Supreme Court will hear Mathis case related to Armed Career Criminal Act

January 22, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court this week announced it will hear a case about whether a sentence enhancement Iowa resident Richard Mathis received under the Armed Career Criminal Act was fair. Mathis was arrested in 2013 after a 15-year-old boy claimed the man molested him. Federal prosecutors, however,  indicted him on a single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm – and a federal judge later sentenced Mathis to 15 years in prison under the Armed Career Criminal Act, citing five prior second-degree burglary convictions as violent felonies under the act. The nation’s high court will hear the case in the weeks ahead, to clarify rules related to career criminal sentencing. Law professor Carissa Byrne Hessick is prepared to comment on the case and can explain why the case is important in a time when many federal statutes incorporate state convictions and the definition of state crimes continue to expand.
Carissa Byrne Hessick Phone: 801-587-8756 | Email:


Militia protest at Oregon wildlife refuge: What’s at stake?  

January 5, 2016

All eyes are on Oregon as news coverage continues surrounding a group of armed American militants who stormed the federal Malheur Wildlife Refuge over the weekend to protest perceived “tyranny” by the federal government. University of Utah law professors Robert Keiter and John Ruple are available to offer commentary about the case and its developments, including an explanation of what is at issue, the laws involved, and what precedent the events may set. Keiter, director for the Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, is a nationally recognized expert on public lands and natural resource law. Ruple is an expert on public land management law. Both professors recently published a series of papers critiquing state efforts to take over federal public lands:  A Legal Analysis of the Transfer of Public Lands Movement; The Transfer of Public Lands Movement: Taking the ‘Public’ Out of Public Lands; and When Winning Means Losing: Why a State Takeover of Public Lands May Leave States Without the Minerals They Covet.
John Ruple, Phone: 801-581-6545 | Email:
Bob Keiter, Phone: 801-581-5035 | Email:

Making a Murderer: University of Utah criminal law expert available to speak on Steven Avery’s case

January 5, 2016

Thousands of people have signed online petitions to free convicted murderer Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, whose stories have gone global in the wake of the newly released Netflix documentary “Making a Murderer.” The story continues to gain traction, particularly as filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos announced this week that a juror from Avery’s 2005 murder case in Wisconsin reached out to them to say that some jurors believed the defense that law enforcement framed Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach, in part as retribution for a lawsuit Avery had brought against the county for his wrongful conviction in 1985 for the rape of Penny Beernsten.

With so many twists and turns, the case brings no shortage of issues to talk about. Shima Baradaran Baughman a professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, is available to speak about the Avery case and continuing questions arising from it. Baughman is an expert on criminal law, including issues of criminal procedure and evidence. She can offer commentary on Avery’s case relating to evidentiary issues at trial; the inadequacy of counsel for both Avery and Dassey (and related Sixth Amendment issues); improper searches conducted without a warrant (violations of the Fourth Amendment); as well as the prosecutorial and police misconduct laced throughout the trial. Baughman can also speak to how the Netflix series is shining a light on improprieties in the criminal justice system —and whether current discussion may lead to broader criminal justice reforms at a time when other legislation aimed at creating a more just system is being considered.

Phone: (801) 819-5322 |

Intellectual property and public interest

December 17, 2015

What is the impact of intellectual property on communities, innovation and development? That was the central theme at the Fourth Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest held in New Delhi, India earlier this month, where more than 450 delegates from around the world participated in discussions, which brought together academics, advocates and policy makers to explore issues related to intellectual property. Jorge Contreras, a professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, contributed to the international conference as a speaker, moderator and co-organizer of the “IP and Development” track. In addition, he is engaged in several research projects examining the acquisition and assertion of patents in the domestic Indian mobile device market. He’s available to speak about the conference and his current research.
Jorge Contreras | Phone: 801-581-6767| Email:

