NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
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Volume 95, Number 1

April 2020
Articles

The Prisoner and the Polity

Avlana K. Eisenberg

All punishment comes to an end. Most periods of imprisonment are term limited, and ninety-five percent of prisoners will eventually leave prison. Though it is tempting to think of the “end” in concrete, factual terms—for example, as the moment when the prisoner is released—this concept also has normative dimensions. Core to the notion of term-limited imprisonment is the “principle of return”: the idea that, when the prisoner has completed his or her time, that person is entitled to return to society. Yet, for the principle of return to be meaningful, it must include the idea of a fair chance of reestablishing oneself in the community. The “practices of incarceration”—including the prison environment and prison programs—are thus critically important because they can either facilitate or impede a prisoner’s reentry into society. However, apart from the question of whether conditions of confinement are cruel and unusual as defined by the Eighth Amendment, these practices of incarceration have largely avoided scholarly scrutiny. 

This Article uses the case study of higher education programs in prison to expose the interdependence between the practices of incarceration and the principle of return. Drawing on original interviews with key stakeholders, it investigates how the features of higher education programs reflect and reinforce core beliefs about the goals of punishment and the state’s responsibility towards those it incarcerates. The Article critically examines the dominant harm-prevention justification for prison higher education, and the desert-based objection to it, finding that both are inadequate for failing to take into account the principle of return. 

This Article espouses an alternative approach that would recognize the ongoing relationship between prisoner and polity and devise incarceration practices accordingly. Building on insights from communitarian theory, this approach, which foregrounds the prisoner’s status in the polity, uncovers pervasive “us-versus-them” narratives in the prison context. The first such narrative is between prisoners and those members of the polity who view prisoners, falsely, as having forfeited their claims to membership in civil society. This view of prisoners, as members of a permanent and lower caste, is in direct conflict with the principle of return, which mandates that prisoners have at least a plausible hope of basic reintegration into society and that they avoid further harm—what might be termed “punishment-plus.” The Article also scrutinizes a second, more localized “us-versus-them” narrative between prisoners and correctional officers, which arises from their similar backgrounds and the common deprivation experienced by members of both groups. 

Finally, the Article recommends institutional design changes to mitigate “us-versus- them” dynamics: empowering stakeholders, for example, by affording correctional officers educational opportunities that would help professionalize their role and ease their resentment towards prisoners; and increasing exposure and empathy between incarcerated and non-incarcerated populations, such as by piloting a program that would employ recent college graduates to teach in prison. These and other proposed reforms would refocus the conversation around imprisonment to account for the central role of incarceration practices in revitalizing the principle of return, as well as the inextricable connection between prisoner and polity. 

The Medicare Innovation Subsidy

Mark A. Lemley, Lisa Larrimore Ouellette, Rachel E. Sachs

Policymakers on both ends of the political spectrum have been looking for ways to reduce prescription drug prices. Democrats have also been working on expanding healthcare coverage, including different versions of Medicare for All. All these proposals have been framed as issues of access and spending. If innovation incentives come up at all, it has primarily been because pharmaceutical companies claim that reducing drug prices will threaten innovation by lowering the returns from their patents. 

In fact, however, pharmaceutical access and innovation incentives are intimately related. Health insurance can change the structure of market demand. And Medicare in particular does so in a way that gives a very large subsidy to patented drugs, such that current U.S. pharmaceutical profits are often higher than they would be in an unsubsidized market. Medicare reimbursement rules thus can lead to greater-than-monopoly pricing of patented drugs, dramatically expanding the incentive U.S. policy provides to pharmaceutical companies. By not recognizing the Medicare innovation subsidy, policymakers have ignored one of the largest sources of innovation incentives. That extra incentive might be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how much incentive pharmaceutical developers need. It may well be good for some classes of drugs and bad for others. But it is important for policymakers to understand how access policies like Medicare also serve as innovation incentives. This extra innovation subsidy may open the policy space for hybrid proposals that combine expanded government insurance like Medicare for All with lower drug prices while preserving or even increasing current returns to innovation. 

