November 13, 2007

One Student's Response to the Issue of Death and Dying

By Sumeera Younis

As I listened to the speakers at the Law Review Symposium, as much as I tried, I couldn’t understand why the state or the federal government has the authority to dictate whether an individual has a right to seek assistance in taking his own life. Perhaps some of you are reading this and have lost a friend or family member to suicide and such a proposition is offensive. That is because we are standing on the side that wants life.


But there are those who are standing on the other side, who have continuous struggles that amount to a sustained desire not to live. They are the ones that parents find dead, and those are the ones that we hear about on the six o’clock news; having driven off the road killing themselves and others. As grotesque a picture as that may be, it is the reality we have created. Ignoring that suicide is a reality in this country and the world, in this age and the ages before it, is turning a blind eye to a serious social issue. Creating a systemized assisted suicide program may be one way of addressing it.

The word dignity was often used at the symposium, and perhaps we don’t want the government to say it is permissible to help someone take his own life because it undermines our conception of the dignity of human life. When we strip individual’s of the autonomy to make personal choices that are best for them, and when the government steps in and dictates morality, that is the true assault on dignity. Just as the symposium could not begin to scratch the surface of the right to an assisted death in the case of terminally ill patients, this note cannot begin to address the various considerations and implications of federally regulated assisted suicide. Instead, as we reflect on the ten-year anniversary of Washington v. Glucksberg I invite you to consider that the choices that are best for you are not those that are the best for everyone and the truths that we take as apparent today were not always so clear.

September 11, 2007

An Open Letter from the Law School Student Senate President

Submitted By: Hadi Husain,
LSSS President

I am delighted to welcome the 1Ls, LLMs and transfer students to Ann Arbor, and to welcome the rest of you back to Michigan Law for what will hopefully prove an exciting and productive new year.


The summer was, as usual, filled with students crisscrossing the globe– from London to Cambodia, and from Belize to Vienna – and the legal profession – by participating in everything from the mundane (read: working for a big corporate law firm) to the magnanimous (read: advocating on behalf of individuals and organizations who cannot afford adequate counsel) to the regenerative (read: sitting on the beach in Malaga). I encourage you to share your peripetic experiences with your peers as we settle [back] into the lively rhythm of the Socratic Method.

While upperclassmen were packed into the Holiday Inn for what will no doubt prove to be another fantastically successful week of on-campus recruiting, the 1Ls were partaking in an orientation program put together by Dean Baum and Christine Gregory’s offices – with the assistance of the always indispensable Marilyn, Mark and Trudy – which culminated in the ever-popular day of service (and the similarly popular ensuing night at Rick’s).

We subsequently kicked the academic year off in style with beautiful weather and the annual first-day-of-class Picnic.

Issues

The Law School Student Senate plans on addressing many issues this year that are pertinent to the ongoing success of the Law School.

While the historic Law Quad remains one of the most beautiful campus settings in the country, it is imperative that the Law School continue to adapt and grow to the evolving needs of students and faculty in the 21st century. The Building Committee, headed by Professor Eisenberg, will continue its work of ensuring that Michigan does just that by evaluating and discussing new building proposals, with the goal of developing an economical and resourceful way of growing our campus while maintaining cutting-edge environmental (“Green”) standards.

Along that vein, we recognize that until a new building is constructed, space in Legal Research, Hutchins Hall, and the basement connecting them remains at a premium. Because of this the Senate formed, in conjunction with Christine Gregory’s office, a Committee on the Allocation of Office Space. This Committee will assess the current method of allocating office space to the various basement groups and will compare the way Michigan distributes space to students with that of our peer schools. With these factors in mind, the Committee will then look to the needs of the various student organizations to come up with an equitable and objective method of future distribution.

