Faculty in the News
Moritz College of Law faculty members are increasingly finding themselves in the spotlight as reporters seek them out for expert comment on today's headlines. The topics cover a wide range, such as the death penalty, artificial insemination, and voting machines. Just as varied are the locations of the publications or news outlets, ranging from small town newspapers to wire services with international distribution.
The following is a list of selected media coverage for Moritz faculty members. The links below will direct you to sites that are not affiliated with the Moritz College of Law. They are subject to change, and some may expire or require registration as time passes. Contact Barbara Peck, Chief Communications Officer, for any media requests at (614) 292-0283.
Recent Media Coverage
Illinois Law Takes Aim At Social Media-Aided Flash Mobs
May 21, 2013
Featured Expert: Peter P. Swire
Professor Peter Swire was quoted in an article in Motherboard, an online magazine, about the 1986 law that governs the collection of data from cellphones. In Illinois, there has been an increase of using cellphones to organize "flash mobs" that often consist of large groups of people gathering to rob people or cause chaos. Illinois governor Pat Quinn has signed a bill that would double the maximum penalty for using social media or phones to organize these kinds of gatherings, as well as allow law enforcement to legally demand information from Internet Service Providers without a warrant. The law from 1986 prevents such action.
However, Swire says the law might be outdated.
“It didn’t take into account what the modern cellphone has — your location, the content of communications that are easily readable, including Facebook posts, chats, texts and all that stuff,” he said.
Professor Michelle Alexander was featured as a guest on Peter Sagal's Constitution USA in a segment titled "Created Equal." The segment focuses on the 14th Amendment and whether certain groups of people are being denied rights guaranteed under that amendment. Alexander argues that citizens with criminal records are treated unfairly, as they are unable in some cases to find employment, housing, and even to secure food stamps when needed.
Alexander said by denying criminals and felons their fundamental rights, a new second-class status is being created.
"In the United States today if you have been labeled a criminal or a felon you are deemed ineligible for many of the basic civil and human rights that were supposedly won in the civil rights movement and that so many of us take for granted," she said. "If we're going to be of, by, and for the people it should include each and every one of us."
How Did The IRS Get The Job Of Vetting Political Activity?
May 20, 2013
Featured Expert: Donald B. Tobin
Professor Donald Tobin was interviewed by the Boston NPR station on its show Here & Now about the Internal Revenue Service's investigation into groups classified as social welfare organizations (marked by the 501(c)(4) tax classification). The IRS was in search of groups that are not focusing primarly on the social welfare of the country, but have a strong political advocacy facet. Political advocacy groups might want to be classified as 501(c)(4) organizations because under that classification they do not have to disclose their donors.
"The key is if you going to be engaged in candidate-type advocacy, and if you're going to intervene in elections and engage in election advocacy, we want disclosure of who your donors are," Tobin said.
“What groups are trying to do here is avoid having to disclose,” Tobin continued. “By earning the classification of social welfare, they’re avoiding the campaign disclosure that’s required for political organizations. So that’s really the underpinning of why we have this mess of the IRS having to get in and investigate and figure out whether an organization is political or not.”
Ohio Republicans Push Law To Penalize Colleges For Helping Students Vote
May 17, 2013
Featured Expert: Daniel P. Tokaji
Professor Daniel Tokaji was quoted in a Talking Points Memo article about a bill proposed by Ohio Republicans that would restrict Ohio public universities from providing residency documents to students used to help them vote. Ohio law requires voters to have lived in Ohio for at least 30 days immediately before an election, while public schools require students to have "gone to an Ohio high school or have a parent or spouse who lives or is employed in the state prior to enrollment," the story says.
Essentially, if the law passes, schools giving out-of-state students documents to prove residency in Ohio 30 days before an election, the schools would also have to consider the out-of-state students as Ohio residents and charge them the same tuition price as in-state students. Tokaji said the law is a blatant attempt at voter repression by Republicans and called it "shameful."
“The way that they’ve written this bill makes it clear that its only purpose is to suppress student voting,” he said. “What I’d say to the Republican Party is this is not only a shameful strategy, but it’s a stupid strategy because, you know, the Republican Party already has a signifcant problem with young voters. They’re on the verge of losing a generation of voters. Their path to victory is not to suppress the student vote, but to win the student vote.”
