Posted May 15, 2020. To settle a pandemic-related financial crisis at UMass Dartmouth, law faculty are not receiving research compensation in summer 2020. I will be away from my desk, May 16 to August 15. Blog posts will be sparse, and I will not receive email. On the upside, summer 🌞! If you need to reach me, please send a message through the faculty assistants’ office (Ms. Cain and Ms. Rittenhouse). Stay thirsty.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Recent commentaries ponder privacy in license plates, history of animal identity

Two blog entries tangentially related to areas of interest of mine crossed my desk this week.

CC TV (Adrian Pingstone CC0)
Privacy law.  For The Volokh Conspiracy at Reason, UC Berkeley Professor Orin Kerr wrote about the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision in Commonwealth v. McCarthy, No. SJC-12750, on April 16.  The Court considered the implications of automatic license plate readers under the Fourth Amendment, concluding that there are constitutional consequences, if not resulting in a violation of the defendant's rights in the instant drug case.  Kerr considers the case relative to the Supreme Court's 2018 cell-tower-location decision, Carpenter v. United States, and against the background of his own work on mosaic theory in privacy law (he's not a fan).  In a purely civil context, mosaic theory, born in the national security arena, has long been a key underpinning of personal privacy rights in their encroachment on the freedom of information, an accelerating conflict in the information age.  The commentary is "Automated License Plate Readers, the Mosaic Theory, and the Fourth Amendment: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Weighs In" (Apr. 22, 2020).

Peacock plumage (Jatin Sindhu CC BY-SA 4.0)
Animal law.  Evolution of animals at law was the subject of an Earth Day commentary for Legal History Miscellany by history Professor Krista Kesselring at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.  She traced the historical change in cultural and common law regard for animals from aesthetic adornment, to property of utility, to something, perhaps, at last, with intrinsic value.  The commentary is "Can You Steal a Peacock? Animals in Early Modern Law" (Apr. 22, 2020).  U.S. courts have evidenced a dawning recognition of animals as more than mere personal property, even in a civil context, moving beyond welcome developments in criminal anti-cruelty statutes.  The nascent trend is evident and needed especially in the area of tort damages, in which the valuation of a pet as an item of property fails profoundly to account for real and rational emotional suffering upon loss.  See furthermore the recent: Richard L. Cupp, Jr., Considering the Private Animal and Damages (SSRN last rev. Apr. 2, 2020).  HT @ Private Law Theory.

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