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November 9, 2008

Any advice or suggestions for President-elect Barack Obama?

Various purported legal experts (myself included) will likely give President-elect Barack Obama advice on various legal topics.  Though 1L students are not quite experts, you have a unique and fresh perspective on legal topics.  Thus, I'd really like to hear what kind of law-related advice or suggestions you might have for President-elect Obama.

Though you should feel free to opine on any legal topic in the comments here, students will earn extra class participation points for any and all thoughtful suggestions that involve criminal law topics OR law school and legal eduction topics.

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Not sure how criminally law related it is, but I think Barack needs to take a hard stance on illegal immigration and take substantial measures to secure our borders. Not to say that illegal aliens are any less deserving of being here than we are, but we're at a point where we can't afford, literally, to host more and more illegal aliens who don't pay their share of taxes and cost the system more money than we can afford right now (I don't know the exact figures but a quick google search shows a 2004 study where illegal aliens in California imposed hidden costs at the tune of $9 billion/yr just for education, health care, and incarceration). Sure $9 billion isn't a lot in the scope of a $700 billion - $1 trillion bailout or a proposed $300 stimulus, but it's certainly a significant amount.

Posted by: Chad R | Nov 9, 2008 9:05:38 PM

I think President Elect Obama should seriously consider re-evaluating what kind of crimes deserve severe terms of incarceration. Specifically in the realm of drug crimes. I don't advocate for an across the board legalization of drugs but I have a hard time coming to grips with the amount of money spent fighting the drug war and the amount of money spent keeping non-violent drug offenders in prison. I would strongly encourage the new administration to re-evaluate prison terms for non-violent drug offenders (I know it will never happen but I would be fine advocating for no prison term for non-violent offenders). I think with money growing tighter everywhere this could be a great help to overstretched correctional facilities.

Posted by: Andrew Little | Nov 10, 2008 8:28:18 AM

Certainly an interesting topic to delve into especially if you are of the opinion as I am that President's policy choices and views are really the views of the experts that surround them, and maybe only slightly their own. Just think, if you were surrounded by people who had significantly more knowledge than you in a designated field who had your ear you would probably start to believe and agree with what they told you. This might be a stretch but I believe the prior statement is supported by everyone of us who grew up in a household where our parents and relatives were partisan and we ended up being of that same partisanship. For all those political science majors out there we all know the number one factor of determining someones partisanship is to look at their parents party. With that said, I think its fair to say that Most of Barack Obama's policy choices will be those of his advisors, rightfully so as they know more and assumedely have much more experience in that given area. The presidents job is to lead, not to be an expert in every field. Hence why he needs the opinions of 1L's and other people our age who put him into office.
Ok, on with the actual advice. Taking on the issue of illegal immigration is crucial. I agree with Chad that illegal immigration is taking away valuable jobs and more importantly those illegal aliens are paying zero taxes. However the solution would not be criminal prosecution. Do not spend the money to go after these people, that will just be a waste of more resources. Come up with a system that allows for them to become legal, the cost of implementing that system would probably be at least comparable to using man power to search them out and confine them for however long, and we will have citizens who can now pay taxes instead of taking up prison cells. I would assume that most of the illegal immigrants would probably want to be citizens if given the opportunity.

The one are that Barack Obama may be an expert in is law school and its operation. Considering he went through law school, was the editor and Chief of the Law review at Harvard and then went and taught constitutional law at University of Chicago, he certainly has a better idea than a 1L. The one piece of advice that I would encourage Barack Obama to take into consideration is providing complete loan forgiveness for those students who dedicate their careers to public interest or government endeavors. As it is there is very little incentive for a student who graduates near the top of their class to go into the public sector when they can make a salary triple that amount in the private sector. The argument could be advanced that we'll we get the right people then in the public sector, those who really care. That however I believe is false. The people you get, are yes the ones that truly care maybe... but also the ones that couldn't necessarily hack it in law school.

I can't tell you how many people during the last three elections, Gore v. Bush, Kerry v. Bush, and Obama, v. McCain said to me, "is this the best America can put forward?" Sure both candidates have done more than I will probably ever do, but is that saying much? McCain graduated second to last in his Naval Academy and I could be wrong but has no graduate education. Obama yes did very well in undergrad and law school, but has no experience in governing and has little experience at the national level. Good thing, bad thing, debatable thing?! I dunno? (Bermanism)

The point is we expect the best out of our public officials and government agencies but we give them no tools to recruit the best.

