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Law 395: Creating New Legal Tools to Address the Environmental Impacts of Energy Projects

Note: This is a standard seminar in which students may enroll as they would in any regular course. Mr. Hayes. Autumn term. 3 units.

A domestic energy boom is underway with major new energy projects being sited on both private and public lands, including wind projects, utility-scale solar projects, oil and gas projects, and associated transmission lines and pipeline projects. Many of these projects have significant footprints, with related negative impacts on their local environments. Students will work with policymakers in Sacramento and Washington this fall in evaluating new regulatory and market-based options to address the environmental impacts of energy-related projects. In doing so, seminar participants will be working “in real time” on new state and federal initiatives to develop more expedited and effective mechanisms to compensate for environmental impacts of energy and other infrastructure projects, including a number of large renewable energy projects that currently are being developed on public and private lands in California. The seminar also will explore the full range of environmental issues associated with major infrastructure development, including an in-depth discussion and evaluation of permitting reforms and environmental issues that the Administration is now addressing under Executive Order 13604 (President Obama’s infrastructure permitting reform initiative).


Law 413A: Addressing Obesity in Santa Clara County

Professors Rhode  and Brest. 3 quarters, 2 units per quarter. (Students should enroll for Autumn-Winter, Winter-Spring, or all three quarters).

Rates of obesity have been rising throughout the United States. Obesity leads to poorer health outcomes across a range of measures, and also may substantially increase health care costs. Many of these costs are borne by local counties. In its role advising the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and various County agencies, the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office seeks to investigate policy initiatives, whether through regulations or programs in schools or elsewhere, that might reduce obesity among the County’s residents. The Counsel’s Office has asked for our assistance in this practicum. We plan to work on this program with an interdisciplinary team of faculty and students from the Medical School. The practicum will extend over a full year. Students may sign up for an entire year or may commit to two quarters—Autumn and Winter or Winter and Spring.


Law 413B: Election Administration and Reform

Professor Persily. Autumn quarter, 2 units.

Students in this policy lab will be conducting research on problems in administration that have plagued recent elections, as well as potential reform proposals. The areas of inquiry will include: wait times to vote, polling place location and management, poll worker recruitment and training, voting accessibility for uniformed and overseas voters, individuals with disabilities, limited English proficiency, voter rolls and poll books, voting machine capacity and technology, ballot simplicity and voter education, provisional ballots, absentee and early voting, and the adequacy of contingency plans for natural disasters and other emergencies that may disrupt elections. Students will be responsible for white papers on one or more of these issues, as well as creating bibliographies on these and related topics.


Law 413C. Improving Bone Marrow Donation Programs

Professors Kelman and Marshall. Autumn quarter, 3 units; Winter quarter, 2 units.

The National Bone Marrow Donation Program (NMBD) operates the “Be the Match Registry.” Individuals who register with Be the Match may be identified as potential donors of hematapoietic cells (most typically bone marrow) to patients facing life-threatening disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma, and aplastic anemia who do not have family members who are good matches to serve as donors. (Family members are appropriate for only 30% of patients needing these transplants.)

The NBMD is considering whether the procedures that it uses to attract people to enroll as potential donors in the registry could be improved, and also wants to investigate the further possibility that the proportion of potential donors who actually donate cells once it is discovered that they are a match for a particular patient could be increased. Social psychologists here at Stanford are interested in working with the NBMD to examine some of the organization’s practices, taking advantage of the sorts of social psychological insights often employed by those interested in marketing products or increasing charitable donations. There are questions, of course, about the efficacy of the techniques that they might recommend in terms of increasing ultimate donation levels, but there are also significant questions about whether some of the techniques might run afoul of existing legal regulation or pose other sorts of problems for the organization.

Law students who choose to work on this practicum will almost surely work (in teams with other law students and in conjunction with social psychologists working on this issue and the NBMD) on the following issues:

  • To what extent is it consonant with existing medical privacy law (or laws that the NBMD might press to adopt) to reveal personal information about donees to potential donors, assuming that donors are more likely to donate to those with whom they feel a greater personal connection?
  • To what degree can NBMD simplify the process of registering potential donors without running afoul of current (or ideal) regulation protecting people against undergoing medical procedures in the absence of informed consent?
  • What sorts of material incentives for donation, if any, are permissible under current (or ideal) law and what stance should the NBMD take on the use of material incentives?

