The Full Faith and Credit Clause and the Puzzle of Abortion Laws

Diego A. Zambrano, Mariah E. Mastrodimos, Sergio F.Z. Valente

In 2021, Texas adopted a powerful antiabortion statute—known as S.B.8—that bars anyone from performing abortions in the state of Texas after approximately six weeks of pregnancy. But instead of empowering government officials to enforce its provisions, S.B.8 relies entirely on private lawsuits. In response, California enacted A.B. 1666, which prohibits its courts from serving as a venue for S.B.8 claims or enforcing S.B.8 judgments. California’s statutory response, however, faces tricky challenges under the Full Faith and Credit Clause (FFC) of the U.S. Constitution. And, more generally, the clash between S.B.8 and A.B. 1666 raises larger questions about conflict of laws, constitutional rights, and horizontal federalism.

Grappling with A.B. 1666’s constitutionality directly, this Essay argues that the statute probably complies with the Full Faith and Credit Clause. California has a strong argument for the constitutionality of A.B. 1666’s venue provision under the public policy exception to the FFC. And California has a weaker, but still colorable, argument in support of the statute’s judgment enforcement bar under the FFC’s penal judgment exception. The central question going forward is whether courts will interpret the Full Faith and Credit Clause in a flexible manner—allowing for capacious exceptions—or apply a tight leash to state legislative schemes. Indeed, state clashes like this one continue to matter even after Dobbs overturned Roe v. Wade because states will attempt to use private civil claims to go beyond criminal law on topics like abortion, guns, and LGBTQ rights.

(More) Legal Guardrails for a Unicorn Crackdown

Alexander I. Platt

The explosive growth of private markets and the proliferation of “unicorns,” private startups valued at $1 billion or more, has pushed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) away from the center of the action and towards the periphery. In 2021, the SEC announced plans to reassert its jurisdiction by forcing unicorns to go public. But those plans fizzled. By the end of last year, the legality of the maneuver had been called into question and key proponents had left the Commission, leaving the unicorn crackdown seemingly on ice.

Now the regulator is back with a new plan to reclaim its throne. In January 2023, one Commissioner proposed inventing a new mandatory periodic disclosure regime just for unicorns. Under this plan, the agency would amend Regulation D, the rule that allows unicorns and many other private companies to raise capital without going public, to require unicorns to disclose audited financial statements and to provide independent attestations regarding the issuer’s internal controls over financial reporting, both at the time of offering and on an “ongoing” basis thereafter—just as public companies are required to do under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

This paper questions the legality of this proposal. I show that the SEC likely lacks legal authority to impose ongoing disclosure obligations on private companies not linked to any particular offering or transaction or to condition particular private offering-related disclosure obligations on issuer size. For the second time in two years, an SEC Commissioner has proposed a regulatory overhaul to fundamentally redraw the lines between public and private companies. And for the second time in two years, that proposal appears to fall outside of the agency’s legal authority.

Copyright and Copying Rights

Guy A. Rub

Federal copyright law limits the copying of certain informational goods. But can state laws, and in particular state contract law, also do that? Until recently, the dominant approach was that they could. However, two recent Second Circuit decisions seem to suggest that only copyright law is allowed to do it. In other words, the Second Circuit assumes that copyright law is the only law that can regulate copying.

The Essay argues that the Second Circuit’s approach, while shared by several other courts, is wrong. It is in tension with the text and history of the Copyright Act and with the desirable relationship between federal IP law and state commercial law. This relationship is best described as symbiotic, but the Second Circuit has put those laws on a collision course. In doing so, the Second Circuit has ignored the practices of multiple industries and the ways in which copyright law and contract law work together. Indeed, state laws, in general, and contract law, in particular, have always regulated copying. Those rights and those contracts play a crucial role in our economy. Holding them unenforceable, as the Second Circuit did, might therefore disrupt well-established legal mechanisms without promoting identifiable federal policies.

Representation of United States Territories on the Federal Courts of Appeals

Anthony M. Ciolli

Many aspects of the relationship between the United States and its territories are inherently undemocratic. This Essay draws attention to one: the continued and systematic discrimination against United States territories in the appointment of judges to the federal courts of appeals. This failure not only contributes to the well-known diversity crisis within the federal judiciary but also to the stagnation in the development of the law of the territories as well as the persistent second-class treatment of the territories and their people under the United States Constitution as interpreted by the federal courts.  Unlike larger and more difficult issues such as voting rights, territorial representation on the federal courts of appeals could be achieved through a simple amendment to 28 U.S.C. § 44(c) or by the president exercising his discretion to reject the unofficial custom of filling vacant circuit court judgeships with judges who hail from the same state as their prior occupants.

Legal Empowerment is Abolition: A Response to the Symposium on Critical Legal Empowerment

Jhody Polk, Tyler Walton

This Essay is a joint endeavor of two authors equal in dignity, aligned in purpose, and, at one point, radically separated in social position. We hope that it will accomplish many things: locate the work of jailhouse lawyers within abolitionist frameworks, enunciate the role of jailhouse lawyers as community paralegals, and advocate for recognition and valuation of jailhouse lawyers as key members of the American legal ecosystem. However, if all this Essay articulates is a well-communicated theory on the path from our currently deplorable system of incarceration towards justice, we fall short of our ultimate goal.

