Look Who’s Talking

The Latham & Watkins Forum concludes its first decade with discussions on topics as disparate as Brexit and betting.

Murphy,  Carrington,  Balko, Bennett Capers
Erin Murphy, Tucker Carrington, Radley Balko, Bennett Capers

In the 2018–19 academic year, the Latham & Watkins Forum, NYU Law’s regular discussion series, marked its 10th year of hosting timely conversations among thought leaders focused on current legal issues.

Last September, a forum moderated by Professor Erin Murphy spotlighted serious questions about forensic science. Washington Post reporter Radley Balko and Professor Tucker Carrington of the University of Mississippi School of Law co-wrote a book detailing how Mississippi medical examiner Steven Hayne repeatedly discovered so-called bite marks on the bodies of victims. Hayne regularly teamed up with Michael West, a forensic dentist who gave expert testimony. Yet Hayne conducted 1,700 autopsies a year, far above the threshold of 325 that, if exceeded, constitutes malpractice. Meanwhile, West was caught on video faking a bite mark with a mold of a suspect’s teeth.

Uncovering junk science in the courtroom can be difficult. “We ask judges to do scientific analyses,” said Balko. “[And] they look to see what other judges have done… . Where science looks forward, the criminal justice system tends to look backward.”

In October, the Forum delved into the likely impact of the Supreme Court’s striking down a federal law that had largely restricted gambling on sports events to Nevada. University Professor Arthur R. Miller moderated a discussion that featured David Rebuck, director of New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, and Derrick Crawford, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s managing director of enforcement.

“We need to be engaged deeply in preparing for the risks that are associated with low-paid athletes who…will be approached, either through bribery, extortion, blackmail, [or] the greater risk—I call it insider trading,” said Rebuck. “An 18-year-old goes back to his dorm, mentions that the Alabama quarterback, he’s not playing this week—somebody’s going to use that information to their advantage.”

Crawford focused on the players. “Where do we fit in in collegiate athletics to make sure that our games stay legit,” he said, “and that our student athletes are not harmed in any way?”

A March discussion had a more global bent. With the British prime minister and Parliament deeply mired in disagreement over terms for leaving the European Union, the forum explored the origins of the unprecedented political impasse and the potential for a Brexit resolution.

Moderator Gráinne de Búrca, Florence Ellinwood Allen Professor of Law, asked in her opening remarks how it was possible that, three years after the Brexit vote, the government still had no real plan.

“Brexit as a topic defies the normal political discourse,” said Rob Moulton, a partner in the London office of Latham & Watkins and a member of the firm’s Brexit Task Force. “It does not fall into our party political system…because different parts of different parties think different things about whether the EU is a good or bad thing.”

Another political drama prompted a forum discussion in January moderated by Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute’s office at NYU Law. Just five days earlier, a monthlong federal government shutdown had ended, but the issue that precipitated it—President Donald Trump’s demand for a US-Mexico border wall—remained very much unresolved.

Cecillia Wang, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, portrayed the ongoing controversy as a double-edged sword. “Trump policies as a whole,” she said, “and each individually, represent an enormous backslide…[but] also a silver lining, because in the extreme nature of those policies is a seed of resistance to those policies on the part of people who might otherwise not care about immigration.”

Posted September 4, 2019