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.
In this speech delivered for the annual James Madison Lecture, the Honorable Diane Wood tackles the classic question of whether courts should interpret the United States Constitution from an originalist or dynamic approach. Judge Wood argues for the dynamic approach and defends it against the common criticisms that doing so allows judges to stray from the original intent of those who wrote the Constitution or take into consideration improper foreign influences. She argues the necessity of an “unwritten Constitution” since a literalist approach to interpretation would lead to unworkable or even absurd results in the modern context, and since restricting constitutional interpretation to literal readings would mean that the Constitution has outlived its usefulness. Judges may “find” unwritten constitutional rules by using evolving notions of a decent society to interpret broad constitutional language broadly; acknowledging that certain liberties are so fundamental that no governmental entity may deny them; acknowledging that much of the Bill of Rights applies to states through selective incorporation; and inferring principles from the structure of the Constitution and pre-constitutional understandings.
Review of The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review
Almost a century ago, Charles Beard’s study of the American Founding, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution, set the terms of debate about constitutional history for the Progressive era and informed the way lawyers viewed the Constitution for even longer. In The People Themselves, Larry Kramer has quite possibly done the same for a new generation of lawyers. Beard took an irreverent, tough-minded approach to the American Founding; Kramer is deeply skeptical of the conventional way that the Constitution is defined and offers an alternative that puts ordinary people, rather than judges, at the center of constitutional interpretation. If there is another Progressive era, it now has one of its foundational texts.
Reconsidering the Evolution of Private Property
One of the most enduring questions about private property is why it develops. Strongly influenced by a short article by economist Harold Demsetz, property scholars recently have analyzed the evolution of private property in economic and social terms, and described it as a response to factors such as changes in relative prices, measurement costs, and the size and heterogeneity of user groups. In this Article, Professor Katrina Wyman argues that Demsetzian-inspired accounts of the evolution of private property tend to neglect the role of the state in property rights formation. Building on the extensive scholarship about the evolution of property rights, she emphasizes the need to take seriously the implications of the political process by which private property often is formed.
To underscore her theoretical argument about the evolution of private property, Wyman also offers a case study of contemporary property rights formation. For over six decades, an international movement has been underway to enclose the oceans, including marine fisheries. Drawing on original research, Wyman examines why individual transferable quotas and similar instruments have been slow to develop in U.S. coastal fisheries in federal waters since national jurisdiction over fisheries was extended to 200 miles from the shore in 1976.
In closing, Wyman underscores the richness of Demsetz’s pioneering account of private property and the scholarship that it has spawned. But she also suggests that there remains a large gap between how private property actually evolves and many of the prevailing theoretical understandings of the development of property rights. She argues in turn that filling this gap requires the development of a more robust positive theory of the evolution of private property that takes into account the political process through which private property often is formed, and more systematic empirical research into the development of property rights.
In practice, the problem of law enforcement is half a matter of what the government does to catch violators and half a matter of what violators do to avoid getting caught. In the theory of law enforcement, however, although the state’s efforts at “detection” play a decisive role, offenders’ efforts at “detection avoidance” are largely ignored. Always problematic, this imbalance has become critical in recent years as episodes of corporate misconduct spur new interest in punishing process crimes like obstruction of justice and perjury. This Article adds detection avoidance to the existing theoretical frame with an eye toward informing the current policy debate. The exercise leads to several conclusions. First, despite recent efforts to strengthen laws governing obstruction and perjury, sanctioning is relatively inefficacious at discouraging detection avoidance. Sanctions send a mixed message to the offender: Do less to avoid detection, but to the extent you still do something, do more to avoid detection of your detection avoidance. The Article argues that detection avoidance is often more effectively deterred through the structural design of evidentiary procedure (inclusive of investigation). Specifically advocated are devices that exploit the cognitive psychological shortcomings of individuals and the sociological fragility of their collusive arrangements.
