Showing posts with label legal research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label legal research. Show all posts

Friday, January 29, 2021

New England poli sci group announces virtual meeting, extends CFP deadline for faculty, grad students

NEPSA art
The New England Political Science Association (NEPSA) has decided that its spring 2021 annual conference will be all virtual.

The call for proposals (CFP) deadline has been extended to February 19, 2021. NEPSA will convene on April 23 and 24, 2021.  The CFP is open to faculty and graduate students.  I have tremendously enjoyed this conference in past years and found it to be a collegial, inclusive, and supportive environment for scholars both junior and senior, and both political science and interdisciplinary, including law students. 

NEPSA subject-matter sections are: American Politics, Comparative and Canadian Politics, International Relations, Political Theory, Politics and History, Public Law, Public Policy, and Technology and Politics.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Law students ponder litigant Trump

(Cross-posted at Trump Litigation Seminar and The Savory Tort.) In the fall semester, I had the privilege of exploring Trump litigation in depth with a team of law students in my Trump Litigation Seminar.  These students are to be commended for plowing through more than 27,000 pages of court records, which are compiled and publicly available at our course blogsite, a project of The Savory Tort.  In addition to our case reviews and discussions, students completed skills exercises in discovery, pleading, public relations, negotiation, and statutory interpretation, and rounded out the semester with research and writing.  From the final papers, with author permission, here are selected abstracts.

Screenshot of PAC ad, via WNYC

Jessi Dusenberry, Anti-SLAPP Law and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Northland Television, LLC.  President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against a small news organization in Wisconsin for defamation.  The news organization, WJFW-TV, ran an advertisement that showed President Trump calling COVID-19 a “hoax,” as a graph tracking the rate of infections showed an upward track on the screen.  Many news stations ran the same ad, but the Trump campaign chose to sue only WJFW-TV, which is owned by a small company that has only two other local TV stations.  The political organization that produced the ad later joined the case as a defendant.  The lawsuit was initially filed in Circuit Court, but later was removed to federal court.  The lawsuit against WJFW-TV follows President Trump’s legal strategy of filing frivolous lawsuits to force the defendant to spend money in legal fees to get the case dismissed.

Unlike many other states, Wisconsin doesn’t have an anti-SLAPP law to prevent the use of the courts to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights.  This paper provides general background on strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) and the need for anti-SLAPP legislation, as well as the jurisdictional differences in drafting anti-SLAPP legislation.  The paper goes into further detail on California’s anti-SLAPP legislation, beginning with the types of speech covered by the statute.  The paper also analyzes significant judicial interpretations of the anti-SLAPP legislation in California.  Finally, the paper explores the applicability of California’s anti-SLAPP protections to media defendants.

From Pixabay by Gerd Altmann

Richard Grace, The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Everything but the Truth: Tort Reform and Social Media.  The tort of defamation has been changed irreconcilably by the advent of social media, which have provided famous or notorious plaintiffs additional means to combat and remedy alleged damage to their reputations, regardless of the merits, leaving plaintiffs of more ordinary means no alternative but to rely on a system that is heavily defendant-favored and cost-prohibitive.  In the “Twitter Age,” a period of revolutionary growth in connectivity and ability to spread information globally via social media, the ultimate affirmative defense to defamation, truth, seems almost to have become subjective, with division and polarization increasing at an alarming rate.  Reasoned conclusions have been replaced by echo chambers.  Whether it is “alternative facts,” or the notion that being “morally right” is more important than being “precisely, factually, and semantically correct,” the rapid growth in ability to editorialize and disseminate "truth" has wider implications for the “search for the truth” of modern litigation.

This paper first aims to discuss several theories of reform to the tort of defamation.  The paper explores the actions of a serial defamation litigant, Donald Trump, specifically in the matters of Trump v. O’Brien and Miss Universe L.P. v. Monnin, the latter involving an entity owned by Trump, which were selected to demonstrate the ability of a defamation plaintiff to leverage the public sphere as an extra-judicial remedy.  These cases were chosen to represent pre- and post-Twitter outcomes.  O’Brien was decided prior to Twitter becoming a social media mainstay, whereas Miss Universe was more recent.  Finally, the paper considers the external issues this gap in tort remedy for reputational damage has caused, particularly with regard to § 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has provided social media companies, service providers for purposes of the act, with statutory immunity from tort actions for defamation.  Ultimately, the jurisprudence of defamation law has enabled a two-tiered system of remedies: for those who must bear the cost and burden of litigation, and for those who can litigate the matter outside of the courtroom, in the court of public opinion.

Pa. electoral map from 2012 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Alyssa McCartney, The President Who Cries Voter Fraud: A Recurring Theme of Baseless Allegations.  In 2019, Pennsylvania enacted its first update to the Election Code in nearly eighty years. On a bipartisan vote, the General Assembly passed a measure to allow “no reason” mail-in ballots. Act 77 allows any registered voter to request a ballot by mail, fill it out in the time framed outlined, and send it back to be processed. In the wake of a global pandemic that left Americans unable to leave their homes, this necessary update would cause quite the controversy in months to come. Explaining a new process comes with challenges, but tack on a President purposely fanning the flames of doubt, mail-in ballots have been tough to sell. The primary election used the updated process for the first time on June 2, 2020. Receiving nothing but praises and positive feedback, the measures enacted seemed to keep tensions at ease. That is, until the sitting President’s re-election campaign filed suit against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and the Commonwealth’s sixty-seven counties. As President Donald J. Trump continued to allege baseless voter fraud accusations, the American people grew more restless in a year that’s already full of uncertainty. As a key swing state in presidential elections, Pennsylvania took center stage in Trump’s war on the election “rigged by Democrats.”

This article aims to address Trump’s relentless allegations of voter fraud—something that is not new for him. By analyzing Pennsylvania and offering an insight into Centre County election protocols, this article will squash the baseless accusations to show the election results are fair, free, and not riddled with fraud. Although President Trump refuses to concede in hopes of the United States Supreme Court intervening, he lacks any standing and cannot offer substantial evidence to support his claims. In short, these frivolous lawsuits are an attempt to undermine our democratic process by a man who has no shame spinning the narrative to suit his needs.

