Online Features


The Surprise Return and Transformation of Racial Gerrymandering

Michael C. Li

Racial gerrymandering is a doctrine that has had a surprising evolution. It began in controversy in the 1990s with legal challenges brought by white voters to the creation of majority-minority districts. By injecting a deeply skeptical, color-blind requirement into the redistricting process, the Supreme Court’s racial gerrymandering jurisprudence looked for much of the 1990s like a serious, and perhaps even fatal, threat to the ability to draw majority-minority districts under the Voting Rights Act. But those fears ultimately were misplaced.

This Article argues instead that the doctrine, while suffering from some jurisprudential and analytical complexities, has proven nonetheless to be a remarkably flexible tool for courts to address the intersection of race and politics. This decade, racial gerrymandering has evolved to be both a potent tool to block the packing of African American voters and a means to police at least some forms of partisan gerrymandering.


Automated Seizures: Police Stops of Self-Driving Cars

Elizabeth E. Joh

When the police suspect a driver is breaking the law, the Fourth Amendment allows them to stop the car. This means compelling the driver to bring the car to a halt. Sometimes a car stop will lead to further investigation, searches, and even arrests. What will these stops look like when people no longer drive their cars and police officers no longer pursue them by driving their own? Autonomous cars are not yet commonplace, but soon they will be. Yet little attention has been paid to how autonomous cars will change policing. The issue matters enormously because today the police spend a lot of time stopping cars. For instance, the most common contact most adults in the United States have with the police takes the form of a traffic stop. Vehicles equipped with artificial intelligence and connected both to the internet and one another may be subject to automated stops. The issue is already being discussed as a theoretical possibility and as a desirable policing tool. This essay considers the law and policy issues that will arise when car seizures become remote and automated.

Ensuring Good Deeds Go Unpunished: The SCRA, FECRA, IFRFEA, and Protecting Federal Employees During Shutdowns

Russell Spivak

As the nation has seen multiple times in recent years, federal government shutdowns are harmful to the American public, but are disastrous for federal employees. In the most recent shutdown, nearly a million people missed two paychecks, many of whom were nonetheless required to show up to work and thus forego earning a supplemental wage elsewhere. This was not just. Some lawmakers have tried to rectify this by proposing bills that would create a framework for protections based on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which enshrines particular safeguards against litigation and administrative matters for those serving in uniform. This Article discusses those protections and their applicability to unpaid federal employees as well as other protections—some proposed, some not. The Article then reviews the constitutionality of the potential provisions. Finally, the Article addresses the political ramifications of such a law’s passage, namely if increased protections would beget more shutdowns.

License to Hack

Dyane L. O’Leary

Legal hackathons are exploding in popularity. “Hacking” is a term often associated with illegal behavior, but a hackathon is something different. At a hackathon, lawyers, technologists, data scientists, public interest organizations, law students, and just about anyone who is interested converge in a friendly, time-pressured competition aimed at solving some defined problem. For more than a decade, different industries have looked to hackathons as a source of new ideas. Today, the legal industry uses hackathons to spark creation of innovative tools to chip away at the access to justice crisis and improve the delivery of legal services.

But often lost in the excitement is a key piece to hackathon success: treatment of the intellectual property. For example, who owns the copyright in software created at a hackathon? What about a new business method? What about the rights to trademark a new design? Most hackathons have some form of a participant agreement, but many outright ignore the “who owns it” question or fail to address it in a purposeful manner.This is a problem in need of a solution—or at least some concrete guidance.

This Article explores intellectual property rights in the context of legal hackathons. How intellectual property is approached at the start can impact the success (or not) of creations at the end. Taking rights away from participants risks alienating them and interfering with the collaborative and fun spirit most hackathons embody. Yet giving participants all the marbles may not be preferable either, especially if it disincentivizes organizers to support future development and help a tool survive beyond the hackathondoors. In circumstances where one size doesn’t fit all, this Article discusses pros and cons of varying approaches to intellectual property in hackathon participant agreements. Embodying the hackathon resolve to create something tangible and useful for others, the Article connects readers to an online repository of sample agreements as well as a participant agreement template.

Dirty Data, Bad Predictions: How Civil Rights Violations Impact Police Data, Predictive Policing Systems, and Justice

Rashida Richardson, Jason M. Schultz, Kate Crawford

Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using predictive policing systems to forecast criminal activity and allocate police resources. Yet in numerous jurisdictions, these systems are built on data produced during documented periods of flawed, racially biased, and sometimes unlawful practices and policies (“dirty policing”). These policing practices and policies shape the environment and the methodology by which data is created, which raises the risk of creating inaccurate, skewed, or systemically biased data (“dirty data”). If predictive policing systems are informed by such data, they cannot escape the legacies of the unlawful or biased policing practices that they are built on. Nor do current claims by predictive policing vendors provide sufficient assurances that their systems adequately mitigate or segregate this data.

In our research, we analyze thirteen jurisdictions that have used or developed predictive policing tools while under government commission investigations or federal court monitored settlements, consent decrees, or memoranda of agreement stemming from corrupt, racially biased, or otherwise illegal policing practices. In particular, we examine the link between unlawful and biased police practices and the data available to train or implement these systems. We highlight three case studies: (1) Chicago, an example of where dirty data was ingested directly into the city’s predictive system; (2) New Orleans, an example where the extensive evidence of dirty policing practices and recent litigation suggests an extremely high risk that dirty data was or could be used in predictive policing; and (3) Maricopa County, where despite extensive evidence of dirty policing practices, a lack of public transparency about the details of various predictive policing systems restricts a proper assessment of the risks. The implications of these findings have widespread ramifications for predictive policing writ large. Deploying predictive policing systems in jurisdictions with extensive histories of unlawful police practices presents elevated risks that dirty data will lead to flawed or unlawful predictions, which in turn risk perpetuating additional harm via feedback loops throughout the criminal justice system. The use of predictive policing must be treated with high levels of caution and mechanisms for the public to know, assess, and reject such systems are imperative.

