Monday, April 24, 2017
JOTWELL: Thornburg on Hoffman on plausibility pleading
The new Courts Law essay is from Elizabeth Thornburg (SMU), reviewing Lonny Hoffman, Plausible Theory, Implausible Conclusions (U. Chi. L. Rev. Online), in which Hoffman responds to William H.J. Hubbard, A Fresh Look at Plausibility Pleading, (U. Chi. L. Rev.).
Tuesday, April 04, 2017
JOTWELL: Pfander on Morley on equity
The new Courts Law essay comes from Jim Pfander (Northwestern-Pritzker), reviewing Michael T. Morley, The Federal Equity Power, arguing that Erie principles should affect how federal courts wield equitable power.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
JOTWELL: Campos on Glover on claims as property
The new Courts Law essay is from Sergio Campos, reviewing J. Maria Glover's A Regulatory Theory of Legal Claims (Vand. L. Rev.), which considers the implications of understanding legal claims as property.
Wednesday, March 08, 2017
JOTWELL: Malveaux on Selmi and Tsakos on the effects of Wal-Mart v. Dukes
The new Courts Law essay comes from Suzette Malveaux (Catholic), reviewing Michael Selmi & Sylvia Tsakos, Employment Discrimination Class Actions After Wal-Mart v. Dukes (Akron L. Rev.), which argues that Wal-Mart has not been the feared death knell for employment-discrimination class actions.
Monday, February 13, 2017
CFP: 2d Annual Ad Law New Scholarship Roundtable
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law is pleased to host the Second Annual Administrative Law New Scholarship Roundtable on June 27-28, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio.
The Roundtable is the creation of four schools—Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, and University of Wisconsin—each of which has committed to hosting the Roundtable during one of the first four years of the Roundtable.
The Roundtable will bring together a mix of emerging and established scholars to present new work on Administrative Law. Participants will present their papers in small panel sessions designed to foster rich discussions with experts in the field and contribute to a vibrant Administrative Law community. Each panel will be led by a distinguished scholar who will facilitate the discussion. Confirmed commentators currently include Emily Hammond (George Washington), Lisa Heinzerling (Georgetown), Jon Michaels (UCLA), Nick Parrillo (Yale), Peter Shane (Ohio State), Cathy Sharkey (NYU), and Glen Staszewski (Michigan State). In addition to the paper panels, a lunch program will address current issues in Administrative Law and institutional resources for empirical research projects.
Scholars wishing to participate in the Roundtable and present a paper must submit a one-to-two-page abstract by Friday, March 17, 2017. Applicants should include their title, institutional affiliation, and number of years teaching in the academy. Preference will be given to those who have been teaching nine years or less in a tenure-track position. Abstracts should be sent to Chris Walker at email@example.com. You may also contact Chris Walker or Peter Shane with any questions you may have about the Roundtable.
The Roundtable will provide meals for all participants. Participants must cover their own travel and lodging costs. We will reserve a block of reasonably priced rooms at a local hotel in advance of the Roundtable.
Administrative Law New Scholarship Roundtable Host Committee
- Nicholas Bagley, University of Michigan
- Michael Sant’Ambrogio, Michigan State University
- Miriam Seifter, University of Wisconsin
- Peter Shane, The Ohio State University
- Glen Staszewski, Michigan State University
- Christopher Walker, The Ohio State University
Friday, February 03, 2017
JOTWELL: Wasserman on Segall on Eight is Enough
I have the new Courts Law essay, reviewing Eric Segall's Eight Justices Are Enough: A Proposal to Improve the United States Supreme Court, which proposes codifying the current eight-Justice/even partisan divide on the Court.
We moved up publication on this piece to time it with the Gorsuch nomination, which either spells the death knell for the proposal or gives it life. I remain unsure whether I am sold on Segall's plan as a normatively best design or whether it just looks good compared with the political alternative. But it has some genuine merit. Iwill have more to say in a second post.
Monday, January 23, 2017
JOTWELL: Mullenix on Stancil on rulemaking and economic theory
The new Courts Law essay comes from Linda Mullenix (Texas), reviewing Paul Stancil, Substantive Equality and Procedural Justice (Iowa L. Rev., forthcoming), which applies economic analysis to the rulemaking process (contra, Linda argues, the many of us procedural scholars who are doctrinalists).
Thursday, January 05, 2017
JOTWELL: Steinman on Delaney on avoidance
The new Courts Law essay comes from Adam Steinman (Alabama), reviewing Erin F. Delaney, Analyzing Avoidance: Judicial Strategy in Comparative Perspective (Duke L.J.), which explores ways that judges on different courts avoid difficult decisions.
Monday, December 19, 2016
JOTWELL: Tidmarsh on Fitzpatrick and Norris on discovery costs
The new Courts Law essay comes from Jay Tidmarsh (Notre Dame), reviewing Brian T. Fitzpatrick and Cameron T. Norris, One-Way Fee Shifting after Summary Judgment, discussing new and creative ways to reduce discovery costs and delays.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Tort Law and the Sharing Economy
Six weeks ago, a UK employment tribunal declared that Uber drivers are employees. A few months before that, Uber settled two class action lawsuits in the US in order to avoid a ruling on whether drivers can remain independent contractors. And Uber regularly takes the position that it is not subject to the regulations that apply to taxi services. Sharing economy companies go to great lengths to shun traditional business models (and the legal and regulatory structures that come along with them). While regulation of the sharing economy remains a major issue, tort law is an important complementary concept – and the subject of my new article, Sharing Tort Liability in the New Sharing Economy.Because sharing economy companies often avoid traditional employment relationships, they complicate the analysis under some long-standing tort law doctrine, particularly when a tort victim is negligently harmed by a worker in the gig economy. But traditional tort law concepts are already well-equipped to adapt to this new world of ad-hoc transactions. For ridesharing in particular, liability challenges may be solved with vicarious liability doctrines – especially joint enterprise liability. An Uber driver, for example, may be unable to bear the brunt of liability when a passenger, pedestrian, or other driver is negligently harmed. In the traditional economy, vicarious liability would solve the under-compensation problem. But sharing economy companies purport to merely “connect” providers with customers, thereby skirting the traditional relationships that would give rise to liability.
Nonetheless, vicarious liability may still attach. First, respondeat superior applies if Uber drivers are deemed employees. Even if drivers are independent contractors, vicarious liability may still attach, such as when they are engaged in a non-delegable duty (like safety). But, at the very least, courts should consider joint enterprise liability: sharing economy companies embark on a joint venture with service providers for a shared profit motive, which could amount to a joint enterprise for the purposes of vicarious liability.
