Monday, April 6, 2015
Is it possible to be in favor of a constitutional vote and against amending the Constitution to add it? Yes. This paper argues that the amendment game is not worth the candle. There are two stages for ensuring a robust right to vote: amending the Constitution, and enforcing that amendment. As to the first stage, if an amendment enshrining the right to vote looks anything like its cognates in the Constitution, it will be thinly described, maddeningly vague, and pushed forward by self-interested politicians. If the amendment takes this form, the benefits reformers and academics assert we’ll reap are anything but automatic. Once a vague guarantee is embedded in the Constitution (Stage 1), reformers will still have to turn to legislators and courts to get something done (Stage 2).
Making the text more concrete may make Stage 2 easier, but it will complicate efforts to pass the amendment in the first place. After all, if it were easy to enfranchise former felons or block voter ID rules or guarantee a well-administered election system or end partisan gerrymandering, we would presumably have done it already. It’s possible, of course, that reformers could aim for something more than vague language, either by writing their aims explicitly into the text or creating an amendment history so robust that everyone understands what the right embodies. On this view, reformers would build a big tent of supporters by linking the amendment to lots of different reforms. The problem with this strategy is that it will also generate a big tent on the other side. Push for felon enfranchisement, and you’ll run up against the tough-on-crime lobby. Tempt progressives with a ban on voter ID and lose the support of many Republicans. Promise to end gerrymandering and lose the support of most incumbents. That’s why a vague textual guarantee is so tempting an option in Stage 1, even if it creates more work for Stage 2. For these reasons, it makes more sense to pour political resources into more discrete reform projects going forward.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
This essay grapples with a previously unexamined feature of the death penalty: temporal arbitrariness. How does the circumstance of time affect capital defendants? What might this mean for the stability of our notions of justice? I explore these questions using a 25-year-old death penalty trial as a case study, examining the procedural and factual highlights of the case and situating it in its temporal milieu. I then explore how the roles of doctrine, policy, and cultural attitudes would dramatically alter the nature and probable outcome of the case today, illustrating how temporal arbitrariness further exposes the death penalty’s unsteady administration and indeed, its crumbling legitimacy.
Yesterday, Utah governor Gary Herbert signed into law a bill providing for state executions by firing squad. As AP reports:
Utah lawmakers say they took a pragmatic approach in approving the firing squad as a form of execution if lethal-injection drugs aren't available.
Their thinking: Develop a backup plan in case a nationwide lethal-drug shortage persists.
But critics say bringing back the firing squad in Utah - the only state to use the method in the past 40 years - could tarnish the state's image with visitors.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
"Civil Disobedience, State Action, and Lawmaking Outside the Courts: Robert Bell's Encounter with American Law"
This article uses the well-known case of Robert Bell, who was convicted of trespass in one of the important sit-in cases of the 1960s and ended his career as Chief Justice of the Maryland Court of Appeals, to offer some thoughts about the state action doctrine, conflicts between law and morality, and outsider claims on the legal system. It critiques three conventional readings of Bell’s case, and his seemingly unlikely subsequent career.
Employing a historical analysis of the state action doctrine, which was the central issue when Bell’s case reached the Supreme Court, it argues that the case that supposedly originated the doctrine – the Civil Rights Cases decision of 1883 – did no such thing.
In addition, this article questions the view of cases like Bell’s as presenting a sharp conflict between law and morality, arguing that it is not even clear that Bell was violating Maryland’s trespass law.
Finally, the article questions a now-common way of making sense of the arc of Bell’s career – one which would see his rise to the Chief Justiceship as an example of “agency,” in which outsider views of law become, over time, accepted by the legal system. Bell’s case, it will be argued here, has a far more complicated set of lessons to teach, if we discard some conventional ways of reading it.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
DOE Office of Civil Rights budget proposal seeks additional funds for hiring staff to help with record number of complaints
There's been a dramatic increase in the number of civil rights complaints made to DOE's civil rights division over the past five years, which has doubled the burden on the attorneys and investigators charged with assessing these claims. As a result, unresolved cases abound. To remedy this, DOE Office of Civil Rights is asking for more money for more staff. WaPo's Lyndsey Layton reports:
Complaints of discrimination to the department have soared from 6,364 in fiscal 2009 to a record of 9,989 in the most recent fiscal year. [DOE Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine] Lhamon expects another record to be set when the current fiscal year ends in September. It is a sign that “we have the trust of the national community bringing to us their deepest hurts and asking for resolution,” she said.
The agency does not open an investigation into every complaint; some are quickly dismissed because they fall outside of the jurisdiction of the office, Lhamon said. She could not say what percentage of cases are dismissed but noted that even when a complaint is discarded, it is still time consuming because an investigator must make a determination.
In its budget proposal for next year, the Department of Education is seeking $131 million for its Office for Civil Rights, an increase of $30.7 million, so it can hire an additional 200 lawyers and investigators. That would be in addition to its current staff of 554 employees.
Lhamon said that without the additional employees, the current staff will continue to strain under growing caseloads and it will take longer to resolve complaints. The backlog of cases that have been pending for longer than 180 days has doubled during the past five years from 315 to 630....
She said there was no single category of grievance that accounted for the rise in complaints. But a breakdown of agency statistics show that the category of sex discrimination has grown from 391 in 2010 to 2,354 in 2014. Discrimination based on disabilities make up the largest category, or 39 percent.
Sex discrimination comprised 24 percent of total complaints. Lhamon said two individuals were responsible for filing more than 1,700 of those allegations of sex discrimination. She declined to identify them, citing confidentiality requirements.
Agency officials and outside observers point to a key action by the Obama administration that probably triggered the increase in sex discrimination complaints. In 2011, the Office for Civil Rights issued guidance to that said sexual harassment of students, including acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Up until that point, Title IX was commonly understood to ensure equal opportunity for girls and women in athletics and other educational programs and activities.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
In 1925, the City of Miami built a trash incinerator in the de jure segregated Afro-Caribbean-American community of Coconut Grove Village West (“the West Grove”) amid rows of shotgun style houses and Jim Crow schools. Commonly known as Old Smokey, the incinerator discharged airborne carcinogenic chemicals (e.g., arsenic, benzo(a)pyrene, cadmium, and lead) and produced residual toxic waste (e.g., ash, liquefied plastic, and melted glass) for 45 years until Florida courts finally ordered it closed in 1970. In 1978, notwithstanding community opposition, the City of Miami converted the 4.5 acre Old Smokey site and incinerator building into its Fire-Rescue Training Center which continues to operate today. In 2013 and 2014, West Grove residents working in collaboration with faculty and students from the University of Miami School of Law learned from a whistleblower-leaked municipal environmental report that long-term exposure to Old Smokey’s airborne carcinogens and toxic waste dump sites had caused extensive soil and possibly groundwater contamination of homeowner properties and public parks in Coconut Grove and across the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County.
This Essay investigates the historical absence of civil rights- and environmental justice-incited legal and political mobilization around Old Smokey in light of Professor Lea VanderVelde’s important new book Redemption Songs: Suing for Freedom before Dred Scott. In Redemption Songs, VanderVelde, a distinguished legal historian, builds on her much praised biography of Mrs. Dred Scott and the contemporary work of historians in the field of slavery to study the nineteenth century practices of antebellum freedom suits in St. Louis, Missouri and in the western territories. VanderVelde carves out several lines of inquiry in Redemption Songs useful for historians of race and advocates for the legal-political rights of impoverished racial communities. Closely interwoven, the inquiries seek to ascertain how enslaved men and women learned that their residence in free territories conferred the legal right to sue for freedom and, further, how they advanced that emancipatory right in the St. Louis courts. More specifically, VanderVelde asks, who actually “instructed” the enslaved? Who, in St. Louis, Missouri, and the western territories, “led the way?” Why did some enslaved parents, children, and families “delay” and “wait” to file suit? What were the end results of the lawsuits and what “factors” influenced their in-court and out-of-court outcomes?
To resolve these questions, VanderVelde parses the extraordinary collection of freedom suit petitions filed by slaves in St. Louis between 1814 and 1860. These freedom suits, according to VanderVelde, tell stories of nineteenth century caste, class, and racial status. Equally important, the freedom suits tell stories of nineteenth century judges, lawyers, and legal rights consciousness in the contexts of racial advocacy and adjudication. In the same way, civil rights and environmental justice suits tell stories of twentieth and twenty-first century caste, class, and racial status, affecting stories of chronic illness and widespread contamination bound up in the work of judges and lawyers, and informed by an expanding legal consciousness of common law, statutory, and constitutional rights to a healthy and safe environment. By discrete historical turns, freedom suits, civil rights suits, and environmental justice suits tell stories of individual, group, and community rights under conditions of cultural, political, and socio-economic subordination. Viewed from the bottom, these same stories of freedom, civil rights, and environmental justice are also about individual and community power expressed through multifaceted forms of legal-political resistance.
