Learn more about Peltz-Steele v. UMass Faculty Federation at Court Listener (complaint) and the Liberty Justice Center. The case is now on appeal in the First Circuit as no. 22-1466 (PACER paywall). Please direct media inquiries to Kristen Williamson.
Showing posts with label jobs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jobs. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Librarian Peltz-Steele joins Roger Williams Law

M. Peltz-Steele
I am overjoyed to announce that my wife, Misty Peltz-Steele, has joined the law library at Roger Williams University Law School, where she heads research services as associate law librarian for research and administration.

Before she joined RWU Law, Peltz-Steele (RWU, LinkedIn, SSRN) was assistant dean and assistant director of the UMass Law Library (where students distinguished her from her poorer half as "Dean Peltz-Steele"). Peltz-Steele holds a master's in library and information studies from the University of Rhode Island and a law degree from the University of Arkansas Little Rock. Before training for librarianship, she practiced as a legal services attorney and clerked for the public defender. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, she served as an officer of the U.S. Navy and is a veteran of the Iraq War.

At Roger Williams, Peltz-Steele works alongside an alumna of my torts classes of whom I am especially proud, Brittany Raposa. Raposa serves RWU Law as associate director and professor of bar support.

Peltz-Steele is the proud parent of a film director and the magnanimous spouse of a blogger. She also makes a mean savory torte, pictured, in fact, at the top of this page.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

'Dr. G' opens law program for Acropolis Group in India

Congratulations to my friend and colleague, Professor Geetanjali Chandra, LL.D., on her appointment to found the bachelor of laws program at the Acropolis Institute of Management Studies and Research in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India.

"Dr. G," as her students affectionately know her, brings a track record of success to Acropolis. I met Dr. G when I was privileged to be a guest of Amity University Dubai in 2019. She was then founding head of the law school there. Before Amity, Dr. G was founding head of the law school at Chandraprabhu Jain in Delhi and chief learning officer in law for LedX.

In Dubai, Dr. G graciously invited me to join her media law class and arranged introduction of my wife, a law librarian, to her counterparts. The enthusiasm of Dr. G's students for their study under her tutelage was palpable, and it was a memorable joy to spend time with them.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Oh brings dispute resolution skills to UCLA

Dean Oh selfie in his virtual office
(© Hyun C. Oh, licensed exclusively)
Hyun Cheol Oh, my friend and former student, has joined the higher ed ranks as an assistant dean of students at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), I am immensely proud to report.

Dean Oh is a 2010 alumnus of UCLA, where he earned a bachelor's in international development studies, and of the law school where I work, where he was the founding president of the campus chapter of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA). He also holds a master's in education, culture, and society from the University of Pennsylvania. In his 2014 master's thesis, Multiculturalism in the Republic of Korea, Oh examined approaches to multiculturalism in South Korean civic education.

At UCLA, Oh is putting his legal training to work, specializing in dispute resolution within the offices of the dean of students and of student conduct. Oh lives in Los Angeles with his family, which includes his better half, the profoundly gifted pianist Inhyun Lee.

The Bruins are lucky to have Dean Oh on their team.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Chicago Transit Authority seeks to hire tort lawyers

The Chicago Transit Authority is looking for lawyers specifically to handle tort claims.

This job is unusually specific to tort work. Here is the position summary for "Senior Attorney," listing a salary of $95,544:

Under general supervision, performs a broad variety of legal duties in support of the Authority’s General Counsel. Works on the defense of personal injury lawsuits filed against the Authority, from minor to catastrophic injuries and subrogation and property damage defense and performs all litigation for assigned caseload.

And here is the position summary for "Associate Attorney," listing a salary of $83,372:

Under general supervision, functions as a junior level attorney responsible for litigating personal injury cases brought against the authority.  Works with senior attorneys on complex personal injury, subrogation, and property damage defense cases.

Both positions were posted July 22.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Verma, Goodwin take new jobs in higher ed leadership

Two friends and colleagues, Professor Manish Verma and attorney Kristine C. Goodwin, are moving into exciting new positions in higher education.

Dr. Verma has joined the University College of Bahrain as Vice President for Academic Affairs.  The university is a non-profit, English-language institution in the Kingdom of Bahrain, modeled after U.S. and Canadian higher education in the liberal arts tradition.  The university's leading programs are in business administration, information technology, and communications and multimedia.

