Public Safety issues holiday security advice

Edward Piper, the Director of the Department of Public Safety at Georgetown Law, sent a crime prevention letter to the Law Center community in advance of the holidays.

“During the holidays,” Piper wrote, “the potential for thefts and robberies increase. More people are out and about, and they are carrying more gifts and money than during other times of the year. While there’s no need to be afraid, you should keep in mind the following holiday safety reminders:

1.     Do not leave valuables in your vehicle. If you must leave packages in your car, put them in the trunk. Keep receipts with you.

2.     Carry a cell phone with you. If someone makes you feel suspicious or uncomfortable on campus notify DPS at 202-662-9325. If off campus call 911.

3.     Whenever possible, park and walk in well-lit areas. Be aware of your surroundings, especially the people around you.

4.     Carry your purse close to you, with the opening or flap towards your body. Never leave a purse unattended in a shopping cart.

5.     Do not keep a wallet, credit cards or cash in a backpack. If you are in a crowd, consider carrying the backpack in front of you. Pickpockets can quickly and easily remove items from a backpack without being noticed by the owner.

6.     Protect your credit card numbers and other personal information. Carefully dispose of receipts that have a credit card number on them. Never provide credit card information in response to unsolicited calls or emails.

7.     Don’t announce your new high-dollar purchases after the holidays. Break down the boxes of TVs, stereos, computers, etc. and turn them inside out before putting them in the trash.

8.     If you are traveling for the holidays, make your home look “lived in”. Have a friend or neighbor collect your mail and newspapers or have your service suspended while you are away. Use timers to turn lights off and on.

If you see suspicious activity on our campus contact the Department of Public Safety at 202-662-9325. If you see suspicious activity while off campus call 911.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!”

Street Law kids attend human rights exhibition on-campus

Street Law teachers, and their high school students, pack Hart Auditorium.The Street Law: High Schools clinic today hosted a multimedia exhibition and competition co-sponsored by the D.C. Commission for Human Rights the Women of Color Collective in Hart Auditorium.

In the Street Law clinic, Georgetown Law students teach law to high school students throughout D.C. As part of the clinic, teachers brought their classes to the Law Center from 3:30-5:30 to show off video projects, posters and other media projects the high school students created, all on the subject on the District’s human rights law. The exhibit was titled “Know Your Rights: DC Students Take on the Human Rights Act.”

Excited students from Dunbar, Duke Ellington, Luke Moore and other high schools packed the auditorium. Judge David Simmons of the D.C. Commission on Human Rights was on hand, as were a handful of practicing attorneys who have assisted the various classes.

Sarah Medway, an attorney and the Street Law clinic fellow, moderated the program along with Georgetown Professor Richard Roe, the longtime director of the Street Law clinic. Check back later for more details.

Mock Trial Team dominates New York tournament

The Trial Ad Team brought home multiple pieces of hardware.The Trial Advocacy Team of Barristers’ Council has wrapped up its fall competitions with a 1st place victory at Fordham Law School’s inaugural Judge Paul Joseph Kelly, Jr. Invitational Trial Competition.

Students Michael Kawi, 3L, and Amanda Tuminelli, 2L ,went 5-0, defeating teams from Fordham, NYU, Miami, Cardozo and Temple during the Nov. 11-13 competition. Kawi won Best Closing argument for one side of the case while Amanda won Best Advocate in the final round. The team was coached by attorneys Tara Kelly and Marybeth Manfredo.

The team prepared both the prosecution and defense sides of the case. Thus, unlike the format of most tournaments, the team members did not also play witnesses. Instead, the witnesses were actors hired by Fordham.  Kawi said that he and Tuminelli had 15 minutes to prepare the actors before conducting a full trial, including motions, statements, and examinations.

Tuminelli and Kawi after their victory.Kawi also said that the trial packet was “based on a real case in New York City involving a woman who claimed she had been kidnapped, drugged and forced to spend thousands of dollars by the defendant and the defendant’s husband. 

“The defense argued that the woman had a shopping addiction and had made up the story to shift the blame elsewhere.”

Judge Kelly of the 10th Circuit presided over the final round of his namesake competition.

Kawi commented on his experience. “The trial team has helped me meet and learn from experienced attorney-coaches, sent me to some fun cities and given me something to talk about in interviews, but being on a team that brought back three trophies, including the championship trophy, was by far the highlight of being a member of the Trial Division.”

