Thursday, April 26, 2018

Stand in the place where you work

I began using a standing desk about five years ago, when my colleague Eric Carpenter joined the faculty from the military, where he used a standing desk. About 5-10 people now use standing desks, including one who bought herself a treadmill desk. I bought StandStand, a portable standing desk invented and crowd-funded by Luke Leafgren, a professor at Harvard.

This story reports on recent studies suggesting that the cognitive benefits gained from walking (which might explain why I pace when teaching) are gained by standing while at your desk. Maybe while keeping my classroom laptop-free, I should give students the option of standing in class.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 26, 2018 at 04:50 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cosmic injunctions

Not much discussion of universal injunction in Wednesday's argument in Trump v. Hawaii. The one real exchange occurred late in Neal Katyal's argument for Hawaii, prompted by Justice Gorsuch, who questioned the "troubling rise of this nationwide injunction, cosmic injunction." Gorsuch recognized that the issue was not geography, but district courts issuing a remedy "not limited to relief for the parties at issue or even a class action" and  "assert[ing] the right to strike down a -- a federal statute with regard to anybody anywhere in the world." Katyal acknowledged sharing Gorsuch's impulse, but argued that the Court should not address the issue in this case, because of its immigration context and the need to leave it to lower courts to figure out in the first instance.

I am curious whether the lack of interest in the scope of the injunction hints at where the Court will come down on the merits.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 25, 2018 at 08:59 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

What is Moral Risk?

Suppose you're rather sure that eating meat is perfectly fine. Indeed, you're 80% confident that non-human animals have no right to life and no great harm occurs when they are slaughtered for food. So you can go on eating meat, right? Not so fast. It would only be rational to consider what follows given your 20% confidence in the possibility that you're wrong. Plausibly you might assess the moral harm of being wrong as quite severe. If you're wrong, let's assume you believe, slaughtering animals for food is a great evil, perhaps almost as serious as slaughtering humans for the same reason. 

So here's how things look to our hypothetical person: He's 80% confident that eating meat provides some pleasure and nutrition and is not a significant moral harm. But he's also 20% confident that eating meat is a great evil, not far from being as serious as murder-cannibalism. Now it seems irrational for him to eat meat. If I was 80% confident that opening a box would yield $10,000 for me but 20% confident it would explode and kill me, I'd better not open the box. It's not worth the risk. Why should we analyze these problems any differently when they involve prudential considerations (money vs. explosions) than when they concern moral considerations (pleasures/nutrition from eating vs. harms akin to murder and cannibalism). So, even if our hypothetical person is rather confident that eating meat is perfectly fine, it might be irrational for him to eat meat anyhow, given his levels of confidence and his weighting of the relative harms. That's what makes moral risk important. In our deliberations, it seems that we should consider not only what we believe is moral but what risks we are taking about what is moral as well.

What does this have to do with the law? In a just-published article, I argue that moral risk should lead us to be very skeptical of retributivist justifications of punishment that claim we should punish people because they deserve it for past wrongdoing. Most retributivists find it far worse from a moral perspective to punish an innocent person than to fail to punish someone who is guilty. This asymmetric weighting of moral risks leads them to require a rather higher standard for factual guilt (the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard). But as I'll discuss in an upcoming post, I don't think we can plausibly have sufficient confidence in retributivism to overcome the rather high level of confidence that retributivists seem to demand in order to punish. In the meantime, here's Dan Moller on abortion and moral risk and here's Alex Guerrero on moral risk and eating animals.

Posted by Adam Kolber on April 25, 2018 at 04:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Sponsored Post: Teaching Bus Orgs in the real world

The following post is by Michael A. Chasalow, Director of the Small Business Clinic and Clinical Professor of Law at USC Gould School of Law, and is sponsored by West Academic.

A successful Business Organizations course needs to cover a broad range of material that involves a number of new concepts while keeping students engaged. After several years of teaching, I developed several hypotheticals that connected “real world” scenarios to the substantive material. (Eventually, these hypotheticals developed into the foundation of my Experiencing Business Organizations book.) I have found that practical exercises provide context to substantive material that can be somewhat dry and allow students to engage as “lawyers” rather than passive students. On the other hand, I do not believe that practical exercises alone are sufficient to teach Business Organizations.

Continue reading "Sponsored Post: Teaching Bus Orgs in the real world"

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 25, 2018 at 01:22 PM in Sponsored Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Navigating accommodations and pedagogy

Like many on Prawfs and elsewhere, I've dabbled with laptop bans in the classroom. (For me, I'm deeply uncertain about what the "right" answer is and won't rehash those discussions here.) But I'm aware of situations where a professor has banned laptops only to receive a word from the accessibility services office that a student (or more than one) requires an accommodation--the ability to use a laptop.

And like many on Prawfs and elsewhere, I've wondered about whether I ought to record classes (e.g., to provide opportunities for students with legitimate reasons for absences to hear the material, and to allow students with long commutes to re-listen to class discussion) or not (e.g., to protect the privacy of students and maximize classroom candor, or to prevent incentivizing classroom absences). But I'm aware of situations where a professor has refused to record lectures only to receive a word from the accessibility services office that a student (or more than one) requires an accommodation--the ability to record lectures.

