November 10, 2014

Barrett & Traub Write Judicial Biographies for the SDNY’s 225th Anniversary

Professor John Q. Barrett, assisted by Barbara Gellis Traub, former Head of Reference & Instructional Services at St. John’s Rittenberg Law Library, helped draft and edit biographical information on the 154 Federal Judges who have served on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and its predecessor, the U.S. District Court for the District of New York, from 1789 to the present. The Court was the nation’s first federal court and thus is nicknamed the “Mother Court.”

The judicial biographical entries are part of voluminous historical information that was distributed on thumb drives to guests at the Court’s 225th anniversary special session on November 4, 2014. This information soon will be available on the Court’s website.

The Court’s 225th anniversary will be celebrated throughout the next year, including in a series of public events and programs.

U.S. District Judges Deborah A. Batts and P. Kevin Castel ’75, Co-Chairs of the Southern District’s 225th anniversary celebration, recruited Barrett and Traub to assist with the biographies project.

John Barrett

John Barrett

Barbara Gellis Traub

Barbara Gellis Traub

November 10, 2014

Warner Presents on Cross-Border Insolvency in London

G. Ray Warner

G. Ray Warner

Professor Warner will deliver a presentation on the UNCITRAL Model Law of Cross-Border Insolvency at the INSOL Global Insolvency Practice Programme at the University of London on Monday November 10th.

November 10, 2014

Baum Joins Panel Discussion on Human Trafficking

Jennifer Baum

Jennifer Baum

Professor Jennifer Baum appeared at a panel discussion on human trafficking as part of “Shut Out Trafficking” week at St. John’s University on October 22. The panel followed a screening of “Not My Life,” a new documentary about the global business of child exploitation. Professor Baum discussed legal and practical concerns for identifying and serving trafficked children in New York City, and described her students’ recent work with unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America.

November 7, 2014

Greenberg Presents at Annual Bankruptcy Conference

Elayne Greenberg

Elayne Greenberg

Professor Elayne Greenberg presented “Mediation: Injecting Rationality To Facilitate A Rational Result in Bankruptcy Cases” at the Annual Bankruptcy Conference co-sponsored by the Capital Region Bankruptcy Bar and the Central New York Bankruptcy Bar Associations on October 24 at Cooperstown, New York.

November 4, 2014

St. John’s Arbitration Study Posted to SSRN

Professors Jeff Sovern, Elayne Greenberg, and Paul Kirgis, along with Yuxiang Liu, have posted a draft of their article, ‘Whimsy Little Contracts’ with Unexpected Consequences: An Empirical Analysis of Consumer Understanding of Arbitration Agreements, to SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Arbitration clauses have become ubiquitous in consumer contracts. These arbitration clauses require consumers to waive the constitutional right to a civil jury, access to court, and, increasingly, the procedural remedy of class representation. Because those rights cannot be divested without consent, the validity of arbitration agreements rests on the premise of consent. Consumers who do not want to arbitrate or waive their class rights can simply decline to purchase the products or services covered by an arbitration agreement. But the premise of consent is undermined if consumers do not understand the effect on their procedural rights of clicking a box or accepting a product.

This article reports on an empirical study exploring the extent to which consumers are aware of and understand the effect of arbitration clauses in consumer contracts. We conducted an online survey of 668 consumers, approximately reflecting the population of adult Americans with respect to race/ethnicity, level of education, amount of family income, and age. Respondents were shown a typical credit card contract with an arbitration clause containing a class action waiver and printed in bold and with portions in italics and ALLCAPS. Respondents were then asked questions about the sample contract as well as about a hypothetical contract containing what was described as a “properly-worded” arbitration clause. Finally, respondents were asked about their own experiences with actual consumer contracts.

The survey results suggest a profound lack of understanding about the existence and effect of arbitration agreements among consumers. While 43% of the respondents recognized that the sample contract included an arbitration clause, 61% of those believed that consumers would, nevertheless, have a right to have a court decide a dispute too large for a small claims court. Less than 9% realized both that the contract had an arbitration clause and that it would prevent consumers from proceeding in court. With respect to the class waiver, four times as many respondents thought the contract did not block them from participating in a class action as realized that it did, even though the class action waiver was printed twice in bold in the sample contract, including one time in italics and ALLCAPS. Overall, of the more than 5,000 answers we recorded to questions offering right and wrong answers, only a quarter were correct.

