Friday, June 17, 2011
The Center for Reproductive Rights – Columbia Law School Fellowship (“CRR-CLS Fellowship”) is a two-year, post-graduate fellowship offered by the Center for Reproductive Rights (“the Center”) and Columbia Law School (“the Law School”). The Fellowship is designed to prepare recent law school graduates for legal academic careers, with a focus on reproductive health and human and human rights. Fellows will be affiliated with the Center and the Law School and will participate in the intellectual life of both programs.
The CRR-CLS Fellowship is a full-time, residential fellowship for up to two full years starting in June, July, or August 2012. The Fellow will be a member of the community of graduate fellows at the Law School and will be integrated into the legal and policy work of the Center. They will have work space at both locations. The Fellow will also have access to law school facilities, including the library and on-line research resources, and faculty events. It is expected that the Fellow will work closely with an assigned Law School faculty mentor.
Fellows will pursue independent research and scholarship in preparation for entering the legal academic job market at the conclusion of their first Fellowship year. During their Fellowship tenure, Fellows are expected to produce a work of publishable legal scholarship that is related to reproductive rights. Fellows will also have responsibility for a range of work at CRR, including planning and hosting of academic conferences or roundtable discussions, drafting blog posts and/or other short advocacy pieces, and creating curricular materials. The scope and details of the Fellows’ work will be agreed upon in consultation with their faculty mentor and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
STIPEND AND BENEFITS: The Fellow will receive a stipend of $55,000 per year for each full year in residence. The Fellow shall be responsible for purchasing and maintaining her or his own health insurance. The Fellow may purchase insurance through Columbia University.
ELIGIBILITY: Applicants must show exceptional promise as a legal scholar and a commitment to entering academia. A strong interest in reproductive or sexual rights, women’s rights and/or human rights is required, although extensive experience in the field is not essential. Applicants will be evaluated by the quality of their application materials, and by their record of academic and professional achievement. A J.D. from an accredited law school in the United States is strongly preferred. In some exceptional cases, we may consider those with foreign law degrees. If the future Fellow is not a U.S. citizen, a J-1 visa is required and Columbia will provide the necessary paperwork for the process. An F-1 visa is not allowed for appointment to Columbia as a post-doctoral fellow. Fellows are not required to be graduates of Columbia Law School.
APPLICATION: Completed applications must be received by the Law School by October 31, 2011. Please note that it is preferred that application materials, other than the transcripts and letters of recommendation, be submitted electronically. A complete application must include:
1. CRR-CLS Fellowship Application Form (biographical and contact information);
2. Curriculum Vitae;
3. Unofficial transcripts from college, law school and any graduate schools attended;
4. Statement of Scholarly Interest and future academic projects, including a discussion of how the fellowship will help the applicant in pursuing those interests and realizing those projects;
5. A paper or other writing sample that demonstrates the applicant’s writing and analytical abilities and ability to generate interesting original ideas. This can be a draft rather than a publication;
6. A 1-2 paragraph statement of why you want to pursue a career in the legal academy;
7. Three letters of reference. At least two letters should be from professors who can speak to the applicant’s potential as a future legal academic.
Transcripts and letters of recommendation should be mailed or delivered to:
CRR-CLS Fellowship Program
Professor Carol Sanger
Columbia Law School
435 W. 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
ATTN: Marianne Carroll, Faculty Assistant
Other application materials should be sent via email to: email@example.com
The settlement of a couple’s financial affairs at the time of divorce often requires the resolution of debt issues between them. Specifically, responsibility must be allocated between former spouses for repayment of their outstanding debts. This article analyzes the laws in common law property states that govern the judicial authority to reallocate responsibility for the repayment of individual and joint debts at the time of divorce.
The topic of debt allocation in divorce proceedings is of great importance to many divorcing couples. However, the rules of law in this area in many common law property jurisdictions are not as well-articulated as the corresponding rules governing asset distribution. Furthermore, the (largely judicial) rules that have been formulated often reflect a reluctance to establish judicial authority to reallocate responsibility for the repayment of debts of the marriage. No clear explanation has been offered for this reluctance to include liabilities as fully as assets within the conceptual framework of the economic partnership of marriage at the time of dissolution.
