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College of Law News

Standen Testifies Before House Committee on Energy and Commerce Professor Jeffrey Standen

Professor Jeffrey Standen recently was asked to lend his legal expertise to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce by providing testimony on the National Football League’s StarCaps case, named for a banned weight-loss supplement.

The case involved two Minnesota Vikings players who were suspended for violating the national football league’s anti-doping policy after testing positive for the banned supplement. The players sued the league, claiming that as employees in Minnesota, state labor laws protect them from drug testing by the national league. Just last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit agreed, blocking the players' suspensions. The decision poses a substantial threat to the extant anti-doping rules in all professional sports.

“The issue at hand is whether federal labor laws trump state workplace protections,” said Standen, who testified before Congress on Nov. 3.

“In my view, the courts need to treat the NFL differently than other multi-state employers,” he said. “The NFL is a single entity, but its components compete against each other. Professional games need to be competitive, so we need parity rules in place to ensure a few teams don't have an advantage because they’re exempted from drug testing.

“All national sports teams need a single, unified standard for employee eligibility and protections,” he added. “Federal labor laws either need to be amended to preempt state laws in these matters or the Congress needs to convince player unions to waive the relevant state rights.”

A member of the Willamette law faculty since 1990, Standen began focusing his scholarly research on sports law six years ago. Since that time, he has published numerous journal articles on a range of sports-related legal topics and has gained a national reputation as a sports law expert through his robust legal blog, thesportslawprofessor.blogspot.com/. His most recent text, Taking Sports Seriously: Law and Sports in Contemporary American Culture, was published by Carolina Academic Press in 2009.

He currently is writing two new texts for Oxford University Press: Sports Law in the United States (2010); and The Beauty of Bets: Prediction Markets, Sports Firms and the Compensation of Professional Athletes (2010).

“Professor Standen has distinguished himself as an important sports law scholar” said College of Law Dean Symeon C. Symeonides. “When Oxford University Press and Congress come to you for your legal opinion, you certainly have made your mark as a valuable voice in the field.”

Refugee Law Students Win Asylum Case Professor Gwynne L. Skinner

In late November, two Willamette law students won asylum for a young high school girl from the Republic of The Gambia in Western Africa, where she was at serious risk for persecution and possibly death. Her parents had been killed for their political beliefs, leaving her an orphan while a young teenager. She faced a similar fate if forced to return to Gambia.

Second-year student Ashley Flukinger and third-year student Jonathan Strauhal, who are enrolled in Professor Gwynne Skinner’s Refugee Law course, assisted the woman in claiming asylum and withholding of removal during a deportation trial in immigration court.

“The students agreed to represent the case on a strictly pro bono basis, and they literally prepared the case in about two weeks,” said Skinner, who supervised the students’ work. “Their efforts were heroic.”

According to Skinner, the students conducted an enormous amount of important “country condition” and other factual research before writing the legal brief. They also defended their client at trial, examined her on the stand, introduced evidence and made the closing argument.

“And they won!” Skinner exclaimed. “These students have made such a huge difference in the life of someone facing horrible circumstances and oppression. We should all feel good about what they have accomplished.”

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