Regulatory challenges are certainly at the forefront of legal issues surrounding the sharing economy, but retrospective tort remedies can help minimize harm and prevent over-regulation. Further, tort law may prove even more important under an administration that vows to cut regulations across the board. Thus, a sound approach to dealing with the sharing economy involves a look at both tort law and regulation and, in my article, I suggest that vicarious liability principles be used liberally to ensure fairness and adequate compensation. By clarifying liability issues under tort law, we can enable policymakers to proceed with a holistic understanding of how retrospective tort remedies already address some of the unique issues in the sharing economy.
Thursday, December 08, 2016
JOTWELL: Effron on Gardner on Forum Non Conveniens
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Sponsored Post: Learning Criminal Procedure
The ABA, employers, and students themselves tell us that law schools must do more to produce students who are better equipped to enter the practice of law. The goal of complete practice-readiness might be something of a tall order. True competence in even one area of the law may take five or even ten years to develop. We have our students for just three. But, there is certainly much more we can be doing to make our students what we will call “practice-primed.” There are steps we can take during those three years to ensure that the students have the basic knowledge they will need as young lawyers. There are things we can do to ensure students are exposed to a fuller array of the skills they will need in practice, not just the narrow range that has been the focus of more traditional approaches to the curriculum. This is a large part of the reason we came together to write the Learning Criminal Procedure.
And, so many former students report back that they are using the book precisely as we intended: First, as a learning tool to expose them to criminal procedure doctrine. And, then as a desk reference to help them navigate the early years of practice as defense attorneys or prosecutors.
As a learning tool, Learning Criminal Procedure eschews the traditional method of law school teaching, which asks students to read cases and then derive the law by parsing through the court’s decisions. Instead, the book presents the applicable legal rule to the students in the very first section of each chapter. The next section uses case summaries to explore the scope and policy behind the rule. The book takes this approach because it frees up class time for you and your students—instead of guiding them through the cases to eventually arrive at the rule, you can start with the rule and then use the text in class to engage students with the doctrine in the many ways students will see the doctrine deployed in practice. For example, when teaching students about Terry’s stop-and-frisk doctrine, you might first work through each of the review problems that we present at the end of each chapter, allowing students to immediately apply the knowledge they have learned and use the law as a practitioner would. After you have a sense that students have a preliminary grasp on the material, you can then do a deeper dive. For example, you might explore one of the simulations mapped out in the Teacher’s Manual and require your students to use their newly acquired knowledge in the dynamic environment of role play.
As a desk reference, your students can use the book to refresh their knowledge and inform their thinking after they have moved out into practice. The book’s clear organization and direct approach to presenting the law make it easy for new lawyers to refer back to the book when they have a specific legal question. Indeed, former students routinely report back that the book has been essential to them as they bridge the gap between law school and the early years of practice. Just the other day, a former student reported that his first draft of a response to a suppression motion had been adopted with few changes by the supervising attorney at the state prosecutor’s office. “Your book was essential to that draft,” the student said. Mission accomplished.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Five lessons on body cams
Elizabeth Joh (UC Davis) has this piece in Slate identifying five problems that have arisen with the implementation of police body cameras, which she turns to five lessons on the limits of technology to, alone, resolve problems. I especially appreciate points # 2 (do not adopt technology without also working out the regulatory details of how the tech will be used) and # 3 (rank-and-file police may, and have, resisted new technology). I have covered both in my writings on the subject.
Friday, November 25, 2016
JOTWELL: Walsh on Bray on national injunctions
The new Courts Law essay comes from Kevin Walsh (Richmond), reviewing Samuel Bray's Multiple Chancellors: Reforming the National Injunction, which uses traditional equity principles to critique the increasingly run-away practice of district courts entering nationwide (more accurately, universal) injunctions prohibiting enforcement of federal law against all persons in all places, beyond just the named plaintiffs. Amanda Frost reviewed the same piece for SCOTUSBlog.
And the timing is appropriate, as District Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas did it again this week, issuing a nationwide injunction against the new Labor Department overtime regulations.
Friday, November 11, 2016
JOTWELL: Grossi on Klonoff on introducing the study of American law
Thursday, November 03, 2016
Whitman on Transferring Negotiable Notes
Property Scholar Dale Whitman has just published an article, entitled "Transferring Nonnegotiable Notes", explaining where the law is and where it needs to go with respect to the transfer of the right to enforce mortgage loans. This issue has been one of the most confused and contested questions of legal interpretation in the aftermath of the Foreclosure Crisis. When the whole housing finance system began to unravel upon the unexpectedly high volume of mortgage defaults, un-tested and unorthodox industry practices regarding loan transfer ran smack into legal uncertainty regarding who held what rights to which loans subject to what defenses. This legal uncertainty stuck like a rod in the gears of the foreclosure system, causing massive delays and, in some cases, loss of the right to enforce the loan.
The question of mortgage negotiability and transfer adequacy has caused a "vast amount of litigation" (as Whitman puts it), and this litigation has "greatly expanded our understanding" regarding how negotiable notes are transferred. But there remains a gap in legal comprehension related to the transfer of nonnegotiable notes. In addition, open questions regarding defenses can destabilize the market and incentivize market player misbehavior. Professor Whitman attempts to bring clarity to the murky legal questions regarding who has (and should have) the right to enforce the loan and what defenses a borrower can (and should be able to) assert against an assignee of a mortgage note.Professor Whitman is perhaps the most recognized the national expert on the subject of note negotiability and transfer adequacy. His most recent article adds an important piece to the secondary mortgage market puzzle, in terms of understanding what went wrong, what rights parties have with respect to defaulted mortgage loans, and how the law should evolve to create a fairer, more stable mortgage capital market.
Here's the abstract:
This article reviews what we know about transferring ownership and the right of enforcement of nonnegotiable notes. The focus will be on notes secured by mortgages, since this is likely the context in which most modern nonnegotiable notes are created. There has been a vast amount of litigation about the transfer of negotiable mortgage notes in the past half decade, greatly expanding our understanding, but there has been little development involving nonnegotiable notes. Hence, it is helpful to compare negotiable and nonnegotiable notes, with particular emphasis on how each is transferred. Perhaps ironically, this means that the bulk of this article discusses negotiable notes as a point of reference, despite the fact that its ultimate focus is nonnegotiable notes. Part I of this article reviews the history of the definition of negotiability, and shows how our current understanding of negotiability came to be. Part II demonstrates how to tell the difference between negotiable and nonnegotiable notes, and why that difference is important. Part III discusses the meaning of “transfer” of a promissory note. Part IV examines specifically how the right to enforce nonnegotiable notes can be transferred under present law, and considers whether changes are needed. Finally, this article concludes with a brief description of a proposed national mortgage registry that has the potential to make transfers of both negotiable and nonnegotiable mortgage notes far more efficient without disrupting the current legal regime.
