NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 93, Number 5

November 2018
Articles

In Defense of Nationwide Injunctions

Amanda Frost

With increasing frequency, courts are issuing nationwide injunctions barring the executive from enforcing federal laws and policies against anyone, not just the plaintiffs in the case before them. Nationwide injunctions halted President Obama’s initiative granting deferred action to undocumented immigrants and his Department of Education’s interpretive guidance on the treatment of transgender students in public schools. More recently, district courts enjoined President Trump’s travel ban, as well as his administration’s policy of withholding federal funds from “sanctuary cities.” Legal scholars have criticized the practice, Congress is considering legislation to prohibit it, and commentators are calling for the Supreme Court to address it. A consensus is forming that courts should never issue nationwide injunctions, period. Indeed, some scholars contend that federal courts lack the constitutional authority to do so under any circumstances.

This Article provides the first sustained academic defense of nationwide injunctions. In some cases, nationwide injunctions are the only means to provide plaintiffs with complete relief, or to prevent harm to thousands of individuals who cannot quickly bring their own cases before the courts. And sometimes anything short of a nationwide injunction would be impossible to administer. When a district court is asked to pass on the validity of certain types of federal policies with nationwide effects—such as policies affecting the air or water, or the nation’s immigration system—it would be extremely difficult to enjoin application of the policy to some plaintiffs but not others. Furthermore, nothing in the Constitution’s text or structure bars federal courts from issuing a remedy that extends beyond the parties. To the contrary, such injunctions enable federal courts to play their essential role as a check on the political branches.

Addressing Inequality in the Age of Citizens United

Bertrall L. Ross II

The United States has reached a point of economic inequality that has not been seen since the 1920s. According to the median voter theorem of redistribution, democracy is supposed to act as a check on growing economic inequality. The intuition behind this theorem is simple: If a majority of the population sees their incomes stagnate while a wealthy minority gets richer, the majority will demand redistributive policies, and representatives will respond by addressing inequality. But in the United States, very little redistribution has accompanied rising economic inequality.

Why has democracy failed to check economic inequality in the United States? Political scientists and legal scholars have pointed to political inequality as the culprit. Political scientists have shown that elected representatives are much more responsive to the wealthy than any other income group. Legal scholars have argued in favor of equalizing campaign finance and regulating lobbying as ways to reduce political inequality. Empirical studies, however, have raised doubts about the effectiveness of any reform efforts aimed at those areas, and constitutional law disfavors solutions aimed at diminishing the political voice of the wealthy.

In this Article, I argue that reducing the income class imbalance of the electorate— i.e. the tendency of wealthier voters to vote at higher rates than less affluent ones— will be a more constitutionally viable and effective means of ameliorating political inequality. I base this argument on the median voter theorem, which suggests that elected officials decide whether or not to adopt redistributive policies based on whether they believe the median voter desires such policies. Because the poor vote less and have less access to their elected representatives, representatives perceive the electorate to be better off than the population as a whole actually is, diminishing the pressure to redistribute in contexts of rising economic inequality.

The ideal solution to this form of political inequality is to induce the participation of the poor and enhance their engagement with elected officials through campaign mobilization. Mobilizing the poor would not only increase the proportion of the poor in the electorate, but more importantly, would change how representatives perceive the electorate and its demands for redistribution. Achieving these goals will require looking to new legal strategies aimed at incentivizing mobilization. I examine three legal strategies that could increase the incentives for political campaigns to mobilize the poor: campaign finance vouchers, earmarking campaign contributions, and a mobilization-matching fund. I conclude by suggesting a path to advancing these strategies in the current political climate.

Notes

The First Amendment and Regulatory Responses to Workplace Sexual Misconduct: Clarifying the Treatment of Compelled Disclosure Regimes

Elizabeth A. Aronson

In response to revelations about the pervasiveness of workplace sexual misconduct, legislators have proposed a variety of regulatory solutions. Among those responses are proposals to require companies to disclose information related to the settlement of sexual misconduct allegations made by employees. This proposal merits special attention because it conceivably compels speech, making it vulnerable to a First Amendment challenge. While such a claim appears surprising, recent developments in First Amendment law have taken the idea from laughable to plausible. This Note situates the proposals in light of recent First Amendment challenges to compelled disclosure regimes, using the proposals as a lens to examine how courts have addressed such challenges. The analysis demonstrates the need for greater clarity in the treatment of information-forcing regulations. A suggested approach is for courts to explicitly recognize regulatory exceptions to compelled speech claims when the compelled speech is only incidental to the broader purpose of the regulation.

Jurisdiction, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies, and Constitutional Claims

Peter A. Devlin

The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies says that a person challenging an agency decision must first pursue the agency’s available remedies before seeking judicial review. It was created by courts in order to promote an efficient justice system and autonomous administrative state. Congress has since written exhaustion requirements into many statutes to ensure and guide its application. Consequently, a court interpreting one of these statutory versions must first decide whether it is a jurisdictional rule or not. The fallout from this decision is the topic of this Note. By definition, jurisdictional rules are rigid: Courts may not create exceptions to them, parties may not waive or forfeit them, and they will loom over the proceedings from start to finish. Faced with a jurisdictional exhaustion requirement, courts have had to choose between diluting the concept of jurisdiction and allowing injustice. In this Note, I look for a way out of this tradeoff. I argue that statutory exhaustion requirements are neither jurisdictional nor non-jurisdictional rules, but rather mandatory rules with a particular set of effects on courts and parties. Courts, for example, may not apply equitable exceptions to statutory exhaustion requirements, but agencies may waive or forfeit them. I define this “mandatory” exhaustion by looking to case law, jurisdiction theory, constitutional structure, and the purposes of exhaustion. I also develop an exception for constitutional claims that arise outside of an agency’s proceedings. This exception helps avoid the threat to separation of powers that requiring exhaustion for such claims would create. As a result, if courts used mandatory exhaustion then they would be empowered to avoid injustice without creating a conceptual mess. Commentators have suggested that exhaustion requirements might be mandatory in nature, and the Second Circuit has treated them as such. But neither has provided much guidance on what that means. I try to fill in that gap by developing a descriptive and normative case for categorizing them as mandatory rules.

