Saturday, February 06, 2016

Flint and Minoritarian Fiscal Illusion: Will Republicans and Libertarians Stand Up and Cheer for Governmental Liability?

There has been a longstanding debate in legal academia about whether government is really afflicted by "fiscal illusion" -- that is, the illusion that governmental officials care mostly or only about costs affecting the fisc and, therefore, will impose inefficiently large private costs on individuals if these private costs are not reflected in budgetary outlays. The theory was initially championed by advocates for a robust doctrine of regulatory takings, and it was rooted in a simple political economy of majoritarian politics (set forth, for instance, by Blume's, Rubinfeld's, and Shapiro's 1984 article): If most voters benefit from a regulation that imposes costs on a small number of landowners, then politicians responsive to the majority will ignore the costs to gain the benefits.

Since Daryl Levinson's classic 2000 article, Making Governments Pay, however, scholars have been going short on fiscal illusion. As Daryl notes, damages against private organizations might deter their officers, because officers care about maximizing stuff like share price, and shareholders can sell in a liquid market. But why should anyone believe that a majority of voters can overcome collective action problems to force politicians and bureaucrats to protect the public treasury or maximize majority-benefiting regulations? Why will not these public agents betray voters by paying off influential landowners, public employee unions, or contractors at public expense? Efforts to confirm empirically the existence of a fiscal illusion have not been especially encouraging. (See, e.g., Y.C. Chang's sophisticated empirical study of Taiwanese officials' decisions regarding compensation and property assessment and Bethany Berger's a more recent argument that politicians' incentives to increase the yield of ad valorem property taxes will protect against fiscal illusion).

Fiscal illusion, however, need not be based on a majoritarian theory of politics in which a mob gangs up on the lone landowner -- a theory that is perhaps unrealistic outside of a smallish suburb homogeneously populated by Bill Fischel's "home-voting" homeowners -- but rather in minoritarian politics.

Consider, as an example, the City of Flint's crisis with lead-contaminated water as Exhibit A of presumptive fiscal illusion. Darnell Earley, the emergency manager appointed by Governor Snyder to run Flint, had a bureaucratic mandate to save money and no electoral incentive to protect non-fiscal goals like voters' health. By switching Flint's water supply from the expensive Detroit water system to the cheaper and more corrosive Flint River, Earley maximized the first goal and ignored the second, with the result that Flint's residents now have elevated lead levels in their blood.

An easy case for presumptive fiscal illusion, right? If you have been a champion of liability for regulatory takings on "fiscal illusion" grounds, then should you not support Mike Pitt's lawsuit for damages against the city and state under a theory of municipal and/or state liability? And yet I have not heard many of my fellow Republicans and libertarians calling for a weakening of Eleventh Amendment and state sovereign immunity defenses or for a broadening of Monell "custom-and-practice" liability. Perhaps I just have not been paying attention (in which case, readers, alert me to the conservatives cheering on lawsuits for damages against Flint). Or perhaps conservative jurists have generated mutually incompatible doctrines on takings liability and sovereign immunity for decades, leaving conservatives ambiguous about expansively construing governmental liability for torts as opposed to takings. It seems to me, however, that, whatever the case for fiscal illusion in the context of zoning, the case for such fiscal illusion here looks pretty strong. Why are not damages the needed antidote?

Posted by Rick Hills on February 6, 2016 at 02:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, February 05, 2016

The Rule of Law in the Real World.

This round of prawfsblawgging comes at an exciting and terrifying time for me: my first book, The Rule of Law in the Real World, comes out in a few days, courtesy of Cambridge University Press. It's an attempt to reconcile the philosophical, legal, and empirical literature on the ideal of "the rule of law," and show its symbiotic relationship with genuine legal equality. I think the official release date is February 11, although at least one person has already gotten her hands on a copy (before me!). Pre-orders are open (Cambridge, Amazon). I've also put up a website at, mainly as a home for some cool interactive data visualizations---but I also hope to make it a live, ongoing thing, collecting other rule of law scholarship, data, and knowledge in general.

So the exciting is obvious, buy why terrifying? Well, I think that all of us academics are subject to quite a bit of imposter syndrome, and none more than those of us doing interdisciplinary work. No matter how good you are, even if you're Richard Posner Himself, you can't produce high-quality scholarly work in every discipline at once.  So anyone who publishes an extremely interdisciplinary book---and this book is that, in spades, delving into political philosophy, classics, game theory, empirical analysis, and other areas---surely must live in terror of opening up the journals or getting a Google Scholar alert to see his or her book get shredded by someone who actually is good at one of the disciplines the book has invaded.  And while there are treatments for this condition---serious cross-training, showing your work to people who know more than you before rather than after publishing it--- there is no certain cure. 

