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Report from Stanford Law School and U.C. Berkeley School of Law Calls for College Pathways for Individuals in Criminal Justice System

San Quentin State Prison was a life-changing experience for Sean Simms, but not in the way most people would imagine.

Students at the Bard Prison Initiative receive their college degrees at Eastern New York Correctional Facility in 2013. Photo courtesy of Bard Prison Initiative.

Students at the Bard Prison Initiative receive their college degrees at Eastern New York Correctional Facility in 2013. Photo courtesy of Bard Prison Initiative.

Before being transferred to San Quentin, the only worthwhile things he learned in prison yards were how to play dominoes and cards. After he enrolled in the Prison University Project at San Quentin in Northern California, Simms said, I got hope from my peers who had been in school before me. They had such a set program. They had to hurry up and get to work on time, get in some exercise, and hurry up and get to school. I loved how busy they were. I wanted to follow those guys, those guys who were busy and had stuff going on and had hope.”

Simms earned a college degree through the Prison University Project, which he credits with giving him the social skills and confidence he needed to do well in job interviews and succeed in his current positions as a fiber-optic technician and a personal driver. It is the only in-person college program that exists for individuals incarcerated in California.

More Programs Needed

A new report from the Stanford Criminal Justice Center at Stanford Law School and the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Society Policy at U.C. Berkeley School of Law documents a tremendous need for programs like this one. Published today, “Degrees of Freedom: Expanding College Opportunities for Currently and Formerly Incarcerated Californians” identifies the state’s 112 community colleges and 33 public colleges and universities as gateways to help students learn while in custody and succeed after release.

The report recommends leveraging funding available through Senate Bill 1391, signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014, to provide community college courses inside prisons and jails. It identifies other laws, policies and funding sources that can be used to build high-quality college gateways. It also identifies support systems that are needed to help these students succeed, such as stable living and working conditions, programs that help students become ready for college-level coursework and counseling about workforce options that match their training. It calls for the criminal justice and education administrators to break the “silos” they usually work in and create partnerships to help those in custody succeed.

“College changes lives, strengthens our communities and decreases the likelihood that a person will return to crime. But high-quality college opportunities are few and far between for currently and formerly incarcerated students. This report provides a roadmap to build sustainable and replicable pathways to college for these aspiring students,” said co-author Debbie Mukamal, executive director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center at Stanford Law School. The center has organized a class taught by Stanford graduate students through the Prison University Project for several years.

“We cannot ignore the thousands of potential students waiting to improve their lives and break the cycle of incarceration. We know how to help these students succeed, and it is time to use that knowledge,” said co-author Rebecca Silbert, executive director of the Warren Institute at U.C. Berkeley School of Law.

A Way to Reduce Recidivism

The report notes that more than 50,000 individuals will be released from California’s prisons during the next two years, and thousands more will be released from county jails. Proposition 47, approved by voters last year, reduces penalties for some crimes and is expected to make those numbers swell. The report cites a recent RAND study that found the participants in prison college programs have a 51 percent greater chance of recidivating that those who do not participate and, after release, the odds of obtaining employment are higher for those who participate in education.

Meanwhile, the state’s need for college-educated workers is growing and is expected to outpace the number of citizens with a college education. By 2015, 41 percent of jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree.

Although California has the largest public education system in the nation, the state’s commitment to educating individuals in custody often stops with a general equivalency diploma (GED) or high school degree, and there are long waiting lists for the few programs that help these men and women become college graduates. During the 1990s, many college programs in the state’s prisons and campus-based transition programs for the formerly incarcerated were replaced with low-quality, noninteractive correspondence-based distance education.

The 154-page report is based on more than 175 interviews, academic research and historical investigation. It is aimed at policymakers, potential students and college administrators in California and also provides a blueprint for other states seeking to build pathways to education for those in the criminal justice system. The research and publication of the report were supported by the Ford Foundation as part of its Renewing Communities initiative.

“Degrees of Freedom” is available here.

Stanford Law School Jessup Moot Court Students Win Regional Championship, Advance To International Rounds

Stanford Law School Jessup Moot Court students will soon go where no other SLS Jessup team has gone before–to the White & Case International Rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition where they will serve as one of 12 teams to represent the United States.

The competition, currently in its 56th year, is known as the world largest moot court competition with more than 550 law schools in 80 countries that participate. This will mark the first time an SLS team has made it to the international round.

The team, made up of Cassandra Kildow, JD ’16, John Kenney, JD ’16, Vivek Tata, JD ’16, Giulia Scelzo, JD ’16, Mengyi Xu, JD ’17, Desley Horton, LLM ’15, and Udit Sood, LM’15, qualified for the competition after their victory at the Rocky Mountain Regional Round held at the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver on February 19-22.