Law school “rock star” Erwin Chemerinsky to speak at U

December 11, 2015

He’s the closest thing the law school circuit has to a rock star. And now Erwin Chemerinsky is headed to the University of Utah, scheduled to speak Feb.4 as part of the 50th Annual Leary Lecture at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, the U announced this week.  Chemerinsky is a well-known professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. Previously, he taught at Duke Law School for four years, during which he won the Duke University Scholar-Teacher of the Year Award in 2006. He also taught for 21 years at the University of Southern California School of Law, UCLA School of Law and DePaul University College of Law. His areas of expertise are constitutional law, federal practice, civil rights and civil liberties, and appellate litigation. He is the author of eight books, including The Case Against the Supreme Court published in 2014, and more than 200 articles in top law reviews. He frequently argues cases before the nation’s highest courts, including the United States Supreme Court, and also serves as a commentator on legal issues for national and local media. He writes a weekly column for the Orange County Register, monthly columns for the ABA Journal and the Daily Journal, and frequent op-eds in newspapers across the country. In January 2014, National Jurist magazine named Dean Chemerinsky as the most influential person in legal education in the United States.  His lecture is expected to be a huge draw at the U for the legal community, where he’ll reflect on the last half century of constitutional law.  He is available for media interviews prior to his visit.  Those interested in attending can RSVP here.
S.J. Quinney College of Law, 6th floor moot courtroom, 383 South University Street, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.


A state takeover of federal lands: what are the implications for mineral resources?

December 11, 2015

If states overcome long odds to prevail in their efforts to take over public lands from the federal government, states would not obtain significant mineral resources—a factor that could hobble the state’s economy, a new analysis from the Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law reveals. The analysis, titled “When Winning Means Losing: Why a State Takeover of Public Lands May Leave States Without the Minerals They Covet,” discusses Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act, or TPLA, which demands that the federal government transfer title to more than 31 million acres of federal public lands within Utah to the State. The TPLA has inspired 13 other states to take up related legislation. Using Utah as an example, the analysis by Bob Keiter, Distinguished Professor of Law and director of the Stegner Center, and John Ruple, an associate professor of law, argues that states wouldn’t gain mineral resources if taking over public land from the federal government. Moreover, Keiter and Ruple found any mineral rights that states could obtain would be realized only after years of costly litigation—ligitation above and beyond the court cases required to test the validity of states’ questionable TPLA-based claims. Ruple is available to discuss more details about the research.
Phone: 801-581-6545 | Email:

Law student works for justice on gang sweep case

December 8, 2015

The U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City this week entered a judgment in a case brought by three former West High School students over a 2010 school- based “gang sweep” that prompted a class action lawsuit by the ACLU of Utah and the ACLU Racial Justice Program. As part of its offer of judgment, West Valley City disclaimed liability and offered a total of $50,000 to the three plaintiffs inclusive of all claims, attorney fees, and costs. The case, Winston v. Salt Lake City Police Department, et al, was filed in 2013 in response to a police action at West High in Salt Lake City, where more than 12 joint-agency gang task force officers entered the school during school hours. They detained students on school property, interrogated them about alleged gang affiliations, and photographed them holding signs listing their purported gang affiliations. Nubia Pena, a third year law student at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, worked on the case as part of Racially Just Utah, a coalition that works with the ACLU on issues related to positively and proactively ensuring racial equity in Utah through policy, accountability, and education. She is available to speak about the case.
Nubia Pena, cell: 801-671-3131| Email:

Utah’s representation of criminal defendants

November 13, 2015

Harry Miller, who was convicted of armed robbery in 2003, spent almost five years in a Utah prison as a result of an eyewitness’ misidentification. He was freed with the help of Jensie Anderson, a professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law and legal director at the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center. Miller’s case, already well-known as a powerful example of how wrongful convictions occur, was cast into the spotlight again this week when the Huffington Post held it up as evidence of why Utah’s system for criminal defendant representation is flawed. A report  recently released by the Sixth Amendment Center, a nonprofit, also pointed out several problems with the state’s defense system for indigent defendants. Carissa Byrne Hessick, a professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law who teaches criminal procedure, is available to offer commentary about the report and what its findings mean for defendants.

Phone: 801-587-8756 | Email:

Kristallnacht anniversary: What should be the legal status of the bystander?

November 9, 2015

Seventy-seven years ago, on Nov. 9 1938, Germans stood by as Jewish businesses and synagogues were burned, tens of thousands of Jews were arrested, and nearly a hundred were killed. Discussion of Kristallnacht continues today, with many questions to contemplate: What do we learn from the Holocaust in general, in particular from Kristallnacht, regarding the bystander? What is the responsibility of the individual in the face of unmitigated racism and hatred? What is the most appropriate application of the painful lessons that can be learned from the tragic events?

