Monthly Archives: December 2014

Compassionate Care for the Living and the Dying

Lois L. Shepherd, The End of End-of Life Law, 92 N.C.L. Rev. 1693 (2014).

As an elder law attorney, I spent my career helping my clients prepare for incapacity and death. A part of that preparation entailed assisting them with the execution of living wills and/or other health care directives. My goal was to ensure that their wishes with regards to end-of-life care were known and respected. Because of my experiences comforting and counseling sick and dying clients I have spent my academic career researching and writing about the ethical and legal issues surrounding end-of-life decision-making.

Two phenomena make a discussion of this subject so important. First, due to the aging baby boomer population, the number of patients who face these types of decisions will continue to increase. Second, as a consequence of the existence of medical technology that enables physicians to artificially sustain life longer, more people will be forced to make end-of-life decisions. Legislatures and courts have taken steps to establish processes that make it easier for patients to provide information to their health care providers about their choices with regards to end-of-life care. Nonetheless, Professor Shepherd claims that laws exclusively designed to help patients express their end-of-life preferences may not be needed. According to Professor Shepherd, the better approach would be for health care providers to treat end-of-life choices similar to other types of medical decisions. Continue reading "Compassionate Care for the Living and the Dying"

The Oppression of Analogy

Russell K. Robinson, Marriage Equality Post-Racialism, 61 UCLA L. Rev. 1010 (2014).

In 2008, America elected its first black president. In the same election, a slim majority of Californians voted to enact Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that amended the California constitution to prohibit legal recognition of same-sex marriages. Almost immediately, the election of the nation’s first black president and the enactment of Proposition 8 were linked in the media coverage of these two events and in the popular imagination. Black voters, it was argued, turned out in droves to support Barack Obama; and these same voters cast votes to deny gay men and lesbians the right to marry. According to the conventional wisdom, a group that historically struggled against prejudice and oppression had furthered the oppression of another minority group.

In his recent article, Marriage Equality Post-Racialism, Russell Robinson takes on this stock narrative of the 2008 election, and in so doing, launches a broader discussion of the racial discourse and politics of the marriage equality movement. As other scholars have done, Robinson relies on empirical evidence to dispute the claim that black voters were solely responsible for Proposition 8’s enactment. Critically, however, Robinson goes beyond merely setting the empirical record straight to offer astute observations about the intersection of race and sexuality, and the role of race in the effort to secure marriage equality for LGBT persons. Continue reading "The Oppression of Analogy"

The Careless Ideal Worker

Olivia Smith, Litigating Discrimination on Grounds of Family Status, 22 Fem. Legal Stud 175 (2014).

It will not surprise readers alive to anti-discrimination law’s limited capacity to transform systems that Ireland’s reform to protect workers in certain care relationships from discrimination based on their family status has reinforced gendered assumptions about care and workforce participation. However much its findings line up with our pessimistic hunches, Olivia Smith’s study is worth reading because it exemplifies an admirable kind of feminist scholarship: quantitatively and qualitatively empirical; theoretically grounded; alert to the intersection of gender with other grounds of disadvantage, such as class; and self-conscious of its limits.

Smith offers a “contextualized assessment” of a dozen years’ tribunal litigation under the “family status” discrimination ground. Prior to this ground’s adoption in the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011, women had challenged discrimination associated with their care obligations under the ground of gender. As Smith notes, that tack had confirmed the gendered view of care as women’s work. Yet while the gender-neutral ground of “family status” might signal that care obligations bear on men as well as on women, the litigation record shows it to have reinforced the gendered dynamics of Irish work and family life. Continue reading "The Careless Ideal Worker"

Digital Behavioral Advertising – Why Worry?

Ryan Calo, Digital Market Manipulation, 82 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 995 (2014).

Alongside the explosive growth of the internet, digital marketing is also growing aggressively. According to some projections, it might even surpass TV-based advertising in the coming decades. One of its most prominent and controversial features is commonly referred to as “behavioral advertising”; the tailoring of advertisements to specific users at a specific time, on the basis of previously collected personal information about those users’ online activities.

Behavioral advertising is creating a substantial buzz in the press. It is therefore no surprise that this issue is also generating a vibrant discussion in the legal and policy realm. Addressing it properly is a serious intellectual challenge. Behavioral advertising generates an uneasy feeling (some might find it “creepy“). Yet it is not necessarily simple to figure out why. Consumers have dealt with marketers—some of them quite aggressive—since the dawn of time. Existing mechanisms, which incorporate a delicate mix of market forces, reputation concerns and in extreme cases regulatory action, have produced an acceptable status quo. Recently, this status quo has apparently been breached. The challenge academics and policy makers face is explaining why and how. In his recent Article, Ryan Calo tackles this challenge directly, and sets forth important answers. His insights will enhance the policy debates about the regulation of behavioral marketing, and push them in the right direction. Continue reading "Digital Behavioral Advertising – Why Worry?"

Dignity, too

The police killing of Michael Brown this summer in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked a nationwide wave of outrage at heavy-handed police behavior generally and toward young men of color in particular. But scores of young black men are killed every year by the police, many in even more suspicious circumstances; what made Ferguson different? One significant element was the fact that police left Michael Brown’s body exposed to public view and the hot sun for some four hours. Perhaps even more than the shooting of Michael Brown (which might yet be given an explanation), the exposure of his body for such a prolonged period, conveyed to millions through social media, constituted a striking violation of social norms of respect which appeared to have no possible explanation. Leaving his body to deteriorate in the view of his family and neighbors seemed to reflect the fact that police did not view Michael Brown as a human being, or his neighbors as citizens worthy of respect. The police shooting may in fact have been justified, but their treatment of Michael Brown’s body defiled human dignity

The growing sense that the carceral state (both police and prisons) has become a threat to the human dignity of Americans is an important new dimension of political and legal opposition to the supersized role that it now plays in our lives. Objections to NSA digital snooping, outrage at mistreatment of mentally ill prisoners, and protests against the routinized degradation of “stop and frisk” policing are growing. And these arguments are working not just in the street but in courts, where in Brown v. Plata in May 2011, the Supreme Court reminded American states that prisoners “retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all person[s].” So far, however, the force of dignity has had little influence on challenges to police using their arrest and related powers under the Fourth Amendment. Continue reading "Dignity, too"

Surmounting the Control Paradigm

Colin Mayer’s Firm Commitment is not exactly a book about corporate law, but it’s still best corporate law book I have encountered in a long while. Here a leading academic in business and finance challenges the status quo, bringing financial economics, agency theory, and corporate law to bear to persuade us that something has gone very wrong with corporate organizations in English-speaking economies.

Unlike many critics of corporate institutions, Mayer approves of large corporate entities. He points out that they allow us to partition assets off from individuals and create stable productive environments conducive to group participation. They are ubiquitous for very good reasons and do great things. But there’s also a dark side. In describing it, Mayer pulls together a number of things that we all know are out there and builds them into a binary theory. On one side of the description there’s a long list of phenomena, bundled up and characterized as the “control” paradigm. The market for corporate control sits at the top of the list, followed by environmental degradation, reductions in workforces, the shareholder value maximization norm, the trend to shareholder empowerment, short termism, leveraged restructuring, asset substitution, and leveraged speculation. All these work together with and within corporate entities to lead to disastrous results for society and the economy, manifested in the form of both externalities and opportunity costs. As society tries to cope with this onslaught of injury, there result layers and layers of choking regulation. Continue reading "Surmounting the Control Paradigm"