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Thursday, February 5, 2015

"How Prisoners’ Rights Lawyers are Preserving the Role of the Courts"

The title of this post comes from this upcoming article by Professor Margo Schlanger, the abstract of which states:

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.

February 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"A Price Too High: Efficiencies, Voter Suppression, and the Redefining of Citizenship"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Atiba Ellis, the abstract of which states:

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.

February 4, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Rethinking Rights after the Second Reconstruction"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Richard Thompson Ford, the abstract of which states:

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.

February 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 2, 2015

"Privacy and Security in the Cloud: Some Realism About Technical Solutions to Transnational Surveillance in the Post-Snowden Era"

The of this post comes from this recent article by Ira Rubenstein and Joris Van Hoboken of NYU's Information Law Institute. The abstract states:

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.

February 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"Glorious Precedents: When Gay Marriage Was Radical"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Michael Bouchai, the abstract of which states:

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.

February 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

"Race-Conscious But Race-Neutral: The Constitutionality of Disparate Impact in the Roberts Court"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Reva Siegel, the abstract of which states:

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.

January 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 30, 2015

"Programming Errors: Understanding the Constitutionality of Stop and Frisk as a Program, not an Incident"

The title of this post comes from this upcoming paper by Professor Tracey Meares, the abstract of which states:

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.

January 30, 2015 in Fourth Amendment, Stop-and-frisk | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"(E)Racing Trayvon Martin"

The title of this post comes from this intriguing paper by Professor Cynthia Lee, the abstract of which states:

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.

January 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"Griswold at 50: Contraception as a Sex Equality Right"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professors Neil Siegel and Reva Siegel, the abstract of which states:

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.

January 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"The Great Writ Hit: The Curtailment of Habeas Corpus in Georgia Since 1967"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professor Donald E. Wilkes Jr., the abstract of which stataes:

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.

January 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"Coercive Assimilationism: The Perils of Muslim Women's Identity Performance in the Workplace"

The title of this post comes from this exciting upcoming article by Professor Sahar Aziz, the abstract of which states:

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.

January 6, 2015 in Civil Rights Act | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, January 5, 2015

"Fifteen Years of Supreme Court Criminal Procedure Work: Three Constitutional Brushes"

The title of this post comes from this essay by Professor Daniel Richman, the abstract of which states:

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.”

January 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Non-Citizen Nationals: Neither Aliens Nor Citizens"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Rose Cuison Villazor, the abstract of which states:

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.

January 4, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

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"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Jeffrey Shulman, the abstract of which states:

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.

January 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 2, 2015

"Choice at Work: Young v. United States Parcel Service, Pregnancy Discrimination, and Reproductive Liberty"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Mary Ziegler, the abstract of which states:

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.

January 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

"Uncivil Obedience"

The title of this post comes from this compelling paper by Professors Jessica Bulman-Pozen and David Pozen, the abstract of which states:

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.

January 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Affirmative Action and Stereotypes in Higher Education Admissions"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professors Prasad Krishnamurthy and Aaron Edlin, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 31, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Dividing Crime, Multiplying Punishments"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor John Stinneford, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 30, 2014 in Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 29, 2014

"Aligning Campaign Finance Law"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 29, 2014 in First Amendment, Freedom of Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

"Civility and the Undocumented Alien"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Leti Volpp, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 28, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"No Such Thing as Race: Exploring the Past and Future of Affirmative Action after Schuette"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Mary Ziegler, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 27, 2014 in Equal Protection Clause | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 26, 2014

"Civil Liberties Outside the Courts"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professor Laura Weinrib, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 26, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

"Valuable Lies"

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.

December 25, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Partisan Gerrymandering and the Efficiency Gap"

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.”

