By Becky Freligh, Law School Development
The scene was Paris, the attire pure MDen—an expression of the "true-blue esprit" that Jasper Bovenberg has long associated with Michigan Law.
Though Bovenberg sported the old maize and blue for the European reunion last summer, his law practice is decidedly nontraditional. He's one of few European attorneys working at the cutting edge of life-sciences law, specializing in pharmaceutical law and biotechnology transfer.
"As the science keeps evolving, so does my practice," says Bovenberg, who lives and works in Aerdenhout, The Netherlands. "Sometimes it's frustrating, because the laws always lag behind."
Most of his practice deals with issues of intellectual property and data protection triggered by biobanking and biomedical research in academic and academic-industrial partnerships. Say some researchers in The Netherlands collect tissue from a large group of human subjects to study medical and environmental data over time. The researchers want to sequence the subjects' DNA, but the cheapest place to get gene sequencing done is China.
"So their question for me is, 'Can we ship Dutch blood samples to China to have the DNA sequenced, and if so, under what conditions?'" says Bovenberg.
After graduating from Michigan Law, Bovenberg spent a year with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles and Washington. He returned to a firm in Amsterdam, where he engaged in a broad legal practice but was soon drawn to life-sciences work.
"I had to choose, and I chose the medical practice," says Bovenberg. "I wanted to see some real people with real problems."
He had no background in science but was intrigued with the Human Genome Project and wrote a paper advocating database protection for the information—a fresh point of view amid a patent-focused discussion. The paper was published, and Bovenberg decided to pursue a joint PhD program in Leiden University's medical and law schools, writing his dissertation on ownership of DNA.
Bovenberg advocates for free transfer of such data throughout Europe, which, although it's the law in the EU, doesn't always happen due to member countries' varying stances on individual privacy. He's hopeful that a soon-to-be-adopted, more stringent EU regulation will leave less room for blocking data at the borders.
"There is supposed to be a level playing field, but in fact it turns out to be more difficult," says Bovenberg.
Bovenberg's busy life also features pro bono legal work and his family, with children aged 13, 11, and 9. His adventures as a father include being interviewed for a Japanese TV documentary on the phenomenon of European dads working part time. He's also the author of a series of contemporary folk tales about soccer—another of his passions—which he's published on line and will offer on Amazon.com.
"When I was reading bedtime stories to the kids, I thought: why aren't there any new folk tales? I found myself telling anecdotes from soccer matches, players I've known. One of my kids said, 'Why don't you write them up?' So I did. I took true stories and transformed them into folk tales for children."
The University of Michigan Law School and its Italian alumni will celebrate the establishment of the Italian Alumni Law Scholarship with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m. Dec. 5 in Milan. The scholarship, awarded to students who graduated from law school in Italy and generously funded by Michigan Law alumni living in Italy, provides up to $20,000 U.S. to pursue a Master of Laws degree at the University of Michigan Law School. On behalf of future recipients, grazi tanto!
Can’t wait until next Amicus to catch up on what’s going on at Michigan Law? Drop by our Newsroom webpage anytime for a full helping of what’s happening now at your favorite law school.
Michigan Law's official Facebook page is live! If you "like" it, we bet you'll love it. And while we're in social media mode, we hope you'll follow us on Twitter, too!
The Law School and The M Den have teamed up to make specialized Michigan Law apparel available online through the MLaw Marketplace. A percentage of all sales on both MLaw Marketplace and the general M Den website (when it's accessed through MLaw Marketplace) comes back to Law School student groups to help support their activities.
The program is similar to one available through a special Amazon.com link that sends back nearly 7 percent of purchase prices to help support Student Funded Fellowships at Michigan Law. Like the MLaw Marketplace program, purchases must be made through the special URL, and like the MLaw Marketplace program, the Amazon.com link will continue sending back benefits all year long.
By John Masson, Amicus editor
The end of the current academic year will mark a change for Michigan Law's international initiatives with the retirement of longtime Assistant Dean for International Affairs Virginia Gordan.
But what won't change—because it is woven into the Law School's DNA—is the school's internationally recognized commitment to educating its students about international law, foreign legal systems, and how to be effective in a world in which cross-border legal issues are embedded in all manner of human and economic activity.
