NewYorkUniversity
LawReview

Issues

Topic

Constitutional Law

Results

Price Tags on Citizenship: The Constitutionality of the Form N-600 Fee

Juan Esteban Bedoya

Proof of citizenship is of paramount importance. In the United States, the need for citizenship documentation is particularly acute in light of heightened immigration enforcement. For U.S. citizens born abroad, proof of citizenship can be obtained by submitting a Form N-600 to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which in turn provides a Certificate of Citizenship. Although these individuals are entitled to citizenship and all of its benefits by statute, they are required to pay $1170 in order to obtain this Certificate. This Note seeks to analyze the constitutionality of this exorbitant fee. Determination of citizenship confers with it important rights and several privileges, such as access to employment, the ability to vote and seek public office, and many other government benefits. Perhaps more importantly, determination of citizenship also confers protection—protection from detention, from removal proceedings, and from deportation. This Note analyzes the viability of a constitutional challenge to the $1170 filing fee through a procedural due process claim, the importance of which is underscored by the life-altering consequences of citizenship as well as the benefits and protections it affords. Simply put, access to the benefits of citizenship should not turn on a citizen’s ability to pay a prohibitively expensive fee; the Constitution demands greater protections.

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.

Unraveling Williams v. Illinois

Edward K. Cheng, Cara C. Mannion

This Essay addresses one of the key evidentiary problems facing courts today: the treatment of forensic reports under the Confrontation Clause. Forensics are a staple of modern criminal trials, yet what restrictions the Confrontation Clause places on forensic reports is entirely unclear. The Supreme Court’s latest decision on the issue, Williams v. Illinois, sowed widespread confusion among lower courts and commentators, and during the 2018 Term, Justices Gorsuch and Kagan dissented to the denial of certiorari in Stuart v. Alabama, a case that would have revisited (and hopefully clarified) Williams.

Our Essay dispels the confusion in Williams v. Illinois. We argue that Williams involved three difficult and intertwined evidentiary questions: i) when experts may use inadmissible evidence as the basis of their opinions under Rule 703; ii) whether Rule 703 itself is consistent with the Confrontation Clause; and iii) whether reports that arise out of rigorous scientific processes implicate the Confrontation Clause at all. Along the way, we show that the answers to these questions help predict the future of the Confrontation Clause and offer a potential tool for improving forensic science.

Litigation as Parenting

Lisa V. Martin

Children have legal rights. Yet, children typically lack the legal capacity to represent their interests in courts. When federal courts are presented with children’s claims, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require courts to ensure that children’s legal interests are adequately protected. To do so, courts decide who can speak and make decisions for the child within the litigation. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c) maps out a loose process for addressing these concerns but fails to fully account for a critical factor in protecting child litigants: the decisionmaking rights of parents. 

Because parents have constitutionally protected authority to make important decisions for their children, litigation brought on a child’s behalf presents a collision of rights and obligations between parents, children, and “the state,” here, the federal courts. Court doctrine interpreting Rule 17(c) is tangled and inconsistent and fails to offer clear guidance regarding what preference, if any, parents should have to represent their children’s interests in litigation. This Article proposes for the first time that constitutional doctrine establishing parents’ protected decisionmaking authority should make parents the default representatives for their children in federal civil litigation. The Article presents an account of court practices and an analytical framework to guide courts’ application of Rule 17(c), which implements the general constitutional rule of parent priority while upholding the courts’ responsibility to protect children’s interests. 

Taking Congruence and Proportionality Seriously

Jeremy W. Brinster

Advocates are hoping that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity will soon be outlawed under Title VII. To this end, the Supreme Court is currently considering whether Title VII already prohibits those forms of discrimination, and legislators have advanced the Equality Act, a new bill that would explicitly protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees. These debates, however, typically overlook a critical question: Does Congress actually have the authority to hold state governments accountable for discriminating against LGBT workers? This Note argues that Congress does. While Congress exercises its power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment under the constraints of the Court’s “congruence and proportionality” standard, none of the limitations set by the Court foreclose the Equality Act’s provisions imposing liability on state employers. If the Court takes congruence and proportionality seriously, those provisions should stand. This Note thus challenges the conventional wisdom that LGBT individuals are beyond Congress’s power to protect merely because the Court does not formally review anti-LGBT discrimination under heightened scrutiny. It seeks to account for the Court’s clear concern with state action rooted in animus, which indicates that classifications targeting LGBT individuals are subject to careful judicial review. Moreover, it recasts the Court’s precedents on congressional enforcement, emphasizing that the legislative record and statutory scope, rather than the applicable standard of review, determine the validity of the statute in question. Under these clarified standards, the Equality Act emerges as appropriate enforcement legislation. 

Isolated and Unreachable: Contesting Unconstitutional Restrictions on Communication in Immigration Detention

Zachary Manfredi, Joseph Meyers

As of January 1, 2019, the federal government held more than 51,000 noncitizens in immigration detention. Over the course of a year, nearly half a million noncitizens will pass through Department of Homeland Security custody within the interior of the United States while the government initiates proceedings to remove them from the country. Many of those detainees pursue immigration relief and contest both their detention and removal. However, numerous reports from the Office of the Inspector General and immigration practitioners consistently observe substantial barriers to effective communication from detention: Detainees are frequently held in or transferred to isolated locations, detention facilities often do not provide adequate telephone access or even alternative forms of communication, and facilities often deny or substantially delay in-person meetings with attorneys or other visitors. These barriers significantly affect the ability of unrepresented detainees to gather and present relevant evidence critical to litigating their removal claims. They also undermine essential communication between legal counsel and the detainees they represent in those proceedings. 