December 24, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Professional Speech"

The title of this post comes from this compelling paper by Professor Claudia Haupt, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 23, 2014 in First Amendment, Freedom of Speech | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 22, 2014

"Religious Exemptions and the Limited Relevance of Corporate Identity"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professors Ira Lupu and Robert Tuttle, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 22, 2014 in First Amendment, Freedom of Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

"Abortion and the Constitutional Right (Not) to Procreate"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Mary Ziegler, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 21, 2014 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"The Two Trends that Matter for Party Politics"

The title of this post comes from this intriguing essay by Professors Joseph Fishkin and Heather Gerken, the abstract of which states:
 
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.

December 20, 2014 in Election Law, First Amendment, Freedom of Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 19, 2014

"Due Process of Administration: The Problem of Police Accountability"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professors Charles Sabel and William Simon, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 19, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Death, Desuetude, and Original Meaning"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor John Stinneford, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 17, 2014 in Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Dynamics of Intervention in the War on Drugs: The Build-Up to the Harrison Act of 1914"

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.

December 10, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"The Anti-Bottleneck Principle in Employment Discrimination Law"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Joseph Fishkin, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 9, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 8, 2014

"The (Non-)Right to Sex"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professor Mary Ziegler, the abstract of which states:

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.

December 8, 2014 in Same-sex marriage | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"The Confessions of Nat Turner: A Paratextual Analysis"

The title of this post comes from this intriguing essay by Professor Christopher Tomlins, the abstract of which states:

This essay uses techniques advanced by the structuralist literary theorist Gérard Genette to examine the 1831 pamphlet The Confessions of Nat Turner. Like all documents generated in the course of master-class investigations of slave revolts, alleged or actual, The Confessions of Nat Turner raises obvious evidentiary quandaries: credibility, reliability, authenticity. Precisely what kind of historical source is this document. How should it be interrogated? What can it tell us? These questions become particularly important in light of controversies over the use of sources by historians of the Denmark Vesey conspiracy (Charleston 1822). Structuralist analysis suggests that The Confessions is a document containing at least two and likely three distinct texts, and that it is carefully composed to contain Nat Turner’s confession within a secure frame interpretive frame intended to guide the confession’s reception and to anticipate and deflect subversive readings of the Turner Rebellion.

November 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"The Supreme Court Decision in the Hobby Lobby Case: Conscience, Complicity, and Contraception"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professor R. Alta Charo, the abstract of which states:

This publication examines the broad implications the United States Supreme Court's holding in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby et al. could have on medical care. The Court in Hobby Lobby held the company could sue for an exemption from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act on grounds that it was a substantial burden on the company's exercise of religious freedom. The reasoning in Hobby Lobby could extend beyond insurance and parallels to debates over "conscience-based" refusals to prescribe or dispense contraceptives. There is concern that companies may use this same logic to discriminate in the name of religion against same-sex spouses with regard to benefit packages; employers may object to state-mandated coverage of in vitro fertilization; and physicians may be able to withhold information from a patient under a religion based moral objection. Evidence shows the most effective methods of contraception that will lead to fewer unintended pregnancies, and thus, fewer abortions is access to the most effective methods of contraception. Hobby Lobby may well be driving its female employees to less effective methods of contraception, leading to more unintended pregnancies and pregnancy terminations. By its own logic, Hobby Lobby may now become complicit in those additional abortions.

November 19, 2014 in Abortion, First Amendment, Freedom of Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"The Failure of Originalism in Preserving Constitutional Rights to Civil Jury Trial"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Renee Lettow Lerner, the abstract of which states:

The Federal Bill of Rights and state constitutions rely heavily on procedural protections, especially jury rights. Supporters of these rights at the founding praised the jury in extravagant terms, and many members of the legal profession continue to do so today. Yet civil and criminal jury trials are vanishing in the United States. The disappearance of the civil jury presents a puzzle because the Seventh Amendment and state constitutional rights require that civil jury trial be “preserved” or “remain inviolate.”

