Ostracism and Democracy

Alex Zhang

The 2020 Presidential Election featured an unprecedented attempt to undermine our democratic institutions: allegations of voter fraud and litigation about mail-in ballots culminated in a mob storming of the Capitol as Congress certified President Biden’s victory. Former President Trump now faces social-media bans and potential disqualification from future federal office, but his allies have criticized those efforts as the witch-hunt of a cancel culture that is symptomatic of the unique ills of contemporary liberal politics.

This Article defends recent efforts to remove Trump from the public eye, with reference to an ancient Greek electoral mechanism: ostracism. In the world’s first democracy, Athenians assembled once a year to write down on pottery shards, ostraka, names of prominent figures they wished to exile from their political community. I argue that this desire to banish powerful figures from political participation is, in fact, sign of a well-functioning, legitimate democracy. In particular, ostracism emerges as an effective procedure during an erosion of the perceived legitimacy of one’s political adversaries, and it is grounded in a hope to restore a once-shared commitment to the foundational norms of democratic contest.

Vertical Control

Herbert Hovenkamp

Antitrust litigation often requires courts to consider challenges to vertical “control.” How does a firm injure competition by limiting the behavior of vertically related firms? Competitive injury includes harm to consumers, labor, or other suppliers from reduced output and higher margins.

Historically, antitrust considers this issue by attempting to identify a market that is vertically related to the defendant, and then consider what portion of it is “foreclosed” by the vertical practice. There are better mechanisms for identifying competitive harm, including a more individualized look at how the practice injures the best placed firms or bears directly on a firm’s ability to reduce output and increase its price without losing so many sales that the price increase is unprofitable. This Article discusses these mechanisms.

The Mysterious Market for Post-Settlement Litigant Finance

Ronen Avraham, Lynn A. Baker, Anthony J. Sebok

Litigant finance is a growing and increasingly controversial industry in which financial firms advance a plaintiff money in exchange for ownership rights in the proceeds of the legal claim on a nonrecourse basis: A plaintiff must repay the advance only if compensation is ultimately received for the legal claim. The nonrecourse nature of this funding exempts it from most states’ consumer credit laws, enabling funders to charge higher interest and fees than would otherwise be permitted. When this funding involves ordinary consumers, critics of the industry contend that the uncapped interest rates exploit vulnerable litigants, while its defenders argue that the availability of these cash advances improves the welfare of consumers, especially those who have no other credit options. This funding made headlines during the recent NFL Concussion litigation, with more than one thousand players reported to have received such cash advances and with class counsel raising concerns of “predatory lending.” Because the industry has not been forthcoming with facts, the larger policy debate thus far has largely relied on anecdotes and speculation. In addition, the debate has ignored the important differences between pre- and post-settlement litigant funding.

This Article is the first to present systematic, large-scale data on consumer post- settlement litigant funding—the type of funding most NFL players reportedly received. We were given unrestricted access to the complete archive of sixteen years of funding applications and funding contracts from one of the largest consumer litigant funding companies in the United States. These data, which are robust and representative, enable us to make transparent the terms and true price to consumers of this formerly mysterious funding. We find that the Funder offers not only clearer contract terms but also better financial terms to post-settlement clients relative to pre-settlement clients. Yet these better terms do not come close to reflecting the virtually nonexistent litigation risk to the Funder. We therefore recommend that consumer post-settlement litigant funding be subject to the same regulations as conventional consumer credit and that a standardized, simple disclosure be required.

EpiPen, Patents, and Life and Death

Jacob S. Sherkow, Patricia J. Zettler

Drug pricing disputes, while significant public health concerns, are not typically immediate life or death matters. But they may be for certain emergency medicines, medicines used for potentially lethal and rapidly onset illnesses or injuries. This is especially true for emergency drug-device combination products, like Mylan’s EpiPen, for which patients can bear a significant brunt of the products’ cost. Scholarly commentary on the controversy surrounding the pricing of Mylan’s EpiPen, however, has largely elided over this relationship among combination products, emergency medicine, and patient payment, often focusing instead on classic issues of antitrust and competition. This brief Essay explores how EpiPen’s pricing capacity is a function of a peculiar intersection of emergency medicine, FDA law and policy, and patents, and suggests areas of further analysis for other drug-device emergency combination products.

