No Machines in the Garden

Rebecca Crootof & BJ Ard, Structuring TechLaw, __ Harv. J.L. & Tech. __, (forthcoming, 2020), available at SSRN.

A decade ago, I mused about the implications and limits of what was then called “cyberlaw.” By that time, scholars had spent roughly 15 years experiencing the internet and speculating that a new jurisprudential era had dawned in its wake. The dialogue between the speculators and their critics was famously encapsulated in a pair of journal articles. Lawrence Lessig celebrated the transformative potential of what we used to call “cyberspace” for law. Judge Frank Easterbrook insisted on the continuing utility of existing law in solving cyber-problems. The latter’s pejorative characterization of cyberlaw as “law of the horse” has endured as a metonym for the idea that law ought not to be tailored too specifically to social problems prompted by some exotic new device.

It turns out, as I mused, that Lessig and Easterbrook and others in their respective camps were arguing on the wrong ground. Cyberspace and cyberlaw pointed the way to an integrative jurisprudential project, in which novel technologies and their uses motivate a larger rethinking of the roles and purposes of law, rather than a jurisprudence of exception (Lessig) or a jurisprudence of tradition (Easterbrook). But it has taken some time for elements of an integrative project to emerge. Rebecca Crootof and BJ Ard, in Structuring Techlaw, are among those who are now building in that direction and away from scholars’ efforts to justify legal exceptionalism in response to various metaphorical horses – among them algorithmic decision making, data analytics, robotics, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, recombinant DNA, genome editing, and synthetic biology. Their story is not, however, primarily one of power, ideology, markets, social norms, or technological affordances. Julie Cohen, among others, has taken that approach. Structuring Techlaw is resolutely and therefore usefully positivist. The law and legal methods still matter, as such. The law itself can be adapted, reformed, and perhaps transformed. Continue reading "No Machines in the Garden"

Putting Union Security Clause First Amendment Law in a Broader Context: Charlotte Garden’s Meta Rights

Charlotte Garden, Meta Rights, 83 Fordham L. Rev. 855 (2014).

Meta Rights is a thought-provoking article that addresses concerns about labor law rules governing agency fee payments in public-sector employment by comparing these rules to doctrines in analogous situations in other areas of law. Specifically, after the Supreme Court decided Knox v. SEIU Local 100 in 2012, 132 S.Ct. 2277 (2012), many felt that the Supreme Court was primed to change the default rule for agency payers from “opt-out” (an employee covered by a union security agreement would have to affirmatively state a preference not to pay dues for activities deemed “not related to collective bargaining”) to an “opt-in” system (unions could not require such dues absent specific, individual consent). Many in the field also noted that Harris v. Quinn, 134 S.Ct. 2618 (2014), looming but not yet decided when this article was written, could result in the Supreme Court mandating the “opt-in” system (I thought that was the most likely result in Harris). This is a very important issue in labor law and policy and for the labor movement as a whole. Although these cases explicitly covered only public-sector unions, such unions make up about half the total membership of all unions in the U.S.

Professor Garden could have written an article solely about whether “opt-in” rules were good or bad labor policy, or the extent to which constitutionally mandating such a system would be consistent with previous precedent (e.g., Abood v. City of Detroit, 431 U.S. 209 (1977)). Instead, she wrote a more interesting article by casting her net much more widely, describing when, in other contexts, courts have required Party A to give notice to Party B that Party B has certain constitutional rights. This takes her well beyond labor and employment law, and indeed beyond civil law (e.g., by discussing Miranda rights). Showing that such “meta rights” are relatively rare (e.g., public schools need not give notice to students that they have a First Amendment right to abstain from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance), Professor Garden provides a strong, principled, and broad-based critique of “opt in” rules. Continue reading "Putting Union Security Clause First Amendment Law in a Broader Context: Charlotte Garden’s Meta Rights"

An Institute of One’s Own: Polly Bunting’s “Messy Experiment” of Helping Women Navigate Work-Family Conflict

In 1960, Mary (“Polly”) Ingraham Bunting, newly-appointed President of Radcliffe College, wrote an essay for The New York Times Magazine to encourage applications to the new Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study. In the essay, Bunting connected the Institute’s goal of ending the “waste of highly talented, educated womanpower” to helping women as well as to better realizing America’s “heritage” and “aspirations.” The Institute would help “intellectually displaced women”—mothers whose homemaking and childcare responsibilities had interrupted their careers—get back on track through a financial stipend of up to $3,000, access to Harvard’s library resources, a private office, and formal and informal exchange.

As Maggie Doherty recounts in her engaging book, The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s, Bunting, a microbiologist and educator, first conceived this “messy experiment” in “a national war room populated almost entirely by men”: she served on a Cold War-era committee formed by the National Science Foundation after the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik to study education in the U.S. and steer more resources and students into science and engineering. (Pp. 58-59.) Publicity for the Institute echoed Cold War rhetoric about the national risk of not utilizing women’s talents, but also stressed the risk to families and marriages: “This sense of stagnation can become a malignant factor even in the best of marriages . . . when the gifted woman must spend her time inventing ways to employ herself mentally and failing, or only half-succeeding, may turn against the marriage itself in sheer frustration.” (P. 68.) If this rhetoric brings to mind Betty Friedan’s famous articulation of “the problem that has no name,” in The Feminine Mystique, it may be because Bunting and Friedan initially planned to collaborate on the book. However, the collaboration ended because Bunting resisted Friedan’s approach of viewing the dynamic “in terms of men against women,” instead of (as Bunting perceived it) a “climate of unexpectation” about women’s roles “in which both men and women were trapped”: that women could not have both family and career so that any pursuit of intellectual goals would be at a cost to their personal lives. (Pp. 63, 65.) Bunting viewed the Institute as a way to change that climate. (P. 63.) Continue reading "An Institute of One’s Own: Polly Bunting’s “Messy Experiment” of Helping Women Navigate Work-Family Conflict"

It’s “Executive Power,” Not “Executivish Power”

  • Julian Davis Mortenson, Article II Vests Executive Power, Not the Royal Prerogative, 119 Colum. L. Rev. 1169 (2019), available at MLaw Repository;
  • Julian Davis Mortenson, The Executive Power Clause, 167 U. Pa. L. Rev. (forthcoming), available at  SSRN.

Maybe you have been wondering, for one reason or another, just what the “executive power” entails. If so, you are in luck, for Professor Julian Davis Mortenson has an answer for you in two magisterial, deeply researched articles that also happen to be compelling reads: Article II Vests Executive Power, Not the Royal Prerogative, and its sequel, The Executive Power Clause. It turns out that “The executive power meant the power to execute. Period.” (Executive Power, P. 5.)

It will come as no news to readers of this website that, about a quarter of a millennium ago, Article II of the Constitution vested the “executive power” of the United States in the president. And ever since that time, Americans have been arguing about just what this “executive power” entails. In truth, it seems this debate is likely to last as long as the Republic does—which suggests that the debate sometimes says as much about the debaters as their subject. Continue reading "It’s “Executive Power,” Not “Executivish Power”"

Avoidance Creep

Charlotte Garden, Avoidance Creep, __ U. Pa. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2020), available at SSRN

Professor Charlotte Garden already has a well-earned reputation as a leading scholar on the intersection of labor law and the First Amendment. This reputation will only be enhanced by her outstanding new article, Avoidance Creep. The article addresses a problem in labor law, and potentially other areas, involving the doctrine of “constitutional avoidance.” This doctrine provides that if one plausible reading of a statute would make its application violate the Constitution, but another plausible reading of the statute would not be unconstitutional if applied in that context, a court should, instead of ruling the statute unconstitutional, interpret the statute such that it does not violate the Constitution.

On its face, doctrine seems sensible. But Garden shows that it has been used to twist statutory language beyond its plain meaning and the intent of its drafters. Further, “avoidance creep” means that later courts amplify and magnify the original problems such that the interpretations are unmoored not only from statutory meaning and purpose but also from proper Constitutional analysis and from the defensible justifications for Constitutional avoidance. In her words, “avoidance decisions have tended to creep beyond their stated boundaries, as decision-makers either treat them as if they were constitutional precedent, or extend them into new statutory contexts while disregarding key aspects of their original reasoning.” Continue reading "Avoidance Creep"

What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander, Or Is It? The Pitfalls of Using The Court’s Neoliberal Construction of the First Amendment To Protect Secondary Picketing

Richard Blum, Labor Picketing, The Right To Protest, and the Neoliberal First Amendment, 42 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 595 (2019).