This article is a good resource not only with respect to the legal requirements for transferring nonnegotiable notes, but also for:
- The history and background of the Holder in Due Course doctrine.
- How to identify whether a note is negotiable (including Fannie/Freddie forms and notes secured by FHA and VA mortgages)
- How negotiable notes (and the mortgages securing them) must be transferred
- The impact of UCC Article 9 on transfers of both negotiable and nonnegotiable notes.
To me, a very interesting and important part of the piece, particularly the part that deals with the current applicability of the Holder In Due Course doctrine to mortgage loan transferees. Professor Whitman articulates why this doctrine should not apply to mortgage notes, and I wholeheartedly agree. For one thing, in a typical mortgage transaction, loan buyers are expected to conduct due diligence with respect to the quality of the credit and collateral behind the mortgage loan. The secondary market players, of course, want the holder-in-due-course doctrine to apply, because it allows for incompetent underwriting by their industry and insulates them to some extent from illegal practices of mortgage originators. Professor Whitman makes the compelling economic and political argument that the Holder In Due Course doctrine should not continue to apply to mortgage notes. He writes:
If the holder in due course doctrine was abrogated, and secondary market investors were forced to bear the risk of fraudulent conduct by their originators, their costs would doubtlessly rise, either to screen out the “bad apples,” or to suffer the financial losses engendered by the originators’ bad behavior. If the private securitization industry, which has been virtually shut down since mid-2007, manages to arise again, its economics could be significantly affected by loss of the protection it has hither-to received from the holder in due course doctrine.
Nonetheless, sound economic policy strongly favors repeal or drastic modification of holder in due course. The reason hinges on the relative availability of information about the propensity of particular loan originators to engage in bad conduct. Consumer borrowers, who enter the mortgage market only at infrequent intervals and who typically have only a limited and unsophisticated understanding of its operations, have virtually no factual basis for identifying and avoiding originators who are apt to engage in fraud, and they cannot gain this sort of information at any reasonable cost. Secondary market investors (including securitizers), on the other hand, participate in the market on an ongoing or regular basis, and commonly buy loans by the thousands. Their costs in identifying and policing bad actors, when spread over a large number of loans, are likely to be quite modest. As a matter of sound economics, it is obviously more efficient to impose these risks on the parties who can best identify and avoid them. As a lawyer and an economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland put it, if the holder in due course rule were abandoned, we could expect the following result: "By forcing the market to internalize the cost of consumer compliance and spread it across all consumers, the market’s ability to adjust costs [would be] aligned with the incentive to minimize costs that result from a competitive marketplace.” In the absence of assignee liability, these incentives are not aligned. The holder in due course rule artificially lowers the cost of consumer compliance to the market, eliminating the incentive to minimize those costs through competition. Consumers, then, bear the risk of unlawful origination practices, but lack the ability to price them into credit.
These problems arise in the context of residential mortgage loans because of the assumption by courts that mortgage notes on Fannie and Freddie forms (and FHA and VA insured notes) are negotiable. Although standard form use does not negotiability make, Professor Whitman admits that it is likely that the Fannie/Freddie forms will continue to be seen as negotiable by courts. The same need not be true, says Whitman, for commercial mortgage notes.
Enforcement rights with respect to negotiable notes generally requires possession of the note, but transfer of nonnegotiable notes is subject to different rules. There is a concept under UCC Article 3 of a non-owner of the note who can enforce it - the PETE (person entitled to enforce the note). UCC 3's PETE status is applicable only to negotiable instruments, however. Therefore, if a note is not negotiable, enforceability by a non-owner turns on principles of the common law as well as UCC Article 9. Note ownership is based on the principle of "follow the money and see where it goes." And although that is an interesting question in some contexts, it is irrelevant to the question of who is entitled to collect payments, enforce the obligation, and negotiate a modification with a borrower. In modern loan securitization parlance, the servicer should be entitled to enforce the note, even though the servicer is not the owner (the owner, of course, is the beneficiary - the entity that owns the securitized pool of mortgages).
Among the many prior articles that Professor Whitman has written on the broader subject of mortgage loan transfer and enforcement, see:
- Dale A. Whitman, How Negotiability Has Fouled up the Secondary Mortgage Market, and What To Do About It, 37 PEPP. L. REV. 737 (2010).
- Dale Whitman, “THE PERSON ENTITLED TO ENFORCE:” LESSONS LEARNED FROM BAC HOME LOANS SERVICING V. KOLENICH, ABA REAL PROP. NEWS, Dec. 2012.
- Dale A. Whitman & Drew Milner, Foreclosing on Nothing: The Curious Problem of the Deed of Trust Foreclosure Without Entitlement to Enforce the Note, .66 ARK. L. REV. 21 (2013).
- Dale A. Whitman, What We Have Learned from the Mortgage Crisis About Transferring Mortgage Loans, 49 REAL PROP. TR. & EST. L.J. 1 (2014).
Tuesday, November 01, 2016
RonNell Anderson Jones (Utah) and Aaron Nielson (BYU) have posted on SSRN Clarence Thomas the Questioner, (forthcoming in Northwestern Law Review), which analyzes a collection of questions Thomas has asked from the bench over the years, concluding that he is a "model questioner." Highly recommended, as the saying goes.
The conclusion is consistent with stories I have heard from former SCOTUS clerks, who tell about the (rare) questions from Thomas being significant to the argument.
Monday, October 24, 2016
JOTWELL: Vladeck on Thomas on the loss of the jury
The new Courts Law essay comes from permaprawf Steve Vladeck (Texas), reviewing Suja Thomas's book The Missing American Jury: Restoring the Fundamental Constitutional Role of the Civil, Criminal, and Grand Juries.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
JOTWELL: Coleman on Rosenbaum on RICO and class action attorneys
The new Courts Law Essay comes from Brooke Coleman (Seattle), reviewing Briana Rosenbaum, The RICO Trend in Class Action Warfare (Iowa L. Rev.) (forthcoming), exploring the use of RICO actions against class-action plaintiffs' lawyers.