SLS Jessup Team (pictured from left to right ) Udit Sood (coach), Cassandra Kildow, Vivek Tata, Desley Horton (coach), John Kenney, Giulia Scelzo, Mengyi Xu.

SLS Jessup Team
(pictured from left to right ) Udit Sood (coach), Cassandra Kildow, Vivek Tata, Desley Horton (coach), John Kenney, Giulia Scelzo, Mengyi Xu.

“Winning the regional competition is the culmination of months of research and moot practices,” said Horton. “The team is excited to represent Stanford Law School and the United States at the International Rounds.”

“The Jessup regional victory is a great outcome, one that reflects the ever-growing passion and sophistication of students interested in international law issues here at Stanford,” said Allen S. Weiner, Senior Lecturer in Law and the team’s faculty advisor. “The Jessup event is extremely competitive, and at many law schools it is a formal part of the curriculum; students enroll in a class, prepare multiple drafts of their briefs, and compete in preliminary rounds against other teams from the school. Our students established this year’s Jessup team as an extracurricular matter on their own initiative, and did virtually all of the work independently.”

This season’s “Jessup Problem” focuses on procedural and substantive issues arising from the secession of one province of a nation and its annexation into another. “The parties are fictional, but the various issues bear similarities to conflicts in various parts of the world” said Horton.

The White & Case International Rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition will be held in Washington D.C. on April 5-11. The winner of those rounds will then compete for the Jessup Cup World Championship title on April 11.

Colleagues Honor Stanford Law School Professor Richard Craswell with Festschrift

Some of the nation’s most respected scholars in the field of contract law gathered at a “festschrift” symposium last weekend to celebrate the exceptional contributions of Stanford Law School Professor Richard Craswell to academia and share original research inspired by his insights.

Craswell standing ovation

Colleagues give Stanford Law Professor Richard Craswell (seated) a standing ovation at the festschrift in his honor.

“This is what we do when we want to honor a Hall of Famer. We get together and write papers,” explained M. Elizabeth Magill, the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and dean of the law school, during the celebratory dinner on Friday in Paul Brest Hall at Stanford Law School. The event was co-sponsored by the law school and the Stanford Law Review.

The evening started on a light note with an original serenade in honor of Craswell’s quirky habit of setting his observations about contract law to different types of music, ranging from sea chanties and drinking songs to themes from classic musicals and westerns. Seven colleagues sang “I’ll Be Suing You” to the tune of “I’ll Be Seeing You,” accompanied by flute and guitar – with footnotes appended to lyrics shown on a big screen. Stanford Law School colleague and chorister Professor Alison Morantz later lauded Craswell as “the Cole Porter of legal academia with no significant rivals.” Morantz conceived the idea of the festschrift and handled the arrangements with help from Professor Barbara Fried.

Currently the William F. Baxter – Visa International Professor of Law, Richard Craswell is a leading scholar of the economics and jurisprudence of contract law. Since arriving at Stanford Law School in 1998, and in prior professorships at the University of Chicago Law School and University of Southern California Law Center, as well as six years as an attorney with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, he has achieved recognition as an expert in all aspects of commercial law, including commercial paper and secured credit, as well as antitrust and consumer protection law.

Impressive turnout

The symposium, titled “Who Knows? Law in an Information Society,” was the largest one in recent years presented by the Stanford Law Review (SLR), according to SLR President Michael Mestitz (JD ’15). He said virtually everyone who was invited agreed to come. As a result, 25 leading scholars in law and economics, contracts, commercial law, antitrust law and related topics attended the discussions and presentations.

Five new papers presented at the symposium will appear in the June issue of the Stanford Law Review. They are:

  • “The Rule of Probabilities” by Ian Ayres of Yale Law School and Barry Nalebuff of Yale School of Management
  • “Information and the Aim of Adjudication: Truth or Consequences?” by Louis Kaplow of Harvard Law School
  • “Regulating for Rationality” by Alan Schwartz of Yale Law School
  • “Debiasing Through Law and the First Amendment” by Christine Jolls of Yale Law School
  • “What Do People Know (and Think They Know) About Contract Formation?” by Tess Wilkinson-Ryan of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and David A. Hoffman of Temple University Beasley School of Law

Craswell’s generous spirit

A recurring theme throughout the festschrift was Craswell’s generosity in critiquing colleagues’ scholarship with their best interests at heart. “It’s as if he crosses over from his intellectual terrain to your island and spends time there,” explained Morantz, praising his “almost uncanny” ability to “offer insights as an insider.”

Noting that she first met Craswell at the University of Chicago Law School when she was on the entry-level job market, Magill said that during a private meeting with him to discuss her paper, “he was inside my head” and “showed a level of empathy for my intellectual framework that was exceptional.” She said she felt “cheated” because she was new to law teaching and “I thought that all law professors were like that.” At the dinner she told Craswell, “You are the best of what we can possibly be as colleagues and scholars.”

