Our law has no mind of its own. In times past, we have fancied law a product of the Deity, and we are still apt to depict it as something transcendent, or even broodingly omnipresent, if not divine. Some of our lawmakers maintain a tradition of donning garments befitting oracles when they utter their pronouncements.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) was enacted to promote the ability of older workers to compete in today’s marketplace. It recognized a disturbing change in the way that companies were treating older workers. Historically, older workers were regarded as a valuable commodity because of their skill and experience. The advance of the modern age brought about a shift in ideologies in corporate America. Older workers came to be considered a liability in the fast-paced business world. Congress drafted the ADEA to eliminate unfounded stereotypes of older workers as less productive and more expensive to employ. It gave statutory protection against discrimination to anyone over forty years of age.
The role of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment in requiring compensation for government actions that treat landowners unequally is seldom explored. This is remarkable given that the Supreme Court has said for more than a century that the Takings Clause “prevents the public from loading upon one individual more than his just share of the burdens of government, and says that when he surrenders to the public something more and different from that which is exacted from other members of the public, a full and just equivalent shall be returned to him.”
One might infer from this description of the Fifth Amendment that the regulatory takings doctrine should have developed as a comparative right (a species of equal protection law)—a right to be treated legally the same as other property owners in a community, or to receive compensation when differential treatment is justified. Indeed, when the Supreme Court first held that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporated the rule that government may not take private property without just compensation, it relied on the Equal Protection Clause, not the Due Process Clause.
The main argument presented in this Article is that the harms and social costs of copyright cannot be summarized just in terms of enclosure and exclusion. Copyright law, I will argue, also has a silencing effect toward noninfringing creative materials of other independent creators and producers.
In June 2002, the United States Supreme Court approved an Ohio program that made available publicly supported vouchers for children in Cleveland to attend private (nonsectarian) and religious schools. Writing for a five-member majority in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, Chief Justice William Rehnquist held that the Ohio program did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because it (1) has a valid secular purpose of providing educational assistance to poor children; (2) is neutral with respect to religion and provides assistance to a broad class of citizens; and (3) provides aid to religious institutions only as a result of independent decisions made by the parents of the school children participating in the program. The Chief Justice further explained that the ruling was consistent with a line of judicial reasoning dating back to 1983, when the Supreme Court approved an education tax deduction adopted in Minnesota. In a concurring opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor took a broader view of First Amendment jurisprudence, indicating that the majority ruling in Zelman was consistent with case law that allowed tax exemptions and other forms of government aid for religious institutions. Justice Clarence Thomas also concurred with the majority. Citing Brown v. Board of Education, Justice Thomas emphasized that the program in question was a well-intentioned attempt by the state “to provide greater educational opportunity for underprivileged minority students.” He further opined that incorporating the Establishment Clause to prohibit the kind of educational choice that the Ohio program provides would have the ironic effect of employing the Fourteenth Amendment to curtail liberty rights protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
United States courts of appeals and a number of state appellate courts permit their judicial panels to designate certain decisions as unworthy of publication and as “non-precedential” even though an opinion has been written that justifies them. The designation is based on an assessment by the decisional panel that the resolution of the appealed issues has not added new law to the jurisdiction’s already existing body of law. Judge Richard Posner has described this criterion as “imprecise and nondirective.” An empirical study “casts serious doubt on whether the official criteria for publication of opinions provide a meaningful guide to the judges.” Once a decision-with-opinion receives the “non-precedential” label, it may not be used as authority in future cases by any of the jurisdiction’s courts, and lawyers are prohibited from citing it in their briefs and oral arguments. These opinions were once called “unpublished” and were distributed only to the parties to the appeal, but they are now widely available through online databases and through the Federal Appendix, a new West publication. This Article uses the noun “non-precedent” and the adjective “non-precedential” to refer to these opinions.
The selective publication policy evolved in the precomputer era when courts and judicial councils worried about their physical ability to publish hard copies of the ever-increasing number of court opinions, the costs to the legal community of acquiring and storing voluminous law reporters, and overwhelming law-finding devices.
There has been a recent resurgence of interest in class in legal scholarship. This development might have been predictable. Inequality in America has grown sharply over the past two decades. Working people face job tenure insecurity, massive shifts in work structures, and heavy debt. Indigent families have begun experiencing the termination of assistance from the state. Revelations of corporate wrongdoing highlight the power of wealth. But the new interest in class is not rooted primarily in concern with the conditions of low wage workers or the unemployed. Rather, it is a new twist on the topic of race. Out of social discomfort and legal challenges to affirmative action, judges and scholars are seeking a way to confront inequality without confronting race.
