Honors Scholars Class Projects

Class of 2017 — Chicago's Digital Amusement Tax

Chicago residents who subscribe to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Amazon are not amused with the City of Chicago's first of its kind amusement tax - a tax that applies to charges paid for for the privilege of witnessing, viewing, or participating in an amusement.  This tax extends to amusements that are delivered electronically, including services that stream electronic entertainment content.  The honors scholars class of 2017 assessed the legality of the electronic amusement tax under the federal Constitution, the Internet Tax Freedom Act, and the Illinois Constitution.  The class also explored the policy justifications, economic concerns, and scope of the tax.  The honors scholars' analysis and overview of the ruling culminated in a paper that can be found here.  The hope is to assist other jurisdictions contemplating such a tax going forward.

Class of 2016 — People of the State of Illinois v. Drew Peterson; Eviction Study

The class of 2016 honors scholars worked together with Dean Harold J. Krent on a pro-bono murder conviction appeal in the Appellate Court of the State of Illinois Third Judicial District.  In 2009, Drew Peterson was convicted and sentenced to 38 years in prison for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and remains the sole suspect in the disappearance of Stacy Peterson, Peterson's fourth wife.  The honors scholars, with guidance from Dean Krent and attorney Steve Greenberg, worked on various arguments in the appeal, including use of the forfeiture by wrongdoing doctrine, violation of attorney-client and priest-penitent privilege, ineffective assistance of counsel, and other trial court errors.

The honors scholars also conducted a study on the eviction court process, specifically examining the evidence that has suggested that unrepresented tenants have unwittingly agreed to vacate their residences by signing orders of possession presented to them by landlords' counsel.  In many instances, tenants, confused and pressured in court, did not understand that the order they were signing terminated their right to housing.  The scholars, with direction from Dean Krent, assessed comparable areas in which courts have ensured that the parties understand the consequences of their waivers of important rights, and suggested a limited judicial inquiry of duty to be imposed on courts.

Class of 2015 — People of the State of Illinois v. Alberto Hinojosa

The class of 2015 joined Dean Harold J. Krent and Chicago attorney Ralph E. Meczyk in preparing the defendant-appellant's brief for the Appellate Court of the State of Illinois First Judicial District on behalf of Alberto Hinojosa.  Mr. Hinojosa was convicted of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver.  On January 14, 2011, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted a "trash pull" from a trash can in an alley behind Mr. Hinojosa's residence.  In the garbage, the agents discovered items used to package or conceal narcotics, and canine conducted a sniff which gave a positive indication of narcotics.  Agents also crossed defendant's property line with their K-9, which alerted on the garage.   Based on the two positive sniffs, the agents received a warrant to search defendant's house.  In defendant-appellant's brief, Dean Krent, Mr. Meczyk, and the honors scholars argued that the warrantless search of Mr. Hinojosa's garage violated the Fourth Amendment and that the fruits of the agents' subsequent search of his house should have been suppressed.  They further argued that the misrepresentations infecting the warrant application independently called for convening a hearing.  The appellate court reversed the trial court's decision and remanded in particular for a hearing on whether the warrantless search of the garage violated the Fourth Amendment. 

Class of 2014 — Class Action in the Border Book Chain Bankruptcy Proceedings; Social Security Disability Insurance Coding 

In February 2011, the national book store chain Borders filed for bankruptcy protection and began liquidating its stores.  Dean Harold J. Krent and a Chicago attorney worked with the class of 2014 honors scholars in filing a class action on behalf of consumer creditors in the Borders bankruptcy proceedings.  The scholars had the opportunity to research and draft legal arguments surrounding the unique issue of whether consumers who purchased Borders gift cards should be considered "known creditors" with respect to the Bankruptcy Code notice requirements.  The scholars next project involved a study regarding social security disability adjudication.  The class compiled data about judges' and magistrates' ages, political affinities, and genders to determine whether these factors are related to the remand rate of social security disability cases.

