Latest Scholarship

September 9, 2016

The Problem With the Texas Federal Court’s Nationwide Order Regarding Bathroom Access for Transgender Students

Co-authored with Vikram Amar. Cross-posted from Justia's Verdict.

Late last month, a federal trial court in Texas issued a nationwide order preventing the federal Department of Education (DOE), as well as a number of other federal agencies, from enforcing-anywhere in the country-their "interpretation of the definition of 'sex' in the various written directives ... as applied to Title IX ... and Title VII" (which are federal laws that prohibit certain entities from discriminating on the basis of sex). The basic underlying legal issue in the case (titled Texas v. United States) is whether school districts must permit transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. According to the federal district judge, the DOE's position that Title IX requires schools to do just that is inconsistent with the DOE's own regulations and federal procedural requirements, and, accordingly, is unenforceable.

There are many things that could be said about the substance of the court's opinion. (The U.S. Court of Appeals for Fourth Circuit in the mid-Atlantic region, for example, previously reached a contrary conclusion about whether the DOE's interpretation of its own regulations was entitled to judicial deference in G.G. v. Glouster County School Board, finding the DOE's interpretation was permissible). But in the space below we focus more narrowly on the question of the appropriateness of a nationwide injunction.

To better frame that remedial question, we should provide a bit more background on the lawsuit itself. As noted above, the ultimate question folks care most about is whether school districts must, under federal antidiscrimination law, permit transgender students to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity. There are a number of cases pending in courts around the country that raise some form of this underlying question (including the Fourth Circuit ruling that answered that question in the affirmative, and other cases in other regions of the nation.)

The Texas case purports to get at this question of the meaning of antidiscrimination law by posing a more technical query: whether various documents issued by various federal agencies-which state that, in the view of the federal government, federal statutes and regulations are best read as meaning that school districts have an obligation to allow transgender students to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity-are entitled to deference and provide legitimate, rather than unlawful, guidance to school districts. The group of plaintiffs in the Texas case consists of various states and state agencies drawn from a dozen or so of the fifty states. These plaintiffs sued as defendants a variety of federal officials and federal agencies, asserting, again, that different documents issued by these federal officials and agencies are unlawful.

To be clear, however, even if the agencies' various interpretative documents are not entitled to deference (or indeed, turn out to be "unlawful"), public schools still must comply with the relevant statutes, including Title VII and Title IX, which prohibit sex discrimination in employment and schools, respectively. Even if DOE's documents asserting its view that refusal to permit transgender individuals bathroom choice constitutes sex discrimination under federal law are legally flawed, that does not mean that its view of the meaning of sex discrimination law is wrong. Indeed, separate and apart from the agency interpretations, a number of courts have held that Title VII and Title IX prohibit discrimination against transgender people, using reasoning that might support entitlement of transgender persons to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

With that background, let us home in on the scope-of-the-remedy issue. The Texas district court judge issued a nationwide injunction preventing the various federal defendants from "enforcing the [multiple documents] against" not only the plaintiffs, but also against "other public, educationally-based institutions." In other words, the court issued an order that offered protection not just to the plaintiffs before it, but to all school districts in the country, including those located in areas where other federal courts might have different views on the permissibility of the DOE's interpretive guidance.

Whatever one thinks of the district court's analysis of the legality of DOE's documents, the court's sweeping, countrywide, order is very legally dubious. To be sure, when the court has jurisdiction (or power to speak the law) over a defendant (including U.S. government agencies), the court has authority to order the defendant to act or not act. This includes the authority to issue a directive that has effects "outside the territorial jurisdiction of the court," but only because sometimes a plaintiff operates in more than one federal judicial district, and a court should be able to give a plaintiff full relief from a defendant's wrongful actions, not just local relief.

But one problem with the district court's order is that, by preventing the DOE and other federal agencies from enforcing their guidance documents anywhere, the court has effectively provided relief to dozens of states and hundreds (if not thousands) of school districts who were not plaintiffs in this case. It is one thing to give a plaintiff who sues full relief; it is another for the relief to extend beyond the parties in the case at hand.

What is so wrong about protecting other states and school districts that did not sue? At first blush, it may seem that if the federal government is acting wrongly, a court should tell it to stop acting wrongly against everyone in America, not just the parties who sued. But this instinct fails to account for the fact that not everyone agrees the federal government is acting wrongly, and one district judge should not, absent a class action where all the states are represented and the federal government is on clear notice-when it chooses how aggressively to contest a case-about precisely how broad the remedy would be, try to decide the issue for the whole country; that is not the function or strength of district courts. Indeed, resolving matters once and for all for the whole nation is a power we invest principally in the Supreme Court.

It is for that reason that courts often say something to the effect that "injunctive relief should be no more burdensome to the defendant than necessary to provide complete relief to the plaintiffs." Related to this is the admonition that when exercising its equitable powers to issue an injunction, a court must be "mindful of any effect its decision might have outside its jurisdiction [insofar as c]ourts ordinarily should not award injunctive relief that would cause substantial interference with another court's sovereignty." A contrary policy would, in the words of the Supreme Court, "substantially thwart the development of important questions of law by freezing the first final decision rendered on a particular legal issue." And if and when the issue makes its way to the Supreme Court, overly broad district court (or circuit court) injunctions that prevent other courts from hearing cases and weighing in can "deprive the Supreme Court of the benefit of decisions from several courts of appeals," a diversity of viewpoint the Court uses to decide the best nationwide outcomes. (This process is sometimes referred to as lower court "percolation.") And the fact that the district court said it would entertain a request to narrowly limit its nationwide injunction to avoid "unnecessary interfere[nce]" with other "currently pending" cases does not eliminate this concern.

The Texas district court's injunction itself illustrates the pitfalls of overly broad injunctions. To give but one example, several months ago, the Fourth Circuit (as alluded to above) was presented with essentially the same arguments that were presented to the Texas court in this case. That case-G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board-was brought by a student, G.G., against his local school board. G.G. was assigned the female sex at birth, but identifies as male. G.G. has been known as a male since ninth grade. He has changed the sex designation on his driver's license and has legally changed his name to a conventionally masculine name. At the beginning of his sophomore year, G.G. informed school officials that G.G. would be attending school as a male student. Initially, G.G. agreed to use a separate restroom in the nurse's office. But it quickly became clear that this was not an acceptable solution. In October of that year, the principal agreed that G.G. could use the boys' bathrooms. For the next several weeks, G.G. used boys' restrooms "without incident." But after some parents learned about the situation and demanded that the school board prevent G.G. from using the boys' bathrooms, the school board adopted a policy "prohibiting transgender students from using the same restrooms as other students."

