Monthly Archives: February 2021

The Data Economy is Political

Salome Viljoen, Democratic Data: A Relational Theory for Data Governance (Nov. 11, 2020), available on SSRN.

Between 2018 and 2020, nine proposals (or discussion drafts) for comprehensive data privacy legislation were introduced in the U.S. Congress. 28 states introduced 42 comprehensive privacy bills during that time. This is on top of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which took effect in 2018, and the California Consumer Privacy Act, which took effect in 2020. Clearly, U.S. policymakers are eager to be active on privacy.

Are these privacy laws any good? Put differently, are policymakers drafting, debating, and enacting the kind of privacy laws we need to address the problems of informational capitalism? In Democratic Data: A Relational Theory for Data Governance, Salome Viljoen suggests that the answer is no. Continue reading "The Data Economy is Political"

Troubling Legislation

Clint Wallace’s short essay, The Troubling Case of the Unlimited Pass-Through Deduction: Section 2304 of the CARES Act, is well worth a read for tax scholars, non-tax scholars, and non-scholars alike. The essay addresses what may be thought of by some as one of the “esoteric” provisions of the CARES Act. The upshot is that, by using the very esoteric nature of the provision as cover, Congress slipped costly, regressive, unjustifiable legislation into the CARES Act, which was sold to the public as progressive, emergency relief from the COVID-19 disaster.

The essay is important for a number of reasons. First, it educates readers about how the CARES Act resurrects an unlimited pass-through deduction for high-income taxpayers. Second, by doing so, it helps readers understand how the CARES Act was actually regressive in important ways. Third, it more broadly cautions readers about some of the unseemly aspects of legislation, in which legislators benefit favored groups in ways that the public is unlikely to understand. Finally, by writing this short essay, Wallace models how scholars have a duty to shine a light on these aspects of the legislative process. Continue reading "Troubling Legislation"

Housing Integration: Moving Forward (Without Stepping Back)

Kristen Barnes, The Pieces of Housing Integration, 70 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 717 (2020).

The Fair Housing Act is now 52 years old but housing segregation persists. Historically, the government itself supported and entrenched our reality of “two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”1 Recognizing the vast and long-lasting harms caused by housing segregation and inequality, Congress passed The Fair Housing Act in 1968. The Act required government instrumentalities and partners act “in a manner affirmatively to further” fair housing (Section 8(d)). Government institutions and instrumentalities have not so acted, and inequitable and unfair housing continues, impacting all metrics of racial inequality.2

Professor Kristen Barnes’s article, The Pieces of Housing Integration, addresses head on the government’s failures to fulfil the mission of the Fair Housing Act. She adds an important voice and perspective to existing Fair Housing scholarship. Continue reading "Housing Integration: Moving Forward (Without Stepping Back)"

We Need to Work Together: Understanding Federal Agency Collaboration

The federal government manages tens of millions of acres of land across the United States. That land includes some of the most iconic landscapes in the country – such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Everglades National Parks. It also is land that provides habitat for endangered species, ecosystems that support communities and wildlife, resources such as timber and minerals for economic development, and more. Forests on federal lands have been at the center of the wildfire crisis enveloping California and the Western United States. Given these overlapping demands and their importance, these lands are a fertile source for conflict, and much litigation and political rancor.

Yet there are other ways to resolve that conflict – engagement between various interests (“stakeholders”), and federal, state, local, and tribal governments about how to manage the lands and achieve these conflicting goals. This kind of stakeholder collaboration has received relatively little treatment in the legal literature – and Karen Bradshaw’s article is a vital contribution simply because of its efforts to cover that gap. Supported by the Administrative Conference of the United States, Professor Bradshaw undertook an impressive assessment of how a wide range of federal agencies – focusing on, but not limited to, the public lands – use collaboration among different stakeholders to help manage conflicts over public resources. Continue reading "We Need to Work Together: Understanding Federal Agency Collaboration"

Reconciliation and the Limits of Cultural Competence

Lawyers need to be competent. No one would disagree with this simple fact. More contentious is the question of how to ensure that lawyers are, in fact, competent. On the pre-entry side of things, controversies have frequently erupted over law school curricula and bar exams. In the area of post-entry competence, recent years have seen lively discussions about how best to measure and ensure good lawyering. Within this dynamic context, Pooja Parmar’s recent article Reconciliation and Ethical Lawyering: Some Thoughts on Cultural Competence is an important contribution to the growing scholarly literature on what it means to be a competent lawyer in the 21st century.

