University of Pittsburgh

Faculty News

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 1:45pm

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals became the first federal appellate court to hold that the Federal Constitution requires states to recognize same-sex marriages. What are the implications of this development for the likelihood that the United States Supreme Court will take up the issue? The Wall Street Journal put that question to Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman, an expert on the federal judiciary.

“On an issue this fundamental, I just don’t see the Court waiting around for the other circuits,” Hellman said. “People expect the Supreme Court to settle issues like this [for the country] with a unified voice, and I’d imagine the Court will do that sooner rather than later.”

Read the full story here.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 9:49am

Photo: Pitt Law Professor Vivian Curran

University of Pittsburgh School of Law Professor Vivian Curran recently was made a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms) by the government of France. The award, originally founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1808, recognizes distinguished academics and figures in French culture and education. It was bestowed on Curran by the Consul General of France during a June 3 ceremony. The innovative approaches to legal scholarship and education Curran has brought to Pitt Law now place her with such Ordre des Palmes Académiques luminaries as 19th-century mathematician Henri Brocard and Olympic gold medalist Michel Alaux.

Instrumental in promoting the teaching of law courses in foreign languages, Curran instituted the Languages for Lawyers program, a course system designed to facilitate communication between lawyers and foreign clients and to teach foreign languages in a legal context. Curran’s class teaching French in a legal context was the first of its kind in the country. She also founded the English for Lawyers course for foreign attorneys and teaches a course on international arbitration in French, which produces students sought after by major American law firms in France and at home. Cultural exchange is a key component of Curran’s instruction, a critical element for an increasingly globalized world, and a facet of her influential book, Learning French Through The Law (Juris Publishing, 1996).

Curran’s work has greatly expanded Pitt Law’s embrace of foreign languages and intercultural exchange. For the past eight years, Curran has worked with a group of French and American judges at the Collège de France on the internationalization of law. In addition to her many English-language publications, Curran publishes frequently in French law journals—work that was recognized with her election in 2013 to the Société Française de Législation Comparée (French Society of Comparative Legislation). In addition, Curran is a member of the American Law Institute and International Academy of Comparative Law. She was also decorated in 2007 with one of the highest honors in the Republic of Austria for her work as the United States appointee to the Austrian General Settlement Fund Committee for Nazi-era property compensation.

Today’s lawyer and legal scholar must be prepared for a world of overlapping international legal configurations, particularly in the spheres of human rights and multinational corporations, topics on which Curran is frequently sought after to speak. She has given talks at universities in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, and Holland. Her articles have appeared in such publications as the Notre Dame Law Review, Hastings Law Journal, Boston College Law Review, Alberta Law Review, American Journal of Comparative Law, Revue Internationale de Droit Comparé, American Journal of International Law, Columbia Journal of European Law, Cornell International Law Journal, and as chapters in numerous books, including one coedited by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The Ordre des Palmes Académiques capstones Curran’s exemplary legal scholarship, hard work, and the innovative practices she continues to impart on the Pitt Law community.

Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 4:27pm

It is quite common for federal district judges to sit by designation on a court of appeals, but only rarely do appellate judges sit by designation on the district bench. Currently, however, Third Circuit Judge D. Michael Fisher has been assigned to handle two cases that are ready for trial in the Western District of Pennsylvania. Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman commented on the development in a story published in the Legal Intelligencer.

Hellman explained that the practice can be beneficial. Since it is common for lawyers to be appointed to the circuit courts from private practice or academia, they can gain valuable experience by handling a trial-level case, which is often messier than what appears before an appeals court. “I think that is very useful,” Hellman said.

The order designating Judge Fisher did not include the reason for the assignment. Chief Judge Theodore A. McKee acknowledged that it would have been preferable to include the reason, and Hellman agreed. The “lack of an explanation is likely to lead people to jump to an erroneous conclusion,” he said.

Read the full article here.  

Friday, June 20, 2014 - 2:21pm

Federal judges are required to file public reports each year on their financial holdings and sources of income. The reporting requirements were instituted as a means of exposing potential conflicts of interest, but they serve that purpose poorly, Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman told the National Law Journal.

The disclosures, Hellman said, are “outdated as soon as they're filed.”

“If you're a knowledgeable lawyer, you know the judges are supposed to be using the conflict identification software [used by the judiciary independently of the disclosure reports],” Hellman said. “You hope that’s going to be effective.”