G.G filed suit in federal court, alleging that the policy violated Title IX, a federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in federally supported schools, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Like the trial court in the Texas case, the district court in G.G.'s case concluded that the agency's interpretation of its own regulation regarding bathrooms was not entitled to deference and was wrong as to its bottom line. The Fourth Circuit reversed.

Specifically, the Fourth Circuit held that the "Department[ of Education]'s interpretation of its own regulation, § 106.33, as it relates to restroom access by transgender individuals, is entitled to [administrative] deference and accorded controlling weight in this case." This decision is now the controlling law across the Fourth Circuit. Although the Fourth Circuit is the only appellate court that has addressed this specific question to date, cases on this issue are pending in courts around the country.

Particularly (though not only) when another court has already issued a contrary pronouncement on the same question, issuing a nationwide injunction causes substantial interference with the power of other courts, and with the process of helping frame issues that might ultimately be taken up by the Supreme Court.

A related problem is that nationwide injunctions under such circumstances also encourage what lawyers call "forum shopping"-that is, picking a particular place to sue not because of the convenience of the parties or the location of the witnesses or evidence (which are legitimate factors for choosing a particular venue), but because of a predicted outcome. And, that indeed seems to be what is going on in this case. Most of the fifteen plaintiffs in the Texas case are states or government agencies located in states outside of Texas. And, even more importantly, most of the plaintiffs are located in jurisdictions where there is existing law contrary to their position. As one of the amicus briefs filed in the case puts it: "Plaintiffs Alabama, Arizona Department of Education, Georgia, Huber-Overgaard Unified School District, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia would lose this lawsuit if they filed it in their home states or anywhere in the federal circuits whose law governs them." Indeed one of the plaintiffs-West Virginia-is in the Fourth Circuit, which, as noted above, has already issued a contrary order on the precise question presented to the Texas district court. And West Virginia made the very same arguments to the Texas court that it unsuccessfully made to as an amicus in the Fourth Circuit. Giving plaintiffs an incentive and opportunity to have multiple bites at the apple like this would not promote efficiency or fairness.

In its 38-page opinion, the Texas federal court discusses the propriety of nationwide relief in just a sentence or two, and cites only one case-a Supreme Court case in which nationwide relief was upheld, but where there was a class action that had been certified in which the plaintiff class was itself nationwide, and where the lower courts had been careful not to allow their injunctions to affect other pending or likely litigations. In short, the district court gave no reasons or analysis to justify its presumptively overbroad relief.

For the record, we should note that one of us, Dean Amar, has in other commentary (including here and here) questioned an overly broad injunction that obtained a liberal result (as contrasted with the conservative result reached by the Texas district court case). In the prior instance, a few same-sex couples sued California officials to obtain marriage licenses even though state law, California Proposition 8, limited marriage in California to a union between a man and a woman. The district court judge, Vaughn Walker, issued what on its face appeared to be a statewide ban on California officials applying Proposition 8 to any same-sex couples, not just the plaintiffs before him. Dean Amar argued (relying on the legal principles discussed above) that, absent class action certification (which might have been plausible but which wasn't sought), the district court's remedy should have been limited to the plaintiffs in the case.

We mention this because procedural rules, by definition, are supposed to be trans-substantive, and when they seem result-oriented (as they did here in Texas given the absence of analysis and care offered by the district court), cynicism about the judicial system is the result.

 

April 8, 2016

CAPALF 2016 at UC Davis School of Law

The School of Law is proud to host the 2016 Conference of Asian Pacific American Law Faculty (CALALF) at King Hall today and tomorrow. There is a new addition to an already outstanding speaker line-up: California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu.

Here is the program from the CAPALF website.

Keynote Speakers & Distinguished Guests

Justice Goodwin Liu  | Associate Justice
Supreme Court of California

Simon (Young) Tam | The Slants

Angela Harris | Distinguished Professor of Law & Boochever and Bird Endowed Chair
University of California, Davis School of Law

Karen Korematsu | Founder & Executive Director
Fred T. Korematsu Institute

The Honorable Rob Bonta | Assemblymember
California State Assembly

Frank Wu | Distinguished Professor of Law
University of California, Hastings College of the Law

Conference Schedule

Friday, April 8, 2016 | Room 1301

9:00 AM

Welcome Remarks

9:15 AM

Works-in-Progress Session One

10:30 AM

Coffee Break

10:45 AM














Plenary: #BlackLivesMatter and Asian Pacific Americans?

Aarti Kohli | Deputy Director of Advancing Justice
Asian Law Caucus

Linda Lye | Senior Staff Attorney
American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California

Bertrall Ross | Assistant Professor of Law
Co-Director, Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice
University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Margaret Russell | Professor of Law
University of California, Santa Clara School of Law

Moderator: Rose Cuison Villazor | Professor of Law
University of California, Davis School of Law

12:00 PM

Keynote Address & Lunch
Simon (Young) Tam
| The Slants

1:00 PM

Arboretum Walk

1:30 PM

















Works-in-Progress Session Two

Discussion Panel: Neo ­Pariah: Studies in the Emerging Academic Caste System in Higher Education

Angela Harris, Distinguished Professor of Law, Boochever and Bird Endowed Chair
University of California, Davis School of Law

Kieu Linh Caroline Valverde, Associate Professor
University of California, Davis, Department of Asian American Studies

Darrell Hamamoto, Professor
University of California, Davis, Department of Asian American Studies

Wei Ming Dariotis, Associate Professor
San Francisco State University, College of Ethnic Studies, Asian American Studies

Melody Yee, Bachelor of Science
University of California, Davis, Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior

Jing Mai, Undergraduate Student
University of California, Davis, Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior

2:45 PM













Plenary: Islamophobia & the Lost Legacy of Korematsu

Lorraine Bannai | Professor of Lawyering Skills
Director, Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality
Seattle University School of Law

Karima Bennoune | UN Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights
Professor of Law | University of California, Davis School of Law

