Federal judges dispense advice to law students

March 24, 2008

Students at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law received an informative lesson in case preparation and courtroom strategies March 6 from three judges whose bench is the last stop before the U.S. Supreme Court.

A panel from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took questions from students during a special sitting at the college, where it also heard oral arguments from attorneys in four cases. Judges Michael Daly Hawkins of Phoenix, Richard R. Clifton of Honolulu and Sidney R. Thomas of Billings, Mont., interacted with first-year law students and others assembled during a dean’s session. Download Full Image

Because the judges hear about 30 cases per month, involving up to 3,500 pages of reading, attorneys should write more succinctly, with the most important details of an argument up front, they said.

“You’re going to get us to look at the briefs, but we are human beings, and the attention span begins to wander,” Clifton said. “Be concise, don’t hide the ball. Tell me why it is that this is the right result.”

The judges said the biggest mistake lawyers make in court is not listening to judges’ questions, either because they don’t want to depart from their scripts, are attempting to hide weaknesses in their cases or are fearful they might say the wrong thing.

“Some attorneys stop listening about halfway through our questions and start to do what politicians do and form answers they want to give, not the ones to the questions that are asked,” Hawkins said. “So listen to the question, answer it directly, give a yes or no answer, or a figure or a list, if that’s what the judge is asking for. It’s the skill your mother taught you when you first went to school: listen and respond.”

Clifton said judges notice weak spots in cases and expect them to be dealt with.

“It’s not often the case where everything is pristine,” he said. “If it comes this far, there’s usually something to talk about, and you have to be prepared.”

Oral arguments don’t often change judges’ preconceptions about cases, but they represent an “intimate conversation” between a lawyer and the judges, and they help judges understand the nuances of cases, the panel members said.

“I love it when an attorney says, ‘You’re wrong, judge, and let me tell you why,’ ” Hawkins said. “That’s not a negative, that’s a positive, and I truly enjoy it.”

Honeybee researcher to unravel properties governing lifespan with support from Norway

March 24, 2008

Gro Amdam, associate professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, has been awarded two grants totaling the U.S. equivalent of about $1.4 million from the Norwegian Research Council to investigate biochemical factors and social life history properties that can influence aging and longevity in honeybees.

Amdam also is with the Department of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food Science at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Norway. The first study will focus on the molecular properties of honeybee vitellogenin, a protein which, Amdam says, acts at the intersection between social behavior and aging. Download Full Image

The second project, to be headed by Amdam’s postdoctoral fellow Siri-Christine Seehuus in Norway, will examine the genetic and endocrine factors, which may determine longevity in diutinus workers, a specialized sub-caste of honeybees. In a series of previous studies, Amdam has shown that vitellogenin protein affects aging rate and endocrine signaling in honeybees.

In addition, separate studies conducted with Robert Page, director of ASU’s School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, demonstrated that the protein also influences social behavior, longevity and sensory responsiveness.

“Generally, vitellogenin is described as a conserved yolk protein found across a broad range of egg-laying species. The functions of proteins homologous to honeybee vitellogenin therefore have been studied primarily in the context of female reproduction,” Amdam says. “New data from my laboratory suggests, however, that the protein can be active in signal transduction.”

Amdam hopes to understand more about the structural and binding properties for the honeybee vitellogenin protein through examination of synthesized protein fragments, combined with crystallography and spectroscopy. Her intention is to unlock how the protein can have pleiotropic effects on honey bee social organization which also may open a window onto mechanisms that enabled honey bee social life to emerge.

Amdam and Seehuus will both exploit the plasticity found in honeybee social life history in their work examining the causal basis of the extreme longevity of honeybee diutinus workers (up to 1 year, in contrast to the normal lifespan of about 2 months). While Seehuus will focus on endocrine regulation, Amdam will study the role of a key social factor, the presence versus the absence of young brood.

“Since sister honeybees can be both short-lived and extremely long-lived, it is clear that diutinus development within a colony is not determined by genetic predisposition,” Amdam notes. “Rather, diutinus bees develop as a function of social change when the young brood (honeybee larvae) is removed from the nest. Preliminary results from my lab in Norway point to a major effect on lifespan of pheromones released by the brood.”

Amdam graduate students have found that exposing the workers to brood phermones alone (using synthetics in the absence of actual brood) prompt the diutinus workers to build up particularly large body reserves of proteins and fats which likely have positive effects on survival.

Next, Amdam will study how the dual effects of brood, that is the physiological load of nursing the larvae and exposure to brood pheromones, translate into levels of individual gene- and protein expression, storage dynamics of tissues, and at the level of behavior, food intake and feeding. Amdam expects that together the planned studies will unravel patterns of interplay, from molecular- to social mechanisms that can govern lifespan in social species.

Amdam has made key discoveries in the genetic, physiological and behavioral mechanisms underlying division of labor, caste development, and advanced understanding around the evolution of social life strategies, including aging, in social insects. Since 2006, her work, primarily using the honeybee as a model organism, has been published in professional journals as varied as Nature, Science, Experimental Gerontology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), Behavioural Brain Research, Public Library of Science (PLoS), American Naturalist and Advances in Cancer Research.

In 2007, Pew Charitable Trusts selected Amdam to be a Pew Scholar in biomedical sciences and she had the distinction of being named “Outstanding Young Investigator” by the Research Council of Norway.

To hear Amdam talk about her research, visit ASU's School of Life Science’s Web page for K-12 audiences, “Ask-a-Biologist">http://askabiologist.asu.edu/podcasts">Ask-a-Biologist”.

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost