Need, Dependency, and Choice

Emily J. Stolzenberg, The New Family Freedom, 59 B.C. L. Rev. 1983 (2018), available at SSRN.

Emily Stolzenberg’s excellent article, The New Family Freedom, outlines the tension within American society in general, and American family law in particular, between protecting individual choice (autonomy), on one hand, and having private (rather than collective) responsibility for dependency, on the other.

Choice and privatized dependency can conflict: if individuals are responsible for others only when, and to the extent that, they so choose, many dependent persons will not be adequately cared for. As Stolzenberg points out, the conflict between the two principles may be strongest when considering parental obligation, cohabitation, and alimony.

In what the author describes as “strict liability for sex” (P. 2007), fathers have been held subject to child support duties even where conception arose from statutory rape or significant fraud. Even putting aside those extreme cases, the dependency principle would support imposing parental obligations arising from a sort of tort analysis in which men “assume of the risk” (P. 2008) for any children resulting from having sex. Choice – whether through voluntary intercourse, the decision to use IVF or surrogacy (Pp. 2013-14), or voluntary paternity affidavits (P. 2014) – is characterized and offered as the grounds for imposing parental obligations, not as a justification for opting out. It is, as Stolzenberg characterizes it (P. 2013), a “one-way ratchet.” In this area of family law, the imperative to support dependent children overrides in part the autonomy interests of adults. Continue reading "Need, Dependency, and Choice"

Planning for a Post Neoliberal Future

In her summer 2018 article in Feminist Legal Studies, Silvana Tapia Tapia takes a close look at a fundamental concern for many contemporary feminists – the ways in which penal expansion under neoliberalism was a “feminist-sponsored” reform project, one which feminist movements took up while ignoring, neglecting or rejecting more redistributive efforts. Tapia Tapia’s exploration takes place in Ecuador, in 2012 – and Ecuador, part of Latin America’s “pink tide,”1 explicitly rejected neoliberalism in 2007. The Ecuadorian constitution of 2008 had “unprecedented constitutional provisions.” One of these, “Sumak Kawsay, the indigenous approach to community life, as a fundamental principle” could support alternatives to carcerality in Andean justice, among other “counter hegemonic” possibilities. In this “post-neoliberal” environment, Tapia Tapia asks, what is the relationship of feminist interventions in criminal law to feminist alignment with redistributive claims in law and politics?

Beginning with a discussion of current scholarship on “carceral feminism” and “governance feminism,” Tapia Tapia outlines the argument that penal expansion operates to shift resources away from redistribution, that it has become transnational via human rights based discourses, and that it is fundamentally punitive. She reads scholars like Elizabeth Bernstein, Janet Halley and Prabha Kotiswaran as positing a link between carceral feminism and a neoliberal form of feminism, but in reading the Ecuadorian ”post-neoliberal” context, she finds that “many feminists demanding criminalization are strongly committed to a redistributive agenda.” (P. 6.) Why and how, Tapia Tapia asks, do Ecuadorian feminists who are operating in a post-neoliberal context, and a context in which the constitutional framework embraces a plurality of sources of law (“Andean Constitutionalism”), continue to support criminalization? Continue reading "Planning for a Post Neoliberal Future"

How to Save Democracy?

Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Z. Huq, How to Save a Constitutional Democracy (2018).

The last year has seen the publication of a range of impressive books on the decline of democracy worldwide.1 One of the absolute best among these is undoubtedly the new book by Aziz Huq and Tom Ginsburg, How to Save a Constitutional Democracy.

The book has four key strengths, some common to other books in this genre – but which few others can claim to have in as full a measure. Continue reading "How to Save Democracy?"

Copyright, Smart Contracts, and the Blockchain

Balázs Bodó, Daniel Gervais, & João Pedro Quintais, Blockchain and Smart Contracts: The Missing Link in Copyright Licensing?Int’l. J. of L. & Info. Tech. (September 2018).

There has been growing academic interest in the topic of decentralised, distributed open ledger technology—better known as the blockchain (see my last Jot). While the literature has been substantial, the copyright implications of the blockchain have not received as much coverage from the research community, perhaps because the use cases have not been as prevalent in the media. Taking the usual definition of a blockchain as an immutable distributed database, it is easy to imagine some potential uses of the technology for copyright, and for the creative industries as a whole. Blockchain technology has been suggested for management of copyright works through registration, enforcement, and licensing, and also as a business model allowing micropayments and use tracking.

Blockchain and Smart Contracts: The Missing Link in Copyright Licensing? by three academics at the Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam, tackles this subject in excellent fashion. The article has the objective of introducing legal audiences to many of the technologies associated with the blockchain. It goes into more specific treatment of various features, such as distributed ledger technology (DLT), digital tokens, and smart contracts, and the potential uses of these for copyright licensing specifically. The article is divided into three parts: an introduction to the technology, an analysis of its potential use for copyright licensing, and a look at possible problems. Continue reading "Copyright, Smart Contracts, and the Blockchain"

Excavating the Forgotten Suspension Clause

In Habeas Corpus in Wartime: From the Tower of London to Guantanamo Bay, Amanda Tyler undertakes “to lay out as comprehensively as possible the full story of the legal and political history of the constitutional privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.” She does so with care and style.