The purpose of this Essay is to draw out the lessons of antebellum freedom suits, and, by comparison, modern civil rights and environmental justice suits, to learn how to tell better stories of community power and resistance in Miami and elsewhere. For historians and advocates alike, better stories are not only more accurate descriptively, but also more potent emotionally or expressively and more effective instrumentally or prescriptively. To draw out the historical comparison between freedom and civil rights or environmental justice suits and to hone better legal-political stories of resistance, the Essay revisits the principal set of questions animating VanderVelde’s nineteenth century investigation. However basic these questions may appear at first glance, they warrant continuing reassessment and reconsideration by lay and legal advocates, law school clinical faculty, law students, and university scholars. Consider, for example, the threshold question – how do subordinated communities of color learn of their legal rights? Further, how do they advance their emancipatory, civil or environmental justice rights without equal access to courts or effective representation? Who does and who should “instruct” such communities in their legal rights? Who, in St. Louis, Miami, or other inner-city communities across the nation, “leads the way?” Why do some individuals, families, or groups “delay” and “wait” to file suit? What are the end-results of civil rights and environmental justice lawsuits spearheaded by subordinated groups and communities, and what “factors” influence their in-court and out-of-court outcomes? Although beyond the cabined scope of this Essay, these fundamental questions of civil rights, environmental justice, and poverty law frame its broad contours and invigorate wider research on law and social movements.
The Essay proceeds in three parts. Part I parses VanderVelde’s central notions of subordination, voice, and redemption and illustrates their resonant force in the recently compiled oral histories of Old Smokey survivors. Part II examines VanderVelde’s interpretation of St. Louis freedom suits and the Missouri legal rule of freedom-by-residence. Part III recasts VanderVelde’s interpretive stance on antebellum freedom suits against the backdrop of Old Smokey to consider legal-political rights campaigns and community resistance strategies in the context of civil rights and environmental justice claims.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Claims about social and economic rights (as a kind of human right) are often criticized because they fail to specify who are the bearers of the corresponding duties. We usually say that states are the duty-bearers, but it may not be possible for a poor state to bear the burden of these rights. And anyway it may be a mistake to focus exclusively on states in an age of globalization. This paper uses some analytic ideas from the 1970s and 1980s to address this problem. Drawing on the work of Neil MacCormick and Joseph Raz, it argues that it is possible to specify a right without specifying duty-bearers; that a right is a reason to look for duty-bearers in regard to a particular interest; that there may be many duty-bearers in regard to a given right; and that who bears the duty corresponding to a given right may vary by time and circumstance.
Monday, March 2, 2015
In 2013 the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder vitiated the preclearance provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Section 5, by declaring unconstitutional the coverage provision of Section 4. What garnered virtually no attention in the decision or subsequent proposals to amend the preclearance provision was the requirement in Section 5 that applications for judicial preclearance must be filed before a three-judge district court in the District of Columbia. This essay argues that this exclusive venue in DC be revisited in the statutory efforts to revive preclearance. Venue of such actions in DC was a controversial issue when preclearance was first passed, and its initial reauthorizations, but the controversy eventually faded. This essay argues that the debate should be revived. The original reasons for exclusive venue are no longer sound or necessary today. There is no present need for reasons of uniformity or expertise to vest exclusive venue of preclearance actions in DC, and should Section 5 be statutorily revised, the jurisprudence under that provision could benefit from the application of normal venue rules, which would permit percolation of issues in federal courts throughout the country. It might also make the revival of some sort of preclearance more politically palatable. Preclearance enforcement actions were already litigated outside of DC, and there are good reasons to extend all future preclearance litigation in the same way.
Friday, February 20, 2015
This paper examines the National Security Agency, its compliance with legal constraints and its respect for civil liberties. But even if perfect compliance could be achieved, it is too paltry a goal. A good oversight system needs its institutions not just to support and enforce compliance but also to design good rules. Yet as will become evident, the offices that make up the NSA’s compliance system are nearly entirely compliance offices, not policy offices; they work to improve compliance with existing rules, but not to consider the pros and cons of more individually-protective rules and try to increase privacy or civil liberties where the cost of doing so is acceptable. The NSA and the administration in which it sits have thought of civil liberties and privacy only in compliance terms. That is, they have asked only “Can we (legally) do X?” and not “Should we do X?” This preference for the can question over the should question is part and parcel, I argue, of a phenomenon I label “intelligence legalism,” whose three crucial and simultaneous features are imposition of substantive rules given the status of law rather than policy; some limited court enforcement of those rules; and empowerment of lawyers. Intelligence legalism has been a useful corrective to the lawlessness that characterized surveillance prior to intelligence reform, in the late 1970s. But I argue that it gives systematically insufficient weight to individual liberty, and that its relentless focus on rights, and compliance, and law has obscured the absence of what should be an additional focus on interests, or balancing, or policy. More is needed; additional attention should be directed both within the NSA and by its overseers to surveillance policy, weighing the security gains from surveillance against the privacy and civil liberties risks and costs. That attention will not be a panacea, but it can play a useful role in filling the civil liberties gap intelligence legalism creates.
Part I first traces the roots of intelligence legalism to the last generation of intelligence disclosures and resulting reform, in the late 1970s. Part I then goes on to detail the ways in which intelligence legalism is embedded in both the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) and Executive Order 12,333, which governs American intelligence practices, and why the result is a civil liberties gap. Part II discusses the ways in which NSA’s compliance and oversight institutions likewise embody intelligence legalism. I then move in Part III to some shortcomings of this system, and in particular the ways in which the law and NSA’s compliance regulations and infrastructure fall short of full civil liberties policy evaluation. In Part IV, I examine some of the many reforms that have recently been proposed, analyzing in particular those that might fill that gap. In light of the existing institutional arrangements, I sketch some thoughts on how they could do so most effectively.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
How about $25 million? Well that's precisely what a Brooklyn man claims he's due for the 25 years he spent locked up for a murder he didn't commit. The NYPost reports:
A Brooklyn man who spent 25 years behind bars for a 1989 murder he didn’t commit is suing the city and a slew of cops for egregious civil rights violations, according to a federal lawsuit.
Derrick Deacon, 58, has already filed a $25 million lawsuit against the state in a pending case.
There was no dollar amount in the new suit against the city.
Deacon was convicted of killing 16-year-old Anthony Wynn in a Prospect Lefferts Garden building and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison before he was acquitted at a 2013 retrial.
Deacon had been granted a new trial in June 2012 after a Jamaican gang member told authorities that another man had actually committed the slaying.
In addition, another key witness who had originally placed him at the murder scene recanted her testimony at his retrial and testified that conviction-hungry cops and district attorney investigators coerced her bogus tale.
For whatever reason I couldn't embed the must-see video that accompanies the article, so make sure to check that out. Here's how the article begins:
A civil rights lawsuit claims an inmate at the Logan County Detention Center was given a pair of pliers to remove a bad, painful tooth after being repeatedly denied dental care.
In the lawsuit, inmate Mark Traxler, 47, claims a jail employee and a nurse "approached him with a pair of dirty, rusty pliers and a roll of gauze and told him to go back to his unit and have some of the 'fellas' help him with a tooth extraction."
The suit goes on to say Traxler was held down by several inmates, including one known as "Big Jake," but that the extraction caused more pain and more damage to Traxler's teeth.
After the shooting of Michael Brown, DOJ commenced to investigate the Ferguson PD's dealings with racial minorities. That investigation has found "a pattern of racially discriminatory tactics used by officers," according to this CNN report, which explains:
Attorney General Eric Holder said this week he expects to announce the results of the department's investigation of the shooting death of Michael Brown and a broader probe of the Ferguson Police Department before he leaves office in the coming weeks.
Brown's shooting death at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson has thrust Ferguson into the center of a nationwide debate over police tactics and race relations. The Justice Department is expected to announce it won't charge Wilson for the shooting, but it's also expected to outline findings that allege a pattern of discriminatory tactics used by the Ferguson police.
If they don't agree to review and revise those tactics, sources say, the Justice Department would sue to force changes in the department.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
An enormous effort has been dedicated to uncovering the original meaning of the First Amendment’s religion clauses, but, surprisingly, little research has been directed toward the Founding-era state constitutions on church and state. This article aims to open a field of inquiry by making the church-state provisions of the Founding-era state constitutions more accessible. It begins with a consideration of the distinction between the state declarations of rights and the state constitutions and the interpretive challenge this distinction poses. I then identify, categorize, and interpret the relevant church-state provisions of the Founding-era state declarations of rights and constitutions. The article concludes with a discussion of how a deeper knowledge of the Founding-era state church-state provisions might shed light on the original meaning of the First Amendment’s religion clauses, and it reveals the probable errors of particular originalist arguments made by leading scholars and Supreme Court justices.
Monday, February 9, 2015
The Atlantic's Matt Ford posted this compelling piece earlier today, which begins:
Joseph Sledge’s timing could not have been worse. While serving a four-year sentence for stealing t-shirts in 1976, the 36-year-old man from Georgia escaped from a prison work farm in eastern North Carolina. That same day, Josephine Davis and her daughter Ailene were brutally murdered in their farmhouse in nearby Bladen County. Sledge immediately became the prime suspect and was charged with their murders upon his re-capture.
