Category Archives: Articles

New Article: “Reviving the Excessive Fines Clause”

New Article: Beth A. Colgan, Reviving the Excessive Fines Clause, 102 Calif. L. Rev. 277 (2014).  Abstract below:

Millions of American adults and children struggle with debt stemming from economic sanctions issued by the criminal and juvenile courts. For those unable to pay, the consequences — including incarceration, exclusion from public benefits, and persistent poverty — can be draconian and perpetual. The Supreme Court has nevertheless concluded that many of these concerns lie outside the scope of the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause. In interpreting the Clause, the Court relied upon a limited set of historical sources to restrict “fines” to sanctions that are punitive in nature and paid exclusively to the government, and to define “excessive” as referring to — either exclusively or primarily — the proportionality between the crime’s gravity and the amount of the fine.

This Article takes the Court at its word by assuming history is constitutionally relevant, but it challenges the Court’s limited use of history by providing the first detailed analysis of colonial and early American statutory and court records regarding fines. This robust historical analysis belies the Court’s use of history to announce historical “truths” to limit the scope of the Clause, by showing significant evidence that contradicts those limitations. The Article uses the historical record to identify questions regarding the Clause’s meaning, to assess the quality of the historical evidence suggesting an answer to such questions, and then to consider that evidence — according to its value — within a debate that incorporates contemporary understandings of just punishment. Under the resulting interpretation, the historical evidence articulated in this Article would support an understanding of a “fine” as a deprivation of anything of economic value in response to a public offense. “Excessive,” in turn, would be assessed through a broad understanding of proportionality that takes account of both offense and offender characteristics, as well as the effect of the fine on the individual. The proposed interpretation more faithfully reflects the history and its limitations, and broadens the Clause’s scope to provide greater individual protections.

New Article: “The Blacks Who “Got Their Forty Acres”: A Theory of Black West Indian Migrant Asset Acquisition”

New Article: Eleanor Marie Lawrence Brown, The Blacks Who “Got Their Forty Acres”: A Theory of Black West Indian Migrant Asset Acquisition, 89 NYU L. Rev. 27 (2014).  Abstract below:

The impediments to property acquisition and market success among African Americans are a significant area of inquiry in legal scholarship. The prevailing narrative on the historical relationship between Blacks and property is overwhelmingly focused on loss. However, in the political science, economics, and sociology literatures there is a countervailing narrative of successful property acquisition and retention among what might be termed a “market dominant” subset of migrant Blacks. The most successful subset of Black property owners in the United States today are descendants of Black migrants who were enslaved outside the United States. These free Black migrants, overwhelmingly British subjects originating from the West Indies, are largely invisible in the legal scholarship. Questions have arisen in other disciplines about what differentiated this subset of Black people. Why was their experience of property ownership so different?

Debates in the sociology, political economy, and political science literature have often focused on what Francis Fukuyama has controversially termed “cultural questions,” namely, the view that early West Indian migrants—like Korean or Japanese migrants—possessed a particular set of cultural traits that were distinctly well suited to asset acquisition. This Article focuses on a far more prosaic rationale, contending that the success of West Indian migrants may be rooted in the early grant of what I term “de facto property and contract rights” to West Indian slaves, which allowed their freedmen descendants to become the largest independent Black peasantry in the Americas. Between 1880 and 1924, U.S. immigration officials may have inadvertently selected for propertied migrant “types” when admitting immigrants. Through their own historical exposure to property and contract rights frameworks in the West Indies, as well as internal communal networks which supported informal banking schemes, these Blacks were particularly well placed to take advantage of opportunities for home and business ownership upon arrival in the United States.

The broader point is that there is a glaring omission amidst the “cultural” controversy: What about law? I use the term “law” in this context as it is used by many proponents of new institutional economics, as a proxy for an institutional frame- work that supports property acquisition, regardless of whether this framework is formal (state-supported) or customary. Moreover, the law and economics scholar- ship has focused extensively on institutional frameworks that allow certain religious and ethnic groups to dominate particular sectors, such as Orthodox Jews in the diamond industry or Koreans in the grocery sector. The insights of this literature allow us to interrogate whether Black West Indians had early access to institutions that facilitated contracting and property ownership and if so, whether this institutional history might contribute to their long-term asset acquisition patterns. The question necessarily arises: Why would we think of Black migrants any differently from the way we think of other ethnic and religious minorities who have been successful asset acquirers?

