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Washington and Lee Law Review - Online Edition

Roundtable

by Corinna Barrett Lain

Much could be said about Virginia’s historic decision to repeal the death penalty, and Professor Klein’s essay provides a wonderful starting point for any number of important discussions. We could talk about how the decision came to be. Or why the move is so momentous. Or what considerations were particularly important in the decision‑making process. Or where we should go from here. But in this brief comment, I’ll be focusing not on the how, or the why, or the what, or the where, but rather on the who. Who are condemned inmates, both generally and Virginia‑style?

Note

by Lucy Dempsey

In 2018, a Texas District Court shocked the nation by declaring the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) unconstitutional pursuant to the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The decision was overturned by the Fifth Circuit but may well be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ICWA provides a framework for the removal and placement of Indian children into foster and adoptive homes in such a way that attempts to reflect the unique values of Indian culture and supports the autonomy of the tribe. In doing so, the law treats Indian children differently than it would White children. But does this divergent treatment constitute impermissible racial discrimination? Should the ICWA’s protections be applied to children merely eligible for tribal membership? What level of scrutiny should courts use when analyzing the ICWA’s constitutionality? This Note will provide insight into these questions which the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet addressed.

This Note provides a background of the ICWA and examines the current constitutional controversy in the Fifth Circuit by placing the ICWA in the larger statutory context of federal Indian jurisprudence. This Note analyzes the fundamental question raised in Indian law equal protection cases—whether the term “Indian” should be interpreted as a racial or political classification. An examination of precedent confirms the unique status of Indians as non-racial, semi-autonomous actors who often receive uncommon treatment. With this context in mind, this Note explores past equal protection challenges to the ICWA and lays out the current case. This Note recommends that the Supreme Court uphold the Fifth Circuit’s finding of constitutionality on the equal protection claim and provides two possible analytical paths to reach that conclusion. The first ascribes to the common argument that “Indian” should be viewed as a political classification, subject to reduced scrutiny. The second, however, questions the assumption that the application of strict scrutiny is fatal to the ICWA, instead proposing an alternative path forward drawing from Supreme Court reasoning in affirmative action cases. This Note concludes that future challenges to the ICWA should be struck down as the ICWA passes all levels of constitutional scrutiny.

Development

by Evan Miller

Competition regulators have identified the potential for blockchain technology to disrupt traditional sponsor-led platforms, like app stores, that have received increased antitrust scrutiny. Enforcement actions by securities regulators, however, have forced blockchain-based platforms to adopt a strategy of progressive decentralization, delaying decentralization objectives in favor of the centralized model that competition regulators hope they will disrupt. This regulatory tension, and the implications for blockchain’s procompetitive potential, have yet to be explored. This Article first identifies the origin of this tension and its consequences through a competition law lens, and then recommends that competition regulators account for this tension in monitoring the blockchain industry and strive to resolve it moving forward.

Roundtable

by Alexandra L. Klein

When thinking about the history of capital punishment in the United States, I suspect that the average person is likely to identify Texas as the state that has played the most significant role in the death penalty. The state of Texas has killed more than five hundred people in executions since the Supreme Court approved of states’ modified capital punishment schemes in 1976. By contrast, Virginia has executed 113 people since 1976.

But Virginia has played a significant role in the history of capital punishment. After all, the first recorded execution in Colonial America took place in 1608 at Jamestown, when Captain George Kendall was shot to death by a firing squad. Virginia has officially executed 1,390 people, more than any other state.6 I write officially, because Virginia, like many other states also has a history of extrajudicial executions through lynching. The Equal Justice Initiative has calculated that between 1877 and 1950, eighty-four people were lynched in Virginia. Lynchings were arguably a form of “extrajudicial execution” because they frequently involved either the deliberate ignorance or enthusiastic cooperation of local officials and were tools of social control, just like legislatively enacted capital punishment.

Over four hundred years since Captain Kendall died at Jamestown, Virginia has decided to end its brutal regime of capital punishment. This is a truly historic moment. Virginia will be the first southern state, as well as the first state of the group of eleven states that seceded and formed the Confederate States of America during the Civil War to do so.

Development

by Lissa Griffin & Thomas Kidney

What does the future hold for the US and UK Supreme Courts? Both courts face an uncertain future in which their roles in their constitutional systems will come under intense scrutiny and pressure. The tension between the rule of law, often seen as the preserve of the judicial branches of government, and the sovereignty of the elected branches is palpable. In a time of the “strong man,” allegedly “populist leaders” who seemingly are pushing the limits of the rule of law, the breakdown of collaboration and debate, and the ever-present influence of social media, this tension will only become more acute. The UK and the US Supreme Courts must tread a delicate line between the preserving the rule of law and usurping the role of elected representatives. How the Supreme Court in Washington and the Supreme Court in London address these challenges will have a tremendous impact on their respective futures.

