Category Archives: Inequality

News Article: Sonia Sotomayor: Not Everyone Can Just Pull Themselves ‘Up By The Bootstraps’

News Article: Carolina Moreno, Sonia Sotomayor: Not Everyone Can Just Pull Themselves ‘Up By The Bootstraps’, Huffington Post (Apr. 4, 2017).

New Article: “Dangerous Defendants”

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.

Article: The Mapmaker’s Dilemma in Evaluating High-End Inequality

Article:  Daniel Shaviro, The Mapmaker’s Dilemma in Evaluating High-End Inequality, New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers (2016).

The last thirty years have witnessed rising income and wealth concentration among the top 0.1 percent of the population, leading to intense political debate regarding how, if at all, policymakers should respond. Often, this debate emphasizes the tools of public economics, and in particular optimal income taxation. However, while these tools can help us in evaluating the issues raised by high-end inequality, their extreme reductionism – which, in other settings, often offers significant analytic payoffs – here proves to have serious drawbacks. This paper addresses what we do and don’t learn from the optimal income tax literature regarding high-end inequality, and what other inputs might be needed to help one evaluate the relevant issues.

Article: CED after #OWS: From Community Economic Development to Anti-Authoritarian Community Counter-Institutions

Article: Michael Haber, CED after #OWS: From Community Economic Development to Anti-Authoritarian Community Counter-Institutions, 43 Fordham Urb. L.J. 295 (2016).

Community Economic Development (“CED”) and community-based social justice non-profits more generally have been criticized by social justice lawyers, legal scholars, practitioners, and activists, who charge that these efforts too often overlook the structural drivers of inequality, strip social justice movements of their confrontational, activist politics, and fail to give community members meaningful control over their programs. Over the past decades, anti-authoritarian activists — perhaps most famously known through Occupy Wall Street — have developed new frameworks for social change movements based on philosophical commitments to horizontalism, autonomism, and prefigurative politics. Many anti-authoritarian activists have turned their attention to creating community-based social change groups. These groups often engage in both activism and service provision, but do so outside of traditional frameworks for community-based organizations. These “community counter-institutions” hold the potential to address some of the critiques of CED models, and may develop to become more confrontational, democratic, and inclusive community-based social change organizations that still provide essential community services as part of their work. Transactional social change lawyers can play an important supportive role in helping anti-authoritarian activists to develop these new models.

News Article: How to ensure everyone a guaranteed basic income

News Article: Steven Pearlstein, How to ensure everyone a guaranteed basic income, Washington Post (Mar. 24, 2017).

Article: Countering Neoliberalism and Aligning Solidarities: Rethinking Domestic Violence Advocacy

Article: Deborah M. Weissman, Countering Neoliberalism and Aligning Solidarities: Rethinking Domestic Violence Advocacy, Southwestern University L. Rev. (forthcoming).

This article seeks to situate domestic violence in a larger analytical frame of the political economic, to extend institutional responsibility for violence beyond the criminal justice system, and to form common bonds with other social justice initiatives. It argues that improved remedies for domestic violence victims lie within the reform of the political economy. It examines the efficacy of integrating anti-domestic violence initiatives into realms of work and labor and issues pertaining to the financialization of everyday life, as a way to engage larger questions bearing on economic justice and structural social change. The relationship between domestic violence and political economy is under-theorized and constrained by prevailing neoliberal paradigms. Moreover, deepening wealth inequality in capitalist societies has produced new forms of suffering within families, which underscores the need for diverse constituencies to act in concert and in common political cause. Shifting domestic violence strategies so that they operate within the frame of the political economy may generate greater opportunities for coalition building for and with domestic violence advocates.

The relevance of economic security has loomed large in domestic violence advocacy, to be sure. It has been properly identified as a critical factor that determines whether a victim can escape domestic violence. However, advocacy in this area has been often circumscribed by a narrow focus on individual circumstances, reliance on a residualist welfare state that perceives dependency on public assistance as moral deficiency. Too often economic justice initiatives designed to mitigate domestic violence have been fitted neatly within neoliberal economics that fail to provide meaningful social change. These responses have failed to challenge such policies while discounting the full impact of the neoliberal model on one’s ability to escape domestic violence.