The case against Sledge was weak. None of the fingerprints at the scene matched his own. The only physical evidence linking him to the crime was pubic hair “of Negroid origin” found on one victim’s body. An FBI microscopic analysis said they resembled Sledge’s hairs, but cautioned that this did not “constitute a basis for positive personal identification.” No eyewitnesses to the crime could be found, but two jailhouse informants testified that Sledge had confessed to killing two white “she-devils” to them. Sledge, who always maintained his innocence, received a life sentence in 1978.
His lawyers tried to fight the conviction, but hit a dead end in the appeals courts. In 2012, a county clerk discovered an envelope in the archives containing hairs from the crime scene, long presumed lost. A private lab tested mitochondrial DNA samples from the hairs and ruled out any connection to Sledge. Investigators with the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, a state agency devoted to investigating wrongful convictions, then interviewed the only surviving jailhouse informant. He recanted his testimony. The commission’s eight members voted unanimously last December to refer Sledge’s case to a special tribunal for exoneration. On January 23, the three judges unanimously ruled that Sledge had been wrongly convicted and ordered his release. He spent almost four decades behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.
In 49 other states, Joseph Sledge would still be in prison.
In a recently filed complaint in federal court, a Georgia woman claims an officer with her local PD assaulted her while she waited for the release of her recently arrested son. She was pregnant at the time, and she alleges that the assault cause her to miscarry. This article highlights her basic allegations:
Kenya Harris sued the City of Albany, Ga., police chief John Proctor and officers Ryan Jenkins and Richard Brown, Jr. for excessive force, assault and battery and infliction of emotional distress.
Harris says she was called to the Albany Police Department in May 2011 after her minor son was arrested. After waiting five hours, she told Jenkins that she had other children at home and needed to leave but Jenkins responded with hostility, according to the complaint.
"Defendant Officer Jenkins stated that he did not appreciate the tone in which she was communicating with him, and further stated that if she continued he would take her head and 'put it to the floor,'" the complaint states.
Harris says when she again tried to explain that she needed to leave, Jenkins followed through on his threat.
"Defendant Officer Jenkins, without provocation, grabbed plaintiff, who weighs less than one hundred twenty (120) pounds, by her neck and slammed her to the ground. Plaintiff momentarily blacked out and came to with defendant Officer Jenkins sitting on her back, and with his knee on her arm. Plaintiff was pregnant at the time," the complaint states. "Defendant Officer Jenkins put handcuffs on plaintiff and slammed her against the wall. Plaintiff was placed into an interrogation room after she was beaten and handcuffed."
Harris' request for medical attention was denied and she was taken to Dougherty County Jail for the night on a charge of obstruction, according to the complaint. She says her subsequent miscarriage was a result of Jenkins' excessive force.
What determines the level of deference the Supreme Court gives to agency interpretations of statutes? One explanation is that deference choices accord with what I term the “deference dichotomy.” When agency interpretations are in a legislative rule adopted through notice-and-comment procedures and have the “force of law,” the Court applies a heightened deference framework. But when agency interpretations are in interpretive or other non-legislative rules adopted through less formalized procedures, the Court gives minimal or no deference. Although scholars have advocated that approach for decades and the Court has now adopted it as formal doctrine, the Court’s actual choice of deference framework follows a less predictable pattern. Some scholars have suggested ideology as an alternative explanation, but empirical studies across administrative law domains have come to conflicting conclusions about its effect on deference choices. Other scholars have argued that the complexity of the statute and judicial views about the agency influence deference choices, but these studies have not been generalized across agencies and statutes.
In this Article, I employ a distinct approach, examining Supreme Court deference choices across multiple agencies administering multiple statutes in a single substantive field. I find that in the civil rights field, the Supreme Court’s deference choices appear to have been motivated by a factor that has gone unnoticed in the literature thus far — judicial resistance to “administrative constitutionalism.” To the extent that civil rights agencies resolve statutory questions central to ongoing constitutional controversies in the Supreme Court, such as the meaning of “discrimination,” they are practicing administrative constitutionalism — resolving interpretive questions that rest on constitutional values. When civil rights agencies have engaged with constitutional meaning in this way, the Court has refused to apply heightened deference to the agency’s interpretation of the statute even when precedent or the deference dichotomy suggests that it should.
I argue that this judicial resistance to administrative constitutionalism implicates important questions about authority over constitutional meaning. When the Court denies heightened deference to administrative constructions of statutes implicating ongoing constitutional controversies, it is preserving its exclusive power to determine constitutional meaning. Such resistance places the Court in the role of defining the substance of civil rights statutes insofar as they implicate the Constitution, and thus supplements the Court’s often-remarked practice of curbing legislative constitutionalism.
Thursday, February 5, 2015
This article is part of the University of Miami “Leading from Below” Symposium. It canvasses prisoners’ lawyers strategies prompted by the 1996 Prison Litigation Reform Act. The strategies not only comply with the statute’s limits but also allow U.S. district courts to remain a forum for the vindication of the constitutional rights of at least some of the nation’s millions of prisoners. Part I summarizes in several charts the PLRA’s sharp impact on the prevalence and outcomes in prison litigation, but demonstrates there are still many cases and situations in which courts continue to play a role. Part II looks at three methods by which plaintiffs and defendants can jointly obtain injunctive-type relief in prison cases — by crafting stipulations that comply with the PLRA’s constraints, by structuring the relief as a conditional dismissal, or by setting up the possibility of state-court enforcement. Part III examines plaintiffs’ coping methods for the PLRA’s provisions easing the path to termination of decrees, whether litigated or consent. Two types of preparation for a termination motion have emerged. First, the parties sometimes agree to stretch out the remediation period more than the PLRA’s default two years. Second, plaintiffs have worked to ensure that they are collecting sufficient information to inform their potentially hurried response to a termination motion.
It is my hope that the examples presented can help counsel and judges in prisoners’ rights cases thread the needle that the PLRA presents.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
This essay argues that the efficiency assumption in election law coupled with a resurgent preference for state-focused election administration has come to dominate considerations of the right to vote. Analysis of right-to-vote questions tends to turn around a calculus that puts at its center the efficiency of a state-dominated election system is the core interest the Court seeks to protect. This stands in contrast to a focus on the rights and status of the individual voter, especially where an individual voter confronts a voting regulation that fails to expressly deny that person the right to vote. In this sense, as is the case in a substantial amount of modern jurisprudence, this efficiency approach has overtaken the modern debates over election regulation.
This essay explores this issue by tracing the development of voting rights jurisprudence from a laissez-faire position of virtually unfettered deference to state control of the vote to a voter-centric rights-based framework, to a balancing approach that champions the states’ interest in efficiency coupled with the reemergence of deference to state power in regulating voting rights. This essay will then turn to examine whether this doctrinal development is appropriate to the modern rights-related issues concerning voting rights. Ultimately, this essay concludes how this new focus on efficiency is ultimately damaging to the right to vote as it fails to fully encompass how voters are ultimately excluded from the process due to the indirect costs placed on voters as an added mechanism of dissuasion from casting one’s ballot.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
The Civil Rights Act was remarkably successful in fighting overt bigotry and discrimination, but much less so in combating the subtler, institutionalized disadvantages that are now the main sources of social injustice. The heroic idea of rights as protections from an oppressive state or oppressive powerful private organizations is misleading and distracts attention from the institutional reforms necessary to achieve real social justice. In fact, the very concept of discrimination is vague and contested — the conflict in contemporary civil rights disputes is not simply over the factual question of whether or not discrimination has occurred, but also over the essentially normative question of what should count as discrimination. The concept of discrimination itself has become a placeholder for ideological struggles over how to balance individual entitlements to fair treatment on the one hand against employer decision- making prerogatives and individual liberties of expression on the other. We should abandon unresolvable conceptual disputes over “discrimination” in favor of a focus on the extent of the employer’s affirmative duty to avoid decisions and policies that needlessly injure members of underrepresented or stigmatized groups.
Monday, February 2, 2015
"Privacy and Security in the Cloud: Some Realism About Technical Solutions to Transnational Surveillance in the Post-Snowden Era"
This Article considers the organizational and technical responses of cloud computing companies in response to the Snowden leaks, which revealed the extent of NSA surveillance of foreign citizens whose data was held by U.S. based cloud services. The industry has sought to restore trust in their services by stepping up their efforts to protect the privacy and confidentiality interests of their customers against what we call “transnational surveillance.” While the legal debate about the proper legal standards for such surveillance is ongoing, the article focuses on two broad classes of technical and organizational responses and their interaction with the law. First, leading cloud firms like Google and Microsoft have implemented long-established cryptographic protocols that secure both communications with their customers and information flows among their own company data centers. In particular, these solutions help ensure that access takes place only through the “front door” of a valid legal process involving the service providers. Second, the article explores the availability of more far-reaching security innovations based on Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs). These increasingly popular solutions would limit the ability of service providers to comply with government orders, notwithstanding the technical assistance provisions in existing domestic and foreign surveillance laws.
The solutions discussed raise a number of legal issues. For example, do investigative agencies have sufficient legal authority to seek court orders compelling U.S. firms to modify their services in order to facilitate surveillance? More broadly, do U.S. firms (other than telephone carriers subject to a 1994 law requiring them to design wiretap-ready equipment) have a free hand in modifying existing services, or designing new services, to make them more resistant to transnational surveillance? Or may the U.S. government rely on existing surveillance laws to oversee the design of cloud services to ensure that court-ordered access remains achievable when duly authorized by judges or magistrates?