Note

by Llewellyn Kittredge Shamamian

Over twenty years ago, in Leicester v. Warner Bros., the Ninth Circuit limited copyright protection for a certain sculptural complex located within a downtown Los Angeles high‑rise. The court determined that the sculpture, otherwise protected from pictorial reproduction, could be visually replicated without infringing on the artist’s copyright because it was part of its architectural context.

This Note explores two recent copyright cases where companies capitalized on painted street art, using the works as backdrops for social media advertising. The resulting litigation calls into question Leicester’s holding and the extent to which it may allow visual reproduction of non-sculptural works incorporated into architecture. This Note’s introduction addresses the rise of legal disputes in the street art community and the circumstances of these recent cases. Part II addresses fundamentals of domestic copyright law and the varied protection for certain forms of authorship. Part III discusses an important exception for the visual reproduction of architectural works and judicial application of the exception to disputes involving painted street art. Part IV argues that Leicester should not serve as the legal standard for all such controversies, and Part V articulates a clarified inquiry to limit judicial dependency on Leicester.

Development

by Mark Kelman

With surges in COVID-19 cases threatening to overload some hospital facilities, we must face the possibility that therapeutic treatments will need to be rationed, at least in some places. I do not propose any particular ideal rationing scheme but caution strongly against adopting a position that Professor Bagenstos advocated this past spring, rejecting rationing on the basis of patient life expectancy simply because life expectancy based rationing might threaten the factual interests of those with disabilities and might conceivably be implemented by those making judgments that were not simply inaccurate but grounded in biased, unacceptably discriminatory intuitions that some decision makers would have about the life expectancy of those with disabilities. My view is that Professor Bagenstos does not make either considered normative or empirical arguments that attending to the factual interests of those with disabilities or protecting against the possibility of discriminatory implementation of a plan should trump all other considerations; instead, he is “performing” his rhetorical commitment to a subordinated community as though that commitment functioned in the same way as a formal, normatively and factually defended side constraint on action would function.

Development

by Rep. Eric M. Swalwell & R. Kyle Alagood

A national security strategy is the “nation’s plan for the coordinated use of all the instruments of state power—nonmilitary as well as military—to pursue objectives that defend and advance its national interest.” Perhaps the most straightforward national security objective is to protect the country from foreign invasion, but national security involves other objectives that aim to protect people in the United States as well as their values. For example, protecting U.S. elections from foreign interference is a security objective that advances the nation’s interest in democratic governance. The outbreak of a highly contagious disease like COVID‑19 strikes at the core of national security and the nation’s interest in protecting its citizens from unnecessary harm.

Development

by Michael T. Morley

Federal Election Day didn’t just happen. Rather, it reflects the culmination of a series of federal laws enacted over the course of nearly seventy years. Each of those laws requires states to hold a different type of federal election on the same day. These statutes also grant states flexibility to hold federal elections at a later date if there is a “failure to elect” on Election Day. Based on a detailed examination of these provisions’ texts, legislative histories, and histories of judicial application, this Article explains that federal Election Day laws empower states to postpone or extend federal elections when serious emergencies preclude them from being conducted or concluded on Election Day itself.

A court may also postpone or extend a federal election when necessary to prevent constitutional or statutory violations. The Supreme Court has emphasized that courts should generally avoid granting such relief at the last minute, although major unexpected emergencies may sometimes render it necessary. A court may not order an election postponement or extension, however, unless other, less extensive changes to the rules governing the electoral process would be insufficient to remedy the underlying constitutional or statutory violation. And courts may be especially reluctant to grant such relief in states that provide extensive opportunities for early and absentee voting before Election Day. In the hierarchy of electoral remedies, a postponement or extension is a severe, disfavored remedy—particularly in the unique context of presidential elections—that should be employed only in the rare, extreme case where alternatives would be completely ineffective.

Development

by George D. Brown

The Supreme Court’s decision in the “Bridgegate” controversy has been the subject of intense debate. It has received strong support. However, some critics assail the decision as representative of a pattern of recent cases in which the Court has shown itself as indifferent to political corruption, if not supportive of it. Somewhat lost in the discussion is the decision’s potential to be the foundation for a seismic re-alignment of anti-corruption enforcement in the United States. The current model—with federal prosecution as the norm—is not cast in stone.

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