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20140627 kengormley150Duquesne University School of Law Dean Ken Gormley will be featured in the mini-series, 'The '90s: The Last Great Decade', scheduled to run from Sunday, July 6, through Tuesday, July 8, on the National Geographic channel, the university announced this week.

The three episodes, according to National Geographic, re-visit the 1990s "through 'inside out' storytelling and analysis via 120 original interviews -- from unsung heroes behind the decade's most riveting stories to the biggest names in politics, tech, movies and music."

The university's announcement said Gormley, whose segment will run on July 6, was interviewed at length for the mini-series about the various scandals and legal dilemmas that plagued Bill Clinton’s presidency, including Whitewater, Paula Jones, the investigation headed by Ken Starr, the Monica Lewinsky affair and the impeachment trial in Congress. He also served as story consultant for the mini-series.

"It was a great experience being part of this program that will be broadcast to a world-wide audience," Gormley said in the announcement. "The producers gained access to major figures who played key roles in this period of American history, including General Colin Powell, Prime Minister Tony Blair and others. The production team was extremely professional and attentive to historical detail -- I’m certain that the finished product will be both high-quality and riveting."

Gormley is the author of The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, for which he conducted extensive interviews with President Bill Clinton, prosecutor Kenneth Starr, Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp, Paula Jones, Henry Hyde and various Supreme Court justices, among others. Published by Crown, The Death of American Virtue was selected as one of the Best 10 Books of 2010 by the Washington Post and was named by the New York Times’ Janet Maslin as one of the Top 10 Books of 2010.

(Image: Duquesne Univeristy Law School Dean Ken Gormley/Duquesne University)

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Anthony D. Elonis of Berks County, Pennsylvania who was sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for posting ominous photos and making violent rants on his Facebook page against former co-workers, law enforcement officials and his estranged wife.

The case dates back to 2010, when Elonis' wife left him after a seven-year marriage and took their two children. Apparently despondent , he lost his job at an Allentown amusement park and began a series of dark postings, often in the form of rap lyrics. In his Facebook profile, he said the rants were therapeutic and disclaimed any "true threat."

Columnist Dahlia Lithwick wrote this week, “This case is not only crucially important in that it will force the court to clarify its own "true threats" doctrine and finally apply it to social media to determine whether -- as Justice Stephen Breyer has suggested -- the whole world is a crowded theater. Breyer was referring to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ First Amendment decision in Schenck v. United States

For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has said that "true threats" to harm another person are not protected speech under the First Amendment. But the court has cautioned that laws prohibiting threats must not infringe on constitutionally protected speech. That includes "political hyperbole" or "unpleasantly sharp attacks" that fall shy of true threats.

The federal statute targeting threats of violence is likely to be used more often in the coming years "as our speech increasingly migrates from in-person and traditional handwritten communication to digital devices and the Internet," said Clay Calvert, a law professor at the University of Florida.

The court's precedent for such cases is now 11 years old. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in Virginia v. Black [http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2002/2002_01_1107] that a state law equating cross-burning with intimidation went too far, reasoning that not all cross-burning was meant as a threat. Since then, lower state and federal courts have split on what constitutes a threat -- the perpetrator's subjective intent to threaten, or anyone else's objective interpretation

"There is a lot of fear right now about threats made online,” says Hanni Fakhoury, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties non-profit. “But it seems like we’ve elevated the Second Amendment above the First Amendment." "We’ve tolerated stupid speech a long time in this country, and we shouldn’t let the Internet shake that balance,” says Fakhoury. “We need a holistic approach to problems, not just, ‘If you say a threat on the Internet, you’re going to jail.'"

(Image: VLADGRIN/Thinkstock)

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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20130222 duquesnelawlogo 150Duquesne University announced this week that its law school was among six private law schools named to The National Jurist 2015 Best Value Law Schools list. This marks the first time that Duquesne has been named to the overall Best Value list. Last year it ranked in the magazine's list for top private law schools.

“This is a tremendous honor,” law school Dean Ken Gormley said in the release. “Duquesne law school is now one of only six law schools in the United States to be recognized as a ‘Best Value’ not only among private institutions, but among all law schools in the country.”

For its methodology, The National Jurist said it considered various academic and financial variables, including the law school’s tuition, student debt accumulation, employment success, bar passage rate and cost of living. This Best Value list, which recognizes 53 law schools, includes the most private law schools to date. Ranking with Duquesne for the first time were Notre Dame Law School, Boston College, Baylor University and Ohio Northern University.

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Fifty-five-year-old Eileen DiNino died in a Berks County jail last weekend. DiNino’s crime -- failure to pay fines racked up by her son’s truancy. She was in jail because her son didn’t go to school.

The guy that threw her in jail, District Judge Dean R. Patton, told the Reading Eagle, “This woman should not have died alone in prison … Our ultimate goal is not to fine people or put them in jail, but that is the only tool the Legislature has given us when people can’t afford to pay.”

Hundreds of parents, some impoverished and overwhelmed, have been jailed in Pennsylvania for failing to pay court fines that arise from truancy hearings after their children skip school, creating what some call a “debtor’s prison.”

