Monthly Archives: February 2016

Leviathan Had a Good War

Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, Administrative War, 82 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 1343 (2014).

Some readers value an article for logical rigor, some for sound judgment, some for immediate utility, some for originality, and so on into N dimensions. (We may value more than one dimension, of course, but not “all of the above,” because the desirable traits may trade off against one another, at a frontier; no one piece can display all of them simultaneously and to a maximum degree). The peculiar excellence of richness is on display in Administrative War by Tino Cuellar, formerly of Stanford, now molted into a higher form of life as Justice Cuellar of the California Supreme Court. Cuellar recounts the history of the administrative state during the Second World War, and connects it to the surrounding political conflicts and developments in legal theory. There is no single thesis, no one-sentence nugget. Rather we are treated to a kind of legal-historical cornucopia. Cuellar’s story undermines conventional wisdom on a number of critical issues in administrative law. Let me attempt to lay out some of the wealth of interesting points that emerge.

1. The New Deal and the War. Cuellar’s basic narrative recounts the arc of the administrative state just before and during the Second World War. Administrative lawyers, particularly critics of the administrative state, still talk about “the New Deal” as though it were the moment when the Rule of Law gave way to the administrative state (and as though “the New Deal” were all one thing or era, as opposed to a pastiche of movements and developments). Distilling, synthesizing and translating-for-lawyers a library of background literature, Cuellar explains that the war, rather than the New Deal, represented the key “inflection point” in the growth of the administrative state. Furthermore, unlike World War I, which gave rise to a number of more or less temporary bureaucracies, the burgeoning administrative state was cemented into place during and by World War II, and by the odd political consensus that created the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946—a key legitimating mechanism for Leviathan. The pedagogical implication of all this is that the constitutional conflicts of the 1930s, which occupy so much space in public law courses, should at a minimum be supplemented and probably partly displaced by a study of the bureaucratic developments of the war years. Less time on the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which did not provide an enduring model for the American administrative state; more time on (entities like) the War Production Board (WPB) and the Office of Price Administration (OPA), which did. Continue reading "Leviathan Had a Good War"

Why Importing Employment Discrimination Causation Into Criminal Law is a Bad Idea

Leora F. Eisenstadt, Causation in Context, 36 Berkeley J. Emp. & Lab. L. 1 (2015), available at SSRN.

In Causation in Context, Professor Leora F. Eisenstadt harshly critiques Burrage v. United States, a case in which the Supreme Court imports some of its troublesome thinking on employment discrimination causation into a criminal law case. I like the article lots because it crosses two substantive areas and explains why causation, a tricky and core concept in both areas, does quite different work in each area. In the process, the article exposes the larger danger of misusing a powerful tool that judges, lawyers and law professors alike use – reasoning by analogy. Professor Eisenstadt implicitly suggests that reasoning by analogy is of little or no use if the court that is reasoning has an insufficient understanding of the underlying areas at issue and fails to recognize what makes the analogy inapt.  If a court wants to use an employment discrimination concept in a criminal law area, the court needs to understand why the concept has been used—and whether the concept has been misused—in the employment discrimination area before deploying it in the criminal law area.

In short, the article considers how the Supreme Court in Burrage imported the but-for causation principle – the notion that a factor does not cause a result if the result would have occurred in the absence of the factor – that has been become prevalent in the employment discrimination area into a criminal law case. In the process, a principle used to determine whether intentional discrimination caused an adverse job action is now used in a criminal case to determine whether the use of an illicit drug caused a victim’s death. The article discusses the Court’s mistake in finding a false equivalency between causation in criminal law and causation in employment discrimination law. The false equivalency not only triggered an inappropriate use of an employment discrimination causation standard in the criminal law case; it may trigger a broader assumption that a principle used in one area of the law can be borrowed and used in other areas of the law. That could create problems if courts import concepts from other areas of law into an already complex employment discrimination arena. Continue reading "Why Importing Employment Discrimination Causation Into Criminal Law is a Bad Idea"

Enforceability of Predispute Arbitration Provisions

Mary F. Radford, Predispute Arbitration Agreements Between Trustees and Financial Services Institutions: Are Beneficiaries Bound?, 40 ACTEC L. J. 273 (2014).

Disputes are a persistent reality of trust law and even the most meticulously-drafted and expertly-administered trust can be embroiled in litigation, often involving trust investments. In an effort to avoid litigation, many investment advisors and banks include in their routine account agreements, provisions requiring arbitration in the event of any dispute. When a trustee opens an account that contains a mandatory arbitration provision, are the beneficiaries also bound?

