Battle at the Border: National Northern Border Counternarcotics Drug Strategy

By Caroline Murray, Albany Government Law Review

I. Introduction

“It’s our dirty little secret,” said Franklin County District Attorney Derek P. Champagne.[1]  He was speaking of the U.S.- Canadian border drug trafficking issue.[2]  At the time of his statement, Mr. Champagne was prosecuting the drug bust of smuggler, Lee Marlowe, who was apprehended after an alert went out, “for a vehicle from the border with a load of marijuana.”[3] Congressman Bill Owens claimed this bust was the result of winning House approval of the Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy Act one-month prior.[4]  Senator Charles Schumer, pushed the bill through the Senate and President Obama signed it into law on January 4, 2011.[5] Continue reading “Battle at the Border: National Northern Border Counternarcotics Drug Strategy”

HEAT Summit Seeks to Help Cure a Dying System: The Obama Administration and the Battle Against Health Care Fraud

 Lynn Nolan, Government Law Review member

             Approximately $125–175 billion are lost to fraud each year in both the private and public health care sectors.[1]  The FBI estimates that in fiscal year 2009, $75–250 billion were stolen from public and private healthcare programs through fraudulent billings alone.[2]  With the prevalence of health care fraud becoming more apparent the government is taking action to prevent and prosecute fraudulent activity.  President Obama has made combating health care fraud a priority of his administration by encouraging the development of innovative methods of preventing fraud and pursuing policy changes to facilitate reform.[3] 

            One of the Administration’s signature initiatives is the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), which is a collaborative task force derived from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).[4]  The HEAT task force was established on May 20, 2009 to aid in the identification of perpetrators of fraud in order to recover funds which have been stolen and prohibit perpetrators from abusing federally funded health care programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid.[5]  The latest initiative of HEAT was the National Summit on Health Care Fraud which was held on January 28, 2010.[6]  The National Summit was held to address the issue of health care fraud and promote the participation of the private health care sector in collaboratively fighting fraud to aid government efforts.[7]  Secretary Sebelius addressed the private sector in saying,

[h]ealth care fraud isn’t just a government problem.  Criminals don’t discriminate and they are stealing from Medicare, Medicaid and private companies at an unacceptable rate . . . [w]e have a shared interest in stopping these crimes and today’s summit brought us together to discuss how we can all work together to fight fraud.[8] 

Continue reading “HEAT Summit Seeks to Help Cure a Dying System: The Obama Administration and the Battle Against Health Care Fraud”

New York City Teachers: Leave Obama at the Schoolhouse Gate

Brady Begeal, Albany Government Law Review Member

During the Presidential campaign race of 2008, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the largest public school teachers’ union in the country, began distributing pro-Obama political materials to its members after deciding that summer to support Obama’s run for office.[1]  Soon after, New York City informed UFT that teachers could not wear political buttons because of the City’s policy.[2]  The City’s policy was found in a regulation that stated “[w]hile on duty or in contact with students, all school personnel should maintain a posture of complete neutrality with respect to all candidates.”[3]  The regulation went on to say “[n]o material supporting any candidate, candidates, slate of candidates, or political organizations/committees may be distributed, posted, or displayed in any school building.”[4]  UFT promptly filed a suit against the City, claiming First Amendment violations and challenging the regulation’s validity.[5]  In January, 2010, over two years after the suit was filed, a New York district court held that New York City may pass regulations banning high school teachers from wearing political buttons at school without infringing upon the teacher’s constitutional right to free speech.[6]  

