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Two Birds With One Stone Through MDL Interlocutory Appeal: Lessons From Rule 23(f)

Stehle, Jared | March 28, 2023

Debates rage over whether multidistrict litigation, or MDL, should have a mechanism for interlocutory appeal. Though the territory on this topic is well trod, the two sides have not fully mapped out the implications of a parallel controversy in the class action space. One side rails about the due process dangers that MDL plaintiffs face as their claims await resolution in a faraway judicial district. The other complains that defendants get stuck with legal rulings made by these same district judges, with concomitant error costs that get multiplied across many thousands of plaintiffs. Neither seems to make the point that these same issues plagued class action litigation—that is, until the adoption of an appeal mechanism in 1998’s Rule 23(f). This piece argues that the lessons of Rule 23(f) should inform our modern MDL debate. In particular, one core lesson emerges—the interlocutory appeal mechanisms defendants want have strong potential to resolve the procedural irregularities that irk plaintiffs.


Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Class of 2023. Thanks to Counselor to the Chief Justice Robert M. Dow and Judge Amy J. St. Eve, who both directed me toward resources this paper badly needed, and to Taylor Nchako, Noah Bloomberg, Danny Damitio, Ella Chochrek, Sasha Bryski, and the rest of the NULR team for their helpful edits. All errors are mine.

Copyright 2023 by Jared Stehle

Cite as: Jared Stehle, Two Birds With One Stone Through MDL Interlocutory Appeal: Lessons From Rule 23(f), 118 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 1 (2023),

Preserving Privilege: Developing a Sound Litigation Strategy for Prison Wiretapping Cases

Cummins, Daniel J. | February 14, 2023

The attorney–client privilege is the oldest and most storied privilege in the United States common law. The justifications for the preservation of the privilege compound when applied to incarcerated individuals who wish to speak with their counsel privately over the phone to organize their criminal defense, appeal a judgment, or work through negotiations with the government. However, in recent years, private telecommunications providers operating in jails and prisons have continually violated that privilege by recording prisoners’ calls with their attorneys. Plaintiffs have taken to the courts to litigate these wrongs but have enjoyed limited and disparate degrees of success. This Note explores one possible civil cause of action available to prisoners and their attorneys in these situations: the Federal Wiretap Act. Specifically, it analyzes and rebuts defendants’ most prevalent defenses. In doing so, it offers a litigation roadmap to plaintiffs who have been harmed by these predatory recording practices and wish to hold the telecommunications companies responsible for their actions.


J.D. Candidate, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, 2023; B.S., Indiana University, 2017. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to every member of the Northwestern University Law Review Online team for their thoughtful work on this Note and support over the past year. Thanks as well to Alan Mills, Executive Director of the Uptown People’s Law Center, for his course on Prisons and Prisoners’ Rights, which provided me with the opportunity to write on this topic. To Maurice Possley, for his careful copyediting. Finally, a very special thank you to my grandfather, Robert Cummins. Not only did he inspire this Note, but he has served as the best guidepost and confidant that I could ask for as I pursue a career in the law.

Copyright 2023 by Daniel J. Cummins

Cite as: Daniel J. Cummins, Preserving Privilege: Developing a Sound Litigation Strategy for Prison Wiretapping Cases, 117 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 107 (2023),

Privacy’s Rights Trap

Waldman, Ari Ezra | November 16, 2022

A growing chorus of scholars, privacy professionals, and policymakers think that individual rights of control—rights to access, correct, and delete data, as well as rights to opt out of tracking and to have humans in the loop of automated decision-making—are effective means of regulating the data-extractive economy. Indeed, the argument for individual rights is so pervasive and hegemonic that individual rights form the backbone of every piece of privacy legislation introduced in the United States in the last several years.

This Essay offers a comprehensive critique of that argument. Individual rights fail to address the social harms of the information economy. They shift the burden of privacy regulation to individuals mostly incapable of exercising that responsibility while simultaneously giving technology companies the power to define the practical reach of the law. Individual rights cannot place limits on technology companies when the law has already immunized their business models from accountability. Individual rights also set the wrong norms: they normalize the notion that privacy should be an individual responsibility rather than a core obligation of corporate actors. And the history of using individual rights to solve structural problems proves how rights crowd out necessary reform. If individual rights of control are what pass for privacy legislation in the United States, the problems of informational capitalism will get worse, not better.


