The Yale Law Journal


18 Jan 2017

Prosecutors Respond to Calls for Forensic Science Reform: More Sharks in Dirty Water

Adam B. Shniderman

In September 2016, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report questioning the validity of a number of forensic science techniques routinely offered as evidence (“PCAST Report). This report raises familiar issues and recommendations. In 2009, the National Research Council (NRC) released Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, a report on the state of forensic science (“NRC Report”). The NRC Report found that numerous forensic science disciplines relied on deficient scientific foundations, interpretative procedures lacked rigor, analysts took inadequate measures to avoid error and bias, and forensic examiners testified with unwarranted certainty. Research suggests that the NRC Report has had a marked impact on defendants’ awareness of the fallibility of “soft” forensic disciplines, which has led to a number of post-conviction challenges to forensic evidence. Unfortunately, these challenges have rarely been successful. Perhaps as a result, forensic disciplines have advanced little in the intervening seven years to address the NRC Report’s concerns.

17 Jan 2017

Triptych’s End: A Better Framework To Evaluate 21st Century International Lawmaking

Harold Hongju Koh

How does the United States enter and exit its international obligations? By the last days of the Obama Administration, it had become painfully clear that the always imaginary “triptych” of Article II treaties, congressional-executive agreements, and sole executive agreements, which has guided foreign relations scholars since the Case Act, is dying or dead. In 2013, as State Department Legal Adviser, I argued that:

In the twenty-first century . . . we are now moving to a whole host of less crystalline, more nuanced forms of international legal engagement and cooperation that do not fall neatly within any of these three pigeonholes . . . . [O]ur international legal engagement has become about far more than just treaties and executive agreements. We need a better way to describe the nuanced texture of the tapestry of modern international lawmaking and related activities that stays truer to reality than this procrustean construct that academics try to impose on a messy reality.

This Essay seeks to offer that better conceptual framework to evaluate the legality of modern international lawmaking. It illustrates that framework through two recent case studies of modern U.S. diplomacy: the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

02 Jan 2017

The Private Search Doctrine After Jones

Andrew MacKie-Mason

In United States v. Jacobsen, the Supreme Court created a curious aspect of Fourth Amendment law now known as the private search doctrine. Under the private search doctrine, once a private party has conducted an initial search independent of the government, the government may repeat that search, even if doing so would otherwise violate the Fourth Amendment. The private party’s search renders the subsequent government “search” not a search in the constitutional sense.


Occupational Licensing

05 Dec 2016

The Due Process Right To Pursue a Lawful Occupation: A Brighter Future Ahead?

David E. Bernstein

For decades, the Supreme Court has rejected arguments that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause protects a general right to liberty of contract worthy of more than cursory judicial attention. Instead, the Court, along with most state courts, has reviewed economic regulations that do not implicate the Bill of Rights under a very forgiving version of the rational basis test that leaves little room for successful challenges. Despite remonstrations from libertarian enthusiasts inside and outside of the academy, there is no realistic prospect that judicial protection of liberty of contract will be reasserted anytime soon.

05 Dec 2016

Beating Rubber-Stamps into Gavels: A Fresh Look at Occupational Freedom

Clark Neily

The number of Americans who must obtain government permissionto work in their chosen vocation has been steadily rising. A recent White Housereport observed that “[o]ccupational licensing has grown rapidly over the past few decades” and has come to include manyharmless vocations such as interior design, hair braiding, and even floristry. Today, aboutone quarter of American workers must obtain a government-issued license to dotheir job, up from less than five percent in the 1950s.

05 Dec 2016

Business Licensing and Constitutional Liberty

Amanda Shanor

Claims that the Constitution prohibits business licensing requirements have proliferated in recent years. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently concluded that a District requirement that tour guides obtain business licenses violated the First Amendment. The Sixth Circuit likewise held that a licensing scheme for funeral directors violated due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. These cases mark a sea change in the treatment of economic liberty claims both by the courts and in U.S. legal culture.

Forum Collection

FOIA 50 Years Later

21 Nov 2016

The “Freedom From Information” Act: A Look Back at Nader, FOIA, and What Went Wrong

David E. McCraw

Not long after the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) went into effect, consumer advocate Ralph Nader sent one hundred students out to test whether the statute was working. The students made FOIA requests to more than a dozen federal agencies on a range of consumer topics, from highway safety and airline accidents to environmental pollution and the regulation of pharmaceutical products. Nader, never known for his subtlety, captured the results in the title of the article that followed: Freedom from Information: The Act and the Agencies. As Nader put it early in the piece, “I have reached a disturbing conclusion: government officials at all levels in many of these agencies have systematically and routinely violated both the purpose and specific provisions of the law.