Scholarship on the history of constitutional rights to civil jury trial has tended to focus exclusively on the Seventh Amendment, particularly at the time of the founding or during the modern era. This Article examines both state and federal courts’ interpretations of constitutional rights from the late eighteenth through the early twentieth century. It demonstrates that courts during that time adopted originalist tests. These tests, however, proved so flexible that they allowed legislatures and courts great discretion in modifying civil jury trial. The civil jury was no longer valued as a law-nullifying institution, as it had been at the founding, but instead was considered a hindrance to the administration of justice. Courts were concerned to accommodate changed circumstances, such as growing docket pressure and expense of litigation, and emphasized the impossibility of maintaining every detail of original practice. Once the anchor of original jury practice was abandoned, the jury right seemed tethered to no definite meaning. The one exception was the jurisprudence of the U.S. Supreme Court under the Re-examination Clause of the Seventh Amendment, but even that strict historical test proved able to be circumvented. This history suggests problems with maintaining procedural rights more generally.

November 18, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Growing Inequality and Racial Economic Gaps"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Thomas Mitchell, the abstract of which states:

Over the past several decades, economic inequality has grown dramatically in the United States while inter-generational economic mobility has declined, which has challenged the very notion of the "American Dream." In fact, the United States is more economically unequal than most other industrialized countries. Further, there are dramatic and growing racial economic gaps in this country. Despite the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and the various spinoffs it has catalyzed, there has not been any sustained, widespread social movement to address economic inequality in the United States over the course of the past several decades. Furthermore, it is unlikely that a mass social movement will emerge and endure over a long period of time in the near future to address economic inequality and growing poverty. Greater economic equality in the United States is achievable only if policymakers make fundamental changes in certain key areas of public policy impacting education, the criminal justice system, taxation, and families' ability to invest financial and non-financial resources in their children, among other areas. Although it is unlikely that the legal system can serve as a primary tool to reduce economic inequality in any substantial way, there are a number of legal strategies and initiatives that lawyers and legal organizations, including law schools, could pursue in an effort to increase economic equality and security for many Americans on the margins, including for many persons of color.

November 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Compelled Commercial Speech"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professor Robert Post, the abstract of which states:

This paper is the text of the fourth annual C. Edwin Baker Lecture for Liberty, Equality, and Democracy at the West Virginia University College of Law, which will be delivered in November and subsequently published in the West Virginia Law Review. The article explores the burgeoning doctrine of “compelled commercial speech,” with special emphasis on recent decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit, including American Meat Institute (“AMI”) v. Department of Agriculture, an en banc decision upholding the mandated labeling of meat products; National Association of Manufacturers (“NAM”) v. SEC, which struck down features of SEC mandated reports about the origins of conflict minerals; and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. FDA, which invalidated FDA mandated graphic cigarette warnings. 

Commercial speech doctrine was established in order to protect what Central Hudson called the “informational function” of commercial communications. The object of the doctrine was explicitly to protect the capacity of an audience to receive information rather than to safeguard the autonomy of a commercial speaker. The informational function implies a constitutional asymmetry between restrictions on commercial speech and compelled disclosures of commercial speech. The former impair the distribution of information; the latter enhance it. The tendency of many judges to adjudicate compelled commercial speech cases in light of decisions like West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, which defend the autonomy of speakers within public discourse, is deeply misplaced. The article defends the proposition that First Amendment jurisprudence is plural, not unitary. 

The Court embraced the plurality of First Amendment jurisprudence in Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which holds that factual commercial speech can be compelled if it is “reasonably related” to an appropriate government purpose. First Amendment rights of commercial speakers in such circumstances are deemed to be “minimal.” The article discusses the relationship between the Zauderer test for compelled commercial speech and the Central Hudson test for restrictions on commercial speech, which is the object of much unfocused discussion in AMI. 