Class of 2013 — Audited Self-Regulation in Proposed Cybersecurity Legislation

From traditional "command and control" regulation to "market-based" or "incentive-based" regulations, the U.S. government has used a variety of tools to regulate individuals and entities.  Over the last twenty years, there has been a rapid growth in network services, computer systems, and data applications, and in conjunction an increase in cyber threats and hazards to our critical infrastructure.  Thus, the government has attempted to regulate security and cybersecurity of various industries through "audited self-regulation," a congressional or agency delegation of power to a private self-regulatory organization or entity to implement public goals subject to review by a federal agency, backed by a public audit of the private organization's performance.  Put another way, audited self-regulation permits the government to achieve regulatory goals by relying on the regulated entities to keep their own house in order.  The class of 2013 honors scholars worked with Dean Harold J. Krent in exploring what type of audited self-regulation is likely to be successful in this context.  The scholars examined the results of past audited self-regulations programs in various industries, including electricity, nuclear, and welding, and formulated suggested modifications to the then proposed Cybersecurity Act of 2012.  Read the honors scholars' paper here

Class of 2011 and Class of 2012 — United States of America v. Gerald Green

Class of 2011 and Class of 2012 honors scholars worked together with Dean Harold J. Krent on a pro-bono appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals from a conviction of a movie producer under the Federal Corrupt Practices Act.  The producer, who directed a film festival in Thailand, was charged with illegally funneling money to a Thai minister.  The appeal focused on the propriety of the sentencing because the critical findings were made by the judge as opposed to the jury.  See the Ninth Circuit opinion here.  The honors scholars also helped write a subsequent petition for certiorari, which was denied. 
See the Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit here.

Class of 2010 — Online Tutorials to Assist Victims of Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Sexual Assault

Spurred by new legislation that expands protections for stalking victims, the class of 2010 Honors Scholars analyzed Illinois laws governing protective orders for victims of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault. The scholars worked together to present the information in an easy to understand format for individuals seeking to gain protection from violence and harassment. The group fashioned a decision tree and tutorials online for the public, which are now being accessed by thousands of individuals via IllinoisLegalAid.org. The following is a list of links to the scholars' online content through IllinoisLegalAid.org:

Class of 2009 — Website for Victims of Gender-Based Violence in Iraq

The class of 2009 Honors Scholars developed a website that will be the first centralized place providing information about legal rights to protect Iraqi victims of gender-based violence, and about places providing shelter and assistance. The website is designed to provide information relating to the difficulties of women in all regions in Iraq and will outline the legal tools of the various legal systems prevalent in Iraq.

The website will be available to women directly through internet cafes, or through NGO's or women's organizations without compromising the safety of the victims. It will raise awareness about gender-based violence in Iraqi society at large, including attorneys and judges.

Class of 2008 — Diabetes Registry Project

The class of 2007 Honors Scholars conducted a study about New York's mandatory diabetes registry. The 2006 New York law was the first mandatory registry of individuals' medical data for the purpose of monitoring the effectiveness of treatment for a noninfectious disease. The scholars researched the legal and ethical ramifications of importing a registration model for infectious diseases to other illnesses. The study evaluated risks for disclosure of the individuals' private information, the dangers of secondary use of registry information, and implications for insurance coverage, employment discrimination, and physicians' liability.

Class of 2007 — Ibrahim Parlak v. Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General

The class of 2007 joined a team of attorneys from Latham & Watkins to prepare a petitioner's brief for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Ibrahim Parlak, the "model immigrant" from Turkey who had been granted asylum in 1992 and operated a Middle Eastern restaurant in Michigan. Mr. Parlak faced deportation based on the government's claim that not only had he been a persecutor of Turkish citizens in the 1980s and had fraudulently completed his green card application in 1993, but that he also had been convicted of a felony after admission and that he had engaged in terrorist activity. The issue in question was the constitutionality of unlimited application of the terrorism deportation statutes in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Class of 2006 — Various Pro-Bono Litigation Projects

The class of 2006 honors scholars worked with Dean Harold J. Krent on various pro-bono cases, including an appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals representing the plaintiff on issues involving warrantless searches of defendant's home, the statutory definition of "firearm" and effective representation by counsel in the trial court.

