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.  

March 29, 2022

Barrett Article on Stone Court Photographs in Journal of Supreme Court History

Professor John Q. Barrett has published the “cover” article, “Law Clerk John Costelloe’s Photographs of the Stone Court Justices, October 1943,” in a recent issue of the Journal of Supreme Court History.

John F. Costelloe was Justice Robert H. Jackson’s first Supreme Court law clerk, serving from 1941-1943. Costelloe also was a talented photographer.

In October 1943, as Costelloe was completing his clerkship, he got each Supreme Court Justice to pose for his camera. He took close, candid portrait photographs of Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone and Associate Justices Owen J. Roberts, Hugo L. Black, Stanley Reed, Felix Frankfurter, William O. Douglas, Frank Murphy, Robert H. Jackson, and Wiley Rutledge.

Costelloe’s photographs are published for the first time in Barrett’s article, which is about Costelloe, Jackson, their close relationship, and the history of the photographs. (Click here for an article abstract.)

The Journal of Supreme Court History is provided to members of The Supreme Court Historical Society and to many libraries. It also is available for purchase online. Barrett’s article is, except for its first page, behind a paywall (click here).

Here is the Journal cover, one of Costelloe’s photographs of Justice Jackson. It looks blurry, online and here. On the Journal cover itself, the photograph is, like each of Costelloe’s photographs, crisp and evocative.

March 25, 2022

Warner Presents at Radbound University

Professor Ray Warner delivered a talk titled “Using US Courts to Enforce Dutch Insolvency Orders” at a colloquium of the Faculty of Law of Radboud University (the Netherlands) on Friday, March 25. The talk was based on his article in the European Insolvency and Restructuring Journal on using the recently enacted Dutch scheme legislation to restructure global enterprise groups.

March 25, 2022

Boyle Presents on Human Trafficking and Coercion

Professor Robin Boyle presented on March 17th to an assembly of 65 high school students at Hicksville High School on the topic of Human Trafficking and Coercion. She was invited by social studies teachers to present to students in the Introduction to Social Science Research class, as well as the elective classes of International Law and Roots of Oppression.

Social Science and Research students recently participated in the Medical Marvels Competition. They researched human trafficking in their community. The teachers assigned Prof. Boyle’s articles as part of their required reading.

The lecture was the fifth presentation given by Prof. Boyle this winter on the topic of Human Trafficking and Coercion. Her interest in the topic stems from her earlier research into cults and more recently her publications on cults and the intersection with the human trafficking statutes. Her articles include –

Preventing Predatory Alienation by High-Control Groups:  The Application of Human Trafficking Laws to Groups Popularly Known as ‘Cults,’ and Proposed Changes to Laws Regarding Federal Immigration, State Child Marriage, & Undue Influence, 1(2) Int’l J. Coercion, Abuse, & Manipulation 27(2021) (peer-reviewed).

Employing Trafficking Laws to Capture Elusive Leaders of Destructive Cults, 17 Or. Rev. Int’l L. 205 (2016), reprinted in 9 Int’l J. Cultic  Stud. 1 (2018) (peer-reviewed).

As previously reported on the blog, Prof. Boyle gave presentations on this same topic to the following groups – ranging from her community to China:

(December 2021) Keynote Speaker (pre-recorded lecture with PP), Human Trafficking & Coercion,

The 2nd Cultic Phenomenon Studies Workshop, 2021, Shanxi University, China.

(January 2022) Presenter, Human Trafficking and Coercion, The National Charity League, Garden City Chapter, N.Y. (virtual)

(February 2022) Co-Presenter, Human Trafficking and Coercion Control Explained, EDNY

Federal Bar Association, SJU Student Chapter (w/ Patricia Kakalec, Esq., &

Aaron Halegua, Esq.) (virtual) (February 2022) Presenter, Human Trafficking and Coercion, Garden City Community Church Forum, N.Y. (virtual)

March 23, 2022

Greenberg Presents Article on Mediation in Bankruptcy and Writes Column on Settlement Practices

On March 17, 2022, Professor Elayne Greenberg presented What they really want . . . Bringing Objective Evaluation Into Mediation​​ to the bankruptcy mediators in the Honorable Thomas T. Glover Mediation Program in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington. ​

Professor Greenberg’s column The Unintended Consequence of Settlement Fever and the Rule of Law was published in the March edition of the New York Dispute Resolution Lawyer. This column is the third of Professor Greenberg’s three-part series that addresses how our settlement-centric focus has influenced our justice system. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4059429

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