From Flickr by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Natalie Newsom, Make America Great Again.  In 2015, Donald Trump announced that he was running for President of the United States in a controversial statement outside his towering building in New York City. What ensued in the months following was a campaign that shattered presidential norms with Trump having a scattered history of sexual misconduct allegations, zero experience in elected office, and a tendency to make offensive and derogatory comments. These comments caused Rafael Oliveras López de Victoria to file a lawsuit on September 24, 2015, to ban Donald Trump from becoming President. Oliveras López argued, albeit unsuccessfully, that there is a particular caliber of moral solvency expected of U.S. Presidents, and that the court should intervene in situations in which a presidential candidate fails to meet that criterion.

The most interest facet of the Oliveras López lawsuit is what it reveals about American politics and morality. As it stands now, making offensive comments aimed at protected classes in the United States will not stop you from becoming President, the most highly regarded public-servant position in our nation. That fact seems to run afoul of another phenomenon that exists in the United States today, in which people may be fired from their government jobs for social media posts featuring alcohol or expletives. This leaves the question of why a double-standard exists. This paper aims to address the problem of that gap between the law and morality and discusses what the case filed by Mr. Oliveras López teaches us about restoring faith in American decency.

E. Jean Carroll in 2006 by Julieannesmo (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Pedro Raposo, Trump, Sexual Assault, and Defamation.  Defamation has proven a useful tool to survivors who have been keeping their accusations to themselves for fear of coming forward, and have since managed the strength to come forward against their abusers. Notably, many individuals who have been abused in the past may have concealed their stories for too long, and the statute of limitations for sexual assault have run. With a defamation suit, survivors are able to reopen the issue of their sexual assaults by addressing the accused's statements.  President Donald Trump has not been able to escape this recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations ushered in by the #metoo movement. To date, there have been nineteen women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. The three cases focused on here were brought by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, adult film star Stephanie Clifford, and author E. Jean Carroll.  Two of these cases have reached variable results, with the court ruling the allegation in the Zervos case to be actionable against Trump, while the defamation claim in Clifford’s case was defeated by Trump’s legal team. 

Snapshot of Trump deposition in CZ-National

Spencer K. Schneider, Paying for Privacy.  As public opinion of the courts diminishes, it is important to consider the role that public access to the courts, or lack thereof, plays in this public opinion. In the United States, courts have a long history of public access to both proceedings and documents, much of which is grounded in the First Amendment. However, this access is not absolute, and the wealthy and powerful often seek to keep court documents under seal and out of the public’s view. One of these wealthy and power individuals is Donald Trump, a frequent litigator to say the least. This paper analyzes court decisions in Trump Old Post Office LLC v. CZ-National and Low v. Trump University, respectively, to make public and seal the video depositions of Donald Trump taken during each case’s discovery, and the effect that allowing wealthy parties to seal court documents can have on the public perception of the courts.

José Andrés on Flickr by Adam Fagen (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Ricardo J. Serrano Rodriguez, Trump Old Post Office LLC v. Topo Atrio LLC and the Court of Public Opinion.  This paper attempts an exploratory study of the plausibility of public opinion influence in the case of Topo Atrio through media outlets such as newspapers, television, radio, and social media platforms. The ways that public opinion is formed have changed throughout our history. Since the times of the public square, public opinion influences the way that individuals conduct themselves in society. This influence changes the dynamics of social interaction in a deep manner and polarizes the judgment of the public. The internet and social media have expanded the reach of the public sphere to a point of near immediate dissemination of information. Now, newspapers are not only physical, as the name suggest, but digital also, which multiplies the publisher’s reach. Donald Trump is a public figure who also has made a brand out of his name and relied on this brand in his quest for political approval. In the case of Topo Atrio, ... José Andrés and Donald Trump, through their corporations, entered into an agreement in which Andrés would run a restaurant in Trump’s Old Post Office Hotel. The controversial comments about immigration made by Donald Trump when he announced his candidacy created a bustle of publicity that followed him to the end of his presidential term. But could it really influence the court of law?

Pixabay by Christian Dorn

Matthew R. Stevens, The Art of the SLAPP.  This paper dives into two cases, Makaeff v. Trump University and Clifford v. Trump, and dissects the anti-SLAPP issues and motions made in the cases. More specifically, the paper views the anti-SLAPP issues in these cases through the broader scope of anti-SLAPP legislation’s underlying policy goals. While extremely important and inextricably connected to the legal results of each case, the application of substantive law is not the primary focus of this paper. There is a plethora of variables that distinguish the two cases, but the key point of divergence on which this paper focuses is Trump being a defamation plaintiff in one case, and a defamation defendant in the other. It is also important to narrow the scope of SLAPP suits themselves. SLAPP suits can apply to far more than just free speech, but this paper focuses the scope of SLAPP suits through the lens of defamation claims. The paper’s ultimate goal is to use these two cases as examples to see whether anti-SLAPP legislation is operating as intended within the context of the greater policy goals of the legislation.

O'Brien's book (Amazon)
Judson Watt, Press Protections in Civil Discovery: Trump v. O'Brien.  Donald Trump is a well-known public figure who is famous for his litigious nature. In 2006, he filed a defamation lawsuit against a well-known reporter and author in the New Jersey courts. This lawsuit survived a motion to dismiss and was allowed to move into the pre-trial discovery phase. Donald Trump was allowed to pepper the defendant with requests for document production and interrogatories concerning his confidential sources. This paper addresses the decision of the trial court to allow pretrial discovery to proceed even though Trump failed to meet his burden to establish actual malice by the defendant, as required by the Supreme Court since New York Times v. Sullivan. This paper shows that the trial court disregarded statutes and case law by allowing the case to continue into the discovery phase.

