NewYorkUniversity
LawReview

Articles

2022

Natural Transplants

Vanessa Casado Pérez, Yael R. Lifshitz

Policymakers are constantly faced with the complex task of managing novel challenges. At times, these challenges result from new technologies: Consider fights over allocating air rights for drones or decisions about how to share scarce vaccines in a pandemic. Other times the resources are old, but the challenges are new, such as how to fairly allocate water in times of unprecedented drought or previously undesirable rare earth minerals that are in demand for modern manufacturing and energy production. Often, instead of carefully tailoring a regime to the new resource, decisionmakers simply rely on mechanisms they are familiar with. When jurisdictions borrow from each other, scholars call this a “legal transplant”—as when one state copies another state’s innovations or when the federal government learns from the “laboratories of democracy.” This Article unveils a new dimension of legal transplants: transplants across subject areas. By transplants across subject areas, this article refers to instances when a jurisdiction looks for doctrines in other legal areas, often within its own legal system, when regulating a new resource or addressing a new challenge.


This Article makes three key contributions. First, it identifies a new type of transplant—between subject matters within a jurisdiction. Second, it analyzes the reasons for internal, cross-subject legal transplants and the criteria for selecting which subject areas to copy from. Third, the Article brings the legal transplants literature to bear, specifically, on natural resource law. It explores two cases, groundwater and wind energy, where policymakers and courts have borrowed from other resource schemes, often ignoring the scientific and social differences between these natural resources. Other areas of law, such as the incorporation of contract doctrines in landlord-tenant relations, are also described to show the explanatory power of the natural transplant framework. This conceptual framework is then applied to new mineral developments in space and the deep sea. Cross-subject transplants may be more prevalent than previously appreciated, and understanding them will pave the way to analyze the regulation of new developments in natural resources, infrastructure, and beyond.

Gerrylaundering

Robert Yablon

As they carry out their decennial redistricting duties, those in power sometimes audaciously manipulate district lines to secure an electoral advantage. In other words, they gerrymander. Often, however, the existing map already gives those in power a significant edge, and they may see little need for an overhaul. For them, the name of the game during redistricting is continuity rather than change.

This Article introduces the concept of “gerrylaundering” to describe mapmakers’ efforts to lock in their favorable position by preserving key elements of the existing map. Gerrylaundering and gerrymandering both serve anti-competitive ends, but they do so through different means. Unlike gerrymandering, gerrylaundering requires no conspicuous cracking and packing of disfavored voters. Instead, it involves what this Article dubs locking and stocking: Mapmakers lock in prior district configurations to the extent possible and stock each new district with one incumbent. Based on a review of redistricting practices in all fifty states, this Article concludes that gerrylaundering is widespread and that self-serving mapmakers commonly combine gerrylaundering and gerrymandering techniques in varying proportions to achieve their preferred results.


Recognizing gerrylaundering as a phenomenon enriches existing redistricting discourse by spotlighting the insidious nature of continuity strategies: They serve to advantage those in power, yet, since they appear more restrained than radical redesigns, they come with a veneer of legitimacy. This Article concludes that the veneer is thin. As a legal matter, efforts to preserve district cores and protect incumbents do not stand on the same footing as efforts to comply with traditional geographic districting principles. As a policy matter, gerrylaundering is more likely to subvert core democratic values than to foster them. At least two significant takeaways follow: First, courts should approach continuity criteria skeptically both when they review challenges to redistricting plans and when they draw maps themselves. Second, and more broadly, minimizing the legacy of prior maps has the potential to inject healthy dynamism into our system of district-based representation.

Memes on Memes and the New Creativity

Amy Adler, Jeanne C. Fromer

Memes are the paradigm of a new, flourishing creativity. Not only are these captioned images one of the most pervasive and important forms of online creativity, but they also upend many of copyright law’s fundamental assumptions about creativity, commercialization, and distribution. Chief among these assumptions is that copying is harmful. Not only does this mismatch threaten meme culture and expose fundamental problems in copyright law and theory, but the mismatch is even more significant because memes are far from an exceptional case. Indeed, memes are a prototype of a new mode of creativity that is emerging in our contemporary digital era, as can be seen across a range of works. Therefore, the concern with memes signals a much broader problem in copyright law and theory. This is not to say that the traditional creativity that copyright has long sought to protect is dead. Far from it. Both paths of creativity, traditional and new, can be vibrant. Yet we must be sensitive to the misfit between the new creativity and existing copyright law if we want the new creativity to continue to thrive.

Financial Inclusion in Politics

Abhay P. Aneja, Jacob M. Grumbach, Abby K. Wood

Our deregulated campaign finance system has a race problem. In this Article, we apply innovations in statistical methods to the universe of campaign contributions for federal elections and analyze the racial distribution of money in American politics between 1980 and 2012. We find that white people are extremely over-represented among donors. This racial gap in campaign contributions is significantly greater than the gap between white and nonwhite voter participation and white and nonwhite officer holders. It is also relatively constant across time and elected offices.

