KU ranked No. 18 among ‘best value’ law schools by National Jurist magazine

Thursday, August 14, 2014

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas School of Law is the No. 18 “best value” law school in the nation, according to National Jurist magazine.

The ranking highlights affordable law schools whose graduates perform exceptionally well on the bar exam and have had real success finding legal jobs. National Jurist ranked the top 20 schools and assigned a letter grade to the other 33 honorees.

“We are proud of this ranking because it reflects our broader definition of value – one that goes beyond our affordable tuition to consider how well our graduates are prepared to excel in their careers,” said Stephen Mazza, dean of the law school.

KU was one of only four schools on the “best value” list to also appear in the top 25 percent of law schools whose 2013 graduates were hired by the nation’s largest law firms, according to a ranking published in February by the National Law Journal.

“Employers know that a KU Law degree is synonymous with in-depth training and a strong work ethic,” Mazza said. “We also have reduced our class size to better reflect job opportunities in a recovering legal market and launched innovative career placement programs that we hope will only improve our students’ employment success.”

For example, seven students spent two days interviewing and networking in Dallas this week through the law school’s new Traveling “On-Campus” Interview Program, an initiative that allows students to interview with employers in select cities and have all of their expenses underwritten by the law school.

“While on-campus interviews will always be important, new and innovative efforts like the Traveling OCI Program ensure our students have direct access to top employers in some of the most dynamic legal markets across the country,” said Arturo Thompson, assistant dean of career services, who accompanied the students in Dallas. “As we expand the program to new cities, it will place our students on a level playing field with schools in Texas, Colorado and the Washington, D.C., region.”

National Jurist gives employment success the greatest weight in the “best value” rankings. The magazine also looks at a number of other academic and financial variables, including price of tuition, student debt accumulation, bar passage rate and cost of living.

KU law tuition for the 2013-14 academic year for a first-year Kansas resident was $19,623.

See the complete list of honorees and learn more about the ranking methodology

Media advisory: KU law expert can discuss Supreme Court's ruling in Hobby Lobby case

Monday, June 30, 2014

LAWRENCE — Rick Levy, the J.B. Smith Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Kansas School of Law, is available to discuss the upcoming Supreme Court ruling in Sebelius v Hobby Lobby Stores. The case addresses the question of whether Hobby Lobby Stores can be required to provide contraception to employees as part of the Affordable Care Act.

LEVY CAN DISCUSS: The court’s ruling, the decision’s constitutional implications and what it means for the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

To schedule an interview, contact Mindie Paget at mpaget@ku.edu or (785) 864-9205.

BIOGRAPHY: Richard Levy speaks frequently with the media on constitutional topics and cases, such as school finance litigation, abortion rights and other controversial decisions. He joined the KU Law faculty in 1985, having received his law degree with honors from the University of Chicago Law School. Before joining the faculty, he served as a clerk for Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. In teaching and research, he has focused on constitutional law, administrative law and government institutions. Levy is a prolific scholar who was named a Postlethwaite Research Fellow, 1996-1999, and was named the inaugural J.B. Smith Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law in 2007.

Professorship honors former law faculty member

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas School of Law alumnus Art Piculell of Portland, Oregon, and his late wife, Dee, have made a $500,000 gift to establish a professorship honoring the late Professor Earl B. Shurtz, who taught at KU Law from 1955 to 1977.

Art said he appreciated the opportunity to spend time with Professor Shurtz.

“We would discuss the subjects of law and the subjects of life,” Art said. “He had a genuine concern for his students. For instance, if he saw you sitting in the library, he would come over and talk to you. That’s who he was.”

Art and Dee met at Emporia State University, where in 1959 they earned bachelor’s degrees, Dee in music education, Art in psychology and sociology. The couple married and moved to Wichita, where Art became a social worker with the Sedgwick County Board of Social Welfare and Dee was a grade school teacher. Later, they moved to Scott City, where Art was the county welfare director of both Scott and Wichita counties and Dee taught school. In 1962, they moved to Lawrence so that Art could attend law school. Dee taught grade school in Lawrence and served as president of the law wives’ club.

