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SLS Students Protest Police Actions With ‘Die-In’

Close-up of students at Die-In

Stanford Law School students demonstrate by pretending to be dead.

About 100 Stanford Law School students and more than a dozen faculty and staff members participated in a “Die-In” on Friday to call attention to recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island and to lives lost during police interventions.

At 5 p.m. participants assembled and lay down on the ground in the large rotunda at the entrance to the Neukom Building, simulating death for four-and-a-half minutes to represent the nearly five hours that Michael Brown lay dead and unattended on the street in Ferguson.

“The event was meant to bring attention to the unsettling events that continue to happen in our country,” said Clifford Mpare, JD ’16, co-president of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) at the law school.

Poster lists black lives lost.

A poster lists black lives lost during confrontations with police.

He and BLSA Co-President Ashley Williams, JD ’16, organized the Die-In.“The systematic death of black citizens at the hands of police and law enforcement is unacceptable and hurts us all. The event helped us to express our sorrow while sending a silent, peaceful message that black lives matter,” Mpare explained.

Mpare said the event was “hugely successful,” noting, “The sight of 100-plus Stanford Law students on the ground, representing the deaths of countless people at the hands of those meant to protect them, was extremely powerful and, I think, will have a lasting effect.”

Students are already planning other events, including a video campaign and some panels featuring professors and scholars discussing the issue of law enforcement and people of color, according to Williams. On January 5, they are inviting students and faculty to wear a “My Life Mattered” T-shirt that includes the name of one of the unarmed victims of police intervention on the back. The T-shirts can be ordered for $12 from Krista Whitaker at kwhita@stanford.edu.

Students mill around before the Die-In.

Students mill around before the Die-In.

The Die-In on Friday was fully supported by Dean M. Elizabeth Magill and Student Affairs. It was the first of several responses the law school community will hold to address the troubling events.

On Tuesday, Dec. 9, staff from Student Affairs and the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law will host an informal drop-in session from 1 to 3 p.m. for students who want a safe place to turn to one another for support.


ALEP Releases New Translations for Two of Afghanistan’s Most Important Sources of Law

The Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP) publicly released its English translation of the Afghan Commercial Code this week, a follow-up to its translation of the Afghan Civil Code in September 2014.

This represents a significant development for the legal and commercial sectors in Afghanistan, which have been operating without reliable English translations of two of the country’s most important sources of law relating to sales.Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 9.19.56 AM

ALEP conceived of the translation project when students Sam Jacobson, JD ’14, Chris Jones, JD ’14, Pete DeMarco, JD ’14, Ian Aucoin, JD ’14, Joy Basu, JD ’14, Tarana Riddick, JD ’14, and Arash Aramesh, JD ’14, working under the guidance Erik G. Jensen, Director of the Rule of Law Program, were tasked with writing a textbook on the law of obligations and couldn’t read the contracts material in the Civil or Commercial Codes.

“Given all of the international advice that Afghanistan has received on its legal framework over the last decade, it was particularly surprising to find that some of the most important sources of law in the country were not adequately translated,” Jensen said.

ALEP students worked to mobilize their textbook translation resources to produce a professional-quality translation and, with the help of ALEP Student Director Tres Thompson, JD ’15, ALEP Adviser Rohullah Azizi, and Elite Legal Services, Ltd. saw the project to completion this year.

“ALEP’s work on the translations of the Afghan Civil and Commercial Codes represents our continuing effort to identify and remedy obstacles to legal education and practice in Afghanistan,” said Thompson. “We believe these new translations will be of great help to Afghan students and teachers, as well as legal practitioners, NGOs, and other members of civil society.”

You can download the publication at: http://alep.stanford.edu/publications-2/afghan-code-translations/.

About ALEP

Founded in 2007 as a student–driven initiative, the Afghanistan Legal Education Project at Stanford Law School (ALEP) develops innovative legal curricula to help Afghanistan’s universities train the next generation of lawyers and leaders. ALEP has developed an extensive law curriculum at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) with strong support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.





Proposition 47’s Successful Implementation Depends on New Alliances, Say Prison Reformers

“Now the real work begins,” said Michael Romano, director of Stanford’s Three Strikes Project at a forum on California’s recent prison reform initiatives held Tuesday at Stanford Law School. Others on the panel were George Gascon, district attorney for San Francisco and Robert Rooks, organizing director of Proposition 47 and Californians for Safety and Justice.