Such victories may encourage more first-year students to compete to join the team during the annual Greenhalgh qualifying competition, which is scheduled to occur in the Spring.

by Edward Mitchell, 3L


Disclosure: the writer, Edward Mitchell, is also a member of the Trial Advocacy Division.

Some professors join fight against proposed Internet law

Critics allege the law will allow the gov’t to censor the internet.Georgetown Law professors are lending their voices to the outcry against a proposed Internet regulation law in Congress.

Two bills, one in the Senate and one in the House, are currently pending, both aiming to stop Internet piracy. The House bill is the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. The Senate bill is the Protect IP Act.

SOPA would allow the United States to go after offshore websites that offer copyright-infringing material. The government would be able to target the sites and get them taken down, a virtual death penalty of sorts, according to technology website

The earlier Senate Act, Protect IP, is similar, also targeting these “rogue,” copyright-infringing websites.
Supporters of these acts say the government needs to step up the enforcement of intellectual property. Writing in Forbes, tech company owner Frank Sola said, “Just as we seek to protect our borders from illegal intrusion, the time to address intrusion by those dedicated to infringing activities using the Internet is long overdue.”

Hundreds of professors in the United States have, however, spoken out against the bill, including some here at Georgetown Law. These opponents to PROTECT-IP and SOPA argue it has several main flaws: It will unacceptably redefine “the standard for copyright infringement on the Internet.”

It will “Allow the government to block Internet access to any web site that “facilitated” copyright or trademark infringement – a term that the Department of Justice currently interprets to require nothing more than having a link on a web page to another site that turns out to be infringing.” And it will “Allow any private copyright or trademark owner to interfere with the ability of web sites to host advertising or charge purchases to credit cards, putting enormous obstacles in the path of electronic commerce.”

Georgetown Law Professor Rebecca Tushnet signed a letter to the House of Represenatives – along with more than 100 other professors. She takes issue with both the structure and content of the proposed bill.

“This is a disastrously badly written bill that creates vast new uncertainties for many participants online, from payment systems to users who might not know when or why the sites they use suddenly disappear,” she said. “The law creates a new category of sites ‘dedicated to theft of U.S. property’ without defining that category, and allows private parties to cut off support to those sites by threatening third parties (such as credit card companies) without having to prove their cases in court.

“It does so, not incidentally, even though many of the sites may be directly amenable to process in the US; the law is not written, as its supporters claim, so that these new remedies apply only where it’s not possible to obtain jurisdiction over an allegedly infringing site.”

Georgetown Law Professor Julie E. Cohen also signed this letter.

The professors opposing these bills also raise Constitutional arguments against the bill.

The letter to the House of Representatives challenges what it says is a lack of due process for those targeted by  the bill.

“By failing to guarantee the challenged web sites notice or an opportunity to be heard in court before their sites are shut down, SOPA represents the most ill-advised and destructive intellectual property legislation in recent memory,” the letter says.

Further, the letter alleges First Amendment violations, by allowing speech to be suppressed without the proper protections as guaranteed by the Constitution.

PROTECT-IP has been passed in committee, but is on hold in the Senate. SOPA is still being discussed in the House Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for further markup in December.

by Cara Schenkel, 3L

News Editor

Williams v. Illinois

On Tuesday, December 6th, the Court will hear arguments in Williams v. Illinois to resolve an evidentiary question: “Whether a state rule of evidence allowing an expert witness to testify about the results of DNA testing performed by non-testifying analysts, where the defendant has no opportunity to confront the actual analysts, violates the Confrontation Clause.”

The issue comes out of the Court’s 2004 opinion in Crawford v. Washington, in which the Court held that, in order to introduce testimonial statements prepared prior to trial against a criminal defendant, the Sixth Amendment required the government to make the declarant available for cross examination.

That holding has significantly altered trial proceedings where the government seeks to introduce lab results in criminal cases. Prior to Crawford, the state could introduce the report itself. Now, because the Court has determined that lab reports are testimonial statements, prosecutors can only do so if they make available for cross examination the lab technician who prepared the report.

In, Williams, The Supreme Court of Illinois held that the state could introduce expert witness testimony whose opinion was based on a lab report that itself was not introduced into evidence without implicating the Crawford rule.

