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.
By Pheby Liu
Pheby Liu is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.
On March 29, 2017, Simon Edelman, the chief creative officer for the U.S. Department of Energy, was photographing a meeting between Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Robert Murray, the chief executive of Murray Energy Corporation - he had made political significant contributions to both Perry and Trump’s campaigns.  Edelman said that Murray and Perry were discussing an “action plan” for policy changes that would favor Murray Energy as well as other coal companies. His photos showed the coversheet of the confidential “action plan” as well as Perry and Murray hugging.  After hearing the conversations between the two men, Edelman felt that something was not right and decided to release his photos to In These Times and the Washington Post. Shortly after, his personal items were seized, and he was put on administrative leave. The Energy Department proceeded to fire him without any explanation. 
By Connor Gallagher
Connor Gallagher is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying chemical and biomolecular engineering.
Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt died on Thursday, March 29, at the age of 87. He was appointed to the federal bench in 1980 by President Carter, serving on the Ninth Circuit for nearly four decades. 
Considered a “liberal lion,” Reinhardt frequently found himself at odds with the conservative-leaning Supreme Courts of the past several decades. Maybe the most famous was the 2004 Supreme Court decision, Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, which overruled his holding that the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Establishment Clause.  Reinhardt also wrote opinions striking down a Washington State law banning physician-assisted suicide and the contentious “Prop 8” ballot proposition banning same-sex marriage in California. The former was overturned by the Supreme Court , the latter vacated. 
By Nicholas Parsons
Nicholas Parsons is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
Facebook’s recent Cambridge Analytica scandal and the subsequent congressional hearing on Mark Zuckerberg leave us with questions as to what extent companies should be allowed to access and share the information of its users. But what is the current state of affairs in the realm of internet privacy law? Before being able to state whether any laws should be changed to accommodate an increase in individual internet privacy, the current status of internet privacy law should be reviewed.
By Saxon Bryant
Saxon Bryant is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and Associate Editor of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal.
When it comes to due process, we have a flawed assumption as to how a trial by jury can proceed. As commonly understood, the two options presented before the jury are guilty or not guilty. The jury is meant to deliberate on the evidence presented during the trial, and based on that reach one of the two aforementioned verdicts. While simple, this choice does not tell the full story. Jurors have another option they can use. This third option is known as jury nullification. But what exactly jury nullification is and whether or not it’s legitimate has been a subject of debate for hundreds of years.
Jury nullification is a jury's knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law.  It occurs when juries render a verdict that is contrary to the evidence and has been a staple of the American judicial and constitutional system for centuries now. The Declaration of Independence gives nullification credence in saying that a government only has legitimate power with “the consent of the governed.”  A law which lacks that consent is arguably an improper law. Juries also have a constitutional basis, such as the Sixth Amendment, which grants the accused an inviolable right to a jury determination of his guilt or innocence in all criminal prosecutions. Because of this right, a trial judge absolutely cannot direct a verdict in favor of the State or set aside a jury's verdict of not guilty, "no matter how overwhelming the evidence," as was reaffirmed in Sullivan v. Louisiana (1993).  This rule is designed to safeguard what United States v. Spock (1969) defined the jury's power as: intended "to arrive at a general verdict without having to support it by reasons or by a report of its deliberations" and to protect its historic power to nullify or temper rules of law. 
By Owen Voutsinas-Klose
Owen Voutsinas-Klose is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics and minoring in Legal Studies and History in the College of Arts and Sciences.
In 2016, Makhan Delrahim predicted that the recently announced AT&T and Time Warner merger would be approved by regulators quickly. “I don’t see this as a major antitrust problem” Delrahim, at the time a law professor, told a media outlet. Yet in 2017, almost exactly a year later, the Justice Department under Delrahim (now serving as the Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division) suddenly blocked the merger weeks after it had been expected to have been approved. The question of what caused the sudden change of heart for Trump’s Justice Department and the man who leads its antitrust efforts is central to the impending trial that has far reaching implications for future antitrust policy. 
By Justin Yang
Justin Yang is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.
