Monthly Archives: July 2021

A Definitive Work on Temporary Political Leadership

Anne Joseph O’Connell, Actings, 120 Colum. L. Rev. 613 (2020).

President Trump relied heavily on temporary leadership to run his branch. According to critics, the tenuousness of Trump’s cabinet positions—and their high turnover rate—was both a cause and reflection of an amateur and unreliable presidency. And yet, while the extent to which Trump depended on acting officials was anomalous, he was not the only president to do so; indeed, presidents have utilized temporary officials for quite some time. In addition to demonstrating that temporary officials have been fairly common across both Republican and Democratic administrations since the turn of the century, Anne Joseph O’Connell argues in Actings that these officials stabilize the government in times of crisis and transition.

Professor O’Connell, along with Nina Mendelson, is one of today’s preeminent legal experts on the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (Vacancies Act). Professor O’Connell’s prior scholarship and testimony on this topic is both detailed and accessible, and makes clear the stakes of the relevant debates. Actings, published recently in the Columbia Law Review, is no exception. This comprehensive work offers a nuanced and evocative account of the history, constitutional and legal frameworks, and problems that attach to temporary leadership in the top positions of the executive branch. It also marks a departure from Professor O’Connell’s previous writing, in that it is relatively accepting of temporary political appointees. Continue reading "A Definitive Work on Temporary Political Leadership"

Reconsidering the “Full-Time Face-Time Norm” After COVID-19

Michelle Travis, A Post-Pandemic Antidiscrimination Approach to Workplace Flexibility, 64 Wash. U. J. L. & Pub. Pol’y 203 (2021).

There are plenty of legal rules that were originally born from faulty reasoning and that somehow ended up becoming firmly entrenched despite their flaws. One hopes that among the many changes it has brought, COVID-19 will cause courts and other legal authorities to revisit well-established legal rules, the shortcomings of which have been exposed during the pandemic. Professor Michelle Travis discusses one of these areas in her forthcoming article A Post-Pandemic Antidiscrimination Approach to Workplace Flexibility.

Travis takes aim at what she calls the “full-time face-time norm,” a term she coined fifteen years ago. The phrase describes “the judicial presumption that work is defined by long hours, rigid schedules, and uninterrupted, in-person performance at a centralized workspace.” (P. 203.) This presumption appears repeatedly in reasonable accommodation cases under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Courts often use some variation of the phrase “attendance is an essential function” almost as boilerplate when explaining why a plaintiff is not entitled to a reasonable accommodation such as telecommuting or a flexible work schedule. One also sees this “full-time face-time norm” appear in Title VII disparate impact cases involving female employees who also have primary caregiving responsibilities. In these cases, courts often treat an employer’s practice of requiring full-time face-time attendance as a basic component of a job, rather than the type of “particular employment practice” that is subject to challenge as part of a disparate impact claim. Continue reading "Reconsidering the “Full-Time Face-Time Norm” After COVID-19"

Comparative (Tax) Scholarship is for Everyone, and Everyone Can Make It Better

Kim Brooks, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Comparative Tax Scholarship, 24 Fla. Tax Rev. 1 (2020).

Justice Louis Brandeis famously described U.S. states as “laboratories” in which citizens can authorize their sub-national governments to “try novel social and economic experiments.” His logic surely also applies to nations as well, with countries around the world offering a wealth of real-world experiments from which we can all draw valuable insights.

Kim Brooks knows quite a lot about comparative legal scholarship (tax studies in particular), but she understands that most people have only passing familiarity with that vast body of literature. She also understands that most every scholarly enterprise could profit from a comparative perspective but that most scholars do not have the time or inclination to become full-on comparativists. What to do? Continue reading "Comparative (Tax) Scholarship is for Everyone, and Everyone Can Make It Better"

A New Retributive Justification for Punitive Damages

Erik Encarnacion, Resilience, Retribution, and Punitive Damages, 100 Texas L. Rev. __ (forthcoming, 2021), available at SSRN.

Most American states permit the award of extra-compensatory punitive damages to tort plaintiffs if the defendant’s conduct was especially culpable. The conventional rationales for this practice are the value of punishing such conduct and the special need to deter it. Yet these rationales are focused entirely on the defendant: they explain why a defendant should pay more than compensatory damages but do not explain why that additional punitive award should be transferred to the plaintiff. And indeed, many states, under “split recovery” schemes, require that a specified proportion of a punitive damage award be paid to the state, not to the plaintiff. But critics of punitive damage awards are not satisfied by this response: they believe that transferring any nontrivial1 portion of a large punitive damage award to a plaintiff gives that plaintiff an unjust and undeserved “windfall.”