Yet some research topics really can only be handled by using methods from every field at once. The rule of law is definitely one of those: it has such a long historical provenance, has been the object of so many conflicting interpretations from lawyers, philosophers, historians, economists, political scientists, and others (Waldron once called it an "essentially contested concept"), and has such growing policy relevance in a world where hundreds of millions of dollars are spent promoting it (or the promoters' conception of what it might be) in places like Afghanistan, that the only way to really get any traction and make any progress is to try to bring something together from those disparate domains.  This is, I think, why Brian Tamanaha's wonderful rule of law work has become so influential: he really made the first big attempt to listen to all the diverse conversations on the subject.

So hopefully the terror of the review pages will prove unfounded, and it'll turn out that I'm really not faking competence in all those things.  The next half a year or so will tell.  In the meantime, I'll be blogging about The Rule of Law in the Real World throughout the month, along with whatever other crazy topics happen to cross my mind.  Onward!

Posted by Paul Gowder on February 5, 2016 at 06:29 PM in Books, Legal Theory | Permalink | Comments (2)

More intentional fouls

Following on my earlier post, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver now says he will have the league's Competition Committee explore ways to restrict the practice, explicitly recognizing it as an aesthetic concern. But any rule has to consider all responses and downstream consequences. For example, the first corrective was that off-the-ball fouls in the last two minutes of the game result in the fouled team shooting one free throw and keeping the ball; coaches have responded by having players jump on the bad shooter's back on a free throw attempt, which is considered a loose ball and not subject to that rule. Proposals have included limiting the number of times a team can do it, given the shooting team the option of getting the ball out of bounds (my preference), or giving the fouled team an extra free throw, to be taken by any player (a version of something suggested by a commenter to my earlier post).

Something to watch this off-season, especially to the extent the making of sports rules can tell us something about the making of laws.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 5, 2016 at 01:00 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Power or Participation? Consensus in Political Deliberation

How should we structure our democratic institutions? Do we worry about political power, and so seek to maximize the ways in which political authorities are accountable to the public? Here we might emphasize reciprocity as a core feature of political institutions. Or to maximize the public’s participation in the political process. On the one hand, accountability checks the unbridled power of the political elite. On the other hand, public opinion is likely to be ill-formed or easily manipulated, more the result of passion than reason or knowledge, as Madison worried in Federalist 10? If we are worried about an ill-informed public, then we might promote a form of participation that allows political representatives to discount public opinion, even while maximizing public participation in selecting those representatives or even canvassing opinion.

The debate about political process has become especially important in the policing context. The Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing enthusiastically endorsed procedural justice as the best way for the police to build trust and legitimacy within their communities. Procedural justice has been endorsed on the other side of the Atlantic as a means of promoting consensus based policing. Drawing on research from organizations whose members share a common purpose, procedural justice argues that we ought to adopt procedures that encourage participation, and treat the participants respectfully, beneficently, and neutrally.

Continue reading "Power or Participation? Consensus in Political Deliberation"

Posted by Eric Miller on February 5, 2016 at 12:24 PM in Criminal Law, Deliberation and voices, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Maybe they should stop eating cheese, too.

My Facebook feed is blowing up with snarky comments in response to the CDC's just released report and recommendations on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  As I understand it, researchers have yet to identify any "safe" level of alcohol consumption during any stage of pregnancy, in part because it would be unethical to test the proposition through blind studies etc.   The CDC voices its concern that women reportedly continue drinking alcohol (meaning, they have had at least one drink within the past 30 days, if I am reading CDC's website correctly), when they attempt to become pregnant.  Plus, many women who are not even trying to conceive have unplanned pregnancies, and they report drinking too.  So, the CDC tells us in quite an alarmed tone: "3 million US women" risk "exposing their developing baby to alcohol." To eliminate the risks associated with such exposure, the CDC recommends no alcohol consumption for those who are or even "might be" pregnant. In other words, unless a sexually active woman of childbearing age is using birth control, she should stop drinking.      

This is not the first time this issue has surfaced, but it is the first time abstention has been recommended not just for those who are pregnant, but also for those who are of childbearing age and engaging in unprotected sex. 

Continue reading "Maybe they should stop eating cheese, too. "

Posted by Miriam Baer on February 4, 2016 at 04:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

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!

Posted by Jordan Singer on February 4, 2016 at 03:29 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 4, 2016 at 12:26 PM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Who is making the 700,000 FOIA requests the government receives every year?

The Freedom of Information Act has been making a bit of news recently, as Congress considers proposed reforms, and the House has even passed a bill that would effectuate the most significant changes to the statute in nearly a decade. Many of the proposals are excellent, and, if enacted, would certainly strengthen the public’s right to access government records.

