UCLA Law Review Discourse, Volume 61
The U.S. Supreme Court announced in Miller v. Alabama, that the mandatory imposition of life in prison without the possibility of parole against juveniles was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The million-dollar question was whether it would do any good for the over 2000 juveniles who had previously been so sentenced. The touchstone of Miller’s retroactivity hinges on the question of whether the rule it announced is substantive—and therefore retroactive—or procedural.
The quasi-substantive/quasi-procedural nature of the Miller opinion created a conundrum for lower courts, which have split on the retroactivity question, with several additional jurisdictions yet to decide. As detailed in this Essay, the answer to this puzzle comes from an unlikely source: the Court’s Sixth Amendment jury-trial jurisprudence, and particularly its June 2013 interpretation of that right in Alleyne v. United States. Though unrelated to both juvenile sentencing and retroactivity, the Alleyne Court determined that where the existence of a fact dictates whether a mandatory minimum applies, the fact acts as an element of the underlying offense. This Essay extrapolates from the Alleyne holding and argues that Miller’s requirement that sentencers consider age and its attendant consequences in cases involving juveniles—making age at the time of the offense a fact that triggers whether the mandatory minimum sentence of life without parole applies—converts age to an element of the underlying offense, rendering Miller a substantive rule that must be applied retroactively.
This Essay analyzes the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons in civil conflicts and applies its findings to the Syrian civil war. We find that international humanitarian law and international criminal law provide a clear ban on the use of chemical weapons in international armed conflict. This prohibition is less clear in noninternational armed conflict, suggesting the need for legal reforms to firmly ban the use of chemical weapons in all armed conflicts. Furthermore, we find the use of chemical weapons in Syria does not, by itself, cross a legal red line justifying military intervention. Instead, the use of chemical weapons is one factor in determining the existence of a humanitarian crisis requiring strong international action.
Credit reports play a central role in some of our most important transactions, such as buying a house or car, or even getting a job. Yet an alarming number of credit reports contain damaging inaccuracies. The primary purpose of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is to protect consumers against these inaccuracies, but the FCRA also makes it very difficult for consumers to force creditors to fix errors. In particular, there is no private right of action to enforce the creditor’s duty of accuracy unless a consumer first notifies a third party—a consumer reporting agency such as Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax—and unless that agency in turn notifies the creditor. This structure raises significant procedural hurdles for a consumer and can make it extremely difficult to sufficiently plead a cause of action against a creditor. This Essay argues that Congress should change the law to give consumers the private right of action they now lack.
In the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s state court acquittal in the Trayvon Martin killing, the U.S. Department of Justice is considering whether to bring federal criminal charges against Zimmerman arising out of the same incident. While such a dual or successive prosecution does not violate double jeopardy, the determination whether the federal government should bring charges turns on whether the Petite Policy, an internal U.S. Department of Justice Guideline, has been satisfied. Professor Kurland contends that because the requisites of the Petite Policy, that the prior state trial must have left a substantial federal interest demonstrably unvindicated, cannot be established, a federal prosecution should not be authorized. Rather, more appropriate and constructive nonprosecutorial alternatives should be pursued to address the myriad of criminal justice and social policy concerns impacted by the tragic incident.
In Public Interest Lawyering: A Contemporary Perspective, Professors Alan Chen and Scott Cummings provide a nuanced and thorough account of the relationship between lawyering and social change. In this Review Essay, Professor Douglas NeJaime explores how key insights from Chen and Cummings’ textbook could impact the way students approach adjudication, which remains the primary subject of instruction in law school classrooms. Continuing the marriage equality case study with which Chen and Cummings conclude, NeJaime analyzes the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decisions inHollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor through the lens of Public Interesting Lawyering. He argues that rather than understand the decisions as instances of top-down, court-ordered reform, students would locate the Court’s intervention within a bottom-up, dynamic process of legal and social change. As Public Interest Lawyering reveals—and as the Court’s approach in Perry and Windsor confirms—lawyers, litigants, and activists, rather than judges, drive that process.