There may well be other related topics upon which students will work as well.


Law 413D: Institutional and Legislative Copyright Reform

Professor Goldstein. Autumn and Winter quarter(s), 2/3 units per quarter.

The US Copyright Office has developed an ambitious agenda for legislative and institutional reform of the American copyright system, and the Register of Copyrights would like us to assist in researching and formulating policy on two of the more pressing projects on its agenda, at least one of which will probably be the subject of hearings before the House Judiciary Committee this fall. This will require a student commitment to two quarters of work during the Fall and Winter Quarters. (Fully subscribed.)


Law 413E: Patent Troll Practicum

Professor Lemley. Autumn and Winter, 2013. 2 units per quarter.

Patent trolls -- those in the business of asserting patents rather than making products -- are a growing problem, accounting for as many as 60% of all patent lawsuits by some estimates. But analysis of trolls is complicated by disagreement as to what business models qualify as "trolls," by the fact that many trolls are small and hard to find data on, and by the deliberate efforts of some trolls to conceal their identity in shell companies.

This practicum will combine the resources of several academics across the country to produce the first comprehensive database of entity status for patent plaintiffs. Shawn Miller, the 2013-14 Olin National Fellow in Law and Economics, will direct the creation of the database under my supervision. He will work with teams of students to integrate and normalize existing databases from academics across the country, develop a single standard for coding, and begin the process of coding entity status for new law suits as they are filed. The database will be public and open to all users. Miller and student teams will have an opportunity to produce reports on the troll phenomenon, supplying a demand both in Congress, which is considering legislation to require trolls to disclose real parties in interest; the Patent and Trademark Office, which is considering similar regulations; and the Federal Trade Commission, which has launched an investigation of trolls.


Law413F: Relationship Between Mediation Confidentiality and Attorney Malpractice and Other Misconduct

Professor Hensler and Ms. Martinez. Autumn and Winter, 2013. 2 units per quarter.

The issue of confidentiality is central to contemporary mediation practice, yet raises significant public policy issues. The California Legislature has directed the California Law Revision Commission to analyze “the relationship under current law between mediation confidentiality and attorney malpractice and other misconduct and the purposes for, and impact of, those laws on public protection, professional ethics, attorney discipline, client rights, the willingness of parties to participate in voluntary and mandatory mediation, and the effectiveness of mediation, as well as any other issues that the Commission deems relevant,” with an eye to making recommendations for revising relevant state law. California is a leader in the ADR domain and significant changes in its policies regarding mediation have the potential to affect mediation law in other state courts as well as the federal court system. In this practicum students will work collaboratively to assist Commission staff identify issues for research and analysis, conduct research and prepare policy memoranda for consideration of Commission staff.

This project involves complex issues under the Fourth Amendment and such statutory structures as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Completion of the course in Criminal Investigation is a prerequisite, with exceptions only for those with demonstrable alternative background in Fourth Amendment law.


Law 413G: Social Mobility In Higher Education

Professors Banks and Brest. Autumn and Winter, 2013. 2 units per quarter.

The Mobility Project will explore ways to increase the representation at elite universities of high achieving students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Economically disadvantaged students are underrepresented at most selective colleges or universities. This despite the fact that in recent years a number of prominent universities (Stanford among them) have made their financial aid policies considerably more generous for students from lower income families.

Recent research indicates that the pool of resource disadvantaged, high achieving high school students is much larger than commonly thought. Each year, there are more than 25,000 high school seniors from relatively low income families whose standardized test scores and grades place them in the top 4% of high school students, making it likely that they could be admitted to, receive financial aid from, and thrive at a selective institution. Yet many thousands of these talented students do not apply to any top tier college. Some do not even apply to any four year school.

This failure in the matching of students to schools is socially significant. While higher education has long been a means of promoting mobility for individuals and across generations, the economic benefits of advanced education are even greater now than in past eras. Thus, it has become especially important that universities provide an avenue of advancement for talented students of all backgrounds.

