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Washington and Lee Law Review - Print Edition

Article

by Stephen Wilks

This Article frames the killing of George Floyd as the result of flawed business regulation. More specifically, it captures the expansion of third-party policing paradigms throughout local nuisance abatement regulations over a period of time that coincided with the militarization of policing culture across the United States. Premised on the notion that law enforcement alone cannot succeed in reducing crime and disorder, such regulations transform grocery stores, pharmacies, bars, and other retail spaces into surveillance hubs by prescribing situations that obligate businesses to contact the police. This regulatory framework, however, sustains the larger historical project of rationalizing enhanced scrutiny of the public and private spaces that Black people occupy; supplies the imprimatur for wider societal involvement in the scrutiny of Black bodies—particularly by constituencies outside the ranks of traditional policing; and complicates psychological relationships Black people have with the settings they enter, while fueling the continued disregard for their bodily dominion.

Article

by Shaakirrah R. Sanders

This Article brings agriculture privacy and other commercial gagging laws into the ongoing debate on the First Amendment actual malice rule announced in New York Times v. Sullivan. Despite a resurgence in contemporary jurisprudence, Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch have recently questioned the wisdom and viability of Sullivan, which originally applied actual malice to state law defamation claims brought by public officials. The Court later extended the actual malice rule to public figures, to claims for infliction of emotional distress, and—as discussed in this Article—to claims for invasion of privacy and to issues of public importance or concern.

United States v. Alvarez recently identified the significance of Sullivan and the actual malice rule when announcing First Amendment protection for false speech. Alvarez notably excluded defamation from the categories of protected false speech. No federal district or circuit court that has applied Alvarez to agriculture privacy laws has considered Sullivan or the actual malice rule. Agriculture privacy laws are a type of gag law that seek to: (i) prevent the use of misrepresentations to gain access, employment, or unauthorized entry; (ii) prevent unauthorized or nonconsensual use of video, audio, and photographic cameras or recorders if there was an intent to cause harm to the enterprise; or (iii) impose a duty to submit recordings of animal or agriculture abuse. Some of the legislative histories of these laws demonstrate an intent to prevent undercover investigations into or exposés on the industry. Arkansas has applied a similar type of gag to all commercial businesses.

The Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits are currently split on the scope of Alvarez’s protection against agriculture privacy and commercial gagging laws. This Article demonstrates how Sullivan and the actual malice rule also balance the First Amendment right of privacy and press to gather and disseminate information about public matters. Part I introduces agriculture privacy and commercial gagging laws. Part II deliberates the civil rights roots and recent resurgence of Sullivan in contemporary jurisprudence. Part III contemplates how Sullivan alleviates First Amendment deficiencies that gagging courts left unaddressed, particularly with regard to the effect of gagging laws on undocumented workers and others in the marketplace of ideas about commercial food production.

Article

by David Dante Troutt

From before the birth of the republic to the present day, police brutality has represented a signature injustice of state authority, especially against African Americans. Defining that injustice is the lack of accountability for official misconduct. The rule of law has systematically failed to deter lawbreaking by its law enforcement departments. This Article explores the various legal and institutional means by which accountability should be imposed and demonstrates the design elements of structured immunity. Using Critical Race Theory and traditional civil rights law notions of how structural racism operates, this Article argues that transformative change can only come about through recognition that the current system achieves the objectives for which it was designed. These objectives must change.

Article

by Christopher L. Mathis

This Article introduces a novel concept, higher education redress statutes (“HERS”), to illustrate efforts that acknowledge and amend past wrongs towards African Americans. More proximally, the Article shines a probing light on the escalation of HERS in southeastern states that serve as a site for state regulation and monitoring. The Author exposes how higher education redress statutes, designed to provide relief or remedy to Black people for states’ higher education’s harm, categorically ignore groups of Black people who rightfully should also be members of the statutorily protected class. This Article queries whether legislators can expand the scope of such statutes and reveals the myriad ways in which higher education redress statutes now serve as tools for aiding in the erasure of the higher education industry’s culpability and complicity in slavery, degradation, and discrimination toward Black people. As such, this Article shows the growing hostility toward Black people’s contribution to the higher education industry and states’ unwillingness to offer redress efforts inclusively, broadly, and robustly. This Article serves as a platform for recognizing Black people’s harm and hurt and the degree to which that recognition has been undermined by the states’ disparate treatment of their humanity. Lastly, this Article proffers recommendations to activists, legislators, and other relevant stakeholders regarding the enforcement and promulgation of more comprehensive and inclusive higher education redress statutes.

