The power of artificial intelligence has recently entered the public consciousness, prompting debates over numerous legal issues raised by use of the tool. Among the questions that need to be resolved is whether to grant intellectual property rights to copyrightable works or patentable inventions created by a machine, where there is no human intervention sufficient to grant those rights to the human. Both the U. S. Copyright Office and the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office have taken the position that in cases where there is no human author or inventor, there is no right to copyright or patent protection. That position has recently been upheld by a federal court. This article argues that the Constitution and current statutes do not compel that result, that the denial of protection will hinder innovation, and that if intellectual property rights are to be limited to human innovators that policy decision should be made by Congress, not an administrative agency or a court.
Washington and Lee Law Review - Developments
by Margaret Ryznar
Invaluable guidance has emerged regarding online teaching in recent years, but less so concerning online and take-home final exams. This article offers various methods to administer such exams while maintaining their integrity—after asking artificial intelligence writing tool ChatGPT for its views on the matter. The sophisticated response of the chatbot, which students can use in their written work, only raises the stakes of figuring out how to administer exams fairly.
by Mark T. Wilhelm & Danielle Clifford
Beginning in March of 2020, public companies in the United States were forced to take unprecedented measures to observe corporate formalities while following the government-mandated health and safety measures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Those measures made in-person activities and meetings either incredibly challenging or, in certain jurisdictions, illegal. Because “proxy season,” the time when public companies typically hold their annual meetings of stockholders, followed shortly after the mass implementation of COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantines, public companies that had historically held these meetings in-person were left scrambling to find an alternative means to meet. Nearly overnight, the pandemic caused an explosive transition from in-person annual meetings to virtual annual meetings. This article examines that trend, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
More specifically, this article presents the results of primary research that quantifies the prevalence of virtual annual meetings before, during and (depending on one’s view of the current state of affairs) after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results are offered using a series of different metrics to provide a comprehensive picture regarding the sudden transition and theorizes a new normal in one of the most important investor-relations tools available to public companies.
by Imre S. Szalai
The United States Supreme Court recently issued a fractured decision in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, 142 S. Ct. 1906 (June 15, 2022), a classic David v. Goliath clash between a worker and employer. Can arbitration agreements be used to eliminate group or representative actions brought against employers, where the plaintiff worker is serving as a bounty hunter for the State? Although the majority clearly holds that a worker’s individual claims must be sent to arbitration pursuant to a predispute arbitration agreement, the splintered opinions leave some uncertainty regarding what happens to the representative claims of the other workers. Using the Star Wars universe, this Article clarifies and critiques flaws in the Court’s ruling. The decision provides a new hope and blueprint for protecting the rights of workers and consumers around the country.
by Marcia A. Zug
Guns are deadly. They are especially deadly for children yet, currently, parental gun ownership is not a major factor in custody disputes. This needs to change. Making irresponsible gun ownership a routine factor in custody cases could transform parental gun behavior. In other contexts, the potential loss of custody has proven to be an extremely strong deterrent. Moreover, unlike other proposed solutions to gun fatalities, this is a change that can be made right now. Making guns a part of custody disputes does not require the enactment of new legislation or even a judicial determination. By simply raising the issue of gun safety in custody cases, family lawyers can reduce dangerous gun behavior and save children’s lives. This solution won’t end all childhood gun injuries, but it could make a real difference.
by Robert J. Pushaw Jr.
This essay provides a balanced critique of Akhil Amar’s important book on early constitutional theory and practice. On the one hand, Amar’s work has three unique virtues. First, unlike other constitutional historians, he does not examine a particular clause or a brief time period (such as 1787‑1789), but rather analyzes the Constitution as a whole from 1760 to 1840. This holistic and longitudinal approach enables him to trace in detail the evolving constitutional views of America’s leading Founders—John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Marshall, and George Washington—and the personal relationships among those men that helped shape those views. Amar demonstrates that, contrary to popular belief, these dead white guys actually have much useful to say about modern constitutional law. Second, he contends that the Constitution has always been a living document—the subject of an ongoing conversation among all Americans. Third, among law professors, Amar has no peer as a wordsmith. He writes with singular power, precision, flair, and wit.
On the other hand, Professor Amar’s extremely nationalistic vision of the Constitution leads him to excessively praise the similarly broad interpretations of federal power presented by Hamilton, adopted by Washington (whom Amar deems the true Father of the Constitution), and eloquently explicated by the Marshall Court. Conversely, Amar tends to belittle the opposing constitutional approach of Madison and Jefferson as unprincipled political gamesmanship, instead of fully and fairly engaging with their arguments. Indeed, if Amar is correct that the Constitution developed as a dialogue in which ordinary people participated, then they must have endorsed the narrow construction of the Constitution proffered by Jefferson and Madison (and their successors Monroe and Jackson) because Americans elected these men as Presidents for four straight decades.
