Monthly Archives: March 2016

Counting Out Auer Deference

Cynthia Barmore, Auer in Action: Deference After Talk America, 76 Ohio St. L.J. 813 (2015), available at SSRN.

Administrative law geeks know that Auer deference has been in trouble. This doctrine, which used to go by the much better name of Seminole Rock­ deference, instructs courts to defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own rule so long as the interpretation is not plainly erroneous. Its primary supporting intuition is that an agency should be better than anyone else at interpreting a rule that it drafted and implements. During the last five years of his life, Justice Scalia mounted a strong campaign to eliminate this doctrine, which he had come to regard as a terrible affront to separation of powers. Although Justice Scalia is now gone, his critique of Auer retains substantial support on the Court. Justice Thomas agrees with it; Justice Alito has expressed strong sympathy; and the Chief Justice might be on board, too.

But, before rushing off to dump Auer in the ashbin of administrative law history, those who prefer to take their separation of powers with a dash of functionalism might like to know: Just how are courts applying this deference doctrine these days, anyway? Fortunately, Cynthia Barmore has shed considerable light on this question in her article, Auer in Action: Deference after Talk America, which was just published in the Ohio State Law Journal. Her hard work reveals that affirmance rates under Auer have declined in recent years and are in line with the rates for other so-called “deference” doctrines. Courts do not, in short, seem to treat Auer as granting agencies free rein to abuse regulated parties with aggressive (mis)interpretations of their regulations. Continue reading "Counting Out Auer Deference"

Redefining Efficiency In Civil Procedure

Brooke D. Coleman, The Efficiency Norm, 56 B.C. L. Rev. 1777 (2015), available at SSRN.

In his year end report, Chief Justice Roberts stated that the 2015 civil procedure amendments were “to address the most serious impediments to just, speedy, and efficient resolution of civil disputes.” Roberts clearly was referring to Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which states that the rules are to be interpreted to achieve a “just, speedy, and inexpensive determination.” In other words, Roberts equated efficiency with inexpensive. The Chief Justice’s comment illustrates the “efficiency norm” problem that Professor Coleman has addressed in her noteworthy article. The courts, the rulemakers, and Congress have defined efficiency too narrowly, and this definition has resulted in fewer trials and an anti-plaintiff bias.

In her article, Coleman considers the important question of how the concept of efficiency should affect litigation. She first recognizes that the number of cases filed in federal court has increased significantly since the rules were adopted in 1938—some of this as the result of the creation of new substantive rights. This phenomenon has lead to criticism of the litigation system. Influenced by and participating in this criticism, the institutional actors of the rulemakers, the judiciary, and Congress have promoted “the efficiency norm.” Under this mandate, they make changes in the name of efficiency and focus on just cost—more specifically on only certain costs—the costs to corporate or governmental defendants. Continue reading "Redefining Efficiency In Civil Procedure"

All About the Information Substructure

Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind, The Future of the Professions (2016).

Before big data, before cloud computing, before ubiquitous smart phones and tablets, and almost before a version of Windows that actually worked,1 Richard Susskind has been predicting that, eventually, technology will displace lawyers. While the topic of how technology will change law and other professions is now a flavor of the day, you haven’t done your homework if you try to write about how technology will affect law without taking Susskind into account.

Susskind is back with an ambitious new book, co-authored with his son Daniel, entitled The Future of the Professions. This book is both broader and deeper than Susskind’s previous work – broader, in that he takes on all the professions, not just lawyers, and deeper, in that he delves into just what it is that makes professional work different. He addresses head on how advancing technology impacts the core role of professions. Continue reading "All About the Information Substructure"

Preferential Hiring and “Special Treatment”: It’s all Relative

Noah Zatz, Special Treatment Everywhere, Special Treatment Nowhere, 95 B.U. L. Rev. 1155 (2015), available at SSRN.

This year’s law and scholarship of employment discrimination has invited critical thought, new strategies, and rethinking of traditional legal methods like never before. Among the most innovative pieces is Professor Noah Zatz’s Special Treatment Everywhere, Special Treatment Nowhere, 95 B.U. L. Rev. 1155 (2015).  Zatz laments the defensive posture assumed by those on the vanguard of civil rights activism and litigation when, in his own words, “the best defense of civil rights law requires a strong offense.” (P. 1155.)

