Category: Law

Robert Spangenberg Rejoins BU Law School Faculty

October 20th, 2011 in Law, News Releases, School of Law 0 comments

Contact: Richard Taffe, 617-353-4626 |

(Boston) — Robert L. Spangenberg, a pioneering champion of legal rights for the poor and advisor to states and bar associations on the subject of legal aid for the indigent, is returning to the Boston University School of Law faculty after four successful decades of working to improve the access to quality of representation for those unable to afford counsel in civil or criminal cases.

Spangenberg, who earned business and law degrees from BU, as assistant dean at BU Law in mid ‘60s founded one of the nation’s first legal defense clinics as part of a law school curriculum and helped design and implement the first federal civil legal services program. Since then he has had celebrated career studying, evaluating, and helping legislatures improve legal services for the poor in all 50 states while assisting the Justice Department and advising developing nations on the subject.

“Boston University is honored to welcome back the nation’s preeminent leader of the legal aid reform movement who has helped change both laws and attitudes,” said BU Law Dean Maureen O’Rourke. “We look to perpetuate Bob Spangenberg’s passion for equal access to justice by continuing his work with governments and bar associations by engaging students from the Law School and across campus to join in his research projects.”

The Spangenberg Group, which Spangenberg created in 1985 to fill the void of analysis of the field of indigent defense and civil legal services, remains the only organization of its kind to provide technical service and evaluations of legal defense systems for the poor nationwide. It is the consulting firm to the American Bar Association program which provides technical help and advice to governments and state bar groups about improving such systems. Earlier, Spangenberg spent nine years with the social science research firm Abt Associates conducting national, state, and local studies relating to the improvement of indigent legal services.

Spangenberg launched his legal reform missionary career in the mid-1960s advising the LBJ administration on starting the Office of Legal Services under the newly created Office of Economic Opportunity. He then helped create and head what is now the Greater Boston Legal Services organization, taking a leave to serve in Washington, D.C., as special assistant to the first director of the National Legal Services Program. In 1975 the Boston Bar Association created the Action Plan for Legal Services, with Spangenberg as executive director, which did two years of research into unmet legal needs of the poor across Massachusetts. It lead to legislation enacted in 1983 creating the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Service, independent from the judiciary, to administer counsel for the poor. Spangenberg served on its board until 1995.

During his 26 years as president of the Spangenberg Group (, based in West Newton, Mass., Spangenberg has conducted research in all 50 states and dozens of developing nations, testified before legislative bodies, and served as an expert witness. His efforts have resulted in legislation overhauling indigent legal services delivery in numerous states and localities for which he has been honored by numerous state bar groups and legal associations, including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA).

The BU School of Law, founded in 1872, ranked number one in teaching quality by Princeton Review and Leiter, and its tax, intellectual property, and health law programs are ranked in the top ten nationally by U.S. News & World Report.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU contains 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.

(Spangenberg Q&A in BU Today 10/20/11:

Ex-Madoff employees arrested

November 18th, 2010 in Law 0 comments

Two former employees of Bernard Madoff have been arrested and charged with securities fraud in connection with Madoff’s Ponzi scheme to defraud investors of billions of dollars. Law professor Tamar Frankel, an authority on securities law and author of “Trust and Honesty: America’s Business Culture at a Crossroads,” says a massive fraud like this cannot be done without help.

“Helpers should know that they become part of a fraudulent scheme even if they do not know all the details.

“Their remuneration, for example, may give signals that what is going on is not entirely legal — in this case, suspicious enough to raise liability as helpers.

“But helpers must be involved in the scheme. The cleaners of an office in which fraud is committed are not criminally liable.”

Contact Tamar Frankel, 617-353-3773,

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Ponzi schemer pleads guilty

September 16th, 2010 in Law 0 comments

Nevin Shapiro pleaded guilty to running an $880 million multi-state Ponzi scheme.  Law professor Tamar Frankel, an authority on securities law and author of “Trust and Honesty: America’s Business Culture at a Crossroad,” says to expect more and larger Ponzi schemes.

“It is no use telling investors that ‘if the offering is too good to be true, it is!’ After all, the entire country is engaged not only in speculation but in betting — like the offerings of Ponzi schemers. Small Ponzi schemes will always remain, but large bubbles will spawn the Madoff’s and Shapiro’s Ponzi schemes.

“So expect more to be uncovered. There is no way to contain enormous frauds when bubbles in the securities markets constitute a Ponzi scheme. These bubbles are too good to be true.”

Contact Tamar Frankel, 617-353-3773,

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Calif. gay-marriage ruling challenge

August 16th, 2010 in Law 0 comments

gay marriageA federal appeals court this week considers a request to ban the resumption of same-sex marriages in Californina that would be based on a federal judge’s ruling which said the state had no constitutional right to block such marriages — which happened when voters approved Proposition 8 last year.  Gay-marriage opponents want them to be put on hold until the case can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme court.  Law Professor Linda McClain, an authority on family law, says California already is living with thousands of such marriages performed between the time the state Supreme Court said they were legal and when voters overruled the court with Proposition 8.

“So there is a precedent for having a period in which marriages are allowed, even if subsequent marriages are banned.  And Californians are living with these marriages without evident harm to the institution of marriage.”

