116 out of 136. That is the number of white men who have served on the eighty-two-year-old committee responsible for creating and maintaining the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The tiny number of non-white, non-male committee members is disproportionate, even in the context of the white-male-dominated legal profession. If the rules were simply a technical set of instructions made by a neutral set of experts, then perhaps these numbers might not be as disturbing. But that is not the case. The Civil Rules embody normative judgments about the values that have primacy in our civil justice system, and the rule-makers—while expert—are not apolitical actors. This Essay argues that the homogeneous composition of the Civil Rules Committee, not only historically, but also today, limits the quality of the rules produced and perpetuates inequality. The remedy to this problem is straightforward: appoint different people to the Committee. To be sure, the federal civil rulemaking process is but one small part of where and how gender and racial identity matter. Even still, this Essay argues that the Civil Rules Committee members, the Judiciary, and the Bar should demand that the civil rulemaking Committee cease being #SoWhiteMale.
A recent wave of scholarship argues that judges often fail to comply with binding rules or precedent and sometimes apply overturned laws. Scholars have hypothesized that the cause of this “judicial noncompliance” may be flawed litigant briefing that introduces mistakes into judicial decisions—an idea this Essay calls the “Litigant Hypothesis.” The Essay presents a preliminary study aimed at exploring ways of testing the validity of the Litigant Hypothesis. Employing an empirical analysis that exploits recent amendments to Federal Discovery Rule 26, this Essay finds that the strongest predictor of noncompliance in a dataset of discovery decisions is indeed faulty briefs. This study concludes that the Litigant Hypothesis of noncompliance may have explanatory value.
Independent craft breweries contributed approximately $68 billion to the national economy last year. However, an arcane regulatory scheme governs the alcohol industry in general and the craft beer industry specifically, posing both obstacles and benefits to independent craft brewers. This Essay examines regulations that arguably infringe on free speech: namely, commercial speech regulations that prohibit alcohol manufacturers from purchasing advertising space from retailers. Such regulations were enacted to prohibit undue influence and anticompetitive behavior stemming from vertical and horizontal integration in the alcohol market. Although these regulations are necessary to prevent global corporate brewers from dominating the craft beer market at the expense of independent craft beer and consumer choice, evolving commercial speech doctrine threatens to invalidate them due to a trend towards increased protections for commercial speech. Without these regulations, and many others like them, nothing would restrain global corporate brands from engaging in illegal pay-to-play conduct to regain lost market share and force independent craft beer from the shelves and tap handles.
The media and academic dialogue surrounding high-stakes decisionmaking by robotics applications has been dominated by a focus on morality. But the tendency to do so while overlooking the role that legal incentives play in shaping the behavior of profit-maximizing firms risks marginalizing the field of robotics and rendering many of the deepest challenges facing today’s engineers utterly intractable. This Essay attempts to both halt this trend and offer a course correction. Invoking Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s canonical analogy of the “bad man . . . who cares nothing for . . . ethical rules,” it demonstrates why philosophical abstractions like the trolley problem—in their classic framing—provide a poor means of understanding the real-world constraints robotics engineers face. Using insights gleaned from the economic analysis of law, it argues that profit-maximizing firms designing autonomous decisionmaking systems will be less concerned with esoteric questions of right and wrong than with concrete questions of predictive legal liability. Until such time as the conversation surrounding so-called “moral machines” is revised to reflect this fundamental distinction between morality and law, the thinking on this topic by philosophers, engineers, and policymakers alike will remain hopelessly mired. Step aside, roboticists—lawyers have this one.