But a more structural problem plagues FOIA, one that I explore in depth in my forthcoming article: it was designed to perform one function and, to a large extent, it is used to serve others. What purpose was it designed to serve? Mostly journalists’ interest in reporting the news to the public. In fact, it may even be fair to say that the news media essentially drafted the law. In 1953, Harold Cross wrote a book called “The People’s Right to Know” in his capacity as an advisor to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the most prominent journalism association at the time. After documenting the patchwork of existing access laws, most of which fell woefully short of journalists’ needs, Cross called on Congress to legislate a right to access public records. Because the book garnered interest in Congress, Cross himself subsequently become the legal adviser to the special subcommittee in the House of Representatives tasked with drafting the law, and journalists mostly staffed the committee. That is, journalists were crafting the very contours of the law, not just its vision.

Continue reading "Who is making the 700,000 FOIA requests the government receives every year?"

Posted by Margaret Kwoka on February 4, 2016 at 10:59 AM in Information and Technology, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Investigative Grand Jury in Police Use of Deadly Force Cases

One notable but perhaps overlooked statement from Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, regarding his use of the grand jury in the Tamir Rice case, is his claim that he used the grand jury in that case (and in other police use of deadly force cases) “sitting as an investigative panel.”

This statement goes part of the way toward responding to some of the criticism levied at McGinty.  Critics complain (among other things) that in most grand juries, the grand jury process is relatively short, and the prosecutor presents only as much evidence as is needed to get an indictment, actively pushes for an indictment to be returned, and presents the jury with a bill and urges them to indict—none of which happened in the Tamir Rice case.  In fact, McGinty did not even present a draft indictment to the jury for their vote.

In most cases, grand juries are used for their charging function, not primarily for their investigative function.  In the more unusual case that a grand jury is used in its investigative role, the claims above do not necessarily hold true—the investigative jury process is often lengthy, with many witnesses, and the prosecutor is sometimes seeking information rather than aggressively pursuing charges.  At the end of some investigative grand juries, the prosecutor does even not ask for a vote on a draft indictment.

McGinty’s claim that he used the grand jury in its investigative function thus begins to explain why the grand jury in the Tamir Rice case operated differently from how most grand juries ordinarily operate.

But—does it make sense to use an investigative grand jury in a police use of deadly force case, such as the Tamir Rice shooting?  I don’t think so.  Prosecutors turn to the investigative grand jury when they want to make use of the unique powers of the grand jury to conduct a particular type of investigation that might otherwise be very difficult to conduct.  The grand jury can subpoena witnesses and make them testify under oath (unless they invoke the Fifth).  It can subpoena documents.  The investigative grand jury allows a prosecutor in a complex case, such as some types of white collar crime, or conspiracy, or official corruption—to nail down many witnesses, get their testimony, find out what happened in smoke-filled rooms.

These tools are not particularly needed in most police use of deadly force cases.  Take the Tamir Rice case.  The video evidence and the dispatcher communications were all available, and all witnesses who were going to talk did talk with the police.  Using an investigative grand jury did not allow McGinty to unearth evidence or statements he did not already have.

Thus perhaps a better way to frame the question about McGinty’s use of the grand jury in this case is not “why is this grand jury process different from ordinary grand juries?” but rather, “why would a prosecutor use a grand jury in its investigative function, in a case where the investigative powers of the grand jury are not needed?”

I’ll turn to consider that question in a later post.

Posted by Jonathan Witmer-Rich on February 4, 2016 at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

University compliance: employee privacy and academic freedom

In the days before I switched over to academia, I worked briefly for Verizon as an Assistant General Counsel for Compliance.  Upon turning on my computer every day, a sign flashed on my screen reminding me that "my" computer wasn't my computer at all, but was in fact my employer's computer.  Thus, like my fellow colleagues, I was fully aware that my emails could be searched, as could any of my Internet searches.  None of this bothered me terribly, as I knew it was standard practice among corporate employers.  I kept a separate email account for contacts with friends and family and went about my merry way.

All that changed as soon as I moved over to a law school.  If the "norm" within a publicly held corporation was that the company retained an obligation to search its employees' emails and monitor their Internet usage, the norm within the university setting seemed (that's the operative word) wildly different.  The oft-cited concept of academic freedom altered the relationship between employer and employee, as did the notion of shared governance.  Accordingly, different expectations prevailed, punctuated by Harvard's email-investigation scandal a few years back.  

These privacy-friendly norms and expectations may change, however, as educational institutions increasingly take greater efforts to secure their systems and respond to compliance obligations imposed upon them by outside regulators. Cal/Berkeley's reported adoption of an email monitoring system to deter hackers is currently in the news (although the school assures its students and professors that it is not reviewing their emails), and one cannot help but think that academia's monitoring of its employee-email systems will become more common over time (if it isn't happening already).  The foregoing developments invoke questions not only about the proper contours of student and faculty privacy, but also about internal compliance efforts within academic institutions.

