Archive for the ‘Courts’ Category
posted by Stanford Law Review
Volume 64 • Issue 3 • March 2012
From Multiculturalism to Technique:
April 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm Posted in: Constitutional Law, Corporate Finance, Courts, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Culture, Current Events, Financial Institutions, Law Rev (Stanford), Law Rev Contents, Tort Law Print This Post No Comments
posted by Angela Harris
“I’m a self-loathing law student,” confessed one of the students in my Critical Race Theory seminar this week. Several others immediately owned up to the same affliction. I will stipulate that self-loathing is probably not an affect we all should strive to achieve. But I was heartened anyway.
Twenty-five years ago when I began teaching law, my social-justice-minded students regularly veered from rage and tears at moral wrongs to a defiant hope. They sustained themselves and one another with a faith that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice, as Dr. King is thought to have said. And they ultimately placed their trust in law and especially the courts.
My students were not alone. Even by the mid-1980s, many of us lawyers and law professors were still recovering from the collective daze of delight induced by the Second Reconstruction and the Warren and Burger Court eras. Of course, we were already in the throes of affirmative-action backlash and judicial retrenchment; colorblind constitutionalism was shaped before our very eyes; and even as a law student I had studied Harris v. McRae in my equal protection class and learned that the formal declaration of a constitutional right is not the same as the economic security needed to exercise it. Yet the romance, the belief that getting the courts to pronounce a legal right was a mighty blow for justice, lingered on.
Maybe it was the continued influence of the post-war “idea of America as a normative concept,” as Edward Purcell put it in 1973: the incorporation throughout social and political debate of “terms that were analytically confused but morally coercive – patriotism, Americanism, free enterprise system, mission, and, most grossly, ‘we’re number one.’” In the culture of legal academia, this logic translated into a faith in the jurisprudence of legal process. In my little corner of the world we were all reading Democracy and Distrust and trying to locate neutral principles. The faith that procedural fairness, at least, could be achieved despite a lack of consensus about the good life reinforced a belief in the American rule of law as an unshakable bulwark of democratic fairness. That sentiment was entwined with a professional loyalty to the law: to have gone to law school was in itself a statement about one’s commitment to the law as the royal (I mean ”democratic”) road to justice.
So when critical legal studies, feminist legal theory, and then critical race theory hit the academy around this time, the crits (like the Legal Realists before them) were accused of “nihilism” and shown the door. Critical legal theory was not just a disloyalty to the civil rights movement but to the rule of law itself. It was subversive, in those mid-1980s days, to pass around The Hollow Hope and to insist, as the crits were loudly doing, that “reification” and “legitimation” were basic functions of legal reasoning. The trust that the system works – or, at least, could work if we got it right – was now being dubbed “legal liberalism” by the crits, and being skewered in massively long and ponderous articles about fundamental contradictions. But the critics could be challenged by asking them where their “positive program” was. And they could (sometimes) be silenced by demands that they leave the law altogether.
For the crit project seemed deeply and radically anti-law. We junior professors, reading their work and sometimes contributing to it, felt like outlaws (which brought with it a sense of being dangerous and cool, along with a sense of vulnerability heightened by our lack of tenure and the material consequences of being perceived as a nihilist). At the same time, interestingly, the practice of teaching was not too different for us as it was for our older Legal Process colleagues. It was all about puncturing our students’ illusions, showing them the indeterminacy of legal reasoning and teaching them how to surf on it, questioning the use of words like “fairness.” It was just that we had no shining neutral-principles machine to lift from the bottom of Pandora’s box at the end of the day.
I don’t mean to suggest that legal liberalism and faith in the rule of law as central to the American way ever died. At a conference at Santa Clara Law School last week on race and sexuality, some of the lawyers and academics gathered there bemoaned a “politics of civil rights” that has somehow placed marriage equality at the top of the LGBT agenda. The charge was familiar: too many lawyers and non-lawyers alike believe that “gay is the new black;” that the civil rights movement brought about racial equality and “now it’s our turn;” that if we prove we are just like them, we’ll all be free. The rush to assimilate to mainstream institutions and practices throws under the bus, as usual, those most vulnerable to premature death – those without the racial, economic, and bodily privileges (and/or the desire) to get married, move to the suburbs, and blend in.
What was different was that an alternative position, the “politics of dispossession” as Marc Spindelman named it, was also on the table – not as a stance that made one’s commitment to the law suspect from the get-go, but as an accepted ground for lawyering. When thinking about sexuality we might want to begin, under this politics, not with marriage but with the kids doing sex work on International Boulevard in Oakland, as Margaret Russell pointed out. And, after decades of critical theory, it was taken as a truth in that room — if an inconvenient one — that to do this would mean instantly coming up against poverty, racism, and violence, forms of suffering law is not well positioned to ameliorate.
In this way, lawyering for social justice is a contradiction. Not in the “nihilist” sense, the law-as-a-tool-of-the-ruling-class notion that those who want justice ought to give up their bar cards and go protest in the streets. (My friend Norma Alarcón once identified this romantic position as the desire to “be out in the jungle with Che.”) Rather, the politics of dispossession begins with recognizing that the law is not designed to go to root causes; that fundamental changes in the ground rules, which is what the most vulnerable need, come from organizing; and that lawyering isn’t useless, but that it looks different if it is prison abolition you want and not a marriage license.
