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Black on Black Representation

Alexis Hoag

When it comes to combating structural racism, representation matters, and this is true for criminal defense as much as it is for mental health services and education. This Article calls for the expansion of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice to indigent defendants and argues that such an expansion could be of particular benefit to indigent Black defendants. Extending choice to all indigent defendants reinforces the principles underlying the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and can help strengthen the attorney-client relationship. Because an expansion would grant defendants the autonomy to request counsel who they believe would best represent them, Black defendants who prioritize racial congruency and cultural competency may select Black counsel. Empowering indigent Black people to select, should they desire, Black and/or culturally competent public defenders has the potential to offer a range of benefits, including mitigating anti-Black racism in the criminal legal system.

Methodologically, this Article takes multiple approaches. First, it connects indigent representation to existing literature from other fields—clinical therapy and education—both of which recognize the benefits of racial congruency, to support the argument that Black public defenders may benefit Black clients. To explore how same-race representation functions in practice, this Article also relies on qualitative interviews with Black public defenders regarding communication and trust, factors that the American Bar Association identifies as integral to criminal defense. Together, these approaches highlight how expanding choice to indigent defendants might impact Black defendants, something that past choice of counsel literature does not examine. The Article concludes that recruiting more Black public defenders and training culturally competent lawyers are critical next steps regardless of whether the Court expands the right to counsel of choice to people who qualify for appointed counsel.

Wealth-Based Equal Process and Cash Bail

Liza Batkin

Though indigency is not a suspect class, the Supreme Court has repeatedly applied heightened scrutiny to laws that deprive low-income people of certain rights they can’t afford. It has done this through a makeshift doctrine that combines the principles of Equal Protection and Due Process. But the absence of a generalizable rule behind what this Note refers to as “wealth-based equal process” leaves the Court’s few constitutional protections for low-income people vulnerable to erosion by conservative Justices. This threat looms especially large as recent litigation draws on that doctrine to challenge the unfair treatment of indigent people in the criminal justice system. This Note attempts to shore up wealth-based equal process doctrine by proposing a general principle: Courts must apply heightened scrutiny when the government, by putting a price on a fundamental right that only the government can fulfill, entirely deprives an indigent person of that right. The Note then applies this principle to cash bail, revealing that the pretrial detention of indigent defend- ants lies at the heart of this doctrine and requires heightened scrutiny.

Mass Institutionalization and Civil Death

Rabia Belt

Most scholars who study felon disenfranchisement trace its roots back to Reconstruction. Southern states drew up laws to disenfranchise people convicted of felonies as an ostensibly race-neutral way to diminish the political power of newly freed Black Americans. Viewed against this historical backdrop, the onset of mass incarceration in the current era expands the impact of a practice intended to be both racist and punitive from the start.

This account is true, but it is incomplete. Non-criminal mass institutionalization has also played—and continues to play—a role in systematic disenfranchisement. Marshaling a wealth of archival and historical evidence, from newspapers, legislative debates, congressional hearings, and court cases, I reveal that institutional disenfranchisement is not just about mass incarceration—a singular phenomenon sparked by the Civil War that happens solely within the carceral state and targeted only freed Black people. Institutional disenfranchisement began much earlier, included more spaces than the prison, and initially targeted white men. Indeed, the more familiar prison disenfranchisement had a shadowy twin within the welfare state. Civil death includes more ghosts than previously imagined.

The Political (Mis)Representation of Immigrants in the Census

Ming Hsu Chen

Who is a member of the political community? What barriers to inclusion do immigrants face as outsiders to this political community? This article describes several barriers facing immigrants that impede their political belonging. It critiques these barriers not on the basis of immigrants’ rights but based on their rights as current and future members of the political community. This is the second of two Essays. The first Essay focused on voting restrictions impacting Asian American and Latino voters. The second Essay focuses on challenges to including immigrants, Asian Americans, and Latinos in the 2020 Census. Together, the Essays critique the exclusion of immigrants from the political community because this exclusion compromises representational equality.