In this contribution to the Symposium honoring Stephen Yeazell, the author explores the interaction between group litigation and social context in the contemporary setting. She traces the recent law of class action waivers coupled with mandatory individual arbitration clauses in consumer and employment contracts. She shows how the Supreme Court’s decisions in AT&T v. Concepcion and American Express v. Italian Colors enable large corporations that impose class action bans on consumer and employees to achieve de facto immunity from decades of hard-won protective legislation. She concludes that Yeazell’s insight—that the availability of group litigation is intricately linked with a society’s social arrangements—is as true today as it was in the 1970s, when he first examined the issue.
This short Essay draws three lessons for evidence scholars from Stephen Yeazell’s justly celebrated work in civil procedure. The first lesson is to take history seriously but to be realistic about what it can tell us: to use history to gain perspective, not to recover lost wisdom. The second lesson is to take rulemaking seriously: to think about the processes through which evidence rules are formulated and reformed. The third lesson, and the most important, is to take lawyers seriously, not just as the agents through which procedure is implemented but as drivers and obstructers of reform.
This last lesson is an especially critical one for evidence scholars, because the complexity and opacity of evidence law has meant that lawyers are generally the only ones in a position to improve it. Lawyers’ interests, though, diverge in important ways from society’s interests. In particular, lawyers tend to view uncritically, and sometimes even to celebrate, the extraordinary degree to which our system of adjudication, and evidence law in particular, makes a party’s prospects in litigation hinge on the skills of the party’s lawyer. That feature of evidence rules and of our procedural system more broadly usually passes unnoticed, in large part because lawyers find it not only unobjectionable but deeply attractive. But from society’s standpoint, procedural rules work best—all things being equal—when they make the outcome of litigation turn on the merits of the case, not on the relative skills of the lawyers involved: on who is right and who is wrong and on what justice demands. We ask too rarely whether our procedural rules, including our rules of evidence, place too large a premium on lawyerly skill, and whether the culture of the legal profession, and its attachment to a certain heroic image of the trial lawyer, has warped the way that lawyers have struck that balance.
Stephen Yeazell’s pathbreaking study of the history of group litigation revealed how disparate societies have shaped the rules of group litigation to meet their own needs. Professor Yeazell thereby demonstrated that procedural rules are socially contingent rather than universal in nature. In this Essay honoring Steve, I transform that lesson into a new approach to joinder rules. Specifically, I argue that if joinder rules arise out of specific social situations, then the simplest approach to joinder is to adopt a default rule calling for the shape of litigation to reflect the shape of the social activity that gave rise to the litigation. Labeling this concept “social loyalty,” I argue that it provides a new way of identifying what cases ought to be adjudicated in the aggregate and a new defense of their aggregation.
In this brief commentary celebrating Professor Yeazell’s scholarship, I reflect on his seminal book on the medieval roots of group litigation in the light of global developments and technological change.
Stephen Yeazell has long recognized that changes to case capitalization affect the nature and intensity of civil litigation. So too, writing back in 2001, Yeazell identified the next wave of capital with the capacity to alter the American litigation landscape: third-party litigation finance. In the ensuing decade, that industry, and specifically what I call the “lawyer lending” industry—comprised of lenders who extend capital to plaintiffs’ lawyers to finance personal injury litigation—has blossomed. Today, firms like Advocate Capital and Counsel Financial channel tens of millions of dollars to plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers each year and seem poised for further expansion. Picking up where Yeazell left off, this Essay asks: How might the arrival of lawyer lending transform the capitalization, organization, and sophistication of plaintiff-side practice? And how might changes to plaintiff-side practice affect the quantum and character of personal injury litigation in the United States?