More abstractly, the understanding in that room was that, as Patricia Williams said to the crits in one of the founding texts of critical race theory, law is both inadequate and indispensable in the struggle for justice. Post-legal-liberalism lawyering begins here.
What’s also new is that this commitment to living in the contradiction — accepting the tension between law and justice as a place to work rather than as a source of despair — is increasingly expressed not only by battle-scarred veterans at academic conferences but by law students. The desire to make positive social change has not gone away among my students. They still hope and expect that law can be used in the service of justice. But along with a waning of faith in the courts, they express an increasingly sophisticated awareness of the limits of the law more generally. They know, already, that justice and law are not the same. The task is no longer disillusioning them, but helping them develop the skills for finding what works and what doesn’t.
Okay, so “self-loathing” is probably not the best way to say it. But this wry recognition of the imperfection of law seems to me nevertheless an improvement over the wounded attachment to law as a portal to justice that seemed to mark so many progressive law students a generation ago. As the same student said later in the conversation that day, “That’s my contradiction, and I’m sticking to it.” There’s a wisdom there that’s heartening.
April 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm Tags: justice, legal process Posted in: Civil Rights, Conferences, Constitutional Law, Courts, Culture, Jurisprudence, Law Student Discussions, Legal Theory, LGBT, Teaching Print This Post 3 Comments
posted by Stanford Law Review
The Stanford Law Review Online has just published Chief Judge Alex Kozinski’s Keynote from our 2012 Symposium, The Dead Past. Chief Judge Kozinski discusses the privacy implications of our increasingly digitized world and our role as a society in shaping the law:
I must start out with a confession: When it comes to technology, I’m what you might call a troglodyte. I don’t own a Kindle or an iPad or an iPhone or a Blackberry. I don’t have an avatar or even voicemail. I don’t text.
I don’t reject technology altogether: I do have a typewriter—an electric one, with a ball. But I do think that technology can be a dangerous thing because it changes the way we do things and the way we think about things; and sometimes it changes our own perception of who we are and what we’re about. And by the time we realize it, we find we’re living in a different world with different assumptions about such fundamental things as property and privacy and dignity. And by then, it’s too late to turn back the clock.
Judges, legislators and law enforcement officials live in the real world. The opinions they write, the legislation they pass, the intrusions they dare engage in—all of these reflect an explicit or implicit judgment about the degree of privacy we can reasonably expect by living in our society. In a world where employers monitor the computer communications of their employees, law enforcement officers find it easy to demand that internet service providers give up information on the web-browsing habits of their subscribers. In a world where people post up-to-the-minute location information through Facebook Places or Foursquare, the police may feel justified in attaching a GPS to your car. In a world where people tweet about their sexual experiences and eager thousands read about them the morning after, it may well be reasonable for law enforcement, in pursuit of terrorists and criminals, to spy with high-powered binoculars through people’s bedroom windows or put concealed cameras in public restrooms. In a world where you can listen to people shouting lurid descriptions of their gall-bladder operations into their cell phones, it may well be reasonable to ask telephone companies or even doctors for access to their customer records. If we the people don’t consider our own privacy terribly valuable, we cannot count on government—with its many legitimate worries about law-breaking and security—to guard it for us.
Which is to say that the concerns that have been raised about the erosion of our right to privacy are, indeed, legitimate, but misdirected. The danger here is not Big Brother; the government, and especially Congress, have been commendably restrained, all things considered. The danger comes from a different source altogether. In the immortal words of Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
April 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm Posted in: Anonymity, Blogging, Constitutional Law, Courts, Culture, Current Events, Cyberlaw, First Amendment, Google & Search Engines, Law Rev (Stanford), Politics, Privacy, Privacy (Consumer Privacy), Privacy (Electronic Surveillance), Privacy (Law Enforcement), Science Fiction, Supreme Court, Technology Print This Post 3 Comments
posted by Janai S. Nelson
I am delighted to join the blogging community of Concurring Opinions for the month of April. Thanks to Solangel Maldonado and Daniel Solove for their gracious invitation.
Denying voting rights to citizens with felony convictions has gotten a bad rap. The reason it’s not worse is because that rap is based on only half the story. Anyone familiar with the complexion of our prison population knows that felon disfranchisement laws extend striking racial disparities to the electoral arena. Less known, however, is that citizens with felony convictions are excluded from the electorate, in part, because of perceptions about how this demographic might vote or otherwise affect the marketplace of ideas. In other words, citizens with felony convictions are denied the right to vote because of their suspected viewpoint.
Picking up on this point earlier this year, Michael Dorf highlighted a dispute between Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum about which of them held the most conservative position concerning the voting rights of citizens convicted of a felony. Inventing a criminal persona named Snake, Dorf queried what issues might provoke such a person to vote: Lower protections for private property or public safety? Redistribution of public resources from law enforcement to education, health, or recreation? Elimination of certain criminal laws? I can fathom many other lawful motivations for voting. However, as Dorf points out (and decidedly rejects), the underlying objection to allowing citizens with felony convictions to vote is based on an assumption that, if they could vote, they would express self-serving and illegitimate interests. In other words, the viewpoint that felons would express through voting has no place in the electoral process.
