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"

Where Have All the Claims Gone?

Cynthia Estlund, The Black Hole of Mandatory Arbitration, 96 N.C.L. Rev. 679 (2018).

Much has been written about employers’ mandates that their employees arbitrate claims on an individual basis. Empirical studies have examined employee success rates in arbitration, comparing them to employee success rates in litigation, and the effects of the employer being the only repeat player in the process. Scholars have also examined the evolving abdication by courts of their role in policing arbitration mandates. Cynthia Estlund’s article examines a more basic question: when employers impose arbitration mandates on their employees, do employee claims even get brought? Her answer is a resounding “rarely,” and much more rarely than when the claims can be brought in court.

Estlund acknowledges the challenges in collecting data about employment arbitration. She works with data assembled by Alexander Colvin and his colleagues. Colvin’s studies focus on the American Arbitration Association (AAA), which he estimates is designated in about half of employment arbitration agreements. Colvin also estimates that 56% of private sector non-agricultural employees are covered by arbitration mandates. Continue reading "Where Have All the Claims Gone?"

Adapting Capabilities Approaches to Domestic Policy Problems

Armin Tabandeh, Paolo Gardoni & Colleen Murphy, A Reliability-Based Capability Approach, 38 Risk Anal. 410 (2018).

Whether by statute or executive order, many agencies are required to produce cost-benefit analyses when proposing significant regulations and to justify decisions in its terms. The reason is not that cost-benefit analysis is perfect. Even its most thoughtful proponents recognize it has limitations. According to Matthew Adler and Eric Posner, for example, “[m]odern textbooks on [cost-benefit analysis] are plentiful, and some of them are optimistic about the usefulness of the procedure, but most of them frankly acknowledge its serious flaws and the inadequacy of standard methods for correcting these flaws.”1

Most proponents of cost-benefit analysis nevertheless suggest that when it comes to agency decision-making, no better and feasible alternative currently exists. Whether that is true depends on what the alternatives are. I have recently found A Reliability-Based Capabilities Approach useful in this regard. I believe it offers the right building blocks to articulate an alternative, capabilities approach to agency decision-making that may prove useful in a wide range of domestic policy contexts. Continue reading "Adapting Capabilities Approaches to Domestic Policy Problems"

Expanding Liberty to Privatize Dependency: How the Evolution of Marriage Has Shaped Constitutional Law

Susan Frelich Appleton, Obergefell’s Liberties: All in the Family, 77 Ohio St. L.J. 919 (2016), available at SSRN.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges1 was a watershed moment not only in the history of the LGBT movement, but also in the relationship between family law and constitutional law. In the two years since it was decided, the ruling has become the subject of insightful commentaries from many of the legal academy’s leading scholars. This jot highlights one such article by Susan Frelich Appleton that merits special attention from scholars working in the fields of family law and constitutional law.

Appleton’s article makes two significant contributions to our understanding of the relationship between family law and constitutional law. Continue reading "Expanding Liberty to Privatize Dependency: How the Evolution of Marriage Has Shaped Constitutional Law"

Emphasizing the Public Interest in Charitable Gifts

Susan Gary, Restricted Charitable Gifts: Public Benefit, Public Voice, 81 Alb. L. Rev 101 (2018), available at SSRN.

Susan Gary’s Restricted Charitable Gifts: Public Benefit, Public Voice makes the case for legal reforms that reflect the public’s interest in loosening donor control of charitable gifts. Gary writes that her article is aimed at advocating for the adoption of reforms that increase “the consideration of the public benefit standard in charities law,” so I know that she didn’t set out to change the way I teach my Estates course. But that’s exactly what she did, and it’s why I like her article.

In classes on charitable trusts, my big picture questions are about the relationship between donors and charities: when should the law defer to the dead hand and when should it permit charities to modify donor-restricted gifts? Gary’s article has convinced me that the public interest—not donors or charities—should instead assume center stage. Restricted Charitable Gifts: Public Benefit, Public Voice is one of those rare articles that prompts me to re-conceptualize material I’ve taught for many years, particularly the enforcement role of the attorney general. Continue reading "Emphasizing the Public Interest in Charitable Gifts"

What Ever Happened to Dignity?