The President of the United States effectively has one formal legislative power—he can sign or veto any bill passed by Congress. This power fits within the general scheme of the separation of powers, where the President can check Congress’ legislative actions. Of course, as time has passed, the President has gained more powers that resemble lawmaking, from heading administrative agencies that introduce regulations to issuing executive orders. Another practice that arguably is legislative is the President’s ability to attach signing statements to bills he has approved. These signing statements are written pronouncements that communicate the President’s thoughts on a bill, ranging from commenting on a bill’s effectiveness to pointing out perceived constitutional deficiencies and explaining how he will interpret and execute the law. This raises questions on whether the President has overstepped his powers and whether signing statements are unconstitutional.
By Luis Bravo
Luis Bravo is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying Sociology.
Spotify playlists, Google advertisements, and Amazon product search results are all tailored to individuals utilizing the power of algorithms. While algorithms are quickly becoming a consequential component of our everyday lives, we are only starting to learn about their limitations and potentially detrimental impacts. Incidents like Facebook’s trending topic controversy which centered around the company’s suppression of conservative media indicate that algorithms might be anything but neutral . While the legal system can be a powerful deterrent against algorithmic discrimination, it has yet to adapt to the digital age.
Oftentimes referred to as artificial intelligence, algorithms are mathematical formulas performed by computers that can be used to describe data, predict trends, and prescribe courses of action . Algorithms work by analyzing input data with mathematical formulas which results in an output, usually in the form of a recommendation. While many presume algorithms cannot be biased, algorithms can face constraints at every step of the algorithmic process. Perhaps the most concerning biases are those that replicate and reinforce societal disadvantages. This is the case with Northpointe’s COMPASS sentencing system, an application that is designed to help judges decide parole sentences by predicting an individual’s chance of recidivism .
By Libby Rozbruch
Libby Rozbruch is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Psychology.
With the growing sophistication of artificial intelligence, many professions are adapting and beginning to operate on a more effective level – and what better profession to benefit from the efficiency of artificial intelligence than that which relies on precedent via endless amounts of data? Though known for being traditional and slow to change, the legal profession is inevitably embracing disruptive technologies that are forcing them to re-think the status quo.  Perhaps the potential for a paradigm shift in how legal work is done and how lawyers look at data is exactly what the profession needs.
The use of AI is particularly relevant to the legal sphere, as its primary function involves looking for patterns in data.  Every good lawyer knows that the key to persuasive communication is to tell a story, and deep within the data lies a story to be pitched to a potential client or to be told to a judge at trial. In order to tell that story, lawyers need to be able to sift through the data.
By Anna Schwartz
Anna Schwartz is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania studying Political Science, French, and Economic Policy.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida experienced the loss of 17 lives and the hospitalization of 14 more during a school shooting in February. The massacre marks the 17th school shooting in 2018. Everytown for Gun Safety adds to the count "any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds" because “it can shatter a child's sense that they are safe in their school and in their community”. While each instance of gun violence may not directly result in the death, the situations impact the lives of both students and the others in the neighborhood.
By Alana Mattei
Alana Mattei is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE).
On the night of March 18th, tragedy struck in Tempe, Arizona, when an autonomous vehicle operated by Uber struck and killed a pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg.  This incident marks the first time that a self-driving car has been involved in a fatal collision. Self-driving cars are a relatively new technological development that has been released onto the streets for testing in some areas. In 2015, three years prior to Herzberg’s death, Arizona governor Doug Ducey made an executive order in support of autonomous vehicles. The order instructed that Arizona agencies “undertake any necessary steps to support the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles on public roads within Arizona.”  This order, like a similar law passed in California, requires that a human operator monitors the vehicle and has the ability to take control of its movement if necessary.
Technology and law are moving increasingly closer. Just a little over a week ago, the California DMV proposed new regulations in support of driverless cars.  Notably missing from these regulations is a test for the vehicles by anyone other than their own manufacturer before they hit the road. Under these regulations, companies will “self-certify” their vehicles and no test will be performed by a third-party. Herzberg’s death shows that more oversight is necessary in the testing of these vehicles on public roads. A lack of proper testing before the technology is released could lead to similar incidents in the future. Thus, it may be necessary for a human to remain in the driver’s seat in order to develop the legal basis for autonomous vehicles. The vehicle that struck Herzberg did in fact have a human in the driver’s seat who was there precisely to stop such a thing from happening.