This paper gives a basic overview of the hurdles faced by public figures in filing a defamation case. It examines and explains journalistic privileges in reporting on public figures and how these privileges were applied by the trial court. It examines various statutes and case law binding in New Jersey and New York at the time of the suit. This paper shows that this case was wrongly decided from the beginning and that it never should have moved into pretrial discovery. The trial court failed properly to apply the precedents of New Jersey or New York, and, as a result of this failing, a reporter was subjected to an endless stream of interrogatories, discovery, and legal harassment by a wealthy public figure. Indeed, this story is the embodiment of the motivations for press shield laws, and the importance of these laws in a democratic society.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Laws suspending driver licenses for fines need reform

Spencer K. Schneider, a 3L at UMass Law and teaching assistant in my Torts I-II classes, has authored an article for the National Lawyers Guild Review.  He examines state systems that suspend driver licenses upon unpaid fines and their perversely circular detrimental impact.  He concludes that constitutional challenges to the systems don't hold water, but that they should be reformed as a matter of sound legislative policy.  Here is the abstract.

Forty-three states have, or previously had, some version of a driver’s license suspension program. These programs are shown to have disastrous financial effects on the lives of those who cannot afford the fines inherent in them. Challenges to such license suspension schemes have been brought throughout the United States but have been largely unsuccessful. Where relief ultimately may be found is in state legislatures or city governments. When those bodies discover that, although these programs are in fact valid and constitutional, many of them have such detrimental and long-term impacts on so many citizens, they ultimately result in more harm than good. This realization has led many states to experiment with changes to, or repeals of, their driver’s license suspension programs with varying success. However, many states still rely on the fines levied by these programs and there is a legitimate argument that the programs are imposed to keep dangerous drivers off the street. Ultimately, this is an issue that arose from legislation and, despite finding its way into the court system, must be solved with legislation.

The article is Spencer K. Schneider, The Wheels on the Bus: The Statutory Schemes that Turn Traffic Tickets into Financial Crises, 77:2 Nat'l Law. Guild Rev. 81 (Summer/Fall 2020).


Monday, October 26, 2020

Legal scholars overlook scholarship about state FOIA, but dedicated academics toil for state transparency

Professor Robert Steinbuch and I aim to draw attention to the undersung work of state-law transparency  scholars through our recent publication in the Rutgers Law Record.  Here is the introductory paragraph.

We have read with interest Christina Koningisor’s publication, Transparency Deserts. While there is much to be lauded in the work – all access advocates would like to see more scholarship and publicity about the importance of transparency and accountability – we are disheartened by the article’s failure to recognize the extant vibrant body of scholarship and activism in state freedom of information law.

[¶] We, moreover, find this omission characteristic of a broader ignorance in legal academia of the sweat and toil of legal scholars, scholar-practitioners, and interdisciplinary academics who analyze and advocate for state transparency laws. This blind spot particularly manifests, unfortunately, among those at elite (typically coastal) law schools, who generally contribute vitally to the literature of the undoubtedly important federal transparency regime. These federal freedom-of-information scholars too often neglect the critical importance of state transparency laws – as well as state-transparency legal academics.

[¶] Quite in contrast, state-law access advocates generally acknowledge the value of federal statutory analogs, often referencing federal norms and practices comparatively, while, nonetheless, working upon the apt assumption that state access laws, en masse, have a greater day-to-day impact in improving Americans’ lives and in enhancing democratic accountability in America than does the federal Freedom of Information Act. Koningisor’s article evidences this disappointing tension. 

The publication is Transparency Blind Spot: A Response to Transparency Deserts, 48 Rutgers L. Rec. 1 (2020).  The publication is available for download from SSRN.  

Christina Koningisor, author of the referenced Transparency Deserts, kindly responded on the FOI listserv and gave me permission to share her thoughts.  Included is a link to her ongoing work.  Professor Steinbuch and I could not be happier to engage in a dialog that educates scholars and the public on the importance of state FOIA.

[T]hank you to Rick and Rob for taking the time to so thoughtfully respond to my piece. I sincerely appreciate it. And I take your points of criticism. The article certainly could have benefited from drawing more upon the excellent state-level scholarship that you cite in your response to my piece. I will also be sure, moving forward, to draw more heavily from the accomplished work being done by communications and journalism scholars. The point that I meant to make in my article, and which I should have stated more clearly, is that there is less overarching scholarship on public records laws across the fifty states. Of course, there are excellent state-by-state studies and critiques, some of which I cite in my piece, and many of which I do not, and which you have helpfully flagged in your response. But I was more interested in the work that has been done looking at the state of these laws as a whole. At this level, we can begin to make generalizations about what is working and what is not that are more difficult to observe when focusing solely on a single state. Rick and Rob's response seems to suggest that such surveys are inherently flawed, because they will inevitably be underinclusive and cannot possibly account for the variation across the fifty state legal regimes and the hundreds of thousands of state and local government entities. I agree—I explicitly make this point, and acknowledge the limitations of tackling such a diverse array of laws and government entities in my article's methodology section. But I believe it is nonetheless important to take stock of how these laws operate nationwide, so long as we are forthright and honest about the limitations of any fifty-state survey. I think there is value in and space in the literature for both state-by-state deep-dives and overarching cross-state examinations. Rick and Rob do highlight, in their appendix, some of the broader cross-state scholarship on state public records law that I failed to cite, most of which are published in communications and journalism journals. Again, I concede this point and agree that I should become more familiar with this interdisciplinary work.

I also want to note briefly that my Article reaches a somewhat more nuanced conclusion than transparency is simply worse at the state and local level. I do stress the significant advantages that many state public records laws have over FOIA, including the more rapid response times, the absence of a national security apparatus and classification process impeding access, and, often, the greater accessibility of state and local records officers, among other advantages. I also note that many of these state laws suffer drawbacks when compared to FOIA: many do not have easy and relatively cheap administrative-level appeal options, for example, and the costs of records production at the state and local level can often be prohibitive. Further, although there is no national security secrecy apparatus at the state and local level, it is often exceptionally difficult to obtain records from state and local law enforcement agencies. The piece was in fact inspired by my experiences working as a lawyer at The New York Times, where, in the process of assisting reporters with their federal, state, and local records requests across the country (not just in the coastal states!), I noticed that local police departments were often the most difficult agencies to obtain records from, in some ways even more secretive and difficult to work with than even the federal intelligence agencies. But more critically, the article emphasizes that when these state laws do fail—and I think we can all agree that they sometimes do—there are fewer alternative routes for information to come to light. These transparency failures are exacerbated by broader structural features of state and local government, including reduced external checks from local media and civil society organizations, and reduced intra-governmental checks between the various branches of government. This is of course not to say that every law fails in every instance, or that there aren't many excellent civil society organizations in many places doing critical work on government transparency and oversight. Of course there are abundant examples of such laudable advocacy efforts. But there are also many places across the country where local media institutions have disappeared, civil society organizations are in dire financial straits, and intra-governmental checks are muted. The nation's access laws are remarkably diverse, and contain myriad examples of both transparency failures and successes.