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20140610 rooksbyDuquesne University announced that Dr. Jacob Rooksby, assistant professor of law, was recently presented with the Dr. John and Liz Murray Excellence in Scholarship Award, the second university faculty member to receive the $10,000 award.
“To be recognized by my peers in this way, with an award whose progenitor is the law school’s most prolific, respected and widely known scholar, Chancellor Murray, is humbling and a deep honor,” said Rooksby in a statement released by the university.
“Law professors have a special duty to read the word and read the world, to use theory to inform practice,” Rooksby said in the statement. “Since law is an applied profession, what we write can help shape institutions, legal systems and decision-making today. Practicing attorneys face different constraints and reward structures than we do. As I see it, we as law professors have the unique opportunity, and the obligation, to conduct research that quite literally can change how people think and act.”

Rooksby teaches courses on the fundamentals of intellectual property; law and higher education; social media and the law; technology innovation law; and torts. His work has been published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, the Yale Journal of Law & Technology, the Journal of Law & Education, the Akron Law Review and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Rooksby also is a contributing editor for the HigherEducationLaw blog.
Rooksby, an O’Hara Township, also is secretary/treasurer of the Pittsburgh Intellectual Property Law Association and is a member of the Association of University Technology Managers.

(Image: Dr. Jacob Rooksby/Duquesne University)


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statecapitol 150Pennsylvania has one of the largest and most expensive legislatures in the country. The General Assembly’s annual budget exceeds a quarter of a billion dollars. Those dollars go to pay the salary of 253 legislators and about 2,600 staffers.

New Hampshire has the largest legislature in the country with 424 members, but they are part-timers who make about $100 a year, compared with the $84,000 base salary for Pennsylvania lawmakers.

Proposals to reduce the size of the legislature come up in nearly every legislative session. In 2011, there was a proposal to reduce the House from 203 members to 121 and the Senate from 50 to 30 members.

However, this year some senators were not satisfied with just reducing the number of lawmakers.

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supremecourt 2013wap150This week the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida’s strict IQ cutoff for determining intellectual disability and in turn eligibility for the death penalty.

In a 5-4 ruling in Hall v. Florida the court concluded that Florida’s rigid IQ threshold of 70 “disregards established medical practice” and creates the “unacceptable risk” that an inmate with intellectual disabilities might be executed, in violation of the Constitution.

“Our society does not consider this strict cutoff as proper or humane,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

“No legitimate penological purpose is served by executing a person with intellectual disability,” Kennedy wrote. “To impose the harshest of punishments on an intellectually disabled person violates his or her inherent dignity as a human being.”

It is interesting that Kennedy would refer to the petitioner’s inherent right of “dignity.” The term is not frequently used in American jurisprudence and the term is even more difficult to find in Supreme Court opinions.

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A study following up on a 1980s report about mandatory domestic violence arrest policies in Milwaukee was the centerpiece of this week’s annual Jerry Lee Symposium on Evidence-Based Crime Policy in Washington, D.C.

The symposium is named for Jerry Lee a Philadelphia radio station owner, and native of New Castle, Pennsylvania, who has funded criminology research at the University of Pennsylvania and Cambridge University in England.

The study, Increased death rates of domestic violence victims from arresting vs. warning suspects in the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment, found increased death rates among victims when suspects were arrested, rather than merely warned, by police.

"The foundational question being begged by this research is an important and understudied one: Is the criminal justice system the best societal response to non-felonious domestic assault?" Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn asked when the report was released.

Researchers highlighted the findings that victims were 64 percent more likely to have died of all causes, such as heart disease, cancer or other illness, if their partner was arrested rather than warned, and noted that among African-American victims, arrest increased early mortality by 98 percent while white victims saw mortality increased from arrest by 9 percent.

The study was a follow-up to the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment from 1987-1989 and undertaken by the same primary researcher, Lawrence W. Sherman, a University of Maryland professor and director of Cambridge University's Police Executive Program. Sherman was formerly of the University of Pennsylvania, where I had the chance to observe his research first-hand as a student in Penn’s criminology program.

At this week's conference, Sherman contended that "criminal penalties have enormous side effects. They do not always deter crime, and they may increase crime." He went on to say, "We should get away from a one-size-fits-all policy."

Flynn and other speakers said that more research is needed to provide law enforcers with better guidance on the effectiveness of arrests versus other tactics, such as referring alleged abusers to social services, reported The Crime Report. He noted that of 81 domestic violence homicides in Milwaukee in the last eight years, suspects in 61 of them had prior arrest records.

Flynn refrained from concluding that the arrests somehow provoked the killings and should not have been made.

Previous studies have shown post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) to be prevalent in victims of domestic violence, and that low but chronic PTSS has been linked to premature death from coronary heart disease and other health problems.

“The impact of seeing a partner arrested could create a traumatic event for the victim, one that raises their risk of death. An arrest may cause more trauma in concentrated black poverty areas than in white working-class neighborhoods, for reasons not yet understood,” concluded the report.

The exact cause of the surprising results remains a “medical mystery,” says Professor Sherman.

(Top image: moodboard/Thinkstock)

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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