Thursday, October 06, 2016
Cities as "Test Tubes of Democracy" for the Right to Vote
Over eighty years ago, Justice Louis Brandeis famously referred to states as “laboratories of democracy” that can experiment with different laws to see what works best. “A single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” As I show in a new article (abstract after the jump), if states are laboratories of democracy, then cities and towns can be "test tubes of democracy" that can and should experiment with election law rules on an even smaller scale. (Side note: my twitter handle is @JoshuaADouglas. Can we figure out a way to make #TestTubesofDemocracy start trending?!)
Local experimentation on the right to vote is already occurring around the country. Cities and towns have expanded voting rights for 16- and 17-year-olds, noncitizens, and nonresident property owners (e.g., in vacation towns). That is, cities have expanded the electorate for their own elections.
This November, San Francisco voters will decide on whether to lower the voting age to 16 for all city elections and allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections. At first I was skeptical when I began looking into these local laws, especially on the merits of lowering the voting age to 16. But the more I researched -- particularly studies on cognitive development -- the more convinced I became that it is a good idea. Later this month I'll spend some more time on the policy merits of lowering the voting age. Here, I want to focus on where this is occurring: at the local level.
Most people think of the right to vote as a federal constitutional right, or perhaps a right derived from state constitutions. But focusing on these two sources leaves out an important level of inquiry: local laws. A complete understanding of the right to vote requires three levels of analysis: federal constitutional law (and statutes), state constitutional law (and statutes), and local laws for local elections.
The common understanding of the right to vote is that it enjoys protection under the U.S. Constitution, specifically within the Equal Protection Clause. But as I have discussed in previous research, the Supreme Court has unduly cabined the federal constitutional protection of the right to vote. Indeed, the Court has said that the U.S. Constitution does not confer the right to vote to anyone. All that the Constitution requires is that once a state grants the right to vote, it must treat everyone equally.
State constitutions, however, explicitly confer the right to vote. In fact, 49 of the 50 state constitutions have specific language that goes beyond the U.S. Constitution in explicitly granting and protecting voting rights (Arizona is the only exception, but its courts have ruled that other language in the state constitution protects the right to vote). In the wake of restrictive federal court jurisprudence, litigants have turned to state constitutions. This strategy has seen some successes; for example, in recent years at least 3 state courts have invalidated voter ID laws under state constitutions.
But federal and state constitutions do not tell the whole story. Municipalities have expanded the electorate for their own elections. In essence, cities and towns have adopted a broad theory of their own local democracy to include additional voters, such as younger people or noncitizens. To understand fully the right to vote, then, we need to include a discussion of these local laws.
We should encourage local experimentation on the right to vote. Ours is a history of continued expansion of voting rights. From a normative perspective, democratic representation is enhanced with greater participation of those who are cognitively capable and have a genuine and actual stake in the outcome. Local expansions of the right to vote adhere to a notion of localized federalism. People are closest to their local representatives and local democracy. Further, municipal laws are easier to enact than state or federal laws, so novel local experimentation is a lot more likely to pass. And if it shown to "work" in one courageous city, then local laws can have a "trickle across" effect to other cities and eventually may "trickle up" to state policy. Thus, broader movements on expanded voting rights can start at the local level, with local successes serving as catalysts for more widespread reforms.
I explore all of these issues in a forthcoming article, The Right to Vote Under Local Law. The abstract is below. I'll turn to some additional findings from this article in future posts -- including a policy defense of lowering the voting age! The takeaway for now is that localities can, and should, serve as test tubes of democracy for election law.
A complete analysis of the right to vote requires at least three levels of inquiry: the U.S. Constitution and federal law, state constitutions and state law, and local laws that confer voting rights for municipal elections. But most voting rights scholarship focuses on only federal or state law and omits any discussion of the third category. This article — the first to explore in-depth the local right to vote — completes the trilogy. Cities and towns across the country are expanding the right to vote in municipal elections to include sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, noncitizens, nonresident property owners, and others. San Francisco, for example, will decide soon whether to lower the voting age to sixteen for its elections. This article highlights these developments, encourages local voter expansions, and provides a test for courts to use when facing a judicial challenge to these rules. If states are “laboratories of democracy” that may experiment with social policies, then municipalities are “test tubes of democracy” that also can try out novel democratic rules, such as broadening the right to vote, on a smaller scale. Historically, some voter expansions, such as the elimination of property requirements and the women’s suffrage movement, enjoyed early successes at the local level. Local voting rights, then, can serve as catalysts for broader reforms as they “trickle across” to other municipalities and “trickle up” to states and Congress. As a matter of policy, local jurisdictions should enfranchise anyone who has a sufficient stake in local affairs and has the proper incentives and ability to make informed choices about who should lead them — which might include sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, noncitizens (who are legal permanent residents), nonresident property owners, felons, or others. States with barriers to local voting laws, through substantive voter qualifications or lack of “home rule” authorization to localities, should amend their state constitutional provisions or statutes. (An Appendix presents a 50-state chart on the possibility in each jurisdiction of enacting local voting laws.) Courts should defer to local laws that expand the right to vote as a means of local democracy, but should not defer to restrictions on the right to vote because limiting who may vote harms the ideal of democratic inclusion. Robust protection of the right to vote depends on local voting rules as an early component of the reform effort. Enhanced local voting rights will produce a more representative local government, create a habit of voting for various groups such as younger voters that will ameliorate low turnout, and strengthen local democracy.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
JOTWELL: Erbsen on Gilles on arbitration and doctrine
The new Courts Law essay comes from Allan Erbsen (Minnesota), reviewing Myriam Gilles, The Day Doctrine Died: Private Arbitration and the End of Law (U. Ill. L. Rev.), exploring how the use of private dispute resolution, especially arbitration, affects the evolution of legal doctrine.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
"Like Pulling Teeth": Lessons for law schools from the 1980s dental school crisis
Eric Chiappinelli (Texas Tech) recently posted a new article on SSRN that analyzes the dental school crisis of the 1980s to draw lessons for currently struggling law schools. It is a very interesting article. Highlights and my thoughts after the jump.While readers of the blog are surely familiar with many of the issues facing law schools, I assume that most are less familiar with the dental education crisis of the 1980s. As Chiappinelli explains, an influx of federal spending (through research grants and federal student loans) encouraged the proliferation of dental schools (from 39 in 1943 to 60 in 1980). And students flocked to these dental schools, with the number of dental school students increasing from ~12,000 in 1950 to ~23,000 in 1980. However, like with law schools, darker days were ahead.