“We just basically are paying back for what we got,” Art said. “Dee and I were very fortunate to get our educations and to benefit from that.”

In 1965, after Art earned his law degree, the couple returned to western Kansas, where Art practiced law in Cimarron. In 1972, Art and Dee moved to Portland, Oregon, where Art was admitted to practice law in the state. In Portland, the couple developed residential communities and invested in commercial buildings in Oregon, Washington and Arizona through their companies, Homesite Development and the Piculell Group.

“I enjoyed practicing law, but I knew that wasn’t my bent in life,” Art said. “The benefits that I received from studying the law were applicable to the real estate businesses we ventured into.”

This is the second professorship Art and Dee Piculell established at the law school; in 2004, they created the J.B. Smith Distinguished Professor in Constitutional Law.

Stephen Mazza, dean of the School of Law, expressed appreciation for the gift.

“As so many of our graduates have, Art took the analytical skills he learned in law school and used them to gain success in an area outside of a traditional legal practice. His earlier gift to the law school was incredibly generous, and to follow that with another major gift speaks to his and Dee’s love for the school and their generosity,” Mazza said.

The gift counts toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s $1.2 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above seeks support to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery and drive economic growth to seize the opportunities of the future.

The campaign is 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.

Media advisory: KU trademark and Indian law experts available to discuss Redskins ruling

Thursday, June 19, 2014

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas School of Law experts in Indian law and trademark law are available to discuss today’s U.S. Patent & Trademark Office ruling that cancels the Washington Redskins trademark registration, calling the football team’s name “disparaging to Native Americans.” Elizabeth Kronk Warner, associate professor of law and director of KU’s Tribal Law & Government Center, can discuss the ruling itself and related efforts to eradicate the name and mascot. Andrew Torrance, professor of law, can discuss all aspects of the ruling.

To schedule an interview, contact Mindie Paget at mpaget@ku.edu or (785) 864-9205.

BIOGRAPHIES: Elizabeth Kronk Warner is a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and serves as an appellate judge for the tribe’s appeals court in Michigan. In 2012, she joined the faculty at KU Law, where she teaches courses in federal Indian law, Native American natural resources and property. Before entering academia, Warner practiced environmental, Indian and energy law in Washington, D.C. She previously served as chair of the Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section and was elected to the Association’s national board of directors in 2011. She received her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School and her bachelor’s from Cornell University.

Andrew Torrance speaks frequently with the media on topics and cases in patent, trademark, copyright, trade secrecy and Internet law. A visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a fellow of the Gruter Institute, Torrance has delivered more than 100 scholarly presentations at universities, research organizations, governments, and intergovernmental agencies in seven countries. Before joining the KU Law faculty in 2005, Torrance practiced biotechnology patent law at Fish & Richardson PC, the world’s largest intellectual property law firm, and served as in-house patent counsel at Inverness Medical Innovations and Stirling Medical Innovations. He received his doctorate from Harvard University, his law degree from Harvard Law School and his bachelor’s from Queen’s University, Canada.

Law alumnus named director of School of Public Affairs and Administration

Thursday, June 12, 2014

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas has named an alumnus who is a nationally recognized public administrator as the new director of its School of Public Affairs and Administration.

Reggie Robinson, who has held numerous leadership and advisory posts at the state and federal level, was selected to lead the top-ranked school after a nationwide search. As director, Robinson will return to the institution where he earned his law degree in 1987.

“I’m pleased to appoint an experienced administrator and dedicated public servant,” said Danny Anderson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Reggie captivated those he met with his strategic view and knowledge of the public sector. KU is fortunate to attract a person with administrative talent and distinction in the field as a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.”

Most recently, Robinson has been professor of law and director for the Center of Law and Government at Washburn University. He has also served as the president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents and chief of staff to the KU chancellor. He has served the federal government beginning as a White House fellow in 1993 and in a number of senior positions with the Department of Justice, including service as deputy associate attorney general of the United States. Robinson also served active duty in the Army.

