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Civil Rights

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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.

Queering the Welfare State: Paradigmatic Heteronormativity After Obergefell

Matt J. Barnett

Although lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people in the United States of America have experienced significant changes in their legal rights over the previous decade, they are still disproportionately likely to live in poverty. The Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges granted LGBQ individuals access to the institution of marriage and the attendant social benefits, but the safety net is still full of holes for low-income LGBQ individuals because of deeply rooted heteronormativity in the administration of welfare. Using three facially neutral examples— proof-of-paternity requirements for welfare recipients, work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid programs, and barriers to state support for low-income LGBQ youth experiencing homelessness—this Note elucidates and indicts enduring paradigms of heteronormativity in the welfare state. This Note also offers prescriptive solutions, advocating for the adoption of the perennial legislative proposal known as the “Equality Act” as well as state and federal executive action to ease the burdens on LGBQ welfare recipients in the near term.

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.

Access Denied: Tracking as a Modern Roadblock to Equal Educational Opportunity

Viona J. Miller

It has been more than sixty years since Brown v. Board of Education, and our country still presents children with dual and unequal systems of education. Not only are students segregated between school districts, but segregation is happening within school buildings as well as through tracking. Tracking is the process by which students are placed into higher or lower subject-specific courses such as math or science—sometimes as early as elementary school—based on their perceived abilities. This practice prohibits many students from accessing high-level courses. Courses such as Advanced Placement (AP) and honors classes have become indispensable for applying to college, but under a tracked system, if students do not take advanced classes in middle school, they will likely not be able to take advanced courses before graduating high school. Proponents of tracking argue that it is an efficient model of education that allows students to learn based on their skill level, but research shows that students are tracked along racial and class lines rather than on “ability.” Tracking causes both academic and psychological harm to students in lower tracks, and the opportunities students in higher tracks receive, as opposed to their innate intellectual abilities, are what cause them to succeed. In this Note, I argue that tracking is an inherently inequitable system that should be abolished since it denies so many students the resources, learning opportunities, and access to higher-level courses needed to succeed in today’s society. The legal tools that have been employed to dismantle this system under federal law—the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act—have had limited success, so this Note points to state law as a possible solution. State constitutions contain educational mandates and equal protection clauses that together require states to provide children with an equal educational opportunity. Under this doctrine, many courts have established that states must provide students with the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to compete in a changing society. Although state equal educational opportunity litigation has primarily occurred in the school finance context, this legal tool could be extended to tracking. A finding that tracking violates a student’s right to an equal educational opportunity would require school districts to detrack and open the door so that all students, regardless of race, class, or parental influence, have the opportunity to succeed.

Rethinking the Narrative on Judicial Deference in Student Speech Cases

Sean R. Nuttall

Scholars view Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District as the high-water mark of student speech protection and the Supreme Court’s subsequent decisions, Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, and Morse v. Frederick (the Bong Hits case) as a considerable retreat from this mark. By contrast, this Note argues that Tinker, while employing strongly speech-protective rhetoric, nonetheless requires courts to defer to educators’ reasonable determinations of what speech may cause a substantial disruption and provides only very modest protection for student speech. Comparing the Tinker standard to those of Fraser and Kuhlmeier reveals that it gives no less deference to educators, and little more protection to student speech. As a consequence of misconstruing Tinker, Fraser, and Kuhlmeier, scholars have failed to address why Bong Hits’ requirement of deference to educators’ reasonable judgments is any less acceptable than Tinker’s. Deference under Tinker recognizes the difficulty inherent in predicting the potential consequences of speech without eliminating the limited protection provided by Tinker’s required showing of potential disruption. By contrast, the sole protection Bong Hits provides is in maintaining the line between advocacy and nonadvocacy, yet deferring to the reasonable judgments of educators on this question blurs the line considerably, thereby largely eliminating protection for student speech. To illuminate the differences between the Tinker and Bong Hits tests, this Note analogizes to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s “clear and present danger” and Judge Learned Hand’s “express advocacy” tests and concludes that the special policy considerations that apply to the school environment do not justify departing from the principles underlying these paradigmatic First Amendment standards.

Warrantless Location Tracking

Ian James Samuel

The ubiquity of cell phones has transformed police investigations. Tracking a suspect’s movements by following her phone is now a common but largely unnoticed surveillance technique. It is useful, no doubt, precisely because it is so revealing; it also raises significant privacy concerns. In this Note, I consider what the procedural requirements for cell phone tracking should be by examining the relevant statutory and constitutional law. Ultimately, the best standard is probable cause; only an ordinary warrant can satisfy the text of the statutes and the mandates of the Constitution.

