Monthly Archives: May 2015
Brendan S. Maher, Regulating Employment-Based Anything
, 99 Minn. L. Rev
. (forthcoming 2015), available at SSRN
Employer-provided health care occupies an uneasy position within health law. On the one hand, it is the primary source of health insurance coverage for non-elderly Americans and provides relatively robust coverage. On the other hand, linking health insurance availability to employment status and subsidizing such purchases through the tax code raises significant fairness concerns. The explanation for the Affordable Care Act’s continued reliance on employer-provided coverage was largely based on political expediency: health care reform had no chance of passing if it looked like the future of employer-provided health care was threatened. We were assured, after all, that if we liked our health plan we could keep our health plan.
Brendan Maher’s article, Regulating Employment-Based Anything, seeks to move our discourse away from merely relying on political expediency arguments to try to articulate the theory behind encouraging socially desirable goods to be provided through the compensation deal and, perhaps even more importantly, to articulate the theory behind employer-based interventions versus other forms of market interventions. While the article is not focused solely on health care, I found it very helpful in thinking through many of the issues involved in attempting to build a system of universal health coverage around an existing employer-based system. Continue reading "Putting Employer-Provided Health Care in Context and Thinking about the Future"
For those of us working on the relationship between law and the American state, Max Edling’s first book, A Revolution in Favor of Government, was a welcome and necessary intervention. Work on the nineteenth-century state was slowly moving beyond the “courts and parties” thesis that portrayed the early American state as “weak.” But we lacked a systematic study of the United States Constitution as a blueprint for a strong American state. Edling filled that gap by demonstrating that the Constitution of 1787 established the foundations for a fiscal-military state that looked strikingly similar to its European competitors. A crucial piece to revising our understanding of the early American state was in place.
Traditional views die hard, however. For example, Sheldon Pollack, in War, Revenue, and State Building, argues that the early American fiscal-military state “remained extraordinarily weak” until the Civil War, and concludes that it “must be viewed as a notable failure” because of its lack of substantial fiscal-military powers (100-101). In A Hercules in the Cradle Edling challenges this construction by demonstrating how the federal government used the powers delegated to it by the 1789 Constitution to build a state with enormous extractive powers. Instead of reading the story of the American state backwards and comparing it to modern states, or evaluating it in light of modern theories of the state, Edling reads it forward comparing it to its contemporaries. Most fundamentally Edling interrogates the objectives of the early American state, and its ability to accomplish them. In other words, rather than asking whether the early American fiscal-military state was “weak” or “strong”, he asks whether it was effective. Continue reading "The Effective Early American State"
Federal Indian law fits awkwardly in American constitutional doctrine, so much so that Justice Clarence Thomas has declared it “to say the least, schizophrenic.” Tribal nations are sovereign to some degree—they are not bound by the U.S. Constitution, possess substantial sovereign immunity, have police departments, courts, and broad regulatory powers, and hundreds of U.S.—tribal treaties still influence federal law. Yet the federal government has tremendous power over tribes and their members, states have significant jurisdiction in their territories, and tribal jurisdiction over non-tribal citizens is limited. Only a few words in the Constitution directly reference Indians or tribes at all. Obsolete phrases in the Apportionment Clause and Fourteenth Amendment exclude “Indians not taxed” from the population for legislative apportionment. More importantly, the Indian Commerce Clause grants Congress the power to “regulate commerce . . . with the Indian tribes.” Modern Supreme Court decisions locate Congress’ broad authority in Indian affairs in the Clause; more recently, Justice Thomas and some scholars have argued that this power is narrowly limited to trade; while other scholars argue that the Clause provides a constitutional basis for both state exclusion from Indian affairs and tribal sovereignty.
