In its recent decision in McDonnell v. United States, a case concerning corruption charges against the former Governor of Virginia, Robert McDonnell, the Supreme Court faced a seemingly simple question of statutory interpretation: what constituted an “official act” for the purposes of the bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. § 201(a)(3). In reality, not only did it answer a question far more complicated, but also, it provided far more than a simple answer.
In its attempt to reinforce democracy, the Court failed. Instead, it validated a pernicious definition of access, in which paid-for access, pay-to-play schemes, and bribery are the norm. Specifically, in claiming that this maligned form of access was necessary for a functioning democracy, the Court endorsed political norms that are, in fact, corrosive to society: stratified access to politicians and by association, democratic institutions. The Court ignored the reality of pervasive and systemic inequality—ranging from political, economic, social, and racial—in contemporary American society and the effect that inequality has on access. However, the Court did not arrive there alone—the many amici filing on behalf of the petitioner blinded it—at least partially—to the aforementioned realities and public opinion.
Recent antitrust decisions and policy initiatives by both the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and Department of Transportation (“DOT”) have shaped the current U.S. airline landscape. The consolidation trend is not unique to the U.S. domestic air transportation market. The emergence of three global airline alliances—together accounting for around 80% of air traffic across the transatlantic, transpacific, and Europe–Asia markets—has transformed the international air transportation market as well. This Note evaluates the results of the DOJ’s antitrust approach to U.S. airline mergers and reconciles these results with the DOT’s “public interest” emphasis in determining airline applications for antitrust immunity (“ATI”). Given the current domestic market, it is likely that the remaining legacy carriers will leverage their respective global alliances and seek ATI with foreign airlines for continued network growth.
Part I of this Note tracks the tumultuous history of the U.S. airline industry from deregulation to its current health. Part II presents the legal framework, including U.S. antitrust laws, that govern domestic airline mergers and international ATI. Part III proposes practical solutions for the DOT to improve the ATI regulatory process and incubate open market competition, thereby better serving passengers and airlines by edging closer to deregulation.
How can one be expected to demonstrate something they are incapable of, and what if that something meant the difference between freedom and remaining in prison? Thousands of inmates in California face this issue, and many are kept incarcerated for life without any recognition of their cognitive capabilities.
Take Maria’s story, for example; she is a client I became familiar with as a student working in the University of Southern California Gould School of Law’s (“USC”) Post-Conviction Justice Project (“PCJP”). Maria had extensive cognitive impairments that went undiscovered while incarcerated in a California prison for nearly three decades. Because of this, Maria was denied parole an astounding six times with the parole board citing lack of “insight” each time. Maria’s continued denials persisted despite state-issued psychological evaluations concluding that her intellectual functioning was minimal.
Unfortunately, Maria’s predicament is not uncommon. There are several similarly situated inmates who are unable to effectively advocate for themselves due to their cognitive impairments, yet they are not provided with necessary accommodations. As a result, individuals are denied parole even though they do not pose a current danger to society. This culminates in the gravest deprivation of liberty without due process—denial of their freedom.
In many ways, Michael C. Hughes is an average American family man. He is a middle-aged father of four from Rochester, Minnesota. He has been married to his wife for twelve years. He has a broad, muscular frame and is partial to cowboy hats and wide belt buckles. But Hughes is unlike the average American family man in one fundamental way: he was born biologically female. Hughes is one of the more than 1.4 million transgender adults in the United States, a small but increasingly visible group of people who are currently facing a unique legal battle to use restrooms and single-sex facilities that align with their gender identity.
Hughes garnered publicity with a viral photo taken in a public restroom, in protest of “bathroom bills”—laws that require Hughes to use women’s restrooms and facilities, despite his gender identity. “Bathroom bill” is the common name for legislation that prohibits individuals from using bathrooms (or other private, single-sex facilities like locker rooms) that do not match their biological sex or sex markers on their identification documents, depending on the bill. Posing in front of the bathroom mirror in a women’s restroom, as female patrons look on questioningly, Hughes “presents” as a male—making him appear out of place in the restroom that nonetheless matches his biological sex. Hughes’ photo and its accompanying hashtag, “#WeJustNeedtoPee,” went viral in 2016, reflecting Americans’ rapt attention on transgender issues.