Turning to respondents’ own lives, the survey asked if they had ever entered into contracts with arbitration clauses. Of the 303 respondents who claimed never to have done so and who also answered a question asking whether they had accounts with certain companies that include arbitration clauses in their contracts, 264, or 87%, did indeed have at least one account subject to an arbitration clause.

These and other findings reported in this Article should cause concern among judges and policy-makers considering mandatory pre-dispute consumer arbitration agreements. Our results suggest that many citizens assume that they have a right to judicial process that they cannot lose as a result of their acquiescence in a form consumer contract. They believe that this right to judicial process will outweigh what one respondent referred to as a “whimsy little contract.” Our results suggest further that citizens are giving up these rights unknowingly, either because they do not realize they have entered into an arbitration agreement or because they do not understand the legal consequences of doing so. Given the degree of misunderstanding the results demonstrate, we question whether meaningful consent is possible in the consumer arbitration context.

 

Jeff Sovern

Jeff Sovern

Elayne Greenberg

Elayne Greenberg

Paul Kirgis

Paul Kirgis

 

November 3, 2014

Sovern Quoted by Law360

Jeff Sovern

Jeff Sovern

Law360 quoted Professor Sovern in an article, CFPB No-Action Letters May Be Small Comfort For Innovators. As stated in the article:

Granting no-action letters could provide a major benefit for consumers, said Jeff Sovern, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law.

Previous attempts at financial innovations that ended up providing a real boost to consumers, like car leases and home equity loans, were caught up in confusion over whether they violated existing consumer protection and fair lending laws. Congress eventually amended the Truth In Lending Act to accommodate those products, Sovern said.

“But revising any law, including disclosure laws, takes time, and it is preferable for consumers not to have to wait,” he said. “No-action letters permit innovators to move forward more quickly.”

October 31, 2014

McGuinness Presents Book Chapter on Treaties and Federalism

Peggy McGuinness

Peggy McGuinness

Peggy McGuinness presented her forthcoming book chapter, “Treaties, Federalism and the Contestation of Missouri v. Holland,” at the Pace University Law School faculty colloquium on October 22. The Chapter will appear in Treaty Practice of the United States (Dubinsky, Fox, Roth eds., Cambridge Univ. Press) to be published in 2015. Professor McGuinness participated in a panel discussion of the book at International Law Weekend at Fordham Law School on October 25.

October 31, 2014

Barrett Lectures in Rochester about Justice Jackson & Rochester

John Barrett

John Barrett

On October 21st, Professor John Q. Barrett participated in a Monroe County Bar Association program, at the Rubin Center for Education, Rochester, New York, on the life and legacies of U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg chief prosecutor Robert H. Jackson. Professor Barrett lectured about Justice Jackson’s life, including some of his notable and deep connections to Rochester and prominent speeches he delivered there in the 1930s and 1940s. Other speakers were Michael R. Wolford of The Wolford Law Firm, LLP; the Honorable Henry J. Scudder, Presiding Justice, Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Department; the Honorable Leslie G. Foschio, U.S. Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York; and Gregory L. Peterson of Phillips Lytle LLP. For press coverage, click here.

Professor Barrett Lecture

October 27, 2014

Joseph’s Poem Published in 90th Anniversary Issue of Commonweal Magazine

Professor Lawrence Joseph’s poem, On Nature, has been published in Commonweal Magazine’s 90th Anniversary issue. Lawrence Joseph

October 21, 2014

Barrett Gives U.S. Supreme Court Review/Preview Lectures

John Barrett

John Barrett

Professor John Q. Barrett recently gave two continuing legal education lectures that reviewed U.S. Supreme Court decisions and developments from last Term and previewed some cases and possible developments in the newly-started Term.  On October 6th (“First Monday”), he lectured at the Federal Bar Association’s EDNY chapter, at the U.S. Courthouse in Central Islip, New York.  On October 9th, he lectured at The New York State Judicial Institute in White Plains, New York, for video broadcast to Judges and court personnel across New York State.

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