He proceeds to take issue with the notion that disparate treatment law ought to be color and status-blind, citing the law of affirmative action in particular, and noting that “rather than retreat from ‘special treatment accusations,’” those who wish to preserve and strengthen civil rights laws and protections ought to “name it and claim it,” (p. 1157) meaning confronting these accusations and keeping the law’s (and our) focus on the avoidance of disparate treatment without obsessing over whether this might necessarily invite or involve some special treatment. This eyes-on-the prize approach means endorsing proactive steps that can be taken not only by the courts, but by employers to preempt discrimination. It also means being vigilant about distinguishing legitimate, goal-advancing interventions—that many are quick to dismiss as special treatment—from “raw redistribution.” Ultimately, Professor Zatz concludes, a “[f]ailure to appreciate the remedial context” of affirmative action is precisely what will engender “reckless accusations of ‘special treatment.’” (P. 1157.) Continue reading "Preferential Hiring and “Special Treatment”: It’s all Relative"

Making Connections

Some multi-parent families are created by law and others are created by science. California and a few other states have acknowledged that a child can have more than two legal parents. Professor Daar calls these multi-legal families or families in law. In their quest to serve their patients, physicians seek ways to enable infertile couples to have healthy children. Those doctors make their “treatment” decisions without considering the legal consequences of their actions. For example, in an attempt to lessen the possibility of a child inheriting a medical ailment from his or her mother, doctors may replace unhealthy mitochondrial with material obtained from the oocyte of a healthy female. The use of this mitochondrial manipulation technology (MMT) may result in a child being conceived using an oocyte containing mitochondrial DNA from two women. Professor Daar refers to this as a multi-genetic family or a family in genetics. Numerous articles and books have been written about multi-parent families. Most of the scholarly literature discusses the family law issues that arise because of the existence of these types of families. In her article, Professor Daar goes in a different direction. She focuses upon the impact that the recognition of multi-parent families may have on the intestacy system.

Professor Daar makes the distinction between legal parents and genetic parents. She explores the steps that can be taken in order for the intestacy system to accommodate multi-legal families. In multi-legal cases, more than two persons have been adjudicated as the child’s legal parents. The article also discusses the intestacy system’s treatment of multi-genetics families. In those situations, even though the parents and the children are related by genetics, their relationships may not be legally recognized. Professor Daar examines the manner in which the children and adults in these families may be treated under the intestacy system. Professor Daar analyzes the options of including multi-parent families under existing intestacy systems, creating new intestacy schemes to accommodate them, or excluding multi-parent families from the intestacy system. Professor Daar analyzes the treatment of multi-parent families under the existing intestacy system. As a part of that analysis, she compares multi-legal families to other nontraditional families. With regards to multi-genetic families, Professor Daar evaluates the treatment of families that are connected to the decedent by blood. Continue reading "Making Connections"

Junk Food and Assumption of Risk

Avihay Dorfman, Assumption of Risk, After All, 15 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 293 (2014), available at SSRN.

Avihay Dorfman has written an excellent law review article that ably defends claims about junk-food-and-obesity law, the nature of primary assumption of risk, and the validity of anti-libertarian critiques of assumption of risk doctrine.

Dorfman’s own words (with markers I have added) provide the best synopsis of the three objections he raises to assumption of risk doctrine:

First, it is a conclusory doctrine in the sense that (1) its prescriptions are reached by reference to either other tort doctrines, such as (a) duty analysis, or (b) contract law . . . Second, . . .(2) choosing to be exposed to a risk created by others cannot absolve these others of liability, since such consent is not an analytical feature of liability waiver . . . Third, on a philosophical level, (3) the assumption of risk doctrine is none other than a surface manifestation of a laissez-faire vision of labor markets (and probably of other spheres of action).
(P. 295)

Here, briefly, are Dorfman’s responses to each: Continue reading "Junk Food and Assumption of Risk"

Widening the Critical Tax Lens

Lily Kahng, The Not-So-Merry Wives of Windsor: The Taxation of Women in Same-Sex Marriages, 101 Cornell L. Rev. (forthcoming 2016), available at SSRN.