Their holding came out of the Illinois, and federal, rule of evidence that expert witnesses may state an opinion that is based on evidence that is not introduced at trial so long as an expert of this type would ordinarily rely on this form of evidence. The Supreme Court of Illinois also held that it was not a Sixth Amendment violation for the expert witness to discuss the test if it is being introduced to explain the basis for the expert’s opinion, and not for its truth.

Sandy Williams was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated robbery. At his bench trial the judge found that Williams had kidnapped and raped a young woman in Chicago. The woman subsequently contacted the police and a sexual assault evidence collection kit was administered.

The kit was sent to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab for testing. There, it was analyzed by a forensic biologist named Brian Hapack. A sample was then sent to another forensic lab in Maryland, called Cellmark, which conducted DNA testing. After Williams was arrested for an unrelated offense and a blood sample of his was analyzed by forensic scientist Karen Kooi.

At the bench trial, a different forensic biologist, Sandra Lambatos, who matched the two results. She testified about the DNA test used for both samples; that it was common practice in her industry for DNA analysis to rely on each other’s work; and that she routinely relied on the results from Cellmark and explained why she believed they were accurate before.

Then, over defense counsel’s objections, Lambatos testified about the results of her test and expressed that, in her opinion, the two DNA samples were a match. Cellmark’s report itself was not introduced into evidence nor did Lambatos read from the report in court.

Oral arguments in this case come just six months after the Court’s decision in Bullcoming v. New Mexico, in which the Court held that making available for cross examination a supervisor who did not oversee the particular lab test performed by an analyst was not sufficient to overcome Crawford. There, however, the report itself was introduced at trial and its results were introduced for their truth.

In his brief, Petitioner Williams argues that the formal admission of a testimonial statement is not necessary to implicate Crawford because Cellmark’s testimonial statements were conveyed through Lambatos’s testimony. And, they argue that Cellmark’s statements were necessarily presented for their truth, as the judge necessarily had to accept them in order for Lambatos’s opinion to have probative value in the case.

Respondents argue that William’s Sixth Amendment rights were satisfied by making Lambatos available for cross examination; that Cellmark’s report was not testimonial; and that even if the Trial Court erred, that error was harmless because of the victim’s line-up identification of Williams.

Although the Crawford requirements impose additional burdens on prosecutors, the Court has appeared unwilling to allow for technical escape mechanisms as indicated by its holding in Bullcoming. Whether it will maintain that resolve in the face of the evidentiary technique at issue in Williams remains to be seen.

Experiential class may spawn product-safety experts of tomorrow

Books of law revolve around the products we put on our skin.A little-known course at Georgetown Law teaches the fundamentals of the ever-growing body of regulatory law that governs the things we put in and on our bodies.  The class, which will be offered next semester for the third year, is called “Consumer Advocacy and Government Regulation: Personal-Care Products and Dietary Supplements.”

The class was started in large part thanks to the pioneering investigative journalist Toni Stabile.  Her 1966 exposé, Cosmetics: Trick or Treat, brought public scrutiny to an industry that had long existed in a regulatory void.  The book’s popularity helped lead to a Senate hearing on the matter and initiated a wave of new regulation.  Because Georgetown Law offered a similar class for a period in the 1970’s, Stabile was able to use material generated by Georgetown law students who were researching the industry’s regulatory woes.  

Over 40 years later, Stabile wanted to repay the favor and see the GULC experiential program revived.  She reached out to Professor Joseph Page, the same professor who taught the original 70’s class.  Stabile underwrote the experiential class and a fellowship for Georgetown grads who want to start their careers in regulatory or administrative law by protecting consumers at the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  The course is co-taught by five professors; Page, the current Stabile Fellow Etan Yeshua, last year’s fellow and faculty adjunct Thomas Cluderay, and Professors Allison Zieve and Heather White.  

The 4-credit course is part seminar and part internship.  Students meet 1-2 times a week for a crash course on product safety regulation while working off-campus with one of three participating public-interest organizations.  Current participants include EWG, Public Citizen, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.   While the internship is pass/fail, the 2-credit seminar is graded through an exam and a final paper.