The Penalty Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Consistency on Universal Representation

Ethan Herenstein, Yurij Rudensky

Many judges and scholars have read Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment as evidence of the Constitution’s commitment to universal representation—the idea that representation should be afforded to everyone in the political community regardless of whether they happen to be eligible to vote. Typically, this analysis starts and stops with Section 2’s first clause, the Apportionment Clause, which provides that congressional seats are to be apportioned among the states on the basis of “the whole number of persons in each State.” Partly for this reason, the Supreme Court’s lead opinion in Evenwel v. Abbott rejected the argument that “One Person, One Vote” requires states to equalize the number of adult citizens when drawing legislative districts, affirming that states can draw districts with equal numbers of persons.

But skeptics of the universal representation theory of the Fourteenth Amendment, most notably Justice Alito, have complained that this analysis is flawed because it ignores Section 2’s less-known and never-enforced second clause: the Penalty Clause. Under the Penalty Clause, states that deny or abridge otherwise qualified citizens’ right to vote are penalized with a reduction of their congressional representation. Any theory of representation drawn from the Fourteenth Amendment, the skeptics argue, must grapple with all of Section 2.

This Article takes up that call and explains how the Penalty Clause is not only consistent with but also reinforces the Fourteenth Amendment’s broader commitment to universal representation. Contrary to common misconceptions about the Penalty Clause, the Clause is structured so that the state as a whole loses representation in Congress, but no individual within the state is denied representation. In other words, the Penalty Clause does not operate by subtracting those wrongfully disenfranchised from a state’s total population prior to congressional apportionment. Rather, it imposes a proportional reduction derived from the percent of the vote-eligible population denied the vote that is scaled to an offending state’s total population. The Penalty Clause thus does nothing to upend Section 2’s advancement of universal representation. If anything, the Penalty Clause actually reinforces Section 2’s commitment to that idea. By reducing a state’s representation proportionally, it contemplates the representational interests of nonvoters, a key feature of the universal representation theory.

Constructing the Right to Vote

Joshua S. Sellers, Justin Weinstein-Tull

The right to vote is foundational to our democracy, but it lacks a strong foundation. Voting rights litigants are constantly on their heels, forever responding to state-imposed impediments. In this regard, the right to vote is decidedly reactive: directed and defined by those seeking to limit the right, rather than by those who advocate for it. As a consequence, the right to vote is both deeply fragile and largely impersonal. It is fragile because voters must reckon with flimsy electoral bureaucracies that are susceptible to meltdown from both intentional efforts to limit the franchise and systemic strain. The right to vote is impersonal because, with few exceptions, it is shaped through litigation, rather than comprehensive consideration of voters’ circumstances and needs.

To address these weaknesses, this Article champions the idea that a robust right to vote must be constructed. Unlike most other rights, the right to vote relies on governments to build, fund, and administer elections systems. This obligation is not ancillary to the right to vote; it is foundational to it. Drawing from state constitutional law, electoral management theory, federalism scholarship, and rarely examined consent decrees, we argue that a constructed right to vote incorporates three essential features: electoral adequacy (including the right to adequate funding of elections, the right to competent management, and the right to democratic structures), voting rights legislation tailored to individuals’ experiences, and voting rights doctrines that require states to build their elections systems in rights-promoting ways.

Beyond “Valid and Reliable”: The LSAT, ABA Standard 503, and the Future of Law School Admissions

Eremipagamo M. Amabebe

For nearly a century, the American Bar Association (ABA) has overseen the standards governing accredited law schools, which in turn constitute the primary pathway to the practice of law in the United States. ABA Standard 503 requires that all such schools use a “valid and reliable” examination to assess candidates for admission. Currently, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is the only examination that the ABA has officially recognized as satisfying the standard. However, the LSAT—now approaching its eightieth year—has strayed far from the purposes it was originally designed to serve. Once a simple tool to aid in the assessment of diverse applicants, it has in recent decades become a significant barrier to entry with disparate negative impacts on women, racial minorities, individuals of low socioeconomic status, and, perhaps most egregiously, those with disabilities. This Note argues that Standard 503 should be rescinded. Such a step is necessary both to stimulate innovation in law school admissions and to fulfill the ABA’s mandate of promoting diversity in the legal profession and serving the larger public good.

