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Washington and Lee Law Review - Online Edition


by Grace Moore

Article III of the Constitution mandates that judges exercising the federal judicial power receive life tenure and that their pay not be diminished. Nonetheless, certain forms of adjudication have always taken place outside of Article III—in state courts, military tribunals, territorial courts, and administrative tribunals. Administrative law judges, employed by various federal administrative agencies, decide thousands of cases each year. A vast majority of the cases they decide deal with public rights, which generally include claims involving federal statutory rights or cases in which the federal government is a party. With litigant consent, however, the Supreme Court has upheld administrative adjudication of certain claims involving private rights. In the bankruptcy context, the Court has further determined that litigant consent may be implied.

This Note considers implied consent in the context of administrative adjudication. It examines various objections to it and argues that allowing parties to implicitly consent to administrative adjudication of claims involving private rights does not violate Article III. This Note offers a solution for how the consent exception to Article III should operate in the context of administrative adjudication by considering what constitutes implied consent and the weight of litigant consent in the determination of whether a claim involving private rights is proper for administrative adjudication.


by Giovanni Strampelli

This Article sheds new light on the link between sustainability disclosure and institutional investors’ stewardship activities aimed at promoting improvements in the ESG performance of investee companies. On the one hand, sustainability disclosure is one of the information elements that may be relevant to institutional investors’ stewardship activities. On the other hand, improving the quality of sustainability reports provided by investee companies is often the ultimate goal of investor engagement initiatives. The role of climate and social disclosure is problematic from both perspectives. First, institutional investors, especially those with broadly diversified portfolios, are unable to use sustainability information directly and rely on ESG ratings and indices for their investment and stewardship strategies due to the very high costs involved. Therefore, in addition to the fact that the regulatory framework still appears to be fragmented and that there are differences between different sets of sustainability disclosures, European legislation shows that it is not enough to provide for climate and social disclosure requirements and that regulation of ESG ratings and indices is essential to make them more transparent and reliable. Second, the decision by non‑activist institutional investors to focus part of their engagement initiatives on sustainability disclosure, for example by requiring a higher degree of transparency or the adoption of a particular reporting framework, appears to be dictated by a desire to avoid more intrusive (and perceived as more aggressive) initiatives aimed directly at encouraging changes in the environmental strategies or policies of the companies concerned.


by Haley Fortner

A person’s home should be a sanctuary of safety, security, and comfortability away from the demands of the outside world. Yet for many people living with mental illness, a home can all too easily become a sort of temporary prison. Nowhere is this more apparent than when a housing provider stands in the way of allowing someone with a mental disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy their home. Fair housing law’s reasonable accommodation requirement works to ensure those living with mental illness receive the accommodations they need in order to live safely and comfortably in their own home. Even the most well-intentioned housing providers, however, continue to find themselves in violation of fair housing law as they struggle to decipher when and how they should grant requests for reasonable accommodation.

This Note provides a comprehensive overview of fair housing law both federally and in Virginia with a particular focus on the reasonable accommodation requirement in the context of mental disabilities. This Note not only seeks to explain why the reasonable accommodation requirement is tricky for many housing providers when the requested accommodation is made on the basis of a mental disability but also seeks to inform housing providers on how to navigate the requirement’s challenges and offer potential solutions that could help alleviate those challenges in the future.


by Trace M. Maddox

This essay is directly responsive to one of the most pressing issues currently before the courts of the United States: the question of whether former Presidents enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution for acts they committed in office. Building upon the recent ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in United States v. Trump, 91 F.4th 1173 (D.C. Cir. 2024) this essay argues that the clear answer to that question is a resounding “no”.

