Memes are the paradigm of a new, flourishing creativity. Not only are these captioned images one of the most pervasive and important forms of online creativity, but they also upend many of copyright law’s fundamental assumptions about creativity, commercialization, and distribution. Chief among these assumptions is that copying is harmful. Not only does this mismatch threaten meme culture and expose fundamental problems in copyright law and theory, but the mismatch is even more significant because memes are far from an exceptional case. Indeed, memes are a prototype of a new mode of creativity that is emerging in our contemporary digital era, as can be seen across a range of works. Therefore, the concern with memes signals a much broader problem in copyright law and theory. This is not to say that the traditional creativity that copyright has long sought to protect is dead. Far from it. Both paths of creativity, traditional and new, can be vibrant. Yet we must be sensitive to the misfit between the new creativity and existing copyright law if we want the new creativity to continue to thrive.
Volume 97, Number 2
Our deregulated campaign finance system has a race problem. In this Article, we apply innovations in statistical methods to the universe of campaign contributions for federal elections and analyze the racial distribution of money in American politics between 1980 and 2012. We find that white people are extremely over-represented among donors. This racial gap in campaign contributions is significantly greater than the gap between white and nonwhite voter participation and white and nonwhite officer holders. It is also relatively constant across time and elected offices.
This result is an important missing piece in the conversation about equity in political participation. We argue that the courts and Congress should take steps to address the racial gaps in campaign finance participation. The participation and representation problems that flow from racial inequality in deregulated campaign finance could inform claims under the Voting Rights Act (VRA), and politico-financial inequalities certainly bear on the normative problems that the statute intends to address. But the most politically viable way to address the campaign finance racial gap lies in adoption of public financing for political campaigns, which offer the promise of increasing the racial representation of campaign contributions. When racial representation in contributions is improved, improved equality in the distribution of resources and power in electoral and political systems should follow.
Judges matter. The opinions of a few impact the lives of many. Judges romanticize their own impartiality, but apathy in the face of systems of oppression favors the status quo and clears the way for conservative agendas to take root. The lifetime appointments of federal judges, the deliberate weaponization of the bench by reactionary opponents of the New Deal and progressive social movements, and the sheer inertia of judicial self-restraint have led to the conservative capture of the courts. By contrast, empathy for the oppressed and downtrodden renders substantive justice possible and leaves room for unsuccessful litigants to accept unfavorable outcomes. But some judges—movement judges—bring more to the bench than just empathy, raging against systemic injustice with an understanding of its burdens on real human lives. This Article argues that we need movement judges to realize the abolitionist and democracy-affirming potential of the Constitution. Although the judiciary is often described as the “least democratic” of the three branches of government, it has the potential to be the most democratic. With movement judges, the judiciary can become a force for “We the People.”
Delegated to the State: Immigration Federalism and Post-Conviction Sentencing Adjustments in Matter of Thomas & Thompson
In Matter of Thomas & Thompson, former Attorney General William Barr argued that states have no role to play in immigration matters and thus, state adjustments to a criminal sentence post-conviction will not be given effect for adjudicating deportability based on criminal grounds under section 101(a)(48)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act without an underlying substantive or procedural flaw in the original criminal case. The former Attorney General incorrectly assumed that states cannot be involved in immigration decisionmaking. Not only is it constitutionally permissible for the federal government to delegate certain immigration powers to the states, but the immigration code does so in many places. Careful examination of the text and legislative history of section 101(a)(48)(B) reveals that whatever sentence the state deems operative counts for immigration purposes—even if state law considers the operative sentence a later adjustment—implying that Matter of Thomas & Thompson put forth an erroneous interpretation.
