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"NY Daily News" featured President Marvin Krislov's piece "Where affirmative action goes after the Harvard ruling"

10/03/2019

"NY Daily News" featured President Marvin Krislov's piece "Where affirmative action goes after the Harvard ruling"

This week, a federal judge in Boston upheld the admissions system used by Harvard University, saying it does not discriminate against Asian-Americans. To many observers, this came as no surprise. Supreme Court precedent has been clear since 1978: Colleges and universities may consider race and ethnicity as one factor among many in composing a diverse student body. That’s how the Harvard system worked, and that’s why Judge Allison Burroughs upheld it.

The affirmative action opponents who brought the suit have announced their intent to appeal Judge Burroughs’ decision, but there’s reason to doubt it will make its way to the Supreme Court. The high court typically hears cases in which it must resolve a conflict between different circuit courts. Because the precedent is clear, there is no circuit conflict. She found, like the Supreme Court has in recent decisions, that student body diversity is a compelling interest and that Harvard’s program was narrowly tailored to accomplish that goal.

But regardless of what today’s Supreme Court might do, I would argue that it’s time for us to move beyond the decades-old arguments about the merits of affirmative action programs. The most salient point about these programs, I believe, was made by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, writing for the court in the 2003 University of Michigan Grutter decision, of which I was a part: “In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry,” she wrote, “it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.”

So let’s focus on how we can create a path to leadership that is visibly open to all individuals.

The reality today is that affirmative action in admissions is a factor at only a small number of America’s colleges and for a smaller number of America’s college students. Almost exclusively, those are the country’s most selective institutions, and even there, many fewer report considering race in admissions than did a decade ago. 

Our great challenge is to ensure that qualified students of all backgrounds are encouraged to apply for college and ready for the experience, so that they’ll succeed once they’re there. Which means we need well-designed early-college programs, proactive college counselors, especially in our underserved communities, after-school programs, and summer programs. This includes mentorship, especially for first-generation college families. This includes colleges working with high schools and families to help students navigate the application admissions and aid process. This means casting a wide net for recruitment and outreach. And this means corporate, government and philanthropic support for all of these initiatives, because these students represent the future for these organizations.

As our country’s population becomes more diverse, we need to recognize young people from diverse backgrounds as an extraordinary talent pool that will play an indisputable role in America’s continuing leadership. I now lead one of the more socioeconomically and racially diverse private universities in the country, Pace University, and I can tell you we relearn every fall that our outstanding students don’t just bring different backgrounds and cultures to our campus, they also bring vibrancy and academic ambition to their classrooms.

Colleges and universities also need to think creatively about what they can do to ensure students have academic support. They should invest in their local K–12 schools, which is one of the many reasons we created Pace High School in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and New Visions for Public Schools. Community colleges and universities need to collaborate to build new pathways for talented students to succeed.

And employers, who recognize the value of a diverse workforce, should redouble their efforts to recruit at all colleges to find all talented potential employees.

Ultimately, the challenge facing us is to figure out how to prepare and support students of all backgrounds. By focusing on proactively building pathways for all talented students, we can achieve our real goal: creating opportunities for all students of all backgrounds at all our colleges and universities.

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"Daily News" featured Pace Law school 2019 graduate Jeffrey Deskovic in "Now friends for life, exonerated accused killer Jeffrey Deskovic and his Innocence Project angel celebrate earning their law degrees"

05/21/2019

"Daily News" featured Pace Law school 2019 graduate Jeffrey Deskovic in "Now friends for life, exonerated accused killer Jeffrey Deskovic and his Innocence Project angel celebrate earning their law degrees"

Jeffrey Deskovic, released after 16 years behind bars for a brutal murder he did not commit, spied a face both unfamiliar and friendly as he left the Westchester County Courthouse.

The complete stranger was Maggie Taylor, a pivotal figure in the legal battle to overturn Deskovic’s conviction. Though unaware of her efforts, he felt a sense of connection on that sun-splashed day in September 2006 — and the two became fast friends.

Thirteen years later, the mutual admiration society forged in the fight for his freedom still endures. The pair jointly celebrated two milestones: Deskovic earned his Pace University Law School degree last week, and Taylor collects her degree Monday from the Columbia University Law School.