Isolated and Unreachable: Contesting Unconstitutional Restrictions on Communication in Immigration Detention

Zachary Manfredi, Joseph Meyers

As of January 1, 2019, the federal government held more than 51,000 noncitizens in immigration detention. Over the course of a year, nearly half a million noncitizens will pass through Department of Homeland Security custody within the interior of the United States while the government initiates proceedings to remove them from the country. Many of those detainees pursue immigration relief and contest both their detention and removal. However, numerous reports from the Office of the Inspector General and immigration practitioners consistently observe substantial barriers to effective communication from detention: Detainees are frequently held in or transferred to isolated locations, detention facilities often do not provide adequate telephone access or even alternative forms of communication, and facilities often deny or substantially delay in-person meetings with attorneys or other visitors. These barriers significantly affect the ability of unrepresented detainees to gather and present relevant evidence critical to litigating their removal claims. They also undermine essential communication between legal counsel and the detainees they represent in those proceedings. 

This Article argues that due process imposes affirmative obligations on the government to facilitate evidence gathering and communication with legal counsel for those noncitizens that it detains. While previous scholarship has advanced arguments for “immigration Gideon”—i.e., suggesting noncitizens should have a right to appointed counsel at state expense—our intervention instead focuses on how conditions of confinement that impair communication with counsel and evidence gathering may themselves run afoul of noncitizens’ Fifth Amendment due process rights. 

We offer a novel interpretation of recent Supreme Court and circuit court precedents on civil detention in order to ground noncitizens’ right to communicative access in the Fifth Amendment and propose a new framework for evaluating noncitizens’ rights to effective communication. Importantly, we also argue that the scope of noncitizen detainees’ rights to communicate with counsel should not be determined by the stark division between criminal and civil detention precedents. Rather, noncitizens’ access to counsel rights should encompass the procedural protections due process requires whenever the government acts as both initiator of adverse legal proceedings and jailor, including those protections traditionally associated with the Sixth Amendment. Our analysis finds that the scope of governmental obligation to provide communicative access derives from the noncitizens’ liberty interest in avoiding both detention and deportation and, in particular, follows from the government’s dual role in immigration proceedings as both initiator of adverse proceedings and jailor. The obligation to ensure a “full and fair” hearing requires that the government not impose barriers to communication that provide it with an unfair advantage in the litigation of noncitizens’ removal claims. 

We conclude that the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause imposes affirmative obligations for the government to facilitate evidence gathering and communication between noncitizen detainees and their counsel. While the scope of the state’s affirmative obligations may vary in accordance with the immigration status of the detainee, we argue that in all cases the Fifth Amendment requires the federal government to provide detained noncitizens adequate means to solicit legal representation, meet privately with retained counsel, communicate with potential witnesses, access necessary records, and prepare evidence and testimony. Conditions of confinement that frustrate these basic guarantees offend the Fifth Amendment’s protection of a full and fair hearing and should be held unconstitutional. 

Notes

Litigation Risk as a Justification for Agency Action

Timothy G. Duncheon

To justify its rescission of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employed a novel rationale: risk of litigation. DHS argued that DACA was potentially unlawful and might be disruptively enjoined by a court and that the Agency could preemptively wind down the program in light of risk that it would be forced to do so in litigation. This Note argues that agencies can and should consider litigation risk in taking regulatory action—especially given the increasing frequency of nationwide injunctions. But it proposes that an agency invoking litigation risk must examine four elements: forgone benefits prior to a predicted disruptive injunction, probability of the injunction, costs of the injunction, and contrary litigation risk. Examination of these elements here suggests that litigation risk alone did not justify the DACA rescission and that regulatory changes will rarely be justified on this sole basis. Courts must carefully scrutinize litigation risk rationales, as excessive deference to this rationale may allow agencies to evade responsibility for their policy decisions by passing blame on to hypothetical future judicial action. 

