Volume 85, Number 5

November 2010

“The People” of the Second Amendment: Citizenship and the Right to Bear Arms

Pratheepan Gulasekaram

The Supreme Court’s recent Second Amendment decision, District of Columbia v Heller, asserts that the Constitution’s right to bear arms is an individual right to armed self-defense held by law-abiding “citizens.” This Article examines the implications of this description, concluding that the Second Amendment cannot concurrently be a right of armed self-defense and restricted to citizens. The Article proceeds in three parts. First, it analyzes the term “the people” as it has been interpreted in recent Court cases. The Article concludes that constitutional text and Supreme Court jurisprudence provide no sustainable basis to believe the Second Amendment is limited to citizens. Second, the Article situates Heller within a historical context of gun regulation motivated by racial animus and xenophobia, manifested by contractions of citizenship to exclude—and gun laws intended to disarm—racial minorities and noncitizens. Third, the Article attempts to revive a coherent theory justifying the limitation of gun rights to citizens but ultimately concludes that armed self-defense is conceptually unrelated to historically political rights such as voting and jury service. Thus, Heller’s holding regarding who is entitled to armed self-defense is logically unsound and doctrinally troubling.


Jeanne C. Fromer

Many critics have noted that patent litigation’s institutional structure is riddled with shortcomings that lead to unjust and inefficient outcomes and decrease public faith in the legal system. This Article relies on theory and empirical data to propose that the patent litigation system can be improved by harnessing patentography—the geography of patent disputes. There are three principal concerns with patent litigation’s institutional structure: widespread forum shopping in district court patent cases, district courts’ typically poor factfinding and lawmaking in these cases, and insufficient deference by the Federal Circuit—the court hearing nearly all patent appeals—to district courts’ factual findings. Harnessing patentography by restricting venue in patent litigation to the principal place of business of one of its defendants will help repair each problem. It will clamp down on forum shopping. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it will also improve district courts’ patent decisionmaking. As industries tend to cluster stably in discrete geographic areas, my proposed rule will tend to cluster patent cases by technology in particular districts, such as software cases in the Northern District of California and pharmaceutical cases in the District of New Jersey. Clustering together large numbers of an industry’s patent cases in a limited number of district courts will develop those courts’ proficiencies in patent law and in the underlying industry-specific facts critical to sound legal determinations. Under my proposal, this clustering will occur in districts in which judges and juries already tend to have background industry knowledge, given the associated industry cluster. An empirical review of patent cases filed in district courts in 2005 confirms that harnessing patentography as I propose would intensify patent litigation clusters. Finally, improving district courts’ decisionmaking ought to encourage the Federal Circuit to defer more appropriately to district courts’ factual findings.


In Goodridge’s Wake: Reflections on the Political, Public, and Personal Repercussions of the Massachusetts Same-Sex Marriage Cases

The Honorable Roderick L. Ireland

Brennan Lecture

In the Sixteenth Annual Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Lecture on State Courts and Social Justice, Roderick L. Ireland, Senior Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, discusses the seminal case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health and a judge’s role in controversial decisions. Justice Ireland explains
the rationale behind his majority vote in Goodridge, as well as his dissent in Cote-Whitacre v. Department of Public Health, and the extreme public backlash that followed the same-sex marriage cases. Through the personal lens of his own experience dealing with the extreme reaction to Goodridge, Justice Ireland addresses how judges should handle such controversial cases while remaining true to the role of the judiciary.


Adjudication by Fiat: The Need for Procedural Safeguards in Attorney General Review of Board of Immigration Appeals Decisions

Laura S. Trice

The Attorney General enjoys broad authority to certify to himself and review de novo decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Though sparingly used, the certification power is controversial, in part because it permits the Attorney General to announce new rules and overturn longstanding precedent without meaningful process. Under current regulations, the Attorney General is not required to provide even basic procedural protections in certified cases, and he has issued decisions without giving the parties notice of the issues under review or an opportunity for briefing. This Note argues that review of BIA decisions without meaningful procedural safeguards implicates serious due process concerns, raises questions about the quality and accuracy of Attorney General decisions, and undermines the legitimacy and acceptability of immigration adjudication. To address these concerns, this Note proposes that the Attorney General promulgate regulations that require meaningful, adversarial participation by the parties and provide a transparent means of soliciting input from interested amici on issues of broad significance.

