NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
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Volume 89, Number 2

May 2014
Articles

Due Process, Republicanism, and Direct Democracy

Fred O. Smith, Jr.

Voters in twenty-four states may propose and enact legislation without any involvement from representative branches of government. In recent decades, voters have used popular lawmaking to eliminate groups’ liberty and property interests on topics such as marriage, education, public benefits, and taxes. This Article contends that these deprivations undermine principles historically associated with procedural due process, thus raising serious questions about the constitutionality of initiatives that eliminate groups’ protected interests.

The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause embodies principles of fairness that include deliberation, dignity, and equality. The historical salience of these principles is evidenced in colonial charters and state constitutions, the Federalist Papers, antebellum cases interpreting state due process clauses, antebellum cases governing popular lawmaking, and legislative debates leading up to the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification. These principles should inform the doctrine’s approach to defining procedural fairness.

When deprivation of liberty or property is at stake, the republican system of representative government protects these principles of fairness better than most contemporary plebiscites. Indeed, in a series of vastly understudied cases in the decade leading up to the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification, at least eight state courts expressed normative doubts about popular lawmaking. While these cases were not premised on due process clauses, these courts nonetheless invoked principles associated with due process and republicanism when questioning popular lawmaking, providing some evidence of the dominant understanding of these terms during that era.

What is more, the requirement of due process of law, at a minimum, prohibits deprivations of liberty or property that violate other constitutional provisions. There is an enduring debate about whether the initiative process violates the non-justiciable Republican Form Clause. This Article seeks in part to inform that debate. And if, in fact, the initiative process violates the nonjusticiable Republican Form Clause, initiatives that deprive individuals of liberty or property violate the justiciable Due Process Clause.

Devaluing Death: An Empirical Study of Implicit Racial Bias on Jury-Eligible Citizens in Six Death Penalty States

Justin D. Levinson, Robert J. Smith, Danielle M. Young

Stark racial disparities define America’s relationship with the death penalty. Though commentators have scrutinized a range of possible causes for this uneven racial distribution of death sentences, no convincing evidence suggests that any one of these factors consistently accounts for the unjustified racial disparities at play in the administration of capital punishment. We propose that a unifying current running through each of these partial plausible explanations is the notion that the human mind may unwittingly inject bias into the seemingly neutral concepts and processes of death penalty administration.

To test the effects of implicit bias on the death penalty, we conducted a study on 445 jury-eligible citizens in six leading death penalty states. We found that jury-eligible citizens harbored two different kinds of the implicit racial biases we tested: implicit racial stereotypes about Blacks and Whites generally, as well as implicit associations between race and the value of life. We also found that death-qualified jurors—those who expressed a willingness to consider imposing both a life sentence and a death sentence—harbored stronger implicit and self-reported (explicit) racial biases than excluded jurors. The results of the study underscore the potentially powerful role of implicit bias and suggest that racial disparities in the modern death penalty could be linked to the very concepts entrusted to maintain the continued constitutionality of capital punishment: its retributive core, its empowerment of juries to express the cultural consensus of local communities, and the modern regulatory measures that promised to eliminate arbitrary death sentencing.

White Like Me: The Negative Impact of the Diversity Rationale on White Identity Formation

Osamudia R. James

In several cases addressing the constitutionality of affirmative action admissions policies, the Supreme Court has recognized a compelling state interest in schools with diverse student populations. According to the Court and affirmative action proponents, the pursuit of diversity does not only benefit minority students who gain expanded access to elite institutions through affirmative action. Rather, diversity also benefits white students who grow through encounters with minority students, it contributes to social and intellectual life on campus, and it serves society at large by aiding the development of citizens equipped for employment and citizenship in an increasingly diverse country.

Recent scholarship has nevertheless thoughtfully examined the negative effect of the “diversity rationale”—the defense of affirmative action policies based on a compelling interest in diversity—on minority identity when that identity is traded on by majority-white institutions seeking to maximize the social and economic benefits that diversity brings. By contrast, little has been said about whether and how the diversity rationale impacts white identity. Consideration of how the diversity rationale influences white identity formation is particularly timely in light of the Supreme Court’s most recent pronouncement on affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

This Article begins to fill that gap, ultimately concluding that the diversity rationale reaffirms notions of racial superiority among Whites. Unlike the jurisprudence of seminal civil rights cases, such as Brown v. Board of Education, that rejected old narratives about the legitimacy of subordinating Blacks, the diversity rationale does not promote progressive thinking about race and identity. Rather, it perpetuates an old story—a story about using black and brown bodies for white purposes on white terms, a story about the expendability of those bodies once they are no longer needed. Moreover, by reinforcing the “transparency” and “innocence” of white racial identity, as well as by emphasizing hyperindividualism, the diversity rationale stunts the development of antiracist white identity.