The road to same-sex marriage was paved with a tax decision. In United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), the United States Supreme Court recognized that same-sex spouses, like different-sex spouses, have the right to pass assets to each other tax-free at death. In arriving at that decision, the Court invalidated the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that provided that the word “marriage,” for federal purposes, meant only a legal union between a man and a woman. With Windsor, a same-sex marriage that was valid for purposes of state law would be recognized for purposes of federal law. In a tax sense, Windsor put same-sex couples and different-sex couples on equal footing for federal purposes. Many commentators accurately predicted that the Windsor case laid the foundation for the Court’s recognition two years later of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015).

In the wake of the Windsor and Obergefell decisions, some tax scholars have drawn important attention to legal issues created in the period between Windsor and Obergefell for same-sex couples whose states did not recognize their marriages, as well as challenges faced by those who choose civil unions over marriage. Other tax scholars are wary of Obergefell’s glorification of marriage as the highest form of human fulfillment, and are skeptical that marriage is the correct foundation for a variety of procedural and substantive rules. Continue reading "Widening the Critical Tax Lens"

Law and Literature for Legal Historians

Creating Legal Worlds, a new book by Greig Henderson, an English professor at the University of Toronto, is about rhetoric and the law and how story-telling is intrinsic to the law. Henderson revisits famous cases (and introduces readers to new cases) in which judges use a variety of rhetorical techniques to engage in persuasive (and, it turns out, at times, not so persuasive) story-telling.

Legal scholars will find value, especially for teaching, in Henderson’s analysis of judgment-writing as craft. However, I think the book has especial purchase power for legal historians, who can contrast Henderson’s approach to cases with the way they generally approach cases and their context. Rather than emphasizing the details of a case and its surrounding circumstances, Henderson emphasizes the technique of the judge as a writer. He explains the literary and rhetorical techniques that judges use (consciously and unconsciously) in order to paint a scene, play on a presumption or prejudice, generate empathy or reassurance that the right result has been reached with cool, clear and unemotional speech. Continue reading "Law and Literature for Legal Historians"

Responding to Takedown Requests for Digital Library Repositories

Brianna L. Schofield & Jennifer M. Urban, Berkeley Digital Library Copyright Project Report: Takedown and Today’s Academic Digital Library, U.C. Berkeley Pub. L. Research Paper No. 2694731 (November 2015), available at SSRN.

A recent push to provide increased access to research, scholarship, and archival materials, as well as a desire to provide greater visibility to faculty and institutional work, have driven more and more academic libraries to create online repositories. These repositories have successfully generated greater visibility for scholarly work and archival collections and greatly enhanced access to these materials for researchers. Greater visibility and access, however, also bring greater potential for requests that libraries takedown materials either because of intellectual property rights claims or other claims, such as privacy.

Schofield and Urban studied the experience of academic libraries hosting open access repositories and their experience with notice and takedown requests, both under section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) and otherwise. They used a survey and targeted interviews to investigate how often takedown requests are received, for what type of content, the basis of the concern, and how the library responded to the takedown request. Schofield and Urban go on to provide recommendations on how libraries should respond to these takedown requests. Their findings have been published in Berkeley Digital Library Copyright Project Report: Takedown and Today’s Academic Digital Library. (available at SSRN) and will be presented at The Future of Libraries in the Digital Age conference. Continue reading "Responding to Takedown Requests for Digital Library Repositories"

Finding a Way Out of the Ripeness Mess

For academics, takings jurisprudence is a continuing source of scholarly fodder and intellectual challenge. However, for the lawyers and judges involved in takings litigation, the procedural barriers created by the 1985 decision in Williamson County Reg. Plan. Agency v. Hamilton Bank and subsequent cases have resulted in a “ripeness” mess, frustrating the access of property owners to federal courts. Michael Berger, a top takings litigator from Manett and Phelps, has called this a “Catch 22” rule1 because property owners are required to first ripen their claims by filing suit in state court, but are then precluded from filing suit in federal court because the state decision is res judicata.

