Professor Richard Zitrin was quoted in the New York Times’ coverage of the General Motors scandal over hiding flaws of defective ignition switches, which claimed at least 13 lives.
An internal investigation released on Thursday into the company’s failure to recall millions of defective small cars found no evidence of a cover-up. But interviews with victims, their lawyers and current and former G.M. employees, as well as evidence in the report itself, paint a more complete picture: The automaker’s legal department took actions that obscured the deadly flaw, both inside and outside the company.
The dismissal of at least three GM senior lawyers is an indication of the legal department’s role in helping keep the switch problems secret from the public and regulators, said Zitrin, a professor of legal ethics. “That says to me that the G.M. lawyers were involved in keeping the ignition failure secret case by case,” said Zitrin, who has helped draft new federal legislation that would make it difficult for corporations to enter into confidential settlements. Read the full story here.
Zitrin also had a letter to the editor of the Times published June 10, under the headline "The Lethal Culture of Secrecy at G.M." In it, Zitrin highlights that G.M. is a recidivist, citing the side-mounted gas tanks that caught fire or exploded, and G.M.'s history of denying the defect. It was later revealed the car maker settled hundreds of lawsuits, secretly, for nearly $500 million. The letter highlighted the need for the Sunshine in Litigation Act, co-written by Senators Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican. The bill would prevent the parties to a lawsuit from entering into these secrecy agreements. "This would save hundreds, even thousands, of lives by ensuring the public’s right to know," Zitrin writes. Read the full letter here.
Professor Joel Paul published a piece on Huffington Post on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. This June the Supreme Court will decide whether a corporation can claim an exemption from a federal law on religious grounds. Paul argued a decision in favor of Hobby Lobby would undermine both corporate law and the separation of church and state. Read the full piece here.
Professor Robin Feldman’s work was quoted a length by the Center for Genetics and Society in a piece “’This is Mine!’ Property and Ethical Rights of Your Body by Yourself and Others.”The piece quoted her work, “Whose Body Is It Anyway? Human Cells and the Strange Effects of Property & Intellectual Property Law.” Read more here. Read Feldman’s original work here. Follow Feldman on Twitter: @RobinCFeldman.
Elizabeth L. Hillman
Professor Ben Depoorter weighed in on whether the BART logo was improperly used by Warner Bros. new film, Godzilla. "Movies are commercial — but they have a lot of free speech purposes," he says. "If I were making a Saturday Night Live sketch about BART, what they're saying is I would have to ask permission? No, that would quell free speech. ... There's no potential for confusion. It's not like the movie is selling BART-related goods." Read the full story in the SF Weekly here.
Frank H. Wu
A report by CGRS and Kids in Need of Defense, a nonprofit group that matches unaccompanied minors with volunteer lawyers, found a majority of minors who appear in immigration court do not have lawyers representing them. Read more here. Read our coverage of the report here. Read the report here.
The Boston Globe referenced an interview Associate Justice Antonin Scalia gave at UC Hastings in which he maintained that the Constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Read the story here. Watch the full discussion here.
Eduardo Angeles ’90 was named as the FAA’s Associate Administrator for Airports. Angeles told Asian Journal that he is “truly honored and humbled” to be an FAA administrator under President Barack Obama’s administration. “I am now a fabric of American History, as a member of the team of the first African-American US President,” Angeles said. Read the Los Angeles Times story on his appointment here.
Lauren Greenberg Wanderman
Lauren Greenberg Wanderman ’04 was named Chair of the San Mateo County Bar Association’s Women Lawyer’s Section.
Zoe Dolan ’05 wrote a blog post on the "transgender tipping point" that included an account of the support she received while at UC Hastings from faculty, staff and fellow students as she underwent gender transition. Read the full post here.
Bruce Pfaff, Melissa Nold, Christa Conry
Two Pfaff Trial Lawyer Scholarships are to be awarded each year to Hastings students. Melissa Nold '14 and Rising 3L Christa Conry were selected this year based on their excellent course work in trial advocacy class work and their commitment to helping clients in civil trial work. Bruce Pfaff ’79 is a Chicago trial lawyer. Read more here.
Rising 2L Christine Doelling was featured in LawDragon’s Law Student Limelight. Read why she chose UC Hastings here. Read Five Questions with Christine Doelling here. Follow her on Twitter: @ChrisDoelling.
--June 10, 2014