Article: Kathryn A. Sabbeth, Housing Defense as the New Gideon, 43 Harv. J. L. & Gender (forthcoming).
New York City is poised to become the first jurisdiction in the United States to guarantee a right to counsel for poor people at risk of losing their homes. Although millions of Americans are evicted every year, until recently, scholars and policymakers largely ignored the eviction phenomenon. New research demonstrates the frequency of eviction and the breadth of its economic and social impacts on individuals, their families, and society at large. Relying on studies showing that housing defense lawyers decrease eviction rates and promote positive social outcomes, NYC legislators concluded that a right to housing defense counsel would be both morally right and cost-effective. They introduced Intro 214-A to establish such a right and, in February 2017, the NYC mayor announced that his administration will provide the funds the bill needs to move forward. This Article is the first to analyze this ground-breaking legislation.
The right to appointment of criminal defense counsel recognized in Gideon v. Wainwright grew out of the Supreme Court’s response to the Civil Rights Movement. Using NYC’s housing defense bill as a case study, this Article identifies three ways in which the civil right to counsel has the potential to build on the Gideon model and expand it for today. First, in targeting the secondary effects of the eviction phenomenon, the NYC legislature moves beyond procedure to promote substantive outcomes. Second, its focus on housing defense recognizes a set of concerns that disproportionately impact Black women, thus building on the racial equality aims underlying Gideon and adding a move toward gender equality. Third, whereas the criminal defense model defends individuals against state power, the new bill applies to tenants of public and private landlords, thus checking abuses of private power.
The Article also addresses the dynamics of defensive lawyering, a feature of both the old and the new models of appointment of counsel. Defensive lawyering suffers from systemic limitations and fails to challenge social problems that could be addressed through affirmative suits—such as discrimination, harassment, and unsafe conditions. The availability of counterclaims in civil litigation, however, makes the civil defensive position more flexible than its criminal cousin, and may overcome some of these limits. The Article concludes that the new right to counsel holds significant promise.
Article: Richard A. Bales, Resurrecting Labor, 77 Maryland L. Rev. (forthcoming).
Participation in American labor unions have changed radically, albeit incrementally, over the last fifty years. Private‐sector union density has declined five‐fold, whereas public‐sector density has increased almost as significantly. Today, unions rarely strike and in much of the country they are politically impotent. As traditional manufacturing declines and is replaced by on‐demand work, unions risk becoming a historical footnote.
This article ties the decline in union density and power to macroeconomic trends that are highly troubling in an advanced democracy, such as rising income inequality and the failure of wage growth to keep pace with GDP growth. It next reviews the traditional prescriptions that labor scholars have advocated to reverse labor’s decline. Finally, it proposes three new radical fixes: authorizing criminal prosecution for willful violations of labor law, expanding labor protections to on‐demand workers, and reversing the legal presumption that workers are not represented by a union unless they affirmatively opt in.
Sandra G. Mayson, Dangerous Defendants, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 16-30 (2016).
Bail reform is underway — but it is proceeding on shaky ground. The reform model, which deploys actuarial risk assessment to identify “high-risk” defendants, assumes that the state has the prerogative to detain or control dangerous defendants. This assumption is not new. But it is anomalous. In general, we do not permit the state to restrain sane, responsible adults solely to stop them from committing hypothetical future crimes, even those who are high-risk. The reform movement’s focus on danger thus crystallizes a fundamental question about pretrial policy: What justifies the state in restraining defendants for dangerousness before trial if we would prohibit the same restraint for equally dangerous members of the public? Although there is an extensive literature on preventive detention, neither the Supreme Court nor prior scholarship has focused on this comparative question. This Article endeavors to answer it. It makes the first effort to articulate and evaluate potential justifications for subjecting defendants to restraint that we would forbid for non-defendants who pose an equal risk. The Article explores doctrinal, deontological and instrumentalist justifications, but ultimately rejects them. It contends that pretrial restraint for dangerousness can only be justified at the risk threshold where we would authorize equivalent restraint of a member of the population at large. Communities, policymakers and courts should therefore determine what they believe this threshold to be, then ensure that pretrial risk assessment and management are tailored to it.
New Article: Brandon Buskey & Lauren Sudeall Lucas, Keeping Gideon’s Promise: Using Equal Protection to Address the Denial of Counsel in Misdemeanor Cases, 85 Fordham L. Rev. 2299 (2017). Abstract below:
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to counsel, and the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that right is applicable to all defendants in felony cases, even those unable to afford a lawyer. Yet, for defendants facing misdemeanor charges, only those defendants whose convictions result in incarceration are entitled to the assistance of counsel.