Opponents of the death penalty typically base their opposition on contingent features of its administration, arguing that the death penalty is applied discriminatorily, that the innocent are sometimes executed, or that there is insufficient evidence of the death penalty’s deterrent efficacy. Implicit in these arguments is the suggestion that if these contingencies did not obtain, serious moral objections to the death penalty would be misplaced. In this Article, Professor Finkelsteindeterrence and retributivismis capable of justifying the death penalty. More generally, she suggests that while each theory captures an important part of the justification for punishment, each must appeal to some further limiting principle to accommodate common intuitions about appropriate punishments for crimes. Professor Finkelstein claims that contractarianism supplies this additional principle, by requiring that individuals consent to the system of punishment under whose threat they must live. Moreover, on the version of contractarianism for which she argues, they must do so based on a belief that they will benefit under the terms of that system as compared with how they would fare in its absence. While the notion of benefit is often best understood in terms of maximizing one’s expected utility, Professor Finkelsteingambling” decision rule. She then argues that rational contractors applying this conception of benefit would reject any system of punishment that includes the death penalty. For while contractors would recognize the death penalty’s deterrent value, they must also consider the high cost they would pay in the event they end up subject to such a penalty. This Article presents both a significant new approach to the death penalty and a general theory of punishment, one that incorporates the central intuitions about deterrence and desert that have made competing theories of punishment seem compelling.
What Professor William Eskridge once called “the new textualism” is not so new anymore. Statutory textualism has adherents on the Supreme Court, throughout the federal judiciary, and, increasingly, in academia as well. And almost all of them are politically conservative. Why is that true? This Note contends that it need not be. Taken at face value, textualism serves neither conservative nor liberal ends. However, those most closely identified with textualism—namely, Justice Antonin Scalia and Judge Frank Easterbrook—practice a form of textualism that creates institutional dynamics that tend to reconcile with a preference for limited government. Their textualism, which this Note dubs “clarity-driven textualism,” constrains the functioning of Congress, executive agencies, and judges in ways that make government hard to do: Statutes are hard to write, agencies have tightly circumscribed authority, and judges have few opportunities to exercise discretion. This Note argues that textualism alone will not necessarily produce these outcomes. By identifying how clarity-driven textualism departs from the bare requirements of textualism itself, this Note seeks to rescue textualism’s powerful interpretive approach from its current political entanglements.
Henry J. Friendly was one of the nation’s preeminent appellate judges. Judge Michael Boudin, once a law clerk to Judge Friendly, describes Judge Friendly’s career and judicial outlook in the New York University School of Law’s annual James Madison Lecture. Drawing upon Judge Friendly’s constitutional writings and decisions, the lecture touches upon Friendly’s gifts of mind, energy, and writing ability, and certain of his judicial characteristics: his attitude toward precedent and other constraints, his practical judgment, his intellectual rigor, and his essential moderation.
Empirical scholars typically model the judicial hierarchy in terms of a principal-agent relationship in which the Supreme Court, the principal, sets policy and the lower federal courts, as agents, must faithfully implement that policy. The law is a signal—the means by which the Court communicates its preferences. This Article argues instead for recognizing the law as an independent normative force. Empirical scholars fail to take seriously the role of law because they reject as implausible formalistic accounts of its operation. This Article advances a more nuanced account of how law shapes the decisionmaking environment of the lower federal courts, one that focuses on the presence of discretion. It explores how different types of discretion afford distinct types of power over lawmaking and case outcomes, and how that discretionary power is allocated between district and appellate courts. Paying attention to discretion suggests features of the judicial hierarchy that are commonly overlooked in principal-agent models. For example, judges’ goals, and therefore their strategies, will vary depending upon whether they seek to influence law development or merely to shape case outcomes. The Article also questions the normative assumption, implicit in principal-agent models, that lower federal courts should decide cases in accordance with the policy preferences of the Supreme Court. Because judges inevitably have discretion when applying the law, a norm of compliance with superior court precedent does not necessarily require lower courts to follow the policy preferences of the Supreme Court. The reasons judicial discretion exists, such as allocating power within the judicial hierarchy, may argue against such a centralization of power in the Supreme Court.
The written nature of America’s Constitution has been traditionally regarded as a constitutional virtue, and more recently dismissed as an irrelevancy of form. However, the concept of “writtenness” itself, in the constitutional context, remains vague and undefined. Through a comparison of the United States and United Kingdom constitutions, this Note identifies the essential characteristics of a written constitution and examines how such writtenness affects the achievement of the rule of law in a society. The Note argues that an unwritten constitution may prove as conducive to important rule-of-law values as a written constitution, if not more so, and challenges the general perception of writtenness as an unequivocally desirable aspect of our Constitution.