Compelled commercial speech, like government speech, is an effort to affect the content of public opinion. Both compelled commercial speech and government speech raise questions about how a democratic government may constitutionally influence the shape of a public opinion to which it is in theory responsive. The article seeks to explain certain doctrinal restrictions on compelled commercial speech in light of constitutional concerns that arise when government seeks to affect the content of public opinion. It offers an analysis of why government efforts to inform public opinion through the required disclosure of facts is constitutionally distinct from government efforts to shape public opinion through the required disclosure of opinions. The article explores how compelled disclosures of opinion may constitutionally be distinguished from compelled disclosures of fact, a distinction that lies at the heart of decisions like NAM and R.J. Reynolds. The article also discusses the kinds of state interests that may justify compelled commercial speech, which is the subject of great dispute in AMI.

November 16, 2014 in First Amendment, Freedom of Speech | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, November 14, 2014

"Warning: Contraceptive Drugs May Cause Political Headaches"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor R. Alta Charo, the abstract of which states:

The Obama Administration's contraceptive mandate implicates issues of complicity that run through many aspects of civil society, whether it is the police officer told to protect an abortion clinic or the tax exemption granted even to misogynist, homophobic, anti-semitic and racist religious groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church. How should the contraceptive mandate be framed, as a public health measure or as a turf dispute over the public space?

November 14, 2014 in Abortion, First Amendment, Freedom of Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"FISA Surveillance and Aliens: Who Watches the Watchers?"

The title of this post comes from this paper by Professor Amit K. Chhabra, the abstract of which states:

The April 2013 Boston Marathon attacks, together with Edward Snowden’s June 2013 release of documents revealing expansive U.S. governmental spying practices targeting U.S. citizens, remind us that terror and governmental surveillance lurk in our midst and at times appear inseparable. Small-scale strikes at the American heartland have occurred since the founding of our republic. In response, the Constitution sets forth a treason doctrine to address domestic threats where the underlying acts are construed as "levy[ing] [w]ar" against the United States or in "adhering to [its] enemies, giving them [a]id and [c]omfort." For better or worse, a fear of abuse allowed the doctrine to atrophy though repeated attempts have aimed to better equip the government in its ability to uncover subversion. In the wake of protests against the war in Vietnam and perceived leftist influence, for example, President Richard Nixon patronized domestic monitoring and surveillance. Congress formally authorized these activities in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 ("FISA") legislation. After the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks ("9/11"), it further strengthened the Government’s surveillance tools by enacting the USA PATRIOT Act and issuing a joint resolution – the Authorization of Use of Military Force – ostensibly to legitimize the President’s planned use of military force at home and abroad in the so-called War on Terror. 

Still, legislation in this regard has traditionally included a carve-out for the free exercise of civil liberties. In this vein – and in light of the PATRIOT Act and AUMF targeting threats to U.S. interests "both domestically and abroad" – we might expect our surveillance apparatus to be uniform and not dependent upon suspect categories of discrimination as alienage status. By example, Americans after the Boston Marathon attack did not first ask whether the perpetrators were citizens or aliens. Rather, they instinctively asked whether global terror was the real culprit behind the two known Chechen perpetrators, the Tsarnaev brothers. Only after it was determined that international terror organizations likely did not play a role, did attention then center on whether they were citizens, permanent residents, or alien non-residents. The outcome would determine whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") or National Security Agency ("NSA") could have more aggressively monitored – and potentially stopped them – even in the absence of a clear nexus with international terrorism. This is because FISA, as amended by the PATRIOT Act, prescribes an exemption to governmental investigations of citizens and permanent residents acting pursuant to the First Amendment’s protections for free expression; there is no comparable exclusion for aliens exercising such rights. Specifically, the FBI may apply for an investigation directed toward "obtain[ing] foreign intelligence information not concerning a U.S. person or protect[ing] against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution (sic.)." In relying on a limited definition of "U.S. person" including only a citizen or lawful permanent resident, FISA thus draws an alienage-based distinction with regard to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ("FISC")’s substantive ability to authorize monitoring. On the one hand, U.S. citizens and permanent residents ("U.S. Persons") are protected where their actions fall exclusively under the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and press; to lose protection, their conduct must evidence completed, current or imminent criminality. Non-citizen, non-permanent residents ("Aliens") ostensibly do not receive these protections.