Margaret Jane Radin, a professor of law at University of Michigan Law School, recalled that when she and Craswell were colleagues at the University of Southern California, he never said anything injudicious or lost his temper, never angled for a good recommendation or a prize, and even left his contracts notes for the newcomer. “He’s this wonderful human being and he acts like he doesn’t know that,” she marveled.

Larry Kramer, former dean of the law school and current president of the Hewlett Foundation said Craswell is “the definition of class“ and was exceptional because “anything you needed done he would do and he would do well and thoroughly.”

Intellectual giant

Associate Dean and Law Professor George Triantis focused on Craswell’s academic contributions, declaring, “There are different types of intellectual giants. Some cast long shadows in the field, while others shine sunlight that helps the rest of us find our way and find the paths to make our own contributions. My personal gratitude to Dick lies here, and I know that many others can report similar experiences.”

Triantis credited Craswell with helping to keep the field of contract law dynamic. He said Craswell’s classic work, “Contract Law, Default Rules and the Philosophy of Promising,”published in 1989, “may have produced the greatest impact in our field by clarifying and mapping for us the understanding of philosophical and economic perspectives on contract enforcement.” He commended Craswell’s “Against Fuller and Perdue” paper in 2000 as leading the field away from a dead end and opening up a bright, new framework for thinking about damages.

Triantis also cited Craswell’s generous and open-minded response to Eric Posner’s 2003 paper arguing that economic analysis had failed contract law. Acknowledging how complicated the field was, Craswell heralded “attempts to come to grips with what are, in my view the questions that really matter. As I see it, shedding any light at all on those questions is a useful contribution, whether or not we are able to produce a complete and definitive answer.”

“A lively and productive academic field needs bomb throwers,” Triantis said. “But we also need people who come in, clear the rubble or crumbling structures, and show us the way to construct a sharper and more useful understanding of complex questions that really matter, in contracts and elsewhere.” He concluded, “As a most esteemed, charitable colleague to all of us, Dick, you have and will continue to be a source of intellectual rigor and light.”

Craswell was characteristically modest when he spoke briefly at the end of the evening. Citing Lou Gehrig’s famous retirement speech in which he focused on his good fortune, Craswell thanked his colleagues and said simply, “When it comes to the luck department, I really have been lucky.”

Supreme Court Justice and Circuit Judges Give SLS Students Insider’s Look at Becoming a Judge

A sterling reputation is the key driver of success for lawyers, agreed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and U.S. Circuit Judges Sri Srinivasan (JD/MBA ’95, BA ’89) and Raymond Kethledge during a conversation at Stanford Law School on Wednesday.

Justice and judges at moot Court

Presiding as the “Supreme Court” at Wednesday’s Moot Court are (from left), Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and Circuit Judge Sri Srinivasan. Prior to the mock trial, they shared their thoughts with Stanford Law School students.

The event, presented by the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society, was held prior to this year’s Moot Court Board final arguments, at which the justice and judges presided as a simulated U.S. Supreme Court.

It was a homecoming for Srinivasan, who was a Moot Court finalist when he attended Stanford Law School. Professor Jeffrey Fisher, who has argued 26 times before the high court and is co-director of the Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, served as moderator.

Career aspirations

Asked what made them first aspire to become a judge, all three referred to their experience as law clerks, the trusted relationships they made during their careers and unexpected opportunities that came along. Kethledge noted that he and Srinivasan became friends when they clerked together at the Supreme Court, and later helped one another when they were nominated as judges. Srinivasan mentioned also clerking alongside M. Elizabeth Magill, now dean of Stanford Law School, who welcomed everyone to the event.

“I’m feeling like the odd man out,” quipped Kagan. “It sounds like everyone has clerked together but me. But that’s OK because I get to be the Chief Justice.” Kagan was referring to her role as Chief Justice during the Moot Court competition. In her real-life role on Supreme Court, she is the junior justice who, by tradition, takes notes for the group and answers knocks on the door during closed sessions.

Recounting the unexpected twists in her career, Kagan said most law students plan too much and don’t take into account the times when “lightning strikes.” “The best thing is not to plan, but to work hard and be a good person. In the end that’s what gets you the opportunity,” she advised.

What makes a good law clerk

Asked about the most important traits in law clerks, Srinivasan said he looks for “what every supervisor looks for: someone who makes you do your job better.” All three emphasized the need for clerks who bring new insights to the cases they are handling and also are fun to be around, since judges and clerks spent a great deal of time working together.

Kagan said she looks for clerks who can stand up to her and offer counterarguments even when she seems to have made up her mind. Kethledge added that he looks for clerks who take ownership of their assignments, are professional and mature, and can write well because “for lawyers, that’s the medium through which we primarily express what we do.”