The budgeting process is fast approaching, led by the Budgeting Committee, and is the primary mechanism through which money is allocated to the many paramount student groups that define our institution. As always, this remains one of the Senate’s most important roles. Any recognized student organization can apply for funding which allows it to thrive while at the same time benefiting the greater community through the sponsorship of activities such as lunchtime talks, bar nights, and barbeques. Student groups should also look to the generosity of alum John Nannes ‘73, whose gift continues to provide significant financing for student activities.
There are many more committees with student representatives that continue to contribute significantly to the Law School community in all manners. And, as always, the Senate welcomes your feedback.

If you have any suggestions, criticisms, or general comments for how LSSS can improve Michigan Law or your experience here, please feel free to voice them at our weekly LSSS meetings, which will be held Mondays at 6 p.m. in a location to be announced. Alternatively, you can share them with any member of the Senate individually, or bring them up with Dean Caminker during one of his regular Dean’s Corner lunches in the Dining Hall, where any topic flies.

Events

As returning students know, law school is not all about work, and LSSS is here to ensure that fun activities are planned throughout the semester.

As has become the norm, we will be hosting enough bar nights to make the alcoholic – or, to be more politically correct, the social drinker – in you blush. Our joint Law School/Med School bar night was a tremendous success last year, so to continue the tradition of uniting the various world-class programs at the University we are working in conjunction with our sister organization in the Business School to join up the future litigators and business owners of America.

The Senate will also continue to support the Mental Health Initiative, which works to provide family activities (along with SQUALSA), advice on maintaining a healthy school/life balance, and takes part in organizing alternative events that manage to entertain sans alcohol.
We will also be continuing a long-standing tradition, started by Josh Gewolb and Krista Caner: kindergarten-snack-time-style Milk and Cookies, which will take place beneath the Reading Room every Sunday night!

On a more mature front, Wine and Cheese events, slated once a semester, will continue to offer students a chance to interact with their professors outside of the classroom setting. Additionally, the Blue Jeans lecture series will enable professors to discuss their cutting edge research in a similarly casual setting.

Finally, the Alumni Association-sponsored exam study breaks will preserve the tradition of free massages (to work out the knots your professors will invariably induce in your muscles), copious amounts of food (mainly of the junk variety), and much-needed respite during crunch time.

Closing thoughts

The quality and diversity of the students at Michigan Law are what sets it apart from its peer institutions. Because of this, I implore all of you to be proactive in getting to know the students, faculty and staff that surround you and learning from them with as much diligence as you do from your casebooks.

Additionally, the breadth and depth of the University is unmatched globally. Michigan has everything from a leading social work program to cutting edge medical research to top notch athletics. Because of the unique situation of the University, please make every effort to reach outside Hutchins in sculpting your optimal syllabus and outside the law school community for extra perspective and a host of extra-curricular opportunities.

--Hadi Husain, LSSS President

April 03, 2007

Is It Getting Hot In Here?
Are Humans Causing Global Warming?

Submitted by Dirk Avery

The two most salient issues related to global warming are whether humans are causing it and what will happen to humans if the Earth continues to warm.

Answering the question of whether humans are causing global warming will inform the answer to the question of whether humans can or will do anything about it. Even if humans have caused it, can they do anything to reverse it? If we did not cause it, might we nevertheless reverse it?

There are some facts that are not in dispute. The Earth has warmed about one degree over the last century. “Greenhouse” gases in the atmosphere emit and re-direct long wave radiation emitted by the Earth back toward the Earth. The radiation warms the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas; the most common atmospheric gases, nitrogen and oxygen, are not. Water vapor, a greenhouse gas, causes the greatest portion of the greenhouse effect. Methane and ozone are other greenhouse gases. Without the greenhouse effect, the Earth would be on average 70-90 ºF colder and far less habitable. The oceans, biosphere, and volcanoes are major sources of naturally occurring CO2.

