Monthly Archives: June 2020

We’re All in This Together

Luca Enriques, Alessandro Romano & Thom Wetzer, Network-Sensitive Financial Regulation, 45 J. Corp. L. __ (forthcoming, 2020), available at SSRN.

It is difficult to know what wisdom from pre-pandemic times will carry forward. One thing that feels very relevant, however, is the notion of applying network-sensitive approaches to regulatory structures that previously were atomistic in orientation. COVID-19 (the global emergency, not the virus) is nothing if not the product of global networks.

It takes some time for the full impact of a new paradigm to be realized. Those of us who have followed the systemic risk literature over the last decade or more will, I think, recognize in “Network-Sensitive Financial Regulation” a more comprehensive embrace of network theory than we have seen so far. Post-crisis recognition of systemically important financial institutions, or SIFIs, has always been somewhat awkwardly bolted onto existing regulatory structures. This is an exceptional article, because it represents a genuine step change in our thinking. It convincingly demonstrates how we might better incorporate network awareness into systemic risk analysis and macroprudential regulation, and then extends its insights further, to the micro level of corporate governance. Continue reading "We’re All in This Together"

Judicial Review and Emergency Powers

Lindsay Wiley and Stephen I. Vladeck, Coronavirus, Civil Liberties, and the Courts: The Case Against “Suspending” Judicial Review, 133 Harv. L. Rev. Forum __ (forthcoming, 2020), available at SSRN.

The coronavirus epidemic has raised urgent questions of constitutional rights and judicial review. In response to the pandemic, which has taken over 100,000 lives in the US and many more abroad, governments at all levels have enacted a host of policies that potentially threaten constitutional rights or butt against structural limits on government power. Numerous cases have been filed challenging some of these policies, arguing that they violate the Free Exercise of Religion and Free Speech clauses of First Amendment, the Second Amendment, constitutional protection for abortion rights, the Takings Clause, separation of powers principles, and other provisions of federal and state constitutions.How should we treat these claims? In particular, how should courts treat them?

In light of these questions, it’s hard to imagine a more timely and relevant constitutional law article than Lindsay Wiley and Steve Vladeck’s forthcoming article. In it, Wiley and Vladeck ask whether normal judicial review should be “suspended” during the ongoing pandemic. Continue reading "Judicial Review and Emergency Powers"

On the Dangers of Beautiful (Contract) Theory

Is there a moral principle that animates contract law everywhere? In his thoughtful book that elegantly spans high theory and ground-level doctrine, Prince Saprai argues that there is not. While contract law in Great Britain might be designed to promote trust through cooperative relations, that is not its exclusive purpose. Moreover, even that purpose is contingent on the particular normative priorities of the British with respect to contract. Saprai says that contract theorists, especially those who promote the idea that contract law tracks promissory morality, are not just wrong about their primary claim but also about their underlying assumption that contract law has an essential governing moral principle that is independent of the commitments of those who use it in a given time and place.

Saprai suggests that contract theorists tend to overclaim in another respect as well. Whatever the constitutive purpose of contract law in a jurisdiction, that purpose is usually not determinative of doctrine in any complete way. There are many ways to interpret the purpose and how it is best served by rule choices. Even systems that espouse the same purpose for contract law are likely to diverge in their substantive doctrines. Continue reading "On the Dangers of Beautiful (Contract) Theory"

Global Democracy and Comparative Distrust

Stephen Gardbaum, Comparative Political Process Theory, 18 Int’l. J. Const. L. __ (forthcoming, 2020), available at SSRN.

The United States is a democracy in crisis. Deep-seated institutional racism and ongoing systemic threats to the political process in the United States demand our active attention. The challenges to American representative democracy that John Hart Ely outlined in Democracy and Distrust—voter suppression and systematic political disadvantage due to discrimination—and his arguments for remedial representative reinforcement seem more salient than ever. But what of the global crisis? Democracies around the world are faltering. Do Ely’s insights have purchase for Poland or Hungary, South Africa or Turkey? Stephen Gardbaum persuasively argues that they do, albeit after some elaboration and refinement, in his new piece, Comparative Political Process Theory, forthcoming this winter in the International Journal of Constitutional Law. (The article will also be the focus of a set of ICON Debate! commentaries, published in the same issue.) Using Ely as inspiration, Gardbaum provides a new and broader framework for identifying and categorizing political process failures in representative democracy, and explores a wider set of remedies for these breakdowns, including—though not limited to—judicial review.

A political process failure is the violation of core democratic procedural values or principles either by “delegitimiz[ing] the relevant process” through a singular grave occurrence, or by “systematically undermin[ing]” them over time. (P. 33.) And to ground the analysis, Gardbaum identifies a minimum slate of these core democratic procedure values, including robust political competition and contestation; pluralistic governance; differentiated institutional roles; accountability; political equality among citizens; and representation. Continue reading "Global Democracy and Comparative Distrust"

6 Degrees of Delegation

Cary Coglianese, Dimensions of Delegation, 167 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1849 (2019).

