July 6, 2016

Sovern Has Op-ed in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



Jeff Sovern

Professor Jeff Sovern’s latest op-ed, Keep banks from playing tricks, appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on June 26. It is about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed rule to ban class action waivers in arbitration clauses. Here is an excerpt:

* * * Affected businesses are likely to sue (in court, ironically) to try to block [the CFPB arbitration proposal]. In a move that conjures up the famous scene from “Blazing Saddles” in which Cleavon Little takes himself hostage, the financial industry has threatened to abandon consumer arbitration altogether if the regulation takes effect. Thus, the Chamber of Commerce has written of its concern that consumers who have unique $25 claims that couldn’t be heard in class actions wouldn’t be able to arbitrate them.

(Never mind that this imaginary consumer — remember, consumers rarely bring $25 claims — could presumably still sue in small claims court). But even that wouldn’t be a problem unless arbitration benefits consumers; therefore, the industry claims that it does.

Except that it doesn’t. The CFPB study found that, on average, 6.8 million consumers a year obtain relief through settlements in consumer finance-related class actions in federal court. In contrast, it reported, about 600 consumer finance disputes were filed each year with the main arbitration provider. Even if consumers filed and won 1,000 times that many arbitration proceedings a year, federal class actions would still help more than 10 times as many consumers as arbitration in a typical year. That’s why class actions can deter misconduct while arbitration doesn’t.

June 17, 2016

Salomone presents at Université Catholique de l’Ouest in France

On May 27th, Professor Rosemary Salomone presented a paper on “Heritage Languages and Educational Equality in the Global Knowledge Economy” at an international symposium on “Politiques Linguistiques Familiales et Processus de Transmissions Intergénérationnelles en Contexte Migratoire” hosted by the Université Catholique de l’Ouest in Angers, France. The following is an abstract:


Rosemary Salomone

This paper examines the wavering history of language rights in the United States for students whose home language is other than English. It gives particular attention to the Supreme Court’s decision in Lau v. Nichols (1974) and related federal laws and regulations. It looks specifically at students from immigrant or refugee families who are English dominant but have limited conversational skills in their “heritage” language. It maintains that while families with sufficient economic means and/or community support preserve their language and culture by enrolling their children in after-school and weekend language and culture classes or through dual language immersion programs in the public schools, the same advantages are not available to many less privileged students whose potential for bilingualism and biculturalism remains unrealized. It presents data on the increasing demand for multilingual skills in the job market as well as empirical findings on the cognitive and social benefits of bilingualism, which further underscore the resulting inequities. For these students developing academic proficiency and literacy in their “mother” tongue is not a mere enrichment activity that schools can set aside in the face of competing demands for accountability as measured by standardized test scores in English. It is rather critical in the global knowledge economy to providing a “meaningful,” “effective,” and “appropriate” education as guaranteed in federal law. The paper closes with a brief discussion of current developments, including state “Seals of Biliteracy” and a congressionally supported Commission on Language Learning, that suggest national recognition of the country’s language deficit and a hopeful commitment to addressing the rights of heritage language learners.

June 16, 2016

Lazaro quoted in On Wall Street about new FINRA CEO

Professor Lazaro was quoted in the On Wall Street article, Christine LazaroNew FINRA CEO will face thorny issues and rising criticism,” about FINRA’s newly named CEO, Robert Cook, and the issues he can expect to face when he takes over the brokerage industry regulator:

Christine Lazaro, director of the Securities Arbitration Clinic at St. John’s University School of Law, says preventing elder financial abuse has become an ever more important issue as more baby boomers enter retirement.

Under Ketchum, FINRA has made moves to buttress protections for older clients. Last year, the regulator launched a helpline that it says received more than 4,600 calls so far .

Lazaro also points to growing concerns about cybersecurity. In recent years, there have been high profile data breaches at firms like J.P. Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley.

“There is a tremendous amount of confidential customer information at the firms,” she says.

There’s also a question as to what role does FINRA have in the ongoing debate over an industrywide fiduciary standard. The Department of Labor’s contentious rule, finalized in April, faces several lawsuits launched by industry trade groups. Meanwhile, the SEC, which is charged with creating a fiduciary rule under the Dodd-Frank Act, says it won’t finalize its own rule-making before Obama leaves office.

Lazaro says FINRA has an opportunity to set expectations for firms.

“The place for FINRA to act is really in terms of how it expects its member firms to manage conflicts of interest, in other words acting in the best interest of customers,” she says. “FINRA has long said it expects firms to act in the best interest of customers, but the question is how do you define best interest?”