Compliance, broadly defined, is a process of educating employees on internal and external rules, monitoring employees to make sure they follow those rules, disciplining (and/or terminating) those employees when they violate rules, and self-reporting firm-related violations to the proper authorities.  Universities, as well all know, are subject to quite a few rules; thus, the need for internal academic compliance officers (and apparently, trade journals related to the topic). No matter how fuzzy and warm we try to portray compliance, the function pits the employee against his employer and erodes privacy. Observers more or less accept this state of affairs within the for-profit corporation, although even here, there are certainly those who worry about the ways in which "compliance" unduly harms employees.  The "academic compliance" context, however, is one that cries out for further attention, particularly from those of us who think and write so much about corporate investigations and monitoring.   

Posted by Miriam Baer on February 3, 2016 at 07:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hello World!

Thanks to the Prawfsblawg folks for inviting me back to the blawg. I see it's a crim heavy cast of characters this month. I too have just finished a draft of an article about policing and democracy, some of which I'll share on the blawg. Perhaps I'll start with some of the democracy stuff, since it's primary season. More on that later ...

Posted by Eric Miller on February 3, 2016 at 02:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hello from warm and sunny Cleveland

Thanks to Howard for the invitation, and to the late great Dan Markel for his work inviting me (like so many others) into the scholarly community.  Here in Cleveland the sun is shining, the temp is currently 61, and the firm of James, Love, Irving & Associates is doing fine work.

Meanwhile there are a lot of interesting, important, and troubling criminal justice problems in Cleveland.  In the coming month I plan to discuss some of those, such as the role of the prosecutor and of the grand jury in police use of deadly force cases.

Also I plan on discussing the concept of affirmative consent in rape and sexual assault law. 

Posted by Jonathan Witmer-Rich on February 3, 2016 at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bibas on "The Decline of Mercy"

Over at First Things, Prof. Stephanos Bibas - whose "The Machinery of Criminal Justice" I really enjoyed -- has a review  of this book, "The Decline of Mercy in Public Life," by Alex Tuckness and John Parrish.  Bibas concludes with this:

Justice requires discretion as well as rules, and it can coexist with mercy.

When our laws deny this truth, they grow mechanistic and inhumane. Strenuously squelching arbitrariness simply drives discretion underground (say, from judges and juries to prosecutors) or forces everyone into the same Procrustean bed. Exalting rights and censoring empathy can be heartless toward criminal defendants and debtors. Government social programs risk crowding out charitable expressions of love that remind ourselves that the poor are our brethren and we are all our brothers’ keepers. And all of these rule-based, bureaucratic approaches miss opportunities to inculcate the virtue of mercy in our hearts as well as in our children’s. Government cannot mirror Christian teaching, particularly in a pluralistic country. But it can leave more room for Christian insights to leaven rules with mercy, compassion, and love.

I shared the review with my CrimLaw students and thought it might be of interest to CrimPrawfs, too!  And, I am reminded that our dear friend and colleague, Dan Markel, published an article early in his career -- in 2004 -- called  "Against Mercy."  


Posted by Rick Garnett on February 3, 2016 at 10:44 AM in Criminal Law, Rick Garnett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Serial 2:5

In the most recent episode of Serial, Sarah Koenig argues that the military (for that matter, the nation) really wasn’t doing everything it could to search for Bergdahl, even though officials were publically saying that they were doing everything they could to find him. She offers several reasons for this, and I discuss some of those below the fold. 

To me, the really interesting reason is the one related to victim-blaming. Koenig implies that officials of all ranks may have intentionally sidelined his case because they blamed Bergdahl for putting himself in his situation.  Maybe this is a reflection on my beliefs about human nature, but I am not going to presume that those officials made those statements in good faith. Without more evidence, I won’t jump from victim blaming to intentional inaction. 

I will make the jump from victim blaming to unintentional inaction, though.

We have seen this before in the military – in the sexual assault arena. The military has been under sustained and serious criticism about its handling of sexual assaults for over two decades, and the standard reply has been, “We take this seriously and are doing everything we can to stop the problem.”  I also take those statements at face value and believe that the people making those statements about macro-level policy honestly believe what they are saying. 

However, at the micro-level – at the level of a particular case – I think that the people in the military are often unconsciously influenced by the behaviors of the victim in that particular case (and also can’t believe that a good soldier would rape someone). When looking at that case, they decide not to take action in that case.  (They will certainly take action when the “right” case comes along).  When we add up those cases, we see a system that does not take the problem seriously.