Some facts related to sea levels are also not in dispute. Measuring sea levels involves complex calculations. Scientists differ in their estimates of both how sea levels have changed over the last century and at what rate levels are currently changing. Some scientists estimate levels have not increased over the last century, while many others believe levels have risen between 4 and 8 inches during the same time. Over the last 500 million years, sea levels have varied by over 1300 feet. Present sea levels are significantly lower than long-term averages over millions of years.

Many scientists who are alarmed by global warming believe that increasing CO2 is a cause of atmospheric imbalance. They believe that as the Earth warms, more water will evaporate from the surface exacerbating the warming. A subset of those concerned by global warming believes that human activities are the primary cause of increasing CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Most scientists readily admit that the study of the climate is complex and uncertain even when they believe that anthropogenic CO2 is likely driving the observed warming.

Some prominent scientists, including Sir David King, of the University of Cambridge Surface Science Group, believe that if human production of CO2 and global warming continue at their current pace, the Earth will become largely uninhabitable by the end of this century. In this scenario, all ice on the planet will melt, sea levels will rise, and Antarctica may be the only habitable continent. Other prominent scientists have less severe predictions but still foresee increasingly inclement weather, increased precipitation, and rising sea levels.

Under much of Antarctica’s nearly 1.6 km thick ice, there is soil. Cataclysmic ice melting in Antarctica could, therefore, result in rising sea levels. The Artic, on the other hand, is largely floating sea ice. If all the sea ice melted, it would raise sea levels as much as a melting ice cube raises the water level in a glass – not at all. The melted ice would, however, influence the ocean circulation and freshen the seawater of the North Atlantic affecting its biosphere. Many scientists agree that shore ice in Antarctica is melting, while most also agree the continent is cooling. Some scientists believe the melting sea ice will open the way for land-based glaciers to flow into the sea, causing a rise in sea levels. Skeptical scientists question global warming theories based on the seeming contradiction of cooling temperatures and melting ice. They explain the melting rather as a result of ice “memory,” or reactions to past conditions which play out over decades or centuries.

Some skeptical scientists also argue that sea levels have been increasing at a steady rate for thousands of years. During that time the Earth has experienced warmer and cooler periods than now, demonstrating, they argue, that temperature and sea levels are not closely correlated over relatively short periods of time.

Ice core studies like those described in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth have shown a correlation between CO2 and the Earth’s temperature. Some scientists, such as Ian Clark of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Ottawa, agree that there is a correlation but suggest that in the past, increased CO2 is the effect of the Earth warming, not its cause. Instead, scientists such as Clark argue that the primary cause of warming is solar radiation. They substantiate this theory by showing a close correlation between solar activity and atmospheric temperatures. They interpret ice core studies to show that after periods of warming, caused by solar activity, CO2 levels increased in correlation hundreds of years later. Due to their size, oceans take hundreds of years to warm or cool. As oceans warm, they release vast amounts of CO2 and water vapor. Thus, a correlation exists, they claim, but the causation is reversed from that proposed by Al Gore.

Many people concerned with global warming point to consensus within the scientific community regarding global-warming science. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report confirming global warming theories was reviewed by 2,500 scientific experts. Skeptical scientists argue that this number is not limited to scientists with expertise in the area, and that it includes scientists who disagree with its conclusions and many non-scientist political figures and less prominent reviewers. When Professor Paul Reiter, of the Pasteur Institute of Paris, resigned from the IPCC in protest of the report, the IPCC initially refused to remove his name from the report. Only by threatening legal action did he get his name removed. Frederick Seitz, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, claimed that scientists’ views were censored in the IPCC report. Statements such as, “None of the studies cited has shown clear evidence that we can attribute climate changes to increases in Greenhouse Gases,” were removed.

Indeed, skeptics argue that much of current climate study is based on alarm. Funding for groups predicting the status quo quickly dries up, and dissenting scientists are bullied into agreement with those foretelling disaster. Dissenting scientist Timothy Ball has received death threats for his dissenting views, while others, including Richard Lindzen and Henk Tennekes, have been fired or publicly smeared.