Professor of Law and Computer Science, Northeastern University; Faculty Director, Center for Law, Information, and Creativity, Northeastern University School of Law; Affiliated Fellow, Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ph.D., Columbia University; J.D., Harvard Law School. Special thanks to Danielle Citron, Julie Cohen, Woodrow Hartzog, Margot Kaminski, Neil Richards, and Salome Viljoen. I have the individual right to make the mistakes in this Essay. But I also have the obligation to take responsibility for them.

Copyright 2022 by Ari Ezra Waldman

Cite as: Ari Ezra Waldman, Privacy’s Rights Trap, 117 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 88 (2022),

Two Comes Before Four and Five: The FAA in Campbell v. Keagle

Meshel, Tamar | October 10, 2022

Contrary to popular opinion, arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) is not intended to be forced or unfair, including in the employment context. Indeed, § 2 of the FAA permits courts to refuse enforcement of arbitration agreements on the basis of generally applicable state contract law defenses, such as unconscionability, in order to safeguard against potential abuse of the arbitral process. Yet decisions such as that of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Campbell v. Keagle threaten to nullify the FAA’s protections and reinforce the perception of arbitration as an unjust process. The district court in this case found that the parties’ employment arbitration clause was inordinately one-sided in the employer’s favor and that the offending provisions could not be severed under Illinois law to compel arbitration. Thus, the arbitration clause was unenforceable under § 2 of the FAA. The Seventh Circuit reversed, but not on the basis of state contract law. Rather, the court of appeals enforced the parties’ agreement to arbitrate on the basis of subsequent procedural provisions of the FAA, namely §§ 4 and 5. This Essay argues that the Seventh Circuit’s reliance on these provisions to circumvent the district court’s finding of unconscionability under § 2 of the FAA ignores the significance of the FAA’s internal sequencing. An arbitration agreement found unenforceable under § 2—the substantive section of the FAA— cannot escape its fate because of the Act’s subsequent procedural provisions. The Seventh Circuit’s decision also conflicts with Supreme Court jurisprudence and creates a circuit split regarding the interrelationship between §§ 2, 4, and 5 of the Act. This Essay concludes that while the Seventh Circuit enforced the parties’ arbitration agreement in Campbell v. Keagle, its reasoning does not benefit FAA arbitration. It sets a dangerous precedent for future cases involving unconscionable arbitration agreements and fuels the growing backlash against employment arbitration under the FAA.


Associate Professor, University of Alberta Faculty of Law. The author thanks Professor Jeremy Telman for his helpful comments on an earlier draft.

Copyright 2022 by Tamar Meshel

Cite as: Tamar Meshel, Two Comes Before Four and Five: The FAA in Campbell v. Keagle, 117 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 74 (2022),

The Unintended Consequences of the Court’s Religious Freedom Revolution: A History of White Supremacy and Private Christian Church Schools

Blaiklock, Vania | September 26, 2022

Although private church schools have historically received less attention than charter schools and other private nonsectarian schools in public discourse, in recent years, the Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence has allowed private church schools to make great strides in achieving state funding. At a time where public education is facing criticism on all sides, it seems natural that school choice supporters are more vocal than ever. This Essay takes a closer look at private church schools and their relationship to white supremacy in anticipation of the Court’s decision in Carson ex rel. O.C. v. Makin. Ultimately, that case will decide whether states must fund students taking part in a state school-aid program who choose to use that aid at sectarian schools without violating the First Amendment. Situated within the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education and Massive Resistance, this project examines distinctions between segregation academies and private church schools. I will argue that while there is a distinction between church schools and segregation academies, such schools seem to share the same purpose of maintaining mostly white classrooms. By examining private church schools through two theoretical frameworks that underpin Critical Race Theory: racial realism and strategic racism, I argue that unlike other private schools, church schools are uniquely situated to preserve white supremacy given their explicit constitutional protection under the First Amendment—a protection that the current Supreme Court will likely strengthen in Carson.


American Studies Ph.D. student, College of William & Mary. J.D., William & Mary Law School, 2018; B.S. Political Science, Lee University, 2015. I would like to thank Professors Jamel Donnor and Allison Orr Larsen for their insight and advice during the preparing of this Essay.

