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Civil Rights

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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.

Performing Racial and Ethnic Identity: Discrimination by Proxy and the Future of Title VII

Camille Gear Rich

Courts interpreting Title VII have long treated race and ethnicity as biological, morphological concepts and discrimination as a reaction to a set of biologically fixed traits. Meanwhile, they have rejected claims concerning discrimination based on voluntarily chosen physical traits or “performed” behaviors and that communicate racial or ethnic identity. Yet race and ethnicity are effectively produced—that is, they do not exist until one is socially acknowledged as possessing socially coded racial or ethnic markers, whether they are fixed physical features, voluntary appearance choices, or behaviors. This Article argues that it is error to distinguish between Title VII cases concerning morphological as opposed to voluntary racially or ethnically marked features, as the discriminator’s motives and the effects of her behavior are the same. Moreover, the morphological model of race/ethnicity is fundamentally contradicted by contemporary biological and sociological studies on race, discrimination studies, and identity performance theories, which indicate that individuals actively work to “perform” racial and ethnic status regardless of, and sometimes in spite of their morphological traits. Drawing on these studies, this Article shows that courts must hear discrimination claims based on voluntary features if they are to provide a more credible analysis of modern forms of discrimination.

Judicial Methodology, Southern School Desegregation, and the Rule of Law

The Honorable David S. Tatel

Madison Lecture

Americans have fiercely debated the proper role of Article III courts in our constitutional system ever since Chief Justice John Marshall declared in Marbury v. Madison that it is “emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”‘ This debate often has focused on Supreme Court decisions involving some of our nation’s most historic events: the Court’s 1873 evisceration of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause, its use of substantive due process to strike down progressive legislation at the turn of the century, its invalidation of key New Deal programs, and its opinion in Roe v. Wade are but a few of the decisions that have reignited the controversy over the meaning and risks of “judicial activism.”

Brown’s Demise

James Marvin Perez

All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education

We live in a nation where equality and integration have proven, and continue to prove, evasive. In 2005, despite the Supreme Court’s 1954 pronouncement in Brown v. Board of Education (Brown I), our public schools remain largely segregated, and there are few signs of improvement. Admittedly, African Americans are on the whole better off today than they were in 1954, but one only need observe any sector of society to realize that we have yet to reach Brown‘s full potential. Indeed, some commentators have labeled Brown‘s promise of equality through the desegregation of our public schools a “discredited goal.” Alas, Brown’s promise has become Brown‘s demise.

Criminals and Commoners: Can We Still Tell the Difference?

William H. Edmonson

Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything

The government possesses a variety of tools to control the populace. Obvious examples include the criminal justice system, administrative regulation, and taxation. Because these tools involve varying degrees of coercion, the federal government’s choice of tools in addressing a particular problem has considerable impact on citizens, both financially and in terms of individual rights.

Credit Where it Counts

Michael S. Barr

The Community Reinvestment Act and its Critics

Despite the depth and breadth of U.S. credit markets, low- and moderate-income communities and minority borrowers have not historically enjoyed full access to credit. The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was enacted in 1977 to help overcome barriers to credit that these groups faced. Scholars have long leveled numerous critiques against CRA as unnecessary, ineffectual, costly, and lawless. Many have argued that CRA should be eliminated. By contrast, I contend that market failures and discrimination justify governmental intervention and that CRA is a reasonable policy response to these problems. Using recent empirical evidence, I demonstrate that over the last decade CRA has enhanced access to credit for low-income, moderate-income, and minority borrowers at relatively low cost, consistent with the theory that CRA is helping to overcome market failures. I argue that the form of CRA’sbased approaches, on grounds of both efficiency and legitimacy. Comparing CRA to other credit market regulations and subsidies, I argue that CRA is a reasonably effective response to market failures and should not be abandoned. In sum, contrary to previous legal scholarship, I contend that CRA is justified, has resulted in progress, and should be retained.

Application of the Federal Death Penalty Act to Puerto Rico

Elizabeth Vicens

A New Test for the Locally Inapplicable Standard

Ever since Puerto Rico was acquired by the United States following the Spanish-American War, Congress and the courts have struggled with applying federal law to the island. Puerto Rico has been treated alternately as a state, territory, or something in between for purposes of federal law since the island became a commonwealth in 1952. In this Note, Elizabeth Vicens argues that in determining whether a federal statute should apply to Puerto Rico, in the absence of a clear statement by Congress, courts should inquire whether the law contradicts an overriding local interest. This test is based on the language of the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act, which states that federal laws that are “not locally inapplicable” shall be applied to the island. After supporting the proposed model of statutory interpretation, Vicens applies the test to a recent controversial application of federal law to Puerto Rico: the application of the Federal Death Penalty Act. Vicens argues that under her model, the First Circuit should not have applied the Federal Death Penalty Act in United States v. Acosta-Martinez. The Note concludes that this test will aid Congress and the courts in a murky area of law, as well as help to improve U.S.-Puerto Rican relations.

Gingles in Limbo

Luke P. McLoughlin

Coalitional Districts, Party Primaries and Manageable Vote Dilution Claims

In the past two decades, minority plaintiffs claiming unlawful vote dilution under section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act have been required to pass the three-pronged test elaborated by the Supreme Court in Thornburg v. Gingles. In light of a recent Supreme Court case extolling coalitional districts, the future of the first prong requiring the minority bloc to demonstrate it is sufficiently large and compact to comprise a majority of a single-member district is uncertain. These districts, eluding easy classification but understood to possess significant minority voting power without the minority bloc comprising a majority of the district, have been identified as shields against section 2 and section 5 suits challenging redistricting maps that reduced the number of majority-minority districts. In this Note, Luke McLoughlin addresses how courts should approach section 2 claims by minority blocs claiming dilution of a coalitional district itself. Arguing that Gingles‘s framework of bright lines must be respected in any reconsideration of the first prong, McLoughlin identifies the ability of the minority bloc to comprise a numerical majority of a party primary as a potential criterion for defining coalitional districts and a potential benchmark for considering section 2 claims. As McLoughlin shows, however, such a criterionwould be difficult to apply in practice,as internal party rules and state ballot access laws may thwart the creation of a viable coalition. Accuracy requires a fact-based inquiry into the coalition, while Gingles urges a bright-line approach. Eschewing a wholesale renovation of the Gingles framework, McLoughlin concludes that the two countervailing concerns are best reconciled by relying on Gingles‘s latter two prongs and examining population within the primary, while remaining skeptical at the totality-of-the-circumstances stage of whether a true coalition has been formed. If courts alter the first Gingles prong to permit claims by minority blocs unable to comprise a majority in a district, McLoughlin concludes that courts must retain a corresponding alertness to the interstitial role of parties, which are capable of both facilitating and obstructing coalition politics.