On Thursday (Sept. 16th), the Census Bureau released its annual report on the economic well-being of U.S. households. It reported that the number of American without health insurance risen to 50.7 million people, or 16.7 percent of the population. Clearly a problem of this magnitude will need to be addressed by both the federal government and by individual state governments. The Commonwealth seems to be doing its part–it recently initiated a new program, PA Faircare, designed to provide coverage for uninsured adults in Pennsylvania with pre-existing conditions. The plan aims to offer transitional insurance coverage until the broader coverage provisions of federal health insurance reform kick-in in January 2014. And the Commonwealth is working cooperatively with the federal government in another way to address the uninsured. www.pafaircare.com. Last month, the Commonwealth’s Insurance Commissioner, Joel Ario accepted a position in the newly-created federa Office of Consumer Information and Oversight. www.pennlive.com (Aug. 9, 2010). Ario’s new job will be to assist in creating health insurance exchanges in each individual state that will provide opportunities for individuals and small businesses to shop for better deals on health insurance. I am hopeful that these initiatives represent the beginning of a fruitful partnership between Washington and the Commonwealth that will result in better health care coverage for both Pennsylvanians and all Americans.
This story caught my eye as a teacher of both Immigration Law and Civil Procedure. A federal judge in Nebraska is seeking to certify a question to the Nebraska Supreme Court: whether a local immigration ordinance in Fremont, Nebraska violates state law. U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp explained that if the ordinance is invalid under state law, the federal issues in the case may be moot.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued its long-awaited opinion in Lozano v. Hazleton on September 9. The lawsuit challenged the controversial immigration ordinances of Hazleton, PA. The Hazleton ordinances sought to prohibit unauthorized work within Hazleton and to prohibit the renting of property within Hazleton to individuals without legal immigration status. Hazleton’s effort to restrict unauthorized work includes a sanctions scheme that would suspend the business license of the offending employer. The housing ordinances would require renters to receive an occupancy permit and would prohibit landlords from renting to those without legal status.
The Third Circuit held that Hazleton’s business license regulation and restrictions on housing are preempted by federal law, and therefore violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
This won’t be the last time that a court tests a state or local regulation of immigration against preemption principles. For example, the Supreme Court this term will hear a challenge to Arizona’s employer sanctions law.
Widener Law students have the opportunity to earn a Law & Government certificate to accompany their JD diploma at graduation. Completion of the certificate indicates not only the student’s specialization in government law but also his or her exposure to government law through independent academic and real world experiences.
To earn the certificate, Widener students must take required courses, fulfill a writing requirement and complete an externship. A general certificate is available, as are certificates in Environmental Law, Legislation and Consumer Law.
Required courses vary depending on the certificate, but can include a Government Law Colloquium, State Administrative Law, State Constitutional Law and Legislation. There are also an abundance of electives that round out the L&G course offerings.
The externship requirement results in hands-on experience, as L&G students interact with government policymakers while polishing their legal skills.
In addition to these certificate requirements, L&G students have access to the many events sponsored by the L&G Institute, which bring leaders in government law to campus.
Lawyers-in-training might not come to law school with a background in government law or familiarity with the types of government law positions that exist. We hope to fill these gaps by providing useful information about what a career in government law is all about and advice for those interested in pursuing such a career.
Let’s begin with the point that not all government lawyers work for the government. Yes, all kinds of governments employ a variety of lawyers (more on that later), but lawyers are also needed to represent those who are subject to the law. One common example is the prosecutor/criminal defense attorney combination. The prosecutor works for the government, and the criminal defense attorney represents the individual subject to law enforcement. There are many such pairings in civil law enforcement too. Lawyers work for a state gaming commission, while lawyers represent the regulated casinos as well. Any type of civil regulation indicates the presence of lawyers—representing public and private interests in the area of government law.
There are opportunities for public and private government lawyers to meet. Both the American Bar Association and the Pennsylvania Bar Association have sections dedicated to government law (examples here, here and here). Both the ABA and the PBA welcome student members. Law students can start networking with public and private government lawyers now by joining these associations.
WELCOME TO THE WIDENER LAW & GOVERNMENT INSTITUTE BLOG
Welcome to the Widener Law & Government Institute blog! The L&G Institute focuses on study of the intersection of law and government policy, especially at the state level. The Institute, founded in 1999, takes advantage of the location of the Widener University School of Law’s Harrisburg Campus in the capital city of one of the largest states to study and teach government law in classes, symposia, lectures, writing, research and service to the state government and legal profession.
We find that discussion, analysis and commentary on state government activity are relatively neglected. It is difficult to imagine why, because state government actions and problems generate numerous important issues and controversies on which opinions conflict. This blog will be a forum for discussion and analysis of those matters.
Through this forum, we will also build a resource on careers in government law, as well as keep you up to date on the activities of the Law & Government Institute.
Our bloggers are four law professors with a keen interest in policy and law: Professor of Law John L. Gedid, Director of the Institute; Jill Family, Associate Director and Associate Professor of Law; Wesley Oliver, Associate Director and Associate Professor of Law; and Associate Professor of Law Katherine Jones. We are looking forward to introducing ourselves to you.
There are so many topics and controversies of law and policy that it is difficult to predict all of the areas that this blog will address. You are invited to visit often to discover the many paths this blog will follow.
John L. Gedid, Director,
Widener Law & Government Institute