Institute for Legislative and Governmental Affairs
Summary of Past Programs and Events
Ninth Annual Supreme Court Review Conference
The Ninth Annual Supreme Court Review Conference featured a panel consisting of Professors Leora Harpaz, Arthur Leavens, Bruce Miller, Eric Miller, and Sam Stonefield with Professor Wolf serving as the moderator. Professor Harpaz addressed the First Amendment cases, including the Court's affirmance of a preliminary injunction enjoining the Child Online Protection Act and the dismissal of a challenge to the "under God" language in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Professors Arthur Leavens and Eric Miller explored the unusually large number of criminal law decisions of the October 2003 term. In addition to the search and seizures cases, the Court heard several matters dealing with the Miranda warning. The professors also discussed some of the habeas corpus and death penalty opinions that seem to be occupying more of the Court's docket these days. Finally, the Court issued an important ruling regarding the sentencing of criminal defendants, holding that judges could not, under sentencing guidelines, enhance a prison term beyond the statutory maximum without the aid of the jury.
Professor Stonefield examined the large number of cases in the employment field, mostly discrimination decisions. Wearing his "evidence law" hat, he also discussed an important Confrontation Clause decision. Professor Bruce Miller concluded the seminar with a discussion of the decisions challenging the Government's detention of terrorism suspects, citizens and aliens, imprisoned in the United States and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In addition to allowing detainees to seek judicial review through federal habeas corpus, the Court also suggested that unlawfully imprisoned foreign nationals might have a civil action for damages against federal officials under the Alien Tort Statute.
Brown vs. Board of Education Anniversary
The School of Law celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision on Brown vs. Board of Education with two programs that emphasized the contemporary relevance of these iconic opinions and the continuing struggle for racial justice. The first program, organized by Professor Art Wolf examined the impact of the case and the ensuing desegregation law in Springfield, MA. Distinguished presenters included Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA), School Committee member Marjorie Hurst '85, Attorney Robert Fleischner, and Elaine Rucks spoke of the desegregation litigation in 1969 and the racial balance cases from 1970 until today.
The second event, organized by Professor Eric Miller, the American Constitution Society, and MCAD Commissioner Cynthia Tucker '86, hosted speaker Charles Ogletree, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, who talked about his book, All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown vs. Board of Education. While affirming the importance of the case in marking the beginning of the end of state-sponsored segregation, Professor Ogletree noted in his speech the several doctrinal omissions and limitations of the ruling and the enormous and continuing gap between its promise of equality and the reality of corrosive racial inequality.
Continuing Legal Education Programs
Together with the bar associations, the Institute co-sponsored four very successful Continuing Legal Education programs, including the very popular annual "Western Massachusetts Recent Developments in Bankruptcy" and "How to Handle a Residential Real Estate Closing." Through the efforts of Federal Bankruptcy Judge Henry Boroff and Attorney Jonathan R. Goldsmith, our distinguished panel included Federal Judge William C. Hillman, Springfield Attorneys Henry E. Geberth, Jr., Paul Salvage, and Kerry David Strayer, and Northampton Attorney Denise M. Shear. Led by Attorneys Dennis P. Powers and Stephen Leecock of the First American Title Insurance Company, the real estate program covered a variety of subjects related to closings.
Tax Reform Speak Out
Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA) was the keynote speaker at the "Tax Reform Speak Out," urging amendments to the internal revenue code that would make the federal income tax system fairer to the middle class. Among other changes, he proposed eliminating the alternative minimum tax. Professor Ned Schwartz argued for a "flat tax" on the sale of consumer goods, coupled with repeal of the income tax. Attorney Paul Mancinone '92 and Professor William Baker concluded the program with comments on tax reform in general, including their observations that a flat tax would not be viable.
Massachusetts Appeals Court Sitting
At its semi-annual sitting at the Law School, Judges Mel Greenberg, Kent Smith, and Andre Gelinas of the Massachusetts Appeals Court heard six cases. The civil appeals included issues relating to the Uniform Commercial Code and child support in divorce proceedings. The criminal appeals included questions about search and seizure, sufficiency of the evidence, and competence of counsel.
Hearings by State Commission Exploring Legal Service to Indigent Defendants
The Institute, along with Representative Gale D. Candaras '82 (D-Wilbraham) hosted the final hearing of the Commission for Public Counsel Services on the state crisis surrounding the Gideon vs. Wainwright ruling. That ruling mandated that all persons accused of a crime have adequate representation during their trial. In 2004, several attorneys in Massachusetts refused to take on court-appointed cases in protest of their low pay scales. As a result, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that indigent defendants could be released if they were not assigned an attorney within seven days, and their charges dropped after 45 days without an advocate. Three accused drug dealers were released as a result of this action. The Commission was created by Governor W. Mitt Romney to resolve the crisis. Present at this last hearing were the Honorable Mary Hurley-Marks '76 of Chicopee District Court, Anthony Bonavita, president of the Hampden County Bar Advocates, Inc., and the Honorable Patricia Dunbar '84 of Hampden County Juvenile Court.
Siena College Summer Internship Program
The School of Law is one of three sites for a special internship program created by Dr. Leonard Cutler of Siena College. Each summer two Siena students reside on campus to participate in a one-of-a-kind program in legislative research and drafting, the result of collaboration between the office of State Representative Gale D. Candaras '82 (D-Wilbraham) and the Legislative Institute.
The eight-week program has developed into one of the most popular summer internship programs offered at Siena. Dr. Cutler, the Siena pre-law advisor and director of the internship program, has referred to the Western New England University program as "unique." He has reported that competition for the Institute's legislative internship is keen among seniors, who may also choose internships at other law schools in the northeast.
Working under the supervision of Institute Director Arthur Wolf, the Siena interns conduct research on their choice of current legislative problems. This summer's Siena interns, Kelly Pressler and Brian Sterling, chose to work on death penalty and redistricting legislation.
The interns also accompanied Candaras to the State House where they undertook primary research and met with experts on their topics, including legislators, policy analysts, legal staff, and advocates. The interns then prepared a legal and policy memorandum, together with draft legislation.
Candaras said the students are instructed on the technical aspects of legislative research and drafting. "When the summer began, I honestly did not know where they would come out on their topics of redistricting and reinstating the death penalty. We certainly had extensive discussions about these issues. Kelly and Brian are bright, energetic, and hard working. They would make fine attorneys and legislators."