Professor Martin Dickinson honored with Steeples award

Thursday, May 16, 2013

LAWRENCE – Through teaching, research, advising and mentoring, the faculty members of the University of Kansas serve a large audience through their work. Some go even further in their service to the state of Kansas. Three such faculty members have been honored for their exemplary contributions to the people of Kansas with the Steeples Service to Kansans Award.

The recipients of the 2013 Steeples award are Martin Dickinson, School of Law; John Hachmeister, visual art, and Kelly Kindscher, environmental studies.

Don Steeples, the Dean A. McGee Distinguished Professor of Applied Geophysics, and his wife, Tammy, established the award in 1997 to honor Don Steeples’ parents, Wally and Marie Steeples, and to recognize outstanding service by KU faculty to other Kansans. The award provides recipients with $1,000 and an additional $1,000 base adjustment to their salaries.

Martin Dickinson is the Robert A. Schroeder Distinguished Professor of Law. He was nominated primarily for his work relating to tax law and estate planning. Over four decades he has served on numerous state-level advisory committees relating to property taxes, income tax, estate tax and trust administration. These committees have suggested important revisions to Kansas law that have protected the elderly and helped ensure a fair system of revenue generation for the state. While serving as dean of the KU law school from 1971 to 1980, Dickinson created new admission criteria, recruited outstanding faculty and convinced legislators to fund a new building, all of which strengthened the school’s profile regionally and nationally.

John Hachmeister is an associate professor of sculpture in the School of the Arts. The Steeples Award recognizes his promotion of “the arts in the community” in and around Kansas. Perhaps the best example of this is his 25-year commitment to preserve and maintain the Garden of Eden folk art site in Lucas. Lucas has since been designated as the “Grassroots Arts Capitol of Kansas.” Hachmeister was also instrumental in developing a partnership between KU and the Kansas City School for the Blind. The program, Accessible Arts, connects KU art students with children at the Kansas City School for the Blind to create tactile objects used as learning aids for many subjects including math and science. Most recently, Hachmeister connected four area artists with a trustee to create four larger-than-life statues in Independence depicting works of Kansas-born playwright William Inge.

Kelly Kindscher, courtesy professor of environmental studies and ecology and evolutionary biology, has served the state of Kansas for more than 20 years as a voice for the environment of Kansas, especially its plants and prairies. Kindscher, who is also a senior scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey, has always focused on public education and engagement in his work, whether speaking to city and community groups, leading walks introducing Kansans to native plants and prairies or providing environmental advice across the state. Kindscher's research interests are focused on prairie and montane meadow plant communities, wetland and prairie restoration, conservation of Midwest/Great Plains ecosystems and ethnobotany.

Funds for the Steeples award are managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

Law professor's book explores 'constitution of international trade law'

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

LAWRENCE — For nearly 60 years, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, better known as GATT, brought down barriers, encouraged trade among nations and changed the way the world does business, yet received surprisingly little attention in the world of scholarly law. A University of Kansas law professor has changed that with a two-volume, 3,000-page exploration of the “constitution of international trade law.”

Raj Bhala, associate dean for international and comparative law and Rice Distinguished Professor at the KU School of Law, has authored “Modern GATT Law: A Treatise on the Law and Political Economy of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and Other World Trade Organization Agreements” second edition. The book is an extensive examination of GATT, all 38 of its articles, their applications in the law, related WTO influence, examinations of theories critical of unlimited international trade and much more.

“It came about as a passion for the topic,” Bhala said of the treatise. “I’ve always been fascinated by GATT. Unintentionally, it became the constitution of international trade law. It was a shining example of the reality and effectiveness of international law. It was functioning effectively, and yet no one was paying attention to it. Even after the birth of the WTO in 1995, GATT remains, and its rules and principles get reincarnated in new areas, such as services and intellectual property.”

Bhala wrote the first edition in 2005. Since then, international trade law has both flourished and changed dramatically with the influence of the WTO and its roughly 160 member countries. More than 400 cases have been adjudicated at the WTO, dealing with all manner of trade law topics, including ones directly relevant to Kansas, like subsidies for agricultural products and airplanes. That prompted the second edition, published like the first, by Sweet & Maxwell.

