NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 86, Number 3

June 2011
Articles

State Enforcement of Federal Law

Margaret H. Lemos

Federal law is enforced through a combination of public and private efforts. Commentary
on the choice between public and private enforcement has generated a
remarkably stable set of arguments about the strengths and weaknesses of each
type. But the conventional wisdom tells only part of the story, as it ignores variations
within the category of public enforcement. Many federal statutes authorize
civil enforcement by both a federal agency and the states. State enforcement is different
from federal enforcement in several important respects, representing a unique
model of public enforcement. The authority to enforce federal law is also a unique
form of state power. As I show, enforcement authority can serve as a potent means
of state influence by enabling states to adjust the intensity of enforcement and to
press their own interpretations of federal law. To date, enforcement has been
neglected in the federalism literature, which tends to equate state power with state
regulation. But enforcement authority may exist outside of regulatory authority,
allowing states to operate even in areas where state law is preempted or state regulators
have chosen not to act. And enforcement empowers a distinct breed of state
representatives—elected, generalist attorneys general. Just as state attorneys general
differ from federal agencies as agents of enforcement, they differ from state agencies
as agents of federal-state interaction. Moreover, attorneys general in most states
are independent from the state legislature and governor, and may represent different
constituencies. Enforcement authority therefore opens up new outlets for
state-centered policy, empowering actors whose interests and incentives distinguish
them from the state institutions that dominate other channels of federal-state
dialogue.

Lectures

Madison Lecture: Living Our Traditions

The Honorable Robert H. Henry

In the annual James Madison Lecture, Robert Henry, former Chief Judge of the
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, explores Justice John
Marshall Harlan II’s notable dissent in Poe v. Ullman. President Henry carefully
examines Justice Harlan’s method of constitutional interpretation. Refusing to
adopt a “literalistic” reading of the Constitution and instead looking to the “history
and purposes” of a particular constitutional provision, Justice Harlan’s approach
serves as a source of both flexibility and restraint. Of particular importance is
Justice Harlan’s recognition of the role that “living” traditions play in supplying
meaning to the concept of due process of law. What emerges from this probing
review of Justice Harlan’s Poe dissent is a moderate and thoughtful response to
originalism.

Notes

A Modified Caremark Standard to Protect Shareholders of Financial Firm from Poor Risk Management

Alec Orenstein

The recent collapse of the world financial system exposed excessive risk taking at
many of the largest financial services firms. However, when shareholders of
Citigroup sued the board of directors alleging that the board failed to adequately
monitor the firm’s risk exposure, the Delaware Chancery Court dismissed the suit
under the famous Caremark case. Caremark held that a board’s failure to monitor
will not result in liability unless there was a failure to implement a monitoring
system or a “sustained or systematic” failure to use that monitoring system. This
deferential standard is premised on an assumption that managers are risk averse
and the law should encourage risk taking. However, certain characteristics of financial
firms make such firms more prone to risk taking and more susceptible to catastrophic
losses resulting from that risk taking than other firms. In this Note, I argue
that Caremark should be reworked in cases involving managers of financial firms
in order to deter the excessive risk taking that caused such massive losses to shareholders
of these firms recently. This standard should take the form of a gross negligence
standard that allows the court to take a close look at whether management
took the necessary steps to prevent their firm from being exposed to excessive risk.