Dale Minami | Partner
Minami Tamaki LLP

Shirin Sinnar | Assistant Professor of Law
Stanford Law School

Moderator: Afra Afsharipour | Professor of Law
University of California, Davis School of Law

4:00 PM

Coffee Break

4:15 PM









Plenary: Asian Pacific Americans and College Admissions

Ashutosh Bhagwat | Professor of Law
UC Davis School of Law

Marina C. Hsieh | Senior Fellow
Santa Clara Law

Dan P. Tokaji | Charles W. Ebersold and Florence Whitcomb Ebersold Professor of Constitutional Law
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

Moderator: Anupam Chander | Professor of Law
University of California, Davis School of Law

5:30 PM

Awards Ceremony & Dinner
Guest of Honor: Karen Korematsu 

Saturday, April 9, 2016 | Room 2302

9:00 AM

Works-in-Progress Session Three

10:15 AM

Coffee Break

10:30 AM


Welcome Remarks
Dean Kevin Johnson
University of California Davis, School of LawThe Honorable Rob Bonta | Assemblymember
California State Assembly

10:45 AM






Students Plenary: Voices of the Next Generation

Stephen Chang | University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Sylvia Hsin-Ling Tsai | University of California, Davis School of Law

Steven Vong | University of California, Davis School of Law

Moderator: Uyen P. Le | Mellon Sawyer Postdoctoral Scholar University of California, Davis School of Law

12:00 PM

Keynote Address & Lunch
Distinguished Professor of Law Frank Wu
University of California, Hastings College of the Law

1:00 PM













Plenary: Latinos, Asian Pacific Americans, and Immigration

Jennifer Chacón | Professor of Law
University of California, Irvine School of Law

Bill Hing | Professor of Law
University of San Francisco School of Law

Hiroshi Motomura | Susan Westerberg Prager Professor of Law
University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

Deep Gulasekaram | Associate Professor of Law
Santa Clara University School of Law

Moderator: Jack Chin | Professor of Law
University of California, Davis

2:15 PM












Plenary: Emerging Scholars

Christina Chong | Assistant Professor of Law
University of San Francisco School of Law

Andrew Kim | Assistant Professor of Law
Concordia University School of Law

Saira Mohamed | Assistant Professor of Law
University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Nancy Chi Cantalupo | Assistant Professor of Law
Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law

Moderator: Hiroshi Motomura | Susan Westerberg Prager Professor of Law
University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

 

April 7, 2016

Diversity and Disability

Last Thursday and Friday (March 31st and April 1st), I attended the 2016 Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland. 


The conference at the National Federation of the Blind


Baltimore Harbor at night

This annual symposium, named in honor of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, brings together disability rights scholars and practitioners to discuss current disability law issues and impact litigation.  Dr. tenBroek served the public in many roles, for example, as a constitutional law scholar at UC Berkeley and a leader of the blind civil rights movement.  As a civil rights activist, Dr. tenBroek understood the importance of cross-movement coalitions to increase the political power of the disenfranchised.  He advocated for the "right to live in the world" for people with disabilities:

The right of access to public accommodations and common carriers is a civil right. It is a basic right indispensable to participation in the community, a substantive right to which all are fully and equally entitled.

Jacobus tenBroek, The Right to Live in the World: The Disabled in the Law of Torts, 54 CAL. L. REV. 841, 858 (1966).

Race is a little discussed topic in the disability rights movement despite its connection to some of the central issues of racial justice today.  For example, disability should be front and center in legal and policy discussions about prisoners' rights (approximately 24-37% of all people in prisons and jails in the U.S. self-report as people with disabilities and are disproportionately people of color).   

This year's symposium brought diversity to the forefront of the conversation.  "Diversity in the Disability Rights Movement: Working Together to Achieve the Right to Live in the World" raised difficult issues about race, gender, and sexual orientation.   I attended a breakout session on the intersection of trans rights and disability that was facilitated by Victoria M. Rodríguez-Roldán, Director, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project, National LGBTQ Task Force.  A packed room of legal scholars and practitioners shared ideas on how the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act can be used to remedy discrimination against trans people with disabilities.  Claudia Center, Senior Staff Attorney in the Disability Rights section of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation discussed the applicability of the ADA to police arrests following the Supreme Court decision in City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan, 135 S.Ct. 1765 (2015).  While the Court appears to have answered the question as to whether the ADA applies to police arrests (turning on whether police arrests constitute a "program or service" under Title II of the ADA), the question of what constitutes "reasonable accommodations" in the context of arrests remains unanswered. 


Judge Thompson addressing attendees at the luncheon

The highlight of the symposium for me - other than having a chance to exchange ideas with disability practitioners and scholars - was the keynote address by the Honorable Myron H. Thompson, U.S. District Judge, United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.  Judge Thompson, an African American federal judge with a disability (childhood polio), shared the role of race and disability in constructing identity.  He emphasized the power of internal stigma that comes from low expectations and invisibility and the therapeutic potential of community building and cross-movement pollination.  Judge Thomson reminded the conference participants of the legacy of Dr. tenBroek and called for greater educational opportunities for law students to understand that disability rights are civil and human rights.  He encouraged law schools to build a disability rights law curriculum and law professors to build connections across subject areas so that the next generation recognizes the interconnectivity of race, ethnicity, disability, class, gender, and sexual orientation.  

Judge Thompson was energized when he learned that UC Davis is among a small group of law schools offering disability rights courses taught by full time professors, supporting a student-led Disability Law Society, and regularly inviting practitioners and scholars to discuss disability rights. 

Two King Hall alumnae practicing disability law approached me after the lunch discussion to introduce themselves and applaud King Hall's commitment to disability rights.  I look forward to bringing them back to King Hall in the future to speak with students about careers in disability rights.

January 15, 2016

Jack Chin to Discuss Hong Yen Chang Case in Riverside

Professor Gabriel "Jack" Chin will make a presentation on his work on the Hong Yen Chang case before the Riverside County Bar Association in May. He'll be joined by attorney Josh Meltzer of Munger Tolles and Olson LLP.

Chang, an 1886 Columbia Law School grad, was denied a license to practice in California because of laws that discriminated against Chinese immigrants. Last year, the California Supreme Court granted him posthumous admission to the bar, thanks to the efforts of Professor Chin and members of our Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA).