This result is an important missing piece in the conversation about equity in political participation. We argue that the courts and Congress should take steps to address the racial gaps in campaign finance participation. The participation and representation problems that flow from racial inequality in deregulated campaign finance could inform claims under the Voting Rights Act (VRA), and politico-financial inequalities certainly bear on the normative problems that the statute intends to address. But the most politically viable way to address the campaign finance racial gap lies in adoption of public financing for political campaigns, which offer the promise of increasing the racial representation of campaign contributions. When racial representation in contributions is improved, improved equality in the distribution of resources and power in electoral and political systems should follow.

Movement Judges

Brandon Hasbrouck

Judges matter. The opinions of a few impact the lives of many. Judges romanticize their own impartiality, but apathy in the face of systems of oppression favors the status quo and clears the way for conservative agendas to take root. The lifetime appointments of federal judges, the deliberate weaponization of the bench by reactionary opponents of the New Deal and progressive social movements, and the sheer inertia of judicial self-restraint have led to the conservative capture of the courts. By contrast, empathy for the oppressed and downtrodden renders substantive justice possible and leaves room for unsuccessful litigants to accept unfavorable outcomes. But some judges—movement judges—bring more to the bench than just empathy, raging against systemic injustice with an understanding of its burdens on real human lives. This Article argues that we need movement judges to realize the abolitionist and democracy-affirming potential of the Constitution. Although the judiciary is often described as the “least democratic” of the three branches of government, it has the potential to be the most democratic. With movement judges, the judiciary can become a force for “We the People.”

Colorblind Tax Enforcement

Jeremy Bearer-Friend

The United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has repeatedly taken the position
that because the IRS does not ask taxpayers to identify their race or ethnicity on
submitted tax returns, IRS enforcement actions are not affected by taxpayers’ race
or ethnicity. This claim, which I call “colorblind tax enforcement,” has been made
by multiple IRS Commissioners serving in multiple administrations (both
Democratic and Republican). This claim has been made to members of Congress
and to members of the press.

In this Article, I refute the IRS position that racial bias cannot occur under current
IRS practices. I do so by identifying the conditions under which race and ethnicity
could determine tax enforcement outcomes under three separate models of racial
bias: racial animus, implicit bias, and transmitted bias. I then demonstrate how such
conditions can be present across seven distinct tax enforcement settings regardless
of whether the IRS asks about race or ethnicity. The IRS enforcement settings ana-
lyzed include summonses, civil penalty assessments, collection due process hear-
ings, innocent spouse relief, and Department of Justice (DOJ) referrals.

By establishing that every major enforcement function of the IRS remains vulner-
able to racial bias, this Article also challenges the IRS decision to omit race and
ethnicity from the collection and analysis of tax data. The absence of publicly avail-
able data on IRS enforcement activities by race should not be interpreted as evi-
dence that no racial disparities exist. I conclude by describing alternative
approaches to preventing racial bias in tax enforcement other than the current IRS
policy of purported colorblindness.

Structural Biases in Structural Constitutional Law

Jonathan S. Gould, David E. Pozen

Structural constitutional law regulates the workings of government and supplies the
rules of the political game. Whether by design or by accident, these rules sometimes
tilt the playing field for or against certain political factions—not just episodically,
based on who holds power at a given moment, but systematically over time—in
terms of electoral outcomes or policy objectives. In these instances, structural con-
stitutional law is itself structurally biased.

This Article identifies and begins to develop the concept of such structural biases,
with a focus on biases affecting the major political parties. Recent years have wit-
nessed a revival of political conflict over the basic terms of the U.S. constitutional
order. We suggest that this phenomenon, and a large part of structural constitu-
tional conflict in general, is best explained by the interaction between partisan
polarization and structural bias, each of which can intensify the other. The Article
also offers a typology of structural biases, keyed to the contemporary United States
but potentially applicable to any system. To date, legal scholars have lagged social
scientists in investigating the efficiency, distributional, and political effects of gov-
ernance arrangements. The concept of structural bias, we aim to show, can help
bridge this disciplinary gap and thereby advance the study of constitutional design
and constitutional politics.

Revitalizing Tribal Sovereignty in Treatymaking

David H. Moore, Michalyn Steele

In the current model of federal-Indian relations, the United States claims a plenary
legislative power, as putative guardian, to regulate Indian tribes. Under this model,
tribes are essentially wards in a state of pupilage. But the federal-tribal relationship
was not always so. Originally, the federal government embraced, even promoted, a
more robust model of tribal sovereignty in which federal-Indian treatymaking and
diplomacy figured prominently. Through treaties, the United States and tribes nego-
tiated territorial boundaries, forged alliances, facilitated trade, and otherwise man-
aged their relations. In 1871, Congress attempted to put an end to federal-Indian
treatymaking by purporting to strip tribes of their status as legitimate treaty part-
ners. In a rider to the 1871 Appropriations Act, Congress prohibited the recognition
of tribes as sovereign entities with whom the United States could negotiate treaties.
Since that time, the 1871 Act and the plenary power-pupilage model it entrenched
have grown deep roots in federal Indian law and the policies of the United States.
Congress has aggrandized its role in tribal life at the expense of tribal sovereignty,
and the coordinate branches of the federal government have acquiesced in this
foundational shift.


