September Legal Briefs Monthly News from Wake Forest Law

A Message from Dean Jane Aiken

To my Wake Forest Law community:

It is well acknowledged by now that we live in unprecedented times — that change and uncertainty are continuing to touch every part of our world. But as we embark on a new semester and a new academic year, I challenge myself and each of you to stay mindful in recognizing how this historic moment is calling upon us as advocates of the rule of law.

Over the summer, the pain of discrimination and bias was felt globally. We watched and engaged and contributed to the countless voices that spoke out against the injustices and systemic inequalities that originate and continue to exist in American history. And this happened against the backdrop of a global pandemic and its significant economic consequences.

What has become strikingly clear in all this turmoil is that our responsibility as students, experts, and practitioners of the law is now more dire than ever, and I, as your leader, am empowered by this fact.

I encourage each of you to stay engaged and remain connected as the world demands change and progress. I know that together, even when we may be apart, our community remains strong and prepared to help solve the issues of our time.


Jane Aiken

Background photo (source Wake Forest Law): Dean Jane Aiken speaking in a classroom.

Engaged In Our World

See how members of our community are using their expertise and skills to help solve the greatest issues of our time.

Wake Forest Law contributes to New America study on housing loss

Faculty and students at Wake Forest Law contributed to “Displaced in America,” a report from New America that examines nationwide housing loss. Through the Future of Property Rights Program at New America, Wake Forest Law, Wake Forest University, and Winston-Salem State University worked together to study where housing loss is most acute across the nation and in Forsyth County, North Carolina.

The research on Forsyth County is part of a much larger report that focuses on who is most impacted and why. The team of researchers generated eviction, foreclosure, and combined housing loss rates for every census tract in Forsyth County, averaging the 5 years between 2014 and 2018. The findings were:

  • 12,276 households were evicted in Forsyth County — a 4.4% eviction rate.
  • Census tracts with predominantly non-white households and residents living below the poverty line had higher rates of eviction, foreclosure, and overall housing loss. In particular, census tracts with predominantly Black residents had substantially higher rates of mortgage foreclosure.

This project began in Wake Forest Law’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic. Professor Scott Schang, the director of the clinic, worked closely with students to define the research plan, determine interviews, and gather the data. Alex Cattermole (JD ’21) conducted interviews in the field with legal experts, activists, and community members dealing with housing loss. In July, he co-authored “Why Building More Affordable Housing Isn’t Enough to Alleviate Housing Insecurity,” an essay about the study’s preliminary findings.

Professor Emily Benfer leads national conversation on eviction

Professor Emily Benfer, a nationally recognized expert on health and housing justice, contributed to national media coverage on the U.S. eviction crisis. Below is a list of some of her recent contributions to the media:

  • How the CARES Act failed to protect tenants from eviction (CNBC)
  • Up to 500,000 Pa. Households at Risk as Eviction Moratorium Nears End (NBC Philadelphia)
  • Is An Eviction Crisis On The Horizon? (NPR’s On Point)
  • COVID-19 and the Looming Eviction Crisis (John Hopkins’ Public Health On Call)
  • ‘When are we going home?’ Families share their struggle to stay afloat without federal aid (ABC News)
  • US homelessness could shoot up 45% by the end of the year — but these organizations are helping families find relief (MSN Money)
  • CDC issues nationwide ban on evictions through the end of the year (Marketplace)
  • Confusion over eviction ban led to selective enforcement (Washington Post)
  • CDC issues sweeping temporary halt on evictions. Here’s what that means for renters (CNBC)

Professor Benfer is the chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) COVID-19 Task Force Committee on Eviction and the co-creator of the COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard with the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. She is also the principal investigator in a study of nationwide COVID-19 eviction moratoriums and housing policies.

Professor Benfer is a co-author of “The COVID-19 Eviction Crisis: an Estimated 30-40 Million People in America Are at Risk,” a new report from the Aspen Institute.

Background photo (source Unsplash): Aerial view of neighborhood.

Engaged In Our World

See how members of our community are using their expertise and skills to help solve the greatest issues of our time.

Pro Bono Project launches Protestors' Rights Project

In response to nationwide protests following the policing killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the Wake Forest Law Pro Bono Project launched the “Protesters' Rights Project.”

This new project allows students to serve protestors nationwide through research. Specifically, students conduct research on First Amendment rights, rights upon arrests, rights upon a stop, and other issues that may arise during a protest. The first phase of the project focuses on research related to federal rights, including those under the Constitution, First Amendment, and guaranteed by Supreme Court cases. Students will be assigned to research state-specific laws during the second phase of the project.