Former President Trump, who has now appealed the D.C. Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court, contends that post-presidential criminal immunity is implicit in the Constitution of the United States. Embracing the principle that the Constitution “cannot be interpreted safely except by reference to the common law and to British institutions as they were when the instrument was framed”, Ex Parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87, 108–109 (1925), this essay analyzes that claim in the light of the pre-revolutionary common law and the writings of the Framers and their contemporaries. Drawing from these sources, this essay demonstrates that the Constitution reflects a clear intent on the part of its Framers to cleanly break with the historic tradition of the sacred and inviolable executive. On these bases, this essay concludes that a doctrine of post-presidential immunity from criminal prosecution is not merely—as the Court of Appeals properly held—unsupported by positive law, but, moreover, both contrary to the Framers’ intent and fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution of the United States. It therefore urges the Supreme Court, when deciding the issue for the final time, to consider the thousand-year-old history underlying Mr. Trump’s claims to immunity and to reject those claims as incompatible with the republican government established by this country’s founders.


by Jason Marisam

The Independent State Legislature (ISL) Theory has been one of the hottest topics in election law, with conservative thinkers championing a strong version of the theory. In Moore v. Harper, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to turn this controversial theory into actual doctrine. The Court, though, declined to adopt a maximalist version of the theory and declined to reject it outright. Instead, it offered a vague standard that gives close to zero guidance as to where, between these two poles, the doctrine sits. Several scholars and commentators have responded to the opinion with a mix of relief, because the conservative Court rejected the most extreme version, and wariness, because the Court left room for federal courts to use the theory to undermine voting rights. This commentary challenges and adds to this narrative in a couple of ways. First, it shows that the political and policy implications of the ISL Theory are more complex and uncertain than often assumed. For example, in addition to other complicating scenarios, future cases could see liberals invoking the theory in federal court to rectify conservative state court decisions on fraudulent vote dilution. This commentary offers an explanatory theory that shows the Court may have opted for a vague doctrine in part to preserve flexibility in this uncertain decision-making environment. Second, this commentary highlights one cost of a vague ISL doctrine – an increased risk of outcomes that confuse and disenfranchise voters. Both claims are descriptive. They discuss benefits and risks that have been overlooked or insufficiently analyzed in the literature on the ISL Theory.


by John Gilmore

Since the 1950’s, scientists have built novel technologies to screen for genetic diseases and other biological irregularities. Recently, researchers have developed a method called “liquid biopsy” (as opposed to a standard tissue biopsy) that uses a liquid sample (e.g., blood) to non‑invasively spot biomarkers indicating different types of cancers in the patient’s body. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fully cleared a small number of liquid biopsy tests under its rigorous and expensive review process, most biotech companies have instead followed a less restrictive regulatory path through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which label the devices as “laboratory-developed tests” (LDTs).

Despite Congress’ initial passage of LDT designation in the 1980’s, LDT regulation remains akin to the “Wild West,” with ongoing questions about which agency is actually in charge of LDTs. While FDA initially claimed regulatory control over LDTs, it has (until recently) left discretion to CMS. Therefore, some unscrupulous companies have tried to abuse the gray regulatory area by marketing potentially misleading scientific claims about their LDTs, comparing them to FDA‑approved tests. Competitors with fully‑approved tests are furious and have sued under federal Lanham Act claims. Because of Congress’ repeated failures to pass a law addressing these claims and modernize the regulatory path for all in-vitro diagnostic tests, the FDA has proposed its own rules amending its regulatory authority to reign in most diagnostic tests.

This Note therefore suggests a multi-faceted approach to address the issue of regulating LDTs and their potentially misleading claims by (1) revising failed Congressional bills to allow regulatory and industry compromise, (2) applying certain circuit court decisions on Lanham Act claims to questionable facts in a company’s advertisements, and (3) narrowly expand the FDA’s regulatory power to all liquid biopsy tests before gradually expanding to all LDTs. Although LDTs may benefit the healthcare sector by offering novel tools to identify rare diseases, the federal government must develop an approach that both protects private parties and the general public and balances the need for research and development of life‑saving diagnostic tests.


by Stewart E. Sterk

Real property owners across the country have been targeted by scammers who prepare deeds purporting to convey title to property the scammers do not own. Sometimes, the true owners are entirely unaware of these bogus transfers. In other instances, the scammers use misrepresentation to induce unsophisticated owners to sign documents they do not understand.