I talk more about that here and I test that theory here.  It turns out that those who run the military justice system are much more conservative and hold more traditional gender role beliefs than the general public.  That may not be a surprise, but the degree of difference should be.  The following tables are modified from those articles.  In the first one, the respondents were asked whether they agree that it is better for women should stay at home rather than go into the workforce.  The y-axis is percent.

Continue reading "Serial 2:5"

Posted by Eric Carpenter on February 2, 2016 at 06:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Submission Angsting Spring 2016

This is the post to share information or ask questions about submitting to law reviews.

The comments can be used to share information, complaints, praise, etc. about which journals you have heard from, which you have not, and so forth.

Additionally, a spreadsheet to gather information is here (and embedded below).

I won't update or watch the spreadsheet. You can go ahead and add your own information by going to the spreadsheet here. The spreadsheet is editable by anyone, except that the "days to rejection" and "days to acceptance" columns are locked because they auto-calculate. (If something about them needs to be changed post a comment, and I will change them.) As more information is added, I will do some pointless data calculations on subsequent sheets.

Rostron & Levit's extremely helpful guide to submitting to law reviews is available here.

Here is the final page of comments.

Update: I have added a column to the spreadsheet entitled "Username" (current column H, after "Days to Acceptance"). This is of course totally optional, but a way to make keeping track easier. For example, if you pick a username (for some reason the sample username "Floop" keeps coming to my mind), you will easily be able to sort by your entries and update them, instead of trying to remember what day you submitted and sorting that way. This also adds information -- showing, for example, that all of the entries on the spreadsheet come from one person, or from lots of people, etc. At any rate, totally optional, and simply a way to add more information.


Posted by Sarah Lawsky on February 2, 2016 at 02:06 PM in Law Review Review | Permalink | Comments (48)


Thanks to Howard for the invitation and the welcome. I am truly delighted to be guest blogging on Prawfs this month. For those of you I have yet to have the pleasure to know, I am a long-time die-hard proceduralist. I teach Civil Procedure, Administrative Law, and Federal Courts, and this semester for the first time, have added perhaps my first “substantive” course, National Security Law. Although any good proceduralist knows the substance/procedure dichotomy is murky, if not entirely false, I will admit that the move away from procedure has in fact felt uncomfortable, though certainly exciting.

In some ways, teaching National Security Law was the next, inevitable step for me. I have written about procedural aspects of government secrecy for essentially my whole (short) academic career. For a long time I fought full engagement with national security, hoping instead to address problems with procedural rights and remedies for all kinds of secrecy equally. But the truth is that our deepest government secrecy problems today concern security, and national security secrets are not treated the same as other secrets.

As you may have guessed by now, I am planning to use my time here to share my thoughts on the intersection between government secrecy, procedural justice, and national security. Before I get to national security, though, I will begin with a few posts on a slightly orthogonal topic: the corporate and commercial use of the Freedom of Information Act. I will share with you some of the findings I report in my forthcoming article FOIA, Inc., which is based on original data collected from six federal agencies’ records. While I think the findings are, in and of themselves, quite surprising and worthy of consideration, I hope by the end of my series, when I engage more fully with national security secrecy, I can make the connection between these two threads apparent.

I am looking forward to the month!

Posted by Margaret Kwoka on February 2, 2016 at 11:07 AM in Blogging, Civil Procedure, Information and Technology, International Law, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Local Judges and Local Government

My study of local judges -- and their relationships with local government -- is now available at the NYU Journal of Legislation and Public Policy and SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This interview-based empirical study explores how local judges view themselves and their crosscutting roles in local and state government. In particular, it considers local judges’ relationships with the public that elects them, the executive and legislative branches of their localities, and the larger statewide judicial bureaucracy of which they are a very large but somewhat disconnected part. The Article reports on the results of interviews with local judges at the county, town, and village levels — and suggests some broader lessons for scholars, officials, and policymakers interested and active in local government law and politics. Those who study local government have insufficiently appreciated how the local courts are a part of the constellation of local power and sovereignty, and they have failed to appreciate some of the psychological and institutional pressures local judges face in performing their roles.

Posted by Ethan Leib on February 2, 2016 at 08:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 01, 2016

Hello from Iowa! OR: Democracy, I am in it.

Hi everyone. It's good to be back! This month; I'll be blogging about my very shortly forthcoming book (The Rule of Law in the Real World, coming out from Cambridge on February 11. Buy! Buy!), constitutional things, jurisprudence things, data things...

But tonight, I'm in Iowa. So I'll be live-blogging the caucus, which officially starts in 10 minutes. I'm on the iPhone typepad interface, so I can't be responsible and break the post (it also looks like I can't put up photos? Later.) but you all really want to read about the cute and actually democratic-ish side of American politics.

