Monday, December 20, 2010

Professor Sylvia Lazos Fights for Equality

Sylvia Lazos, Justice Myron Leavitt Professor of Law, has been researching issues of diversity since arriving at the UNLV Boyd School of Law in 2003. She has written on a variety of issues, including how initiatives by the electorate affect the civil rights of minorities, the difficulties in appointing judges who are minorities and women to the federal bench, and in general, why the concept of "diversity" has not easily gained access to mainstream legal thought.

Her latest project is an empirical investigation of whether judicial performance evaluations are fair to minorities and women judges. Her interest in this project began when she was enlisted to help form a panel for the National Association of Women Judges for the purpose of commenting on a recent controversy in Missouri. The Missouri State Bar administered judicial performance evaluations that were published on the Internet in order to aid voters to cast an informed vote in retention elections. However, a recent statistical study had revealed that the survey used in Missouri scored women judges eight points lower than men, and black judges ten points lower than white judges, on a 100-point scale.

In the upcoming issue of Law and Society Review, Lazos will publish with her co-author, political scientist Dr. Rebecca Gill, an analysis of the judicial evaluation polls conducted by an independent consultant hired by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The judicial evaluation poll data from 1998-2008 found that even after statistically controlling for judicial qualifications and performance records, women on average score 11.5 points lower than their male colleagues. Lazos and Gill attribute this rating difference to systemic unconscious bias, because there is no evidence that women judges as a group are less qualified than men. Unconscious bias, as distinct from explicit prejudices, cause people who believe they are neutral to nonetheless make judgments linked to race, gender or other factors.

Lazos and research assistant Mallory Waters have just completed analysis of another data set of judicial performance evaluations from Missouri, also controlling for qualitative and performance factors and found similar results in this data set. Even after controlling for experience, education, and other factors, women judges on average are rated 10 points lower than male judges.

In the next phase of Lazos's work, she will be looking to enlist the help of local judges to observe how the court room is different for women judges as opposed to male judges, and to confirm her theory that gender bias is at work in explaining the consistently lower evaluations that women receive in this state.

Lazos’s other research interests are in the area of education. She has been serving on the Clark County Superintendent's Equal Opportunities Advisory Commission since January 2010. Just recently named a Lincy Institute Fellow, she is working with colleagues from the UNLV College of Education to determine the efficacy of English Language Learner programs currently in use at the elementary school level at CCSD. This research, funded by The Lincy Institute, will help identify the teaching practices that are most effective. These research-based recommendations will be presented as part of a Brookings Mountain West event in May 2011. Lazos believes that this research work is the beginning of a truly collaborative research partnership with CCSD

Professor Keith Rowley Strives to Serve

In May and July 2010, respectively, the American Law Institute (ALI) and the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) approved extensive amendments to the official text of Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) Article 9, governing personal property security interests. William S. Boyd Professor of Law Keith Rowley actively participated in 18 months of UCC Article 9 Joint Review Committee meetings and conference calls that culminated in the amendments and accompanying commentary.

That experience has already paid dividends for students enrolled in his Secured Transactions course; forms the basis of an article he is writing for the American Bankruptcy Institute Journal; has provided additional fuel for his ongoing research and writing about what he calls the “Polyform Commercial Code,” a portion of which he presented in mid-November at the University of Tulsa College of Law; and is infiltrating a less provocative book about the law of secured transactions he is currently writing for Aspen (Wolters Kluwer). It has also made him the resident expert on the proposed amendments and the de facto liaison to the Nevada Bar and the Nevada Legislature, which may take up a bill to enact some or all of the amendments after it convenes in early 2011.

This latter role is not unfamiliar: after reading a two-part article Rowley wrote for the Nevada Lawyer in 2004 (which later morphed into a longer, updated article in the Uniform Commercial Code Law Journal and continues to thrive as a periodically-updated on-line resource), then-Senator Terry Care sought Rowley’s counsel during the 2005 legislative session regarding pending bills proposing to revise or amend six articles of Nevada’s version of the UCC. Rowley has since consulted with legislators, state bar leaders, and other interested parties regarding similar efforts in eleven other states and keeps a wide audience updated on UCC legislative developments (and related topics) through two blogs to which he contributes, his Boyd website, and his work as Developments Reporter for the American Bar Association Business Law Section’s UCC Committee.

