In this Article, we show how the biggest tort reform of the last decade was passed through the back door with the blessing of its staunchest opponents. We argue that the widely-endorsed “apology law” reform—a change in the national legal landscape that privileged apologies—is, in fact, a mechanism of tort reform, used to limit victims’ recovery and shield injurers from liability. While legal scholars overlooked this effect, commercial interests seized the opportunity and are in the process of transforming state and federal law with the unwitting support of the public.
Constitutional law is committed to a principle of geographic self-government: congressional districts and states are separately located and entitled to select different officials to send to Congress. James Madison explained in The Federalist Papers that checks and balances would only work if different places and their different politics were empowered to compete with and constrain one another. While constitutional law makes place significant for congressional elections, campaign finance law does not. Those with the resources to contribute often and in large amounts to congressional campaigns primarily reside in a few neighborhoods in a few metropolitan areas. Campaign finance law imposes no limitations and minimal disclosure on contributions from these places to other districts and states—places quite different than the ones where contributors reside. The result is that a few metropolitan areas dominate contributions to congressional campaigns.
Campaign finance law thus allows Congress to be controlled by very few places, dramatically undermining geographic self-government. While scholars have devoted substantial attention to other problematic features of money in politics, the geography of campaign finance law is a different constitutional problem justifying different constitutional solutions. This Article considers two types of legal responses: those that focus special attention on where campaign contributions are beginning and those that focus special attention on where campaign contributions are ending. While both types of solutions have their own respective constitutional benefits and negatives, they both share a common insight. Only by making campaign finance law conscious of place can we begin to address the problems of the geography of campaign finance law.
The Second Amendment, like other federal constitutional rights, is a restriction on government power. But what role does the Second Amendment have to play—if any—when a private party seeks to limit the exercise of Second Amendment rights by invoking private law causes of action? Private law—specifically, the law of torts, contracts, and property—has often been impacted by constitutional considerations, though in seemingly inconsistent ways. The First Amendment places limitations on defamation actions and other related torts, and also prevents courts from entering injunctions that could be classified as prior restraints. On the other hand, the First Amendment plays almost no role in contractual litigation, even when courts are called on to enforce contractual provisions that directly restrict speech. The Equal Protection Clause was famously interpreted to bar the enforcement of a racially restrictive covenant in Shelley v. Kraemer, but in the years since, courts have largely limited that case to its facts.
This Article reports on a breakdown in access to justice in bankruptcy, a system from which one million Americans will seek help this year. A crucial decision for these consumers will be whether to file a chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy. Nearly every aspect of their bankruptcies—both the benefits and the burdens of debt relief—will be different in chapter 7 versus chapter 13. Almost all consumers will hire a bankruptcy attorney. Because they must pay their attorneys, many consumers will file chapter 13 to finance their access to the law, rather than because they prefer the law of chapter 13 over chapter 7.
Every year, tens of thousands of noncitizens in removal proceedings are held and processed through an expanding web of immigration detention facilities across the United States. The use of immigration detention is expected to dramatically increase under the Trump administration’s mass deportation policy. I argue that this civil confinement system may serve a critical socio-legal function that has escaped the attention of policymakers, scholars, and the public alike. Using extensive original data on long-term immigrant detainees, I explore how immigration detention might function as a site of legal socialization that helps to promote or reinforce widespread legal cynicism among immigrant detainees. This legal cynicism is characterized by the belief that the legal system is punitive despite its purported administrative function, legal rules are inscrutable by design, and legal outcomes are arbitrary.
Early childhood development is a robust and vibrant focus of study in multiple disciplines, from economics and education to psychology and neuroscience. Abundant research from these disciplines has established that early childhood is critical for the development of cognitive abilities, language, and psychosocial skills, all of which turn, in large measure, on the parent-child relationship. And because early childhood relationships and experiences have a deep and lasting impact on a child’s life trajectory, disadvantages during early childhood replicate inequality. Working together, scholars in these disciplines are actively engaged in a national policy debate about reducing inequality through early childhood interventions.