Progressive Tax Procedure

Joshua D. Blank, Ari Glogower

Abusive tax avoidance and tax evasion by high-income taxpayers pose unique threats to the tax system. These strategies undermine the tax system’s progressive features and distort its distributional burdens. Responses to this challenge generally fall within two categories: calls to increase IRS enforcement and “activity-based rules” targeting the specific strategies that enable tax avoidance and evasion by these taxpayers. Both of these responses, however, offer incomplete solutions to the problems of high-end noncompliance.

This Article presents the case for “progressive tax procedure”—means-based adjustments to the tax procedure rules for high-income taxpayers. In contrast to the activity-based rules in current law, progressive tax procedure would tailor rules to the economic circumstances of the actors rather than their activities. For example, under this approach, a high-income taxpayer would face higher tax penalty rates or longer periods where the IRS could assess tax deficiencies. Progressive tax procedure could also allow an exception for low-value tax underpayments, to avoid excessive IRS scrutiny or unduly burdensome rules for less serious offenses.

Progressive tax procedure could address the unique challenges posed by high-end tax noncompliance and equalize the effect of the tax procedure rules for taxpayers in varying economic circumstances. It could also complement the alternative approaches of increasing tax enforcement and activity-based rules while avoiding the limitations of relying exclusively on these responses.

After developing the normative case for progressive tax procedure, the Article illustrates how it could be applied in three specific areas: accuracy-related tax penalties, the reasonable cause defense, and the statute of limitations. These applications illuminate the basic design choices in implementing progressive tax procedure, including the types of rules that should be adjusted and the methods for designing these adjustments.

Reality Porn

I. India Thusi

Prostitution is illegal while pornography is constitutionally protected. Modern technology, however, is complicating the relationship between prostitution and pornography. Recent technological advances make the creation and distribution of recorded material more accessible. Within our smart phones we carry agile distribution networks as well as the technical equipment required to produce low-budget films. Today, sex workers may be paid to engage in sexual activities as part of performances that are recorded and broadcast to a public audience. No longer confined to the pornography industry, this form of sexual performance can be created by anyone with a cell phone and access to the internet. In addition, modern popular culture recognizes the expressive value of reality and ordinary life. Technological advances will only continue to make broadcasting and sharing everyday life possible, raising the possibility that there will be a growing audience for, and communities organized around, sexually expressive materials online. This Article is the first to analyze this increasingly important and common phenomenon that it defines as reality porn. It argues that reality porn is pornographic paid sex work that should be accorded First Amendment recognition, notwithstanding the criminalization of the underlying act of prostitution. This Article redefines pornography and provides a framework for analyzing this sexual expression. As long as the conduct is consentable—both consented to in fact and consensual in nature—it should not be deprived of constitutional protection.

Who Should Pay for COVID-19? The Inescapable Normativity of International Law

Sebastián Guidi, Nahuel Maisley

Who should bear the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic? While multilateral institutions are beginning to consider how to distribute them, former U.S. President Trump and others have suggested suing China for damages. This “lawsuit approach” draws on a deep-seated conception of international law: States have a sovereign “right to be left alone”; the only limit to this right is a correlative duty to avoid harming others. Those harmed can, then, sue for damages. In this view, who should pay for the costs of the pandemic (and how much) is not a normative question about justice, but rather one about factual causes and actuarial calculations.

In this Article, we explore this lawsuit approach—not for its legal viability, but for its conceptual implications. We exhaustively and critically assess the doctrinal discussion on China’s international liability for the pandemic while also pointing at deep theoretical implications that this novel crisis has for international law more broadly.

Specifically, we make three novel claims. The first is that the arguments made using the lawsuit approach (based on the International Health Regulations and the no-harm principle), when meticulously analyzed under existing international norms, run into unexpected obstacles. On top of the jurisdictional and evidentiary hurdles noted by many, we argue that the lawsuit approach faces difficulties stemming from the lack of deep normative agreement in international law on how to deal with unprecedented challenges such as COVID-19.

Our second claim draws on the first. Given the need to fill these normative voids, the lawsuit approach leads back to the global conversation about the allocation of losses that it carefully tries to avoid. This normative dependence cannot be spared by analogy with domestic law. Domestic law builds upon thick cultural understandings that fill empty legal concepts (such as “harm” or “causation”), making them readily operative. International law, however, lacks an equivalent thick culture to fill these voids and therefore requires complex reconstructions of what states owe to one another.

Our third claim further extends the foregoing reasoning. The lawsuit approach relies on international law as a means to achieve corrective justice while denying its implications for distributive justice. We argue that this is conceptually impossible. Allocating responsibility for the pandemic implicates inherently distributive concepts: To decide, an adjudicator would need to rely on a pretorian rule detailing how much effort and expense countries should dedicate to avoiding harm to other countries. That rule is conceptually distributive, independent of its content. The misfortunes derived from the pandemic are not conceptually different from the mis- fortunes of poverty, financial breakdowns, or climate change. Those going down the road of the lawsuit approach might be unpleasantly surprised by where that road leads them.

The Folklore of Unfairness

Luke Herrine

The Federal Trade Commission Act’s ban on “unfair . . . acts and practices” would, on its face, seem to give the FTC an awesome power to define proper treatment of consumers in changing conditions. But even in a world of widespread corporate surveillance, ongoing racial discrimination, impenetrably complex financial products, pyramid schemes, and more, the unfairness authority is used rarely, mostly in egregious cases of wrongdoing. Why?

The standard explanation is that the more expansive notion of unfairness was tried in the 1970s, and it failed spectacularly. The FTC of this era was staffed by bureaucrats convinced of their own moral superiority and blind to the self-correcting dynamics of the market. When the FTC finally reached too far and tried to ban television advertising of sugary cereals to children, it undermined its own legitimacy, causing Congress to put pressure on the agency to narrow its definition of unfairness.

This Article argues that this standard explanation gets the law and the history wrong, and, thus, that the FTC’s unfairness authority is more potent than commonly assumed. The regulatory initiatives of the 1970s were actually quite popular. The backlash against them was led by the businesses whose profit margins they threatened. Leaders of these businesses had become increasingly radicalized and well-organized and brought their new political clout to bear on an unsuspecting FTC. It was not the re-articulation of the unfairness standard in 1980 that narrowed unfairness to its current form, but rather the subsequent takeover of the FTC by neoliberal economists and lawyers who had been supported by these radicalized business leaders. The main limitation on the use of the unfairness authority since then has been the ideology of regulators charged with its enforcement. In fact, the conventional morality tale about the FTC’s efforts in the 1970s are part of what keeps this ideology dominant.

A reconsideration of the meaning of unfairness requires situating the drama of the 1970s and 80s in a longer struggle over governance of consumer markets. Since the creation of the FTC, and even before, an evolving set of coalitions have battled over what makes markets fair. These coalitions can be divided roughly into those who favor norm setting by government agencies informed by experts held accountable to democratic publics and those who favor norm setting by business leaders made accountable via the profit motive. The meaning of “unfair . . . acts and practices” has been defined and redefined through these struggles, and it can and should be redefined again to reconstruct the state capacity to define standards of fair dealing.

Police Quotas

Shaun Ossei-Owusu

The American public is slowly recognizing the criminal justice system’s deep defects. Mounting visual evidence of police brutality and social protests are generating an appetite for something different. How to change this system is still an open question. People across the political spectrum vary in their conceptions of the pressing problems and how to solve them. Interestingly, there is one consequential and overlooked area of the criminal justice system where there is broad consensus: police quotas.

