Monthly Archives: April 2014

Farewell, School House Rock (Understanding Legislative History through the Lens of the ACA)

The legislative history of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is dizzyingly complex and maddeningly opaque. Happily, a guide to this law’s history was published recently and undoubtedly will become an essential piece of understanding the puzzle of the ACA. Though John Cannan wrote the article to instruct law librarians in the modern methods of tracking increasingly intricate legislative history, anyone engaged in studying the implementation of the ACA and the ongoing challenges to that law will benefit from the meticulous detail this article provides.

Traditional sources of legislative history will thwart the casual researcher seeking to understand the provisions of the ACA. At one end of the spectrum, the United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN), an ordinarily reliable source of legislative history, has no documentation for the ACA and one unrelated committee report for the ACA’s companion legislation, the Health Care Education and Reconciliation Act (HCERA). At the other end of the spectrum, THOMAS contains more legislative history than could possibly pertain to the subject matter of the ACA, yet it provides no guideposts for wading through the legion of amendments that appear to have applied to the ACA. The Justices called the legislative history impenetrable during the severability oral arguments in NFIB v. Sebelius. Cannan makes the impenetrable understandable by diligently tracking the genesis and progress of two House bills and three Senate bills that became the ACA so that we can understand how to find the history that exists between these extremes. Continue reading "Farewell, School House Rock (Understanding Legislative History through the Lens of the ACA)"

Oral History and Perceptions of Subjectivity

Robert Alan Hersey, Jennifer McCormack, & Gillian E. Newell, Mapping Intergenerational Memories (Part I): Proving the Contemporary Truth of the Indigenous Past, Ariz. Legal Stud. Discussion Paper 14-01 (2014), available at SSRN.

I strongly recommend this paper not only for its immediate subject—the struggles that indigenous peoples face in proving land claims due to colonial governments’ distrust of evidence on oral history—but also because it helped me understand the limitations of my own perspective.

Robert Alan Hershey, Jennifer McCormack, and Gillian E. Newell describe the disconnect between Western notions of cartography and spatial theory and those of indigenous peoples, particularly indigenous peoples located in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. They then explain that some of these groups, such as the Ngurrara in Australia have had success in getting their rights recognized by creating maps that incorporate oral history, thus adopting a hybrid form of evidence that is both documentary and respectful of indigenous ways of knowing such as through oral history. Continue reading "Oral History and Perceptions of Subjectivity"

Same-Sex Marriage in Windsor and the Indignities of Dignity

Noa Ben-Asher, Conferring Dignity: The Metamorphosis of the Legal Homosexual, 37 Harv. J.L. & Gender (forthcoming 2014), available at SSRN.

In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) as unconstitutional. The decision renders married same-sex couples eligible for the same federal benefits (i.e., tax treatment and social security benefits) as their opposite-sex counterparts. In the midst of a largely celebratory reception of the decision, Noa Ben-Asher offers a much-needed critical analysis of Windsor’s bundle of rhetorical and doctrinal sticks. In Conferring Dignity: The Metamorphosis of the Legal Homosexual, Ben-Asher takes us through a genealogy of the “legal homosexual” in Supreme Court case law. As Ben-Asher notes, this genealogy begins with moral opprobrium and ends in Windsor’s exalted language about the dignity of state-sanctioned, same-sex couples. Recognizing dignity: Who can be against that, right? Ben-Asher demonstrates that in our post-realist world the story is more complicated.

The first part of Ben-Asher’s contribution is an astute rendering of the Supreme Court’s evolving doctrinal constructions of homosexual conduct and identity. Ben-Asher identifies four stages in what she terms the “metamorphosis of the legal homosexual.” In each stage, Ben-Asher reveals distinct moral assessments of the legal homosexual’s nature and conduct, as well as different understandings of the state’s role in the regulation of morals. Continue reading "Same-Sex Marriage in Windsor and the Indignities of Dignity"

Good Fences Make Better Data Brokers

Woodrow Hartzog, Chain Link Confidentiality, 46 Georgia L. Rev. 657 (2012) available at SSRN.

