Monthly Archives: June 2017

On Gender Disparity and Dialogue

Jennifer Mika, The Noteworthy Absence of Women Advocates at the United States Supreme Court, 25 Amer. U. J. of Gender, Soc. Pol’y & Law 1 (2017), available at SSRN.

Jennifer Mika’s essay examining the scarcity of women arguing before the Supreme Court is a valuable contribution to a growing literature tracking gender disparities at all stages of the legal profession. Research has examined disparities in the way men and women experience the law school classroom, interact with professors, obtain clerkships, make partner at private firms, enter academia, gain tenure, and leave the profession altogether. Mika has made several contributions to this area of research.

In her latest work, Mika’s findings are stark. She draws upon two original data sets: one including every attorney who argued before the Supreme Court during the 2015-2016 term; the other including every attorney who has argued more than once in any term since 2010. During the 2015-2016 term, of the 117 people who argued before the Supreme Court, only 20 were women, or 17%. And since 2010, only 15 of 80 advocates who argued more than one case before the Supreme Court, or 19%, were women. Continue reading "On Gender Disparity and Dialogue"

The Sticks in the Chinese Property Rights Bundle

Shitong Qiao, The Evolution of Chinese Property Law: Stick by Stick?, in Private Law in China and Taiwan: Legal and Economic Analyses (Yun-chien Chang et al. eds., Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2017), available at SSRN.

There is ongoing disagreement among Western scholars as to whether property rights are in personam or in rem rights, and scholars’ views have evolved over time. Blackstone emphasized dominion and exclusion. Scholars in the twentieth century shifted the focus to the “bundle of rights.” More recently, some property law scholars have emphasized the view that property is a “law of things.”

As Shitong Qiao, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, observes in a recent book chapter, most of these scholars adopt a Western perspective. Consequently, these scholars have overlooked the relevance of this discussion to the evolution of property law in developing countries, including China. Continue reading "The Sticks in the Chinese Property Rights Bundle"

Plus ça Change

Camden Hutchison, Progressive Era Conception of the Corporation and the Failure of the Federal Chartering MovementColum. Bus. L. Rev (forthcoming, 2017), available at SSRN.

Good history, including good legal history, sheds light on our own times. Well-written history, peopled with recognizable figures and marked by a strong narrative arc, also makes for good reading. In a new article, Camden Hutchison brings a precise historical eye and an engaging storytelling style to the understudied area of corporate legal history. His topic is Progressive Era corporate law reform, and particularly the question of why the United States failed to develop a federal corporate law regime in that period (and, of course, since).

Hutchison investigates how it could be that “in an era marked by ambitious efforts to reform the national economy, the [federal] chartering movement would distinguish itself, both in the breadth of its political appeal and the decisiveness of its failure”. His conclusions are illuminating and relevant. Once again, in the current era of populist discontent and economic inequality, we find ourselves confronting fundamental questions about the corporate form, the relationship between private wealth and the public interest, and about what a “progressive” corporate law regime might actually seek to accomplish. Continue reading "Plus ça Change"

Gaps and Shadows in the Common Law

Mark P. Gergen, Privity’s Shadow: Exculpatory Terms in Extended Forms of Private Ordering, 43 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 1 (2015).

It’s hard to think of anyone who analyzes the interstices of the common law better than Mark Gergen, an expert in an almost improbable number of legal fields. By interstices, I mean the spaces that don’t fall neatly into single subjects like contract, tort, or property—for example, the economic torts and the interface between contract and restitution. In Privity’s Shadow: Exculpatory Terms in Extended Forms of Private Ordering, Professor Gergen brings his knowledge of the boundaries of these subjects to bear on a specific recurring pattern of problems: whether exculpatory terms in a contract should prevent a negligence action by a victim who wasn’t a party to the contract.

So, for example, if the standard form contract between FedEx and its customers purports to limit FedEx’s liability to $100, does that term prevent full recovery by a child physically injured when FedEx negligently fails to deliver the child’s hospital’s shipment of the child’s blood samples? 1 Even this relatively straightforward example shows the potential complexity of the problems in this area. Continue reading "Gaps and Shadows in the Common Law"

Russia’s Lawyers: Russia and the US Through the Lens of the Legal Profession

Kathryn Hendley, Evaluating the Prospects for Young Lawyers to Remake Putin’s Russia, 1 Russian Politics 450 (2016).

