Archive for February, 2012

Prof. Peppers on Supreme Court Clerks

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Todd PeppersProfessor Todd C. Peppers, Lecturer in Law, recently published his book, In Chambers: Stories of Supreme Court Law Clerks and Their Justices. The book is being published by the University of Virginia Press.

Professor Peppers co-edited the book with Artemus Ward. It is a collection of essays on law clerks and their justices by a variety of former law clerks, legal scholars, and social scientists. Prof. Peppers also contributed several essays to the book, including an essay on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her law clerks, which was based on an interview he had with the Justice.

The book may be found on Amazon.

Prof. Skeel on Bankruptcy

February 16, 2012 1 comment

David SkeelIn the second installment of the Spring 2012 Faculty Workshop Series, sponsored by the Frances Lewis Law Center, Professor David Skeel, the S. Samuel Arsht Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, came to speak Monday about the draft of his article, States of Bankruptcy.

The paper discusses the possibility of allowing states to file for bankruptcy. In the article, Professor Skeel makes a case for the creation of a bankruptcy structure for individual states. He outlines that most of the traditional benefits from a bankruptcy framework would potentially exist for states, as well. Such benefits include establishing a more coherent priority structure for state obligations, providing additional restructuring tools, and helping to more equitably distribute the sacrifice of bankruptcy among creditors. Professor Skeel then addresses many of the principal concerns, including the constitutionality of a state bankruptcy and the potential for severley damaging credit ratings bondholder trust. Ultimately, Prof. Skeel concludes that bankruptcy would significantly improve on the existing strategies for dealing with a state’s financial collapse.

Many thanks to Professor Skeel for visiting W&L and sharing his paper with the faculty.

Prof. Calhoun on Lincoln’s Religion

February 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Samuel CalhounProfessor Samuel W. Calhoun recently published his article, Abraham Lincoln’s Religion: The Case for His Ultimate Belief in a Personal, Sovereign God, in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association (2012). Prof. Calhoun co-authored the article with Professor Lucas Morel, the Lewis G. John Term Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University.

While scholars have often debated the specifics of President Abraham Lincoln’s religion, some elements of his religious faith appear “beyond doubt;” that is, specific beliefs have been “verified … at least as far as historical facts can be verified.” Professors Calhoun and Morel assert that another element of Lincoln’s faith should be added to the list: his belief in a personal, sovereign God. They utilize the historical record including Lincoln’s words (both written and spoken), and his actions to come to the conclusion that by the end of his life, he believed in a personal, sovereign God.

Prof. Miller Top Ten on SSRN

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Russell MillerProfessor Russell A. Miller‘s paper, U.S. National Security, Intelligence and Democracy: From the Church Committee to the War on Terror, was recently listed on the Social Science Research Network’s (SSRN) Top Ten download list for its category.

You may find the article on SSRN here.

Prof. Grove on the Exceptions Clause

February 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Tara GroveIn the first installment of the Spring 2012 Faculty Workshop Series, sponsored by the Frances Lewis Law Center, Professor Tara L. Grove, Assistant Professor of Law at William & Mary Law School, came to speak Friday about the draft of her article, The Exceptions Clause as a Structural Safeguard.

The Exceptions Clause of the Constitution, which provides that the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction is subject to “such Exceptions, and … such Regulations as the Congress shall make,” has long been viewed as a threat to the Court’s central constitutional function: establishing definitive and uniform rules of federal law. In the article, Professor Grove argues that the clause has been fundamentally misunderstood. Indeed, she argues that Congress has a strong incentive to use its control over federal jurisdiction to promote the Court’s role in settling disputed federal questions. When the Court’s docket grew unmanageable, Congress used the Exceptions Clause to replace the Court’s mandatory review with discretionary review. Prof. Grove asserts that Congress has used its power to safeguard the Supreme Court’s essential role in the constitutional scheme rather than undermine it.

Many thanks to Professor Grove for visiting W&L and sharing her paper with the faculty.

Faculty Profile: Margaret Howard

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment
Margaret Howard

Margaret Howard

Puzzle: a question, problem, or contrivance designed for testing ingenuity. (Merriam-Webster)

While most people associate puzzles with jigsaws or crosswords, for Margaret Howard nothing beats the intricacies of the Bankruptcy Code.

It did not start out that way. When she began graduate school at Washington University it was to become a social worker. Her particular interest was the problems of those who receive government benefits. Realizing there were important laws she needed to understand, Howard enrolled in two law courses, family law and welfare law. Although “in a lot of the classes I didn’t understand anything that was being said,” Howard says now, “both courses reached out and grabbed me…. I’d never run into anything more interesting.”

Three years later, Howard graduated with a J.D. and a Masters in Social Work. She began practicing law at Lewis and Rice, a general corporate firm, in St. Louis. There she found complex, intricate problems to work through, but “I was always frustrated because some of the issues I was given were absolutely fascinating . . .. and I couldn’t take the time to play around with them.”
When a teaching position opened up at St. Louis University School of Law, she took it.

Her initial scholarly interests were welfare and family law, but that began to change when a colleague asked her to teach a commercial law course as a favor. It was a lot of work. “I was struggling every night to stay ahead of the students, the next day, and one or two times…we got right to last line of the case book I had read. But I loved the material.”

Professor Howard’s academic evolution continued as she moved from St. Louis University to Vanderbilt University. Intellectually, she became drawn to bankruptcy. “It’s got this wonderful, hard, long statute . . . yet seriously important, very vital questions are not addressed [by the statute]. It has case law, legislative history, constitutional questions, and a rich history dating back to Roman time . . . It deals with problems that are universal.”

A career highlight occurred in 1992. After working for over a year on a legal question coinciding with a case pending in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, she was appalled when the Court handed down a decision in Dewsnup v. Timm that was strongly for the other side. “I sat down and wrote a forty page law review article in a week. I tried as hard as I could to pick Dewsnup apart, not leaving even a greasy spot on the floor.” This heartfelt, yet scholarly tour de force established her as a leading voice in the bankruptcy academy.

Following a semester long visit to Washington and Lee, Professor Howard accepted a full-time job offer and moved to Lexington in 2001. Since then she has taught Bankruptcy, Secured Transactions, Contracts and Legal Writing; published Bankruptcy Overview: Issues, Law and Policy and Cases and Materials on Bankruptcy, and as the American Bankruptcy Institute’s Scholar in Residence in 2002. She also continues publishing law review articles, with a particular focus on the 2005 amendments to the Bankruptcy Code. In her view, the 2005 amendments have made a few advances (such as clearer rules for coordinating international bankruptcies) but on the whole, “they did not accomplish what they tried to do and what they tried to do was misguided.”

Bankruptcy law is a long way from where she started, but it has proven a satisfying test for her ingenuity. Still, the way she views it, Margaret Howard is not all that far from her early aspirations to help those in need. “Bankruptcy is an area of law . . . that when it works right can truly be a lifeline.”