So here goes some good-old-fashioned liveblogging. This might just be really boring: for example, it's 6:53 now, and I'm in a very, very long line (photo later) with my wife and several colleagues. If a blizzard hits and this massive crowd gets trapped, I intend to eat the republicans first (they eat more meat; they're probably tastier). But here's to hope that there are inspiring speeches, mass shifts, maybe even a runaway caucus that tries to nominate Elizabeth Warren or Julian Castro (my classmate!), or, you know, me or something. And no cannibalism.

In case you're curious, I'm caucusing for Hillary.

7:04. The massive Democrat line just passed one of the Republican rooms. It's almost empty. Iowa City! It almost feels like being back in California, except for the likelihood of a blizzard and cannibalism.

Continue reading "Hello from Iowa! OR: Democracy, I am in it."

Posted by Paul Gowder on February 1, 2016 at 08:06 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (6)

Catching up

Howdy everyone,

For those who do not know me, my scholarship focuses on organizational wrongdoing.  Over the years, I have written quite a bit about corporate crime and corporate compliance.  More recently, I have turned my attention to wrongdoing within prosecutor's offices. Currently, I am tidying up a piece that focuses on Fourth Amendment violations by the police.   I'll blog on some of these topics later this month. 

The last time I blogged for Prawfs, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York was busy prosecuting a bunch of folks for insider trading.  That effort produced, at best, mixed results for the government. On the plus side, it apparently has generated a fairly entertaining television show on Showtime.

Back when I last blogged, critics were complaining about the dearth of prosecutions of individuals responsible for corporate wrongdoing. Not much has changed on that front, although the DOJ unveiled in September its newest policy designed to better deter corporate crime and nab individual offenders.  I'll offer some thoughts about that later this week. 


Posted by Miriam Baer on February 1, 2016 at 07:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Is the Unexpected Pandemic Expansion of an Already Known Arbovirus Really a Surprise?

I think of a surprise as something unexpected. Was the pandemic expansion of Zika truly unexpected?  

Kevin Outterson has had me thinking about this since Saturday when, in opening remarks at  the American Journal of Law and Medicine sponsored "Global Infectious Diseases: New Challenges and Solutions" conference he pointed out that the December 3, 2015 special supplement in Nature, predicting the next possible pandemics, did not mention Zika.  

This is true. This is notable. But the very last entry on Nature's list was the idea of the predictably unpredictable rise of a formerly known virus to pandemic levels through  a combination of possible mutation and certain increasing human travel and disturbance.  

As Anthony Fauci and David Forens have noted in the NEJM, "[Zika] has already reinforced one important lesson: in our human-dominated world, urban crowding, constant international travel, and other human behaviors combined with human-caused microperturbations in ecological balance can cause innumerable slumbering infectious agents to emerge unexpectedly."

We should, in short, expect the unexpected.  That a disease first identified in 1947 in Uganda,  then  lived in relative obscurity, primarily in wild primates and arboreal mosquitoes,  until its spectacular expansion beyond a relatively narrow geographic niche is a compelling story.  It is, in part,  a story about 5,000 years of adaptation by the  mosquito to life with humans using domestic water storage containers. And it is also a story about the rise of large scale domestic water storage in and near dwellings in water-starved parts of  Brazil.  That this evolutionary cascade would yield this kind of surprise, seen from this perspective, may not be entirely surprising. 

The real shock will be if we continue, in light of this, with our one bug one drug approach to treatment, rather than developing vaccine platforms for varied virus groups that can be quickly modified to attack newly emerging viruses.

I guess it all depends on how you feel about surprises. 

It has been my pleasure to visit with you as a guest blogger  for part of this month. Thank you for the experience. If you'd like to read more, find me blogging  at:


Posted by Ann Marie Marciarille on February 1, 2016 at 06:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

O Utopia

“Kindness and good nature unite men more effectually and with greater strength than any agreements whatsoever, since thereby the engagements of men's hearts become stronger than the bond and obligation of words.” ― Thomas More, Utopia

Some months back news outlets reported that an entire Italian village was being sold for a song. I posted the story on one of my social media accounts with the idea of recruiting friends to create a perfect community, a little utopia, if you will. I had an enthusiastic response. Within minutes, we populated our little village with a couple of lawyers, a doctor, a few musicians, a librarian, some artists, an architect, a journalist and many other professionals. What an ideal world: a town where every need was met from building to services and everyone was in agreement. Then a friend shared my story with her own set of distinct friends, urging a buy-in to the village. This new set of enthusiasts also possessed a great variety of skills and expertise, but generally had vastly alternate political views. So now we have a potential town that represents polarity in politics and personal values. After a week, our utopian village expanded to represent a microcosm of the exact world most of us live in now, complete with high potential for disagreement on important issues (and not necessarily an open-minded view toward compromise) and a general lack of economic and demographic diversity (everyone had to purchase the village, after all).

