Hot Topic Programs Selected for 2017 Annual Meeting
Hot Topic program “Beyond Michael Brown and Ferguson, Effective Responses to Police Force” from the 2015 AALS Annual Meeting
Hot topic programs at the AALS Annual Meeting highlight important and timely topics on some of society’s most pressing legal issues. These programs were selected by the Program Committee for the AALS 2017 Annual Meeting from proposals submitted by law school faculty.
The Securities and Exchange Commission and Sustainability Disclosure
Wednesday, January 4, 10:30 am – 12:15 pm
The SEC recently (and for the first time) sought guidance on whether it should require more disclosure on environmental, social, and governance facts. They received an outpouring of comments. Clearer, more standardized disclosure on companies’ taxes, political contributions, effects on and efforts to avoid climate change, human capital investments, and the human rights effects of company activities around the world received support from a wide range of entities, even some members of Congress and other government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency. In contrast, a number of issuers (trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, law firms, and some Attorneys General) wrote in opposition to greater sustainability disclosure, calling it “special interest disclosure.”
This panel will examine sustainability of the SEC’s Concept Release. Examination is particularly apt in light of: the stalled petition to the SEC from leading law professors in 2011 asking it to promulgate rules to require disclosure of companies’ political donations, which has generated over 700,000 signatures in support; and the academic and policy controversies over Dodd-Frank’s Conflict Minerals and “Publish What You Pay” provisions, which directed the SEC to promulgate required disclosure requirements on international accountability topics.
Declining Bar Exam Scores, the New Bar Pass Accreditation Standard, and Ensuring New Lawyer Competence: A Perfect Storm
Wednesday, January 4, 1:30 pm – 3:15 pm
By January, the ABA Council is likely to have voted to adopt a new, more demanding accreditation standard on bar pass rates for law school graduates. This change comes at a time of significant declines in pass rates over the past four administrations of the Multistate Bar Exam, and places increased pressures on law schools with respect to admissions decisions and bar preparation.
At the same time, some jurisdictions are adding or considering adding experiential curricular preconditions for licensure, more stringent than the six-unit experiential requirement already added by the ABA. These new state licensing requirements reflect a judgment that the public needs better protection than currently offered by bar exam passage, and they highlight the tension between what students need to learn in order to be competent lawyers and what students need to learn to achieve a passing MBE score.
This interactive roundtable session will engage participants in a discussion of three critical questions: How should law schools and legal educators respond to the reality of a new bar pass accreditation standard and declining bar exam scores? Is the current bar exam a reasonable measure of new lawyer competence? Can we envision—and move toward creating—a more accurate measure in order to better protect the public?
Federal Power Over Immigration
Thursday, January 5, 8:30 am – 10:15 am
The Supreme Court’s divided 4-4 ruling in United States v. Texas and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s advocacy of severe restrictions have focused public attention on federal power over immigration. This panel will consider both the specific issues raised in the case and the broader issues at stake in the debate over immigration law and the Constitution.
Some of the panelists will address the specific issues raised by United States v. Texas, including whether the president has discretionary authority under the Constitution and federal statutory law to systematically defer deportation of large categories of undocumented immigrants. Other panelists will address questions related to the scope of federal power over immigration law. These include whether the “plenary power” doctrine is consistent with the text and original meaning of the Constitution, and whether the Court should impose limits on that doctrine.
The panel will include a diverse range of perspectives on these questions.
New Frontiers in Reproductive Rights and Justice
Friday, January 6, 8:30 am – 10:15 am
This panel will address recent developments and new frontiers in the law and constitutional politics of reproductive rights. The discussion will span a number of reproductive justice questions, with an eye to how the outcome of the Presidential election and a new member of the Supreme Court might impact both law and politics.
Several important cases from the last Supreme Court Term provide a natural frame for this discussion. Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt stands as easily the most important abortion case in a generation, meriting discussion from a number of angles. The Court in Zubik v. Burwell avoided resolving a claim of religious objection to contraceptive coverage, instead remanding the case to the lower courts after post-argument briefing. The ongoing saga in the lower courts is a reminder that important questions about religious objections to laws regarding contraception and reproduction remain entirely unanswered at the Supreme Court, and are likely to turn on the views of the next justice.
The panel will also cover related bodies of law, including the treatment of pregnancy in the workplace and the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Young v. UPS.
The Juliana v. United StatesAtmospheric Trust Litigation: Will the Children Save the Planet?
Saturday, January 7, 8:30 am – 10:15 am
On August 12, 2015, panelist Julia Olson filed Juliana v. United States in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. This case has progressed into what may become a landmark constitutional case on climate change. The plaintiffs—21 young individuals from across the United States who were between the ages of 8 and 19 when the suit was filed—assert that the federal government has known that carbon dioxide pollution has been causing catastrophic climate change for decades and has failed to take necessary action to curtail such emissions. By promoting the use and development of fossil fuels that cause climate change, plaintiffs contend that the federal government has unconstitutionally violated their substantive due process rights to life, liberty, and property. The plaintiffs also assert that the federal government has failed to protect essential public trust resources.
The federal government moved to dismiss all claims and organizations representing various entities in the coal, oil, and gas industries, which had moved to intervene in the action, moved to dismiss the amended complaint. On April 8, 2016, both motions to dismiss were denied. On September 13, 2016, Judge Ann Aiken, Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, heard oral arguments. Judge Aiken’s questions and comments during oral argument hint at a strong possibility that this case will proceed.
This panel will examine the arguments regarding the plaintiffs’ constitutional and public trust claims, as well as the reasons this approach to climate mitigation became necessary and the potential impact of this groundbreaking case.