Article

by BJ Ard

This Article intervenes in the longstanding debate over whether creative production is possible without exhaustive copyright protection. Intellectual property (IP) scholars have identified “negative spaces” like comedy and tattoo art where creativity thrives without IP, but critics dismiss these examples as niche. The video game industry allows for fresh headway. It is now the largest sector in entertainment—with revenues greater than Hollywood, streaming, and music combined—yet IP does not protect key game elements from duplication. Participants navigate this absence using non-IP strategies like those identified in negative-space industries: AAA developers invest in copy-resistant features while indie game developers rely on community norms. The answer to whether creative production is possible within IP’s negative space even in a capital-intensive industry is thus a decisive yes.

Studying this industry also compels us to go beyond surface-level questions of whether creative production is possible and to grapple with how the configuration of IP and non-IP protections shapes what is produced and how this configuration favors some creators over others. The industry likewise pushes us to recognize that the stability of these regimes is contingent on broader features of technology, the economy, and society at large. In fact, the industry has come full circle from a sector where copying plagued the industry, to one where it became a non-issue, to one where it has reemerged as a problem in mobile gaming.

The video game industry is also crucial for study because it embodies the state of creative production in the information age. Scholarship has long treated legacy industries like Hollywood and music as paradigmatic without attending to the complex realities of modern creative production and the importance of going beyond IP to understand how these industries work. It is time we moved past the conceptual divide between “full IP” and negative spaces to interrogate the overlapping but partial legal protections across both sides of the line.

Article

by RonNell Andersen Jones and Sonja R. West

At this moment of unprecedented decline of local news and amplified attacks on the American press, scholars are increasingly turning their attention to the Constitution’s role in protecting journalism and the journalistic function. Recent calls by some U.S. Supreme Court Justices to reconsider the core press-protecting precedent from New York Times Co. v. Sullivan have intensified these conversations. This scholarly dialogue, however, appears to be taking place against a mistaken foundational assumption that the U.S. Supreme Court continues to articulate and embrace at least some notion of freedom of the press. Yet despite the First Amendment text specifically referencing it and the Roberts Court’s claims of First Amendment expansiveness, freedom of the press is quietly disappearing from the Court’s lexicon.

Our individually coded dataset, capturing every paragraph mentioning the press written by all 114 Justices in the 235-year history of the Court, shows that in the last half-century the Court’s references to the concept of freedom of the press have dramatically declined. They are now lower than at any other moment since the incorporation of the First Amendment. The jurisprudential desertion of this concept is evident in every quantitative and qualitative measure we analyzed. Press freedom was once a commonly adopted frame, with the Court readily acknowledging it on its own and as a coexisting First Amendment right alongside the freedom of speech. Indeed, Justices routinely recognized this right in cases not involving the press. The data reveal that this practice is a thing of the past. Gone are not only the ringing, positive endorsements that situated freedom of the press as valuable, important, or central to democracy but also the bare acknowledgements of the right at all. A close investigation of individual Justice’s patterns, moreover, reveals that there are no true advocates of the right on the current Court and that most of the current Justices have rarely, if ever, mentioned it in any context.

This Article addresses both the possible causes and the troubling consequences of this decline. It explores strong evidence contradicting many of the initially appealing explanations for the trend, examining the ways in which the phenomenon is unlikely to be solely a function of the Court’s decreasing press-related docket or its reliance on settled law in the area. It also explores data on the interrelationships between ideology and acknowledgement of freedom of the press. The disappearance of the principle of press freedom at the Court may impede the newly revived effort to invoke the Constitution as a tool for preserving the flow of information on matters of public concern.

Article

by Elizabeth Kukura

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals implemented restrictive visitor policies that have prevented many pregnant people from giving birth with their chosen support people. For some, this meant foregoing labor and delivery support by a birth doula, someone who serves in a nonclinical role and provides emotional, physical, and informational support to birthing people. Given that continuous labor support such as the care provided by doulas is associated with fewer cesareans and other interventions, less need for pain medication, and shorter labors, the promotion of doula care is a promising strategy to ease the maternal health crisis and, in particular, shrink the perinatal health equity gap, as reflected in a pregnancy-related mortality rate for Black women that is three to four times higher than for White women.

As COVID-19 case rates declined and hospitals relaxed their restrictions, some doulas found themselves subject to new hospital credentialing requirements in order to attend births, even though they serve in nonclinical roles and are hired by the birthing person rather than the hospital. This Article explores the often-contested relationship between doulas and hospitals, and between doulas and hospital-based perinatal care providers, against the historical backdrop of other restrictions on birthing companions since birth shifted from the home to the hospital around the turn of the twentieth century. It details the important role doulas play in promoting good perinatal health outcomes and considers why many hospitals and healthcare providers perceive doulas as a threat rather than as a source of value in the delivery room, which results in strategies to restrict doulas through formal and informal mechanisms. This Article suggests that hostility to doulas and restrictions on birth support reflect central qualities of mainstream perinatal care, such as liability-driven decision-making, nonadherence to evidence-based medicine, medical paternalism, and fear, all of which interfere with efforts to improve health outcomes in the midst of a maternal health crisis that disproportionately burdens communities of color.