In response to a long-standing call for reform of this formidable hurdle for litigants, Professor Thomas Merrill has suggested a possible solution encompassed in the title of his new work, Anticipatory Remedies for Takings. The new remedial system proposed by Merrill works alongside the eventual just compensation remedy. Continue reading "Finding a Way Out of the Ripeness Mess"

Creative Strategies for Beefing Up Copyright Enforcement

Eric Priest, Acupressure: The Emerging Role of Market Ordering in Global Copyright Enforcement, 68 SMU L. Rev. 169 (2015), available at SSRN.

Corporate copyright owners based in the United States have been frustrated by the prevalence of piracy in China and in certain other fast-growing markets, and that frustration has led to three primary responses. The copyright industries have (1) supported proposed legislation that would impose enforcement obligations on U.S. parties, such as the Stop Online Piracy Act; (2) advanced expansive interpretions of the enforcement jurisdiction of the International Trade Commission; and (3) deployed technological protection measures.

In his new article, Acupressure: The Emerging Role of Market Ordering in Global Copyright Enforcement, Professor Priest identifies two additional strategies that seem to have promise. These strategies rely on pressuring certain intermediaries that hold the power to deny infringers access to the markets they seek to serve. Presenting these as case studies, he then abstracts away to model how and when market-based pressure on intermediaries or customers – the “Acupressure” in the title – are likely to be effective. He concludes by revisiting familiar critiques of copyright enforcement through private ordering and integrates these into his analysis of the public policy ramifications of these new developments. Continue reading "Creative Strategies for Beefing Up Copyright Enforcement"

Should We Publish All District Court Opinions?

Elizabeth McCuskey, Submerged Precedent, 16 Nev. L. Rev.  ___ (forthcoming 2016), available at SSRN.

In Submerged Precedent, Professor Elizabeth McCuskey unearths new data on the rate of remand from federal to state courts in suits alleging 28 U.S.C. § 1331 jurisdiction under a Grable & Sons theory. As part of her vigorous data collection project, McCuskey determined that substantial numbers of the district court opinions she studied never found their way into commercial databases or PACER, substantially skewing our understanding of caselaw in this area. From this starting point, she launches into an intriguing normative discussion on the need to bring this body of “submerged precedent” to the surface. She concludes with a call for a strong presumption that all reasoned district court opinions be made publically available. For those of us who study the federal courts, Submerged Precedent’s raises intriguing empirical and doctrinal questions to which we should turn our attention.

McCuskey’s study focuses upon a particular method of taking § 1331 jurisdiction in federal court. The vast majority of cases take § 1331 jurisdiction under the so-called Holmes test (i.e., vesting § 1331 jurisdiction because the plaintiff raises a federal cause of action). There exists, however, a narrow exception to the Holmes test whereby federal question jurisdiction may lie over state-law causes of action that necessarily require construction of an embedded federal issue. McCuskey focuses her work on these cases, seeking to discover the rate at which suits removed to federal court under that theory are remanded from to state court. Continue reading "Should We Publish All District Court Opinions?"

On Rape, Coercion and Consent

Scott Allen Anderson, Conceptualizing Rape as Coerced Sex, Univ. of British Colombia (2015), available at SSRN.

Scott Anderson’s article Conceptualizing Rape as Coerced Sex, in my view, is the best philosophical or legal piece on the subject of rape that has appeared in many years. Its basic insight is powerful, and persuasively argued. Rape, Anderson argues, should be understood neither as “forced nonconsensual sex,” as it is traditionally defined, nor as non-consensual sex, as most reformers today typically urge, but rather as coerced sex. Coercion, in turn, is “best understood as a use of asymmetric power that one sort of agent may hold over another sort based in the former’s ability to inhibit broadly the ability of the latter to act, by means such as killing, injuring, disabling, imprisoning, or drugging…. [thereby placing the former] in a position to threaten another with such harms or constraints in order to induce compliance with demands he might make.” So understood, rape is the criminal act of “either creating or taking advantage of pre-existing differentials in the ability and willingness to use force or violence,” toward the end of obtaining sexual gratification from the victim. The power differentials that render the pressure “coercive” are quintessentially created through direct force, violence, or threats of violence, but might also include taking physical advantage of another who is mentally or physically incapacitated because of intoxicants or cognitive or mental impairment. Most important, though, the power differentials at the core of the “coerciveness” that renders sex rape might be facilitated not by direct threats, but by drawing upon “the link between the threatener and others of a similar kind who have used similar powers in the past.” When sex is “coerced” in any of these ways, such that the victim is not able to “usefully or reasonably ignore, deflect, evade, or work-around the enforcement of the threat,” then the sex that results should be understood as rape.