Mayor Asks Gun Executive to Give ‘Smart Guns’ a Chance
May 16, 2013
Featured Expert: Douglas A. Berman
Professor Douglas Berman was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about the possibility of "smart guns" being developed. These are guns that could only be fired by their owner. Berman suggests a contest to create an effective version of the gun, which he says could save lives.
"More broadly, I think the development of a safer ‘smart gun’ could and should be spurred by some kind of ‘Project X’ private funding scheme through a university or think tank … I suspect just a few millions dollars as a “smart gun” prize (only a fraction of what is being poured into gun policy lobby shops and PACs) could go a very long way to moving forward and ultimately saving innocent lives."
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in a New York Times article about the law regarding investigation by the Internal Revenue Service into social welfare groups. The article circulates on Section 501(c)(4) groups (tax-exempt social welfare groups classified as having no political affiliation), which are defined by the tax code as “civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.” However, a 1960 law states that these groups can intervene in politics as long as their primary focus is on social welfare.
Tobin argues that the tax law actually defines political advocacy much more broadly, “using a facts and circumstances” test that political ads placed by Section 501(c)(4) groups would fail.
Professor Dan Tokaji was quoted in a Cincinnati Enquirer article about whether citizens who cast two ballots in elections have committed voter fraud. Some citizens under investigation say they were confused about the process or worried their original votes, often sent via absentee ballot, wouldn't count. Tokaji said there is often a valid reason someone would cast an absentee ballot and then a provisional one at a voting location.
“It’s certainly not a crime or intentional double voting,” he said. “Officials are not supposed to count provisional ballots if an absentee ballot has been cast.”
Submitting both “doesn’t come close to voting fraud,” he said. “The burden is on the board of elections to make sure two votes don’t count.”
How IRS Review of U.S. Nonprofits Erupted Into Scandal
May 14, 2013
Featured Expert: Donald B. Tobin
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in a Bloomberg Businessweek article about a scandal caused by the Internal Revenue Service’s review of political nonprofit groups. IRS employees had used keywords such as "patriot" and "Tea Party" to flag groups for extra scrutiny. In March 2010 a surge in Tea Party activism had led groups to form across the country, and some applied to the IRS to become 501(c)(4) organizations or social welfare groups.
Tobin said the benefits of 501(c)(4) status mean that the IRS can’t simply look at the organization’s stated purpose.
“You’re trying to get behind what people are saying and make sure what people are saying is really the truth,” he said. “That can seem very invasive but at some point it needs some kind of information about the group to determine whether it’s valid or it’s not.”
Furor could result in less IRS scrutiny of political advocacy groups
May 14, 2013
Featured Expert: Donald B. Tobin
Professor Donald Tobin was quoted in an NBC News article about the Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny on certain types of independent advocacy groups. Such groups were flagged by the IRS for further investigation for if they had names such as "Tea Party."
Tobin, an expert on how tax laws apply to political activity, explained that “the IRS is always in a very precarious position” in trying to enforce rules on 501(c)(4) organizations since “whenever a group is being investigated, it may complain that it is being done for political reasons.”
He went on, explaining that “the IRS needs some way of culling through the mass of information that they get” in order to figure out which groups need further scrutiny. “The IRS does need some sorting device.” But, he said, “I wish the IRS had looked for a neutral term like ‘party’ rather than ‘Tea Party.’”
Dispute at JPMorgan Grows, for All the Wrong Reasons
May 14, 2013
Featured Expert: Steven M. Davidoff
Professor Steven Davidoff wrote an op-ed for the New York Times DealBook over whether to split the jobs of chief executive and chairman at JPMorgan Chase. He called the dispute "silly" and "unimportant." One side of the argument alleges that the company would become more valuable if the positions were split, which Davidoff called a valid point based on the idea that "a separate chairman gives voice to the board by having someone who can stand up to the chief executive." But he said ulitmately it is unclear what the effect would be in this case because all companies are different.
He said if a change is made it shouldn't be about sending a message to the current chief executive and chairman Jamie Dimon or about banks being too big. If this is the case, Davidoff writes, the issue should be brought up by shareholders more directly. In the end, though, he says the fight is silly and unlikely to make an impact.