Faculty News

Truthout Quotes Pitt Law Professor Thomas Ross Article On Race And Presumed Innocence And Guilt

In a Dec. 10 Op-Ed, non-profit news site Truthout quoted Pitt Law professor Thomas Ross’ William & Mary Law Review article “The Rhetorical Tapestry of Race” following the announcement of police officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo’s non-indictments in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

The editorial cites Ross’s article, quoting "White innocence is the insistence on the innocence or absence of responsibility of the contemporary white person" and observing, “What this means is that white people will not be considered guilty of a crime simply because on the color of their skin. This is due to the fact that white innocence is historically predicated on the criminalization and violation of (primarily) black bodies. The framing of whites throughout United States as inherently innocent and blacks as guilty not only encourages the continued perpetuation of white violence against black people, such as physical police violence, the discriminatory enforcement of laws, and mass incarceration, but also makes it a necessary condition of the state, as the state maintains its power and dominance through the criminalization of (mainly) black people.”

Read more at Truthout in Claudia Garcia-Rojas’ op-ed “The Long History of Presumed White Innocence and Black Guilt."

Publish Date: 
Thursday, December 11, 2014 - 1:45pm

Pitt Law Professor David Harris Speaks To AP About Sheriff Arpaio Racial Profiling Case

Pitt Law Professor and racial profiling expert David A. Harris offered analysis to the Associated Press in a Dec. 4 wire story about embattled Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio's potential contempt of court case. The Arizona Sheriff has been under scrutiny for racial profiling. According to the AP, eighteen months ago, the judge found the sheriff's office had systematically singled out Latinos in regular traffic and special immigration patrols. The AP story quoted Prof. Harris as saying he wouldn't expect the judge to jail Arpaio and instead would probably gradually ramp up the severity of his punishments if the sheriff continued to defy the judge.

On the possibility of jailtime for the Sheriff, Harris told the AP, "I don't think that's very likely, simply because he is an elected official."

Read more in the Associated Press story "Arpaio's Racial Profiling Case Enters New Phase" on ABCNews

Publish Date: 
Thursday, December 4, 2014 - 10:30am

Pitt Law Professor David Thaw Speaks to KDKA About High School Cell Phone Seizure

A KDKA news segment aired yesterday covering the North Huntington police seizure of Norwin High School students’ cell phones in an investigation possibly about the intent to sell sexually explicit pictures. KDKA spoke with University of Pittsburgh School of Law Professor and technology law expert, David Thaw on the matter.

KDKA reporter Harold Hayes reported in the news segment that the involvement of the police indicates not only the potential criminal nature of the probe, but the complicated legal landscape of cell phone examinations.

“If there’s nothing apparent and the school officials turned [the phones] over to law enforcement on the grounds of, ‘well, we heard some rumors,’ then law enforcement on the basis of that can conduct an investigation,” Thaw told KDKA.

Watch and read the news segment “Police Seize Cell Phones From Norwin High School Students” on KDKA.

Publish Date: 
Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 11:45am

Closing the Gap: WQED Special on Equal Pay For Women Features Commentary From Pitt Law Professor Deborah Brake

In a special WQED segment of Pittsburgh 360 that aired Oct. 2, Pitt Law Professor Deborah Brake offered analysis and commentary along with Sabina Deitrick. Afterward WQED premiered a live talk show special Closing the Gap: 50 Years Seeking Equal Pay, which also featured commentary from Professor Brake.

The talk show special is the kick-off of a two-year campaign produced by WQED in partnership with the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh. Simultaneously with the live special was an online moderated social screening event where viewers had concurrent discussions about the program.

In part with the special, is the launch of the Closing the Gap website at http://www.womenwagegap.org. The advocacy website explores why the pay gap between men and women persists and how to improve it and works to arm women with information and skills to assist them in earning fair pay throughout their own careers and toward a secure retirement.