Bobby James Moore was twenty years old when he “fatally shot a store clerk” while robbing a grocery store in April 1980. On paper, this is a tragic felony murder, but behind the scenes lies a different story. Bobby was not a typical twenty-year-old; he did not understand “the days of the week, the months of the year, [or] the seasons.” Bobby could barely tell time, and he could not understand standard measurements or that subtraction is the opposite of addition. Bobby suffered an “abuse-filled childhood.” Bobby dropped out of high school due to “his limited ability to read and write,” and he lived on the streets after being kicked out of his home for being “stupid.” Bobby is intellectually disabled, and despite the evidence put forth demonstrating his disability, he was sentenced to death pursuant to a set of factors used by a Texas court; these factors are largely based on stereotypes and caricatures from literature. As the United States Supreme Court decided in 2017, this was a gross violation of the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment to rely on “wholly nonclinical” factors rather than the “medical community’s diagnostic framework.”
Just before two o’clock in the afternoon on October 22, 1991, two high school students, Chedell Williams and Zahra Howard, ascended the steps of the Fern Rock train station in North Philadelphia, planning to take a train back to their homes. Seemingly out of nowhere, two men appeared, blocked the girls’ way up to the station, and demanded Chedell’s earrings. Terrified, the girls bolted in opposite directions. The two men followed Chedell. They soon caught her and tore out her earrings. Then “[o]ne of the men grabbed her, held a silver handgun to her neck, and shot her.” The perpetrators fled. Chedell was pronounced dead within the hour.
Police soon focused their investigation on James Dennis, who lived relatively close to the train station in the Abbotsford Homes projects. Detectives would later explain that they heard rumors that Dennis was involved in the shooting, though they were at that time “unable to identify the source of the rumors.” The detectives obtained preliminary descriptions of the perpetrators from three eyewitnesses. These initial descriptions did not align well with Dennis’s actual appearance. Nonetheless, a few eyewitnesses identified Dennis during subsequent photo lineups, live lineups, and the trial. In presenting the government’s case, the prosecution relied heavily on these eyewitness identifications. Dennis was found guilty of “first-degree murder, robbery, carrying a firearm without a license, criminal conspiracy, and possession of an instrument of a crime.” He was sentenced to death.
In recent years the False Claims Act (“FCA”) has become the Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) favorite tool to combat large-scale fraud—particularly healthcare fraud. In fact, from 2009 to 2016 alone, the DOJ recovered over $19.3 billion in health care fraud—“more than half the health care fraud dollars recovered since the 1986 amendments to the False Claims Act.” In general, the statute prohibits (1) knowingly submitting false claims to the federal government or causing another to submit a false claim, (2) knowingly creating a false record or statement to get a false claim paid by the federal government, and (3) retaining funds improperly received from the federal government.
Although the FCA originated during the Civil War, Congress has periodically strengthened the FCA through amendments, which have converted it into a “modern weapon” that the DOJ and whistleblowers use to punish providers who knowingly submit false claims or false records or retain funds improperly received from the government. The amendments have permitted larger damages, which in turn have incentivized whistleblowers and the DOJ to use whatever means available to prove liability in as many false claims as possible. During the last five years in particular, that has meant turning away from proving liability for each individual claim and instead using statistical sampling as proof of liability for a much larger number of claims.
For nearly a decade, health care reform has been at the center of American politics. The development, enactment, and reform of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)-“Obamacare,” in the parlance of both opposition and advocates-dominated the election cycles of 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016, and continued policy changes and market instabilities are all but certain to remain in the spotlight through 2018 and 2020. The endurance of this debate should come as no surprise: national attempts to expand access to affordable medical services have a long history, beginning not with Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Bill Clinton, or even Lyndon Johnson, but with Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressive Party in 1912. Along the way, while employer-provided insurance came to form the cornerstone of American health care coverage, a wide range of proposals sought to extend benefits to the uninsured, including efforts to create tax subsidies, to introduce single-payer government care, and to impose employer and individual mandates. Of course, it was that final option-the individual mandate, requiring that taxpayers either carry insurance or pay for their failure to do so-that featured in the law finally passed by Congress in 2010. Of “critical importance,” the mandate was “the price for the [insurance] industry’s cooperation.” However, “perhaps because prominent Republicans had [originally] endorsed the idea, Democrats underestimated the problems it would cause.” While the mandate still survives in full through 2018, it will continue only nominally thereafter: shortly before this Note went to press, the narrow Republican majorities in Congress-following years of promises to “repeal and replace” -reduced the mandate’s penalty to $0 for 2019 and beyond, although procedural limitations required them to leave intact the theoretical command.
