January 30, 2020

Daniel Zachem and Claudia Shannon

On January 29, this year’s Student Scholar Series began with a lecture presented by Claudia Shannon (3L) entitled “Direct to DNA Websites: Are they becoming de facto universal databases?” Shannon first became aware of the topic through family members' use of the DNA kits and her attention was further sparked by Catholic Law Adjunct Professor Daniel Zachem’s mention of important cases regarding DNA website use on the horizon.

Shannon’s research discussed various real-world scenarios in which DNA databases have been utilized to convict criminals, then focused on privacy issues and the Fourth Amendment rights of individuals. Of primary concern to Shannon was whether or not consumers really know what they are agreeing to when using DNA services. Shannon proposed that DNA website services make their user agreements more transparent in their policies and have the courts and legislation make a more definitive stance on where DNA secured by websites falls under the Fourth Amendment.

Professor Zachem served as the respondent for Shannon’s lecture. Mr. Zachem worked for 22 years as an Assistant United States Attorney in Washington, D.C. The last ten years of Mr. Zachem’s career at the Office of the United States Attorney was spent as a supervisor in the Homicide Section. In addition to his role as Adjunct Professor at Catholic Law, Professor Zachem teaches Washington College of Law.

After the lecture, Shannon and Professor Zachem fielded questions from the audience, providing students, faculty, and guests the opportunity to grapple further with the topic.

The Student Scholar series was founded in 2009 by Catholic Law Professor A.G. Harmon to recognize notable legal scholarship produced by members of the student body during the academic year and to foster the skills associated with presenting and defending that scholarship in a professional, conference-style setting.