Animal Advocacy During The Trump Administration

Many animal advocates opposed the election of Donald Trump.  The Humane Society called a Trump presidency “a threat to animals everywhere.” Kathleen Parker, a columnist for the Washington Post, warned of Trump’s “anti-animal animus.” The reality is more nuanced. While Trump seems likely to roll back some legal protections for animals, the change in administration might also create new opportunities for animal advocates. First, the bad news. The Trump administration seems less interested than its predecessors in enforcing animal cruelty laws. For example, on Thursday, February 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture abruptly took down its webpage publicizing investigations of animal abuse. This move seems to signal a less zealous approach to enforcement by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The new stance is not surprising given Trump’s earlier tolerance of animal cruelty by Ringling Brothers’ Circus. A second cause for concern is the Trump administration’s goal of empowering states to regulate wildlife currently covered by the Endangered Species Act. Several state officials have declared that they would reduce populations of wolves and other predators if permitted to do so by the federal government. On January 17, a federal judge blocked the state of Idaho from using telemetry [read more]

New York’s Home-Sharing Law: An Obstacle To Combatting The Consequences Of Gentrification

Gentrification, the process of renewal and rebuilding which accompanies the migration of middle-class or affluent people into historically poor urban areas, may on its face seem beneficial for all members of a community. After all, gentrification provides numerous benefits to blighted neighborhoods – it can help stimulate economic growth, garner greater resources for public education, public safety, and other areas of public welfare through increased property taxes, and provide new job opportunities for community members. While these benefits are noteworthy, the poor and people of color rarely enjoy them. Gentrification emphasizes the interests of the middle and upper classes—frequently at the expense of the poor and communities of color. With the renewal and rebuilding of dilapidated structures comes higher property values, large corporations and businesses that target the middle and upper classes, and highly skilled workers. The result is often the displacement of poor communities of color from the neighborhoods they have lived in their whole lives and embraced as their own. Thus, while gentrification encourages economic growth, it also results in increased homelessness among the original residents who cannot keep up with the rising property values. In an attempt to combat the negative consequences of gentrification, many low-income residents [read more]

Protecting Patents from the Looming 3D Printing Storm

The current state of U.S. patent infringement law does not meet the challenges of 3D printing technology. 3D printing is a process in which a printer produces a physical three-dimensional object from a “CAD” file, which is an image file formatted for computers. Owners of the printer merely have to upload the CAD file onto the printer to reproduce the desired object. Although 3D printing has yet to gain broad use and appeal, the law may need to catch up with the technological advancement. Data indicate that 3D printing could be mainstream in even five years. The federal statute controlling the area of patent infringement (including 3D printing) is 35 U.S.C. § 271. The statute explains both direct and indirect patent infringement. Direct infringement is the act of making, using, selling, offering, or importing into the U.S., any patented invention, without permission. Indirect infringement, is any act that is not direct infringement, but which requires some knowledge and intent regarding the actual infringement. The federal statute protects against infringement in the most basic sense. In Bauer & Cie. v. O’Donnell, the Supreme Court ruled that physically reproducing a patented invention is the same as “making” a patented invention (direct infringement). [read more]

Sidelining Locker Room Talk

By Christina M. Kim In 2012, Harvard University discovered an online “scouting report” in which male soccer players ranked female players by attractiveness and suspected sexual preferences. Freshmen women players, some as young as 17, were evaluated based on their looks and sex appeal with numerical scores and offensive descriptions. The report assigned each woman a hypothetical sexual position in addition to her position on the soccer field. For example:  “She seems relatively simple and probably inexperienced sexually, so I decided missionary would be her preferred position.”  This ranking system appears to have been a and was not isolated to a few individuals. In response Harvard University suspended its men’s soccer team for the remainder of the 2016-17 season.   While it is easy to dismiss the scouting report as “locker room talk,” sex discrimination and exploitation on college campuses is not so neatly confined. Universities across the country are struggling to address sexism on and off the fields.   In 2015, more than 150,000 students at 27 universities participated in the Association of American Universities (AAU) Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. The purpose was to “help participating universities better understand the attitudes and experiences of [read more]

The Erosion of Free Will and Its Legal Implications

By Noah Danielson The state of our knowledge about “free will” is still very unsettled. Much of the research in this field is the subject of hotly contested debate and answers to many important questions remain up in the air. However, a number of studies have corroded the edges of a previously widely accepted principal: that human decisions are the result of conscious choices. This idea is central to the retributivist theory of justice, by which a willful wrongdoer’s blameworthiness subjects them to punishment. Human Understanding of Our Conscious Choice In a study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, researchers found that transcranial stimulation – magnetic stimulation of the nerve cells in the brain – could impact human choices. Researchers asked participants to randomly raise their hand 50 times. Prior to stimulation, a right-handed person would select their right hand 60% of the time. After transcranial stimulation, the same person would select their left hand 80% of the time. Interestingly, participants still reported that they believed their choices had been made freely. The results suggest that the conscious mind may mistakenly believe that conscious intent is the impetus for an action, when in actuality there is an outside [read more]

Autonomous Cars: Who’s to Blame?