In a groundbreaking new article, Beyond the Indian Commerce Clause, Gregory Ablavsky rejects all sides of this debate. Ablavsky convincingly argues that although a narrow construction of commerce is not consistent with original understanding, the broader implications of the Indian Commerce Clause are deliberately ambiguous. Following an emerging approach to constitutional history, Ablavsky looks beyond the words of the Clause and its limited history to a greater range of constitutional actors and a longer temporal context. Canvassing statements and correspondence by the Washington administration, state officials, and others, Ablavsky argues that the founders located the Indian affairs power in the general constitutional status of the United States, and particularly the interplay of the nation’s military, territorial, commercial, and diplomatic affairs powers. (For the ways that concerns about Indian affairs affected the formulation of these constitutional powers, see Ablavsky’s The Savage Constitution, 63 Duke L.J. 999 (2014).) Continue reading "Not So Schizophrenic: The Founders’ Understanding of Indian Affairs and the Constitution"
This is a bad time for the police officers. Last year, a series of cases in New York federal court exposed the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy as unlawful and racially biased. Following the shooting in Ferguson and the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, thousands took to the streets to protest. The prosecutors in these two cases were widely criticized as well for failing to obtain indictments against the officers. Many wondered whether the prosecutors were complicit in a system fraught with inequality and prejudice. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, responded that the criminal justice system is “out of balance.” In a new article, Russell Gold argues that we can help restore the reputation of the criminal justice system by implementing what he calls, “administrative suppression.”
Administrative suppression would require prosecutors to decline to use illegally seized evidence even if courts would rule the evidence admissible. Prosecutors, in other words, have a constitutional and ethical obligation not to use evidence seized in violation of an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights. In the past few decades, the Court has radically restricted the scope of the exclusionary rule, and as a result, illegally seized evidence is often admissible in criminal cases. Gold argues that these decisions only pertain to the judicial branch. Rather than exploit the increasingly weak remedy to obtain more convictions, prosecutors, in their role as arbiters of justice and agents of the executive branch, should respond by refusing to use the tainted evidence in their cases. Continue reading "Are Prosecutors the Constitution’s Gatekeepers?"
In recent years, anti-abortion advocates have argued that abortion harms not only a developing fetus, it also harms the woman who chooses to terminate her pregnancy. These arguments, which Reva Siegel has termed “woman-protective anti-abortion argumentation,” have made their way into abortion jurisprudence. In the 2007 case Carhart v. Gonzales, a majority of the Supreme Court characterized abortion as “a difficult and painful moral decision” that may cause women profound psychological, physical, and emotional harm.
In response to these arguments and the judicial decisions that entrench them as truths, pro-choice advocates have sought to recast abortion in a more positive light. Katha Pollit’s recent book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, seeks to strip abortion of its stigma by reframing it as a common part of a woman’s reproductive life—one that may have positive implications for the woman, her family, and society. Similar themes have surfaced in popular culture. In the 2014 movie Obvious Child, Donna, a struggling twenty-something, becomes pregnant after a one-night stand and decides to have an abortion. Donna’s decision is utterly devoid of the usual angst and drama that attends television and film depictions of similar scenarios. Indeed, she is matter-of-fact about the decision, never contemplating the possibility of raising the child herself or giving it up for adoption. More radically, Donna is no worse for the wear after her abortion. Indeed, she is pleased with her decision, confident that it was the right choice for her.
Amidst these popular efforts to recast abortion in a more positive light comes Khiara Bridges’s excellent article, When Pregnancy is an Injury: Rape, Law, and Culture. In the piece, Bridges considers criminal sexual assault statutes that characterize a pregnancy that results from rape as an injury—beyond the rape itself—to the victim. As Bridges observes, these criminal statutes are notable not simply because they identify those circumstances in which the crime of rape is aggravated and subject to heightened penalties; but because they construct pregnancy as an injury to women. As Bridges explains, the construction of pregnancy as an injury “runs counter to positive constructions of pregnancy within culture.” But it is not just that these criminal statutes disrupt the conventional narrative of pregnancy as a beautiful and blessed experience; by reframing pregnancy as an injury, the criminal sexual assault statutes also provide us with an opportunity to reconceive abortion as “a healing modality, serving to heal a woman of her injury.” Continue reading "Reframing (and Reclaiming) Pregnancy and Abortion"
Jacob H. Rooksby, Defining Domain: Higher Education’s Battles for Cyberspace
, 80 Brooklyn L. Rev.
