Volume 90, Number 5

November 2015

Political Powerlessness

Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos

There is a hole at the heart of equal protection law. According to long-established doctrine, one of the factors that determine whether a group is a suspect class is the group’s political powerlessness. But neither courts nor scholars have reached any kind of agreement as to the meaning of powerlessness. Instead, they have advanced an array of conflicting conceptions: numerical size, access to the franchise, financial resources, descriptive representation, and so on.

My primary goal in this Article, then, is to offer a definition of political powerlessness that makes theoretical sense. The definition I propose is this: A group is relatively powerless if its aggregate policy preferences are less likely to be enacted than those of similarly sized and classified groups. I arrive at this definition in three steps. First, the powerlessness doctrine stems from Carolene Products’s account of “those political processes ordinarily to be relied upon to protect minorities.” Second, “those political processes” refer to pluralism: the idea that society is divided into countless overlapping groups, from whose shifting coalitions public policy emerges. And third, pluralism implies a particular notion of group power— one that (1) is continuous rather than binary, (2) spans all issues, (3) focuses on policy enactment, and (4) controls for group size, and (5) type. These are precisely the elements of my suggested definition.

But I aim not just to theorize but also to operationalize in this Article. In the last few years, datasets have become available on groups’ policy preferences at the federal and state levels. Merging these datasets with information on policy outcomes, I am able to quantify my conception of group power. I find that blacks, women, and the poor are relatively powerless at both governmental levels; while whites, men, and the non-poor wield more influence. These results both support and subvert the current taxonomy of suspect classes.

Administrative Collusion

Neomi Rao

How Delegation Diminishes the Collective Congress

This Article identifies a previously unexplored problem with the delegation of legislative power by focusing not on the discretion given to executive agencies, but instead on how delegations allow individual congressmen to control administration. Delegations create administrative discretion, discretion that members of Congress can influence through a variety of formal and informal mechanisms. Members have persistent incentives for delegation to agencies, because it is often easier to serve their interests through shaping administration than by passing legislation. To understand the particular problem of delegation, I introduce the concept of the “collective Congress.” Collective decisionmaking is a fundamental characteristic of the legislative power. The collective Congress serves an important separation of powers principle by aligning the ambitions of legislators with the power of Congress as an institution. Although members represent distinct interests, the Constitution allows members of Congress to exercise power only collectively and specifically precludes them from exercising any type of individual or executive power. Delegation, however, provides opportunities for individual legislators to influence administration and poses a serious separation of powers concern by fracturing the collective Congress. This insight undermines the conventional view that delegations will be self-correcting because Congress will jealously guard its lawmaking power from the executive. Instead, members of Congress will often prefer to collude and to share administrative power with the executive. As a result, delegation destroys the Madisonian checks and balances against excessive delegation. This structural failure suggests a need to reconsider judicial enforcement of the nondelegation doctrine and to implement political reforms to realign Congress with its collective power.


Access to Justice

The Honorable Chase T. Rogers

New Approaches to Ensure Meaningful Participation

This Lecture discusses innovative approaches that courts are employing and developing to ensure that all participants in court proceedings have meaningful access to justice. Approaches include making the most of technological advancements to provide electronic access to information and to promote an understanding of the legal process, working with the legal community to provide representation to self-represented parties, and examining the legal process in order to simplify procedures, better manage cases, control costs, and provide workable alternatives to traditional methods for resolving disputes.


First Amendment Limitations on Police Surveillance

Matthew A. Wasserman

The Case of the Muslim Surveillance Program

This Note focuses on a single example of targeted domestic surveillance: the “Muslim Surveillance Program” of the New York City Police Department. In considering the constitutionality of the program, this Note attempts to articulate a general legal framework for regulating police surveillance targeting religious and political minorities. Part I discusses the Muslim Surveillance Program and its chilling effects on speech and association. Part II covers questions of standing, concluding that at least some plaintiffs have standing to challenge this program and similar programs of targeted surveillance. Finally, Part III assesses the legality of the program, arguing that while this surveillance is unregulated by the Fourth Amendment, it is subject to First Amendment challenge. The Note argues that a “First Amendment criminal procedure” could fill the gaps in Fourth Amendment coverage by providing for the protection of expressive behavior that is likely chilled by targeted police surveillance. Using the First Amendment to regulate domestic surveillance would require an extension of current case law, but would be a vindication of the central First Amendment value of protecting minority viewpoints, as well as the fundamental principles underlying Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, such as the right to privacy.

Why Shouldn’t We Protect Internal Whistleblowers?

Andrew Walker

Exploring Justifications for the Asadi Decision

What kind of whistleblowing should the Dodd-Frank Act protect? In Asadi v. G.E. Energy (USA), L.L.C., the Fifth Circuit held that Dodd-Frank’s antiretaliation provisions extend only to whistleblowers who report information externally, an interpretation of the statute that leaves “internal whistleblowers” unprotected. At first glance, such a ruling, by minimizing protection for whistleblowers, appears likely to result in negative consequences. This Note argues, however, that the Fifth Circuit put forward a rule that not only rests upon a legitimate interpretation of the Dodd-Frank Act but that also may have positive real world consequences. Such consequences, this Note argues, include better channeling of information to the SEC, incentivizing a stronger “tone at the top” within corporations, and minimizing opportunities for corporations to mask wrongdoing.

