Welcome to the Roundtable, a forum for incisive commentary and analysis
on cases and developments in law and the legal system.
on cases and developments in law and the legal system.
The Penn Undergraduate Law Journal had the opportunity to sit down with Penn Law’s Kermit Roosevelt, a professor of constitutional law, a novelist, and a member of the Roosevelt family.
Penn Undergraduate Law Journal: How did you come to teach at Penn Law?
Kermit Roosevelt: Well, I was always interested in teaching, from when I was in college and was trying to decide actually whether to go into philosophy graduate school or go to law school. In both of those cases, I was thinking about teaching and my parents talked me into going to law school. Because, they said it’s a faster path into teaching. Because, it takes you longer to get a PhD than a JD and it’s easier to get a teaching job in a law school than a Philosophy Department. Which I think is true. And if you do get that job, they'll pay you better and you’ll be working on issues that affect people’s lives, that people care about, that are socially relevant. And if you don’t get a job, you’ll have a degree that’s worth something. Whereas, if you get your philosophy PhD and you don’t get that philosophy teaching job your philosophy PhD isn’t opening up a lot of other doors for you. So, I was always interested in teaching and what that meant really was that while I was in law school, I was writing a lot of papers in trying to publish.
When I got to the school it was actually a bit of an adjustment. Because I was trying to approach it like philosophy graduate school and law has different concerns than philosophy. So, my first year of Law School, I was very unhappy and I was going to drop out and go get a philosophy PhD instead or maybe do a joint degree or something like that. But I actually took the GRE and I applied to graduate schools. I was accepted and I was going to fill out my leave of absence form at my law school but then I slept too late and missed the deadline on a Friday and that weekend I went out and met some girl and decided I would stay. In some ways my life turned on a random twist at that moment but it was all for the best I think.
Project on (Un)Fair Representation
By Rachel Pomerantz
Rachel Pomerantz is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.
When the Supreme Court protected voting rights in Evenwel v. Abbott, they protected the rights of many at-risk communities. However, the current eight-person bench dealt a blow to one group in particular: the Project on Fair Representation, a small but powerful legal defense fund based out of Texas. They describe themselves as supporting “litigation that challenges racial and ethnic classifications and preferences in state and federal courts.” 
However, upon closer analysis, their name and description are not entirely accurate. Their primary goal is to eradicate radical race-based preferences such as provisions of the Voting Rights Act, affirmative action, and congressional districts drawn to ensure minority groups can be heard in the political process. Furthermore, the use of “they/their” as pronouns for this group is also inaccurate; the Project on Fair Representation is made up of one man who has no legal or scholarly education, not to mention a law degree: Edward Blum.
Time To Adjust the Adjustment Act
President Obama’s recent visit to Cuba marks a significant turning point in the U.S.-Cuban relationship and, more importantly, the beginning of the end to one of the few remaining relics of the Cold War. Abolishing the trade embargo, which President Obama says the U.S. intends to do, would be the ultimate sign of normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States.  Yet, aside from the embargo, there remains a crucial piece of Cuba legislation on the books: the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA).
The CAA, signed into law in 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson, allows for the U.S Attorney General to “grant permanent residence to Cuban natives or citizens applying for a green card” who meet the conditions of having lived in the United States for at least one year, having been “admitted or paroled” and are “admissible as immigrants.”  The law’s initial purpose was to provide a haven for Cuba’s political refugees, escaping from the Communist regime of Fidel, and now Raul, Castro. Nevertheless, as the amount of political refugees coming from Cuba has dwindled and an increasing number of Cubans come to the U.S. for economic reasons, the law’s future is a matter of contentious debate.  Many Cuban-Americans, including Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) have called on Congress and the President to reform the Act, citing its frequent abuse by Cubans looking to take advantage of American welfare benefits.  Interestingly, the most passionate advocates for reforming the CAA are strongly opposed to normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States and believe Castro’s government to be politically repressive. For them, reforming the Act means making it possible only for victims of political persecution to take advantage of its protections.