The mandate has been the subject and survivor of substantial litigation, as well as of considerable scholarship. Underexplored, however, is a provision within the mandate giving special consideration and accommodation to those who obtain membership in a type of medical collective known as a health care sharing ministry: such members are entirely exempt from the PPACA’s requirements. This provision is unique in federal law. Unlike traditional conscientious-objector exemptions (which the PPACA also grants), the sharing ministry exemption demands no showing of a religious burden: to avoid the demands of the individual mandate, one need only join a club structured around shared ethical principles. And as a nation, join we have: sharing ministry membership has expanded dramatically since 2010, so dramatically that the exemption may have helped to accelerate the destabilization of the very risk pools that the Act was meant to supply. But the ability to join is not universal to people of all faiths and creeds, for the exemption contains a cutoff-date clause that not only forecloses the formation of new sharing ministries, but also limits the benefit of an exemption to members of just those sharing ministries which were in operation ten years before the PPACA’s passage. Whether by accident or design, the effect of this limitation is to enshrine in law an accommodation for only five ministries-each one explicitly Christian in its tenets and joining requirements.
Political advertising is undergoing what some experts have coined a “revolution,” as digital advertising catches up with-and looks poised to overtake-television advertising as the most effective way of reaching voters during a political campaign. An increasingly popular method of communicating with voters online is through native advertisements-ads that match the editorial content of media or technology platforms, making them less intrusive but also more difficult to identify as advertising. Native ads can be used to match a broad range of environments and now can be found in online newspapers, social media platforms like Facebook, and even mobile and video games. New native advertising techniques have become so sophisticated that, according to studies, many consumers cannot distinguish a native ad from editorial content. Politicians have identified the potential appeal of native ads, particularly as a tool for engaging younger voters through popular mediums such as social media and games. But in the political sphere, due to several outdated loopholes in current federal election law, native ads may be exempt from having to include typically mandatory disclaimers, making them particularly difficult to identify as advertisements. This Note argues that native ads create disclosure issues when they are used in settings such as mobile games, where users may have no expectation of seeing political advertisements, if the platforms are exempt from disclaimer requirements due to alleged practical limitations.
United States government surveillance has reached a point where the government “c[an] construct a complete electronic narrative of an individual’s life: their friends, lovers, joys, sorrows.” In June 2013, Edward Snowden released thousands of confidential documents from the National Security Agency (“NSA”) regarding classified government surveillance programs. The documents brought to light the fact that that the NSA was spying on individuals, including foreign citizens, and deliberately misleading Congress about these activities. According to Snowden, the spying was so extensive that the spying measures, including a program known as “PRISM,” involved the improper mass collection of data from citizens worldwide through NSA interactions with telecom giants like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, and by tapping into global fiber optic cables.
These revelations sent shockwaves around the globe, and the backlash was swift and unforgiving. One thing became clear to Americans and the rest of the world: the NSA and the U.S. government had prioritized the massive collection of private information over and above the personal privacy rights of the global population. The concept of throwing civil liberties to the wayside through grossly intrusive surveillance pushed Snowden to step forward and reveal what he had seen all too closely. He no longer wanted to “live in a world ‘where everything that I say, everything that I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of love or friendship is recorded.’”
Across the Atlantic, the priorities of European Union member nations stand in stark contrast to those of the United States. The EU takes a much stronger stance on privacy and data protection and restricts how companies transfer data to non-EU nations. In the EU’s Data Protection Directive (the “Directive”), the right to privacy is described as a “fundamental right[ ] and freedom[ ].” This sentiment is echoed in other landmark EU documents such as the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.