Note that on Anderson’s account the victim’s consent or non-consent is not part of the definition of the crime (although it may enter as a defense). Rather, the definition focuses squarely on the assailant’s acts and mental states, rather than those of the victim: did the assailant create or take advantage of pre-existing differentials in the ability and willingness to use force or violence” to obtain sex. Nor does it require direct force: rather, the “differentials” in power that facilitate the rape may pre-exist the act itself, and may be as much a function of the similarity between the agent and others similarly situated, as anything the agent himself does in the particular encounter. This coercion-based account, Scott argues, would avoid both the under-inclusiveness of definitions of rape that center on force, and the possible over-inclusiveness of definitions of rape that center on consent. More significantly, it would better capture both what is distinctively harmful about rape, why rape is overwhelmingly (but not universally and certainly not by definition) a crime committed by men upon women, and why rape is a constitutive aspect of gender subordination to women’s detriment. Continue reading "On Rape, Coercion and Consent"

Behind Closed Doors: The Role of Secrecy in International Investor Arbitration

Emilie M. Hafner-Burton, Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld, & David G. Victor, Predictability Versus Flexibility: Secrecy in International Investment Arbitration, ILAR Working Paper #18 (2015).

One strategy for increasing overseas investment, especially in developing economies, is to assure investors that they will have recourse if something goes wrong. With this in mind, bilateral investment treaties often allow investors to bypass suspect local courts, going instead to international arbitration. The article Predictability Versus Flexibility: Secrecy in International Investment Arbitration, written by political scientists Emilie M. Hafner-Burton, Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld and David G. Victor, identifies the following tension: The willingness of host governments to agree to arbitration in their investment contracts was designed to signal their friendliness to investors. But these arbitrations often happen behind closed doors. And, in fact, this secrecy is part of the institutional design. How does the secrecy interact with the signal? When is the result of arbitration most likely to be concealed? Have efforts to increase transparency worked?

To answer these questions, the authors study records of investor-state arbitration by the World Bank’s Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). It is not easy to study something secret. But the authors fruitfully exploit two features of ICSID arbitrations to test their educated guesses about what goes on behind closed doors. First, either party in ICSID arbitration can unilaterally request secrecy. The authors report that they do so in about 40% of arbitrations, which allows comparison between confidential outcomes and those that are disclosed. Second, only the outcome is secret. The fact of arbitration and the identity of parties is not. Using this information, the article ultimately provides an account of the functional benefits of confidential arbitration, especially for the state. It portrays arbitration’s confidentiality as built into the initial treaty structure, giving flexibility that preserves the viability of long-term projects. Continue reading "Behind Closed Doors: The Role of Secrecy in International Investor Arbitration"

How to Bolster the “Ir” in Irrevocable

Traditionally, irrevocable trusts have been, well, irrevocable. The terms of the trust are fixed and the life of the trust cannot be cut short. Whether irrevocability emanates from the trust document itself or from circumstances such as the settlor’s death or incapacity, traditional irrevocability tied the hands of those interested in modifying the trust to accommodate changes in circumstances. Irrevocability was the doctrine through which the settlor could maintain control of the trust property throughout the life of the trust. Trust law acknowledges the tension between the original intent of the settlor’s dead-hand control and the current desires of the beneficiaries. As this tension is being resolved by greater accommodation of the current beneficiaries’ desires, has the doctrine of irrevocability lost its relevance?

In his recent article entitled Sherlock Holmes and the Problem of the Dead Hand: The Modification and Termination of “Irrevocable” Trusts, Dean Richard Ausness proposes a compromise. The first generation of trust beneficiaries would remain subject to the traditional rules disfavoring modification and early termination of trusts; subsequent generations of trust beneficiaries, however, would possess a liberating ability to modify a trust without court approval. The language of irrevocability would have renewed life, but only a short life. Continue reading "How to Bolster the “Ir” in Irrevocable"

Physician Aid in Dying and Mental Illness

Scott Y. H. Kim, Raymond G. De Vries, & John R. Peteet, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide of Patients With Psychiatric Disorders in the Netherlands 2011 to 2014, JAMA Psychiatry (2016).