Ultimately, this Article argues that doula credentialing is a regulatory mismatch that should be abandoned by hospitals as misguided and counterproductive, and instead identifies public and private policy changes, along with related advocacy strategies, that would provide appropriate recognition of doulas within the perinatal healthcare system and serve both patient and provider interests while protecting the autonomy of doulas to operate within their scope of practice. Increased attention to the United States’ maternal health crisis and the opportunity to advance healthcare reforms that incorporate lessons from the pandemic make this a critical time to prevent the widespread adoption of credentialing requirements before they become the default norm, and instead to pursue investment in growing the doula model as an efficient and effective means to improve childbirth experiences and reduce the stark racial inequities in perinatal health outcomes.

Note

by Audrey Curelop

In the twentieth century, the American agricultural industry underwent significant changes—while most food animals were once raised on small family farms, now, over fifty percent are produced entirely inside concentrated animal feeding operations. These large‑scale farming operations house hundreds to thousands of cows, swine, or chickens, which collectively produce hundreds of millions of tons of waste per year. The primary method of waste disposal is land application, a process in which waste is sprayed or spread onto land with no required pretreatment. After land application, waste byproducts make their way into the surrounding air and waterways, posing significant threats to human health and the environment.

This Note challenges this industry‑accepted method of waste disposal. It argues that federal environmental and regulatory law and state nuisance law coincide to effectively protect large‑scale agricultural facilities from liability at a detriment to American health. This Note examines liability carve-outs for industrial farming in three federal statutory schemes: the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. When federal environmental protections fail, affected parties often turn to common law tort redress. But state Right‑to‑Farm laws have effectively barred these claims as well.

Although the products of industrial agriculture are enjoyed by the many, the environmental and health impacts of the farms’ waste disposal systems fall on the few. This Note additionally seeks to highlight the communities most affected—primarily, low‑income communities and communities of color that neighbor the farming operations.

The most comprehensive solution to this health crisis involves an ideological shift in the way the American public conceptualizes the farm-to-table pipeline. This Note ultimately argues that this shift requires a catalyst—a robust federal initiative that disincentivizes hazardous agricultural waste practices and incentives sustainable farming.

Note

by Jessica Matsuda

State legislatures across the nation are continually targeting the rights of transgender individuals with a variety of laws affecting everything from bathrooms to medical care. One particularly invasive type of legislation, the gender-affirming healthcare ban, seeks to prohibit all forms of healthcare that align a person’s physical traits with their gender identity for individuals under eighteen. Bans like this severely impede the treatment necessary for transgender youth suffering from gender dysphoria, which carries serious physical consequences and sometimes fatal psychological repercussions. As legislative sessions pass, more and more states are introducing and actually enacting these bans

Striking down these bans as constitutionally impermissible is vital to ensuring that transgender individuals have equal access to healthcare. As litigators bring important and crucial lawsuits to challenge these bans under the federal Constitution, this Note proposes and explores options under the lesser-known but highly valuable state constitution. Although often ignored, many state constitutions contain enforceable rights that could protect the existence of gender-affirming healthcare, especially if federal constitutional protection is denied at the Supreme Court. This Note specifically dives into the state constitutional right to health as an avenue for greater protection, and argues that the general principles of judicial federalism should protect the rights of transgender individuals in this context. As the federal landscape changes, this Note urges litigators to use all the resources available to prevent unwarranted state interference, including previously unenforced state constitutional provisions. State legislators cannot be allowed to violate their own constitutions in the campaign against transgender individuals, and litigators have the ability and obligation to hold them accountable.

Article

by Allison M. Whelan and Michele Goodwin

Abortion rights and access are under siege in the United States. Even while current state-level attacks take on a newly aggressive scale and scope—emboldened by the United States Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey—the legal landscape emerging in the wake of Dobbs is decades in the making. In this Article, we analyze the pre- and post-Roe landscapes, explaining that after the Supreme Court recognized a right to abortion in Roe in 1973, anti-abortionists sought to dismantle that right, first thread by thread and now whole cloth. As we explain, these concerted efforts impose unique and uniquely burdensome harms on those living at the intersections of historically marginalized and vulnerable identities, including persons of color, low-income populations, persons with disabilities, and individuals in LGBTQ+ communities. This Article examines the deeply troubling—and now successful—efforts to dismantle Roe and the legal attacks on reproductive freedom. It foreshadows continuing legal efforts to gut abortion rights and new battlefronts related to disability justice and LGBTQ+ equality emerging from the same efforts. Focusing on persons with disabilities, this Article argues that the political movement to deny abortion rights will eviscerate gains made toward disability justice, as well as many other social justice gains such as LGBTQ+ equality.

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