 

 

December 23, 2015

Dodge and Elmendorf Publish in Columbia Law Review

The December issue of the Columbia Law Review is out, and two of its scholarly articles come from King Hall faculty: William S. Dodge and Christopher S. Elmendorf.

Professor Dodge's article is International Comity in American Law. Abstract: "International comity is one of the principal foundations of U.S. foreign relations law. The doctrines of American law that mediate the relationship between the U.S. legal system and those of other nations are nearly all manifestations of international comity-from the conflict of laws to the presumption against extraterritoriality; from the recognition of foreign judgments to the doctrines limiting adjudicative jurisdiction in international cases; and from a foreign government's privilege of bringing suit in the U.S. courts to the doctrines of foreign sovereign immunity. Yet international comity remains poorly understood. This Article provides the first comprehensive account of international comity in American law. It has three goals: (1) to offer a better definition of international comity and a framework for analyzing its manifestations in American law; (2) to explain the relationship between international comity and international law; and (3) to challenge the myths that international comity doctrines must take the form of standards rather than rules and that international comity determinations should be left to the executive branch."

Professor Elmendorf's article (with Douglas M. Spencer) is Administering Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act After Shelby County. Abstract: "Until the Supreme Court put an end to it in Shelby County v. Holder, section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was widely regarded as an effective, low-cost tool for blocking potentially discriminatory changes to election laws and administrative practices. The provision the Supreme Court left standing, section 2, is generally seen as expensive, cumbersome, and almost wholly ineffective at blocking changes before they take effect. This Article argues that the courts, in partnership with the Department of Justice, could reform section 2 so that it fills much of the gap left by the Supreme Court's evisceration of section 5. The proposed reformation of section 2 rests on two insights: first, that national survey data often contains as much or more information than precinct-level vote margins about the core factual matters in section 2 cases; and second, that the courts have authority to regularize section 2 adjudication by creating rebuttable presumptions. Most section 2 cases currently turn on costly, case-specific estimates of voter preferences generated from precinct-level vote totals and demographic information. Judicial decisions provide little guidance about how future cases - each relying on data from a different set of elections - are likely to be resolved. By creating evidentiary presumptions whose application in any given case would be determined using national survey data and a common statistical model, the courts could greatly reduce the cost and uncertainty of section 2 litigation. This approach would also reduce the dependence of vote dilution claims on often-unreliable techniques of ecological inference and would make coalitional claims brought jointly by two or more minority groups much easier to litigate."

Congratulations on these prestigious placements, Professors Dodge and Elmendorf!

December 22, 2015

Trump's Idea on Muslims Fails, Despite Precedent

Cross-posted from The National Law Journal.

Donald Trump's immigration proposals, if you can call them that, are short on details but long on controversy. The presidential candidate kicked off his campaign by labeling immigrants from Mexico as criminals who should be removed in a mass deportation campaign akin to the now-discredited "Operation Wetback" - the U.S. government's official name for the campaign - in 1954.

Once again stirring the pot, Trump recently called for a blanket prohibition on all Muslim noncitizens from entering the United States. That would include temporary visitors, such as university students, as well as noncitizens seeking to become lawful permanent residents as spouses of U.S. citizens.

From a legal standpoint, the constitutionality of the race- and religion-based prescriptions endorsed by Trump is uncertain. Some legal scholars, including Temple Peter Spiro in The New York Times, have suggested that there is a legal basis for Trump's call for an end to Muslim immigration to the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court's 1889 decision in The Chinese Exclusion Case created what is known as the "plenary power" doctrine, which immunizes from constitutional review the substantive immigration decisions of Congress and the executive branch. That doctrine allowed for the court to uphold the immigration law venomously known as the "Chinese Exclusion Act," whose very name stands as a monument to one of our darkest chapters in immigration history. Now discredited as discriminatory and based in racial animus, the act was designed to exclude Chinese immigrants from the United States. The laws were extended to bar immigration from much of Asia.

The Supreme Court has yet to overrule the plenary-power doctrine and the Chinese Exclusion Case. Many observers, however, believe that it is only a matter of time until the Supreme Court brings immigration law into the constitutional mainstream. Several indicators support that assessment. The court in recent years has rarely mentioned the plenary-power doctrine in its immigration decisions and, at times, has even stretched to ensure that noncitizens have the opportunity for some kind of judicial review of immigration decisions.

True, the Supreme Court has not revisited the Chinese Exclusion Case and, as lawyers and law professors like to say, it remains "good law." However, the court has not had a chance to revisit the precedent.

Political sensibilities have changed so much that Congress has not passed such a bold proposal to ban, for example, the admission of Muslim noncitizens to the United States. Nor has the executive branch expressly targeted Mexican immigrants, as Donald Trump seemingly would, for removal.

In recent years, despite serious concerns about terrorism, no political leader has sought the kinds of overbroad immigration restrictions that Donald Trump has endorsed. Consider that after Sept. 11, 2001, when the nation understandably was tense and fearful, the Bush administration pursued a "special registration" program.

Known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, it required the registration of certain noncitizens, focusing almost exclusively on noncitizens from nations populated predominantly by Muslims. Registration included fingerprinting and photographing as well as interviews. Noncitizens who registered were required to provide detailed information about their plans and to update federal authorities of a change in plans. They were only permitted to enter and depart the United States through designated ports of entry.

Several courts of appeals rejected constitutional challenges to the special registration program but the cases never were taken up by the Supreme Court. Still, the courts took the challenges seriously and found that the U.S. government's actions in response to real national security concerns were rational.

Special registration was criticized in many circles. Still, it is a much more modest and narrowly tailored response based on nationality to concerns with terrorism than Trump's call for the ban on all Muslims. That those measures withstood judicial review should not be read as suggesting that a ban on Muslim migration might pass constitutional ­muster.

NO RATIONAL BASIS

The nation has come a long way in terms of racial, ethnic and religious sensibilities since the days of Chinese exclusion and Operation Wetback. It is difficult to believe that the courts today would uphold a ban in Muslim migration to the United States - national security concerns or not. Applying minimal judicial review, the Roberts Court would likely find that Trump's proposal lacked a rational basis and thus was unconstitutional.