If humans are causing global warming through CO2, both sides agree that major changes are needed. Scientists estimate that an 80% reduction in human-produced CO2 would be necessary to make a difference. Such a radical reduction, in the absence of new technologies, would drastically change the way people in industrialized countries live. Collective-action problems are likely to inhibit the effectiveness of CO2 reduction without strong national and likely international government intervention. Despite the fervor of CO2 reduction advocates, the question remains whether people are willing to live with such an imposition.

This article was reviewed by Natalia Andronova, Ph.D. Atmospheric Science & Geophysics, a research scientist at the University of Michigan Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences.

March 20, 2007

Michigan Law Review, How Do I Love Thee?

Op-Ed
Submitted by
Leigh Wasserstrom

As I mingled at the admitted student bar night (see, MLRers are not perpetually trapped on Sub-3!), prospective students repeatedly asked me to describe my favorite thing about law school. I admit that my first instinct was to laugh and advise them to re-think law school if their goal was to do something enjoyable. But in all seriousness, I told anyone willing to listen what a tremendous experience working on the Michigan Law Review has been.

Professionally, the benefits are immense. Cite-checking scholarly work —albeit tedious— has improved not just my blue-booking skills but also my ability to distill and evaluate complex arguments. And the note-writing process has been an opportunity to hone my research and writing skills under the guidance of my peers. It has been a pleasure to work with the entire Notes Office as I pursue publication. (Full disclosure: I currently serve as a Note Editor.)

As a member of the Editorial Board, I have the unique opportunity to shape the direction of a premier legal journal. The articles, notes, and comments we publish are entirely student-selected and student-edited (and some are student-written as well); in no other discipline are students given the opportunity to impact the field so profoundly.

But in some ways, the professional benefits have been less satisfying than the other, less tangible rewards. At our first orientation meeting, Dean Caminker assured the new Associate Editors that the Law Review would be the ultimate date hook-up. Although this prognostication has proven less than prescient (at least in my case), his insistence that the feeling of community would be very satisfying, particularly in moments when the work seemed most uninteresting, has been absolutely accurate.

A sense of community pervades every aspect of the Law Review experience. The Law Review is a microcosm of the Law School itself. Our members have a wide array of perspectives, life experiences, and career aspirations. A shared purpose brings us together—dedication to the journal and to the advancement of legal scholarship. Some of the most interesting conversations I have had in law school have been in the Law Review offices. And I have made some great friendships in my afternoons on Sub-3.

Contrary to popular belief, Law Review members like to socialize, too. And there is no party at the Law School like a Law Review party. Seriously! Okay, not really. But, the Law Review Joy Tyrants (our social chairs) are always organizing delightful soirees: bar nights, IM sporting events, and holiday gatherings. On Wednesday mornings, they bring us donuts. We like to work hard, but we also know how to have a good time and enjoy delicious treats.

In sum, the Law Review may not get you dates, and our social committee has a pretentious name derived from a Jeremy Bentham quote (why must we take ourselves so seriously?), but working on the Law Review will make you a better law student and, ultimately, a better lawyer. It is a fantastic opportunity to be part of a dynamic, intellectual, and dedicated community.

February 20, 2007

You Know Everything About Same-Sex Marriage

Submitted by Robert Latham

Last week was Freedom to Marry Week. No, Outlaws didn’t make this up: it has a website (freedomtomarry.org), a logo (that looks like a robot face with a baseball home plate and cartoon heart for eyes), and a ten-year history of falling around Valentine’s Day for optimal poignancy. That’s right: ten years. Ten years of family carnivals and informative lectures and pedantic (often bordering on ranty) op-ed pieces.

This is one of those op-ed pieces. Even though Outlaws asked me to write it, I’m doing so from my own perspective and with my own thoughts. Why? Because I’m under a deadline. And because I don’t know that everyone in Outlaws could reach a consensus on this topic. And because you already know everything there is to know about same-sex marriage.

