Volume 88, Number 6

December 2013

Immigration Federalism: A Reappraisal

Prathepan Gulasekaram, S. Karthick Ramakrishnan

This Article identifies how the current spate of state and local regulation is changing the way elected officials, scholars, courts, and the public think about the constitutional dimensions of immigration law and governmental responsibility for immigration enforcement. Reinvigorating the theoretical possibilities left open by the Supreme Court in its 1875 Chy Lung v. Freeman decision, state and local officials characterize their laws as unavoidable responses to the policy problems they face when they are squeezed between the challenges of unauthorized migration and the federal government’s failure to fix a broken system. In the October 2012 term, in Arizona v. United States, the Court addressed, but did not settle, the difficult empirical, theoretical, and constitutional questions necessitated by these enactments and their attendant justifications. Our empirical investigation, however, discovered that most state and local immigration laws are not organic policy responses to pressing demographic challenges. Instead, such laws are the product of a more nuanced and politicized process in which demographic concerns are neither necessary nor sufficient factors and in which federal inactivity and subfederal activity are related phenomena, fomented by the same actors. This Article focuses on the constitutional and theoretical implications of these processes: It presents an evidence-based theory of state and local policy proliferation; it cautions legal scholars to rethink functionalist accounts for the rise of such laws; and it advises courts to reassess their use of traditional federalism frameworks to evaluate these subfederal enactments.

Reanalyzing Cost-Benefit Analysis: Toward a Framework of Function(s) and Form(s)

Robert B. Ahdieh

The analysis herein arises from the collision course between the sweeping reforms mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 and a single sentence of the U.S. Code, adopted nearly fifteen years earlier and largely forgotten ever since. Few were likely thinking of Section 106 of the National Securities Market Improvement Act when the Dodd-Frank Act was enacted on July 21, 2010. As applied by the D.C. Circuit less than a year later in Business Roundtable v. SEC, however, that provision’s peculiar requirement of cost-benefit analysis could prove the new legislation’s undoing.

To help navigate this potential impasse, the Article that follows suggests the need to more carefully analyze the function and form of the cost-benefit analysis mandate in Section 106 and develops a generally applicable framework for doing so. Discussions of cost-benefit analysis have traditionally approached it as a fairly singular phenomenon—with broad aspirations of “efficiency” as its purpose and with its application in environmental and risk regulation understood to capture its form. In reality, cost-benefit analysis is both more ad hoc—and more systematically varied—than this account suggests.

The framework proposed herein thus makes an important contribution to our understanding of the complexities and varieties of cost-benefit analysis generally. In the particular case of Section 106, meanwhile, it counsels a distinct function and particular characteristics of form that will better direct its application—both to the myriad regulations mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act and beyond. Properly understood, Section 106 is designed to encourage SEC attention to substantive considerations that might otherwise be neglected, given the Commission’s traditional focus on investor protection. As to form, Section 106 constitutes a true mandate and one properly subject to judicial review. Contrary to the analysis in Business Roundtable, however, that mandate is procedural rather than substantive in nature. By comparison with formal cost-benefit analysis, it is less rigidly quantitative. It does, however, demand careful attention to the distributional impacts of relevant rulemaking. To such particularized ends and in such tailored form, ultimately, cost-benefit analysis has the potential to generate significant insight—both under Section 106 and for financial regulation as a whole.


Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Legal System Falls Short in Protecting Basic Rights

The Honorable Wallace B. Jefferson

The legal community has long recognized that indigent citizens often lack access to the judicial system. Pro bono programs and legal aid organizations have attempted to address this issue. In the Nineteenth Annual Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Lecture on State Courts and Social Justice, Wallace B. Jefferson, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, argues that there are barriers to justice not only for the indigent but also for middle-class Americans. He explores how our most valuable rights are often the least protected. Tenants subject to eviction rarely have counsel, veterans wait years to receive earned benefits, and juveniles cannot invoke the Sixth Amendment to challenge civil fines. Chief Justice Jefferson explores reforms and alternatives that are available when traditional paths to justice are blocked, and he highlights some of the obstacles faced in creating these alternatives.


Knock-Off My Mark, Get Set, Go to Jail? The Improprieties of Criminalizing Post-Sale Confusion

Zachary J. King

The Trademark Counterfeiting Act (TCA) has been widely applied to cases of postsale confusion, which occurs when someone buys a knock-off luxury item knowing that it is fake. When liability is predicated on post-sale activity, the only people that are confused are the members of the general public who observe someone wearing what looks like a genuine brand item—a Rolex watch or Louis Vuitton bag for instance—and think it is real when in fact it is not. While every circuit that has dealt with knock-off goods has held that post-sale confusion is criminalized by the TCA, this Note argues that this conclusion relies on an improper reading of the statute. The TCA was only designed to make criminal those actions that were clearly actionable civilly in 1984, when it was enacted. This Note will show that post-sale confusion was far from uniformly accepted civilly in 1984 and argue that, therefore, it should not be read into the TCA. Furthermore, this Note argues that the harms of post-sale confusion are identical to the harms of dilution, which was not covered in the Lanham Act until 1996 and was never included in the TCA. The Note then examines the statutory scheme to argue that Congress had only point-of-sale confusion in mind when it enacted the TCA. The statute unambiguously fails to cover more typical dilutive sales, which is strong evidence that, contrary to the courts’ collective reasoning, Congress did not have the harms of dilution in mind when it added criminal penalties to trademark law. Finally, this Note argues that, from a policy perspective, post-sale confusion should not be criminalized. The harms are small, and companies have had a great deal of success combatting knock-offs with civil actions. There is no need to impose severe fines and long prison terms for selling knock-offs. This Note concludes by stating that there are serious harms from counterfeits that create point-of-sale confusion, but the public does not take these seriously because they think only of knock-offs when they think about counterfeits. The decriminalization of the sale of knock-offs will allow the public to be more willing to accept the true dangers of “real” counterfeits and to become more vigilant in the marketplace.