Failed Snitches and Sentencing Stitches

Shana Knizhnik

Substantial Assistance and the Cooperator’s Dilemma

The “substantial assistance” provisions of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines dominate the practice of modern federal criminal law. This primary mechanism by which criminal defendants who provide valuable information to federal prosecutors are compensated for their cooperation—namely, in the form of a sentence either below the calculated Guidelines sentencing range or, more significantly, below any mandatory minimum—has created a system where defendants are incentivized to incriminate themselves and as many others as possible, all without any guarantee that their cooperation will actually result in a lesser sentence. This Note explores the operation of this provision; the consequent “cooperator’s dilemma” it creates for defendants considering cooperation; and the unreliable, unfair, and unethical results it generates. It offers a novel incremental solution: an intermediate departure provision called “good faith cooperation,” whereby defendants who have attempted to cooperate but do not obtain substantial assistance motions can move to receive sentences below guidelines ranges and mandatory minimums on the basis of their attempted assistance. This provision provides a politically feasible option for legislators and commissioners that addresses multiple concerns regarding the current system without entirely upending the practice of federal criminal law as it exists.

Support with a Catch

Mikayla K. Consalvo

New York’s Persons in Need of Supervision and Parental Rights

When parents find they can no longer control their children—they are skipping school, staying out past curfew, and even getting in trouble with the police—what can they do? That answer depends, of course, on what types of resources are available to them. For unprivileged parents in New York State, the answer is often Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS). Intended to be a tool for parents in these situations that avoids exposing children to the criminal justice system, enlistment in PINS has become a “risky resource” to parents. In exchange for the support of county diversion programs offered by PINS, parents relinquish the control they have over their children’s lives. This is not required to happen through affirmative and fully informed waivers of their control, even though parents’ rights are afforded constitutional protection. Instead, parents are assumed to implicitly waive their right to raise their children by filing a request for PINS services. This Note argues that this system is out of line with Supreme Court precedent defining and outlining parents’ substantive due process rights and has serious consequences for children and their families. To remedy these constitutional and policy-based issues, this Note proposes that New York cease treating PINS petitions as implicit waivers of parental control. Though certainly not a complete fix for all concerns that arise from the PINS system, this solution would at least partially correct the imbalance between parents and the state under the PINS regime.

Routine Emergencies

Adrienne Lee Benson

Judicial Review, Liability Rules, and the Habeas Corpus Act of 1863

A national security emergency justifying the elimination of full judicial review and remedies for executive action is often analyzed as an exceptional, distinctive challenge to the rule of law. However, the possibility of irreparable harm frequently supports bypassing judicial procedures in more pedestrian peacetime law, such as an exigent-circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement or a preliminary injunction to avoid irreparable harm before a trial on the merits. While the scale may be different in national security crises, the problem is the same: how to maintain the rule of law when the traditional procedures and remedial doctrines of a reviewing institution may be ill-suited for avoiding irreparable harm in the time required for judicial review.

This Note uses the immunity provisions of the Habeas Corpus Act of 1863—in which Congress explicitly eliminated legal remedies during the greatest national crisis of American history—to illuminate the broader principles behind the availability of judicial remedies in exigent circumstances. In “routine” exigencies, such as a request for a preliminary injunction or exceptions to the warrant requirement, a shortcut around full procedure for the determination of rights and duties is permitted subject to the availability of judicial review after the intervention, and, often, compensation. The immunity provisions of the Habeas Corpus Act of 1863 cut off both of these remedial functions. Such immunities defeat the compensation purpose of remedies unnecessarily; as remedies in “routine” emergency interventions demonstrate, the compensation and judicial review functions need not always result in deterrence of executive action in a crisis. Immunity provisions such as those in the Act also hinder the development of the law and increase uncertainty for future actors and their possible future victims, even outside emergency situations. This Note argues that the best approach to judicial review in national security crises is not to eliminate remedies entirely, as the Habeas Corpus Act attempted to do, but to “code-switch” from a regime of property rules to a regime of liability rules in order to preserve victim compensation and the rule of law.

Pennoyer’s Ghost

Kevin D. Benish

Consent, Registration Statutes, and General Jurisdiction After Daimler AG v. Bauman

This Note evaluates general personal jurisdiction based on a “consent-by-registration” theory, arguing that this old basis of jurisdiction is unconstitutional after Daimler AG v. Bauman. Daimler overturned nearly seventy years of law on general jurisdiction, and in doing so provoked the return to a basis of jurisdiction dating back to Pennoyer v. Neff, with plaintiffs arguing that foreign corporations “consent” to general jurisdiction when they register to do business in states outside their place of incorporation or principal place of business. But Pennoyer is dead. Thus, the question is whether Pennoyer‘s ghost provides a constitutional basis for general jurisdiction, even after Daimler‘s severe limitations of it.