Professor Brake offers commentary in several videos on the site that provide extra content that did not air on the television program, such as commentary on the Fair Pay Act.

Read more at Closing the Gap

Publish Date: 
Friday, October 10, 2014 - 3:30pm

Pitt Law Professor David Harris Speaks to Essential Pittsburgh 90.5 WESA About What Supreme Court Cases Will Be Heard This Term

Pitt Law Professor David A. Harris spoke with Essential Pittsburgh on 90.5 WESA yesterday about possible Supreme Court cases to be heard this term. From WESA: The 2014-2015 session of the Supreme Court began on Monday. The court wasted no time in making news by refusing to rule on same-sex marriage. There are a number of other issues on the docket including first amendment rights in the digital age and whether to hear a challenge to the affordable care act. The current term also marks John Roberts’ 10th year as chief justice. Joining us for an overview of the cases the Supreme Court could be ruling on is University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris.

Listen to the Essential Pittsburgh episode on 90.5 WESA

Publish Date: 
Friday, October 10, 2014 - 11:15am

David Harris on Changing Police Practices In Ferguson

David Harris was interviewed by St. Louis Public Radio about Pittsburgh's experience under a federal consent decree, in light of the likely imposition of a consent decree in Ferguson, MO. Harris said that the consent decree had markedly improved the Pittsburgh Police Department, but that the improvement had not proven to be permanent. Subsequent city and police administrations did not maintain the commitment to the positive changes that were made under the consent decree, and backsliding resulted.

Read the full story here.  

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 11:45am

Arthur Hellman Quoted by Wall Street Journal on Judicial Impeachment

Several members of Congress have called for the resignation of Federal District Judge Mark Fuller, who was arrested on charges of domestic violence. But if Judge Fuller does not resign, the only way of removing him from office is through the process of impeachment, Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman told the Wall Street Journal.
This was a deliberate choice by the Framers, Hellman said. He added that the protections accorded by the Constitution to federal judges are especially important when passions are running high.
“Federal judges have life tenure, and the reason for that is to enable them to resist popular and legislative pressure,” he said. “There is a long history of popular calls for impeaching federal judges, though generally for their [legal] decisions.” A federal judge can’t be forced from the bench outside of the impeachment process even if convicted of a felony, he added.

Read the full Wall Street Journal article here.  


Publish Date: 
Friday, September 26, 2014 - 3:45pm

Arthur Hellman’s Comments Selected as “Quotation of the Day” by the New York Times

Publish Date/Time:  September 22, 2014

Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman’s comments on the arrest of Federal Judge Mark Fuller on domestic violence charges were selected as the “Quotation of the Day” by the New York Times. Hellman said, “The judge is brought down to the level of football players. You don’t normally see people talking about those two occupations in the same paragraph.” The Times story also quoted Hellman’s comments on the dilemma that the case poses for the federal judicial disciplinary process. Hellman described the self-policing role of the judiciary as “a very difficult line to walk.” He added: “How can you maintain public confidence without yielding to the passions of the moment? There’s no formula for that.”

Read the full article here.  

Publish Date: 
Monday, September 22, 2014 - 1:15pm

Pitt Law Professor Michael Madison To Receive 2014 Yale Medal From Association of Yale Alumni

Publish Date/Time:  September 18, 2014

The Association of Yale Alumni will honor Pitt Law Professor Michael J. Madison (Yale ’83) with the 2014 Yale Medal along with four other recipients this November.

Inaugurated in 1952, the Yale Medal is the highest award presented by the Association of Yale Alumni and is conferred solely to recognize and honor outstanding individual service to Yale University.

Yale News indicated that Michael Madison “has shown exceptional commitment to Yale. He has brought endless time, passion, and insight to his Yale volunteer activities. He has been active in a range of Yale volunteer endeavors, in leadership roles in clubs in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Pittsburgh; as reunion co-chair for his class; and as an inspiring leader of the AYA Board of Governors.”

Read more about this honor from Yale News.

