Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

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Tag: Government Lawyer – State Attorney General Clinic

Facebook, Google Face Multi-State Antitrust Regulations

Via WBUR 

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

A coalition of state attorneys general launch antitrust probes into Facebook and Google. They tell us why.

Guests

Phil Weiser, attorney general from Colorado. Served in the Obama Administration as a deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice. Served in President Clinton’s Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. (@pweiser)

James Tierney, founding director of StateAG.org, an educational resource on the office of state attorney general. Lecturer in law at Harvard Law School. Attorney General of Maine from 1980 to 1990.

Tim Wu, professor of law, science and technology at Columbia Law School. Author of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age.” Former senior adviser to the Federal Trade Commission for consumer protection and competitions issues that affect the internet and mobile markets. (@superwuster)

Stephen Houck, special counsel at Offit Kurman Attorneys at Law. Chief of the Antitrust Bureau at the New York State Attorney General’s Office from 1995 to 1999. Lead trial counsel for the 20 state plaintiffs in the government lawsuit against Microsoft. He’s on retainer with Google for general advisement about antitrust issues.

From The Reading List

Statement From Google

Google’s services create choice for consumers, and spur innovation in the U.S.

Kent Walker, SVP, Global Affairs

Google’s services help people, create more choice, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the United States. Google is one of America’s top spenders on research and development, making investments that spur innovation: Things that were science fiction a few years ago are now free for everyone—translating any language instantaneously, learning about objects by pointing your phone, getting an answer to pretty much any question you might have.

At the same time, it’s of course right that governments should have oversight to ensure that all successful companies, including ours, are complying with the law. The Department of Justice, for example, has announced that it’s starting a review of online platforms.

We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us. The DOJ has asked us to provide information about these past investigations, and we expect state attorneys general will ask similar questions. We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so.

We look forward to showing how we are investing in innovation, providing services that people want, and engaging in robust and fair competition.

Facebook did not respond to requests for an interview or statement.

New York Times: “New Google and Facebook Inquiries Show Big Tech Scrutiny Is Rare Bipartisan Act” — “There is a major force uniting America’s fiercely partisan politicians: big technology companies. Democrats and Republicans at the federal and state levels are coming together to scrutinize the power of the Silicon Valley giants and, potentially, to rein them in.

Get highlights, extras and notes from the hosts sent to your inbox each week with On Point’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

“Letitia James, the Democratic attorney general of New York, announced on Friday that attorneys general in eight states — four Democrats and four Republicans — and the District of Columbia had begun an antitrust investigation of Facebook.

“Next up for state regulators is Google. A similarly bipartisan group led by eight attorneys general is set to announce on Monday a separate but comparable investigation. The search giant is expected to be the focus of the inquiry, according to two people familiar with the plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity before the official announcement. Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas, a Republican, is taking a leading role in the Google investigation, the people said.

“The state inquiries coincide with bipartisan scrutiny of the tech giants in Washington, by House and Senate committees, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. Federal officials are examining the practices of Amazon and Apple as well as those of Facebook and Google.”

Washington Post: “Facebook, Google face off against a formidable new foe: State attorneys general” — “The nation’s state attorneys general have tangled with mortgage lenders, tobacco giants and the makers of addictive drugs. Now, they’re setting their sights on another target: Big Tech.

“Following years of federal inaction, the state watchdogs are initiating sweeping antitrust investigations against Silicon Valley’s largest companies, probing whether they undermine rivals and harm consumers. Their latest salvo arrives Monday, when more than 40 attorneys general are expected to announce their plan to investigate Google, delivering a rare rebuke of the search-and-advertising giant — and its efforts to maintain that dominance — from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The states seek to probe allegations that the tech industry stifles start-ups, delivers pricier or worse service for Web users, and siphons too much personal information, enriching their record-breaking revenue at the cost of consumer privacy.”

Bloomberg: “FTC Chief Says He’s Willing to Break Up Big Tech Companies” — “The head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said he’s prepared to break up major technology platforms if necessary by undoing their past mergers as his agency investigates whether companies including Facebook Inc. are harming competition.

“FTC Chairman Joe Simons, who is leading a broad review of the technology sector, said in an interview Tuesday that breaking up a company is challenging, but could be the right remedy to rein in dominant companies and restore competition.

“‘If you have to, you do it,; Simons said about breaking up tech companies. ‘It’s not ideal because it’s very messy. But if you have to you have to.’ “

New York Times: “How Each Big Tech Company May Be Targeted by Regulators” — “Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have been the envy of corporate America, admired for their size, influence and remarkable growth.