The plight of the Alien in the context of governmental surveillance is thus particularly fragile and leads to several lines of inquiry: are Aliens and U.S. Persons equally entitled to constitutional safeguards, in particular to due process and protections against unreasonable searches and seizures? Are First Amendment rights properly limited to U.S. Persons, or are they essential to an Alien’s liberty? Should Aliens expect such rights where American citizens themselves are confronted with imminent acts of terror in their own homeland? Does this answer change if the danger is not perceived as imminent? In the absence of a FISA amendment that eliminates separate monitoring standards for U.S. Persons and Aliens, cannot a Public Monitoring Defender at least minimize the potential for prosecutorial and judicial error by attending FISC proceedings on behalf of suspected targets? The Article concludes that such procedural safeguards are more effective at retaining America’s reputation as a beacon of liberty. Additionally, we should learn from our history of depriving civil liberties to blacks and Japanese-Americans on vague national security grounds; we should thus apply monitoring orders aggressively but equally to Aliens without succumbing to the easy temptation of depriving a vulnerable group of basic civil protections.

November 13, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Tinkering with Alito’s Code to Morse’s Limits: Why Alito’s Concurrence is Crucial to Preserving Tinker and Students’ Right to Free Speech"

The title of this post comes from this paper arguing that student free speech rights under the First Amendment have been receiving less protection than the standards articulated in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District. Here's the abstract:

The 2007 Supreme Court decision in Morse v. Frederick threatens the protection of student free speech that was articulated by the Court almost forty years earlier in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the decision in which the Court famously expressed that “students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” 

In Tinker, the Court applied the substantial disruption standard, essentially that school officials cannot restrict student speech because school officials disagree with it, but rather, that school officials can restrict content-based student speech only when it could be reasonably forecast that the speech would cause a substantial disruption to the school. 

In Morse, the Court upheld the actions of a school principal in demanding students at a school event to take down a banner that read “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS,” and in suspending a student who refused. The Court ruled in favor of the school principal but not by applying Tinker’s substantial disruption standard. Rather, the Court found that school officials may restrict student speech that can reasonably be understood as promoting illegal drug use because protecting students from the dangers of illegal drug use is an important interest. 

Although the opinion of the Court applies directly only to student speech encouraging illegal drug use, some lower courts are using the reasoning in Morse to analogize student speech encouraging illegal drug use to other areas of speech, thereby restricting speech that school officials believe students need to be protected from hearing. Thus, speech is restricted even when it would not be reasonable to think that it would cause a substantial disruption. The result is that speech is restricted essentially because school officials disagree with it, the very thing that the Court in Tinker tried to protect students from. 

Justice Alito, joined by Justice Kennedy, wrote a concurring opinion in Morse precisely because of the concern that Morse would be read more broadly than applying only to student speech encouraging illegal drug use. This Note sets forth why courts should read Alito’s concurrence as controlling the limits to Morse, as well as other reasons why Morse should be read narrowly.

November 11, 2014 in First Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 7, 2014

ProPublica reviews voting rights controversies since SCOTUS's 2013 Shelby Co. decision

"Why the Supreme Court May Have to Rule on Gay Marriage"

The Atlantic's Matt Ford explains that the 6th Cir.'s recent decision upholding same-sex marraige bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee will give SCOTUS another opportunity to consider the constitutionality of such bans. Because this decision created a split between circuits, the likelihood that we will hear arguments on the issue before the nation's highest court is considerable.