The news about Russia’s interference in the U.S. election raises myriad questions for lawyers, including for students of the legal profession. For example, are Russia’s lawyers being trained in ways that position them to be complicit in President Putin’s increasing autocracy? Or is their education preparing them to challenge his control? Have they served as enabler or challenger in the past? Is there any reason to expect them to take a more activist role today? And generally, what explains the differences among nations in the ways lawyers pursue or forego action aimed at constraining governmental overreach and corruption?

These questions are among the topics explored by Kathryn Hendley in her work on the Russian legal profession and legal system. Hendley’s newest article, Evaluating the Prospects for Young Lawyers to Remake Putin’s Russia, considers whether a group of recent law graduates “might be willing to take on the regime in defense of civil society.” (P. 452.) Her focus on lawyers arises from the recognition that “[l]aw has played a critical role in this strangulation of civil society” in Russia, on one hand, and that “[i]n some other authoritarian polities, lawyers have taken the lead in holding authorities to account, often paying a heavy personal price for doing so.” (P.451.) Their use of law’s mechanisms to pursue justice “act as signals … [that] may evince a nascent civil society ….” (P. 451.) Continue reading "Russia’s Lawyers: Russia and the US Through the Lens of the Legal Profession"

Factoids, Alternative Facts, and the Truth

Urska Velikonja, Are SEC’s Administrative Law Judges Biased? An Empirical Investigation, 92 Wash. L.Rev. (forthcoming), available at SSRN.

When President Trump declares that he had the largest electoral college victory by a Republican since President Reagan, or that but for the 3 to 5 million illegal votes he would have won the popular vote, or that he had the largest inauguration crowd ever, everyone has come to learn that these “alternative facts” are not to be trusted. But when the Wall Street Journal publishes articles purporting to show that securities defendants are considerably more likely to lose when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sues them in administrative proceedings than when it sues them in court, because of the SEC’s “home-court” advantage before its ALJs, people take it seriously. So seriously indeed that the media, scholars, and even judges cite to the articles as established fact. But it’s not, and we have Professor Urska Velikonja to thank for establishing that.

To begin, while the brouhaha occasioned by the Journal articles has been centered around the SEC, and largely its enforcement efforts under the now controversial Dodd-Frank Act, the underlying thesis – that defendants do not get justice in administrative proceedings before ALJs, because those ALJs are biased in favor of their employer – would apply government-wide, not just to the SEC. And if given credence, this thesis would undermine what has been an essential aspect of administrative law for more than a century – administrative enforcement subject to judicial review as an alternative to executive actions in court for judicial enforcement. In other words, the stakes are high, and the truth, not factoids, is critical. Continue reading "Factoids, Alternative Facts, and the Truth"

A New Approach to Labor Law in States & Cities

Kate Andrias, The New Labor Law, 126 Yale L.J. 2 (2016).

Perhaps the greatest success story for unions and workers over the last five years is the wave of state and local ordinances that have raised minimum wages, guaranteed sick and safe time, and improved corporate scheduling practices, among other worker-friendly innovations. At the same time, though, union density has remained flat, as unions’ successes in campaigns for better working conditions have not translated into large numbers of successful union elections. Moreover, with the election of Donald Trump, further erosion of union density is likely: unions will face a hostile NLRB possibly compounded by federal labor law reform in the form of a national “right to work” law or evisceration of collective bargaining rights for federal employees. In other words, unions’ campaigns to improve working conditions have been wildly successful so far – they just haven’t led to more enterprise-based bargaining, as contemplated by the Wagner model of labor law.

Where does this leave unions? The pessimistic story is that private employers – aided by an anticipated spate of favorable NLRB decisions – will continue to rebuff union drives, Republicans will continue to weaken public sector unions in states they control and in the federal government, and the Supreme Court will eliminate mandatory dues or fees in public sector unions nationwide. And it goes nearly without saying that prospects for creating conditions in which unions could thrive – for example, by passing legislation to facilitate sectoral-level bargaining – went from “very unlikely” to “completely DOA” with the 2016 election. But Kate Andrias develops a more optimistic story in her pathbreaking article, The New Labor Law. She focuses with precision on exactly how unions have managed to achieve their recent successes, revealing that, in a sense, sectoral and regional bargaining are actually already here, and they can be nurtured and propelled at the state level. Continue reading "A New Approach to Labor Law in States & Cities"

Parentage by Presumed Consent

Paula A. Monopoli, Inheritance Law and the Marital Presumption After Obergefell, 8 Estate Planning & Community Prop. L.J. 437 (2016).