Once again, I very much appreciate these thoughtful and incisive responses to my piece, and I hope to continue this conversation moving forward. I have a new state transparency law-related article, [Secrecy Creep,] forthcoming in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. It is still quite early in the editing process, so I would love to hear any feedback and suggestions ....

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Media law journal covers social media and fair trial, mugshot privacy, 'true threat,' China's FOIA, more

The latest edition of the Journal of Media Law & Ethics (8:2, Fall/Winter 2020) spans a range of fascinating issues.  Here is the table of contents from editor Eric Easton and publisher University of Baltimore Law School.

Social Media Access, Jury Restraint and the Right to a Fair Trial
Zia Akhtar

To Post or Not To Post: The Ethics of Mugshot Websites
Mark Grabowski

The Trouble with “True Threats”
Eric P. Robinson & Morgan B. Hill

Merely Window Dressing or Substantial Authoritarian Transparency? Twelve Years of Enforcing China’s Version of Freedom of Information Law
Yong Tang

Free Expression or Protected Speech? Looking for the Concept of State Action in News
Christopher Terry, Jonathan Anderson, Sarah Kay Wiley, & Scott Memmel

A description from Dr. Easton:

In the current issue, British lawyer Zia Akhtar takes a hard look at the use of social media by jurors in criminal trials and the accompanying concern that the rights of a defendant may be prejudiced by the practice. The article advocates a legal code that would prohibit juror access to information about a defendant’s previous record.  

Mark Grabowski follows with an examination of so-called “mugshot” websites through the lens of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. The article concludes that, while mugshot sites are not an inherently unethical journalism practice, many news outlets present mugshots utilizing ethically dubious methods that urgently need to be reformed.

The need for clear standards governing the kinds of communication that can be considered unprotected “true threats” is demonstrated by the analysis of Eric Robinson and Morgan Hill in our third article. The authors point out that, when the Supreme Court had the opportunity to clarify the elusive concept, in Elonis v. United States and three subsequent cases, they failed to resolve the ambiguities of the doctrine, notwithstanding the prevalence of abusive language online.

It may surprise many of readers that freedom of information is alive, if not entirely well, in China. Based on a massive quantitative study, Yong Tang suggests that enforcement of freedom of information law in the PRC seems more forceful than many Western observers would expect, although there is scant evidence that the law has led to more accountability and better governance.

Finally, Christopher Terry and associates point out that the national press has been woefully remiss in explaining why the so-called censorship of right-wing and other voices by social media platforms is not an abridgment of First Amendment rights. While all likely readers of this journal understand the concept of “state action” in the First Amendment context, the media has generally left the public clueless.

I serve on the journal's editorial board.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Policy behind 'home confinement' as criminal sanction has evolved, law grad writes in transnational journal

A graduate of my Comparative Law class and our outgoing Student Bar Association President, Markus Aloyan, J.D. '20, has published a research article on criminal home confinement in the Trento Student Law Review.

Despite the mention of, and my current feeling of, home confinement, I didn't think that the article is related to the pandemic.  And then, lo and behold, college admission scandal perpetrators started staying home (e.g., USA Today, N.Y. Post, L.A. Times).

Here is the abstract.
Markus Aloyan
Home confinement, also known as house arrest or home detention, first appeared in the United States in the 1970s as a form of pretrial release issued after a defendant's indictment. Today, this alternative sentencing scheme possesses several additional purposes. Home confinement is imposable as a form of supervised release from incarceration and as a term of parole. More importantly, it has evolved into a condition of probation and an autonomous criminal sanction that serves in a capacity independent of probation. This article aims to show that although historically spurred in large part by the practical deficiencies of the American prison system (namely its overcrowding and excessive costs), the study of home confinement actuation promulgates a broader understanding of its effectiveness in the promotion of rehabilitation and the prevention of recidivism. Psychological and fiscal aspects will be analyzed with domestic and international (New Zealand) considerations. Concurrently, this paper draws attention to the margin of judicial discretion afforded in shaping individual home confinement implementations, and discusses its advantages and related concerns.

The article is Markus Aloyan, Home Confinement in the United States: The Evolution of Progressive Criminal Justice Reform, 2:1 Trento Student L. Rev. 109 (2020).

Friday, April 10, 2020

Report from a Social Distance: Week 3

Tort Anomalies, Other Worlds, and Fox Tales

Ready for shopping
My quarantine since returning to the United States ended last weekend, and we made a bold trip to the grocery store to refuel.  Whole Foods effectively stopped delivery here since the strike, and our nearest locally owned delivering grocer is on the opposite side of Narragansett Bay.  So we suited up with gloves and, as Rhode Island Governor Raimondo instructed, bandana masks to leave the house.  Otherwise, life isn't much different in or out of official self-quarantine.

What I'm Reading

My sabbatical plans prematurely aborted, this week involved catching up on some professional reading.  For those into legal arcana, here are the most interesting reads that crossed my virtual desk.  Other readers, feel welcome to scroll down to TV.  I'm also continuing with my church's Bible reading, which has us into the David saga of 2 Samuel, with excellent accompanying video as usual by the BibleProject.  For those who celebrate, respectively, happy Passover, and happy Easter!