Gone are the days where accommodations were limited to things like time-and-a-half on the exam. A much deeper understanding of students' needs, coupled with much more sensitive university accessibility offices, has given rise to many more accommodations over those available even a decade ago. Some greater contemporary accommodations, like service animals, don't really have pedagogical impact.

But, at the same time, I can't help but start to wonder how to handle these accommodations in relation to pedagogy. If I allow laptops or record all lectures, then it's a moot point. But what if I want to ban laptops or if I don't want to record classes?

I think some of my concerns have been about how students might react. That is, they don't know which students have extended time or other exam-related accommodations because there's a level of privacy inherent in that process. But a student with a laptop in a class where everyone else can't use them stands out--in part, it may call attention to the student with an accommodation (an undesirable result, to be sure), or, in part, it might be a lack of student sensitivity to accommodations (which, perhaps, I or others could communicate more effectively). And a student who gets access to recordings is in the same boat--I have to tell the class that I'm recording the lectures (even though the students generally don't get access to them), but at least they can't single out the students with the accommodation, but the same lack of sensitivity is an issue. (Or, more crudely, a complaint that the system is "unfair" to them if they want to type or listen to recordings.)

So, my temptation might be to forego any kind of pedagogical decisionmaking and go with the path of least resistance--record, type, whatever you'd like. But that strikes me as suboptimal, especially if I'm convinced (and, I should note, I'm not totally convinced in any of these arenas) that I ought not do it.

Maybe there's a third way--working with the accessibility services offices to develop more nuanced accommodations that avoid these concerns: win-win or something like that. But I'm not sure those kinds of options would be available, and it would involve me second-guessing the decisions of professionals who've weighed student requests carefully.

So... I don't know. It's something I've been grappling with. Have any of you struggled with these issues? If so, have you reached any better resolutions than I have?

Posted by Derek Muller on April 25, 2018 at 12:53 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

What to cover and when

There is a connectedness among the pieces of the law-school curriculum, one that may have increased as we have expanded course offerings, eliminated required courses, decreased hours (at least in 1L), and varied the types of offerings. Sometimes this is personal--I used Fed Courts to cover stuff (such as the Grable line) I cannot get to in Civ Pro and Civil Rights to cover stuff (all of § 1983 and Bivens) I cannot get to in Fed Courts. Other times it is broader, as some courses rely on other courses for foundation and connection--we want students to know crim law and procedure before we send them to work in a prosecutor or PD office.

And sometimes this touches not only on what we teach in doctrinal classes, but the order in which we teach it. There is a never-ending debate in the Civ Pro world about whether to start with pleading and the FRCP or jurisdiction (and then whether subject matter or personal). I am in the former camp, initially because the person I learned Civ Pro from is in that camp and now because I believe it is the best approach, although I see the merits to the alternative. My FIU colleague who teaches the other section of Civ Pro begins with Pennoyer. In Evidence, I begin with Relevancy and do not reach Hearsay until the final month of the semester, again because that is how I learned the material. My FIU colleague who teach the course reaches Hearsay much earlier in the semester.

I was speaking with my colleague who runs our outstanding Academic Excellence Program, working with marginal spring 1L and fall 2L students (this program is a big reason for our Bar-pass success). He links his support class to particular doctrinal classes--Civ Pro for spring 1L and Evidence for fall 2L; the special extra assignments and close support he provides are for writing assignments linked to those classes. And this difference in order of coverage is causing him some headaches. If he assigns a question on Hearsay or P/J or discovery early in the semester, only half the class will know the material from the doctrinal course.

I am not sure how to resolve that problem. I have considered reasons for teaching in the order I do, as do my colleagues, and I doubt either of use will convince the other. Order, it seems to me, affects how I teach the material and changing the order changes how I teach. I can teach Hearsay a certain way because, by the time we get there, my students have a basic understanding of relevancy; I can teach Personal Jurisdiction a certain way because, by the time we get there, my students have a basic understanding of what a civil action and what it looks like. Again, my colleagues would say the same in reverse.

But our choices, however well-founded, have downstream effects.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 25, 2018 at 09:25 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I only want to see you working on your Civ Pro test

Zimmer as Trustee for the Kin of Prince Rogers Nelson v. Trinity Medical Center, a wrongful death action in Illinois state court by Prince's Estate against the hospital and doctors in Moline, Illinois that treated him, and failed to recognize a possible overdose, about a week prior to his death, and Walgreen's, two Walgreen's stores, and several Walgreen's pharmacists for prescribing him medications improperly.

Consider:

Continue reading "I only want to see you working on your Civ Pro test"

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 24, 2018 at 08:23 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Book Review Roundtable on Kathleen Brady's "The Distinctiveness of Religion in American Law"

Last Spring, the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School (more here) hosted a small roundtable conference dedicated to Kathleen Brady's then-new book, The Distinctiveness of Religion in American Law:  Rethinking Religion Clause Jurisprudence.  Each participant wrote a short reflection on the book -- a kind of "admission ticket" -- and these reflections (along with Brady's response) formed the basis for the day's conversations.  I'm pleased to report that the "tickets" have been collected in the November 2017 issue of the Journal of Law and Religion.  They are, if I say so myself, really interesting.  Take a look!