“I am thoroughly pleased about this exciting opportunity to lead one of my alma mater's truly outstanding academic units,” Robinson said. “I am deeply grateful to the leadership of the university and the College for this opportunity. I can't wait to work with the distinguished set of colleagues – both faculty and staff – that await in the School of Public Affairs and Administration.”

Robinson has a strong record of public service focused on civil rights, juvenile justice and higher education policy. Throughout his career and volunteer experiences he has encouraged people with leadership capacity to step outside their own assumptions and perspectives, bridge different points of view, see common ground and help others see it as well.

“Reggie understands government and public service from the inside out. He knows how to move policy and institutions forward, often turning obstacles into opportunities. The school welcomes this experienced, perceptive and caring leader as our new director, and together we look forward to advancing teaching and research in the public service,” said Steven Maynard-Moody, professor in the school and chair of the search committee.

Robinson replaces Marilu Goodyear, who will step down after nine years as director. Goodyear has been appointed as the assistant vice chancellor for academic program development for the Edwards Campus and will continue to teach in the School of Public Affairs and Administration.

The School of Public Affairs and Administration is consistently ranked as the best graduate school in the nation in city management and urban policy, and it is among the top five graduate schools in the nation in public management administration (2013 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools).

The distinction reflects the school’s commitment to providing a top-notch master’s degree in public administration education to those who seek to manage at the local, city, county, state, national or international levels, or in the nonprofit sector. The MPA degree is offered at the Edwards and Lawrence campuses and in Topeka. The school is also currently celebrating the 10th anniversary of its undergraduate degree, which is available through the Edwards Campus. In addition, many of the school’s doctoral graduates are now professors at universities with renowned public administration departments.

Through its Public Management Center, the school provides award-winning professional development programs to the state and regional workforce: Kansas Certified Public Manager Program, Emerging Leaders Academy, Law Enforcement Leadership Academy, Supervisory Leadership Training, along with custom courses and annual training events, including the Inspiring Women in Public Administration Conference, National Forum for Black Public Administrators Executive Leadership Institute and the Kansas City / County Management Conference.

Professor: Limit regulation on creating new life forms

Monday, June 09, 2014

LAWRENCE — When the first widespread computer virus was born, government didn’t shut down all computer science research. Similarly, now that synthetic biology, a field of science that uses standardized pieces of DNA to build new life forms, medications, industrial processes and biological systems, is growing rapidly, it should not be overregulated at the cost of future innovations, a University of Kansas law professor says.

Andrew Torrance, professor of law and Docking Faculty Scholar, has co-authored a new study on synthetic biology, intellectual property and the standards that govern the field with Linda Kahl of the BioBricks Foundation, the leading synthetic biology institution. It has been published in the Santa Clara High Technology Law Journal, and it is based on a 2012 study Torrance was commissioned by the National Academies to prepare. 

Synthetic biology is being used to design new medications to fight malaria, is developing radically new technologies such as a television in which yeast cells genetically engineered to bioluminesce act as the television’s pixels, produce biological computers and create living organisms from raw organic chemicals. Yet there is also concern that this “dual use” technology could be used with malicious intent to design new forms of disease pathogens or that there could be accidents.

“From its founding the synthetic biology community has been concerned about ensuring safety, health and ethical practices,” said Torrance, who holds a doctorate in biology from Harvard. “The community has explicitly committed itself to uses of the technology that benefit humanity and avoidance of uses that could endanger public safety, especially those with nefarious purposes.”

In the study, Torrance and Kahl examine all of the proposed standards that have been proposed to regulate synthetic biology, including standards regarding structure, function and description of genetic components, data sharing, biosecurity and law. In fact, several years ago the BioBricks Foundation asked Torrance to contribute to the early drafting of a sort of “legal constitution” for synthetic biology, called the BioBricks Public Agreement, intended to ensure the safe and beneficial invention and use of standard biological parts.

