Monthly Archives: December 2012

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January 2013 (11) »

Jotwell Winter Break 2011

Jotwell is taking a short winter break. Posting will resume on January 4, 2012.

Happy Holidays! Thank you for reading, and for your support.

 
 

Jowell Winter Break 2012

Jotwell is taking a short winter break. Posting will resume Monday, January 7, 2013.

Happy Holidays! Thank you for reading, and for your support.

 
 

Is Arbitration Lawless?

W. Mark C. Weidemaier, Judging Lite: How Arbitrators Use and Create Precedent, 90 N. C. L. Rev. 1091 (2012), available at SSRN.

Ever since the Supreme Court, in Gilmer v. Interstate Johnson/Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20 (1991), and Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105 (2001), gave employers the green light to require their employees as a condition of employment to waive their right to sue for violations of employment statutes and to mandate arbitration of any claims that may arise, debate has flared over whether such employer-imposed arbitration mandates should be prohibited, allowed or regulated.  The debate intensified after the Supreme Court’s decision in 14 Penn Plaza, LLC v. Pyett, 556 U.S. 247 (2009), held that unions may waive employees’ rights to sue and require that they pursue their statutory claims through the collective bargaining agreement’s grievance and arbitration procedure.  The criticisms include the concern that widespread arbitration mandates will lead to a privatization of public law, with arbitrators that are not bound by public law authorities producing awards of no precedential value.

W. Mark C. Weidemaier’s article, Judging Lite: How Arbitrators Use and Create Precedent, provides empirical insight into the concerns regarding the privatization of public law.  Weidemaier worked from a database of 206 class action arbitrations, every class action award available through the American Arbitration Association (AAA) between 2003-2009; 203 randomly selected securities arbitration awards issued between 1995-2009 available through FINRA and its predecessors; 231 AAA employment arbitration awards randomly selected between 1999-2008, available on Lexis; and 208 labor arbitration awards rendered between 1980-2009, randomly selected from among awards published in the BNA Labor Arbitration Reports.  He analyzed these awards to gauge the extent to which arbitrators cited and engaged with precedent. Continue reading "Is Arbitration Lawless?"

 
 

An Evolving Administrative Law of Targeted Warfare (and the Power of Londoner/BiMetallic)

Richard H. Pildes & Samuel Issacharoff, Targeted Warfare: Individuating Enemy Responsibility, New York University School of Law, Public Law & Legal Theory Research Paper Series, Working Paper No. 12-40, available at SSRN

President Obama is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He also orders missile strikes from drones against targeted individuals in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. According to some vocal critics, such extra-judicial killing makes President Obama a murderer.

This conclusion rests in large part on the premise that the United States is not, properly speaking, in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces. As such, the laws and norms of international human rights law (IHRL) and civil law enforcement should apply. Absent exigent circumstances, this legal regime expects judicial authorization of the use of lethal force.  President Obama is not a judge, so, when he authorizes a killing, he commits murder. The picture looks different if we concede that the laws of armed conflict (LOAC) apply to the drone strikes. This legal regime requires an attacker to take feasible precautions to ensure that a target is legitimate but does not require judicial authorization for attacks. Continue reading "An Evolving Administrative Law of Targeted Warfare (and the Power of Londoner/BiMetallic)"

 
 

If Code Is Law, Then Coders Are Lawyers

E. Gabriella Coleman, Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking (Princeton University Press, 2012).

Legal academics who write about norms risk becoming armchair anthropologists.  But the armchair is precisely the place anthropologists avoid; good ethnography cannot be done alone.  As one of my college professors said, “The specific antidote to bullshit is field work.”