November 7, 2014 in Same-sex marriage | Permalink | Comments (0)

Federal judge says enough problems throughout criminal justice system to warrant reconsideration of death penalty

...reports the Cornell University newspaper on 9th Cir. judge William A. Fletcher's recent lecture at the law school. 

November 7, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Hall v. Florida: The Death of Georgia's Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Standard"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professor Adam Lamparello, the abstract of which states:

Welcome: We’re Glad Georgia is On Your Mind. 

Georgia is on many minds as Warren Hill prepares for a state court hearing to once again begin the process of trying to show that he is intellectually disabled. As Warren Hill continues to flirt with death, one must ask, is Georgia really going to execute someone that nine experts and a lower court twice found to be mentally retarded? The answer is yes, and the Georgia courts do not understand why we are scratching our heads. The answer is simple: executing an intellectually disabled man is akin to strapping a ten-year old child in the electric chair. 

Georgia’s standard for determining intellectual disability -- beyond a reasonable doubt -- is itself intellectually disabled. In 1986, Georgia became the first state to ban executions of the intellectually disabled. It should also be the next state to eliminate a standard that, as a practical matter, ensures execution of the intellectually disabled. 

Ultimately, the Georgia legislature must explain why it chooses to execute defendants like Warren Hill, and the Georgia courts must explain why they allow it to happen. Intellectually disabled defendants do not appreciate or understand why they are being executed. Their crimes may be unspeakable, but the punishment is never proportional. Until Georgia provides an answer that extends beyond platitudes and biblically inspired notions of justice, the fact will remain that executing Warren Hill is as heinous as the crimes he committed. The only acceptable answer should come from the Supreme Court, holding that Georgia’s beyond a reasonable doubt standard violates the Eighth Amendment.

November 7, 2014 in Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 3, 2014

'Revenge Porn,' State Law, and Free Speech

The title of this post comes from this recent paper from Paul J. Jenkins arguing that criminal liability can be imposed for revenge porn so as not to violate the First Amendment.

For most of our history, only celebrities — presidents, movie stars, professional athletes, and the like — were at risk of having their everyday exploits and activities photographed and shown to the world. But that day is gone. Today, we all face the risk of being made into a celebrity due to the ubiquity of camera-equipped cell phones and the ease of uploading photographs or videos onto the Internet. But a particularly troubling aspect of this phenomenon goes by the name of "revenge porn" — that is, the Internet posting of photographs of naked former wives and girlfriends, sometimes in intimate positions or activities. Revenge porn is an example of malicious conduct that injures the welfare of someone who mistakenly trusted an intimate partner. Tort law traditionally has allowed parties to recover damages for such violations of privacy, and criminal law also can prohibit such conduct, but there are several First Amendment defenses that the responsible parties can assert to fend off liability. This article argues that allowing a victim of revenge porn to recover damages for publication that breaches an implicit promise of confidentiality is faithful to tort and criminal law principles and will not punish or chill the legitimate expression of free speech.

November 3, 2014 in First Amendment, Revenge Porn | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Albuquerque PD agree to independent monitor, reforms after criticisms of use of force

DOJ and the Albuquerque PD agreed Friday to a consent degree requiring an independent monitor of APD and sweeping reforms to its use-of-force policies. The LATimes's Cindy Carcamo reports:

The main points call for disbanding a problematic tactical investigative unit that became something of an unofficial SWAT team, revision of when and how force should be used and implementation of a civilian police oversight agency to conduct independent investigations of all citizen complaints concerning the police force.

The settlement calls for the Police Department to consider specialized responses that would minimize the need for use of force when officers are dealing with people in mental health crisis. The agreement also requires the department to establish a mental health response advisory committee, provide crisis intervention training to all officers and expand the number of detectives assigned to the crisis intervention unit.

The agreed-to terms were expected. In April, a DOJ report chided APD for "structural and systemic deficiencies -- including insufficient oversight, inadequate training, and ineffective policies -- contribut[ing] to the [pattern and practice of] use of unnecessary force."  Shortly before the report's release, a helmet-cam recording surfaced that shows APD officers shooting a homeless man in the back. Protests of course ensued, as did clashes between citizens and APD officers. 