The literature of federal Indian law has wrestled with the doctrine of plenary power,
contemplated the fate of the federal-tribal treaty relationship, and questioned the
constitutionality of the 1871 rider. This Article posits new arguments for the uncon-
stitutionality of the 1871 Act, uprooting the presumptions underlying the Act and
revitalizing the prospect of federal-Indian treatymaking. Two recent developments
provide an opportunity for such a transformation. In
Zivotofsky v. Kerry, the
Supreme Court held that the President alone possesses the power to recognize for-
eign states and governments. While
Zivotofsky was a landmark case for U.S. for-
eign relations law, its potential significance for federal Indian law has gone
underappreciated.
Zivotofsky did not directly address the locus of power to recog-
nize tribal sovereignty to enter treaties, but it prompts the question and provides a
blueprint for arriving at an answer. Engaging that blueprint, this Article argues that
the President possesses the exclusive power to recognize tribes’ sovereign capacity
to enter treaties. The result: The 1871 Act is unconstitutional because it attempts to
limit that power. In our view, the President can and should unilaterally reengage in
federal-Indian treatymaking, revitalizing treatymaking and reanimating the sover-
eignty model of federal-Indian relations.

2021

Textual Gerrymandering: The Eclipse of Republican Government in an Era of Statutory Populism

William N. Eskridge, Jr., Victoria F. Nourse

We have entered the era dominated by a dogmatic textualism—albeit one that is fracturing, as illustrated by the three warring original public meaning opinions in the blockbuster sexual orientation case, Bostock v. Clayton County. This Article provides conceptual tools that allow lawyers and students to understand the deep analytical problems faced and created by the new textualism advanced by Justice Scalia and his heirs. The key is to think about choice of text—why one piece of text rather than another—and choice of context—what materials are relevant to confirm or clarify textual meaning. Professors Eskridge and Nourse apply these concepts to evaluate the new textualism’s asserted neutrality, predictability, and objectivity in its canonical cases, as well as in Bostock and other recent textual debates.

The authors find that textual gerrymandering—suppressing some relevant texts while picking apart others, as well as cherry-picking context—has been pervasive. Texts and contexts are chosen to achieve particular results—without any law-based justification. Further, this Article shows that, by adopting the seemingly benign “we are all textualists now” position, liberals as well as conservatives have avoided the key analytic questions and have contributed to the marginalization of the nation’s premier representative body, namely, Congress. Today, the Supreme Court asks how “ordinary” populist readers interpret language (the consumer economy of statutory interpretation) even as the Court rejects the production economy (the legislative authors’ meaning).

Without returning to discredited searches for ephemeral “legislative intent,” we propose a new focus on legislative evidence of meaning. In the spirit of Dean John F. Manning’s suggestion that purposivists have improved their approach by imposing text-based discipline, textualists can improve their approach to choice of text and choice of context by imposing the discipline of what we call “republican evidence”—evidence of how the legislative authors explained the statute to ordinary readers. A republic is defined by law based upon the people’s representatives; hence the name for our theory: “republican evidence.” This Article concludes by affirming the republican nature of Madisonian constitutional design and situating the Court’s assault on republican evidence as part of a larger crisis posed by populist movements to republican democracies today.

Bargaining for Integration

Shirley Lin

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to restructure exclusionary environments upon the request of their employees with disabilities so that they may continue working. Under a virtually unexamined aspect of the mandate, however, the parties must negotiate in good faith over every accommodation request. This “interactive process,” while decentralized and potentially universal, occurs on a private, individualized basis.

Although the very existence of the mandate has been heavily debated, scholarship has yet to acknowledge that the ADA is actually ambivalent to individuals’ relative power to effect organizational change through bargaining. This Article is the first to critique the law’s interactive requirements. The process does not appear in the statute, but is an agency’s conceptualization of the mandate as an idealized exchange. By evaluating new empirical evidence relating to race, class, and gender outcomes against the meso-level theories underlying the mandate, this Article argues that the process disempowers employees through deficits of information, individuated design, and employers’ resistance to costs. Nonetheless, momentum to replicate the mandate to accommodate pregnancy and other workers’ needs continues apace.

As the workplace is increasingly deemed essential to societal well-being, this new frame reveals the law’s design flaws and unfulfilled potential. In response, this Article proposes reallocations of power so that the state may gather and publicize organizational precedent to facilitate structural analysis, regulation, and innovation at scale; legally recognize that antidiscrimination work, particularly dismantling ableist environments, is a collective endeavor; and expand the social insurance model for accommodations. Perhaps, then, the ADA’s original vision of institutional transformation may become possible.

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