TRAYVON MARTIN CASE: A RETROSPECTIVE
“Looking Back, Moving Forward” “Trayvon Martin: Race, Rights and Justice”
In a two-part series, UF Law looked back at the Trayvon Martin case from various perspectives. The first event, a town hall-style meeting moderated by UF Law Professor Kenneth Nunn, welcomed the UF Law and Gainesville communities to offer their opinions on the case. The Feb. 5 discussion recounted the surprise some felt that there was not an immediate arrest in the case and the possibility that something similar could happen again.
Monique Wilson (2L) spoke about the dangers black Americans face.
“I remember distinctly being about 5 or 6 and my parents being like, these are the rules, and you always have to follow them,” Wilson said.
The Feb. 13 installment featured Duke University Sociology Professor Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, who discussed the evolving nature of racism and how it may be less obvious than it was in the past, but is just as present.
“The normative climate of what can be said in public has shifted,” Bonilla-Silva said. “The nasty racial discourse of the past has been replaced by a more seemingly civilized racism.”
The series was sponsored by UF Law’s Center on Children and Families and Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations.
VOTING IN AMERICA
Nelson Symposium, “State and Local Elections: Rights and Wrongs”
Election experts addressed voter identification laws, felon disenfranchisement, voter roll purges, campaign disclosure for ballot measures, ballot-box zoning, and the status of the Voting Rights Act after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder.
The topics were highly relevant to Sunshine State residents, especially with voting issues from the 2000 presidential election and beyond. There’s no debate that the state of Florida has been in the spotlight for controversial election topics, and the Feb. 7 symposium provided food for thought and further debate.
Symposium speaker Janai Nelson, professor of law at St. John’s University School of Law, asked audience members to think about the election debacle of 2000 and consider what had changed in 14 years.
“The very disturbing answer is that there are now more legal barriers to exercising voting rights than there were in 2000,” Nelson said. “And there are increasingly fewer legal protections.”
COVERING THE TAXABLE WATERFRONT
Florida Tax Institute
Last fall, Lauren Detzel (JD 77) said the inaugural Florida Tax Institute had three main goals — to reinforce the reputation of UF Law as one of the nation’s leading tax programs, to educate current students, and to generate funds to go back into the program. The institute, held Feb. 19-21 in Tampa, succeeded on all fronts.
“It exceeded our wildest expectations,” Detzel said. “We covered the waterfront in tax topics.”
Detzel, who chaired the Tax Institute Steering Committee and is a shareholder at Orlando’s Dean Mead office, said all three of those goals were readily met due to the high quality of speakers who presented difficult topics with ease — including many UF Law professors and alumni — and the dedication of the sponsors involved.
“We were ecstatic with the quality of the program, the speakers were absolutely top notch,” Detzel said. Having been to plenty of dry tax conferences where the speakers were less than engaging, Detzel said she could honestly say that every speaker in the twoand- a-half day conference was outstanding.
Detzel said there more than 300 registrants for the conference, around 70 of which were current UF Law students. She said she heard great feedback from the students, some of whom were attending their first CLE event.
COOPERATION CALLED KEY TO WATER SOLUTIONS
Public Interest Environmental Conference, “Feeding the Future: Shrinking Resources, Growing Population and a Warming Planet”
In February, the PIEC celebrated 20 years of attracting leading experts to UF Law to grapple with contemporary environmental issues. This year focused on projected population growth and the need for food and clean water in a world of dwindling natural resources. The conference, held Feb. 20-22, offered three “tracks” for the more than 200 attendees to choose from: agricultural frontiers, natural resources, and legal/regulatory issues.
Speakers included former Florida Gov. Buddy MacKay (JD 61), who worked on several water projects as Gov. Lawton Chiles’ (JD 55) lieutenant governor. MacKay said the competition for water in Florida is not a new problem. He compared the current issue to when he was faced with Hillsborough and Pinellas counties sucking down water while competing for growth in the 1990s. Their overconsumption left nearby Pasco County nearly dry.
“I have seen this movie before. I know the plot, and some of the players are even the same,” MacKay said.
In order to protect the springs, the most endangered ecosystem in Florida, it’s going to take more than policy framework or regulation, he said.
“When all else fails,” MacKay said, “we’re going to have to work together.”
‘WHITE PRIVILEGE’ ADDRESSES ONGOING RACIAL INEQUALITY
CSRRR Spring Lecture, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”
Peggy McIntosh says that as a white person she is part of an invisible system of advantages.
It’s as simple as the ability to buy a Band-Aid that matches her skin or never being asked to speak for every member of her race, explained the author of the 1988 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”
“White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks,” McIntosh wrote in the essay.
During the March 14 CSRRR Spring Lecture, the director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women said the idea that “whites are knowers, and knowledge is white” was something she was taught from a young age. In order to overcome this worldview, McIntosh said she consciously installs “alternative software” that allows her to learn from the people she was taught to look down upon.
In order for change to occur, all whites must become aware of their habits and deliberately choose to see past the system that teaches they are better simply because of race.
“Those who happen to be born into the group that is given the benefit of the doubt, given jobs, assumed to be good with money, assumed to be reliable with families” are given a “tremendous power,” McIntosh said. “I urge all whites here to use your white power … — which you have more of than you were taught — to weaken the system of white power, and it will alter your friendships, your relationships, (and) your relationship to life itself.”
