Archive for the ‘Courts’ Category
posted by Lawrence Cunningham
The Supreme Court continues to reject freedom of contract and the power of contracting and state contract law in favor of its national policy favoring arbitration. Most recently, in a per curium opinion in Nitro-Lift v. Howard, it said Oklahoma is not allowed to apply its own contract law to evaluate the validity of classic contract terms (here covenants not to compete). Instead, due to SCOTUS takes on a federal law and the presence of an arbitration clause in the contract, arbitrators make that decision.
The Court’s opinion stresses its conception of a national policy favoring arbitration, which it has found in recent decades in a century-old statute, the Federal Arbitration Act. That emphasis on this “national policy” marks a retreat from the false pretenses that infect the Court’s precedents on the subject, which pretend to be engaged in the application of contract law.
Despite that improvement in the Court’s honesty, it remains the case that the Court’s approach to this subject diminishes traditional principles of contract laws and the value of contracts. People are held to bargains they did not make or that are recognized by contract law as illegal. But the Court insists that no court is allowed to consider these questions, thanks to its statement of national policy.
In numerous past SCOTUS cases, dissenting opinions were routinely filed exposing the flaws in the Court’s jurisprudence. The recent per curium opinion may signal capitulation, indicating that there are no longer any Justices prepared to object to these mistakes. That defeat means it is clearly time for Congress to rein the Court in. It should make it clear that state courts are responsible for developing and applying state contract law, not SCOTUS, federal courts or private arbitrators.
posted by Lawrence Cunningham
Andrew Cuomo, New York’s Democratic Governor, will have the responsibility of making two appointments to the state’s highest court, after the recent death of Judge Theodore T. Jones Jr. and the planned year-end retirement of Judge Carmen B. Ciparick (reaching the court’s mandatory retirement age of 70). A screening commission will submit a list of names to the Governor from which to choose.
Since selection of judicial nominees is the prerogative of the chief executive, few could rebuke Cuomo for seeking judges in his own likeness. The Governor may prefer to appoint judges with liberal political, religious or social views without regard to other factors, such as a judge’s attitudes toward business.
Yet selections should be guided by the public interest, which may mean using broader criteria. As an extreme example, Mario Cuomo, when he was New York’s governor, deliberately appointed both Democratic and Republican judges to the court on the grounds that quality and balance were more important than quantity and ideology. Given New York’s role as a leading center of international commerce, however, there is a good case that the public interest calls for judges who understand the needs, values and realities of business.
When business people make contracts in New York, they want to know that the courts will uphold them as written and not rewrite them based on a judge’s notions of what is good for the parties. When corporations are formed in the state, entrepreneurs need flexibility and deference without the fear that courts will second-guess how they organized their companies or their business judgments. Judges who understand such business realities reinforce New York’s appeal as a commercial center and may be classified as “pro-business.”
Critics of the Supreme Court have politicized the concept by associating it with conservative thought: Republican justices are portrayed as pro-business, Democrats anti-business. Such an environment begs the question whether there is such a thing as a liberal judge who is also pro-business.
There is not necessarily anything conservative or liberal about being pro-business. True, two justices on the far left, William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall, showed a strong anti-business ideology. But other Democrats, including John Paul Stevens and Byron White, are not so readily classified, and Stephen Breyer’s opinions are quite business-friendly. Furthermore, many Republican justices, such as Sandra Day O’Connor and Potter Stewart, were not invariably pro-business.
The same has been true among judges on the New York Court of Appeals. Leading examples are former Chief Judges Stanley Fuld and Judith Kaye. Fuld was a progressive with Dewey-Republican leanings; Kaye is a Democrat with practicality and common sense. Fuld wrote an influential opinion (Walkovsky) upholding limited liability for corporate shareholders even when a business was structured for that sole purpose. Kaye wrote the important opinion (Levandusky) that applied the deferential business judgment rule to decisions made by the boards of co-operative homeowners’ associations.
The screening commission and the Governor would do well to look at a class of jurists: experienced business lawyers. Alas, other than Robert S. Smith, the judges on New York’s Court of Appeals lack such experience. Governor Cuomo has a chance to correct that deficiency, even while appointing judges who share his Democratic values.
Co-Op readers can help by leaving suggested nominees on the Comments section below!