Although the inflection point for law schools appears to have been the 2008 financial crisis, fluoride was the game-changer in the dentistry world. By the late 1970s, enough people had grown up drinking fluorinated water that demand for dentistry's bread and butter services--filling cavities, pulling teeth and creating dentures--flattened. Around the same time, Congress grew concerned that it was contributing to the build-up of excess dentists and dramatically pared back its financial support for dental schools. In 1981, dental schools found that their revenue had suddenly declined by one-third, but their expenses continued to steadily increase. In short, dental schools were in a crisis that appears remarkably similar to the law school crisis.
Like other financially strained post-secondary education institutions, dental schools sought to balance their budgets by shifting away from tenure-track faculty and toward adjunct and other untenured faculty. Dental schools sought additional support from state governments, but state governments had their own financial troubles. Chiappinelli reports that many dental schools were able to shift some costs to students by significantly raising tuition. As a result, dental student debt increased by over 50% from 1978-1981 and doubled by 1990. However, rising debt combined with a lack of good dental jobs resulted in "a rapid and severe reduction in the number of people applying to dental school." Applicant quality, measured by their incoming credentials, dropped simultaneously. Again, echoes of the law school crisis.
Eventually, 12% of all U.S. dental schools closed. While every closed school operated at a loss, Chiappinelli notes that many that were operating at a loss did not close. Clearly, finances were only part of the story. In Part IV of his article, Chiappinelli works to identify other factors that were relevant to determining whether to close a dental school and to apply those lessons to struggling law schools. Rather than finances or operational aspects of dental schools, Chiappinelli concludes that a "school's intentional focus on mission and engagement . . . are particularly important . . ." Thus, law schools should--in Chiappinelli's view--do the following: (i) "ensure that their actions are aligned with the university's mission", (ii) "engage with their university and their relevant professional and lay communities", (iii) use clinics to demonstrate that the law school is aligned and engaged with the university's mission, and (iv) hire deans who can highlight for the university that the law school's mission is aligned with the university's, including how the law school brings prestige to the larger university.
I think that Chiappinelli's broadest point is clearly correct. In times of retrenchment, every enterprise needs to (re)consider its value proposition. Any law school that finds itself out-of-step with its affiliated university risks finding its support dry up. And I think the analogy from dental schools to law schools is a valid one, which is why I've also been working on a piece comparing distressed dental schools to other distressed colleges and universities. There are important lessons that can be learned. Nevertheless, there are at least two reasons to question the comparison.
First, it is my sense that many universities see their law schools as a "crown jewel" of the university system. As such, law schools may simply be viewed differently than dental schools, which apparently were often (but not always) perceived to lack prestige and quality compared to the rest of the university. Second, dental schools were never profitable, "as nearly every dental school loses money from continuing operations, if for no other reason than the clinical aspects of dental education cost more than they produce in revenue." By contrast, law schools were long seen as profit centers for their universities. As such, a university might be willing to subsidize losses for a longer period of time if university officials can be convinced that the law school crisis will eventually abate.
Glad to share more thoughts, but this post is already too long. It's my view that 3-4 paragraphs is the ideal blog post length. But if you're still with me, thanks for reading the whole thing.
Friday, September 16, 2016
The New Constitutional Right to Post-Conviction Habeas
For decades, the dominant working assumptions of the Supreme Court's post-conviction habeas corpus jurisprudence have been that (1) federal post-conviction remedies are generally a matter of legislative grace; and (2) as Justice Alito reiterated last Term in his concurrence in Foster v. Chatman, "[s]tates are under no obligation to permit collateral attacks on convictions that have become final, and if they allow such attacks, they are free to limit the circumstances in which claims may be relitigated." In a new paper we've just posted to SSRN, Carlos Vázquez and I argue that, in its January 2016 decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court directly rejected the first assumption, and, in the process, indirectly but necessarily undermined the second.
To make a long story short, although Montgomery looked like a fairly typical habeas retroactivity case under Teague v. Lane (asking whether Miller v. Alabama fit into an exception to Teague's general bar on retroactive enforcement via habeas of "new rules" of constitutional law), it had a jurisdictional wrinkle--to wit, why the Supreme Court had appellate jurisdiction over the Louisiana state court's holding that Miller was not retroactive under Teague. Although the parties defended the Court's jurisdiction on the ground that the state court's analysis of Miller was "interwoven" with federal law (and thus not independent thereof), Justice Kennedy's majority opinion based the Court's jurisdiction on a much broader conclusion--that the exception to Teague for new "substantive" rules of constitutional law is constitutionally grounded, and thus directly binds the states (as a matter of federal law) in their post-conviction proceedings. Thus, Montgomery recognized for the first time at least some circumstances in which the Constitution (and not just the federal habeas statute) confers a right to a post-conviction remedy--at bottom, to enforce new "substantive" rules of constitutional law handed down by the Supreme Court after the petitioner's conviction became final.
The much more interesting question (to which we turn in Part II of our paper) is the forum in which such a remedy is constitutionally required. As we argue (in some detail), the Supreme Court’s Supremacy Clause jurisprudence, especially the 2009 decision in Haywood v. Drown, establishes that the constitutionally required collateral remedy recognized in Montgomery must be available, in the first instance, in state courts—even if the state has not chosen to provide collateral post-conviction relief for comparable state-law claims. Indeed, as we explain, the state courts also have the constitutional power and duty to afford such relief to federal prisoners, but Congress has the power to withdraw such cases from the state courts by giving the federal courts exclusive jurisdiction (even implicitly) over such claims. Thus, we conclude that the state courts are constitutionally obligated to afford collateral post-conviction review to state prisoners in the circumstances covered by Montgomery, and that the federal courts should be presumed to have the statutory obligation to afford such review to federal prisoners.
Needless to say, this analysis calls into question at least some features of contemporary post-conviction habeas jurisprudence (especially for second-or-successive federal petitioners), and raises a bunch of questions about how far beyond Teague's substantive exception this newfound right to collateral post-conviction review extends. We try to sketch out some thoughts on these issues in Part III, but if we're right about the importance of Montgomery (especially in light of Haywood), then we hope our paper is the beginning of a much broader academic and judicial reassessment of the scope and shape of contemporary collateral post-conviction remedies, not the end.
And, although it should go without saying, we'd surely welcome comments, suggestions, and feedback...
