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Washington and Lee Law Review - Volume 76:2


by Wynter K. Miller & Benjamin E. Berkman

Under the First Amendment, state intervention in conversations between physicians and prospective parents about prenatal whole genome sequencing (PWGS) should trigger at least heightened scrutiny. Part I of this Article provides an overview of the most recent advances in genetic testing. It assesses the ongoing impact of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) for providers and patients and charts the course from NIPT to PWGS. Part II establishes a foundational background for evaluating First Amendment claims. Part II.A describes the development of First Amendment jurisprudence, focusing on the doctrinal distinctions between levels of judicial scrutiny. Part II.B explores historical Supreme Court case law addressing professional speech. Part III surveys the current legal landscape. Using a handful of recent Circuit cases, Part III.A demonstrates that the legal frameworks for assessing physician speech qua professional speech are shambolic. Part III.B provides an overview of the most recent Supreme Court ruling on professional speech in the 2018 case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. Part IV uses the material in Parts I–III to predict how legislative efforts to limit reproductive decision-making are likely to manifest in the PWGS context. Based on the case analyses in Part III, Part IV identifies the Fourth and Eleventh Circuit approaches as the most defensible for future judicial interventions. This Article concludes that state-based restrictions on PWGS-related speech would be vulnerable to First Amendment challenges and unlikely to survive heightened judicial scrutiny.


by Spence M. Howden

Courts do not treat text messages as intangible personal property. Authors and recipients of text messages have limited recourse against cell phone manufacturers or service providers when they “accidentally” delete their users’ text messages. This Note proceeds as follows: Part II offers a brief overview of what text messages are and what they are not. Part III covers the history of intangible personal property law and reviews the evolution of “cybertrespass” claims. Part IV explores the judiciary and the Fourth Amendment’s failure to protect text messages. Finally, Part V evaluates whether text messages constitute property and the practical implications of this finding.


by Kiersten E. Holms

This Note argues that the recent court decisions rejecting the government’s bare legal title defense are consistent with CERCLA. Courts should not treat the federal government any differently than a private entity and, therefore, courts should hold the federal government liable as an owner under CERCLA for its role as legal titleholder to public lands. Part II of this Note begins by providing a brief overview of the background and goals of CERCLA. Part II also provides an examination of the issue of ownership liability under CERCLA and recounts the federal courts’ difficulty in applying ownership liability. Part II then describes how the federal government’s “bare legal title” argument arose out of the confusion surrounding ownership liability in CERCLA litigation. Part III moves on to examine the recent trend in CERCLA litigation rejecting the federal government’s bare legal title argument, thus holding the federal government liable as an owner based on its possession of legal title to contaminated public lands. Part IV analyzes whether the bare legal title defense is consistent with CERCLA, taking the position that the defense is not. Finally, Part V contends that federal government liability for its role as titleholder of public lands should extend beyond the context of contaminated mining lands.


by Mark Strasser

In Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion, along with the accompanying concurrences and dissent, that may well destabilize various settled areas of constitutional law and likely represents shots across the bow with respect to a number of issues that will make their way before the Court. In Masterpiece, the Court overruled a finding that a religious baker had violated a state antidiscrimination law when refusing to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The decision might seem to have been a masterful resolution of an extremely difficult case because the Court issued a narrow opinion that seemed to affirm free exercise rights while at the same time affirming the right of same-sex couples to marry. Part II of this Article discusses Masterpiece Cakeshop, explaining some of the contradictory signals contained within it and why this opinion may prove to be much more significant than many commentators seem to appreciate. Part III discusses some of the ways that the decision may modify First Amendment law and may undermine antidiscrimination protections as a general matter. The Article concludes that the Masterpiece Cakeshop holding permitted the Court to put off for another day resolution of some of the very thorny issues that may arise when sincere religious convictions are in conflict with antidiscrimination laws. Many of the implicit views and approaches contained within Masterpiece Cakeshop suggest that future opinions will be at best quite contentious and at worst insupportable as a matter of reason or precedent.


by Malinda L. Seymore

The Trump Administration’s new immigration policy of family separation at the U.S./Mexico border rocked the summer of 2018. Yet family separation is the prerequisite to every legal adoption. The circumstances are different, of course. In legal adoption, the biological parents are provided with all the constitutional protections required in involuntary termination of parental rights, or they have voluntarily consented to family separation. But what happens when that family separation is wrongful, when the birth mother’s consent is not voluntary, or when the birth father’s wishes to parent are ignored? In theory, the child can be returned to the birth parents when consent is invalid because of fraud, coercion, or deceit. In actuality, courts are very reluctant to undo an adoption. How, then, to deter adoption agencies and workers from wrongfully separating birth parents and their children?

Adoption agencies are not just social welfare institutions, but also businesses motivated by money. Lawsuits, as a cost of doing business, can affect their bottom line. The adoption industry has been responsive in the past to lawsuits from adoptive parents seeking money damages, which suggests that lawsuits from birth parents that affect the bottom line could incentivize better behavior from adoption agencies. This Article explores possible tort causes of action available to birth parents, including a proposed new tort of wrongful family separation, with the long-term objective of changing adoption agency behavior, potentially transforming adoption practice.


by Michael L. Rustad & Elif Kavusturan

Software licensing and software-as-a-service contracts are innovative in their streamlining of products, as well as in their contracting practices, done in both a legislative and common law void. The dearth of case law and the legislative void leaves both software providers and customers with no guidance on contract law issues on software licensing and cloud computing. Since the 1980s, software is at the core of most modern organizations, most products and most services. Part II of this Article examines how the U.C.C. evolved as the primary source of law for the first generation of computer contracts during the mainframe computer era. Part III examines how courts have overextended U.C.C. Article 2, as the main source of law for software licensing, to the limits. Part IV argues that the ALI and the NCCUSL should propose a new Article 2B for software licensing. Part V recommends a new Article 2C for “software as a service.”


by Todd Peterson

This Article posits that two significant problems in the Supreme Court’s personal jurisdiction case law have led to incoherent and irreconcilable results in cases involving individual and corporate defendants. First, the Court has imposed substantive due process limitations on a state’s assertion of personal jurisdiction without ever explaining why such limitations are constitutionally required. Second, in the absence of clearly enunciated principles of substantive due process, the Supreme Court has relied on poorly defined categories of the types of contacts that would satisfy the substantive due process requirement. In Part I, the Article discusses the history of the U.S. Supreme Court’s substantive due process limitations on personal jurisdiction and, in particular, the standards for corporate-activities-based jurisdiction before the Court’s recent cases on that issue. Part II discusses the Court’s failure to provide a convincing theoretical justification for imposing substantive due process limitations on personal jurisdiction. It also discusses the consequences of that failure in three doctrinal areas of personal jurisdiction law, the traditional basis of service on an individual in the forum state, specific jurisdiction and corporate-activities-based jurisdiction. Part III then analyzes in detail the four recent Supreme Court cases on personal jurisdiction, and discusses the mistaken assumptions underlying those decisions. Part IV explains how the Court’s personal jurisdiction rules, as a whole, suffer from theoretical bareness, the ambiguity of the substantive due process categories of jurisdiction, and the rigidity of the Court’s substantive due process analysis. Finally, in Part V, the Article offers some ideas for how the Court could begin to remedy the many problems with personal jurisdiction law.