Copyright 2022 by Vania Blaiklock

Cite as: Vania Blaiklock, The Unintended Consequences of the Court’s Religious Freedom Revolution: A History of White Supremacy and Private Christian Church Schools, 117 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 46 (2022),

Banning Books or Banning BIPOC?

Shearer, Marisa | July 5, 2022

Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, social justice movements renewed calls for the country to confront the pervasive reality of systemic racism in the United States. In response to these publicized social justice movements, however, calls for book bans relating to critical race theory began rising at an unprecedented rate. Although book ban censorship is not novel, the recent shift in focus to remove critical race theory from public school libraries marks a new era of content-based censorship.

This Essay examines why current book bans targeting critical race theory are content-based restrictions that necessarily violate the First Amendment. It explores the social and legal history of book bans in the United States and discusses recent trends in book ban censorship. This Essay then identifies First Amendment “areas of nonprotection” through which book ban proponents seek to exclude race-related content and analyzes why all are pretextual fallacies that undermine freedom of speech principles and mandate diversity in the judiciary.


Associate, Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell LLP. J.D., University of Denver Sturm College of Law, 2021; B.S. Exercise & Wellness, Brigham Young University, 2014. I would like to thank Professor Nancy Leong for her insight and guidance during the drafting of this Essay. I would also like to thank my husband for his support and inspiration.

Copyright 2022 by Marisa Shearer

Cite as: Marisa Shearer, Banning Books or Banning BIPOC?, 117 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 24 (2022),

Arbitration in the Workplace: The Need for Legislative Intervention

Wright, Jeremy | June 27, 2022

Since passage of the Federal Arbitration Act in 1925, arbitral proceedings have played an important role in American dispute resolution processes. However, the frequent application of the FAA to employment contexts is a relatively new phenomenon. Over the past thirty years, the Supreme Court has heralded an explosion in the use of mandatory arbitration agreements in employee contracts, reshaping employment law and limiting workers’ access to courts. Vast swaths of American workers are now bound to agreements they know little about that provide them only precarious protections. Justifiable backlashes to this terraforming of the employment law landscape have begun to sprout up in various workplaces.

This Essay suggests that the uninhibited expansion of arbitration to employment contexts has been a net negative for American workers. While current arbitration procedures are suitable for the commercial business-to-business disputes the FAA originally envisioned, these procedures have not been appropriately modified for workplace contexts, making such cases ripe for abuse. Documenting the history of the FAA and modern Court decisions regarding it, this Essay contends that Congress will need to act boldly in order to develop a system of arbitration suitable for workers.


J.D. Candidate, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, 2022; B.S., Adelphi University, 2012. Special thanks to James R. Ferguson for thoughtful, comprehensive comments and suggestions in the development of this Essay. Thanks, as well, to Taylor Nchako and the editors of Northwestern University Law Review Online for their close reading and excellent editorial recommendations. Finally, eternal thanks to my husband, Roy Peters, who has been my steadfast rock throughout this lengthy process.

Copyright 2022 by Jeremy Wright

Cite as: Jeremy Wright, Arbitration in the Workplace: The Need for Legislative Intervention, 117 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 1 (2022),

An Intellectual Property Fix for Platform Salesjacking

Johnson, Eric E. | March 10, 2022

The aim of this Essay is to introduce an intellectual property angle to a current controversy that has been understood to be a matter for antitrust law. The controversy arises when a platform company—most famously Amazon—uses its platform to host a marketplace for independent retailers while simultaneously hosting itself as a retailer on the platform, thus competing as a retailer with an inside advantage. Critics say this setup allows platform firms to cherry-pick the best product ideas from small, independent retailers and then hijack their sales. This Essay seeks to advance the conversation about this controversy, making at least four contributions. First, this Essay shows that the complained-about problem—in which platform providers take sales away from platform participants—is not best understood as a competition-harming concern but as an innovation-harming concern. Second, and following from the first point, this Essay suggests such problems are productively viewed as challenges for the domain of intellectual property law rather than, or in addition to, the domain of antitrust law. Third, this Essay explains how the particular anti-innovative harm in this area is to soft innovation, which is distinguished from the type of hard innovation that is the principal concern of copyright and patent law. Previously, such soft innovation has been incentivized by the lure of supracompetitive profits that are sustained by market friction, often spoken of as “first-mover advantage.” The reduction of that market friction by way of technology-enabled platform commerce has had the effect of subverting the innovation incentives that naturally existed in the brick-and-mortar world. Fourth, this Essay provides an initial foray into thinking about how a new intellectual property entitlement should be designed. To that end, this Essay identifies various ways of attempting to ensure that a newly created intellectual property right in this area does not do more harm than good.


Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law, University of Oklahoma College of Law. This paper benefited from feedback at the 2021 Works-in-Progress Intellectual Property Colloquium, and I thank the organizers and participants at that conference. For helpful comments and questions, I thank Michael Carroll, Margaret Chon, Nikola Datzov, Camilla Hrdy, Glynn Lunney, Tyler Ochoa, Betsy Rosenblatt, Rebecca Tushnet, and Kit Johnson. I owe particular thanks to Darla Jackson for research assistance and Leslee Roybal for help with the manuscript. © 2022 Eric E. Johnson. Konomark—most rights sharable. Please contact the author at

Copyright 2022 by Eric E. Johnson

Cite as: Eric E. Johnson, An Intellectual Property Fix for Platform Salesjacking, 116 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 306 (2022),

The Judiciary Steps Up to the Workplace Challenge

McKeown, M. Margaret | November 2, 2021

As the #MeToo movement swept the country, the federal judiciary faced its reckoning in light of allegations against several judges. In short order, with the backing of Chief Justice Roberts, workplace issues took center stage. This Essay highlights workplace risks relevant to the judiciary, then details the significant changes adopted by the federal judiciary to foster a healthy, harassment-free, and productive work environment. Major undertakings include the establishment of a national Office of Judicial Integrity; circuit-wide Directors of Workplace Relations; multiple avenues to report misconduct, including anonymous reporting; revamped employment dispute policies; revised ethics, reporting, and discipline rules; and targeted workshops and trainings. While realizing the full potential of these reforms will require continued focus and deliberate attention across our workplace of 30,000 employees nationwide, the federal judiciary—with the backing of Chief Justice Roberts—remains committed to a workplace that treats everyone with respect and dignity.


M. Margaret McKeown is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She is Chair of the Ninth Circuit Committee on Workplace Environment and a member of the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group. She thanks Michael Henry, Judicial Integrity Officer, Administrative Office of the United States Courts; Yohance Edwards, Director of Workplace Relations, Ninth Circuit; Paula Raffaelli, Deputy Director of Workplace Relations, Ninth Circuit; and Stella Huynh, Workplace Relations Specialist, Ninth Circuit, for their research assistance.

Copyright 2021 by M. Margaret McKeown

Cite as: M. Margaret McKeown, The Judiciary Steps Up to the Workplace Challenge, 116 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 275 (2021),

Deploying the Internal Separation of Powers Against Racial Tyranny

Shah, Bijal | October 29, 2021

The separation of powers in the federal government exists to ensure a lack of tyranny in the United States. This Essay grounds the separation of powers in tyranny perpetuated by racialized hierarchy, violence, and injustice. Recognizing the primacy of racial tyranny also reveals a would-be tyrant: the President. Engaging the branches of federal government—including the Executive herself—to empower agencies to check presidents’ base racist impulses would imbue the separation of powers framework with additional meaning and normative force.


Associate Professor of Law, Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Many thanks to Guy-Uriel Charles for inviting me to participate in this symposium. I am particularly grateful for feedback from Aziza Ahmed, Bernie Bell, Rebecca Bratspies, Ming Chen, Sabrina Dycus, Osamudia James, Renée Landers, Jon Michaels, Kali Murray, Ricky Revesz, Josh Sellers, and Justin Weinstein-Tull. All errors are my own.

Copyright 2021 by Bijal Shah

Cite as: Bijal Shah, Deploying the Internal Separation of Powers Against Racial Tyranny, 116 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 244 (2021),

Regulating During Emergencies

Barsa, Michael & Dana, David | October 1, 2021

Presidents frequently attempt to use emergencies to push through controversial rules. We argue that the law surrounding “notice and comment” for proposed rules should be altered to reduce the risk that Presidents will exploit emergencies to entrench rules without adequate public input. Specifically, we argue that the comment periods for proposed rules should be extended during emergencies and that courts should admit extrarecord evidence in subsequent administrative litigation when agencies refuse to afford the public reasonable extensions in the comment periods.