Since at least the early 2000s, privacy scholars have illuminated a fatal flaw at the core of many “notice and consent” privacy protections: firms that obtain data for one use may share or sell it to data brokers, who then sell it on to others, ad infinitum. If one can’t easily prevent or monitor the sale of data, what sense does it make to carefully bargain for limits on its use by the original collector? The Federal Trade Commission and state authorities are now struggling with how to address the runaway data dilemma in the new digital landscape.  As they do so, they should carefully consider the insights of Professor Woody Hartzog. His article, Chain Link Confidentiality, offers a sine qua non for the modernization of fair data practices: certain obligations should follow personal information downstream.

After 2013, it is impossible to ignore the concerns of privacy activists. The Snowden revelations portrayed untrammeled data collection by government. Jay Rockefeller’s Senate Commerce Committee portrayed an out-of-control data gathering industry (whose handiwork can often be appropriated by government). America’s patchwork of weak privacy laws are no match for the threats posed by this runaway data, which is used secretly to rank, rate, and evaluate persons, often to their detriment and often unfairly. Without a society-wide commitment to fair data practices, a dark era of digital discrimination is a real and present danger. Continue reading "Good Fences Make Better Data Brokers"

State Control of Black Mothers

Dorothy E. Roberts, Prison, Foster Care, and the Systemic Punishment of Black Mothers, 59 UCLA L. Rev. 1474 (2012).

Dorothy Roberts has long provided insightful analysis of the ways in which criminal justice policies police black families and the ways in which child welfare policies police the bodies of black women.1

In Prison, Foster Care, and the Systemic Punishment of Black Mothers (which was a part of an impressive UCLA symposium entitled Overpoliced and Underprotected: Women, Race and Criminalization), Roberts develops a detailed description of the “system intersectionality” between the punishing controlling systems of child welfare and the similarly racially discriminatory controlling systems that result in what is usually termed mass incarceration.2 Continue reading "State Control of Black Mothers"

Federalism and Mass Tort Litigation

Fair and global resolutions to mass tort claims are not easy to achieve. Aggregation of claims, either through a formal class action or perhaps through multi-district litigation (“MDL”) consolidation, has been a key feature of mass tort litigation for several decades. In an MDL, related cases filed in federal court may be consolidated before a single judge for coordinated pre-trial proceedings, including settlement. The benefits and limitations of aggregation generally, and the MDL device itself, have been the subject of numerous academic papers. American federalism places a stumbling block in the way of complete aggregation – the presence of related but non-removable claims pending in state court, which cannot be part of that consolidated federal action.

While many scholars have viewed non-removable claims as a limitation on the success of aggregation, surprisingly few have tackled the issue head on. Maria Glover provides a thoughtful and thorough investigation of this problem in Mass Litigation Governance in the Post-Class Action Era: The Problems and Promise of Non-Removable State Actions in Multi-District Litigation. Unlike scholars who have come before her, Glover does not dismiss the issue as an annoying yet intractable problem, although she does not purport to “solve” it. Rather, her article is a fresh and inventive take on this problem, in which she suggests that the presence of non-removable state actions might actually be beneficial to the resolution of mass tort claims. Continue reading "Federalism and Mass Tort Litigation"

A Painful Shift from a New Paradigm to Regulatory Reality

Under what conditions do new scientific and technocratic paradigms drive profound policy change? Policymakers and bureaucrats are cognitively bound by, and emotionally attached to, the scientific and technocratic paradigms that guide their daily operations. Consequently, indications that existing policies and regulatory approaches are producing bad or unintended results tend to be ignored over long periods of time. Insofar as such signals are attended to, this is done within the logic of an existing paradigm, thereby resulting in incremental change. Fundamental – third order – policy changes entail a paradigmatic intellectual shift, which delineate an alternative problem definition, and a complementary set of policy tools. Students of policy associate such instances of third order change with Peter Hall’s study of the British Treasury and the Bank of England’s shift from Keynesian economics to monetarism in late 1970s. As shown in Hall’s study, this policy makeover was enabled by a coupling between Margaret Thatcher’s political will and the American-driven intellectual development of monetarism as an alternative to Keynesianism.