21 Nov 2016

A Resurgence of Secret Law

Jameel Jaffer & Brett Max Kaufman

This much should be uncontroversial: the public should have access to the law and to the government’s interpretations of it. This principle is an imperative not just of due process but also of republican governance. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which the Eighty-ninth Congress enacted half a century ago, included a provision requiring federal agencies to disclose their effective law and policy. A decade after Congress enacted the FOIA, the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in NLRB v. Sears, Roebuck & Co. construed this provision to require federal agencies to publish their “working law.” The Court explained that “the public is vitally concerned with the reasons which did supply the basis for an agency policy actually adopted,” and it held that the FOIA requires “[t]hese reasons, if expressed within the agency,” to be disclosed. In subsequent cases, lower courts enforced this rule, repeatedly requiring federal agencies to publish legal memoranda and opinions interpreting or applying the law.

21 Nov 2016

Memorandums to Messages: The Evolution of FOIA in the Age of the Internet

Melanie A. Pustay

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In the words of President Obama, this law, “which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open government.” Since its enactment, the FOIA has become an indispensable mechanism for facilitating the public’s understanding of the operations and activities of the federal government. The statute applies to all federal agencies and functions in a straightforward way: virtually anyone, for any reason, can request access to agency records, and agencies, in turn, are required to provide those records unless they are protected from disclosure by nine, carefully crafted exemptions.

21 Nov 2016

Inside FOIA, Inc.

Margaret B. Kwoka

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has a lofty goal: to open the doors of government offices and allow the public a front-row seat in watching over government affairs. In turn, this sort of bright transparency should enhance our participatory democracy and the accountability of our elected officials. To that end, Congress envisioned the news media as among the most important users of FOIA. No doubt, FOIA has served precisely that purpose on many occasions—examples which represent victories for openness and accountability. Yet, journalists and watchdog groups make up a tiny fraction of requesters seeking information under the law.

21 Nov 2016

Is Open Data the Death of FOIA?

Beth Simone Noveck

For fifty years, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has been the platinum standard for open government in the United States. The statute isconsidered the legal bedrock of the public’s right to know about the workingsof our government. More than one hundred countries and all fifty states haveenacted their own freedom of information laws. At the same time, FOIA’s many limitations have also become evident: a cumbersome process, delays inresponses, and redactions that frustrate journalists and other informationseekers. Politically-motivated nuisance requestsbedevil government agencies. With over 700,000 FOIA requestsfiled every year, the federal government faces the costs of a mounting backlog.

26 Oct 2016

A Trademark Defense of the Disparagement Bar

Michael Grynberg

The Supreme Court will soon hear argument over whetherCongress may forbid registering trademarks that consist of “matter which may disparage or falsely suggest aconnection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or nationalsymbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” The disparagement bar is thebasis for the 2014 ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) thatordered the cancellation of trademark registrations belonging to the WashingtonNFL team because the term “redskin” disparages Native Americans. Late last year, however, theFederal Circuit ruled en banc that the disparagement bar is unconstitutional onFirst Amendment grounds in In re Tam.

26 Oct 2016

Keeping the Promise of Public Fiduciary Theory: A Reply to Leib and Galoob

Evan J. Criddle & Evan Fox-Decent

For centuries, prominent jurists and political theorists have looked to private fiduciary relationships such as trusteeship, agency, and guardianship to explain and justify the authority of public officials and public institutions. This tradition has attracted increasing interest over the past decade, as legal scholars have used fiduciary concepts to elucidate important features of public law, from the nature and design of constitutional government, to the legal obligations that attend public offices such as judge and legislator. We have contributed to this revival of public fiduciary theory by showing that fiduciary principles can explain and justify the structure and content of administrative law and international law. The great promise of public fiduciary theory, we have argued, lies in its powerful “criterion of legitimacy,” which links the legal authority of public officers and institutions to the principle that “state action must always be interpretable as action taken in the name of or on behalf of every agent subject to the state’s power.”

26 Oct 2016

Apple and the American Revolution: Remembering Why We Have the fourth Amendment

Clark D. Cunningham

On February 16, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)obtained an unprecedented court order in the San Bernardino shooting case thatwould have forced Apple to design and deliver to the DOJ software capable ofdestroying the encryption and passcode protections built into the iPhone. The DOJasserted that this order was simply the extension of a warrant obtained by theFederal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to search the shooter’s iPhone, which hadbeen locked with a standard passcode.

18 Oct 2016

The Distinctive Role of Justice Samuel Alito: From a Politics of Restoration to a Politics of Dissent

Neil S. Siegel

Justice Samuel Alito is regarded by both his champions and his critics as the most consistently conservative member of the current Supreme Court. Both groups seem to agree that he has become the most important conservative voice on the Court. Chief Justice John Roberts has a Court to lead; Justice Antonin Scalia and his particular brand of originalism have passed on; Justice Clarence Thomas is a stricter originalist and so writes opinions that other Justices do not join; and Justice Anthony Kennedy can be ideologically unreliable. Justice Alito, by contrast, is unburdened by the perceived responsibilities of being Chief Justice, is relatively young by Supreme Court standards (66 years old), is methodologically conventional, and is uniquely reliable. As a consequence, many conservatives love to celebrate him as the ideal Justice, and many liberals love to condemn him as politically driven.

