NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 89, Number 6

December 2014
Articles

The Use and Abuse of Labor’s Capital

David H. Webber

The recent financial crisis has jeopardized the retirement savings of twenty-seven million Americans who depend on public pension funds, leading to cuts in benefits, increased employee contributions, job losses, and the rollback of legal rights like collective bargaining. This Article examines ways in which public pension funds invest against the economic interests of their own participants and beneficiaries, and the legal implications of these investments. In particular, the Article focuses on the use of public pensions to fund privatization of public employee jobs. Under the ascendant—and flawed—interpretation of the fiduciary duty of loyalty, public pension trustees owe their allegiance to the fund itself, rather than to the fund’s participants and beneficiaries, notwithstanding the fact that the duty of loyalty commands trustees to invest “solely in the interest of the participants and beneficiaries” according to ERISA and similar state pension codes. I argue that this “fund-first” view distorts the duty of loyalty and turns the role of trustee on its head, leading to investments that undermine, rather than enhance, the economic interests of public employees. I turn to ERISA, trust law, agency law, and corporate law to argue that public pension trustees should consider the impact of the funds’ investments on the jobs and job security of the funds’ participants and beneficiaries, where relevant. I also adduce evidence that these controversial investments are widespread. I propose that public pension funds be governed by a “member-first” view of fiduciary duty focused on the economic interests of public employees in their retirement funds, which go beyond maximizing return to the funds. I argue that this view is more faithful to the original purpose of the duty of loyalty than is the fund-first view. I suggest ways to implement the member-first view, discuss potential extensions beyond the jobs impact of investments, and assess the proposed reform’s practical effects.

The State as Witness: Windsor, Shelby County, and Judicial Distrust of the Legislative Record

Bertrall L. Ross II

More than ever, the constitutionality of laws turns on judicial review of an underlying factual record, assembled by lawmakers. Some scholars have suggested that by requiring extensive records, the Supreme Court is treating lawmakers like administrative agencies. The assumption underlying this metaphor is that if the state puts forth enough evidence in the record to support the law, its action will survive constitutional scrutiny. What scholars have overlooked, however, is that the Court is increasingly questioning the credibility of the record itself. Even in cases where the state produces adequate evidence to support its action, the Court sometimes invalidates the law because it does not believe the state’s facts. In these cases, the Court treats the state like a witness in its own trial, subjecting the state’s record and the conclusions drawn from it to rigorous cross-examination and second-guessing.

In this “credibility-questioning” review of the record, the Court appears to be animated by an implicit judgment about the operation of the political process. When Justices consider the political process to have functioned properly, they treat the state as a good faith actor and merely check the adequacy of its evidence in the record. But when Justices suspect that the democratic process has malfunctioned because opponents of the law were too politically weak or indifferent to challenge distortions in the record, they treat the state as a witness, suspecting bias in its factual determinations supporting the law.

In this Article, I both support and critique this new form of review. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I argue courts should engage in credibility-questioning review of the record when the political process has malfunctioned. Public choice and pluralist defect theory imply that the record supporting a law is more likely to be distorted in contexts of democratic malfunction. But for reasons of institutional legitimacy and separation of powers, I argue courts should limit credibility-questioning review to contexts where there is actual proof of democratic malfunction.

The Federal Arbitration Act as Procedural Reform

Hiro N. Aragaki

Recent Supreme Court decisions such as American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant, 133 S. Ct. 2304 (2013), and AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (2011), represent dramatic developments with implications that extend far beyond the arbitration context. These decisions are a product of what the author refers to as the “contract model” of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Heretofore largely unquestioned, the contract model posits the FAA’s original and dominant purpose as the promotion of private ordering in dispute resolution, as free as possible from state regulation. The model has, in turn, helped courts and commentators claim that the FAA requires arbitration agreements to be enforced strictly “according to their terms”—without regard to the way those agreements might compromise procedural values, such as when they preclude classwide relief.

This Article questions both the descriptive accuracy and normative persuasiveness of the contract model. It argues that when placed in their proper historical context, the FAA’s text and legislative history appear equally consistent (if not more so) with a purpose to improve upon the widely discussed procedural failings of the courts circa 1925. From this standpoint, the FAA can be understood as an offshoot of ongoing efforts at the time to reform procedure in the federal courts—efforts spearheaded by figures such as Roscoe Pound and Charles E. Clark, and that eventually culminated in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 1938. The FAA, in short, was arguably a type of procedural reform.

These insights lead the author to propose a “procedural reform” model of the FAA, one that he contends is both more faithful to the statute’s history (legislative and otherwise) and more adept at answering the difficult questions that confront arbitration law in the age of “contract procedure.” The author considers two recent examples to illustrate.

Notes

A Traditional Tort for a Modern Threat: Applying Intrusion upon Seclusion to Dataveillance Observations

Benjamin Zhu

Dataveillance, a method of surveillance that collects and analyzes massive amounts of data about individuals, poses a threat to information privacy because it allows companies to uncover intimate personal information that individuals never consented to disclose. No comprehensive legal framework currently exists to regulate dataveillance. A potential remedy lies in the common law torts designed to protect privacy. However, the most applicable of these privacy torts, the tort of intrusion upon seclusion, faces several doctrinal hurdles in regulating dataveillance because courts and commentators consider the initial collection of data to be the only potential privacy intrusion from dataveillance. This Note proposes that the tort of intrusion upon seclusion could be updated to effectively regulate dataveillance if courts recognize that dataveillance’s observation of new personal information constitutes its own privacy intrusion, distinct from the intrusion at the data collection stage. This doctrinal shift would overcome the doctrinal barriers to applying the intrusion upon seclusion tort to dataveillance.

