Tagged: Expert commentary

Prof. Thomas McDonnell on military detention for terrorism suspects captured in the US 0

Prof. Thomas McDonnell on military detention for terrorism suspects captured in the US

Pace Law School Prof. Thomas McDonnell, an expert on terrorism, is available to speak to the media about the Senate rejecting a provision that would have prevented indefinite military detention for terrorism suspects captured in the United States.

According to Prof. McDonnell, “By authorizing indefinite detention, the Senate bill violates international law, if not the US Constitution. By implicitly authorizing the indefinite detentions of Americans, it violates both.”

Prof. McDonnell is author of The United States, International Law and the Struggle against Terrorism (Routledge, 2009), which discusses critical legal issues raised by US responses to the terrorist threat, analyzing whether the actions taken by the Bush-Cheney Administration and now the Obama Administration have complied with international law. The book highlights such issues as torture, indefinite detentions, right to trial, military commissions, the death penalty, targeted killing, the right of self-determination, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Prof. Bennett Gershman on the rights of protestors to occupy Zuccotti Park 0

Prof. Bennett Gershman on the rights of protestors to occupy Zuccotti Park

Pace Law School Professor Bennett Gershman is available to speak to the media about the police sweep Tuesday morning clearing the protestors out of Zuccotti Park.

“The police action sweeping the Occupy Wall Street protesters out of Zuccotti Park was expected. So were the confrontation and arrests. The protesters’ right to camp out in the park, when balanced against the governmental interest in preventing health and safety hazards, and allowing other people to use the park, made the sweep inevitable, and probably lawful. It is also likely that the aggressive police action will galvanize the movement to protest in other places and in other ways. But one thing is clear: unless overruled by a court, the city won’t allow the protesters to camp out in the park again.”

Thomas Bourgeois on keeping power flowing to critical infrastructure following natural disaster 0

Thomas Bourgeois on keeping power flowing to critical infrastructure following natural disaster

Thomas Bourgeois, deputy director of the Pace Energy & Climate Center, is available to speak to the media about keeping power flowing to critical infrastructure following natural disasters like this weekend’s freak snowstorm that left more than 3 million customers in the dark. As this record-setting storm reminded us, we can expect increases in the number and severity of extreme weather events, thanks to climate change—making preparedness ever more essential going forward.

One measure that’s gaining ground recently is on-site Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generators at critical infrastructure sites. They can be configured to run independent of the electrical grid, providing heating, cooling and power to critical facilities during and after an emergency situation. Unlike diesel-based emergency back-up generators, they are used every day, so their reliability in an emergency is assured. CHP generators typically are fueled by natural gas piped in underground, which is resilient to many types of disasters that lead to loss of power.

Pace Law School’s Energy & Climate Center, which is the U.S. Department of Energy’s Northeast Clean Energy Application Center, is working on several projects related to CHP and emergency preparedness.

Prof. David Cassuto on the lawsuit against SeaWorld for keeping five wild-caught orcas 0

Prof. David Cassuto on the lawsuit against SeaWorld for keeping five wild-caught orcas

Pace Law School Professor David Cassuto, an expert on animal law and ethics, is available to speak to the press about a lawsuit expected to be filed by PETA and others alleging that SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is violating the Constitution’s ban on slavery by keeping five wild-caught orcas.

“This case is intriguing because, unlike other similar lawsuits arguing for ‘personhood’ for animals, it relies on the 13th Amendment prohibition against ‘slavery,’ which does not explicitly reference ‘persons’ or ‘people.’ Because the case hinges on the definition of slavery, it could push the court to articulate new reasons to explain the legality of keeping animals in captivity.”

Pace Energy & Climate Center executive director director on EPA regulating power plant greenhouse gas emissions 0

Pace Energy & Climate Center executive director director on EPA regulating power plant greenhouse gas emissions

Franz Litz, executive director of Pace Law School’s Energy & Climate Center, is available to speak to the media about the Environmental Protection Agency setting greenhouse gas regulations for power plants and refineries. It is expected that EPA will release a new schedule for issuing regulations on Friday, after it missed two previous deadlines in July and September.

“This is EPA’s first real attempt to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from sources other than cars and trucks. This regulation is well overdue. There is a lot at stake for states like those in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that have already stepped up to reduce emissions from power plants. Now, EPA must follow through to ensure other states do their part. As we enter an election year, EPA should not bow to political pressure.”