 

Posted by Rick Garnett on April 24, 2018 at 11:06 AM in Religion, Rick Garnett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Re-Engineering Humanity

I just got my copy and started reading Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger's (with foreword by Nicholas Carr) new book Re-Engineering Humanity and its fantastic. It shows how perhaps more than being worried of AI taking over we should worry about how AI is changing us and what we believe is at the core of our humanity: free will, social engagement, creative independent thought. Here is a synopsis:

In this wide-reaching, interdisciplinary book, Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger examine what’s happening to our lives as society embraces big data, predictive analytics, and smart environments. They explain how the goal of designing programmable worlds goes hand in hand with engineering predictable and programmable people. Detailing new frameworks, provocative case studies, and mind-blowing thought experiments, Frischmann and Selinger reveal hidden connections between fitness trackers, electronic contracts, social media platforms, robotic companions, fake news, autonomous cars, and more. This powerful analysis should be read by anyone interested in understanding exactly how technology threatens the future of our society, and what we can do now to build something better.

Brett is coming to San Diego this week so I can't wait to host him here for a faculty workshop this Thursday, and then immediately drag him in return to a book talk I am giving in the afternoon at UCSD. (by the way - my book You Don't Own Me just came out this week in audio for all you audible lovers - 11 hours, or listen to it in double speed!).

 

 

Posted by Orly Lobel on April 23, 2018 at 04:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Universal injunctions in Trump v. Hawaii and Chicago v. Sessions

SCOTUS hears argument on Wednesday in Trump v. Hawaii on the constitutional and statutory validity of the third travel ban, including (perhaps) the validity of the universal injunction. Marty Lederman explores the scope-of-injunction issue; he concludes that if the court reaches the scope question, it may be entirely dicta. A Supreme Court decision declaring the ban constitutionally invalid will, in almost all cases, result in the government suspending enforcement across the board. So the Court passing on the scope issue will have no practical effect.

Meanwhile, a divided Seventh Circuit panel affirmed the universal injunction as to the sanctuary-city-funding regulations. Sam Bray critiques the ruling at the VC. I will be spending the coming week updating some writing on the subject.

A few thoughts after the jump.

Continue reading "Universal injunctions in Trump v. Hawaii and Chicago v. Sessions"

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 22, 2018 at 05:59 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

More on PowerPoint

As one of the "Oh, I never use PowerPoint" people Derek mentions, I wanted to add on to a couple pieces of his post. Derek says he uses PP for three things: 1) The text of a rule or statute; 2) Visualizing a concept such as a flowchart; and 3) Photos and other AV material. And he and I teach some of the same classes.

First, not using PowerPoint is not the same as "simply sp[eaking], lectur[ing], engag[ing] in Socratic dialogue." While I (proudly) never use PP, I fill the dry-erase board with flow charts, key terms or phrases, hypothetical problems, and occasionally statutory text, especially if I want to break the pieces of the statute down. I recall a SEALS panel on using AV in class and one of the speakers presented his slide for the Erie flowchart. It was the same flowchart I use, just with more color and boxes and permanency. But the dry-erase board allows me to interact with the visuals, circling and underling things as we go, something that is impossible on the sterile slide (even with a laser pointer).

Second, the drawback to putting text on a slide is that students stare at the slide instead of the text in their books. I want them to learn to read and highlight or underline or mark-up the text as they go, by having the text right in front of them and being able to work with it. I have been aware this semester of how much students jot down what they hear about a statute in their notes and use the remembered language from their notes, rather than going back to the precise text and textual language. This is important when we are jumping around to multiple rules and they have to figure out how to read the rules together and fit them as parts of a whole. I prefer to read the rule together, with everyone looking in her own book, rather than presenting it in one spot for all.

Continue reading "More on PowerPoint"

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 21, 2018 at 05:47 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (9)

Friday, April 20, 2018

It's time to have the talk... about PowerPoint

Few things are more ubiquitous and less discussed in legal education than PowerPoint. It inspires obsessive use and targeted hate.

I use PowerPoint with varying degrees of regularity in the classroom (and while I'll focus on that here, some of the discussion points are fruitful for consideration for academic talks, too). (As an aside, I typically used Prezi, a more dynamic open-canvas environment than PowerPoint, but given the decline of Flash and Prezi's move toward more PowerPoint-like features, I may be abandoning that platform soon.) And I use it for basically three things. (I'll use PowerPoint as a shorthand for basically any audio-visual display in the classroom, but PowerPoint does come with its own stigma and faults.)

First, the text of a rule or a statute. When I teach Civil Procedure or Evidence, I'm displaying the text frequently. It's quite valuable, I've found, when students break into small groups to work on a hypothetical, or when I'm walking them through a hypothetical--the giant actual text of the rule miraculously helps them pay attention to the words. (I'll very rarely use a quotation from a Supreme Court opinion that establishes a common standard.)

Second, a visualization of some concept, like a mind map or a flow chart. It's designed to synthesize dense material into a digestible format.

