Institute for Legislative and Governmental Affairs

Programs and Events 2012 - 2013

By Arthur D. Wolf, Director

Fall 2012

On August 8, the Institute and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission cohosted the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), which held an educational forum for members of the public. The forum agenda included experts in community mitigation, workforce development, and tourism. Elected officials also participated, including State Senator Gale Candaras ’82, the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, and State Senator Stanley Rosenberg, formerly Senate President Pro Tempore and currently its majority leader.

Alumni were well represented at the August 9 Hampden County Superior Court Clerk debate. Three of the four candidates were graduates of the University: Attorney John DaCruz ’94, Law Office Administrator Linda Stec DiSanti G’88, Attorney Laura Gentile ’91, and Springfield City Councilor Tom Ashe. Attorney Jeffrey Poindexter B.S.B.A. ’91 of the Bulkley Richardson law firm, and Attorney Marie Grady ’10 comprised the panel asking questions of the candidates.

On September 13, Western New England University Professor of History Jonathan Beagle presented the address to commemorate our annual celebration of Constitution Day/Citizenship Day. Professor Beagle is the most recent recipient of the University’s Excellence in Teaching Award. His remarks, “Shades of 1787: Shays’ Rebellion, the Constitution, and the Civil War” explored the relationship between Shays’ Rebellion (1787) and the Civil War (1861-1865), pointing out how the North and the South used the earlier rebellion to support their positions on the later conflict.

On October 7, the Institute sponsored the 17th Annual Supreme Court Review Conference. Western New England University School of Law Professors Leora Harpaz, Art Leavens, Jennifer Levi, Bruce Miller, and I participated. Among other decisions, Professor Harpaz addressed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (a.k.a. Obamacare), explaining the intricacies of the statute and the Court’s upholding its constitutionality. She noted especially the unusual majority sustaining its validity, with Chief Justice Roberts writing for the Court. The Jones case was the focus of Professor Leavens’ remarks, where the Court invalidated the use of a GPS tracking device. “By attaching a GPS device to Jones’ car and then monitoring the car’s movements for four weeks, the police ‘searched’ that car within the meaning of the fourth amendment, a search that was unreasonable becase it was not justified by a valid search warrant,” he noted.

Professor Levi discussed “Federal Marriage Discrimination,” as embodied in the Defense of Marriage Act and the California law prohibiting same gender marriage. United States Courts of Appeals have invalidated both laws on a variety of grounds. The Supreme Court is deciding both cases at time of publication. I looked at the Arizona decision in which the Court addressed the scope of state authority to regulate immigration, over which the federal government has almost plenary power. The Court invalidated much of the Arizona statute on preemption grounds, but upheld on its face the so-called “show your papers” provision, leaving open later challenges to that provision as applied. Professor Miller joined the others on the closing panel, examining the current term, the future of the Court, and the opportunities to appoint new justices.

Spring 2013

The highlights of the spring semester were two programs that reflect the Institute’s ongoing commitment to housing justice and preparing students to become legal scholars.

First, we were again a cosponsor of the Fair Housing and Civil Rights Conference, which occurred on April 11-12, for the seventh annual conference. This conference also marked the 45th anniversary of the signing of the Federal Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968.  

Second, for the 13th consecutive year, we hosted two students from Siena College under its dynamic summer legal fellows program, which Siena has with a handful of select law schools. This year, Nicholas Duffy and Peter Iannuzzi spent eight weeks on campus working with Professor Lauren Carasik, director of our International Human Rights Clinic, and Professor Matthew Charity.

To mark the 45th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the Seventh Annual Conference offered a two-day program covering a variety of subjects. Our presenters and speakers explored far-ranging topics in fair housing and civil rights, including predatory lending, residential segregation, protecting military veterans, immigration, disability and employment discrimination, issues relating to LGBT people, natural disasters, and civil rights, affirmative action, and hate crimes.

The Siena College summer program provides the opportunity for rising seniors to expand their understanding of the legal profession and gain real world experience working alongside professors. Nick Duffy assisted Professor Charity researching instances where the U.S. Supreme Court has failed to apply international law standards to protect minority group victims suing in United States courts under federal law.

Nick’s research focused largely on Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., a recent Supreme Court case. In that decision, the Justices rejected claims under the Federal Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, asserted by Nigerian nationals against Royal Dutch Petroleum and others. The complaint alleged that throughout the 1990s the private defendants aided and abetted Nigerian military and police forces who beat, raped, and killed Nigerians, and destroyed or looted their property.

Peter Iannuzzi worked with Professor Carasik. His research focused on Vieques, a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico, where the U.S. Navy conducted military training from the 1940s until 2003. The civilian population of the island continues to experience increased incidences of cancer and higher mortality rates, and other harmful health effects from toxic chemicals tested by the Navy on the island.

Peter’s research is the necessary predicate for drafting a petition to be filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an international agency that receives human rights complaints against members of the Organization of American states.The petition seeks a remedy for those adversely affected by the Navy’s decades of military training and munitions testing. Because the residents of Vieques have exhausted all their domestic remedies without success, the petition would seek to hold the United States and the Navy responsible for the island’s toxic legacy. If successful, the petition would require further decontamination measures in order to make the island livable once again.