Current Issue

Volume 97, Number 1

April 2022

Colorblind Tax Enforcement

Jeremy Bearer-Friend

The United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has repeatedly taken the position
that because the IRS does not ask taxpayers to identify their race or ethnicity on
submitted tax returns, IRS enforcement actions are not affected by taxpayers’ race
or ethnicity. This claim, which I call “colorblind tax enforcement,” has been made
by multiple IRS Commissioners serving in multiple administrations (both
Democratic and Republican). This claim has been made to members of Congress
and to members of the press.

In this Article, I refute the IRS position that racial bias cannot occur under current
IRS practices. I do so by identifying the conditions under which race and ethnicity
could determine tax enforcement outcomes under three separate models of racial
bias: racial animus, implicit bias, and transmitted bias. I then demonstrate how such
conditions can be present across seven distinct tax enforcement settings regardless
of whether the IRS asks about race or ethnicity. The IRS enforcement settings ana-
lyzed include summonses, civil penalty assessments, collection due process hear-
ings, innocent spouse relief, and Department of Justice (DOJ) referrals.

By establishing that every major enforcement function of the IRS remains vulner-
able to racial bias, this Article also challenges the IRS decision to omit race and
ethnicity from the collection and analysis of tax data. The absence of publicly avail-
able data on IRS enforcement activities by race should not be interpreted as evi-
dence that no racial disparities exist. I conclude by describing alternative
approaches to preventing racial bias in tax enforcement other than the current IRS
policy of purported colorblindness.

Structural Biases in Structural Constitutional Law

Jonathan S. Gould, David E. Pozen

Structural constitutional law regulates the workings of government and supplies the
rules of the political game. Whether by design or by accident, these rules sometimes
tilt the playing field for or against certain political factions—not just episodically,
based on who holds power at a given moment, but systematically over time—in
terms of electoral outcomes or policy objectives. In these instances, structural con-
stitutional law is itself structurally biased.

This Article identifies and begins to develop the concept of such structural biases,
with a focus on biases affecting the major political parties. Recent years have wit-
nessed a revival of political conflict over the basic terms of the U.S. constitutional
order. We suggest that this phenomenon, and a large part of structural constitu-
tional conflict in general, is best explained by the interaction between partisan
polarization and structural bias, each of which can intensify the other. The Article
also offers a typology of structural biases, keyed to the contemporary United States
but potentially applicable to any system. To date, legal scholars have lagged social
scientists in investigating the efficiency, distributional, and political effects of gov-
ernance arrangements. The concept of structural bias, we aim to show, can help
bridge this disciplinary gap and thereby advance the study of constitutional design
and constitutional politics.

Revitalizing Tribal Sovereignty in Treatymaking

David H. Moore, Michalyn Steele

In the current model of federal-Indian relations, the United States claims a plenary
legislative power, as putative guardian, to regulate Indian tribes. Under this model,
tribes are essentially wards in a state of pupilage. But the federal-tribal relationship
was not always so. Originally, the federal government embraced, even promoted, a
more robust model of tribal sovereignty in which federal-Indian treatymaking and
diplomacy figured prominently. Through treaties, the United States and tribes nego-
tiated territorial boundaries, forged alliances, facilitated trade, and otherwise man-
aged their relations. In 1871, Congress attempted to put an end to federal-Indian
treatymaking by purporting to strip tribes of their status as legitimate treaty part-
ners. In a rider to the 1871 Appropriations Act, Congress prohibited the recognition
of tribes as sovereign entities with whom the United States could negotiate treaties.
Since that time, the 1871 Act and the plenary power-pupilage model it entrenched
have grown deep roots in federal Indian law and the policies of the United States.
Congress has aggrandized its role in tribal life at the expense of tribal sovereignty,
and the coordinate branches of the federal government have acquiesced in this
foundational shift.