This article relies on the scholarship that considers the impact of neoliberalism on law and social justice claims to provide a contextual examination of the ways in which the constraints of neoliberalism hinder efforts to address laws gender-based violence. It describes and then critiques current economic-related strategies offered by the state and the market designed to improve outcomes for victims of domestic violence and questions the “sources of submission” by domestic violence advocates to a neoliberal pragmatic. It offers proposals to advance economic security in ways that join domestic violence advocacy with other forms of socio-economic advocacy that provide additional progressive promise, but does so cautiously as “[n]eoliberalism is everywhere and nowhere; its custodians are largely invisible.” It suggests that transforming the ways in which attention is paid to economic concerns provides a complementary if not alternative way of understanding and addressing the phenomenon of domestic violence through the broad perspective of socio-economic justice.

Article: Litigating Money Bail Away: A Dim Future for the Status of the Poor Under the 14 Amendment

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.

Article: What Diversity Contributes to Equal Opportunity

Article: Stephen M. Rich, What Diversity Contributes to Equal Opportunity, 89 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1111 (2016).

The ideal of diversity so pervades American public life that we now speak of diversity where we once spoke of equality. Yet we seldom pause to consider the costs that have accompanied this shift. In Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court held that a public university’s use of racial preferences in student admissions will not violate equal protection if the challenged admissions policy is narrowly tailored to achieve the university’s compelling interest in student body diversity. Rather, however, than quieting public controversies about affirmative action, the decision has been a frequent target of legal and political attack. Grutter and the Court’s subsequent decisions in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin have established the dominant legal conception of diversity, but they have also left many questions unanswered concerning the applicability of Grutter’s diversity rationale outside of the educational context. This Article rejects Grutter’s rationale, but not the relevance of diversity to the goal of equal opportunity. It demonstrates that Grutter’s rationale underserves equal opportunity by deferring to institutional constructions of diversity’s benefits, naively equating the achievement of numerical diversity with the accomplishment of those benefits, and failing to distinguish between exploitative and egalitarian uses of diversity. This Article uses the popular conception of diversity found in business settings and managerial literature as a foil for the legal conception. On the one hand, by conceiving of diversity as a business resource, managerial discourse advocates for exploitative uses of diversity, thereby widening the gap between diversity and equal opportunity. On the other hand, because the value of diversity as a business resource turns in part on the professional growth and achievement of individual workers, managerial discourse sometimes invokes the concept of diversity in order to promote new institutional practices that extend professional opportunities to all persons, regardless of social status. Managerial discourse thus reveals important dangers and possibilities inherent within the concept of diversity that have yet to be explored in legal discourse. This Article marshals those lessons to propose a reconstruction of Grutter’s diversity rationale to fulfill its potential as an instrument of equal opportunity, even outside of the educational context and even when an institution does not rely on affirmative action.

Article: Private Enforcement of the Affordable Care Act: Toward an “Implied Warranty of Legality” in Health Insurance

Article: Christine H. Monahan, Private Enforcement of the Affordable Care Act: Toward an “Implied Warranty of Legality” in Health Insurance, 126 Yale L. Rev. 908 (2017).

For decades, the individual health insurance market failed to provide consumers adequate or affordable health coverage. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) sought to change this state of affairs, establishing a new Patient’s Bill of Rights and instituting other protections that require insurers to make comprehensive coverage readily accessible. However, recent reports have begun to document health plans’ violations of the ACA, such as their failure to pay consumers their required refunds or the illegal imposition of waiting periods for transplant services. Although the ACA preserves a role for states in implementing and enforcing the law, state remedies are often lacking. For instance, many state consumer protection laws do not apply to insurance, while traditional breach of contract claims only provide for recourse when a health insurance policy expressly incorporates ACA provisions. As a result, a critical gap in the law has come to light: the absence of a private right of action. This Note proposes that state courts can address this gap by finding that the sale of individual health insurance comes with an implicit and legally enforceable promise that the policy and insurer administering it are in full compliance with the ACA. In other words, this Note urges courts to establish an “implied warranty of legality” in the context of individual health insurance. Modeled on the implied warranty of habitability, this approach would correct for power imbalances within this market. It would also promote individual rights by empowering consumers to sue when they have been wronged and foster civic engagement by enabling consumers to play an active role in the enforcement of public law. The implied warranty of legality would also have redistributive effects, allowing for the costs of noncompliance to be shared more evenly across the market. Looking beyond the ACA, the implied warranty of legality should also be applied in other regulated markets with similar dynamics, or, if the ACA is scaled back or repealed, to enforce state health insurance rules that seek to protect consumers from unlawful insurer practices.

News Article: If you’re a poor person in America, Trump’s budget is not for you

News Article: Steven Mufson and Tracy Jan, If you’re a poor person in America, Trump’s budget is not for you, Washington Post (Mar. 16, 2017).