By Marco DiLeonardo
Marco DiLeonardo is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying International Relations.
Hunger, in my view, is the most important issue plaguing the globe, especially developing countries. On a pragmatic and fundamental level, without food, a person will die.
Although global hunger statistics demonstrate an overall decreasing global trend, currently 795 million out of seven billion people starving.  While the direction in Asia has improved, the African continent is ever-plagued by increasing levels of malnutrition. Large sums of money and food are contributed daily by developed countries to combat this problem. Aid, however, is insufficient and ultimately not a solution to this crisis. Technological innovations aimed at improving both the quality and nutritional value of food through bioengineering as well as modern agricultural methods to increase production and yield are of paramount importance. Modernizing infrastructure, including basic transportation, is a fundamental prerequisite for this to occur. In the ultimate analysis, nevertheless, none of these objectives can be achieved in the absence of a properly functioning democracy which upholds human rights.
The Case for Academics as Judges
By Brónach Rafferty
Brónach Rafferty is a third-year law student at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
In the aftermath of the deaths of both Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S Supreme Court and Justice Adrian Hardiman of the Irish Supreme Court this year, there has been much discourse in both jurisdictions as to who should next be appointed to the judiciary. It is assumed that the next appointees to the court will have been practicing lawyers. However, is there not a case to be made for the legal academic as judge?
As I have alluded to in my most recent article, for the most part, the judiciary consists of a rather type specific grouping of people: privately educated, white, and mostly male.  Lawyers have a certain experience with the law in practice. Subsequently, the lawyer-judge develops, over the course of his education and experience, an individualized working conception upon which he will subconsciously rely.  And herein, it could perhaps be argued, lies the issue with lawyer-judges: it is their ‘working’ knowledge of the law in practice that serves to influence rationale and precedent in decisions, and it is the individualistic aspect of such a working conception of law that underlines the subjectivity of this understanding of law as had by lawyer judges. Furthermore, that it is a conception relied upon ‘subconsciously’ illustrates the way in which lawyers become part of an established way of thinking, a particular community of thought whereby thought process and actions are carried out without much attention given to the finer points of law. Little independent analysis or thinking outside the box is encouraged.
By Gabriel Maliha
Gabriel Maliha is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying criminology.
In 2014, a little less than 2 years after Colorado legalized the recreational use of Marijuana, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA), an arm of the National Office of Drug Control Policy, released its report on the impact of Marijuana legalization in Colorado.  It is based on information obtained from dozens of law enforcement, healthcare and other agencies.  Throughout this extensive report, some key statistics jump out. For example, compared to 2013 figures,, the 2014 RMHIDTA report states a 32 percent increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths, a 45 percent increase in driving under the influence (DUI) with positive THC (the chemical that gives marijuana its high) results, a 29 percent increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits, 38 percent increase in hospitalizations, and 72 percent increase in marijuana-related exposures. Other remarkable results include a 40 percent increase in school expulsions from school years 2008-2009 to 2013-2014, 30 injuries related to explosions in THC extraction labs in 2014 alone and a 12 percent increase in crime in Denver between 2012 and 2014. Further, there was a massive increase in interdiction of Colorado marijuana destined for other states and foreign countries using all routes including the U.S. postal service.
In many ways, Colorado is the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” of the marijuana legalization effort. It was the first state to legalize adult recreational marijuana use, it had legalized “medical” use since 2000, and it imposes only a sales tax on marijuana while many other jurisdictions tax the substance at all levels. Advocates of legalization contended that it would eliminate the black market, relieve prison overcrowding by minimizing arrests for sale and possession, and generate tax revenue for the state. Through September 2015, the state raised $63.4 million in taxes of which it spent $22 million on law enforcement (training officers to recognize impaired drivers and other functions), $29.9 million on schools (educating students about marijuana, additional school health nurses) and $6.6 million on local government .
By Habib Olapade
Habib Olapade is a junior at Stanford University studying political science.