“Now that success is attracting a different kind of spotlight. In Washington, Brussels and beyond, regulators and lawmakers are investigating whether the four technology companies have used their size and wealth to quash competition and expand their dominance.

“The four firms are lumped together so often that they have become known as Big Tech. Their business models differ, as do the antitrust arguments against them. But those grievances have one thing in common: fear that too much power is in the hands of too few companies.

“The attorney general of New York, Letitia James, said Friday that the attorneys general in eight states — she and three other Democrats, plus four Republicans — and the District of Columbia had begun an antitrust investigation of Facebook.”

Allison Pohle produced this show for broadcast.

This program aired on September 10, 2019.

My Time in the State Attorney General Clinic

By: Sharon Kelleher, J.D. ’19

Sharon Kellher ’19

One of my most meaningful experiences at Harvard Law School was serving as a clinical student with the Consumer Protection Division (CPD) of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in the fall of my 3L year.

As a part of the State Attorney General Clinic, my three months at CPD provided firsthand exposure to the variety of ways in which the Attorney General protects the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable consumers through civil investigations, litigation, and policy work. I now more fully appreciate the expansive ability of the Attorney General to advocate for fairness in the treatment of consumers by organizations that do business in our state. I also gained valuable legal research, writing, and advocacy skills and a significant glimpse into public service within state government, which is a career path I am now interested to pursue.

Throughout the semester, I reviewed consumer complaints for investigations of unfair and deceptive practices by debt collectors, observed depositions and interviews, and conducted legal research to support arguments in litigation over data breaches. I also had the chance to observe court appearances, draft motions, and learn more about the legislative side of CPD’s work, such as advocating for consumer protection policies. I was introduced to nearly all facets of CPD’s practice areas during my clinical experience, and each project proved educational and eye-opening. I appreciated the unique latitude the team afforded to me in contributing to CPD’s efforts.

Of all the experiences during this clinic, I was proudest of my legal research and writing projects. By receiving active feedback from attorneys throughout the process, I honed these skills and contributed to ongoing matters at CPD. While these projects often revealed the difficulty in advocacy work, I felt energized to craft the strongest argument or to master the law on a niche issue presented. I am more confident entering my legal career having had this experience and, as a Massachusetts’ native, am proud and honored to have contributed to the important work CPD handles every day on behalf of citizens.

States where HLS students have worked through the clinic over winter term.
Credit: Melissa Courage Korta

Besides the substantive work, I also felt welcomed and appreciated by the attorneys working in the CPD. Through the leadership of the clinical program and CPD supervisors, I hit the ground running and felt part of the team from day one. The attorneys included me in case meetings, conference calls with opposing counsel, and court visits. These opportunities provided vital insight into the interpersonal, analytical, and judgmental skills necessary to work in a division that deals with a variety of pressing, and often publicized, legal issues.

I am so grateful for my time working with the Consumer Protection Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. Few experiences in law school have so significantly contributed to my understanding of the power of lawyers to make positive changes in our communities, and I hope to continue seeking experiences that provide a similar balance of intellectual rigor and public service.

 

The Shutdown Threatens the Promise of Government Jobs — and A Way of Life

Via The Washington Post 

Source: Flickr

By: Todd C. Frankel , Taylor Telford and Danielle Paquette

Three weeks of no pay and lots of uncertainty has changed how aerospace engineer Robert Sprayberry thinks about his job. He joined the Federal Aviation Administration a decade ago because it promised him a stable career with steady hours. He might not earn as much money as he could in the private sector, but he could be home more to help raise three young children.

But that careful career calculation has been undercut by a partial federal government shutdown that on its 25th day is the longest in history, with 800,000 employees not getting paychecks because of a budget impasse over border wall funding. So Sprayberry’s wife picks up extra shifts as a nurse to make up for his lost income. And he has started looking around for a new job, this time with a private firm.

“If I’m going to put up with this level of stress,” Sprayberry, 38, said, “I might as well get paid for it.”

A job in the government has long been underwritten by the understanding that while you wouldn’t strike it rich on the federal pay scale, you also didn’t need to worry about the corporate world’s mercurial whims. The focus was on serving the public, rather than pursuing profits. The pace could be frustratingly inefficient, but it also was not maddeningly chaotic. And the trade-off came with solid health and retirement benefits.

