Monthly Archives: April 2016

A Right to Participate in the Electoral Process

Robert Yablon, Voting, Spending, and the Right to Participate, available at SSRN.

In McCutcheon v. FEC, Chief Justice Roberts described campaign contributions as a form of participation in electoral politics. His plurality opinion invalidating aggregate limits on contributions to federal candidates concluded that “[c]onstituents have the right to support candidates who share their views and concerns” and that representatives’ responsiveness to such concerns “is key to the very concept of self-governance through elected officials.” As commentators quickly noticed, there was something curious about this paean to democratic representation: the “constituents” the Chief Justice described were not eligible to vote for most of the candidates they were funding. They were not, in other words, constituents in the usual sense. Was this a mere “oops”? A deliberate, if subtle, move to reshape campaign finance law? Something else?

Robert Yablon’s insightful new article, Voting, Spending, and the Right to Participate, offers a fresh approach to this conundrum. Rather than dismiss McCutcheon’s arguments about political participation as rhetoric or subterfuge, Yablon engages the opinion’s suggestion that “[t]here is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders,” a right that may be exercised through the franchise or through monetary contributions. What would it mean, he asks, for our disparate law concerning voting and spending to instead conceptualize both as forms of participation in the electoral process? Continue reading "A Right to Participate in the Electoral Process"

Rethinking Parties and Politics in Administrative Law

Michael A. Livermore, Political Parties and Presidential Oversight, 67 Al. L. Rev. 45 (2015).

Ever since courts have recognized the legitimacy of political influence on agency policymaking, scholars have struggled to formulate a model of Administrative Law that describes an appropriate balance between such influence and agency expertise. The current reigning consensus – the Presidential Control Model – fails to satisfy many critics, especially in light of recent Presidential assertions of greater and greater power over the apparatus of administrative government. More recently, the heightened partisanship of federal government has added to concerns that presidential control does not assure that the administrative state is sufficiently responsive to the general polity and the public interest. Thus, it is surprising that up until now few scholars have explicitly analyzed the role of political parties in the operation of the federal administrative state, and none have tried to use the workings of contemporary parties to formulate a normative account of how politics should inform agency policymaking. Political Parties and Presidential Oversight by Michael Livermore takes a large and impressive first step to fill that analytic vacuum.

Livermore begins by reviewing the replacement of the local, patronage-driven party system that existed prior to the Kennedy Administration, with the modern national, professional and programmatically driven party system. He then summarizes arguments that the modern party system, along with candidate-centered politics, will drive Presidential elections towards candidates that implement the policy preferences of the majority or, more precisely, the median voter. Livermore rejects the candidate-centered model because Presidents do not seem to implement unifying policy agendas that reflect the position of the median voter. He therefore reinvigorates a theory of “responsible party government.” Continue reading "Rethinking Parties and Politics in Administrative Law"

Dismissing Discrimination

David Schraub, Dismissal (2016), available at SSRN.

In a recent article in The New York Times Magazine, sociologist Alice Goffman – author of an award-winning book that followed a group of African-American men in Philadelphia over six years – addressed accusations that her book presents an implausible account of police practices. When the magazine reporter sought corroboration from the police themselves about certain of these alleged practices, Goffman challenged the notion that “[t]he way to validate the claims in the book is by getting officials who are white men in power to corroborate them.” She continued, “The point of the book is for people who are written off and delegitimated to describe their own lives and to speak for themselves about the reality they face, and this is a reality that goes absolutely against the narratives of officials or middle-class people. So finding ‘legitimate’ people to validate the claims – it feels wrong to me on just about every level.”

In his new article, Dismissal, David Schraub takes aim at exactly the phenomenon that Goffman describes: the act of dismissal, by which “the interpretive frames proffered by [a] claimant [are portrayed] as illegitimate and the testimonial offerings of the claimant as irrational.” (p. 28.) (To be clear, neither Schraub nor this review engage with the substance of the criticisms of Goffman’s work, but rather to use her comments about corroboration and validation as a jumping-off point. Schraub does not discuss Goffman in his article.) Schraub is concerned both with courts’ dismissal of novel legal claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b), and with dismissal in its broader sense, “a decision (in any deliberative context) to dispense with a proffered claim prior to considering its merits.” (p. 3.) Continue reading "Dismissing Discrimination"

Shades of Discrimination Brought to Light

Nancy Leong, Negative Identity, 88 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1357 (2015).

