Commentary about the Supreme Court’s 2021 decision in United States v. Arthrex, Inc. has focused on the nexus between patent and administrative law. But this overlooks the decision’s seismic and as-yet unappreciated implication for copyright law: Arthrex renders the Copyright Royalty Board (“CRB”) unconstitutional. The CRB has suffered constitutional challenge since its 2004 inception, but these were seemingly resolved in 2011 when the D.C. Circuit held that the CRB’s composition did not offend the Appointments Clause as long as Copyright Royalty Judges (“CRJs”) were removable at-will. But when the Court invalidated the selection process for administrative patent judges on a similar theory in Arthrex, it also rejected the D.C. Circuit’s remedy of requiring at-will removal, making the CRB unconstitutional—again. This problem is not insoluble, however, and the best available option would be to make CRJs subject to presidential appointment with Senate approval. This Essay highlights this novel insight regarding Arthrex, proposes legislative and judicial solutions to the problem of constitutionality, and reflects on the broader implications of these claims for copyright’s administrative law and Appointments Clause jurisprudence.
In 2020, the Department of Education issued a final Rule pursuant to notice-and-comment rulemaking which created the most far-reaching regulation on sexual harassment in educational institutions under Title IX to date. This Rule significantly limited the availability of administrative remedies for those experiencing sexual harassment in their educational institutions. While much has been said regarding the propriety of the substantive policy decisions advanced by the Department’s regulation, relatively little attention has been paid to the cost-benefit analysis (CBA) employed in the Rule. The Rule’s CBA found that the regulations would result in a net cost of tens of millions of dollars. In justifying their commitment to these cost-unjustified regulations, the Department relied only on a few non-quantified benefits. To make matters worse, the Department also disclaimed any responsibility to consider whether the Rule’s deregulatory policies would leave sexual harassment under-deterred. The 2020 Rule was arbitrary and capricious by reason of its faulty CBA. The Department’s failure to consider the costs associated with the Rule’s under-deterrent effects was an abrogation of their obligation to uphold Title IX’s preventative purpose.
In the 2010s, the United States entered a pedestrian safety crisis that is unique among wealthy nations. Deaths of people on foot surged more than 46% that decade, outpacing the increase in all other traffic deaths by nine to one. The early 2020s have seen an intensification of this trend. These fatalities magnify racial disparities, placing Black pedestrians at a two-thirds higher risk of being killed than their white counterparts. While the pedestrian safety crisis has many causes, there is growing evidence that the enlargement of the American vehicle has played a key role. Auto companies earn higher profit margins on large vehicles, and consumers prefer their greater creature comforts. But the size, height, and weight necessary for those comforts has been shown to make these vehicles far deadlier for those who have the misfortune of being struck by them. Carmakers do not disclose these risks to the car-buying public—but even if they did, individual consumers lack appropriate incentives to internalize the social costs of the vehicles they buy. Like pollution, this negative externality presents a classic case for regulation. Yet America’s vehicle safety regulator (the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA), conceived in the wake of the Ralph Nader consumer revolution of the 1960s, considers the safety of pedestrians—who are third parties rather than consumers—almost completely alien to its mission.
This Essay presents a different model, based on NHTSA’s own statutory mandate to protect “the public” as a whole from risks posed by motor vehicles. It argues that pedestrians are, quintessentially, a group whose well-being vehicle safety regulators should prioritize—even though when acting as pedestrians they are not consumers of the regulated product. Pedestrians are maximally exposed to dangerous vehicles, and by definition they benefit from neither vehicle comforts nor most occupant-focused safety features. They may even be endangered by some of them. NHTSA should expressly incorporate the welfare of pedestrians and other non-occupants into its mission. To that end, this Essay develops four policy actions NHTSA should undertake as part of a policy update it launched in 2022: include pedestrian safety in its marquee safety evaluation program; regulate the design of vehicles to protect people outside of them; use technology to protect pedestrians; and update its safety tests so they are more representative of common fatal pedestrian crash victims and scenarios.
Racial Exclusion in Private Markets: How the New Accredited Investor Standard Is Arbitrary and Capricious
Private markets have exploded. This growth has created lucrative opportunities for businesses raising capital and those who qualify to invest. For decades, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules have restricted most private investments to “accredited investors,” a designation that, for members of the general public, was based exclusively on affluence. While critics of this regime have emphasized its role in exacerbating inequality, scholarship has neglected the economic divide between white and Black Americans specifically. This Note fills that void.