New Article: “Transcending Equality Versus Adequacy”

New Article: Joshua E. Weishart, Transcending Equality Versus Adequacy, 66 Stan. L. Rev. 477 (2014).  Abstract below:

A debate about whether all children are entitled to an “equal” or an “adequate” education has been waged at the forefront of school finance policy for decades. In an era of budget deficits and harsh cuts in public education, I submit that it is time to move on.

Equality of educational opportunity has been thought to require equal spending per pupil or spending adjusted to the needs of differently situated children. Adequacy has been understood to require a level of spending sufficient to satisfy some absolute, rather than relative, educational threshold. In practice, however, many courts interpreting their states’ constitutional obligations have fused the equality and adequacy theories. Certain federal laws express principles of both doctrines. And gradually, more advocates and scholars have come to endorse hybrid equality-adequacy approaches. Still, the debate persists over seemingly intractable conceptual precepts and their political and legal ramifications.

Tracking the philosophical origins and evolution of equality and adequacy as legal doctrines, I explain the significance of their points of convergence and argue that the few points of divergence are untenable in practice. Equality of educational opportunity should not be interpreted as pursuing equal chances for educational achievement for all children, because that ideal is infeasible. Nor should educational adequacy be interpreted as completely indifferent to objectionable inequalities that can be feasibly curtailed. Properly conceived, equality and adequacy are not merely congruent but reciprocal. That is, children are owed an education that is adequately equal and equally adequate.

New Article: “Sharing the Cathedral”

New Article: Rashmi Dyal-Chand, Sharing the Cathedral, 46 Conn. L. Rev. 647 (2013).  Abstract below.

Sharing is an indispensable part of American property law, often mediating the harsh implications of ownership rights. Yet sharing is also a hidden component of this legal structure. In both theory and doctrinal manifestations, sharing is overshadowed by the iconic property right of exclusion. This Article argues that property law suffers a critical loss from its under-recognition of sharing because it fails to use sharing to correct distributional failures in a world of increasingly scarce resources. Sharing could be the basis for developing a rich range of outcomes in common property disputes. Instead, as described by Calabresi and Melamed in their famed article on remedies, outcomes are tagged to exclusion in the form of blanket property rules and “keep out” signs. As a result, sharing currently functions merely to create very narrow exceptions to broad rights of ownership. To correct this failure, this Article presents a model for sharing as a preferred outcome in property disputes. Sharing as an outcome is a powerful means of addressing property inequalities, limiting harmful externalities, preserving efficiency, and harnessing the extraordinary potential of outcomes in property law.

New Article: “The New Minimal Cities”

New Article: Michelle Wilde Anderson, The New Minimal Cities, 123 Yale L.J. 1118 (2014).  Abstract below:

Between 2007 and 2013, twenty-eight urban municipalities declared bankruptcy or entered a state receivership to manage fiscal insolvency. To cut costs and divert revenues to debt payments, these cities have taken dramatic austerity measures—an unwitting experiment with a shrinking public sector in cities hollowed by household poverty and physical deterioration. Eventually, these cuts raise a question that looms as large for insolvency law as it does on city streets: Is there a point where the city should no longer cut public services and sell public assets, even in the face of unmet obligations to creditors? If so, what is that point?

This Article looks closely at our insolvent cities—their residents, their physical and social conditions, their debts, their governments. It explores, as a descriptive matter, local adaptations to fiscal crisis. It surfaces, as a legal matter, the latent question that mayors, governors, state and local legislatures, bankruptcy judges, and state-appointed receivers must decide: What share of city revenues can a city preserve for its current residents? Unlike creditors, who have contracts and legal judgments to quantify a city’s obligations to them, residents have no monetized claim to draw on city revenues. Insolvency law itself provides no guidance on this challenging issue—it simply assumes some level of ongoing spending to preserve “health and welfare,” a concept that raises more questions than it answers. This Article explores residents’ interests, mapping out heuristics for decisionmakers and the public to use in thinking about essential public spending in the context of cities at risk of default on debt.

New Article: “Unseating Privilege: Rawls, Equality of Opportunity, and Wealth Transfer Taxation”

New Article: Jennifer Bird-Pollan, Unseating Privilege: Rawls, Equality of Opportunity, and Wealth Transfer Taxation, 59 Wayne L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2014).  Abstract below:

This Article is the second in a series that examines the estate tax from a particular philosophical position in order to demonstrate the relevance and importance of the wealth transfer taxes to that position. In this Article, I explore Rawlsian equality of opportunity, a philosophical position that is at the heart of much American thought. Equality of opportunity requires not only ensuring that sufficient opportunities are available to the least well-off members of society but also that opportunities are not available to other members merely because of their wealth or other arbitrary advantages. Therefore, an income tax alone, even one with high rates on the wealthy, would be insufficient to achieve these goals. While revenue raised via the income tax should be used to provide additional opportunities to low-income members of society, wealth transfer taxes provide the additional safeguard of preventing the heirs of wealthy individuals from inheriting wealth that would provide them with additional, unwarranted and unjust, opportunities. Given the importance of the wealth transfer taxes, this Article also examines the question of what form of tax is most consistent with Rawls’ position, ultimately determining that an inheritance or accessions tax best fits the role.