What’s in a Name? Challenging the Citizen-Informant Doctrine

Ariel C. Werner

Over the last fifty years, courts and scholars have debated the utility and reliability of informants—individuals who alert law enforcement to the occurrence of crime, point law enforcement in the direction of potential perpetrators, and help law enforcement prosecute those eventually charged. There are three primary types of criminal justice informants: (1) criminal and confidential informants, (2) anonymous tipsters, and (3) citizen-informants. Judicial examinations and scholarly critiques of informants have focused almost exclusively on the first two categories. These informants are deemed suspect, either because they are so enmeshed in the justice system that they have questionable motives, or because they inculpate others under a veil of anonymity. Meanwhile, the third category of informant—the citizen-informant—has evaded rigorous scrutiny because of the “citizen-informant doctrine,” a premise embraced by the federal courts and many state courts. The citizen-informant doctrine reasons that individuals who witness or fall victim to crime and willingly identify themselves to law enforcement officers are presumptively reliable. This presumption enables law enforcement officers to conduct searches and seizures that would otherwise be unlawful based on uncorroborated reports from untested civilians. The citizen-informant doctrine has major consequences for the robustness of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unjustified government intrusions, and it has an enormous impact on the integrity of police investigations and criminal prosecutions. Yet this doctrine rests on shaky foundations that have heretofore been insufficiently probed. This Note proposes that courts require law enforcement officers to conduct more exacting inquiries before relying on the word of a so-called citizen-informant.

Diversity Jurisdiction and Trusts

Jonathan J. Ossip

The federal courts are currently divided on how to determine the diversity citizenship of trusts. Several circuits hold that trusts take the citizenship of their trustees. Another circuit holds that trusts take the citizenship of the trust’s beneficiaries, and yet another considers the citizenships of both the trustees and the beneficiaries. But beyond this circuit split, a more significant problem plagues the law in this area: The courts of appeals have failed to recognize the distinction between traditional and business trusts. The former—what is most commonly thought of as a trust—is a gift and estate planning tool. The latter is an alternative to incorporation, and is designed to run a business and generate profit for investors.

In this Note, I examine the differences between traditional and business trusts in the context of federal diversity jurisdiction. After discussing the history of diversity jurisdiction and the nature of these two forms of trusts, I explore the current circuit split over the citizenship rules for trusts. I then propose a new rule that fits within the current Supreme Court case law in the field: Traditional trusts take the citizenship of their trustees, while business trusts take the citizenship of their members—the beneficiaries. Having proposed a rule that depends upon the type of trust at issue, I conclude by explaining that a trust can be classified by determining the primary purpose for which it was organized.

A Room of One’s Own: Safe Placement for Transgender Youth in Foster Care

Ariel Love

Transgender youth in foster care are not safe. While these youth face the daily danger of physical violence at the hands of others in their foster care group homes, administrators of child welfare services have shown deliberate indifference to these risks, and staff in foster care group homes do not effectively protect the physical safety of transgender youth in their care. Because resource constraints make it impossible to place all transgender youth in LGBTQ-only group homes, we need a solution that will make transgender youth safe in the group homes that already exist. This Note argues that the current New York City foster care system violates the substantive due process safety rights of the transgender youth under its care, and proposes legislation that would presumptively mandate transgender-only bedrooms and bathrooms. Such legislation would provide safe spaces within existing group homes in order to fix current constitutional violations.

Not Part of the Bargain: Worker Centers and Labor Law in Sociohistorical Context

Thomas I.M. Gottheil

The American labor movement is in trouble. As union density declines and worker organizing becomes more difficult, a relatively new model, the worker center, has emerged to organize low-wage immigrant workers. Worker centers devise a broad range of strategies and internal structures to meet the challenges of the contemporary organizing landscape, and these strategies would not be possible were worker centers considered labor organizations under labor law. Recently, anti-union groups and members of Congress have shifted focus to worker centers, urging that they be regulated under the National Labor Relations Act. By examining the history of labor law and the structure of worker centers, this Note argues that regulation of worker centers under the NLRA would be inappropriate, ahistorical, and an unreasonable restriction on the associational rights of workers.

Rethinking Review of Foreign Court Jurisdiction in Light of the Hague Judgments Negotiations

Audrey Feldman

The United States is distinct among nations in its constitutionalization of personal jurisdiction. This Note explains the intertwined history of U.S. specific jurisdiction law and the so-called “Hague Judgments Project,” which is facilitating negotiations toward a treaty regulating recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. This Note argues that the constitutionality of any such proposed treaty will remain uncertain unless U.S. courts clarify existing personal jurisdictional doctrine, particularly regarding the “jurisdictional filters” question: May U.S. courts lawfully recognize and enforce a foreign judgment issued upon a jurisdictional basis that would have been unconstitutional in domestic litigation? This Note answers “yes,” at least when the foreign court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction is compatible with internationally accepted norms. By proposing a cogent response to this question, this Note hopes to facilitate the negotiation and adoption of a future judgments convention.