11 Oct 2016

The Difference a Whole Woman Makes: Protection for the Abortion Right After Whole Woman’s Health

Linda Greenhouse & Reva B. Siegel

As the case that became Whole Woman’s Health worked its way to the Supreme Court, few were confident about how the Court would respond to a law, enacted in the name of protecting women’s health, that would predictably shut most of a state’s abortion clinics. All agreed that the governing standard was the undue burden framework the Court had adopted a quarter century earlier in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. But the meaning of “undue burden” was in doubt. Opponents of the abortion right asserted that after the Court decided Gonzales v. Carhart, upholding the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, the Casey framework meant little more than rational basis deference to legislative decision making. Supporters were confident that the undue burden framework provided women more constitutional protection than that—but many still worried that the standard was too indeterminate to constrain state legislatures.

19 Sep 2016

Predicting Utah v. Streiff's Civil Rights Impact

Katherine A. Macfarlane

The Supreme Court’s recent Utah v. Strieff decision declined to apply the exclusionary rule to evidence seized as a result of an arrest that followed an unconstitutional stop. The opinion, in conjunction with Justice Sotomayor’s dissent, has reanimated discussions regarding when, if ever, criminal defendants can expect the exclusionary rule to apply. When applied, the exclusionary rule renders inadmissible evidence recovered through “unconstitutional police conduct”; the evidence’s exclusion reinforces the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. Unlike most discussions of Strieff, which focus on its implications for criminal defendants,this Essay examines how Strieff will impact civil rights plaintiffs’ ability to recover damages for unconstitutional stops under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

07 Sep 2016

Securities Settlements in the Shadows

Urska Velikonja

The Dodd-Frank Act authorized the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to bring almost any enforcement action in an administrative proceeding. Before Dodd-Frank, the SEC could secure civil fines against registered broker-dealers and investment advisers in administrative proceedings, but had to sue in court non-registered firms and individuals, including public companies and executives charged with accounting fraud, or traders charged with insider trading violations. After the Dodd-Frank amendment, save for a few remedies that can only be obtained in court, the SEC can choose the forum in which it prosecutes enforcement actions.

08 Aug 2016

Innocence and Override

Patrick Mulvaney & Katherine Chamblee

For the past three decades, the practice of judicial override in capital cases has allowed Alabama judges to impose the death penalty even where the jury voted for life. However, recent developments have cast doubt on the future of override in Alabama. The United States Supreme Court struck down part of Florida’s capital sentencing scheme in January because “[t]he Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death.” In response, the Florida legislature eliminated override in March, and the Delaware Supreme Court invalidated its own state’s override system on August 2, leaving Alabama as the only state that still permits the practice. Override in Alabama has been attacked on other grounds as well; in 2013, two Justices of the United States Supreme Court expressed Eighth Amendment concerns that Alabama overrides are arbitrary and linked to political pressure.

27 Jul 2016

Protecting the Fourth Amendment in the Information Age: A Response to Robert Litt

Cindy Cohn

Robert Litt, General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, has offered a new analysis for the Fourth Amendment in the Information Age, grounded in two cases arising from the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs.1 As opposing counsel or amicus in the cases he cites in his argument, I thought it would be useful to respond.

18 Jul 2016

Transcending the Youngstown Triptych: A Multidimensional Reappraisal of Separation of Powers Doctrine

Laurence H. Tribe

The time is ripe for a reappraisal of the separation of powers as the organizing principle of our federal government. Most of the relevant doctrinal architecture has been constructed over the past seven decades. Perhaps because of Justice Robert H. Jackson’s incomparable brilliance as a writer, the two-dimensional landscape famously described in his concurring opinion condemning President Truman’s seizure of the U.S. steel industry has dominated discourse about the interaction of the three federal branches. Charting presidential conduct on the vertical axis of a map whose horizontal axis measures Congress’s position ranging from approval to disapproval gave Jackson an elegantly simple and memorable way to classify presidential actions from the most strongly defensible to the most constitutionally vulnerable.