In August 2020, the SEC issued the first update to the accredited investor standard since its genesis in the 1980s. Using available data, this Note argues that the accredited investor regime—historically and as amended—systematically excludes Black investors and Black-owned businesses from private markets, which both perpetuates racial inequality and depresses the value of those markets. This Note proposes a framework for an Administrative Procedure Act lawsuit charging that the Securities Act required the SEC to consider these distributional effects when modernizing the accredited investor standard. Finding that the SEC failed to satisfy this statutory requirement and omitted other relevant data, this Note concludes that the accredited investor update was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. It then offers guidance on how the agency can remedy its error and avoid repeating it in the future.
Line-level immigration officers have virtually unreviewable discretion to deny noncitizens the ability to enter the United States. This power extends not only to those who enter without inspection or arrive with counterfeit documents, but also to those who travel to the United States with the U.S. government’s express permission—i.e., visa holders. These noncitizens can unwittingly be caught up in the expedited removal process, which affords only minimal procedural safeguards and heavily circumscribes judicial review of officers’ actions. This Note argues that, despite these limitations, federal habeas courts should take advantage of their ability under the statute to inquire into whether an expedited removal order in fact was issued. In particular, courts should insist upon compliance with critical procedures required by the agency’s own regulations, without which an expedited removal order may be said not to exist at all. Informed by fundamental principles of administrative law, such an insistence on procedural compliance could help correct some of the worst abuses of the system notwithstanding the lack of constitutional due process protections for arriving noncitizens.
Agencies often bring enforcement actions and propose and accept settlements that have significant repercussions for the public and those harmed by the alleged misconduct. However, few meaningful opportunities exist for the public, or for victims, to participate in the decisionmaking process, and no external constraints exist to ensure their interests are adequately considered. Focusing on the Federal Trade Commission and its settlement procedures, this Note asks whether more is needed to preserve administrative legitimacy. To do so, it situates rights of participation within the two dominant schools of thought about the administrative state: the arbitrariness model and the accountability model. It finds that these theories support more expansive, but distinct, participatory rights for the general public and for victims. Criminal law, and the victim participation movement within it, provides guidance for the path forward, and this Note concludes that Congress and agencies should act together to perfect participation rights in agency enforcement actions.
The Federal Trade Commission Act’s ban on “unfair . . . acts and practices” would, on its face, seem to give the FTC an awesome power to define proper treatment of consumers in changing conditions. But even in a world of widespread corporate surveillance, ongoing racial discrimination, impenetrably complex financial products, pyramid schemes, and more, the unfairness authority is used rarely, mostly in egregious cases of wrongdoing. Why?
The standard explanation is that the more expansive notion of unfairness was tried in the 1970s, and it failed spectacularly. The FTC of this era was staffed by bureaucrats convinced of their own moral superiority and blind to the self-correcting dynamics of the market. When the FTC finally reached too far and tried to ban television advertising of sugary cereals to children, it undermined its own legitimacy, causing Congress to put pressure on the agency to narrow its definition of unfairness.
This Article argues that this standard explanation gets the law and the history wrong, and, thus, that the FTC’s unfairness authority is more potent than commonly assumed. The regulatory initiatives of the 1970s were actually quite popular. The backlash against them was led by the businesses whose profit margins they threatened. Leaders of these businesses had become increasingly radicalized and well-organized and brought their new political clout to bear on an unsuspecting FTC. It was not the re-articulation of the unfairness standard in 1980 that narrowed unfairness to its current form, but rather the subsequent takeover of the FTC by neoliberal economists and lawyers who had been supported by these radicalized business leaders. The main limitation on the use of the unfairness authority since then has been the ideology of regulators charged with its enforcement. In fact, the conventional morality tale about the FTC’s efforts in the 1970s are part of what keeps this ideology dominant.
A reconsideration of the meaning of unfairness requires situating the drama of the 1970s and 80s in a longer struggle over governance of consumer markets. Since the creation of the FTC, and even before, an evolving set of coalitions have battled over what makes markets fair. These coalitions can be divided roughly into those who favor norm setting by government agencies informed by experts held accountable to democratic publics and those who favor norm setting by business leaders made accountable via the profit motive. The meaning of “unfair . . . acts and practices” has been defined and redefined through these struggles, and it can and should be redefined again to reconstruct the state capacity to define standards of fair dealing.
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.
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.
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.