Hat Tips: Stephen Bainbridge, Lester Brickman, Stephanie Cuba, Jeffrey Manns, John McGinnis and Stewart Sterk.
posted by Stanford Law Review
The Stanford Law Review Online has just published a Note by Nicolas L. Martinez entitled Pulling the Plug on the Virtual Jury. Martinez takes issue with Judge William Young’s proposal that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed be tried via videoconference from Guantanamo Bay by a jury sitting in New York:
Most people probably figured that the debate over where to try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (“KSM”) had ended. Indeed, it has been well over a year since Congress forced Attorney General Eric Holder to reluctantly announce that KSM’s prosecution would be referred to the Department of Defense for trial before a Guantanamo military commission. But a provocative proposal put forth recently by Judge William G. Young of the District of Massachusetts has revitalized one of the most contentious legal debates of the post-9/11 era. In a nutshell, Judge Young proposes that an Article III court try KSM at Guantanamo, but with one major twist: the jury would remain in New York City.
Perhaps unwilling to refight the battles of two years ago, Congress has shown no inclination to retreat from its apparent view that KSM may only be tried by a military commission at Guantanamo. As a result, following through on Judge Young’s plan, which could be viewed as an attempt to circumvent the will of Congress, might lead some legislators to harden their stance on civilian trials for alleged terrorists and propose even more disagreeable legislation to that end. This is not to say that creative solutions aimed at fortifying the rule of law in a post-9/11 world should be held hostage to the proclivities of intransigent voting blocs in Congress. Quite the opposite, in fact. But the likely political ramifications of Judge Young’s proposal cannot be ignored, especially in an election year when few members of Congress may be willing to spend their political capital defending the need to hold KSM’s trial in federal court.
Even though Judge Young’s provocative suggestion should not be adopted in its current form, he has moved the conversation in the right direction. Continuing to think imaginatively about ways to preserve our rule of law tradition from external threats is immensely important, particularly in the context of national security crises. For it is when the rule of law can be so easily discarded that it must be most doggedly defended.
September 13, 2012 at 10:00 am Tags: Civil Rights, Courts, criminal justice, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, guantanamo bay, military commissions, security, War on Terror Posted in: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Courts, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Current Events, Law Rev (Stanford), Military Law, Politics Print This Post No Comments
posted by Dave Hoffman
This week, law professors are encouraged to call federal judges and ask them to pull from an enormous pile of clerkship candidates particular students whose merits might be otherwise obscured. (Applications were delivered Tuesday to those Judges who are still “on plan“, and interviewing calls are supposed to go out Friday.) Unfortunately, the plan has entirely fallen apart, as wealthy law schools now are more than willing to package applications in the spring and summer. This unravelling, long-predicted in some quarters, has two pernicious consequences – apart from encouraging judges to take applicants earlier in their law school careers, and consequently increasing the importance of first-year grades.
- A re-emphasis on the importance of private and expensive networks of information about what judges are up to. When judges hire at different dates, it becomes crucially important to have sources inside the courthouse who know the scoop – former clerks, for example. This will tend to make it harder for applicants from poorer and less established law schools to break into the clerkship market. (Indirectly, this becomes yet another subsidy for wealthy schools.)
- Because some judges don’t particularly enjoy the competitive scrum, the death of the plan will accelerate the trend to hire either permanent clerks or clerks from practice. This is,variously:
- Bad for current law students;
- Good for associates in practice who want to make a move;
- Good for researchers who will be able to collect more expansive data about law clerk influence;
- Bad for those who fear that law clerks already have too much influence – the more experienced the clerk, the more likely that his or her views are influencing the judge’s decision;
- Bad for the budget, as more experienced clerks are more expensive. (Federal judges clearly don’t directly bear the costs of hiring more expensive clerks.)
The class, race, and gender effects insular hiring networks are well-known in general. Basically: when it’s all-but-impossible to figure out how to get a job, only people who don’t need the job get it.
posted by Stanford Law Review
The Stanford Law Review Online has just published a Note by Eric Hamilton entitled Politicizing the Supreme Court. Hamilton writes that the Framers carefully constructed a Supreme Court independent from the political branches of government:
To state the obvious, Americans do not trust the federal government, and that includes the Supreme Court. Americans believe politics played “too great a role” in the recent health care cases by a greater than two-to-one margin. Only thirty-seven percent of Americans express more than some confidence in the Supreme Court. Academics continue to debate how much politics actually influences the Court, but Americans are excessively skeptical. They do not know that almost half of the cases this Term were decided unanimously, and the Justices’ voting pattern split by the political party of the president to whom they owe their appointment in fewer than seven percent of cases. Why the mistrust? When the Court is front-page, above-the-fold news after the rare landmark decision or during infrequent U.S. Senate confirmation proceedings, political rhetoric from the President and Congress drowns out the Court. Public perceptions of the Court are shaped by politicians’ arguments “for” or “against” the ruling or the nominee, which usually fall along partisan lines and sometimes are based on misleading premises that ignore the Court’s special, nonpolitical responsibilities.
