NYU Law professors weigh in on key issues, from NSA surveillance to political funding in India

This past week, NYU Law professors have written a series of op-eds on a wide range of issues in the news, including the disclosure of financial records from political parties in India, the recent Supreme Court decision in Kiobel v. Dutch Royal Petroleum, NSA surveillance, and so-called “patent trolls.”

Samuel Issacharoff“Money is the scourge of politics,” writes Samuel Issacharoff, Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law, in an op-ed in the Indian Express. “No matter how honorable the aspiration, how noble the program, how inspired the candidates, no election gets off the ground without the requisite funding. And once money intrudes, the stains of corruption and undue influence abound.” Issacharoff goes on to discuss the recent ruling from India’s Central Information Commission ordering the disclosure of financial records from India’s major political parties. In analyzing the reaction against this ruling, Issacharoff discusses how the regulation of political finances in India compares with that of other democracies, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Samuel EstreicherIn the New York Law JournalSamuel Estreicher, Dwight D. Opperman Professor of Law and director of NYU Law’s Center for Labor and Employment Law, has co-authored a piece with Stephen Kinnaird, a partner at Paul Hastings, on the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Kiobel v. Dutch Royal Petroleum. Estreicher submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case in February 2012. Writing that the Supreme Court’s decision has limited the reach of the 1789 Alien Tort Statute (ATS), Estreicher and Kinnaird also argue that several questions about the reach ATS are still left open.

The most-discussed issue this week, however, is the case of Edward Snowden and the NSA surveillance program. In the New York Times “Room for Debate,”Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, addresses the question of how the government should handle Snowden’s case. Patel compares Snowden’s case to that of Bradley Manning, arguing that the scales of the two leaks are quite different. "While we don't know the full extent of what Snowden may yet reveal, it seems that he was more discerning and his claim that he carefully selected the documents he disclosed to ensure that they were legitimately in the public interest may be credible," Patel writes.

Richard EpsteinWriting on the same topic in the Chicago TribuneRichard Epstein, Lawrence A. Tisch Professor of Law, argues alongside the Cato Institute’s Roger Pilon that the government’s metadata program is legally sound. “Legally, the president is on secure footing under the Patriot Act, which Congress passed shortly after 9/11 and has since reauthorized by large bipartisan majorities,” Pilon and Epstein write. “And as [the president] rightly added, this nation has real problems if its people, at least here, can't trust the combined actions of the executive branch and the Congress, backstopped by federal judges sworn to protect our individual liberties secured by the Bill of Rights.”

Other NYU Law professors and Brennan Center affiliates have also been cited in various publications on the issue of NSA surveillance. In the Wall Street JournalStephen Schulhofer, Robert B. McKay Professor of Law, explains the legal basis for the surveillance; Professor Jerome Cohen, speaking from Taiwan, gives background on the extradition treaties between Hong Kong and the United States; and Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, argues that the NSA's surveillance programs violate Americans' civil liberties.

NSA Surveillance is not the only issue that Epstein has addressed this week. In his weekly Defining Ideas column, Epstein writes about “Trolling for ‘Patent Trolls,’” taking on a recent report from a White House Task Force that calls for legislation and executive action to correct the country’s flawed patent system. Epstein argues that the critique of the patent system in these reports is “overblown,” and that “the President should back off his one-sided critique and work to create a more balanced and nuanced reform agenda of the patent system.”

For updates on these issues and more, follow some of our experts on Twitter: Richard Epstein at@RichardAEpstein, Faiza Patel at @FaizaPatelBCJ, and the Brennan Center for Justice at @BrennanCenter.

Posted June 13, 2013