• Faculty Commentary

    Commentary on scholarship, current events, and other news by Chicago-Kent faculty.

    “Swatting” and Section 1983: Some Preliminary Thoughts

    by  • February 26, 2018 • Faculty Commentary • 0 Comments

    by Professor Sheldon Nahmod

    Suppose, either as some sort of misguided prank or motivated by malice, an individual calls the police anonymously and informs them falsely that a man has killed his father and is holding other persons hostage at a particular address. Members of a police SWAT team arrive at the location in the early evening, surround the location and call on the man inside to come out. They also call out directions to the man–who apparently has no idea of what’s going on–to keep his hands up. However, for whatever reason the man appears to lower his hands and at that point one of the officers shoots and kills him.

    This is obviously a real tragedy. But I would like to make some preliminary observations about the section 1983 liability issues potentially arising out of these circumstances. (more…)

    Cert Granted in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach: Section 1983 First Amendment Retaliatory Arrest Claims & Probable Cause

    by  • February 24, 2018 • Faculty Commentary • 0 Comments

    by Professor Sheldon Nahmod

    Suppose a section 1983 plaintiff alleges that a city had him arrested in retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights. He claims that he was arrested (although never prosecuted) at a city council meeting when he got up to speak because he previously had criticized the city’s eminent domain redevelopment efforts and had also sued the city for violating the state’s Sunshine Act.

    Ordinarily, such a plaintiff, in order to make out a section 1983 First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim, would only have to allege and prove that this impermissible retaliatory motive caused him harm, and the defendant would have the burden of disproving the absence of but-for causation in order to escape liability. But here the city argued that even if its motive was impermissible under the First Amendment, there was probable cause–an objective Fourth Amendment standard–to arrest the plaintiff anyway, and that this constituted a defense to the plaintiff’s First Amendment retaliation claim. What result? (more…)

    Prof. Shapiro: “Gerrymandering the Constitution: More than statehouse politics at risk”

    by  • October 2, 2017 • Faculty Commentary • 0 Comments

    In advance of Tuesday morning’s Supreme Court oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, Professor Carolyn Shapiro has published an opinion piece in The Hill outlining the dangers of “extreme partisan gerrymandering.” An excerpt from the introduction follows: The primary issue in Gill is whether partisan gerrymandering can be challenged in court at all and, if so,...

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    Financial CHOICE Act v. 2: Reducing Protections Against Systemic Risk

    by  • May 25, 2017 • Faculty Commentary • 0 Comments

    By Alexander Dill Clearing Corporation Charitable Foundation Practitioner in Residence The nearly 600-page Republican bill to deregulate the financial markets moved forward in the House earlier this month, exiting the Financial Services Committee on May 4. Emboldened by the results of the 2016 election, the bill takes a considerably more aggressive approach than the...

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    Whistleblowing Update: Tone Deaf at the Top and Regulatory Lapses

    by  • April 27, 2017 • Faculty Commentary • 0 Comments

    By Alexander Dill
    Clearing Corporation Charitable Foundation Practitioner in Residence

    Despite the fact (or perhaps due to the fact) that whistleblowing can be a very effective policing mechanism against wrongdoing, confidential employee hotlines often exist in obscurity, as a New York Times article pointed out concerning the Fox News Bill O’Reilly scandal. It cites one employment expert to the effect that companies often “bury information about how employees can file confidential complaints and for employees to be completely unaware of the existence of hotlines.” This is despite the fact that several federal laws require implementation of an effective whistleblowing compliance regime, ranging from Sarbanes-Oxley, the Dodd-Frank Act, and the SEC’s whistleblower rules. But it is one thing to mandate and another to create a culture of compliance that actively supports employees’ whistleblower rights. (more…)

    Prescriptive, “Rules-Based” Regulation Is Key to Enhancing Cybersecurity in Financial Institutions

    by  • March 10, 2017 • Faculty Commentary • 0 Comments

    By Alexander Dill
    Clearing Corporation Charitable Foundation Practitioner in Residence

    There is much debate in the compliance community about the virtues and drawbacks of a “principles-based” versus a “rules-based” regulatory approach in ensuring effective compliance with regulatory obligations. On the one hand, in “principles-based” regulation agencies establish broad but well-articulated principles that a business is expected to follow. There is clarity about the regulatory objective, but not how to design and implement a compliance system that accords with it. (more…)

    Governor Tarullo’s Departure Will Create a Vacuum in Bank Regulation: How Big Will it Be?

    by  • February 17, 2017 • Faculty Commentary • 0 Comments

    By Alexander Dill Clearing Corporation Charitable Foundation Practitioner in Residence Governor Daniel Tarullo’s resignation as governor of the Federal Reserve Board has important implications for future bank regulation and supervision. Its most likely medium-term effect is to reduce the priority the Fed has given to this component of its mandate. Governor Tarullo has played...