Why is it that my sister graduates her masters program in therapy with $80,000 in debt, and becomes a therapist for disadvantaged youths and gets complete loan forgiveness, but when I graduate and hopefully become a District Attorney the best I can hope for is that I keep a public interest job for ten years and after I have already paid a substantial amount of money back to the government they will then pay off the remainder of my loans.

It almost seems as though the government is making value judgments between therapists and lawyers. The world already thinks lawyers have little value, should it be reinforced by our government?

I wold urge Barack Obama not to raise the salary of public employees necessarily (although that would help) but to say hey give us ten years and we will pay your loans back. I know I'd be a taker, but then again I may not have a choice since I will be somewhere around the top 50% (if anyone remembers the career services presentation the other day you get that comment) but certainly not in the top ten percent, I blew all my intelligence on the LSAT.

And to even go further in proving my first point that people take on the characteristics of the more knowledgeable people that surround them, look how long I just ranted for... If that's not Professor Berman like, I dunno what is. Did I earn my "A" yet?

Posted by: Craig R. | Nov 10, 2008 9:18:49 AM

A violation of Immigration law is supposedly only a civil issue, but in certain circumstances, the government has taken it upon itself to charge individuals with fraud and identity theft for using false social security numbers therefore criminalizing the action. Coming from a very pro-immigrant perspective this is absolutely outrageous. The idea that you can even compare an individual writing a false social security number to perhaps obtain a job, or healthcare to an individual maliciously stealing someone’s identity with the intent to rob them seems very unjust. Politicians did not stress immigration issues this election, but hopefully Obama will take a slightly more pro-immigrant position than our past administration. Illegal immigrants are an easy target especially during tough economic times, when in actuality they are not the problem. I think the farm owners who had to mow down their crops this year b/c they didn’t have the migrant workforce they have in the past would argue they are not taking our jobs. Illegal immigrants pay taxes and do not have access to any of our public benefits and in fact the legal immigrants are a much bigger “drain” on our society- should we get rid of them too? Criminalizing immigration violations is a horrible use of America’s resources from both a utilitarian and retributivist perspective. We tell these individuals they can’t be here, but no politician calls for a mass deportation b/c we know our economic system would be much worse off- double standard? We need to bring these individuals out of the shadows and come to terms with the fact that if Mexico’s economic and political structure continues to promote such severe poverty, individuals will risk it all to cross the border as a means of survival and increasing the border patrols or building a physical wall (What?#@#@?@#?) are not the solution. If we want individuals to come here legally, we need to substantially improve the efficiency of the application process. Anyways, I just thought the idea of criminalizing immigration violations was an interesting topic, then got a little side tracked…

Posted by: Melissa B. | Nov 10, 2008 11:11:53 AM

One issue that I think will be interesting is how Obama decides to handle all of the detainees down at Guantanamo Bay. I believe he is interested in bringing many (if not all) of the detainees to the United States for trial in the federal criminal justice system. This may be a viable option to close down the wildly unpopular detention facility in Cuba but I think it brings about a host of new issues. Besides the (significant?) issue of where to house all of these potentially high security risk detainees, is the issue of how to deal with all of the classified intelligence information that will come forth at trial. We haven't dealt with criminal evidence rules but it seems that some of the intelligence gathered in a war zone may not always be admissible as evidence in the federal court system. One option is to create a special court designed to handle these cases. However, such a court would be susceptible to many of the same criticisms as the current military tribunals in Cuba (lack of transparency, fairness, etc.). With clear majorities in both houses of Congress it seems that Obama will be able to pass whatever his plan turns out to be with relatively few concessions.