Reflections on Fees and Fines as Stategraft: A Response to A Theory of Stategraft

Rebekah Diller, Mitali Nagrecha, Alicia Bannon

In A Theory of Stategraft, Bernadette Atuahene advances the concept of “stategraft” to describe situations in which “state agents transfer property from persons to the state in violation of the state’s own laws or basic human rights.” This Essay delineates the ways in which criminal legal system fees and fines can be characterized as stategraft and explores the value of this concept for social movements. In many ways, the stategraft frame, with its focus on illegality, fits well with much of the litigation and advocacy against unconstitutional fees-and-fines practices that have occurred over the last decade. Exposing illegal practices such as the operation of debtors’ prisons laid the groundwork for a more fundamental critique of the use of the criminal legal system as a revenue generator for the state. The Essay cautions, however, against relying too heavily on illegality to describe what is wrong with fees-and-fines regimes in light of courts’ reluctance to impose robust legal protections against state practices that saddle those who encounter law enforcement with debt. Relying on an illegality critique may make it harder to attack entrenched practices that courts are inclined to bless as legal and obscure more fundamental dynamics of predation and regressive revenue redistribution. At this juncture, calling attention to these structural issues is likely to be more fruitful both as an organizing tactic and as a description of the harms posed by fees and fines.

Illegality in a World of Predation: A Response to A Theory of Stategraft

Beth A. Colgan

Professor Bernadette Atuahene’s theoretical framework for “stategraft” denotes actions by which state agents transfer cash or property from the people to the state in violation of the law or basic human rights norms. Because illegality is central to stategraft, attention to it may push other forms of state predation—those that are legal or whose legality are uncertain—out of the realm of reform given the dearth of funding for legal advocacy and difficulties in marshalling lawmaker attention. This Essay suggests, however, that consideration of stategraft provides opportunities for advocates to push back against legal, or not yet illegal, predatory practices. It does so by looking to recent advocacy efforts related to two types of predatory behaviors outside the bounds of stategraft: the use of fines and fees, and civil forfeiture practices.

The Midas Touch: Atuahene’s “Stategraft” and Unregulated Artificial Intelligence: A Response to A Theory of Stategraft

Sonia M. Gipson Rankin

Professor Bernadette Atuahene’s article, A Theory of Stategraft, develops the new theoretical conception of “stategraft.” Professor Atuahene notes that when state agents have engaged in practices of transferring property from persons to the state in violation of the state’s own laws or basic human rights, it sits at the nexus of illegal behavior and revenue-generating activity for the government. Although there are countless instances of “stategraft,” one particularly salient example is when the state uses artificial intelligence to illegally extract resources from people. This Essay will apply stategraft to an algorithm implemented in Michigan that falsely accused recipients of unemployment benefits of fraud and illegally garnished their paychecks and intercepted their IRS tax refunds.

Generating Revenue Through Civil Forfeiture: A Response to A Theory of Stategraft

Dick M. Carpenter II

Civil forfeiture is a mechanism by which law enforcement can seize and keep property purportedly connected to a crime absent the arrest, formal charging, or even conviction of the property owner. Forfeiture laws also allow law enforcement to keep a portion, and sometimes all, of the seized property for agency use and, in some jurisdictions, even for the salaries and benefits of law enforcement personnel directly. In the past several decades, forfeiture laws have distorted law enforcement priorities by shifting the focus away from other activities and toward revenue generation. Civil forfeiture illustrates Professor Atuahene’s theory of stategraft: state agents transferring property from residents “to the state in violation of the state’s own laws or basic human rights,” often during times of budgetary austerity. But this Essay identifies important elements of forfeiture that do not comport with the theory. It suggests ways in which the conceptualization of stategraft may be expanded to encompass laws, regulations, and systems that legally, although arguably unjustly, allow or encourage state actors to exploit their fellow residents for the benefit of the bureaucrat’s budget. The Essay concludes with recommendations for reform of civil forfeiture laws and stategraft more generally.

Menstruation in a Post-Dobbs World: In Response

Bridget J. Crawford, Emily Gold Waldman

In this Essay, we re-examine our 2022 book, Menstruation Matters: Challenging the Law’s Silence on Periods, through multiple related lenses, including the human rights, sustainability, and workplace issues emphasized by our three reviewers; the COVID-19 pandemic; and the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. All of these perspectives converge on the inherent dignity and autonomy interests in being able to manage one’s own body. Menstruation and related conditions like breastfeeding, pregnancy, and menopause should not be sources of shame or stigma. Nor should they be vectors of formal control by the government or de facto exclusion from school, work, or any aspect of public life. Yet the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade means that reproduction-associated bodily processes likely will be the focus of legal battles for years to come. As we continue to emphasize the many ways that menstruation matters in life and law, we strive for a legal future that recognizes the full humanity of all people and safeguards our equal rights.

1 2 3 6