In his article, Labor Picketing, The Right To Protest, and the Neoliberal First Amendment, Professor Blum argues that labor picketing, which has received diminished protection when viewed from the statutory lens of Section 8(b)(4) of the National Labor Relations Act, would receive greater protection if viewed primarily through a constitutional lens. Blum upfront acknowledges that many scholars—notably Cynthia Estlund, Catherine Fisk, Charlotte Garden, Michael Harper, James Gray Pope, and Mark Schneider—as well as several practitioners have made similar arguments. (P. 600, n. 14.) However, he brings a fresh approach to this important legal agenda by framing the problem not only as a legal challenge but also from the union lawyers’ perspective, which he obtained through surveys and interviews. (Pp. 611–16.)

As a legal matter, Blum correctly notes that the halcyon days of labor picketing protection passed nearly eighty years ago when the Supreme Court, in Thornhill v. Alabama, held that the state’s power to regulate labor picketing was limited by the First Amendment’s free speech clause. But what the Justices giveth, the Justices may taketh away. Thus, labor picketing could lose its constitutional protection: (1) if accompanied by violence, Milk Wagon Drivers Union of Chicago, Local 753 v. Meadowmoor Dairies, Inc.; (2) if the speech targeted a neutral party, Carpenters and Joiners Union of Am., Local No. 213 v. Ritter’s Cafe; or (3) if the picketing had unlawful objectives, Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co. During this time, the Court also began to view labor picketing as inherently involving conduct as well as speech, and therefore subject to greater state regulation for that reason too.1 Indeed, by the time the Supreme Court penned Int’l Bhd of Teamsters, Local 695 v. Vogt, the transformation of labor picketing to activity benefitting from less than full constitutional protection was nearly complete. Continue reading "What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander, Or Is It? The Pitfalls of Using The Court’s Neoliberal Construction of the First Amendment To Protect Secondary Picketing"

Lies, Dating Lies, and Small Claims Court

Irina Manta, Tinder Lies, ___ Wake Forest L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2019), available at SSRN.

In a world dominated by online dating, my own marriage seems quite quaint.  We were introduced to each other! In person! By another human being! Sometimes I think that people give me a faintly odd look – a look that just 15-20 years ago was reserved for the bold (and seemingly “shameless”) people who dared to look for a partner online. When I left the dating world, it consisted primarily of websites. But as Irina Manta points out in her intriguing and provocative new article, Tinder Lies, online dating has become even easier and more ubiquitous with the surge in popularity of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble. Manta confronts a problem that is as old courtship itself, that of sexual fraud, or “lies 1) that were put in profiles on online dating apps/sites, 2) whose content would materially influence the decision of a reasonable person whether to have sexual intercourse with the profile owner, and 3) remained uncorrected before sexual intercourse took place.” Like many problems, the issue of truth and disclosure in dating and sexual interactions has become more magnified and widespread when the primary platform for romantic and sexual introduction involves a great deal of anonymity, self-description, and the uncomfortable knowledge that one is, essentially, in a marketplace.

Tinder Lies is a terrific read. Manta takes on a question of increasing significance in the lives of many Americans who use online dating services and apps: What, if anything, should be done about users who lie about themselves in their profiles, where these lies lead other users to make decisions of significant personal import that they would not have otherwise made–to have sex with the person in the deceptive profile or to invest a significant amount of time and emotional resources in a relationship with a fraudster? While some lies might strike us as relatively harmless and easily debunked upon a face-to-face meeting, such the height or weight of the user, other lies are far more consequential, such as the person’s marital status,.

With these questions in mind, Manta offers an engaging primer on the history and current doctrinal landscape of legal responses to sexual fraud. She uses trademark law as a useful analogue to the problems of sexual fraud in online dating and offers a framework for a state law response to sexual fraud in which behavior that amounts to false advertising subjects that person to civil liability.  She concludes by suggesting that this legislative framework could be operationalized by offering claimants access to expedited proceedings in small claims court. As a civil procedure scholar, it is this last piece that I find most intriguing (and which is, presumably, of most interest to JOTWELL Courts Law readers). Continue reading "Lies, Dating Lies, and Small Claims Court"

How Much Do You Really Know About Fraud?

How did mail fraud come to be a powerful, all-purpose statutory tool for pursuing financial fraud in the United States? How does financial fraud resemble and differ from other kinds of commercial fraud—false advertising, misrepresenting the qualities of goods or land, or making impossible promises a seller never intends to keep? And is there, as there seems to be, a connection between novelty and innovation—new markets, new products, new frontiers—and fraud?