Still, Andrew Baker’s study shows that while a paradigmatic intellectual shift may be a necessary condition, as suggested by Hall, it may still be insufficient for fundamental policy change. Baker suggests that macro-prudential regulation encapsulates, intellectually, a paradigmatic shift in a similar vein to the rise of monetarism and the rejection of Keynesian economics. Pre-crisis financial regulation, as encapsulated in the Basel II standards, was based on the premise of market efficiency. Banks were assumed to have the capacity to assess and manage their capital and liquidity risks, and asset prices together with ratings by credit agencies were assumed to reflect assets’ real values and risks. Consequently, “Greater transparency, more disclosure, and more effective risk management by financial firms based on market prices became the cornerstones for the regulation of ‘efficient markets.” (P. 420). Macro-prudential regulation, by comparison, rejects the premise of efficient markets. Rather, it postulates that asset prices can be driven to extremes, whether upwards or downwards, due to pro-cyclicality (i.e. excessive levels of investment when prices are rising and radical contraction when prices are falling), herding behavior and complex interdependence between financial institutions and transactions. During 2008, this approach, which attracted limited support before the crisis, became the mainstream discourse of international and national financial regulators. By comparison, “Open advocates of rational expectations, new classical thinking, and an efficient markets perspective have been hard to find in financial regulatory networks, since late 2008.” (P. 424-25). Continue reading "A Painful Shift from a New Paradigm to Regulatory Reality"

WordPress 3.9 and Theme 1.15 Updates (ZS3)

A. Michael Froomkin Regulating Mass Surveillance as Privacy Pollution: Learning from Environmental Impact Statements (draft, 2014).

UPDATE: Personal privacy in developed countries is disappearing faster than the polar ice caps. The rapid growth in the number and breadth of databases, the continuing drop in the costs of information processing, the spread of cheap sensors and of self-identification practices, all have combined to make this the era of Big Data. Much like global warming, drift-net data collection and collation creates widespread harms substantially caused by actions not visible to most of those affected. Both the private sector and the government find value in collecting vast amounts of information about everyone: firms collect personal data for marketing and revenue maximization; governments collect personal data for everything from efficiency to security. Practically nothing and nowhere is exempt: Data are collected in the home, from cell phones, online, and in public spaces. Market failures, information asymmetries – including, we have recently learned, a stunning lack of government transparency about domestic surveillance – and collective action problems characterize many aspects of the current privacy crisis, much as they did the environmental problem in the 1960s.

Modeling mass surveillance disclosure regulations on an updated form of environmental impact statement will help protect everyone’s privacy. Mandating disclosure and impact analysis by those proposing to watch us in and through public spaces will enable an informed conversation about privacy in public. Additionally, the need to build in consideration of the consequences of surveillance into project planning, as well as the danger of bad publicity arising from excessive surveillance proposals, will act as a counterweight to the adoption of mass data collection projects, just as it did in the environmental context. In the long run, well-crafted disclosure and analysis rules could pave the way for more systematic protection for privacy – as it did in the environmental context. Effective US substantive regulation will require the regulator to know a great deal about who and what is being recorded and about the costs and benefits of personal information acquisition and uses. At present we know relatively little about how to measure these; the privacy equivalent of the environmental impact statement will not only provide case studies, but occasions to grow expertise. Continue reading "WordPress 3.9 and Theme 1.15 Updates (ZS3)"

WordPress 3.9 and Theme 1.15 Updates (ZS3)

A. Michael Froomkin Regulating Mass Surveillance as Privacy Pollution: Learning from Environmental Impact Statements (draft, 2014).
admin

admin

Personal privacy in developed countries is disappearing faster than the polar ice caps. The rapid growth in the number and breadth of databases, the continuing drop in the costs of information processing, the spread of cheap sensors and of self-identification practices, all have combined to make this the era of Big Data. Much like global warming, drift-net data collection and collation creates widespread harms substantially caused by actions not visible to most of those affected. Both the private sector and the government find value in collecting vast amounts of information about everyone: firms collect personal data for marketing and revenue maximization; governments collect personal data for everything from efficiency to security. Practically nothing and nowhere is exempt: Data are collected in the home, from cell phones, online, and in public spaces. Market failures, information asymmetries – including, we have recently learned, a stunning lack of government transparency about domestic surveillance – and collective action problems characterize many aspects of the current privacy crisis, much as they did the environmental problem in the 1960s.