I have always assumed that my viewpoint was precisely what I and other voters are supposed to express at the ballot box. Whether that viewpoint is shared, accepted, condoned or vehemently disdained and abhorred by others is irrelevant to the right to vote. Not so for citizens with felony convictions. This group of citizens is presumed to possess deviant views that justify their exclusion from the electorate and the denial of a fundamental right. Read the rest of this post »
April 3, 2012 at 9:37 am Tags: Constitutional Law, Election law, equal protection, felon disfranchisement, First Amendment, prisoner's rights, right to vote, voting qualifications, voting rights Posted in: Administrative Law, Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Courts, Culture, Current Events, Election Law, Law and Humanities, Race, Uncategorized Print This Post 14 Comments
Jamal Greene on How the World Would Not End if the Supreme Court Did Not Tell Congress What to Do on ACA
posted by Danielle Citron
Jamal Greene has an insightful essay over at Slate on the Supreme Court’s role in ruling on ACA’s constitutionality. I thought I’d add his essay to the mix for the superb round up of guests my co-blogger Gerard gathered together this week. Here is Professor Greene’s essay:
This week, challengers to the Affordable Care Act are asking the Supreme Court to say that the Constitution does not permit the government to require Americans to purchase health insurance. Lawyers for the government are asking the court to say the opposite. The court should say neither. Read the rest of this post »
Prelude to Next Week’s Oral Argument: Henry and Stearns on Commerce Games and the Individual Mandate
posted by Danielle Citron
In preparation for Monday’s oral argument on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate (and our online symposium), I wanted to recommend an insightful article written by my colleagues Leslie Meltzer Henry and Maxwell Stearns (both of whom I’ve blogged about here, here, and here) entitled Commerce Games and the Individual Mandate, 100 Georgetown Law Journal 1117 (2012). I’m going to include the abstract below. Yesterday, Professors Henry and Stearns published a terrific op ed in the Baltimore Sun arguing for the constitutionality of the individual mandate.
While the Supreme Court declined an early invitation to resolve challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or the Act), a split between the United States Courts of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (sustaining the ACA’s “individual mandate”) and the Eleventh Circuit (striking it down) ultimately compelled the Court to grant certiorari in a series of cases challenging the constitutional validity of the new federal health care law. In addition to deciding the fate of this centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s regulatory agenda, the Court’s decision will likely affect Commerce Clause doctrine—and related doctrines—for years or even decades to come.
Litigants, judges, and academic commentators have focused on whether the Court’s “economic activity” test, as set forth in United States v. Lopez, permits the individual mandate. This Article approaches the constitutionality of that provision from a novel perspective, one that proves essential in applying past Commerce Clause decisions, including Lopez, to the ACA and in appreciating the real stakes involved in upending the individual mandate. By analyzing the Court’s Commerce Clause jurisprudence through the lens of game theory, we expose common features of games that have resulted in limiting state powers on the dormant side of Commerce Clause doctrine, and in sustaining and restricting congressional powers on the affirmative side. Applying such games as “the prisoners’ dilemma,” “the driving game,” and “the battle of the sexes” yields critical insights about the nature and limits of state and federal regulatory powers.
Our game-theoretical analysis shows that although debates have centered on the role of the individual mandate in solving a micro-level separating game among low-risk individuals who do not purchase insurance and high-risk individuals who cannot afford it, a more compelling account focuses on the Act’s role in solving a macro-level separating game played among the states. By comparing the ACA to several important historical policy splits among states—public accommodations laws, abortion funding, the death penalty, civil remedies for violent crimes against women, and same-sex marriage—we demonstrate that the Act, including the individual mandate, fits well within those cases for which congressional commerce power is justified to avoid the risk that competing state policies will force other states into a problematic separating game, thereby undermining the selected regulatory policy. Our analysis reconciles congressional power to implement the ACA with the post-New Deal expansions and recent retrenchments of Congress’s Commerce Clause powers, and compellingly reconciles the dormant and affirmative sides of the Supreme Court’s Commerce Clause jurisprudence.
posted by Stanford Law Review
The Stanford Law Review Online recently published an Essay by Nan D. Hunter entitled Animus Thick and Thin: The Broader Impact of the Ninth Circuit’s Decision in Perry v. Brown. Professor Hunter argues that the Perry decision will have a more far-reaching impact than most commentators have suggested, both in defining the role of animus in equal protection analysis and in establishing the courts’ role in checking popular initiatives that deny rights to minorities:
The only problem with this analysis for marriage equality supporters is that, despite the principle that courts should resolve constitutional disputes on the narrowest possible grounds, the “taking away” portion of the rationale strikes some as too outcome driven and transparently invented for the goal of providing the Supreme Court with a plausible rationale for denying certiorari. From this view, the opinion’s political strength will also be its greatest doctrinal weakness.
I disagree on two counts. First, I read the opinion as being far more nuanced than it has been given credit for, and believe that its elaboration of the role of animus in judicial review is an important contribution to equal protection doctrine. Second, critics are missing a deeper point: the greatest political strength of the Perry opinion lies not in the short-term question of whether the Supreme Court will accept review, but in its contribution to the more enduring issue of how courts can balance their role of serving as an antimajoritarian check on populist retaliation against minorities while also preserving the values of popular constitutionalism.