In analyzing these issues, the article draws upon an earlier debate about encryption export controls in the 1990s (the so-called “crypto wars”). It concludes that new laws may be necessary for the U.S. government to maintain its current levels of access and that Congress may be reluctant to enact such laws in the current climate. More generally, it concludes that many of the technical and organizational measures under discussion are likely to fall short of providing the kind of absolute protection sought by certain cloud customers, especially those located abroad. At the same time, under the right conditions, these measures can help to lower some of the risks of transnational surveillance and work to restore the balance in favor of privacy, information security, and confidentiality interests in the context of cloud data.
Sunday, February 1, 2015
In the years immediately following the Stonewall riots of June 1969, a period when “gay liberation” rather than “gay rights” described the ambitions of a movement, three marriage cases made their way to and beyond trial: Baker v. Nelson in Minnesota, Jones v. Hallahan in Kentucky, and Singer v. Hara in Washington State. This article offers a detailed account of that early trilogy. Drawing on extensive archival research and on interviews with key players in each case, it shows that, contrary to received wisdom, Stonewall-era marriage litigation was faithful to gay liberation’s radical aspirations. The Baker, Jones, and Singer lawsuits deployed marriage’s symbolic cachet to proclaim homosexuality’s equality, legal and moral, in a society that almost ubiquitously criminalized its practice. They protested the traditional gender roles that gay liberationists located at the heart of their oppression and that marriage, at the time, not only fostered but legally prescribed. They provided a platform from which to critique other aspects of marriage, such as the rule of monogamy and the state’s coercive, intrusive preference for a particular form of intimate association. Perhaps most importantly, these cases were sensational advertisements of gay people, gay relationships, and the nascent gay liberation movement. The first gay marriage plaintiffs were closely affiliated with that movement and, despite widespread antipathy toward marriage, fellow liberationists generally applauded the lawsuits as effective vehicles for declaring the movement’s existence and communicating several of its most important messages. This history, important in its own right, allows us to grasp some of the underlying stakes and radical possibilities of the signal gay rights issue of our time.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
Ricci v. DeStefano, the New Haven firefighters case, raised questions about the constitutionality of the disparate impact provisions of federal employment discrimination law. This Article draws on the Court’s subsequent decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin to clarify disparate impact’s constitutionality. In Fisher, no Justice expressed concern about Texas’s decision to promote diversity at the state university by admitting the top percent of the state’s high school graduates — state action that is race-conscious in purpose, but race-neutral in form. Approval of the percent plan in Fisher shows that under equal protection law of the Roberts Court disparate impact law is not unconstitutional in purpose, as Justice Scalia suggested in Ricci.
In Fisher, the Court has demonstrated that government may change the selection standards in competitive processes without triggering strict scrutiny if the government acts (1) with a race-conscious goal of promoting equal opportunity; (2) the government requires a selection standard that is appropriate for the context; and (3) the standard does not classify individuals by race. These principles are satisfied in the ordinary case of voluntary disparate impact compliance in which an employer specifies conditions for employment in advance of evaluating applicants for the job in question, as well as in prospective remedies that courts ordinarily order for violations of Title VII.
Fisher clarifies that the problem in Ricci was New Haven’s procedurally irregular means of complying with disparate impact law: the government discarded the test results of a group of applicants who had invested significant time in studying for a promotion exam, and explained this decision in terms which left the disappointed applicants with the impression that government was discarding their scores to advance the interests of another racially defined group. By avoiding a constitutional judgment and finding New Haven’s manner of complying with the statute unlawful disparate treatment, Justice Kennedy warns that interventions designed to heal social division should be implemented in ways that endeavor not to aggravate social division.
Disparate impact law can promote equal opportunity, increase employee confidence in the fairness of selection criteria, and so reduce racial balkanization; but for disparate impact law to do so, Justice Kennedy seems to be saying in Ricci, disparate impact law needs to be enforced with attention to all employees’ expectations of fair dealing.
Friday, January 30, 2015
"Programming Errors: Understanding the Constitutionality of Stop and Frisk as a Program, not an Incident"
This essay takes seriously the relevance of law enforcement effectiveness and the role of empiricism to understanding the constitutionality of the police practices at issue in the Floyd case and urban police practices more generally and also recasts the debate a bit. A critical, but obscured, issue is the mismatch between the level of analysis at which the Supreme Court articulated the relevant test for constitutional justification of a stop and frisk in Terry v. Ohio , and the scale at which police today (and historically) engage in stop and frisk as a practice. To put this more succinctly, while the Court in Terry authorized police intervention in an individual incident when the police officer possesses probable cause to believe that an armed individual is involved in a crime, in reality stop and frisk typically is carried out by a police force en masse as a program. Although the constitutional framework is based upon a one-off investigative incident, many of those who are stopped, the majority of them young men of color, do not experience the stops as one-off incidents. They experience them as a program to police them as a group, which is, of course, the reality. That is exactly what police agencies are doing. Fourth Amendment reasonableness must take this fact into account. I make an argument here about how we should approach this issue.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
In this essay, Cynthia Lee celebrates the 25th anniversary of Critical Race Theory (CRT) by writing about the pitfalls of the ideal of colorblindness. She starts by analyzing Devon Carbado's seminal article on CRT and the Fourth Amendment, (E)Racing the Fourth Amendment. She focuses on Carbado's critique of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's embrace of colorblindness in Florida v. Bostick, the case in which the Supreme Court modified the test for a seizure of the person. Lee uses Carbado's article as a springboard for critiquing the embrace of colorblindness by legal decision-makers involved in George Zimmerman's 2013 murder trial. Zimmerman came under fire in 2012 for shooting and killing an unarmed Black teenager named Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman claimed he acted in self-defense. He was acquitted of murder by a mostly white 6 person jury. Lee argues that the embrace of colorblindness by the judge, the prosecution, and the defense had the effect of erasing race and the possibility that racial stereotypes influenced Zimmerman’s actions from the trial. This erasure of Martin's race had the deleterious effect of making it difficult for the prosecution to counter the implicit association most people make between young black males and violent crime. The defense was able to build a narrative based on an aggressive, violent Martin who started the affray and had the upper hand, and thus persuade the jury that Zimmerman acted reasonably in self-defense. Lee presents recent social science research on race salience that suggests calling attention to race can alleviate the effects of implicit racial bias.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Challenges to federal law requiring insurance coverage of contraception are occurring on the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Griswold v. Connecticut. It is a good time to reflect on the values served by protecting women’s access to contraception.
In 1965, the Court ruled in Griswold that a law criminalizing the use of contraception violated the privacy of the marriage relationship. Griswold offered women the most significant constitutional protection since the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote, constitutional protection as important as the cases prohibiting sex discrimination that the Court would decide in the next decade - perhaps even more so. Griswold is conventionally understood to have secured liberty for women. But the right to contraception also secures equality for women, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg saw clearly in the 1970s and as the Court eventually would explain in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Those who appreciate contraception’s singular importance to women call recent attacks on contraception a “war on women.” Yet, it is not immediately clear that the right to contraception is a sex-equality right. Both men and women use contraception, even if the forms of contraception that they use are sex-differentiated. The Connecticut statute banning contraception applied to both sexes.
Analyzing the right to contraception in historical context helps to clarify the ways in which the right to contraception secures equality, as well as liberty, for women. As Griswold turns fifty, we return to the historical record to demonstrate that the ban on contraception struck down in that case was enforced in ways that reflected and reinforced traditional gender roles. Even though the law was written to apply to both sexes, the state applied the law to men and women differently, in at least two important respects. In recovering this history, we show how the regulation of contraception is tied to “double standards” in sex and parenting. Recognizing these deep and enduring differences in gender roles demonstrates why denying women control over the timing of childbearing denies them equal citizenship. With these concerns in view, it becomes clear why judicial decisions and laws securing access to effective and affordable contraception vindicate both equality and liberty values - both and.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
A welcome development, the landmark Georgia Habeas Corpus Act of 1967 modernized and vastly expanded the availability of postconviction habeas corpus relief in the Georgia court system. Since the early 1970s, however, there has been an unfortunate trend of imposing crippling restrictions on use of the Georgia writ of habeas corpus to obtain postconviction relief. Six restrictive Georgia habeas statutes, enacted between 1973 and 2004, have, among other things, reduced the number of claims which may be asserted in postconviction habeas proceedings, curtailed appeals of postconviction habeas decisions denying relief, and created a maze of procedural barriers to obtaining postconviction habeas relief. Moreover, in a dispiriting manifestation of lack of appreciation for Great Writ, five lamentable Georgia Supreme Court decisions, handed down between 1975 and 2012, have severely limited postconviction habeas corpus, both substantively and procedurally.