Torrance and Kahl also consider the effects that intellectual property rights may have on encouraging or discouraging research in the burgeoning field. Like other areas of biotechnology, there is no federal statute specifically designed to govern synthetic biology. Instead, an influential regulation called the Coordinated Framework assigns agencies such as the FDA, EPA and USDA with shared responsibility for ensuring safe practices. One unique factor of synthetic biology is the degree to which its research community has engaged in careful self-regulation to keep the field open, democratic and safe, Torrance said. As the science progresses and the methods and raw materials of synthetic biology become ever more available, practicable and attractive to citizen biologists in the general public, Torrance expects that trend continuing.

“I see synthetic biology becoming further democratized — something that almost anyone with a modest biological background can become involved in,” Torrance said. “Just as software programming became a common and widespread skill in which millions of people now participate, programming DNA, designing new biological machines and constructing novel organisms is rapidly leaving the confines of professional laboratories and entering the home laboratories of citizen biotinkerers.”

However, as more people get involved in a field that builds new organisms and puts together building blocks of DNA, there is understandably a concern for accidents or misuse. The field has been very open in its dealings, even regularly working cooperatively with FBI agents specifically assigned to monitor the field. The field uses an open science ethos, arguing that its knowledge should be available to all, and that the more people who take part, the broader the knowledge base that can be built, and more potential there is both for beneficial discoveries and for detecting and preventing malicious uses.

There is also debate as to whether the field is a threat to traditional drug development companies and whether the ability to patent DNA can effectively prevent people outside of large corporations and major university research labs to take part. There are yet to be good answers to those questions, such as whether a fear of being sued will stifle innovation by individuals in the field, as the science is still only about a decade old. Torrance suggests that answers will come as evidence accumulates and legal conflicts multiply.

While there has yet to be an overwhelming push by policymakers or the public to write new laws or create new standards governing the field, the potential for accidents such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl may exist.

“It is too early to know precisely what roles law will play in the development of synthetic biology and its innovations,” Torrance said. “However, since law will certainly influence the evolution of synthetic biology, it is vital to think carefully and strategically about constructive roles law should play in ensuring beneficial innovation, biosafety and sound ethical practices.

“As the field of synthetic biology explodes there will be an increasing number of success stories, but along with these, there will almost certainly be accidents, ethical breaches and malicious misuses. It is vitally important to create a legal framework that fosters the benefits of this technology while vigilantly guarding against bad behavior. It is exceedingly difficult to develop any new technology if you’re not willing to take some risks. The only way to eliminate risk entirely is to eliminate innovation. Wise laws can help assure that the great promise of synthetic biology is achieved at minimal risk.”

Media advisory: Law professor can comment on Supreme Court bankruptcy ruling

Monday, June 09, 2014

LAWRENCE — Stephen Ware, professor of law at the University of Kansas, is available to speak with media about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today on Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison, 12-1200, a bankruptcy case relating to the Constitution’s requirement that some matters be decided by judges with life tenure, which bankruptcy judges lack.

Ware is an expert in bankruptcy law, judicial selection and alternative dispute resolution. His scholarship has been cited by the Supreme Court and in at least 20 other cases. He is the author of two books and more than 30 scholarly articles, and he has testified before both houses of Congress and in court as an expert witness. He has appeared several times on television and radio, and he has been quoted on bankruptcy law in The New York Times and other publications. He coaches the KU Law bankruptcy moot court team as well as teaching all of the law school's courses in bankruptcy and debtor-creditor law.    

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that although bankruptcy judges lack life tenure, they may rule on matters the Constitution otherwise reserved for life-tenured judges if the parties consent to the bankruptcy judge having that power or if the bankruptcy judge proposes a ruling and a life-tenured judge reviews that proposal anew. Ware can explain the ruling and comment on its implications.

Professor: Arguments about debt, bankruptcy similar to onetime debtors prisons

Thursday, May 22, 2014

LAWRENCE — When it comes to debt and bankruptcy, some things never change. While people are no longer imprisoned for failing to pay their debts as England did a century ago, a new article by a University of Kansas law professor shows that the key arguments about enforcing debts or relieving them in bankruptcy have changed very little since then.