Erika Duthley took the course last year and focused on “natural, green, and organic” cosmetics.  She found that the niche was “almost completely unregulated.”  As part the class, she drafted policy recommendation letters to organizations such as the FTC, the FDA and the EPA.  In part because of her experience with the class and EWG, Duthley went on to pursue a career in consumer protection.

Another graduate of the course, Meagan Singer, studied the new trend of “Brazillian Blowout”-style keratin hair treatments, which often expose users and hair-stylist to dangerous amounts of formaldehyde.  “It was actually really fascinating,” says Singer, now a 3L, describing the dangerous products that slip through the regulatory cracks: “things that burn your skin, cause permanent damage and baldness, skin care products that left permanent disfigurement, all because there is no regulatory agency that tests these products before they go on the market.”

Yeshua, the current Stabile Fellow, said the job prospects are good for students interested in becoming product-safety gadflies or private sector representatives.   He says the staggering pace of globalization has made it difficult for the government to regulate the import products that enter the US market every year.  When the FDA and other agencies struggle to keep up, civil society groups like EWG continue to research and advocate for consumer health and safety.

Find more information on this experiential offering in GULC’s course catalogue, under J.D. Seminar 522. 

by John Thompson

Human rights maverick visits Law Center

The hard-charging diplomat speaks at the CAROLA event.Students, faculty and guests gathered earlier this month to hear remarks by F. Allen “Tex” Harris, a career diplomat who influenced State Department policy on human rights. In an event organized by the Center for Rule of Law in the Americas (CAROLA), the affable Harris spoke about his experiences as a political officer for the US Embassy to Argentina in the 1970s.  Harris helped the State Department gain a clearer picture of the worsening state of human rights in Argentina at the time.  He also fought to make sure that information about atrocities pierced political resistance at the embassy to reach policy-makers in Washington.  

The Texan described the process by which the Carter-era State Department realized that the Argentine regime’s pursuit of violent extremist groups had broadened to target non-violent dissent.  The military junta used plain-clothed operatives to abduct individuals suspected as subversives, imprisoning and often torturing them to root out entire networks of democratic or religious reform groups. In many cases, individuals would simply disappear without a trace. Those targeted were most often educated youths—much like the student body here at GULC—who were involved in small-scale student movements.  The regime also made a ruthless effort to silence public criticism in similarly authoritarian style.     

Harris said he was sent to Argentina to negotiate a dismantling of their budding nuclear weapons program, but he soon heard rumors of a quiet but ruthless campaign against dissent.  Harris made an effort to open his doors to anyone willing to speak about the issue. Speaking with family members, Harris soon realized that the number of chupados—those that had been “sucked up” by the regime’s agents—was disturbingly large.  Estimates of the victims now range between 13,000 and 30,000.  

Harris felt that the principle defenders of justice were the mothers of these young reformers.  The famous Madres de Plaza de Mayo, are now an icon in Argentine history.  Gathering outside government buildings with white scarves on, the mothers perpetually circled the pubic squares with candles in their hands—a silent protest for their disappeared children.  A 1980 Bill Moyer’s piece on Harris recounted how Tex approached a group of bereaved women on the street and handed out business cards, insisting that they come to the embassy to tell their story: The article featured an interview with one such mother who said, “we were grateful just to know that someone cared about our problems.”  

Thanks to Harris’ efforts, Washington got wind that an Argentine corporation with US ties, Astilleros Argentinos, was regime-owned.  As a result, the Carter administration blocked a large development project to put pressure on the repressive junta.  Despite significant backlash from the business community, the Carter-era State Department took a hard line on human rights in Argentina.  Harris says this was a paradigm shift, as human rights had not previously been a high priority in diplomatic relations.     

A self-described “Texas optimist,” Harris was often “frozen out” by careerist supervisors in the Foreign Service who found Tex’s boat-rocking to be politically inconvenient.  He was not deterred. He even occasionally circumvented his direct superiors to make sure that Washington knew of the injustices that were occurring in Argentina.  This determination eventually won Harris the Rivkin Award for Creative Dissent and the Distinguished Honor Award, the State Department’s highest.  Harris also served in Venezuela and South Africa.  He retired in 1999.  

Mario del Carril, an Argentine historian and Georgetown professor, was on hand to greet the now-retired diplomat. “If Tex had not been in Buenos Aires,” said del Carril, “things would have been very different.”  

By John Thompson