Can the practice of awarding substantial punitive damages to plaintiffs be justified? The literature on the propriety of punitive damages in tort law is enormous, but that literature has paid little attention to the “windfall” objection. The objection is not especially troubling to consequentialist or law and economics scholars: punitive damage awards help incentivize plaintiffs’ lawyers to fully investigate serious wrongdoing and may offer useful additional deterrence of especially culpable conduct. But corrective justice and civil recourse theories cannot so readily overcome the windfall objection, insofar as they emphasize the close bipolar relationship between defendant’s wrong and plaintiff’s injury, and between defendant’s duty to pay damages and plaintiff’s right to receive those damages. Continue reading "A New Retributive Justification for Punitive Damages"

The Case for a Federal RAP

Eric A. Kades, A New Feudalism: Selfish Genes, Great Wealth and the Rise of the Dynastic Family Trust (“DFT”) (2019), available at SSRN.

In a majority of U.S. jurisdictions, at least for purposes of trust law, the Rule Against Perpetuities (“RAP”) is dead. Yes, it’s true. In recent years most states either substantially weakened or completely eliminated their Rules Against Perpetuities. This fact has major implications for the wealthy, and more so for the ultra-wealthy. Freed from the restrictions of the RAP, those with the means and inclination can now create trusts that entrench great wealth within their families forever.

Eric Kades is concerned about this. In his second article addressing the potential repercussions of RAP repeal, A New Feudalism: Selfish Genes, Great Wealth and the Rise of the Dynastic Family Trust (“DFT”), Kades proposes a reinstatement of the RAP, this time in federal form, something he wants to call “The National Anti-Feudalism Act.” This prescription comes after he engages in a kind of predictive analysis of the imagined estate planning of the ultra-wealthy, improbably informed by his reading of evolutionary biology. According to Kades, evolutionary biology should play a “significant role” in “explaining patterns of inheritance behaviors.” Continue reading "The Case for a Federal RAP"

What’s the Harm? The Answer is Many

Danielle Keats Citron & Daniel J. Solove, Privacy Harms, Geo. Wash. U. L. Stud. Res. Paper No. 2021-11 (Mar. 16, 2021), available at SSRN.

Privacy law scholars have long contended with the retort, “what’s the harm?” In their seminal 1890 article The Right to Privacy, Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis wrote: “That the individual shall have full protection in person and in property is a principle as old as the common law; but it has been found necessary from time to time to define anew the exact nature and extent of such protection.” Other legal scholars have noted that the digital age brings added challenges to the work of defining which privacy harms should be cognizable under the law and should entitle the complainant to legal redress. In Privacy Harms, an article that is sure to become part of the canon of privacy law scholarship, Danielle Citron and Daniel Solove provide a much needed and definitive update to the privacy harms debate. It is especially notable that the authors engage the full gamut of the debate, by parsing both who has standing to bring suit for a privacy litigation and also what damages should apply. This important update to privacy law literature builds upon prior solo and joint influential work by the two authors, such as Solove’s Taxonomy of Privacy, and Citron’s Sexual Privacy, and their joint article Risk and Anxiety.

The article furnishes three major contributions to law and tech scholarship. First, it highlights the challenges deriving from the incoherent and piecemeal patchwork of privacy laws in the U.S., exacerbated by what other scholars have noted are the exceedingly higher showings of harm demanded for privacy litigation versus other types of litigation. Second, the authors construct a road map for understanding the different genre of privacy harms with a detailed typology. Third, Citron and Solove helpfully provide an in-depth discussion of when and how privacy regulations should be enforced. That exercise is predicated on their viewpoint that there is currently a misalignment of the goals of privacy law and available legal remedies. Continue reading "What’s the Harm? The Answer is Many"

Did H.L.A. Hart, of All People, Neglect Power-Conferring Laws?

Matthew H. Kramer, Hart on Legal Powers as Legal Competences, 19 Univ. of Cambridge Fac. of L. Res. J. __ (2021), available at SSRN.

As Professor Matthew H. Kramer states at the beginning of his rigorous, insightful analysis, Hart on Legal Powers as Legal Competences, “[a]s virtually everyone among the ranks of present-day Anglophone legal philosophers is aware, one of the chief complaints about Austin by Hart was that the former theorist had disregarded and obscured the major role of power-conferring norms in the structures and operations of legal systems.” (P. 1.) Indeed, Austin’s preoccupation with duty-imposing laws contrasted with his neglect of laws that confer powers, and H.L.A. Hart started his own quest for an adequate concept of law by rejecting his predecessor’s mistake. But what if Hart himself was guilty of a similar sin, at least to some extent?