Prof. Manish Verma
(LinkedIn photo)

An accomplished scholar himself in mass communication, Dr. Verma has been a friend and stellar colleague of mine for many years.  His enthusiasm and determination to collaborate across borders is almost singularly responsible for sparking my enduring interest in communication law and policy on the Indian subcontinent and in the Middle East.  I've been privileged firsthand to witness Manish's intense devotion to his students, and they respond with adoration in kind.  I expect that that teacher's spirit will animate his service in administration, where such spirit is so often sorely needed.
Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf
(map by TUBS CC BY-SA 3.0)

Closer to home, for me, attorney Kristine Goodwin has been named Vice President of Student Affairs at Western New England University.  Located in Springfield, Massachusetts, Western New England is a vital provider of access to higher education in its region.  In addition to the WNE School of Law, led by the talented Dean Sudha N. Setty, the university boasts colleges in arts and sciences, business, engineering, and pharmacy and health sciences.

Kristine Goodwin
(WNE photo)
Attorney Goodwin has more than three decades' experience in higher education.  That career was already well underway when she went to law school, so I cannot quite claim that my Torts I and II classes made all the difference.  It was rather my privilege to have around her magna cum laude appetite for learning.  She was a university administrator in my home state of Rhode Island while she went to law school.  She generously provided me with guidance and resources when I served on a university committee formulating personnel policy.

I hope leaders at University College of Bahrain and Western New England University, and students in Bahrain and Massachusetts, know how lucky they are.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

So you wanna teach law school? Good luck with that. Or, 'A Clerkship Story'

pxhere (modified) CC0

Professor Howard M. Wasserman at FIU Law, author of the superb Understanding Civil Rights Litigation, has published in Judicature a thought-provoking study, Academic Feeder Judges: Are Clerkships the Key to Academia? (spring 2021).

Yes is the short answer.  There is clear correlation between clerking and later teaching.  Wasserman explained, "Two or three generations ago, the clerkship was the essential credential, and a call from the judge or justice to the law-school dean was the ticket to the teaching job. Louis Brandeis favored clerks whom he believed would become law teachers."

But the correlation, and probable causation, is diminishing, and "[t]he Great Recession of 2008 appears to have exacerbated the disconnect between clerkship and teaching," Wasserman wrote.  He chalks up the change to a number of factors.  Teaching fellowship programs, "sexy" niche appellate practices, and more programs for advanced degrees in law have generated a pool of promising candidates on alternative tracks to fewer positions.

Though I don't think any of that will change the status quo.  Legal academics remains largely the province of an elite, including too many by inherited opportunity, especially at top schools.  Even these newly minted access tracks only reinforce exclusion.

I didn't clerk.  I've been fortunate to land two jobs in academics at schools where a clerkship was not a sine qua non.  But in my job searches, I know that I was excluded at some schools—once, only about a dozen years ago, I was told so plainly—for lack of a clerkship.  As I don't think I'm too bad at being a law professor, that's a disappointing result.  While Wasserman might purport to describe a preference of "two or three generations ago," people who were hired two generations ago are still doing hiring now.

And there is resistance to change.  For all the bluster about equality of access to opportunity uttered by the nation's overwhelmingly liberal law professors, the vast majority in the end succumb to the beguiling predilection to replicate themselves and their experiences.

Considering why students, me included, don't clerk illustrates the inequality of access to opportunity in the academy, not to mention many other career tracks.

To start with, judges, many of whom also fall prey to the predilection to replicate themselves, tend to recruit only from select law schools.  UMass Law, for example, a "fourth-tier law school," has seen only modest success at placing students in clerkships, then only at the state level, and only through concerted, all-hands-on-deck efforts by students, faculty, and staff.  

Federal judges don't recruit at UMass.  They did recruit at "first tier" Duke Law School when I was a student there in the 1990s.  But they weren't recruiting me.  The career services office groomed students with a 3.5 GPA for interviews, and my 3.4 didn't make the cut.

I think I would have made a good clerk.  Having come to law from journalism, I was a decent writer and editor.  To my observation, my classmates who excelled at law school and attained those top grades with less effort were as often as not children of lawyers and professionals.  I was not.  They seemed to understand the 1L game in a way that was opaque to me.  I figured it out and turned out A+s by the time I graduated, but that was too late to open some doors.  From where I sit today, as a professor, it's no wonder to see that my students who are the first in their families to attempt graduate school, or even university, face the steepest learning curves.

I was determined, though.  Whatever this clerkship thing was about, telling me I could not have something just supercharged my desire for it.  A full-tuition-paying Duke client, I demanded access to clerkships.  Career services pointed me to a binder of judges' names and addresses.  I was welcome to apply on my own, without Duke's help.