E. Gabriella Coleman has spent much of her career doing field work with a computer.  Her first monograph, Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking, is based on an extended study of free software programmers.  She lurked on their email lists, hung out in their IRC chat rooms, went to their conferences (she even helped organize one herself), and spent countless hours simply talking with them about their work.  The result is a fascinating study of a community substantially defined by its tense engagement with law. (More recently, she has been closely observing the anarchic carnival-esque collective paradoxically known as Anonymous, with equally fascinating results. Continue reading "If Code Is Law, Then Coders Are Lawyers"

 
 

An Unexpected Remedy: Eminent Domain as a Potential Solution to the Mortgage Crisis

Robert Hockett, It Takes a Village: Municipal Condemnation Proceedings and Public/Private Partnerships for Mortgage Loan Modification, Value Preservation, and Local Economic Recovery, 18 Stan. J. L. Bus. & Fin. (forthcoming 2012) available at SSRN.

It is quite rare to come across a law review article that offers not only a theoretical diagnosis of a major socio-economic problem but also a plan for solving that problem in practice.  Putting forward a real, well-reasoned, and detailed policy proposal is always an act of scholarly courage, which inevitably exposes the author to all kinds of criticism.  This is especially true where the proposal targets a complex issue in which stakes are high, arguments are heavily ideology-driven, and powerful special interests dominate the agenda. Robert Hockett’s recent essay takes on precisely such a controversial issue: the nation’s continuing problem with underwater mortgages.  Since it was posted on SSRN several months ago, this essay has been making serious waves in policy-making circles (and earning its author no love from Wall Street).

Hockett starts with an incisive diagnosis of the root causes and structural dynamics of the mortgage crisis plaguing the nation since 2007. Five years after the bursting of the latest real estate bubble, mortgage debt overhang continues to be one of the primary factors impeding broad economic recovery in the U.S. and, consequently, globally. As Hockett argues, underwater mortgages – or loans on which the homeowner owes more than the current market value of the house – function as the principal drag on the U.S. housing market and the entire economy. Homeowners whose mortgages are underwater default at accelerating rates, leading to mass foreclosure, property degradation, and consequent asset devaluation. Moreover, such homeowners also don’t spend their money on purchases of goods, which depresses the consumer demand that is so vital to a robust economic recovery. According to Hockett, as of the beginning of this year, nearly a quarter of all mortgages in the U.S. were underwater, with an even higher concentration of underwater loans in certain especially hard-hit counties and cities. In effect, these are the loans that, while not technically in default, teeter on the edge of the abyss – and the more of them fall, the wider that abyss gets. Hockett argues that the only practical long-term solution to this problem is to write down the principal on underwater mortgages to post-bust market value levels.  That would effectively force the necessary adjustment in asset values and erase the crippling legacy of the pre-2007 real estate bubble. Continue reading "An Unexpected Remedy: Eminent Domain as a Potential Solution to the Mortgage Crisis"

 
 

Perry on Powers

Stephen R. Perry, Political Authority and Political Obligation in 2 Oxford Studies In the Philosophy of Law (Leslie Green & Brian Leiter eds., forthcoming 2012) (Univ. of Pennsylvania School of Law, Public Law Reseach Paper No. 12-37, forthcoming) available at SSRN.

A right to rule is the mark of a legitimate state or, put differently, of legitimate political authority. The correlate of this right to rule is a general duty, borne by all within a relevant territory, to obey the law laid down by the state – all of the laws, whatever their content. The right to rule excludes any right on the part of citizens to “pick and choose” which among the laws that apply to them to obey. The duty is a defeasible one, which must yield in case the duty-bearer is so circumstanced that a great evil could be avoided only by disobeying the law’s command. But, extraordinary cases aside, the general duty prevails. Such is the traditional view that this paper wants to reorient.

One problem with the traditional view is that it encourages the assumption that there is an acid test of state legitimacy: is there or is there not a general duty to obey? The legitimacy of political authority is thus tied to the existence of a general duty that there is good reason to doubt. The general duty dignifies silly regulations and fussy requirements that it seems morally innocent to ignore. Moreover, each of the theories that have traditionally been marshaled to justify such a general duty of obedience – gratitude, consent, tacit consent, hypothetical consent, fair play, necessity, expertise, association – come up short. On the traditional view, legitimacy can be established by establishing the general duty, and it can be rejected if the general duty lacks a persuasive ground. Continue reading "Perry on Powers"

 
 

Dignity Is Coming

Leslie Meltzer Henry, The Jurisprudence of Dignity, 160 U. Penn. L. Rev. 169 (2011), available at SSRN.