In addition to serving all who legislate, adjudicate, practice, teach, study, or are otherwise affected by commercial law through his work with the ALI, the ABA, and his presence in the cybersphere, Rowley more directly serves the legal academy through leadership roles in the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). Having chaired the AALS Section on Commercial and Related Consumer Law until the January 2010 AALS annual meeting in New Orleans, Rowley continues to serve on that section’s executive committee as Immediate Past Chair. In January 2010, he became Chair-Elect of AALS Section on Contracts, and will take over as Chair at the January 2011 AALS annual meeting in San Francisco.

Rowley pursues scholarship across a broad spectrum of contract and commercial law topics (while also indulging a passion for law and popular culture that has thus far produced a book chapter on lawyers and lawyering on The West Wing, contributions to two ABA Journal cover articles and another forthcoming in National Jurist, and several conference papers). Along with several law review articles, book chapters, and conference papers in various stages of progress, and his forthcoming book for Aspen, he is also currently writing a second book on selected topics in the law of contracts for LexisNexis, and is under contract to write a third. Just as Rowley’s involvement in the Article 9 amendment process informs the secured transactions book he is writing for Aspen, his awareness-raising and consulting efforts pertaining to UCC Articles 1, 2, and 2A will benefit both of the LexisNexis books.

In addition to pursuing his own scholarship, Rowley also devotes considerable effort to promoting scholarship across a broad spectrum of contract and commercial law topics.

In January, Rowley moderated a program he conceived and organized for the AALS Section on Commercial and Related Consumer Law on the recently-promulgated ALI Principles of the Law of Software Contracts. The program – The Principles of the Law of Software Contracts: A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes of Article 2B and UCITA? – yielded a print symposium in the Tulane Law Review, which Rowley organized, and is the launching point for a book-length collection of essays, responses, and replies.

In February, Rowley brought more than 80 legal academics and practicing attorneys from thirty-one states and several foreign countries to the Boyd campus for the 2010 Spring Conference on Contracts, which received rave reviews virtually guaranteeing a sequel in the not-too-distant future. Several papers presented at the conference have since appeared, or are forthcoming, in a variety of law reviews.

In January 2011, Rowley will moderate a program he has conceived and spent considerable time this fall organizing for the AALS Section on Contracts. Navigating Lombard Street in a Fog: Seeking (or Ignoring) Landmarks of Intent and Context will explore foundational issues including whether the parties’ intent is or should be an integral part of contemporary contract law; the extent to which context affects or should affect a party’s ability to consent or the significance of its manifested consent; and, assuming that intent and context matter, how best to determine and give effect to the parties’ intent in the context of their transaction. The discussion promises to be lively and the program, like the 2010 Spring Contracts Conference, will provide a platform for several emerging contract scholars as well as a showcase for some of the leading lights in the field.

Professor Marketa Trimble Joins the Boyd School of Law Faculty

The Boyd School of Law is fortunate to be the home of not only nationally but also internationally recognized scholars in the fields of international law and intellectual property law. This year the Boyd community welcomed a new addition to this group of renowned scholars and respected educators – Professor Marketa Trimble. Her research concerning cross-border aspects of intellectual property law combines her interest in both fields and provides insights that are extremely valuable in the global economy.

In her forthcoming book on cross-border enforcement of patents Professor Trimble explores the challenges that patent holders face because of the existing patent regime, which despite the global use of inventions, still follows a country-by-country model for protecting those inventions. Notwithstanding efforts at the international level to create a system that would facilitate patenting in multiple countries, inventors still find the costs of doing so prohibitive. Most patent holders can patent their inventions in only one or a few countries and therefore relinquish the benefits from their inventions in much of the world. Professor Trimble uses examples from the United States and Germany – the two largest patent litigation venues in the world – to show how patent holders attempt to mitigate the problem by reaching activities in third countries through U.S. and German patent laws. Her book will be published by Oxford University Press in 2012.