I remember the feel of the thin plastic cover of the binder in my hands.  I remember turning the looseleaf pages and copying the information into my notebook with a pen.  I remember feeling ashamed and angry doing this while, feet behind my back, in the career services office, other students sat, sharply dressed, waiting nervously for clerkship interviews to which they had been invited.

I did apply on my own for clerkships: 23 years old and no clue what I was doing.  Unsurprisingly, I had no bites from the federal bench.  Surprisingly, I did score an interview with a state supreme court judge.  I traveled to the state on my own dime, donned my best (only) suit, and interviewed.  The interview seemed to go well.

The judge telephoned me a couple of weeks later.  I was his first choice, he said.  My pulse quickened and face flushed.  But, he said sheepishly, haltingly, he was, unfortunately, obliged to hire his second choice, because she was the daughter of a colleague.  Surely I could understand his predicament.  This is how things are.  He was sorry.  Felt he owed me the explanation.  My heart sank.

Don't feel sorry for me.  I went right into law practice at a large, prestigious firm in a major city.  I didn't have whatever it took to get a clerkship.  But I had an opportunity out of Duke that almost none of my UMass students can get still today.  It's all relative.

The lesson still is, or should be, a painful one.  The changes that Wasserman cited do little to change the reality of access to opportunity in legal academics.  Teaching fellowships are typically reserved for diverse candidates.  Because diversity doesn't refer to socioeconomics, nor family immigration history, most of my students, like me, would not qualify.

A top-end practice experience did give me an advantage in my applications to the academy.  But for even the very best of my students—who, if it matters, might have chosen UMass for reasons of economic, geographic, or other necessity, not a function of choosing the highest ranking school one can get into, which is what I did—a job at a "white shoe" law firm is a pipe dream.

And more advanced education is not feasible for students who, like me, financed legal education wholly through debt.  My wife and I just paid off our own educational debt last year, right after we started borrowing to pay for our daughter's college education.  We were lucky; neither of us had undergrad debt, thanks to scholarships and the military.  I turned down two full scholarships to lower ranked law schools.  Some of my law students have twice the debt we had and will be lucky to have a quarter of the job prospects. 

One of my students graduating now would make a superb teacher, and he is so inclined.  He asked me about it.  What can I say?  He lacks the demographic endowments requisite for a diversity fellowship.  One of my own faculty colleagues said at a hiring meeting just last week that "we don't need more white" at UMass.  She was applauded.  This student will never score a Boston law firm job.  A UMass valedictorian was told at a Boston law firm just a few years ago that his interview was a professional courtesy to the dean, but the firm would never hire from a public school.  And this student is swimming in debt.  Should I tell him to dig deeper and get a "corrective LL.M." at full price from one of the elite law schools he probably should have chosen to begin with?

The change that Wasserman reported is good news, but I don't think will effect improvement in true diversity in the legal academy in my lifetime—taking into account lived experience, more than just boxes checked for skin color, gender identity, and sexual preference.  Even new avenues of access are limited to narrowly defined classes of people and favor the advantaged insiders of the socioeconomic elite.

And the real kicker about clerkships is that you never get a second chance.  Perversely, one is qualified for a clerkship only once, precisely when one is not qualified for a clerkship: as a graduating law student.  My students who cannot, for a variety of reasons beyond their control, clerk after law school will never clerk.  I would love to clerk, still today, but I can never be 23 again.  When I apply to lateral now in academics, the omission of a clerkship a quarter century ago still stains my résumé.

The stains of access denied last for life.  That's how access to opportunity works in many sectors of the American job market: hallways of doors that are closed to ordinary people.  The liberal legal academy is no exception.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

How many people suffer while state unemployment office shuffles paper, issues baseless denials?

I wrote in 2020 about the pay cuts foisted on faculty and staff at UMass Dartmouth.  We're a union shop, which is weird for university faculty in the United States, but at least is supposed to be good for workers.  So for my pay cut—about 11.6%, plus $4k in professional development budget, over one calendar year, so far—the union got me, in return—wait, let me punch the numbers into the calculator—

Nothing.

I quit my union membership once and for all, before the ink dried on the union's Memorandum of Abdication.  But thanks to the compulsory representation law in Massachusetts, I'm still bound to give away anything the union, with its refined talents at the bargaining table, decides that I should give away.

Let me interject a disclaimer that I am not complaining about having a job during the pandemic.  As will become clear momentarily, I am writing about this for the very reason that my concern extends to the many persons who are not as fortunate.  I push myself every day, literally every day, to count my blessings and be grateful, and to find a way to show compassion for those facing hardships during this crisis.  Some days I do better than other days.