"Michigan Law's expanding global engagement and soaring international reputation are due in large part to Virginia's efforts as our first assistant dean of international affairs," said Dean Evan Caminker. "She has been an invaluable advisor to me, with respect to efforts to create high-quality programming that is intellectually, academically and professionally meaningful."
Gordan expanded on the school's long-standing strengths in international and comparative programming, building on a foundation of internationalism almost as old as the Law School itself. Michigan Law's first foreign students arrived in the 1860s and those who followed have been studying at the Law School virtually ever since.
"I am very proud of the Law School's dedication to preparing its students for professional lives in the globalized environment of today and the future," Gordan said. "It has been tremendously exciting to be part of our collective effort to attract a superb faculty of leading scholars in a great breadth of international, transnational, and foreign law fields and to provide a robust curriculum and complementary programs which draw to Michigan top notch students who are eager to engage with the world."
And even as the programming and engagement grew to keep Michigan among the leaders in international, comparative, and foreign law, the globalization of the world economy was expanding the Law School's opportunities even more.
"Our educational program is strong in multiple ways," said Prof. Steven Ratner, one of Michigan Law's global law leaders. "It starts with a historical dedication to the field, but now it manifests itself in a large number of faculty who teach and write about global issues."
Among Michigan Law's global strengths:
Ratner said much of the strength of Michigan's offerings comes from deeply engaged students, many of whom choose Michigan precisely because of its global strengths.
"Many students come here specifically to take courses in international and comparative law, and work with the professors who teach it," Ratner said. "And there's a range of global activities for students, from the Michigan Journal of International Law to the International Law Society to the speaker programs and externships, all of which are phenomenal. And the Geneva and South Africa programs are unique, and come with a lot of options, including fellowships. Virginia Gordan has been at the very center of everything."
The strong programming leads to another institutional strength: a network of engaged, active J.D. and graduate program alumni around the globe.
"As a mainstay of our graduate program, Virginia shepherded and mentored international students and scholars who now hold prestigious positions around the globe," Caminker said. "And she developed close relationships with a remarkable network of U.S. and foreign alumni that will continue benefiting the Law School for years into the future."
Among those international alumni are high court judges, including two in Germany, two in Korea, and one each in the Czech Republic, the Philippines, and China—as well as one on the World Trade Organization's Appellate Body.
"Michigan's global law programming is strong, and is certain to get even stronger as the world economy continues to globalize," Ratner said. "In my view, we are one of the top places in the world for study of the global aspects of law."
Maybe you're up to the challenge of running Michigan Law's multifarious international programs. Maybe you know someone who is. Either way, your alma mater is looking for an administrator with a diverse range of skills to help fill the shoes of retiring Assistant Dean for International Affairs Virginia Gordan.
A search committee of internationally oriented professors is looking for that administrator, who should be ready to take on the role by summer 2013. In particular the committee is seeking someone with excellent cross-cultural skills, keen administrative acumen, and a knack for strategic thinking. Candidates should be experienced in global legal practice and should possess a strong awareness of U.S. law and law schools. And they should feel comfortable working with a wide range of stakeholders, from alumni to donors to current students to their potential colleagues across the University of Michigan.
If you're the right person or know the right person, we hope you'll get in touch with us. More information on the position is available at http://umjobs.org.
By John Masson, Amicus editor
It's hard to figure what Michigan Law professor Bruno Simma is going to do for an encore.
Prof. Simma, who recently completed a nine-year term as judge on the International Court of Justice, added to an already impressive international CV when he was appointed to serve on the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague.
The nine-person panel, established in 1981, consists of three arbitrators chosen by Iran, three chosen by the United States, and three independents. Simma, who is German, joins the independents.
The tribunal has jurisdiction to decide claims of U.S. nationals against Iran, and of Iranian nationals against the U.S., as well as claims between the two governments. Several large and complex cases between the two nations remain on the tribunal's docket.
Prof. Simma's colleagues at Michigan Law were impressed by the appointment—but hardly surprised.
"After completing his term on the International Court of Justice, Bruno probably assumed that his days as a judge were over," said Michigan Law Dean Evan Caminker. "But the tribunal is simply a can't-say-no opportunity. Bruno's appointment is clear evidence of the esteem in which he is held by governments and international players around the world."