In her research, which also concerns cross-border problems in copyright, Professor Trimble uses her broad experience, education and foreign language abilities. She came to the United States from Europe, where she worked as a lawyer for the government of the Czech Republic. In her capacity as head of the European Union Law Unit at the Czech Ministry of Justice, she prepared the country for membership in the European Union in the area of cross-border judicial cooperation, conflict of laws and enforcement of intellectual property. She represented the country in the committees of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, where she also worked as a national legal expert in Eurostat, the central statistical body of the European Union. After moving to the United States and interning for a judge she returned to law school and earned master’s and doctoral degrees at Stanford Law School to complement her master’s and doctoral degrees from the Czech Republic, all of which contribute to her valuable and unique background.

Spotlight: Alumnus Michael J. Higdon ’01

Michael J. Higdon ’01 is a Boyd School of Law alumnus of many firsts. He was the first student Editor-in-Chief of the Nevada Law Journal, the first graduate to be hired as a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals law clerk, the first graduate hired to teach at Boyd, and the first graduate hired as a tenure-track law professor.

Recognized for his talents, Higdon caught the attention of other law schools and secured a tenure-track position at the University of Tennessee College of Law. He was appointed Associate Professor of Law beginning in 2009.

Higdon teaches and writes in the areas of family law; sexuality, gender and the law; and legal writing. He also has published in the areas of law and rhetoric; and wills, trusts, and estates. His work has been published in a number of journals including the Wake Forest Law Review, the U.C. Davis Law Review, and the Indiana Law Journal. Higdon’s work has caught the attention of some of the leader’s in his disciplines. For instance, his article on informal adoption is cited in Dukeminier’s Wills, Trusts, and Estates, the leading textbook in that area.

Additionally, in August, Higdon was quoted in Time magazine as a result of a piece he wrote, focusing on methods of teaching and critique. The article features Higdon’s comparison between teaching and the reality TV show Project Runway, pointing out methods of critique used on reality television shows and how those examples can help law professors offer more effective critique to law students.

At present a member of the Legal Writing Institute’s Board of Directors, Higdon has also given presentations at a number of universities, most recently at Arizona State University School of Law.

His most recent article, “To Lynch a Child: Bullying and Gender Non-Conformity in Our Nation's Schools,” forthcoming in the Indiana Law Journal, builds on previous articles he has written relating to discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. Higdon currently serves on an LGBT commission at the University of Tennessee, which is dedicated to making the university a more inclusive environment for LGBT students.

When asked about his future in terms of scholarship, Higdon said, “both my immediate and long-term goals are to continue writing pieces that focus, generally, in the area of law and psychology but, more specifically, the way in which bias and prejudice influence the legislative process and the degree to which law can have a psychological impact on minority communities in the U.S.”

Higdon adds that: “I enjoy the process of research and writing scholarly articles, primarily because I love teaching; scholarship makes me a more critical thinker and, thus, a better teacher.”

Before teaching, Higdon began his career as a law clerk. Upon graduation from Boyd, he was selected from intense competition to be a judicial law clerk for Judge Procter Hug, Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit before practicing commercial litigation and employment law for two years with the Las Vegas firm of Schreck Brignone (now part of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck).
In 2004, Higdon was hired as a Boyd faculty member. He served as Lawyering Process Professor from July 2004 to July 2009. He also was invited to serve as a visiting professor at Seattle University School of Law.

While teaching at Boyd, Higdon was recognized by the student body as the 2006 law faculty member of the year. He also coached several outstanding student moot court teams and served as adviser to the Society of Advocates, the Boyd School of Law’s moot court program. In 2009, Higdon was named the William S. Boyd School of Law Alumnus of the Year, the highest and most prestigious alumni award given by the school.