Steve Hedley, Tort: The Long Good-Bye (Apr. 8, 2020).  Posted to SSRN, this paper is a fascinating survey of tort law through history, culminating in and replete with contemporary observations ripe for the unpacking.  Prof. Steve Hedley, University College Cork School of Law and Private Law Theory, sees tort law as on its way out, but not without leaving tort lawyers and scholars with plenty of work to do in the process.  As his abstract explains, "Discouraging harmful behaviour is a fundamentally different project from supporting the sick and penniless.... [W]e cannot finally say farewell to tort until all of its vital functions are replaced with better provision, which requires both political will and a fair degree of optimism – both currently rare commodities."  Consider this observation: "From the 1980s onwards in the US, ‘tort reform’ began to be code for restricting tort without replacing it with any other system – in other words, putting tort’s hitherto steady expansion into reverse."  As someone committed to tort's social value and also someone who suffers anxiety over corporatocracy, I found compelling Hedley's broader thesis that the tort system has been honed over centuries to work its aims on people, and the system is dysfunctional vis-à-vis corporations, which today account for the vast majority of tort defendants.

James Macleod, Ordinary Causation: A Study in Experimental Statutory Interpretation, 94 Ind. L.J. 957 (2019).  Causation has been a central obsession of philosophers for millennia, and it's something lawyers worry a lot about too.  I am liable for battery if I punch a compatriot at the bar.  But that conclusion assumes that the plaintiff-victim is complaining of injury that sits along a causal flow downstream from my ill intention.  What if the plaintiff suffered from a pre-existing injury, and I complicated it?  What if, subsequent to our encounter, the plaintiff's injuries were worsened by medical malpractice?  Things get more complicated when physical injury is removed from the problem.  When is an employer's discriminatory intent a legal cause of wrongful termination if the employee would have been fired anyway for misfeasance?  In tort law, contemporary American courts struggle to approximate the "ordinary" meaning and understanding of causation.  See, e.g., Comcast Corp. v. Nat'l Ass'n of Afr. Am.-Owned Media, No. 18-1171 (U.S. Mar. 23, 2020) (SCOTUSblog).  In an ambitious project of empirical survey research, Prof. James Macleod, Brooklyn Law School, has demonstrated that despite this effort, our understanding in tort law may have diverged from ordinary understanding in important respects.

Daniel J. Solove, The Myth of the Privacy Paradox (last rev. Mar. 13, 2020).  Years ago, when privacy law was barely a thing, those of us working in freedom-of-information-advocacy circles counter-argued to personal-privacy proponents that the public's desire for privacy was belied by how readily a person would surrender name, address, and telephone number for an extremely unlikely "chance to win" ripped from a cereal-box top.  The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press named an influential publication after this "privacy paradox" in 1998, and my friend and colleague Charles N. Davis, now dean of journalism at Georgia, ushered the concept into the digital age.  More recently, see WNYC Note to Self's "Privacy Paradox" project (logo pictured).  Now privacy law guru Prof. Daniel Solove, George Washington Law, has turned his attention to the problem.  In a new paper, posted to SSRN in February and forthcoming in the GW Law Review, 2021, Solove explains that the paradox emerges from an error in level of abstraction.  A person's disregard for privacy in the narrow and specific context of filling out a raffle entry cannot be equated to a person's rational and more holistic notion of personal integrity.

Alien tort: Nevsun Resources Ltd. v. Araya, 2020 S.C.C. 5, [Feb. 28, 2020] (Canada).  Amid recent decades of globalization, comparatists and internationalists in U.S. tort law have been rapt with waxing and waning trends in the extraterritorial application of American law, especially under the enigmatic Alien Tort Statute (e.g., Radiolab).  The same trends are evident around the world, as national courts struggle to demarcate limits to their own power, balancing classical principles of comity and judicial restraint against burgeoning challenges to human rights coming from both public and private sectors.  In a 5-4 decision in February, the Canada Supreme Court dismissed a claim under customary international law upon compelling allegations: "Three Eritrean workers claim that they were indefinitely conscripted through Eritrea’s military service into a forced labour regime where they were required to work at a mine in Eritrea. They claim they were subjected to violent, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The mine is owned by a Canadian company, Nevsun Resources Ltd."  The court dismissed under "act of state doctrine," an extra-constitutional principle of judicial restraint comparable in function (see, e.g., Achebe, Cooper, Hill), to foreign sovereign immunity.  HT @ Prof. Simon Baughen, Swansea University, Wales.

Climate change: Smith v. Fronterra Co-op. Grp. Ltd., [Mar. 6, 2020] N.Z.H.C. 419 (New Zealand).  In a legal era of legislative abdication, interest groups have resorted to courts around the world to combat climate change.  A victory upon an unusual statutory basis in a Dutch appellate court in 2018 (The Savory Tort, Oct. 12, 2018), upheld by the Dutch Supreme Court in 2019, lent perhaps undue optimism to the global movement, which is ongoing.  Courts in many nations have fairly determined that the judiciary is ill suited to tackle the profound policy crisis of climate change.  Accordingly, in January, the U.S. Ninth Circuit dismissed a youth class action in Oregon that had gained some traction after an indulgent district court ruling (The Savory Tort, Oct. 12, 2018).  Juliana v. United States, No. 18-36082 (9th Cir. Jan. 17, 2020).  Unremarkably, then, the New Zealand High Court decided likewise, in part, in a climate case in Auckland in March.  A plaintiff coastal land owner sued greenhouse-gas-emitting energy and dairy interests on three tort theories, "public nuisance, negligence, and breach of an inchoate duty."  The court dismissed the first two counts for reasons of, respectively, failure of injury different in kind and degree as between plaintiff and public, and failure of foreseeability.  What's interesting is what the court wrote briefly about the plaintiff's surviving "inchoate" theory:
I am reluctant to conclude that the recognition of a new tortious duty which makes corporates responsible to the public for their emissions, is untenable. As noted by [three justices on the N.Z. Supreme Court in a paper at a 2019 climate change conference in Singapore] it may be that a novel claim such as that filed by Mr Smith could result in the further evolution of the law of tort. It may, for example, be that the special damage rule in public nuisance could be modified; it may be that climate change science will lead to an increased ability to model the possible effects of emissions. These are issues which can only properly be explored at trial. I am not prepared to strike out the third cause of action and foreclose on the possibility of the law of tort recognising a new duty which might assist [plaintiff] Mr Smith.
HT @ Prof. Barry Allan, University of Otago, Dunedin, N.Z., who predicts, via the Obligations Discussion Group, "that the defendants will appeal the decision that the inchoate tort is tenable, although they may act strategically and demand that this first be properly pleaded."