Justice Kennedy raised some hackles when he said in Obergefell v. Hodges that “[m]arriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might cry out only to find no one there.” Some wondered how Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor—one widowed, one never married, and one long-single—must have felt to sign on to an opinion grouping them together with other souls “condemned to live in loneliness.” Others criticized the opinion’s rhetoric as unnecessarily demeaning to life outside of marriage. Justice Kennedy’s disparagement of single life might have been lamentable, but it usefully highlights a common experience of those who do not participate in the social institutions—sex, partnership, organized religion, and child-rearing—that society deems fundamental. Such individuals often find themselves the targets of marginalization, animus, or unfair treatment under the law.

In her thought-provoking article, Negative Identity, Nancy Leong brings together several of these identities—atheist, asexual, single, and childfree—and builds a case for their protection. Identity is a complicated subject and Leong takes care to define and defend her categories. Leong uses the term “negative identity” to refer to those identities marked by indifference or antipathy to something that much of society views as fundamental. These identities are negative in terms of opposition but not in terms of absence: the childfree, for example, do not merely lack children; they have chosen not to have children based on emotional commitments, personal and professional freedom, environmentalism, or simply a desire to allocate personal resources to other causes. By defining the term in this way, Leong means to distinguish between those who have affirmatively taken on these identities from those with only passing affiliation with these identities. That is, the term is intended to distinguish between those who consciously choose to forego sex and those who are celibate because they are between intimate relationships. Likewise, “negative identity” focuses on those who have chosen to forego parenthood from those who may desire children, but who have not yet acted upon these desires or been successful in their attempts at parenthood. Continue reading "Shades of Discrimination Brought to Light"

Reviving the Dead Hand After Repeal of the Rule Against Perpetuities

Reid Kress Weisbord, Trust Term Extension, 67 Fla. L. Rev. 73 (2015).

Over the past few decades, most states have repealed the Rule Against Perpetuities or significantly extended the time period during which trusts may continue to exist. As a result of these changes, estate planners frequently attempt to extend the terms of trusts that were originally created to comply with the Rule Against Perpetuities. They primarily do this through modification doctrines, such as equitable deviation.

In this article, Dean Reid Kress Weisbord argues against the use of modification doctrines to extend the duration of trusts beyond the Rule Against Perpetuities period that was in effect when the trust was created. In addition, he recommends that the drafters of the Uniform Trust Code (the “UTC”) modify the UTC to clarify that modification doctrines do not permit the addition of beneficiaries to the trust who were not identified in the original trust instrument. Continue reading "Reviving the Dead Hand After Repeal of the Rule Against Perpetuities"

Boilerplate and the Boundary Between Contract and Tort

Margaret Jane Radin’s latest work, Boilerplate: The Fine Print, Vanishing Rights, and the Rule of Law and a companion article and book chapter interrogate how now-ubiquitous fine print buried deep in consumer contracts affects the rights of ordinary Americans. This boilerplate can take many forms. It includes “extravagant exculpatory clauses,” choice-of-law provisions, and waivers of consequential damages. Frequently, and perhaps most importantly, it also includes agreements to arbitrate—and, in so doing, entails consent to eliminate the background protections we take for granted, including juries, reasonable filing fees, rights of appeal, rules of evidence, the ability to join with similarly aggrieved individuals, and stare decisis. Radin finds this fine print deeply troubling. She argues that, considered in tandem, these contractual terms make certain remedies for transgressions practically unavailable and thereby undermine individual autonomy, degrade democratic principles, and, ultimately, subvert the rule of law.

Because Radin is a contracts scholar—and her recent work is, on the face of it, about contract law—it would be easy for those of us who traffic in tort to miss the scholarship’s significance. That would be a mistake. Continue reading "Boilerplate and the Boundary Between Contract and Tort"

Practice Makes Perfect: Weaving Together the Fabric of the Virtuous Biller

Randy D. Gordon & Nancy B. Rapoport, Virtuous Billing, 16 Nev. L.J. 698 (2015).

During the holiday season, I think of Santa evaluating who is naughty and nice. Like Santa, senior lawyers in law firms make end-of-the-year determinations when deciding on bonuses, salary increases, promotions, and distributions. Unlike Santa who judges the character of children on his list, law firm partners may focus more on objective measures of worth. In law firms this often amounts to billable hours collected and business generated. In firms, new lawyers quickly learn what is valued within the organization and many shape their conduct to maximize their income and promotion possibilities. As explained by Eliyah Goldratt, the Israeli physicist and management consultant, “Tell me how you measure me and I will tell you how I will behave.”1

In their recent article, Virtuous Billing, Randy D. Gordon and Nancy B. Rapoport, recognize the role of incentives and performance management in law firms. The authors examine firm conduct and billing practices through the lens of virtue ethics. I especially like the article and commend it to you because it provides positive recommendations on steps that firm leaders and other interested parties can take to improve the quality of work for clients and the quality of life of lawyers. Continue reading "Practice Makes Perfect: Weaving Together the Fabric of the Virtuous Biller"

It’s Time To Revisit The Tax Treatment of Working Childcare Costs

Shannon Weeks McCormack, Over-Taxing the Working Family: Uncle Sam and the Childcare Squeeze, 114 Mich. L. Rev. ___ (2015), available at SSRN.