That grand bargain — deployed for decades to lure talent into the government ranks — is threatened today by a bruising shutdown with no end in sight. And this is the third shutdown in one year. The other two shutdowns were brief — the longest ran two days. But they were tremors foreshadowing what was to come. The situation is exacerbated by a president who appears to view many government workers with contempt, deriding the federal bureaucracy as “the Deep State” and noting derisively via tweet that he thinks most government workers are Democrats.

So a government gig suddenly doesn’t look quite so secure. The mission is muddied. The bloom is off. And the potential for a federal brain drain — along with drags on recruitment and morale — looms large.

“The end of the shutdown is not the end of the harm,” said Max Stier, chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group that has surveyed job satisfaction in government agencies for the last 15 years.

Morale at government agencies already was suffering under President Trump’s administration, according to the Partnership’s 2018 Best Places to Work in Government survey, which found marked declines in job satisfaction since the Obama administration at a range of agencies, including the State and Agriculture departments. Under Trump, the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Homeland Security were among the agencies that saw their poll numbers go up.

Trump’s administration imposed a federal hiring freeze and has seen high turnover among key political appointees.

Now, a lingering shutdown is raising tensions. Some federal workers have been forced to return to their jobs without pay. Unions representing Treasury employees and air traffic controllers sued the Trump administration to claim this was wrong. But a federal judge declined to issue an emergency intervention in the case Tuesday.

It’s difficult to measure the impact of a shutdown with an annual job satisfaction survey, Stier said. But government rankings took a slight hit during a 17-day government shutdown in 2013.

“It’s certainly true that there are real consequences to a shutdown,” Stier said.

It was one of the factors that made Aaron Johnson, 26, reconsider his career choice. He is a security guard at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Protecting the artifacts, he said, gave him a sense of purpose and introduced him to people from around the world.

Lost wages have irked Johnson, but it was the president’s comments about the federal workforce in recent months that truly pushed him to look for a new job — perhaps in retail.

“As long as he’s in office, I need to try to get somewhere where I can feel secure,” Johnson said.

Anel Flores, a mission systems engineer at Goddard, the NASA facility in Greenbelt, Md., is also tired of Trump’s attacks on federal workers. So when he returns to work — whenever that is — he plans to file for retirement after 36 years at NASA.

“Why do I have to worry about the president throwing another tantrum?” Flores said.

Trump is not the first U.S. president to cast doubts on the federal workforce. President Ronald Reagan famously said that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” President Bill Clinton received a report on government reform from his vice president that described federal workers as “good people trapped in a bad system.”

But Trump has gone further in suggesting — without proof — that federal workers are working to undermine his administration, said David Lewis, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University who studies the presidency and federal service branch.

The combination of a boss who is denigrating your work and a shutdown with an unknown ending might lead more federal workers to jump ship.

“They’ll ask themselves, ‘Why am I sacrificing? I could be working in the private sector,’ ” Lewis said.

Some workers already are testing the waters. An upcoming job fair for workers with security clearances has seen a 20 percent jump in registrations over last year’s, said Rob Riggins of Cleared Jobs, which is organizing the Jan. 31 event in Tysons, Va. He attributed the increase to the shutdown.

“People are getting nervous,” Riggins said. “They want to have a contingency plan.”

Others are avoiding the federal government from the start. Jim Tierney, who teaches at Harvard Law School, said he’s noticed a spike in interest in his state attorneys general law clinic under Trump. He attributed the change to Trump’s frequent attacks on the federal Justice Department and drastic curtailment at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

These fledgling attorneys — some of the best in the country — are looking beyond the familiar hotshot attorney posts with the federal government, Tierney said.

“Traditionally, you’d never have Harvard Law grads going to a state AG’s office,” said Tierney, a former Maine attorney general. “But then they look at what’s happening in D.C.”

Not every federal agency will suffer equally if workers start looking around for new jobs, said Jeri Buchholz, NASA’s head of human resources until she retired three years ago. The FBI will always be the FBI, she said. Astronauts still want to work at NASA. But, she said, economists and attorneys might find plenty of opportunities in the private sector.

The shutdown will hurt recruiting for government jobs, Buchholz said. “If any private company was doing what the federal government is doing right now, they’d lose their reputation, and good people wouldn’t go to work there.”

The shutdown also has made it harder for the government to find new hires — a point of emphasis for agencies such as the Border Patrol. Trump signed an executive order shortly after he took office calling for the agency to hire 5,000 more agents.