This Article sets out the case for repealing the $1 million tax cap on executive pay. The cap is easily avoided and, when not avoided, widely ignored. Since enactment in 1993, the cap has had little effect in reducing executive pay or in linking pay to performance. Even worse, the cap increases corporate tax liabilities—liabilities that likely burden workers and investors. In effect, the cap punishes rank-and-file employees and shareholders for pay deals made by directors and executives. This Article demonstrates why prominent reform proposals would be ineffective and counterproductive. It then devises a novel reform approach—a confiscatory tax on excessive executive pay—that would limit executive pay without burdening workers or investors. But this Article rejects the confiscatory tax because of the serious distortions that it would cause for business-organization and labor-supply decisions. Ultimately, the superior policy position is to repeal the cap. Concerns about income inequality are better addressed through robust progressive taxation, and concerns about corporate governance are better addressed through non-tax mechanisms, such as reform of the business-judgment rule and expansion of director liability.
This Article examines what we term “regulatory entrepreneurship”—pursuing a line of business in which changing the law is a significant part of the business plan. Regulatory entrepreneurship is not new, but it has become increasingly salient in recent years as companies from Airbnb to Tesla, and from DraftKings to Uber, have become agents of legal change. We document the tactics that companies have employed, including operating in legal gray areas, growing “too big to ban,” and mobilizing users for political support. Further, we theorize the business and law-related factors that foster regulatory entrepreneurship. Well-funded, scalable, and highly connected startup businesses with mass appeal have advantages, especially when they target state and local laws and litigate them in the political sphere instead of in court.
Finally, we predict that regulatory entrepreneurship will increase, driven by significant state and local policy issues, strong institutional support for startup companies, and continued technological progress that facilitates political mobilization. We explore how this could catalyze new coalitions, lower the cost of political participation, and improve policymaking. However, it could also lead to negative consequences when companies’ interests diverge from the public interest.
Design—which encompasses everything from shape, color, and packaging to user interface, consumer experience, and brand aura—is the currency of modern consumer culture and increasingly the subject of intellectual property claims. But the law of design is confused and confusing, splintered among various doctrines in copyright, trademark, and patent law. Indeed, while nearly every area of IP law protects design, the law has taken a siloed approach, with separate disciplines developing ad hoc rules and exceptions. To address this lack of coherence, this Article provides the first comprehensive assessment of the regulation of consumers’ aesthetic experiences in copyright, trademark, and patent law—what we call “the law of look and feel.” We canvas the diverse ways that parties have utilized (and stretched) intellectual property law to protect design in a broad range of products and services, from Pac-Man to Louboutin shoes to the iPhone. In so doing, we identify existing doctrines and principles that inform a normatively desirable law of look and feel that courts and Congress should extend throughout IP law’s protection of design. We argue that design law should protect elements of look and feel but remain sensitive to eliminating or mitigating exclusive rights in response to evolving standardization, consumer expectations, and context. Notably, our normative conception of design protection sometimes departs quite starkly from how courts have expansively conceptualized look and feel as protectable subject matter. Going further, we argue that the new enclosure movement of design, if not comprehensively reformed and grounded in theory, can erode innovation, competition, and culture itself.
Fairness in the administration of the tax law is a subject of intense debate in the United States. As myriad headlines reveal, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) has been accused of failing to enforce the tax law equitably in its review of tax-exempt status applications by political organizations, international tax structures of multinational corporations, and estate tax returns of millionaires, among other areas. Many have argued that greater “tax transparency” would better empower the public to hold the IRS accountable and the IRS to defend itself against accusations of malfeasance. Mandatory public disclosure of taxpayers’ tax return information is often proposed as a way to achieve greater tax transparency. Yet, in addition to concerns regarding exposure of personal and proprietary information, broad public disclosure measures pose potential threats to the taxing authority’s ability to enforce the tax law.
Given the competing values of accountability and enforcement, what tax return information should be observable by the public? This Article considers the role of timing. The IRS continually engages in enforcement actions ex post—after taxpayers pursue transactions and claim tax positions—such as by conducting audits or negotiating settlements. But it also frequently engages in actions ex ante—before taxpayers pursue transactions and claim tax positions—by issuing advance tax rulings to, and entering into agreements with, specific taxpayers. While current law appears to require public disclosure of certain types of ex ante tax administration, many forms of ex ante tax administration remain concealed from public view. This Article argues that documents related to a specific taxpayer’s tax affairs that reflect ex ante tax administration should be publicly accessible as a means of accountability, but that documents that reflect ex post tax actions should remain private in order to preserve effective tax enforcement. Further, this Article proposes that the public should have access not only to ex ante tax administration actions where the taxing authority grants taxpayers’ requests, but also to those actions where the taxing authority denies such requests, even if it does so without issuing an official written determination, a concept it defines as “dual tax transparency.”