Ed Balleisen’s new book, Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff, examines fraud, writ large in America from the end of the civil war through the turn of the millennium. As anyone who knows Balleisen’s work would expect, Fraud is exceptionally researched, observant, thoughtful, and rendered in charming prose. Fraud spans the familiar legal silos to provide a sweeping history of different varieties of fraud, and their regulation. This is useful, and the book works because of Balleisen’s disciplined focus on his core questions—how fraud manifests, how regulatory anti-fraud strategies have evolved across time, how and when industry self-regulation has intervened to control it, and how judicial institutions and processes have influenced anti-fraud efforts. The book examines a recurring toggle between interventionist and laissez-faire regulatory approaches; the venerable, if inconsistent and imperfect, tradition of industry self-regulation; and the seemingly perennial link between influence (or lack thereof), and punishment (or lack thereof). It makes a remarkable contribution to our understanding of how fraud and its regulation have evolved thus far, and the conditions out of which our current regulatory models developed. Continue reading "How Much Do You Really Know About Fraud?"

The Paranoid “Fringe” in American Politics 

Rick Perlstein, I Thought I Understood the American Right. Trump Proved Me Wrong, N. Y. Times Magazine, (April 11, 2017).

The article that made me think hardest about American constitutional law this year was not a work of legal scholarship. It was historian Rick Perlstein’s meditation on the making of modern American conservatism.

Perlstein begins his article by describing the “rough consensus” among historians about how the right became the dominant political force in American politics in the second half of the twentieth century. The story starts in 1955, when William F. Buckley Jr. founded the National Review to combat the decades-long marginalization of political conservatism. Buckley banished John Birchers, anti-Semites, and fanatical Ayn Randians and “fused the diverse schools of conservative thinking—traditionalist philosophers, militant anti-Communists, libertarian economists—into a coherent ideology.” Fueled by support from white suburban voters, the new political conservatives thrived. Crucial to their success—or so the story goes—was their denouncement of the “political surrealism of the paranoid fringe.” Particularly in the South, new movement conservatives sublimated the “frenetic, violent anxieties” aroused by race, and spoke instead of “stable housing values,” “quality local education,” and “colorblind constitutionalism.” Simply put, modern conservatism became a dominant force by eschewing what Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style in American politics.” Continue reading "The Paranoid “Fringe” in American Politics "

Creative Communities and Intellectual Property Law

Betsy Rosenblatt, Belonging as Intellectual Creation, 82 Mo. L. Rev. 91 (2017).

In late November 2016, recreational knitters Krista Suh and Jayna Zwieman conceived of The Pussyhat Project — a way for knitters and crocheters to participate in the January 21, 2017, Women’s March on Washington by creating a simple hat for marchers to wear. To facilitate the project, there was a website (featuring several patterns for free download, the first created by yarn store owner Kat Coyle), an Instagram account, and a hashtag. There wasn’t, however, a focus on a particular level of output. Rather, the goal of the project was to foster community through creative work, building on existing networks of knitters and highlighting the ways in which knitting circles are often “powerful gatherings of women, a safe space to talk.”

The community’s boundaries were porous and self-policed. Anyone was welcome to claim membership; the only requirement was to create or be the recipient of creation. Although the basic form of the hat was loosely defined — pink in color and rectangular in shape — individual knitters were free to stylize their hats in any way they wished. Patterns were freely shared, and distribution took place via a voluntary infrastructure. The community that resulted produced tens of thousands of hats in two months, and representative hats now reside in the collections of major museums across the country.

Scholars will undoubtedly have much more to say about this movement as its history is written, including critiques involving, inter alia, race, class, gender identity, and the sociology of protest movements. For now, the project is worth adding to our consideration of other organic communities that have inspired creativity without a focus on commercialization — even if they also feature stronger policing mechanisms (Wikipedia), more reliance on traditional IP inputs (fan edits and cosplay), or more emphasis on reputation building (message boards and Facebook posts). What do these community gardens of creativity — unburdened by concerns about monetization or propertization — tell us about what the goals of intellectual property law should be?

Professor Betsy Rosenblatt suggests in her recent article that the law has too narrow a focus. Creating with and for others, research shows, promotes a sense of belonging, which, in turn, motivates and improves the results of creativity. Indeed, for the pussyhat knitters, a sense of belonging to a social movement likely provided the entire motivation to create. (I should make clear here that the example throughout of the Pussyhat Project is mine, not Professor Rosenblatt’s.) So if the law focuses only on the tangible results of creativity — what Professor Rosenblatt refers to as “stuff’ — and fails to consider the importance of belonging, it might incentivize less creativity than it otherwise would. Continue reading "Creative Communities and Intellectual Property Law"

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