Last week, the Border Patrol was supposed to host a recruiting booth at a Houston boat show. But the shutdown put an end to that. No staff could be spared. The Border Patrol was forced to cancel.

Corruption-fighting AG? Easy to say, harder to do.

Via Crain’s Chicago Business

Source: Flickr.com

By: Tim Jones

Come election time, it’s popular for Illinois Republicans and Democrats, when political circumstances suit them, to clamor for the state’s top lawyer to investigate corruption—almost always, to no avail.

But a few weeks ago, Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan began investigating the Rauner administration over how it handled a spate of Legionnaires’ Disease-related deaths at the state home for veterans in Quincy.

And the GOP cried foul.

“Clearly partisan,” charged Travis Sterling, executive director of the Illinois Republican Party.

Even though 14 people have died, and WBEZ news reports show the Rauner administration waited nearly a week to notify the public about the initial outbreak, the Quincy case vividly illustrates why laws in Illinois and almost all other states make it very difficult for elected attorneys general to lead the very anti-corruption crusades partisans often call for.

What one party may hail as a righteous quest for justice, the other likely will condemn as a politically tainted abuse of power.

Yet candidates often cannot resist taking up the cudgel of anti-corruption, sometimes identifying their targets by name.

“If I say, ‘Elect me and I’ll go after Donald Trump or Speaker (Mike) Madigan or Jared Kushner,’ anyone who says that is absolutely wrong,” said James Tierney, former attorney general of Maine and now a lecturer at Harvard Law School. “That is the opposite of what our criminal justice system is supposed to be about.”

Read the full article here.

The National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School is now StateAG.org

Via StateAG.org

We are pleased to announce the official launch of StateAG.org, an educational resource on the office of state attorney general. Led by Director James E. Tierney – Lecturer-in-Law at Harvard and Columbia Law Schools, former Maine Attorney General, and former Director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School – StateAG.org examines the wide-ranging impact and role of state attorneys general in U.S. law and policy.

The website contains:

In addition, through StateAG.org Initiatives, Director Tierney and his team work closely with state AG staff throughout the country to build capacity and foster strategic alliances with other government agencies and advocacy organizations in addressing the myriad of legal and policy issues facing government actors. Current major initiatives include:

We invite you to explore our website and share your comments and questions through our contact form.

Derek Manners ’16 wins CLEA’s Outstanding Clinical Student Award

Derek Manners J.D. ’16

Derek Manners J.D. ’16

Derek Manners J.D. ’16 is the winner of the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). The award is presented annually to one student from each law school for his/her outstanding clinical coursework and contributions to the clinical community.

Manners was nominated for his work by Maine’s former Attorney General and Lecturer on Law James E. Tierney who taught him in the Government Lawyer: State Attorney General Clinic, an externship clinic offering students the opportunity to do legal work at various AG offices around the country. Over the course of his three years at Harvard Law, Manners has logged over a thousand pro bono hours in service to the community and excelled as a clinical law student.

He began his fall 2014 semester with a placement at the State Attorney General Office in Connecticut and continued his work through the winter and spring semesters in 2015 as well as the spring semester in 2016. During this time, he worked on a number of  subprime mortgage cases. His supervisor reported that Derek played a “critical role” in understanding and organizing vast amounts of data needed to bring a case against a large investment bank. During that time, he also delved into the details of the cases and participated in national conference calls.

“Derek interned with my office for multiple semesters and, in short order, proved himself to be extremely capable and hard-working,” said Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen ’80. “He assisted with a large and important investigation, and his contributions were integral to our efforts. He developed very strong and positive relationships with my investigative team, and quickly grasped the legal issues at play in the case. I am grateful to him for his service and he is deeply deserving of this recognition from the CLEA.”

Manners’s direct supervisor in Hartford said: “Derek has three strengths you do not often see in a student: great intelligence, humility and an insatiable work ethic.”

Manners, who is legally blind,  traveled to his clinical placement every week by taking a bus from Boston to Hartford and staying overnight in a hotel. “While I have never had a student willing to make such a weekly trip to fulfill a clinic assignment,” said Tierney, “what impressed me with Derek’s work was the maturity of judgment. Although still a student, he truly served the cause of justice.”

“Derek impressed us all with his selfless devotion to his clinical work,” said Lisa Dealy, Assistant Dean of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. “Managing a busy clinical placement in another state while balancing other law school courses and activities is impressive – to do so for three semesters is extraordinary.”