__ (forthcoming, 2015), available at SSRN
Because UDRP disputes are resolved through online proceedings that are formally non-binding and non-precedential, scholars in the United States tend to leave these decisions in the shadows, focusing attention instead on the work of the federal courts. Taking a different tack, Professor Rooksby set out to find out how frequently U.S institutions of higher education initiated UDRP proceedings and why, with a particular emphasis on whether their enforcement strategies aligned with the free speech values upon which the modern academy is founded. Continue reading "Higher Education’s Brands in Cyberspace"
The relationship between the mind and the brain is a topic of immense philosophical, scientific, and popular interest. The diverse but interacting powers, abilities, and capacities that we associate with the mind and mental life both link humans with other animals and constitute what make us uniquely human. These powers, abilities, and capacities include perception, sensation, knowledge, memory, belief, imagination, emotion, mood, appetite, intention, and action. The brain, in interaction with other aspects of the nervous system and the rest of the human body, makes these possible.
Obviously, the relationship between the mind and the brain is enormously complicated. It is one thing to say that the mind (or some particular aspect of mental life, for example, pain) “depends on” (contract supervenience—the idea of no change in mental state without underlying change in physical (i.e., brain) state) the brain and another to say that the mind (or a particular aspect of it) just is the brain, or can be “reduced” to the brain (in the sense that it can be explained or explained away). Whether it can or cannot will depend on a number of empirical and conceptual issues. Continue reading "Law, Neuroscience and Neuroethics"
Nancy Leong, Identity Entrepreneurs,
104 Cal. L. Rev
. ___ (forthcoming 2016), Available at SSRN
Have you ever invoked an outsider aspect of your identity? Maybe, like many applicants in academia, you’ve discussed how you would contribute to the diversity of the institution you hope to join. Possibly, like Sarah Palin, you’ve found an occasion to emphasize the “unique perspective” of women; or like John Edwards and Rick Perry, you’ve highlighted your working class roots. Or, perhaps less likely, you’ve needed to revive your fan base and found that coming out as a sexual minority could be a good career move; or you’ve embarked on stardom in adult films and discovered Asian femininity is a great asset; or your celebrity as a rap artist includes not only race and gender, but also geographic credibility.
If so, Nancy Leong contends you are hardly the only “identity entrepreneur.” While Leong acknowledges the postmodern work on “performativity,” her conceptualization is Marxian and stresses the value of identity in our capitalist society underwritten by the rule of law. For Leong, being an identity entrepreneur is neither necessarily good nor bad. Entrepreneurs, she states, are increasingly respected and popular in America, even as to be “entrepreneurial” connotes a person who is “self-promoting, grasping, inauthentic, a climber.” For Leong, the term “appropriately reflects ambivalence about the practice of identity entrepreneurship.” It is a “complicated phenomenon with both positive and negative consequences.” Continue reading "Bargaining for Equality"
Lauren Willis, Performance-Based Consumer Law
, 82 U. Chi. L. Rev.
(forthcoming), available at SSRN
Two decades ago, contract law ran headlong into online terms of service, looked around briefly in confusion, and announced that it needed to go take a nap. It has not been heard from since. In its place we have something that looks like contract law, and claims to be contract law, but is oddly ignorant of things that the real contract law would know. This usurper, part Martin Guerre and part pod person, is formalistic to a fault, obsessed with meaningless details, lazy beyond belief, and utterly devoid of human feeling.
Generations of scholars have tried to unmask this impostor, to little effect. Lauren Willis’s Performance-Based Consumer Law offers a different and more promising way of protecting consumers from overreaching and incomprehensible terms of service. Consumer law cares about form contracts, too, but it can afford to be more realistic about how well consumers actually understand them — or don’t. Continue reading "An Offer You Can’t Understand"
In the wake of a recent spate of police killings of unarmed young, black males in various states, we have once again been reminded of the problematic connections between identity, crime and justice in the United States. For example, the stories surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO), Eric Garner (Staten Island, NY), Tamir Rice (Cleveland, OH), and Walter Scott (North Charleston, SC) reflect the urgency of this Country’s lingering need to seriously consider the differential policing of African-American boys and men. The effect of the killings has been so dramatic that along with the death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman in Sanford, FL, they have inspired a social movement, the motto of which is “Black Lives Matter”. While socially conscious movements stressing the need for equal treatment for people of color are important, in our ostensibly post-race world, large swaths of the citizenry are still likely to view with skepticism claims that racial animus and unconscious bias routinely infect policing. Within this context, little can be done to address vulnerabilities of the socially marginalized without the assistance of compelling empirical data. A new and excellent source of such research is found in Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship (2014). This book describes the results of research conducted by University of Kansas scholars Charles Epp, Steven Maynard-Moody and Donald Haider-Markel, which powerfully demonstrates how police practices not only reflect racial bias but operate to construct understandings of race and societal status.