“We are friends for life,” said Deskovic. “I did not ever think I would come out of this with a friend for life. At one point, I was pretty sure I was not going to come out of this, period."

Taylor, 42, of Manhattan, echoed her friend’s appraisal of the ties that still bind the two.

“Jeffrey is definitely a kindred spirit,” said Taylor. “I think we have a similar fighting spirit and stubbornness. He’s been through so much more than I’ve been through. But I think we’re similarly concerned about all the people who are still inside.”

Taylor learned of the Deskovic case in early 2006 as an intake worker with The Innocence Project, the advocacy group that uses DNA testing to clear the wrongfully convicted. Jeffrey’s case was different: None of his DNA was found on the body of 15-year-old high school classmate Angela Correa after her Nov. 15, 1989 rape and murder.

Prosecutors explained away the lack of DNA proof and relied instead on a confession coerced after hours of police interrogation. The suspect was denied both food and a lawyer. He was just a 17-year-old Peekskill High School senior when found guilty, with a sentence of 16 years to life imposed.

Though his previous appeals to the Project gained no traction, Taylor read Deskovic’s latest letter and became a true believer. She agreed with his contention that testing the DNA found on the victim could steer authorities to the real killer, and the Project took on his case.

“In my mind, there was absolutely no question,” recalled Taylor. “The prosecution was a complete fabrication, and the jury had absolutely made the wrong decision.”

Once the DNA was run through the state databank, the real killer was revealed: Steven Cunningham, already jailed for another murder committed four years after the Correa killing. Deskovic was released.

The friendship has lasted long past the exoneration. The pair sometimes perform karaoke with friends and celebrate birthdays, according to Deskovic.

“It’s nice to have a friendship where somebody doesn’t want anything,” said Deskovic. “It’s pure altruism, and I appreciate that. I can confide in Maggie, and I know she’s not going to look at me differently.”

The cake from Deskovic's law school graduation party on Monday. Maggie Taylor will graduate this Monday. (Obtained by Daily News)

The two reunited under rainy May skies last Monday. Deskovic, newly graduated, cried as Taylor clutched an umbrella in one hand and wrapped both arms around his neck. They celebrated their scholastic success at a party where Deskovic rolled out a cake with both their faces and a message written in icing.

“Congratulations!” it read. “Now exonerate the wrongfully imprisoned.”

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"Daily News" featured the director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center Karl R. Rábago's piece "Getting out of the gas fix we’re in: We need more energy but we can’t just keep burning fossil fuels"

05/17/2019

"Daily News" featured the director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center Karl R. Rábago's piece "Getting out of the gas fix we’re in: We need more energy but we can’t just keep burning fossil fuels"

Con Edison’s moratorium on serving most new gas customers in Westchester took effect on March 15; Con Ed recently advised New York’s Public Service Commission that it may have found a way out of the moratorium — by squeezing even more gas through an existing pipeline. Some in the real estate development community may see that as good news. But it’s bad news for Mayor de Blasio and state officials who have committed to cleaning up our energy mix, and it is bad news for the climate and our health.

Several competing forces are aligned against a rational response to the challenges arising from our increasing gas use. Gas utilities make more money by building more infrastructure and selling more gas. Local officials and the real estate industry associate growth with goodness, especially growth of infrastructure that consumes gas — housing and other buildings. Reliable and affordable heating services are essential to life. But the climate is rapidly changing due to fossil emissions, with increasingly catastrophic effects.

We are in the realm of the first rule of holes: “When you are in a hole and want out, first you must stop digging.” New York won’t stop using all gas for some time. But we can’t just keep irresponsibly adding to the amount of gas we use. New York is the largest residential and commercial consumer of gas in the nation. We have to start using less gas and use it in smarter, more efficient ways.

Not yet on the table is something we can do right now that builds to a full transition away from dependence on gas.

So now is the time for public officials at the state and local level to support and adopt a formal policy of Zero Net Gas. A ZNG policy should be built on comprehensive and full life-cycle evaluation of the benefits and costs of gas use and all the alternatives.