[A]lthough initially the panel opinion in Perry would affect only Proposition 8, its larger contribution may be the creative way that it addresses the persistent, intractable conundrum of America’s countermajoritarian difficulty. The opinion does this in part by taking animus seriously as one of the criteria for heightened rational basis review and in part by creating a modest curb on popularly enacted state constitutional amendments. If the Ninth Circuit grants rehearing en banc, the opinion will be vacated, but one hopes that its contribution to the evolution of equal protection law will endure.
Read the full article, Animus Thick and Thin: The Broader Impact of the Ninth Circuit’s Decision in Perry v. Brown by Nan D. Hunter, at Stanford Law Review Online.
posted by Danielle Citron
Lucky for us, my brilliant colleague Lee Kovarsky took some time out of his whirlwind schedule to help walk us through the Supreme Court’s post-conviction decision in Martinez v. Ryan. I’ve blogged about Professor Kovarsky before–he is an expert on habeas corpus whose newest work, entitled “A Constitutional Theory of Habeas Power,” will be published by the Virginia Law Review. He is also amidst writing a textbook for Foundation Press entitled “Federal Habeas Corpus: Executive Detention and Post-Conviction Litigation” (forthcoming 2013) (with Brandon Garrett). Professor Kovarsky recently argued a habeas case before the Fifth Circuit and helped write the ABA Amicus Brief in Martinez.
Martinez and the Roberts Post-Conviction Project*
Almost under the radar, the Roberts Court has reconfigured the way this country conducts post-conviction review. Years from now, we may consider a case decided this Tuesday, Martinez v. Ryan, a seminal entry in that shift. Perhaps Martinez was reported so sparingly because it was so complicated, but its complexity shouldn’t obscure its importance. (Stephen Vladeck has a characteristically insightful explanation of Martinez up on SCOTUSBLOG.)
The “Roberts Post-Conviction Project” has two moving parts. First, the Project involves a series of decisions promoting state collateral review as the “main event” for post-conviction challenges. Second, and at the same time, the Project has generated incentives for states to provide more process and better lawyers in those proceedings. The Project is hardly a return to thick, Warren-era habeas review of state criminal procedure, but it does slightly moderate one rhetorical excess of Rehnquist post-conviction jurisprudence—the proposition that state judges are always as good as their federal counterparts at enforcing federal constitutional rights.
Criminal process for convicted state prisoners subdivides roughly into the following phases: (1) direct appellate review of the conviction; (2) a state post-conviction disposition subject to state appellate review; and (3) a federal habeas proceeding with federal appeals. For decades, Congress and the Supreme Court have been recalibrating federal habeas review to defer to state post-conviction outcomes. Most recently, in Cullen v. Pinholster (2011), the Supreme Court held that (generally) federal habeas relief could issue only on evidence presented to a state post-conviction court.
The problem is that, for decades, state post-conviction review—the first place that a prisoner may assert many important constitutional challenges to a conviction—has been a legal swamp of vague rules, spotty process, and substandard representation. Many prisoners litigate state post-conviction claims pro se, and many counseled prisoners enjoy no constitutional entitlement to competent representation. Even for strong constitutional claims, forfeiture often follows a state prisoner’s failure to successfully navigate unthinkably complex state post-conviction law either (1) without representation or (2) with a bad lawyer that the state underpays.
And federal habeas law imposes all sorts of severe penalties when state post-conviction representation goes predictably awry. For instance, the federal limitations statute was—until recently—unforgiving about lost portions of the limitations period attributable to even the most appalling state post-conviction representation. Moreover, at least pre-Martinez, when incompetent state post-conviction representation forfeited a claim on a state procedural ground, that claim would be inexcusably defaulted on federal habeas review.
The Court heard Martinez v. Ryan on October 4, 2011. Twenty-four State Attorneys General signed an Amicus Brief in support of Arizona, as did the United States. By mid-March 2012, the Court had still failed to announce a decision. It was clear that something serious was happening, but nobody had a good sense of what that something was. As it turns out, the prisoner won pretty big. Although the opinion stopped short of announcing a constitutional right to a state post-conviction attorney, its decision will nonetheless improve the representation provided at that phase of criminal process.
Kennedy wrote, and was joined by Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan. (Scalia and Thomas dissented.) The head count is a pleasant surprise for those who remain skeptical that Roberts and Alito are willing to break meaningfully from Scalia and Thomas on the harsh application of procedural rules on federal habeas review. Read the rest of this post »
posted by Stanford Law Review
Volume 64 • Issue 2 • February 2012
Elective Shareholder Liability
March 6, 2012 at 3:51 am Posted in: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Corporate Finance, Corporate Law, Courts, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Law Rev (Stanford), Law Rev Contents, Privacy (Law Enforcement), Technology Print This Post No Comments
posted by Stanford Law Review
The Stanford Law Review Online has just published an Essay by Richard A. Epstein entitled Physical and Regulatory Takings: One Distinction Too Many. In light of Harmon v. Kimmel—a case challenging New York’s rent control statute on petition to the Supreme Court—Epstein provides a succinct economic takedown of uncompensated regulatory takings in four distinct areas: rent control, support easements, zoning, and landmark preservation statutes. In suggesting a unified approach to eminent domain whether the taking is physical or regulatory, he writes:
Unfortunately, modern takings law is in vast disarray because the Supreme Court deals incorrectly with divided interests under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which reads: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The Supreme Court’s regnant distinction in this area is between physical and regulatory takings. In a physical taking, the government, or some private party authorized by the government, occupies private land in whole or in part. In the case of a per se physical taking, the government must pay the landowner full compensation for the value of the land occupied. Regulatory takings, in contrast, leave landowners in possession, but subject them to restrictions on the ability to use, develop, or dispose of the land. Under current law, regulatory takings are only compensable when the government cannot show some social justification, broadly conceived, for its imposition.