This Article examines the existing rules that govern equitable distribution of debts at divorce in the common law property states and speculates about the reasons for withholding full recognition of debts in equitable distribution law. The Article also analyzes the current state statutes and case law and the provisions of the recently promulgated Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution by reference to the general goals of equitable distribution law in the common law property states, relating to a fair winding down of the spouses’ economic affairs at the end of marriage. It concludes that certain restrictive debt allocation rules, such as the joint purpose doctrine and rules excluding student loans from distribution in all cases, are inconsistent with the basic equitable goals in this area of law.
From the Daily Journal:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday on a case that could change the way alimony is awarded in the Volunteer State.
The case involves the bitter divorce of a former Hendersonville couple, Craig and Johanna Gonsewski (gahn-ZES-kee). In 2009, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ordered Craig Gonsewski to pay his former wife $1,250 a month in alimony. The payments were to last for life or until she remarries.
The ex-husband is appealing, claiming that the appellate court went too far by giving her that amount of money for life.
Some legal experts believe that if the award is allowed to stand it could signal more alimony awards in Tennessee. Other say the case is so narrow that any decision will have limited impact.
The case is different because it considers a lifetime alimony award for a wife who has a career and worked throughout the marriage and was in her 40s at the time of the divorce. Lawyers say most lifetime awards go to women over the age of 50 who have been married for decades and sacrificed their careers for family.
Read more here.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
The divorce rate in the United States is slightly more than one-half the marriage rate. Divorce is a fact of life in this country, and will likely be so for the foreseeable future. On August 23, 1984, the divorce lawyer’s job got more complicated when Congress created the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) as part of some significant amendments to ERISA. QDROs are necessary because before those 1984 ERISA amendments, a lot of divorced persons found out the hard way that they could be deprived of their marital or community property interest in their former spouses’ retirement plans. For most divorcing couples, the two largest assets of the marriage are the marital home and retirement accounts. Over ninety-nine million persons participate in private sector retirement plans, and those plans’ assets total more than $4 trillion dollars, which exceeds the total value of all residential real estate in the United States. Dividing retirement accounts is not as simple as a court decreeing that each party gets one-half of the other party’s account. It takes a properly drafted QDRO to make sure each party gets his or her marital or community property share of the other’s retirement benefits. Drafting a QDRO can be time consuming, complex, and frustrating in part because it requires lawyers who practice primarily state law to have a working knowledge of parts of the notoriously lengthy and complex ERISA. A substantial number – perhaps a majority – of QDROs are not prepared properly, in that they do not reflect the parties’ understanding of what they were awarded in the divorce proceeding. In fact, a former administrator for a retirement plan stated that between fifteen and twenty percent of the time, lawyers fail to see a QDRO through to completion. This article will detail the history leading to the creation of QDROs, explain what QDROs are, and offer suggestions on what pitfalls to look for and avoid in drafting them.
From the New York Times:
After 33 years of marriage, Steven Simkin and Laura Blank divorced in 2006. They agreed to split their considerable wealth equally. She got the apartment on the Upper East Side; he got the house in Scarsdale, N.Y.
Afterward, they spoke infrequently, mostly concerning their two grown sons.
More than two years later, Ms. Blank received a voicemail message that stunned her: Mr. Simkin wanted to revise their settlement. She refused, and he sued.
While divorce agreements are generally ironclad and rarely rescinded, this challenge has now reached New York’s highest court. Deeply divided appellate justices requested what is considered an unusual review of settled law involving contracts.
What made Mr. Simkin’s call for a do-over even remotely possible has its roots in Bernard L. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
Read more here.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Before the 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court’s exercise of judicial review did not support the notion that constitutional litigation could be an effective instrument of social reform. The Court’s principled rejection of racially segregated public education, however, gave new legitimacy to the concept of judicial review, transforming it from an obstacle into a principal means of achieving social progress. Since then, federal courts have impacted public policy in many areas – from housing, welfare, and transportation to mental health institutions, prisons, and juvenile courts. Yet, there are inherent structural challenges to affecting institutional change through litigation: courts are themselves passive institutions that respond slowly to new information; they are oriented toward past events and circumstances rather than the possibilities implicit in future ones; and they graft qualifications onto preexisting law rather than engaging in a fresh consideration of the issues. In his landmark work, The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change?, Professor Gerald Rosenberg persuasively argued that in order to overcome these constraints in a particular case or controversy, certain key elements must be present: incentives for the institution to change; costs to the institution for not changing; the existence of parallel institutions to help implement the change; and the use of court orders to leverage additional resources to bring about the change or to serve as a cover for administrators who are willing to act but fear political repercussions.