If the past three years have taught us anything, it’s that there is nothing that scares a neo-Dixiecrat quite like a person of color waiting in front of a voting booth. Indeed, since the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, most individuals outside the former Confederacy (and a substantial number within it) have known this but have treated it like a carefully guarded family secret. The continuing fallout from the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, a case that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965’s main enforcement mechanism, has made the elephant in the room all the more visible. 
First, some background: the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed in part to stop Southern jurisdictions from preventing African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and Native Americans from exercising their Fifteenth Amendment rights. Section five, a critical portion of the law, allowed federal officials to preempt southern shenanigans by requiring states and certain jurisdictions across the country to gain approval for prospective changes in voting regulations before they could be put into effect.  This move was a drastic yet necessary one, as southern states could otherwise easily disenfranchise minority voters. Indeed, because federal lawsuits are not known for their brevity, these states could violate the Fifteenth Amendment time and again as long as they had a viable back-up plan and were willing to delay litigation. For example, in 1957, the Alabama state legislature decided that it was tired of sharing political power with the African-American population in Tuskegee and redrew the map so as to exclude all but five registered African-American voters from city limits. Somehow, the local political bosses managed to keep all Caucasian residents inside the municipality.
By Alice Giannini
Alice Giannini is a fourth-year law student at the University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy.
“The primary responsibility in the fight against terrorism lies with the member states. However, the EU can and should play a supportive role that helps respond to the cross-border nature of the threat.”
This is one of the first statements made in a presentation of the European Council’s policy on the fight against terrorism, a plague that has been taunting the European continent in the past several years like never before.  In the spirit of the words pronounced during that meeting, held in February 2015 after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in Paris, the heads of state of EU members declared that they would strive to “further reinforce action against terrorist threats” by focusing on four main areas of action: ensuring the security of citizens, preventing radicalization, safeguarding values, and cooperating with international partners. 
By Nayeon Kim
Nayeon Kim is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.
On March 29, the long-awaited Oculus Rift became available to the general public for purchase.  Although the virtual reality headset doesn’t seem to be ready to dominate the market just yet, this release clearly marks a big leap in the technology behind virtual reality in that a high-resolution fully-immersive virtual reality headset was actually made as a product and released to the world. The more significant thing is that Oculus Rift is not simply an interesting gadget introduced without context; it represents a beginning of the budding virtual reality hardware and software industry. This means that many other companies including Sony and HTC are also trying to develop virtual reality headsets and software.
Virtual reality is clearly a hot topic right now, but what does it have to do with law? The most obvious relationship would be that virtual environments can be used to facilitate real crimes, such as people using computers to steal sensitive personal information. Although these issues need to be addressed further, the more interesting issue is about crimes committed within the virtual space without any intent of causing harm in the real world. Most of the virtual reality headsets coming out today aim to fully immerse their users into a completely new but realistic universe. If a virtual environment is very realistic, a range of crimes happening in the real world can also happen in the virtual world. For example, someone may steal something valuable in a virtual world. Or a criminal may bomb a house in a virtual world and cause virtual damage to its residents. The more a virtual world feels like reality, the more crimes can happen in the virtual world.
By Regina Salmons
Regina Salmons is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying English.
Sometimes in law, as in life, it is not what we say, but how we say it. In the matters of the legal world and within the courtroom, the precise wording of statements can make all the difference. Where one places a comma can be the difference between winning and losing a case, and the order in which one structures a sentence can determine the outcome of someone’s life. Yet at the same time, how one reads the meaning of a text is often dependent on who is reading it, as interpretations often vary.
This past November, the Supreme Court heard Lockhart v. United States, a case that saw an entire argument revolving around whether or not the last clause of a sentence containing multiple modified the preceding clauses. Lockhart was undeniably guilty of possessing child pornography—a crime to which he had pleaded guilty. Lockhart had also previously been convicted for the first-degree sexual abuse of his girlfriend of the time. Because of his prior conviction, his presentence report judged that he be subjected to a ten year mandatory minimum sentence enhancement. The enhancement was based on the wording of a crime “relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor,” which the judgment decided encompassed the abuse of his adult girlfriend.