Faculty Members, Student Research Assistants, Discuss Recent Projects

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Faculty members, staff and student research assistants discussed their recent research and the role the assistants play in professors’ work in a July 1 panel and reception hosted by the Office of Student Affairs. The projects they described ranged from securities law to the care of pets after the death of an owner.

Professor Steven Schwarcz spoke about his research on securities and the conflicts regarding corporate responsibilities to existing shareholders versus future investors. In discussing his satisfaction of choosing to work as a research assistant this summer, Wyatt Bloomfield ’05 commented, “Professor Schwarcz looks for your input…and respects your insight as far as the broader issues are concerned.”

Professor Neil Vidmar discussed his projects on how juries perceive witnesses and how they award damages to victims

Professor William Reppy discussed the three articles he is writing this summer. He is reviewing laws that govern the care of pets after an owner’s death (in essence, trust laws for pets), the North Carolina cruelty statutes (to ensure animals receive equal protection under the law) and laws that govern gifts of land in a will.

Professor Carolyn McAllaster spoke about her involvement with the Duke Legal Assistant Project and its efforts to help people infected with HIV. She described the work of first- and second-year law students through the clinic.

Professor Neil Vidmar discussed his projects on how juries perceive witnesses and how they award damages to victims. In a one-of-a-kind study, Vidmar has spent the past four years reviewing videotapes of jurors and their interactions with one another during civil trials. He noted that juries often put plaintiffs on trial and question their motives rather than determine whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. Brian Brook ’05, Vidmar’s research assistant, spoke about the significance of the project and its uniqueness stating, “[It is] a good feeling contributing to ground breaking research…[I] feel privileged to see these things no one else will ever see.”

Scott Edson ’05 spoke about the projects he has been working on with Professor Sara Beale. One area particularly highlighted was that of the “Restorative Justice Model.” He noted that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the Western world. To put that in perspective, Britain is the leading incarcerator of Western Europe and the United States incarcerates five times as many people as does Britain, Edson said.

Wayne Miller, director of educational technologies, presented on behalf of Professor Tom Metzloff. Metzloff is working on a project entitled “Distinctive Aspects of U.S. Law.” The work consists of interviews with people who have been directly involved in unusual or benchmark legal cases.

Associate Dean Theresa Newman, who moderated the event, also spoke about her work with the Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to investigating and pursuing inmates' claims of actual innocence. Newman praised the work of the research assistants and encouraged the new class of joint-degree students to consider taking on such work themselves after their first year. “Do good work for your professors and you will have an advocate for life,” she said.

The event was part of the Summer Passport Series, an initiative by the offices of External Relations and Student Affairs designed to more quickly engage first-year, joint-degree students with aspects of Duke Law life they might not otherwise encounter until fall.