Modeling mass surveillance disclosure regulations on an updated form of environmental impact statement will help protect everyone’s privacy. Mandating disclosure and impact analysis by those proposing to watch us in and through public spaces will enable an informed conversation about privacy in public. Additionally, the need to build in consideration of the consequences of surveillance into project planning, as well as the danger of bad publicity arising from excessive surveillance proposals, will act as a counterweight to the adoption of mass data collection projects, just as it did in the environmental context. In the long run, well-crafted disclosure and analysis rules could pave the way for more systematic protection for privacy – as it did in the environmental context. Effective US substantive regulation will require the regulator to know a great deal about who and what is being recorded and about the costs and benefits of personal information acquisition and uses. At present we know relatively little about how to measure these; the privacy equivalent of the environmental impact statement will not only provide case studies, but occasions to grow expertise. Continue reading "WordPress 3.9 and Theme 1.15 Updates (ZS3)"

Denigration as Forbidden Conduct and Required Judicial Rhetoric

Steven D. Smith, The Jurisprudence of Denigration, U.C. Davis L. Rev (forthcoming, 2014), available at SSRN.

Steven D. Smith has written another characteristically challenging paper. I fear that the paper, “The Jurisprudence of Denigration,” will be accepted without cavil by those who tend to disagree with decisions like United States v. Windsor or Lawrence v. Texas, and rejected without hesitation by those who champion those decisions. Either move would be unfortunate. This is a paper that says something important about the nature of modern constitutional and moral rhetoric surrounding hot-button social issues, and the uneasy position of judges and scholars as they attempt to find legally serviceable language with which to address social controversies in real time.

The paper’s argument has wide-ranging implications but is blissfully clear and simple. In Windsor, Justice Kennedy argued that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was the product of “a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group”—that it came from a “purpose . . . to demean,” “injure,” and “disparage.” As Smith writes, “Justice Kennedy and the Court thereby in essence accused Congress—and, by implication, millions of Americans—of acting from pure malevolence.” This “extraordinary claim” forms part of a “discursive pattern” by judges and scholars that Smith calls “the discourse of denigration.” And it is wrong and dangerous. “Precisely contrary to its irenic and inclusivist intentions, by maintaining and contributing to that destructive discourse, the Supreme Court aggravates the conflict that is often described, with increasing accuracy, as the ‘culture wars.’”

At this point I can envision the supporters of Winsdor hastily yanking on the cord and seeking to get off the bus. But they should stick around, because Smith has some larger, interesting claims to make. Those claims do not require one to abandon support for Windsor or LGBT rights, but simply to ask how the Court gets there. Kennedy may have been arguing, Smith suggests, “that to disapprove of homosexual conduct is to declare or deem persons prone to such conduct to be in some sense lesser or inferior beings.” But that is a logical fallacy: “From the fact that a person is inclined to some behavior deemed immoral [by others], . . . it simply does not follow that the person is in any sense a lesser or inferior human being. And while those who disapprove of some behavior as immoral may believe that people who engage in the behavior are lesser human beings, they need not believe any such thing.” Even if supporters of DOMA and similar laws actually do regard gays and lesbians as “in some sense lesser human beings,” that still does not prove ineluctably that they are acting from a bare desire to harm those individuals. Continue reading "Denigration as Forbidden Conduct and Required Judicial Rhetoric"

The Robots Are Coming

A. Michael Froomkin & Zak Colangelo, Self-Defense Against Robots, We Robot 2014 Conference Draft (2014).
Michael Froomkin

Michael Froomkin

Deployment of robots in the air, the home, the office, and the street inevitably means their interactions with both property and living things will become more common and more complex. This paper examines when, under U.S. law, humans may use force against robots to protect themselves, their property, and their privacy.

In the real world where Asimov’s Laws of Robotics1 do not exist, robots can pose—or can appear to pose—a threat to life, property, and privacy. May a landowner legally shoot down a trespassing drone? Can she hold a trespassing autonomous car as security against damage done or further torts? Is the fear that a drone may be operated by a paparazzo or a peeping Tom sufficient grounds to disable or interfere with it? How hard may you shove if the office robot rolls over your foot? This paper addresses all those issues and one more: what rules and standards we could put into place to make the resolution of those questions easier and fairer to all concerned. Continue reading "The Robots Are Coming"