Law blog roundup

Welcome to Monday, the 377th anniversary of Harvard University’s founding. Here are some news items to get your week started.

– Supreme Court honors Maryland’s retired chief jurist.

Photo of Robert Bell

Retired Chief Judge Robert Bell (right), in an undated photo.

– House Intelligence Committee chair speaks in defense of surveillance.

– Warren Commission staffer cautions against conspiracy theories.

– New York’s attorney general asks that 1971 Attica prison-riot documents be unsealed.


Legal in pink?

Iowa locker roomWe’ve probably had enough off-the-court news from the NCAA this week to last us the rest of the year.

But here comes the University of Iowa with what could be the start of something that might be resolved with a coat of paint instead of firings.

For more than 25 years, visiting football teams have been getting dressed in a locker room that is painted pink. Now, two lawyers say the school could face a lawsuit under Title IX and Title VII rules that prohibit gender discrimination, according to The Gazette in Cedar Rapids.

Legendary Hawkeyes coach Haden Fry had the locker room painted pink because it was a “passive” color and considered it a psychological ploy against opponents.

But the lawyers say most “understand the pink locker room as a taunt against the other team, calling them a bunch of ladies/girls/sissies/pansies/etc.,” according to The Gazette.

A university spokesman said the school is fully compliant with Title IX.

The lawyers say they are unaware of a legal challenge to pink locker rooms, but a federal judge in Arizona ruled that having male prisoners wear pink underwear was a form of punishment without legal footing.

(HT: Big Lede S


Bad grade? So sue me

What’s the cost of a mediocre grade in a college course? To Megan Thode, it’s $1.3 million.

The former Lehigh University graduate student is suing over a “C+” in an internship class, saying she deserved a “B” and that the lower grade prevented her from advancing toward her desired degree and becoming a licensed therapist, the Express-Times reported.

The professor testified in Northampton County Court in Pennsylvania that Thode was downgraded in her class participation score for outbursts and inappropriate behavior. Thode ended up with a master’s in education in human development instead of a master’s in education in counseling psychology, which, according to her lawsuit, would result in $1.3 million more in salary over a lifetime.

Thode isn’t the first student to sue for a higher grade. The Huffington Post listed cases of grading lawsuits from Texas Southern University’s law school, the University of Massachusetts and Canada’s Concordia University.

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Closius: ‘A little strange’ being back at UB Law

Former University of Baltimore School of Law Dean Phillip Closius has returned to campus after he resigned his post as dean amid controversy more than a year ago.

Closius stepped down in July 2011 citing differences with the university’s administration. Closius said at the time that he thought the university was taking too much money from revenue raised by the law school.

Both parties have moved on as the fall semester starts this year. A new law school dean, Ronald Weich, started this summer. Closius took a year of administrative leave and has returned as a professor. He is teaching two sections of Constitutional Law II this semester and Constitutional Law I and sports law next semester.

“I’ve always loved teaching,” Closius said. “When I was dean, I always taught. Coming back to teaching is coming back to the roots of why I got into this.”

After his dramatic exit, Closius admitted it has felt different being back on campus.

“It’s a little strange,” Closius said. “I’m not going to pretend it’s not. I think everyone’s been good. The students have been wonderful, telling me their support for me. A lot of people have been telling me how happy they are that I am back.”

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Bargaining for an education

More news on law schools is out this week.

The Wall Street Journal reports that law schools are increasingly offering prospective students incentives to enroll. Some schools are letting students submit applications past deadlines. Others are offering more scholarship money than ever to potential students.

Scholarship money offered by law schools has tripled in the past ten years, jumping from $816 million in the 2008-2009 school year to $1 billion in the last school year alone. The Journal reports that some law schools are even negotiating with prospective students on scholarship amounts.

Law schools this year have been concerned in general about the shrinking pool of applicants. The number of people taking the LSAT has fallen from 171,500 in 2010 to 155,000 last year to 130,000 this cycle, the smallest group since 2001.

A smaller test taker pool ultimately means fewer high-scoring (and rankings-boosting) participants for law schools to choose from. Maryland schools have already been affected, with he University of Baltimore School of Law reporting applicant numbers down 17 percent earlier this year.

University of Georgia student newspaper editor drinks, gets sacked

I’ll be speaking with some college journalists at my alma mater tonight and next week about social media, but I’m also going to offer this pearl of wisdom: Don’t drink – even a sip – if you’re scheduled to see the university president and governor at a football game.