Tinkering with the Machinery of Death: Lethal Injection, Procedure, and the Retention of Capital Punishment in the United States

Jonathan Yehuda

This Note builds on the work of Professor William Berry, who has proposed a concept called “procedural exceptionalism” to explain the persistence of the death penalty in the United States in an age of abolition elsewhere in the West. Berry argues that there is a distinctive American faith in the procedural protections afforded defendants, such as the jury trial and multiple levels of appeal, which helps legitimize the institution of capital punishment in the United States. This analysis, however, only takes into account the conviction and sentencing aspect of the death penalty. This Note contends that the actual method by which executions are carried out is equally important in explaining the retention of capital punishment. This Note applies Berry’s idea of “American procedural exceptionalism” to method of execution in the particular context of judicial decisions governing the administration of lethal injection. It argues first that lethal injection as a method of execution perpetuates the notion of a more “humane” death penalty, and second that judicial faith in the perfectibility of the procedures governing lethal injection serves to reinforce this notion. This faith in the perfectibility of the procedure of lethal injection works in conjunction with a similar faith in the procedures governing conviction and sentencing to create an equilibrium that allows for the continued use of capital punishment in the United States.

Narrowing the Field: The Case Against Implied Field Preemption of State Product Liability Law

Thomas H. Sosnowski

Federal preemption is one of the most powerful defenses that a product liability defendant can raise. If a court finds that federal law preempts a state law product liability claim, it must dismiss the claim. Dismissal of the state tort claim may eliminate the only source of private liability of defendants and the only source of compensation for plaintiffs. If the applicable federal statute does not contain an express preemption provision, most courts find federal preemption only if a “conflict” exists between the state and federal laws. However, in some areas, courts have held that all state product liability claims in a particular “field” are preempted because an aspect of the field is subject to federal regulation. This Note argues that this broad “field-based” preemption framework, referred to as implied field preemption, should not be invoked to preempt state law product liability claims, despite the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Kurns v. Railroad Friction Products Corp. The case against the field-based framework is strong when viewed from doctrinal, theoretical, and historical perspectives. The case studies presented in this Note illustrate the problems that result when an appellate court finds implied field preemption. Field preemption prevents lower courts from determining whether the state claims in question and federal law are actually incompatible. In some cases a field-based framework defeats the purposes behind both state tort law and federal preemption by eliminating product liability law’s deterrence and compensation functions without providing a corresponding benefit to the federal regulatory structure.

Grading Regulators: The Impact of Global and Local Indicators on Vietnam’s Business Governance

Trang (Mae) Nguyen

International indicators are widely used as diagnostic tools for global governance. For the developing world, with scarce resources and complex social problems, indicators can help businesses, donors, and policymakers identify issues, tailor solutions, and measure impacts. This Note studies the dynamics between global and domestic indicators in Vietnam, particularly the ways they influence Vietnam’s policy processes. It finds that while global indicators have advanced the notion of competitiveness and made it a priority of the national government, sub-national indicators—here, a ranking of Vietnam’s provinces—play a significant role as a more tailored and focused tool to motivate internal competition for pro-business reforms. This Note therefore confirms the dominant viewpoint that global indicators influence a country’s development agenda, but concludes that this effect is even more pronounced in the presence of robust local indicators.

Taxing Single Mothers: A Critical Look at the Tax Code

Akari Atoyama-Little

Single mothers are responsible for raising one in five American children. They are disproportionately poor women of color. This Note explores the Internal Revenue Code’s provisions that, though facially neutral, disadvantage single motherhood in effect. Although the tax code’s progressivity does some work to alleviate poverty among single mothers, major income tax provisions intended to support families fail many single mothers precisely because of their low-income status. Many of the benefits go to higher-income families, who tend to be married couples. This Note argues that the tax code should do more to support single mothers. Specifically, this Note argues that the existing federal child and dependent care credit should be made refundable so that it reaches more single mothers and better functions as an incentive to procure quality care for children.

Affirmatively Further: Reviving the Fair Housing Act’s Integrationist Purpose

Austin W. King

This Note seeks to contribute to the revival of an underutilized section of the Fair Housing Act intended not just to ban individual acts of discrimination but also to achieve integrated residential neighborhoods. The gulf between lofty, vague federal policy and the local governments responsible for zoning, planning, and housing siting decisions, however, has stymied this pro-integration purpose. Although all state and most local governments are required to certify that they are meeting their obligation to “affirmatively further fair housing,” this certification has rarely risen above mere boilerplate. Building on recent litigation that reinvigorated the Act’s positive purpose with some skeletal substance and a new proposed rule seeking to improve procedural compliance, this Note proposes an expanded federal rule to define meaningfully this obligation through concrete, quantitative benchmarks. In the absence of such an expanded rule, this Note suggests guidance on how a court might evaluate compliance with this capacious statutory standard by using housing segregation data in a burden-shifting framework. This Note concludes by addressing workability and constitutionality concerns, evaluating practical hurdles, and testing the proposed rule against the Roberts Court’s jurisprudence on equal protection and federalism. The ultimate purpose is a pragmatic program to achieve the still-unrealized goal that animated the Act’s passage: a truly integrated nation.