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    Dean Krent: Thoughts on the February 7 Ninth Circuit Oral Argument on the Immigration Executive Order

    by  • February 8, 2017 • Faculty Commentary, Presidential Transition • 0 Comments

    By Dean Harold Krent First, kudos to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for livestreaming the oral argument.  The technology was not perfect, but opening the hearing to all citizens represents a needed step toward transparency in light of the controversy engendered by the Executive Order. Second, the panel was prepared and peppered both...

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    Before the Gorsuch Hearings: Originalism and Textualism Hide Ideological Judgments Behind Claims of Objectivity

    by  • February 3, 2017 • Faculty Commentary, Presidential Transition • 0 Comments

    By Professor Carolyn Shapiro

    Now that President Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to the Supreme Court, we will be hearing a lot about the proper role of a Supreme Court justice. In introducing Judge Gorsuch, for example, Trump said that he had sought a nominee who would “interpret [the Constitution and laws] as written.” Praising Trump’s choice, Sean Hannity noted that Trump was fulfilling his promise to appoint someone who would “strictly adhere to the original meaning of the words of the Constitution” and claimed that Gorsuch is not someone who will “legislate from the bench.” Other conservatives have hailed him as a “textualist” and one who “espouses judicial restraint.”

    All of these statements are wrong. They are wrong not necessarily because they misdescribe Gorsuch’s jurisprudence, but because they misdescribe the job. The job of the judge — and especially the job of a Supreme Court justice — is much more complex and nuanced than catchphrases like “applying the law as written” suggest.

    The statements are also code. They are code for a particular type of judge – and make no mistake, it is a judge who conservatives believe will produce results that, by and large, they like. This is not to say that a judge has to do something illegitimate to reach those results. Rather, it is to say that such a judge is – like all judges addressing hard and indeterminate questions of law – making judgments, considering facts, weighing competing principles and taking account of precedent, history, and societal norms and expectations.

    Justice Scalia, and his many followers, claim otherwise. They claim that originalism — interpreting the Constitution as understood at the time of the Framing (or the time of the enactment of relevant amendments) — and textualism — refusing to look beyond the text of a statute to determine its meaning — constrain judges and prevent them from imposing their own views. But the sources of information about original meaning are limited and indeterminate, the language of both the Constitution and statutes is often general and sometimes ambiguous, and the factual circumstances can be far removed from anything that the Framers or statutory drafters could have imagined. A judge’s judgments about the underlying purpose of the provisions, how those purposes should be prioritized against other legal principles, how much weight to give relevant precedent, and the likely effects of different results in the world will all come into play.

    Perhaps the best way to illustrate these realities are by example. In his book, The Living Constitution, Professor David Strauss (an ACS Board Member) offers a number of important examples of originalism’s failures. The most powerful example, of course, is that based on the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, Brown v. Board of Education was wrongly decided. There is little question that most people at the time of the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment thought that segregated schools were just fine and did not think that the amendment rendered them unconstitutional. (Justice Scalia himself hated talking about Brown and complained about non-originalists “waving the bloody shirt of Brown.”)

    Some originalists attempt to explain Brown by reference to the principles of the Fourteenth Amendment. In a 1987 article in the New York Review of Books, Ronald Dworkin described Robert Bork’s attempt to do so: “Bork says that the Brown case was rightly decided because the original intention that judges should consult is not some set of very concrete opinions the framers might have had, about what would or would not fall within the scope of the general principle they meant to lay down, but the general principle itself.” But identifying a general principle and figuring out how to apply it today is what all judges do. And doing that requires judgment, not simply deductive reasoning or poring over historical documents. Although documents may play a role, they are often inconclusive or inconsistent, and figuring out which statements and sources, which principles and motivations, should carry the day is itself a judgment-laden exercise.

    Textualism, which Justice Scalia championed and which claims to apply the text of a statute without regard to legislative intent, similarly subsumes judgment calls under a patina of objectivity. For one example, look to the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on the Federal Arbitration Act. The main operative section of this statute, which was passed at a time when many state courts were refusing to honor arbitration clauses at all, provides that arbitration clauses in contracts “involving commerce … shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” But in case after case (almost all of them 5–4 decisions, with the majority opinion authored by Justice Scalia), the Supreme Court read this language to reveal a preference for arbitration over other forms of dispute resolution, even in situations where that preference effectively eliminates any possible relief and in situations where state law would invalidate the contract as unconscionable. That is not textualism. That is a judgment that the statute does and should privilege arbitration and the protections arbitration provides to corporations and other large entities over other important legal principles, including the respect for state contract law that the statute itself identifies.

    So while we prepare for the confirmation hearings and go over Judge Gorsuch’s record with a fine tooth comb, do not let the myth persist. Originalism and textualism, declining to “legislate from the bench,” “exercising judicial restraint” — these are all nice words, but they mean something quite specific. They refer to a conservative brand of jurisprudence, one that is just as judgment-laden and contingent as any other.

    This post was originally published on the American Constitution Society blog and also appeared in the Huffington Post.