By cultivating white identities grounded in a sense of entitlement and victimhood relative to people of color, the diversity rationale, ironically, perpetuates the subordination of people of color by prompting the elimination of affirmative action programs. It also distracts Whites from addressing the ways in which their own presence at elite institutions of higher education is genuinely undermined, especially in the case of working-class Whites who are consistently underrepresented at such institutions. Given this reality, institutions of higher education committed to diversity must account for the diversity rationale’s effect on Whites through more honest and substantive explanations of the value placed on diversity in admissions.
This article appears in the May 2014 Issue: Volume 89, Number 2

Notes

Reviewing Federal Sentencing Policy, One Guideline at a Time

Eleanor L.P. Spottswood

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are riddled with policy oversights. In United States v. Kimbrough, the Supreme Court permitted district courts to vary from the Guidelines based on categorical policy disagreements. Yet, although district courts often vary from the Guidelines for individualized reasons, the policy variance power has been underutilized. This Note provides a case study of the history of one obscure Guideline, section 2M5.1, as applied to one particular type of case, a nonmilitary-related embargo violation. The case study exposes the United States Sentencing Commission’s systemic oversights in the history of creating Guideline section 2M5.1 and demonstrates how lawyers and judges can rely on that history on a case-by-case basis to expose categorical problems with Guidelines policy. Employing such a categorical policy approach to supplement an individualized approach promotes fairness, transparency, and feedback for future refinement of the Guidelines.

Second-Order Choice of Law in Bankruptcy

Ankur Mandhania

This Note attempts to answer the question of which choice-of-law regime ought to apply to bankruptcy cases. Taking the facts of a recent Second Circuit case as my example, I argue that Congress should amend the Bankruptcy Code to include a blackletter second-order choice-of-law section for use in all bankruptcy cases. First, Part I examines the state of Second Circuit jurisprudence on the question before this case, probing the reasoning and basic justifications for the resulting rule. Second, Part II establishes a normative framework, drawing on both bankruptcy and choice-of-law theory, for evaluating any proposed answer to this dilemma. I show here that the Second Circuit solution does not meet this framework and thus must be discarded. Third, Part III articulates my proposed solution, showing that it is most consistent with this framework.

Prison Health Care after the Affordable Care Act: Envisioning an End to the Policy of Neglect

Evelyn Lia Malave

Inadequate prison health care has created a health crisis for reentering prisoners and their communities—a crisis that is exacerbated by barriers to employment and other collateral consequences of release. This Note will first examine how current Eighth Amendment doctrine has failed to sufficiently regulate prison health care so as to have any significant effect on the crisis. Next, it will argue that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) alters the Eighth Amendment analysis by triggering a change in the “evolving standards of decency” that guide the doctrine. Specifically, this Note will argue that, after the passage of the ACA, releasing sick, Medicaid-eligible prisoners without enrolling them in the federal benefits program violates the Eighth Amendment.

Pussy Riot and the First Amendment: Consequences for the Rule of Law in Russia

Dusty Koenig

On February 21, 2012, members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot stormed the historic Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow and performed a “punk prayer” to protest the policies of Vladimir Putin’s government. The band members’ subsequent arrests and prosecutions set off a global firestorm of criticism. While some critics focused on the disproportionate sentences handed down by the court following the band’s convictions, or the meaning of justice meted out by an unjust regime, the mainstream reaction was by and large one of disbelief at such an apparently egregious crackdown on free speech. This Note argues that such criticism largely missed the mark by casting the Pussy Riot affair in terms of free speech, despite the likelihood that the punk rockers would have faced a similar fate even under American free speech law—a tradition of protected speech more robust than any other. Instead, criticism of the injustice perpetrated by the prosecutions is better aimed at the inadequate procedural protections of a Russian judiciary in desperate need of reform. As Russians are already aware of the deficiencies in their judicial system, they would likely be much more amenable to international criticism that acknowledges that the Pussy Riot prosecutions did not trample on free speech rights but were nonetheless unjust due to the lack of procedural safeguards accorded to the band members. Such an approach, by more accurately criticizing the real issues Russia’s fledgling democracy faces, promises to further Russia’s development by keeping lines of communication open between the Russian electorate and the West.