What I'm Watching

Goliath s3 (Amazon trailer) was so much better than s2.  Season 2 kind of sold out on the concept of Billy McBride as a civil lawyer and got drawn nearly into the realm of trite criminal procedural.  Plenty of crimes definitely happen in s3, but the legal drama centers on a class action lawsuit to save a small California town that's had its water supply stolen by a ruthless family of almond farmers.  Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) and partner Patty Solis-Papagianis (Nina Arianda) are in top form, and legal TV trivium: Patty's biological mother is played by Monica Potter, who was Crane, Pool & Schmidt associate Lori Colson in Boston Legal s1 (2004-05).


Ragnarok s1 (Netflix trailer).  This six-episode Norwegian supernatural mystery is thoroughly entertaining, with top-flight dubbing into English.  It's proved a smashing success as a Netflix original—Netflix has 750,000 subscribers in Norway and 4m in Scandinavia, according to What's On Netflix—produced by Copenhagen-based SAM, and already has been green-lighted for a second season.  The show takes place in the fictional Norwegian town of Edda, which is the real southwestern, fjord-side town of Odda, where a ruthless family of manufacturing magnates have poisoned the local water supply and accelerated the melting of the glaciers (recurrent theme). Our hero, Magne (David Stakston), is a Billy Batson-like teen who gradually realizes that he's a kind of incarnation of the Norse god Thor, destined to battle evil to save his town and the environment. The story plays loosely with Norse myth, giving Magne a trickster brother, Laurits, played with Loki-worthy aplomb by Jonas Strand Gravli.

The New Pope (HBO).  Academy Award-winner John Malkovich proves his iconic status yet again in this brilliant portrayal of a weirdly enigmatic and intellectual Pope John Paul III, who ascends to the papacy upon the unusual circumstance of a comatose predecessor.  This is really a second season, a worthy sequel series to The Young Pope, in which Jude Law starred as a megalomaniacal yet magnetic and possibly truly divine Pope Pius XIII.  Negligible spoiler, mostly tease: Pius does come out of his coma, and the two great actors take the screen together before the season ends.

Altered Carbon s2 (Netflix trailer).  Dystopian science fiction at its small-screen best, this Emmy-nominated winner is back to tell more of the story of "the last Envoy" soldier Takeshi Kovacs, based on the cyberpunk novels of Richard K. Morgan.  Thanks to the plot device of human immortality through changing bodies ("resleeving"), New Orleans-born Anthony Mackie, the Avengers' Falcon, is able to take over, from s1's Joel Kinnaman, House of Cards' Will Conway, the lead role of Kovacs in s2, and muscular Mackie shines, or broods, as the case may be.  Ironically, the delightful yet ephemerally holographic character of Poe is carried over from s1 in the capable craft of Chris Conner.  Netflix also has premiered a 74-minute animated feature film in the Altered Carbon universe, Resleeved; Conner has a voice role.
Curb Your Enthusiasm s10 (HBO).  Comedy break.  Every episode is instant-classic LD. The familiar cast returns, including Jeff Garlin, who never misses an improvised punchline.


A new category this week, "I Watched, But Can't Recommend":

First, a lot of folks are talking about Kingdom, a two-season-and-counting Korean Netflix horror to sate your unhealthy bloodthirst for zombies when you've run out of Walking Dead and Z Nation.  I got through half of s1, and it couldn't hold my interest.  The zombies are secondary to a drama about entitlement to the royal throne; I had trouble following the story or caring.  If you need a zombie fix, I suggest Daybreak s1 on Netflix, though it will not get a second season.

Second, I caught up on Riverdale s4 over at CW TV, coming soon to Netflix.  It was a decent backdrop for multi-tasking, but couldn't hold my attention full-time.  It was fun for the first couple of seasons, but the characters and story have played out.  If you're missing K.J. Apa, watch The Hate U Give again while hoping his agent gets him another worthy TV vehicle.

Third, Westworld s3To be fair, I'm probably going to watch the whole thing, because I love the visuals and the addition of Aaron Paul.  But what the heck is going on?  Who are all these people?  Maybe the pieces will come together, but as of now, I'm not even sure what the show is about.

What I'm Eating

As we made it to the grocery store this week, my wife acquired the necessaries for her famous Louisiana gumbo with chicken and andouille.  The filé powder we had already, not easy to come by in New England.

Remember, as your resources permit, to #SaveOurRestaurants.  We had goat cheese burgers from Billy's last week, and this week we have our eye on Brickyard Pizza Co.

What I'm Drinking

We're very fond of Gevalia's single-origin line, and Costa Rica Special Reserve is our favorite.  Tico ag, Swedish craftsmanship.

The Foxtale Dry Gin, from Portugal, is inspired by the fox of The Little Prince (Amazon; in The New Yorker): "the ideal digestive for a night with friends"—at a proper social distance, of course.  A solid choice, though I'm hard pressed to detect any particular botanical beyond the citrus and a hint of malt.

What I'm Doing to Stay Sane


Photo by JJBers CC BY-SA 4.0
East Bay Bike Path.  I haven't been able to run with the sprained ankle I dragged home from Africa, but biking has been OK.  And luckily, as yet, Rhode Island has not closed the bike paths with the state parks.  There was a rumor of bike path closure on Nextdoor.com, and I hope that doesn't come to be.  I admit that there have been some troubling concentrations of people at bike path choke points, as in the center of East Providence.  But if the paths close, there will only be more people squeezed along busy, sidewalk-less streets, such as mine, where cars compound the corona risk.  Hear me, o Honorable Governor.

Our long national nightmare lumbers on.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

'Ley contra la pandemia': CFP se extiende a las contribuciones en español


¡Convocatoria de contribuciones!

Los académicos, estudiantes, profesionales, todas las disciplinas, todas las naciones, están invitados a contribuir con artículos, comentarios y otros trabajos al nuevo sitio web y blog, Law Against Pandemic. Se aliente especialmente el trabajo de los estudiantes.  (CFP en inglés via The Savory Tort.)

