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 Connor Gallagher
Connor Gallagher is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying Chemical Engineering.
On November 3rd, the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Gambian Fatou Bensouda, announced that she is seeking to investigate the United States Armed Forces and the CIA for war crimes committed during the War in Afghanistan from 2003 to as recently as 2014.  One year ago, Bensouda released a report claiming that “members of the US armed forces appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, [and] outrages upon personal dignity on the territory of Afghanistan” and that “members of the CIA appear to have subjected at least 27 detained persons” to the same crimes, as well as “rape on the territory of Afghanistan and other States Parties,” including Poland, Romania, and Lithuania. 
As with any international organization, there are serious questions as to whether the International Criminal Court does in fact have jurisdiction over the American agents under investigation.
By Owen Voutsinas-Klose
Owen Voutsinas-Klose is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania
President Trump’s successful nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is considered by pundits to be a great accomplishment within/for an otherwise tumultuous Presidency. Trump’s appointments made to district and circuit courts have the potential to fundamentally shape the federal judiciary for decades to come by reorienting these critical courts (which are the final arbiter for more than 98% of cases) towards a more conservative tilt.
Trump has been criticized for his slow pace in nominating key administrative posts, but his administration has been uncharacteristically diligent when it comes to selecting judges, with his pace of judicial nominations exceeding that of President Obama’s.  In his first 200 days in office, Trump has nominated 44 judges, including 11 to circuit courts and 23 to district courts. In the same period of time, President Obama had only nominated five appeals judges and four district judges, despite having a larger Senate majority. Jeffrey Toobin, a legal writer for the New Yorker and a CNN analyst, attributes this disparity to the emphasis conservatives place on judicial appointments. He writes “Trump has also benefitted from the greater interest that conservatives, as compared with liberals, have shown in federal judicial appointments at all levels. Republicans simply care more than Democrats do about getting their people onto the bench.” .
By Harshit Rai
Harshit Rai is a student at the Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
Much has changed since the adoption of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. War, once a primary means of resolving foreign policy conflicts, was expressly outlawed under Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter. Additionally, the nature of wars has undergone significant change. Modern wars do not resemble traditional inter-state conflict but internal warfare, intra-state conflicts, civil wars and newer threats such as terrorism.
These conflicts are referred to as non-international armed conflicts and are covered under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, which guarantees a minimum yardstick of protection to combatants and prohibits their inhuman and degrading treatment. However, the treaty law which applies to non-international conflicts is not as extensive as that for state-to-state conflicts. 
By Bryce Klehm
Bryce Klehm is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying History.
On December 31, 2017, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) will be subject to congressional re-authorization. Section 702 allows the government to intercept various communications of foreigners located outside of the United States. It is mostly used by the National Security Agency (NSA) to gather signals intelligence on terrorist threats . The House Intelligence Committee claims it does not allow bulk collection targeting Americans.  The intelligence and law enforcement agencies may only use Section 702 with the approval of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The House Intelligence Committee views its as crucial in tracking and finding various terrorists, including the recently deceased ISIS leader, Haji Iman.
The controversy regarding its renewal centers on a loophole in Section 702, which allows for “backdoor” searches of electronic communications data. Using the “backdoor search” loophole, various government agencies can query the data collected under FISA and gather information about US citizens “accidentally” swept in.  For example, if the FBI is looking for evidence on a domestic target, they can search the communication data collected by the NSA. If it contains communications by a U.S. target to a foreign target, the agency is free to use the data as evidence. Indeed, the Supreme Court has recently seen an increase in the number of cases pertaining to digital privacy and Section 702.
By Nicholas Parsons
Nicholas Parsons is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying philosophy, politics, and economics.
As a means of highlighting positive events as well as a method of exposing wrongdoings, the press is a necessity. National and regional press here in America can operate independently of broader organizations or interest groups, allowing them to write freely. When it comes to college press, however, newspapers can be seen as representing or operating under a university, which makes the issue of independence more tricky.
States differ in their regulations on student press. In some, like California and several surrounding states, college students have several protections against censorship as well as free-expression protections for student journalists. Other states, like Florida and Texas, are currently in the process of gaining these protections. In Pennsylvania, however, neither is the case. As such, a college newspaper’s independence is not always guaranteed, and the student journalists themselves are not always protected from school interference. 
By Jonathan Lahdo
Jonathan Lahdo is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying business and international studies.