The panelists said they enjoy reading well-written briefs, and two said their favorite opinion was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s lone dissent in Morrison v. Olson (1988), in which he argued that the Independent Counsel Act should be struck down because it was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. “It is one of the greatest dissents ever written and every year it gets better,” said Kagan.

Srinivasan noted that “writing a dissent is fun” because “you don’t have to write the dry stuff at the beginning. You get right to the punchy stuff.”

Writing a good brief

When Fisher asked them for tips on writing a good brief, Srinivasan said there are two ways to approach the task: by saying you should decide for me because you have to (and listing previous cases that support your argument) or because you want to. He advised the latter, saying he wants to read a brief that persuades him to adopt the arguer’s point of view.

It’s important, Srinivasan explained, to acknowledge the weaknesses in your case. Since he has become a judge with lots of cases to decide, he said he also appreciates a concise summary of what he needs to know about the case and three powerful reasons why he should support your view.

Kagan said the best briefs are ones that tell a story and make an overarching case for why the argument makes sense. Kethledge focused on the importance of good style and establishing credibility. “When a judge reads your brief, you should understand I am judging you,” he said.

Oral arguments

The purpose of an oral argument, Srinivasan said, is not to try to control the room, but to figure out what the room wants to know. “My first job is to address whatever concern you have that is at the heart of the case,” he noted.

Yet another level of discourse takes place during arguments before the Supreme Court. “We talk to one another,” Kagan said. As the junior justice, she must wait during closed conferences until the other eight justices weigh in before she can present her views on a case. So, if she has a point to make and wants to make it “front and center, when my colleagues are thinking about the case,” she will do so while the case is being argued before the high court.

Kagan, Srinivasan and Kethledge later praised Stanford Law School finalists who argued at the Moot Court finals, noting that the two teams did so well that the simulated Supreme Court had a split decision. The case, Electronic Arts, Inc. v. Ryan Hart, concerned Ryan’s claim that a football quarterback avatar in EA’s video game franchise violated his right to privacy.

The winners of “Best Brief” and “Best Team Overall” were the respondents, Phillip Klimke and Matthaeus Weinhardt, representing Ryan. Michael Qian, arguing for the petitioner (EA) along with Daniel Kane, was selected as the “Best Oralist.” In real life, the two parties negotiated a settlement.

Elena Kagan was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2009. Raymond Kethledge serves as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, handling cases in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Sri Srinivasan sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.


Stanford Law School Students to Hear Case Before U.S. Supreme Court

SLS students worked on a Supreme Court case

Students from the fall quarter Supreme Court Litigation Clinic who helped prepare a case being argued Monday are (from left) Brittany Jones, Gary Dyal, Jenna Williams and Alison Karol.

Students from Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic are in Washington, D.C., with Professor and Clinic Co-Director Jeffrey Fisher, who will argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The students spent the fall quarter assisting Fisher with background research and drafting the respondents’ merits brief for the ONEOK, Inc. v. Learjet, Inc.

Brittany Jones, JD ’16, Gary Dyal, JD ’15, and Jenna Williams, JD ’15, will be in the courtroom with Fisher on Monday, when he addresses the issue of whether the Natural Gas Act preempts state-law claims challenging industry practices that directly affect the wholesale natural gas market. Alison Karol, JD ’15, who also worked on the case, did not make the trip, but will be watching it with interest.

Fisher will argue on behalf of commercial and industrial gas consumers, led by Learjet, against major energy producers, including ONEOK, who are seeking to overturn an April 2013 decision by the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals that would allow antitrust suits filed under state laws to proceed. The case pits some of the nation’s largest natural gas vendors against their customers.

“The students have worked extremely hard, and that shows in the quality of the brief,” said Fisher, who has argued before the Court more than 20 times. “We’re looking forward to seeing how the Justices react to it.”

Brittany Jones said she was “very, very grateful” she was able to work on a SCOTUS brief. “For a law student, that kind of opportunity is rare,” she noted. She felt the chance to work on a piece of writing with other collaborators was especially valuable. “As a law student, you get to work on a lot of things on your own, and get the feeling of exclusive ownership. Working as a group is more like what attorneys really do.”

“The legal research and writing experience will be very valuable as I enter my legal career,” said Jenna Williams. “The issue is very complex, and I think doing the research and writing for it will make me much more able to confidently dive into and understand new legal topics in the future.”

The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, which was the first of its kind at any law school, is one of 11 clinics currently offered at Stanford Law School. Students enrolled in a clinic spend a full academic quarter working on real cases with real clients, with no other distractions. In recent years, the clinic has represented clients on issues including federal anti-discrimination laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act, criminal defendants with constitutional claims, public interest and trade associations, the free exercise of religion, bankruptcy law and the Voting Rights Act.