2017, Vol. 112, No. 3
President Donald Trump has faced criticism for attacking the press and for abandoning longstanding traditions of accommodating and respecting it. This Essay argues that the national discussion spurred by Trump’s treatment of the press has fallen short of capturing the true seriousness of the situation. Trump’s assault on the custom of press accommodation follows a generation-long collapse of other major press protections. In order to fully understand the critical juncture at which American press freedom now stands, we must expand the discussion beyond talk of a rogue president’s aberrant attacks on the press and consider the increasingly fragile edifice on which the American free press sits. This is because the kind of press we value and need in the United States—one that is free, independent, and democracy enhancing—does not just occur naturally. Nor is it protected by a single robust constitutional right. Rather, it is supported by a number of legal and nonlegal pillars, such as the institutional media’s relative financial strength, the goodwill of the public, a mutually dependent relationship with government officials, and the backing of sympathetic judges. Each of these supports has weakened substantially in recent years, leaving the one remaining pillar of tradition and custom to bear more of the weight. Contrary to widespread belief, our concern should not be that Trump might be taking the first step toward crippling the power of the free press but rather that he might be taking the final step in a process that has long been underway.
Defining the scope of the Constitution’s application outside U.S. territory is more important than ever. In February, the Supreme Court heard oral argument about whether the Constitution applies when a U.S. officer shoots a Mexican teenager across the border. At the same time, federal courts across the country scrambled to evaluate the constitutionality of an Executive Order that, among other things, deprived immigrants of their right to reenter the United States. Yet the extraterritorial reach of the Due Process Clause—the broadest constitutional limit on the government’s authority to deprive persons of “life, liberty, or property”—remains obscure.
Up to now, scholars have uniformly concluded that the founding generation did not understand due process to apply abroad, at least not to aliens. This Article challenges that consensus. Based on the historical background, constitutional structure, and the early practice of federal law enforcement on the high seas, this Article argues that the founding generation understood due process to apply to any exercise of federal law enforcement, criminal or civil, against any person anywhere in the world. Outside the context of war, no one believed that a federal officer could deprive a suspect of life, liberty, or property without due process of law— even if the capture occurred abroad or the suspect was a noncitizen.
This history supports generally extending due process to federal criminal and civil law enforcement, regardless of the suspect’s location or citizenship. This principle has immediate implications for cross-border shootings, officially sponsored kidnappings and detentions abroad, the suspension of immigration benefits, and the acquisition of foreign evidence for criminal defendants.
Notes & Comments
During President Barack Obama’s Administration, significant light was shed on the depth of the United States’ campus sexual assault problem. As a result, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights increased enforcement of Title IX provisions by way of its 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter.” This Note argues that the Dear Colleague Letter was improperly enforced as if it were a formal legislative rule and was therefore illegitimate. Nevertheless, this Note contends that the preponderance of the evidence standard initially enshrined within the Dear Colleague Letter should be adopted through the notice-and-comment procedures President Donald Trump’s Administration promises in order to protect the interests of campus sexual assault survivors.
As a government attorney defending economic legislation from a constitutional challenge under the Fourteenth Amendment—How would you rate your chances of success? Surely excellent. After all, hornbook constitutional law requires only the assembly of a flimsy underlying factual record for economic legislation to pass rational basis review.
But the recent uptick in courts questioning the credibility of legislative records might give pause to your optimism. As a growing body of scholarship has identified, the Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals increasingly invalidate laws under rational basis review despite the presence of an otherwise constitutionally sufficient legislative record. Under this “credibility-questioning” rational basis review, courts both ignore post hoc rationales that would legitimate a government interest and scrutinize the fit between the challenged statute’s means and ends. Nevertheless, recent scholarship has overlooked why courts have, and should, engage in credibility-questioning rational basis review, particularly of economic legislation.
This Note proposes an answer: Courts should apply credibilityquestioning rational basis review to economic legislation that (1) impedes liberty interests central to personhood, (2) burdens politically unpopular minority groups, or (3) benefits concentrated interest groups at the expense of diffuse majorities.
Most searches conducted by police officers are “consensual” and thus beyond the reach of the Fourth Amendment. However, such searches violate the Fourth Amendment when, under the totality of circumstances, consent appears to be a product of coercion—that is, when the consent was involuntary. In 1980, in Mendenhall v. United States, the Supreme Court identified race as a relevant factor courts should consider but failed to explain precisely why race was relevant. After decades of mistreatment and state-sanctioned violence, distrust of law enforcement was rampant in communities of color, and the Mendenhall Court correctly intuited (but failed to describe) the coercive effect of this entrenched distrust and corresponding fear when law enforcement sought consent to search from a person of color. These sentiments have persisted—even as police forces have become more diverse and misconduct has, by many accounts, decreased—and recent developments in video recording technology and social media have created immediate and pervasive social awareness of new incidents of police violence against persons of color and further reinforced this inherited distrust. Yet, since Mendenhall, the Supreme Court has ignored race in its consent search cases, and lower courts have followed suit. This is an inexcusable and worrisome omission—race should be one of the central factors relevant to determining whether, under the totality of the circumstances, consent to search was impermissibly coerced.