Critics of the individual mandate to purchase health care insurance make a simple but seemingly compelling argument. If the federal government can require people to buy insurance because that would be good for their health, then the government can require people to buy all sorts of things that are good for their health, like broccoli or membership in an exercise club.

To avoid the prospect of the ultimate nanny state, U.S. district court judges in Florida and Virginia concluded that while the federal government may regulate economic activity, it may not regulate economic inactivity. Thus, once you decide to purchase health care insurance, the government can regulate the terms of your insurance policy. However, you cannot be forced to purchase the policy in the first place. To breach the activity-inactivity line, wrote Judge Roger Vinson, would invite all kinds of well-intended, but liberty-destroying, laws.

On May 19, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that an alien was foreclosed from establishing that alleged ineffective assistance of counsel deprived him of his right to due process, as aliens do not possess any constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel in immigration proceedings, and thus any ineffectiveness of privately retained counsel cannot be imputed to the government for purposes of establishing a violation of the Fifth Amendment. On its face, the holding of the Fourth Circuit regarding this issue seems spectacularly uninteresting—immigration proceedings have long been recognized to be civil in nature, and thus the Sixth Amendment does not provide any right to counsel. Without a constitutional right to counsel, there can be no constitutional violation if privately retained counsel performs ineffectively, as there will be no nexus in those circumstances between the counsel’s ineffectiveness and the state action required for invoking the Constitution. Notwithstanding this seemingly straight-forward analysis, the Fourth Circuit joined just one other court, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in finding that ineffective assistance of counsel in immigration proceedings does not constitute a violation of an alien’s right to due process. Every other court of appeals that addressed this issue has found that, although the Sixth Amendment does not guarantee a right to counsel in immigration proceedings, ineffective assistance of counsel may render the proceedings so fundamentally unfair and so impeding the presentation of an alien’s case that the ineffectiveness could deprive an alien of his right to due process under the Fifth Amendment. These courts have reached this conclusion in a perfunctory fashion, without squarely reconciling Supreme Court precedent that seems to argue strongly against the possibility that the ineffective assistance of counsel may constitute a violation of due process in circumstances where the Constitution does not provide a right to counsel.

In the waning days of the Bush administration, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued Interpretive Bulletin 08-1 (“IB 08-1”) concerning the legal obligations of employee benefit plan fiduciaries when they invest the plan assets they control. Specifically, IB 08-1 addresses plan fiduciaries’ duties in the context of “economically targeted investing,” the investment of plan assets in pursuit of benefits for third parties rather than for plan participants and their beneficiaries. IB 08-1 revises prior regulations on economically targeted investing issued early in the Clinton administration.

The assets held in trust by employee benefit plan fiduciaries represent compensation earned by plan participants. In accordance with the duty of loyalty codified by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), such assets must be invested with single-minded concern for the welfare of the participants and their beneficiaries. Economically targeted investing contravenes ERISA’s duty of loyalty by permitting, indeed encouraging, plan trustees to invest plan assets to generate ancillary benefits for persons other than the participants whose labor is embodied in those assets.

In the fall of 2006, United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson handed down United States v. Arnold, which held that U.S. Customs agents violated the Fourth Amendment when they searched a laptop computer belonging to an inbound international traveler at Los Angeles International Airport without any particularized suspicion. The Ninth Circuit recently overturned the district court’s ruling, but the district court’s analytical approach remains of vital interest. That is because the decision was the first in the nation to find that the “border exception” to the Fourth Amendment—which permits law enforcement to conduct suspicionless, routine searches of personal items crossing the international border or its functional equivalent—did not apply to laptop computers. Given its novelty and potential implications for all digital media, it is hardly surprising that the district court’s ruling in Arnold has grabbed the attention of the press, law student commentators, civil liberties lawyers, and, most notably, other judges.