UCLA Law Review Volume 56, Issue 3


Transgender Youth, Adolescent Decisionmaking, and Roper v. Simmons

Transgender youth who seek access to hormones encounter a number of barriers that frustrate their ability to express their gender identity and exacerbate the effects of the overwhelming levels of discrimination and harassment they face on a daily basis. Because the parents of transgender youth are often hostile or absent, the parental consent requirement imposed by informed consent laws adds to these barriers. In some states, transgender youth can overcome the obstacles imposed by the parental consent requirement by invoking the mature minor doctrine, which allows physicians to provide medical services without parental consent to adolescents who are sufficiently mature to make the decision. Thus, in this context youth benefit when the law recognizes their decisionmaking capacity. In the criminal justice context, in contrast, youth are more likely to benefit when the law recognizes the limits of their decisionmaking capacity. When the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the juvenile death penalty in Roper v. Simmons, for example, it relied in part on a view of adolescents as less mature and therefore less culpable than adults. The Roper Court emphasized three areas of difference between adolescents and adults: impulsivity, susceptibility to peer pressure, and incomplete character formation. This Comment evaluates the implications of the Roper Court’s view of adolescence in the context of transgender youth seeking access to hormones by invoking the mature minor doctrine. A careful, context-specific analysis of the adolescent characteristics identified by the Roper Court shows that, rather than posing a conceptual barrier, the decision supports a presumption in favor of allowing transgender youth to obtain hormones without parental consent.

The Supreme Court as "Prime Percolator": A Prescription for Appellate Review of Questions in Patent Law

Generally speaking, the Supreme Court of the United States is a tribunal with the final say on “what the law is.” But the desirability of the Supreme Court’s acting as “final law sayer” is questionable in patent law, where the Court primarily reviews the work of the Federal Circuit, a comparatively expert body having virtually exclusive jurisdiction over initial appeals. Nonetheless, in recent years, the Supreme Court has spoken repeatedly and forcefully on questions of substantive patent law. I argue that such Supreme Court activity is best justified and conceived not as directed toward final law saying, but instead as involving limited interventions to stimulate new or renewed judicial examination of important legal questions. Centralized appellate review in the Federal Circuit makes patent law unusually susceptible to doctrinal ossification. By engaging in periodic merits review of patent law doctrines that the Federal Circuit may have locked into place either too quickly or for too long, the Supreme Court can help initiate escapes from suboptimal legal equilibria. But the Court’s competence is limited. Consequently, when intervening in substantive patent law, the Court should generally leave primary responsibility for developing precise legal formulas to the Patent and Trademark Office, district courts, and the Federal Circuit.

Red: Racism and the American Indian

How does racism work in American Indian law and policy? Scholarship on the subject too often has assumed that racism works for Indians in the same way that it does for African Americans, and has therefore either emphasized the presence of hallmarks of black-white racism, such as uses of blood quantum, as evidence of racism, or has emphasized the lack of such hallmarks, such as prohibitions on interracial marriage, to argue that racism is not a significant factor. This Article surveys the different eras of Indian-white interaction to argue that racism has been important in those interactions, but has worked in a distinctive way. North Americans were not primarily concerned with using Indian people as a source of labor, and therefore did not have to theorize Indians as inferior individuals to control that labor. Rather, the primary concern was to obtain tribal resources and use tribes as a flattering foil for American society and culture. As a result, it was necessary to theorize tribal societies as fatally and racially inferior groups, while emphasizing the ability of Indian individuals to leave their societies and join non-Indian ones. This theory addresses the odd paradox that the most unquestionably racist eras in Indian-white interaction emphasized and encouraged assimilation of Indian individuals. It also contributes to the ongoing effort to understand the varying manifestations of racism in a multiracial America. Most important, it provides a new perspective on efforts to curtail tribal sovereignty in the name of racial equality, revealing their connection to historic efforts to maintain the inferiority of Indian tribes by treating them as racial groups rather than political entities with governmental rights.

The Neglected Right of Assembly

This Article considers changes in both our understanding of the constitutional right of peaceable assembly and our regulatory practices with respect to public assemblies. It shows that through the late nineteenth century the state could only interfere with gatherings that actually disturbed the public peace, whereas today the state typically regulates all public assemblies, including those that are both peaceful and not inconvenient, before they occur, through permit requirements. Through this regulatory shift, and judicial approval of it, the substance of the right of peaceable assembly was narrowed. The history recounted in this Article is significant because it provides insight into the democratic and social practices the right was intended to protect—insight that cautions against collapsing the collective right of assembly into the individual right of free expression.