Contact Linda McClain, 617-358-4635,

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Calif. gay-marriage ban struck down

August 5th, 2010 in Law 0 comments

same-sex marriage imageFor the first time, a gay-marriage ban has been struck down on federal constitutional grounds.  Federal court Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling on California’s controversial Proposition 8, which had barred same-sex marriages in that state, now heads to the appeals court level and is expected to eventually be decided in the U.S. Supreme Court.  Law Professor Linda McClain, an authority on family law, says Walker’s ruling that the one-man/one-woman marriage rule is a gender-role stereotype “artifact” from an earlier era gives like-minded Supreme Court justices a ready avenue to affirm the opinion. 

“The court carefully reviewed how marriage laws used to mandate different roles for men and women and how California, like other states, has abolished all such restrictions except the one requiring that civil marriage be the union of one man and one woman.  This provides a powerful line of argument because the Supreme Court has previously struck down laws rooted in gender role stereotypes rather than ‘real’ differences between the sexes. “

Contact Linda McClain, 617-358-4635,

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Arizona's immigration battle

July 29th, 2010 in Law 0 comments

illegal immigration US-Mexico borderProtesters stormed the streets of Phoenix objecting to Arizona’s new immigration law, most of which was struck down by a federal court judge who ruled that the bulk of the law intruded on federal responsibilities for immigration control.  Law Professor Susan Akram, an authority on immigration law, says the only way to keep states and Washington from fighting each other over this is for comprehensive immigration reform to be enacted by Congress because the reality is that 85 percent of the undocumented are working but drawing few government benefits.

“In other words, there is a net gain from immigrants and the undocumented, since they work and pay taxes but draw very few benefits.  But the money they contribute often goes to federal and state coffers, while many services they benefit from — such as health and law enforcement — come out of local government budgets.  That is the essence of the controversy between states such as Arizona and the federal government, with states claiming they are bearing the costs of the dysfunctional federal immigration policy.  This cannot be resolved through the courts.”

Contact Susan Akram, 617-358-3060,

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EU antitrust probe of IBM

July 26th, 2010 in Law 0 comments

IBM mainframe computerEuopean Union regulators launched two antitrust investigations against IBM, the world’s biggest provider of computer services, for allegedly abusing its dominant position on the mainframe computer market.  IBM says it’s cooperating with the EU probe and that it suspects the complaint is being driven by its largest competitors, led by Microsoft.  Law Professor Keith Hylton, an authority on antitrust law, notes that the allegations revolve around IBM trying to tie its operating system to its mainframes, and to tie its own service to its mainframes.  IBM, he said, could defend itself saying it is protecting itself by limiting consumers from using inferior services or to bettter reap the returns from innovation.

“Both explanations have been viewed with suspicion as defenses in American law, and probably have even less chance of success under European law.  Still, they are reasons that IBM’s ‘tying’ strategies may be pro-competitive and beneficial to consumers in the long term.”

Contact Keith Hylton, 617-353-8959,

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Hearing on AZ immigration law

July 22nd, 2010 in Law 0 comments

Arizona welcome signA federal judge in Phoenix is hearing arguments from the state, the feds, and civil rights groups over whether Arizona’s controversial new immigration law — requiring officers to check a person’s immigration status if there’s a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is here illegally — should take effect next week.  Law Professor Susan Akram, an authority on immigration law, says similar attempts by states to seize from the federal government responsibility for immigration matters have either been tied up in litigation for years or were overturned.

“It does not appear that public opinion has been influenced by the actual facts involved in passing such measures: that they are unlikely to be enforceable because they conflict with an area in which federal law pre-empts most state action; that they are going to be subject to serious and lengthy litigation; and that they are going to cost the states and localities significant resources without achieving the benefits they seek.”

Contact Susan Akram, 617-358-3060,

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Madoff trustee sues "feeders"

July 21st, 2010 in Law 0 comments

Bernie MadoffThe trustee overseeing the liquidation of the estate of convicted swindler Bernie Madoff (r.) has sued 25 feeder funds and 19 individuals for wrongly enriching themselves from the multi-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme for which Madoff is serving a 150-year sentence in federal prison.  Law Professor Tamar Frankel, a securities law authority and author of “Trust and Honesty: America’s Business Culture at a Crossroad,” says all of those feeders of money benefitted, like all money managers, from their services — but they allegedly had actual knowledge of what Madoff was doing.

“They should have checked.  If they did not, they should repay the fees and compensate for damages caused by their negligence.  This is not a claim on hindsight for unexpected damage — this is a claim for keeping their eyes tightly shut.”

Contact Tamar Frankel, 617-353-3773,

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Obama vs. SCOTUS

July 9th, 2010 in Law 0 comments

We The PeopleMany legal experts foresee a collision coming between President Obama’s progressive agenda and the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.  Republican attorneys general in 20 states, for example, have already sued the federal government over the healthcare reform act, arguing that the law’s mandate to buy health insurance tramples states’ rights and exceeds Congress’ power.  Political science Professor Graham Wilson, author of “Only in America? American Politics in Comparative Perspective,” says a Constitutional crisis may be coming.

“It would be an extraordinary expansion of judicial power without precedent since 1937 if the Supreme Court intervened in the health care issue.  It should provoke a Constitutional crisis were it to happen.”

Contact Graham Wilson, 617-353-2540,

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