Despite its critical importance, the fulfillment of the human right to water is far from the reality for many today. One in three people do not have access to safe drinking water and more than half of the world’s population does not have access to safe sanitation. Achieving the international community’s commitment of universal access to safe water and sanitation by 2030 would cost states approximately$150 billion per year. Meeting those funding needs inevitably entails private, and often foreign, investment. When investments do not go as planned, foreign investors may turn to international arbitration for relief. While intended to protect investments, this legal regime has allowed investors to challenge regulatory measures that further human rights and to wield undue power over states. This Note analyzes investment-treaty disputes involving drinking water to understand how states have invoked, and tribunals have considered, the human right to water. The cases show an important evolution on the part of tribunals. Nevertheless, almost all of the tribunals fall short of integrating the human right to water in their analysis of substantive treaty claims. Interestingly, the cases also reveal that, despite invoking human rights defenses, states engage in actions that are difficult to justify as furthering the right to water. In turn, this Note argues that the “fair and equitable treatment” standard can and should include relevant human rights law as part of “investors’ legitimate expectations.” Such an integration creates opportunities for accountability on both sides of the ledger: Investors are expected to engage in human rights legal due diligence, and states are taken to task when they invoke human rights in a perfunctory fashion. The fair and equitable treatment standard presents an opportunity to expand fairness and equity in international arbitration not only for the disputing parties, but also for the people who stand to lose from their actions.
The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall “be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” Yet the dual sovereignty doctrine, a longstanding rule of judicial interpretation, reads the Double Jeopardy Clause as applying only to prosecutions by a single sovereign. Successive prosecutions by separate sovereigns, including the United States and foreign nations, do not implicate double jeopardy. The Double Jeopardy Clause protects the individual from government overreach, but the dual sovereignty doctrine flips the script: It protects the interests of the sovereign at the expense of the individual. After many decades of criticism, the Supreme Court reconsidered and then reaffirmed the doctrine in Gamble v. United States. The current blanket rule solves one problem—the fear that sovereign interests will be thwarted by other sovereigns—but creates another: an incentive for two sovereigns to join up to evade constitutional requirements. In the shadow of the dual sovereignty rule, lower courts have articulated an exception where one sovereign manipulates another or uses it as a “sham” or a “cover” for its own aims. Without further guidance from the Supreme Court, however, courts are reluctant to find the exception to apply.
This Note offers a new approach to inter-sovereign successive prosecutions that would reconcile these two doctrinal threads and provide greater protection to defendants at the mercy of multiple sovereigns: application of the strict scrutiny standard. Courts should embrace the complexity of inter-sovereign prosecutions, which can range from situations of obstruction, where successive prosecution may be necessary, to manipulation, where it should be prohibited. Genuine protection of the right against double jeopardy demands strict scrutiny.
In the Spring of 2020, a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Gary B. v. Whitmer penned an opinion recognizing a fundamental right to basic minimum education. While this decision was subsequently vacated pending en banc review and then dismissed as moot following a settlement, it stands as a bellwether of the long-overdue march toward recognition of positive rights under the Constitution. A series of Burger Court opinions attempted to calcify the notion that the Constitution is a “charter of negative liberties,” most famously DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services and its progeny. These opinions erected three key doctrinal barriers to recognition of positive rights: 1) that a cognizable due process claim must arise from direct, de jure state deprivation; 2) that separation of powers points towards legislatures, not courts, as the appropriate bodies for curing social and economic ills; and 3) that furnishing equality is not a proper aim of due process.
But substantive due process doctrine has transformed over the past few decades. Most notably in a series of cases protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals—Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, United States v. Windsor in 2013, and Obergfell v. Hodges in 2015—the doctrines of due process and equal protection have fused so intimately as to have revealed a new doctrinal structure, which Laurence Tribe has termed “equal dignity.” The doctrine of equal dignity has profound implications for the recognition of positive rights. Its theoretical tenets undermine the doctrinal elements which have traditionally steered federal courts away from recognizing positive rights. This Note argues that the case of education—considered in light of the post-Obergefell substantive due process doctrine—dismantles each of the traditional pillars of negative-rights constitutionalism, paving the way for recognition of a positive right to a basic minimum education. More broadly, Gary B. demonstrates that courts are now doctrinally equipped to recognize positive rights within the framework of modern substantive due process, a development that has radical implications for Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence and the project of constitutional equality.