Volume 86

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin: The Fifth Circuit Questions Judicial Deference to Race-Conscious Admissions Policies in Higher Education

The Fifth Circuit held that as long as Grutter remained good law, UT's use of race-conscious measures in admissions decisions complied with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it was narrowly tailored to achieve a critical mass of minorities despite its simultaneous use of the Ten Percent Law. Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, 631 F.3d 213, 246-47 (5th Cir. 2011), cert. granted, 132 S. Ct. 1536 (2012).

Capitalism, Liberalism, and the Right to Privacy

The constitutional right to privacy is a doctrinal mess. The United States Supreme Court appears incapable of articulating a coherent underpinning to this important line of cases, or--more likely--is simply unwilling to do so. And yet there is an obvious candidate for that job: the philosophy of liberalism. But liberalism is a notoriously complicated and contested philosophy. Thus, this Article proposes a succinct and functional articulation of liberalism, which it then applies to Supreme Court cases dealing with the right to privacy. As we shall see, the Court's failure to follow liberal principles lies at the heart of its inconsistencies. Greater understanding of liberalism, and greater willingness to respect this political theory so deeply rooted in American history and tradition, could bring much needed coherence to this body of constitutional law.

Hiding Behind the Cloak of Invisibility: The Supreme Court and Per Curiam Opinions

Per curiam—literally translated from Latin to “by the court”—is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as “[a]n opinion handed down by an appellate court without identifying the individual judge who wrote the opinion.” Accordingly, the author of a per curiam opinion is meant to be institutional rather than individual, attributable to the court as an entity rather than to a single judge. The United States Supreme Court issues a significant number of per curiam dispositions each Term. In the first six years of Chief Justice John Roberts's tenure, almost nine percent of the Court's full opinions were per curiams. The prevalence of issuing unattributed opinions raises questions of its impact on judicial accountability and the development of the law. This Article argues that the per curiam is a misused practice that is at odds with the individualized nature of the American common law system, frustrating efforts to hold individual judges accountable and inhibiting the development of the law. Thus, the use of the per curiam in courts of last resort, including de facto courts of last resort, should be limited to a narrow class of opinions in which the use of formulaic, boilerplate language has already extinguished any sense of individuality. Opinions containing language that is more expansive must be attributed in order to serve as a check on judges' fidelity to the law and to enable the public and the legal profession to formulate an accurate understanding of the law.

Advisory Adjudication

The Supreme Court decision in Camreta v. Greene is revealing. The Court first issues an opinion authorizing appeals by prevailing parties in qualified immunity cases, even though doing so entails the issuance of an advisory opinion that is not necessary to resolution of the dispute between the parties. And the Court then declines to reach the merits of the underlying constitutional claim in the case, because doing so would entail the issuance of an advisory opinion that was not necessary to the resolution of the dispute between the parties. The Court's decision, therefore, has the paradoxical effect of both honoring and violating the Article III jurisdictional limitation on advisory opinions at the same time. The Camreta paradox illustrates a problem that makes our current conception of judicial review incoherent. We insist that the Supreme Court avoid separation of powers problems by confining itself to the retrospective adjudicatory activities envisioned by the Marbury v. Madison dispute-resolution model of judicial review. But what we really want the Court to do is participate in the prospective formulation of governmental policy, as if it were part of a tricameral legislative process. These dual conceptions of judicial review reflect a tension inherent in liberalism itself. We want both to advance our own self-interests in an unflattering pluralist political process, but simultaneously we wish to think of ourselves as other-regarding adherents to loftier civic republican virtue. We ask the Supreme Court to mediate this tension for us by making our liberal political victories look as if they are rooted in deeper communitarian principles. But this mediation can be successful only to the extent that the Court can mask for us the underlying incoherence of the judicial review function that we ask the Court to perform. In Camreta, this incoherence is so close to the surface that, hopefully, we will be forced to confront it. Without the camouflage that we ask judicial review to provide for our baser instincts, perhaps we will come to treat each other less harshly, and with more empathy.

Gulf Coast v. Newlin: Reaffirming the Fundamental Notions of Admiralty Jurisdiction

The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not have admiralty jurisdiction over this action, because Gulf Coast lacked a legal claim to title or possession of the dredge, and its contract and tort claims did not constitute maritime claims, which would have afforded a basis for admiralty jurisdiction. Gulf Coast Shell & Aggregate LP v. Newlin, 623 F.3d 235, 237, 2011 AMC 421, 422 (5th Cir. 2010).

In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation: Upholding Freedom of Contract

In answering the certified question, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that public policy in Louisiana does not bar the application of an antiassignment clause to postloss assignments where the language of the antiassignment clause “clearly and unambiguously express[es]” the parties' intention that the clause will apply to postloss assignments. In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 2010-1823, pp. 7, 12 (La. 5/10/11); 63 So. 3d 955, 960, 963.

