Archive for April, 2022

April 23, 2022

Allen’s Article on Structural Racism Accepted for Publication at William & Mary J. of Race, Gender, and Social Justice

Professor Renee Nicole Allen’s article Get Out: Structural Racism and Academic Terror will be published in William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice. Relying on themes from the 2017 film Get Out–white liberalism, the Sunken Place, and the appropriation of Black bodies for white social and economic gain–Professor Allen argues that law school is a metaphorical Sunken Place. In the law school Sunken Place, Black people experience academic terror: overt and covert faculty behaviors directed at racially marginalized students, staff, and faculty under the guise of academic freedom in institutions steeped in structural racism. 

You can read a draft here: 

April 22, 2022

Blair Hendricks and Professor Jeff Sovern launch inaugural episode of the Consumer Law and Economic Justice Podcast

Third-year law student Blair Hendricks, president of the St. John’s chapter of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, and Professor Jeff Sovern issued the initial episode of the Consumer Law and Economic Justice Podcast. Conceived by Sovern, the podcast will feature law students interviewing consumer law professors about their scholarship to make their scholarship more accessible to those interested in consumer law. In the first episode, available on Spotify here, Ms. Hendricks interviewed Berkeley law professor Abbye Atkinson about her article, Borrowing Equality, published in the Columbia Law Review.

April 19, 2022

Sovern Writes Newsday Essay; Speaks at Berkeley Conference; Is Quoted in Forbes, Congressional Quarterly, Bloomberg Law, and NYLJ

Professor Jeff Sovern authored a guest essay in Newsday, NYS Consumer Protection Bill Provides Needed Safeguards.  The essay argues that New York’s law against deceptive practices should be broadened to provide New Yorkers the same kinds of protections consumers in many red states receive. 

Sovern also spoke at the Berkeley Law School Consumer Law Conference, held in March.

Forbes quoted him in a March 28 article titled Federal Government’s Crackdown On Broadway Ticket Service Fees Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be as follows:

“If [Broadway] ticket sellers extend credit directly, as would be the case, for example, if they issue their own credit card, then the Bureau would have jurisdiction over them,” explained St. John’s law professor Jeff Sovern. But, he said, “I can’t think of an argument for saying that that includes businesses that do no more than sell tickets in exchange for a payment via credit or debit card,” such as the Broadway ticket sellers Ticketmaster and Telecharge. 

In addition, Sovern noticed that “[t]he Bureau’s Request for Information says it is ‘interested in receiving any comments relating to fees in consumer finance.’” The scope of the government’s inquiry is limited to the fees that financial institutions charge, such as penalty fees like overdraft fees and convenience fees like wire transfer fees. “Banking is a bastion of many of these fees,” commented Chopra in an interview, observing that, “in many cases, these are fees where there’s not even a service provided or where the bank or financial institution doesn’t even do any work.”

“It may be that [the Bureau’s director] mentioned ticket sellers only as an example of an industry in which there are added fees so that people would have a clearer understanding of what [he] meant, rather than as an example of a business coming within [the Bureau’s] jurisdiction,” professor Sovern stated.

“But, that doesn’t mean that ticket sellers can relax,” he warned.

“The Federal Trade Commission, where the [Bureau’s] director, Rohit Chopra, was formerly a commissioner, would have jurisdiction over unfair fees in the ticket selling industry, as would state regulators,” professor Sovern continued. “Those other entities may decide to look into the matter, especially if the Bureau receives negative comments about fees charged by ticket sellers,” he said.

* * * 

“Hidden fees raise serious questions about market fairness,” stated professor Sovern. 

“Classical economics presupposes that consumers will make efficient decisions if they know what prices they will pay, but hidden fees make that difficult and so may lead consumers to pay more for a product than they initially intend to,” he explained. * * *

Congressional Quarterly quoted Sovern in an article titled Experts debate if CFPB credit card late fees report presages rule changes:

Jeff Sovern, a St. John’s University School of Law professor who’s an expert on consumer protection law and a frequent commenter on the workings of the CFPB, said he anticipates the bureau will seek to change the rules on credit card fees. 

“If the market doesn’t protect consumers, then the Bureau should step in, as Congress has authorized it to do,” Sovern said in an interview. “One way the Bureau could do that is by amending the existing regulation to lower the amount that lenders may safely charge for late fees.” 

He said the fact that many smaller banks charge less than the existing maximum suggests the maximum is higher than it needs to be to cover lenders’ costs when consumers make late payments. 

“That suggests that larger issuers are using late fees as a profit source in a way that smaller lenders are not,” Sovern wrote in an email. “Consequently, the Bureau could reduce the existing ceiling and still have it be reasonable.”

