October 10, 2008
On Palin, the Branchflower ethics report, husbands & state action
The Branchflower investigative report concluding Governor Palin abused her power as governor to settle a personal matter makes interesting reading. (A pdf link to the 263 page Branchflower report is available at the Alaska Daily News and the New York Times, and many other outlets as well).
But what strikes me most is the role of Sarah Palin's husband, Todd Palin. I'll admit I have a personal reaction. I've known too many heterosexual women (including legal academics and lawyers) who use the phrase "my husband" incessantly, as if appealing to some authority in a conversation with me. Although, I will say, I haven't ever had any of the women with whom I've worked invite their husbands into meetings or ever had their husbands call me and give me job instructions.
One could start thinking about whether I would be equally appalled if the gender roles were reversed - - - what if one of my male colleagues had their wives or partners in meetings? And what did I really think of of Hillary Clinton's role in the White House? And one could start imagining same-sex couple constellations. Indeed, Todd Palin makes a similar point in his deposition, available as pdf here.
Instead, however, I'm thinking STATE ACTION.
It is easy to imagine a hypothetical, although to make it a little simpler, assume the person who might bring a constitutional challenge against Todd Palin was not a state employee, so that the question of state action rests more squarely on the shoulders of Todd Palin. In "all fairness" - - - as the language from Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete provides - - - could we call Todd Palin a "state actor" ? Does that depend on how one "fairly" interprets the intertwining of a spousal relationship and work relationships?
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