WHERE 1’S AND 0’S DO THE TALKING
E-Discovery Conference, “Letting Data Tell the Winning Story”
The message of the second annual UF Law E-Discovery Conference was clear, said E-Discovery Project Executive Director William Hamilton: “21st century litigators must still tell the winning story.”
Each panel at the March 14 conference featured e-discovery experts demonstrating various specialized software, all of which is designed to meet the needs of clients who must respond to increasingly complex e-discovery requests.
E-discovery is largely concerned with complying with discovery requests that can often encompass millions of digital files stored on hard drives and servers. The issues are often more complex than simply drag-and-drop transfers, since moving the files in any way can result in unwanted changes to the meta-data.
Jason Pill, a Tampa-based associate of Phelps Dunbar, participated in the panel entitled “Targeted Collections: Get What You Need to Find the Story.” He said targeted collection must be carefully tailored to discovery requests.
“It’s not like plugging information into Google,” Pill said.
Hamilton said litigators need not get bogged down in the intricacies of e-discovery, since the newest software gives lawyers powerful tools for corralling the essential information in a case.
Florida Law Review Dunwody Distinguished Lecture in Law, “Thirty-Two Years on the Federal Bench: Some Things I Have Learned”
UF Law students, faculty and guests learned a little history as Judge Emmett Ripley Cox, of the U.S. 11th Circuit, delivered this year’s Dunwody Lecture.
Cox said the proliferation of federal law has negatively impacted the effectiveness of the federal courts by imposing a burden on them.
“Today, we often hear complaints about high costs, inefficiency, abusive discovery and complexity of litigation in the federal courts,”
Cox said during the March 21 lecture. “It has not always been this way.” Cox said the expansion of both criminal and civil law, in part caused by the explosive increase in statutory offenses created by Congress, has swamped the federal courts with litigation.
“In 2008, a Heritage Foundation study concluded that there were 4,450 federal crimes,” Cox said. “Over 40 percent of the federal criminal offenses enacted since the Civil War have been enacted since 1970.”
Cox also addressed the mistakes modern lawyers often make when preparing for federal litigation. In particular, he said, lawyers often submit complaints that are far too long and complex.
SHIFTING COASTLINES COULD MEAN SHIFTING PROPERTY LAWS
Wolf Family Lecture Series: “Property Rights and Climate Change”
Property law, with roots reaching back centuries, has a reputation for stability. But with the effects of climate change becoming increasingly evident, the legal field will be brought into the spotlight in coming years, and may be forced to adapt.
The reason, said UC Berkeley Law Professor Daniel A. Farber, will be evident along Florida’s coastline in the not-so-distant future.
“It’s not so much future generations anymore,” Farber said during the March 24 Wolf Lecture. “It’s people in this room, your younger siblings, your children, children who are being born right this moment who are going to be affected by this, so it really is not too early to start worrying.
“What happens when a coastal property is faced by ever-increasing encroachments from the sea?” Farber asked. “There is a clash there between our idea of preserving property rights and having some kind of a sensible strategy for getting ourselves and our society out of the way as the sea rolls in.”
Farber pointed out how difficult it can be to determine how best to approach the situation and illustrated ways current property laws can help or hinder certain scenarios.
SPORTS LAW RESURGENCE
Entertainment and Sports Law Society Sports Law Symposium, “Challenges and Legal Complexities Facing Athletes: Collegiate and Professional Perspectives”
The 2014 University of Florida Sports Law Symposium rose from the ashes this year to tackle some of the most pressing issues in sports.
The April 4 symposium resurrected a previously annual occurrence that went on hiatus after 2010. By all accounts, the 2014 iteration was a successful return to form.
Prominent attorneys with expertise in collegiate and professional athletics gathered for panel discussions on current issues facing lawyers and athletes.
Kristi Dosh (JD 07) and Darren Heitner (JD 10) delivered keynote speeches and participated in the panels.
Dosh, the author of Saturday Millionaires: How Winning Football Builds Winning Colleges, talked about how college athletics departments, even the ones that don’t post profits, are big moneymakers for their universities.
The hot-button issue in collegiate sports is the recent National Labor Relations Board decision to allow college athletes to unionize. That topic dominated the morning panel discussion. Despite some heated debate, all of the experts on the panel agreed on one thing: the NRLB decision would stand.
WEIGHING TAX REFORM
Ellen Bellet Gelberg Tax Symposium
Mark Mazur, the U.S. Treasury Department Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, had a few choice words about the United States tax system.
“Tax policy is part of our covenant that binds us together as self-governing people,” Mazur observed and went on to ask how one should assess the effectiveness of our tax system.
Among the criteria and conclusions Mazur laid out during the April 17 Gelberg lecture:
- The code is not particularly fair to taxpayers in similar situations — see income earned from wages versus income earned from capital gains;
- It’s reasonably progressive, which is to say high earners pay a greater proportion of their incomes than lower earners, though it used to be much more progressive; and
- The Internal Revenue Service is surprisingly efficient at administering tax collections compared with other administrative bodies around the world.
Mazur also discussed noted tax reform proposals from the Obama administration and Congress, weighing potential benefits and possible downsides to moving forward with broad tax reform.
The Gelberg Tax Policy Lecture Series was established to bring distinguished lecturers to the college each year to speak on tax policy topics to reflect on the policies supporting the U.S. tax structure.