“Avoiding” Judicial Activism: The Supreme Court’s Unconvincing Efforts to Restrict the Scope of the Avoidance Canon

Brian G. Slocum

The canon of constitutional avoidance is jurisprudentially important but poorly constructed. The Supreme Court frequently uses the canon in significant cases to justify second-best interpretations of statutes that avoid serious constitutional questions. Nevertheless, the trigger for the application of the avoidance canon, textual “ambiguity,” has not been coherently developed by the Court and differs in important ways from ambiguity as linguists typically view it. In addition, the Court, in focusing on “ambiguity” as a precondition for the application of the avoidance canon, fails to recognize the different ways in which a statute might be indeterminate. Recently, the Court reaffirmed its conception of the avoidance canon in a case, Jennings v. Rodriguez, involving prolonged immigration detention. In Rodriguez, the Court focused on ambiguity to the exclusion of other types of linguistic indeterminacy and continued to defend an unduly narrow conception of ambiguity that rejects implicit limitations on the scopes of statutes. This Article argues that the Rodriguez case highlights the need for the Court to reassess the avoidance canon. By doing so, the Court can give the avoidance canon a more defensible foundation that is consistent with the ways in which language operates.


Combining Income and Wealth into a Single Instrument: A Review of Taxing Inequality

Jason S. Oh

Ari Glogower’s Taxing Inequality is an ambitious, thought-provoking piece. He makes three major arguments: (1) that the economic power theory justifies taxing wealth in addition to income, (2) that separate taxes on wealth and income are inferior to a combined tax that incorporates both into a single instrument, and (3) that the best way to accomplish this goal is to include in income an amount equal to an annuity-equivalent portion of the taxpayer’s wealth. Although it departs from the structure of the article, I will address (2) before considering (1) and (3) together.

The Silver Tsunami: Employment Law Reform to Protect Family Caregivers of the Aging Population

Lisa P. Wiggin

The imminent aging of the “baby boom” generation will magnify the need for eldercare, much of which will come from family members who also work outside the home. Current laws are inadequate to protect many working family caregivers from family responsibilities discrimination (FRD): the unfair treatment of workers with family caregiving responsibilities. When FRD causes caregivers to leave the workplace, there can be financial penalties for both the caregivers—especially women—and their employers. This Essay proposes that states can resolve these issues by adding family caregivers as a protected class to state antidiscrimination laws and provides examples of such legislative efforts.

Are Universities Schools? The Case for Continuity in the Regulation of Student Speech

Chad Flanders

Are universities schools? The question seems almost silly to ask: of course universities are schools. They have teachers and students, like schools. They have grades, like schools. There are classes and extracurricular activities, also like schools. But recent writings on the issue of “free speech on campus” have raised the improbable specter that universities are less educational institutions than they are public forums like parks and sidewalks, where a free-wheeling exchange of ideas and opinions takes place, unrestricted by any sense of academic mission or school discipline. My short essay has three parts. In the first part, I examine and explain the rhetoric advancing what I call the “break” view of speech at universities, which situates universities as types of institutions that are more similar to traditional public forums than they are to high schools or middle schools. In the second part, I look at how lower courts have applied the principles of the Court’s educational cases (the Tinker line) in contexts other than universities to see how the weighing and balancing of interests proceeds in those cases. In the third part, I argue for the “continuity” view, which advocates for applying the Tinker line of cases to universities in a way that takes seriously the idea that universities are in fact schools and not pure “marketplaces of ideas,” where speech generally goes unregulated, and restrictions on speech can only be made in the face of imminent threats.

The Infrastructure Ratchet Effect

Shlomit Azgad-Tromer

This article identifies a profound and previously overlooked incentive for excessive risk- taking by infrastructure providers. The magnitude and critical nature of infrastructure implies that negative externalities potentially far exceed the net assets of the infrastructure provider. The nonconsensual relationship of infrastructure providers with their stakeholders implies that excessive risks cannot be contracted for and incorporated into price. Shareholders of infrastructure providers thus develop asymmetric preferences towards excessive risk-taking: They could gain from risks if things go well but are shielded by limited liability rules if things do not. The article identifies this moral hazard and terms it “The Infrastructure Ratchet Effect.”

This Article shows that normal market forces and legal mechanisms fail to counter these distorted incentives in infrastructure providers: Regulation, reputation, litigation, and debt pricing all fail to deter excessive risk-taking in infrastructure. Project finance, leverage, executive compensation, and behavioral tendencies exacerbate the problem.

To illustrate the infrastructure ratchet effect, this Article presents the 2017 data breach at Equifax as a case study, arguing that Equifax is a data public utility and should be considered an infrastructure provider. It surveys the events leading to the massive Equifax data breach and shows that despite cataclysmic implications, Equifax eschewed adequate controls to ensure the security of its data. This Article proposes the infrastructure ratchet effect as a possible explanation for this series of events.

In addition to shedding new light on the infrastructure ratchet effect as a potential source of cataclysmic risks caused by infrastructure providers, this Article considers possible tools to tackle these distorted incentives. Insight is drawn from literature surrounding banking-risk regulation, where a similar moral hazard is well understood.