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Madison Lecture: Living Our Traditions

The Honorable Robert H. Henry

In the annual James Madison Lecture, Robert Henry, former Chief Judge of the
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, explores Justice John
Marshall Harlan II’s notable dissent in Poe v. Ullman. President Henry carefully
examines Justice Harlan’s method of constitutional interpretation. Refusing to
adopt a “literalistic” reading of the Constitution and instead looking to the “history
and purposes” of a particular constitutional provision, Justice Harlan’s approach
serves as a source of both flexibility and restraint. Of particular importance is
Justice Harlan’s recognition of the role that “living” traditions play in supplying
meaning to the concept of due process of law. What emerges from this probing
review of Justice Harlan’s Poe dissent is a moderate and thoughtful response to
originalism.

Demsetz Underground: Busking Regulation and the Formation of Property Rights

James Graham Lake

The Metropolitan Transit Authority regulates busking—playing music or performing for tips in a public place—differently depending on the subway station. Some stations are reserved for members of a program called Music Under New York (MUNY), while at the others, anyone willing to pay the standard fare to enter the station is allowed to busk. As it happens, the distribution of MUNY and non- MUNY stations within the subway system follows an economic pattern. MUNY covers the stations where we should expect busking to impose the highest externality costs. This economic pattern of coverage provides the substantive basis for this Note: Because MUNY’s distribution is consistent with Harold Demsetz’s foundational theory about the economic development of private property rights, MUNY provides a window into a question left open by Demsetz and contested in subsequent literature—the question of how private property develops. This Note analyzes MUNY to make two contributions to the growing body of literature describing how property rights develop. First, observing the role that changing First Amendment doctrine played in MUNY’s formation, this Note argues that exogenous legal norms act as constraints on the mechanisms through which new property rights develop. Second, it argues that Demsetz’s theory should take account of the inertia built into property systems and the external shocks that help overcome this stasis.

The Path of the Constitution: The Original System of Remedies, How it Changed, and How the Court Responded

Sina Kian

This Article explores how the path of the common law shaped some of the Supreme Court’s most important decisions regarding constitutional remedies. The Article first introduces the original system of common law remedies for constitutional rights. It then explains how these remedies atrophied, both doctrinally and pragmatically, and how this posed deep problems for the constitutional rights that depended on them. The Article selects three cases—Mapp v. Ohio, Monroe v. Pape, and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents—to demonstrate how concerns about those remedies shaped constitutional rights. These cases have been debated many times over, but for all the debate, there has been scarce attention paid to the problem the Court was addressing: the relationship between the Constitution and common law remedies and, more specifically, what to do about constitutional rights that depended on dwindling common law remedies. Indeed, this relationship hardly receives any attention in classrooms or scholarship today, yet it is at the core of the judiciary’s role in implementing the Constitution. This descriptive gap has distorted our normative debate about the relative merits of these cases. The last part of the Article suggests four potential methodologies for coherently managing the relation- ship between the Constitution and common law remedies.

Autobiographical Lies and the First Amendment’s Protection of Self-Defining Speech

David S. Han

This Article explores, through the lens of speech I refer to as “autobiographical lies,” the extent to which the First Amendment protects one’s ability to craft one’s own public persona. Thus far, courts and commentators have generally neglected to address the degree to which this particular autonomy-based value—the interest in individual self-definition—carries distinct weight under the First Amendment. This is unsurprising, since it is rare that an issue arises that directly implicates this interest in a manner that isolates it from more traditional free speech principles.

Recently, however, litigation has arisen surrounding the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act, a federal statute that criminalizes lying about having received military honors. The Act’s regulation of a particular subset of speech—knowing, factual falsehoods about oneself—uniquely crystallizes the question of whether, and to what extent, the self-definition interest merits protection under the First Amendment. By and large, there is no strong reason rooted in traditional First Amendment interests to protect these sorts of autobiographical lies. But if the self- definition interest has any meaningful constitutional force, then circumstances would surely exist under which such speech merits First Amendment protection, since freely choosing what to tell others about oneself—whether truth, half-truth, or falsehood—is a vital means of controlling how one defines oneself to the world.