The right to aid in dying (or physician-assisted suicide) has developed with different standards in the United States than in the Netherlands and Belgium, and a recent study suggests that the United States has gotten it right in a critical respect—on the criteria for eligibility. Patients can more easily qualify for aid in dying in the Netherlands and Belgium and that creates a potential for misuse that is not present in California, Oregon, Vermont, and the other American states that permit the practice. In particular, as a new study by Kim, De Vries, and Peteet indicates, the possibility that people with psychiatric disorders may choose aid in dying when treatment for their disorders might address their despair is a more serious problem in Europe than in the United States.

Concerns about psychiatric motivations give rise to a very important argument against a right to aid in dying. If people can choose aid in dying because of mental illness, people may opt for death when proper therapy would restore their desire to live. And anecdotal reports in both the United States and Europe reinforce this concern. In a Frontline report on underground aid in dying in the United States, filmmakers documented the death of a woman whose mental illness led her to harbor false beliefs about her health. Similarly, an article in The New Yorker described the troubling case of a Belgian woman who underwent euthanasia, which, like aid in dying, is permitted in Belgium, despite physician assessments that her psychiatric depression was not serious enough to make her eligible for assistance in dying. Continue reading "Physician Aid in Dying and Mental Illness"

Alternative Reproduction in the Age of Marriage Equality

Courtney Megan Cahill, The Oedipus Hex: Regulating Family After Marriage Equality, 49 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 183 (2015).

As marriage equality became a nationwide reality, those who opposed same-sex marriage increasingly turned their attention to issues of reproduction and parenting. In 2012, David Blankenhorn, a longtime opponent of same-sex marriage, famously announced his newfound support for marriage equality in the pages of the New York Times. Yet Blankenhorn continued to oppose important aspects of family formation by same-sex couples, arguing that “children born through artificial reproductive technology” should have “the right to know and be known by their biological parents.” Same-sex couples commonly raise children conceived with anonymous sperm or egg donors, and same-sex-couple-headed families are much more likely than their different-sex counterparts to include nonbiological parent-child relationships. As Blankenhorn’s views suggest, opposition to LGBT equality can seamlessly continue in new forms. Indeed, researchers at Blankenhorn’s Institute for American Values are urging “an active public debate over whether it is ethical for the state to support the deliberate conception of children who will never have the chance to be raised by their biological parents.” Elizabeth Marquardt, the director of the Institute’s Center for Marriage and Families, advocates a number of restrictions on family formation through assisted reproductive technologies (ART). Restrictions on the use of ART to form nonbiological parent-child relationships will have a distinct impact on reproduction and parenting by same-sex couples. In marriage equality’s wake, alternative reproduction has clearly emerged as an important new front in the culture wars.

In her engaging and insightful new article, The Oedipus Hex: Regulating Family After Marriage Equality, Courtney Cahill focuses on a specific argument put forward by those seeking to restrict alternative reproduction—what she terms the incest prevention justification. As Cahill explains, scholars and advocates argue for greater regulation of alternative reproduction to minimize the likelihood for accidental incest among donor-conceived children. Continue reading "Alternative Reproduction in the Age of Marriage Equality"

Redefining the American Dream

Andrea J. Boyack, American Dream in Flux: The Endangered Right to Lease a Home, 49 Real Prop. Tr. & Est. L. J. 203 (2014), available at SSRN.

The “American Dream” referred to by Andrea Boyack, an Associate Professor of Law at Washburn University School of Law, is homeownership. As first year Property students are taught, the dream of homeownership has its hallowed roots in Thomas Jefferson’s conviction that widespread ownership of real property was a predicate for a functioning democracy. “The small landowners,” Jefferson wrote, those with “a little portion of land” are “the most precious part of a state.”1 The idea that the government should encourage more people to own “a little portion of land”—first farms and now single family homes—has inspired public policy since the Revolution.