Part II of this Article examines the six statutes curbing Georgia habeas corpus, while Part III explores the five Georgia Supreme Court decisions. Part IV points out the current weakened condition of the Georgia postconviction habeas remedy, deplores the sinister success of the law enforcement establishment in denigrating and politicking against postconviction remedies, and offers suggestions and strategies for restoring the habeas remedy to its former greatness as our legal system's most efficient protector of personal liberty.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Fifty years after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, unlawful discrimination continues to ail American workplaces. Despite the prevailing narrative that America is now "post-racial" after the election of the first African American president, equal opportunity still eludes many Americans. Their membership in racial, ethnic, or religious groups stigmatized as the "other" adversely affects their access to education, political empowerment, and equal opportunity in the workplace.
At the time Title VII was passed, victims often experienced explicit bias against their protected group. The law’s immediate effect was to ban overt prejudice causing disparate intergroup discrimination between men and women, blacks and whites, different ethnicities, and Christians and non-Christians. As a result, Title VII, along with other anti-discrimination laws, has been relatively successful in rooting out explicit bias in employment. Many employers now refrain from overtly treating employees disparately on account of an immutable characteristic. But, as the data show, the absence of discriminatory policies on paper does not always translate into a discrimination free workplace in practice. Rather, it pushes bias into more covert manifestations wherein facially neutral factors become proxies for unlawful discrimination.
While Title VII prohibits covert bias; it is ill equipped to prevent two increasingly prevalent forms of discrimination: 1) implicit bias arising from negative stereotypes of protected classes; and 2) disparate treatment of subgroups of protected classes who do not conform to coercive assimilationist pressures.Because an employee alleging discrimination must show that a similarly situated worker outside the protected class does not receive the same adverse treatment or impact, an employer who treats a subgroup of a minority better than another subgroup of the same minority can evade liability.
Of course, if the difference in treatment among the subgroups is based on performance and skills directly related to the work at issue, then no liability should attach. However, that is not always the case. Disparate treatment of members of the same protected class arises from negative racial, ethnic, or religious stereotypes that privileges those able and willing to perform their identity in accordance with assimilationist demands of the majority group. The effect is intragroup discrimination based on intergroup bias rooted in implicit negative stereotyping.
Female employees who fall under multiple protected classes face an intersection of identity performance pressures as women, racial or ethnic minorities, and religious minorities.The dominant group’s expectations of how women or members of minority groups should behave, dress, and communicate to be "professional" are often contradictory due to conflicting stereotypes. A Black woman, for example, who is assertive, ambitious, and exhibits leadership qualities associated as masculine characteristics, risks being stigmatized as aggressive, insubordinate, and threatening because of negative stereotypes of blacks. Meanwhile, her behavior contradicts gender conformity norms that women should be deferential, gentle, soft spoken, and pleasant. And if she is a Muslim, then her behavior triggers stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists, disloyal, foreign, and suspect.
For workplace anti-discrimination laws to eradicate these multiple binds that disparately impact women of color, this Article argues that Title VII jurisprudence should take into account intergroup discrimination based on intragroup identity performance to assure all employees, not just a subset of a protected class, are covered by workplace antidiscrimination law. As such, a plaintiff’s treatment should not be compared only with similarly situated employees outside the protected class but also with similarly situated employees within the protected class whose identity performance accommodates coercive assimilationism rooted in stereotypes.
This Article applies social psychology and antidiscrimination theories to the case of Muslim women of color in the workplace, an under-researched area in legal scholarship. I examine in detail the identity performance challenges and contradictions faced by Muslim women of color as "intersectionals" facing stereotypes against 1) Muslims as terrorists, violent, and disloyal; 2) Muslim women as meek, oppressed, and lacking individual agency; 3) women as sexualized, terminally second best to men, and uncommitted to their careers; 4) immigrants as forever foreign and undeserving of equal treatment; and 5) ethnic minorities from the Middle East and South Asia as barbaric, misogynist, and anti-American. I conclude that Muslim women of color are at risk of falling between the cracks of Title VII jurisprudence due to courts’ unwillingness to recognize the harms caused by coercive assimilationst pressures to conform one’s identity to comport to high status group norms, irrespective of the relevance to work performance.
Monday, January 5, 2015
This essay – written in connection with a French National Research Agency project on “Neo or Retro Constitutionalisms” – is an effort to pull together the last fifteen years of Supreme Court criminal procedure cases expanding constitutional protections. It identifies three different styles: thin and clear doctrinal lines on miniature doctrinal canvases that have only passing connections to criminal justice realities; episodic and self-limiting engagements with a potentially larger regulatory space; and a grand style that hints at sweeping structural ambitions but collaborates with other regulatory authorities. Readers undoubtedly can come up with more than three styles. But, in any event, the exercise highlights the limited nature of the Court’s work during this period, the limits of formalism, and the need for scholars to disaggregate broad references to “constitutionalism.”
Sunday, January 4, 2015
The modern conception of the law of birthright citizenship operates along the citizen/noncitizen binary. Those born in the United States generally acquire automatic U.S. citizenship at birth. Those who do not are regarded as non-citizens. Unbeknownst to many, there is another form of birthright membership category: the non-citizen national. Judicially constructed in the 1900s and codified by Congress in 1940, non-citizen national was the status given to people who were born in U.S. territories acquired at the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898. Today, it is the status of people who are born in American Samoa, a current U.S. territory.
This Article explores the legal construction of non-citizen national status and its implications for our understanding of citizenship. On a narrow level, the Article recovers a forgotten part of U.S. racial history, revealing an interstitial form of birthright citizenship that emerged out of imperialism and racial restrictions to citizenship. On a broader scale, this Article calls into question the plenary authority of Congress over the territories and power to determine their people’s membership status. Specifically, this Article contends that such plenary power over the citizenship status of those born in a U.S. possession conflicts with the common law principle of jus soli and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Citizenship Clause. Accordingly, this Article offers a limiting principle to congressional power over birthright citizenship.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
"Meyer, Pierce, and the History of the Entire Human Race: Barbarism, Social Progress, and (the Fall and Rise of) Parental Rights"
Long before the Supreme Court’s seminal parenting cases took a due process Lochnerian turn, American courts had been working to fashion family law doctrine on the premise that parents are only entrusted with custody of the child, and then only as long as they meet their fiduciary duty to take proper care of the child. With its progressive, anti-patriarchal orientation, this jurisprudence was in part a creature of its time, reflecting the evolutionary biases of the emerging fields of sociology, anthropology, and legal ethnohistory. In short, the courts embraced the new, “scientific” view that social “progress” entails the decline and, by some accounts, the demise of parental authority.
The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries witnessed the emergence of social science disciplines built on a materialistic theory of cultural progress and an evolutionary view of law. One result of these early enthographic efforts was the enormously influential stage-theory of societal development. Simply enough, stage-theory describes how a society moves from a primitive to a civilized state of development, and how it might fail to do so. The theory was congenial to the moral philosophers and social theorists of the Scottish Enlightenment; to libertarian-minded contractualists of late-nineteenth-century America; and to the founding fathers of revolutionary socialism. It was a part of the nineteenth century’s great idiom of secular progress and social engineering, part of a story of worldly advancement and human achievement in which the courts had their own role to play.
Part I of this article looks at what might be the most formative application of stage-theory to family relations, John Millar’s The Origins of the Distinctions of Ranks (1771). Drawing on the sociohistorical work of David Hume and Adam Smith, Millar provides an empirical account of how rights of personal authority (the right of husband over wife, father over children, and master over servant) arise out of and evolve in response to changing socioeconomic conditions. For Millar, there is little doubt that parental authority “has been reduced within narrower bounds, in proportion to the ordinary improvements of society.”
A product of the Scottish Enlightenment’s focus on sociability, Millar’s historical critique of paternal authority translated comfortably to the individualistic currents of the nineteenth century. Part II of this article looks at the work of two prominent libertarian legal theorists: the British comparative cultural and legal historian Henry Maine and the British moral philosopher Herbert Spencer. Though these writers took different routes through the emerging sociological territory of the nineteenth century, they all agreed that the historical record dictated the conclusion that there is no social progress without the repudiation of patriarchalism.
With its focus on economic conditions and its pragmatic approach to rights, stage-theory could be put to far more radical uses. In the socialist utopia imagined by Marx and Engels, the private family would vanish along with private property and profit. Part III of this article has two goals: to remind readers that 1) socialist historymaking considered the dissolution of the bourgeois family as a key step toward a stateless state, and 2) this repudiation of the family was no mere doctrinal abstraction for American legal professionals. As the Supreme Court weighed the competing claims of parent and state, the threat of a socialist takeover of the family — “the principle of the soviet” — was always close at hand.
In response to this unhappy prospect, the Court drew from the murky, mysterious well of state-constraining liberties we refer to as substantive due process. Repudiating the communistic models of ancient states — Sparta being the poster-child of historical statism — the Court began to write it own story of social progress. Social primitivism lay not in the patriarchal family but in the paternalistic state, and progress did not lie in a movement from personal rights to public responsibilities, but just the reverse. With regard to domestic life, this narrative of progress was one of struggle: a struggle of parental rights against the ever encroaching state. For the modern Court, regulation of the family would no longer be one of the proper functions of government. If history has an ash heap, and if the Court had its way, Sparta would once and for all be relegated to it.