Prof. Simma's relationship with Michigan Law stretches back to 1986, when he served as a visitor while a member of the University of Munich law faculty. He held a joint Munich–Ann Arbor faculty appointment between 1987 and 1992, and returned as a visitor in 1995. He served as an affiliated overseas faculty member at Michigan Law beginning in 1997, including time as a William W. Cook Global Professor of Law, and this year he joined the tenured faculty on a part-time basis.
He also served as dean of the University of Munich Faculty of Law.
Prof. Simma's influence outside of the academy grew, as well. He was a member of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights between 1987 and 1996, and he was a member of the UN International Law Commission for the six years prior to his election to the World Court at The Hague. In the final analysis, Dean Caminker said, Prof. Simma's most recent appointment to the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal is one more affirmation of his deep understanding of international law.
"He'll have yet another opportunity to demonstrate his mastery of law and his wise judgment in resolving the complicated and politically sensitive disputes that remain before the tribunal," Dean Caminker said.
By Katie Vloet, Quadrangle editor
"I really needed MAP as a student. It's how I got support, it's how I interacted with the Law School," says Gregory, now assistant dean for student affairs.
The program had begun in the 1960s, founded by the Black Law Students Alliance (BLSA). Later, it developed into the Law School's primary diversity program; when Gregory was a student, MAP included a weeklong pre-orientation program for students of color. During that week, the program focused on demystifying the law school experience, connecting with fellow minority students, and generally learning about diversity at Michigan Law.
Following the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Law School made some changes to MAP, even though the decision upheld the Law School's use of affirmative action, Gregory says. MAP was opened to all students beginning in 2004. When Proposal 2 became law in Michigan in 2006—banning all preferential programs based on race, nationality, or gender—"what we had done voluntarily now was required by law," Gregory says.
MAP continued under the new setup for several years, with all students invited to participate. Through the course of the changes to the program, though, it "lost its purpose and its mission," Gregory says. "I really tried to figure out how to reclaim that mission, to be more about social justice and leadership and not just about having an extra week to meet people at the start of law school."
She began working with the Program on Intergroup Relations, a social justice education program at the University. The new MAP, which began in the 2010–11 year, was a massive overhaul. The program required applications, on which incoming students had to show that they were committed to social justice.
"I wanted to think about the program in a way that was compliant with Prop. 2, but also more useful to students," Gregory says. "It was important to me that MAP help students raise issues of race and identity in the classroom, which can be a very intimidating space." MAP continues to have a mix of students—and could be a model for other universities that need to change or eliminate race-based programs, but want to offer students an inclusive classroom experience, Gregory says.
One of the exercises is a mock criminal law class in which Mark West, Nippon Life Professor of Law and associate dean for academic affairs, teaches People v. Goetz: a case in which race was likely a factor but was never mentioned in the opinion. Students discuss the case, then engage in a critique with faculty. This, plus a conflict-resolution exercise, an arbitration simulation, and more, are designed for students to develop cultural competency skills and be empowered to raise issues of race and identity in class discussions. It works, say the participants.
"The program was useful in thinking about how issues of social justice often need to be forced to the front of conversations and how to look at cases and issues from multiple perspectives," says 2L Perry Teicher. "Coming from different years, different backgrounds, and different experiences made the program and the friendships strong—we learned how to think about issues from each other's perspectives and found a sense of empathy, wanting to understand where each other were coming from, learning, and growing from that."
Adds 2L Betsy Fisher: "The biggest contribution that MAP made to me was to build a sense of community among the social justice–minded students, who without such an opportunity can be hard to find. After a week of intense and honest discussions about identity and the law school atmosphere, the 25 of us were fast friends, and we continued those friendships throughout the school year."
Andrew Dalack, a 2L, found that his MAP training affected him throughout the school year. "Although I would have been willing to raise issues of race or identity during classroom discussions had I not participated in MAP, knowing that there were other MAP students in my section made me more comfortable to initiate these potentially divisive, yet important, conversations."
By John Masson, Amicus editor
Michigan Law professor Margo Schlanger notes a basic starting point in her forthcoming paper on the continuing court battle about overcrowding in California's prisons: "No floor sleepers."
Which is to say, if you're incarcerated in California, you should at least have someplace to lay your head.