Drafted beginning in 1945 and enacted in 1948, GATT was hugely influential in bringing nations together through international trade. GATT grew in members from 23 in 1947 to more than 125 by 1995, including poor, newly independent, Muslim and nonwestern nations. “Modern GATT Law” explores how the membership grew more diverse, including the importance of developing nations and how nations such as China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Laos and Tajikistan gained positions of varying degrees of power within the organization.

Among its 85 chapters “Modern GATT Law” not only examines all articles of GATT and related WTO provisions, but it offers applicable case studies and examines all WTO rounds, including the failed Doha round, which declared fighting terrorism and extremism through trade as its top priority. Bhala examines how trade has become a tool in international diplomacy and element of national security, as illustrated in part by sanctions placed on Iran and North Korea. He also examines controversial topics such as mad cow disease and its effects on trade between nations and how GATT increasingly links law and other areas of scholarship.

“The treatise this time really goes over the essential precepts, essential interdisciplinary foundations of politics, religion, economics and philosophy as they relate to law,” Bhala said. “International traders and their lawyers have become much more conscious of those links over the years and are not as likely to look at trade law as an isolated topic.”

International trade and global commerce have come under increasing criticism in recent years, often justifiably so, Bhala said, when the drive for profit results in human rights abuses, environmental degradation, labor violations, poverty and other outcomes contrary to human dignity and the common good. The treatise analyzes such criticisms and evaluates emerging theories of how international trade law can be reformed to comport better with social justice, offering neither justification nor condemnation of any one theory, but lending insight into how each one fits into modern international trade law.

Early demand for the book has been strong in several countries.

“It’s rare for a book to appeal to the international markets in the way that ‘Modern GATT Law’ does. It’s a testament to the quality of the text that our subsidiaries in America, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand have all expressed their interest in disseminating the title within their jurisdictions,” said Andrew Moroney, publishing editor at Sweet & Maxwell in London. “In fact, each presentation about the book to those companies has met with unanimous praise for the scope and breadth of the contents list alone, so we expect to hear great things when the books land on their desks.”

In addition to being a useful reference for international trade lawyers, scholars and anyone interested in cross-border commerce, Bhala said the book is both an homage to the visionary work of the founders of GATT and an invaluable teaching tool. Students at the KU School of Law were intimately involved in all aspects of the book’s creation. In particular, the student research assistants, who hail from across Kansas and from multiple nations, gained an experience not available in the traditional classroom.

“I give a great deal of credit to the research assistants,” Bhala said. “A two-year project like this simply could not have been done on time, or with quality, without my research assistants at the KU Law School. They were enthusiastically engaged through legal research and writing on sophisticated topics. I learned a great deal from their productive output, and they are testaments to the synergy between teaching and research. Plus, we had a lot of fun.”

Article addresses constitutional issues with private government contractors

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas law professor has co-authored an article about remedying constitutional violations perpetrated by privately employed government contractors on the heels of briefing the same issue in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition to this real-world engagement as a lawyer and as a scholar, Lumen N. Mulligan, professor of law and director of the Shook, Hardy and Bacon Center for Excellence in Advocacy, brings this high-level, hands-on experience to the KU Law School classroom.

Mulligan co-authored both an amicus curiae brief in the high court case of Minneci v. Pollard and an article, discussing the case, with Alexander A. Reinert, associate professor of law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. The article will appear in the Washington University Law Review in May 2013.

In the case, an inmate at a privately run federal prison claimed that during work detail he fractured both of his elbows. He wasn’t given immediate medical care, was later shackled, exacerbating the injury before treatment, and was ultimately left unable to work upon his release. He sued for violations of his Eighth Amendment constitutional rights. The Supreme Court ruled that, even though publicly employed prison guards would be susceptible to suit, the privately employed guards could not be found liable for constitutional violations because of their employment status.

Taking a stance contrary to the Court’s ultimate holding during the high court briefing, Mulligan explained that “our position was that there should be no distinction, in terms of liability for constitutional violations, between government-run and privately run prisons. The decision as it stands allows federal agencies to avoid their constitutionally imposed liability simply by hiring private contractors.”

In the article, the professors argue that the decision was in error and discuss how its impact can be limited.

“The opinion, in our view, fatally ignores — indeed fails to even consider — the text of the Westfall Act of 1988, which specifically endorsed constitutional actions such as what was at issue in Minneci,” Mulligan said. “Also, it destroys the parallel set of doctrine for remedying violations of constitutional rights by state and federal officers and creates asymmetrical liability for private versus public employs, which in turn creates non-market-based incentives to privatize government functions.”