Whether one agree or disagrees with Amar, however, he is our most creative and prolific scholar of constitutional law and history. Therefore, any serious student of the Constitution must grapple with his analysis and conclusions.
by Justin C. Van Orsdol
To say that the student loan debt crisis is out of control is a massive understatement. Although solutions such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the recent temporary payment/interest rate freeze have provided some relief for borrowers, more can be done. Of course, as with any large outlay of taxpayer dollars, opposition is sure to be heated. Given the current political climate, the likelihood of any legislative fixes seems unlikely.
But what if there was an administrative solution that could do more to address this crisis without the cost of the legislative process? This essay proposes such a solution. It explains how, through an executive order and changes in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the Government can provide additional relief to the 5.3 million people who work for federal contractors. Further, this essay explains why such an approach might be more advantageous than traditional legislation and counters likely rebuttals.
by Carl Tobias
In October 2020, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speculated that the fifty-four talented, extremely conservative, and exceptionally young, appellate court judges whom then-President Donald Trump and two relatively similar Grand Old Party (GOP) Senate majorities appointed had left the federal appeals courts “out of whack.” Problematic were the many deleterious ways in which Trump and both of the upper chamber majorities in the 115th and 116th Senate undermined the courts of appeals, which are the courts of last resort for practically all lawsuits, because the United States Supreme Court hears so few appeals. The nomination and confirmation processes which Trump and the Republican Senates instituted and the numerous extraordinarily conservative judges whom they confirmed undercut appellate court diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ideology, and experience; the appointments procedures; and citizen respect for this critical responsibility’s discharge, the presidency, the Senate, and the federal bench. Peculiarly important, some cases which Trump appointees have decided show how prescient was Biden’s rather impressionistic answer to a press question regarding the controversial issue of Supreme Court packing, which the nominee afforded near the 2020 presidential election’s conclusion. For example, Trump United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuit confirmees’ judicial decision-making elucidates these propositions. Therefore, Biden promised that his administration would comprehensively remedy those stunning problems.
This essay’s initial section examines the nomination and confirmation procedures initiated by the GOP White House and each of the Republican Senate majorities, which permitted Trump and the chamber to appoint substantial numbers of exceptionally conservative appeals court judges, mainly by contravening, rejecting, or downplaying numerous rules and conventions that prior Presidents and the Senates had applied to felicitously appoint preeminent, moderate, diverse court of appeals jurists. Part one scrutinizes how Trump and the GOP chambers easily nominated and confirmed significant numbers of judges whose opinions could affirm his troubling presidential behavior and concomitantly reject Biden’s efforts that would ostensibly move the nation in better directions.
Segment two evaluates manifold endeavors of Biden’s presidency and the Senate Democratic majority which carefully address Trump circuit appointments’ detrimental impacts. This portion reveals that Biden deployed lessons which the President had extracted from leading responsibilities that he discharged as a Judiciary Committee member and the panel Chair, particularly which implicated Supreme Court nomination and confirmation processes, and from service as Vice President in President Barack Obama’s Administration. Biden has correspondingly relied substantially upon high-ranking executive branch officials with longtime appointments experience, tapping, for example, Ronald Klain as his chief of staff while appointing Dana Remus White House Counsel, from the Obama era while employing numbers of effective selection practices which Presidents Obama and Trump and earlier Republican and Democratic chief executives had instituted.
Part three surveys the consequences for appeal courts of Trump’s judicial appointments efforts and the implications of how President Biden responded. The court selection measures that the Democratic chief executive implemented allowed the White House and the Senate to appoint prominent, comparatively mainstream, diverse jurists, which eclipsed Trump’s record for approving twelve very conservative, accomplished, youthful judges throughout a first presidential year. The considerable success of Biden and the Democratic Senate majority respected their pledges to directly rectify Trump confirmations’ adverse effects, improve numerous critical diversity features, and restore dynamic “regular order” across the judicial appointments process.
The difficulties—particularly appointing rapidly so many accomplished, highly conservative, lifetime jurists, which former President Trump and GOP senators certainly orchestrated—will remain for a significant number of years and Democrats currently possess an exceptionally narrow Senate majority. The concluding portion, accordingly, provides numerous recommendations for how President Biden and the chamber might continue increasing diversity, namely ideological, and revitalizing dynamic regular order to efficaciously improve the federal courts of appeals.
by Mitchell F. Crusto
Systemic racism in policing allows police officers, in particular white men, to continue to perpetuate the violent killings of Black people. This violence is not accidental. Rather it is intentional and allowed to continue due to a failure by the Supreme Court to hold police officers accountable. This Article explains how the doctrines of qualified immunity, willful intent, and objective reasonableness, as condoned by the Court, allow police officers to “get away with murder.”
by Eric J. Segall
The conventional wisdom among Supreme Court scholars and commentators is that Chief Justice John Roberts is an institutionalist who cares deeply about both his personal legacy and the Supreme Court’s prestige over time. This essay challenges that belief. While the Chief certainly cares about how the Court is perceived by the public, as do most of the justices, what most defines Roberts is his hubris—not a concern for the Court’s legitimacy or even his own place in history. Across the vast landscape of constitutional law, Roberts has distorted precedent and ignored text and history to further his own policy preferences. A master of the long game and the catchy sound bite, hubris, not institutionalism, most defines the Chief Justice of the United States.