Boyack does not argue that the American Dream is dead, or that promoting homeownership is an illegitimate policy goal. Instead, she convincingly argues that by myopically focusing on increasing homeownership and owner occupancy, a combination of public land use controls, private land use controls, and federal policies are undermining “important public concerns.” (P. 299.) Continue reading "Redefining the American Dream"

“Ye Shall Inherit My Magic Sword!” Post-Mortem Ownership in Virtual Worlds

Edina Harbinja, Virtual Worlds – a Legal Post-Mortem Account, 11 SCRIPTed 273 (3d ed. 2014).

Have you ever thought of who will have access to your email when you die? If you have social media, have you prepared a digital will that will allow your loved ones to dispose of your online presence? Have you ever wondered what happens to people’s digital accounts when they pass away? These and many other questions are part of a growing number of legal issues arising from our increasingly networked life, and it is the main subject of Virtual Worlds – a Legal Post-Mortem Account, which looks at the issue of post-mortem digital arrangements for virtual world accounts, where the author discusses several possible ways of looking at virtual goods to allow them to be transferred when the owner of the account dies. The article is a great addition to the growing scholarship in the area, but it is also an invaluable shot-in-the-arm to the subject of virtual worlds.

The legal discussion of virtual worlds has gone through a rollercoaster ride, if you pardon the use of the tired cliché. In 1993 author Julian Dibbell published a remarkable article entitled A Rape in Cyberspace. In it he recounts the happenings of a virtual world called LambdaMOO, a text-based environment with roughly one hundred subscribers where the users adopted assumed personalities (or avatars) and engaged in various role-playing scenarios. Dibbell describes how the community dealt with perceived sexual offences committed by a member upon other avatars. The story of LambdaMOO has become a classic in Internet regulation literature, and has been pondered and retold in seminal works such as Lessig’s Code and Goldsmith and Wu’s Who Controls the Internet. Dibbell’s powerful story of the virtual misconduct of an avatar during the early days of Cyberspace still resonates with legal audiences because it brings us back to crucial questions that have been the subject of literature, philosophy and jurisprudence for centuries. How does a community organise itself? Is external action needed, or does self-regulation work? What constitutes regulatory dialogue? How does regulatory consensus arise? And most importantly, who enforces norms? Continue reading "“Ye Shall Inherit My Magic Sword!” Post-Mortem Ownership in Virtual Worlds"

Crimmigration Law Comes of Age

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, Crimmigration Law (2015).

For criminal justice enthusiasts, Padilla v. Kentucky (2010) represented a victory for criminal defendants in an area where there are few. Whereas previously, defense attorneys were under no compulsion to inform clients about the downstream consequences of a conviction, Padilla said that deportation was different. The severity of this outcome mandated that clients be made aware of this possibility before making a guilty plea—it simultaneously served as a mandate for the defense bar. As a result of the ruling, defense attorneys were involuntarily thrust into the world of crimmigration law, with the beneficiaries being those accused of a crime. Now, at a minimum, defense counsel would need the competence to be able to advise clients who face the risk of deportation.

In Crimmigration Law, César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández has created an immense resource to help ensure this occurs. The work provides a comprehensive overview of a complex phenomenon in American law, namely, how criminal and immigration law converge into a distinct body of law that necessarily involves both. Continue reading "Crimmigration Law Comes of Age"

On Being Mostly Right

Samuel Bray, The Supreme Court and the New Equity, 68 Vand. L. Rev. 997 (2015).

Close only counts in horseshoes, hand-grenades, and the Supreme Court’s recent treatment of equitable remedies. So says Samuel Bray in The Supreme Court and the New Equity, where he defends fourteen Supreme Court decisions decided from 1999 to 2014 that are fraught with errors and frequently criticized, which Bray labels “the new equity cases.” The equity in these cases is “new” in two ways. First, it maintains a clear distinction between equitable and legal remedies by entrenching the “irreparable injury rule,” or the requirement that there be no adequate remedy at a law before a judge consider equitable relief. Second, it seeks to control judicial discretion by adhering strictly to the history of equitable practice, and drawing from that history rules and multi-part tests to guide the application of equitable relief.

