The idea that nature is the “great equalizer” unfortunately seems to have little merit lately. Ideally, clean air, drinking water, and recreational spaces are available to all Americans without discrimination based on race or socioeconomic status. In reality, unequal access to the benefits of these natural resources is another injustice facing persons of color and low-income individuals (POC/LII). Both federal and state government recognize the presence of environmental injustice, as policymakers at both levels are addressing the inequitable distribution of nature to POC/LII. For example, in March 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate proposed identical bills, collectively the Environmental Justice for All Acts (the “EJA Acts”), “to begin remedying the long history of environmental racism and injustice in the United States[.]” However, over a year later, POC/LII have yet to experience the anticipated benefits of the EJA Acts. Seemingly, our own legislative process is the obstacle preventing environmental justice for all.
On April 21, 2022, the Supreme Court quietly issued its third decision in two terms on yet another issue involving the provenance of a piece of artwork looted by Nazis during the Second World War. The petition for certiorari came after a long legal battle dating back to 2005 between the Estate of Lilly Cassirer (Cassirer Family) and the Spain-based Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum (Foundation). The Cassirer Family posed a narrow question to the Court: whether a federal court hearing state law claims initiated under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) should be determined by the forum state’s choice of law rules or by federal common law rules?
FSIA grants immunity to foreign states and their instrumentalities from civil action in the U.S., unless the civil action falls under one of FSIA’s enumerated exceptions. For example, one exception removes immunity for any cases involving “rights in property taken in violation of international law.” FSIA’s purpose “is to spell out, as a matter of federal law, the suits against foreign sovereigns that American courts do, and do not, have power to decide.” Ultimately, the Court held that the forum state’s choice of law rules apply, settling a circuit split regarding the application and interpretation of choice of law rules for FSIA claims.
The CEO of one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world said it best: “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing.” Jim Farley, the current CEO of Ford Motor Company, continued by mentioning, “[b]y the way, we don’t supply that data to anyone[.]” Mr. Farley has since triggered skepticism by retracting those statements. Mr. Farley’s comments are disconcerting to the ordinary consumer who seeks privacy within their car.
Personal automobiles are rapidly becoming more safe, more intelligent, and more connected to the internet. Automobile manufacturers collect and store an expanding list of car locations, functions, and driver tendencies for these technological advancements to function. As cars become more technologically advanced and automated, legislatures need to address the privacy concerns presented through data collection.
Judges have a duty to ensure that all citizens, no matter their race, religion, background, or bank account, get a fair shot at justice. Federal litigation amplifies the importance of this duty due to the nature of disputes litigated at the federal level. The holdings of federal judges can have far-reaching effects that reverberate throughout the country. Thus, it is crucial that the moral character of judges be beyond reproach. Anything less erodes trust in the judicial system and frustrates the pursuit of justice. However, a recent bombshell report by the Wall Street Journal casts light on the systematic failure of the federal justice system to properly handle financial conflicts of interest.
On September 1, 2021, the Texas legislature enacted Senate Bill 8 (S.B. 8), a new law that restricts the right to an abortion six weeks after pregnancy, contravening precedent of the United States Supreme Court. The Texas legislature drafted S.B. 8 to avoid enforcement by state actors. S.B. 8 specifically states that:
[a]ny person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local government entity in this state, may bring a civil action against any person who: (1) performs or induces an abortion . . . [or] (2) knowingly . . . aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion . . . .
Instead of enforcing the law themselves, Texas lawmakers financially incentivize enforcement through private civil action or “citizen bounty hunters.” S.B. 8 awards bounty hunters who prevail in a civil action “(1) injunctive relief . . . (2) statutory damages in an amount of not less than $10,000 for each abortion that the defendant performed or induced . . . and (3) costs and attorney’s fees.” This private enforcement scheme allows Texas to completely avoid judicial review.