Disability and Design

Christopher Buccafusco

When scholars contemplate the legal tools available to policymakers for encouraging innovation, they primarily think about patents. If they are keeping up with the most recent literature, they may also consider grants, prizes, and taxes as means to increase the supply of innovation. But the innovation policy toolkit is substantially deeper than that. To demonstrate its depth, this Article explores the evolution of designs that help people with disabilities access the world around them. From artificial limbs to the modern wheelchair and the reshaping of the built environment, a variety of legal doctrines have influenced, for better and for worse, the pace and direction of innovation for accessible design.

This Article argues that two of the most important drivers of innovation for accessible design have been social welfare laws and antidiscrimination laws. Both were responsible, in part, for the revolution in accessibility that occurred in the second half of the twentieth century. Unlike standard innovation incentives, however, these laws operate on the demand side of the market. Social welfare laws and antidiscrimination laws increase the ability and willingness of parties to pay for accessible technology, ultimately leading to greater supply. But in doing so, these laws generate a different distribution of the costs and benefits of innovation than supply-side incentives. They also produce their own sets of innovation distortions by allowing third parties to make decisions about the designs that people with disabilities have to use.

The law can promote innovation, and it can hinder it. For example, the law’s relationship to the wheelchair, the most important accessibility innovation of the twentieth century, produced both results. Policymakers have choices about which legal incentives doctrines they can use and how they can use them. This Article evaluates those tools, and it provides guidelines for their use to encourage accessible technology in particular and innovation generally.

Permanently Excluded

Maia M. Cole

New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) deprives hundreds of residents of their housing every year without affording them due process. Based on the allegedly undesirable behavior of one household member, NYCHA can begin a termination of tenancy action against an entire family. Using the threat of termination as leverage, NYCHA coerces the tenant of record into permanently excluding the “undesirable” occupant, barring them from living with or visiting their family. The excluded family member is given no notice of the termination action and no opportunity to contest their permanent exclusion.

This Note contends that authorized occupants in NYCHA housing have due process rights which mandate notice and the opportunity to be heard before they lose their home. NYCHA does not currently recognize such rights. But, as this Note will show, authorized occupants have a property interest in public housing. NYCHA’s practice of permanent exclusion deprives them of that interest. This Note suggests alternatives for NYCHA to consider instead of relying on permanent exclusion as a means of crime reduction. Ultimately, the goal of this Note is to push NYCHA to live up to its mission: to provide decent and affordable housing to low-income New Yorkers.

The Case Against Criminalizing Homelessness: Functional Barriers to Shelters and Homeless Individuals’ Lack of Choice

Joy H. Kim

In 2018, the Ninth Circuit ruled in Martin v. City of Boise that the city’s ordinance criminalizing individuals for sleeping or camping outdoors in public space—an increasingly popular method for cities to regulate the homeless—is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause. Martin was not the first case in which a court struck down an anti-homeless ordinance under the Eighth Amendment. However, it was the first to deem it unconstitutional for a city to punish a homeless person for sleeping outside when shelters are not “practically available,” even if they technically have available beds. The court in Martin said the shelters at issue were not practically available because they were religiously coercive. This Note argues, however, that courts reviewing criminalization measures should consider whether shelters are practically available to homeless individuals for reasons beyond religious coercion. Many functional barriers to shelter deprive homeless individuals of a meaningful choice, and the Eighth Amendment prevents governments from punishing individuals for matters beyond their control. Courts should make individualized inquiries when considering the constitutionality of criminalization measures to assess whether individuals experiencing homelessness truly have a meaningful “choice” in sleeping outside. However, the constitutional infirmities behind criminalization measures, the highly factual inquiries required of courts to determine their constitutionality, and their exacerbation of homelessness underscore the need for cities to stop criminalizing homelessness.

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