Law

Eric Muller challenges racial detention

April 3, 2007
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Eric Muller challenges racial detention

As reported by Nina Bernstein in the New York Times today, Eric L. Muller is filing an amicus curiae brief in the case of Turkmen v. Ashcroft, a class-action lawsuit by Muslim immigrants who were swept up and held on alleged immigration violations in the wake of the attacks of September 11. Muller wrote the brief on behalf of Karen Korematsu-Haigh, Jay Hirabayashi, and Holly Yasui, children of the three Japanese Americans who unsuccessfully challenged racial curfew and detention in court during World War II (Korematsu v. United States). According to the story in the Times, the amicus brief argues that the ruling by a federal district judge in New York in 2006 “overlooks the nearly 20-year-old declaration by the United States Congress and the president of the United States that the racially selective detention of Japanese aliens during World War II was a ‘fundamental injustice’ warranting an apology and the payment of reparations.” Eric Muller has a posting about the brief on his blog. He is the author of Free to Die for Their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II. We have an excerpt from his book. . . .

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Press Release: Ferguson, The Trial in American Life

March 7, 2007
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Press Release: Ferguson, The Trial in American Life

As the recent furor over the publication of O.J. Simpson’s "confession" demonstrates, the impact of a high-profile trial doesn’t end with the delivery of the verdict—the emotional, cultural, and political effects can resonate for decades. With The Trial in American Life, distinguished legal scholar Robert Ferguson explores the role of the high-profile trial from America’s earliest days to the present, arguing that far from being mere spectacles, such trials provide an essential forum for discussion of contentious issues. In a bravura performance that ranges from Aaron Burr to O.J. Simpson, Ferguson traces both the legal implications and the cultural ripples of prominent trials. He brings together courtroom transcripts with newspaper and literary accounts of high-profile trials—including those of John Brown, Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt, the Haymarket defendants, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg—to show what happens when courtrooms are forced to cope with unresolved communal anxieties and make legal decisions that change the American public’s very idea of itself. Read the press release. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Press Release: Harcourt, Against Prediction

December 19, 2006
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Press Release: Harcourt, Against Prediction

In order to evade charges of racism, defenders of profiling point to actuarial data to bolster their claims that profiling is the most cost-effective way to fight crime, relying on the seeming logic of concentrating police resources on the people most likely to commit crime. Meanwhile anecdotal evidence—such as Al Gore being searched—serves to challenge the effectiveness of a purely random approach and nurtures the conventional wisdom that our security depends on targeting certain people. Yet, as Bernard Harcourt brilliantly argues in Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age, relying on profiling or other prediction tools can have the opposite effect—they can actually increase crime, depending on how targeted populations respond to intensified policing and the increased difficulties for certain groups, such as the recently paroled, to find jobs or pursue education. Harcourt’s compelling analysis is required reading for anyone concerned with the effects of our society’s increasing fixation on security, crime, and punishment. Read the press release. . . .

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Podcast: Against Prediction

December 7, 2006
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Podcast: Against Prediction

Bernard Harcourt, author of the recent Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age, gave a talk last month for the Chicago’s Best Ideas series at the University of Chicago Law School exploring and expanding on the topics he discusses in his new book. According to the Law School’s Faculty Blog, “the talk was a very interesting look at law enforcement profiling and whether it works. Professor Harcourt approached this empirically, discussing whether it works on a practical level, injecting a new element in a debate that is traditionally about morals and ethics.” You can listen to the podcast of Harcourt’s talk and follow along with the slides from his PowerPoint presentation. You can find his book on our website. Either way it would be ill advised to overlook his timely and revealing critique of the methods underlying our modern law enforcement policy. Update: Chicago Public Radio’s 848 also recently interviewed Harcourt about his new book. The audio can be found on the 848 website. Enjoy! . . .

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Is the T. S. A. Gambling with Your Safety?

August 29, 2006
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Is the T. S. A. Gambling with Your Safety?

