University of Pittsburgh

Faculty News

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 9:15pm

Professor David Harris commented on proposed changes to Pennsylvania's death penalty statute that would bring it in line with U.S. Supreme Court law on the execution of the mentally disabled.  The Supreme Court created new law on the subject some years back, but Pennsylvania has yet to update its law.  Professor Harris said that "[a] s long as the state is not imposing the death penalty on anyone that might qualify as mentally disabled, [the lack of guidelines] isn’t a problem. But as soon as they get close to doing something like that, it becomes a problem.”


Link to Essential Public Radio story

Monday, October 31, 2011 - 9:27pm

Professor Deborah Brake participated in the Sixth Annual Seton Hall Employment and Labor Law Scholars’ Forum held on October 28-29, 2011, at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, New Jersey.  Professor Brake was an invited senior scholar and presented commentary on scholarship by Junior Faculty at the Forum.

Monday, October 31, 2011 - 9:23pm

Professor Larry Frolik was a presenter at the University of Michigan Law School that hosted the conference “The Uniform Probate Code: Remaking of American Succession Law” on October 21, 2011.  Frolik’s talk, “The Uniform Probate Code Substituted Judgment Standard for Guardian Decisions:  A Proposal for Reform” will be published (his co-author is Professor Linda Whitton) in the Michigan Journal of Law Reform.


On October 22, 2011, Frolik was a featured speaker at Temple Law School Symposium on “Aging in the United States: The Next Civil Rights Movement?”  Frolik’s talk was entitled “Guardianship: The Need to Balance Protection with the Individual’s Right of Autonomy.”

Monday, October 31, 2011 - 9:17pm

On Saturday, October 29, 2011, Professor Lu-in Wang spoke at the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the American Association of University Women, on “Not So Few, but …: Women in Law,” comparing and contrasting the progress of women in legal education and the legal profession with women’s progress as reported in the 2009 AAUW report, “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.”

Monday, October 31, 2011 - 9:03pm

Professor David Harris commented on a case in which a judge withdrew a defendant's guilty plea and incarcerated him, without having the defendant's lawyer present.  After the defendant pled guilty in an agreed-upon plea bargain with prosecutors, the defendant's attorney left the courtroom while the defendant underwent post-plea processing.  When court personnel overheard the defendant muttering his dissatisfaction, the judge brought the defendant forward and asked him if he had any complaint.  The defendant recounted some reasons for his unhappiness with the case.  Without calling for the defendant's lawyer to return to the courtroom, the judge withdrew the defendant's plea and revoked his bond, putting him in jail, even though the defendant had not been held in custody before the plea, and the plea deal had not called for incarceration.  Professor Harris told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that many defendants pleading guilty express "buyer's remorse," but that this was no reason to withdraw a plea, and that any such action certainly call for the presence of the man's attorney. "The judge, obviously, knew [the defendant] was represented, yet...made no effort to get his attorney back there," Professor Harris said. 


Post-Gazette article link

Sunday, October 30, 2011 - 8:58pm

Professor David Harris commented on the U.S. Attorney David Hickton's civil rights roundtable.  In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Professor Harris explained how he helped form the group, drawing on similar efforts in other cities that he studied and wrote about in his book, "Good Cops: The Case for Preventive Policing" (2005).  According to Professor Harris, after the police beating of CAPA High School honor student Jordan Miles and the decision not to prosecute the officers involved, "I had frankly never seen [police-community relations in Pittsburgh] as bad as this, at least since the consent decree" in 1997, when the Pittsburgh Police Bureau agreed to Department of Justice oversight.  The U.S. Attorney's roundtable approach, Harris said, is an initiative that can turn things in a positive direction.

Link to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article

Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 9:13am

The National Law Journal recently investigated travel funding for federal appellate judges – most of whom do travel – and found that the majority have sponsorship dollars supporting that travel. Judges are required to disclose most travel reimbursements from private sources and those financial disclosure reports, which are not readily available to the public, were obtained by The National Law Journal through a request made under the Ethics in Government Act to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.


Professor Hellman discussed with the National Law Journal the important factors involved in determining the ethicality or legality surrounding these sponsorships.  Read the full article here.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 9:09am

Prof. Rhonda Wasserman presented a paper, “Secret Class Action Settlements,”  to the Pitt Law faculty on October 25, 2011.  She will present the paper at an upcoming meeting of the Section of Litigation to be held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools in January 2012.


Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting program  and list of speakers

Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 9:04am

On October 21, 2011, Professor Ronald Brand moderated and spoke on a panel on “Private International Law in Action” at the International Law Weekend, sponsored by the American Branch of the International Law Association.  Brand’s talk focused on recent developments in jurisdiction law in both the EU and the United States.  Brand also took part in the ABILA annual meeting as a member of its Executive Committee.


ABILA Conference Program: link

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 8:27pm

Professor John Burkoff commented on the effect of a new court decision on the conviction of former UN chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter.  Ritter, 50, was convicted in a Pennsylvania court of attempted online sexual contact with a minor; the person was an undercover police officer posing as a minor in an adult chat room.  At his trial, prosecutors used records of two prior investigations of Ritter in New York state for similar behavior; Ritter was never charged or tried in those incidents.  A New York court had sealed the records, but the Pennsylvania prosecutors convinced another judge to unseal the records and release them.  A New York court has now said that unsealing those records was an error.  But, according to Professor Burkoff, that may not help Ritter.  Professor Burkoff told the Pocono Record that "Pennsylvania trials are governed by Pennsylvania law. Even if New York authorities screwed up under New York law, that is neither dispositive nor precedential in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania law controls, not New York law."


Pocono Record article: link

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