The focus of Parmar’s article is the Canadian legal profession’s response to the Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (“TRC”). More specifically, Parmar focuses on the “particularly noticeable” attention given “to cultural competence or skills generally associated with the idea.” (P. 532.) For example, in response to the TRC Calls to Action, the Law Society of Alberta and the Law Society of British Columbia have both now instituted mandatory Indigenous cultural competence training for all lawyers. Continue reading "Reconciliation and the Limits of Cultural Competence"

The Pleasures of Method

Henry M. Cowles has written an absolutely brilliant book that traces the history of the idea of “the scientific method” from Darwin to Dewey. Although Cowles’ intended audience is historians of science, the book has important and tantalizing implications for those interested more generally in the twentieth-century modernist turn to method, process, procedure, and technique. This is a turn that American legal historians will recognize in the massive emphasis on procedure and process that marked twentieth-century American legal thought, beginning with the rise of the administrative state in the early twentieth century and reaching its apogee with the Legal Process School in the 1950s and 1960s.

The conventional account of the modernist turn to method runs as follows. Around 1900, thinkers in diverse realms of Euro-American intellectual life—ranging from law to literature, mathematics to music, physics to painting—became newly aware of the rickety scaffolding propping up their disciplines and endeavors. What were once deemed established truths, unassailable rationalities, given moralities, and transcendental aesthetic norms suddenly seemed spurious, the product of nothing but history, the tottering fabrications of fallible men. In the American legal context, this moment is exemplified in the scholarly writings, addresses, and judicial opinions of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. The modernist moment was famously disorienting, simultaneously frightening and challenging, at once fraught with promise and uncertainty. Old moorings had come undone. How was one to make sense of the world? How was one to proceed? Continue reading "The Pleasures of Method"

Procedure Here, There, and Everywhere

Alyssa King, Global Civil Procedure, __ Harv. Int’l. L. J. __ (forthcoming 2021), available at SSRN.

Remember when civil procedure was making headlines? Dozens of courts relied on familiar procedures to dismiss meritless lawsuits lacking proof or factual support. The Supreme Court dashed President Trump’s hopes of a judicial reversal of fortune by relying on standing to reject Texas’s attempt to have the Court exercise original jurisdiction over its suit against Pennsylvania and other states. While Trump and his affiliates complained that cases were being dismissed based on “technicalities,” those dismayed by Trump’s attempt to subvert the election rejoiced that civil procedure did its basic job of protecting justice.

These recent events—and more recent ones—provide a striking backdrop for Alyssa King’s Global Civil Procedure. Surveying procedural developments in litigation and arbitration around the world, King reveals an overlapping consensus in how institutions handle civil dispute resolution. She demonstrates a growing consensus on what procedure governs civil dispute resolution around the world but cautions that this seeming harmony conceals fundamental disagreements over what procedure is for, and thus differences in what procedure can and should do in different political contexts. Continue reading "Procedure Here, There, and Everywhere"

Beyond Exclusion

J. E. Penner, Property Rights, A Re-Examination (2020).

In my last year of law school, through the dark days of an Alberta winter, I read a book about property law by a young professor visiting from England. It was a dazzling book, brilliant and witty, learned and ambitious. It made clear that the idea of property was the proper subject of philosophical inquiry, something both obvious and marvelous that would repay close attention. That book, The Idea of Property in Law (1997), and its author, James Penner, have stood as a source of inspiration for property theorists (myself included) ever since. Now almost twenty-five years later, James Penner has revisited that account of property in a new book, the aptly-named, Property Rights: A Re-Examination.