Friday, September 09, 2016
JOTWELL: Thornburg on Gilles on class actions and low-income litigants
The new Courts Law essay comes from Elizabeth Thornburg (SMU), reviewing Myriam Gilles' Class Warafre: The Disappearance of Low-Income Litigants from the Civil Docket (Emory L.J.), which explores the disparate effects of restrictions on aggregate litigation on low-income litigants.
Thursday, September 01, 2016
What to expect this month
Since my modest reputation doesn't usually precede me by very far, please let me introduce myself a bit. I am starting my third year as an assistant professor at Howard University School of Law, where I teach contracts, consumer financial law, bankruptcy and commercial law classes. I write primarily about bankruptcy issues. This month, I intend to primarily blog about the business of higher education. To get a flavor of what I intend to write about, you can check out my earlier blog posts and my forthcoming article on the topic. But I also intend to use this platform to highlight interesting scholarship by other commercial law/bankruptcy folks and to note interesting developments in the consumer law or contracts law spaces.
Thanks to everyone at Prawfs for having me this month! I'm excited to contribute to the community, instead of just obsessing over the submission angsting threads.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Bard Signing In
Let me start my third visit to Prawfs Blog with warm thanks to Howard Wasserman and to my fellow bloggers for the work they have done keeping this forum going. As the public information about Professor Markel’s murder becomes increasingly lurid, I’d rather focus on his work than on the circumstances of his tragic death. And from the beginning his work on this blog was to provide legal academics a forum to talk to each-other about matters of interest to them—whether it was highlighting a new study, commenting on a case or talking about legal academe.
As a brief self introduction, I’m starting my second year as the very proud dean of the absolutely amazing University of Cincinnati College of Law. Every day I hear something about what one of our faculty, alumni, staff or students are doing and I’m proud to have a role in sustaining the framework that allows these things to happen at our historic law school. So I’m going to talk about legal education. But as an engaged health law academic specializing in ethical issues in public health, the unchecked spread of Zika in the United States is also going to be a topic of discussion. Thank you for having me. It is a real honor to be included.
Posted by Jennifer Bard on August 31, 2016 at 09:37 PM in Article Spotlight, Blogging, Culture, Current Affairs, Dan Markel, Howard Wasserman, Information and Technology, Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw | Permalink
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Inside the agency class action
A quick flag for a new article from Michael Sant’Ambrogio (Michigan State) & past-guest Adam Zimmerman (Loyola-LA), Inside the Agency Class Action. This piece builds on some posts Adam wrote here, as well as some reports by the Administrative Conference of the US that Sergio Campos wrote about for JOTWELL.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
JOTWELL: Steinberg on lawyers and strategic expertise
The new Courts Law essay comes from guest contributor Jessica Steinberg (George Washington), reviewing Colleen F. Shanahan, Anna E. Carpenter & Alyx Mark, Lawyers, Power, and Strategic Expertise (Denv. L. Rev.) (forthcoming), an empirical study of when and why having counsel matters in civil litigation.
Monday, July 25, 2016
JOTWELL: Campos on aggregating administrative action
The new Courts Law essay comes from Sergio Campos (Miami), reviewing a recent report of the Administrative Conference of the United States on using aggregate adjudication in administrative proceedings.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
JOTWELL: Malveaux on Marcus on public interest class actions
The new Courts Law essay comes from Suzette Malveaux (Catholic), reviewing David Marcus, The Public Interest Class Action (Geo. L.J.), which considers the special role of the public-interest, equitable-relief class action and how to shield it from the Court's recent narrowing decisions.
Wednesday, June 01, 2016
JOTWELL: Wasserman on Lain on The Irrepressible Myth of SCOTUS
I have the new Courts Law essay, titled The Irrepressible Myth of SCOTUS, reviewing Corinna Lain (Richmond), Three Supreme Court "Failures" and a Story of Supreme Court Success (Vand. L. Rev.). Lain's article is part of a symposium on Erwin Chemerinsky's The Case Against the Supreme Court.
And I just could not resist the title.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
JOTWELL: Steinman on Pidot on tie votes
The new Courts Law essay comes from Adam Steinman (Alabama), reviewing Justin Pidot, Tie Votes in the Supreme Court (forthcoming in Minn.L. Rev.), a timely study of the history and effects of evenly divided Courts.
Monday, May 02, 2016
JOTWELL: Walsh on Blackman and Wasserman on marriage equality
The new Courts Law essay comes from Kevin Walsh (Richmond), reviewing Josh Blackman and my The Process of Marriage Equality (Hastings Const. L.Q.), which explores some of the procedural issues underlying marriage-equality litigation leading to and after Obergefell. And which appears to be something that is not going away.
Thursday, April 14, 2016
JOTWELL: Lahav on Prescott & Spier on Settlement
The new Courts Law essay comes from Alexandra Lahav (UConn) reviewing J.J. Prescott and Kathryn Spier's A Comprehensive Theory of Settlement (forthcoming N.Y.U. L. Rev.), which offers a broad understanding of settlement within civil litigation.
Friday, April 01, 2016
Litigant Autonomy After Scalia--and Thanks!
In two previous posts, I reviewed new GMU Law namesake Justice Scalia’s approach to litigant autonomy—or at least, what I think his writings and cases suggest about that approach. Briefly, Scalia seemed to think litigant claim-control rights are substantive entitlements conferred by the law that creates in personam-style rights of action. I also criticized this view.
One response is, “who cares” whether or not claim-control entitlements are conferred by the law that creates rights of action. Due process requires affording litigants protection for their claim-control interests. So, even if claim control entitlements don't vest through the law that creates a right of action, protection for claim-control flows from basic due process guarantees.
My interest in how we derive autonomy rights stems from the fact I’m pretty much convinced by Sergio Campos’s thin account of the protection that ought to be afforded litigant autonomy as a matter of due process. If you buy Sergio’s due process argument, as I tend to do, and are a skeptic about the claim that autonomy is a positively conferred substantive right, it means that there's more space for work theorizing why we protect litigant autonomy to the degree that we do.
There’s already interesting work out there pursuing that project. I highly recommend Ryan Williams' piece on litigant autonomy, Due Process, Class Action Opt Outs, and the Right Not to Sue, available here. He makes an important move by reframing opt out as a protection afforded claim-owners’ interests in controlling whether to assert a claim in the first place.
In this paper, I rotate our view of litigant autonomy in a slightly different direction. The power to control a claim is not just the power to control whether to assert it—but where to assert it. It’s the power to put legal issues and remedial interests on a court’s dispute resolution agenda.