After the arrests in Britain involving a plot to bomb several airliners bound for the U.S., the Transportation Security Administration says it will train and deploy screeners in airports to identify terrorists using behavioral cues. But is this really the best way to secure the safety of our airways? Bernard L. Harcourt, a University of Chicago professor of law and the author of Language of the Gun, wrote an intriguing op-ed piece for the New York Times in which he discusses the shortcomings of the statistical methods behind behavioral profiling—a discussion that sets the stage for his forthcoming book Against Predicition: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age. Harcourt’s article makes the case that “investing heavily in seemingly high-tech airport security methods like behavioral profiling” is not a viable solution to securing the nation’s airways and, in fact, “may make air travel less safe on the whole.” Harcourt backs up his claim by citing the “many studies of the ability to detect truth and deception” recently conducted that, he says, have been “largely disappointing.” “A review of the literature,” says Harcourt, “published in 2000 found that in experiments where subjects were trying to detect whether others were telling the . . .

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Press release: Laufer, Corporate Bodies and Guilty Minds

July 28, 2006
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Press release: Laufer, Corporate Bodies and Guilty Minds

The recent convictions of former Enron executives Ken Lay and Tom Skilling are merely the latest names in a spate of verdicts handed down against high-profile executives. In only the past few years, Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski, WorldCom’s Bernie Ebbers, Adelphia’s John Rigas, and the American goddess of domesticity Martha Stewart each received legitimate jail time. But should Americans really feel confident that these verdicts and measures are anything more than window dressing? Are we really beginning to solve the problem? For William Laufer, author of Corporate Bodies and Guilty Minds, the answers are “no” and “no.” Read the press release. . . .

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Review: Peters, Courting the Abyss

July 20, 2006
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Review: Peters, Courting the Abyss

The July 20 edition of the London Review of Books has a review by Jeremy Waldron of a recent book by John Durham Peters, Courting the Abyss: Free Speech and the Liberal Tradition. Waldron notes: “Courting the Abyss is about free speech generally, but it focuses on this suggestion that we all become better people through tolerating the most hateful and diabolical speech, by staring at and listening to the Nazis and the racists in our midst.” Though Waldron—a law school professor—wishes for a book that is more analytical and less literary—Peters’s discipline is communication studies—Waldron’s engaging review nonetheless allows that the book is “interesting and provocative.” An excerpt will acquaint you with both the literary and provocative nature of the book. . . .

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Ezra Klein on The Medical Malpractice Myth

July 11, 2006
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Ezra Klein on The Medical Malpractice Myth

Ezra Klein, who writes on health and medicine for Slate, posted an article today about the ongoing political battle over malpractice lawsuits. The Republican leadership in the Senate wants to cap jury awards in medical malpractice cases, while the Democrats are focused on cutting the number of malpractice lawsuits by reducing medical errors. Klein brings Tom Baker’s The Medical Malpractice Myth into the debate, calling it “the best attempt to synthesize the academic literature on medical malpractice.” “Baker marshals an overwhelming array of research,” says Klein, who goes on to use that evidence—as well as other just-released studies of medical malpractice suits—to argue that it makes more sense to improve medical practice. Read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Review: Einhorn, American Taxation, American Slavery

June 15, 2006
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Review: Einhorn, American Taxation, American Slavery

The Washington Times recently reviewed Robin L. Einhorn’s American Taxation, American Slavery. From the review by James Srodes: "In American Taxation, American Slavery, Robin Einhorn, a history professor at the University of California at Berkeley, tells what might have been a complicated story in an engaging and accessible manner. It is her contention that slavery and the reaction to it to a great extent shaped the kind of nation we are today, because it shaped the kind of tax policies we constructed to fund the kind of government we got." For all the recent attention to the slaveholding of the founding fathers, we still know remarkably little about the influence of slavery on American politics. American Taxation, American Slavery tackles this problem in a new way. Rather than parsing the ideological pronouncements of charismatic slaveholders, it examines the concrete policy decisions that slaveholders and non-slaveholders made in the critical realm of taxation. The result is surprising—that the enduring power of antigovernment rhetoric in the United States stems from the nation’s history of slavery rather than its history of liberty. Back in April we published a web essay by Einhorn "Tax Aversion and the Legacy of Slavery." . . .

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Author event: Harcourt on WBEZ

June 5, 2006
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Author event: Harcourt on WBEZ

On Monday, June 5, Bernard E. Harcourt, author of Language of the Gun: Youth, Crime, and Public Policy appeared on Chicago Public Radio’s morning talk show Eight Forty-Eight. Listen to the segment as posted to the WBEZ Web site. Harcourt is also the author of Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age, which we will publish in the fall. . . .

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