Prof. Emily Waldman on Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC 0

Prof. Emily Waldman on Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC

Pace Law School Prof. Emily Waldman, an expert on employment law, is available to speak to the media about Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC, which will be argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

“Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC is a major–and fascinating–First Amendment case. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the threshold legal question here: whether courts should recognize a ‘ministerial exception’ to employment discrimination laws. Although employment discrimination laws generally allow religious institutions to discrimination on the basis of religion, they do not say anything about their ability to discriminate on the basis other protected characteristics like race, gender, or disability. Starting in the 1970s, though, the federal courts began to recognize a broader ‘ministerial exception,’ grounded in the Establishment Clause and/or the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, whereby religious institutions are free to make all employment decisions with regard to their clergy. Today, 12 federal appeals courts and numerous state supreme courts agree that some sort of ministerial exception should exist. But there isn’t consensus as to the exception’s reach.

That’s where this case comes in. The plaintiff, Cheryl Perich, is a parochial school teacher who taught secular subjects to elementary school students, but also had some religious duties, like leading her class in prayer and teaching a religious class. She claims that she was fired after complaining about discriminatory treatment on the basis of her disability, in violation of the ADA. In ruling on her case, the Supreme Court will have to decide whether the ministerial exception should exist at all, and if so, whether and how it covers employees who perform a mix of secular and religious functions. While it is very likely that the Court will recognize the ministerial exception, the question of whether it should cover Ms. Perich is a much closer one. At tomorrow’s arguments, the church is likely to emphasize the religious aspects of Ms. Perich’s position, while Ms. Perich will probably argue that most of her day was spent teaching secular subjects and that her disability retaliation claim won’t implicate questions of religious doctrine.”

Prof. Thomas McDonnell on the questionable legality of the U.S. killing Anwar Al-Awlaki 0

Prof. Thomas McDonnell on the questionable legality of the U.S. killing Anwar Al-Awlaki

Pace Law School Prof. Thomas McDonnell, an expert on terrorism is available to speak to the media about the questionable legality of the U.S. killing Anwar Al-Awlaki.

“The recent killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki is of questionable legality because it was carried out in Yemen, a country with which the United States has neither engaged in armed conflict nor intervened in a civil war on behalf of the government. Had this attack been carried out in Afghanistan or the tribal areas of Pakistan, it would more clearly pass the test of legality—though still morally questionable and unsound as a matter of policy. That Al-Awlaki is a U.S. citizen matters relatively little, from an international law perspective.

I believe the only basis for permitting this killing would be if there were evidence showing that Al-Awlaki posed an imminent threat to the U.S. or its allies. This seems unlikely, given that he appears to have been more of a propagandist and a recruiter for al Qaeda than a militant who was actually ordering and carrying out specific attacks. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has entrusted the CIA with the authority to carry out this attack (as well as those in Pakistan and Somalia). As a secret service, the CIA has little if any transparency. There should be an independent Congressional investigation to examine the evidence of Al-Awlaki’s status and activities and to determine whether he posed an imminent threat to the United States.”

Prof. Bennett Gershman on Howes v. Fields 0

Prof. Bennett Gershman on Howes v. Fields

Pace Law School Professor Bennett Gershman, an expert on criminal procedure and ethics, is available to speak to the press about Howes v. Fields, which will be argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

“The Miranda decision once again is before the Court, this time in the context of an interrogation of a prison inmate by police deputies who did not first warn the defendant of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, and after which he confessed to having sex with a child. This confession was used to convict him, and he was sentenced to prison for up to fifteen years.

The Court in another case decided last term involving Miranda custody (JDB v. North Carolina) held that a minor’s age should properly be considered in determining whether he was in custody. The defendant in the present case — Howes v. Field — was isolated from the general prison population and questioned by police for 7 hours before he confessed. Although some lower courts have held that the mere fact that a person being questioned is a jailhouse inmate does not necessarily trigger Miranda warnings, as long as the confinement is de minimis, or there is some nexus between the questioning and his confinement. But in the present case, the very long duration of interrogation, the fact that the defendant was isolated from the prison population, and the fact that there was no nexus between his confinement and the subject matter of the interrogation suggest that the Court will find that the failure to advise him of his right to remain silent and his right to an attorney violates Miranda and will doom his conviction.”

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