Property doctrine protects owners against forgery and fraud—the primary vehicles scammers use in their efforts to transfer title. Owners enjoy protection not only against the scammers themselves, but generally against unsuspecting purchasers to whom the scammers transfer purported title.

Recovery of title, however, involves costs and delays that are difficult to bear, especially for victims without significant resources—often the favorite targets of scammers. Legislators have proposed a variety of reforms to make unauthorized transfers more difficult. Most of the proposed reforms, however, would do little to ease the financial burden on victims. Victims cannot generally rely on title insurance because the standard title insurance policy does not protect the insured against title defects that arise after issuance of the policy. Requiring title insurers to cover post-policy forgery and fraud would ease the burden on victims without significantly increasing costs to title insurers.


by Carol T. Li, Matthew E.K. Hall, and Veronica Root Martinez

In late 2017, the #MeToo movement swept through the United States as individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life revealed their experiences with sexual abuse and sexual harassment. After the #MeToo movement, many scholars, advocates, and policymakers posited that the watershed moment would prompt changes in the ways in which sexual harassment cases were handled. This Article examines the impact the #MeToo movement has had on judicial decisionmaking. Our hypothesis is that the #MeToo movement’s increase in public awareness and political attention to experiences of sexual misconduct should lead to more pro-claimant voting in federal courts at the district and courts of appeals levels.

For district courts, we find that the probability of a pro-employee ruling in a district court increased drastically after November 1, 2017. However, while pro-employee rulings increased in district courts during the #MeToo era, pro-employee rulings decreased in circuit courts during this time period. Our findings suggest that the #MeToo movement—an extralegal social movement—impacted legal rulings that occurred in its wake before district courts but courts of appeals were more restrained in their reaction to the movement. Importantly, the law and legal standards in place during the time period of our study did not meaningfully change. In short, the #MeToo movement had a statistically significant impact on rulings from district court judges.


by Gary Myers

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. v. Goldsmith clarifies the scope of transformative use and the role of these uses in the fair use analysis. This important case has implications for a fair use analysis of artificial intelligence. This article evaluates the interaction between copyright law’s fair use doctrine and typical sources and uses for artificial intelligence. In other words, the article will assess whether or not the use of copyrighted material to “train” AI programs—AI inputs—and the products of AI programs—AI outputs—are likely to found to be transformative in light of the Warhol framework. This article assesses the potential fair use analysis for generative AI applications in light of Warhol’s analytical framework. The central question in Warhol is the scope of transformative use versus a use that is derivative and which supplants a market for the original copyrighted work. Whether the use of copyrighted material to “train” AI programs and the products of AI programs are likely to found to be transformative in light of the Warhol framework is an intensely factual inquiry. This article concludes that the use of copyrighted material as inputs for training AI programs is — by itself—likely to be found to be a transformative fair use in most circumstances. The more difficult question is how AI outputs are analyzed. Fair use is necessarily a case-by-case inquiry. In light of cases like Warhol and Google v. Oracle, the analysis will turn on a series of considerations that are identified in this article. It is likely that the fair use question will be litigated frequently in the context of AI outputs, which can involve myriad factual scenarios.


by Simon Ciccarillo

Across the United States, a countless number of people rely on groundwater for basic necessities such as eating, drinking, agriculture, and energy-creation. At the same time, overuse combined with increasingly dry conditions throughout the country, tied to the increasingly unpredictable and devastating impacts of climate change, threaten this fundamental building block of society. Nowhere is this problem more pernicious than the American Southwest. The Colorado River Basin has always been the epicenter of water disputes between communities and states. Bad policies, unhelpful federal actions, and sluggish Supreme Court decisions stop the painful but necessary steps to address the increasingly dire water shortage. At the center of this crisis are two opposing camps that stand to gain or lose much. California, with the weight of history is on one side, while Arizona and Nevada, often disadvantaged, occupy the other. Yet these underdog states may have a way to escape the unjust outcomes that have hounded them to this point. If Arizona and Nevada choose, recent Supreme Court decisions provide the ammunition needed to finally create a fair and equitable distribution of water in the Southwest, and break California’s oppressive control over the lion’s share of Colorado River Basin water.