Amos Guiora, a law professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, is an expert on counter-terrorism and national security and is currently authoring a book about bystanders and the Holocaust, set to publish in 2017. He published an essay this week examining aspects of Kristallnact.

Guiora can offer commentary about the Kristallnact anniversary and legal questions that still linger today.

Phone: 216-470-6386 | Email: | Skype: AmosGuiora

Context from Campus: Nov.9 -13

November 6, 2015

Trending Topics:

How toxic is social media?
This past week, a 19-year-old Instagram model Essena O’Neill with over 800,000 followers made international headlines when she announced that she would quit social media. O’Neill has since re-captioned many of her old photos to reveal the amount of effort and sponsorship that went into seemingly effortless and spontaneous moments. She also spoke out on the toxic effects social media had on her self-esteem and perceptions of reality. It’s undeniable that social media is an unavoidable aspect of Americans’ lives and have many benefits such as keeping distant friends and family members connected. However, there are many negative effects too, such as unrealistic expectations and unhealthy comparisons. Avery Holton, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah, is available to comment on O’Neill’s recent actions, motivations and social media’s impacts in general.
Avery Holton Phone: 801-585-1067| Email:

Utah Legislative Preview: What will be the hot issues in 2016?
Medicaid expansion, LGBT rights versus religious freedoms, the right to use medical marijuana and a host of other issues took center stage during the 2015 Utah legislative session.
What’s on deck for 2016?  Jason Perry, interim director of the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah, is available to offer commentary on the notable political events of 2015 as well as predictions for what’s to come in 2016.
*To schedule an interview with Jason Perry, contact Natalie Tippets, Phone: 801-581-8514 | Email:

Link between family history of Alzheimer’s disease and financial planning
A new study from University of Utah researchers asserts that the people most likely to see expert financial advice and to delay retirement are those whose families People whose families have a history of Alzheimer’s disease. The study, by U researchers Cathleen Zick, Robert Mayer and Ken Smith, suggests that people who may be prone to Alzheimer’s are perhaps more in tune to the costs of institutionalized care and therefore plan more. The study, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, found people whose families had a history of Alzheimer’s were 86 percent more likely to have visited with a wealth management professional and 40 percent less likely to retire before age 65 in comparison to people without a history of Alzheimer’s in their families. The study has been submitted to American Journal of Alzheimer’s disease & Other Dementias and will be published in coming weeks. Researchers are happy to discuss their findings.
Cathleen Zick Phone: 801-581-3147 | Email:

Nice guys can finish first
Do nice people have a greater ability to motivate others to cooperate? Or is competence the most important factor at play when it comes to organizing cooperation? Those questions are at the forefront of new research published by University of Utah anthropologist Shane Macfarlan and co-author co-author Henry F. Lyle of the University of Washington in the journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. After spending several months studying the dynamics of people in Dominica and Peru, Macfarlan and Lyle uncovered new information about how people respond to different characteristics among leaders. “The gist is this: do competent or “nice” folks have a greater ability to motivate others to cooperate? While nice guys are nice and everyone likes them, we may not believe they are capable of getting the job done and therefore they may have difficulty getting others to contribute to collective endeavors,” said Macfarlan. “It might feel good to help Forrest Gump because he’s a nice guy; however, he’s not the guy you want to organize cooperation because he doesn’t seem so competent. The information is relevant to ongoing debates over what makes a strong leader, said Macfarlan. He noted that society continually debates whether they prefer leaders who can get the job done, —or who are cooperative. Macfarlan is available to speak to media about the findings of his study.
Shane Macfarlan | Phone: 510-295-9282 | Email:

New York Mets star and U alum George Theodore remembers
He was nicknamed “The Stork.” At 6 feet 5 inches tall, George Theodore stood out among the 1973 New York Mets. He moved well on his long legs, making him a dynamite first baseman and a quick outfielder. Today, as a school social worker, he towers above the elementary students with whom he works, yet his warm demeanor, quirky sense of humor, and terrific baseball stories make him easily accessible to both kids and parents. During his senior year of college – upon the recommendation of his aunt – Theodore applied to the U’s Master of Social Work (MSW) Program. Shortly after being accepted, he was drafted by the New York Mets in the 31st round of the amateur draft. He eventually returned to the U in 1976 and finished his degree, embarking on a lifelong career in social work. Theodore recently shared his story with the College of Social Work and is happy to speak about the role the U played in shaping who he is today.
Jennifer Nozawa, public relations specialist, University of Utah College of Social Work | Phone: 801-585-9303 | Email:


Saturday, Nov. 7
Religious freedom in a changing world

Religious freedom: it’s a topic that has received intense national attention in recent months, following the actions of Kentucky Court Clerk Kim Davis —who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of her religious beliefs. Davis spent five days in jail after ignoring a court order that she issue marriage licenses to all couples, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2015 that legalized gay marriage. Her actions drew both ire and support, and the high profile case is one example of many cases before legislatures and courts that have addressed conflicts between civil rights and religious liberties. In Utah, other issues of religious freedom have also made headlines, including this week’s announcement by the LDS Church on membership of same-sex couples and their children. Continued attention on the topic is one reason students at the S.J. Quinney College of Law are helping to organize a symposium discussing the issue. Sponsored by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, the event will feature discussion by attorneys, faith community leaders and a legislator on various topics related to religious freedom. Cost is $10 for the general public and $5 for students.
S.J. Quinney College of Law, 383 South University Street, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 9
Evidence-based decisions for policy: The case for eyewitness identification

The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law on will host a symposium dedicated to better understanding eye witness identification through the use of science for decision-making about public policy. The event at the law school takes place at the Flynn Faculty Scholarship Room (6500) on the sixth floor of the law building. “Evidence-Based Decisions for Policy: The Case for Eyewitness Identification,” will feature a lecture by Joanne Yaffe, a professor at the University of Utah College of Social Work. In late 2013, the National Academies asked Yaffe to help with a fast-track study examining eyewitness identification.  For 11 intensive months, she collaborated with a multidisciplinary team of well-known experts from across the country, examining the issue through the lenses of law enforcement, the judiciary, and social sciences.  The National Academies later released the group’s report, which urged caution in handling and relying upon eyewitness identifications in criminal cases. The group also recommended best practices for law enforcement and courts.
S.J. Quinney College of Law, 383 South University Street, 12:15 to 1:15 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 10
The authors and illustrator of “March,” the best-selling graphic novel series that narrates U.S. Rep. John Lewis’s account of the civil rights movement, will speak at the U Nov. 10. Lewis, co-author Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell will discuss the books and their goal to educate and inspire young people to understand the power of nonviolence. They will participate in a book signing immediately following the event.
Libby Gardner Hall, 1375 Presidents Circle, 11 a.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 11
The U will honor 11 Utah veterans, including Chris Haley, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and lost a leg while trying to aid another injured solider, at its 18th annual Veterans Day commemoration ceremony. The tribute includes a panel discussion, “Forgotten and Abandoned Vietnam Veterans,” a 21-cannon solute, an awards ceremony and a concert.
Union Building, Ballroom, 200 S. Central Campus Drive, 8:30 a.m.-Noon

Thursday, Nov. 12
“The Case Against 8”

The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah will host a public screening of the Sundance film, “The Case Against 8” draws back the curtain on one of the most contentious legal cases of recent years that paved the way for the ultimate Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage. The film will give audiences the opportunity to experience this historical journey in an in-depth and intimate way. The director Ryan White will lead a Q&A session immediately following the screening.
Salt Lake Film Society’s Broadway Centre Cinemas, 111 E. Broadway, 7 p.m. 

Thursday, Nov. 12
Reflections on the 2015 UK parliamentary election
You may know all about how election day shook out in the U.S. this month, but do you know how the 2015 UK parliamentary election changed the political landscape across the pond? Here’s your chance to find out: The Hinckley Institute of Politics hosts “Reflections on the 2015 UK parliamentary election.” John Francis, a professor of political science, will host a panel exploring the recent election.
Orson Spencer Hall, Room 255, 260 Central Campus Drive, 9:10 to 10:10 a.m.