An Indian by any Other Name: Cross-Border Affirmative Action

Raymond J. Fadel

While Indian tribes bordering the United States and Canada may share the same culture, the same ancestry, and even the same name, a descendant of common heritage may not be recognized as “Indian” in the United States, and thus not eligible to receive federal benefits. The federal government has the power to recognize an Indian tribe’s sovereignty and determine who is an “Indian” for tribal services, but limits such recognition to those tribes falling within the geographic limits of the United States. With respect to members of “border tribes” that historically traversed the U.S.-Canada border, “Indian” recognition can be denied to an individual because each federally recognized tribe is subsequently required to limit its membership to those whose lineage can be traced directly to that particular tribe’s location within the United States, regardless of tribal heritage predating the border. The result is a gap in recognition: Many descendants of border tribes are born and raised on one side of the border but only recognized as “Indian” on the other. In the United States, ineligibility for affirmative action—both public and private—is one symptom of this gap in recognition. This Note argues that non-recognition of American Indians for affirmative action purposes illustrates how the federal government’s failure to account for descendants of border tribes prevents the United States from wholly meeting its trust obligation, and proposes ways the government can permanently repair its trust relationship with Indian tribes in this narrow context. It discusses three methods for establishing cross-border affirmative action for American Indians: ratification of a bilateral agreement or enactment of domestic statutory reform within the United States, intertribal recognition of membership between U.S. and Canadian tribes, and a potential short-term solution calling upon private initiatives to embrace a broad cross-border definition of “Indian.” This Note concludes that intertribal recognition is impractical due to existing hostility— both on the part of tribes and their respective federal trustees—to the concept of dual tribal enrollment. Further, while private-sector mechanisms may provide a stopgap solution to the problem, they cannot adequately address the federal standards that perpetuate the gap in recognition. In order to fully cure this defect and fulfill the government’s enduring trust responsibility, Congress must take legislative action to close the gap in recognition and provide equal opportunity for affirmative action to all American Indians in the United States.

Understanding the Mark: Race, Stigma, and Equality in Context

R.A. Lenhardt

In its Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence, the Supreme Court regards intentional discrimination as the principal source of racial injury in the United States. In this Article, R.A. Lenhardt argues that racial stigma, not intentional discrimination, constitutes the main source of racial harm and that courts must take the social science insight that most racialized conduct or thought is unconscious, rather than intentional, into account in their constitutional analyses of acts or policies challenged on the grounds of race. Drawing on the social science work of Erving Goffmanbreaking work of Charles H. Lawrence, Professor Lenhardt argues that courts should reframe the constitutional inquiry to account for the risk or evidence of stigmatic harm to racial minorities. Professor Lenhardt explains that stigmatic harm occurs when a given act or policy sends the message that racial difference renders a person or a group inferior to Whites, the category constructed as the racial norm. This stigma imposes what Professor Lenhardt calls citizenship harms, which prevent members of racial minorities from participating fully in society in a variety of contexts. Professor Lenhardthistorical context of the challenged act or policy. Third, they should evaluate the current context of the act or policy, including consideration of a possible disparate impact on members of racial minorites. Finally, courts should consider the probable future effects of the act or policy in terms of its likely citizenship effects on members of racial minorities. Professor Lenhardt argues that, while the use of this test will not eliminate racial harms altogether, it will enable courts and policymakers to engage in a disciplined and systematic analysis of racial harm which will ultimately provide the basis for more effective means of addressing racial stigma and persistent racial inequalities in the United States.

Partisan Fairness and Redistricting Politics

Adam B. Cox

Courts and scholars have operated on the implicit assumption that the Supreme Court’s “one person, one vote” jurisprudence put redistricting politics on a fixed, ten-year cycle. Recent redistricting controversies in Colorado, Texas, and elsewhere, however, have undermined this assumption, highlighting the fact that most states are currently free to redraw election districts as often as they like. This essay explores whether partisan fairness-a normative commitment that both scholars and the Supreme Court have identified as a central concern of districting arrangements-would be promoted by a procedural rule limiting the frequency of redistricting. While the literature has not considered this question, scholars generally are pessimistic about the capacity of procedural redistricting regulations to curb partisan gerrymandering. In contrast, this essay argues that a procedural rule limiting the frequency of redistricting will promote partisan fairness by introducing beneficial uncertainty in the redistricting process and by regularizing the redistricting agenda.

The Quiet “Welfare” Revolution: Resurrecting the Food Stamp Program in the Wake of the 1996 Welfare Law

David A. Super

Cash-assistance programs have long been a focus of both liberal and conservative efforts to make symbolic statements. In this regard, the 1996 dismantlement of federal entitlement to cash assistance was nothing new. Although the 1996 welfare law also made deep cuts to in-kind programs, such as food stamps, these programs had less symbolic significance and hence were lessoften the target of public attacks. This lower political profile gave the Food Stamp Program room to find positive ways to adapt to the key themes that drove the enactment of the 1996 welfare law.

In the 1996 welfare law’s wake, the Food Stamp Program might have emulated the transformation of cash-assistance programs. Alternatively, it might have adopted a defensive posture. Instead, its supporters transformed it from an adjunct to discredited cash welfare programs into a stable support for low-wage workers. This both helped meet a crucial need of low-income families and improved the program’s political appeal. It also demonstrated that the goals of promoting work, devolving authority to states, and safeguarding program integrity can be achieved in positive ways.

The new Food Stamp Program promotes work through incentives more than sanctions. Its incentive structure changed to encourage states to improve access for low-wage workers, and states received flexibility to make those kinds of innovations rather than ones that would destabilize the program’s national benefit structure. Additionally, enforcement efforts deemphasized minor accounting issues having little bearing on the program’s integrity. Ultimately, these efforts were so successful that President Bush and conservative Republican senators pushed substantial benefit increases through Congress. This success may be a model for the survival and expansion of other programs.

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