Kansas Democrat who admitted to revenge porn wins state House seat

Aaron Coleman’s election to the Kansas House of Representatives would have been remarkable for a young candidate trying to unseat an incumbent. But it has instead left state Democratic leaders saying that they will take “every necessary step” to ensure that Mr. Coleman is not seated in the State Legislature.

Mr. Coleman’s campaign over the summer was overshadowed by his admissions that he had sent revenge porn and bullied girls online in middle school.

France attacks, boycott calls show clash of secularism, extremism, law expert says

Thursday, October 29, 2020

LAWRENCE — What began as calls for boycotts of French products turned violent Thursday as a knife-wielding attacker killed three people at a church in Nice, France. The escalation is part of a controversy that began with a French teacher showing students a cartoon of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

University of Kansas law scholar Raj Bhala is available to discuss the ongoing situation with media. Bhala, who has expertise in Islamic law and international trade law, can comment on blasphemy as it is understood in Islamic law as well as legality of boycotts of French imports under international trade law.

“Recent events show not only the tragically lethal clash of secularism and extremism but also raise difficult questions about the legality of boycotts under international trade law prompted by allegations of blasphemy under Islamic law,” he said.

Bhala, Brenneisen Distinguished Professor at the KU School of Law, can discuss the fraught relationship between Islamic law, trade, terror attacks, the current situation in France and related topics. He is globally renowned for his scholarship in international trade law and Islamic law, publishing dozens of books and journal articles on the topics, including the acclaimed four-volume International Trade Law: A Comprehensive Textbook, now in its fifth edition, the two-volume treatise “Modern GATT Law,” “TPP Objectively: Legal, Economic, and National Security Dimensions of CPTPP,” second edition and “Understanding Islamic Law (Shari’a).” He practiced international banking law at the Federal Reserve of New York before entering academia and is currently senior adviser to Dentons in Kansas City. He has worked in more than 25 countries, including France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Oman, Israel and throughout India.

To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at mkrings@ku.edu, 785-864-8860 or @MikeKrings.

History, law on side of LGBTQ Americans in SCOTUS religious exemption case, law expert says

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

LAWRENCE — The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case Nov. 4 that will have wide-ranging ramifications on anti-discrimination laws and the rights of LGBTQ Americans. The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, will determine whether a Catholic-run foster care agency is exempt from complying with a Philadelphia ordinance that prohibits sexual orientation discrimination. The Catholic-run foster care agency argues that it may violate the ordinance by refusing to place foster children with same-sex couples because of its religious beliefs.

Kyle Velte, associate professor of law at the University of Kansas, was the primary author of an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court for the case. Velte is available to speak with media about the case, the arguments each side is presenting, anti-discrimination law, the effects the ruling will have, new justice Amy Coney Barrett’s presence for the case and related issues. 

“Tomorrow the court will take up its first major civil rights case since the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The stakes for LGBTQ Americans are high, but history and the law are on their side. Both history and law have seen this argument before — that one’s religious beliefs should exempt them from complying with civil rights law,” Velte said. “Since the 1960s, courts have rejected this argument when those providing goods or services sought to turn away African-American customers. Courts rejected that argument, including the U.S. Supreme Court. The court should rely on that race discrimination precedent to resolve the foster care case; to hold otherwise would create incoherence in the law and contravene the intent of the Philadelphia civil rights ordinance.”

Velte is an expert in sexual orientation, gender identity and the law, as well as employment discrimination. She has published several articles in law journals on the topics, including the Yale Law & Policy Review, Cardozo Law Review and Connecticut Law Review. Her amicus brief in the Fulton case outlines how racial discrimination precedent should apply to LGBTQ cases. She has filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in previous cases involving employment discrimination against LGBTQ workers, marriage equality and religious exemptions for wedding vendors who seek to deny goods and services to same-sex couples.

To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860, mkrings@ku.edu or @MikeKrings.

Law expert shows famed 'revolving door' between SEC, private firms not as wide as thought

Monday, November 02, 2020

LAWRENCE — Legal experts have long warned about the “revolving door” between the Securities and Exchange Commission and the financial industry it regulates. Such warnings include concerns that SEC attorneys may go easy on parties accused of wrongdoing in hopes of securing a high-paid position after leaving the agency and that attorneys who joined the SEC from the industry could pursue industry priorities instead of the public interest.

A University of Kansas law professor has written a new study identifying a different professional “door” available to SEC attorneys — one that does not revolve at all.