Read the full article here.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 11:27am

President Obama’s 49 appointments to the federal courts of appeals have dramatically altered the makeup of the federal appellate judiciary, Pitt Law Professor Arthur Hellman told the Washington Post. The transformation, in just 5 1/2 years, marks “a huge shift in a very short period of time,” Hellman said. And it means that Democratic appointed judges “have the ability to control every important case if they wish to” in those nine circuits.

The reason that’s important is because those courts are often the courts of last resort, Hellman told the Post, since the Supreme Court rules only in about 75 cases a year and has not weighed in many areas, including issues of import to business or the First Amendment rights of student internet expression. The appeals courts, in contrast, issue thousands of opinions a year.

Until the high court speaks, “the law that counts is the law of the circuit,” Hellman said.

Read the full story here.  


Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - 1:32pm

Pitt Law Professor Arthur Hellman was quoted in The National Law Journal article "Law Firm Ties That Bind" by Zoe Tillman. The article is part 2 of a series of NLJ articles on judicial transparency. "The question ought to be: 'Does a judge have a stake in the firm's continued financial success?'" Hellman said in the article which relied upon his expertise in judiciary ethics. Read the article on The National Law Journal.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - 11:54am

Professor Vivian CurranPitt Law Professor Vivian Curran is slated to receive the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques (The Order of Academic Palms) from the Consul General of France, Mr. Oliver Serot Almeras. She will receive this highest honor on Tuesday June 3, 2014 at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

The Order des Palmes Académiques, originally instituted in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte, is one of the highest French government honors bestowed upon academics and cultural figures.

Please join in celebrating Professor Curran's achievement at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in the Alcoa Room for the ceremony and following reception.

June 3, 2014
6:00 p.m.
University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Alcoa Room, Barco Law Building, Second Floor
3900 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 2:13pm

Pitt Law Professor Arthur Hellman was quoted by the Washington Post in an article on opposition to some of President Obama’s judicial nominees by members of the President’s own party.

One nominee who has aroused opposition is Michael Boggs, nominated to serve on the federal district court in Atlanta, Georgia. According to the Post, Boggs “supported keeping the Confederate emblem on the Georgia state flag; backed measures that would have required parents to accompany a daughter to an abortion clinic if she was younger than 18 and would have posted the names of abortion doctors and how many procedures they had performed; and voted to ban same-sex marriage.”

Hellman said it is rare for a district court nominee to inspire such opposition because such judges lack the power and reach of circuit court judges.

“You have three red flags there in one nominee, so it creates this huge controversy,” Hellman said. “These fights are more important to the outside groups than to the senators, but because they’re important to the outside groups, they become important to the senators.”

Read the full story here.  


Friday, May 16, 2014 - 2:32pm


Pitt Law J.D. students Yelena Cheskidova and Eduardo Santaolalla took home the Best Written Submission prize at the 13th Annual Law Student Tax Challenge in January. They’ve shared their retrospective experiences at the competition in the latest spring issue of the ABA Section of Taxation NewsQuarterly in an article by their competition coach, Pitt Law Professor Anthony Infanti.

“Looking back on it, this was one of the most rewarding experiences of our law school careers,” the students said in the article. “It not only challenged our tax knowledge but allowed us to grow as individuals and come together as a team even though our values regarding risk aversion are very different.”

Read more from the winning team in the latest issue of NewsQuarterly at the American Bar Association website (PDF download).

Thursday, May 15, 2014 - 10:52am


Oxford University Press has announced the publication of the fifth volume in the CILE Studies series. In a collaboration between CILE, headed by Pitt Law Professor Ronald Brand, and Oxford University Press, Conflicts in a Conflict: A Conflict of Laws Case Study on Israel and the Palestinian Territories, written by Prof. Michael Karayanni, the Bruce W. Wayne Chair in International Law at the Faculty of Law of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, provides an in-depth look at conflict of laws issues in conflict territories.

The book will be released May 28, 2014. According to Oxford University Press, Conflicts in a Conflict “outlines and analyzes the legal doctrines instructing the Israeli courts in private and civil disputes involving the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, since 1967 until the present day.”

Interested readers may include scholars of Conflict of Law and Public International Law and those interested in the legal, historical and political aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This study of the conflict of laws in a war setting and conflict of laws in a jurisdictionally ambiguous location, will greatly serve scholars and practitioners in similarly troubled and complex legal situations elsewhere.

View Conflicts in a Conflict at the Oxford University Press.

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