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Full-Text Articles in Legal History

At&T V. Concepcion: The Problem Of A False Majority, Lisa Tripp, Evan R. Hanson Mar 2013

At&T V. Concepcion: The Problem Of A False Majority, Lisa Tripp, Evan R. Hanson

Lisa Tripp

The Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in AT&T v. Concepcion is the first case where the Supreme Court explores the interplay between state law unconscionability doctrine and the vast preemptive power of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Although it is considered by many to be a landmark decision which has the potential for greatly expanding the already impressive preemptive power of the FAA, something is amiss with Concepcion.

AT&T v. Concepcion is ostensibly a 5-4 majority decision with a concurring opinion. However, the differences in the majority and concurring opinions are so profound that it appears that Justice Thomas actually concurred in the judgment only, even though he joined the putative majority opinion. This raises serious philosophical questions about jurisprudence, what is necessary to create a rule of law in the American legal system, and the precedential value of Concepcion itself.

Justice Thomas joined the majority opinion and provided the fifth vote, but wrote a concurring opinion that explicitly rejected the legal reasoning of the majority opinion in its entirety. The putative majority opinion authored by Justice Scalia allows that unconscionability can be a valid defense to the enforcement of an agreement to arbitrate, but in Concepcion, allowing California to apply its unconscionability doctrine (the Discover Bank rule) would frustrate the purposes and objectives of Congress in enacting the FAA. For these reasons the Scalia opinion found the law was preempted.

Justice Thomas, in contrast, does not believe that unconscionability can ever be a basis to invalidate an agreement to arbitrate and he reaffirmed his emphatic position articulated in Wyeth v. Levine that “[t]his Court’s entire body of purposes and objectives preemption jurisprudence is inherently flawed. The cases improperly rely on legislative history, broad atextual notions of congressional purpose, and even congressional inaction in order to pre-empt state law.”

Justice Thomas’s conclusion that the law was preempted turned on the text of the statute which he interprets as not allowing unconscionability-based defenses to preemption. Justice Thomas has reaffirmed his rejection of purposes and objectives preemption in cases decided after Concepcion. This means, looking at the substance of the opinions, that there are but four votes for the deciding rationale articulated in the Scalia opinion and there is not a single common denominator that the Scalia and Thomas opinions share, except that they agree on the result.

The Concepcion Court is, in substance, equally divided. Four members found that California’s unconscionability doctrine frustrated the purposes and objectives of the FAA, four in the dissent thought the law did not frustrate the purposes and objectives of the FAA, and one found that the purposes and objectives of Congress were immaterial to the resolution of the case.

How should lower courts react to an equally divided court in this situation? Does a Justice’s decision to join an opinion create a governing rule of law under these unusual circumstances? Can governing rules of law be created in the absence of a majority for the deciding rationale? Is a Justice’s labeling of an opinion as a regular concurrence dispositive or does its substance dictate the precedential value it is given?

The authors’ argue that the Supreme Court provided the answer to these questions over 100 years ago in Hertz v. Woodman:

Under the precedents of this court, and, as seems justified by reason as well as by authority, an affirmance by an equally divided court is, as between the parties, a conclusive determination and adjudication of the matter adjudged; but the principles of law involved not having been agreed upon by a majority of the court sitting prevents the case from becoming an authority for the determination of other cases, either in this or in inferior courts.

Under any rational reading of the opinions, there can be no doubt that “the principles of law involved [have not] been agreed upon by a majority of the court sitting” and this should “prevent[] the case from becoming authority for the determination of other cases, either in [the Supreme Court] or in inferior courts ...


Why Do Europeans Ban Hate Speech? A Debate Between Karl Loewenstein And Robert Post, Robert Kahn Feb 2013

Why Do Europeans Ban Hate Speech? A Debate Between Karl Loewenstein And Robert Post, Robert Kahn

Robert Kahn

European countries restrict hate speech, the United States does not. This much is clear. What explains this difference? Too often the current discussion falls back on a culturally rich but normatively vacant exceptionalism (American or otherwise) or a normatively driven convergence perspective that fails to address historical, cultural and experiential differences that distinguish countries and legal systems. Inspired by the development discourse of historical sociology, this article seeks to record instances where Americans or Europeans have argued their approach to hate speech laws was more “advanced” or “modern.”

To that end this article focuses on two authors whose writing appears ...


The Risky Interplay Of Tort And Criminal Law: Punitive Damages, Daniel M. Braun Jan 2013

The Risky Interplay Of Tort And Criminal Law: Punitive Damages, Daniel M. Braun

Daniel M Braun

The rise of modern mass tort litigation in the U.S. has transformed punitive damages into something of a “hot button” issue. Since the size of punitive damage awards grew so dramatically in the past half century, this private law remedy has begun to involve issues of constitutional rights that traditionally pertained to criminal proceedings. This has created a risky interplay between tort and criminal law, and courts have thus been trying to find ways to properly manage punitive damage awards. The once rapidly expanding universe of punitive damages is therefore beginning to contract. There remain, however, very serious difficulties ...


