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 Kaitlyn Rentala
Kaitlyn Rentala is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).
On October 8, the Supreme Court heard three major cases about Title VII and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The first case, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which was consolidated with the second case, Altitude Express v. Zarda, dealt with whether or not sexual orientation was a subset of sex, which is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The third case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, dealt with whether or not transgender status or gender identity was protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Both cases were toted as the biggest cases to be heard in front of the Supreme Court during this term, and could prove to be landmark decisions with major ramifications for both sides. I was one of the lucky 62 members of the public to sit in on oral arguments.
Private prisons are exploiting the criminal justice system to turn immense profits—and it’s happening right under our noses.
By Lyndsey Reeve
Lyndsey Reeve is a freshman in the College with a prospective major in International Relations.
Prisons—unlike shorter-term jails—hold inmates for lengthy sentences received for serious offenses. While many prisons are public and thus government-operated, privatized incarceration can be a profit-generating machine: the more inmates, the more money a for-profit prison can raise. By capitalizing on the boom of the internment business, private enterprises such as Political Action Committees (PACs) can influence our modern political process. Because they are used to manipulate our criminal justice system for personal gain, these private prisons threaten our democracy.
By Vikram Balasubramanian
Vikram Balasubramanian is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania studying International Relations.
The United States has been struck with an epidemic of police violence, in which citizens deserving of equal protection under the law are unjustly brutalized by police. Yet, whenever someone tries to hold cops accountable, they are unable to. It is nearly impossible to sue a police officer for damages in the United States. In 2009, in Pearson v. Callahan, the Supreme Court ruled that government officials are protected from lawsuits (as an individual) unless the plaintiff can show that the official violated a “clearly established” constitutional or statutory right.  This is commonly known as the qualified immunity doctrine. Technically, the government can still be sued for damages caused by the official’s actions. However reasonable this might sound, the way it has been applied in court has resulted in a system in which officers are nearly always unaccountable
By Hailie Goldsmith
Hailie Goldsmith is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania
With an estimated count of 130,000 homeless individuals, the extent of the homeless population is severe and ever-growing in California . After a September visit to San Francisco and Los Angeles, the major sites of California’s homeless population, President Trump solely focused on the potential environmental implications of the homelessness crisis. He criticized the used syringes entering the Pacific Ocean as well as open defecation and its potential to violate federal water-quality standards by spreading dangerous pathogens and contaminants .
By Nicholas Williams
Nicholas Williams is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, planning on majoring in political science.
At his confirmation hearing in September of 2018, then-Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh said that, if confirmed, he would “always strive to be a team player on the Team of Nine” . Since his confirmation hearing and subsequent confirmation, many Democratic presidential candidates have been open to expanding this “Team of Nine,” including Elizabeth Warren , who has recently overtaken Biden for the top spot in the Democratic primary, according to recent polls . Warren claims that such court-packing efforts would “depoliticiz[e]” the Supreme Court . While Warren is correct that the Supreme Court is becoming increasingly politicized, expanding the Supreme Court is not the answer to this problem.
By Suprateek Neogi
Suprateek Neogi is a fourth-year student at the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab studying Law and specializing in Business Laws.
India’s arbitration regime has been criticized by the international community as being non-friendly towards arbitration. Despite good intentions, Indian courts often behave in an interventionist manner while dealing with arbitration disputes. For instance, legal provisions for setting aside and refusal of enforcement of arbitral awards for “public policy” considerations had been inserted into the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“the Act”) to minimise court interference. These provisions have led to certain decisions by Indian Courts which set questionable precedents for the validity of arbitral awards.
By Sophie Lovering
Sophie Lovering is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and minoring in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies.
In 1971, President Richard Nixon called for a war on drugs, increasing sentencing and enforcement actions for low-level drug offenses . In the following decade, President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy Reagan not only continued but also built upon Nixon’s initiative, passing new policies and starting the “Just Say No” campaign . This war on drugs categorized substance abuse as a criminal justice issue in the minds of many Americans. With the concurrent expansion of drug law enforcement, this led to a massive increase in the number of people incarcerated.
By Emma Davies
Emma Davies is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania studying Philosophy.
Immigration reform was a main platform position of President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign and his presidential term. Over the past two years, significant policy changes in the executive branch’s agenda include a ban against individuals from predominantly Muslim countries, lowering refugee admissions, increasing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests, and terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, among others. A change in the “public charge” ruling, a provision that details who is inadmissible or not as a potential immigrant, has become a part of Trump’s docket of anti-immigrant policy initiatives .
By Jessica "Lulu" Lipman
Jessica "Lulu" Lipman is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania studying English.
The ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft have made waves in the transportation industry by allowing riders to connect to drivers nearby and catch rides for a reasonable price. These apps are part of the broader “gig economy” in the United States, which includes freelance workers and independent contractors, such as delivery people at DoorDash. More than one-third of the Americans in the workforce are part of the gig economy. 
By Rachel Gu
Rachel Gu is a sophomore in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania studying Bioengineering.
On October 27, 1970, the Controlled Substances Act was passed, establishing four levels of drug severity. Marijuana was classified as one of the most dangerous substances and carried the highest penalties in the U.S. . Today, 33 states have legalized medical marijuana, with 10 states and Washington D.C. having also legalized recreational marijuana use. As a result, the cannabis industry is rapidly expanding, with companies fighting to establish a dominant foot in the nascent field. When attempting to pioneer a new industry, companies must effectively protect their branding, marketing methods, and new products. However, due to marijuana’s illegal status on the federal level, intellectual property law and trademarking has become slightly more complicated.