Faculty Scholarship Highlights
Each month of the academic year, Stephen Vladeck, professor of law and associate dean for scholarship, is joined by a member of the American University Washington College of Law faculty to discuss their recent and future scholarship, and how their research, scholarship, and teaching is shaped by their experiences at AUWCL.
April 2013: Professor Janie Chuang - "Exploiting Au Pairs: Labor, Human Rights, and the Myth of Cultural Exchange"
For Professor Janie Chuang, the U.S. au pair program falls right at the intersection of her teaching and research interests of international law, human trafficking, human rights, and migration. As she documents in her recent article, "The U.S. Au Pair Program: Labor Exploitation and the Myth of Cultural Exchange," the legal categorization of au pairs as "cultural exchange participants" under U.S. law has been used to sustain and disguise a government-created domestic worker program to provide flexible, in-home childcare for upper-middle class families at below-market prices.
As Professor Lindsay Wiley describes, the field of "public health law" is at a fascinating evolutionary moment—from "old" public health law, which focused primarily on quarantines and other forms of infectious disease control, to "new" public health law, a field far more focused on governmental regulation targeted at shaping individual behavioral choices. Among the myriad questions raised by this shift, says Wiley, is the extent to which government should be taking such an active part in regulating private consumption of lawful but harmful goods.
As Associate Professor Jayesh Rathod notes in "The Transformative Potential of Attorney Bilingualism," forthcoming in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, the U.S. legal culture has historically undervalued the utility of bilingual lawyers, assuming that the principal utility of such training is in allowing lawyers to work more efficiently and to pursue a broader range of professional opportunities. In fact, Rathod explains, attorney bilingualism can do much, much more.
Professor Jorge Contreras' recent work draws analogies between patents developed by open industry groups and "patent pools"— a structure in which competitors in the same technological field agree to license their patents covering a particular technology (such as the MP3 or DVD file formats) collectively, and benefit proportionately from the revenue generated by licensing that technology within the industry. Using the evolution of private rules to govern patent pools as a precedent, Contreras aims to demonstrate how the lessons from that evolution could also be applied to open industry standards, with the hopeful endgame being a more comprehensive regime of private—and mutually beneficial—rules and a reduction in the costly and time-consuming patent litigation that currently affects the marketplace.
November 2012: Professor Jonas Anderson - "The Federal Circuit and the Policy-Shaping Function of Specialized Appellate Courts"
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has been a frequent subject of academic attention, especially given its unique role as the sole federal court with jurisdiction over patent appeals. Professor Jonas Anderson details in his new article, "Shaping Legislation: The Federal Circuit and Its Relationship With the Legislative Branch," scholars of the Federal Circuit have repeatedly neglected the Federal Circuit’s corresponding relationship with Congress when it comes to the substance of federal patent law, even as they have repeatedly examined the Court of Appeals’ interactions with the U.S. Supreme Court, trial courts, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
For decades, scholars and policymakers too numerous to count have grappled with the appropriate scope of government whistleblowing--when government employees break the chain of command in order to reveal to inspectors general (or, in some cases, the public) waste, fraud, or abuse by the relevant government agencies. But Associate Professor of Law Amanda Leiter argues that another form of whistleblowing is dramatically underappreciated by those who regulate and write about our modern administrative state. As the title of her current work-in-progress suggests, Professor Leiter's focus is on what she calls "soft whistleblowing"--when government employees disclose to interested parties inside information about presumptively legitimate governmental policies or practices not to reveal fraud, waste, or abuse, but to empower outside groups to push for changes in those policies or practices that the employees are unable to effectuate from the inside.
Associate Professor of Law Benjamin Leff's scholarship addresses the intersection between federal tax laws and the laws governing charitable organizations. At the heart of that intersection is the "non-distribution constraint," or the idea that charitable groups should be prohibited from distributing their profits among private persons. In recent years, a number of scholars have argued that the non-distribution constraint unnecessarily impedes charitable work by creating disincentives for a new breed of "social enterprises" that seek to raise funds from both for-profit investors and charitable donors. Professor Leff's recent scholarship responds to these critiques, suggesting that the latest debates have ignored the government's independent interest in facilitating the provision of charitable goods.
Research and writing about the law of the European Union often focuses on current and future legal issues from the top down—such as through the lens of international law—as applied to the relationship between the EU and its member states. But for Associate Professor Fernanda Nicola, the more interesting questions come from the bottom up—from how the smallest and most local governmental institutions in turn effect and shape policy debates and other conversations at the national, European, and international level.