Archive for August, 2016

August 19, 2016

New York Times DealBook Runs Sovern Op-Ed

Professor Sovern has an op-ed in The New York Times DealBook, titled The Risks of Unfettered Capitalism. The first and last paragraphs read:


Jeff Sovern

Capitalism may be the best economic system ever devised, but one of its drawbacks is that it provides financial incentives to harm and even kill people. Just ask those people who say they have been victimized bycigarettes, predatory lenders, Volkswagen diesel emissions, Takata airbags,General Motors ignition switches, Trump University, Vioxx, asbestos or other products.

* * *

Many voters will base their decision in this year’s election on the character of the candidates, or other issues, like immigration or foreign policy. But how we protect people though regulation is also very much on the ballot. When you hear complaints about too much regulation, don’t forget to ask what harm that regulation may prevent. Capitalism lifts standards of living — but regulated capitalism keeps us well enough to enjoy a higher standard of living.

August 19, 2016

Boyle Publishes Article in Oregon Review of International Law

Professor Robin Boyle’s article titled, Employing Trafficking Laws to Capture Elusive Leaders of BoyleDestructive Cults, has been published in the Oregon Review of International Law.  The article describes common characteristics of destructive cults as well as  international and American efforts to prevent and combat human trafficking, and posits that human trafficking laws and resources may be employed to prosecute cult leaders.

August 9, 2016

Subotnik to Present Paper at Stanford IP Scholars Conference

Later this week, Professor Eva Subotnik will be presenting a new paper at the IP Scholars Conference (IPSC) held at Stanford Law School.


Eva Subotnik

Her paper, Free as the Heir? Copyright Successors as Stewards, offers a framework for the role played by copyright successors.  Here is the abstract:

The death of the author figure has been proclaimed in some circles. Regardless of one’s ideological stance in that debate, it is beyond cavil that authors really do die. Under the current copyright term, it is likewise indisputable that copyright interests still owned by the author at death will pass to someone else. The gray areas emerge around the question of whether successors to these interests are under a duty to exploit them in ways that further the public interest. This article focuses on the role of an author’s post-death successors in shaping the legacy and availability of a body of authorial work. Comparing and contrasting the roles served by successors to other sorts of assets, this article considers the different functions copyright successors play, and it evaluates competing views about what they should accomplish. Ultimately, it offers a conception of copyright successors as stewards of the interests they inherit. The article’s goals are to provide a descriptive and theoretical account and to offer some suggestions for reform.

August 4, 2016

Barrett Introduces Meares’s Jackson Lecture

On July 11th, Professor John Q. Barrett introduced Chautauqua Institution’s 12th annualRobert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court of the United States.


John Barrett

The lecturer, Professor Tracey M. Meares of Yale Law School, spoke on “Policing and Its Reform in the 21st Century.” She addressed, in particular, recent and historical United States events including the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Utah v. Strieff, academic research, psychology, and communal education.

For YouTube video of the entire program, click here.

August 3, 2016

Sovern, Quoted in Media, Has Op-Ed in American Banker

Professor Jeff Sovern’s op-ed, co-authored with St. John’s Associate Professor of


Jeff Sovern

Psychology Kate Walton, Phantom Debts Plague Collections System, ran July 28 in the American Banker. The op-ed, which reports on Sovern’s and Walton’s research for their article, Are Validation Notices Valid? An Empirical Evaluation of Consumer Understanding of Debt Collection Validation Notices, explains:
[W]e conducted a survey of consumers (funded by the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges Endowment for Education). We showed one group a collection letter that had been found sufficient by a federal court of appeals. We showed another set of consumers the same letter, but without the validation notice. Then we compared respondents’ answers to questions about the validation notice.

The results were disappointing, unless you’re a debt buyer. On most of our inquiries, respondents shown the letter with the validation notice did not perform significantly better than respondents who didn’t see the notice. Roughly a quarter did not grasp that they could request verification of the debt, and nearly all who did mistakenly thought that an oral request would protect their rights: both the law and notice say a written request is required.

The sentence in the validation notice that read, “Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid” left many respondents mystified about when the collector would assume the debt to be valid. And the validation notice may actually have caused consumer confusion. For example, more than a fifth of the respondents thought that if they missed the 30-day deadline for disputing the debt specified in the validation notice, they would either have to pay the debt or would not be able to defend against a suit to collect it — even if they did not owe the debt.

It is Professor Sovern’s third op-ed this summer. He was also quoted in the Law360 article, CFPB Enforcement Actions Could Guide Debt Collection Rules, as follows:

“The bureau has sifted through many comments, brought cases, supervised debt collectors and studied this area for years. I am confident that they know a great deal about the subject and have given the issues considerable thought,” said Jeff Sovern, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law.

And the American Banker quoted him in another article, Five Issues to Watch in CFPB’s Debt Collection Plan :

* * * Some courts have said that threatening to sue to enforce a debt that has exceeded the statute of limitations is a violation of the FDCPA. Others have allowed debt collectors to ask a consumer to pay a time-barred debt, and if the consumer pays even part of it, the clock on the statute of limitations starts all over again.

“Some see this as an attempt by a collector to take advantage of consumer ignorance of the law,” said Jeff Sovern, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law, in an email response.

* * *

Many industry observers are curious how the CFPB will deal with electronic communications.

“Is sending someone a ‘friend’ request when you are trying to collect a debt from them misleading?” asked Sovern.

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