Just over a year ago, Michel Aoun was elected president of the Republic of Lebanon, ending a 29-month presidential vacuum in the Middle Eastern nation. Under Lebanon’s complicated sectarian system of government, the presidential position is reserved for a Maronite Christian, and it can take much deliberation in parliament before a consensus is reached as to who shall assume the post. Nevertheless, Aoun’s election marked the first time since the end of the country’s civil war that a Maronite Christian leader with a popular support base was elected president. 
Since then, Lebanon has seen a period of relative stability. Aoun’s close ties to Hezbollah have served well in the fight against ISIS, though they were not viewed favourably by Saad Hariri, the Prime Minister. The position of Prime Minister is reserved for a Sunni Muslim, and the appointment of Hariri, a vocal opponent of the Shiite Hezbollah, represented not only a concession on his part, but also a reduced role in Lebanese affairs played by one of his greatest supporters in the region, Saudi Arabia. 
By Cary Holley
Cary Holley is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying Political Science
Gerrymandering, the practice of constructing districts in an electorally-advantageous way, has been a component of American politics for quite some time now. Although the prospect of diluting a political adversary’s influence may seem attractive from a partisan perspective, gerrymandering hurts democracy as a whole. Considering that Pennsylvania was recently named as one of the worst gerrymandered states in the nation, it is pertinent to review how Pennsylvania got here and the implications of such a position. 
As mentioned earlier, Pennsylvania ranks highly among states that suffer the most from gerrymandering. According to a special report by NYU’s Brennan Center, Pennsylvanian districts have one of the most extreme levels of partisan bias. It is estimated that for 2012-2016, the average seat skew in Pennsylvania was 3+ extra Republican seats.  Such a finding begs the question: how and why did Pennsylvania become a paradigmatic example of extreme gerrymandering?
By Libby Rozbruch
Libby Rozbruch is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Psychology.
The ongoing legal battle between Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and the National Football League (NFL) represents the NFL’s latest high-profile fight over its ability to punish its players for their off-field behavior. On Aug. 11, the NFL announced a six-game suspension for Ezekiel Elliott, which stemmed from a year-long investigation of the domestic violence allegations made against Elliott in July 2016.  Though Elliott was never criminally charged and has denied wrongdoing, his suspension is in line with the NFL’s domestic violence policy, which states that “violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant.”  Nonetheless, the NFL has faced intense scrutiny for seeming to frequently flout its own domestic violence policy and inconsistently punishing its players.  Because of this, Ezekiel Elliott and the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) have called into question the NFL’s neutral arbitration.
By Steven Jacobson
Steven Jacobson is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania studying business and history.
Graduate students are anything but a core Republican constituency. Graduate degree holders backed Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, by a 21-point margin in last November’s election.  Nearly a calendar year after Ms. Clinton’s surprising loss to President Donald Trump, the president’s party is looking to deal another blow to graduate students. The Republicans’ proposed tax bill, which was introduced in the House of Representatives last week, scraps a key clause that makes graduate tuition more affordable. The new bill could sink many graduate students deeper into debt, or perhaps deter them from pursuing an advanced degree at all.
At issue is Section 117(d) of the tax code, which frees students from being taxed on any reductions they may receive from their institution in tuition.  Many students, particularly those in the STEM fields, rely on such reductions to make their graduate degrees affordable. In exchange for serving as teaching or research assistants for the university, many graduate students receive waivers that wipe out some or all of the sticker price for their degree. According to the American Council on Education, 145,000 graduate students receive such a discount, which amounts to about $15,000 on average.  This covers the nearly $18,000 that the average graduate student pays in tuition.  Under the current tax code, they need not worry about counting it as taxable income.
By Natasha Darlington
Natasha Darlington is a fourth year at the University of Warwick studying Law.
On September 22,, 2017, Uber, the most valuable startup in the world, lost its license to operate in London. This move stimulated much controversy and debate amongst trade unions and government ministers as well as customers and proponents of the company. In the shock ruling, Transport for London stated that it was revoking Uber’s license because it is “not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license.”  They argued that the company does not meet the necessary public safety and security implications in the way that it approaches reporting serious criminal offences or in the way it handles medical certificates.
In 2017, Uber’s net revenue rose 17% to $1.75 billion, showing continued demand for the ride company. Nevertheless, after a series of recent scandals related to alleged sexism in the workplace on top of claims that Uber does not provide drivers basic workers’ rights, these setbacks will undoubtedly hurt the company and enhance competition with competitors Lyft Inc. and Didi Chuxing.