In the end, while Trump's bombastic attacks on immigrants might make political hay, one can hope that the American legal system has evolved to a point where anti-immigrant horror stories such as the Chinese Exclusion Act are parts of our history, not present.

December 9, 2015

Rebellious Lawyering to Celebrate the Work of Professor Hing

A two-day conference at UC Hastings will celebrate the work of Professor Emeritus Bill Ong Hing.

May 19 and 20 -- save the date!

Bill is an expert in immigration law and policy, Asian American legal history, civil rights, and much more. Throughout his career, he has pursued social justice by combining community work, litigation, and scholarship. He is founder and continues to serve on the board of directors of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. He also serves on the National Advisory Council of the Asian American Justice Center and is an advisor to the Black Alliance for Justice Immigration and the Asian Law Caucus. He is the author of numerous academic and practice-oriented books and articles on immigration policy and race relations. His books include Ethical Borders - NAFTA, Globalization and Mexican Migration (Temple Univ. Press 2010), Deporting Our Souls - Values, Morality and Immigration Policy (Cambridge University Press 2006), Defining America Through Immigration Policy (Temple Univ. Press 2004), Making and Remaking Asian America Through Immigration Policy (Stanford Press 1993), Handling Immigration Cases (Aspen Publishers 1995), and Immigration and the Law - a Dictionary (ABC-CLIO 1999). His book To Be An American, Cultural Pluralism and the Rhetoric of Assimilation (NYU Press 1997) received the award for Outstanding Academic Book in 1997 by the librarians' journal Choice.

 

November 20, 2015

Duke Law Symposium on Civil Rights

Senior Associate Dean Madhavi Sunder and I are at Duke Law School today. We are speaking in the symposium, "The Present and Future of Civil Rights Movements: Race and Reform in 21st Century America" by the Center on Law, Race and Politics.

Dean Sunder and I are panelists in the first plenary session of the day, titled, "Reflections on the Present and Future of Civil Rights Movements." The panel is being moderated by our former King Hall colleague Angela Onwuachi-Willig, who's now at the University of Iowa College of Law.

Some of the panels are being live-streamed. Visit the Center's symposium website to view!

Here are the symposium poster and description:

In 2014, the nation marked the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Freedom Summer.  In 2015, we recognized the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  As we move forward in the 21st century, however, America finds itself at the beginning of a new era defined by its own set of civil rights struggles. The battles of 2015 are in some ways markedly different from those of the 1950s and 1960s, as "whites only" signs and overt displays of societally condoned racism are mostly relegated to history.  However, what remains is a country full of disparately impacted populations, with people of color facing disadvantages at home, at work, at school, and in the justice system, all in the context of a society that prides itself on its imagined march towards post-racial colorblindness.

A shifting landscape, however, simply means that the civil rights movements of the 21st century must also shift in line with modern realities. "The Present and Future of Civil Rights Movements: Race and Reform in 21st Century America" presents an opportunity for scholars, teachers, practitioners, and activists to engage with each other as they discuss their unique perspectives on inequalities throughout different facets of modern America.  In exploring today's civil rights struggles, including the disproportionate imprisonment of populations of color, decreased access to housing, and persistent roadblocks to basic civic freedoms such as voting, this conference will provide an opportunity for those who recognize the persistent impact of systematic racism to reflect on the past and present in order to better inform the future.

May 1, 2015

New Research from the Faculty at UC Davis School of Law

Here is a look at some of the most recent scholarship from UC Davis School of Law faculty from the Social Science Research Network's Legal Scholarship Network. Click through the links to download the works.

LEGAL SCHOLARSHIP NETWORK: LEGAL STUDIES RESEARCH PAPER SERIES
UC DAVIS SCHOOL OF LAW

"Productive Tensions: Women's NGOs, the 'Mainstream' Human Rights Movement, and International Lawmaking" Free Download
Non-State Actors, Soft Law and Protective Regimes: From the Margins (Cecilia M. Bailliet ed., Cambridge University Press, 2012).
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 422

KARIMA BENNOUNE, University of California, Davis - School of Law

Non-govermental organizations (NGOs) are among the most discussed non-state actors involved in the creation, interpretation, and application of international law. Yet, scholars of international law have often over looked the critical issue of diversity among NGOs, and the differing stances they may take on key international law issues and controversies. This oversight exemplifies the ways in which international law scholarship sometimes takes overly unitary approaches to its categories of analysis. Feminist international law questions the accuracy of such approaches. When one unpacks the "NGO" category, one often discovers multiple NGO constituencies reflecting conflicting concerns and perspectives. Hence, feminist international law theories should reflect a view of NGOs as international lawmakers that is equally complexified.

This chapter will focus on one example of such NGO diversity, namely the inter-NGO dynamic sometimes found between women's human rights NGOs and what is often termed the "mainstream" human rights movement. These relationships have long been complicated . At times these constituencies are allies with the same international law priorities. At other times they are opponents or at least involved in what might be described as a tense dialogue. Sometimes the "mainstream" human rights groups become themselves the targets of the lobbying of women's human rights groups. Indeed, women's human rights NGOs and other human rights NGOs may have very different views of particular inter­ national law questions . Over time, however, the women's rights groups have often - though not always - prevailed on human rights groups to evolve their view of international law in a more gender-sensitive direction.

This dialectical relationship between women's groups and other human rights groups has played out in numerous arenas, including in the 1990s debate over the definition of torture, and, most recently in regard to the need to (also) respond to atrocities by fundamentalist non-state actors in the context of critiquing the "war on terror:' In each instance, women's groups and other human rights NGOs have some­ times had uneasy, multifaceted and shifting relationships that have shaped critical international lawmaking processes and debates. Groups within both of those broad categories of NGOs have also taken diamet­rically opposed positions at times. All of these sets of complexities, these putatively productive tensions, have both enriched and rendered more difficult the role of NGOs as lawmakers, and must be reflected in any meaningful theorizing of the issue.

What then should these layered inter-NGO dynamics tell us about our conception of "NGO" as a category of analysis, and about the role of NGOs in the creation and practice of international law? What can analyzing these dynamics tell us about how progress can most success­ fully be made toward a feminist reshaping of international law? This chapter will consider each of these questions in light of several case studies.