In excavating what she calls the “forgotten” Anglo-American legal history of the writ of habeas corpus, Tyler begins, of course, at the beginning, in seventeenth-century England. Among the products of Parliament’s longstanding battle for power with the crown, the original Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 provided that a person who could claim the protection of English law could be detained—that is, imprisoned by the king and his ministers—only through timely criminal prosecution and conviction. Absent timely prosecution, the Act required the prisoner’s discharge. Period. Continue reading "Excavating the Forgotten Suspension Clause"

The Labyrinth of Resistance: How Correctional Bureaucracies Minimize Penal Reform

Andres F. Rengifo, Don Stemen, and Ethan Amidon. When Policy Comes to Town: Discourses and Dilemmas of Implementation of a Statewide Reentry Policy in Kansas. 55 Criminology 603 (2017).

We live in the midst of a great wave of reforms of the penal state. Much of it seeks a sharp break with recent decades of penal policy aimed at supersizing imprisonment in the name of incapacitation and control. Some observers, including this one, have been optimistic about this wave of reform for a variety of reasons. For the first time in decades reform is being normatively backed up both by social movements and federal court orders (although after Justice Kennedy’s departure the future of the federal courts are in doubt). Growing fiscal demands on states, magnified during the Great Recession, have finally forced a reckoning with correctional costs. Correctional officials in many states are talking about education, rehabilitation, and reentry with an enthusiasm not seen since the 1970s. When Policy Comes to Town by Andres Rengifo, Don Stemen and Ethan Amidon is a sobering reminder of the power frontline correctional workforces and their supervisors have to resist reform and how many discursive resources they have to define away that resistance.

The research grew out of an important change in Kansas correctional philosophy intended to reduce the state’s reliance on mass incarceration in favor of more effective rehabilitation and reintegration guided by risk assessment. The reform, dubbed the Kansas Offender Risk Reduction and Reentry Plan (KOR3P), was promoted as a change in orientation shaping the whole system. The rhetoric associated with the program was a sharp break from the model of control and containment that had guided Kansas (and many states) during the era of mass incarceration. Nor was the reform only about rhetoric, new staff focused on reentry were hired, and frontline staff, particularly parole agents, were encouraged to be more innovative in connecting released prisoners to their communities. The authors took advantage of real-time access to Kansas correctional staff (frontline, supervisory and management) to explore how correctional workers thought about reform and how they articulated their own relationship to it. They were given unprecedented access to prisons and parole offices throughout the state, where they undertook extensive qualitative interviews and focus groups with Kansas correctional staff and managers, ultimately gathering data from over 500 informants (far larger than the typical qualitative study of corrections). The result is the closest look ever at a correctional system going through what its leaders view as a paradigm shift. Continue reading "The Labyrinth of Resistance: How Correctional Bureaucracies Minimize Penal Reform"

Accommodating Blockchain

Jonathan Rohr and Aaron Wright, Blockchain-Based Token Sales, Initial Coin Offerings, and the Democratization of Public Capital Markets (revised Mar. 24, 2018), available at SSRN.

Every once in a while I wake up and realize that there’s a new cluster of highly technical stuff that I need to learn about to stay current in my field. My usual recourse is to find a law review article that gets me up to speed. It usually works, but not always. Back in the 1990s, for example, the leading technical topic was securitization and structured products. I read a lot of articles, but none of them got me where I knew I needed to be. Most were written by practitioners unable to get into teaching mode and present the material in an intelligible way. It took the Enron disaster to prompt the appearance of an accessible literature. Even then production was spotty, as we learned to our dismay when the economy collapsed in 2008. So, I like law review articles that teach me highly technical things that I need to know. And I really like law review articles that keep me engaged while teaching the lesson. As any business law classroom teacher knows, this is very hard to do. Complex mechanics are not easily explained, and even a successful explanation can get so wrapped up in itself as to lose the student. When an author pulls off the job in an article, the result can be a wonder to behold.

I worry that such exercises are undervalued in the present legal academic environment, for they are susceptible to snide dismissal as “inside baseball.” Such dismissals are wrong-headed. Sometimes just getting the description right and following up with a well-constructed law-to-fact analysis is vastly more valuable than any application of theoretical gloss. As Enron and the financial crisis demonstrated, the task should not be left over to practitioners. A year ago, bitcoin, blockchain, and tokens loomed up as the latest such technical topic, putting me in the market for a really good law review exposition. I found it in Blockchain-Based Token Sales, Initial Coin Offerings, and the Democratization of Public Capital Markets, by Aaron Wright and the late Jonathan Rohr. The paper does three things: first, it gives its reader the tech 101; second, it confronts the big question whether blockchain-based tokens are securities under the 33 Act; third, it addresses some law reform suggestions to federal lawmakers. It succeeds beautifully at all three tasks. Continue reading "Accommodating Blockchain"

Go Big or Go Home: The Debate Over National Injunctions

Amanda Frost, In Defense of Nationwide Injunctions, 93 N.Y.U. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2018), available at SSRN.