Third, photographs, audio-video components (more on that below), or other ways of bringing certain concepts to life. (I've even resorted to the occasional meme.)

In all three, I very rarely churn through a series of slides. Most would linger for minutes, if not most of the class.

Now, some might never use PowerPoint--or, at least, while they might occasionally put up a YouTube video, but wouldn't call such an exercise "using PowerPoint." Some might take a more moderate approach to using PowerPoint to outline topics in class or mention case names & titles to anchor discussion.

But then there are the PowerPoint, in my view, over-users. That might include churning through 20 or 30 slides in a single 60- or 90-minute class. There might be large blocks of text, sometimes summarizing a case, sometimes big chunks of law. There's a temptation to read through it, right off the screen. Students may start transcribing the content furiously on their laptops.

And the visuals. Oh, the visuals. Color schemes, clip art, busyness.

I thought I'd share a few things to think about and ways one might improve the use of PowerPoint. There are the great critics like Edward Tufte, and I can hardly add to them. (I confess, I sometimes violate these principles myself, so typing them out is designed to give me some structure.) This also requires knowledge of far more than PowerPoint--you need to be aware of the location where you are presenting as much as, if not more so than, the software itself.

Continue reading "It's time to have the talk... about PowerPoint"

Posted by Derek Muller on April 20, 2018 at 12:53 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Digital Fix to Alleviate Some Angsting Stress?

If the number of comments a thread receives is any proxy for interest in a subject, the Prawfsblawg angsting thread has to be one of the most popular semi-annual traditions.  I will confess to occasionally checking it, although it rarely provides comfort during submission season.  The general theme is usually one of impotent ignorance — of having no idea what is happening or the odds of a successful placement.  

I completely understand the angsting phenomenon and spent some time this Spring thinking about how better information flows might make the process less stressful.  It occurs to me that the potential of digital platforms like Scholastica could ease some of the angsting stress by providing more information about the decision-making process of the journals.  

As an author, here are the pieces of information I would like to have during the submissions season: (1) has my article been downloaded/read; (2) how many slots are open in the journal; (3) is my article still under consideration for acceptance.  Those three questions tend to line up with the three main causes of submissions stress: silence, strategic expediting, and rejection.

Continue reading "A Digital Fix to Alleviate Some Angsting Stress?"

Posted by Andrew Guthrie Ferguson on April 20, 2018 at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Gundy and Non-Delegation: Which of Several Non-Delegation Doctrines Should Apply to SORNA?

Marty Lederman recently asked me in a comment to an earlier post on Gorsuch’s concurrence in Dimaya how I thought Gundy v. United States should and would be decided. For those who are not hopeless Non-Delegation Doctrine dorks, SCOTUS recently granted cert in Gundy to hear argument on the question of whether SORNA (the federal Sex Offender Registry Law) violates the so-called “non-delegation doctrine” (NDD) by delegating to the Attorney General the decision about whether SORNA should apply retroactively to persons convicted of covered sex offenses prior to SORNA’s effective date.

In other words, Gundy is one of those exciting cases in which SCOTUS might actually revive a moribund constitutional doctrine that has been flitting ghost-like through the US reports since 1935, making a noise but not a difference in the outcomes of cases. Although the prospect of resurrecting the dead naturally draws a crowd, I think that revival of the NDD is unlikely. Despite Justice Gorsuch’s enthusiasm for it, the NDD writ large, as a general legislative duty to cabin executive power with an “intelligible principle,” is a non-starter. The problem is that the NDD contains no intelligible principle for determining when a statutory principle is intelligible. SCOTUS would have to be immune to irony to confer on itself unbridled judicial discretion to decide whether an agency has unbridled executive discretion. In its lack of intelligibility, one might say that the NDD is a doctrine that violates itself.

So revival of the NDD writ large seems unlikely to me. But what about the NDD writ small? After the jump, I will offer a few thoughts about whether SCOTUS might revive a mini-NDD based on the various non-delegation canons described by as Cass Sunstein ‘way back when. These canons include the ideas that (1) agencies do not get deference for their interpreting statutes to be retroactive and (2) prosecutors do not get any deference for their interpretations of criminal law (as Scalia asserted but did not really explain in his Crandon concurrence). SORNA delegates to the Attorney General the power to impose an arguably retroactive effect with an arguably criminal statute. Perhaps the SCOTUS can and should create a mini-NDD to deal with this specific sort of delegation.

Continue reading "Gundy and Non-Delegation: Which of Several Non-Delegation Doctrines Should Apply to SORNA?"

Posted by Rick Hills on April 20, 2018 at 01:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Must the Law Be as All-or-Nothing as Leo Katz Claims?

In Leo Katz's characteristically excellent book Why the Law is so Perverse, he argues that the law is often all-or-nothing because many phenomena that appear to stretch along continua, like becoming a person or dying or giving consent, are better understood as discrete events. He does not go so far as to "defend the either/or character of legal doctrines," but he purports "to show why any efforts to change things are doomed" (p. 157). He claims that "most of the time either/or can’t be avoided, or more precisely, that if we tried to purge a doctrine of it, we would find that either/or has simply migrated to another part of the doctrine or has been replaced by some other, far more troublesome feature" (p. 157). In short, he writes, "we can only affect where a sharp discontinuity will occur, not whether it will occur at all" (p. 157). (Some of you may remember that Katz shared many of the insights in his book over the course of a week at the Volokh Conspiracy.)