Michael Barsa is a Professor of Practice, and David Dana is the Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. We would like to thank Zachary Clopton and Nadav Shoked for helpful suggestions.

Copyright  2021  by  Michael Barsa & David Dana

Cite as: Michael Barsa & David Dana, Regulating During Emergencies, 116 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 223 (2021),

The So-Called Series-Qualifier Canon

Crews, Adam G. | September 10, 2021

In Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, a near-unanimous Supreme Court forcefully applied the so-called series-qualifier canon, which posits (among other things) how postpositive modifiers normally attach to certain antecedents. With this canon, the Court identified a presumptive natural reading of the statute at issue, and that presumption framed the rest of the Court’s analysis. Concurring only in the judgment, Justice Alito agreed with the Court’s interpretation but expressed concern over the majority’s heavy reliance on the canon. In Justice Alito’s view, the majority used the canon too much like a rule, despite intuitive reasons to doubt its force.

Justice Alito’s intuitions were exactly right. The so-called series-qualifier canon is an unjustified revision to a principle from a single case in the 1920s—a case that itself materially distorted the real series-qualifier principle that America borrowed from England. This Essay tells that story. Drawing on formal linguistics and interpretive history, I explain that a series-qualifier principle initially served a much smaller role than the contemporary series-qualifier canon, a supposed “rule” that does not necessarily describe ordinary English usage or processing. By relying on this contemporary misstatement and not on the true series-qualifier principle, the Court in Facebook committed a serious process error and potentially set up lower courts to approach interpretation in a way that will undermine textualism’s core commitments and goals.


Appellate Counsel, Federal Communications Commission. Thanks to the Northwestern University Law Review Online staff for excellent work on this Essay, which I dedicate to the memory of Dr. Patricia S. Burton, Ph.D. All views are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States, my agency employer, or any individual FCC commissioner.

Copyright 2021 by Adam G. Crews

Cite as: Adam G. Crews, The So-Called Series-Qualifier Canon, 116 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 198 (2021),

Unlocking Accommodations for Disabled Students in Private Religious Schools

Sode, Campbell | August 16, 2021

Many disabled students exercise their First Amendment right to choose to attend a private religious school only to learn that the school will not provide reasonable accommodations crucial to their academic success. Because private religious schools are exempt from Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and its reasonable accommodation mandate, disabled students that choose such schools may be forced to find a more welcoming learning environment elsewhere. As a result, disabled students are currently unable to enjoy their Free Exercise Clause right to choose to enroll in their ideal private religious schools to the same extent as their nonhandicapped peers.

This inequality can be reduced by an expansive application of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is known as the Rehab Act and covers entities that receive federal financial assistance. The Rehab Act is a key statute for disabled students in private religious schools since there is no religious exemption from its requirement that reasonable accommodations be made for the disabled. However, the Rehab Act will achieve maximum potency only if private religious schools that hold tax-exempt status, or indirectly benefit from federal programs via a parent entity, are classified as recipients of federal financial assistance for Rehab Act purposes. Also, a Rehab Act regulation that allows private religious schools to charge disabled students for reasonable accommodations should be limited so cost-shifting is only possible if the school genuinely cannot afford the accommodations at issue. And this approach to the problems disabled students face at private religious schools would not infringe upon these schools’ First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.


University of Virginia School of Law J.D. 2018; Rutgers University B.A. 2015. I also want to specially thank the Northwestern University Law Review Online staff, especially HanByul Chang, Allison Clark, Olga Cosme Toledo, Tyler Dallas, Julia McCartney, Emily Starbuck, Leah Beukelman, Negassi Tesfamichael, and Samuel Young for their invaluable contributions to this Essay and their exemplary editorial assistance.

Copyright 2021 by Campbell Sode

Cite as: Campbell Sode, Unlocking Accommodations for Disabled Students in Private Religious Schools, 116 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 171 (2021),

Zones of Discretion at Common Law

Pfander, James E. | August 1, 2021

Long controversial, the doctrine of qualified immunity provides a civil liability shield for police officers and other executive branch officials. Scholars have questioned the doctrine, in part on the basis that it lacks support in the common law rules of official liability that were in place in the nineteenth century when Section 1983 became law. In a recently published article, Scott Keller defends the doctrine’s legality by arguing that the common law did indeed recognize forms of qualified immunity.