The health care law’s closely watched journey through the three branches of government concluded in the Supreme Court, a rare opportunity in the sun for the Court. What would have been a shining moment for the Constitution in a vacuum was instead validation of the Framers’ apprehensions. Our Constitution is the longest-lasting in the world because of Americans’ enduring reverence for it. But when elected officials exploit Americans’ patriotism to score political points, they jeopardize the Framers’ carefully constructed balance of power. Instead, honest public discourse on the Constitution and the Court is the surest security for our government.
August 30, 2012 at 9:30 am Tags: constitution, Constitutional Law, Courts, founding, framers, history, Politics, Supreme Court Posted in: Constitutional Law, Courts, Current Events, History of Law, Jurisprudence, Law Rev (Stanford), Politics, Supreme Court Print This Post No Comments
posted by Michael Kang
The Center for American Progress has just issued a report on judicial campaign finance that documents the increasing costs of campaigning in judicial elections and raises alarm that “[i]nstead of serving as a last resort for Americans seeking justice, judges are bending the law to satisfy the concerns of their corporate donors.” Jeffrey Toobin followed up in the New Yorker that “the last thing you want to worry about is whether the judge is more accountable to a campaign contributor or an ideological group than to the law. . . . [b]ut it’s clear now that in many states you should worry—a lot.”
My colleague Joanna Shepherd and I study judicial campaign finance and argue that what is regularly missed in this simple narrative is the crucial role of the major parties. In our empirical work, we find a very real relationship between contributions to judges and judicial decisions favorable to contributors, but the intuitive narrative of direct exchanges of money for decisions between individual contributors and judges is too simplistic to describe the larger realities of modern judicial elections. The Republican and Democratic Parties broker connections between contributors and their candidates, and we argue that parties, not elections, seem to be the key to money’s influence on judges.
In a new paper still in progress, The Partisan Foundations of Judicial Campaign Finance, we identify broad left- and right-leaning political coalitions, allied with the Democratic and Republican Parties, whose collective contributions exercise systematic influence across the range of decisions by judges who receive their money. The parties appear to coordinate judicial campaign finance under partisan elections where their investment and involvement is greatest, and what is more, we find that the robust relationship between money and judicial decisions largely disappeared in our data for judges elected in nonpartisan elections where parties are relatively less involved.
In addition, we go on to find a striking partisan asymmetry between Republicans and Democrats in judicial campaign finance. Money from conservative groups in the Republican coalition, as well as from the party itself, is associated with more conservative judicial decisionmaking by Republican judges, even controlling for individual ideology. However, decisionmaking by Republican judges is not responsive to money from liberal sources. Decisionmaking by Democratic judges, by contrast, is influenced by campaign support from both liberal and conservative sources and thus cross pressured in opposite directions. The result is that judicial campaign finance reinforces party cohesion for Republicans while undermining it for Democrats. Campaign finance thus predicts judicial decisionmaking by judges from both parties in some sense, but is much more successful in serving partisan ends for Republicans, netting out in a conservative direction between the two parties.
posted by Stanford Law Review
Volume 64 • Issue 6 • June 2012
Does Shareholder Proxy Access Damage Share Value in Small Publicly Traded Companies?
The American Jury:
July 3, 2012 at 5:57 pm Posted in: Book Reviews, Constitutional Law, Corporate Law, Courts, Current Events, Immigration, Intellectual Property, Law Rev (Stanford), Law Rev Contents, LGBT, Politics, Securities Print This Post No Comments
posted by UCLA Law Review
Volume 59, Issue 5 (June 2012)
|Implicit Bias in the Courtroom||Jerry Kang et al.||1124|
|The Supreme Court’s Regulation of Civil Procedure: Lessons From Administrative Law||Lumen N. Mulligan & Glen Staszewski||1188|
|Techniques for Mitigating Cognitive Biases in Fingerprint Identification||Elizabeth J. Reese||1252|
|Credit CARD Act II: Expanding Credit Card Reform by Targeting Behavioral Biases||Jonathan Slowik||1292|
|Shocking the Conscience: What Police Tasers and Weapon Technology Reveal About Excessive Force Law||Aaron Sussman||1342|
July 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm Posted in: Administrative Law, Behavioral Law and Economics, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Consumer Protection Law, Courts, Evidence Law, Law Rev (UCLA) Print This Post No Comments
posted by Stanford Law Review
Volume 64 • Issue 5 • May 2012
Securities Class Actions Against Foreign Issuers
How Much Should Judges Be Paid?