Holding the EPA Accountable: Judicial Construction of Environmental Citizen Suit Provisions

Katherine A. Rouse

What happens when a presidential administration fails or refuses to properly administer our nation’s environmental laws? Thanks to the design of our federal environmental statutes, American citizens are armed with a valuable legal tool to hold the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accountable: the citizen suit. Environmental citizen suits allow private citizens to sue the EPA to require it to carry out its statutory duties, and can be a valuable mechanism in the face of a presidential administration unsympathetic to environmental protection. Because citizen suit provisions allow citizens to sue the EPA Administrator for failing to perform an action or duty that is nondiscretionary under the statute, the permissibility of lawsuits frequently turns on judicial interpretation of the term “nondiscretionary duty.” There is currently a split across the federal courts as to how to construe this term. In fact, the case law on this topic has become somewhat muddled, with disparities arising among district courts and few courts of appeal ruling conclusively on the issue. Some courts have narrowed the term, thereby limiting opportunities for citizen suits. A primary disagreement is whether the presence of the word “shall” in a statutory provision is sufficient to impose a nondiscretionary duty or whether more is required. Some courts have determined that a duty is discretionary unless the provision also includes a “date-certain” deadline, requiring the Administrator to perform the prescribed action by a specific date that appears within that part of the statute. Other courts have resisted adopting a bright-line rule requiring a date-certain deadline before imposing a nondiscretionary duty on the Administrator. The Supreme Court has not spoken on this date-certain deadline rule. This Note will explore how courts have interpreted the term nondiscretionary duty in environmental citizen suit provisions. This Note argues that the federal judiciary as a whole should abandon the date-certain deadline rule and side with courts that construe nondiscretionary duty more broadly. This reading can be supported legally, and will ensure that citizens are able to sue to compel EPA action even when a presidential administration fails to carry out important environmental laws and regulations.

Is Selling Malware a Federal Crime?

Marcelo Triana

Congress enacted the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to impose criminal penalties for a variety of computer misuse offenses. One provision, 18 U.S.C. §1030(a)(5)(A), criminalizes hacking and the use of malicious software (“malware”) by making it a crime to transmit code (i.e., malware) with “intent to cause damage.” Today, § 1030(a)(5)(A) fails to adequately police the black market for malware. The United States Department of Justice has recently used the statute to combat these markets by prosecuting hackers who sold malware. This Note argues that § 1030(a)(5)(A) is ill suited to combat the sale of malware for two reasons. First, certain types of malware do not fit under the CFAA’s definition of “damage.” Second, selling malware does not necessarily satisfy the statute’s “intent” element. Ultimately, the black market for malware needs to be policed, and Congress must amend the CFAA’s outdated elements to deal with the dangers of malware attacks on our increasingly connected society.

Unsafe Havens: Improving Third-Party Accreditation of Wildlife Sanctuaries

Simon J. Williams

A number of animal “sanctuaries” and “rescue centers” operate across the United States and, in spite of their sympathetic names that attract visitors and donors, in fact neglect their animals and commit egregious violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Since United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforcement of the AWA is extremely weak, third parties have begun certifying and accrediting different facilities of captive animal care. This Note addresses the work of such third-party accreditors and argues that, while they can indeed play a valuable role in regulating wildlife sanctuaries and educating the public, they can only achieve these goals effectively through a more detailed and comprehensive accreditation framework. Part I gives relevant background on the AWA and identifies how its ambiguities and enforcement deficit create informational and regulatory gaps in which third-party accreditors can take meaningful action. Part II analyzes the accreditors themselves, revealing the limited extent of their coverage, the ideological rifts that divide them, and important contrasts in their processes and standards for accreditation. Part III turns to potential solutions for addressing this fractured landscape. It proposes a tiered and detailed accreditation system that more effectively communicates relevant information to prospective visitors and donors. It also evaluates and critiques several alternative solutions.

The Missing Structural Debate: Reforming Disclosure of Online Political Communications

Pichaya P. Winichakul

The Federal Election Commission (FEC), the nation’s campaign finance regulator, is charged with administering one of America’s fundamental anti-corruption measures: disclosure and disclaimer requirements for political communications. The FEC has come under attack for failing to enforce its disclosure laws against the Internet Research Agency, the Russian-based organization recently indicted for meddling in American elections through use of online political propaganda. Had the FEC properly enforced the disclosure laws, it could have armed the millions of Americans who viewed Internet Research Agency advertisements with critical information to take to the polls. Efforts to address this campaign finance failure have coalesced around the Honest Ads Act, a bill that proposes substantive changes to the campaign finance disclosure rules. This Note argues that the Honest Ads Act mischaracterizes the problem that led to the FEC’s regulatory failure, and offers another explanation: the structural problems that have led to agency inaction and capture. This Note explores FEC inaction and capture and begins to develop a legislative alternative to the Honest Ads Act.