Should the qualified immunity doctrine be revisited to better allow civilians to sue government officials for violations of fundamental rights? In this Contribution, Victoria del Rio-Guarner (’18) discusses how the Supreme Court’s decisions in Harlow v. Fitzgerald and Pearson v. Callahan essentially rendered qualified immunity to Section 1983 claims unqualified. This Contribution argues that qualified immunity doctrine should be recalibrated in order to better fulfill its underlying purpose while not disabling Section 1983 claims.
Can an employee who has accessed computer database information in violation of use restrictions and direct instructions from his employer be convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for accessing data “without authorization” or “exceed[ing] authorized access”? Susanna Griffith (’17) reflects on this question, based on her experience at the 2016 Spong Moot Court Tournament, hosted by William & Mary Law School. Her Contribution discusses the legal landscape and circuit split regarding the applicability of the statute to employees who have violated use restrictions and directives from employers. The Contribution argues that the narrow, code-based view is preferable as the clearly constitutional reading that also comports with standards of excellence in the field of cyber-security.
What standard should be applied to limited purpose public figures – individuals that are public figures only due to their involvement in a particular public controversy – who bring defamation claims, when the alleged defamatory remarks are unrelated to the plaintiff’s purpose for being a public figure? David Clements (’17) examines this question, presented at the Spring 2016 Marden Moot Court Competition, held at New York University School of Law. The “germaneness test” employed by several Circuit Courts of Appeal determines the extent of First Amendment protections a defendant in a defamation suit receives: a challenged statement germane to the controversy for which a defamation claimant is a public figure receive more protection than a statement unrelated to that controversy. This Contribution urges the Supreme Court to revisit this germaneness test, as applied to limited purpose public figures, for three reasons: first, allowing limited purpose public figures to recover damages for negligent defamation would cause a chilling effect on the press; second, engaging in a intensive investigation into whether certain comments are “germane” to a particular plaintiff’s purpose as a public constitutes a presumptively unconstitutional content-based analysis of speech; third, the distinction between limited purpose and general purpose public figures is no longer applicable due to technological advancement and the heightened access to self-help channels that even limited purpose public figures now possess.
Does a school district violate the First Amendment when they ban stickers reading “Screw Hate, Don’t Discriminate,” and if so, how? Alec Webley (’16) examines this question, presented at the 2015 Seigenthaler First Amendment Moot Court Competition at Vanderbilt University. Supreme Court doctrine recognizes that a school or educator may suppress student speech – speech that, in other contexts, would receive First Amendment protections – that is “lewd,” and therefore inconsistent with a school’s educational mission. This Contribution critiques this lewdness test as impermissibly vague, content-based, and overbroad, and proposes an alternative method through which schools could productively address and sanction “lewd” speech.