In a recent article, I challenge several of Katz's arguments. I aim to show that many phenomena which appear to stretch along continua could indeed be treated as such by the law or at least treated in a less all-or-nothing manner than they are now. After the jump, I excerpt just one example where I argue that death need not be understood in the discrete terms Katz proposes.

Continue reading "Must the Law Be as All-or-Nothing as Leo Katz Claims?"

Posted by Adam Kolber on April 19, 2018 at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Speeding cases

Last week I flagged Suja Thoma' JOTWELL review of the study by Miguel de Figeueirdo, Alexandra Lahav, and Peter Siegelman of the effect of the six-month list on judicial decisionmaking. Those authors criticize new regulations requiring immigration judges to clear a minimum number of cases to be evaluated as satisfactory. Based on their findings on the minimal-or-negative effects of the six-month list on the quality of judicial deisionmaking, they conclude that imposing such obligations on judges who lack life tenure will "cause their decisions to suffer even more."

I continue to wonder whether there are due process concerns with these regulations, by giving judges a personal or pecuniary interest in the case--if not in the outcome, then in the way in which it is litigated (which affects the outcome).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 19, 2018 at 07:00 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is the Left’s Skepticism about Zoning’s Increasing Rents like the Right’s Skepticism about Global Warming?

SB 827, the California bill that would have preempted many local zoning restrictions near public transit, has just gone down to defeat. Part of that defeat was the result of opposition from advocates of affordable housing, many of whom remain skeptical that zoning’s limits on market-rate housing reduce the supply of affordable housing. These advocates reason that market-rate housing in high-demand cities does not benefit poorer households, because poorer households cannot afford it. Sometimes such advocates go further to argue that increasing the supply of new market-rate housing actually leads to gentrification, because such housing attracts wealthier residents who bid up rents. To paraphrase Field of Dreams, if you do not build it (i.e., new market-rate housing), they (i.e., wealthy households) will not come.

Is this anti-market theory of gentrification an accurate picture of reality? The debate, nicely captured by this article posted on YIMBYwiki, has recently become a fierce scrum of claim and counter-claim. On one hand, attributing rent increases to new market-rate housing might be like attributing rainstorms to umbrellas: On this view, high demand driven by jobs causes rents to increase, and new construction just follows along, mitigating rather than exacerbating rent increases. If new market-rate housing is not built, then more rich people will just place higher bids on existing units, accelerating gentrification. (The process by which new housing affects rents on existing housing is known as “filtering”: Vox has a typically wonky but clear explanation). On the other hand, if people like living next door to rich people, then market-rate housing could conceivably raise rents on nearby lots through a so-called “amenity effect.” And maybe demand for housing is highly segregated into different, non-competing markets such that rich people only bid on new units and will not bid up the prices on existing units when new market-rate housing is constrained by zoning.

As a guide for the perplexed amidst this cacaphony, I recommend a recent literature review by my colleagues, Vicki Been and Ingrid Ellen, which suggests that (1) increasing zoning restrictiveness seems to lead to higher rents (see pages 7-8 of their paper) and (2) existing housing tends to “filter” upwards if new construction is restricted by zoning, because rich buyers tend to shop among both new and existing units, bidding on formerly cheap bungalows and brownstones when Zoning eliminates new luxury units. The best view of the facts, in sum, seem to suggest that Left advocates of affordable housing should be enthusiastic about reducing zoning restrictions as part of the solution to our housing crisis.

Yet I am pessimistic about many activists’ being persuaded by the evidence. After the jump, some dour speculation that Left activists’ beliefs about housing markets might be similar to conservatives’ beliefs about climate change, resistant to data because of prior ideological commitments and the imperatives of recruiting political allies.

Continue reading "Is the Left’s Skepticism about Zoning’s Increasing Rents like the Right’s Skepticism about Global Warming?"

Posted by Rick Hills on April 19, 2018 at 04:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

An even more unusual role

I have written before that Justice Thomas rarely assigns majority opinions, given seniority and the Court's ideological breakdown. Well, according to Slate's Mark Joseph Stern, Tuesday's opinion in Sessions v. Dimaya marked the first time in 25 years on the Court that Justice Ginsburg assigned a majority opinion, when Justice Gorsuch provided the fifth vote with the Ginsburg/Breyer/Sotomayor/Kagan block. That fifth vote, if it comes, usually comes from the Chief or Kennedy, both of whom are senior to RBG. In addition, Stern (citing Adam Feldman) says this was the sixth time a female justice assigned an opinion; the other five were by Justice O'Connor, who usually did not get to assign because she was in a majority with Chief Justice Rehnquist or Justice Stevens.