The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 was intended to significantly expand the sentencing powers of tribal courts, raising the maximum sentence for a given offense from one year to three. But the Act requires courts that would take advantage of these new powers to provide significant procedural protections to criminal defendants, while failing to provide the funding most tribal courts would need to make those protections a reality. Moreover, the Act leaves vague and open to interpretation the precise form those protections should take, which is an open invitation to federal courts to scrutinize tribal court procedure; this, in turn, may put tribal courts in the position of choosing between longer sentences and retaining their traditional character. These two obstacles—lack of funding, and the danger to tribal courts’ unique character— mean that the Act is likely to sort tribes into two “tiers”: wealthier or more assimilated tribes will be able to take advantage of the longer sentences, while tribes that cannot afford (whether financially or culturally) to change their practices will be left unable to adequately sentence serious offenders. And because of the way the Act resolves a longstanding ambiguity in Indian law, some tribes in the latter group may be left with less sentencing power than they had previously.
Finance is undergoing a fundamental and technological shift. In the years ahead, there will inevitably be new financial characters and new financial cliffhangers. In this reply to the response of Professor Stephen Bainbridge to my article, The New Investor, I offer commentary on one particular new financial character, then on the general trope of cliffhangers as they relate to financial regulation.
The rhetoric of universal healthcare and healthcare for all that pervaded the healthcare debate culminated in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) passage. The ACA, however offers reduced to no healthcare services for certain noncitizen groups, specifically: (1) recently arrived legal permanent residents, (2) nonimmigrants, and (3) undocumented immigrants. This Article explores how the ACA fails to ensure healthcare for all. Specifically, the Essay demonstrates the gap between rhetoric and reality by parsing the ACA’s legislative history, and posits reasons for the gap. The ACA’s legislative history suggests that legislators’ biases towards these noncitizen groups, particularly with respect to the idea that they are not “American,” may explain why the ACA fell short of its goal of healthcare for all. The Essay also offers suggestions on how healthcare advocates for these noncitizen groups may use this understanding of the gap to prevail on their agenda.
Adam Chodorow’s recent essay, Death and Taxes and Zombies, has alerted the legal world to the dangers posed by the looming zombie apocalypse. Chodorow successfully demonstrates that existing tax laws are woefully inadequate in a world where the undead outnumber the taxpaying living. In this Essay, I argue that while tax law may be ill suited to address the zombie apocalypse, federal criminal law offers an alternative approach to solving the problems that Chodorow identifies. In fact, the only plausible explanation for the existence of seemingly pointless features of federal criminal law is that these features are precautions for this imminent disaster. The extensive scope of the federal criminal law, its frequent use of low or nonexistent mens rea requirements, and federal laws concerning mandatory victim restitution create a legal structure that can effectively transfer resources from the undead to the living. Until the zombies arrive, these features will remain largely ineffective.
Women in California have the right to abortion protected by statute and the state constitution. Yet for many women, the “right” to abortion is illusory. Most clinics and hospitals that provide abortions are concentrated in urban areas, leaving many counties without a single abortion provider. Practical barriers to access are compounded by California’s sheer size and geography, resulting in provider shortages and delays in care outside major urban areas.
This access problem is exacerbated by California’s physician-only abortion restriction, which prohibits qualified, licensed health professionals from providing aspiration abortion (commonly referred to as surgical abortion), the most common procedure for terminating a pregnancy in the first trimester. Numerous studies demonstrate that early aspiration abortions are as safe when performed by nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs), and certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) as when performed by physicians. Yet under California’s Business and Professions Code, only physicians can perform this procedure.
This Article challenges the constitutionality of California’s physician-only abortion restriction under the state constitution and argues that the state has no compelling interest in restricting trained and competent clinicians from providing aspiration abortions. Looking at a successful state constitutional challenge to a physician-only abortion restriction in Montana as a model, the Article argues that using California’s state constitution to challenge the physician-only abortion restriction could be an effective approach for improving access to abortion. Further, the strategy outlined in this Article could be used to challenge similar abortion restrictions in other states that have strong state protection for the right to privacy.