Friday, January 2, 2015
"Choice at Work: Young v. United States Parcel Service, Pregnancy Discrimination, and Reproductive Liberty"
In granting cert in Young v. United Postal Service, the Supreme Court has intervened in ongoing struggles about when and whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 requires the accommodation of pregnant workers. Drawing on original archival research, this Article historicizes Young, arguing that the PDA embodied a limited principle of what the Article calls meaningful reproductive choice. Feminist litigators first forged such an idea in the early 1970s, arguing that heightened judicial scrutiny should apply whenever state actors placed special burdens on women who chose childbirth or abortion. More ambitiously, some feminists suggested that the State may have to act to affirmatively support some fundamental rights.
A line of Supreme Court decisions completely rejected this understanding of reproductive liberty. However, choice arguments rejected in the juridical arena flourished in Congress, during debate about the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). For a variety of strategic and ideological reasons, legal feminists and antiabortion activists turned to legislative constitutionalism to give meaning to the idea of reproductive liberty. While not requiring employers to provide any accommodations, the PDA prohibited employers from placing special burdens on women’s procreative decisions.
The history of the meaningful choice principle calls into doubt contemporary judicial interpretations of the PDA, including the Fourth Circuit opinion in Young. When employers accommodate non-pregnant workers, as Young suggests, courts often find no violation of the PDA so long as a policy is “pregnancy-blind” — that is, so long as an employer does not explicitly categorize employees on the basis of pregnancy. This history strengthens the argument against pregnancy-blind policies made in Young by petitioners and amici under a variety of legal theories, including disparate treatment, disparate impact, and disability accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ultimately, however, the history studied here counsels that legislation, rather than litigation, may be the most promising path for expanding protections for pregnant women.
Thursday, January 1, 2015
Scholars and activists have long been interested in conscientious law-breaking as a means of dissent. The civil disobedient violates the law in a bid to highlight its illegitimacy and motivate reform. A less heralded form of social action, however, involves nearly the opposite approach. As a wide range of examples attest, dissenters may also seek to disrupt a legal regime through hyperbolic, literalistic, or otherwise unanticipated adherence to its formal rules.
This Article asks how we might make sense of these more paradoxical protests, involving not explicit law-breaking but rather extreme law-following. We seek to identify, elucidate, and call attention to the phenomenon of "uncivil obedience." After defining uncivil obedience and describing its basic varieties and mechanisms, we explore tools that have emerged to limit its use. We explain that private law has developed more robust defenses against uncivil obedience than has public law, especially in civil law jurisdictions. We argue that the challenges uncivil obedience poses to public law values are as substantial as those posed by civil disobedience. And we suggest that uncivil obedience may be a particularly attractive tactic for ideologically conservative individuals and the contemporary Republican Party. For these reasons and others, we aim to show, uncivil obedience deserves much more of the sort of critical attention that has been afforded to civil disobedience.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
We analyze how admission policies affect stereotypes against students from disadvantaged groups. Many critics of affirmative action argue that lower admission standards cause such stereotypes and suggest group-blind admissions as a remedy. We show that when stereotypes result from social inequality, they can persist under group-blind admissions. In such cases, eliminating stereotypes perversely requires a higher admission standard for disadvantaged students. If a school seeks both to treat students equally and limit stereotypes, the optimal admission policy would still impose a higher standard on disadvantaged students. A third goal, such as equal representation, is required to justify group-blind admissions. Even when there is such a third goal, group-blind admissions are optimal only when the conflicting goals of equal representation and limiting stereotypes exactly balance. This is an implausible justification for group-blind admission because it implies that some schools desire higher standards for disadvantaged students. Schools that do not desire such higher standards will typically find some amount of affirmative action to be optimal.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
When the government wants to impose exceptionally harsh punishment on a criminal defendant, one of the ways it accomplishes this goal is to divide the defendant’s single course of conduct into multiple offenses that give rise to multiple punishments. The Supreme Court has rendered the Double Jeopardy Clause, the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, and the rule of lenity incapable of handling this problem by emptying them of substantive content and transforming them into mere instruments for effectuation of legislative will.
This article demonstrates that all three doctrines originally reflected a substantive legal preference for life and liberty, and a systemic bias against overpunishment. A punishment was deemed excessive under the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause if it was greater than an offender’s retributive desert, as measured against longstanding punishment practice. Prior to the Twentieth Century, if prosecutors proposed a novel unit of prosecution for a given crime, courts asked two questions: (1) Does this unit of prosecution give the government the opportunity to bring multiple charges based on a single course of conduct? (2) If so, would the bringing of multiple charges create an arbitrary relationship between the offender’s culpability and his cumulative punishment, measured in light of prior punishment practice? Courts employed this analysis whether the unit of prosecution was challenged under the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, the Double Jeopardy Clause, or the rule of strict construction of penal statutes (the forerunner to today’s rule of lenity). By recovering this methodology for addressing prosecutorial efforts to divide crime and multiply punishments, we can ameliorate our current mass incarceration crisis and make the American criminal justice system more just.
Monday, December 29, 2014
Campaign finance law is in crisis. In a series of recent decisions, the Supreme Court has rejected state interests such as anti-distortion and equality, while narrowing the anti-corruption interest to its quid pro quo core. This core cannot sustain the bulk of campaign finance regulation. As a result, an array of contribution limits, expenditure limits, and public financing programs have been struck down by the Court. If any meaningful rules are to survive, a new interest capable of justifying them must be found.
This Article introduces just such an interest: the alignment of voters’ policy preferences with their government’s policy outputs. Alignment is a value of deep democratic significance. If it is achieved, then voters’ views are heeded, not ignored, by their elected representatives. Alignment also is distinct from the interests the Court previously has rebuffed. In particular, alignment and equality are separate concepts because equal voter influence is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for alignment to arise. And there is reason to think the Court might be drawn to alignment. In decisions spanning several decades, the Court often has affirmed that public policy ought to reflect the wishes of the people.
It is not enough, though, if alignment is merely an appealing value. For it to justify regulation, money in politics must be able to produce misalignment, and campaign finance reform must be able to promote alignment. The Article draws on a new wave of political science scholarship to establish both propositions. This work shows that individual donors are ideologically polarized, while parties and PACs are more centrist in their giving. The work also finds that politicians tend to adhere to the same positions as their principal funders. Accordingly, policies that curb the influence of individual donors would be valid under the alignment approach. But measures that burden more moderate entities could not be sustained on this basis.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
In 2013, undocumented youth activists known as the DREAM 9 attempted to enter the borders of the United States from Mexico as a form of political protest. The action created a rare visible split among supporters of immigration reform. Some understood the action as an extension of the civil rights movement; others called it reckless and defiant. Other political activity by undocumented youth has been similarly criticized for “in-your-face agitation,” “arrogance” and the failure to be “respectful.” But as noncitizens, aliens are not allowed to take part in political processes, such as voting, that might otherwise channel legitimate political dissent. In this chapter I examine the relationship between the political activity of noncitizens, and the perception that this activity is uncivil. Can the undocumented alien's political activity ever be heard within the political boundaries of civility?
Civility can be understood to refer both to the conduct of a citizen and to the borders of civil expression. Political theorists who discuss civility assume as a discursive frame the internal life of a bounded political community, where what is put into question is the civility or incivility of the citizen. But what of the alien, who lacks the formal status of citizenship? More particularly, what of the undocumented alien, defined as an illegitimate civil subject? This chapter suggests that the relationship between civility, citizenship and the alien means that the political activity of undocumented immigrants, while in some sense the most robust civic participation imaginable, will not be experienced as civil. Arguably, civility's association with citizenship haunts the possibility of any noncitizen, particularly the undocumented noncitizen, to have her actions experienced as civil; she is perceived to simultaneously make claims upon and stand outside the demos. The turn to more confrontational political tactics risks that undocumented youth are perceived as something other than dutiful, loyal, hardworking, patriotic human capital. But this concern betrays a fundamental sense that the appropriate position is one of passive gratitude, rather than robust activity.
While civility offers itself as a universal value and as an impartial practice, it aligns itself with the powerful, casting the charge of incivility on those making a disruptive demand for inclusion. Undocumented immigrants are making claims as new political actors, pushing beyond existing frames of claim making. Undocumented youth activists remind us that civility, like citizenship, has both an inclusive and an exclusive function, in creating a space within, as well as an outside. And they tell us that while civility is sometimes vaunted for its importance in stitching the fabric between those within the political community, its most salient characteristic may be how it can be used to push others outside.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
On the surface, Schuette v. Coalition for Affirmative Action leaves the constitutional law of affirmative action undisturbed. Michigan had amended its state constitution to prevent the use of racial preferences by any university system or school district. Rejecting a fourteenth-amendment challenge, the Court upheld Michigan’s law. The Schuette plurality went to considerable lengths to explain that Schuette in no way touched on the constitutionality or merits of race-based admissions. Just the same, understood in historical context, the Schuette majority lays bare profound new dangers confronting proponents of affirmative action. In addition to praising colorblindness, the Court cast doubt on the very definition of race.