Sovern was also quoted by Bloomberg Law. An April 13 article, Fintechs Tout Lower Costs as CFPB Takes Aim at Bank ‘Junk’ Fees, explained: 

Banks could elect to go beyond the CFPB’s fee thresholds by arguing that higher fees are “reasonable and proportional” under the CARD Act, said Jeff Sovern, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law. 

But it might not be worth the fight, he said 

“Consequently, credit card issuers would probably lower their late fees to whatever the Bureau says the safe harbor amount is,” Sovern said. 

Finally, an April 15 New York Law Journal article, ‘Entire Supply Chain in New York’ Investigated to Fight Possible Fuel Price Gouging, opened: 

“A St. John’s University law professor indicated he wasn’t surprised by New York Attorney General Letitia James‘ investigation of potential gouging of gasoline prices.
A state probe of the oil industry got underway Thursday, attorney general spokeswoman Halimah Elmariah said Friday, confirming a report by CNN. 

This isn’t the first time James has taken aim at price-gouging, nor is it the first time a New York AG has studied gouging of gas prices, said Jeff Sovern, professor of law at St. John’s.

Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did so in 2011 in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, and even took enforcement actions against some gas stations, Sovern remembered.

“Many consumers hate price-gouging, so much so that some retailers resist the urge to engage in it when items are in short supply because they don’t want to alienate their customers,” Sovern said. “Attorney General James is said to hate bullies, and pursuing price gougers would be consistent with that.” 

April 8, 2022

Warner Interviewed for INSOL Talks

An interview with Professor Ray Warner was posted this week on the INSOL Talks podcast, a series of interviews with leading insolvency and restructuring law scholars and practitioners from around the world.  INSOL International is the international association of restructuring, insolvency and bankruptcy professionals. The Spotify version of the podcast is here:

April 8, 2022

Allen Presents Work in Progress on Structural Racism in Legal Academia at UNC and Kansas

Professor Renee Nicole Allen recently presented her work-in-progress, Get Out: Structural Racism and Academic Terror, to the faculties at University of North Carolina and University of Kansas. The invited talks were an opportunity to receive comments and feedback. 

Here is an abstract of the article:

Released in 2017, Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed film Get Out explores the horrors of racism. The film’s plot involves the murder and appropriation of Black bodies for the benefit of wealthy, white people. After luring Black people to their country home, a white family uses hypnosis to paralyze victims and send them to the Sunken Place where screams go unheard. Black bodies are auctioned off to the highest bidder; the winner’s brain is transplanted into the prized Black body. Black victims are rendered passengers in their own bodies so that white inhabitants can obtain physical advantages and immortality. Like Get Out, this article reveals academic horrors that are far too familiar to people of color. In the legal academy, structural racism is the monster, and under the guise of academic freedom, faculty members inflict terror on marginalized people. Black bodies are objectified and colonized in the name of diversity and antiracism. No matter how loud we scream, the academy remains a Sunken Place. Only time will tell if the antiracism proclamations of 2020 are a beginning or a killer ending. This article explores the relationship between structural racism and academic terror in the legal academy and articulates an effective framework for analyzing academic terrorism.

April 6, 2022

Greenberg Presents on Dispute Resolution at Stetson Law

On April 1, 2021, Professor Elayne Greenberg presented Blinding Justice and Virtual Dispute Resolution? at the Stetson Law Review Symposium, Is Remote Justice Still Justice? In her presentation, she discussed how mediation and arbitrations conducted on video conferencing could be re-designed to minimize racial justice inequities in civil cases.

April 4, 2022

Salomone’s New Book Reviewed in the NY Times Book Review and the Times of India

Professor Rosemary Salomone’s latest book, The Rise of English: Global Politics and the Power of Language (Oxford University Press), was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review and The Times of India, and listed among the New York Times Book Review Editors’ weekly “12 Books to Read.” The book was featured in The Economist, recommended by Goodreads, and covered in podcast interviews in the United States, Europe, and Canada. On February 7, Professor Salomone discussed the book in an interview, “What’s Lost When English Dominates the World,” with the hosts of “Think” on NPR station KERA broadcast across 23 statesOn February 28, she gave a virtual “book talk” hosted by the Berkeley Center for Comparative Equality and Anti-Discrimination Law at the University of California. Her commentary, “The Inequities of English Use in Global Higher Education Must Be Addressed,” appeared in the February 1 issue of Times Higher Education. An interview with Professor Salomone, “How English Is Shaping Our Lives,” will appear in the upcoming issue of the German magazine Spotlight.  

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