This Essay suggests that the authorities on which Keller relies comprise a body of administrative law, defining zones of official discretion, rather than a body of qualified immunity law. Many of the doctrines Keller identifies operate much the way Chief Justice Marshall’s account of judicial review operated in Marbury v. Madison. Chief Justice Marshall acknowledged that matters lawfully assigned to the discretion of the executive branch were beyond the scope of judicial review. But where an official’s lawful discretion ended and legal boundaries were transgressed, the common law was available (indeed obliged, according to Chief Justice Marshall) to supply a remedy. In much of what Keller points to, common law courts were deferring to executive action taken within the zones of their lawful discretion. But the common law did not confer a qualified immunity when executive officials transgressed those boundaries and violated protected rights.


Owen L. Coon Professor of Law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. Thanks to Will Baude, Henry Monaghan, Jide Nzelibe, Alex Reinert, and Joanna Schwartz for thoughtful and comprehensive comments, suggestions, and spreadsheets. Thanks to HanByul Chang and the editors of Northwestern Law Review Online for close reads and excellent editorial suggestions.

Copyright 2021 by James E. Pfander.

Cite as: James E. Pfander, Zones of Discretion at Common Law, 116 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 148 (2021),

Race, Property, and Citizenship

Brown, Eleanor & Carbone, June | July 24, 2021

The racial wealth gap is stunning. The net worth of an average White family is nearly ten times greater than that of an African-American family. A 2017 Prosperity Now report finds that for African-Americans, today’s economy is an extractive one; if existing trends continue, the median African-American family will have a net worth of zero by the middle of the twenty-first century. This Essay examines these trends in terms of the relationship between race, property, and citizenship. American democracy has long celebrated economic independence as a desired element of citizenship, forging reciprocal bonds between state efforts to promote and protect property ownership and property owners’ greater investment in community and political stability. African-Americans have long been excluded from these benefits and, in the process, have never fully enjoyed the benefits of American citizenship that comes with political clout. The result creates increased vulnerability, not just to White supremacy, but to economic exploitation. The lack of political clout contributes to lax regulation and enforcement of lending laws, which allow racially motivated predators to act with impunity, undermining the rule of law and perpetuating racial subordination. In the modern era, this predation has made home ownership, higher education loans, and marriage—the traditional pathways into middle-class status—dramatically riskier for African-Americans than for Whites.


Eleanor Brown is a Professor of Law and International Affairs, Associate Dean for External Affairs and Corporate Partnerships, Senior Scientist in the Rock Ethics Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, Conference Co-Host and Fundraising Chair, 2019 Lutie Lytle Black Women Law Faculty Writing Conference. June Carbone is the Robina Chair in Law, Science and Technology, University of Minnesota Law School.

Copyright 2021 by Eleanor Brown & June Carbone

Cite as: Eleanor Brown & June Carbone, Race, Property, and Citizenship, 116 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 120 (2021),

(Im)mutable Race?

Das Acevedo, Deepa | July 15, 2021

Courts rarely question the racial identity claims made by parties litigating employment discrimination disputes. But what if this kind of identity claim is itself at the core of a dispute? A recent cluster of “reverse passing” scandals featured individuals—Rachel Dolezal and Jessica Krug among them—who were born white, yet who were revealed to have lived as members of Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color (BIPOC) communities. These incidents suggest that courts will soon have to make determinations of racial identity as a threshold matter in disputes over employment discrimination and contract termination. More specifically, courts will have to decide whether racial identity can change.

This Essay offers a framework for thinking about the legal disputes that will arise from accusations of reverse passing. It makes a normative sociological statement about how we should understand changes in racial identity, as well as a positive doctrinal statement about what that means for law. Social science and theory have long questioned the claim that race is a stable identity marker such that there can be a fixed, objective, and observable truth. Law, conversely, has generally rejected the possibility of racial transformation even as it grapples with the mutability of other seemingly immutable traits.