Thus, under current takings law, a physical occupation with trivial economic consequences gets full compensation. In contrast, major regulatory initiatives rarely require a penny in compensation for millions of dollars in economic losses. . . .
The judicial application of takings law to these four different partial interests in land thus destroys the social value created by private transactions that create multiple interests in land. The unprincipled line between occupation and regulation is then quickly manipulated to put rent control, mineral rights, and air rights in the wrong category, where the weak level of protection against regulatory takings encourages excessive government activity. The entire package lets complex legal rules generate the high administrative costs needed to run an indefensible and wasteful system. There are no partial measures that can fix this level of disarray. There is no intellectual warrant for making the categorical distinction between physical and regulatory takings, so that distinction should be abolished. A unified framework should be applied to both cases, where in each case the key question is whether the compensation afforded equals or exceeds the value of the property interest taken. The greatest virtue of this distinction lies not in how it resolves individual cases before the courts. Rather, it lies in blocking the adoption of multiple, mischievous initiatives that should not have been enacted into law in the first place. But in the interim, much work remains to be done. A much-needed first step down that road depends on the Supreme Court granting certiorari in Harmon v. Kimmel.
Read the full article, Physical and Regulatory Takings: One Distinction Too Many by Richard A. Epstein, at the Stanford Law Review Online.
posted by Danielle Citron
Sometimes, opening sentences tell you exactly what you need to know about what’s to follow. That’s certainly true of literature. Consider the beginning of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground (translation Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky): “I am a sick man . . . I am a wicked man. An unattractive man. I think my liver hurts.” Genius, really. And this notion is definitely true of opinions. Take, as an example, Wal-mart Stores v. Dukes: “We are presented with one of the most expansive class actions ever.” Justice Scalia, from the get go, made clear that the class was doomed. I imagine that readers have other humdingers of beginnings, do tell.
posted by Lawrence Cunningham
Should civil trial courts describe the pleadings alleging wrongdoing in criminal terms? In reading large numbers of opinions in corporate cases over the years, I can recall only one judge who did so. The judge was Leo Strine, an otherwise-obscure figure known among corporate law devotees because of his seat on the Delaware court that hears many business disputes among corporate interests.
In a shareholder lawsuit, Strine was evaluating whether the plaintiffs’ lawyers had alleged a link between their general claim that a corporation lacked adequate internal controls and their further claim that two corporate directors, in particular, knew of this. Strine acknowledged that making the link between a general failure of internal control and someone’s personal knowledge, and therefore culpability, requires a fair amount of detailed specifics. The defendants had challenged the plaintiff’s complaint as deficient in this regard. Strine then wrote the following (the snide style appears in the original, as I am quoting this literally):
“But here? Really? The Complaint fairly supports the assertion that AIG’s Inner Circle led a—and I use this term with knowledge of its strength—criminal organization.”
The prejudicial quality of this calculated and intemperate statement is obvious. It was also gratuitous, because it is beyond the relevant jurisdiction, experience and pleadings. According to lawyers and participants in the case, the statement crystalized Strine’s biased attitude throughout the case and others he oversaw involving the same people. All arose out of the corporate power struggle of March 2005 in which the board of American International Group, under pressure from Eliot Spitzter, ousted Hank Greenberg, its chairman and chief executive of forty years (and leader of what Strine maliciously called the “Inner Circle”).
In addition to being substantively inflammatory, Strine’s gratuitous comment was dangerous because of its timing. Strine published that statement in February 2009, in a case that was trivial in terms of the stakes for Greenberg. It was just four months before a civil trial would begin in New York federal court where Greenberg fought his former company over $20 billion worth of property.
As it turned out, Greenberg won the $20 billion case, following a three-week jury trial, though the jury deliberated for only half a day and the judge, Jed Rakoff, said the plaintiffs did not come close to making out a case. Even so, Strine’s reckless comments could have biased those jurors too. Strine should not have written those words. It would have sufficed to say the pleadings met the required standard. He should expunge the invective from the record or at least apologize for it. Strine would also do well generally to abandon the snide, malicious, gratuitous style of writing on display in this opinion, which is injudicious and unbecoming.
The case was In re American International Group Shareholders’ Derivative Litigation, 965 A.2d 673 (Strine, Delaware Chancery, February 10, 2009).
Stanford Law Review Online: The Ninth Circuit’s Perry Decision and the Constitutional Politics of Marriage Equality
posted by Stanford Law Review
The Stanford Law Review Online has just published an Essay by Yale’s William N. Eskridge Jr. entitled The Ninth Circuit’s Perry Decision and the Constitutional Politics of Marriage Equality. Eskridge provides an accessible summary of the opinion and defends the judgment against detractors who claim it went too far—or didn’t go far enough:
In the blogosphere, Judge Reinhardt’s Perry opinion has come under heavier fire from commentators favoring marriage equality than from those opposed to equality. Some gay-friendly commentators have lamented that the Ninth Circuit did not announce a general right of lesbian and gay couples to marry all over the country and have criticized the court’s narrow reasoning as “dishonest,” analytically “wobbly,” and “disingenuous.” In my view, the court got it right, as a matter of law and as a matter of constitutional politics.