Class of 2006 — Asylum Project

A group of 2006 honors scholars conducted a study on people seeking asylum in the United States and their success rates in immigration courts. The scholars collected and evaluated data about the origin countries of the asylum seekers and the various reasons that prompted the individuals to flee their home countries. The study takes a close look at the different patterns of granting asylum that prevail in various immigration centers in the nation and analyses the reasons for failure and success before the courts.

Class of 2005 — People of the State of Illinois v. Roy I. Caballes

The honors scholars class of 2005 assisted Attorney Ralph E. Meczyk in writing and filing a brief in opposition to a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. The students filed the petition in March 2004 on behalf of respondent Roy I. Caballes. The question at issue in the petition was whether the Fourth Amendment requires reasonable, articulable suspicion in order to justify using a drug-detection dog to sniff a vehicle during a legitimate traffic stop. In January 2005, the judgment was vacated and the case was remanded to the Supreme Court of Illinois.

Class of 2004 — United States Postal Services v. Flamingo Industries Ltd.

Dean Harold J. Krent represented Flamingo Industries in its petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court and argued the case that involved federal antitrust laws before the Supreme Court. Honors Scholar Karen Doran helped Dean Krent in the preparation of the briefs filed on behalf of Flamingo.

Class of 2004 — Eviction Court Study

According to a study conducted by a team of Chicago-Kent Honors Scholars of the class of 2004 and co-sponsored by the Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing, the Chicago Eviction Courts' lack of attention to procedural requirements, although not necessarily subverting justice, harms the dignity of tenants and often sends them away with little to no understanding of the judgments against them.

The students monitored 763 cases in Chicago's Eviction Courts in the fall of 2003. A report documenting their findings - No Time for Justice, A Study of Chicago's Eviction Court - was released on December 18, 2003. The data revealed that in most cases tenants were not afforded a chance to represent their case and defenses and that the courts often ignored even the most basic procedural safeguards.

Class of 2003 — You Don't Know Auctions

This Honors Scholars Project addressed the issue that Internet auction fraud - including identity theft, misrepresented merchandise, and undelivered goods - costs American consumers approximately $5 million per year. The students, collaborating with the City of Chicago's Department of Consumer Services and AT&T, created a website aimed at educating consumers about the common types of on-line auction fraud, how to avoid becoming a victim, and how to remedy fraud once victimized. The site has commentary that teaches visitors everything from the types of auctions to what to do if the buyer or seller doesn't live up to their end of the bargain. Visitors can even test their knowledge at the online auction quiz game, "The Auction Watchdog Challenge."

Class of 2002 — Greenberg v. Miami Children's Hospital. et al.

In the fall of 2000, the Honors Scholar class of 2002 worked with Professors from the Chicago-Kent legal clinic and the Institute for Science, Law and Technology to file a pro-bono lawsuit against Miami Children's Hospital on behalf of parents of children with Canavan disease who had donated tissue to further research on the genetic background of the disease. The brief used arguments of breach of informed consent, breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, conversion, misappropriation of trade secrets, and fraudulent concealment. The case was the first of its kind, taking researchers to court concerning the control of a gene.

Class of 2002 — Wager on the Madness

The 2002 honors scholar class teamed with the City of Chicago's Department of Consumer Services in a project to combat Internet fraud. Students helped investigate allegations of fraud in the online auction and contract areas of the law. They also launched a website that warned would-be March Madness bettors across the country how easily they can be victimized by online gambling sites. The website purported to be an Internet gambling site. After selecting teams and wagers on the outcome of games, visitors to www.wageronthemadness.com received a warning about the dangers of online gambling and a reminder that gambling may be illegal in their state.