November 2, 2014 in Department of Justice, Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Social and Economic Rights as Fundamental Rights"

The title of this post comes from this essay by Professors Francesca Bignami and Carla Spivack, the abstract of which states:

In 2014, the constitutional law topic for the International Congress of Comparative Law was “Social and Economic Rights as Fundamental Rights.” This national report on the American system, which responds to the extensive questionnaire circulated to the national reporters, analyzes the protections afforded for the right to social security at the federal level and the right to education at the state level. We demonstrate that unlike a number of other countries, the right to social security is not afforded significant protection: the text of the U.S. Constitution does not expressly contain such a right; the Supreme Court has only recognized a right to non-discrimination against the indigent with respect to certain “fundamental rights” and a right to due process before the termination of government benefits; and constitutional and sub-constitutional norms of legitimate expectations, vested rights, and non-retroactivity do not prevent the state from immediately ending benefits under government programs. By contrast, at the state level, the right to education is recognized in all state constitutions and has given rise to an extensive jurisprudence on issues such as unequal funding of school districts, education for juveniles in detention and the homeless, and education for the children of undocumented workers.

November 2, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 31, 2014

“It is not uncommon for me to pull up at a light and have someone yell something offensive or put up their hands...”

Messaging programs promising anonymity might not be as secure as you think

As information regarding the federal government's surveillance program continues to surface (some of which is pretty seedy), there's growing demand for platforms where people can post messages and interact with others anonymously. However, perhaps puzzlingly, what actually constitutes anonymity Anonymousisn't so easily defined. As WSJ Law Blog's Elizabeth Dwoskin recently wrote:

[T]here has never been more confusion about what the term means. Does it mean a company never knows the identity of its users, or is it enough for users to be anonymous to one another? Does it mean a company erases posts immediately after they appear or stores them internally?

Notwithstanding these questions, what's now clear is that some programs that claim complete secrecy aren't actually forthcoming about the software's limitations -- perhaps even intentionally misleading consumers as to the capability of achieving anonymity. For example, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently settled with Snapchat after charging the company with "deciev[ing] consumers with promises about the disappearing nature of messages sent through the service."

Whisper is a similar service that purportedly doesn't collect data from users -- it even has labeled itself "the safest place on the Internet." But, as Dwoskin explains, The Guardian recently claimed it has been collecting information "on specific users whose posts it deemed potentially newsworthy" -- even on those "who had opted out of the app's location feature." Whisper, of course, disputes these allegations

The company said its location data was very imprecise, and that it discarded the information after a short time. It pointed out that many users deliberately tag their locations, and that its tracking practices are transparent...

Privacy experts [however] point out that vague information can be used to identify individuals by combining it with other information and zeroing in on patterns of behavior.

Whisper doesn't appear to have caught the FTC's attention quite yet, but making amends with those who demand anonymity -- or, at least, honesty -- will be a long row to hoe. As Professor Deirdre Mulligan told Dwoskin, “They are actively exploiting their access to transactional data to engage in surveillance as a new line of business." But there are ways to limit the disclosure of identifying information -- for instance, writes Dwoskin, by "includ[ing] separating transaction and identity data, truncating numbers such as device IDs and IP addresses that serve as unique identifiers, and blurring location data, as Whisper claims to do."

Whisper can perhaps be forgiven for failing to provide complete anonymity (even though it suggested it had the capability to do just that) -- it would be foolish for one ever to feel free to act with impunity. No program can completely protect users from data inquires by law enforcement, and "[s]oftware bugs can compromise user privacy" as well. Some basic data collection is just completely unavoidable. But, as Dwoskin concludes: "The question is whether companies are making a good-faith effort to protect privacy." 

October 31, 2014 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)