Start with the role of federal courts of appeals in our rule of law system: their role is a limited one, a point these pro-gay commentators have neglected. Such courts (1) are supposed to address the particular factual context presented by the parties, (2) must follow the binding precedent of their own circuit and of the Supreme Court, and (3) ought usually to choose narrow rather than broad grounds for decision. Judge Reinhardt’s Perry opinion is exemplary along all three dimensions. . . .
Should Judge Reinhardt have gone further, to rule that lesbian and gay couples in all states enjoy a “fundamental” right to marry, resulting in strict scrutiny that would be fatal to the exclusion of such couples in the laws of the more than forty states now denying marriage equality? For two decades, I have maintained that the Constitution does assure lesbian and gay couples such a fundamental right. But I am not a court of intermediate appeal. As such a court, the Ninth Circuit panel was right, as a matter of standard legal practice, not to engage this broader argument.
Marriage equality is an idea whose time has come for California, as well as for New York, whose legislature recognized marriage equality last year. But has its time come everywhere in the country? I fear not. The nation’s constitutional culture is much more accepting of lesbian and gay couples today than at the turn of the millennium, but much of the country is still hostile to gay people generally and marriage equality in particular.
Does that mean the Ninth Circuit and the Supreme Court should cower behind a constitutional heckler’s veto? Of course not. But when the hecklers are the bulk of the audience, the constitutional speaker needs to tread more carefully. Courts can help put an issue on the public law agenda, and they can channel discourse into productive directions. They can also help create conditions for falsification of stereotypes and prejudice-driven arguments, such as the canard that gay marriage will undermine “traditional” marriage. But courts cannot create a national consensus on as issue about which “We the People” are not at rest. And nationally, the people are not at rest.
In the United States, as a whole, marriage equality is an idea whose time is coming. And Judge Reinhardt’s decision in Perry v. Brown advances the ball just a little, and not too much.
Read the full article, The Ninth Circuit’s Perry Decision and the Constitutional Politics of Marriage Equality by William N. Eskridge Jr., at the Stanford Law Review Online.
posted by Lawrence Cunningham
Many are to blame for the financial crisis and plenty of reports and analyses have been written detailing assorted causes and assigning responsibility. Overlooked in accepted versions of events are two fateful decisions and their context: Eliot Spitzer’s overzealous drive to oust Hank Greenberg from heading AIG, and Arthur Levitt’s governance reforms implemented at AIG shortly thereafter.
The ouster of Greenberg and transformation of AIG are pivotal events because before the ouster and reforms, AIG wrote few of the credit default swaps that became the centerpiece of the crisis, but wrote increasingly risky and unhedged swaps thereafter. Many informed people consider it extremely unlikely or nearly impossible to imagine that, had AIG still been run by Greenberg under its traditional governance structures, the swap business at AIG could have gotten so out of hand.
In that telling, Spitzer’s aggressive tactics to have Greenberg ousted and Levitt’s ambitious reforms were at least indirect contributing causes of the crisis and its severity. The actions and ideas therefore deserve greater scrutiny than they have been given.
In Spitzer’s case, it’s important to highlight how he took many steps that were at least dubious as a matter of prosecutorial ethics; in Levitt’s case, the reforms were extreme departures from traditional corporate governance. Potential lessons include the importance of prosecutors not overstepping their bounds and the value of adhering to some traditions in the development of corporate governance. Read the rest of this post »
posted by Ramesh Subramanian
Thank you, Samir Chopra and Lawrence White for writing this extremely thought-provoking book! Like Sonia Katyal, I too am particularly fascinated by the last chapter – personhood for artificial agents. The authors have done a wonderful job of explaining the legal constructs that have defined, and continue to define the notion of according legal personality to artificial agents.
The authors argue that “dependent” legal personality, which has already been accorded to entities such as corporations, temples and ships in some cases, could be easily extended to cover artificial agents. On the other hand, the argument for according “independent” legal personality to artificial agents is much more tenuous. Many (legal) arguments and theories exist which are strong impediments to according such status. The authors categorize these impediments as competencies (being sui juris, having a sensitivity to legal obligations, susceptibility to punishment, capability for contract formation, and property ownership and economic capacity) and philosophical objections (i.e. artificial agents do not possess Free Will, do not enjoy autonomy, or possess a moral sense, and do not have clearly defined identities), and then argue how they might be overcome legally.
Notwithstanding their conclusion that the courts may be unable or unwilling to take more than a piecemeal approach to extending constitutional protections to artificial agents, it seems clear to me the accordance of legal personality – both dependent and, to a lesser extent independent, is not too far into the future. In fact, the aftermath of Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority has shown that various courts have gradually come to accept that dependent minors “gradually develop their mental faculties,” and thus can be entitled to make certain “decisions in the medical sphere.”
We can extend this argument to artificial agents which are no longer just programmed expert systems, but have gradually evolved into being self-correcting, learning and reasoning systems, much like children and some animals. We already know that even small children exhibit these notions. So do chimpanzees and other primates. Stephen Wise has argued that some animals meet the “legal personhood” criteria, and should therefore be accorded rights and protections. The Nonhuman Rights Project founded by Wise is actively fighting for legal rights for non-human species. As these legal moves evolve and shape common law, the question arises as to when (not if) artificial agents will develop notions of “self,” “morals” and “fairness,” and thus on that basis be accorded legal personhood status?