In Dimensions of Delegation, Cary Coglianese provides a principled account of the U.S. Supreme Court’s nondelegation jurisprudence. Specifically, he reconciles the seemingly idiosyncratic Schechter Poultry case with subsequent applications of the nondelegation doctrine by theorizing a multi-dimensional model of delegated power. In so doing, he provides a template for rethinking nondelegation as a matter of doctrine, rather than as a matter of political theory or political economy, as it is so often treated by partisans on both sides.

I long have puzzled over the jurisprudential treatment of Schechter Poultry. The Supreme Court has refused to overrule the case but yet has declined to follow it. More cryptically, even detailed discussions of nondelegation precedent, such as Justice Gorsuch’s recent romp in Gundy v. United States, fail to discuss important nuances of the case—including the fact that the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) contained explicit criteria for when the President could approve a code of fair conduct that would easily pass the modern “intelligible principle” test. The NIRA required that three criteria be met before the President could endorse a code of fair competition: (1) the trade association that proposed the code was “truly representative” of the regulated industry; (2) the code was not “designed to promote monopolies or to eliminate or oppress small enterprises and will not operate to discriminate against them”; and (3) the code would “tend to effectuate the policy of this title.” While this standard leaves the president with broad discretion to choose which codes to approve, it can hardly be suggested that it constrains executive discretion less than delegations subsequently endorsed by the Court without a nod to Schechter Poultry—up to and including the statutory charge to many agencies to discharge their delegated authority in the “public interest.” Continue reading "6 Degrees of Delegation"

Reinvigorating the Non-Delegation Doctrine

Cary Coglianese, Dimensions of Delegation, 167 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1849 (2019).

Cary Coglianese’s article, Dimensions of Delegation, is timely. The Court has invoked the non-delegation doctrine as the basis to invalidate a statute only once 85 years ago. The only statute that the Court has ever invalidated based on application of the non-delegation doctrine actually delegated extraordinarily broad power to private participants in markets rather than to an agency. During the past year, however, five Supreme Court Justices have made it clear that they are open to the possibility of relying on the non-delegation doctrine as the basis to hold statutes unconstitutional. Even many scholars who have long opposed attempts to reinvigorate the non-delegation doctrine have become more receptive to that possibility in today’s conditions.

A recent online symposium published by The Regulatory Review illustrates the state of the debate. Jonathan Adler and Chris Walker introduced the symposium with their excellent essay: “Delegation and Time.” They made the point that the increasing inability or unwillingness of Congress to amend broadly worded statutes that confer regulatory power on agencies has created a situation in which agencies are forced to apply statutes that are so old that they were drafted when no one could have anticipated the uses to which they are now being put. Thus, for instance, the FCC is using the Communications Act of 1934 as the basis to regulate the internet and the EPA is using the Clean Air Act of 1970 as the basis to take the actions required to mitigate climate change. The result increasingly is a series of agency actions that Congress never contemplated and that might not be consistent with the values of the Congress that enacted the old statute, the present Congress, or the people. Continue reading "Reinvigorating the Non-Delegation Doctrine"

The Rich (Families) Are Different

Allison Anna Tait, The Law of High-Wealth Exceptionalism, 71 Ala. L. Rev. __ (2019), available at SSRN.

In April of 2019 lawyers representing the “Kimberley Rice Kaestner 1992 Family Trust” argued a case against the North Carolina Department of Revenue before the Supreme Court of the United States. A few months later the Court unanimously ruled in favor of the trust in that case. The Court’s decision was a major victory for wealthy families; not so much for ordinary folks who pay state income taxes. You may not have heard of the Kaestner case. No news about it appeared in the New York Times. Ever. But you can and should read Allison Anna Tait’s insightful article, The Law of High-Wealth Exceptionalism. It’s about the Kaestner case. Well, it’s not really about the Kaestner case; actually Tait doesn’t even mention it. But her article is, at least in part, about the category of cases that the Kaestner case belongs to and it is about the state of affairs that brought about the case, and many others like it, and so much more.

In her article, Tait gives us a panoramic perspective—a bird’s eye view—of what she calls “the law of high-wealth exceptionalism.” The law of high-wealth exceptionalism is not any particular law, but rather a collection of favorable laws that, functionally, apply only to high-wealth families. Because, in theory, while anyone could take advantage of a scheme like that which the Kaestner family’s lawyers concocted to externalize the cost of governmental goods and services provided to Kimberley Kaestner by the State of North Carolina, in practice you really need to have a lot of wealth to do so. And as Tait points out, wealthy families “benefit not only from their material resources but also from the fact that most of the population is not familiar with the vast network of laws that govern family wealth and may even be disinterested in [legal] events that are of core concern to the family oligarchs.” Continue reading "The Rich (Families) Are Different"

Who Feels Entitled to Assert Legal Rights?