On news of receiving this award, Manners stated: “I thoroughly enjoyed my clinical experiences. It was by far the most enjoyable part of my law school career. The work we did was important and allowed me to develop my skills as an attorney. I’m truly honored to have that effort recognized.”

In the winter of 2015, Manners also completed an independent clinical placement with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in Baltimore, during which he worked on a self-advocacy toolkit designed to help students having accessibility issues in higher education. Prior to starting clinical work, he also completed a summer internship in the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Externship Clinics: Students Make a Positive Contribution across the United States

externshipsThrough HLS’s externship clinics, students have the opportunity to work under the supervision of attorneys who are enthusiastic and interested in giving students glimpses into their day to day work, and in teaching them about ethical and professional responsibilities. Students learn to sharpen their analytical skills, and further develop their research and writing skills. Through these experiences they also learn about work-life balance, how to develop mentorship relationships with busy attorneys, and other issues that are part of law practice. At an HLS reception for Externship Supervisors, Jack Corrigan, who directs the Criminal Prosecution Clinic, noted that seeing students dedicated to make a difference rekindles idealism for everyone.

In the 2014-15 academic year, 304 HLS students worked on a wide range of legal matters including consumer protection, cybercrime, capital punishment, sports, employment, legal reform, and more. The clinical placements include death penalty legal resource centers, non-profit organizations, and local, state and federal governmental agencies across the United States.

It can be eye-opening to see an attorney in practice, in their communities, working hard to make a difference, even if this is not going to be where students stay to practice, says Liz Solar, Externship Director. “Doing an externship placement is a wonderful opportunity for students to hone their legal skills in that real-life setting and to also make a valuable contribution, whether it’s with a local DA’s office, an administrative law or legal services office. We also know from speaking with professors who teach clinical courses that clinical students deepen and enrich classroom discussions. ”

This fall the State Attorney General Clinic, headed by Lecturer on Law and former Attorney General of Maine Jim Tierney, offered students a new opportunity to work with the AG’s Office in Connecticut. Two HLS students participated and one of them, Derek Manners, J.D. ’16, returned to continue his clinical work in the spring semester. Speaking about his time at the AG’s office, Derek said that “the chance to practice legal research, writing, document review, excel skills, and even some old fashioned algebra and statistics made for an entertaining and dynamic internship. Add to that the amazing and intelligent attorneys I got to work with; I couldn’t have been more pleased with this opportunity.”

In an another blog post, Jim Tierney who regularly meets with his students and encourages them to participate in classroom discussion said that he particularly loves “the wide geographical diversity” at Harvard, and that almost all of his students want to “go back home and make their state and country a more just place to live.”

HLS students in the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic share this desire to make a positive difference. Every year, they contribute over 500 hours of research and writing to the Massachusetts courts, bringing much needed help to the judges and clerks who operate with limited resources.

“Please give [my HLS student] the highest possible grade for his work with me,” said the Hon. Mark L. Wolf of the U.S. District Court. “Thank you for making it possible for him to work with me.”

You can learn more about HLS Externship Clinics here.

Clinical Spotlight: James Tierney

Jim Tierney, Lecturer on Law & Director of the Government Lawyer: Attorney General Externship Clinic

James Tierney
Clinical Instructor and Director of the
State Attorney General Clinic

In 2002, after 10 years as Attorney General of Maine and 20 years consulting with attorneys general as well as being involved in major cases with them (tobacco, Microsoft, predatory lending, et. al.), Jim formed the National State Attorney General Program at Columbia Law School, a major “think tank” on issues that arise with the offices of state attorneys general. In 2010, he combined his Columbia responsibilities with coming to Harvard Law School where he teaches a course on the Role of the Attorney General and directs the State Attorney General Clinic.

Jim has always been fascinated with the intersection of law and social policy. He says “because both come together in the offices of state attorneys general, I have been hooked on state AG’s for 35 years.”

His proudest accomplishment at Harvard has been the expansion of the existing AG clinic in the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General to all other states. During the winter term, students worked on the East and West coasts, as well as AG offices in New Mexico, Missouri, and Illinois.

Jim loves teaching. He meets with every student regularly and encourages students to talk in every class. “I particularly love the wide geographical diversity I find at Harvard, and that almost all of my students want to “go back home” and make their state and country a more just place to live” he says.

Jim describes his wife as a “reformed lawyer” as well as a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. He loves to read the fiction she suggests and goes with her on her many book tours and speaking engagements. “And, of course, I love Maine high school basketball. Doesn’t everyone?”