And when that situation arrives, what are the ramifications that we should further consider? I believe that three main “rights” that would have to be considered are: Reproduction, Representation, and Termination. We already know that artificial agents (and Artificial Life) can replicate themselves and “teach” the newly created agents. Self-perpetuation can also be considered to be a form of representation. We also know that under certain well defined conditions, these entities can self-destruct or cease to operate. But will these aspects gain the status of rights accorded to artificial agents?
These questions lead me to the issues which I personally find fascinating: end-of-life decisions extended to artificial agents. For instance, what would be the role of aging agents of inferior capabilities that nevertheless exist in a vast global network? What about malevolent agents? When, for instance, would it be appropriate to terminate an artificial agent? What would be the laws that would handle situations like this, and how would such laws be framed? While these questions seem far-fetched, we are already at a point where numerous viruses and “bots” pervade the global information networks, learn, perpetuate, “reason,” make decisions, and continue to extend their lives and their capacity to affect our existence as we know it. So who would be the final arbiter of end-of-life decisions in such cases? In fact, once artificial agents evolve and gain personhood rights, would it not be conceivable that we would have non-human judges in the courts?
Are these scenarios too far away for us to worry about, or close enough? I wonder…
February 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm Tags: A Legal Theory for Autonomous Artificial Agents, artificial agents Posted in: Bioethics, Civil Rights, Courts, Sociology of Law, Symposium (Autonomous Artificial Agents), Technology, Uncategorized Print This Post No Comments
posted by Stanford Law Review
Volume 64 • Issue 1 • January 2012
The Ghost That Slayed the Mandate
State Sovereign Standing:
Establishing Official Islam?
Lobbying, Rent-Seeking, and the Constitution
posted by Derek Bambauer
The Supreme Court handed down its decision in U.S. v. Jones yesterday, and the blogosphere is abuzz about the case. (See Margot Kaminski, Paul Ohm, Howard Wasserman, Tom Goldstein, and the terrifyingly prolific Orin Kerr.) The verdict was a clean sweep – 9-0 for Jones – but the case produced three opinions, including a duel between Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. Thus far, most privacy and constitutional law thinkers favor Alito’s position. That’s incorrect: Justice Scalia’s opinion is far more privacy protective. Here’s why: Read the rest of this post »
January 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm Posted in: Blogging, Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Courts, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Current Events, Jurisprudence, Privacy, Privacy (Electronic Surveillance), Privacy (Law Enforcement), Supreme Court, Technology Print This Post 9 Comments
posted by Stanford Law Review
In a Note just published by the Stanford Law Review Online, Daniel J. Hemel discusses a jurisdictional issue that might delay a ruling by the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and a novel way in which the Solicitor General could bypass that hurdle. In How to Reach the Constitutional Question in the Health Care Cases, he writes:
Although the Supreme Court has agreed to hear three suits challenging the 2010 health care reform legislation, it is not at all clear that the Court will resolve the constitutional questions at stake in those cases. Rather, the Justices may decide that a Reconstruction-era statute, the Tax Anti-Injunction Act (TA-IA), requires them to defer a ruling on the merits of the constitutional challenges until 2015 at the earliest. . . . Fortunately (at least for those who favor a quick resolution to the constitutional questions at stake in the health care litigation), there is a way for the Solicitor General to bypass the TA-IA bar—even if one agrees with the interpretation of the TA-IA adopted by the Fourth Circuit and Judge Kavanaugh. Specifically, the Solicitor General can initiate an action against one or more of the fourteen states that have announced their intention to resist enforcement of the health care law, and he can bring this action directly in the Supreme Court under the Court’s original jurisdiction. Such an action would be a suit for the purpose of facilitating—not restraining—the enforcement of the health care law. Thus, it would open up an avenue to an immediate adjudication of the constitutional challenges.
Read the full Note, How to Reach the Constitutional Question in the Health Care Cases by Daniel J. Hemel, at the Stanford Law Review Online.
January 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm Tags: academia, Constitutional Law, Current Events, health care law, jurisdiction, PPACA, Supreme Court, Tax Anti-Injunction Act Posted in: Constitutional Law, Courts, Current Events, Health Law, Law Rev (Stanford), Tax Print This Post One Comment
posted by Danielle Citron
Lucky for us, guest blogger and my brilliant colleague Sherrilyn Ifill has written a guest post on Chief Justice Roberts’s defense of the Court’s recusal standards and his dismissal of related concerns with regard to upcoming cases, including the health care challenge. Here is Professor Ifill’s post entitled “The Chief Strikes Out.”
The Chief Justice of the United States is too polite to tell those of us who’ve raised concerns about Supreme Court ethics and recusal standards to go jump in a lake. So instead, he invited us to a baseball game. In his 2011 State of the Judiciary address to Congress, Chief Justice John Roberts invoked the 1919 Chicago White Sox baseball scandal to explain why, in his view, the justices of the Supreme Court need not formally adhere to the Code of Judicial Conduct that governs the conduct of every other judge in the country or modify its current recusal practice. It’s not worth arguing with the Chief about the significance of the Judge Kennesaw Landis‘ role in resolving what was then the worst scandal in sports history. I have elsewhere taken issue with what I regard as the Chief Justice’s inadequate conception of the role of umpires in his confirmation hearing opening statement. But as every true sports fans knows, you can’t win a sports argument.