In our real-life non-utopian worlds both our actual and our virtual lives are arranged to experience only similarities. Depending on where we live, the only time we are exposed to "another world" is at the Department of Motor Vehicles at drivers license renewal time.We are all increasingly irritated by a differing view, and this is mostly because such views are expressed with such vitriol as to produce a negative visceral response. There is no discussion, no understanding, but instead this ever increasingly polarity. (Especially magnified now, during the election primary season).

Because we cannot live in a perfect academic village, it is at least my utopian hope that we can continue to move toward an expansive view in legal academia that operates out of kindness, contemplates more fairness and less fear, more equality and less hierarchy, more opportunity and fewer closed doors.

I wrote a bit here in the last month here about unevenness in the legal Academy, in the hierarchy faculty status and of gender roles, both in academia and in the world. I also honored David Bowie, who through his decades of artistry, demonstrated tolerance for alternative worlds and views, and intolerance for intolerance. As Big Thinkers, we have the advantage of articulating important issues to bring them to a general conscientious, to rework our own structures for an improved existence. I appreciate the opportunity to have had a venue this past month to raise a bit of conscientious. Hopefully I triggered some thoughts that will drive increased change and forward movement.

Thanks. See you later.

Posted by DBorman on February 1, 2016 at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)


Happy February, now with even more days!

Thanks to our January visitors--Ann Marie, Zak, Deborah, Jody, and Jan; some of them may be hanging around for a few extra days to do some final posts.

And welcome to our February visitors--Miriam Baer (Brooklyn, back after a long absence), Josh Douglas (Kentucky), Paul Gowder (Iowa), first-time GuestPrawf Margaret Kwoka (Denver), Eric Miller (Loyola), Ajay Mehrotra (Indiana;Northwestern and American Bar Foundation), and Jonathan Witmer-Rich (Cleveland-Marshall). In addition, Eric Carpenter will continue reviewing Season Two of Serial.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 1, 2016 at 08:01 AM in Blogging | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Donald Trumps the 22d Amendment

Do you think the makers Trump-plate_129363_240278_579x






and wearers




have heard of the Twenty-Second Amendment?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 31, 2016 at 07:54 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

The Supreme Court, On Demand

It has become almost a yearly rite: Congress introduces a bipartisan bill to require television cameras in the Supreme Court. The Justices express their concerns about the proposal. High-minded words are exchanged about the dignity of the courts versus the public’s right to know. Eventually the bill dies in committee.

The traditional arguments for cameras, such as public interest in following high-profile cases, or general appeals to transparency, are unlikely to resonate with the Court any more this year than in years past. But there is another case for Supreme Court cameras, and it stems from the federal judiciary’s own highly successful cameras program in the district courts.

Continue reading "The Supreme Court, On Demand"

Posted by Jordan Singer on January 31, 2016 at 12:14 PM in Judicial Process, Law and Politics, Television, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (7)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Even Wiseguys Need Health Insurance

Goodbye to Vincent  Albert "Buddy"  Cianci, Jr. -- a man who, whatever you think of him, certainly left his mark on the City of Providence. I would say that he was a Providence original if I didn't recall that though he was born in Providence he was a true son of Cranston and then, only later, the Mayor of Providence.

My absolute favorite excerpts from the eventual trial transcripts of "Operation Plunder Dome" (essentially, a RICO tapes case) were the parts discussing the selling points of various "no-show" or "low-show" jobs distributed by then Mayor Cianci. Steven Antonson, a Cianci-appointed City of Providence Building Board member, wasn't quite lucky enough to get that no-show or low-show appointment, however. Apparently, then Mayor Cianci really wanted him to show at Building Board meetings involving Providence's University Club and to wholeheartedly oppose all University Club petitions for building variances necessary for a pending re-model unless and until Mayor Cianci was offered a free lifetime membership in the University Club. What made it pure Buddy Cianci was not the apparent extortion but the ironic twist that the chief value of free lifetime membership in Providence's University Club appears to have been as payback for a rejected Buddy Cianci membership application to the Providence University Club in the early 1970's, decades earlier.

My favorite part of Buddy Cianci's sell of the Building Board appointment was Mayor Cianci's schooling of Steven Antonson on why it would be a smart move to accept it: "Remember, I appoint people to this board. You get Blue Cross. You get a check. You always said safety was important. Well, this is it."

Yes, Steven Antonson was among several would be appointees who chased the Mayor of Providence relentlessly for health insurance. Even wiseguys need health insurance. Go figure.  Or, as they say on South Coast, "Go Figah."