The Wake Forest Pro Bono Protestors’ Rights Project does not advocate for a cause and solely provides information as to one’s rights when protesting.

Professor Kami Chavis discusses police accountability, hate crimes, and police reform with media worldwide

Professor Kami Chavis, a globally recognized expert on policing and police accountability, hate crimes, and police reform, contributed to national and international media coverage on the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests that followed the death of George Floyd. Below is a list of some of her recent contributions to the media:

Professor Chavis is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia whose litigation experience serves as a cornerstone to her scholarship in criminal justice and criminal procedure. Because her expertise is expansive, Professor Chavis is a leader in criminal justice reform and often writes and consults on matters of police and police accountability, federal hate crime legislation and enforcement, and racial profiling. She is also the authority on police body-cameras, having frequently contributed to local, national, and international media coverage on police killings of Black men in the U.S.

Professor Kami Chavis is currently the associate provost for academic initiatives at Wake Forest University in addition to her role as director of the Wake Forest School of Law Criminal Justice Program.

Background photo (source Unsplash): Man walking in front of Black Lives Matter flag.

Innovation In Practice

Discover how we’re developing new ways to educate and inspire.

Wake Forest Law and Thomson Reuters join forces to help small businesses

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought financial hardship to many businesses throughout the U.S. Some of these businesses may even face bankruptcy for the first time ever.

To help, Wake Forest Law and Thomson Reuters have joined forces to offer “Bankruptcy and Small Business: A Practical Course for Newcomers,” a free 15-hour course designed to help business owners facing bankruptcy and the strategic advisors — legal or financial — who are tasked to help them.

Bankruptcy expert Professor Steve Nickles conceived this program in response to the anticipated economic impact of the pandemic on small businesses. Throughout his years as a bankruptcy and commercial law teacher and scholar, Professor Nickles has maintained a close connection to the bench and bar, providing students with a unique real-world view of debtor-creditor practice. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including a three-volume treatise used by lawyers throughout the world.

Background photo (source iStock): The exterior of a United States Bankruptcy Courthouse.

Our Character, Our Impact

Learn how we’re making an impact in our community and beyond.

Criminal Justice Pro Bono Project recognized for service

The Wake Forest Pro Bono Project's Criminal Justice Project — which involves our Know Your Rights and Prison Letters Projects as well as our Brake Light and Expungement Clinics — named the recipient of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) 2020 Law Student Group Pro Bono Service Award.

Background photo (source Wake Forest Law): Students at 2019 Expungement Clinic.

Our Scholarship

> Professor Mark Hall coauthors "Partitioning the Curve — Interstate Travel Restrictions During the Covid-19 Pandemic" and "The Legal Authority for States’ Stay-at-Home Orders," two articles published in The New England Journal of Medicine. He is also the coauthor of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) article, "Privileges and Immunity Certification During the COVID-19 Pandemic."

> Professor Sarah J. Morath authors "Plastic Pollution Is an Environmental Justice Issue," an op-ed published by Bloomberg Law. Environmental harms from plastic pollution disproportionately affects people of color, she writes.

> Professor Sidney Shapiro authors "A Failure of Administrative Law in OSHA During the Pandemic," an op-ed published by The Regulatory Review. Professor Shapiro also recently coauthored "Protecting Workers in a Pandemic: What the Federal Government Should Be Doing," a study from The Center For Progressive Reform.

> Dean Jane Aiken authors "Motherhood As Misogyny," an article published in Women & Law, a joint issue lead by the Duke Law Journal.

> Professor Gregory Parks authors "Kamala Harris and the Political Power of Black Sororities (and Fraternities)," a New York University Press blog article. Professor Parks is an expert on black fraternal networks and their relation to the law.

> Professor Christine Nero Coughlin (JD '90) coauthors "Modern Legal Scholarship: A Guide to Producing and Publishing Scholarly and Professional Writing," a publication of Carolina Academic Press.

Background photo (source Unsplash): Statue of justice with blindfold and scales.

News In Brief

> The Kay Hagan Award, a new recognition and honorarium for the best paper in Wake Forest Law's State and Local Government in a Federal System class, was announced in August. The award honors alumna and former U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (JD '78), who passed away in 2019.

> Chris Swecker (JD '81) appointed to lead an independent review of Fort Hood following the killing of Spc. Vanessa Guillen. Swecker is an attorney and former assistant director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

> The Jury Sunshine Project — empirical research on jury selection data by Wake Forest Law Professors Ron Wright, Gregory Parks, and Kami Chavis — cited on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Background photo (source Ken Bennett): U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (JD '78) speaking at Hillary Clinton presidential campaign rally in 2016.

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