FCA v. FDA: The Case Against the Presumption of Immateriality from Agency Inaction

Alexander Kristofcak

The False Claims Act is a powerful statutory vehicle for the federal government to deter fraud on its purse, a significant public policy concern. Under the Act, government contractors can be liable for violating material legal requirements of federal programs. In assessing materiality, the courts are asked to evaluate the natural tendency of a violation to influence payment. One question that has been raised in a series of cases in the health product domain is whether government’s payment, despite knowledge of a violation, necessarily means that the violation was immaterial for the purposes of FCA enforcement. The industry is asking the courts to adopt that defense—what this Note terms the “immateriality presumption from agency inaction”—at the pleading stage. To justify the presumption, the defendants argue that the nuanced judgments of the agency vested with the authority and the requisite expertise to regulate—here, the Food and Drug Administration—must prevail over both the private parties who bring actions under the statute’s qui tam provisions, as well as anyone else within the government. Using the Act’s evolution, structure, legislative history, and empirical data, this Note argues against the presumption. First, it shows that the Act’s design strikes a deliberate balance between encouraging private actors and their meaningful oversight by the government. As such, the presumption is not needed to combat unmeritorious private claims. Second, the Note argues that potential overlap between enforcement under the Act and agency oversight is valuable in several ways. The Note’s most significant contribution is in explaining why the immateriality presumption, by tethering fraud enforcement to judgments of the agencies, could be harmful to the agencies them- selves and public interest writ large. In doing that, the Note challenges the claim that the presumption honors the expertise and facilitates the discretion of agencies. 

Chevron and the Attorney General’s Certification Power

Jonathan P. Riedel

Congress has delegated power to the Attorney General to execute the nation’s immigration laws, adjudicate individual noncitizens’ cases, and fill interpretive gaps in the statute. The Attorney General has in turn delegated this authority, by regulation, to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Most BIA decisions are administratively final, and noncitizens appeal unfavorable decisions directly to federal courts of appeals. In a small but growing number of cases, however, the Attorney General will step in to decide a case himself de novo after the BIA has ruled. This power of intervention and decision, sometimes known as the “referral and review” power or “certification” power, has drawn some praise for being an efficient use of the broad power afforded to the executive branch in the immigration context, but more often has sustained criticism for potential abuse. In this Note, I analyze this certification power through the lens of Chevron. In particular, I argue that Chevron deference to the BIA is appropriate because it serves the values of the Chevron doctrine—expertise, procedural regularity, and public accountability— but that Chevron deference to the Attorney General’s certified opinions is inappropriate. Courts have a responsibility under Step Zero not to defer to an interpretation of law unless its issuance adheres sufficiently to fundamental tenets of administrative law. Certified opinions are insufficient on all counts: Deference to the Attorney General’s interpretations of law issued in this manner serves none of the values of the Chevron doctrine. 

What the Federal Reserve Board Tells Us About Agency Independence

Caroline W. Tan

In administrative law, the sine qua non of agency independence lies in the enabling statute. If the statute protects the agency’s head from removal except “for cause,” then the agency is considered insulated from presidential control and classified as independent. On the other hand, if the statute is silent on for-cause tenure protection, then the agency is classified as executive. This Note questions that central assumption by relying on the history of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, arguably one of the most independent agencies in Washington. By tracing the Board’s history from a limited institution in 1913 to the powerful central bank of today, this Note demonstrates that in at least some cases, the driving factors behind operative independence have more to do with the practical realities of governance than the formalities of administrative law. Indeed, even though the Fed’s enabling statute is silent on the issue of for-cause tenure protection, the President has never fired the head of the agency. Even President Trump has declined to go so far. This Note addresses this paradox through a detailed look at the Board’s history and the major inflection points in its rise. Throughout, this Note also highlights the active role that the Board played in its own ascendency, demonstrating the dynamic life of administrative agencies and the powerful role they can play in shaping their own futures.