I come at this subject from a range of vantage points, having been an Amnesty International legal adviser, having also worked closely with a range of women's NGOs, and currently as an academic. Hence, I will try to look at these questions at the intersection of both academic and these various practitioner perspectives. To that end, this chapter begins with a brief overview of NGOs and their roles on the inter­national law stage, as described in the literature. An examination of the categories used here follows, interrogating the meaning of the terms, "women's human rights NGO" and "mainstream human rights NGO." Subsequently, the chapter reviews the case studies drawn from practice, first with regard to NGO interaction concerning the definition of torture, and then bearing on responses to the "war on terror." It then concludes with a brief application of the lessons learned from these case studies about the meaning of NGO participation in international lawmaking.

"Administering Section 2 of the VRA After Shelby County" Free Download
Columbia Law Review, vol. 115 Forthcoming
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 372

CHRISTOPHER S. ELMENDORF, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: cselmendorf@ucdavis.edu
DOUGLAS M. SPENCER, University of Connecticut, School of Law
Email: dspencer@berkeley.edu

Until the Supreme Court put an end to it in Shelby County v. Holder, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was widely regarded as an effective, low-cost tool for blocking potentially discriminatory changes to election laws and administrative practices. The provision the Supreme Court left standing, Section 2, is generally seen as expensive, cumbersome and almost wholly ineffective at blocking changes before they take effect. This paper argues that the courts, in partnership with the Department of Justice, could reform Section 2 so that it fills much of the gap left by the Supreme Court's evisceration of Section 5. The proposed reformation of Section 2 rests on two insights: first, that national survey data often contains as much or more information than precinct-level vote margins about the core factual matters in Section 2 cases; second, that the courts have authority to create rebuttable presumptions to regularize Section 2 adjudication. Section 2 cases currently turn on costly, case-specific estimates of voter preferences generated from precinct-level vote totals and demographic information. Judicial decisions provide little guidance about how future cases - each relying on data from a different set of elections - are likely to be resolved. By creating evidentiary presumptions whose application in any given case would be determined using national survey data and a common statistical model, the courts could greatly reduce the cost and uncertainty of Section 2 litigation. This approach would also end the dependence of vote-dilution claims on often-unreliable techniques of ecological inference, and would make coalitional claims brought jointly by two or more minority groups much easier to litigate.

"Bait, Mask, and Ruse: Technology and Police Deception" Free Download
128 Harvard Law Review Forum 246 (2015)
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 423

ELIZABETH E. JOH, U.C. Davis School of Law
Email: eejoh@ucdavis.edu

Deception and enticement have long been tools of the police, but new technologies have enabled investigative deceit to become more powerful and pervasive. Most of the attention given to today's advances in police technology tends to focus either on online government surveillance or on the use of algorithms for predictive policing or threat assessment. No less important but less well known, however, are the enhanced capacities of the police to bait, lure, and dissemble in order to investigate crime. What are these new deceptive capabilities, and what is their importance?

"Richard Delgado's Quest for Justice for All" Free Download
Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, 2015, Forthcoming
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 421

KEVIN R. JOHNSON, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: krjohnson@ucdavis.edu

This is a contribution to a symposium celebrating Richard Delgado's illustrious career in law teaching. This commentary offers some thoughts on Delgado's contributions to pushing the boundaries of Critical Race Theory - and legal scholarship generally - in seeking to create a more just society. This ambitious program has been the overarching theme to his scholarly agenda throughout his career.

"Leaving No (Nonmarital) Child Behind" Free Download
48 Family Law Quarterly 495 (2014)
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 414

COURTNEY G. JOSLIN, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: cgjoslin@ucdavis.edu

Almost ten years, in 2005, I wrote a piece for the Family Law Quarterly describing the legal status of children born to same-sex couples. This Essay explores the some of the positive and some of the worrisome developments in the law since that time. On the positive side, today many more states extend some level of protection to the relationships between nonbiological same-sex parents and their children. Moreover, in many of these states, lesbian nonbiological parents are now treated as full, equal legal parents, even in the absence of an adoption.

There are other recent developments, however, that should be cause for concern. Specifically, this Essay considers recent legislative proposals that contract (rather than expand) existing protections for functional, nonmarital parents. I conclude by arguing that while advocates should celebrate the growing availability of marriage for same-sex couples, they must also be careful not to push legislative efforts that inadequately protect the large and growing numbers of families that exist outside of marriage.

"Amici Curiae Brief of Family Law Professors in Obergefell v. Hodges" Free Download
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 420

COURTNEY G. JOSLIN, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: cgjoslin@ucdavis.edu
JOAN HEIFETZ HOLLINGER, University of California, Berkeley - School of Law
Email: joanhol@law.berkeley.edu

This Amici Curiae brief was filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of 74 scholars of family law in the four consolidated same-sex marriage cases.

The two questions presented in the cases concern whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license or recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex. Those defending the marriage bans rely on two primary arguments: first, that a core, defining element of marriage is the possibility of biological, unassisted procreation; and second, that the "optimal" setting for raising children is a home with their married, biological mothers and fathers. The brief demonstrates that these asserted rationales conflict with basic family laws and policies in every state, which tell a very different story.

"Fracking and Federalism: A Comparative Approach to Reconciling National and Subnational Interests in the United States and Spain" Free Download
Environmental Law, Vol. 44, No. 4, 2014
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 424

ALBERT LIN, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: aclin@ucdavis.edu

Hydraulic fracturing presents challenges for oversight because its various effects occur at different scales and implicate distinct policy concerns. The uneven distribution of fracturing's benefits and burdens, moreover, means that national and subnational views regarding fracturing's desirability are likely to diverge. This Article examines the tensions between national and subnational oversight of hydraulic fracturing in the United States, where the technique has been most commonly deployed, and Spain, which is contemplating its use for the first time. Drawing insights from the federalism literature, this Article offers recommendations for accommodating the varied interests at stake in hydraulic fracturing policy within the contrasting governmental systems of these two countries.

"Access to Justice in Rural Arkansas" Free Download
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 426

LISA R. PRUITT, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: lrpruitt@ucdavis.edu
J. CLIFF MCKINNEY, Independent
Email: cmckinney@QGTlaw.com
JULIANA FEHRENBACHER, Independent
Email: jfehr@ucdavis.edu
AMY DUNN JOHNSON, Independent
Email: adjohnson@arkansasjustice.org

This policy brief, written for and distributed by the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, reports two sets of data related to the shortage of lawyers in rural Arkansas. The first set of data regards the number of lawyers practicing in each of the state's 25 lowest-population counties and the ratio of lawyers per 1,000 residents in each of those counties. This data is juxtaposed next to the poverty rate and population of each of county.