First, a ZNG policy would require that real estate developers and Con Ed start talking about possible gas use early in the development process — whether for new projects or renovations, and explore every reasonable opportunity to avoid using gas at all.

Second, if new gas use is unavoidable, the developer and Con Ed must look to the entire range of technologies for making that use super-efficient. Modern boiler technologies and combined heat and power systems (which get energy value from both the burning of the gas and the heat remaining in the exhausts) offer substantial efficiency benefits and make living and working in the building more affordable.

Finally, any new net gas use must be more than offset by reductions in gas use elsewhere on the system. Preferably, those offsets will come from low-income and environmental justice communities where the impacts of inefficient gas use cause health and economic stress. Focus should be on gas-burning stoves, boilers and building heating equipment.

A Zero Net Gas policy will eliminate the driver for new pipelines and the need for a moratorium, while allowing economic development and progress toward climate and environmental goals — like the managed transformation of our energy systems away from fossil fuels. It is a healthier approach — environmentally, socially,and economically.

Some may see what’s going on with gas as a crisis; others will see it as opportunity. It is, of course, both. Shame on us all if we don’t immediately adopt policies like a Zero Net Gas strategy to address it.

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"Daily News" featured Pace Haub Law School Professor Mimi Rocah in "Celebrities, CEOs charged in college bribery scheme could face 'really high' prison terms"

03/15/2019

"Daily News" featured Pace Haub Law School Professor Mimi Rocah in "Celebrities, CEOs charged in college bribery scheme could face 'really high' prison terms"

Like their rich offspring, the parents charged in the college admissions scandal may experience years of living away from home, having a roommate and eating meals with their peers in a large cafeteria.

But their new home could be a jail, not a dormitory.

The 33 parents charged this week in the biggest college scam ever in the U.S. can afford expensive laywers — and they’ll need them, legal experts say.

“The penalties in white-collar cases have become very, very harsh,” said Bradley Simon, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Brooklyn.

The parents — who include several CEOs and actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin — could face several years in prison if convicted.

The felony fraud charge against them carries a penalty of up to 20 years behind bars, a stiff and unlikely scenario, but the size of the bribes might dictate whether and how much time they could face behind bars.

Simon said there is “a reasonable chance” they will serve prison time partly because sentences for white-collar crimes have become stiffer in recent years. He said prosecutors could even argue that all parents involved were part of one conspiracy and are liable for the whole $25 million that authorities said were paid in bribes to accused mastermind William (Rick) Singer over the nearly decade-long scheme.

“They’re going to argue that the actresses were not just liable for the amount they paid,” Simon said, “which could result in a really high, harsh sentence.”

Each parent was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, which could result in three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 (or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater) in addition to prison time, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston said Thursday.

But sentence guidelines, which typically fall well below the statutory maximum, depend on the amount of money involved.

Loughlin, who is accused of paying $500,000 to have her two daughters accepted into the University of Southern California, would potentially see a longer prison sentence than Huffman, who authorities accuse of paying $15,000 in bribes, experts say.

Mimi Rocah, another former assistant U.S. attorney from New York, estimates prosecutors would come out with a two- to three-year sentence request for Loughlin.

“On its face, they will be facing some jail time,” Rocah said. “But I do think there is a good chance that a judge will go very much down from the guidelines.”

Loughlin, known for her role as Aunt Becky on “Full House,” paid Singer to have her two daughters designated as athletes on the crew team even though they did not play the sport at all, court filings allege.

Huffman, who played Lynette Scavo on “Desperate Housewives,” paid a smaller bribe to have someone take an SAT exam in place of her oldest daughter so she could get into college, according to the documents. Her amount may not rise to the level of the guidelines, Rocah said.

The sentences could vary considerably depending on the judge and potential guilty pleas.

“There’s going to be a lot of discretion and I hope they use it responsibly,” Rocah said.

Research shows that sentencing guidelines for white-collar felonies have gotten tougher. The average guideline minimum for fraud offenders, for instance, increased from 10 months to 29 months between 2003 and 2012, according to a 2017 study by Mark W. Bennett, Justin D. Levinson and Koichi Hioki. The actual imposed sentences have also gone up, though not at the same pace, the study shows.