The literature of federal Indian law has wrestled with the doctrine of plenary power,
contemplated the fate of the federal-tribal treaty relationship, and questioned the
constitutionality of the 1871 rider. This Article posits new arguments for the uncon-
stitutionality of the 1871 Act, uprooting the presumptions underlying the Act and
revitalizing the prospect of federal-Indian treatymaking. Two recent developments
provide an opportunity for such a transformation. In
Zivotofsky v. Kerry, the
Supreme Court held that the President alone possesses the power to recognize for-
eign states and governments. While
Zivotofsky was a landmark case for U.S. for-
eign relations law, its potential significance for federal Indian law has gone
Zivotofsky did not directly address the locus of power to recog-
nize tribal sovereignty to enter treaties, but it prompts the question and provides a
blueprint for arriving at an answer. Engaging that blueprint, this Article argues that
the President possesses the exclusive power to recognize tribes’ sovereign capacity
to enter treaties. The result: The 1871 Act is unconstitutional because it attempts to
limit that power. In our view, the President can and should unilaterally reengage in
federal-Indian treatymaking, revitalizing treatymaking and reanimating the sover-
eignty model of federal-Indian relations.


Merging Photography’s Copyright

Amanda Fischer Adian

Photography has exploded into the most accessible mode of creative production of
our time: Over one trillion photographs will be taken this year. Yet despite the
medium’s dramatic expansion, catalyzed by advances in technology, the copyright-
ability of photography remains controlled by a Supreme Court precedent that is
over one hundred years old,
Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony. The long-
standing interpretation of
Burrow-Giles in the lower courts has rendered nearly
every litigated photograph copyrightable, even though the factual foundation of
Burrow-Giles is remarkably inconsistent with how most photography is produced
today. With protracted, low-value, and often frivolous copyright litigation over
photographs increasingly clogging up federal courts’ dockets, it is high time to
reconsider photography’s copyright.

This Note argues that a revitalization of copyright’s merger doctrine—long ignored
or dismissed in the realm of photography’s copyright—could be the vehicle for this
reassessment. Theorizing photographs as mergeable does not render the medium
per se uncopyrightable, but captures the spirit of the Supreme Court’s now 150-
year-old instruction to permit photography’s copyright, while correcting for
changes in photographic technology to better uphold the Court’s simultaneous
mandate that “ordinary” photographs should not receive copyright protection.

Doubling Down: Inconsistent Prosecutions, Capital Punishment, and Double Jeopardy

Vedan Anthony-North

There is a practice among prosecutors whereby they pursue incompatible theories
of a case against two or more defendants for criminal behavior for which, factually,
only one defendant can be culpable. While it’s difficult to determine just how fre-
quently these arguments are made, at least twenty-nine people have been con-
demned to death in cases where the defense has alleged inconsistencies, and seven
of those twenty-nine people have been executed. Situations like these cut against our
moral and ethical understanding of fairness and of justice; these arguments operate
in a world detached from reality, where factually singular acts can have multiple
agents, prosecutors are not accountable to a consistent narrative, and factfinders are
asked to make ultimate determinations of death based on factual impossibilities.
But finding ways to challenge the practice has, frustratingly, fallen short in pro-
viding legal relief to the condemned.

This Note looks beyond the due process and Eighth Amendment arguments against
this practice that have not provided fertile ground for protecting criminal defen-
dants from this type of vindictive approach to sentencing. Instead, this Note makes
a normative argument that the history of the Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy
Clause, along with civil law principles of collateral estoppel that have been incorpo-
rated into the criminal law through the Clause, and protections against vindictive
sentencing practices that undergird the Clause bars this practice. In other words,
this Note argues that double jeopardy preclusion principles bar prosecutors from
relitigating issues of ultimate culpability in successive cases. This solution draws on
the Supreme Court’s only consideration of this issue
—Bradshaw v. Stumpf—which
makes an analytical distinction between the consequences of this practice on convic-
tion and consequences on sentencing.