New Article: “Assessing HUD’s Disparate Impact Rule: A Practitioner’s Perspective”

New Article: Michael G. Allen, Jamie L. Crook & John P. Relman, Assessing HUD’s Disparate Impact Rule: A Practitioner’s Perspective, 49 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 155 (2014).

New Article: “Homelessness at the Cathedral”

New Article: Marc L. Roark, Homelessness at the Cathedral, SSRN 2014.  Abstract below:

This Article argues that legal restraints against homeless persons are resolved by applying certain nuisance-like approaches. By drawing on nuisance restraints that adopt property-based and social-identity information, courts and decision-makers choose approaches that create conflict between homeless identities and adopted social identities. These approaches tend to relegate the social choice of whether to tolerate homeless persons to one of established social order (property) or broadly conceived notions of liberty (constitutional rights or due process rights). This Article argues for a broader conception of social identity, which may force parties to internalize certain costs of action, tolerate certain uses, or abate the full range of property rights that the law would otherwise allow in different social settings. Considering the question of “undesirable” uses of space — both on private and public land — helps articulate a narrative of property that moves beyond the rhetoric of economics-bound entitlements and affords a broader, more honest characterization. Conceived in this way, property entitlements represent information about how society defines, refines, enforces, and rejects its collective identity through the legal recognition of property entitlements.

New Article: “Redistribution, Inequality, and Growth”

New Article: Jonathan D. Ostry et al., Redistribution, Inequality, and Growth, IMF (Feb. 2014).  Abstract below:

The Fund has recognized in recent years that one cannot separate issues of economic growth and stability on one hand and equality on the other. Indeed, there is a strong case for considering inequality and an inability to sustain economic growth as two sides of the same coin. Central to the Fund’s mandate is providing advice that will enable members’ economies to grow on a sustained basis. But the Fund has rightly been cautious about recommending the use of redistributive policies given that such policies may themselves undercut economic efficiency and the prospects for sustained growth (the so-called “leaky bucket” hypothesis written about by the famous Yale economist Arthur Okun in the 1970s). This SDN follows up the previous SDN on inequality and growth by focusing on the role of redistribution. It finds that, from the perspective of the best available macroeconomic data, there is not a lot of evidence that redistribution has in fact undercut economic growth (except in extreme cases). One should be careful not to assume therefore—as Okun and others have—that there is a big tradeoff between redistribution and growth. The best available macroeconomic data do not support such a conclusion.

New Article: “A Room of One’s Own? Accessory Dwelling Unit Reforms and Local Parochialism”

New Article: Margaret F. Brinig & Nicole Stelle Garnett, A Room of One’s Own? Accessory Dwelling Unit Reforms and Local Parochialism, 45 Urb. Lawyer 519 (2013).  Abstract below:

Over the past decade, a number of state and local governments have amended land use regulations to permit the accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”) on single-family lots. Measured by raw numbers of reforms, the campaign to secure legal reforms permitting ADUs appears to be a tremendous success. The question remains, however, whether these reforms overcome the well-documented land-use parochialism that has, for decades, represented a primary obstacle to increasing the supply of affordable housing. In order to understand more about their actual effects, this Article examines ADU reforms in a context which ought to predict a minimal level of local parochialism. In 2002, California enacted state-wide legislation mandating that local governments either amend their zoning laws to permit ADUs in single-family zones or accept the imposition of a state-dictated regulatory regime. We carefully examined the zoning law of all California cities with populations over 50,000 people (150 total cities) to determine how local governments actually implemented ADU reforms “on the ground” after the state legislation was enacted. Our analysis suggests that the seeming success story masks hidden local regulatory barriers. Local governments have responded to local political pressures by delaying the enactment of ADU legislation (and, in a few cases, simply refusing to do so despite the state mandate), imposing burdensome procedural requirements that are contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the state-law requirement that ADUs be permitted “as of right,” requiring multiple off-street parking spaces, and imposing substantive and procedural design requirements. Taken together, these details likely dramatically suppress the value of ADUs as a means of increasing affordable housing.