This Article aims to clarify the content of the void-for-vagueness doctrine and defend its historical pedigree by drawing attention to a fundamental aspect of the Supreme Court’s vagueness decisions—that vagueness analysis significantly depends on whether the law at issue is a federal or state law. That simple distinction has considerable explanatory power. It reveals that the doctrine emerged in the late nineteenth century in response to two simultaneous changes in the legal landscape—first, the availability of Supreme Court due process review of state penal statutes under the Fourteenth Amendment, and second, a significant shift in how state courts construed those statutes. The federal-state distinction also divides the Court’s decisions into two groups with mostly separate concerns. It reveals that separation-of-powers concerns primarily motivate the Court’s vagueness decisions involving federal laws, while federalism concerns are the driving force in its vagueness decisions involving state laws.
Racial time describes how inequality shapes people’s experiences and perceptions of time. This Article reviews the multidisciplinary literature on racial time and then demonstrates how Black activists have made claims about time that challenge prevailing norms. While white majorities often view racial justice measures as both too late and too soon, too fast and too long-lasting, Black activists remind us that justice measures are never “well timed” within hegemonic understandings of time. This Article ultimately argues that U.S. law embodies dominant interests in time. By inscribing dominant experiences and expectations of time into law, the Supreme Court enforces unrealistic timelines for racial remedies and “neutral” time standards that disproportionately burden subordinated groups. Because the legal enactment of dominant time perpetuates structural inequalities, this Article urges U.S. legal actors to consider and incorporate subordinated perspectives on time. The Article concludes with a series of recommendations for centering these perspectives and rendering them intelligible and actionable in law.
Adrian Vermeule proposes an alternative to the two dominant schools of constitutional interpretation in the United States: originalism and “progressivism” (i.e., “living constitutionalism”). Against these approaches, he argues courts (and other institutional actors) should explicitly interpret the text of the Constitution, statutes, and administrative decrees with an eye to promoting the “common good” as understood in what he calls the classical tradition, meaning that it should be understood in distinctly non-utilitarian and non-individualist terms. Officials should do so using something like Dworkin’s method of “constructive interpretation” (hereafter CI), in which the aim is to reach the decision that would follow from legal principles that enjoy some degree of explanatory “fit” with prior official acts (court decisions, legislation, etc.), but in which the inevitable explanatory gap is filled by reliance on those principles that provide the best moral justification for the institutional history of the legal system. For Vermeule, those moral principles are ones that embody the natural law’s idea of the “common good” rather than (as he puts it) Dworkin’s “moral commitments and priorities…which [are] of a conventionally left-liberal and individualist bent.” I argue that: (1) Vermeule’s conception of the “common good” is neither plausible, nor even defended, except by misleading appeal to a supposed “natural law”; unfortunately (2) there is no reason to think a “natural law” exists, and, in any case, the “natural law” tradition does not speak univocally on what constitutes “principles of objective natural morality (ius naturale)” contrary to the misleading impression Vermeule gives; and (3) Dworkin’s CI is not so easily severed from his moral commitments, and in any case, Vermeule never gives a reason to think it provides (even on Vermeule’s preferred version) a more plausible account of what courts and agencies have been doing than the legal positivist view of law, which he mostly misunderstands and consistently maligns. In the absence of any serious jurisprudential foundations, Vermuele’s so-called “common good constitutionalism” is just “politics by other means.”
Compassionate release, guided by 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), allows a district court to reduce a previously imposed criminal sentence if “extraordinary and compelling reasons” warrant a reduction. Congress delegated the task of describing what constitutes an extraordinary and compelling reason to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. In the absence of an "applicable" policy statement from the Commission, courts temporarily enjoyed the discretion to determine what circumstances justify compassionate release. Perhaps unsurprisingly, circuit courts have disagreed on whether certain circumstances could, as a matter of law, justify a grant of compassionate release, causing geographic disparity in individuals’ ability to receive compassion. In April 2023, the Commission updated its policy statement and included a catchall provision codifying judicial discretion and, unless the Commission acts, the disparity that discretion invites. This Comment argues that for judicial discretion to improve compassionate release, the Commission must exercise its authority to resolve circuit splits by promulgating updated policy statements that decide disputed questions and abrogate conflicting circuit case law so that compassionate release can enjoy the benefits of that discretion without accepting the disparity discretion often creates.
This Comment delves into the Cold War legacy of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation. Today, unremediated hazardous waste from more than five hundred deserted mines has continued to poison the health and lands of the Navajo. This Comment argues that the federal government is ultimately liable for the remediation of these mines under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Specifically, because the federal government held legal title to the mining lands and tightly managed the mining operations, the federal government satisfies CERCLA’s liability regime for “owners” and “operators.” The U.S. government’s liability under CERCLA warrants fuller attention by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Congress, and states in order to achieve the complete, long-overdue remediation of these uranium mines.