The number of misdemeanor prosecutions has increased dramatically in recent years, as have the volume and severity of collateral consequences attached to such convictions; yet, the Court’s right to counsel jurisprudence in this area has remained stagnant. Critics of the doctrinal and pragmatic problems created by the Court’s actual incarceration standard have advocated for various reforms to better protect people accused of misdemeanors, including redefinition or expansion of the right to counsel and legislative changes that would cut back on incarceration and allow states to better apportion their limited resources among defendants.
This Article offers a novel perspective, grounded in due process and equal protection and a line of Supreme Court cases that guarantee equal access to the courts. Viewed in that light, indigent misdemeanor defendants denied counsel may not suffer from a Sixth Amendment violation under the law as it stands, but they are deprived of meaningful access to the courts on the basis of wealth. It suggests that reconceputalizing the plight of misdemeanor defendants through the lens of due process and equal protection may help to identify the most effective judicial and legislative solutions to the crisis of “assembly line justice.”
Article: Mel Gonzalez, Litigating Money Bail Away: A Dim Future for the Status of the Poor Under the 14 Amendment (March 3, 2017). [submitted for SSRN]
This essay is the first to analyze the possibility of ongoing litigation around bail reform to resurface 14th amendment jurisprudence regarding the status of the poor. Fifty years after Professor Caleb Foote predicted the coming constitutional crisis arising from the injustices generated by our financially based system of pretrial release—money bail—the underlying constitutional issues may soon finally reach the highest court in the land. As recent scholarship demonstrates, however, current Supreme Court jurisprudence may not look favorably at those petitioners who wish to expand Fourteenth Amendment protections to the indigent. Worse yet, precisely as these issues are resurfacing, the court is likely on the heels of a significant movement toward the right—producing a court ideologically inclined to be deaf to increasingly audible concerns in support of the poor.
In this essay, first, I contextualize the current bail system, drawing on criminal justice and social science research, to reveal a dim picture of the inequities it produces. I then overview the growing movement for bail reform, focusing on the recent package of lawsuits brought by Equal Justice Under Law in states across the country. Then I assess the constitutional analysis marshaled by these lawsuits, supplementing their claims with my own additional synthesis of evolving jurisprudence, and evaluating their likelihood of success. I argue that given existing jurisprudence, petitioners will have to seek heightened judicial scrutiny in order to push the Court to render the bail system unconstitutional. To attain the Court’s heightened scrutiny, petitioners will have to compel the Court to address wealth as the grounds for suspect class determination. Finally, I extend my analysis to the potential positions that a new and more conservative court under President Trump may take regarding the Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence analyzed in the prior section.
Op-Ed: Chiraag Bains, “DOJ Begins to Turn Its Back on Policing Reform,” Take Care Blog, April 4, 2017.
New Article: Jocelyn Simonson, Bail Nullification, 115 Mich. L. Rev. 585 (2017). Abstract below:
This Article explores the possibility of community nullification beyond the jury by analyzing the growing and unstudied phenomenon of community bail funds, which post bail for strangers based on broader beliefs regarding the overuse of pretrial detention. When a community bail fund posts bail, it can serve the function of nullifying a judge’s determination that a certain amount of the defendant’s personal or family money was necessary to ensure public safety and prevent flight. This growing practice—what this Article calls “bail nullification”—is powerful because it exposes publicly what many within the system already know to be true: that although bail is ostensibly a regulatory pretrial procedure, for indigent defendants it often serves the function that a real trial might, producing guilty pleas and longer sentences when an individual cannot afford to pay their bail. By examining the ways in which community bail funds serve the functions that a nullifying jury might—allowing popular participation in an individual case to facilitate larger resistance to the policies and practices of state actors—this Article argues that community bail funds have the potential to change how local criminal justice systems operate on the ground, shifting and shaping political and constitutional understandings of the institution of money bail. Community bail funds give a voice to populations who rarely have a say in how criminal justice is administered, especially poor people of color. And the study of bail funds helps point toward other ways in which bottom-up public participation can help create a criminal justice system that is truly responsive to the communities that it is ultimately supposed to serve.
News Article: Shaila Dewan & Andrew W. Lehren, “After a Crime, the Price of a Second Chance,” N.Y. Times, Dec. 12,2016.