In the article, I make two claims about agenda-setting power conferred by claim-control—the first, which I will quickly summarize below the line for those who might be interested, is that the shift opens the door to appreciating that litigant autonomy actually does some important work in our system of judicial federalism.
Although federal-state jurisdictional concurrency is characterized in a number of different ways, I take the conventional view: concurrency uses judicial competition to break down or check concentration of the business of dispute resolution in the federal system.
Concurrency does this in part through what might be called agenda-setting rules—rules that specify who gets to pick between competing forums. Subject to some exceptions, our system generally employs a plaintiffs-pick-the-forum rule, reflected in, say, the well-pleaded complaint rule and voluntary/involuntary rule in diversity jurisdiction. Together, both empower plaintiffs to control which courts, state or federal, get to decide their case by exploiting aspects of claim-control--their control the theory of the case and the party structure.
Scholars puzzle over the plaintiff-picks-the-forum rule. Considered in isolation, it plausibly furthers the anti-concentration goal of concurrency-- largely because plaintiffs have historically tended, for a variety of reasons, to prefer state over federal court.
But, the plaintiff-picks rule really gains its force as a check on federal consolidation when it is layered on top of the principle that individual plaintiffs control their own claims—or in other words, when plaintiff-picks is hitched to a regime of litigant autonomy. Litigant autonomy decentralizes the power to set the judicial agenda among a network of claim owners. Because litigants, in turn, naturally tend to have different forum preferences, that decentralization tends to fragment litigation across federal and state forums.
Not perfectly, of course. And not evenly. But it does so nonetheless. That’s, indeed, exactly what we see when we take the class device away, as we have, for the most part, in mass torts. The federal class action consolidates remedial interests in federal court in part because it overrides class members’ autonomy and with it their exploit the theory of the case and party structure to control where their claims end up. Take the class action away, give class members control over their own claims, and some chunks of mass litigation inevitably radiate out of federal courts reach into state court as litigants exploit their claim-control to park there claims there. True before CAFA. True after.
This fact, I argue, points out the plausibility of treating the traditional claim-control entitlement as traditional component of the system of concurrency—one that furthers that system’s anti-concentration goals.
That’s my first claim—litigant autonomy does some work in our system of judicial federalism. My second claim is that appreciating litigant autonomy’s role in the system of concurrency has some interesting formal implications for federal class action doctrine—one that allows us to draw on intertwined separation of powers and federalism principles to make a case for narrow constructions of Rule 23. (The argument also reinforces the claim made by others that the Court ought to be deferential to the rulemaking bureaucracy—treating it, effectively, as a stand-in for Congress or, put another way, as a system of internal separation of powers--a point I’m exploring in a current working paper).
My argument, incidentally, echoes older, and lost, approach to litigant autonomy that appears in mid-century cases (see the oft-neglected concluding part of State Farm Fire & Casualty v. Tashire, where the Court construes statutory interpleader's application to mass torts narrowly in order to protect litigants’ “substantial right” to choose a state forum, for example). Rather than summarize this second claim, I’ll let you read the article yourself, if you are interested.
Thanks to Howard and Prawfs for the invite to blog over the last month!
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
JOTWELL: Thomas on Coleman on efficiency
The new Courts Law essay comes from Suja Thomas (Illinois), reviewing Brooke Coleman's The Efficiency Norm (B.C. L. Rev.), which explores the way the concept of efficiency has been defined and applied in civil litigation.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Debating the Infield Fly Rule in Penn Law Review
In December, Penn Law Review published A Step Aside: Time to Drop the Infield Fly Rule and End a Common Law Anomaly, by U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford and his law clerk, Joel Mallord. While there have been rumblings in many places against the Infield Fly Rule, this was the first full, sustained scholarly critique of the rule. My response, Just a Bit Aside: Perverse Incentives, Cost-Benefit Imbalances, and the Infield Fly Rule, has now been published on Penn Law Review Online.
Kar and Mazzone on Why President Obama Has the Constitutional Power to Appoint Scalia's replacement
Robin Kar and Jason Mazzone (both of Illinois) have posted Why President Obama Has the Constitutional Power to Appoint--and Not Just Nominate--a Replacement for Justice Scalia to SSRN. The abstract is after the jump.
The opportunities that SSRN, Law Review Supplements, blogs, and other sites provide for this type of immediate-and-scholarly work is a boon to legal scholarship.After Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent death, politicians wasted no time before teeing up a political battle over his replacement. Republican Senators—led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—immediately announced that they will not consider or vote on any replacement nominees from the current President. In doing so, they have taken a position that may be constitutionally problematic in ways that have not yet been fully appreciated. Now that President Obama has nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, this problem requires greater attention.
The crux of the problem is that an outright refusal on the part of the Senate to consider any nominee from President Obama arguably works a delegation of an elected President’s Supreme Court appointment power to an unknown successor. While the Appointments Clause of the Constitution allows Congress to delegate a President's appointment power in certain instances, it does not permit delegation with respect to Supreme Court appointments. Hence this delegation raises a potential problem of separation of powers. Historical practice also cautions against any effort to delegate to a future President the authority to nominate and appointment a member of the Supreme Court. We show that there are 104 cases in which an elected President has faced a vacancy on the Supreme Court and began the appointment process prior to the election of a successor. In all 104 cases, the sitting President was able to both nominate and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint a replacement Justice. We explain why this is a better reading of historical precedent than any limited to consideration of the last 80 years. Hence, constitutional text, structure and history suggest that the Senate Republicans’ current plan not to act at all on any Obama nominee may violate the Constitution. Given this possible constitutional problem, there are also heightened prudential risks to the position Senate Republicans have taken.
None of this means that the Senate cannot vote against President Obama’s nominees on a wide range of grounds. The Senate also has broad discretion to determine its procedures for vetting a nominee. But the delegation problem identified in this Article provides a significant reason for Republican Senators, sworn to uphold the Constitution, to rethink their current position. They should instead consider and vote upon Garland or any other timely submitted nominee.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
JOTWELL: Mulligan on McCuskey on Submerged Precedent (again)
The new Courts Law essay comes from Lumen Mulligan (Kansas), reviewing Elizabeth McCuskey's Submerged Precedent (Nev. L. Rev.). This is the second reviewof McCuskey's article, following on Brooke Coleman's review last month. McCuskey has obviously struck a chord with Fed Courts/Civ Pro types.