I show that, particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, social science and law are not as far apart as we may think. The doctrinal foundations needed to account for racial identity transformation already exist, and the analytic means of doing so are largely there as well. What is left for courts to do is to cultivate attentiveness to race in a way that realizes these legal principles and social science insights. The Essay concludes with suggestions for how courts can cultivate a greater attentiveness to the ways in which race is performed and experienced: a kind of analysis that courts already conduct but could conduct better.


Assistant Professor, University of Alabama School of Law. J.D., PhD, The University of Chicago. My thanks to Anya Bernstein, Richard Delgado, Dave Hoffman, Ron Krotoszynski, Daiquiri Steele, Jean Stefancic, Riaz Tejani, and Ari Tolman, as well as to Alana K. Cammack, J.D. ’21, for superb research assistance.

Copyright 2021 by Deepa Das Acevedo

Cite as: Deepa Das Acevedo, (Im)mutable Race?, 116 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 88 (2021),

Newspaper Expungement

Murray, Brian M. | June 30, 2021

Expungement law has made great strides over the past two decades, with state-level reforms broadening the types of criminal records eligible for expungement. Further, expungement has been extended beyond arrestees to those who have been convicted, thereby promising to alleviate some of the burdens of reentry. Nevertheless, expungement remedies only touch officially held information or public data possessed by different branches of government. This means that private actors, if they possess the information, are beyond the reach of expungement law. Such actors, whether individuals, background check companies, newspapers, or other firms, enjoy the ability to continue to hold and use such information. This results in a whack-a-mole problem for the successful expungement petitioner who has achieved the relief that the state allows, only to see its efficacy thwarted by private activity with the same information. Recently, one private actor, newspapers, has begun to set up processes that resemble formal expungement. Newspaper editors have responded to the limits of formal expungement by constructing their own procedures for evaluating whether to erase, seal, or alter information that is damaging to the reputation of those who have encountered the criminal justice system. This development has occurred on the heels of the right to be forgotten movement in Europe, which has gained little traction in the United States. This Essay contextualizes the phenomenon of newspaper expungement, situating it within a larger legal backdrop, before describing the stated activities and aspirations of some of the newspapers themselves. It concludes by charting how such practices relate to broader critiques and goals of criminal justice reform.


Associate Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law. I would like to thank the Honorable Stephanos Bibas for encouraging me to study expungement from various angles, my former colleagues at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia for introducing me to expungement law, and participants at CrimFest 2020 for providing feedback on the ideas that generated this article. Thank you to Hayley Mclaughlin, my former student, for research assistance. I would also like to thank my wife, Katherine, for her continuous support, and my children, Elizabeth, Eleanor, George, John, and Lucy, for their inspiring curiosity, endless questions, sense of wonder, and zealous love for life.

Copyright 2021 by Brian M. Murray

Cite as: Brian M. Murray, Newspaper Expungement, 116 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 68 (2021),

Toward a National Resilience Fund

Rose, Paul | June 3, 2021

COVID-19’s economic impact has been catastrophic for state and local governments. By Federal Reserve estimates, income and sales revenues will have declined by over $50 billion in fiscal year 2020 and may decline by as much as $137 billion in 2021. Pandemics are, of course, not the only catastrophic risks we may face in coming years. Financial crises, natural disasters, social justice crises, and climate change-related catastrophes all present serious risks, and often have a compounding effect on one another. These risks are especially salient for state and local governments, which are at the forefront of crisis response. A government’s legitimacy is tested and measured by its ability to respond to these challenges, but existing state and local financial frameworks have proven too thin and brittle to absorb shocks like COVID-19 or the Financial Crisis of 2007. This Essay describes how a national resilience fund, with subaccounts created for each state and territory, would strengthen the ability of state and local governments to respond to crises that will likely arise in the coming years. A national resilience fund could be based on a familiar, flexible structure that has been used for decades: the Unemployment Trust Fund. Such a structure would help insulate the resilience fund from local political pressures yet would have the financial strength to help state and local governments absorb the costs associated with severe crises such as pandemics and natural disasters, thereby helping to preserve the government’s legitimacy in times of severe social stress.


Robert J. Watkins/Procter & Gamble Professor of Law, Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Thanks to Sam Mallory for excellent research assistance and to Cinnamon Carlarne and Diego Lopez for helpful comments on an earlier draft. Thanks also to the Northwestern University Law Review Online staff for their outstanding editorial work.