A Summa Cum Laude graduate of Boyd’s charter class, Higdon is a recipient of the James E. Rogers Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement. He holds a B.A. in English from Erskine College, Due West, SC, and an M.A. in Communication Studies from UNLV.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Professor Jeffrey Stempel Wins Liberty Mutual Prize

In February 2010, Professor Jeffrey Stempel was named the winner of the Liberty Mutual Prize. The prize is awarded annually for an exceptional article on the law of property and casualty insurance, its regulation and corporate governance.

Entries are judged by a panel consisting of judges, attorneys, and professors having particular expertise in the insurance law field, who evaluate submissions on the basis of quality of analysis, originality, thoroughness of research, creativity, and clarity of thought and expression. Professor Stempel’s article, "The Insurance Contract as a Social Instrument and Social Institution," was "the clear and unanimous choice of the panel," according to the notification of the award.

The article will be published in 2010 by the William & Mary Law Review. In addition, Professor Stempel has been invited to formally present the article this fall at Boston College Law School.

According to Dean John Valery White of the Boyd School of Law, "This is a significant honor for Jeff and, by association, for the law school. While we all know Jeff's work is great, it is nice to see a confirmation of our assessment by others.”

Professor Stempel’s article suggests that insurance policies are not merely contracts but also are designed to perform particular risk management, deterrence, and compensation functions important to economic and social ordering. This fact, he writes, "has significant implications regarding the manner in which insurance policies are construed in coverage disputes." Specifically, traditional contract analysis should be supplemented by appreciation of the particular function of the policy in dispute as part of the insurance product's larger role as a social and economic instrument or institution.

The article examines in detail the frequently litigated issue of how many "occurrences" have taken place within the meaning of liability instance. It also considers issues of "business risk," "accidental" events, liquor liability exclusions, claims for inherent diminished value of vehicles involved in automobile collisions, trigger of coverage, and the workers' compensation implications of post-injury suicide.

Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic Weaves Scholarship with Service

The Boyd School of Law’s clinical studies program consistently rates among the top programs in the nation, due largely to its innovative clinician-scholar model. The founding vision of the Boyd School of Law included a strong clinical studies program, a “law firm within the law school” where providing law students with hands-on experience representing real clients in actual cases and national-level research and understanding of best practices are deployed to enhance and improve legal policy and practice for underserved communities. Unlike many law schools, which staff their clinical programs with staff attorneys, the professors who teach students and supervise cases in Boyd’s Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic are full law school professors with ambitious scholarly agendas that are interwoven with their clinical casework. As a result, students in the Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic learn not only good lawyering, but also are immersed in cutting-edge issues of law and policy as a regular part of their clinic work.

Founding faculty member Professor Mary Berkheiser’s work on juvenile waiver of counsel is an example of the marriage between scholarship, public policy, and community service. When Berkheiser established the Juvenile Justice Clinic in 2000, she was disturbed by the alarming rate at which children in the Clark County Juvenile Court waived their constitutional right to counsel, and the paucity of representation for children in delinquency matters. In 2001, the concern about juvenile waiver of counsel motivated Berkheiser to inititate a bipartisan effort with state legislators to strengthen the statutory requirements for juvenile waiver of counsel in Nevada. Berkheiser’s research on the issue, published in a 2002 Florida Law Review article titled The Fiction of Juvenile Right to Counsel: Waiver in the Juvenile Courts, continues to be cited in top law journals. And today, Berkheiser’s Juvenile Justice Clinic students enjoy the opportunity to partner with a vibrant juvenile public defender office that was built up in the wake of the waiver of counsel legislation.

Immigration Clinic professors David Thronson and Leticia Saucedo have brought their unique scholarly interests to the community service and outreach work that clinic students undertake. Thronson’s scholarly work analyzing issues in the intersection of family law and immigration law has influenced both academic discourse and judicial decisions. Saucedo’s groundbreaking scholarship on the brown-collar workforce has drawn on empirical studies of workers in the Las Vegas construction industry. This scholarship informs Immigration Clinic students in the provision of much needed direct client representation, but guides systemic reform efforts such as a human trafficking statute drafted by students and adopted in Nevada to expand protections for workers as trafficking victims.

