Issues to Watch

Issues to Watch

Understanding and Solving the Puerto Rican Municipal Bond Crisis


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Where Less Light is Shed Than a Piece of Coal on a Moonless Night: Understanding and Solving the Puerto Rican Municipal Bond Crisis

Stanley Carignan*

Introduction

In the final week of June 2015, the financial world’s attention focused on whether Greece would default on its loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Anna Yukhananov, The International Monetary Fund is on the Hook if Greece Defaults, Bus. Insider (June 29, 2015, 6:37 PM), http://www.businessinsider.com/the-international-monetary-fund-is-on-the-hook-if-greece-defaults-2015-6.  As the tension between Greece and the IMF came to a head, Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla quietly announced that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico would no longer be able to pay the $72 billion in debt it owes to its creditors.  Michael Corkery & Mary Williams Walsh, Puerto Rico’s Governor Says Island’s Debts Are ‘Not Payable, N.Y. Times: Dealbook (June 28, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/29/business/dealbook/puerto-ricos-governor-says-islands-debts-are-not-payable.html.  Taken on its face, Puerto Rico and Greece’s debt crises may seem very similar, but in fact, each crisis involves a different set of legal issues and solutions.  John Cochrane, Greece vs Puerto Rico and What’s “Systemic”, Grumpy Economist (July 4, 2015, 10:28 AM), http://johnhcochrane.blogspot.com/2015/07/greece-vs-puerto-rico-and-whats-systemic.html.  To start, Puerto Rico owes significantly less debt than the country of Greece.  Desmond Lachman, Is Puerto Rico America’s Greece?, The Hill (May 29, 2015, 7:00 AM), http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-budget/243406-is-puerto-rico-americas-greece.  Moreover, Puerto Rico cannot declare bankruptcy to renegotiate its debt with its creditors, increasing the possibility the island will default.  AJ Vicens, Puerto Rico Crisis Goes From Bad to Worse, Mother Jones (Aug. 5, 2015, 6:05 AM), http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/08/things-keep-getting-worse-puerto-rico. (more…)

Issues to Watch

Rethinking Solitary Confinement in American Prisons


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Behind Bars: Rethinking Solitary Confinement in American Prisons

Emily Steiner*

Solitary confinement is a widely used and highly controversial practice in American prisons that has been the go-to method for handling discipline and security since the mid-1980s. Inmates held in solitary confinement spend approximately twenty-three hours a day in tiny, windowless cells, receiving their food on trays passed through a slot in the cell door. According to an estimate by the Vera Institute of Justice, as many as 80,000 people are currently held in isolation cells across the United States. See Natasha Haverty, Amid Backlash Against Isolating Inmates, New Mexico Moves Toward Change, Nat’l Pub. Radio (Aug. 24, 2015, 4:47 AM), http://www.npr.org/2015/08/24/432622666/amid-backlash-against-isolating-inmates-new-mexico-moves-toward-change.  Solitary confinement is so commonly widespread that many states do not even track how many people are held in isolation. Id.  A growing number of activists, however, are convinced that the policy is a violation of basic human rights.  These activists, largely comprised of lawmakers and former prison inmates, are speaking out about the damaging effects of solitary confinement and demanding prison reform. (more…)

Issues to Watch

Macaque takes a selfie: PETA publicity stunt or genuine animal rights issue?


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Macaque takes a selfie: PETA publicity stunt or genuine animal rights issue?

Jay Patel*

Copyright protections can be sought for “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression,” which includes any “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.”  17 U.S.C. § 102 (2012).  Over 100 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that an original photograph that represented the “intellectual conception of its author” could be afforded copyright protection.  Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co., v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53, 59 (1884).  Our Nation’s copyright protections have evolved to include any original arrangement and selection that exhibits creativity.  Feist Publ’ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 358 (1991).  This is particularly relevant today when many authors compile facts and ideas in their own creative ways to sell things such as textbooks and phonebooks.  Id.  (more…)

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‘Til Consent Do Us Part


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‘TIL CONSENT DO US PART: Maryland’s New Ground for No-Fault Dissolution of Marriage

Avigayil Pearlman*

Marriage is not an institution to be taken lightly; however, divorce is a reality of American life.  Unfortunately, the time and expense required to obtain an absolute divorce can be extremely prohibitive in many states.  In fact, Maryland did not entertain complaints for absolute divorce without some claim of wrongdoing on the part of one spouse or another until 1939; and even then, Maryland required a five-year separation first.  See Denese Ashbaugh Vlosky & Pamela A. Monroe, The Effective Dates of No-Fault Divorce Laws in the 50 States, 51 Fam. Rel. 317, 322 (2002).  While the length of time required for separation gradually decreased over the years, the second-most recent change to Maryland’s grounds for divorce, listed in Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 7-103 (the “Statute”), came into effect in 1983, and provided that a no-fault absolute divorce in the state of Maryland required a 12-month separation.  Id.  However, everything changed on October 1, 2015, when an additional ground for no-fault divorce was added to the Statute: mutual consent. (more…)

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Is the Senate Eschewing Its Constitutional Duty Concerning Confirmations to the Federal Bench?


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Is the Senate Eschewing Its Constitutional Duty Concerning Confirmations to the Federal Bench?

Laura Cress*

Since Republicans took control of the Senate in January 2015, they have been confirming federal judges at the slowest pace in more than 60 years, since 1953.  Jennifer Bendery, Congratulations, GOP.  You’re Confirming Judges at the Slowest Rate in 60 Years, Huffington Post (Sept. 17, 2015, 2:08 PM), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/obama-judicial-nominations_55faced7e4b08820d9178a5c.  As of October 9, 2015, President Obama’s seventh year in office, the 114th Congress had confirmed a grand total of seven federal judges since January.  Confirmation Listing, U.S. Cts., http://www.uscourts.gov/judges-judgeships/judicial-vacancies/confirmation-listing (last visited Oct. 9, 2015).  For comparison, senate Democrats, during President George W. Bush’s seventh year in office, had confirmed twenty-nine of the President’s judicial nominees by this point in his presidency.  Bendery, supra.  These startling statistics should be concerning to the legal community because studies show they may impact the ability of the federal court system to dispense justice consistently and in a quality manner.  Alicia Bannon, Brennan Center for Justice Analysis: The Impact of Judicial Vacancies on Federal Trial Courts, Brennan Ctr. for Just. (July 21, 2014), https://www.brennancenter.org/publication/impact-judicial-vacancies-federal-trial-courts.    (more…)