Current Issue

Volume 97, Number 3

June 2022

Natural Transplants

Vanessa Casado Pérez, Yael R. Lifshitz

Policymakers are constantly faced with the complex task of managing novel challenges. At times, these challenges result from new technologies: Consider fights over allocating air rights for drones or decisions about how to share scarce vaccines in a pandemic. Other times the resources are old, but the challenges are new, such as how to fairly allocate water in times of unprecedented drought or previously undesirable rare earth minerals that are in demand for modern manufacturing and energy production. Often, instead of carefully tailoring a regime to the new resource, decisionmakers simply rely on mechanisms they are familiar with. When jurisdictions borrow from each other, scholars call this a “legal transplant”—as when one state copies another state’s innovations or when the federal government learns from the “laboratories of democracy.” This Article unveils a new dimension of legal transplants: transplants across subject areas. By transplants across subject areas, this article refers to instances when a jurisdiction looks for doctrines in other legal areas, often within its own legal system, when regulating a new resource or addressing a new challenge.

This Article makes three key contributions. First, it identifies a new type of transplant—between subject matters within a jurisdiction. Second, it analyzes the reasons for internal, cross-subject legal transplants and the criteria for selecting which subject areas to copy from. Third, the Article brings the legal transplants literature to bear, specifically, on natural resource law. It explores two cases, groundwater and wind energy, where policymakers and courts have borrowed from other resource schemes, often ignoring the scientific and social differences between these natural resources. Other areas of law, such as the incorporation of contract doctrines in landlord-tenant relations, are also described to show the explanatory power of the natural transplant framework. This conceptual framework is then applied to new mineral developments in space and the deep sea. Cross-subject transplants may be more prevalent than previously appreciated, and understanding them will pave the way to analyze the regulation of new developments in natural resources, infrastructure, and beyond.


Robert Yablon

As they carry out their decennial redistricting duties, those in power sometimes audaciously manipulate district lines to secure an electoral advantage. In other words, they gerrymander. Often, however, the existing map already gives those in power a significant edge, and they may see little need for an overhaul. For them, the name of the game during redistricting is continuity rather than change.

This Article introduces the concept of “gerrylaundering” to describe mapmakers’ efforts to lock in their favorable position by preserving key elements of the existing map. Gerrylaundering and gerrymandering both serve anti-competitive ends, but they do so through different means. Unlike gerrymandering, gerrylaundering requires no conspicuous cracking and packing of disfavored voters. Instead, it involves what this Article dubs locking and stocking: Mapmakers lock in prior district configurations to the extent possible and stock each new district with one incumbent. Based on a review of redistricting practices in all fifty states, this Article concludes that gerrylaundering is widespread and that self-serving mapmakers commonly combine gerrylaundering and gerrymandering techniques in varying proportions to achieve their preferred results.

Recognizing gerrylaundering as a phenomenon enriches existing redistricting discourse by spotlighting the insidious nature of continuity strategies: They serve to advantage those in power, yet, since they appear more restrained than radical redesigns, they come with a veneer of legitimacy. This Article concludes that the veneer is thin. As a legal matter, efforts to preserve district cores and protect incumbents do not stand on the same footing as efforts to comply with traditional geographic districting principles. As a policy matter, gerrylaundering is more likely to subvert core democratic values than to foster them. At least two significant takeaways follow: First, courts should approach continuity criteria skeptically both when they review challenges to redistricting plans and when they draw maps themselves. Second, and more broadly, minimizing the legacy of prior maps has the potential to inject healthy dynamism into our system of district-based representation.