Kathryne M. Young & Katie Billings, Legal Consciousness and Cultural Capital, 54 Law & Soc’y Rev. 33 (2020).

Consider the following hypothetical:

One day before you leave for work, an officer knocks on your door and says that there have been drug sales reported on your block. He says you don’t have to let him in, but that he’s checking the homes in the suspected area, and that it will only take 20 minutes. You are already late for an important meeting. You have nothing illegal in your house. Do you let the officer search? (P. 41.)

Chances are, if you are reading this, you would say no, or ask the officer to come back at a more convenient time. In Kathryne M. Young and Katie Billings’ study of people’s responses to five rights assertion vignettes, only 26.7% of respondents with high cultural capital said that they would comply with police requests, compared to 55.1% of respondents with limited cultural capital. (P. 45.) People with high cultural capital also were more likely to explain their responses in terms of “entitlement,” by expressing “the primacy of their own needs, rights, or desires in relation to the objective of law enforcement or the legal system.” (P. 45.) People with limited cultural capital were more likely to express “futility,” suggesting that “asserting a right would be useless.” (P. 49.) These findings have important implications for policing and criminal procedure, as well as for the role of lawyers in civil access to justice. Continue reading "Who Feels Entitled to Assert Legal Rights?"

The Internet of Beliefs and Strategies: How NGOs Fight Energy Projects in a Digitally Connected World

David B. Spence, Regulation and the New Politics of (Energy) Market Entry, 95 Notre Dame L. Rev. 327 (2019), available at SSRN.

A burgeoning literature explores the siting challenges, equity issues, and justice concerns associated with energy project development. The important role that NGOs like the Sierra Club, 350.org, or the Environmental Defense Fund play in the ensuing conflicts is widely acknowledged, yet the dynamics of NGO mobilization are relatively underexplored.  Professor David Spence’s fine article, Regulation and the New Politics of (Energy) Market Entry, goes a long way toward closing that gap, offering critical insights into NGO strategy, framing, and coordination.

Professor Spence starts by laying out the tensions resulting from the U.S. energy economy’s reliance on private investments to build and maintain the infrastructure necessary to meet the American public’s demand for energy services. These investment decisions are guided by statutes and regulations that reflect the evolving prioritization among three fundamental objectives that make up the so-called energy trilemma: affordability, reliability, and environmental performance. Historically, the first two objectives dominated but, more recently, climate change and other environmental prerogatives have emerged as the driving forces behind much energy investment. Continue reading "The Internet of Beliefs and Strategies: How NGOs Fight Energy Projects in a Digitally Connected World"

Tort Rules Versus Tort Practice: The Products Liability Controversy That Wasn’t

Aaron D. Twerski, An Essay on the Quieting of Products Liability Law, 105 Cornell L. Rev. 101 (forthcoming, 2020), available at SSRN.

Over and over, legal scholars have revealed situations in which different legal rules do not produce the different legal outcomes they portend. When states limit juries’ power to award punitive damages, juries instead award increased damages under a compensatory damage head. Catherine M. Sharkey, Crossing the Punitive-Compensatory Divide, in Civil Juries and Civil Justice 79, (Bornstein, Wiener, Schopp & Willborn eds. 2008). When states require juries to apportion responsibility between intentional and negligent tortfeasors, jurors may preserve negligence liability by apportioning more civil responsibility to a negligent party than an intentional one. Ellen M. Bublick, Upside Down – Terrorist, Proprietors, and Civil Responsibility for Crime Prevention in the Post – 9/11 Tort-Reform World, 41 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 1483 (2008). Legal rules matter, but not as much as we may think. Other normative values intercede.

In An Essay on the Quieting of Product Liability Law, Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability Reporter Aaron Twerski examines one of the most fevered controversies of recent products liability law— “whether liability for defective product design should be covered by risk-utility balancing or the consumer expectation test.” (P. 102.) Twenty years after the debate, Professor Twerski examines the difference between the risk-utility test applied in most states and the consumer expectations test followed in 17 jurisdictions. After much case analysis, Twerski concludes that the answer to the difference question in the two sets of jurisdictions is: not much. In 15 of the 17 jurisdictions that retain a consumer expectations test, Twerski could not find a single case in which the plaintiff did not introduce evidence of a reasonable alternative design. (P. 101, Pp. 111-120.) California and Florida are the outliers. (P. 120.) In California, reasonable alternative design (RAD) evidence is barred completely. (P. 121.) Continue reading "Tort Rules Versus Tort Practice: The Products Liability Controversy That Wasn’t"

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