Steven Antonson eventually wore a wire and proved to be a fertile source of Buddy Cianci stories, many more of which you might glean from Mike Stanton's 2003 book,  The Prince of Providence: The True Story of Buddy Cianci, America's Most Notorious Mayor, Some Wiseguys, and the Feds.


Posted by Ann Marie Marciarille on January 29, 2016 at 01:38 PM in Books, Current Affairs, Dan Markel | Permalink | Comments (1)

Intentional fouls and limiting rules

The NBA practice of intentionally fouling a poor free-throw shooter away from the ball (and the entire play) is spreading. Last week, the Houston Rockets began the second half by having the same player foul an opponent's poor shooter five time in eight seconds. Last night, two different teams fouled someone before he could throw the ball inbounds. This season, 27 players have been subject to the "Hack-a-_____." In October, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that, although the league has been studying the issue, it was not considering rule changes to stop the practice.

Critics of the Infield Fly Rule often point use this situation to argue against the IFR, insisting that the situations are the same and, if basketball does not require a special rule, neither should baseball. But the argument does not work because the situations are not the same. Like the infield fly, "Hack-a-____" involve teams intentionally acting contrary to their ordinary athletic interests (defenders ordinarily do not want to foul, especially a player who is uninvolved in a play and no threat to score); it gives one team an advantage over the other (statistics of points-per-possession show that a good offensive team is substantially worse off having its worst FT shooter shoot over and over than running its regular offense); and the advantage is great enough that teams have the perverse incentive to keep doing it (hence the reason the strategy is spreading). But "Hack-a-____" lacks the necessary substantial imbalance in control over the play--the fouled team can counter the strategy by making their damn free throws, or at least more of them to render the strategy no longer worthwhile. Limiting rules do not exist to save teams and players from themselves or their own shortcomings.

Continue reading "Intentional fouls and limiting rules"

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 29, 2016 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (12)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thursday Podcast Blog

It's Thursday, so Marc Maron's newest WTF podcast is available. Maron is such a great interviewer, and he really shines when talking about subjects he cares about passionately.  Music is clearly one of his great passions.

His guest is music critic/historian Peter Guralnick. Great stuff.

Listen here. Enjoy.

Posted by Zachary Kramer on January 28, 2016 at 12:46 PM in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Takedowns: The Alice Goffman Edition

For months now, I've been fixated on the hubub surrounding Alice Goffman's book, On the Run. Perhaps fixated isn't the right word. It seems safe to say that many others, inside and outside the academy, have spent a lot more time thinking and writing about her and her work. But I've been lurking pretty hard. You know you've got a problem when you stay up late at night reading deep on sociology listservs.

I have a hard time getting worked up about the book (which I read and enjoyed). I guess I just can't get excited about a scholarly takedown. Maybe I'm soft. Maybe I don't have the stomach for the rigors of academic life. And, frankly, I'm fine with that. I feel the same way when faculty audiences team up against a weak colloquium presentation. There's a bit of the bully in academic culture. Why do we relish scholarly takedowns so much?

I got sued for defamation because of an article I wrote. The case lasted for about a year and a half, and I had a queasy feeling in my stomach the entire time. The very, very limited attention I received in that case pales in comparison to what's going on in Alice Goffman's situation. I don't know Alice Goffman, but I hope she has thicker skin than me.

Whenever I read about One the Run, be it favorable or unfavorable, I can't help but feeling crappy about it. I feel crappy about the negative stuff because much of it feels like an attack on Goffman the person rather than the work itself. And I feel crappy when I read the more positive pieces because I know that lots of people are sharpening their teeth, preparing to pounce.

Is Goffman's book really this bad, or is there something else at work here? I fear it's the latter. Perhaps it's her last name, or her first. Perhaps it's because the book was a hit. Whatever it is, there's a lot of ugly on the internet about Alice Goffman.

Posted by Zachary Kramer on January 28, 2016 at 08:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Ferguson consent decree

DOJ has reached agreement with the City of Ferguson on a proposed consent decree resolving the threatened § 14141 action. It appears to attempt to address everything that went wrong there in 2014, as well as those practices that contributed to the general tension that had long existed. The order requires training and commitment to public First Amendment activity--peaceful protests, lawful public assembly, and video-recording of police activity--including a requirement that only the Chief of Police or Assistant Chief may declare an assembly unlawful and officers cannot disperse an assembly without that declaration. It limits and restricts "stop orders" or "wanteds," in which police initiate contact to enforce warrants. It requires the City to implement a body and dashboard camera program, with broad recording of most stops and interactions and public disclosure of recordings to the maximum extent allowed by state law. And it requires broad reform of municipal court practices and training and policies on use of force.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 28, 2016 at 01:04 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)