On May 12, 2016 Washington and Lee Law Professor Victoria Sahani was invited to present her research on third-party funding at the 2016 Judges’ In-Court Seminar for the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. The audience included over 20 federal district court judges, magistrate judges, and bankruptcy judges seated in that district. Other presenters at the seminar included Magistrate Judge Andrew Wistrich of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Professor Gregory Sisk of the University of St. Thomas School of Law, and several attorney practitioners.
Washington and Lee law professor Mark Drumbl has a new post at Justice in Conflict on the trial of Dominic Ongwen, child soldier in Uganda’s LRA. His post, titled “Shifting Narratives: Ongwen and Lubanga on the Effect of Child Soldiering,” examines the prosecution of Ongwen for various war crimes. Ongwen’s defense, ultimately unsuccessful, centered on the fact that he was abducted into the LRA as a child and should be excused because of the trauma he suffered at the hands of the LRA. From Prof. Drumbl’s post:
Reasonable minds can disagree as to whether the defense arguments have merit. The point of my commentary is not to revisit these arguments. Grounds for excluding responsibility may, moreover, be reassessed at trial where the burden on the prosecutor is higher than at the confirmation of charges stage. Nor is the point of my commentary to suggest how (and where) a Trial Chamber might hypothetically assess these arguments.
Instead, my point is to emphasize that international criminal law should proceed in consistent and predictable ways. Here, PTC II slipped. Its understanding of the agency of actual and former child soldiers in Ongwen departs from the understanding previously deployed by the Lubanga Trial and Appeals Chambers, in particular in the sentencing judgments.
Washington and Lee law professor Jim Moliterno appeared on Czech TV recently to discuss his work teaching judicial ethics.
Prof. Moliterno is one of the foremost international experts in legal ethics and professionalism. He has engaged in substantial international legal ethics and legal education reform work abroad, designing new lawyer and judge ethics courses in Serbia, Armenia, Georgia, Czech Republic, Japan, Indonesia and Thailand. He has trained law professors in China, Thailand, Georgia, Armenia and Serbia. He has trained judges in Kosovo and both judges and prosecutors in Indonesia. He has worked to revise the lawyer ethics code in Thailand and Georgia and lectured extensively on international lawyer ethics topics in Spain, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.
The library at Washington and Lee School of Law has published the annual update to the Law Journal Rankings. The rankings are widely used as a tool for scholars to evaluate law reviews and journals during the publication process. The rankings site was visited over 700,000 times in 2015.
The new rankings reflect a new survey period of 2008-2015. Users may customize rankings for a selection of journals based on subject area categories, country of publication, and format (print or online) among other options. Data is available for over 1500 law journals.
Prior surveys are also available and provide longitudinal data on journal citation starting with 2003 and continuing through 2014.
Questions about the law journal rankings project may be directed to Stephanie Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington and Lee law professor Michelle Drumbl traveled to Sydney, Australia for the 12th International Conference on Tax Administration, hosted by the University of New South Wales School of Taxation and Business Law. She gave a talk based on a paper she wrote entitled “Beyond Polemics: Poverty, Tax, and Noncompliance.”
At the conference, Drumbl received the Cedric Sandford Medal for the best paper presented at the conference.
Below is the paper’s abstract:
The earned income tax credit (EITC) is the most significant earnings-based refundable credit in the U.S. tax system. Designed as an anti-poverty program, it is a social benefit administered by the Internal Revenue Service. The EITC reaches more than 27 million households annually. Studies show it has a positive impact upon the children whose families receive it. Despite its many positives, however, the EITC is a program that for years has been plagued by taxpayer noncompliance: the estimated rate of improper payments on EITC claims has ranged between 20 and 30%, totaling billions of dollars annually. Though it is believed that the majority of EITC noncompliance may be unintentional, public reports of misconduct and fraud add fuel to the political rhetoric about a revenue system in which nearly half of Americans pay no federal income tax.
This article unpacks the rhetoric. It describes why the term “improper payments” is not synonymous with fraud. It places EITC noncompliance within the broader context of the U.S. “tax gap” and examines what intentional EITC noncompliance has in common with sole proprietor noncompliance. It explores motivations for intentional EITC noncompliance and also examines the role of inadvertent error in the overclaim rate. It describes the ways in which self-prepared returns present wholly different challenges than those completed by paid preparers.
Building on the above, the article critiques the Internal Revenue Service for its shortcomings in administering and enforcing the EITC program. The article calls upon the IRS to continue pursuing unscrupulous tax return preparers, but also highlights the need to design meaningful sanctions to punish and deter unscrupulous individuals who self-prepare.
The article addresses these concerns within a comprehensive proposal to increase the amount of information required from all taxpayers (whether self-prepared or using a preparer) at the time of filing. It builds upon theories of taxpayer noncompliance in arguing that greater due diligence requirements will reduce both intentional and unintentional EITC errors. The article also proposes a program that would allow first-time EITC claimants the option to submit substantiating documentation at the time of filing in order to receive an expedited refund.
The article concludes that increasing due diligence requirements at the time of filing, coupled with slowing down the refund process generally, is a reasonable way to improve administration of the EITC program without unduly burdening low-income taxpayers.
On Wednesday, March 30, Prof. Sahani served as the Conference Commentator for the ITA-ASIL Conference:
A Spotlight on Ethics in International Arbitration: Advocates, Arbitrators and Awards, jointly organized by the Institute for Transnational Arbitration (ITA) and the American Society of International Law (ASIL). As Conference Commentator, Prof. Sahani commented on the Keynote Speech by The Hon. Ian Binnie C.C. Q.C., former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, about whether arbitral awards should be “right” or just enforceable and commented on two subsequent panels discussing arbitrator ethics and attorney ethics in international arbitration.
On Thursday, March 31, Prof. Sahani presented on third-party funding of disputes in African countries during a panel entitled “Africa’s New Economic Partnerships and Dispute Settlement” at the ASIL Annual Meeting.
On Thursday, March 17, 2016 Washington and Lee law professor Christopher Seaman participated in a panel debate at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The debate was organized by the Penn Intellectual Property Group as part of the 2016 symposium, Innovation and IP Assets. Professor Seaman’s panel discussed the pending Defend Trade Secrets Act (S. 1890 and H.R. 3326). If adopted, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) would create a new private, civil cause of action for trade secret misappropriation under federal law.
Professor Seaman has previously written on the topic of the DTSA in an article, The Case Against Federalizing Trade Secrecy, 101 Virginia Law Review 317 (2015), and a letter signed by 42 law professors opposed to the DTSA. Also participating on the panel were Mr. James Pooley, an attorney in private practice who was the Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization and author of the a leading treatise on trade secrets law, and Professor Sharon Sandeen of Mitchell Hamline School of Law, who is an internationally recognized expert on trade secrets law and author of the first casebook on the subject.