With regard to my personal situation, I suggest, I hope modestly, only that in exchange for a pay cut, there might have been some benefit afforded in return: maybe a leniency in job requirements, such as research or teaching load; maybe flexibility in course scheduling; maybe an "IOU" for development budget down the road.  I might could have been bought off for the price of some reference books from my wish list.  Or a new hoodie.  I can always use a hoodie.

I suggested these bargaining chips (except the hoodie) to the union.  No response.  I understand.  It takes a lot of energy and focus to give so much away in so short a time.

But this isn't about the union.  Not today.  Today I write about another bloated bureaucracy feeding ironically at taxpayer teats: the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance, or "Mass UI."

I was given the option, which I accepted, to take part of my pay cut as furlough during the holidays in December.  There was absolutely no reduction to my workload in December, so one might question the utility of a furlough.  But the idea was, the university told us if carefully to disclaim any guarantee, we could claim unemployment insurance to recover a fraction of four days' pay.  It happens that my wife, who also works for the university as an administrator, also took a pay cut (two, actually, for staff) and furlough (also two).  I'm trying to leave her out of this, and I definitely do not speak for her, so I will tell only what I have to to get my story across.

Let me interject again: As a taxpayer, I am not a fan of one financially stressed public institution shoving its accounts payable off on another financially stressed public institution.  That doesn't seem to me to be an efficient way to solve the problem of stress on the fisc.  But I don't make the rules.  We've got a kid in college.  I'm not leaving money on the table.

So we both filed, at different times in 2020, for whatever unemployment insurance we might recoup.

My wife's online account access was immediately shut down, purportedly in response to a spate of fraudulent claims received by Mass UI.  While her access was blocked, Mass UI (claims that it) sent an electronic request for documents to confirm her identity.  She didn't know about any request, because access was blocked.  She couldn't file the docs, even if she'd known to, because access was blocked.  Meanwhile, Mass UI confirmed the validity of her claim with university HR.  

And then Mass UI denied her claim anyway for supposed failure to provide ID.  She didn't even find out about the denial until months later, because, say it with me, access was blocked.

Having witnessed that mess of an experience, I set my account for hard-copy correspondence only, by mail.  Mass UI sent to me, in hard copy, a request for documents to confirm my identity.  Promptly, I returned, in hard copy, the documents requested.  Presumably, Mass UI could confirm my identity, too, and the legitimacy of my claim, with the university.  I work for the state, after all.  But I was trying to play nice.

Twenty days later, Mass UI denied my claim anyway for supposed failure to provide ID.

We both now have appeals pending.  I expect we will have to go to Boston for hearings (50 miles and two hours each way, expensive parking, different days).  As yet, the hearings have not been scheduled.  My wife's first claim dates back to the summer, in the heyday of federal subsidies.  Good times.

As I just wrote to the Commonwealth Attorney General, at some point, misfeasance slides into malfeasance.  I don't know what's going on at Mass UI.  But it's inexcusable.

And that brings me back around to people who are really hurt by this kind of misfeasance or malfeasance by public officials.  People already are suffering for so many reasons: pandemic risk, joblessness, homelessness, systemic disadvantages of race and socioeconomics.  If my family's experience with Mass UI has resulted in two out of two legitimate, easily confirmed claims being rejected on nakedly indefensible, if not outrightly false, grounds, then how many claims are being wrongfully denied for claimants who are depending on unemployment assistance in a time of crisis?

Look, we're lucky.  I know it.  We're both lawyers.  We have the know-how to appeal, and to sue if necessary.  We have the flexibility in our work to adjust our schedules for hearings, and a car to go to Boston if we have to.  We make decent money, even after pay cuts, educational loan debt, and college tuition bills.  We'll be OK.

But today is one of those days that I feel like I'm falling short on compassionate action.  I should do something.  Something should be done.  

I don't know what.  Or how.

I do suspect that Mass UI is running the vaccine roll-out.

This blog is mine and mine alone, and not a product of my employer.  I speak as a private citizen, not a representative of the university, even if my writing sometimes also serves public interests, which is part of my job.  I reference my job and work profile on this blog for purpose of identification only.  While this disclaimer always pertains, I wish to emphasize it today.

UPDATE, Feb. 16, 2021: Our IDs were accepted and matters remanded from appeal to reprocessing thanks to heroic intervention, for which we are grateful, by an individual in the UMass Dartmouth HR office.  Of course, that doesn't alleviate our concerns about people in Massachusetts who are in serious need. WGBH reported on February 8 on "shocking[] dysfunction[]" in the system, having exactly the impact we feared.