The Yale Law Journal

February 2020

Reflective Remedies


abstract. This Note aims to develop and describe a new type of penalty, the reflective remedy, to address the problem of optimal deterrence when the law is uncertain. It describes a novel remedial option for traditional legal disputes in which the activity level chosen by the defendant is “reflected” over the socially optimal level, and shows how this penalty theoretically improves on traditional options because of its scale-blind impact on incentives. As a result, this penalty will, in certain cases, better induce socially optimal levels of behavior by regulated actors. The Note also develops a method by which an ordinary trier of fact can implement this proposal when faced with complex legal standards and offers concrete examples where the proposed penalty could improve on the current status quo by realigning the incentives of the parties to more closely comply with the law.

author. Yale Law School, J.D. expected 2020. I am first and foremost grateful to Ian Ayres for teaching the class that inspired this Note, his encouragement to write this paper, and his supervision, support, and helpful comments throughout the project. I am thankful to Dhruv Aggarwal, Simon Brewer, Zohaib Chida, Jamie Durling, Kristen Houston, Peter Kallis, and Daniel Strunk for their helpful thoughts on early drafts. I would also like to thank my family and friends more generally for their willingness to listen to the ideas that did not make it to print. Finally, thank you to Zohaib Chida, Patrick Hulin, Sarah Michael Levine, and the editors of the Yale Law Journal for their helpful editorial support and feedback.