Publish Date: 
Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 1:15pm

John Burkoff Comments on Jury Verdict for Leon Ford

Publish Date/Time:  September 16, 2014

Pitt Law Professor John Burkoff speaks to both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review newspapers about the Leon Ford jury verdict and whether he should be retried on the charges on which the jury hung.

Read the Post-Gazette article here and the Tribune-Review article here.   

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 1:30pm

Pitt Law Professor David Harris Talks To Pittsburgh City Paper About New Police Chief

Publish Date/Time:  September 11, 2014

David Harris, a Distinguished Faculty Scholar and police accountability expert at Pitt Law spoke with the Pittsburgh City Paper this week about the mayor’s selection of former Madison, Wis. Police Captain Cameron McLay as the city’s new chief of police.

Harris told the City Paper the new police chief has the task of restoring community trust and pursuing internal police investigations more vigilantly in the wake of the 2010 Jordan Miles police brutality case.

“We had a long federal investigation and at the end of it the U.S. Attorney announced there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute the officers criminally," Harris said in the article. “[But] instead of saying ‘we look forward to investigating’” to see whether bureau policy was violated, then-chief Nate Harper "reinstated [the officers] the next day and put the onus on Jordan Miles."

"That kind of ham-handed, one-sided, insensitive sort of approach really left a scar on the community, Harris said.

Read more about the new police chief in the Pittsburgh City Paper article “Will Pittsburgh's new police chief be able to restore trust in the department?”

Publish Date: 
Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 1:30pm

Pitt Law Professor David Harris Quoted By AP On Justice Dept. Probe Into Ferguson Police

Publish Date/Time:  September 5, 2014

In a Sept. 4 Associated Press article by reporter Eric Tucker, Pitt Law Professor and police accountability expert David A. Harris was quoted about the Justice Department launching an investigative probe on the police conduct in Ferguson, Missouri. 

The article "Justice Dept. Announces Ferguson Police Probe" details how the Justice Department has launched a broad investigation into the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting last month of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer. Harris provided comment on the matter, saying that the Justice Department will comb records of citizens' complaints, the filing of past lawsuits, and the record-keeping in the police department. Read more from the Associated Press. 

Publish Date: 
Friday, September 5, 2014 - 1:30pm

John Burkoff Weighs in on Ferrante Case

Publish Date/Time:  September 3, 2014

Professor John Burkoff was quoted in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on the significance of Pitt professor and homicide accused, Robert Ferrante's, decision to no longer seek a venue for his homicide trial outside of Allegheny County.

Read the full article here.  

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 1:45pm

Jessie Allen on City of Greensburg Lawsuit

Publish Date/Time:  September 3, 2014

Professor Jessie Allen was quoted in a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story about the City of Greensburg's lawsuit against a man who previously filed a federal civil rights claim against the city alleging police brutality. The man's federal claim was dismissed, and the city took the unusual action of filing a separate action in state court, trying to recoup legal fees.


Publish Date: 
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 1:30pm

Arthur Hellman on Federal Judge’s Arrest and Possible Sanctions

Publish Date/Time: September 2, 2014

The arrest of an Atlanta federal judge on spousal abuse charges has called attention to the process for dealing with misconduct by federal judges. The Daily Report, the American Law Media newspaper in Atlanta, called on Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman for expert analysis.

“The days of looking the other way about allegations of misconduct, those are over,” said Hellman, who has testified before Congress on matters of federal judicial discipline. He said U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller could receive a public reprimand from the judicial council of the Eleventh Circuit.

Hellman noted that even if Fuller is acquitted of the misdemeanor charge of family violence, the circuit council can still issue a rebuke, which Hellman said is significant, especially since that is so rare.

Hellman added that those considering Fuller’s case at the Eleventh Circuit likely will be keeping in mind that they don’t necessarily have the final word on Fuller’s fate. Hellman said the Judicial Conference’s national committee on judicial misconduct has taken a more robust oversight role in recent years, following recommendations that led to adoption of new nationally binding rules in 2008.