After reviewing the current dispute surrounding the Stolen Valor Act, which has divided lower courts and at the time of this writing is pending before the Supreme Court, this Article outlines the doctrinal origins and basic characteristics of the self-definition interest. I argue that if one takes seriously the Supreme Court’s repeated assertions that the First Amendment is designed, at least in part, to preserve individual autonomy, then courts should accord at least some distinct constitutional weight to this interest. I then explore some of the practical implications of recognizing a constitutionally protected self-definition interest and apply these observations to the Stolen Valor Act, concluding that the Act, as currently constituted, should be deemed unconstitutional. Finally, I observe that a constitutionally protected right to define one’s public persona via one’s speech fits comfortably within the Constitution’s general protection of interests deemed essential to individual personhood.

Community Dreams and Nightmares: Arizona, Ethnic Studies, and the Continued Relevance of Derrick Bell’s Interest-Convergence Thesis

Kevin Terry

In 2010, the Arizona State Legislature drew national attention to issues of ethnicity, pedagogy, and censorship in public schools by passing House Bill 2281. As interpreted by Arizona officials, this law made the curriculum of the Mexican American Studies Department in Tucson public schools illegal. The ongoing conflict between supporters and opponents of the Department in public discourse—and in state and federal courts—raises important questions about the ways that majority and minority cultures interact in United States educational institutions. This Note uses Arizona’s ethnic studies ban to suggest that Derrick Bell’s interest-convergence thesis and Lani Guinier’s related theory of interest-divergence continue to be useful tools in assessing the dynamics between powerful and marginalized groups. The Note sets the facts of the ethnic studies controversy against recent criticism of Professor Bell’s work and, in doing so, rebuts the assertion that the interest-convergence thesis has become less relevant to understanding contemporary intergroup conflict in the United States.

The State as Witness: Windsor, Shelby County, and Judicial Distrust of the Legislative Record

Bertrall L. Ross II

More than ever, the constitutionality of laws turns on judicial review of an underlying factual record, assembled by lawmakers. Some scholars have suggested that by requiring extensive records, the Supreme Court is treating lawmakers like administrative agencies. The assumption underlying this metaphor is that if the state puts forth enough evidence in the record to support the law, its action will survive constitutional scrutiny. What scholars have overlooked, however, is that the Court is increasingly questioning the credibility of the record itself. Even in cases where the state produces adequate evidence to support its action, the Court sometimes invalidates the law because it does not believe the state’s facts. In these cases, the Court treats the state like a witness in its own trial, subjecting the state’s record and the conclusions drawn from it to rigorous cross-examination and second-guessing.

In this “credibility-questioning” review of the record, the Court appears to be animated by an implicit judgment about the operation of the political process. When Justices consider the political process to have functioned properly, they treat the state as a good faith actor and merely check the adequacy of its evidence in the record. But when Justices suspect that the democratic process has malfunctioned because opponents of the law were too politically weak or indifferent to challenge distortions in the record, they treat the state as a witness, suspecting bias in its factual determinations supporting the law.

In this Article, I both support and critique this new form of review. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I argue courts should engage in credibility-questioning review of the record when the political process has malfunctioned. Public choice and pluralist defect theory imply that the record supporting a law is more likely to be distorted in contexts of democratic malfunction. But for reasons of institutional legitimacy and separation of powers, I argue courts should limit credibility-questioning review to contexts where there is actual proof of democratic malfunction.

Regulatory Islands

Hannah J. Wiseman

Policy experimentation in the “laboratory of the states” is a frequently cited benefit of our federalist system, but a necessary condition of thoughtful experimentation is often missing. To conduct useful policy experiments, states and other subfederal actors need baseline information: In order to learn from the successes and failures of their neighbors, state actors must understand the laws and regulations that other jurisdictions have enacted. And, despite the seemingly ready availability of legal and regulatory materials in the information age, subfederal officials often lack this understanding. The literature has recognized that states often fail to share policy results, particularly failures, but few legal scholars have explored the lack of information about the substance of policy—an essential foundation for thoughtful experimentation. This information deficit tends to pervade technical policy areas in particular—those that do not follow uniform codes and require expertise to understand, like hydraulic fracturing and health care. In these areas and others, the states may still be laboratories, but in some cases they are laboratories on islands, with no comprehensive, uniform information exchanged among them. This limits the experimental upside of laboratories—informed, efficient, and innovative regulatory approaches. It also expands laboratories’ known downside—the costs to private entities of complying with different standards.