From left, panelists George Gascon, district attorney for San Francisco; Michael Romano, director of Stanford’s Three Strikes Project; and Robert Rooks, organizing director of Proposition 47 and Californians for Safety and Justice at a forum held at Stanford Law School.

From left, panelists George Gascon, district attorney for San Francisco; Michael Romano, director of Stanford’s Three Strikes Project; and Robert Rooks, organizing director of Proposition 47 and Californians for Safety and Justice at a forum held at Stanford Law School.

Romano was referring to the recent passage of Proposition 47, which reduces penalties for many nonviolent offenses in California, such as drug possession and petty theft crimes, from felonies to misdemeanors. In order to be successful, Romano argued, the new law is going to require progressive organizations that favor the law to work together with law enforcement leaders who, for the most part, fought Proposition 47. The end result could be a reduction not only in incarceration but also in recidivism and, therefore, in crime, as more former inmates turn their lives around with help from churches, job training, drug rehabilitation programs and community organizations.

“Lawyers who think their only goal is to get clients out of jail are going to have to think more as problem solvers,” said Gascon. He was one of only a few law enforcement leaders who worked for the passage of both propositions. He noted that the ballot victories show the public supports measures that create “more sustainable safety models.”

Like Proposition 36, an initiative that California voters approved in 2000 that modified the state’s “Three Strikes” law, Proposition 47 won traction from voters who believe in giving people second chances, he explained.

“Law enforcement leaders and elected officials are way behind the voters on these issues,” Romano said.

Rooks credited an unusual alliance of labor leaders, Catholic church bishops and “door knockers” who cared about progressive legal issues for the successful passage of Proposition 47. “We were able to bring networks of people together who had never worked together before,” he explained.

The ramifications of Proposition 47 are enormous. Rooks notes that San Diego County alone identified 200,000 people who might be able to change their record from a felony to a misdemeanor, based on the new law. He said his organization, Californians for Safety and Justice, will be working with legal clinics and community groups across the state to help deal with the anticipated flood of requests.

Gascon’s Public Defender’s Office in San Francisco has already set up an information line to assist former clients and others seeking relief under the new law at (415) 553-9344.

Proposition 47 calls for the money saved from incarcerating fewer people to be used for a “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund,” for truancy and drop-out prevention programs in schools, victims’ services, and mental health and drug treatment programs designed to keep individuals out of the criminal justice system. Rooks said that funding – an estimated $200 million to $250 million per year –

will become available in early 2016, as the measure calls for a full year of baseline data to be collected first.

While there has been much talk about savings at the state level, Gascon pointed out that cities and counties also will benefit from reduced costs in prosecution and police services. “The question is, are local governments going to shift the money and do the right things?” he said.

The three panelists agreed that prison reformers in other parts of the U.S. are following California’s efforts with interest. They are learning, Romano, said, that “the people really want this.”


Stanford Law’s Michele Landis Dauber Receives Five Awards for First Book

The American Society for Legal History announced today that it has awarded its 2014 John Philip Reid Award to Michele Landis Dauber, Stanford Law School professor of law and Bernard D. Bergreen Faculty Scholar, for her first book, The Sympathetic State: Disaster Relief and the Origins of the American Welfare State.

Michele Landis Dauber

Michele Landis Dauber

In an email announcing the award, Sophia Z. Lee, chair of the awards committee and a professor of law and history at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, hailed the book as “magnificent.” Lee wrote to Dauber that the award committee members were “incredibly impressed not only by your multiple important historiographical interventions, but also your creative use of sources.”

The book was also honored this year with the American Historical Association’s 2014 Littleton-Griswold Prize, the American Sociological Association’s 2014 Sociology of Law Section Distinguished Book Award and the American Political Science Association’s 2014 J. David Greenstone Book Award for the best book in politics and history. In 2013 the Law and Society Association gave the book an honorable mention in its James Willard Hurst Prize in American Legal History competition.

“I am surprised and very pleased the book received so much recognition,” said Dauber. “To be honest, I get excited when anybody reads anything I write and finds it useful or informative.”

In The Sympathetic State, Dauber argues that the United States’ long tradition of providing federal disaster relief set the stage for the American social welfare state. “It’s really an important story in our country’s history about how the government has cared for people when they were in need through no fault of their own,” Dauber explained.

“The book has relevance not only regarding the current debates about the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid but also with respect to the debate about emergency response,” she said. “As climate change makes weather events more severe and frequent, the federal government’s policy about how we take care of people will become more important. For example, if people live in an area that often gets flooded, will we always compensate them? What happens when people have to move?”