The study at the heart of the text analyzes survey data for over 2300 police stops of motorists in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Based on 708 survey responses for drivers stopped by police, 30 percent of which were from black drivers (P. 20), a key finding of the study is that the effect of race on traffic stops depends on the justification for the stop. For traffic safety stops, which the authors describe as “must stop” situations involving potentially serious violations (P. 60), Blacks are less likely than Whites to a statistically significant degree to be provided such justifications for their stops. This is so because the most important influence on these stops is “how people drive.” (P. 64). With investigatory stops—essentially described as stops for low-level violations—by contrast, Blacks a more likely than Whites to a statistically significant degree to be provided such justifications. Low-level stops, then, are significantly influenced not by driver conduct, but “how they look.” (P. 64). Beyond this illuminating finding connecting the consideration of race in stops to the type of traffic stop, the study considers the relevance of a number of other driver and auto characteristics for police stops. Looking at such characteristics as gender, age, class and driver behavior, the data support additional findings for investigatory stops. (P. 68-69). For example, certain low-value vehicles—a marker for socioeconomic class—were stopped more often, race mattered more when drivers were perceived as driving in locations where they were “out of place” and that young Black males driving low-status vehicles were the most vulnerable minority drivers. (P. 70-71). These survey data alone add significant nuance to our understanding of how perceived driver identity and behavior affect policing. The study, however, also collected interviews from among the survey participants. (P. 21). Using these interviews, throughout the text the researchers weave in driver narratives that provide powerful qualitative evidence of how drivers internalize the consequences of racially disparate policing. Continue reading "“Driving While Black” Redux: Illuminating New and Myriad Aspects of Auto(matic) Inequality"
Square pegs do not generally fit in round holes. When and if they do, the fit is certainly imperfect. Maureen Carroll calls on this adage to explain how courts and lawmakers are muddling the class action. In Class Action Myopia, Carroll argues that institutional actors’ singular focus on the Rule 23(b)(3) class action—what Carroll calls the aggregated-damages class action—negatively affects other types of class actions. Institutional actors fail to assess how perceived problems in the aggregated-damages context might not even exist in other class actions. Relatedly, actors do not anticipate how proposed solutions distinctively, and sometimes negatively, affect different class actions. This myopia, Carroll argues, must give way to providence.
Carroll begins by rehearsing the different types of class actions addressed by Rule 23: logical-indivisibility (Rule 23(b)(1)(A)), limited fund (Rule 23(b)(1)(B)), injunctive civil-rights (Rule 23(b)(2)), and aggregated-damages class actions (Rule 23(b)(3)). She argues that when Rule 23 was amended in 1966, the first three subtypes were designed to reflect common practice by courts and parties who were using some version of aggregate litigation to respond to specific litigation difficulties. For example, where a defendant wished to take water from a stream, it could not do so and only affect one downstream landowner and not others. But litigating disputes between the defendant and various landowners separately might lead to inconsistent judgments. Rule 23(b)(1)(A) thus provides that a class of potential claimants can combine their claims and seek one consistent judgment. Carroll explains how this same historical pedigree applied to limited-fund and injunctive civil-rights class actions—these subtypes were created to deal with existing complexities facing courts and largely codified best practices that had developed in response. Moreover, these subtypes were meant to address unfair outcomes produced by individual litigation in these specific contexts. Continue reading "A Call for Providence in Class Action Reform"