Few decisions in American constitutional law have frustrated, inspired, and puzzled more than Katzenbach v. Morgan. Justice Brennan’s 1966 opinion put forth the seemingly radical claim that Congress—through its power, based in Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, to “enforce, by appropriate legislation,” the rights enumerated in that Amendment—shared responsibility with the Court to define the meaning of Fourteenth Amendment rights. Although it spawned a cottage industry of scholarship, this claim has never been fully embraced by a subsequent Supreme Court majority, and in City of Boerne v. Flores, the Supreme Court rejected the heart of the Morgan decision as subversive of the American constitutional order. Today, Morgan stands largely as an aberration of American constitutional law.
This Article attempts to place Morgan back into the stream of historical development from which it arose. When properly situated in its historical context, Justice Brennan’s opinion appears less puzzling and less aberrational. Morgan in fact built upon several decades of debates in the courts, in Congress, and among legal commentators over the scope of congressional enforcement power under Section 5—debates that largely have been missing from Section 5 scholarship. In reconstructing the history from this period, this Article also identifies the political and legal conditions that supported claims of shared constitutional interpretive responsibility in the past and considers whether these conditions might again be met in the future.
Aggregation—the ability to join parties or claims in a federal civil lawsuit—has usually been governed by subject matter jurisdiction, claim and issue preclusion, and the joinder rules. These doctrines have tended to favor aggregation for its efficiency, consistency, and predictability. Yet aggregation is suddenly under attack from a new threat, one that has little to do with aggregation directly: personal jurisdiction. In this Article, I chronicle how a recent restrictive turn in personal jurisdiction—seen in modern cases narrowing general jurisdiction and October Term 2016’s blockbuster case Bristol-Myers Squibb—threatens the salutary benefits of aggregation across a number of areas, including simple joinder of parties and claims, representative actions, and multidistrict litigation. I offer a solution for preserving aggregation’s advantages in the face of this trend in personal jurisdiction: authorize a broader scope of personal jurisdiction in federal court for multiparty and multiclaim cases. I defend such a regime as constitutional and consistent with the norms of both personal jurisdiction and aggregation.
Today, an estimated 5400 people are civilly committed under state and federal sex offender programs. This Note surveys these civil commitment regimes and finds that seventeen jurisdictions (sixteen states and the federal government) have enacted legislative schemes that authorize the indefinite civil detention of people charged with, or previously convicted of, sex offenses to prisons or prison-like facilities—often for their entire lives. By charting the pervasiveness of sex offender civil commitment to prison, this Note provides new evidence that these sex offender civil commitment statutes are, in fact, punitive and, therefore, unconstitutional. Moreover, this Note argues that the Supreme Court’s decision in Kingsley v. Hendrickson calls into question the Court’s logic in upholding sex offender civil commitment regimes in prior cases. Traditionally, civil commitment jurisprudence has turned on whether the legislature intends to punish—not merely confine—sex offenders. Kingsley, however, suggests that confinement may be found punitive based solely on the objective harshness of the conditions of incarceration, regardless of whether any state actor intended for the conditions to be punitive. If incarceration conditions may now constitute punishment regardless of governmental intent, it follows that the government may be punishing thousands of sex offenders without authorization. Indeed, as this Note shows, convicted prisoners and committed sex offenders commonly experience identical conditions of confinement.