What was so striking about The Idea of Property in Law, then and now? The first is its attempt to account for property in terms of its two essential features: the excludability of others from the object of the property right (the thing) and the separability of the thing from its owner. The second is its attempt to reconcile the idea of property as a right to a thing with the idea of property as a correlative jural relation. Penner insisted that property was both relational and a right to a thing and indeed that the relationality of property depended on its thingness. His claim was that the thing (the res) mediates between the duties of non-owners and the rights of owners. Property rights are correlative, on Penner’s account. Unlike other private law rights, they depend on the mediating role of things to achieve that correlativity. An owner may enter into any number of direct, personal relationships with others, individuals who become that owner’s tenants, licensees, buyers. But the owner’s relationship with everyone else is on a different footing, Penner pointed out. They may have no personal relationship with the owner at all: Their relationship to him is only “through his property” and that relationship is regulated by a general duty not to interfere with the property of others. (1997, P. 27.) Continue reading "Beyond Exclusion"

Can IP Rights Be Freely Reformed, Limited or Repealed, or Are There Restrictions Resulting From Constitutional Theory and Fundamental Rights?

Martin Husovec, The Essence of Intellectual Property Rights under Art 17(2) of the EU Charter, 20 German L. J. 840 (2019), available at SSRN.

The complex interface between intellectual property and fundamental rights is a fascinating field for research which has attracted considerable scholarly attention in the last decades. U.S. IP scholars are well aware of fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution. The European Union has “constitutionalized” IP rights as well as fundamental freedoms in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU placing them at the very top of the hierarchy of norms.1

In The Essence of Intellectual Property Rights under Art 17(2) of the EU Charter, Martin Husovec explores the constitutional notion of the “essence of rights”—according to which any fundamental right has an inviolable core that needs to remain untouched (or only touched with very strong justifications) from any legislative activity—in order to determine if Art. 17(2) of the EU Charter includes a notion of essence of IP rights. If so, this would have profound consequences for legislators as it could prevent changes made by them to the IP legal framework, or at least make them very difficult. In particular, this question has high relevance in the situation where a legislator, after empirical analysis and assessment of the merits of a particular IP right, would decide to legislate it away because of its incapacity to deliver its promises. Continue reading "Can IP Rights Be Freely Reformed, Limited or Repealed, or Are There Restrictions Resulting From Constitutional Theory and Fundamental Rights?"

Disease, Distribution and Race in the Time of Covid-19

Matiangai Sirleaf, Racial Valuation of Diseases, 68 UCLA L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2021).

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted all of us, but not all of us equally. Far from acting as the great leveller, the disease that itself does not discriminate has revealed and exacerbated startling health disparities across the United States and globally. The early disaggregation of data indicated that Covid-19 mortality rates were more than double in Black populations than in White populations in the U.S., and were one and a half times as high, nationwide, in Latinx, and Indigenous populations. Infection rates, by population group, were also higher. The disparities of the global spread added further complexities. Now, as the Covid-19 vaccine has been developed in record speed, the challenge of distribution must incorporate facts about public health disparities alongside questions of prioritization. Two big questions loom: how much do our concepts of distributive justice and global justice incorporate racial justice? And how much should they?

Matiangai Sirleaf has given us a vocabulary, and a theoretical framework, to grapple with these issues. In her forthcoming article, Racial Valuation of Disease, she examines both the hierarchical valuation of racial groups in the context of disease, and the distributional consequences of that valuation. In developing the concept of racial valuation, she borrows from frameworks developed within critical race theory (CRT) and Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), such as racial capitalism, intersectionality, “whiteness as property”, “interest convergence”, racial stratification, neocolonialism, and racial empathy gaps. These concepts, pioneered by Cedric Robinson, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Cheryl Harris, Derrick Bell, Robert E. Washington, amongst others, point out how past acts of violence, such as slavery, colonialism, and Jim Crow, continue to manifest in facially neutral policies and apparently color-blind laws. A powerful inverse of the moral valuation demanded by the Black Lives Matter movement, the racial valuation of disease provides a background to Covid-19 that demands a close reading – and that should help to provoke an array of structural, institutional and intellectual responses. Continue reading "Disease, Distribution and Race in the Time of Covid-19"

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