The book was published in 2013 by the University of Chicago Press.


Stanford Scholars Document Declining Medical Liability Claims and Forecast Future Trends

Doctor with clipboardSTANFORD, Calif., October 30, 2014 – A new study co-authored by two professors from Stanford and one from Harvard documents a sharp reduction in the rate of paid medical liability claims and identifies six developments that are likely to shape medical liability policy during the next decade.

The study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), is the work of Stanford Professors Michelle M. Mello and David M. Studdert, who share joint appointments with Stanford Law School and the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Allen Kachalia, an associate professor with Harvard Medical School.

The JAMA article says the researchers found that rates of paid claims against physicians decreased from 18.6 to 9.9 paid claims per 1,000 physicians between 2002 and 2013, with an estimated annual average decrease of 6.3 percent for medical doctors and a 5.3 percent decrease for doctors of osteopathy. It is based on data from the National Practitioner Data Bank and the American Medical Association’s Physician Masterfile.

Among claims that resulted in some payment, the authors found that the median amount paid increased from $133,799 in 1994 to $218,400 in 2007, an average annual increase of 5 percent per year. Since 2007 the median payment has declined slightly, reaching $195,000 in 2013, an average annual decrease of 1.1 percent. These data came from the Medical Liability Monitor’s Annual Rate Survey.

Good time to consider improvements

The study notes that the current stability in claims makes this the ideal time to be thinking about reforms in the medical liability system. “After years of turbulence, the medical liability environment has calmed,” said Mello. “Although many aspects of the malpractice system are dysfunctional, causing angst for physicians, the cost of malpractice claims and insurance have been stable for the last few years and the number of claims has been declining.”

She added, “Usually, attention is only focused on reform during ‘malpractice crises,’ but highly charged political environments are not conducive to cool-headed policy decisions. This current period of calm is a good time to be thinking about reforms that could improve our medical liability system.”

The authors report that traditional liability reforms fail to address problems with the malpractice system’s two core functions: compensating negligently insured patients and deterring substandard care. For example, they note that studies of tort reforms—law changes such as caps on noneconomic damages that are designed to reduce the volume and cost of malpractice litigation—suggest that they are only modestly effective in controlling costs.

“These traditional reforms have been disappointing, especially in light of the political battles that have to be fought to pass them,” said Mello. “Increasingly, policy makers are interested in finding better approaches.”

The authors describe seven nontraditional approaches to medical liability reform, noting they are “more politically and ethically appealing because they stand to benefit not just physicians and insurers but also patients.”

Among the most promising innovations, they say, are communication-and-resolution programs in which health care practitioners and institutions openly discuss adverse outcomes with patients and proactively seek resolution, which may include offering compensation before the patient files a claim. Early programs pioneered by the Lexington (Ky.) Veterans Affairs hospital and the University of Michigan Health System have reported substantially lower malpractice claims and costs. Stanford University reported a 36 percent decrease in claim frequency and a 32 percent average annual reduction in insurance premiums in the first three-and-a-half years of its program.

Future trends over next 10 years

The authors predict six forces will reshape medical liability policy during the next decade:

  • Continued debates and disagreement about traditional tort reforms, especially damages caps, in courts, in legislatures and on ballot initiatives, which “sap political energy and divert attention from alternatives that may achieve what caps will never deliver: a more just, reliable and accessible liability system that promotes patient safety”
  • Expansion of communication-and-resolution programs. For starters, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is planning to support a nationwide scale-up of this approach.
  • Greater emphasis on laws that facilitate rapid private resolutions of medical injury disputes
  • More consideration of “safe harbor” laws that give health care practitioners and institutions a defense to a malpractice claim if they can show they followed an applicable clinical practice guideline in caring for a patient
  • Growing interest in leveraging the national movement toward consolidation in health care to improve resolution of medical injuries. As more physicians are employed by hospitals and health systems, those organizations can play a more prominent role in the liability system.
  • The next malpractice insurance crisis. Liability insurance crises have recurred in regular cycles since the expansion of malpractice litigation in the 1960s and, the authors say, “another may well be in the near future.”

The report concludes, “Action now to reduce the amplitude of the next medical liability cycle is both prudent and feasible. Further testing of nontraditional reforms, followed by wider implementation of those that work, holds the most promise. Prospects for permanent improvement in the medical liability climate depend on it.”

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.