Law Against Pandemic es un espacio para el debate sobre los aspectos legales de las pandemias como una herramienta de desarrollo y popularización de los logros de las ciencias sociales. El objetivo principal del proyecto es a crear una plataforma de publicación de artículos de alta calidad sobre aspectos legales de pandemias, para contribuir al discurso y al análisis de posibles soluciones.

Se aceptan textos en inglés, francés, alemán, polaco, y, ahora, español.


  

Siga Law Against Pandemic en Facebook y en Twitter.

 

 Envíe su manuscrito por email.


Estos comentarios recientes se publican en Law Against Pandemic.

Alternative dispute resolutions during global pandemic and beyond
by August Adamowicz

Is there a tool that could be used by the lawyers to mitigate the negative effects arising from the situation we are in? I believe that in some instances proper use of Alternative Dispute Resolution methods could help resolve disputes remotely, but also after the epidemic ends it could reduce the number of urgent court cases and at least in some part help to return the judicial system to normal functioning.  Read more.

Pandemic and international trade law. Is there a silver lining?
by Cyprian Liske

Current events show more clearly than ever how strong economic interconnections between countries are in the modern, globalised world. A severe crisis in just one country can break supply chains around the whole globe, not even to mention financial consequences which, as we know at least since 2008, can spread just like a deadly virus.... How do the countries choose to deal with it internationally? Do we restrict trade in the face of such dangers? Or are we trying to liberalise it in order to keep the flow of goods? What about the export of deficit goods which may be used by countries to fight pandemic domestically?  Read more.

Labour market after COVID-19
by Łukasz Łaguna

Currently, the whole world is fighting the COVID-19 epidemic. All countries are racing to find anti-crisis solutions to ensure the least possible losses for every labour market. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that no country in the world will be able to maintain such intensive financial assistance in the long run. High social benefits are only an ad hoc aid for the temporary maintenance of financial continuity of entrepreneurs.  Read more.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Colorful U.S. case of baroness, Swiss bank makes waves in international jurisdiction, student note reports

Swiss banks in Geneva. Photo by torange.biz CC BY 4.0.
Spencer K. Schneider, my eminently able teaching and research assistant, has published a short case note in a research journal, the International Journal of Procedural Law, on a Massachusetts jurisdictional case with interesting facts.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court handed a win to a Swiss heiress who claims she was suckered into a bad investment in alchemy by a fellow aristocrat, a storied Swiss bank, and American entrepreneurs. The lower court erred when it dismissed defendant Swiss bank Rothschild for want of personal jurisdiction, the American appeals court ruled in June 2019.
Mr. Schneider aptly considers: "The American approach to jurisdiction over foreign corporations via personal agency feeds the possibility of inconsistency with jurisdictional law elsewhere in the world, such as under the Brussels Convention in Europe."

The note is Spencer K. Schneider, Aristocrats’ Squabble Over Fortune Squandered on American Alchemy May Expose Swiss Bank to U.S. Jurisdiction, in Michele Angelo Lupoi, Grandes Décisions/Leading Cases, 9:2 Int'l J. Proc. L. 339, 360 (2019).

The case is Von Schönau-Riedweg v. Rothschild Bank AG, 95 Mass. App. Ct. 471, 128 N.E.3d 96 (2019) (Casetext).

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

CFP: Law Against Pandemic


Calling contributors!


Scholars, students, practitioners, all disciplines, all nations, are invited to contribute articles, commentary, and other work to the new website and blog, Law Against PandemicStudent work is especially desired, so professors, please spread the word (at an appropriate social distance) in your schools.

Law Against Pandemic is a "[s]pace for debate on the legal aspects of pandemics as a tool of development and popularisation of the achievements of social sciences." The project states as its main goal, "Creation of a publishing platform for high quality articles on legal aspects of pandemics, in order to contribute to the discourse and the analysis of possible solutions."

"We will publish articles and commentaries on the interrelations between law and pandemics.  There is no character limit. We accept texts in English, French, German, and Polish."

Read more in Law Against Pandemic guidelines.

 

Follow Law Against Pandemic on Facebook and on Twitter.

 

 Email submissions.


Currently available from Law Against Pandemic:



Mikołaj Sołtysiak, SARS-CoV-2 a stosunki zobowiązaniowe [SARS-CoV-2 and contractual relations].  Mikołaj Sołtysiak is a third-year student in civil law at Jagiellonian University in Poland.  The article is in Polish; here is the abstract, my translation:
The epidemic state means a period of extraordinary circumstances affecting many contractual relationships. Civil law provides for certain constructs that will enhance the content of contracts in exceptional circumstances, but only to a limited extent. Many situations caused by SARS-CoV-2 do not qualify for the use of mechanisms such as rebus sic stantibus, or lack of liability due to force majeure, and yet, it seems axiologically inappropriate to be indifferent to such cases. Here the key role of the legislator is revealed.
While Sołtysiak contemplates a need for the exercise of legislative power, I contributed a piece to Law Against Pandemic on the need in the United States for the federal executive authority to step up to the challenges of the coronavirus crisis.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Comparative law papers span globe, round out 2019

Comparative Law is so rewarding to teach that I'm probably overcompensated to do it.*  The inherently diverse nature of the course content, co-instructor Dean Peltz-Steele and I find, inspires students to creativity in their work in a way that much of law school never manages to do. Moreover, I think, that opportunity to be creative is why students respond favorably to the class, an oasis in the monotonous sea of bar courses.  We learn so much from their projects in Comparative Law, which adds in turn to the rewards of teaching the class.

At risk of pride, I wish to share, with students' permission, the impressive range of projects generated in our class this semester in 2019.  The following excerpts are of my construction, so any roughness in the editing is my fault.  No need to call for reference checks on any of these students; every one has our informed endorsement.  Let the hiring begin!

Markus Aloyan (Instagram), Executive Powers: Rebirth of a Soviet State [Armenia and the United States]. Therefore, the current political climate and constitutional crises in Armenia contain a historically driven, Soviet-Communist basis and more modernly developed Russian influence that came to fruition in the young Republic's 2015 Constitutional Amendments. The Russian-influenced reforms will be compared to the executive powers vested by the American Constitution, and analyzed for their causes and effects on the region. [Footnotes omitted.]