Childcare costs have soared in recent years while wages remain stagnant. To make matters worse, relief by provided by the tax code is extremely limited. Parents may be able to claim a tax credit for a portion of their childcare costs and may be able to divert limited funds to a pretax flexible spending account. But in many cases, these tax benefits capture only a minor portion of parents’ costs. It is no surprise, then, that with an election year upon us, a number of proposals to expand the current childcare tax credit have resurfaced in recent months. These proposals echo years of debate over whether the tax system discourages work by secondary earners and treats working parents unfairly vis-à-vis their non-parent counterparts.

But current proposals to modestly expand the childcare credit will make only a small dent in working parents’ childcare costs. Recognizing the inadequacy of such an approach, Shannon Weeks McCormack proposes a more fundamental reform in her forthcoming article, Over-Taxing the Working Family: Uncle Sam and the Childcare Squeeze. The childcare tax credit, she argues, should be replaced with an above-the-line deduction for childcare expenses that is not subject to phase-outs or dollar limitations. In essence, Weeks McCormack calls for according childcare expenses the same treatment as deductible trade or business expenses. Continue reading "It’s Time To Revisit The Tax Treatment of Working Childcare Costs"

Can “Legitimate Expectations” Ever be “Rights”?

Florian Dupuy & Pierre-Marie Dupuy, What to Expect from Legitimate Expectations? A Critical Appraisal and Look into the Future of the ‘Legitimate Expectations’ Doctrine in International Investment Law, in Festschrift Ahmed Sadek El-Kosheri: From the Arab World to the Globalization of International Law 273-298 (Mohamed Abdel Raouf, Philippe Leboulanger, & Nassib G. Ziadé eds., Kluwer 2015).

The trouble with the amiable practice of collections of essays in honor of admired scholars is that they are so often published in a stand-alone volume rather than in journals of record, with the result that they may be lost to all but initiates who happen to know of its existence. In the just-published Festschrift for Professor Ahmed Kosheri, the preeminent Egyptian international lawyer of his generation, this pearl of an essay deserves a better fate. It addresses fundamental issues with respect to the degree of legal stability to which a foreign investment is entitled from a host state in light of the instruments applicable to its entry, and suggests broad guidelines to resolve the hesitations of the caselaw to date.

The authors are a father-son team of French authors, each exceptionally erudite and polyglot. Florian, the son, holds degrees from three major law faculties (Paris, Humboldt, and Cambridge). In 2007, he presented a thesis for joint recognition by Paris (Panthéon-Assas) and Humboldt which is of direct relevance to this joint contribution, entitled La protection de l’attente légitime des parties au contrat – Étude de droit international des investissements à la lumière du droit comparé. Pierre-Marie has for long been one of the bright stars on the firmament of international legal scholars and prominent among the lawyers who practice before the International Court of Justice. He has also served as arbitrator on tribunals deciding important disputes between states and foreign investors arising under bilateral investment treaties and thus applying the law referred to in their title. Continue reading "Can “Legitimate Expectations” Ever be “Rights”?"

Can Property Principles Save International Law?

Joseph Blocher & G. Mitu Gulati, A Market for Sovereign Control, Duke L.J. (forthcoming 2016), available at SSRN.

International law currently finds itself in a bit of a jam.  The time-honored principle of territorial integrity grants nations near-absolute control over their borders. Central governments, for example, routinely reject boundary changes proposed by neighboring states or internal secessionist movements. At the same time, however, the increasingly relevant principle of self-determination demands that all peoples have the opportunity to choose their own national affiliations, govern themselves, and develop free political institutions.

What happens when these two doctrines come into tension?  When does the desire for self-determination and the search for better governance trump the inviolability of international borders? And how should the international community respond when a local region seeks to escape an unjust parent country?

In a new article, Joseph Blocher and Mitu Gulati propose an audacious solution to this defining quandry of modern international relations. Blocher and Gulati attempt to solve the problem of international boundary disputes and increase good governance by introducing property theory into the arena of international law.  The crux of their idea is that a nation’s control over its borders should become subject to a liability rule rather than a property rule if it discriminates against one of its constituent regions. Continue reading "Can Property Principles Save International Law?"