Copyright 2021 by Paul Rose

Cite as: Paul Rose, Toward a National Resilience Fund, 116 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 41 (2021),

Of Protest and Property: An Essay in Pursuit of Justice for Breonna Taylor

Lovelace, H. Timothy, Jr. | May 13, 2021

In March 2020, Louisville police officers fatally shot Breonna Taylor in her apartment while executing a no-knock warrant. There was great outrage over the killing of the innocent woman, and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron led an investigation of the officer-involved shooting.

Activists protested in Louisville after Taylor’s killing, and when Cameron’s investigation appeared stalled, these activists even conducted a sit-in on Cameron’s front lawn. They demanded immediate justice for Taylor. Cameron sharply responded, lecturing the activists on how to achieve justice. He contended that neither trespassing on private property nor escalation in tactics could advance the cause of justice.

Cameron’s bold assertion invites a discussion of how civil rights activists have and continue to use trespassing and escalation to pursue justice. This Essay explores the relationship between civil rights and property rights and finds parallels between the sit-in movement of the 1960s and the Black Lives Matter Movement. This Essay also finds parallels between Cameron’s criticisms of the Black Lives Matter Movement and criticisms of the sit-in movement of the 1960s. The Essay concludes by suggesting paths forward in the struggle to find justice for Taylor.


Professor of Law and John Hope Franklin Scholar, Duke University School of Law.

Copyright 2021 by H. Timothy Lovelace Jr.

Cite as: H. Timothy Lovelace Jr., Of Protest and Property: An Essay in Pursuit of Justice for Breonna Taylor, Nw. U. L. Rev. Colloquy (2021).

Bringing Racial Justice to Immigration Law

Johnson, Kevin R. | May 13, 2021

From at least as far back as the anti-Chinese laws of the 1800s, immigration has been a place of heated racial contestation in the United States. Although modern immigration laws no longer expressly mention race, their enforcement unmistakably impacts people of color from the developing world. Specifically, the laws, as enacted and applied, limit the immigration of people of color to, and facilitate their removal from, the United States.

Modern immigrant rights activism, which has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, encountered a powerful counter-response led by none other than President Donald J. Trump. His presidential administration made aggressive immigration enforcement a priority like no other in modern U.S. history. Exemplified by the Administration’s heartless separation of Central American families, consequences of the U.S. immigration policies and their enforcement fell primarily on immigrants of color.

As the nation collectively engages in a reckoning with historical racial injustice, it is important to recognize that the movement for justice for noncitizens of color shares important commonalities with the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement. Fundamental to both social movements is the demand for an end to systemic racial discrimination in law enforcement.

Part I of this Essay maps the discriminatory foundations of federal immigration law, the lack of constitutional review, and the enduring fortress built by the courts to shield discrimination against immigrants from judicial review. Part II considers the surprising emergence of a powerful immigrant rights movement—energized, organized, and formidable, yet handicapped by the fact that noncitizens cannot vote—fighting for no less than racial justice. Part III summarizes the emergence of the Trump Administration’s staunch resistance to that movement, which stridently sought to maintain and reinforce the racial caste quality of the contemporary immigration system. Part IV considers the uncertain future of the quest to bring racial justice to immigration law and suggests a road to its transformation.


Dean and Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicanx Studies, University of California, Davis, School of Law. Thanks to the organizers, especially Guy-Uriel Charles, for putting together an amazingly rich collection of racial justice essays and inviting me to contribute. Jack Chin provided helpful comments on a draft of this Essay. I also benefited from comments at the virtual Reckoning and Reform Journal Symposium in December 2020, especially from commentators Aziza Ahmed and Osmundia James and participant Bijal Shah. Law student Joana Peraza Lizarraga, a future lawyer and immigrant rights activist, provided excellent research assistance for this Essay. In April 2021, I virtually presented parts of this Essay in the Jerome Hall Lecture at the University of Indiana Maurer School of Law and benefited from the comments of faculty (especially Luis Fuentes-Rohwer and Christiana Ochoa), staff, and students.

Copyright 2021 by Kevin R. Johnson

Cite as: Kevin R. Johnson, Bringing Racial Justice to Immigration Law, 116 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 1 (2021),