Posted by: Steve | Nov 10, 2008 7:09:35 PM

I'm not sure if we can qualify Guantanamo as 'wildly unpopular'. That seems a little over the top. To be sure, the recent election appears to be a significant mandate for the democratic party to make change and hopefully they are responsible enough to wield power in a way that is inclusive and does not provoke a culture war that gives any traction to extremes on either side. We will see.
As for the comment regarding the federal court's personal jurisdiction over the prisoners in Guantanamo I think President Elect Obama needs to relook at what that even means. I guess I'm struggling with how to apply Pennoyer v. Neff to an Afghanistan farmer who served soup to Osama Bin Laden. I know people don't trust the scary 'military tribunals' in Cuba at a place called 'Camp Justice' but is civilian court really more appropriate? At least with the tribunals you can say that the prisoners were captured committing an act of war so they have subject matter jurisdiction. And let's not forget that some of the prisoners have already been tried and convicted. The domestic consensus on some of these convictions wasn't that they were too harsh, it was that they were too relaxed.
The silly thing is there already is a court system set up for these types of scenarios. Unfortunately, we've spent a long time undermining international jurisprudence and our knee jerk reaction to international courts is one of presumed ineptitude.
With that in mind, if President Elect Obama addresses the detainees at all, he should strive for an international solution. NATO is already in Afghanistan and to my knowledge there are no Iraqi detainees in Guantanamo.
There are virtually no reasons to continue an intelligence hold on a detainee who has been incarcerated for longer than a few months let alone a number of years. Let's turn these guys over and start integrating ourselves into the international courts.

Posted by: Jake | Nov 11, 2008 3:25:42 PM

I agree with the comments regarding re-integrating ourselves into the international court system. Our isolation in terms of legal recourse for prisoners is merely symptomatic of a larger problem, that America faced under the current administration. Namely a self induced isolation and an undermining of the international community. Exemplied prominently by an undermining of the United Nations when we decided to invade Iraq without UN support following September 11, just to name on instance. My opinion is that the election of Obama signals a change to the international community, in that America is ready for a more inclusive, possibly more international approach. As Nicholas Kristof recently wrote in The New York Times article, "Rejoin the World" (where he suggests turning Guantanamo into an international research center for tropical diseases) "Mr. Bush’s presidency imploded not because of any personal corruption or venality, but largely because he wrenched the United States out of the international community. His cowboy diplomacy “defriended” the United States. He turned a superpower into a rogue country. Instead of isolating North Korea and Iran, he isolated us — and undermined his own ability to achieve his aims."

Posted by: Molly | Nov 11, 2008 9:03:00 PM


Posted by: Jake | Nov 11, 2008 11:31:11 PM

Obama needs to take a look at 9/11. An empirical look. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbY5_qtz83M)

Since Obama is too much of a hack and a coward to do this, I'll remain bitter and cynical.

I want a President who will question why the Bush Regime (by pushing the EPA on this) told people that the air was "safe to breathe" around ground zero. As a result, many thousands of people have and will suffer from illnesses and cancers.

If Obama has any moral courage, let him at least seek justice for those rescue workers who went out trying to find survivors among the rubble in the days after the attack.

And while he's at it, Obama can shut up Philip Berg, the Philadelphia attorney who is alleging that Obama is not a natural-born US citizen and therefore is ineligible for the Presidency. I think Obama has something to hide on this which is why he won't even entertain these allegations; as usual the mainstream media refuse to even mention Berg just as they refused to even mention Larry Sinclair--the guy who gave State Senator Barack Obama a blowjob in the backseat of a limo while Obama smoked from a crack-pipe in 1999.

Posted by: Aman | Nov 12, 2008 12:11:56 AM

I learned from the news recently that there have been more suicides of the young men currently serving in our military, than have been war deaths, in our current society! This is because our government currently has no limits on the amount of tours they demand of these young men, especially the ones serving on the front lines of battle. And once you are in the military, you have no way out. You have no free speech, you have no free will, you are at the mercy of the brutal wars you are forced to keep fighting, and killing, and being subjected to, over and over. Many of these young men are on their FOURTH tour!

There are a number of family videos posted on the web, describing the men's horror they feel, of experiencing death and killing over and over, and their loved ones describing the suicides and anguish the men felt.

I ask that this be brought to the attention of a Federal government committee, so they can be forced to put a limit on the amount of war tours they make these young men suffer, to have a new Federal Law stating that a young man cannot be forced to serve over 2 tours, maximum, with a special exception for the men sent to the front lines, that their actual battle tour on the front lines be shortened to 1/2 a tour, with the rest spent on non-battle territory.

Posted by: John Brock | Feb 20, 2009 12:07:00 PM

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