June 19, 2012 at 1:37 am Posted in: Administrative Law, Anonymity, Behavioral Law and Economics, Civil Rights, Courts, Disability Law, Economic Analysis of Law, Employment Law, Financial Institutions, Law Rev (Stanford), Law Rev Contents Print This Post No Comments
posted by Lawrence Cunningham
A court last week ordered New York’s current A.G., Eric Schneiderman, to find and disclose email files Spitzer created using a private account while working as a state employee. Such files, if they exist, are covered by the state’s freedom of information law, the court held.
The files are sought by a defendant, Howard Smith of AIG, in a civil prosecution Spitzer launched 7 years ago while A.G. The emails, which Spitzer says do not exist, are rumored to contain characteristic loose talk that could prove embarrassing to Spitzer and compromise cases he brought. As I am researching and writing about AIG, my work would benefit greatly from seeing any such emails.
Spitzer is not likely to cooperate. He blasted Schneiderman this week over his handling of the matter. He also took pot shots at Smith, as well as Hank Greenberg, former head of AIG, that appear libelous, in much the way Spitzer last year drew a defamation lawsuit for comments about other people he targeted as A.G.
posted by Stanford Law Review
Volume 64 • Issue 4 • April 2012
“They Saw a Protest”:
Constitutional Design in the Ancient World
The Copyright-Innovation Tradeoff:
Derivatives Clearinghouses and Systemic Risk:
May 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm Posted in: Behavioral Law and Economics, Constitutional Law, Corporate Finance, Courts, Economic Analysis of Law, Financial Institutions, First Amendment, Innovation, Intellectual Property, Law Rev (Stanford), Law Rev Contents Print This Post No Comments
posted by Jenny E. Carroll
Jenny Carroll is a former public defender and Prettyman Fellow. She currently teaches criminal procedure, criminal law and evidence at Seton Hall Law School.
Last Saturday, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (“KSM”), the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and four others were scheduled to be arraigned before a military commission in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Things didn’t go exactly as the government had planned. Instead of pleading, the defendants resisted. KSM and the rest of the defendants refused to answer the judge’s questions. One defendant started praying, and another defendant shouted that he was concerned for his own and the other defendants’ safety. The behavior turned the arraignment – usually a fairly brief proceeding – into a disorderly 13-hour hearing.
These are obviously unusual defendants. They claim to have planned a devastating act of terrorism that forever changed our nation’s sense of security and itself. They have been held by their self-proclaimed enemy for nearly ten years awaiting trial. During that time, evidence against them was acquired through mechanisms reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition — according the military’s own records, KSM was water boarded a total of 183 times in a single month. When their day in court finally arrived, the venue was not the federal court in New York, the most logical jurisdiction and the one Attorney General Eric Holder would have preferred, but a military commission. And while these commissions may have improved markedly since their inception in the Bush Administration, they remain shrouded in mystery with uncertain procedural or Constitutional protections.
Although these are unusual defendants in an unusual case, their strategy of resistance is not entirely new. The strategy declines to recognize the authority of the court and calls into question the legitimacy of the very system that claims the power to adjudicate. A long line of political dissidents and activists have sought to transform their criminal trials into a commentary on the system itself. In my forthcoming article, The Resistance Defense, I examine the implications of this defense. As I suggest there, the defense of resistance highlights two compelling but under-explored components of criminal law. First, the procedural rights that compose the right to a defense are more than individual rights; they have a communal value. The defendant may utilize them to challenge the accusation, but the community relies on them as well to legitimate the process and outcome. If a defendant forgoes these protections, the process is curtailed and questions of its legitimacy inevitably follow. Second, these procedural rights have a substantive component. They help to define notions of guilt and appropriate punishment. If a defendant chooses to forgo these rights, they effectively alter what it means to be convicted or to deserve punishment, skewing the meaning of the law itself.
In the context of these cases, the resistance defense raises larger questions: What do we really have to lose by trying this case, or any of the military commission cases, in the federal court system that we trust every day with our most difficult cases and complex constitutional issues? Why couldn’t New York, the city that no matter what seems to endure and constantly rise ever higher, not handle the trial of the men accused of killing so many of its citizens? I, like everyone else, have heard the warnings of the high costs of security and risk of reprisals. But in allowing these trials to remain in these military commissions so besieged on all sides by questions of their legitimacy and sufficiency, have we lost something is more difficult to quantify but is infinitely more valuable? Have we struck a blow against ourselves as frightening as those imagined by KSM or anyone else who would plot against us? Have we abandoned the procedure and Constitution that we claimed to defend because we were more afraid of the men who would challenge it? In some cruel twist, have we forgotten the very freedom we claimed we were defending?
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 4 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 »