The newly-established UNLV Innocence Clinic grew directly out of the growing interest of Professor Kate Kruse in the promise of DNA exoneration cases as vehicles for systemic reform, which she explored in a 2006 Wisconsin Law Review article, Instituting Innocence Reform: Wisconsin’s New Governance Experiment. In 2007, when the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center contacted Boyd Law School seeking collaboration on Nevada cases, Kruse was well-positioned to establish a clinic to address the need. In the Innocence Clinic, students learn about the systemic causes of wrongful convictions as they investigate claims of wrongful conviction by Nevada state prisoners. In 2009, Innocence Clinic students worked with state legislators to introduce legislation that expanded a prisoner’s right to petition for postconviction DNA testing and testified in favor of a statute requiring law enforcement agencies to preserve biological evidence collected in crime scene investigations for the length of a prisoner’s sentence.

Dr. Rebecca Nathanson holds a joint appointment in the Schools of Education and Law, and brings her research expertise in child development and child competency to her teaching of law and education students in the interdisciplinary Education Advocacy Clinic. Nathanson’s research focuses on strategies for enhancing the accuracy and credibility of child witnesses’ courtroom testimony. Students in the Education Advocacy Clinic have the opportunity to participate in her innovative Kids’ Court School, a community service project that educates child witnesses in Clark County court cases about the judicial process to help reduce their system-induced stress, while also providing a data set for Dr. Nathanson’s ongoing research in the Department of Educational Psychology.

The Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic expanded its reach this year with the addition of an Appellate Clinic and a Family Justice Clinic, each led by professors whose research interests intersect with their clinical teaching. Professor Anne Traum’s analysis of equitable tolling in habeas cases in a 2009 Maryland Law Review article is already gaining traction in court opinions and filings. She brings her interest and experience in the techniques of persuasive advocacy and the systemic working of federal courts to the law students litigating Ninth Circuit cases in the Appellate Clinic. Professor Ann Cammett’s scholarly work on the collateral consequences of child support enforcement against prison inmates informs the Family Justice Clinic, which explores the role of families in society, the strengths and weaknesses of state intervention into families, and the meaning of access to justice for children and parents.

Boyd School of Law to Launch Gaming Law Journal

The William S. Boyd School of Law, with support from the International Masters of Gaming Law, is in the process of launching a new scholarly journal: the UNLV Gaming Law Journal. The first issue will be published in spring 2010. For a list of articles that will appear in the first issue, click here. For a list of the student editors of the journal, click here. The new Journal will be the Boyd School of Law’s second law review, the other being the Nevada Law Journal.

Gaming Law Journal Staff
Gaming Law Journal staff members (from left): Heather Moore (Junior Staff), Kendal Davis (Managing Editor), Kimberly Loges (Junior Staff), and Brandon Johansson (Editor-in-Chief). Not pictured here: Steve Johnson (Faculty Advisor), Julian Gregory (Business Editor), Articles/Notes Editors Cristina Olson and Shannon Rowe, and Junior Staff members Tyson Cross, Amaia Guenaga, Kirk Homeyer, Heather Moore, Tristan Rivera and Corina Rocha
The UNLV Gaming Law Journal fits well the missions of the Boyd School of Law. A law school exists to train new lawyers, to produce and disseminate new knowledge about the law, and to serve the various communities of which it is a part. The new Journal will advance all of these purposes.

Pedagogically, service on a review is among the best experiences a student can have while in law school. The student editors of the new Journal will acquire leadership skills, judgment, technical facility, substantive knowledge, and enhanced writing skills. They will grow both from editing high-caliber articles by outside authors and from conceiving and writing their own notes.

