The Case for “Trial by Formula”

Alexandra D. Lahav

90 Texas L. Rev. 571

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The civil justice system tolerates inconsistent outcomes in cases brought by similarly situated litigants. One reason for this is that in cases such as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes,1 the Supreme Court has increasingly emphasized liberty over equality. Litigants’ right to a “day in court” has overshadowed their right to equal treatment. However, an emerging jurisprudence at the district court level is asserting the importance of what this Article calls “outcome equality”—similar results reached in similar cases. Taking the example of mass tort litigation, this Article explains how innovative procedures such as sampling are a solution to the problem of inconsistent outcomes. Outcome equality, achieved through statistical adjudication, is gaining force on the ground. Despite the Supreme Court’s principled stance in favor of liberty in a series of recent opinions, a victory for outcome equality is good for our civil justice system.

To date, the discussion about civil-litigation reform has focused on the conflict between the individual’s right to participation and society’s interest in the efficient disposition of the great volume of outstanding litigation. This conflict is real and is particularly troublesome in mass torts, where tens of thousands of plaintiffs file related cases, making it impossible for the courts to hold a hearing for each claimant. But the fixation on this conflict ignores the fact that an individual’s right to equal treatment is also a critical value and can conflict with the individual’s right to participation. This Article reframes the debate about procedural justice in the mass tort context as a conflict between liberty and equality rather than liberty and efficiency. The rights at stake are not only the individual’s right to a day in court to pursue his claim as he wishes, but also the right to be treated as others in similar circumstances are treated.
This Article defends district court attempts to achieve equality among litigants by adopting statistical methods and advocates greater rigor in the use of these methods so that courts can more effectively promote outcome equality.

Fidelity to Community: A Defense of Community Lawyering

Anthony V. Alfieri

90 Texas L. Rev. 635

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This Review offers an ethical defense of community lawyering against the backdrop of W. Bradley Wendel’s important new book, Lawyers and Fidelity to Law.  Alfieri feels that by defending a theory of legal ethics that places fidelity to law instead of client or community interests at the core of lawyers’ obligations, Wendel seeks to rehabilitate the idea of legitimacy as a normative ideal for lawyers and to channel lawyers into a formal, procedural system of advocacy and counseling largely independent of substantive-justice objectives.  He argues that Wendel’s transformation of the evaluative framework of legal ethics from the concerns of ordinary morality and substantive justice to the considerations of political legitimacy and process-oriented legality exposes community lawyers to new terms of  normative criticism and erodes the justification of their crucial work in American law and society.

Fidelity to Law and the Moral Pluralism Premise

Katherine R. Kruse

90 Texas L. Rev. 657

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In Fidelity to Law, Wendel presents and defends such a comprehensive theory of lawyering with two interrelated arguments: a functional argument that law deserves respect because of its capacity to settle normative controversy in a morally pluralistic society and a normative argument that law deserves respect because democratic lawmaking processes respect the equality and dignity of citizens. Professor Kruse’s review focuses on one of the links in the chain of Wendel’s normative-all-the-way-down argument: his move from the premise of moral pluralism to his conclusion that the function of law is to settle normative controversy in society.  Kruse questions Wendel’s move on both practical and theoretical grounds.   While Wendel argues that we need to settle such controversies so that we can move on and organize our affairs despite our deep disagreement about values, Kruse argues that efforts to unsettle law need not be seen as a threat, and that the continual ebb and flow of normative controversy should be viewed as an incident of — rather than an impediment to — a free and just society.

Misplaced Fidelity

David Luban

90 Texas L. Rev. 673

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In his review of W. Bradley Wendel’s Lawyers and Fidelity to Law, Professor David Luban classifies the book as a major work that deserves careful study.  However, he finds Wendel’s position to be one of “decency at odds with itself.” He points out that Wendel recognizes deep problems in our legal  institutions, and yet advocates near absolute obedience to that authority.  After examining the inconsistency in Wendel’s approach, Luban concludes that while fidelity to law is a virtue, it is no substitute for conscience.

Authoritarian Legal Ethics: Bradley Wendel and the Positivist Turn

William H. Simon

90 Texas L. Rev. 709

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In his Review of Bradley Wendel’s Lawyers and Fidelity to Law, Professor Simon addresses the authoritarian theme that he identifies as persistent throughout the book. He argues that neither libertarianism nor authoritarianism is a plausible starting point for a general approach to legal ethics.  Further, he feels that in gesturing toward positivism and surrendering to less reflective authoritarian  impulses, Wendel’s argument underestimates the extent to which social order depends on informal as well as formal norms and adopts a utopian attitude toward constituted power.  He concludes that the book treats as analytical propositions what are in fact empirical assertions for which Wendel has no evidence.

Forum Non Conveniens and Foreign Policy: Time for Congressional Intervention?

Sidney K. Smith

90 Texas L. Rev. 743

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This Note proposes that Congress should enact a federal standard of forum non conveniens that would preempt state forum non conveniens law in transnational cases. A legislative standard of forum non conveniens would clarify the federal doctrine and assist in resolving the myriad circuit splits surrounding forum non conveniens in federal court. Additionally, the federal standard would preempt state forum non conveniens law in transnational cases, creating uniformity between the state and federal courts. Not only
would a uniform standard limit the endless forum jockeying of both plaintiffs and defendants in these cases, it would also allow more federal control over cases that potentially implicate important foreign-relations issues.

Moral Rights: Well-Intentioned Protection and Its Unintended Consequences

Lindsey A. Mills

90 Texas L. Rev. 443

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Lindsey A. Mills analyzes the issues and implications surrounding Congress’s enactment of the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) in 1990, which, inter alia, provides moral rights protection to creators of artistic work. Although Mills recognizes certain social benefits associated with the protection of moral rights, particularly the incentives to promote artistic creation and society’s right to preserve irreplaceable works of art, she argues that such a law, by taking away ownership rights that purchasers of artwork would otherwise have, diminishes the economic value of the artwork in question and further, to the extent that artistic expression is deemed desirable, harms society as a whole. After weighing these interests against each other, she concludes that moral rights protection has no place in the United States, let alone as part of the Copyright Act.

Not Like an Egyptian: Cybersecurity and the Internet Kill Switch Debate

Karson K. Thompson

90 Texas L. Rev. 465

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In this Note, Mr. Karson Thompson explores the vulnerability of America’s internet networks and the various proposals that have been made to solve the cybersecurity problem. Thompson explores the history of the Internet—from its inception as ARPANET to its current status—and the major security issues that plague it.   He then discusses the role played in maintaining internet security by both the executive and legislative branches of government and proposes a new framework—one that takes power away from the executive as a means of ensuring a stable and transparent cybersecurity policy. Thompson concludes that the existing framework is an ineffective way of ensuring the security of the Internet, and recent events in Egypt should provide an impetus for reform.