That’s right, you already know everything there is to know. There are no surprises anymore, so each side of the battle is really just waiting for the other to lose steam, change its mind, or age out and die.

In case you think I’m trying to avoid engaging the arguments, here are the major talking points from both camps:

Arguments against same-sex marriage:

(1) Marriage is an institution defined historically as the union between one man and one woman.
(2) Children are optimally cared for in homes with a mother and a father.
(3) The purpose of marriage is procreation and societal stability.
(4) Same-sex marriage is an untested and dangerous social experiment.
(5) Same-sex marriage is part of a slippery slope to universal depravity.
(6) Gay relationships themselves are immoral.

Arguments against the arguments against same-sex marriage:

(1) You don’t have a bit of evidence for any of that, and
(2) Please, quit being a jerk.

See? No surprises.

Now, I want to confess that I’m very gay, and the rest of this article will be biased appropriately. I also want to confess that I have no idea what marriage is. That’s ok, though, because if we had enough time and wine, I’m pretty sure you’ll discover that you don’t either. This should not prove any impediment to the conversation.

You might notice that the arguments against same-sex marriage seem to be more numerous than the arguments for it. There are two reasons for that: first, most of them aren’t actually arguments against; and second, arguments don’t get you very far in this sort of thing anyway.

Let’s start with that first part. Even though I put six things on the list, most of them aren’t arguments against same-sex marriage at all. Argument (1), for example, isn’t against same-sex marriage--it’s for the strengthening of hetero-sex marriages. Same with (2). Argument (3) is similar, except that given the now-public knowledge that men and women don’t have to be married or even in the same room to conceive a baby, it actually argues for extending marriage to anybody willing to raise a kid in tandem.

Two of them are just smoke screen distractions. Argument (4) has always sounded silly to me, because everything new is potentially dangerous, and same-sex marriage isn’t untested anymore; and Argument (5) is popular among juridical thinkers, but is equally a non-starter in the real world. Really it is: why can 5th cousins but not 4th cousins be married? Because we drew the line there. Why will allowing gays to marry not automatically allow people to marry patio furniture? Because we’ll draw the line there as well. Those who find themselves in a committed relationship with a wicker bistro set will have their own fight to fight. I will happily stand behind their right to love whatever they love. They, however, will be responsible for figuring out the tax implications of their blessed union.

That brings us to Argument (6): Gay relationships are themselves immoral. What can you even say to that? Nothing. That’s when you stop the debate and see if the person wants to grab dinner one night instead. Then you move in down the street a few years later, go shopping with them, watch their dog while they’re out of town, invite them over for Super Bowl parties, call them to gossip, swap turns carpooling the kids to school, and just live. It might take five or ten years, but they’ll figure it out, without you ever saying a word.

The nice thing about the “against same-sex marriage” list of arguments is that it isn’t getting any longer. They’ve had thousands of years to tell us why we’re broken, and about forty years to figure out why we can’t get married (the first American cases were in 1971, according to HRC). Based on what I’ve been hearing for the past 27 years of my own life, it sounds like they’ve run out of new ideas.

On the other hand, every committed same-sex couple is another argument for same-sex marriage. Every kid who comes out is another reason to quit being a jerk and let him dream of white picket fences and a family and love and all the stuff that other kids think they’ll have before they learn how the world really works.

I’m highly optimistic that over the next ten years we won’t need arguments anymore. There is no need to debate what you can plainly see: that it’s love that makes a family, and the energy and breath we waste fighting over who should be a family could be much better spent supporting and encouraging the families that continue to exist whether we legally recognize them or not. It doesn’t require even a minute of legal research, or a page of historical reference. It needs neither clever twists of equality doctrine nor the due process guarantee. To see that same-sex marriage should not be denied any longer takes only a single ounce of kindness.