Police quotas are formal and informal measures that require police officers to issue a particular number of citations or make a certain number of arrests. Although law enforcement leadership typically denies implementing quotas, courts, legislators, and officers have all confirmed the existence of this practice and linked it to odious criminal justice problems such as racial profiling, policing for profit, and overcriminalization. These problems have led legislators in many states to implement statutory prohibitions on quotas. Some of these statutes are of recent vintage and others are decades old. Nevertheless, these prohibitions and their attendant litigation have escaped sustained analytical scrutiny. Legal scholars typically overlook police quotas, subsume them within other categories (e.g., broken windows policing), or give pat acknowledgment of their existence without explaining how they work.

This Article corrects these omissions and makes two arguments. First, it contends that police quotas are a significant but undertheorized feature of criminal law and procedure. Quotas make police rewards and sanctions significant features of punishment in ways that can trump criminal offending and pervert due process principles. Second, it argues that quota-based policing is a unique area where there is widespread agreement and possibilities for change. Liberals, libertarians, conservatives, police officers, police unions, and racial minorities have all criticized police quotas. These vastly different constituents have argued that quotas distort police discretion and produce unnecessary police-civilian interactions. This Article supplements these arguments with a novel descriptive, statutory, and jurisprudential account of police quotas in the United States. It offers a framework for under- standing the arguments for and objections to quotas, and proposes some normative strategies that could build on statutory and litigation successes.

MDL Revolution

Elizabeth Chamblee Burch, Abbe R. Gluck

Over the past 50 years, multidistrict litigation (MDL) has quietly revolutionized civil procedure. MDLs include the largest tort cases in U.S. history, but without the authority of the class-action rule, MDL judges—who formally have only pretrial jurisdiction over individual cases—have resorted to extraordinary procedural exceptionalism to settle cases on a national scale. Substantive state laws, personal jurisdiction, transparency, impartiality, reviewability, federalism, and adequate representation must all yield if doing so fulfills that one goal.

Somehow, until now, this has remained below the surface to everyone but MDL insiders. Thanks to the sprawling MDL over the opioid crisis—and unprecedented opposition to it—MDL is finally in public view. State attorneys general have resisted the opioid MDL’s intense nationalism, its relentless drive to global settlement, its wild procedural innovation, its blurring of differences across state law, and its dramatic assertions of jurisdictional authority. Opiates is the most extraordinary MDL yet, but most big MDLs share many of its features, and Opiates is already the roadmap for the next mega-cases. Moreover, even as resistance to Opiates has dispersed some of the MDL’s early power, that resistance itself has come in the form of unusual procedural mechanisms.

MDL is designed for individual cases—giving similar suits filed in different districts an efficient pretrial process before sending them home for trial. In reality, that is pure fiction. Few cases ever return. And the MDL’s mode of coordination—from its anti-federalism stance to its insistence that each proceeding is too unique to be confined by the Federal Rules—chafes at almost every aspect of procedure’s traditional rules and values. MDL is not-so-secretly changing the face of civil procedure.

This Article weaves together for the first time these exceptional features of MDL and their disruption of procedure’s core assumptions. Is MDL a revolution? Or simply a symptom of a larger set of modern procedural tensions manifesting in many forms? Either way, it begs the question: What do we expect of litigation on this scale?

We recognize that MDL fills important gaps by providing access to courts but argue for some return to regular order to safeguard due process, federalism, and sovereignty. We suggest specific shifts—from more pretrial motions to new paths for appellate review, attorney selection, and jurisdictional redundancy—where the normative balance seems particularly out of whack; shifts we believe are in line with the spirit of Federal Rule 1’s own inherent paradox—the ideal of “just, speedy and inexpensive procedure.”

We also offer the first comprehensive analysis of the historic suits over the opioid crisis. Opiates is the first MDL that pits localities against their own state attorneys general in a struggle for litigation control. Its judge has publicly stated that solving a national health crisis that Congress dumped in his lap is different from ordinary litigation. Opiates has even invented a new form of class action. It is hyper-dialectical, jurisdictionally competitive, outcome-oriented, repeat-player-rich, fiercely creative procedure.

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