Archive for May, 2021

May 19, 2021

Alvarez Publishes in Arizona State Law Journal Online

Professor Adrián E. Alvarez has published an article, Enabling the Best Interests Factors, in the Arizona State Law Journal Online as part of its COVID-19 Symposium Issue. He was invited to submit this contribution through the Association of American Law Schools’ (AALS) Section on Law and Mental Disability. The article is available here, and an abstract follows:

In February 2019, the media reported that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)—an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) charged with the care and custody of unaccompanied immigrant children—was using minors’ admissions of prior gang affiliation during confidential therapy sessions as the sole criteria for “stepping up” children from low-security shelters to more restrictive and punitive detention facilities. ORR was also then sharing the therapy notes with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use them against children in deportation proceedings. The newspaper article that broke the story noted that while the information sharing between HHS and DHS was “technically legal,” it was “a profound violation of patient confidentiality.” This article argues that these practices are not “technically legal” at all. They are illegal because they violate basic best interests principles now enshrined in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Recovery Act of 2008 (TVPRA), and, in some instances, they may violate Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Title II), federal anti-discrimination laws designed to protect people with disabilities.

The best interests approach “is a dynamic concept that requires an assessment appropriate to the specific context,” and stepping up a child to a more restrictive setting based solely on prior gang affiliation is inconsistent with the procedural aspects of the best interests standard. Moreover, using gang affiliation revealed in therapy sessions as the sole criteria for sending a child to a more restrictive setting may also violate federal anti-discrimination statutes designed to protect children with disabilities. For instance, Section 504 and Title II’s regulations prohibit recipients of federal funds and public entities, respectively, from using “criteria or methods of administration . . . that have the purpose or effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the recipient’s program or activity with respect to handicapped persons.” Because confidentiality is required for therapy to succeed, this policy may unintentionally have the effect of substantially impairing unaccompanied minors from receiving the intended therapeutic benefits of the therapy session. Although gang affiliation is disability neutral on its face, it has a disparate impact on unaccompanied minors with psychosocial disabilities because there is a correlation between gang affiliation and emotional and behavioral disorders.

Adrián E. Alvarez
Assistant Professor of Law
May 17, 2021

SJ Presents at Empire State Legal Writing Conference

St. John’s Law faculty members—present and past—presented at the Biennial Empire State Legal Writing Conference, held virtually over May 13th – 14th. The two-day conference, with over 30 panel presentations, was hosted by New York Law School (NYLS) and its legal writing faculty; more than 200 participants registered. Legal writing professors from around New York State serve on the program committee, including Professor Robin Boyle, conference co-founder.

Professor Kayonia L. Whetstone, formerly of SJ and now an Assistant Professor of Lawyering Skills at Howard University School of Law, co-presented on the plenary panel: “Empire State and Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) Scholarship Plenary: Making Progress on Scholarship with an Online Writing Group.” Two years ago at this very conference, Professor Whetstone and co-participants created a remote writing group to provide accountability for their scholarship. They presented on the different functions that their writing group has served, lessons learned from the process, and tools that helped them work together. They meet virtually twice each week.

Professor Boyle assisted in organizing the Scholars program, supported by a grant from the ALWD. Budding scholars in one breakout room discussed their “Germ of an Idea.” In another breakout room, “Drafts Review,” Professor Boyle co-led a three-hour session in which authors presented their full-length drafts of scholarly articles and participants commented. The topics for the developing scholarship were wide ranging. 

Professor Boyle also co-presented on a panel titled, “Swimming with Broad Strokes: Publishing and Presenting on Non-Legal Writing Topics.” This session encouraged participants to explore scholarly topics beyond the traditional legal writing discipline. Professor Boyle shared her experiences in researching, writing, and presenting on such topics as human trafficking, cults, and the civil rights movement.

Professor Rebecca Lowry also co-presented on a panel titled, “The Classroom Knows No Bounds.” This session addressed best practices to assist international J.D. and LL.M. students, non-native English speakers, and visiting and recently immigrated students. The panelists shared tips and practical exercises to help engage a diverse student body.

Professor Boyle gave the conference’s closing remarks and thanked NYLS and the conference participants.

Robin Boyle
Professor of Legal Writing

Rebecca Lowry
Adjunct Professor of Law
May 14, 2021

Barrett Delivers Romig Lecture at U.S. Army JAG School

On May 12, 2021, Professor John Q. Barrett delivered, on Zoom for Government, to The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, United States Army, in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Second Thomas J. Romig Lecture in Principled Legal Practice.

This lecture is named for and reflects the leadership of Major General Thomas J. Romig, United States Army (Retired), who served as 36th The Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army.  General Romig today is a Professor of Law at Washburn University, where he previously served as Dean.

This year’s JAG School Romig Lecture program began with welcoming remarks by Brigadier General Joseph E. Berger, III, Commanding General of the JAG School.

Lieutenant General Charles N. Pede, 40th The Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army, then introduced the Romig Chair.

Colonel Sean T. McGarry, JAG School Dean and Romig Chair holder, then introduced Professor Barrett.

Professor Barrett’s lecture, “Principled Legal Practice by Justice Robert H. Jackson at Nuremberg,” will be published later this year in the Military Law Review.

Alberto J. Mora, former General Counsel of the United States Navy, delivered the inaugural Romig Lecture in May 2019.

John Q. Barrett
Professor of Law
May 3, 2021

Sharfman Quoted on Purdue Disclosure Settlement

Last week, Professor Keith Sharfman was quoted in a Law360 feature story on the U.S. Trustee’s Office’s $1 million settlement with BigLaw firms for failure to disclose connections with the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma in its Chapter 11 case.

The story, in relevant part, stated that:

Keith Sharfman, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law, said professionals have broad duties of disclosure that led to the McKinsey disgorgement in 2019. That firm has about 30,000 employees and has worked on dozens of bankruptcy cases in recent years, so in a case like Purdue with a wide range of constituencies, complying with disclosure obligations could be a significant undertaking.

“[I]t is unsurprising that this type of disclosure violation could happen again in another case, as appears to have happened in Purdue,” Sharfman said.

A link to the full story is available here.

Keith Sharfman
Professor of Law

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