Thursday, March 03, 2016
JOTWELL: Sassman on Bray on the new equity
The new Courts Law essay comes from Wyatt Sassman, reviewing Samuel Bray's The Supreme Court and the New Equity (Vand. L. Rev.), which explores the Court's recent new approach to equitable cases and the equitable powers of the federal judiciary.
Thursday, February 04, 2016
Discussing the Vanishing Civil Trial
Thanks to Howard for letting me linger here a few extra days. I wanted to close with a plug for a terrific new article in Judicature by U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby, entitled Imagined Conversations: The Decline in Federal Civil Trials. The steady drop in the federal civil trial rate since the 1960s is well-known, but Judge Hornby offers a concise and fresh take on the topic by envisioning a no-holds-barred conversation between old law school classmates who now occupy a variety of senior legal positions, from judges to trial counsel to corporate general counsel.
The article is a great read: short, entertaining, and fast-moving. It will be required reading for my civil procedure students. Most importantly, it keenly and respectfully identifies the many interrelated factors have contributed to the drop in civil trials over the past several decades. It should provoke useful discussions between unabashed proponents of civil trials (like myself) and those who are more agnostic.
Relatedly, I was thrilled to see that the same issue of Judicature features a compelling plea from John Rabiej to open federal PACER records for academic research without the need for district-by-district waivers.
Both pieces are well worth your time. To shamelessly borrow a phrase from Larry Solum, download them while they’re hot!
JOTWELL: Coleman on McCuskey on "submerged" decisions
The new Courts Law essay comes from Brooke Coleman (Seattle), reviewing Elizabeth McCuskey's Submerged Precedent (forthcoming Nev. L. Rev.), which examines the substantial body of reasoned district court decisions that are often not publicly available.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
JOTWELL: Tidmarsh on Hill on financing class actions
The new Courts Law essay comes from Jay Tidmarsh (Notre Dame) reviewing a student note by Tyler Hill (Yale), Financing the Class; Strengthening Class Action Through Third-Party Investment (Yale L.J.).
Tuesday, January 05, 2016
JOTWELL: Effron on Moore on the amended FRCP
The new Courts Law essay comes from Robin Effron (Brooklyn), reviewing Patricia Hatamayar Moore's The Anti-Plaintiff Pending Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Pro-Defendant Composition of the Federal Rulemaking Committees (Cin. L. Rev.). As I get ready to teach Civ Pro this semester and to cover the new discovery rules (which Chief Justice Roberts highlighted in his year-end report), the article and Robin's review are both essential.
Thursday, December 03, 2015
JOTWELL: Leong on Nielson & Walker on qualified immunity
The new Courts Law essay comes from Nancy Leong (Denver), reviewing Nielson and Walker's The New Qualified Immunity (forthcoming S. Cal. L. Rev.), which explores how lower courts are and should apply the discretionary two-step approach to qualified immunity under Pearson. Both the article and Nancy's review essay are worth a read.
Monday, November 16, 2015
JOTWELL: Erbsen on Trammell and Bambauer on personal jurisdiction
Monday, November 02, 2015
JOTWELL: Pfander on Williams on Marks
The new Courts Law essay comes from James Pfander (Northwestern-Pritzker), reviewing Ryan C. Williams, Questions Marks: Plurality Decisions and Precedential Constraint, which discusses lower courts' misuse of Marks v. United States in identifying controlling precedent from plurality opinions.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
JOTWELL: Mullenix on Levens on security class actions
Sunday, October 11, 2015
Lisa McElroy's "Called On"
Lisa McElroy (Drexel) has published Called On, a novel about law school that Tony Mauro calls "This Generation's One L." Lisa tells me that Dan encouraged her in this project early on and she mentions him in the acknowledgements.
Wednesday, October 07, 2015
Should the Umpqua shooter's mother be liable?
Chris Harper-Mercer was 26 years old when he killed 9 people last week. He was a troubled young man living at home, who should not have had access to guns. And yet he had access to 14 of them. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/06/us/mother-of-oregon-gunman-wrote-of-keeping-firearms.html?_r=0
Chris lived with his mother, Laurel Harper. Laurel bragged about keeping fully loaded magazines for her AR-15 and AK-47 semiautomatic rifles in easy access in her house. Laurel also knew that Chris had emotional problems. Should Laurel, and other parents of mass shooters, be held liable for the actions of their adult children?
Professor Shaundra Lewis, (Thurgood Marshall School of Law), asks this question in her timely piece, The Cost of Raising a Killer--Parental Liability for the Parents of Adult Mass Murderers, 61 Villanova L. Rev. 1 (forthcoming 2015). http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2669869 As she explains in her abstract:
[T]he shooter’s parents almost always knew their offspring were seriously mentally ill beforehand . . . Despite knowing her son was severely mentally unstable, Nancy [Lanza] left her son home unsupervised with unfettered access to her arsenal of weapons while she went on vacation. This provided her son with the perfect opportunity to make a practice run to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he later used her firearms to shoot and kill kindergartners and first-graders.
Using Nancy Lanza’s case and other notorious mass shooting cases as examples, this article [explores] if, and under what circumstances, a parent can be held civilly liable for their adult child’s mass shooting pursuant to general common law negligence jurisprudence [particularly] parental negligence law. [It first] address[es] whether there can be parental liability for parents of adult mass shooters based upon a special relationship under current law. [Then it analyzes] negligence [doctrines] in general and its complexities, as well as explores whether a duty to protect or warn can be established in mass shooting cases. [Next it] examines whether the parents in the real-life examples referenced above breached a duty to protect or warn [and] whether those parents’ breaches caused the shooting victims’ injuries or deaths. [The Article] concludes that in some circumstances parents can, and should, be held liable for their misfeasance or nonfeasance that leads to their child’s mass killing. It further posits that the . . . possibility of parents being subjected to financial liability for their child’s mass shooting will not only incentivize parents to take more aggressive measures to keep firearms out of their mentally unstable child’s hands but to obtain the mental health assistance their child so desperately needs—measures that in the end will make everyone (including their child) safer. [The Article concludes with] advice to parents for dealing with significantly mentally ill, adult offspring residing in their home.
Although I agree that financial liability would incentive parents to limit access to guns, I wonder whether it might also encourage parents to cut ties with their adult children precisely when they need the most support. Nonetheless, Lewis’s article shines a light on the sadly recurring question of whether parents should be responsible for the preventable actions of their adult children.
I’m Andy Kim, Assistant Professor at Concordia University School of Law. My own research focuses on criminal law and empirical analysis of the law. I’ll be guest blogging for the month. Hope you enjoy!