Kenneth S. Abraham & G. Edward White, The Puzzle of the Dignitary Torts, 104 Cornell L. Rev.__ (forthcoming 2018), available at SSRN.

In The Puzzle of the Dignitary Torts, Ken Abraham and G. Edward White return our attention to a domain of tort law they rightly describe as neglected, namely, the “dignitary torts”. In our time, the term is casebook catchall for an arguably heterogeneous collection of intentional wrongs— “offensive” battery, defamation, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) and the four privacy torts (intrusion upon seclusion, public disclosure of private facts, false light, and commercial appropriation).1 The term is a taxonomic category, and little more. It was not always so. For the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, the “dignitary torts” were a subject of sustained scholarly and practical interest. In the 1970’s they vanished from the scholarly radar and have not returned. In the courts, the long staccato expansion of these torts was halted by New York Times v. Sullivan and its progeny. New York Times v. Sullivan breached the wall that had insulated “private law” doctrines from public law criticism. Private law became another instance of state action and the dignitary torts became subject to constitutional scrutiny and curtailment insofar as their commission involved expression. In our time, the category endures almost untouched, but in so enduring it has become a hollowed-out husk of its former self. “Dignitary torts” is now just a hand box, a convenient pigeonhole which enables us to group together a number of distinct wrongs for purposes of classification and exposition. Nothing more is now said about “dignity” as a concept, or as a value, or as an overarching interest, which either captures a latent unity among these wrongs or identifies a common thread which ties the torts together. And the dignitary torts no longer struggle forward. They stand now in a defensive crouch, awaiting further constitutional confinement.

Abraham and White rightly think that there is an important story here, and they tell that story in a rich, illuminating, and provocative way. The history of the dignitary torts is indeed a puzzle. Why did scholarly interest in them disappear? Why are they still dormant even though dignity has built up a head of steam in both international human rights law and domestic legal developments such as same-sex marriage and the more general recognition of the dignity of LGBT persons? The Puzzle of the Dignitary Torts offers answers to these questions, and more. It also explores the concept of “dignity” and advances a jurisprudential argument that the dignitary torts were foreordained to wither on the vine. That argument is intuitive at first sight, but elusive on closer inspection. The basic idea is that because the common law creeps forward case by petty case it cannot build a body of law which is systematically organized around a highly general concept like “dignity”. Continue reading "What Ever Happened to Dignity?"

Fleshing Out Centralized Review of Tax Regulations

Clinton Wallace, Centralized Review of Tax Regulations, 71 Alabama L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2018), available at SSRN.

In a new article, Centralized Review of Tax Regulations, Clinton Wallace addresses the timely question of whether and how tax regulations should be subject to centralized review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”) in the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”). While OMB review has become standard for “significant” or “economically significant” agency regulations, tax regulations have long avoided review even when they meet this standard, raising, yet again, the question of whether tax should be different than other areas of administrative law. In addition to helping us understand the historical lack of centralized review of tax regulations, Wallace’s paper does the important job of showing the inadequacy of the new framework for centralized review, and pushing us to recognize the complex questions that have to be answered to develop objective criteria for review.

Wallace first describes how the history of tax regulations not being subject to OIRA review is tied in with the long and much discussed (at least in tax circles) story of tax exceptionalism. Historically, Treasury and the IRS have taken the view that most of their regulations were merely interpretive and thus not subject to various requirements such as notice-and-comment or centralized review. This has resulted in the anomaly of tax regulations not being subject to the various stages of OIRA review even in cases in which other agencies, with joint drafting responsibility, have subjected that very same set of regulations to centralized review. Wallace also describes how the anti-inversion rule, the one tax regulation that has been subject to centralized review recently, was only reviewed in a relatively superficial way, lacking the type of rigorous analysis prescribed by OIRA’s own rules. Continue reading "Fleshing Out Centralized Review of Tax Regulations"

Property, Fast and Loose

Katrina M. Wyman, The New Essentialism in Property, 9 J. Legal Analysis 183 (2017).