The marital presumption always elicits a lively discussion in a Family Law or Estates & Trusts course. But marriage equality for same-sex couples raises a new question: If a child born to a married woman is presumed to be her husband’s child, must the law also presume that a child born to a woman in a same-sex marriage is her wife’s child? Professor Paula A. Monopoli answers this question in the affirmative in her article Inheritance Law and the Marital Presumption After Obergefell and specifically addresses the role of the presumption in the context of inheritance law.

Courts confronted with the claim that marriage equality requires the extension of the marital presumption to same-sex couples have reached different conclusions. Professor Monopoli first analyses the cases that have refused to extend the marital presumption to a female spouse who is not the genetic or birth mother of a child birthed by her wife during the marriage. She explains that these courts have focused on only one goal of the presumption—establishing a biological connection between a birth mother’s child and her husband. Consequently, these courts have concluded that the marital presumption only applies where there is a possibility that the birth mother’s spouse could be the child’s biological parent. Continue reading "Parentage by Presumed Consent"

How Important is Community to Tort Law?

Christina Carmody Tilley, Tort Law Inside Out, 126 Yale L. J. 1321 (2017).

Christina Tilley’s new article on the purpose of tort law is audacious. It boldly claims that other tort theorists have got it wrong: tort law is not primarily concerned with efficiency or morality but instead (spoiler alert!) is all about constructing community. Aligning herself with a group of scholars called the New Doctrinalists, she purports to find this overarching community-constructing purpose embedded within tort doctrine itself and in the process contends that other theories, including civil recourse theory, are really external theories (hence the title, Tort Law [From the] Inside Out). She canvasses tort cases from the colonial period to the present in an attempt to demonstrate that “community” has always played a central role in tort law, even as communities in the U.S. have undergone dramatic changes.

Christina Tilley’s article is also very creative. To prove the centrality of “community” in tort law, she conducts a “rudimentary linguistic analysis” (p.1340) of the digital version of the Restatement (Second) of Torts and discovers that references to community (47 times) are more plentiful than utility (34), efficiency (3), morality (24), or justice (3). To unpack the meaning of “community” most relevant to tort law, she draws upon classic works in sociology and political theory to make intriguing distinctions between sociological and political communities and closed versus open communities. And she peppers her article with examples of contemporary controversies (parents opposed to vaccination, football concussion injuries, texting while driving) where outcomes in tort cases are likely to differ, depending on which community has its say. The sheer breadth and sophistication of the article gives readers much to admire and much to contest. At the end of 80 pages, I was not entirely persuaded, but I suspect that Tilley’s paean to community will have real staying power. Continue reading "How Important is Community to Tort Law?"

Rethinking Judicial Independence

Tara Leigh Grove, The Origins (and Fragility) of Judicial Independence, 71 Vand. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2018), available at SSRN.

It is an extraordinary time when the following sentence—“it is hard to underestimate the importance of [X]”—has a plethora of topics all credibly vying for the position of “X.” Appreciating the competition, one would be hard-pressed not to include the independence of the judiciary as a prime candidate. When the eventual President calls into question the impartiality of a judge based on the judge’s “heritage” or when a court’s ruling on the administration’s travel ban might not be heeded, at least two conclusions can be drawn. First, the independence of the judiciary is presently being tested. Second, the independence of the judiciary may well be needed more than ever. Against such a backdrop, it is vital for current scholarship to provide a way to think through and assess that independence.

Enter Tara Leigh Grove’s thoughtful new article, The Origins (and Fragility) of Judicial Independence.

Drawing in part from her own (excellent) past work, Grove undertakes a significant examination of the independence of the federal judiciary. She traces the historical arcs of several key contestations between the judicial branch and one of its sibling branches, including the failure to comply with a court order, the potential removal of a judicial officer outside the impeachment process, and court packing. Though these contestations have received scholarly attention before, Grove brings them together in a new way. In so doing, she provides a persuasive account of how these various attempts to curb the courts were not only not verboten, but were embraced in the early days of the judiciary—and how political actors ultimately reversed their course. Continue reading "Rethinking Judicial Independence"