Can a single federal district court judge issue an injunction binding in every state? And if so, when should they do so? That question has been on the minds of many watching the whiplash-inducing orders from judges these last few years. In 2015, a district judge in Texas issued an injunction barring the federal government from enforcing an executive order granting temporary reprieve and work authority to immigrant parents of persons lawfully in the United States (either citizens or permanent residents). The plaintiff was the State of Texas – the only state found to have standing – but the injunction encompassed the entirety of the United States. In 2016, a district judge in Texas issued an injunction barring the federal government from enforcing a Department of Education policy requiring that public schools provide facilities (such as restrooms) that match their students’ gender identity. The plaintiffs were sixteen states that did not wish to comply with the policy, but the injunction encompassed the entirety of the United States. In case you think that everything is bigger in Texas, in 2017, a federal district judge in Illinois issued an injunction barring the federal government from withholding federal funding to “sanctuary jurisdictions,” states or local governments that refused to cooperate with immigration enforcement. And in 2017 several district court judges enjoined the federal government from enforcing various versions of an executive order barring nationals from several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

One of the coolest things about procedure is how procedural questions destabilize our political preferences. As a matter of principle, if you agree that judges have the power to issue one kind of national injunction, then you must agree that they have the power to issue the other. As a political matter, you might like the injunctions against the Obama administration and not those against the Trump administration, or vice versa. The controversy over this exercise of judicial power was, until recently, mostly academic (in the sense that mostly academics cared about it), but a bill recently was introduced in Congress barring federal judges from issuing “an order that purports to restrain the enforcement against a non-party of any statute, regulation, order, or similar authority” except where the case has been certified as a national class action. The impetus for the bill is probably political (its sponsor is Republican Representative Goodlatte), but that does not answer the question: Is this a good bill? Should we limit the reach of a federal district court to the parties before it or in some other way that would bar these types of injunctions? Continue reading "Go Big or Go Home: The Debate Over National Injunctions"

Who Should Decide Whether the Parties Formed a Valid Agreement to Arbitrate?

David Horton, Arbitration About Arbitration, 70 Stan. L. Rev. 363 (2018).

David Horton’s Arbitration About Arbitration is a thorough and insightful treatment, with both normative and descriptive elements, of the law’s approach to delegation clauses in contracts calling for arbitration. Delegation clauses assign to arbitrators the question of the validity of an agreement to arbitrate (including defenses such as unconscionability and the like) that would otherwise be decided by courts. A typical delegation clause would go something like this: “Enforceability of the arbitration clause shall be determined by the arbitrator and not by a court” or “[t]he arbitrator[s] shall determine all issues regarding the arbitrability of the dispute.” Horton focuses on delegation clauses in employment and consumer adhesion contracts, where delegation is most troubling.

The article first sets forth a very helpful history detailing the rise of delegation clauses against the backdrop of initial judicial hostility to arbitration, Congress’s enactment of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), and the Supreme Court’s recent championing of arbitration, including the enforcement of delegation clauses. As for the latter, in First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, the Supreme Court established that enforcement depends on the parties’ intentions, but the Court required “clea[r] and unmistakabl[e] evidence” of an agreement to delegate. Then in Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, Justice Scalia diluted the “clear and unmistakable” rule, by observing that courts should enforce delegation clauses if a party merely manifested an intent to delegate. As a result, a court can justify enforcement of a delegation clause by finding that a consumer clicked on an “I agree” button or signed a form contract, even if the consumer never saw or understood the clause. Horton also observes that the treatment of delegation clauses also “rode the wake” of additional Supreme Court decisions, such as AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, that for practical and legal reasons all but excluded consumers from pursuing rights in court. Continue reading "Who Should Decide Whether the Parties Formed a Valid Agreement to Arbitrate?"

Innovation and Regulatory Vigilance

Nearly everyone sings innovation’s praises. Innovation brings progress and prosperity. It leads to a better tomorrow. Yet, is innovation really an unalloyed good? In a new book, legal scholar Cristie Ford argues that innovation actually “presents a clear and persistent risk—perhaps the single most significant and under-analyzed risk—to regulation itself.” (P. 215.)

Innovation poses such an “existential challenge” to regulation, Ford argues in Innovation and the State: Finance, Regulation, and Justice, because the world subject to regulatory control is constantly changing. (P. 144.) Technological change, for example, has made hydraulic fracturing economical and led to a shale gas revolution in energy extraction. New, complex mortgage-backed derivatives in securities markets proliferated in the years leading up to the financial crisis. Changes such as these are continually occurring in every economy. Yet in a certain sense, regulation inherently stands still. Regulation operates by fixing words onto the pages of a rulebook. The world is dynamic, while regulation is static. Continue reading "Innovation and Regulatory Vigilance"

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