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Washington and Lee Law Review - Volume 75:4

by M. Claire Flowers

Multiple federal courts have recognized and applied the inevitable disclosure doctrine in cases brought by employers against former employees under the DTSA. The inevitable disclosure doctrine allows a business to temporarily enjoin the new employment of a former employee by a competitor on the theory that the employee learned confidential information while working for that business which the employee cannot possibly forget or refrain from relying on during her employment with the competitor. The application of this doctrine under the DTSA is controversial for two reasons. First, some states refuse to recognize the inevitable disclosure doctrine due, in part, to its restrictive effect on labor mobility. Secondly, the application is controversial because some practitioners thought that the language of the DTSA preempted the application of this doctrine at the federal level.

by Zachary Crawford-Pechukas

This Note suggests that guidance should be drawn from the Supreme Court’s death penalty jurisprudence regarding the execution of intellectually disabled offenders. Atkins v. Virginia paved the way for the juvenile sentencing cases as the Supreme Court for the first time found that, under the Eighth Amendment, a selected class of offenders—the intellectually disabled — were not eligible for the state’s harshest penalty—the death penalty— because of their diminished culpability. Atkins similarly left the state courts to figure out how to decide whether an individual offender met this amorphous standard, “intellectually disabled.” As state courts grappled with this standard and failed to adequately define “intellectually disabled,” the Supreme Court was forced to provide guidance. That guidance, in essence, was to follow the science to determine who was intellectually disabled. State courts should do the same in developing procedures for determining who is irreparably corrupt, even if the result is a de facto prohibition on sentencing any juvenile offenders to life without parole.

by David I. Walker

Although nonqualified deferred compensation plans lack explicit tax preferences afforded to qualified plans, it is well understood that nonqualified deferred compensation results in a joint tax advantage when employers earn a higher after-tax return on deferred sums than employees could achieve on their own. But the joint tax advantage depends critically on how plans are operated; chiefly how plan sponsors use or invest deferred compensation dollars. This is the first Article to systematically investigate nonqualified deferred compensation practices. It shows that joint tax minimization historically has taken a backseat to accounting priorities and participant diversification concerns. In recent years, the largest source of joint tax advantage likely stems from use of corporate owned life insurance (COLI) to informally fund nonqualified deferred compensation liabilities. To be sure, the reduction in corporate tax rates enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increases the joint tax benefit of nonqualified deferred compensation. Nonetheless, this Article recommends a measured response focusing first on COLI reform and an extension of the application of the Affordable Care Act’s Net Investment Income Tax to nonqualified deferred compensation earnings, before considering fundamental reform of the taxation of nonqualified deferred compensation. This Article also reveals that nonqualified deferred compensation results in an undisclosed advantage to corporate executives, as it provides what are effectively above-market returns on retirement savings, and that, at least in recent years, shareholders, not taxpayers, have provided the bulk of the subsidy for nonqualified deferred compensation.

by Carl Tobias

Marriage equality has come to America. Throughout 2014, several federal appellate courts and numerous district court judges across the United States invalidated state constitutional or statutory proscriptions on same-sex marriage. Therefore, it was not surprising that Eastern District of Virginia Judge Arenda Wright Allen held that Virginia’s bans were unconstitutional in February. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed her opinion that July. North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia District Judges rejected these jurisdictions’ prohibitions during autumn, and the Supreme Court approved marriage equality the next year. Because marriage equality in the Fourth Circuit presents significant legal questions which profoundly affect numbers of individuals, the road to equality in the Circuit’s states deserves analysis, which this piece conducts.

by W. Michael Schuster

Invention by artificial intelligence (AI) is the future of innovation. Unfortunately, as discovered through Freedom of Information Act requests, the U.S. patent regime has yet to determine how it will address patents for inventions created solely by AI (AI patents). This Article fills that void by presenting the first comprehensive analysis on the allocation of patent rights arising from invention by AI. To this end, this Article employs Coase Theorem and its corollaries to determine who should be allowed to secure these patents to maximize economic efficiency. The study concludes that letting firms using AI to create new technologies (as opposed to software companies, programmers, or downstream parties) to obtain the resulting patents is the optimal policy.

by Doug Rendleman

The Trump Administration has reversed the federal government’s role of protecting the environment. The reversal focuses attention on states’ environmental capacity. This Article advocates more vigorous state environmental tort remedies for nuisance and trespass. An injunction is the superior remedy in most successful environmental litigation because it orders correction and improvement. Two anachronistic barriers to an environmental injunction are the New York Court of Appeals’ decision, Boomer v. Atlantic Cement, and Calabresi and Melamed’s early and iconic law-and-economics article, One View of the Cathedral. This Article examines and criticizes both because, by subordinating the injunction to money damages, they undervalue public health and environmental protection and militate against effective private-law remedies for environmental torts. This Article advocates flexible and pragmatic common-law techniques instead of law-and-economics analysis. Moreover, behavioral economists’ studies have undermined and qualified many law-and-economics theories. In addition to arguing for more and better injunctions, this Article criticizes the law-and-economics mindset that nuisance-trespass parties’ post-injunction negotiation will convert an injunction into an excessive money settlement. It also shows that the Cathedral article’s vocabulary and four-rule organization are both too long and too short as well as confusing and misleading.

by David M. Driesen, Thomas M. Keck & Brandon T. Metroka

This Article addresses the history of the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act, which now goes back almost half a century. Many scholars have argued that the Court has shifted from an approach to statutory interpretation that relied heavily on purposivism—the custom of giving statutory goals weight in interpreting statutes—toward one that relies more heavily on textualism during this period. At the same time, proponents of dynamic statutory interpretation have argued that courts, in many cases, do not so much excavate a statute’s meaning as adapt a statute to contemporary circumstances.