Just ask Daniel Burnett, editor-in-chief of the University of Georgia’s student newspaper. He was asked to leave the president’s box during Saturday night’s game against Georgia Tech and resigned Monday from his post at The Red And Black.

An assistant to Georgia’s president said Burnett’s behavior was “disruptive enough to the point” he was escorted out. Guests in the box included the governor and governor-elect of Georgia.

Burnett, 22, said he had been drinking at a tailgate prior to entering the president’s box. He said he did not think he was being disruptive but university officials also had the right to remove him.

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Shirvell fired; lawsuit next?

If you’ve never heard of Andrew Shirvell, I’ll let Anderson Cooper tell you about him in the video below.

(If you’d like Shirvell with a side of snark, check out this Daily Show story from last week.)

Shirvell was fired Monday from his position as an assistant attorney general in Michigan. His lawyer says Shirvell was exercising his First Amendment rights, but Attorney General Mike Cox said Shirvell’s conduct was “unbecoming for a state employee, especially an assistant attorney general.”

“Shirvell repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior and inappropriately used state resources, our investigation showed,” Cox said, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Philip Thomas, Shirvell’s lawyer, said Shirvell has received excellent performance reviews and said the firing “smelled political.”

“There’s been a tremendous piling on against Andrew,” Thomas told the Free Press. “The liberal media started this tempest in a teapot.”

Sounds like this kettle might be boiling for the foreseeable future.

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Here comes the bride (and the bride, and the bride)

Earlier this year we wrote about the upcoming nuptials of the Kunkel girls, three sisters who were sharing a wedding day. Well, that special day is Saturday in Wisconsin. And now their story has been picked up by the national media. The women and their soon-to-be husbands appeared Thursday morning on the CBS Early Show.

Full disclosure: I know Katie from our days at the University of Maryland; her dad, Tom, is the president of St. Norbert College in Wisconsin and the former dean of Maryland’s journalism school. (Her dad has also kept a blog leading up to the big day.)

Congratulations to the entire Kunkel family.

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Nice guys can finish first

Jay Perman, the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s new president, has no problem being known as a nice guy. His annual commencement speech while dean at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine was even about the importance of doctors being nice to patients.

But Perman told reporters and editors at The Daily Record last week that what surprises him are people who view nice as a liability. He recalled early in his career a colleague at the University of California, San Francisco, said Perman “would never make it” because of his niceness.

“So ha-ha,” Perman said dryly. “I’m here to say that’s not true.”

Perman describes himself as nice by nature but also in a pragmatic way.

“When you’re nice, it becomes that much easier to demand of those who are not nice that they shape up or get out,” he said. “That’s why it’s been so effective for me.”

That Perman is a pediatrician has also helped him as an administrator. (You can insert your own joke here about what caring for children and overseeing a faculty have in common.)

“I think if there’s a case for a leader being nice, that sort of self-selection goes into choosing pediatrics,” he said. ‘There are no harsher critics of nasty adults than children. They will not have it.”

NU cries foul over Terps win

The Maryland Terrapins’ women’s lacrosse team won the national championship Memorial Day weekend, beating Northwestern University 13-11. The victory clinched the Terps’ record 10th title and broke the Wildcats’ five-year run as champions.

Now, I can’t say I’m a big fan of women’s lacrosse. But I am a proud Maryland alum, and I’ll always pull for the sports teams.

So I was surprised when I read earlier this week that Northwestern had sent a “letter of inquiry” to the NCAA alleging official shenanigans (literally) aided Maryland’s victory. Northwestern claims that a veteran referee, Pat Dillon, talked with the championship game officiating crew prior to the final. The problem, according to NU, is that Dillon’s longtime partner, Sandy Worth, is Maryland’s head athletic trainer.

According to the NCAA, Dillon mentioned her Maryland connections on a disclosure form, which means she cannot work any Terps games.

But Dillon, a Hall of Fame referee, was part of the crew that officiated Northwestern’s victory in the semifinals, an assignment NU had unsuccessfully asked the NCAA to remove her from.

My first reaction was two words: Sore. Losers. But then I imagined the shoe on the other paw, so to speak: if Dillion was in a relationship with someone connected to the Northwestern team, I imagine Maryland’s athletic department would be just as upset.

While I doubt a Hall of Fame referee would try to unduly influence her colleagues moments before the biggest game of the year, as NU alleges, it seems the general point about conflict of interest merits further investigation.

I guess that’s a question that will have to be addressed for next season – when the Terps will be defending their championship.