Professor Mary Radford delves deep into the practice, cases, and theory of predispute arbitration provisions. Her discerning and experienced eye expertly distills the essence of a trustee’s fiduciary responsibilities with the practical realities of investing in the 21st century. This article appealed to me because it offers a thoughtful, sophisticated, and wide-ranging look at an increasingly common provision. At a time that arbitration clauses are under review, the article connects trust law to the wider world; it is a good example of the law as “seamless web.” Continue reading "Enforceability of Predispute Arbitration Provisions"

What is Tax Scholarship, and Who Decides?

Shari Motro, Scholarship Against Desire27 Yale J. L. & Human. 115 (2015).

I typically begin my Federal Income Tax course discussing how tax is the one area of law that touches every aspect of life, from birth to death, from marriage to divorce, from retirement to child-care, and everything in between. Similarly, tax scholars write on topics ranging from same-sex marriage and the earned income tax credit, on the one hand, to carried interest and corporate inversions, on the other. By this point, my colleagues are surely tired of hearing me repeat how tax law has something meaningful to say about everything.

Given this incredible breadth and diversity of the tax law, why is it that most people think of tax scholarship primarily as number-crunching, or business planning, or law and economics? While I happen to be sympathetic to this point of view, primarily because it happens to coincide with my primary interests, why is it so often considered the standard for the best of tax scholarship? Continue reading "What is Tax Scholarship, and Who Decides?"

The Man, The Torts Legend

  • Christopher Robinette, The Prosser Letters: 1919-1948, 101 Iowa L. Rev. __  (forthcoming 2016), available at SSRN.
  • Kenneth S. Abraham & G. Edward White, Prosser and His Influence, 6 J. Tort Law 27 (2015), available at SSRN.

United States courts cited Dean Prosser’s hornbook on Torts more than 200 times over the course of 2015.  In that year, courts also cited Dean Prosser’s Restatement (Second) of Torts more a thousand times. Dean Prosser’s work shaped the law of Torts in the United States and continues to do so today, forty-three years after his death. Despite Prosser’s out-sized influence in the field, surprisingly few articles have been written about this founder of contemporary Tort law.

Two recent articles begin to fill that gap. Ken Abraham and Ted White tackle the subject of Prosser’s work and influence. Meanwhile, Chris Robinette uncovers the private correspondence of the man behind the law. Both the Abraham and White article and the Robinette article are insightful, a pleasure to read, and ultimately leave the reader ready to purchase the next chapter (Robinette reveals that part two is in the works). Continue reading "The Man, The Torts Legend"

A Way Forward: What’s Good and Bad about Legal Services Regulation in the United States and Canada?

North American legal services regulation has been slow to evolve. This reality is particularly apparent when one looks at the rest of the common law world. Take, for example, the radical changes over the last decade or so in the way English and Australian lawyers are governed: among other things, self-regulation has been turfed, as have tight restrictions on non-lawyer ownership. While it is still too early to evaluate the full effect of these and other reforms, they have led to some interesting developments, like publicly traded law firms and the regulation of law firms (as opposed to the regulation of individual lawyers only).

Having observed these changes abroad, many lawyers and academics have suggested that American and Canadian regulators ought to adopt similar reforms in response to modern practice realities. Indeed, to some extent, such changes are already afoot. Some prominent examples include the American Bar Association’s recent passage of a resolution that provides guidance to states if they choose to regulate non-traditional legal services providers and the fact that several Canadian provinces are considering, if not, implementing entity and/or compliance-based regulation (further discussion can be found here, here, and here). Notwithstanding these developments, others have argued that North American legal service regulation should hold firm in the face of dangerous foreign experiments. So who is right? Both and neither, according to a recent book by University of Windsor law professor Noel Semple. Continue reading "A Way Forward: What’s Good and Bad about Legal Services Regulation in the United States and Canada?"

Recapturing Water for Sustainability Through Redefinitions of Navigability and Ownership

Maureen Brady, Defining “Navigability”: Balancing State Court Flexibility and Private Rights in Waterways, 36 Cardozo L. Rev. 1415 (2015), available at SSRN.

More than 86,000 square miles of inland waterways traverse and meander throughout the United States. Since ancient times, navigable waterways were not subject to private ownership, but were reserved to the public under the public trust doctrine. In contrast, non-navigable waterways could be privately owned. While riparian and littoral rights are firmly fixed in the common law, what has proven to be more fluid is the definition of “navigability.”