Before taking up on that challenge, Kramer goes on to explore in some detail (1) Hart’s critique of Austin — in his distinction between power-conferring and duty-imposing laws — and (2) possible rejoinders from Austin defenders. Continue reading "Did H.L.A. Hart, of All People, Neglect Power-Conferring Laws?"

A Positive Immigration Agenda for Racial Justice

Kevin Johnson, Bringing Racial Justice to Immigration Law, 116 Nw. U.L. Rev. 1 (2021).

Since the summer of 2020, Americans have been having more explicit discussions about racial hierarchy in the United States and the role of law enforcement in maintaining such hierarchy. Kevin Johnson’s forthcoming essay, Bringing Racial Justice to Immigration Law, brings that conversation to immigration law. Johnson argues that Congress, but ultimately the Supreme Court, needs to explicitly address the racial animus that has motivated the structure of immigration law in the United States. Through an examination of immigration history, the emergence of a robust immigrant rights movement, and the significant backlash from the Trump Administration, Johnson demonstrates that a positive agenda for immigration reform is required in order for the country to move towards a more just immigration system, rather than simply reverting to the pre-Trump immigration system, which was not a model for justice.

Johnson’s essay begins by mapping the racially discriminatory foundations of immigration law and the minimal role that courts have played in acknowledging and remedying such discrimination. The essay then discusses the emergence of the robust immigrant rights movement despite the fact that non-citizens are not eligible to vote. A response to the growth of the immigrant rights movement was a backlash by the Trump Administration. The next section of the essay explores the efforts undertaken by the Trump Administration to “maintain and reinforce the racial caste quality of the immigration system.” (P. 3.) The essay ends with an appreciation for the immigrant rights movement, and the claim that the goals sought by the movement will only be “meaningful, lasting, and truly transformative” if the Supreme Court jurisprudence shifts to require robust constitutional review of immigration laws and “allows the courts to serve as a check on racial animus.” (P. 3.) Continue reading "A Positive Immigration Agenda for Racial Justice"

PL on the DL: Domestic Violence Courts’ “Quiet Partnership” with Nonlawyer Advocates

Jessica K. Steinberg, Anna E. Carpenter, Colleen F. Shanahan and Alyx Mark, Judges and the Deregulation of the Lawyer’s Monopoly, 89 Fordham L. Rev. 1315 (2021).

State supreme courts claim the exclusive, inherent authority to define and regulate the “practice of law.” Based on this authority, courts have enjoined as the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) all manner of potentially helpful legal assistance by nonlawyers, including counseling, advising, and assistance with documents, as well as representation in court. When it suits them, however, it turns out that trial courts accept extensive nonlawyer assistance behind the scenes, including nonlawyer counseling of clients, preparation of pleadings, and discrete courtside assistance. Courts may even encourage and institutionalize the role of nonlawyer advocates through designated workspace and workflows. But they like to keep it on the down low.

Of course, it is not the “unauthorized” practice of law if courts allow it. And courts’ claims to regulatory authority are strongest regarding who appears before them. But what are the implications of an unacknowledged nonlawyer assistance regime? This is the question posed by Jessica Steinberg and her comadres in their study of domestic violence courts’ “quiet partnership” with a “shadow network” of nonlawyer advocates “to substitute for the role counsel has traditionally played.” (P. 1316.) Continue reading "PL on the DL: Domestic Violence Courts’ “Quiet Partnership” with Nonlawyer Advocates"

The ‘Problem’ of Numbers

Gloria McCahon Whiting, Race, Slavery, and the Problem of Numbers in Early New England: A View from Probate Court, 77 Wm & Mary Q., 3d ser., 405 (2020).

In Race, Slavery, and the Problem of Numbers in Early New England: A View from Probate Court, Gloria McCahon Whiting makes significant contributions to the study of slavery in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New England. She offers new insights into who made up that labor force, as well as into scholarly debates regarding the utility of quantitative analysis for historians of slavery.

Whiting examines volumes upon volumes of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century probate sources to better understand who lived and labored in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. In this, “the wealthiest and most populous county in New England,” Whiting argues that not only were indentured servants “supplanted early on by a near-complete reliance on African slavery,” but also that local Native populations “never provided a significant source of bound labor in the area.” (P. 407.) The first part of her argument is not one with which most scholars would take issue. Her assertion that local Native populations never made up a significant proportion of the enslaved labor force in the region, however, is more surprising. This argument challenges the scholarship of historians such as Margaret Newell, Wendy Warren, Jared Hardesty, and Linford Fisher, who have argued that large numbers of enslaved Natives played an important role in New England’s labor force well into the eighteenth century. Continue reading "The ‘Problem’ of Numbers"

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