“Established by Law”: Saving Statutory Limitations on Presidential Appointments from Unconstitutionality

Matthew A. Samberg

In the federal government, over one thousand positions exist that require nomination by the President and confirmation by the Senate. For many of these positions, the statute creating the office contains limitations on whom the President may appoint to the office. These limitations can include simple professional qualifications, policy-based restrictions, and political party balance requirements. Although such restrictions on the pool of individuals eligible for any given office have been used since the first Congress, are ubiquitous throughout the U.S. Code, and have never been successfully challenged in court, several authors, litigants, and executive officials have identified potential constitutional concerns regarding their validity. Limitations on the President’s nomination power, it is argued, should be suspect under the separation of powers set up by the U.S. Constitution as a congressional encroachment on an executive prerogative. In this Note, I examine the constitutional issues surrounding statutory limitations on appointments, present the traditional arguments for and against them, and suggest a paradigm shift for how we think about such limitations that may allay the constitutional concerns of their critics.

The Functional Political Question Doctrine and the Justiciability of Employee Tort Suits Against Military Service Contractors

Kristen L. Richer

In recent years, the U.S. military’s use of private contractors in waging its wars has drawn increased attention from the academic literature, largely related to the growing number of cases filed by U.S. servicemen and contractor personnel against companies like Halliburton and Kellogg, Brown & Root. These suits have garnered the attention of the legal academy, particularly as federal courts dismiss such suits as nonjusticiable under the political question doctrine—a doctrine of judicial restraint long associated with voting rights and gerrymandering caselaw. The recent application of the political question doctrine to cases involving military contractors raises familiar questions regarding the scope of the judiciary’s role in monitoring the actions of coordinate branches and the pragmatism of the judiciary playing such a role at all. This Note considers these matters through the lens of the functional political question doctrine. It concludes that while federal courts may have the institutional capacity to play some role in administering tort suits against private contractor firms, that participation should be carefully cabined to avoid any judicial interference with the military’s authority to set standards for combat. Thus, while in-field negligence claims will usually present nonjusticiable political questions, fraudulent recruitment claims will not.

Globalization of the U.S. Black Market: Prohibition, the War on Drugs, and the Case of Mexico

Seth Harp

Prohibition of alcohol from 1919 to 1933 is a paradigmatic case of sumptuary legislation gone awry. Instead of removing alcohol from the market, Prohibition increased alcohol’s potency and decreased its quality, resulting in a spike in drunkenness and accidental deaths while black market corruption and violence abounded. The same criticisms are often leveled at the War on Drugs. However, this Note explores the most important difference between the two, namely, that in spite of their symmetrical failures, Prohibition was met with a decisive backlash and repeal while the War on Drugs retains popular support despite having created incomparably greater violence. This is dramatically illustrated by the war in Mexico, which is currently the most violent conflict in the world. The causes and implications of this divergence in public choice are explored below.

Disciplining Standard Form Contract Terms Through Online Information Flows: An Empirical Study

Nishanth V. Chari

Standard Form Contracts (SFCs) are at the heart of an ongoing debate among legal and empirical scholars about the extent to which market forces serve to discipline sellers into providing fair contract terms. Scholars have long assumed that consumers do not read SFCs ex ante (e.g., at the time of purchase or installation) but have generally left open the possibility that consumers might read SFCs ex post (e.g., if there is a breakdown in service or functionality). This Note examines empirically the extent to which online product ratings might serve as a conduit of information regarding contract terms from ex post to ex ante consumers. Comparing online product ratings from and with software license agreements graded according to a contract bias index, I find that product ratings on surprisingly bear a negative correlation with contract bias. That is, more highly rated products tend to come bundled with more pro-seller terms. My results suggest that while product ratings may contain information about contract terms, this information is not conveyed in a way that is useful to ex ante consumers and, accordingly, is unlikely to discipline sellers. This Note thus provides guidance for future research and policy initiatives seeking to explore ways to discipline sellers into providing fairer and more efficient contract terms.

Are Tradable Carbon Emissions Credits Investments? Characterization and Ramifications Under International Investment Law

Lisa Bennett

Implementation of carbon emissions trading schemes such as the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme requires consideration of how to properly characterize the newly-created emissions credits under various domestic and international law frameworks. Notably absent from the literature on emissions trading is an analysis of whether emissions credits can be characterized as investments, thereby implicating international investment law protections against expropriation and discrimination and giving rise to guarantees of fair and equitable treatment. This Note analyzes the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes’s objective definition of “investment” as well as treaty-specific definitions of “investment” and concludes that carbon credits are properly considered investments. Next, the Note considers the types of investor claims that could be brought against host states if carbon credits are treated as investments. Because of the potential costs to host states in defending against such claims, states’ willingness to adopt carbon trading schemes may be chilled. This risk of regulatory chill, coupled with the global importance of national measures to combat climate change, counsels in favor of limiting the scope of rights afforded to investors. This Note therefore concludes by setting out a range of proposals for enacting such limits.