Contributions

The Eighth Amend­ment pro­hibits cru­el and unusu­al pun­ish­ments. But prov­ing an Eighth Amend­ment vio­la­tion based on dan­ger­ous or unfit prison con­di­tions is dif­fi­cult because it requires a show­ing of sub­jec­tive cul­pa­bil­i­ty on the part of prison offi­cials. Fed­er­al courts have grown increas­ing­ly aware of the harm­ful nature of soli­tary con­fine­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly for juve­niles, the men­tal­ly ill, and inmates with spe­cial med­ical needs. In this Con­tri­bu­tion, Jane M. Mahan (’22) argues that the place­ment of vul­ner­a­ble inmates in soli­tary con­fine­ment for a peri­od exceed­ing fif­teen con­sec­u­tive days should be per se uncon­sti­tu­tion­al under the Eighth Amendment.

Contributions

The First Amendment’s Reli­gion Claus­es pro­vide that “Con­gress shall make no law respect­ing the estab­lish­ment of reli­gion, or pro­hibit­ing the free exer­cise there­of .…” The Reli­gion Claus­es clear­ly pro­hib­it both the Fed­er­al and state gov­ern­ments from estab­lish­ing an offi­cial state reli­gion or hin­der­ing reli­gious prac­tice to such an extent that it results in a con­sti­tu­tion­al infringe­ment. How­ev­er, the Supreme Court has long acknowl­edged that absent those two clear com­mands “there is room for play in the joints” when address­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of gov­ern­ment action that impli­cates reli­gious belief. Does a tax ben­e­fit that pro­vides a finan­cial ben­e­fit to a lim­it­ed class of reli­gious employ­ees and their employ­ers vio­late the Estab­lish­ment Clause? In this Con­tri­bu­tion, Alec Soghomon­ian (‘22) argues that the Par­son­age Exemp­tion, found in 26 U.S.C. § 107(2) of the Unit­ed States tax code, unlaw­ful­ly pro­vides a ben­e­fit to reli­gious employ­ees and employ­ers because it does not extend to sim­i­lar­ly sit­u­at­ed non-reli­gious institutions.

Contributions

Law enforce­ment agen­cies are increas­ing­ly seek­ing to com­pel the dis­clo­sure of pass­words from the own­ers of pass­word-pro­tect­ed encrypt­ed devices, such as cell phones. Does the gov­ern­ment have the right to com­pel this dis­clo­sure? In this Con­tri­bu­tion, Diego Wright (‘22) argues that the Fifth Amend­ment right against self-incrim­i­na­tion pro­tects an indi­vid­ual from being forced to dis­close their pass­code when ana­lyzed under the “fore­gone con­clu­sion” doc­trine unless the gov­ern­ment can demon­strate they already know the tes­ti­mo­ni­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions tac­it in the act of pro­vid­ing the passcode.

Contributions

This Con­tri­bu­tion exam­ines whether com­pli­ance with the Fifth Amend­ment should shield a fed­er­al con­dem­na­tion action from a First Amend­ment retal­i­a­tion claim. Han­nah Beat­tie (’21) argues that the ratio­nales for carv­ing out safe har­bors for gov­ern­ment action to be free from First Amend­ment scruti­ny if in com­pli­ance with the Fourth Amend­ment do not extend to the Fifth Amend­ment con­text. Ulti­mate­ly, this Con­tri­bu­tion con­cludes that an indi­vid­ual should be able to raise a First Amend­ment retal­i­a­tion defense to a con­dem­na­tion action, even if the gov­ern­ment com­plied with the Fifth Amendment.

Contributions

The Fifth Amend­ment pro­hibits the tak­ing of pri­vate prop­er­ty “with­out just com­pen­sa­tion,” but the opti­mal method of deter­min­ing the pre­cise amount of mon­ey that will just­ly com­pen­sate the prop­er­ty own­er is not always clear. The gen­er­al rule has been to set com­pen­sa­tion at the fair mar­ket val­ue of the prop­er­ty at the time the gov­ern­ment takes it, with cer­tain excep­tions. In this Con­tri­bu­tion, Tim­o­thy Lyons (’21) argues that when the gov­ern­ment makes a well-pub­li­cized pre-con­dem­na­tion announce­ment, it may be appro­pri­ate to com­pen­sate the own­er based on the property’s val­ue at the time of the announce­ment rather than its val­ue at the time of the taking.

Contributions

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.

Contributions

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.

Contributions

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.

Contributions

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.