Institute for Legislative and Governmental Affairs

Programs and Events 2005 - 2006

By Arthur D. Wolf, Director

Fall 2005

During the fall term, 2005, the Legislative Institute sponsored three programs on the United States Supreme Court, three Continuing Legal Education (CLE) sessions, and a sitting of the Massachusetts Appeals Court. With the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and the passing of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, President Bush nominated his first justices to the Supreme Court, Judges John Roberts and Samuel Alito. The Institute sponsored two seminars on the nomination and confirmation process, exploring the historical and contemporary issues that have arisen in the appointment of justices to our highest court. In these two sessions, Professors James Gordon, Leora Harpaz, Bruce Miller, and Art Wolf explored the wide range of questions associated with the appointment process.

The Institute sponsored the Tenth Annual Supreme Court Review Conference, which focused on the important decisions of the Court during the October 2004 term, and assessed the direction the Court may take under Chief Justice Roberts. Professor Leora Harpaz, who first began the conference 10 years ago, presented the decisions on race and religion. Professor Jamie Colburn discussed the Court's land use opinions, principally the Kelo case from New London, CT, the eminent domain case that has sparked such controversy.
Professor Arthur Leavens explored the criminal law decisions, particularly as they related to sentencing, search and seizure, and the death penalty. Finally, Professor Bruce Miller examined two interesting federalism decisions involving the medical use of marijuana and interstate wine sales. The program concluded with a panel discussion of the direction the Court may take under Chief Justice Roberts. Professor Art Wolf moderated the Review Conference.

With the Massachusetts Bar Association and our Alumni Office, the Institute hosted three Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs, which were open to the entire bar with special admission rates for Law School graduates and students. The semester CLEs began with the long-awaited program on the recent revisions to the Federal Bankruptcy Code (the changes were pending in Congress for over five years). Under the expertise and guiding hand of Federal Bankruptcy Judge Henry Boroff, the Institute hosted the "Fourth Annual Recent Developments in Bankruptcy." Bankruptcy judges and practitioners conducted a full day seminar on the extensive amendments Congress made to the Bankruptcy Code in 2005. The Institute also hosted two other CLE programs: "A Civil Practice in Housing Court" and "Handling Depositions." Again with a distinguished faculty of judges and attorneys, the audience learned first hand from key players in two important areas of civil litigation.

Finally, the Institute with Career Services hosted the semi-annual sitting at the Law School of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, with the Honorable Judges Barbara Lenk (presiding), Kent Smith, and Andre Gelinas. As usual, the docket consisted largely of criminal law cases with an occasional argument in a civil matter. We were privileged to have the Court join us for lunch after the hearings.

Spring 2006

During the spring term, 2006, the Legislative Institute hosted, together with the local bar associations, the usual complement of Continuing Legal Education programs and the semiannual sitting of the Massachusetts Appeals Court. Further, the Institute also presented programs of interest to our law students and members of the communities beyond the School of Law.
Among these was Attorney Brandt Goldstein, who has written a critically acclaimed nonfiction work about the federal courts and the Haitians seeking political asylum in the 1990s. The book, Storming the Court, focuses on 300 innocent men, women, and children who had qualified for political asylum in the United States, but were forced into a squalid detention camp at the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Attorney Goldstein referred to the incident as the first dispute over detainees at Guantanamo Bay. He told the story of Yvonne Pascal and other Haitian refugees who had fled their violent homeland only to end up prisoners on Guantanamo. The Haitian refugees had no lawyers and no contact with the outside world until a group of law students came to their aid. At a time when the treatment of post-9/11 Guantanamo detainees has been challenged in the courts and the public arena, Attorney Goldstein traced the origins of the legal battle over America’s use of the naval base as a prison and illuminated the ways that politics can influence legal decisions.
The Institute also sponsored a program focusing on the current dispute at Guantanamo Bay over the detainees captured in the war on terrorism. Professors Bruce Miller and Art Wolf analyzed some of the legal issues that the detention has presented. In December 2005, Congress enacted the Detainee Treatment Act. Among other provisions, the statute withdraws jurisdiction from the federal courts in cases challenging the detention and conditions at Guantanamo. In light of the constitutional provision forbidding suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, except in limited circumstances, the Act raises serious constitutional questions. Furthermore, Professor Miller discussed the status of the detainees as enemy combatants. Noting that the Administration has played a “bit fast and loose” with that designation, he observed that such designation may be inconsistent with existing law and past precedents.
Finally, the Institute also continued to offer its services to public officials who wished to be briefed on current issues of law and public policy. Meeting with a member of Congress, we explored the following matters: (1) the President’s surveillance program without court approval, including the impact of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; (2) extraordinary rendition, which is the practice of the U.S. sending detainees to other countries for incarceration and interrogation; and (3) the detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay and other facilities around the world under U.S. control or supervision.
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