Stephen Ware, professor of law, has authored “A 20th Century Debate About Imprisonment for Debt,” which explores the parliamentary debate in England circa 1909 about whether to continue imprisoning debtors and notes how current debates about consumer debt in the United States rest on some very similar arguments. The article will be published by the American Journal of Legal History.

“Many people who settled in the 13 colonies that became the United States were fleeing debts in England, so it’s no surprise that the U.S. ended debtors’ prisons long before England, which continued to use them well into the 20th century,” Ware said. 

While the United States has done away with debtors’ prisons, many parallels exist today. For example, debtors who lose lawsuits can be ordered by courts to appear in person to answer questions about their income and assets. If debtors fail to appear at that time and place, they can be held in contempt of court, and an arrest warrant will be issued. The debtor can stop the arrest by agreeing to a payment plan, but if the debtor again misses payments, he or she may be arrested.

“While technically jailed for contempt of court, not the underlying debt, that distinction may be lost on a struggling debtor who cannot afford a lawyer to explain it and advocate for the debtor,” Ware said.

More fundamental parallels connect the England Ware studied with the United States of today. Then and now, when unpaid creditors win a lawsuit, they don’t actually receive money but simply have a legal document (judgment) stating they are owed money. In order to receive payment, some sort of additional pressure on the debtor is often required.

“But what types of pressure should the law permit, and when should debtors be relieved of that pressure by filing for bankruptcy? Those are the perennial questions,” said Ware, who has taught debt-collection and bankruptcy law for more than 15 years.

Today that pressure on judgment debtors often takes the form of wage garnishment. States have varying restrictions on how much, if any, of a person’s wages may be garnished, and there is a federal limit on how much can be withheld as well. Bankruptcy usually ends garnishment and other forms of debt-collection pressure, Ware said, so about 1 million debtors a year file for bankruptcy in the United States. Bankruptcy relief was much less generous in early 20th century England, according to Ware’s article.

In both 1909 England and the United States today, some argue that a typical debtor’s wages and assets should be protected from the collection efforts of creditors, especially those whose business practices seem designed to exploit unsophisticated or desperate borrowers. In contrast, the other side in this perennial debate argues that reducing the pressure on debtors to pay increases lenders’ losses from bad loans and thus makes them less likely to lend to borrowers who lack valuable collateral or strong payment histories.

“Easily available credit for low- and moderate-income borrowers was the key issue in England a century ago and is still central in today’s consumer debt and bankruptcy debates,” Ware said. “In every era, it seems, some argue that a plentiful supply of consumer credit lowers interest rates and helps people borrow in ways that improve their lives, while others argue that it tempts people to live beyond their means — with bad results not just for those debtors unable to pay but also for their families and society as a whole.”

These recurring issues appear in several of Ware’s classes, including bankruptcy and consumer law. While bankruptcy law focuses on relief for those unable to pay their debts, “consumer law generally tries to protect people from incurring too much debt — or the wrong kinds of debt — in the first place,” Ware said.

Consumer law is changing rapidly as a new federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, considers new regulations on several aspects of consumer credit agreements, including consumer arbitration, a topic on which Ware has testified before both houses of Congress and as an expert witness in court.

Consumer credit agreements are now influenced by far more complex regulation and technology than existed in the era of English debtors’ prisons, when credit was usually extended by a local merchant who knew the borrower personally. Today’s credit bureaus electronically track billions of transactions a year and assemble the data on each consumer in detailed reports available to lenders thousands of miles away who allow consumers to apply for credit online.

While more complex regulation and technology create new issues for lawyers, Ware emphasizes that the basic policy questions for lawmakers remain largely the same as they were generations ago.

“Usury law and other regulations of consumer credit agreements have been with us for centuries, and they raise very deep, timeless questions about human nature,” Ware said. “When are people suited to deciding for themselves which legally binding agreements to make, and when do they need lawmakers to restrict their choices so risky options are off the menu? And if lawmakers prohibit certain credit agreements as too risky, does that reduce bad loans or just drive them to a black market?”

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