This Article historicizes Schuette, revealing it to be a turning point in the law and politics of affirmative action. In the past, activists consistently used race to describe the color of one’s skin, but before Schuette, the meaning of race itself had not played a central part in challenges to the constitutional legitimacy of affirmative action. As Schuette shows, anti-affirmative action amici and activists have developed a new argument: a claim that if race is a social construct, race-conscious remedies are arbitrary, unfair, and likely to reinforce existing stereotypes.
As the new anti-affirmative action activism makes plain, the question is how courts can address racial discrimination when racial identities themselves are fluid and complex. The Article looks to employment discrimination law — and to “regarded as” liability — as a framework for judges seeking to address the reality of race discrimination without reifying racial categories. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disability Act Amendments Act of 2009 (ADAAA), a worker may in certain cases seek relief when she is regarded as disabled — regardless of whether she actually belongs to a protected class. The Article argues that regarded-as reasoning has considerable potential in the context of postsecondary admissions. In complying with existing fourteenth-amendment jurisprudence, admissions officers already rely on proxies for applicants’ race. Doing so checks self-serving behavior and better captures the fluidity of race in modern America.
Friday, December 26, 2014
This article recovers the institutional alternatives to judicial enforcement of civil liberties during the New Deal. Based on archival research, it demonstrates that the court-based strategy was deeply contested and remained controversial well after the foundational First Amendment victories. Today, theories of civil liberties are premised on state neutrality in the domain of public debate; in the 1930s, the most prominent accounts demanded affirmative government intervention to correct distortions in the marketplace of ideas or to advance substantive rights. In examining these forgotten traditions, the article highlights the close and unexplored connection between civil liberties and organized labor during the New Deal. Surprisingly, early proponents of civil liberties understood the term to encompass, above all, the rights to organize, picket, and strike. Reconstructing the competing visions of civil liberties and their optimal enforcement before and after the “Constitutional Revolution” reveals the anticipated trade-offs of the judicial strategy, with important implications for theoretical accounts of constitutional change.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
The title of this post comes from this intriguing paper, the abstract of which states:
Should a Muslim employee who falsely stated in his job interview that he is Christian in order to avoid discrimination be fired for his dishonesty? Should a buyer of a tract of land who conducted an expensive investigation before contracting that revealed a high likelihood of mineral deposits be subject to liability for fraud because he told the seller he knew nothing about the land's mineral potential before purchase? Is a doctor violating her legal duties toward her patient if she convinces him to get vaccinated on the pretext that it is in his best interest when it is instead in the public interest? In all of these cases, and many others, parties are allowed not to disclose material information to an interested party but not to lie about the same information.
This article makes the argument that in many contexts, where non-disclosure is permitted lies should also be tolerated, for otherwise the social goals sought by allowing non-disclosure are frustrated. With this as its starting point, the article develops a theory of valuable lies, discussing the conditions under which lies should be permitted. It analyzes the main impediments to allowing lies, the most important of which being the risk that permitting lies would impair truth-tellers' ability to reliably convey truthful information. The article applies the theory to various fields, including contract law, tort law, medical malpractice, criminal law and procedure, and constitutional law. It concludes by proposing changes to the law that will allow telling valuable lies in well-defined categories of cases.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
The title of this post comes from this recent paper, the abstract of which states:
The usual legal story about partisan gerrymandering is relentlessly pessimistic. The courts did not even recognize the cause of action until the 1980s; they have never struck down a district plan on this basis; and four sitting Justices want to vacate the field altogether. The Supreme Court’s most recent gerrymandering decision, however, is the most encouraging development in this area in a generation. Several Justices expressed interest in the concept of partisan symmetry — the idea that a plan should treat the major parties symmetrically in terms of the conversion of votes to seats — and suggested that it could be shaped into a legal test.
In this Article, we take the Justices at their word. First, we introduce a new measure of partisan symmetry: the efficiency gap. It represents the difference between the parties’ respective wasted votes in an election, divided by the total number of votes cast. It captures, in a single tidy number, all of the packing and cracking decisions that go into a district plan. It also is superior to the metric of gerrymandering, partisan bias, that litigants and scholars have used until now. Partisan bias can be calculated only by shifting votes to simulate a hypothetical tied election. The efficiency gap eliminates the need for such counterfactual analysis.
Second, we compute the efficiency gap for congressional and state house plans between 1972 and 2012. Over this period as a whole, the typical plan was fairly balanced and neither party enjoyed a systematic advantage. But in recent years — and peaking in the 2012 election — plans have exhibited steadily larger and more pro-Republican gaps. In fact, the plans in effect today are the most extreme gerrymanders in modern history. And what is more, several likely will remain extreme for the remainder of the decade, as indicated by our sensitivity testing.
Finally, we explain how the efficiency gap could be converted into doctrine. We propose setting thresholds above which plans would be presumptively unconstitutional: two seats for congressional plans and eight percent for state house plans, but only if the plans probably will stay unbalanced for the rest of the cycle. Plans with gaps above these thresholds would be unlawful unless states could show that the gaps either resulted from the consistent application of legitimate policies, or were inevitable due to the states’ political geography. This approach would neatly slice the Gordian knot the Court has tied for itself, explicitly replying to the Court’s “unanswerable question” of “how much political...effect is too much.”
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Professionals speak in the course of exercising their profession. Yet, the State regulates the professions all the time. What is the permissible scope of regulation of the professions as distinct from regulation of professional speech? This Article provides a comprehensive account of the doctrinal and theoretical basis of professional speech and its application to controversial First Amendment questions.
First Amendment protection for professional speech rests on distinctive theoretical justifications and the key to understanding professional speech lies in understanding the character of the learned professions. This Article suggests that the professions be thought of as knowledge communities. Conceptualizing the professions as knowledge communities not only informs the justifications for First Amendment protection but also the limits of that protection, the permissibility of regulation of the professions, and the imposition and extent of tort liability for professional malpractice.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Corporate religious liberty appears to be on the rise. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC (2012) energized sweeping theories about “freedom of the church.” The Court’s more controversial decision in Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2014) determined that for-profit entities may be legally entitled to claim a corporate religious character. Speaking in the language of rights, commentators have vigorously debated the foundations and meaning of these decisions.
This chapter argues that these debates are misdirected. The special treatment of religion in American constitutional law does not properly rest on any theory that religious entities enjoy a distinctive set of rights. Instead, the relevant limitation on government arises from the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. The governing principle, deeply grounded in history, can best be understood as a prohibition on government involvement – through regulation or financial support – in “purely and strictly ecclesiastical matters.” That principle (developed at greater length in our book, Secular Government, Religious People) explains why the government may not decide, for example, who is fit for ministry or which faction within a church is acting in fidelity to its original teachings. The principle applies with equal force to the state’s relationship with houses of worship, religious non-profit institutions such as schools or charities, and for-profit businesses whose owners assert a corporate religious character. The only legally relevant differences among these types of organizations should be derived from the likelihood that the principle will be implicated in any particular case.
After reviewing the 19th century underpinnings of this singular approach, and offering pertinent reminders of limits on state financial support for religious teaching, the chapter focuses primarily on the context of employment regulation. Along the way, the chapter addresses concrete questions, such as whether a for-profit business can ever successfully assert a ministerial exception with respect to any of its employees. The answer may surprise you.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
With the growing use of assisted reproductive technology (“ART”), courts have to reconcile competing rights to seek and avoid procreation. Often, in imagining the boundaries of these rights, judges turn to abortion jurisprudence for guidance.
This move sparks controversy. On the one hand, abortion case law may provide the strongest constitutional foundation for scholars and advocates seeking rights to access ART or avoid unwanted parenthood. On the other hand, abortion jurisprudence carries normative and political baggage: a privacy framework that disadvantages poor women and a history of intense polarization.
This article uses the legal history of struggle over spousal consent abortion restrictions as a new way into the debate about the relationship between ART and existing reproductive rights. Such laws would require women to notify or obtain consent from their husbands before a doctor can perform an abortion. Scholars use spousal-consultation laws to illustrate the sex stereotypes supposedly underlying all abortion restrictions. This article tells a far more complex story. When feminists and pro-lifers battled about spousal consent in the 1970s, they wrestled with many of the questions motivating current battles about ART: Do women enjoy a unique role in child-rearing and childbearing? Does gestation, caretaking, or a genetic connection explain the decision-making power conferred on women in the context of reproduction? How could feminists reconcile demands that men perform a greater share of child-rearing with arguments that women should have the final decision on reproductive matters? By reexamining the history of the consent wars, we can gain valuable perspective on what can go right -- and wrong -- when we forge a jurisprudence based on the relationship between genetic, gestational, and functional parenthood.
The consent wars helped drive a wedge between feminist sex-equality arguments -- which challenged sex stereotypes and reproductive rights law -- which partly relied on similar generalizations about sex roles. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, legal feminists pushed new laws on publicly funded child care and pregnancy discrimination in a quest to assign more caretaking responsibility to men and to the State. Feminists believed that separating women's gestational and functional parenthood would help root out damaging sex stereotypes and dramatically expand women's role in the political, economic, and social spheres.