This Article explores the problem of regulatory islands and the public choice, political economy, and resource-based dynamics that create them. It also explores areas in which states have effectively shared regulatory content—often with federal help—and argues that the federal government is in the best position to work with subfederal institutions to produce and synthesize regulatory information. Even if the government does not do the collection and synthesization itself—indeed, mistrust by state actors may prevent this level of involvement—it should fund and partially manage it. Federal involvement is important because when the federal government allows subfederal experimentation in areas of federal concern, it should already be producing much of this information anyway in order to monitor state regulation to ensure that federal goals are being met and ensure that states are not imposing externalities on their neighbors. Increasing the availability of regulatory information will enable more informed experimentation and allow monitoring of policy gaps. In the many areas in which it does not regulate directly, the essential federal government role in modern regulatory experiments is an informational one.

Changed Circumstances and Judicial Review

Maria Ponomarenko

The problem of changed circumstances recurs throughout constitutional law. Statutes often outlive the conditions they were meant to address. A once-reasonable law may come to impose burdens that the legislature never intended and would not now be willing to impose. This Note asks whether courts are ever permitted to step in and declare that, as a result of postenactment changed circumstances, a once-valid law can no longer be constitutionally applied. It argues that the propriety of changed circumstances review depends first on whether the applicable doctrinal test is substantive or motives-based. A substantive test is one that imposes an absolute prohibition on certain categories of legislation, or requires a particular degree of fit between legislative means and ends. A motives-based test asks only whether the enacting legislature intended to further an impermissible objective. This Note demonstrates that where the underlying test is substantive, a reviewing court must at least consider whether circumstances have sufficiently changed since the challenged law’s enactment to justify striking it down. If the test is motives-based, then the court should generally consider only whether the statute is valid based on facts as they existed when it first went into effect.

Reliance by Whom? The False Promise of Societal Reliance on Stare Decisis Analysis

Alexander Lazaro Mills

Under the doctrine of stare decisis, an important factor in determining whether to uphold or overrule a constitutional precedent is whether there are reliance interests in the rule it established. The Supreme Court’s analysis of reliance in this context has been brief and conclusory, leaving indeterminate the precise nature of the reliance interests at stake and causing uncertainty as to which forms of reliance the Court will deem cognizable in the future. Beginning with Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Court has signaled a willingness to give weight to societal reliance—reliance interests of society as a whole. Drawing on previous scholarship, I argue that societal reliance should be given no weight. To measure reliance for stare decisis, the Court should first identify the entities that have taken steps in reliance upon the challenged precedent and then weigh the costs of repudiation to those entities. When purported reliance interests cannot be attributed to particular entities but instead belong to society as a whole, no true reliance is at stake, and it should therefore count for nothing. Adopting this approach will provide clarity, consistency, and predictability to the Court’s determinations whether to uphold or overrule constitutional precedents.

Further from the People? The Puzzle of State Administration

Miriam Seifter

Civil society today vitally supplements the traditional legislative and judicial checks on the powerful federal executive branch. As many commentators have observed, individuals, interest groups, and media outlets actively monitor, expose, and impede federal executive misdeeds. But much of government administration now occurs in the states. State executive branches have burgeoned in size and responsibility in recent decades, and state and national leaders advocate further expanding state authority. Underlying such calls is a notion that states are “closer to the people” than the federal government, and thus more attentive and responsive to the public’s needs. Yet commentators seldom question these premises, and there is scant attention to whether and how civil society constrains administration in the states.

This Article identifies and theorizes the role of civil society oversight at the state level. It finds that state agencies frequently lack the civil society check that commentators celebrate at the federal level. State agencies are, on the whole, less transparent than their federal counterparts, less closely followed by watchdog groups, and less tracked by the shrinking state-level media. These insights complicate certain tenets of federalism theory—those that assume a close connection between state governments and their citizens—while strengthening theories concerned about state-level faction. As a practical matter, civil society oversight is one factor that can help explain serious regulatory failures in the states—and more optimistically, success stories. Finally, attending to civil society oversight can highlight reforms available to those who seek a state government that is more visible to and constrained by its people.