What’s the best model for property – a sack of LEGO bricks or a heap of sticks?1 For those with a formalist view of property that emphasizes a stable set of characteristics and a distinctively self-contained architecture, the LEGOs win hands down.2 The blocks are standardized, free of rough edges and irregularities, and they snap cleanly together while maintaining their individual integrity. The sticks, by contrast, lack any obvious organizing principle or irreducible core. The bundles they form are loose and contingent, vulnerable to endless unbundling and rebundling.3 Yet the choice of bricks over sticks becomes far less clear on a functional vision of property that focuses on making property rights work well in the messy, interdependent modern world. For a functionalist, the question of optimal property structure must depend on the challenges and pressures presented by the surrounding conditions, and on what one is trying to build.

In The New Essentialism in Property, Katrina Wyman spotlights the incongruity between the formalist and functionalist facets of what she terms “the new essentialism.” Her primary focus is the influential scholarship of Henry Smith and Thomas Merrill, who are presently working on the American Law Institute’s fourth restatement of property (Smith is the lead reporter; Merrill is an associate reporter). Their vision of property as a boundary controlled, thing-based, in rem system of delegated control is steeped in formalism. Yet it also lays claim to functionalist justifications, most notably in the form of information cost savings. Opening the door to functionalism, however, requires reconciling property’s purportedly fixed core with social and economic conditions that are far from static. The resulting brand of essentialism is, as Wyman puts it, “highly malleable.” This malleability has two implications, as Wyman observes.  On the one hand, it offers a response to critics who accuse the new essentialist project of neglecting important interests. On the other, it makes the new essentialism less essentialist. Continue reading "Property, Fast and Loose"

Severability, Separation of Powers, and Agency Design

Kristin E. Hickman, Symbolism and Separation of Powers in Agency Design, 93 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1475 (2017).

Kristin Hickman pursues a “modest” goal in Symbolism and Separation of Powers in Agency Design: “to raise a few reservations regarding judicial refashioning of agency design via [a] severance remedy for separation of powers violations.” This understated approach commands attention to Hickman’s analysis. In this contribution to a Notre Dame symposium on “Administrative Lawmaking in the Twenty-First Century,” Hickman clearly identifies and carefully analyzes problems arising out of what might otherwise have passed as unremarkable applications of existing severability doctrine. With an eye toward big-picture legitimacy of courts and agencies, and with attention toward doctrinal and statutory detail, Hickman provides fresh reasons for judges to rethink this doctrine. And the increased attention earned by relatively restrained criticisms like Hickman’s may eventually move the law in the direction of more radical critiques that have started to receive an audience at the Supreme Court.

Hickman describes three cases or sets of cases in which the Supreme Court or the D.C. Circuit held an agency design unconstitutional based on separation of powers principles and then “fixed” the problem by “severing” a structural provision of the statutory agency design. These cases addressed the structure of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the Copyright Royalty Board, and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Continue reading "Severability, Separation of Powers, and Agency Design"

Privacy and Surveillance in Nursing Homes

Karen Levy, Lauren Kilgour, & Clara Berridge, Regulating Privacy in Public/Private Space: The Case of Nursing Home Monitoring Laws, 26 Elder Law J. __ (forthcoming 2018) available at SSRN.

A nursing home can be a dangerous place. Undetected abuse and neglect are common. Frustrated with the inadequacy of government oversight, some families have taken matters into their own hands and installed in-room video monitoring devices. In this way, privatized abuse prevention efforts can identify and rectify that which the camera records. The increasing use of so-called “granny cams” has led to legislative responses in at least six states—Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, and Utah. These statutory frameworks are thoughtfully examined by Karen Levy, Lauren Kilgour, and Clara Berridge in their forthcoming article, Regulating Privacy in Public/Private Space: The Case of Nursing Home Monitoring Laws.

The covert use of technology such as web-enabled video cameras to “peek in” and also preserve evidence of inadequate care, abuse, or exploitation may be well-intentioned. The overt placement of cameras might help to deter abuse from occurring in the first place. Privacy and autonomy concerns, however, might be overlooked. As these three co-authors explain, the interests of the resident, their roommates, their visitors, and their care workers—even, to some degree, the institutions themselves—merit scrutiny: “These multivalent privacy dynamics create a complicated space for law.” (P. 3.) Indeed, this complex relational space has given rise to strikingly varied legislative fixes. Levy, Kilgour, and Berridge study a relatively unstudied problem with sensitivity and thoroughness. Continue reading "Privacy and Surveillance in Nursing Homes"

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