Nipping It in the Bud: Fixing the Principal-Agent Problem in Class Actions by Looking to Qui Tam Litigation

Nicholas Alejandro Bergara

The principal-agent problem in class actions, which occurs whenever the interests
of class counsel (the agent) conflict with those of the class (the principal), has
plagued the class action system for decades. When these conflicts of interest arise,
they often lead to plaintiff classes receiving lower monetary awards than they other-
wise deserve, above-market fees for attorneys, and underenforcement of claims
against wrongdoers. Throughout the years, both Congress and scholars alike have
tried to address this issue, but it persists. This Note invites Congress and scholars to
think differently about potential solutions to a problem that has been around for far
too long. It argues that looking to qui tam litigation, specifically, the False Claims
Act, provides a unique approach that could help significantly curtail the principal-
agent problem. By permitting the government to install itself as lead counsel in class
actions involving money damages—when it deems an action to be worthy—the
financial incentives between any given class and its respective class counsel are
realigned. While private attorneys seek the maximum amount of attorney’s fees,
even if it comes at the expense of the client, government lawyers do not have the
same motivation. Adding an amendment to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23
permitting qui tam litigation would allow the government to act as a gatekeeper for
class actions while leaving the option open for private attorneys to bring suit should
the government decide not to do so. By providing different channels of enforce-
ment, the amendment offers a promising opportunity to better deter private sector
misconduct, discourage frivolous suits, and improve the overall outcomes for plain-
tiff classes.

Getting “Arising out of” Right: Ford Motor Company and the Purpose of the “Arising out of” Prong in the Minimum Contacts Analysis

Jeremy Jacobson

In Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, the Supreme Court
heard a challenge to specific personal jurisdiction brought under the “arising out of
or relating to” prong (also referred to as the “arising out of” prong) of the min-
imum contacts test for only the second time. In attempting to evade jurisdiction for
injuries caused by defective cars in Montana and Minnesota, Ford argued that
because the specific cars at issue were not originally sold in those fora, its pur-
poseful contacts with the state did not proximately cause the injury at issue, and
therefore the injuries did not “arise out of” those contacts. Ford’s argument is based
on a misreading of
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, the only case in
which the Court analyzed that prong of the minimum contacts test. This Note seeks
to explore the development and purposes underlying the “arising out of” prong,
concluding that its purpose is to ensure a sufficient connection between the forum
and the underlying claim such that the state has a legitimate regulatory interest and
that litigation in the forum is convenient. After describing the development and
purpose of the “arising out of” prong and contrasting it with the purpose under-
lying the “purposeful availment” prong, this Note addresses the ways in which chal-
lenges to jurisdiction are brought when it is unclear if the claim arises in a
particular forum. This Note then takes on the Ford case and discusses how the
Supreme Court’s decision fits into the framework describing what work the “arising
out of” prong is doing in the jurisdictional analysis.

Farmland Deregulation and Third-Stage Land Reform in Taiwan

Jessica Li

After decades in which agricultural land could only be owned by farmers, Taiwan’s
2000 amendments to the Agricultural Development Act opened up the farmland
market to non-farmers. This decision, along with Taiwan’s accession to the World
Trade Organization and the increasing globalization of trade, has had effects on an
agricultural landscape that has traditionally consisted largely of smallholder
farmers. This Note explores the 2000 amendments within both the historical context
of first- and second-stage land reform in Taiwan and the current context of third-
stage land reform and trade liberalization. The effects are far-reaching—the most
expensive farmland in the world, escalating non-agricultural use, fields left idle.
This Note raises questions about the role of agriculture in developed societies and
discusses the nuanced nature of farmland market deregulation.

The Racial Injustice and Political Process Failure of Prosecutorial Malapportionment

Michael Milov-Cordoba

District attorneys are responsible for the vast majority of criminal prosecutions in the United States, and most of them are elected by the public from prosecutorial
districts. Yet these districts are massively malapportioned, giving rural, dispropor-
tionately white voters significantly more voting power over their district attorneys
than urban voters, who are more likely to be voters of color. At the same time, our
district attorney system is characterized by the sorts of political process failures that
both triggered the Supreme Court’s Apportionment Revolution—requiring that leg-
islative and executive districts comply with one-person, one-vote—and justify judi-
cial intervention in other voting rights contexts. This Note argues that extending
one-person, one-vote to prosecutorial districts would meaningfully address
prosecutorial political process failure and have a number of salutary effects on our
democracy: It would rebalance the distribution of voters’ influence over district
attorneys, producing salutary downstream effects on our criminal justice system; it
may increase challenger rates, leading to healthier levels of prosecutorial demo-
cratic competition; and it would further core democratic norms, including respect
for the equal dignity of voters.