The policy brief also reports the results of a survey of Arkansas lawyers and law students, the latter from both the University of Arkansas Fayetteville Law School and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock/Bowen School of Law. These surveys probed respondents' attitudes toward rural practice, among other matters. The policy brief reports a summary of those responses. Finally, the policy brief reports on a 2015 legislative proposal aimed at alleviating the shortage of lawyers serving rural Arkansans.

This policy brief is a forerunner to a fuller, academic analysis of these and other data sets relevant to the geography of access to justice in Arkansas. That analysis will appear in an article that will be published by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Journal (forthcoming 2015). The authors anticipate that these investigations in Arkansas may provide a model for other states concerned about the shortage of lawyers working in rural areas.

"Using Taxes to Improve Cap and Trade, Part I: Distribution" Free Download
75 State Tax Notes 99 (2015)
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 425

DAVID GAMAGE, University of California, Berkeley - Boalt Hall School of Law
Email: david.gamage@gmail.com
DARIEN SHANSKE, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: dshanske@ucdavis.edu

In this article, the first of a series, we analyze the distributional issues involved in implementing U.S. state level cap-and-trade regimes. Specifically, we will argue that the structure of California's AB 32 regime will unnecessarily disadvantage lower-income Californians under the announced plan to give away approximately half of the permits to businesses and pollution-emitting entities.

 

February 13, 2015

Just How Lawless Are the Alabama State Court Judges Who Have Been Refusing to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses?

Cross-posted from Justia's Verdict.

This week offered quite the spectacle in Alabama. Relying on a recent ruling from United States District Court Judge Callie Granade, based in Mobile, that struck down the provision in the Alabama state constitution that prohibits recognition of same-sex marriage, many gay and lesbian couples around the state began getting marriage licenses. But other same-sex couples, mainly in more conservative counties, have been unable to obtain licenses because some state probate judges (who issue marriage licenses in that state) are continuing to abide by the state-law ban on same-sex marriage, notwithstanding Judge Granade's ruling that such discrimination violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the federal Constitution. And on Monday Judge Granade herself declined requests to hold probate judges who refused to issue same-sex licenses in contempt of her federal court and its orders. Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy S. Moore, has been issuing statements about the limits of federal power that remind many observers of the days of George Wallace, and maybe even Jefferson Davis. So what is going on here? And do the state court judges who are continuing to enforce Alabama's discriminatory marriage-license regime have a legal leg to stand on? In the space below, I try to separate the strands of the tangle, and to highlight which legal questions have clear answers and which don't.

Let us first take the easy question of whether Justice Moore's broad-based challenge to federal judicial authority holds up. It does not. Justice Moore has said that the federal courts have no authority over the state-law institution of marriage and that federal district judges cannot require state judges to follow federal trial court rulings. These ambitious sentiments are certainly wrong if they are taken to mean that a federal court cannot award meaningful relief to plaintiffs who successfully challenge the application of state law to them. Federal district courts can vindicate the federal rights of federal plaintiffs, even if those rights involve the institution of marriage, and even if it is state judges (as is the case in Alabama's regime) who issue the marriage licenses that are being wrongfully and unequally withheld. So a federal district court has undeniable power to order state officials, including state judges, to provide victorious federal plaintiffs a remedy to redress their constitutional violations. Such power to adjudicate and vindicate federal rights is emphatically what federal courts are for. That's Constitutional Law I/Marbury v. Madison-kind of stuff.

The Limits on Federal District Court Remedial Reach

Why, then, did District Court Judge Granade not hold state court judges in contempt for withholding marriage licenses? After all, contempt of court-with its coercive sanctions-is usually what we invoke to ensure that people comply with federal court orders. (I should point out here that individuals who violate federal court orders are generally punishable for contempt even when the federal court orders themselves go too far and are later determined to be illegal.) The answer is that the formal remedy provided by Judge Granade-the technical order she issued after finding the Alabama same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional-did not, as she herself understood it, extend to all probate judges who interact with all same-sex couples throughout the state. While Judge Granade could and should hold in contempt any state official who refuses to recognize the marriage of the particular same-sex couple who brought the case in her court and won, Judge Granade was likely correct not to try to punish probate judges for withholding relief as to other same-sex couples.

The reason for this is that the weight of authority tends to suggest-as a leading casebook puts things-that "a [federal district] court can enjoin [a] defendant only with respect to the defendant's treatment of plaintiffs actually before the court, either individually or as part of a certified class" (emphasis added). Because there was no class certified in the case before Judge Granade-it was brought by one same-sex couple-Judge Granade's remedial authority is technically limited to the particular plaintiffs before her. Thus, even if her legal reasoning invalidating Alabama's same-sex marriage ban is valid-and even if it is likely that her interpretation of the federal Constitution will be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year-state court judges who continue to enforce the state-law ban as to other couples are likely not defying federal authority in a way that can be punished.

This also means that, as a technical matter, the problem (if one views remedial limitations as a problem, though many would view them as a virtue that makes federal judicial power less scary) won't necessarily be solved by trying to name every probate judge in Alabama as a party to a case in Judge Granade's docket. If a federal judge cannot order state judges to provide relief to anyone other than the federal plaintiffs before her, then same-sex couples throughout the state will not all necessarily benefit by extending Judge Granade's orders to cover additional defendants in additional cases involving additional named couples; the remedial limitation is defined by the identity of the plaintiffs, not the identity of the defendants.

So when Judge Granade yesterday afternoon ruled, in a second case, that one probate judge who had been refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses must begin issuing them, her order was still limited to the particular plaintiffs (four same-sex couples) who were in her court asking for relief. As Judge Granade wrote yesterday: "If Plaintiffs take all steps that are required in the normal course of business as a prerequisite to issuing a marriage license to opposite-sex couples, Judge Davis may not deny them a license on the ground that Plaintiffs constitute same-sex couples or because it is prohibited by the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act or by any other Alabama law or Order pertaining to same-sex marriage" (emphasis added).