Today American law, especially Eighth Amendment law, seems to be in the middle of a dignity tsunami. The United States is not alone in this regard, or even in the lead.  Indeed dignity has been an increasingly prominent value in modern legal systems internationally since the middle of the 20th century, marked in the prominence given that term in such foundational documents of the contemporary age as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the reconstructed legal systems of post-war Europe (particularly Germany), and in regional human rights treaties like the European Convention on Human Rights and the more recent European Union Charter of Rights.  A stronger version of dignity seems increasingly central to reforming America’s distended and degrading penal state.  Legal historians have suggested that American history — particularly, the absence of a prolonged political struggle with the aristocracy and the extended experience with slavery — rendered dignity a less powerful norm, which may explain the relative weak influence of dignity before now. Yet its increasing salience in the Roberts Court suggests that American dignity jurisprudence may be about to spring forward.

Professor Leslie Henry’s 2011 article, The Jurisprudence of Dignity, is a must-read for anyone interested in taming our penal state.  Henry provides a comprehensive analysis of the US Supreme Court’s treatment of the term from the founding to the present.  Henry borrows from the language philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein the concept of a “family resemblance” and suggests that dignity as a legal term is anchored in five core meanings that continue to have relevance in contemporary law and which share overlapping features (but not a single set of factors describing all of them). The five clusters are: “institutional status as dignity,” “equality as dignity,” “liberty as dignity,” “personal integrity as dignity,” and “collective virtue as dignity.” These clusters suggest there can be both considerable reach but also precision and limits to using dignity to shape constitutional doctrine. Continue reading "Dignity Is Coming"

 
 

Beyond Confusion?

Trademark law is in the midst of an identity crisis.  The prevailing economic account of the law has come under sustained attack by scholars, who have both challenged its descriptive accuracy and blamed it for many of the expansions of trademark rights in recent decades.  The likelihood of confusion test – long the nucleus of infringement analysis – has been roundly condemned as indeterminate, incoherent, and normatively empty.  No one seems to agree about why we have trademark law and how best to implement it.  Scholars have cast about for explanations of how we got here and ideas of how to get out of this mess.

In this article, Bob Bone tries his hand at both diagnosis and cure.  His focus is the much-maligned likelihood of confusion standard.  The article (1) explains how we ended up with such a curious test for infringement, (2) critiques the standard, finding it internally inconsistent, normatively deficient, and dangerous, and (3) proposes an alternative that Bone views as more consistent with trademark law’s goals.  To do all of this, of course, Bone must endorse some version of those goals.  It all adds up to an ambitious undertaking, to put it mildly.  And while the article inevitably falls short of fulfilling all of these ambitions, it offers some wonderful insights and enriches the conversation about the values that shape our trademark laws. Continue reading "Beyond Confusion?"

 
 

A Preference for Strict Liability?

Joseph Sanders, Matthew B. Kugler, John M. Darley and Lawrence M. Solan, Torts as (Only) Wrongs? An Empirical Perspective (Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No 302, 2012) available at SSRN.

A long-enduring question in tort scholarship concerns the purpose of tort law.  One camp, anchored by the powerful scholarship of John Goldberg and Ben Zipursky, argues that tort is a law of fault and wrongs, and strict liability is sort of that weird cousin no one likes to talk about much. 1

In a compelling new sociological study, however, Joseph Sanders tests the idea of tort as wrongs (and only wrongs), and adds to the scholarly debate about tort’s rationales.  Sanders persuasively argues that—far from being “at the margin of tort law” 2 —from the public’s perspective, strict liability reigns supreme.  In four discrete studies, Sanders assessed whether the public believes fault or wrongdoing is a requirement for tort liability.  His thoughtful article presents some surprising findings that should have those of us in the academy taking another look at the purpose of tort law. Continue reading "A Preference for Strict Liability?"