Law School Faculty Highlights

Professor Hanlon Calls for Ethical Approach to Human Experiments in Space

University of Mississippi law professor Michelle Hanlon co-authored an article published in the journal Science that offers best practices for human research in space.

Each time astronauts venture into space provides researchers with data on how the human body reacts to long-term exposure to zero gravity and other facets of space life. As the race to build communities, tourism and business in space accelerates, humans must continue to share this physiological data, Hanlon said.

“If we want to create communities in space – and we do – we have to understand how the body is affected so we can make that life as comfortable as possible,” she said. “You can’t just say the body changes; you have to know how the body changes.” 

The article, “Ethically cleared to launch?” is the result of a meeting of 30 bioethicists, health policy experts, space health researchers, commercial spaceflight professionals, law specialists and government regulators from across the globe. These specialists met last December at the Banbury Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring, New York, where they discussed issues of human experimentation and research in space.

As space tourism becomes a reality – Virgin Galactic is offering trips to space, with the next launch slated for Oct. 5 – the issue of whether these companies will continue to collect biological data on space tourists, as space agencies have on astronauts, has become more relevant.

The U.N.’s Outer Space Treaty of 1967 designates astronauts as “envoys of mankind.” Hanlon wants to encourage space tourists, as potential future envoys, to help researchers better understand space life. 

“As the population of humans going to space increases, we have tremendous opportunities to do the basic science to understand what it’s like to live and work in space,” she said. “If you travel to space, maybe there is an additional responsibility because the Space Treaty looks at you a little bit differently.” 

While the choice to collect and share this data is optional, it is necessary for scientists to have a wealth of information about what happens to a body in space from a variety of sources, Hanlon said.

“Only 650 or so people have gone to space, but if you look at the astronauts, they are all constantly doing experiments on how space affects them,” she said. “We’ve sent 650 very fit people into space. What is it like on a body that hasn’t been training for eight years to go to the space station?” 

Hanlon said she hopes that the article provides guiding principles for responsible conduct in respect to human research in space while reminding the scientific community that the issue of space travel and tourism is no longer coming – it is here.

“We want to wake up the scientific community to the fact that this is happening now,” she said. “We need to start understanding these issues now, before we have a lunar community.” 

Michelle Hanlon Named Space Activist of the Year by National Space Society

Michelle Hanlon, Executive Director of the Center for Air and Space Law and Assistant Professor of Practice at the University of Mississippi School of Law, has been awarded the 2023 Chris Pancratz Space Activist of the Year Award from the National Space Society.

“There are so many passionate advocates for space, I am truly humbled and honored to be the one selected this year to receive the award,” said Hanlon. “I will hold it up to students as proof that even one single voice can make a substantive difference especially in the quickly evolving realm of space law.”

A former President of NSS, Hanlon is recognized around the world as a  leading expert on space law. Additionally, she is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Space Law, the oldest Journal in the world devoted to analyzing the legal problems arising out of human activities in space, and the Journal of Drone Law and Policy, the first of its kind.

In addition to her roles at Ole Miss Law, she is also Co-Founder and President of For All Moonkind, Inc., a nonprofit corporation that is the only organization in the world focused on obtaining international legal recognition for and protection of human cultural heritage in outer space.

Hanlon was instrumental in the development of the One Small Step Act in the United States, the first national legislation to acknowledge the existence of human heritage in outer space.  For All Moonkind has been recognized by the United Nations as a Permanent Observer to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and Hanlon contributes regularly to the international discourse on space law through the Committee. Most recently, she urged the United Nations to recognize and adopt temporary heritage protection zones around certain sites on the Moon as part of a legal framework for space resource utilization. Under Hanlon’s leadership, more than 100 space law and heritage law experts from every inhabited continent contribute their valuable time and experience to advance For All Moonkind’s important mission. Last March Hanlon announced the formation of For All Moonkind’s Institute on Space Law and Ethics bringing together thought leaders in the space industry with the mission to develop an accepted ethical foundation for all space activity.

Hanlon’s research and advocacy centers upon the concept of “due regard” in space law and evolving the framework necessary to assure that human exploration of space is responsible, successful and sustainable. In this regard she has done considerable work and written and presented extensively on topics related to orbital debris remediation, space solar power, small satellite constellations, environmental considerations and the protection of human heritage in space.

Hanlon is an advisor to The Hague Institute for Global Justice Off-World Approach project. She also serves on the Advisory Committees of a number of space-related start-up organizations.

Michelle received her B.A. in Political Science from Yale College and her J.D. magna cum laude from the Georgetown University Law Center. She earned her LL.M in Air and Space Law from McGill University where the focus of her research was commercial space and the intersection of commerce and public law.

Professor Farish Percy Elected Fellow of American College of Coverage Counsel

Farish Percy, University of Mississippi School of Law Professor of Law and Jamie L. Whitten Chair of Law and Government, has been elected as a Fellow of the American College of Coverage Counsel.

The ACCC is a national organization comprised of over 300 preeminent lawyers involved in coverage and extracontractual matters, with Fellows representing both policyholders and insurers and Honorary members from academia. Established in 2012, the College is focused on the creative, ethical, and efficient adjudication of insurance coverage and extra-contractual disputes, peer-provided scholarship, professional coordination and the improvement of the relationship between and among its diverse members.

“I look forward to getting to know the lawyers and academics in the group and learning from their expertise,” Percy said.

The organization engages in a rigorous vetting process prior to inviting a lawyer to become a fellow. Fellows include many of the most prominent members of the insurance law bar and academia, including Percy.

Percy joined the Ole Miss Law faculty in 2001 after practicing with the Tollison Law Firm, P.A. in Oxford, Mississippi for eight years. While engaged in private practice, Professor Percy concentrated in tort litigation, commercial litigation and appellate practice. She tried numerous civil cases in state and federal courts in Mississippi and briefed and argued several appellate cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Mississippi Supreme Court. Percy regularly teaches Torts, Civil Procedure II, Insurance and Evidence. She acted as the reporter for the Civil Procedure and Complex Litigation Subcommittees of the Mississippi Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules from 2006 to 2021 and she offers an annual CLE to the Mississippi bar that focuses on recent developments in Mississippi civil law.

Percy has published law journal articles addressing the medical malpractice liability insurance crisis, removal/remand litigation based on fraudulent joinder and fraudulent misjoinder and ERISA’s effect on health insurers’ claims for subrogation and reimbursement. Her articles have appeared in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, the Iowa Law Review, the Florida Law Review, the Baylor Law Review and the Mississippi Law Journal. She is also a member of the American Law Institute.

The ACCC focuses on educating all sectors involved in the field of insurance law – including the judiciary, legal and insurance professionals, law students and businesses – on cutting edge, emerging, and critical issues such as developing trends in insurance law and bad faith, trial practice and alternative dispute resolution, policy formation and claims handling. To this end, the ACCC holds an annual meeting with two days of topical programming, publishes scholarly papers, presents an annual insurance law symposium at a US law school and sponsors a writing competition with the aim of encouraging law students to pursue a career in the challenging field of insurance law.