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Volume 115 - Issue 3


Too Many to Fail: Against Community Bank Deregulation

Kress, Jeremy C,Turk, Matthew C | November 15, 2020

Since the 2008 financial crisis, policymakers and scholars have fixated on the problem of “too-big-to-fail” banks. This fixation, however, overlooks the historically dominant pattern in banking crises: the contemporaneous failure of many small institutions. We call this blind spot the “too-many-to-fail” problem and document how its neglect has skewed the past decade of financial regulation. In particular, we argue that, for so- called community banks, there has been a pronounced and unjustifiable shift toward deregulation, culminating in sweeping regulatory rollbacks in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act of 2018. As this Article demonstrates, this deregulatory trend rests on three myths. First, that community banks do not contribute to systemic risk and were not central to the 2008 crisis. Second, that the Dodd-Frank Act imposed regulatory burdens that threaten the survival of the community bank sector. And third, that community banks cannot remain viable without special subsidies or regulatory advantages. While these claims have gained near- universal acceptance among legal scholars and policymakers, none of them withstands scrutiny. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, community banks were key participants in the 2008 crisis, were not uniquely burdened by postcrisis reforms, and continue to thrive economically. Dispelling these myths about the community bank sector leads to the conclusion that diligent oversight of community banks is necessary to preserve financial stability. Accordingly, this Article recommends a reversal of the community bank deregulatory trend and proposes affirmative reforms, including enhanced supervision and macroprudential stress tests, that would help mitigate systemic risks in the community bank sector.

The Case Against Prosecuting Refugees

Criddle, Evan J | November 15, 2020

Within the past several years, the U.S. Department of Justice has pledged to prosecute asylum-seekers who enter the United States outside an official port of entry without inspection. This practice has contributed to mass incarceration and family separation at the U.S.–Mexico border, and it has prevented bona fide refugees from accessing relief in immigration court. Yet, federal judges have taken refugee prosecution in stride, assuming that refugees, like other foreign migrants, are subject to the full force of American criminal justice if they skirt domestic border controls. This assumption is gravely mistaken. This Article shows that Congress has not authorized courts to punish refugees for illegal entry or reentry. While largely taken for granted today, the idea that refugees may be prosecuted for such acts is in tension with the full text, context, and purpose of the Immigration and Nationality Act. It is also inconsistent with traditional canons of statutory interpretation, such as the Charming Betsy canon, the canon on constitutional avoidance, and the rule of lenity. Therefore, federal prosecutors should abandon refugee prosecution, and federal courts should hold that the criminal prohibitions on illegal entry and reentry do not apply to refugees.

Energy Emergencies

Stein, Amy L | November 15, 2020

Emergency powers are essential to the proper functioning of the government. Emergencies demand swift and decisive action; yet, our system of government also values deliberation and procedures. To enable such agility in a system fraught with bureaucracy, Congress frequently delegates unilateral statutory emergency powers directly to its most nimble actor: the President. The powers Congress delegates to the President are vast and varied, and often sacrifice procedural requirements in favor of expediency. Most scholars and policymakers have come to terms with this tradeoff, assuming that the need to respond quickly is outweighed by any loss of accountability. This Article challenges this long-standing assumption and is skeptical of the zero-sum framework that suggests accountability and expediency cannot coexist in statutory emergency delegations. Specifically, it develops an Executive Delegations Matrix to better evaluate the different delegation options, demonstrating that accountability and expediency need not be mutually exclusive. This Article then uses emergency energy powers to test the viability of the factors favoring unilateral delegations, ultimately finding these factors unpersuasive in the energy-emergency context. Instead of the common knee-jerk reaction to unilateral presidential control over emergencies, this Article finds that Congress can often cultivate a more balanced decision-making framework by providing a greater role for expert agencies. By challenging the assumptions underlying unilateral presidential delegations for energy emergencies, this Article provides a new framework for assessing the world of unilateral presidential delegations more broadly.

Notes and Comments

A New Approach to Plaintiff Incentive Fees in Class Action Lawsuits

Jarvis, Jason | November 15, 2020

Because modern litigation is time-intensive and expensive, a consumer has no monetary incentive to sue over a low-value claim—even when the defendant has clearly violated that consumer’s legal rights. But the defendant may have harmed many consumers in the same way, causing significant cumulative damage. By permitting the aggregation of numerous small claims, class action lawsuits provide a monetary incentive for lawyers and plaintiffs to pursue otherwise low-value suits. Often, an important part of this incentive is the “incentive fee,” an additional payment awarded to the named plaintiffs as compensation for the time they spend and risks they assume in representing the class. But such fees have the potential to create dangerous conflicts of interest—named plaintiffs may be “bought off” with a large incentive fee to give their approval to an otherwise unfair settlement. To avoid this problem, courts must review and approve requests for incentive fees. Unfortunately, courts do not adequately evaluate the dangers of incentive awards and balance these dangers against the justifications for such awards. This Note proposes a new test to better guide courts in assessing the propriety of incentive fees. Specifically, courts should look at (1) the amount of time and effort that the plaintiff expended in pursuing the litigation; (2) risks that the named plaintiff faced in bringing and advancing the litigation; and (3) evidence of conflicts of interest that might prejudice the class.


Avoiding Judicial Discipline

Root Martinez, Veronica | November 15, 2020

Over the past several years, several high-profile complaints have been levied against Article III judges alleging improper conduct. Many of these complaints, however, were dismissed without investigation after the judge in question removed themselves from the jurisdiction of the circuit’s judicial council—oftentimes through retirement and once through elevation to the Supreme Court. When judges—the literal arbiters of justice within American society—are able to elude oversight of their own potential misconduct, it puts the legitimacy of the judiciary and the rule of law in jeopardy. This Essay argues that it is imperative that mechanisms are adopted that will ensure investigations into judicial misconduct are completed, even in the event that the individual is no longer serving as a judge in the circuit where the complaint has been filed. This Essay suggests two reforms. First, the adoption of customs that will refer any short-circuited investigation to the state bar and to Congress for additional inquiry. Second, the expansion of the judicial councils’ authority to investigate complaints so as to address the jurisdictional limitations that currently allow judges to circumvent attempts at judicial oversight over allegations of misconduct. The status quo that incentivizes avoiding judicial discipline must be reformed into one that allows for thorough and fair investigation of these important matters of public concern.