Law School Faculty Testify on Capitol Hill and in DC Government, Engaged in Current Issues

Location, location, location.  Just as in the selection of a home, the location of a law school matters.  Being here in Washington, D.C. puts students and faculty at the center of policy and all things government, and gives them unique access to the legislative process.

“We’re to be at a school where that was seen as one’s scholarly production.  That’s being in Washington – a fairly new law professor invited to the Hill to share ideas and shape the destiny of legislation,” Professor Andrew Popper said.  “Even now, every time I get the chance, I walk into the Rayburn building and sit in a hearing room.  Every single time, I get the sense of being lucky.  Why would you want to be anywhere else?”

During any given political season, American University Washington College of Law faculty can be found actively engaged in the issues that they’ve spent their careers studying.  Many have emerged as leaders in these fields, and are sought after to provide testimony on these issues.

When he started as a young professor in 1978 specializing in tort reform, Professor Popper became involved in generating testimony on the ongoing debate and appearing before congressional committees in short order. 

Popper continues to be energized by the school’s proximity to lawmakers, and he recently testified on the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act. 

“The proposed legislation would require such producers to designate a domestic agent for service of process and to consent to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts,” Popper said of his testimony. “I argue that this is a straightforward, appropriate, and essential step forward.”

National Security Law

Professor Steven Vladeck appears regularly to testify on current issues in national security law.  Most recently he addressed the Espionage Act before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security:

“I suspect that we all have common cause when it comes to the need for harsh criminal sanctions for those who commit acts of espionage against the United States, and the Espionage Act of 1917 and its related statutes are vital in ensuring that the unauthorized disclosure of our national security secrets is not just prohibited, but severely punished.”

Access to Medicines

Professor Sean Flynn represented public health advocates before the US Trade Representative Special 301 Subcommittee to criticize the use of trade policy to block generic competition in international and domestic pharmaceutical markets.

“Global health organizations call on the Administration to stop using Special 301 to sanction countries for refusing to raise prices on medicines in excess of that required by the 1994 World Trade Organization Agreement,” Flynn said of his testimony.  “The US Trade Representative’s past policy of using the Special 301 Report to promote maximalist patent rights on medicines violates the 2001 U.S. commitment in the World Trade Organization to promote access to medicines for all.”

Prevention of Prison Rape

Professor Brenda Smith is a noted advocate for unsafe prison conditions and the prevention of prison rape, particularly as they apply to juvenile and women offenders.  This February she appeared before the US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security to discuss sexual assault in adult and juvenile facilities. 

Smith was appointed by then House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to serve on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission.  She discussed the Commission’s findings during her testimony:

“In its study, the Commission found that juvenile agencies need increased training and education for staff and youth on addressing sexual violence in custody. The Commission also found that, like other settings, internal reporting procedures were barriers to addressing abuse in custody.”

According to Smith, her testimony resulted in $13 million beingallocated to create a Prison Rape Elimination Act Resource Center, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention setting aside funds to address sexual violence against youth in custody, and $15 million to address sexual violence in custodyin the 2011 budget of the Department of Justice.

Same-sex Marriage Rights in DC

Professor Nancy Polikoff has been a frequently quoted expert on same-sex marriage as the debate evolved here in the District of Columbia, where she is a resident.  She appeared before the DC City Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary last fall to support the legal status of domestic partnerships in the District of Columbia.   

“Once DC authorizes marriage for same-sex couples, it will be appropriate to reevaluate DC relationship recognition law,” Polikoff said.  “That work must include considering the needs of the wide range of family relationships that exist in this city.”