By Danny Ho The world may soon enter into a new era of transportation – autonomous cars. What was once a futuristic concept that people only toyed with in their imaginations is increasingly becoming a reality. These are cars that drive themselves through the use of sensory technologies such as radar, global positioning systems (GPS) and cameras. Technically speaking, passengers in such a car could sleep or even read a book while the car navigates itself to the desired location. Aside from passenger luxury and convenience, there are other advantages to a road system dominated by autonomous cars. Most importantly, the use of autonomous cars could actually reduce the occurrence of traffic collisions generally by virtually negating instances of human driving errors such as tailgating, aggressive driving, and lack of attention. The consulting firm McKinsey & Company even estimates that, if the use of autonomous cars become widespread, traffic collisions could be reduced by as much as 90% nationally. In addition, autonomous cars may provide for higher speed limits and thus smoother and shorter travel times because of a decreased need for safety gaps between cars. But despite these advantages, autonomous cars can still get in traffic accidents. In fact, [read more]

Global Warming and the Law: Why Legal Technicalities are Harming Our Environment

By Danny Ho The global warming controversy encompasses the on-going dispute about whether or not human activities, such as carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles, affect the global climate. Studies from scientific journals, such as the Environmental Research Letters, show that the general scientific community attributes global warming to human action. The Obama administration operates under the same belief and has pushed for the Clean Power Plan (CPP) in order to curb carbon dioxide emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the CPP, calling for stricter standards on carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants operating on coal and gas. Over half the states are against the CPP, arguing that the EPA is overstepping its legal authority. The CPP is currently in limbo because the Supreme Court has halted implementation of it until the D.C. Circuit Court decides on its legality. Regardless of the outcome in the D.C. Circuit Court, the decision will likely return to the Supreme Court for a final ruling. The need for the CPP is clear to its supporters. Global carbon dioxide emissions have increased by about a third since the Industrial Revolution, primarily as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. As a result, carbon [read more]

Gobble, Gobble: A Pardon for Turkeys, But Not for Snowden

By: Francis Cullo   On November 23, the day before Thanksgiving, President Obama will pardon a turkey (or two) for the eighth and final time in his presidency. This lighthearted tradition dates back to the Truman White House, although some trace the practice back to Lincoln’s clemency of a turkey all the way back in 1863. It is a somewhat absurd tradition. For one thing turkeys have not even committed a crime! But so many of our Thanksgiving traditions are absurd. The National Turkey Federation (yes, it’s a real lobbying organization) sponsors the White House ceremony. The Federation pays for the pardoned turkeys to arrive to the White House by motorcade flanked by Secret Service agents. For all the pomp and circumstance of the Thanksgiving ceremony, President Obama is a reluctant pardoner in another way as well. Obama trails every two-term president in number of pardons except for our first president George Washington, favoring instead the use of commutations. Executive clemency powers are serious business, and should not be taken lightly. However, under federal mandatory minimum standards, non-violent first-time offenders are not eligible for parole, and many are serving harsh sentences. That makes executive clemency powers effectively the only safety [read more]

What to Do with the Minimum Wage: Counter Arguments (Part Two)

By Daniel Sperling The previous blog post What to Do with the Minimum Wage: Pro Arguments (Part One), discussed the history behind minimum wage law as well as the proponents of a minimum wage increase and their respective arguments for increasing the minimum wage. This blog post will address the arguments against increasing the minimum wage while analyzing the overall complexity of the debate on minimum wage. Just as there are a host of arguments outlined in favor of increasing the minimum wage, there are also many arguments in opposition to any minimum wage increase. The Congressional Budget Office argued that while a minimum wage increase would benefit some families by raising their household income above the federal poverty threshold, it would also eliminate many jobs. In 2012 the Economic Policy Institute estimated that nearly 800,000 jobs could be lost as a result of a minimum wage increase. The Congressional Budget Office’s report estimated that an increase of the federal minimum wage from the current rate of $7.25 an hour to $10.10 would eliminate 500,000 jobs across the labor market, although it would increase the wages of 16.5 million workers. Similarly, the Congressional Budget Office projected that an increase in [read more]

3D Printing: Is the Law Prepared for the Future of Fashion?

By Arielle Padover Commonplace three-dimensional (3D) printing may seem far off; however, it seems to be arriving quicker than some might have anticipated, particularly in the fashion industry. According to David Sheffler, a researcher and lecturer at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, “3D printing is where PCs were in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.” In fashion specifically, Joris Debo, the creative director of Materialise, notes that while it is “a slow process of adoption,” 3D printing in fashion has changed “quite rapidly” in the past few years. While we probably have quite a while before people can say “I’ll be ready as soon as I print my shoes,” it is extremely important that lawmakers proactively address the legal issues that will inevitably arise due an increase in 3D printing. 3D printing allows people to turn a digital file into a three-dimensional object by successively layering material until the object is formed. 3D printing has been gradually making its way into the mainstream, with companies like UPS and Staples offering 3D printing services. It will likely continue to become an even more familiar process as 3D printers become increasingly more affordable and, therefore, more accessible [read more]