Responsibility for policing corporate fraud in the U.S. is split between government agencies, such as the SEC, and private lawyers who pursue class action lawsuits against corporate wrongdoers. But while many high-profile cases have been reported of SEC attorneys moving to the defense side, there is no similar movement of personnel from the agency to the plaintiffs’ law firms. Alexander Platt, associate professor of law at KU, has published a study that documents the lack of exchange and argues that it signals a problem for the federal agency’s mission and effectiveness. The study is forthcoming in the Journal of Corporation Law and is available on SSRN.

Moving to a plaintiff’s law firm would seem like a natural and appealing option for an SEC attorney. The SEC and plaintiffs’ bar each describe their mission in similar terms. They also enforce some of the same statutes and rules. Further, Platt’s original empirical analysis of the revenues per lawyer at one leading plaintiffs' firm makes clear that plaintiffs' attorneys stand to earn very competitive compensation. And, in other areas of overlapping public and private enforcement authority, such as civil rights and environmental law, it is common to see attorneys moving back and forth between government agencies and plaintiffs’-side positions.

Given all of this, you might expect to see attorneys moving back and forth between the SEC and the plaintiffs’ bar. Platt’s study shows that, in fact, they do not. Specifically, he shows:

  • None of the 10 leading plaintiffs’-side firms employ anyone with recent SEC experience
  • None of the enforcement attorneys he identified as working for the SEC in 2015 left to work for plaintiffs’-side litigation
  • None of the current upper and middle managers in SEC enforcement division have prior plaintiffs’-side experience
  • Only five of the enforcement attorneys identified as working for the agency in 2019 had prior plaintiffs’-side experience

“We know the SEC has this very active revolving door to the defense side, but what about to the plaintiffs’ side? There are good reasons to expect that there’d be a lot of overlap between the two sets of attorneys,” Platt said. “But it turns out that there’s basically none at all.”

Platt’s novel finding that the “door” between the SEC and the plaintiff’s bar does not revolve points toward the possibility of “cultural capture,” he said. Attorneys at the SEC may steer clear of taking on private plaintiffs’-side work because they have embraced the defense bar’s skepticism of private securities litigation. They may view plaintiffs’-side work and class action work as wasteful, not really doing much to protect investors and merely chasing a paycheck.

“The idea of ‘cultural capture’ is that SEC attorneys might come to think of the world in the same way as their nominal adversaries on the defense side,” Platt said.

A systemic bias among SEC attorneys against private securities litigation helps to explain some recent patterns in the agency’s enforcement priorities. As Platt showed in an earlier paper, SEC enforcement attorneys wield tremendous discretion not only over their own enforcement actions, but also regarding the flow of private litigation, and, in recent years, the SEC has consistently wielded this discretion in a manner that minimizes (rather than catalyzes) private litigation. For instance, by allowing targets to settle enforcement actions without admitting wrongdoing, the agency deprives private plaintiffs of potentially valuable evidence and makes it more difficult for these plaintiffs to prevail in litigation against the same target.

“Given the overlap in legal regimes, skills and missions of the two fields of practice, the compensation available to plaintiffs’-side attorneys, the flow of federal enforcers to private enforcement in other areas and the strong rhetoric supporting the social value of private securities litigation from SEC leaders, one would expect SEC attorneys to regularly make their way over to the plaintiffs’ bar,” Platt wrote. “The fact that this is not happening raises various implications about the institutions of public and private securities enforcement in the U.S., including the prospect that SEC attorneys may have adopted a much more skeptical and hostile view regarding the merits of private securities class actions that is common among defense-side attorneys. As commentators and scholars continue to study the SEC’s revolving door, they should not overlook the non-revolving one.”

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Why the SEC may have scrapped its controversial 13F proposal

The proposed rule change drew sharp criticism — but it also rested on shaky legal grounds.

Concerns about a regulatory proposal to allow many hedge funds to keep their stock investments secret may have been overblown.  

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s July proposal to increase the reporting threshold for hedge fund managers from $100 million to $3.5 billion quickly drew criticism, as it would have reduced the number of reporting firms by nearly 90 percent. 

Young Kansans could prove to be a powerful voting bloc on Election Day

For Will Hanson, a junior at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, it’s surprising how many people his age don’t understand the importance of voting.

This year, Hanson, 21, has been working with the college’s new Young Democrats club to register other students to vote. Nov. 3 will be his first time voting in a presidential election.

“I think that more young people are going to vote in this election than ever before,” he said. “Well, I hope that is the case.”

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