Exploring New Approaches to Unsettled Legal Questions

Tag: William B. Bryant-Luke C. Moore Civil Rights Competition

The “Independent State Legislature Theory”: A Disaster for Democracy

by Claire Bartholomew*

It has long been accepted that although state legislatures have inherent constitutional authority to set the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections,” other state judicial and executive officials, such as Governors, Secretaries of State, and state supreme courts, may alter or nullify duly enacted state election regulations if they violate that state’s constitution or the federal constitution. However, in recent years, some state legislatures have argued that their authority over state election regulations is absolute and untouchable by non-legislative state officials, promulgating what they have termed the “independent state legislature theory.” This Contribution argues that this theory must be fully repudiated; to protect our democracy from authoritarian rule, non-legislative state officials must be allowed to alter or nullify state election regulations if they violate their state or the federal constitution.

You Vote What You Eat? Assessing the Constitutionality of Prohibitions on Food Distribution to Voters

by Shara Safer*

A controversial Georgia law, the Election Integrity Act of 2021, prohibits non-profit organizations from handing out food or water to individuals waiting in line to vote. This Contribution argues that the law constitutes an unconstitutional restriction on free speech in a public forum.

Solitary Confinement Imposed in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Entitles Incarcerated Individuals to Procedural Due Process

by Julia Leff*

After medical experts advised social distancing and quarantining in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many prisons assigned incarcerated persons to solitary confinement. This situation raises the question of whether an incarcerated individual is entitled to due process when they are placed in indefinite solitary confinement for their medical protection or to prevent the spread of a virus. In this Contribution, Julia Leff (’22) argues that the uncertainty regarding the length of the COVID-19 pandemic is sufficient to provide an incarcerated individual his right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Evolving Standards of Decency: Solitary Confinement and the Eighth Amendment

by Jane M. Mahan* 

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.

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