The consent wars flipped this project on its head: for both strategic and ideological reasons, feminists assumed a more traditional vision of the roles, rights, and responsibilities of both mothers and fathers. Feminists argued that women had a unique role not only in the context of gestation but also in the context of child-rearing. While these contentions strengthened the constitutional case against spousal consent laws, they were unnecessary. Without contradicting their support for equal parenting responsibilities, feminists could have stressed that the law did not treat the fetus as a child. Consequently, a man's interest in equal parenting might have looked quite different before, rather than after, viability. Moreover, conflating gestational and functional parenthood had damaging, unintended consequences, entrenching sex stereotypes about gender roles at the heart of abortion jurisprudence.
In chronicling the consent wars, we can gain a better understanding of the proper relationship between ART and the existing constitutional framework governing reproduction. As feminists recognized in the 1960s and 1970s, pregnancy -- not the burdens of caretaking or genetic parenthood -- puts women in a unique biological and social position. In the 1970s, by reading a broader understanding of women's disproportionate share of parenting into Roe v. Wade, feminists inadvertently created an opening for courts to fall back on deeply rooted stereotypes about women's role in the home. To avoid this trap in ART cases, we should read abortion jurisprudence as standing for the connection between sex equality and women's gestational role. The consent wars powerfully demonstrate the costs feminists can face when they fail to unbundle women's genetic, gestational, and functional parenthood.
Conversely, ART jurisprudence spotlights the path not taken by feminists during the consent wars. Separating the strands of parental rights allows us to define women's equal citizenship concerns in abortion with greater precision. Because only women can carry pregnancies to term, abortion bans necessarily implicate women's interest in equal treatment, regardless of who takes on caretaking responsibilities after childbirth. Equally important, the injuries associated with unwanted pregnancy itself -- to bodily integrity, dignity, and autonomy -- can justify a woman's right to abortion regardless of who assumes caretaking responsibilities later in life.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
In this essay, Professors Fishkin and Gerken argue that the Supreme Court’s deregulation of the campaign-finance system is fueling a shift toward "shadow parties" -- groups that are separate from the formal party apparatus but run by party insiders and central to the workings of the party writ large. They argue that the roots of this trend are to be found, paradoxically, not in the two parties’ weakness but in their strength. Contrary to the emerging conventional wisdom in the field, the authors suggest that the Court’s 2014 decision in McCutcheon v. FEC will do little to arrest this trend. The essay closes with a brief exploration of the trend’s normative implications. This essay is a version of a talk presented at the 2014 Brennan Center Convening, Money in Politics 2030: Toward a New Jurisprudence.
Note: This essay is a version of a talk presented at the 2014 Brennan Center Convening, Money in Politics 2030: Toward a New Jurisprudence.
Friday, December 19, 2014
Many contemporary civil rights claims arise from institutional activity that, while troubling, is neither malicious nor egregiously reckless. When law-makers find themselves unable to produce substantive rules for such activity, they often turn to regulating the ways in which actors exercise their discretion. The consequence is an emerging duty of responsible administration that requires managers to actively assess the effects of their conduct on civil rights values and to make reasonable efforts to mitigate harm to protected groups. This doctrinal evolution partially but imperfectly converges with independent developments in public administration. We illustrate the doctrinal and administrative changes with a study of policing. We discuss court-supervised reforms in New York and Cincinnati as examples of contrasting trajectories that these developments can take. Both initiatives are better understood in terms of an implicit duty of responsible administration than as an expression of any particular substantive right. However, the Cincinnati intervention reaches more deeply into core administrative practices and indeed mandates a particular crime control strategy – Problem-Oriented Policing. As such, it typifies a more ambitious type of structural civil-rights intervention that can be found in other areas.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
One of the most common objections to originalism is that it cannot cope with cultural change. One of the most commonly invoked examples of this claimed weakness is the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, whose original meaning would (it is argued) authorize barbaric punishment practices like flogging and branding, and disproportionate punishments like the death penalty for relatively minor offenses. This Article shows that this objection to originalism is inapt, at least with respect to the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause. As I have shown in prior articles, the original meaning of “cruel and unusual” is “cruel and contrary to long usage,” or “cruel and new.” The primary purpose of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause is to prevent legislatures and courts from imposing new punishments that are unduly harsh in light of the long usage of the common law. This Article demonstrates that the Clause also incorporates the common law doctrine of desuetude, which holds that a once traditional punishment can become “unusual” if it falls out of usage long enough to show a stable multigenerational consensus against it. State courts and the Supreme Court of the United States employed this doctrine in decisions prior to 1958 to determine whether punishments such as ducking of a common scold, execution accompanied by torture, and imprisonment at hard labor for a minor offense were cruel and unusual. Under the original meaning of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, the death penalty could become unconstitutional if it fell out of usage long enough to show a stable, multigenerational consensus against it. This process already occurred with respect to flogging, branding, and execution for relatively minor crimes like theft, and under the constitutions of states that abolished the death penalty several generations ago.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The title of this post comes from this intriguing legal history paper, the abstract of which states:
The economics literature cites the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 as the start of the War on Drugs. With few exceptions, the literature fails to explain the dynamic nature of interventionism. This paper a dynamic model of interventionism to show that legislation passed in the late 19th century produced unintended consequences that ultimately led to the passage of the Harrison Act.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
State legislatures and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) have moved in parallel in recent years to provide new protections for the employment prospects of some surprising groups: people who are unemployed, people who have poor credit, and people with past criminal convictions. These new protections confound our usual theories of what antidiscrimination law is about. These groups are disanalogous in a variety of respects to groups defined by such characteristics as race, sex, and national origin. But the legislators and regulators enacting these new protections were responding to pervasive problems they observed in the opportunity structure of our society — problems of a particular kind that I call bottlenecks. Essentially, these legal actors judged that poor credit, unemployment, and past criminal convictions were having too outsized an effect on a person’s employment prospects. If many or most employers demand good credit, then good credit becomes a serious bottleneck: a narrow place through which workers must pass to reach a wide range of opportunities on the other side.
This Article argues that the anti-bottleneck principle — the principle that the law ought to ameliorate severe bottlenecks in the opportunity structure where it can feasibly do so — is not only a way of understanding these new, cutting-edge protections, but also a way of understanding much of the project of Title VII and our existing body of antidiscrimination law. This Article explores the role the anti-bottleneck principle plays in legislators’ decisions to enact antidiscrimination laws and in decisions by judges and by the EEOC about how to interpret and enforce such laws. The Article argues that the anti-bottleneck idea is at the heart of both disparate treatment law and disparate impact law — and that it should cause us to think differently about the function of disparate impact law. The EEOC lawyers who started down the path that led to Griggs v. Duke Power understood that general ability tests were becoming a major bottleneck in the opportunity structure. By limiting the use of those tests, Griggs ameliorated a bottleneck that had arbitrarily constrained the opportunities of many whites as well as blacks.
Finally, turning from the positive to the normative, this Article defends the central — if previously unacknowledged — role that the anti-bottleneck principle plays in our law of equal employment opportunity. It is a profound challenge for any legal system to promote “equal opportunity” in a world of pervasive difference and inequality, where the mechanisms that perpetuate inequality shift over time. The anti-bottleneck principle turns out to be a strong and surprisingly practical response to these challenges.
Monday, December 8, 2014
What is the relationship between the battle for marriage equality and the expansion of sexual liberty? Some see access to marriage as a quintessentially progressive project — the recognition of the equality and dignity of gay and lesbian couples. For others, promoting marriage or marital-like relationships reinforces bias against individuals making alternative intimate decisions. With powerful policy arguments on either side, there appears to be no clear way to advance the discussion.
By telling the lost story of efforts to expand sexual liberty in the 1960s and 1970s, the Article offers a new way into the debate. The marriage equality struggle figures centrally in a longer narrative about the omission of sex — rather than committed relationships or marriage — from the constitutional canon. By recapturing this narrative, we can identify powerful doctrinal constraints confronting the contemporary marriage equality movement. As importantly, the story of the non-right to sex provides a compelling historical parallel to the contemporary marriage equality movement. The mistakes of past decades illuminate the dangers inherent in contemporary marriage-equality tactics.
The Article begins the story of the non-right to sex in the 1960s and 1970s, when groups like the ACLU and NAACP confronted a backlash against a perceived increase in illegitimacy rates. Some attorneys and activists viewed the illegitimacy backlash as evidence of the intersectionality of race discrimination, sex discrimination, and the denial of sexual freedom. Often, however, feminists and civil rights attorneys presented themselves as defenders of conventional sexual morality, arguing that the reform of laws on illegitimacy, contraception, and abortion would strengthen or leave intact traditional sexual norms. These arguments helped progressives achieve incremental progress. At the same time, progressives inadvertantly reinforced the State’s ability to regulate sexual behavior.
For the marriage equality movement, this history offers a cautionary tale. Efforts to achieve incremental social and legal change have obvious advantages: these strategies appeal to cautious courts and reduce the odds of backlash. At the same time, as the materials considered here make plain, incremental strategies can strengthen the status quo. In the 1960s and 1970s, progressives paid lip service to the evils of illicit sex in an effort to chip away gradually at discrimination against minorities, sexual dissenters, and women. This tactic had unexpected consequences, since cause attorneys helped to entrench an existing intimate hierarchy. As this history counsels, incremental litigation strategies adopted by the marriage equality movement may have a profound cost of their own.