The Boundary Claim's Caveat: Lawyers and Confidentiality Exceptionalism

In legal ethics scholarship, the “boundary claim” stands for the idea that lawyers must represent clients zealously but within the bounds of the law. The idea has long been embraced by the legal profession as both a description of— and justification for—the unique moral, social, and political space occupied by lawyers. This Article asserts that this professed commitment to obey the law comes with a caveat: the legal profession has been unwilling to acknowledge that lawyers must comply with laws that require the disclosure of client confidences. In fact, the bar has a fairly extensive history of suggesting or asserting that lawyers are exempt from such laws. This Article traces that history and then considers its significance. Properly located within the state and federal constitutional structures that should form the framework for this assessment, the idea that lawyers are exempt from laws that require disclosure is, in some of its manifestations, really quite radical, raising questions about the role of lawyers in a constitutional democracy that the bar has never satisfactorily addressed.

Bailouts and the Potential for Distortion of Federal Criminal Law: Industrial Espionage and Beyond

This Article reveals previously neglected and disconcerting consequences that government participation in corporate ownership can have on American criminal law, and it illustrates these problems by establishing how the recent bailout could influence criminal enforcement. The Article shows how the model of cost allocation developed by Guido Calabresi and based on Ronald Coase's work can apply in the context of the criminal law and specifically economic crimes. The argument in this Article then demonstrates how the government's purchase of corporate shares through the implementation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) causes inefficiencies and inequalities in the criminal law, including by shifting prosecutorial and other enforcement resources toward “preferred” companies and allowing for the imposition of higher statutory penalties against economic criminals that offend against those entities. As a consequence, some corporations may underinvest in private precautionary measures while others will be forced to overinvest and pass on the costs to their customers through artificially inflated prices. The potential end result is a misuse of government power to reward unsuccessful companies like General Motors at the expense of successful ones like Ford. Having established a general framework for using a cost allocation analysis to address economic crimes optimally and having shown that TARP leads to inefficient outcomes under that type of analysis, this Article concludes with recommendations to avoid these problems in the future.

Maturing Patent Theory from Industrial Policy to Intellectual Property

We have always known that technological progress is important and this country has always aimed to promote it. A large part of that responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of the patent system. Embarrassingly, despite over two hundred years of experience, we still do not actually know if the patent system helps or hinders technological progress. This Essay argues that the problem is not the patent system but rather patent theory. Patent theory suffers from three linked problems: exceptionalness, indeterminacy, and animosity. First, patent law is seen as a necessarily unique exception to the overall market economy. By artificially making patenting a profitable activity, the patent system is a form of industrial policy that aims to encourage people to enter the risky business of inventing. Second, we have never confidently been able to conclude that the benefits of this industrial policy outweigh its costs. Third, and perhaps just as important, that story inherently creates animosity among important interest groups. The resulting ongoing indeterminacy and animosity have prevented the patent system from maturing into an accepted, stable legal institution. We can and must do better. We need an institution that is stable, reliable, and accepted. This Essay argues that we should reject the long-standing “legal incentive” narrative and begin looking for a better alternative. This Essay points toward an accepted, stable model sitting in plain sight: traditional property. We have (incorrectly) thought that traditional property and its economic system for exchange cannot provide guidance for the exotic nonrival world of the patent system. This Essay aims to show that those assumptions are wrong, and it begins outlining a patent narrative where patents are seen as an important and natural extension of traditional property and indeed the overall economy of tangible goods. There are good reasons to think that such a system might provide what current patent theory cannot: the basis for a determinate and accepted patent system.

Maritime Piracy and the Impunity Gap: Insufficient National Laws or a Lack of Political Will?

Nations are not prosecuting piracy suspects with any regularity. One reason cited for this culture of impunity is the lack of domestic legislation to facilitate the prosecution of suspected pirates. However, universal jurisdiction over piracy has existed for more than one hundred years, and most nations are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA Convention), both of which encourage nations to cooperate in prosecuting acts of maritime piracy. Given this legal framework, should we not expect that nations would have domestic laws criminalizing piracy and would use those laws to try the pirates they have gone to such lengths to capture? This Article explores these questions by examining the domestic antipiracy laws in about fifty states for which information is available in English. The analysis supports a conclusion that on the whole states lack the political will to share in the burden of prosecuting pirates because relatively few states have enacted comprehensive antipiracy laws that include a framework for exercising universal jurisdiction over pirate attacks. The analysis also shows that the laws states have enacted may not be sufficient to allow for a successful prosecution for today's pirates. Although states may have many reasons to sit back and wait for others to prosecute maritime piracy offenses, this Article concludes that all states must embrace their duty to share in the burden of prosecuting pirates, which means that all states must first pass the necessary domestic laws criminalizing maritime piracy.