The Mobility Project is also timely given the likelihood of increasing restrictions on race-based affirmative action. Expanding access to elite colleges for economically disadvantaged students will also contribute to the racial diversity of those institutions. The group of low income, high achievers is more racially diverse (and more specifically, has a higher representation of African Americans and Latinos) than the group of high achieving students from affluent families.

We will examine a variety of initiatives to increase the enrollment at elite universities of high achieving economically disadvantaged students. We hope to assemble a small interdisciplinary team of faculty and students from the Schools of Law, Education, and Humanities and Sciences to explore scalable interventions.


Law 413H: State Law Enforcement Access to Customer Records of Communication Companies

Professor Weisberg. Winter and Spring quarters, 2 units per quarter.

If California Senate Bill SCR 54 is enacted, as seems likely, the California Law Revision Commission will be tasked with modernizing California statutory law on law enforcement access to customer records of cell phone providers, internet service providers, social media companies, and other mobile and internet-based communication providers. The Commission would like us to prepare a thorough and balanced background study of the relevant legal and policy concerns, including civil liberties, public safety, and the scope of federal preemption in the area, with an emphasis on new and emerging communication services. This is likely to be a high profile project, with close attention from the Legislature and many interest groups.


Law 413I: Tax Regulatory Project

Professor Bankman. Autumn and Winter quarters, 2 units per quarter.

The changing economic landscape places great stress on the tax legislative process. This stress is magnified by flaws in existing statutes, and by taxpayer attempts to exploit those flaws. There are no statutory rules governing hundreds of billions of dollars of annual transactions. Much of this void is filled in (imperfectly) by Treasury regulations. This practicum will take a close look at one or two issues raised by one proposed Treasury regulation. We will look at the relevant literature, talk to stakeholders, and (possibly) and in our individual names, provide public comments and testimony on the regulation.


Law 413J: Court-Supervised Remediation of Complex Environmental Problems

Professors Simon and Sivas. Winter and Spring quarters, 2 units per quarter.

The Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic is representing an environmental group in a lawsuit against the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. The suit asserts that the agency has been polluting both surface and ground waters in the Salinas River Valley and Elkhorn Slough by discharging pesticide-laden farm irrigation run-off in violation of California environmental laws. If the plaintiffs prevail, the appropriate injunctive relief is likely to be complex. Neither the precise dimensions of the problem nor those of the most effective interventions to remedy it are known. So, ideally, relief should combine adaptive flexibility for the agency, meaningful accountability to the plaintiffs and the public, and an opportunity for all parties to learn in the process of the implementation. Policy Lab students will work with Professors Deborah Sivas (lead plaintiffs’ counsel) and Bill Simon on some aspect of a possible remedial regime.


Law 413K: Stream Flow Restoration Transactions

Mr. Szeptycki. Autumn and Winter, 2013. 2 units per quarter

Rivers in the western United States are subject to significant water withdrawals that have had major impacts on the health of their ecosystems, and water supplies face increased strain on a variety of fronts. Rapid growth in cities has fueled growing municipal demand for water. Federal agencies have imposed more restrictions on water withdrawals to restore aquatic species protected under the Endangered Species Act (such as Pacific salmon). A changing climate is bringing more severe droughts and reduced snowpack. In an effort to restore rivers in this difficult context, a number of conservation groups and state agencies have promoted voluntary transactions to put water back in streams, such as leasing water rights and funding irrigation efficiency improvements. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has extensive experience with these efforts through its funding of the Columbia Basin Water Transaction Program, and it intends to expand its program to other parts of the West. In doing so, NFWF faces the challenge of project locations where it can achieve the maximum conservation benefits for limited available dollars. Students in this policy lab will assist NFWF in developing an assessment methodology for identifying and analyzing watersheds in the western United States as potential locations for stream flow restoration transactions. Our work will focus on evaluating western states in terms of the extent to which they legally recognized the transfer of water rights for use in stream, and in terms of the regulatory, financial, and social hurdles such transactions face in each state. We will also analyze data related to stream flow impairments to identify regions where flow restoration will have the most benefits, and work with NFWF to integrate this information into its broader assessment. Finally, we will work with NFWF staff to integrate our work into their broader assessment and help them begin to evaluate specific candidate watersheds.