For more than sixty years after the founding of the first juvenile court in 1899, its philosophy and guiding principle were based on the rehabilitative ideal, which rejected the traditional adversary system found in criminal court proceedings in favor of informal procedures, indeterminate sanctions, judicial discretion, and individualization. The 1967 Supreme Court case of In re Gault struck at the core assumptions of this paradigm with its emphasis on the functional similarity between juvenile and adult criminal court and extension of key due process protections to youth charged in delinquency court, including the right to counsel and the privilege against self-incrimination. Yet, as revolutionary as the Gault decision was, its holding failed to translate into long-term sustainable reform – the result, at least in part, of the absence of the requisite factors articulated by Professor Rosenberg. Whether the recent Supreme Court cases of Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, and their progeny will facilitate such reform remains an open question.
This Article, written for a symposium at Brooklyn Law School on “Adolescents in Society: Their Evolving Legal Status,” explores the potential for twenty-first century Supreme Court decisions implicating juveniles’ constitutional rights to transform the way in which the courts process and punish young offenders. It discusses the method and means by which institutional reform litigation brings about change and the structural challenges that arise when courts attempt to transform complex institutions. It provides a brief review of Supreme Court decisions prior to Brown that served to prevent rather than enable social change in the areas of slavery, racial segregation, and workers’ rights; it contrasts these cases with the decision and impact of Brown. It argues that although In re Gault was indeed a foundational legal holding, it did not translate into effective policy due in part to local officials’ failure to implement the decision as expected and lawmakers’ inability to enact legislation that was true to the spirit of Gault. The Article argues that based on the analysis developed by Professor Rosenberg and other scholars, recent Supreme Court decisions ending the juvenile death penalty and juvenile life without parole sentences for non-homicides could lead to significant change in both the juvenile and criminal justice systems for young offenders. It acknowledges the limitations to this theory and the challenges that are likely to arise, and concludes that although courts can reform complex institutions, constitutional litigation is an unreliable path to social change.
An interesting finding from Pew several months ago:
Today’s 18- to 29-year-olds value parenthood far more than marriage, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of attitudinal surveys.
A 2010 Pew Research survey found that 52% of Millennials say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life. Just 30% say the same about having a successful marriage– meaning there is a 22 percentage point gap in the way Millennials value parenthood over marriage.
Read more here.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - Congress began this week a heated debate on the issue of legalizing divorce, but many social scientists believe it hard to achieve in this majority Catholic country at present.
The Philippines and the Vatican are now the only places in the world to ban divorce, after Malta voted to remove its ban on divorce on May 31.
The Philippine House committee on revision of laws kicked off its deliberations on the controversial divorce bill, with pro- and anti-divorce lawmakers facing off on the issue of legalizing divorce in the country.
One of the authors of the bill, women's party list group Gabriela believes that the existing laws on marriage are not enough, and legalization of divorce will help many couples and families suffering from failed marriages.
Read more here.
Monday, June 13, 2011
From ABC News:
A weekend referendum in the Mediterranean island of Malta found majority support for the introduction of divorce laws.
But it was a tight win for the pro-divorce movement, with just over 53 per cent voting in favour of the referendum.
The result was announced...by Malta's prime minister, Lawrence Gonzi, who had campaigned heavily against the introduction of divorce.
"The majority result in favour of divorce is not the result that I'd hoped for," he said.
"But the will of the people has to be respected and parliament should enact a law for the introduction of divorce."
The referendum asked whether divorce should be legalised "in the case of a married couple who has been separated or has been living apart for at least four years and where there is no reasonable hope for reconciliation between the spouses, whilst at the same time ensuring that adequate maintenance is guaranteed and the welfare of the children is safeguarded".
Read more here.