Prof. Timothy Lubin, W&L Professor of Religion and Adjunct Professor of Law, recently spoke at the plenary session of the American Oriental Society on the methods by which Brahmin religious and legal authorities promoted a distinctive set of social and legal norms over the longue durée through disciplinary practices. “The Medium Is the Message — The Prequel from South and Southeast Asia,” Plenary Session on ‘Techniques of Knowledge’, 224th Meeting of the American Oriental Society, Phoenix, March 14-17, 2014.
On Friday April 18, 2014, Prof. Lubin will speak at the University of Pennsylvania for a conference on “Changing Concepts of Landed Property in Modern South Asia: The View from History.” Prof. Lubin’s presentation is entitled “Śāstric Rules and Customary Norms in Epigraphic Records of South Asian Property Deeds and Disputes.” (https://www.law.upenn.edu/institutes/legalhistory/conferences/property-south-asia/conference-details.php).
W&L Law Professor Jim Moliterno recently participated in a workshop sponsored by U.S. AID’s East-West Management Institute to provide legal ethics training to lawyers in the Republic of Georgia. Prof. Moliterno is the Vincent Bradford Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University School of Law. He has a leadership role in W&L’s third year curriculum reform.
Prof. Moliterno has engaged in substantial international legal ethics and legal education reform work, 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 Kosove 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. He has prepared course materials that are in use in Serbia, Armenia, Thailand, Czech Republic, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, and China.
Here are the announcements regarding the recent Georgian program:
|EWMI-JILEP and Georgian Bar Create Advanced Ethics Training Module
On February 7-8, 2014, EWMI-JILEP sponsored a workshop where members of the Georgian Bar Association (GBA)’s Training Center and selected lawyer-instructors, developed the next generation of lawyers’ ethics training. While previous courses developed with EWMI-JILEP assistance relied heavily upon hypotheticals created by JILEP ethics expert, Professor James Moliterno, the new training module is based on hypotheticals developed by Georgian lawyers and taken from Georgian legal practice.
Ethical dilemmas covered in the course include problems concerning lawyer-client privilege, conflict of interest, and lawyer advertising. To give an example, one hypothetical to be used in the course asks if the following advertisement is ethical:
The most experienced lawyers in criminal law will provide you with highly qualified services in the shortest time possible and resolve your case successfully. Contact us via telephone : xxx-xx-xx-xx. One phone call and we will be ready to give you our helping hand, and restore your violated right and give you peace.”
Professor Moliterno was present at the workshop and provided his suggestions for how the new course could be refined to ensure maximum impact upon lawyer participants. The course, mandatory for all bar members, will begin mid-February 2014.
Washington and Lee law professor A. Benjamin Spencer has been appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court to the Council of the Virginia State Bar as an at-large member. The Council is the governing body that exercises the authority of the VSB. The vast majority of Council members are elected in each judicial circuit around Virginia, but the Supreme Court appoints a handful of people to at-large seats. Prof. Spencer’s term will begin July 1, 2014.
This is not the only bar-related work in which Prof. Spencer is currently engaged. Last year, he was appointed by the President of the National Conference of Bar Examiners to the Civil Procedure Drafting Committee, which consists of 7 people who will write the civil procedure questions that appear on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). Civil Procedure is currently not tested on the MBE but will be beginning in 2015. Prof. Spencer will meet with the other committee members every six months as they prepare for the inclusion of this subject on the MBE.
Prof. Lyman Johnson Presents at First Annual Workshop for Corporate & Securities Litigation at Illinois College of Law
On Friday, November 8, W&L Law Professor Lyman Johnson presented his paper The Dwindling of Revlon at the First Annual Workshop for Corporate & Securities Litigation at the University of Illinois College of Law. Here is an excerpt from the Introduction:
In 2012, stockholders challenged a remarkable 96% of M&A transactions with a value greater than $500 million and 93% of deals with a value greater than $100 million, a stunning upsurge since 2005. The vast majority of these lawsuits settle, largely with disclosure-only accords, but where monetary benefits are involved, the average payment has increased in the last few years. A mainstay argument by plaintiffs is that the selling company’s board of directors failed to maximize the sale price − i.e., the board breached its so-called Revlon duty. The “Revlon” in Revlon duty, of course, refers to Revlon, Inc. v. MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, Inc., a landmark 1986 ruling by the Delaware Supreme Court. Revlon was one of a handful of takeover-fueled decisions during the 1980s that fundamentally redrew the map governing director duties in the M&A setting. Given the high volume of M&A activity in the U.S., and the frequency of court challenges to that activity, Revlon has become an assumed and accepted part of the legal landscape for both the practicing M&A bar and the judiciary.
Yet, in 2013, Delaware’s contemporary Revlon jurisprudence has come under fierce scholarly attack. Professor Stephen Bainbridge has severely criticized several Chancery Court decisions for misapplying the Supreme Court’s core teachings on Revlon, a critique Professor Mohsen Manesh counters is itself misconceived. Professor Frank Gevurtz has leveled a more fundamental broadside against Revlon, contending it lacks any defensible policy rationale, and advocating its outright abandonment.
We have an altogether different perspective than the bar, the judiciary, and other scholars. We argue that, given its intersection with another important arc of recent Delaware decisional law, Revlon today is, ex post, essentially a constrained remedies doctrine, applicable only pre-closing for possibly granting non-monetary sanctions. We arrive at our novel thesis concerning Revlon as the natural conclusion of examining the following question: Does Revlon apply only if a sales transaction is entered, or does it also govern sales efforts by boards that utterly fail even to produce a transaction? If an attempted sale failed due to a flawed process, might the directors nonetheless have breached their Revlon duty because of how poorly they conducted the selling effort? Maybe, in other words, the reach of Revlon is actually far broader than many appreciate. Probing these neglected issues through a remedies perspective offers a useful, if ironic, lens on where exactly, as it turns out, the overblown Revlon doctrine stands today.