We believe that the UNLV Gaming Journal will soon be recognized as the leading review of gaming law in the world. In this, it will fulfill the goal of producing and disseminating knowledge about this dynamic and important area of the law. We are delighted and grateful in this regard to have the financial and intellectual support of the International Masters of Gaming Law for the Journal. This organization has as a core goal enriching analysis of and scholarly discourse about gaming law. The commitment of the International Masters to intellectual integrity and rigor match our own commitment.

In service, the benefits of the UNLV Gaming Law Journal will have global impact. Nevada’s position in gaming and its role as a model for other U.S. states and other countries depends on a regulatory structure that carefully balances numerous economic, social, and legal considerations. New ideas are always needed to keep and improve such balance. As a vehicle for launching and distributing such ideas, we believe that the new Journal will be a positive influence across a wide front.

The inauguration of the UNLV Gaming Law Journal is an exciting event. Yet it represents a progression rather than a culmination. The Boyd School of Law has long had the leading gaming law program of any law school in the United States or abroad. That program includes the largest number of courses anywhere. And the line of the professors in these courses is a catalog of preeminence, starting with Shannon Bybee and Raymond Avansino, continuing with Tony Cabot and Bob Faiss, and featuring as well more recent teachers such as Mark Clayton, Jennifer Roberts, Greg Gemignani, and Claudia Cormier. Our program has benefitted greatly from the counsel and support of our Gaming Law Advisory Council, including leaders in law, government, and the gaming sector from Nevada and abroad.

The UNLV Gaming Law Journal builds on this foundation, and it will be an anchor for our Gaming Law program as it grows and develops.

Boyd Alumnus Jeremy Aguero Makes His Mark in Nevada

For more than a decade Jeremy Aguero ’04 has steadily built a strong reputation in Nevada as an expert in economic, fiscal and policy analysis. He formed Applied Analysis, a Nevada-based advisory firm, in 1997 and has become a trusted expert on the Nevada economy. What started out as a one-man shop in a basement apartment has grown to become one of Nevada’s largest and well-respected consulting firms.

Aguero’s work history demonstrates a wide range of abilities. He has performed countless economic and fiscal impact assessments for projects of local, regional and national significance. Some of his major projects include The Hospitality Industry’s Impact on the State of Nevada, delivered to the Federal Gaming Impact Study Commission in 1998. In 2003, he chaired the Governor’s Task Force on Tax Policy’s technical working group, co-authoring its 1,400-page report and ultimately receiving the coveted Cashman Good Government Award from the Nevada Taxpayers Association.

In 2005, he served as the lead analyst for the Clark County Growth Task Force; and, in 2008, he was the principal researcher for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Fiscal Impact Series, which helped pave the way for significant reforms to Nevada’s public employee pay and benefit statutes during the 2009 Session of the Nevada State Legislature.

Currently, Aguero is focusing on a number of issues. With the state and local government budget challenges, education reform topics and business restructuring and reposition analyses atop the list. Considered a leading authority on Nevada’s economy, Aguero has also been asked to speak on economic and development trends for numerous professional groups. He has been a recurring presenter for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce’s annual Preview Las Vegas event and contributes to the respected Las Vegas Perspective, southern Nevada's definitive annual market profile.

In addition to his professional activities, Aguero is involved actively in the community. Aguero enjoys working with children as well as children’s causes. He lends his time and talents to a number of local organizations as a board member of Nevada Child Seekers, Opportunity Village and Paseo Verde Little League, where he also serves as a coach. Jeremy also coaches U6 boys and U8 girls through the Henderson United Soccer Organization. Passionate about education, he is an adjunct professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Willliam F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration where he teaches hotel law to undergraduate students.

A fifth-generation Nevadan, Aguero graduated with honors from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he undertook a special course of study under the direction of the late Shannon Bybee and  earned the Wm. M. Weinberger Outstanding Graduate Award. He earned a juris doctorate degree from the William S. Boyd School of Law in 2004, graduating cum laude and earning the Dean’s Graduation Award. Aguero currently lives in Henderson with his wife, Melissa, and their children Jacob, Emma and Abrahm.