‘Jogalkotási Javaslatok Megfogalmazása A Jogtudományban’ [Policy Proposals And Legal Scholarship], Péter Cserne, György Gajduschek Jan 2013

‘Jogalkotási Javaslatok Megfogalmazása A Jogtudományban’ [Policy Proposals And Legal Scholarship], Péter Cserne, György Gajduschek

Péter Cserne

This is the manuscript of a chapter written for a Hungarian handbook on legal scholarship. It provides an historical overview and a theoretical defense of a policy oriented, in contrast to doctrinal, study of law. The chapter also provides an introduction to the foundations and methodological tools of public policy analysis, including regulatory impact assessment.


Between “Metaphysics Of The Stone Age” And The “Brave New World”: H.L.A. Hart On The Law’S Assumptions About Human Nature, Péter Cserne Jan 2012

Between “Metaphysics Of The Stone Age” And The “Brave New World”: H.L.A. Hart On The Law’S Assumptions About Human Nature, Péter Cserne

Péter Cserne

This paper analyses H.L.A. Hart’s views on the epistemic character of the law’s assumptions about human behaviour, as articulated in Causation in the Law and Punishment and Responsibility. Hart suggests that the assumptions behind legal doctrines typically combine common sense factual beliefs, moral intuitions, and philosophical theories of earlier ages with sound moral principles, and empirical knowledge. An important task of legal theory is to provide a ‘rational and critical foundation’ for these doctrines. This does not only imply conceptual clarification in light of an epistemic ideal of objectivity but also involves legal theorists in ‘enlightenment ...


The Rule Of Law As An Institutional Ideal, Gianluigi Palombella Jan 2010

The Rule Of Law As An Institutional Ideal, Gianluigi Palombella

Gianluigi Palombella

This article aims at offering an innovative interpretation of the potentialities of the "rule of law" for the XXI Century. It goes beyond current uses and the dispute between formal and substantive conceptions, by reaching the roots of the institutional ideal. Also through historical reconstruction and comparative analysis, the core of the rule of law appears to be a peculiar notion, showing a special objective that the law is asked to achieve, on a legal plane, largely independent of political instrumentalism. The normative meaning is elaborated on and construed around the notions of institutional equilibrium, non domination and "duality" of ...


Szerződésértelmezés Hermeneutika És Jogpolitika Között. A Contra Proferentem Szabály [Contract Interpretation Between Hermeneutics And Policy: The Contra Proferentem Rule], Péter Cserne Nov 2009

Szerződésértelmezés Hermeneutika És Jogpolitika Között. A Contra Proferentem Szabály [Contract Interpretation Between Hermeneutics And Policy: The Contra Proferentem Rule], Péter Cserne

Péter Cserne

This paper discusses why contract interpretation is substantially different from the interpretation of literary works and illustrates the argument with the analysis of the contra proferentem rule. It is a substantially revised version of my ‘Policy considerations in contract interpretation: the contra proferentem rule from a comparative law and economics perspective’ (2009)


Global Threads: Weaving The Rule Of Law And The Balance Of Legal Software, Gianluigi Palombella Jan 2009

Global Threads: Weaving The Rule Of Law And The Balance Of Legal Software, Gianluigi Palombella

Gianluigi Palombella

The article shows how the global legal sphere attempts to compensate the lack of a system (hardware) and faces the proliferation of legal normativities (software). The author elaborates on the role of the rule of law: after stressing the ambiguities and the contestability of its current uses in the confrontations between legal orders and regulatory regimes, it is explained that the persistence and promise of the rule of law in the global setting depend on the weaving of a set of meta-rules (a special kind of software) developed through various areas and sources of legalities in the international environment. Eventually ...


Jogelmélet Jog Nélkül? [Legal Theory Without Law?], Péter Cserne Dec 2008

Jogelmélet Jog Nélkül? [Legal Theory Without Law?], Péter Cserne

Péter Cserne

No abstract provided.


The Rule Of Law, Democracy, And International Law - Learning From The Us Experience, Gianluigi Palombella Dec 2007

The Rule Of Law, Democracy, And International Law - Learning From The Us Experience, Gianluigi Palombella

Gianluigi Palombella

The general issue addressed in this paper is the relation between the rule of law as a matter of national law, and as a matter of international law. Different institutional conceptions of this relationship give rise to different attitudes towards international law. Nonetheless, questions arise that cast doubt on age-old tenets of certain Western countries concerning the radical separability between the rule of law within the domestic system and in the international realm. The article will start considering some recent developments in the United States' treatment of alien detainees. Then it shall address the relation between domestic constitutions and international ...