The assignment power remains an interesting future project. I have to figure out the different empirical routes that must be explored.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 19, 2018 at 12:35 AM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Anika Singh Lemar on why, despite SB 827’s defeat, states might still enact laws preempting NIMBY local zoning

[Editor’s note: SB 827, state Senator Scott Wiener’s effort to attack NIMBY zoning that has driven California into an acute housing crisis, just died in the state senate. For those of us who believe that excessive zoning is strangling our cities and segregating our population into regions of wealth and poverty, this is a terrible defeat for good policy. But there’s a silver lining: Bad policy provides good opportunities for great law review articles that try to fix them. In this spirit of trying to take comfort in scholarship during dark zoning times, I am posting Anika Singh Lemar’s guest-post on her outstanding article analyzing why state-level interest groups lobby against excessive local zoning. While those lobbying efforts could not quite do the trick with SB 827, Anika’s post and article both suggest that the future is not necessarily grim. Here’s Anika’s post, below]:

In an article forthcoming in the North Carolina Law Review, I argue contemporary state-level efforts like SB 827 to liberalize zoning are the progeny of earlier state laws requiring local governments to approve LULUs. Small-scale renewable energy infrastructure, family day cares, group homes, and mobile homes are LULUs which, in a substantial number of states, enjoy protection from local zoning. Examining the state legislative history behind these protected LULUs, I argue that while NIMBYs have lots of political power on the local level, they can be beat at the state level by a coalition that, surprisingly, typically includes state employees.

Continue reading "Anika Singh Lemar on why, despite SB 827’s defeat, states might still enact laws preempting NIMBY local zoning "

Posted by Rick Hills on April 18, 2018 at 07:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are Criminal Attempts Bumpy?

The law draws hard-to-justify lines around vague words. Those lines can lead to dramatically different consequences. In Smoothing Vague Laws, I argued that problems caused by legal vagueness can be eased in many instances by "smoothing" the law. If, for example, you have merely "prepared" to commit a crime, you have no criminal liability. When you cross the line from preparation to "attempt," however, you can have substantial liability--at least the mandatory minimum sentence for the attempt. If the attempt has no mandatory minimum, it's possible that a judge will sentence in a smooth fashion. But I suspect that judges don't think about sentencing in a smooth way. Though there should presumably be cases where a person gets a modest sentence for attempted murder or attempted rape because the crime falls right around the border between preparation and attempt, I suspect such sentences are rare because judges focus on the bumpy names of offenses rather than their often smooth underlying facts.

Doron Teichman takes issue with this discussion in his interesting recent article. Teichman argues that criminal law already uses inchoate crimes to adjust punishment to confidence in guilt in a relatively smooth fashion. For example (p. 776-777):

By adding or removing objective elements to a crime and by relaxing or enhancing the mental state associated with the crime, the state can make the prosecution’s case harder or easier to prove. . . . Furthermore, the punishment attached to these evidentiary crimes can be set lower than the punishment attached to the primary crime they aim to deal with to account for the added evidentiary uncertainty associated with them. The emerging picture is of a de facto evidentiary graded penal regime. Defendants whose guilt can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt are subject to the full punishment attached to the original crime, while defendants whose guilt is more difficult to prove are convicted of the lesser crime and are subject to a milder penalty.

There is much more to Teichman's argument, but pertinent to this post, he concludes that "contrary to Kolber’s assertion that the law of criminal attempts is bumpy because at one moment a defendant 'has no criminal liability whatsoever, and just a moment later, he has sufficient criminal liability to receive several years’ incarceration,' viewed in its entirety, attempt law turns out to be rather smooth."

I have four replies. First, some disagreement on these matters might be attributable to differences in expectations about smoothness and bumpiness and how one quantifies them. For example, I too have noted evidentiary smoothing possibilities, especially around plea bargaining (p.678-680; 874-75), while Teichman, for his part, acknowledges that attempt law can be somewhat bumpy in his n.204. So two observers looking at similar data may still draw different overall conclusions. Second, your view might depend on whether you focus on individuals versus the system as a whole. The combination of preparatory crimes and attempt law may create some evidentiary smoothing systemwide, as Teichman notes. But in any particular case, dramatically different results follow if jurors have reasonable doubts versus an iota passed that standard. Such situations may be relatively uncommon on a systemwide basis but can still be very bumpy for particular individuals (and are perhaps not so unusual in cases that actually go to trial). Third, many scholars distinguish two aspects of attempt. One is the amount of actus reus which may gradually increase as a crime progresses. The other is seriousness of intent (which may be evidenced by a defendant's statements) that doesn't necessarily change or change as much as the attempt progresses, especially when intent is very strong from the get-go. Does punishment vary with confidence in the mental state or in the expectation the acts would continue to completion? Is punishment somehow keyed to both even though they change at different rates? 