Justice Roberts deserves credit for devoting his entire State of the Judiciary address to responding to the growing swell of critics in Congress, in the academy and in the advocacy community for changes in the Court’s recusal practice [although very persuasive critiques suggest that the Chief might well have spoken in his remarks directly to the crises effect the lower federal court judges] . Given the fact that one of the biggest problems with the Supreme Court’s ethics and recusal practices is the silence and secrecy that shrouds them, Roberts’ public and detailed defense constitutes a welcome indication that the Court is willing to engage respectfully with its critics. But Roberts’ forthrightness cannot overcome the fundamental inadequacy of his response to the concerns raised about the Court’s ethics and recusal practice.
I found Justice Roberts’ defense of the status quo in the Supreme Court’s recusal practice to be the most unsatisfying aspect of his remarks. As the Chief notes, Title 28, section 455 (a) of the United States Code requires federal judges to withdraw from cases in which their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Unlike the Code of Judicial Conduct which, by its express terms does not cover Supreme Court justices, 455(a) applies to justice on the High Court which even Justice Roberts concedes when he tells us that “individual Justices decide for themselves whether recusal is warranted under 455.” The Supreme Court has said that this standard does not require proof of actual bias and is to be judged by an objective standard, not the subjective view of the judge about his own impartiality. The standard is based on that of the “reasonable person.” In this regard, even the mere appearance of bias may require withdrawal. This comports with the Supreme Court’s view even before 455(a) was amended that include an objective standard that “justice must satisfy the appearance of justice.”
In addressing the recusal question, Justice Roberts rejects outright calls for Justices Thomas and Kagan to recuse themselves from hearing the case involving challenges to the health care law. But concerns about the Court’s recusal practice transcend the particulars of the health care case. Questions about the Court’s contemporary recusal practice date back to Chief Justice Rehnquist’s decision to participate in the Laird v. Tatum case in 1973, a year after he had testified before Congress in defense of the surveillance practices at issue, as an Assistant Attorney General in the Nixon Administration, and continued through Rehnquist’s decision sit in the 2000 Microsoft case, potential conflicts among several justices in Bush v. Gore , and through the controversy surrounding Justice Scalia’s duck-hunting trip with then-Vice President Dick Cheney while a case against the Vice President was pending in the Court.
The key issues at the center of the controversy are those of transparency and consistency. How do individual justices apply the standard for recusal set out in 455(a)? The Court’s recusal practice is entirely opaque. Justices are not required to, and most often do not, write decisions explaining why they have declined to recuse themselves from cases in which their withdrawal has been requested by parties. That’s why Justice Scalia’s 22-page memorandum opinion in response to the duck hunting controversy was so extraordinary and welcome, despite the many flaws in Scalia’s reasoning. We simply have no sense of how the justices apply the reasonable person standard in recusal cases.
In the absence of an opinion, even when the justices do recuse themselves, the parties and the public have little understanding of the basis upon which an individual justice took that action. It’s easy enough when there is an actual financial connection between a justice and one of the parties, or when the child or close relative of a justice is a lawyer for one of the parties. But the “appearance” standard set out in 28 U.S.C. 455 does not require actual bias. As a result we have very little sense of what – to the understanding of members of the Court – actually constitutes the appearance of partiality. This has the effect of increasing the controversy when, for example, Justice Thomas’ wife engages in high profile political behavior in opposition to the health care law, and Thomas makes comments that appear to approve her recent conduct. There is endless speculation, but very little Supreme Court precedent to guide a sound discussion of whether in fact recusal is warranted.
Roberts may be right that neither Thomas nor Kagan should recuse themselves. But this is not a matter the Chief can simply determine based on his confidence in the integrity of his colleagues. The question of recusal in neither instance is as much of a slam-dunk as Roberts and some ethicists have suggested, and is entitled to careful consideration by each of the justices in accordance with the standards of 455(a). While it is a comfort that Justice Roberts has “complete confidence in the capability of his colleagues to determine when recusal is warranted” that is simply not the standard set out in 455, or in the Court’s jurisprudence interpreting that statute. And frankly, many Americans simply do not share that confidence. Moreover, the lawyers who practice in the Court should have the opportunity to rely on more than the assurances of the Chief, in assessing the adherence of individual justices to the legal standard for recusal. Read the rest of this post »
posted by Jeffrey Kahn
Just before Christmas, Russian President Dmitrii Medvedev’s Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights recommended that the December 2010 conviction of Yukos-Oil-CEO-now-prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky be annulled. That announcement (unfortunately, only available in Russian, but reported by the BBC, among others) coincides with massive street protests not seen in Russia since shortly before Christmas 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.
The Council’s recommendation was based on a 427-page report on Khodorkovsky’s conviction that the Council gave to President Medvedev. The report contained the analysis of nine scholars that the Council selected last spring from Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. I was the American contributor. The report on the Council’s website is in Russian, but you can find an English-version of my portion of the document here.
The Khodorkovsky case will be the focus of a “hot topics” panel on Friday morning, January 6, at 10:30 at the AALS Conference in Washington D.C. How does the case relate to the recent protests in Russia? What does it say about the rule of law in Russia and prospects for reform? Come to the panel and find out!