June 16, 2016

Barrett Delivers Kanee Lecture in Western Canada

On May 16th, Professor John Q. Barrett delivered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the 11th annual Sol & Florence Kanee Distinguished Speaker Series lecture, hosted by the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada. The previous Kanee Lecturers include Sir Martin Gilbert, Professor Deborah Lipstadt, Professor Shlomo Avineri, Ambassador Dore Gold, and Justice Albie Sachs. Professor Barrett’s lecture was entitled “Seventy Years Since Nuremberg: Proof of Nazi Crimes, The Birth of Modern Human Rights Law.” For a local press report, click here


John Q. Barrett


May 29, 2016

DeGirolami’s Essay Published in Illinois Law Review Online Symposium

Professor Marc O. DeGirolami’s essay, Substantial Burdens Imply Central Beliefs, has been marc dpublished by the University of Illinois Law Review Online in its symposium on “substantial burdens” and religious free exercise. Here is the abstract.

Any society that is open to religious accommodation will want to know about the quality of the burden its laws impose on religious belief and exercise. This short essay reflects on the nature of that inquiry. It argues that to speak of a substantial burden on religion is by implication to understand religion as constituted by a system, within which certain beliefs and exercises occupy different positions of relative importance or centrality.


May 24, 2016

Sovern Speaks at Teaching Consumer Law Conference

Professor Jeff Sovern spoke at the University of Houston’s Teaching Consumer Law Sovern Two[2]Conference (held in Santa Fe) on May 20. His topic was “Are FDCPA Validation Notices Valid?” and he spoke about the study he and Psychology Associate Professor Kate Walton are conducting, funded by the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges Endowment for Education.

In addition, Professor Sovern was quoted by Law360 on May 5 in an article titled “Battle Over CFPB’s Data Looms In Arbitration War.” According to the article:

“The bureau has been meticulous about relying on its research findings, and I respect the fact that they felt they needed to know more before going further,” said Jeff Sovern, a professor at the St. John’s University School of Law and a critic of the arbitration clauses. “It will be interesting to see what the data they will collect shows.”

He was also quoted in an April 28 story on Bankrate.com headlined “Chase Now Offering Its Customers Deals on Jaguars.”

May 18, 2016

Lazaro Participates on Panel on DOL’s New Fiduciary Duty Rule

On May 17th, Professor Christine Lazaro participated on a panel hosted by CJM WealthChristine Lazaro Management and the Association of Certified Chief Financial Officers. The panel discussed the Department of Labor’s recently adopted rule which imposes a fiduciary duty on those who provide certain types of investment advice to retirement investors. In addition to Professor Lazaro, the panel included Ary Rosenbaum, an ERISA attorney, Suzanne Breit, a CPA, and Ronald K. Stair, an actuary. The audience included Chief Financial Officers and retirement plan administrators. 

May 16, 2016

Sheff Presents at Fordham’s Law & Information Society Symposium

On Friday, May 13, Professor Jeremy Sheff spoke at the Fordham Center for Law andsheff photo Information Policy’s Tenth Annual Law & Information Society Symposium. Professor Sheff served as a panelist on the topic of “Intellectual Property and Public Values,” reflecting on the past decade’s developments in intellectual property law and policy and predicting future developments in the field.

May 16, 2016

Barrett Lectures in Poland, Participates in the March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau

On May 4th, Professor John Q. Barrett delivered a keynote lecture, “The History of the


John Barrett

Nuremberg Trials,” at a March of the Living International, Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights & Jagiellonian University symposium in Krakow, Poland. The symposium, “The Double Entendre of Nuremberg: The Nuremberg of Hate & the Nuremberg of Justice,” featured leading jurists, government ministers, scholars, lawyers and other experts from around the world. For video, click here; Professor Barrett’s lecture begins around the 38:00 mark. And for an album of symposium photos, click here.

On the following day, Professor Barrett was one of thousands who participated in this year’s March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau, horrific sites of Nazi imprisonment, torture, enslavement and extermination, primarily of Jews, during World War II. (For video of the March, click here.)

Professor Barrett also appears in a film on the Nuremberg trials that was presented at the symposium, and in February he spoke at the March of the Living International leadership meeting in Aventura, Florida.

Professor Barrett is biographer of Justice Robert H. Jackson, U.S. chief prosecutor at and principal architect of the 1945-1946 international Nuremberg trial. He writes The Jackson List, which reaches over 100,000 readers around the world.

May 10, 2016

Goldweber Presents on Access to Justice Panel at Macon B. Allen Black Bar Association Event at Justice Kenneth Browne Community Law Day Symposium at York College

Professor Ann Goldweber presented on Access to Justice Programs available to the Queens goldweberCommunity through St. John’s University School of Law. The Honorable Howard Lane, Supreme Court Justice, Queens County Supreme Court, was the moderator. Other panelists included representatives of Queens Legal Services Corporation and the civil and criminal divisions of the Queens Legal Aid Society.

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