W&L Law Professor Lyman Johnson has just published a piece entitled Rethinking How Business Purpose Is Taught in Catholic Business Education, 32 J. Cath. Higher Ed. 59 (20103). Here is the abstract:
Business education at a Catholic university should engage students and faculty across the university in critically examining the purpose of business in society. Following the best practices of leading business schools, the Catholic business curriculum has mostly focused on the shareholder and stakeholder approaches—with the shareholder approach being the predominant view. Creatively engaging the Catholic Social Tradition (especially the “community of persons”) can bring a richer appreciation of the purpose of business in our contemporary society than either the shareholder or stakeholder approaches. We argue that far more discretion to pursue various corporate purposes in manifold ways exists than is frequently appreciated by business managers and those who educate them. This article examines how, given this legal and moral discretion, the Catholic Social Tradition is a rich resource for teaching corporate purpose, and reveals how tapping into a religious tradition with a long philosophical discourse can shape a rich dialogue in the curriculum as to a company’s moral direction. We contrast two philosophies of business: an Association of Individuals (the shareholder and stakeholder approaches) and a Community of Persons (mission-centric approach), and their respective views of corporate purpose. While business scholars tend not to question their underlying anthropological presuppositions because of the desire to be “practical,” a business education grounded in the liberal arts must engage the first principles of its discourse.
Prof. Michelle Drumbl of Washington & Lee has recently made available on SSRN her forthcoming article Those Who Know, Those Who Don’t, and Those Who Know Better: Balancing Complexity, Sophistication, and Accuracy on Tax Returns, 11 Pitt. Tax Rev. ___ (2014). Here is the abstract:
Refundable credits, particularly the earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit, serve an important anti-poverty measure for low-income taxpayers. Annually, millions of taxpayers who do not owe any federal income tax must file a tax return in order to claim these credits that are in the nature of social benefits. The eligibility requirements for refundable credits are complex, and these returns are particularly prone to audit: EITC audits comprise one-third of all individual income tax audits. Because of the large dollar amounts at stake, a taxpayer’s mistaken understanding of the eligibility requirements for these refundable credits can often result in a deficiency of several thousand dollars. Though studies indicate that taxpayer error is more commonly inadvertent than intentional, the section 6662 20% accuracy-related penalty applies once the deficiency reaches a statutory “understatement” threshold; it is imposed computationally and without regard to the taxpayer’s intent.
By statute, taxpayers have the right to contest the accuracy-related penalty by demonstrating that there was reasonable cause for the underlying error and the taxpayer acted in good faith. Treasury regulations provide that such a circumstance might include “an honest misunderstanding of fact or law that is reasonable in light of all the facts and circumstances, including the experience, knowledge, and education of the taxpayer”. Yet for all of these reasons – lack of experience, lack of knowledge, and relative lack of education – the taxpayer is unlikely to have the knowledge or resources to raise the very defense that is meant to protect an unsophisticated taxpayer.
Drawing comparisons between refundable tax credits and social programs administered by other agencies, this article calls upon the IRS to better differentiate between inadvertent error (“those who don’t know”) and intentional or fraudulent error (“those who know better”). The article argues that the current accuracy-related penalty approach is unduly punitive. It concludes by proposing solutions that the IRS might consider in light of Congress’s desire for the Service to administer these social benefits through the Internal Revenue Code.
Washington & Lee Emeritus Professor of Law Denis J. Brion recently published a chapter in Anne Wagner and Richard Sherwin’s Law, Culture and Visual Studies. The chapter is entitled The Criminal Trial as Theater: The Semiotic Power of the Image. Here is the abstract:
Under the adversarial nature of the judicial process in the United States, Prague School theory provides a lens for understanding the criminal trial as a complex form of theater, with the opposing attorneys, by their trial performances, creating competing performance texts from the dramatic text of what the various witnesses potentially can offer by their evidence and testimony. The jurors, as the audience of these competing performances, have the responsibility for participating in the creation of the meaning of the dramatic text, a meaning embodied in the verdict of guilt or acquittal. The competing trial performances of the opposing counsel are, in essence, extended arguments for the meaning of the dramatic text, and the jurors will understand these performances to be extended arguments. The jurors, as well, can understand, however, much subconsciously that the trial is theatrical in nature. As such, the individual juror can understand that any element of, or action occurring anywhere within, the courtroom as being situated in the theatrical frame. And, if these elements and actions are situated within the theatrical frame, then they can be understood as part of the extended argument that constitutes the trial performance. In the course of criminal trials, particular elements and actions occurring within the theatrical frame have come under challenge as being prejudicial to the accused –such as the clothing that the accused is required to wear, the presence of uniformed officials in the court room, and the clothing, bearing texts or images, worn by trial spectators. Because the juror can, primarily at a subconscious level, understand that these elements and actions constitute arguments either for guilt or for the exercise of vengeance, then they are procedurally improper, coming into the trial in violation of the rules of evidence and process; they violate the due process rights of the accused. Although an argument for guilt, of itself is substantively proper, an argument for vengeance is not; thus, an element of the theatrical frame that can be understood as an argument for vengeance is both procedurally and substantively improper. It is altogether prejudicial to the accused and altogether in violation of the due process rights of the accused. Unfortunately, the judiciary has only fitfully recognized the semiotic power of these elements and actions for creating prejudice to the accused.