14 years with Lathrop & Gage, serving as municipal judge for Prairie Village for two years. In 1992, Vratil was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas by President George W. Bush, becoming the first woman to serve on the court. She was named chief judge in 2008 and served in that capacity until she assumed senior status in 2014. Vratil is an active member of the legal community and devoted supporter of her alma mater. She has served two terms on KU Law’s Board of Governors, was named to the KU Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013 and has served on the advisory board for the Emily Taylor Women’s Resource Center (now the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity) since 2009.

View previous Distinguished Alumni Award recipients on the law school’s website.

Distinguished Alumni Award recipients will be honored along with James Woods Green Medallion honorees and members of the Dean’s Club. Named after the school’s first dean, the Medallion recognizes the school’s major financial supporters. This year’s honorees include:

  • Bion J. Beebe, Class of 1976, and Vicki Storm Beebe
  • The Belin Foundation
  • Judge Daniel D. Crabtree, Class of 1981, and Maureen Mahoney, Class of 1984
  • Steve Davis and Kim Bowen Davis, Class of 1978
  • Jeanne Gorman, Class of 1978
  • Ross Hartley, Class of 1974, and Christine Ness Hartley
  • Mark Hegarty, Class of 1990, and Janelle Hegarty
  • Martin, Pringle, Oliver, Wallace & Bauer LLP
  • S. Lee Meigs Taylor, Class of 1982
  • Patrick Stueve, Class of 1987, and Janna Stueve
  • James Walters, Class of 1975, and Mary Clayton Walters.



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