Finally, and most importantly, I have emphasized that when speaking carefully, we should identify smooth and bumpy relationships between a particular input and a particular output. If Teichman is right about matters of evidence, his conclusions about the smoothness of attempt are still too broad. Even if amount of punishment is smoothly related to confidence in guilt, there are other relationships that may or may not be smooth. Many seem to think that culpability gradually increases as one progresses along a criminal path (and perhaps harm caused as well if an attempt grows increasingly threatening over time). If they're right, punishment isn't simply about discounting expected future crimes based on our confidence they will be committed. If I'm 75% confident a defendant arrested for attempt was going to commit a crime that warrants 100 units of punishment, he wouldn't necessarily warrant 75 units now. After all, the person who does complete the offense likely engaged in additional bad acts with additional culpability that the defendant never committed, and that matters to some people. So whether or not the evidentiary relationship Teichman considers is smooth or bumpy, there are other pertinent relationships as well. (Special thanks to Doron Teichman for taking up the smooth/bumpy issue in his article which I highly recommend!)

Posted by Adam Kolber on April 18, 2018 at 02:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

What is a heckler's veto?

Paul's post about reexamining the doctrine surrounding the heckler's veto, in response to some comments on this post, leads to an open question: What is a heckler's veto and what is the doctrine surrounding heckler's vetos?

The phrase "heckler's veto" appears only 12 times in the U.S. Supreme Court's database, often in dissents or in passing, including in two non-free-speech cases. None involves the paradigm cases, which I think are the following: 1) Police arresting or restricting a speaker because the people around him become violent and threaten to hurt the speaker or damage property (this is TerminielloFeiner, and the Nazis in Skokie); 2) Laws setting a legal standard that burdens a speaker because of actual or anticipated audience reaction (this is Forsyth County); and true no-platforming, in which a university denies or rescinds a speaker invitation or permit in response to threats of disruption. Close to the center are cases in which police or other authorities do nothing and allow the hecklers to attack or otherwise physically disrupt the speaker (there might be a DeShaney problem here, unless the speaker can show the failure to act was because of his speech). The point is that overnment must do something (or refrain from acting for a speech-discriminatory reason) to create the veto. The doctrine is clear--such vetoes are impermissible,* at least outside of narrow contexts (such as the community standards prong of obscenity or the "disruption" concern for student speech) or if there is a compelling interest in not having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on security.

[*] Although Feiner famously came out the other way, the prevailing view is that this no longer is good law.

The question--and there is no Supreme Court doctrine on this--remains if and when literal heckling, as a form of expression, becomes a heckler's veto without government action to halt the original speaker. Is it a heckler's veto if police or government officials do nothing and two speakers talk over one another until one gives up or is unable to proceed? We have to answer that question before we can figure out whether the heckler's veto doctrine must be reconsidered, because it is not obvious how that doctrine applies to these situations in the first place.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 18, 2018 at 09:31 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Is Gorsuch’s Dimaya concurrence the opening shot in a bid to revive the Non-Delegation Doctrine?

Eugene Volokh has noted that Justice Gorsuch’s concurrence in Sessions v. Dimaya looks like a “cross-over sensation,” because Gorsuch joined four liberal justices in ruling against the deportation of an immigrant. There is, however, a deeper signal buried in Gorsuch’s concurrence: By refusing to draw any distinction between civil and criminal cases insofar as VFV is concerned, Gorsuch seems to be reviving the non-delegation doctrine as a basis for striking down statutes. If the VFV doctrine applies, as Gorsuch says it does, “in civil cases affecting a person’s life, liberty, or property” and “criminal cases involving relatively modest penalties,” then it might also apply to any statute containing terms ambiguous enough to trigger Chevron.

Such an expansive version of VFV would fit with Gorsuch’s famously skeptical view of Chevron in his Gutierrez-Brizuela concurrence. So maybe the concurrence is best read as an opening bid to revise Chevron and/or the non-delegation doctrine, fulfilling his implied promise, in Eric Posner’s words, to “join Justice Thomas as one of only two justices to seriously oppose the administrative state in the last 50 years, at least.”

Just for the record, I do not think very much of Gorsuch’s attack on Chevron. It seems to rest on one of two equally odd views that (1) statutes should not have gaps to fill, or (2) only judges should fill them (i.e., “say what the law is”). (For an excellent analysis that spells out the weaknesses of such a position, see Asher Steinberg’s excellent post on the Yale JReg blog). As for the non-delegation doctrine, if constitutional doctrines could be void for being excessively vague, then the NDD would qualify — as, indeed, would the VFV doctrine itself. I do not see five votes for reviving a doctrine that paradoxically gives judges uncabined discretion to forbid agencies from exercising uncabined discretion.

Since the SCOTUS granted cert in Gundy, however, we will find out soon enough whether Gorsuch can persuade any of his colleagues to join him on his quixotic mission to expand dramatically the courts’ exclusive role in saying what the law is. If Dimaya is any indication, then Gorsuch might be trudging down a lonely path: Although Justice Thomas is supposed to be skeptical about the administrative state, Gorsuch could not get Thomas’s vote for the proposition that the Due Process clause requires civil statutes to be clear enough to give citizens notice of their contents.

Posted by Rick Hills on April 17, 2018 at 11:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

What about Calpurnia, Tom, and Scout?

The legal dispute over Aaron Sorkin's in-the-works stage adaptation of "To Kill a Mockingbird" took another turn on Monday when Producer Scott Rudin (and his production company, Rudinplays) filed suit in the Southern District of New York against the Harper Lee Estate. This sent me running for the pleadings in this and the Estate's action in the Southern District of Alabama, thinking it might make a nice exam question for Civ Pro. It turns out the Estate filed an Original on March 13 and an Amended Complaint on April 6. What changed?

