117 Yale L.J. 992 (2008).
Disability rights advocates and commentators agree that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has veered far off course from the Act’s mandate of protecting people with actual or perceived disabilities from discrimination. They likewise agree that the fault lies in the language of the statute itself and in the courts’ so-called literalist reading of its definition of disability. As a result, many disability rights advocates have pinned their hopes for doctrinal reform on the proposed ADA Restoration Act, now in congressional committee. Although the Act would likely be a boon to plaintiffs, its chances of passage are uncertain. This Article tells a very different story of the problem and its solution. I agree that blame should fall on the courts, but not for reading the statute too closely. Rather, they have not read it closely enough. A truly rigorous interpretation of the ADA would expose a structural ambiguity in the regarded-as prong of the disability definition, with important consequences for interpretation. Although this ambiguity is a basic one—the kind that we resolve every day without thinking about it—it creates what is in fact a nine-way ambiguity in the statute. The courts have to date overlooked all but one of a corresponding nine readings; the other eight are effectively lost. Drawing on ordinary intuitions about sentence meaning, and borrowing some basic conceptual tools from formal linguistics, this Article aims to make ambiguity in the regarded-as prong visible to the reader. This opens the door to invoking the ADA’s rich legislative history for the purpose of resolving the ambiguity. Such history favors a broad reading of the statute and would mark a departure from an era of increasingly narrow interpretation of the ADA’s disability definition. Thus, while it may be a surprising alliance to consider, formal linguistic rigor in the hands of civil rights advocates holds the potential to realign ADA jurisprudence with the statute’s purpose.
117 Yale L.J. 1070 (2008).
Criminal law theory made a significant advance roughly thirty years ago when George Fletcher popularized the important conceptual distinction between justifications and excuses. In the intervening years, however, very little progress has been made in exploring the structure and function of justification defenses. The reason for this failure, I suggest, is a widely shared misconception about their place within the criminal law’s institutional structure. Contrary to what is generally believed, it is not up to trial courts to decide ex post facto what conduct is justified and what is not. This determination is made ex ante by other institutional actors such as private fiduciaries, public officials, and sometimes, ordinary citizens caught in extraordinary circumstances. The court’s role is simply to review the validity of that prior exercise of decision-making discretion. More broadly, my study is intended to serve as a reminder of the importance of institutional structure in criminal law. It is almost always misleading to address issues in criminal law by way of abstract moral theorizing, as is often done, because this leaves out the crucial question of institutional division of labor. Before addressing the substantive aspect of particular questions—what conduct should be prohibited, justified, or excused—we must first address ourselves to the institutional questions that I have called the problems of authority, discretion, and legality. These institutional questions receive their most thorough treatment in two other areas of law: the private law of fiduciaries and public administrative law. If we wish to make progress in understanding justification defenses—and the institutional structure of criminal law more generally—I argue that it is to these areas of law that we should attend.
117 Yale L.J. 1132 (2008).
117 Yale L.J. 1180 (2008).
This Note describes the case law governing three structural errors and shows that the rule of automatic reversal has led appellate courts to narrow the scope of the rights at issue. To avoid this effect, the Note proposes a new framework for determining whether a given type of error is “structural” and thus requires automatic reversal. The rule of automatic reversal should apply only to types of error that never contribute to a verdict.