The Yale Law Journal

Announcing the Special Issue Symposium on the Law of the Territories

Rachel Sommers
09 Jun 2022

The Yale Law Journal is excited to invite you to its Special Issue Symposium on the Law of the Territories. The Symposium is open to the public and will be held on Zoom on Thursday, June 30 from 6:30-8 PM ET. You can register for the Symposium here.

The Symposium will celebrate the publication of the Journal’s Special Issue on the Law of the Territories. The Law of the Territories explores legal questions facing residents of the U.S. territories. More than 3.5 million people—98% of whom are racial or ethnic minorities—live in American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They are unable to vote for President and lack voting representation in Congress, even though Congress exercises plenary power over their communities. In the last five years, the Law of the Territories has experienced a resurgence of activity before the Supreme Court not seen since the Insular Cases, a series of controversial decisions from the early 1900s that endorsed the United States’s annexation and governance of its colonies. The Court’s holdings in the Insular Cases have received broad criticism for their racist underpinnings and departure from foundational constitutional principles. But the Court has hesitated to either overrule them or fundamentally reconsider its territorial jurisprudence. Meanwhile, each of the territories has developed its own distinct body of law—and the people of the territories have pressed with increasing urgency for self-determination and decolonization through both domestic and international processes.

The Special Issue will feature four Articles written by renowned and emerging scholars. The first Article, La Navassa: Property, Sovereignty, and the Law of the Territories (Joseph Blocher and Mitu Gulati) draws on the history of the United States’s first overseas territory, Navassa Island, to demonstrate how private law can help to dismantle colonial structures in the territories. The second Article, The Insular Cases Run Amok: Against Constitutional Exceptionalism in the Territories (Christina Duffy Ponsa-Kraus) argues that the Supreme Court must overrule the Insular Cases, despite recent arguments that they can be repurposed to protect territorial cultural practices from constitutional challenges. The third Article, Aurelius’s Article III Revisionism: Reimagining Judicial Interventions for the Insular Cases (James T. Campbell) analyzes the Court’s recent decision in FOMB v. Aurelius to reveal how courts can and do engage in territorial status manipulation without explicitly invoking the Insular Cases or the Incorporation Doctrine. Finally, Indigenous Subjects (Addie C. Rolnick) argues that the Court’s race jurisprudence threatens Indigenous self-determination and land rights in the territories—and explores the intersections between federal Indian law, international law, the Law of the Territories, and race law. 

The Symposium will serve as an opportunity to engage with the authors’ works, as well as other issues pertaining to the Law of the Territories. Authors will introduce their pieces and answer questions from the Journal’s Editor-in-Chief, the other authors, and the audience.

The Symposium is open to the public, and all are welcome to attend. The Journal is especially excited to invite practitioners, jurists, scholars, and students from the territories. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP by Wednesday, June 29 at 6:30 PM using this form. Those who RSVP will receive a Zoom link and password, as well as early drafts of the Articles. If you have any questions, please contact We look forward to an interesting and important discussion, and hope to see you there!