Paragraph 38 of the original pleading cites to a March 5, 2018 letter from the Executor to Rudin and alleges that the Estate informed Rudin that the play "derogates or departs from the spirit of the Novel and
that it alters five of the Novel’s characters--Atticus Finch, Calpurnia, Tom Robinson, Jem Finch, and Scout Finch." Paragraph 38 of the amended pleading cites to the same letter and alleges that the play "derogates or departs from the spirit of the Novel and that it alters several of the Novel’s characters, including Atticus Finch and Jem Finch."  So I guess the representation of Cal, Tom, and Scout is not problematic enough to warrant declaratory relief.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 17, 2018 at 10:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Foley on appointing a special master in the Cohen case

At the Election Law Blog, Ned Foley questions the potential appointment of a special master to review and determine privilege of the materials seized from Michael Cohen. He concludes:

Thus, it seems to me that there should be an extremely strong presumption in favor of using conventional procedures to handle the Cohen case. If those procedures would be good enough if the client involved were a major business figure (like Mark Zuckerberg), or a major sports or entertainment figure (like O.J. Simpson), then they should be good enough if the client is a business and entertainment figure who later becomes president (like Donald Trump).

I would add two things in support of Ned's conclusion. First, one reason this is a "politically charged case" is that the President has been relentlessly attacking the Department of Justice, including over the seizure of Cohen's documents.There is an unfortunate irony, and perverse incentive, that the President's attacks on the prosecution politically charge the case so as to require special procedures.

Second, DOJ uses filter teams, not a special master, when reviewing materials seized from congressional offices for possible Speech-or-Debate-protected materials. Such cases are at least as politically charged as this one, with the added bonus that they implicate the Separation of Powers when the executive investigates the legislature.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 17, 2018 at 02:41 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

A Further Defense of Criminal Justice Books...

One more reason to write a book as a law professor - you could win a Pulitzer.  Congratulations to Professor James Forman Jr. (Yale) for winning a Pulitzer Prize for his book "Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America."  It is a terrific book and a well-deserved honor.

Posted by Andrew Guthrie Ferguson on April 17, 2018 at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Pacing change, changing paces: when and how to reform legal education

Derek Muller's ruminations on legal education and the profession are always interesting and thought-provoking.  Today's post is no exception.  It is worth reading and noodling over, and more than once.  I certainly intend to do so.

Its normative claim, a tad hard to disentangle, but there in the middle and also at the end, is that reformers (radicals and moderates alike) may be pushing reform agendas with an urgency that is both counterproductive for our students and is insufficiently attentive to the historical evolution, steady and unsteady, in legal education.  Perhaps change, but no so fast.  And let us not through the baby out with the bathwater.

Yes indeed.  Much to say, but let me focus on just two aspects of this dense post:  The claim that we need to assess the efficacy of current curricular and administrative structures before undertaking big changes is clearly right; but slipping from that into the claim that there may well be little that is broken so as to warrant revision seems misguided.  To be sure, there are reformers who would practice a version of zero based budgeting -- reform tabula rasa.  Many folks on my twitter feed are of this variety; but few legal educators (and nearly no deans) are so inclined to recommend this, even as a thought experiment.  We would do well, as Derek and I agree, to look clear-headedly at the mechanisms that are very successful, measured in many ways, and leave well enough alone.  And this should be true at both the general level (take, for example, the welcome durability of the first-core core curriculum) and the granular level (say, the requirement of legal writing and of ethics).  Few dispute this, and those that do undertake a heavy burden of explaining why the road to sound education and professional success of our students lies in root-and-branch reform.

But where the recommendations of reform are grounded solidly in judgments about what a dynamic, technologically impacted profession expects out of law graduates in 2018, 2020, and 2030, as based on input from myriad stakeholders and on the basis of good evidence, then the complaint that such reform has, as the emperor says to Mozart, simply "too many notes," does not compel.  Students face a zero-sum world in law school, of that there cannot be any doubt, but the capacity to adjust to new modalities of pedagogy and modern structures of knowledge, including multidisciplinary knowledge and exposure to new subjects at the intersection of law, business, & technology is higher than I believe Derek imagines.  Moreover, even in a zero sum world, it might be worth giving up other curricular expectations here and there in order to make this more promising world into a reality.

As to the tangent about administrators in Derek's valuable post, I would say, sure, our role as administrators -- deans and all others -- is to facilitate student opportunity and reduce unnecessary friction.  At the same time, it is to enable opportunity and widen the lens of what a law student can and should do and what a modern professional ought to focus on in these precious three years.  So, less time for reporting requirements ok, but fewer opportunities to be exposed to, say, lunchtime programs, interesting externships, bar-academy collaborations?  No thank you.  Idle hands and heads are the devil's plaything, but we might see our commitment to our students facing big expense as entailing a bazaar of opportunities and an exhortation to profit from the bounty of interesting initiatives enabled by a serious rethink of our curriculum.

 

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on April 16, 2018 at 07:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)