The decision was also troublesome because the use of state tort law, which the Supreme Court relied upon as an alternative to a constitutional action, cannot always be applied in the same manner as federal constitutional law, Mulligan and Reinert argue.

“Indeed, many of these assumed state law remedies are not available for plaintiffs,” Mulligan said. “The very same defendants from Minneci often argue that state law does not apply to them because they are immune under the so-called government contractor doctrine. These defendants should not be allowed to have their cake and eat it, too.”

In addition to this pro bono service to the bar, Mulligan said taking part in ongoing, high-level court action benefits KU Law students. By supplying arguments in the Supreme Court, working with practicing attorneys, judges and clients, Mulligan is better able to engage students with skills-based learning — not simply dated textbook material.

“I believe that keeping up with practice helps me connect with my students and deliver up-to-date approaches to the art of advocacy. Students want to know that their coursework will translate to practice directly,” Mulligan said. “As such, my continued work in that regard adds some authenticity to the classroom.”

Schwartz Lecturer Chris Drahozal Questions Supreme Court Arbitration Decisions

Prof. Chris Drahozal delivers the 2013 Schwartz Lecture on “Error Correction and the Supreme Court’s Arbitration Docket."

What is it about arbitration law and the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) that results in error correction and factbound decision-making playing such a significant role in the Court's decisions? That question formed the focus of University of Kansas Law Professor Chris Drahozal’s 2013 Schwartz Lecture in Dispute Resolution, held on March 28, 2013 in Saxbe Auditorium.

Book examines how climate change affects indigenous people

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

LAWRENCE — Climate change’s effects are starting to be felt around the world, and indigenous populations are in many cases among the first to have their ways of life disrupted. Yet these populations are often powerless, both politically and economically, to convince those with the ability to do something about it to do so. A University of Kansas law professor has co-edited a book examining how climate change has affected indigenous people worldwide and how they can legally address the issues in the future.

Elizabeth Kronk, associate professor of law and director of the Tribal Law & Government Center at KU, has co-edited “Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies” with Randall S. Abate, associate professor of law at Florida A&M University. The editors gathered work from a collection of legal and environmental experts from around the world, many of whom hail from indigenous populations. Their entries examine how climate change has affected indigenous peoples on numerous continents and how future legal action may help their cause.

“As far as I know it’s the only book of its kind,” Kronk said. “There are lots on climate change, but none that I know of that examine the effects of it on indigenous people. A lot of times when you hear about climate change people say ‘when or if this happens.’ Well, it’s already happening, and indigenous people especially are being forced to deal with it.”

The book examines climate change through an indigenous perspective in North and South America, the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand, Asia and Africa. The contributors, all either practicing lawyers or law professors, both explain the problems faced by indigenous populations and break down attempts to devise legal, workable solutions.

For example, Inuit citizens living near the Arctic in the United States, Canada, Russia and Greenland are in a region of the world that is warming four times faster than other regions. Yet, litigation brought by residents of the Native Village of Kivalina against companies that contribute large amounts of greenhouse gasses to the environment has been unsuccessful.

As a problem of global scale, climate change is incredibly complex and difficult to deal with via law and policy. There are local, municipal, national and international laws that often conflict.

“The indigenous people of the Arctic are literally losing their homeland,” Kronk said. “But climate change law is complicated, when you add all those levels of law, it’s even more so.”

The book’s 20-plus contributors outline ways indigenous populations can navigate the complex web of climate change law, and review both national-level successes and international-level shortcomings. They examine both options of mitigation law — which intends to halt and reverse climate change affects — and adaptation law, which acknowledges climate change and ways to legally adapt to it.

“Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples” could prove beneficial to legal scholars, environmental lawyers and anyone with an interest in indigenous populations among others.

“Whether as a novice's starting point or expert's desktop reference, I cannot think of a more useful resource for anyone interested in climate policy for indigenous peoples,” said J.B. Ruhl of Vanderbilt University Law School.

Knowing that one legal strategy will not fit all, the books authors spend a good deal of time exploring how specific indigenous populations can deal with climate change realities unique to their part of the world, within the frame of the law. The text also examines how indigenous peoples, often on the front lines of the climate change battle, can inform the rest of the world in dealing with the many associated social and legal issues.

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