Now it may well be that as more and more probate judges are instructed to issue licenses to named plaintiffs in more and more cases, all of the probate judges in the state will start issuing licenses to all same-sex couples who apply, regardless of whether those couples are victorious plaintiffs in any federal case. But that will not be because the state court judges are under a federal court order that obliges them to do so, but because they choose to do so in light of the decisional trend.

I should note that the conventional rule that I describe here-that a federal trial court's relief should normally be granted only to the actual plaintiffs in the case-does not forbid the court, even outside of a class action setting, from ordering relief that in fact goes beyond protecting the named plaintiffs and also protects other would-be plaintiffs, if full relief cannot be given to the named plaintiffs without also necessarily regulating the defendants' interactions with other persons. (For example, in one case, a court was justified in ordering the police to stop enforcing a motorcycle helmet law overly aggressively as to all riders-and not just as to the plaintiffs-because highway patrol officers would have no way of distinguishing plaintiffs from non-plaintiffs before pulling someone over.) But in the present setting, full relief (i.e., marriage licenses and recognition) can be given to named plaintiffs without ordering the defendants to give licenses to anyone else.

Some have argued that providing full relief to named same-sex plaintiff couples requires allowing all same-sex couples in the state to marry, because absent such broad access to same-sex marriage, the named plaintiffs' marriages would continue to be subject to stigma. But I don't think that this stigma argument works, because if it did, then same-sex couples whose marriages are already recognized would have standing to challenge bans on same-sex marriage that are preventing others from marrying, and I don't think any federal court would recognize standing in such circumstances.

I should also point out that some federal judges believe that a district court can order government agencies to refrain from enforcing facially invalid laws or policies against anyone, and not just the plaintiffs before it. (Judge Granade's orders up until this point-limited as they are to the actual plaintiffs before her-give no indication that she is among them.) For example, (now-retired) United States District Court Judge Vaughn Walker (in San Francisco) is reported to have embraced this view when he issued an order whose plain language directed state officials to stop enforcing California's same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, against all same-sex couples, and not just the two couples who sued in his court. Judge Walker's apparent position-which was never fully tested because both the Governor and Attorney General of California chose not to try to continue enforcing Proposition 8-was in (unexplained) tension with current Ninth Circuit law, which embraces the more dominant view, described above, to the effect that the remedy must ordinarily be tailored to the plaintiffs only. The Ninth Circuit approach is supported by most (but not all) of the statements the Supreme Court has made on the topic, but candor compels the acknowledgement that the law in this area is not really settled and could definitely benefit from high Court attention and clarification.

Does Restricting a Federal District Court's Reach to the Plaintiffs Before it Make Sense?

Why might it be sensible for a federal district court judge not to be able to issue relief to anyone other than the plaintiffs in the case before it? Because, under the judicial system we have chosen, we have decided that federal district court opinions and decisions should, as a matter of governing precedent, have no binding effect on any other judges, even other federal judges located within the same district. This situation is to be contrasted with a ruling by the regional federal Court of Appeals or the United States Supreme Court. Once either of those courts has held Alabama's law invalid (and neither has yet-the Supreme Court chose not to block Judge Granade's ruling, but it won't decide the merits of the same-sex marriage constitutional question until later this year, at the earliest), then all judges, state and federal, within the state should surely obey that ruling, because the federal appellate court (whether it is the Eleventh Circuit or the Supreme Court) would have fashioned federal law that is supreme and applicable throughout the state. This is true even though state judges' rulings are not appealable to the Eleventh Circuit, insofar as all federal district judges in the circuit (who are bound by circuit precedent) would have no choice but to give injunctive relief to any same-sex couple who subsequently filed suit. Under those circumstances, it would be an utter waste of time (and perhaps a due process violation) for a state court judge not to give a license to someone who undeniably could get one by filing a federal suit anywhere in the state. Whether contempt sanctions are applicable or not, no judge or other state official would be justified in continuing to enforce a state law that a federal appellate court governing that state has held to be invalid.

But a ruling by a district court judge like Judge Granade has no such effect. Just because she ruled that Alabama's law violates the federal Constitution does not mean that other federal judges in Alabama would so rule if other same-sex couples filed suit in their courts. Her ruling is not binding precedent on them. Importantly, not all same-sex couples could properly sue in Judge Granade's district, and even if they did, other district court judges in that district to whom a new case might be assigned might rule differently on Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage. So Judge Granade's ruling-unlike one from the Eleventh Circuit or the Supreme Court-does not inevitably provide relief to any would-be federal-plaintiff same-sex couple in the state.

Perhaps an example will help drive home the point I'm making. Imagine that public universities throughout Alabama, pursuant to a state law policy, take race of applicants into account in a measured way in the admissions process, in order to assemble a diverse student body. Suppose a single unsuccessful applicant to a single public college in the state sues in federal court, bringing a facial challenge to the state's affirmative action policy on the ground that any use of race violates the Fourteenth Amendment. And suppose the district judge in that case rules (wrongly, to my mind, but not implausibly as a prediction of where the Supreme Court is headed) that all consideration of race is indeed barred by the Fourteenth Amendment. Could that judge apply her ruling to all the public universities in the state, and order all of the them (under pain of contempt) to refrain from considering race at all as they process the hundreds of of thousands of applications they receive each year, even though many other federal and state judges in the state would disagree with her interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment but might never have a chance to hear a case if her ruling were allowed to shut down statewide use of the policy? I think such remedial power by a single judge would raise many problems, and for that reason, if and when the Court clarifies district court remedial power, it might embrace what I have described here as the mildly dominant view limiting remedial authority to actual plaintiffs.

But, a reader might wonder, isn't there a difference between the affirmative-action hypothetical I posit and the same-sex marriage setting insofar as affirmative-action limitations at the high Court are still a matter of debate, while there is no longer any real doubt about whether the Supreme Court this summer will hold that all state-law discrimination against same-sex couples in the marriage arena is unconstitutional? Perhaps this prediction is quite sound, and state court judges would be justified if they chose to issue licenses on that basis, but I am not entirely sure that state court judges are required, as a matter of supreme federal law, to act on it now. All judges have a legal obligation to follow binding precedent from a higher court once it is handed down, but there may be no legal obligation-enforceable by contempt or otherwise-on lower court judges to see the writing on the wall.