This Article argues that due process imposes affirmative obligations on the government to facilitate evidence gathering and communication with legal counsel for those noncitizens that it detains. While previous scholarship has advanced arguments for “immigration Gideon”—i.e., suggesting noncitizens should have a right to appointed counsel at state expense—our intervention instead focuses on how conditions of confinement that impair communication with counsel and evidence gathering may themselves run afoul of noncitizens’ Fifth Amendment due process rights. 

We offer a novel interpretation of recent Supreme Court and circuit court precedents on civil detention in order to ground noncitizens’ right to communicative access in the Fifth Amendment and propose a new framework for evaluating noncitizens’ rights to effective communication. Importantly, we also argue that the scope of noncitizen detainees’ rights to communicate with counsel should not be determined by the stark division between criminal and civil detention precedents. Rather, noncitizens’ access to counsel rights should encompass the procedural protections due process requires whenever the government acts as both initiator of adverse legal proceedings and jailor, including those protections traditionally associated with the Sixth Amendment. Our analysis finds that the scope of governmental obligation to provide communicative access derives from the noncitizens’ liberty interest in avoiding both detention and deportation and, in particular, follows from the government’s dual role in immigration proceedings as both initiator of adverse proceedings and jailor. The obligation to ensure a “full and fair” hearing requires that the government not impose barriers to communication that provide it with an unfair advantage in the litigation of noncitizens’ removal claims. 

We conclude that the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause imposes affirmative obligations for the government to facilitate evidence gathering and communication between noncitizen detainees and their counsel. While the scope of the state’s affirmative obligations may vary in accordance with the immigration status of the detainee, we argue that in all cases the Fifth Amendment requires the federal government to provide detained noncitizens adequate means to solicit legal representation, meet privately with retained counsel, communicate with potential witnesses, access necessary records, and prepare evidence and testimony. Conditions of confinement that frustrate these basic guarantees offend the Fifth Amendment’s protection of a full and fair hearing and should be held unconstitutional. 

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.

(Un)Civil Denaturalization

Cassandra Burke Robertson, Irina D. Manta

Over the last fifty years, naturalized citizens in the United States were able to feel a sense of finality and security in their rights. Denaturalization, wielded frequently as a political tool in the McCarthy era, had become exceedingly rare. Indeed, denaturalization was best known as an adjunct to criminal proceedings brought against former Nazis and other war criminals who had entered the country under false pretenses.

Denaturalization is no longer so rare. Naturalized citizens’ sense of security has been fundamentally shaken by policy developments in the last five years. The number of denaturalization cases is growing, and if current trends continue, it will continue to increase dramatically. This growth began under the Obama administration, which used improved digital tools to identify potential cases of naturalization fraud from years and decades ago. The Trump administration, however, is taking denaturalization to new levels as part of its overall immigration crackdown. It has announced plans for a denaturalization task force. And it is pursuing denaturalization as a civil-litigation remedy and not just a criminal sanction—a choice that prosecutors find advantageous because civil proceedings come with a lower burden of proof, no guarantee of counsel to the defendant, and no statute of limitations. In fact, the first successful denaturalization under this program was decided on summary judgment in favor of the government in 2018. The defendant was accused of having improperly filed an asylum claim twenty-five years ago, but he was never personally served with process and he never made an appearance in the case, either on his own or through counsel. Even today, it is not clear that he knows he has lost his citizenship.

The legal status of denaturalization is murky, in part because the Supreme Court has long struggled to articulate a consistent view of citizenship and its prerogatives.Nonetheless, the Court has set a number of significant limits on the government’s attempts to remove citizenship at will—limits that are inconsistent with the adminis- tration’s current litigation policy. This Article argues that stripping Americans of citizenship through the route of civil litigation not only violates substantive and procedural due process, but also infringes on the rights guaranteed by theCitizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, (un)civil denaturaliza- tion undermines the constitutional safeguards of democracy.

Challenging Racist Predictive Policing Algorithms Under the Equal Protection Clause

Renata M. O’Donnell

Algorithms are capable of racism, just as humans are capable of racism. This is particularly true of an algorithm used in the context of the racially biased criminal justice system. Predictive policing algorithms are trained on data that is heavily infected with racism because that data is generated by human beings. Predictive policing algorithms are coded to delineate patterns in massive data sets and subsequently dictate who or where to police. Because of the realities of America’s criminal justice system, a salient pattern emerges from the racially skewed data: Race is associated with criminality in the United States. Because of the “black-box” nature of machine learning, a police officer could naively presume that an algorithm’s results are neutral, when they are, in fact, infected with racial bias. In this way, a machine learning algorithm is capable of perpetuating racist policing in the United States. An algorithm can exacerbate racist policing because of positive feedback loops, wherein the algorithm learns that it was “correct” in associating race and criminality and will rely more heavily on this association in its subsequent iterations.

This Note is the first piece to argue that machine learning-based predictive policing algorithms are a facial, race-based violation of the Equal Protection Clause. There will be major hurdles for litigants seeking to bring an equal protection challenge to these algorithms, including attributing algorithmic decisions to a state actor and overcoming the proprietary protections surrounding these algorithms. However, if the courts determine that these hurdles eclipse the merits of an equal protection claim, the courts will render all algorithmic decision-making immune to equal protection review. Such immunization would be a dangerous result, given that the government is hurling a growing number of decisions into black-box algorithms.

1 2 3 18