One of Justice Clarence Thomas’s most remarked upon characteristics is his reluctance to ask questions during oral argument. Observers have criticized him for his silence, with some suggesting that it reflects disrespect for his colleagues and the advocates appearing before the Supreme Court. Others defend his silence, noting, for instance, that historically oral argument played a much less significant role and that Thomas’s written opinions speak for themselves. What has been overlooked in this debate, however, is the fact that Justice Thomas is very talented at asking questions. Indeed, in many ways, he is a model questioner. Drawing on the most comprehensive collection of Thomas’s oral argument questions ever compiled, we urge the Justice to ask more questions for a new reason: he is good at it.
In this Essay, Joshua A. Douglas highlights how local voter-backed initiatives can play a significant role in dictating voting rights and election rules. The Essay provides courts with a test to employ when facing an inevitable judicial challenge to one of these local election law initiatives. Professor Douglas argues that courts should generally defer to local rules that expand the electorate or open up the political process to more people, but should not defer to local voting restrictions or rules that tend to aggrandize the majority’s control or lead to entrenchment. He concludes that local laws that enhance democratic participation by expanding the electorate or reducing campaign finance barriers to running for office epitomize the benefits of local democracy and deserve judicial deference.
In this Essay, Professor Hamilton considers the recent use by Dallas police officers of a robot armed with plastic explosives to kill a suspected gunman on a shooting rampage. In the wake of Dallas, many legal experts in the news maintained that the police action was constitutional. The commentators' consensus was that as long as the police had the right to use lethal force, then the means of that force is irrelevant. This Essay argues the contrary. Under the current state of the constitutional law on the police use of force on a suspected felon, excessive lethal force is a valid consideration. The type and magnitude of lethal force may, under certain circumstances, be unconstitutional despite the suspect posing a high degree of risk to others.
In this Essay, Luzwick considers one way in which the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) has been underutilized—in prosecuting pornography cases. Pornography enjoys wide latitude under the law, protected by a vast net of First Amendment protections. Luzwick argues that while these protections may preserve freedom of speech, they do nothing to protect adult victims who are trafficked to produce online pornographic media. Luzwick concludes that to provide relief for these victims and better fight all types of domestic trafficking, prosecutors can and should use the sex trafficking provision of the TVPA, 18 U.S.C. § 1591, to prosecute sex trafficking within the pornography industry.