Tyler Hicks, England and United States Fishing and Hunting LawsThe purpose of this paper is to compare the very different histories of England and the United States for wildlife management, and then show how even though these countries have different systems, their overall goal to protect and further wildlife is generally the same in effect. England and Massachusetts generally face the same issues when it comes to enforcement of their laws as well. Both countries value the ability to be able to hunt and fish but understand that they have a duty to hunt and fish both ethically and humanely. In particular, I will compare the fishing and hunting laws of England and the laws of the United States, including Massachusetts.

William McGuire, Prostitution and Human Trafficking [Sweden, UK, US].  Prostitution and human trafficking are two intertwined issues that have prevailed throughout the course of modern history, and an analysis of the different approaches taken by different societies articulates a quadripartite view of prostitution as a whole.  The four views are the moralizing view, normalizing view, the patheticizing view and the victimization view.   These four views have produced three categories of legal systems, the absolute or partial criminalization of prostitution, the regulation and legitimization of prostitution, and the abolition of prostitution.... In this paper, I will articulate the three different legal systems through example.  I will use the Swedish Model to show how the partial criminalization of prostitution has affected Swedish society as a whole.  I will use the United States to show the American model of abolition of prostitution, with the exception of the state of Nevada.  Finally, I will use The Netherlands to show the regulation of prostitution.  I will then discuss the social pressures that led to the adoption of the legal system used in each country, specifically, whether the impetus was to combat human trafficking or not.  Finally, I will conclude by discussing whether there is convergence or divergence on a regional and global level.

Daniel Picketts, [Civil Rights in United States and Contemporary Afghanistan].  The evolution of civil rights has been driven by changing societal sentiments and ultimately cemented in different civilizations through changes in their laws. Currently in the United States, civil rights are the buzzword of the day and the public’s changing sentiment is demanding attention from the nations law makers. The current climate and inclusion of different classes that make up the civil rights of the United States has taken a winding path that has led it away from the oppressive, segregate founding, to the arguable progressive, inclusive current day.... Comparing two vastly different countries with glaring differences becomes productive when the factors that have effected changes in civil rights, while accounting for any differences, cultural or otherwise, are similar. What this comparison sets out to accomplish is to compare two different countries: the United States, and Afghanistan. The similarities in civil rights are few and far between. Instead what will be compared are the events in the two countries that are somewhat similar and the outcomes that resulted in the respective countries....


Christine Powers, A Comparison of the Child Custody Standards in the United States, New Zealand, and Ireland.  This paper is an examination and discussion of the different child custody definitions and terminologies and the standard deployed by the judicial system when making a child custody determination. The paper will discuss the different factors that a judge may or must consider when making a child custody arrangement. Further, the article will discuss whether or not there is a trend towards a unified standard and whether unification of the standard is possible.







Kiersten Reider, I Do But I Don't Want To: A Comparative Analysis of the Criminal Marital Rape Laws of the United States and India.  The aim of this paper is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the criminal rape laws of the United States and India, with an emphasis on marital rape. I will spend time discussing each country individually before drawing a comparison between the two. First, I will discuss the United States, briefly touching on the common law history of marriage, and criminal rape laws at the state and federal level. I will then discuss India, touching on its hybrid legal system, and the history of marriage and criminal rape laws at the state and federal level. Last, I will discuss the similarities and differences between the two systems.

Christina Suh, Comparing the Law to Court-Mandated Divorce Parenting Class Between the United States and South Korea. This paper compares legislative and judicial history in implementation of court-mandated parenting classes during divorce proceedings in the United States and South Korea.  The discussion demonstrates how evolution of social movements in each country changed its customary laws in the area of family law jurisprudence.  In exploring the multiple related causes behind the development of the mandated parenting class, parts of the paper will address how Korea’s high cultural context influenced its revision in laws to focus on the protection of minor children and promote gender equality.  Although there is a lack of strong studies that speaks to the direct effectiveness of the program in each country, the related research demonstrates the importance of educating parents about managing conflict and promoting the health and safety of children.  In conclusion, findings will show why changes in law that educate and decrease adverse child experience (ACE) is an approach that benefits society as a whole, in the long term....

Brittany Wescott, Juvenile Justice Converges on Principles Leading to the International Harmonization of the Juvenile Justice System [South Africa, US].  This paper explores the similarities and differences between two countries, South Africa and the United States, specifically Massachusetts, in relation to the international principles governing each respective juvenile justice system. This paper explains how both the South African system and the U.S. system developed, illustrating the various principles each holds dear. In addition, this paper looks specifically at the value behind setting a minimum age of criminal responsibility, the crimes juveniles can be charged with, the limitations on sentencing, and the handling of juveniles in and out of the court room. Regardless of ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both countries have made significant progress toward embodying the principles of the international community.

Kyle Zacharewicz, Wish You Were Here: A Comparative Analysis of U.S. and Canadian Refugee Law and PolicyImmigration and refugee policy of various nations has started to move in the trend of “locking down” the border. It has been seen, both with the increase in numbers of refugees and the occurrence of several populist movements across the globe gaining real traction, that many countries have begun to implement a “Nation First” mentality toward the growing threat of “those people,” the nomadic wanderers by happenstance of displacement and inability to return home.... While the exchange of ideas on the treatment of and allowances for Refugees in the greater European community are robust and important, this paper will instead take a deep dive into the myths of how two different countries, the only two neighbors on the continent of North America, deal with and treat refugees and asylum seekers in order to discover how truly they hold up currently.... I find it effective to analyze these two countries as they are connected by their common law systems, participation in international treaty-making, similar legal structure in immigration and refugee procedure, and a border.... It is easy to see how the policy of one can affect the other, and my goal after explaining the reality of how these systems operate today is to show how the United States has clamped down on its immigration policy, and why Canada largely has the potential makings of a similar populist movement toward “locking down” the border.

Congratulations, Comparative Law students!


*Hyperbole.  I'm not overcompensated at UMass, despite an inexplicable vote by the tenured faculty to disallow anyone asking for a raise.  Compare Salary.com with MassLive database.  Nonetheless, I will remain grateful for the opportunity to have worked with and learned from my students.