Online Content

Display: All articles / Browse By:

January 25, 2018

Reconsidering Incitement, Tinker and the Heckler’s Veto on College Campuses: Richard Spencer and the Charlottesville Factor

This Essay analyzes key First Amendment issues surrounding Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos speaking on public university campuses. Some institutions have flatly banned Spencer, citing fears of incitement to violence but also sparking federal lawsuits. Other schools have permitted Spencer to speak, but at massive security costs, in an attempt to prevent a so-called heckler’s veto. This Essay examines the tension between providing a public platform for controversial speakers and the costs associated with doing so, including the relevance of the Supreme Court’s aging incitement test created in Brandenburg v. Ohio. It also questions the Court’s 1992 ruling in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement restricting governmental entities’ ability to shift escalating security fees to speakers based on fears of violence.

January 4, 2018

MDL v. Trump: The Puzzle of Public Law in Multidistrict Litigation

Litigation against the Trump administration has proliferated rapidly since the inauguration. As cases challenging executive actions, such as the Travel Ban, multiply in federal courts around the country, an important procedural question has so far not been considered: should these sets of cases be consolidated in a single court under the Multidistrict Litigation Act? Multidistrict litigation, or MDL, has become one of the most prominent parts of federal litigation and offers substantial benefits by coordinating litigation pending in geographically dispersed federal courts. Arguably, those benefits would also accrue if “public law” cases were given MDL treatment. There also are some underappreciated strategic reasons why both plaintiffs and the government might want to invoke the MDL process in these cases—and we suspect that, sooner rather than later, one of these parties might give MDL a try.

This Essay argues that although the MDL statute would allow for consolidation of these public-law cases, there are prudential reasons why the judges in charge of MDL should stay their hands. In our view, these cases rarely achieve the efficiencies of most MDLs, and there is value to these cases undergoing scrutiny in multiple trial and appellate courts before they percolate upward to Supreme Court review. Moreover, consolidation of these cases would raise the political profile of the MDL process, and thus might politicize the MDL itself as well as the selection of its judges. This politicization could undermine MDL’s primary role in mass-tort litigation—and, indeed, it risks harming the national tort system more generally.

November 19, 2017

The Wages of Genetic Entitlement: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act

This Essay analyzes flaws and assumptions in the recently enacted Rape Survivor Child Custody Act. The RSCCA offers a window into the problems with defining parenthood in terms of genes instead of caretaking relationships, which is what led to the problem of rapists being able to claim parental rights in the first place. Rather than address that underlying defect in family law, the statute attempts a solution that might work if all rapists were strangers, all rapists were men, and all rape victims were women, but glosses over complicated problems of violence and coercion in relationships. Despite this failure to grapple with hard cases, the RSCCA helps us see how the biological processes of reproduction are necessarily intertwined with the definition of legal parenthood.

November 18, 2017

The Fragility of the Free American Press

This Essay argues that the national discussion spurred by President Trump's treatment of the press has fallen short of capturing the true seriousness of the situation. The authors argue that in order to fully understand the critical juncture at which American press freedom now stands, we must expand the discussion beyond talk of a rogue president's aberrant attacks on the press and consider the increasingly fragile edifice on which the American free press sits. The kind of press we value and need in the United States is supported by a number of legal and nonlegal pillars. Each of these supports has weakened substantially in recent years, leaving the one remaining pillar of tradition and custom to bear more of the weight. Contrary to widespread belief, our concern should not be that Trump might be taking the first step toward crippling the power of the free press, but rather that he might be taking the final step in a process that has long been underway.