Both county jails and prisons in California have long operated under that rule. In the jails, sheriffs have shortened misdemeanor sentences and reduced bail for minor offenders in response, reducing crowding. But the state prisons, which house felons, don't have that authority. So, with the spike in California's state prison population in recent decades, overcrowding and attendant breakdowns in decent medical and mental-health care rapidly followed. Lawsuits argued that conditions in the overcrowded system constituted unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment, causing hundreds of preventable deaths, and last year the Supreme Court upheld a district court order requiring the state to limit prison overcrowding to about 137 percent of design capacity by the middle of 2013—an order that requires a reduction in prison population of over 60,000 prisoners from the peak, in 2007.
What's happened since, Prof. Schlanger writes, is a fascinating interplay between the political process and the litigation that was designed to force reform. She examines the history of such litigation since the mid-'90s Prison Litigation Reform Act, the litigation history of this particular case, earlier court orders addressing prison and jail overpopulation, and the possibility that solving the crowding problem at the state level might simply push the problem down to the county jail level—making it even more difficult to combat.
"This was the most important prison case in the Supreme Court for at least the past 10 years," Prof. Schlanger said. "It's a huge case."
And it's far from over. The prison system remains under the supervision of the federal court, and the state is required to report at regular intervals its population reduction progress. Current prison population in California is about 120,000, with an additional 8,600 prisoners housed at private facilities out-of-state. While the state expects to meet its next population benchmark, on Dec. 27, it has also filed court papers that suggest it will only go to work on hitting future targets "if the court insists."
Prof. Schlanger reports that the court seems to be insisting; it issued an order just last week requiring the state to submit a population reduction plan by January 7, although more than hinting that the state could have a six-month extension if needed.
"So that's where it now stands. California says it's not really inclined to cooperate with some of the future benchmarks, and the court says it's not really inclined to soften the order," Prof. Schlanger said. "We seem to be heading toward a standoff, though it won't ripen for a few months."
Prof. Schlanger said she intends to keep a close eye on the situation.
The paper, "Plata v. Brown and Realignment: Jails, Prisons, Courts, and Politics," is scheduled for publication in 2013 by the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. A draft version is currently available.
By John Masson, Amicus editor
Death and taxes. If you're a retiree, it would be convenient if the former happened before the latter deprived you of your means of support.
Unfortunately for millions of seniors, taxes will become even more central a question Jan. 1, if Congress doesn't extend the current tax rate on the mutual fund and stock dividends seniors—encouraged by the near-zero interest-rate policy of the Federal Reserve—increasingly rely on for retirement income.
The experts, including Michigan Law professors Douglas Kahn and Lawrence Waggoner, are calling it "Taxmageddon," a term coined by The New York Times' David Leonhardt. It's when dividends retirees expected to be taxed at a special 15 percent rate suddenly become ordinary income, taxed at a rate as high as 39.6 percent, or even higher. It's also when net capital gains will start being taxed at 20 percent.
The days of special treatment for dividends and capital gains are "clearly under assault," the professors write in their recent paper, "Retirees Beware: Don't Worry About the British—2013 is Coming," published in the journal Tax Notes in July. A shortened version will appear in the current issue of the Law Quadrangle, Michigan Law's alumni magazine.
But Profs. Kahn and Waggoner have crafted a compromise that might put a little enjoyment for American seniors back into the rapidly approaching New Year.
What if dividends and capital gains were combined into a single figure, then taxed on a graduated scale?
Profs. Waggoner and Kahn don't suggest what levels Congress should set, but do provide guidelines to create examples. Say the first $250,000 of combined dividends and capital gains combinations were taxed at 15 percent, the next $250,000 at 20 percent, 25 percent on the next $500,000, and 30 percent above $1 million.
Such a system would go a long way toward protecting retirees who worked hard and invested carefully, while also ensuring that the super-rich pay tax rates more in line with, say, those paid by middle-class families with two working parents. Because the super-rich rely more on capital gains than dividends, they would pay significantly more taxes under the Kahn-Waggoner graduated scale than they would pay even if the "Taxmageddon" rates go into effect.
"Our compromise would undoubtedly be fairer," Prof. Kahn said.
Prof. Waggoner agreed.
"It's less likely to have such a serious impact on millions of retirees who worked hard, played by the rules, and invested carefully, with plans to live on the proceeds."