13 Jun 2016

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Criminal Liability Under State HIV Laws

Graham White

Nick Rhoades was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 23. In 2005, he began anti-retroviral therapy (ART), an increasingly effective form of treatment that can reduce the amount of HIV in blood to undetectable levels. Three years later, the treatment had done just that. Rhoades’s risk of transmitting the virus to a sexual partner had been reduced by 93%, nearly the same reduction of risk associated with condom usage. Shortly thereafter, Rhoades engaged in consensual sexual activity with a man he met on a social networking site. The two men used additional protection. But Rhoades did not disclose his HIV-positive status until several days after their encounter. Rhoades’s sexual partner did not contract the virus. He pressed charges anyway under Iowa’s HIV criminal statute, which makes it a felony to expose another person to HIV. A jury convicted Rhoades in 2008. He was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.

01 Jun 2016

Democracy and Legitimacy in Investor-State Arbitration

Cory Adkins & David Singh Grewal

In January 2016, the Canadian infrastructure company TransCanada Corporation filed a notice of intent to sue the United States government in a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Chapter 11 arbitration over the Keystone XL pipeline. At the center of this dispute is the State Department’s refusal to permit the construction of an oil pipeline between Canada and Nebraska. TransCanada claims that the State Department ignored its own favorable environmental assessments of the pipeline multiple times and rejected the proposal to placate misinformed activists and foreign governments. The State Department acknowledges that it denied the permit to enhance the Obama Administration’s credibility at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, with the long-term goal of reducing emissions through collective political action.

27 May 2016

Can Corpus Linguistics Help Make Originalism Scientific?

Lawrence M. Solan

James Phillips, Daniel Ortner, and Thomas Lee begin their engaging essay, Corpus Linguistics & Original Public Meaning: A New Tool To Make Originalism More Empirical, by pronouncing originalism “the predominant interpretive methodology for constitutional meaning in American history.” They then describe and attempt to justify a new tool to improve originalist methodology: a large corpus of Founding-era documents, representative of a host of genres available to educated people of that period. As their title suggests, the brand of originalism they set out to improve is the version at times dubbed “the new originalism”—an iteration that seeks to construe the Constitution in accordance with the understanding of the state constitutional convention members who read its words and heard its supporters at the time.

23 May 2016

The Rise of Bank Prosecutions

Brandon L. Garrett

Before 2008, prosecutions of banks had been quite rare in the federal courts, and the criminal liability of banks and bankers was not a topic that received much public or scholarly attention. In the wake of the last financial crisis, however, critics have begun to ask whether prosecutors adequately held banks and bankers accountable for their crimes. Senator Jeff Merkley complained: “[A]fter the financial crisis, the [Justice] Department appears to have firmly set the precedent that no bank, bank employee, or bank executive can be prosecuted.” Federal judge Jed Rakoff and many others asked why prosecutors brought, with one or two low-level exceptions, no prosecutions of bankers in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis and whether they were too quick to settle corporate cases by merely compelling fines and “window-dressing” compliance reforms. The response from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to criticism of its approach towards corporate and financial prosecutions has ranged from stern denial that it had been remiss—as when Attorney General Eric Holder announced in a video message in 2014 that “[t]here is no such thing as too big to jail” and that no financial institution “should be considered immune from prosecution”—to reform in the face of acknowledged lack of public confidence in its approach—as when the DOJ in 2015 adopted policies designed to make corporate prosecutions more effective.

18 May 2016

Corpus Linguistics & Original Public Meaning: A New Tool To Make Originalism More Empirical

James C Phillips, Daniel M. Ortner, & Thomas R. Lee

Originalism has been the predominant interpretive methodology for constitutional meaning in American history: it is the methodology that has been with us since the Constitution’s birth. With its rebirth in the latter part of the twentieth century and its theoretical evolution from original intent to original public meaning, originalism has been working itself pure—almost.

27 Apr 2016

The Fourth Amendment in the Information Age

Robert S. Litt

To badly mangle Marx, a specter is haunting Fourth Amendment law—the specter of technological change. In a number of recent cases, in a number of different contexts, courts have questioned whether existing Fourth Amendment doctrine, developed in an analog age, is able to deal effectively with digital technologies. 

11 Apr 2016

Contract and (Tribal) Jurisdiction

Matthew L.M. Fletcher

Consider two commercial contracts. The first requires customers to waive their rights to bring class actions against large businesses in favor of private arbitration. The second requires a reservation leaseholder to adjudicate disputes in tribal court. Both contracts require dispute resolution in fora over which the Supreme Court does not exercise supervisory jurisdiction. Both arbitration and tribal courts are favored by acts of Congress. Both contracts are hotly contested in the Supreme Court. But the arbitration clause contract has been affirmed in a series of recent decisions. The tribal court contract, by contrast, is pending before the Court in Dollar General Corp. v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Ironically, while the more conservative Justices signed on to the arbitration clause decisions, these same Justices may be Dollar General’s best bets for escaping tribal jurisdiction. This short Essay details the key arguments in Dollar General and argues that to undo the tribal contract would unnecessarily and unconstitutionally undo the right to contract for Indian nations.