Read the full article here.              

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 10:30am

Dean Carter Receives Leadership Diversity Award

Dean William M. Carter, Jr. has received the Leadership Diversity Award from the National Diversity Council and the Pennsylvania Diversity Council. Criteria for the award include an extraordinary background of developing and improving organizations, demonstrating honesty, integrity, and fairness, serving as a role model for other individuals in the profession, inspiring a shared vision, and fostering innovation.

Awardees will be recognized at the 2014 Leadership Excellence Awards Luncheon, which will be held at the University of Pittsburgh on October 29, 2014.

Read more about the award here.  



Publish Date: 
Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 11:15am

Arthur Hellman on Judges Who “Stray” From Court Headquarters

Publish Date/Time: August 19, 2014

One of the judges recently appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will have her chambers in San Jose, rather than at the “iconic” court headquarters in San Francisco. This development prompted the Recorder, the California legal newspaper of American Law Media, to look at judges who “stray from headquarters” in establishing their chambers. The Recorder asked Pitt Law Professor Arthur Hellman, an expert on the Ninth Circuit, to comment.

Circuit judges were once encouraged to deliberate under the same roof, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit famously prodding new appointees to relocate to Chicago, Hellman noted. But that philosophy has lost traction as telecommuting takes hold, he said.

“The idea that judges should move to the seat of the court would just seem laughable to some people now,” he observed.

Hellman also noted that when judges move into existing courthouses, it can pay dividends for circuit judges to work alongside their peers in the lower courts.

“There’s a natural tension between appellate and district court judges,” he said. “If they’re in the same building having lunch together now and again, I think it promotes understanding.”

Read the full story here.  

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 10:45am

Pitt Law Professor David Harris Comments On Ferguson Crisis on NBC Nightly News

Pitt Law Professor and Distinguished Faculty Scholar David A. Harris, a legal expert in police misconduct and accountability, was interviewed for an NBC Nightly News segment covering the Ferguson, Missouri police brutality crisis. The segment Should All Police Be Outfitted With Body Cameras? discusses police accountability through greater surveilance and monitoring with body mounted cameras. Professor Harris has written frequently on the topic of police procedure and accountability, most recently with the NYU Press book Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science.

Watch the NBC Nightly News segment here.

Publish Date: 
Monday, August 18, 2014 - 11:15am

Arthur Hellman Quoted in Wall Street Journal on NCAA Athletes’ Antitrust Suit

A federal judge in California has ruled that the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s ban on paying college athletes for use of their likenesses violates federal antitrust law. The NCAA has announced that it will appeal the decision, but the appeal will be heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is not likely to be a favorable venue for an antitrust defendant, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Journal quoted University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman, an expert on the federal courts, who said: “I’m sure the NCAA would rather be in some other circuit.” In several major antitrust cases, the Ninth Circuit has ruled in favor of the plaintiff, only to be reversed by the United States Supreme Court.

Read the full story here.   


Publish Date: 
Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 11:30am

Arthur Hellman Quoted in Washington Post on Near-Full Employment on Federal Appellate Bench

“There’s still a ways to go to get to what might be called full employment,” the Washington Post said in a news story, but “one small segment of the workforce is doing a bit better: the 179-member federal appellate bench.” The Post quoted the analysis of Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman.

On Jan. 1, 2009, before President Obama took office, there were 13 vacancies on the appeals courts, according to Hellman, an authority on the circuit courts. On Jan. 1, 2013, just as the president was starting his second term, there were 16 appellate vacancies.

There are now eight vacancies, and one nominee “will almost certainly be confirmed, leaving only seven vacancies,” Hellman says. So the vacancy rate will have been cut about in half, he notes, down to about 4 percent, with some of the decline attributable to the “nuclear option,” reducing filibusters on most nominees.

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 10:30am