“It is not easy to imagine,” Bray writes, “anything further from the conventional scholarly wisdom than” the doctrinal developments of the new equity cases. (P. 1008.) For one, experts had long celebrated both the death of the irreparable injury rule and the unity, for all practical purposes, of equitable and legal remedies. Bray points to Douglas Laycock’s 1991 book “The Death of the Irreparable Injury Rule” as the aristeia of a movement to tear down the barrier between equitable and legal remedies that began over a century ago. Laycock “meticulously” illustrated that the requirement to show no adequate remedy at law has no discernable impact on a judge’s decision whether or not to grant equitable relief; as Bray puts it, “[w]hen judges want to give a permanent injunction, they never find legal remedies adequate.” (P. 1006.) Even the American Law Institute criticized the irreparable injury showing as “antiquated” and “spurious” in its Restatement (Third) of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment. Continue reading "On Being Mostly Right"

The U.S. Supreme Court and Humble Opinion Writing

Eric Berger, The Rhetoric of Constitutional Absolutism, 56 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 667 (2015).

American politics is increasingly polarized. The New York Times recently published an article listing all of the people and organizations that Donald Trump has insulted during his Presidential campaign so far. Republicans and Democrats get in trouble just for working together in Congress. This makes the U.S. Supreme Court an especially interesting institution right now. Though unelected, it is made up of Republican and Democratic appointees who decide important constitutional and other cases together. Professor Eric Berger, of the University of Nebraska School of Law, has written an important law review article addressing a related problem that has emerged on the Court: a tendency towards “absolutism” in its judicial opinions. So, has political polarization somehow carried over to the Court? If yes, what are the explanations and solutions?

Professor Berger’s article is well written, nicely organized, deeply researched, and comprehensively analyzed. Moreover, his article shows the value of traditional doctrinal legal scholarship, though the article includes abundant theory as well. The article was published before Chief Justice Roberts’ dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. __ (2015), where Roberts wrote that gay people may celebrate the decision, but added derisively that the majority’s decision has “nothing to do with the Constitution.” Ironically, the point of Roberts’s dissent was the lack of humility in Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. So Professor Berger is on to something. The late Justice Scalia frequently, and with increasing harshness, skewered the opinions of the other justices. Continue reading "The U.S. Supreme Court and Humble Opinion Writing"

Constituency Directors, Loyalty, and the Corporate Objective

Martin Gelter & Geneviève Helleringer, Lift Not the Painted Veil! To Whom Are Directors’ Duties Really Owed?, 2015 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1069 (2015).

Theories of corporate law and governance that purport to explain the nature of the corporate entity, the legitimate objective of corporate decision-making, and/or the balance of corporate power have proliferated over recent decades, and the debates prompting them show no signs of abating. Some accounts place the shareholders’ interests at the core of the enterprise, while others present more embracing conceptions requiring (or at least permitting) regard for other “stakeholders” such as employees and creditors. Similarly, some accounts identify shareholders as the font of legitimate corporate power, while others present more board-centric conceptions. Adding to the complexity, various theories combine differing perspectives on the corporate objective and corporate power in differing ways, often rooting them in irreconcilable conceptions of what the corporate entity itself fundamentally is. As time passes, the arc of corporate theory would appear to bend toward fragmentation rather than closure.

In the article cited above, Martin Gelter and Geneviève Helleringer illuminate these issues from a fascinating doctrinal perspective, exploring what the persistence of so-called “constituency directors” – placed on the board by a particular individual or institution – reveals about the nature and defining objective of corporate decision-making. Gelter and Helleringer bring to the task not only deep engagement with the scholarly literature in these areas, but also considerable comparative and interdisciplinary sophistication. Drawing upon a broad range of examples from U.S., U.K., and Continental European corporate legal systems, they observe a “fundamental contradiction” manifesting itself in all of them – “the tension between the uniformity of directors’ duties and the heterogeneity of directors themselves.” Specifically, they identify an apparent “paradox” in permitting “directors’ nomination rules linked to specific constituencies” while at the same time imposing “heterogeneity-blind duties.” Building on their descriptive account of illustrative doctrinal structures, Gelter and Helleringer assess them against prevailing formulations of the corporate objective, social scientific insights, and the available empirical evidence, concluding with a normative case for reform. Their product is informative, insightful, and a pleasure to read. Continue reading "Constituency Directors, Loyalty, and the Corporate Objective"