In Defining “Navigability”: Balancing State Court Flexibility and Private Rights in Waterways, 36 Cardozo L. Rev. 1415 (2015), Maureen Brady explains that over the last two centuries, state courts have broadened the concept of navigability, and applied the new definitions to alter existing land titles. As a consequence, many non-navigable waterways have become navigable waterways, increasing public ownership and extinguishing private rights. Continue reading "Recapturing Water for Sustainability Through Redefinitions of Navigability and Ownership"

Environmental Law and Justice in the Anthropocene Era

Angela Harris, Vulnerability and Power in the Age of the Anthropocene, 6 Wash. & Lee J. Energy Climate & Env’t 96 (2014).

The future is the Anthropocene Epoch – or at least some geologists argue that human activities now dominate global systems like the oceans and climate in qualitatively different way in the past, justifying the identification of a new geological era. Certainly human impacts on climate change provide a strong example to support this claim. Legal scholars are only just now coming to terms with what (if any) significant implications the Anthropocene might have for our legal system.

One thing I particularly like about Angela Harris’ piece (Vulnerability and Power in the Age of the Anthropocene) is that it takes on the big question of whether and how the Anthropocene matters. Harris argues that the Anthropocene matters because in an era in which humans are changing global systems, there will be ongoing and major impacts on all humans, but especially the most vulnerable – in other words, changes in our global environment will have a particular salience for populations that have less political or economic power. After all, it is no accident that among the countries most vulnerable to the sea-level rise that is a product of climate change is Bangladesh, a poor and politically weak country where tens of millions of people may be displaced. As Harris notes, understanding how climate change affects those without political or economic political power is a key part of beginning a conversation about the relationship between the Anthropocene and critical legal theory. Continue reading "Environmental Law and Justice in the Anthropocene Era"

Legislating Medicine

Alena Allen, Dense Women, 76 Ohio St. L.J. 847 (2015).

When anecdotes trump data, health policy can become engulfed by bad science. Alena Allen eloquently captures the pitfalls of this phenomenon in her article, Dense Women, which provides a comprehensive normative and descriptive analysis of breast density notification statutes. To my knowledge, Allen is the first legal scholar to tackle this important issue. While breast density notification statutes vary by state, they each share a common goal: ensuring that physicians provide certain information to women who have dense breast tissue and directing women (to varying degrees) to speak to their doctors about further medical tests.

Breast density notification statutes were passed in response to heart-breaking stories of women who were diagnosed with breast cancer despite initially receiving negative mammogram results. One of the leading advocates is Nancy Cappello, who was diagnosed with breast cancer despite ten years of negative mammograms, and was eventually told that only an ultrasound could detect her cancer, given her dense tissue. Following a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone treatment, Cappello began advocating for legislation mandating that physicians inform women when they have dense breasts. As Allen writes: “Their message is hard to resist. They are advocating to inform and empower women. They want to standardize, improve, and promote increased doctor-patient communication. Their message is so enticing that state legislatures across the country are listening.” In 2009, Connecticut (Cappello’s home state) became the first state to pass such a law, and twenty-three states have followed. (Legislation is pending in ten states, and a bill was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.). Continue reading "Legislating Medicine"

Coercion and the Conceptual Force of Law

Frederick Schauer, The Force of Law (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015).

Some of the most difficult problems in legal and political philosophy concern the state’s use of coercive enforcement mechanisms. The problem of justifying state authority, for example, is an important moral problem precisely because the state characteristically employs enforcement mechanisms that coercively restrict the freedom of law subjects – coercion being presumptively problematic. Without such mechanisms, authority does no more than “tell people what to do” – a practice that seems presumptuous and rude but not one that would give rise to any serious moral problem that warrants a great deal of philosophical attention.

In The Force of Law, Frederick Schauer discusses a variety of problems that arise in legal theory because of the law’s characteristic use of coercive enforcement mechanisms. The book’s treatment of the role of coercion in law spans the entire spectrum of these philosophical problems, encompassing issues that are conceptual, normative, and empirically descriptive in character. It is an unrelentingly fascinating discussion that demonstrates Schauer’s impressive mastery of a literature on coercion that crosses many discipline lines. The book succeeds in bringing the problems associated with coercion back to the forefront of debates about the nature of law; it is, for this and many other reasons, a must-read. Continue reading "Coercion and the Conceptual Force of Law"