The New York City Education Chancellor Joel Klein argued that “[p]artisan political activity by staff in the presence of students . . . sends the message that the view expressed carries the support of the school system.”[7]  At trial, plaintiffs presented expert testimony from David Moshman, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Nebraska.[8]  Moshman testified that elementary students “may fail to distinguish speech that happens to occur on school premises from official school views and teachings and may be unable to fully comprehend explanations without distinction.”[9]  However, when it comes to high school students, they can “spontaneously understand that a teacher’s button is not part of the curriculum” and “[f]ew, if any [high school students] would mistakenly believe that a campaign button worn by teachers constituted official school-related speech.”[10]  To this, Judge Kaplan of the Southern District of New York stated that Moshman “acknowledges that at least some would be misled on that point and to that extent concedes that the defendants’ determination is well grounded in some degree.”[11]  Thus, the court ultimately concluded that “[p]laintiffs . . . failed to raise a genuine issue of fact that the Regulation’s ban of teacher-worn political buttons in high schools is not reasonably related to defendants’ legitimate pedagogical concerns.”[12] 

The outcome of this case is hardly shocking.  The United States Supreme Court first addressed the free speech rights of students and teachers in the well-known case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District in 1969.[13]  There, the court articulated one of its most famous free speech quotes: “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”[14]  However, Tinker was the “high point” for student and teacher free speech rights, which have gradually diminished and have been replaced by the growing right of schools to enforce academic discipline and maintain pedagogical interests.[15]  Over the last forty years, schools began disassociating themselves from government politics while courts have grown more willing to shelter school districts on the issue restricting political speech by teachers.[16] 

Continue reading “New York City Teachers: Leave Obama at the Schoolhouse Gate”

Lincoln’s Legacy: Sobota Lecture Featuring Lewis E. Lehrman

Marisa Floriani, Managing Editor of Government Law Review Fireplace Blog

           Thomas Guernsey, President and Dean of Albany Law School, gave a brief opening remark to the Government Law Review’s Symposium: Lincoln’s Legacy.  Although he described the connections Albany Law founders had to Abraham Lincoln as “a powerful group of Albany Law attorneys,” it is not a phrase that has to be limited to men and women of Albany Law’s past.  Starting tonight and continuing until 5pm on Thursday, October 1st, “a powerful group of Albany Law attorneys” as well as attorneys and spectators from across the region and country will gather at Albany Law to discuss the expansion of executive power. 

          On Wednesday night, Lewis E. Lehrman, whose educational accomplishments include a B.A. from Yale University and a Masters in History from Harvard University, spoke at the Sobota Lecture as part of the Government Law Review’s Symposium.  He articulated a spectrum of Lincoln’s political career, focusing mainly on Lincoln’s “extraordinary speech” at Peoria, Illinois.  It was at Peoria that Lincoln debated Senator Stephen Douglas about the constitutionality and morality of slavery.  Lehrman told the story of Lincoln’s struggle with America’s hypocrisy – it was the land of the free and home of the brave, but only for white males.  Although present day society can understand the inherent evil in slavery, it took a free, brave white male of the past to argue for those who had no political voice.  Lincoln’s opponent at Peoria, however, believed that his role should merely represent the American popular vote – that slavery was an accepted practice.  But Lincoln believed that slavery was a moral wrong, and he hoped that the American dream could be, in fact, colorblind.  But that is what made Lincoln different; that is what made Lincoln unique; that is what made Lincoln iconic – he saw the integrity in the law and spoke out for the inalienable right that all men were, and are, created equal.

          Lehrman described how farmers, townspeople and visitors gathered to hear the debate between Douglas and Lincoln at Peoria.  Although Lincoln would have felt peace witnessing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech or the election of the nation’s first African American President Barack Obama, he probably would have enjoyed the practice that people still gather to discuss the ideologies of politics, government, and law.  Lincoln would have made an honorable lawyer today, for he had a strong moral code with a pure and clear understanding of the law.  Lehrman stated that Lincoln was jealous of those with law degrees; therefore, we owe this symposium to Lincoln and his legacy to freely discuss the controversial issues inherent in the law.  Please join the Government Law Review to observe and participate in the debate panels on October 1st at Albany Law School in the Dean Alexander Moot Court Room at Albany Law School.