Class is important in its own right, but in the United States people usually do not talk much about it. The term is unfamiliar, packed with many different meanings, and uncomfortably radical. In law and popular discourse, the figure of the white working class person has appeared in recent years as the symbol for the need to end or change affirmative action. A searching examination of interest in white working people requires a closer look at class and the social construction of race. The concept of class seems tame only in comparison to the volatility of the discourse on race. It only remains tame if it is understood through a simplistic notion of individual status and divorced from conflict and from consciousness of shared interest among oppressed people – in other words, from groups and relationships of power.
Are Internet advertisers trespassing on our computers? The question arises due to the increasing reliance upon cookie technology by Internet advertising firms as the primary means to match online ads with the specific interests and characteristics of individual Internet users.
It seems that whenever we visit a Web site, we are barraged with an increasing number of blinking banner advertisements hocking products and services of every imaginable sort. More than sixty billion advertisements per month are carefully selected for us and sent to our computers by a single Internet advertising firm, DoubleClick, Inc. In order to increase the effectiveness of the ads, DoubleClick deposits small text files or “cookies” on our computers in addition to sending us the banner advertisements. Like most other Internet advertisers, DoubleClick uses cookie files to collect and maintain detailed consumer profiles that reflect the online practices, preferences and other personal characteristics of each individual who surfs the Web. Based on those detailed consumer profiles, DoubleClick places on the pages of affiliated sites various banner advertisements of client companies that target the specific interests of individuals who happen to visit any DoubleClick affiliated site. Since its inception, DoubleClick alone has placed billions of targeted banner advertisements for client companies on sites across the Internet and some estimate that those ads have been viewed by a majority of all Internet users. To date, DoubleClick has compiled perhaps as many as 100 million user profiles in its databases and, with more than 11,000 affiliated commercial Web sites, DoubleClick remains the largest Internet advertising firm in the world.
Was Justice Scalia’s vote in the Boy Scouts case judicially straight? For years he has championed the view that a general conduct law not specifically directed at First Amendment interests does not implicate the First Amendment even if it happens to restrict First Amendment activity in some of its applications. Thus, when Oregon evenhandedly enforced its drug-control law against religious and nonreligious uses of peyote, Scalia maintained that the First Amendment was not implicated, and when Indiana evenhandedly enforced its public indecency law against expressive and nonexpressive public nudity, he took the same position. But in the Boy Scouts case, when New Jersey evenhandedly enforced its civil rights law against expressive as well as nonexpressive discrimination, Scalia not only thought that the law implicated the First Amendment, but he also provided the fifth vote to invalidate it as applied.
When the Court handed down its decision in Boy Scouts, one could fairly have wondered whether Scalia’s dissent was missing. Since the civil rights law at issue could have been characterized as a general law not directed at First Amendment interests, Scalia’s decision to join the majority opinion invalidating the law’s enforcement on First Amendment grounds appeared to conflict with the First Amendment philosophy he developed in Employment Division v. Smith, Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc., and similar cases. In what may be called his Smith jurisprudence, Scalia has maintained that, so far as the regulation of conduct is concerned, heightened judicial scrutiny should be reserved for circumstances in which a law specifically targets First Amendment interests for disfavored treatment. Otherwise, accommodation of those interests should ordinarily be left to the political process. Scalia did not seem to adhere to that philosophy in Boy Scouts.
Our law has no mind of its own. In times past, we have fancied law a product of the Deity, and we are still apt to depict it as something transcendent, or even broodingly omnipresent, if not divine. Some of our lawmakers maintain a tradition of donning garments befitting oracles when they utter their pronouncements. Needless to say, the reality is that rules flow out of the pens of mortal persons beneath the impressive robes, persons who must bend their mental efforts to many complex problems and tasks, all competing for their attention.
Half a century ago, the late Herbert Simon developed the theory of “bounded rationality” in connection with human decisionmaking. His insight was that the cognitive resources (like other resources) of human beings are finite and, accordingly, must be rationed. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we all have to make hard choices about how to allocate our intellectual energies. We cope with cognitive deficits, Simon and his students elaborated, in a variety of ways—for example, by searching selectively through the exponential ramifications of our analysis; by settling on decisions that we find sufficiently good, even if not necessarily best; and by developing mental short-cuts (dubbed heuristics) to simplify cognitive tasks, thereby allowing us to arrive at decisions in a more frugal manner.