Simon, a partner at New York-based Phillips Nizer law firm, said judges tend to be a bit more lenient.

One recent example is former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was sentenced in a Virginia case last week to less than four years in prison even though special counsel Robert Mueller had asked for 19 to 24 years.

One of the problems for the families in the school cheating scandal, however, is the fact that this is such a high-profile case.

“Prosecutors tend to be conscious of the press and they don’t want to be perceived as going easy on wealthy people,” Simon said.

The judges, too, will be conscious about the appearance of giving those parents a break given how closely the public will be following the case, Simon said.

Rocah, a distinguished fellow in criminal justice at Pace University, said it’s “conceivable, but unlikely” that prosecutors would hold the parents liable for the whole $25 million. To do that, she said, they would have to prove that each parents knew the full scale of the scheme Singer is accused of running from 2011 to 2019.

Rocah said the charges against the parents seem fair, but she believes the main goal was to warn other potential cheaters out there that there are consequences.

“The charge is really sending a message,” she said, “and telling a story that needs to be told.”

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"Daily News" featured Pace Haub Law School Professor Mimi Rocah's piece "Trump and his allies were partners in crime, and don't pretend that isn't a huge deal"

12/13/2018

"Daily News" featured Pace Haub Law School Professor Mimi Rocah's piece "Trump and his allies were partners in crime, and don't pretend that isn't a huge deal"

After today it is all but undeniable that Donald Trump worked in coordination with his former fixer-lawyer and American Media Inc., and possibly others, to make payments to two women who would otherwise have revealed stories about extramarital affairs with Trump at a crucial time in the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen has pled guilty to those crimes in the Southern District of New York. In its sentencing brief, prosecutors say Cohen acted “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump. For its part, AMI has entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the SDNY in which it admitted working with Trump’s campaign to influence the election.

So, what began as a defense by Trump that he didn’t know anything about the payments has turned into something along the lines of: Well even if he did know about them or was involved in this conduct, this is a minor, private civil matter at worst.

Meantime, there is a chorus of GOP senators singing in harmony with the President, doing damage control and claiming, essentially, that these are minor crimes. No big deal.

But Trump’s involvement in these crimes — which I have little doubt will only become clearer over time — is a very big deal. And the notion that the people entrusted with passing these and other laws designed to keep our elections free and fair are doing a collective shrug is, as someone who was a prosecutor for 16 years, mildly infuriating.

While campaign finance crimes are not often prosecuted, that is because they are notoriously hard to prove. And, of course, discretion should be used in deciding which violations should be prosecuted criminally.

This one isn’t even close to the line. A conspiracy between a candidate for President, his fixer and a media corporation to ensure that the voting public would not hear information damaging to the candidate at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars, designed to be hard to trace through shell corporations, false entries in a corporation’s (Trump Organization) books and records, and then repeated lies, is no ordinary “violation.”

Indeed, the federal Judge who sentenced Michael Cohen to three years in prison today in part for those crimes noted the seriousness of these crimes and called them “sophisticated.”

Yet some lawmakers in Congress seem to want to pick and choose which laws are deemed serious enough to prosecute depending on who committed them. That is something as a former prosecutor and as an American I find deeply troubling.

Rocah is a distinguished criminal justice fellow at Pace University Law School. She previously served as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

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"Daily News" featured Pace University's Law Professor Bridget J. Crawford in "Australia removes ‘Tampon Tax’ - feminine hygiene products no longer ‘non-essential"

10/04/2018

"Daily News" featured Pace University's Law Professor Bridget J. Crawford in "Australia removes ‘Tampon Tax’ - feminine hygiene products no longer ‘non-essential"

...Despite arguments the levies should remain for fiscal reasons, Pace University Law Professor Bridget J. Crawford said no state is in jeopardy of “collapse” over the loss of tampon taxation.

“There is no state that depends on women’s menstruation to keep going,” Crawford said.

She echoed estimates that a woman could easily pay more than $700 on tampon taxes alone over her lifetime.

Australia’s decision to remove the tax follows just months after India ruled to remove its “tampon tax” in July.

Crawford said Australia’s move to abolish the tax is a “small change” that could make a “huge practical and symbolic difference.”

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