Current Print Issue

Vol. 166, Issue 1

  November 2017


Featured Article

Incredible Women: Sexual Violence and the Credibility Discount

By
Deborah Tuerkheimer
166 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1 (2017)

Credibility is central to the legal treatment of sexual violence, as epitomized by the iconic “he said/she said” contest. Over time, the resolution of competing factual accounts has evidenced a deeply skeptical orientation toward rape accusers. This incredulous stance remains firmly lodged, having migrated from formal legal rules to informal practices, with much the same result—an enduring system of disbelief. Introducing the concept of “credibility discounting” helps to explain the dominant feature of our legal response to rape. Although false reports of rape are uncommon, law enforcement officers tend to default to doubt when women allege sexual assault, resulting in curtailed investigations as well as infrequent arrests and prosecutions. Credibility discounts, which are meted out at every stage of the criminal process, involve downgrades both to trustworthiness (corresponding to testimonial injustice) and to plausibility (corresponding to hermeneutical injustice).

By conceptualizing prejudiced disbelief as a distinct failure of justice, one deserving of separate consideration, we may begin to grasp the full implications of credibility discounting, beyond faulty criminal justice outcomes. Attending to this failure of epistemic justice on its own terms advances a conversation about how best to reform institutions so that credibility judgments do not perpetuate inequality. To this end, credibility discounting should count as actionable discrimination. Under certain conditions, moreover, this recognition raises constitutional concerns. When rape victims confront a law enforcement regime predisposed to dismiss their complaints, they are effectively denied the protective resources of the state.


Featured Comment

Blacklisting Foreign Terrorist Organizations

By
Justin S. Daniel
166 U. Pa. L. Rev. 213 (2017)

Designations of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) by the Secretary of State under Section 1189 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 provide a key means of thwarting global terror networks by isolating and stigmatizing such groups, and by depriving them of financial and human support. This Comment examines the role of classified information in the FTO designation process and analyzes whether the Secretary’s reliance on classified information—to which designated FTOs do not have access—comports with the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, particularly when the classified record is essential to the Secretary’s determination.

To answer that question, this Comment first traces a series of cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the tribunal charged with hearing challenges to FTO designations, and argues that—notwithstanding statements by the court evincing a reluctance to resolve the issue—D.C. Circuit precedent has likely foreclosed access to the classified record by designated groups, even when the information withheld is essential to the Secretary’s designation decision.

This Comment then presents a constitutional due process analysis and argues that—because Section 1189 targets foreign (as opposed to domestic) organizations, which must establish substantial connections with the U.S. to receive due process protection—courts should be reluctant to grant FTOs constitutional protection for interests divorced from the contacts used to establish U.S. presence. Finally, this Comment ventures a comparative analysis by looking to a Cold War–era scheme similar to Section 1189 and to the contemporary cases dealing with habeas corpus in the terrorist detainment context.


Online Exclusives
 Last updated: December 12, 2017


Essay

The Unicorn Governance Trap

By
Renee M. Jones
166 U. Pa. L. Rev. Online 165 (2017)

This Essay highlights emerging governance problems presented by persistent Unicorns. It argues that recent market trends and deregulatory reforms have weakened or eliminated the principal mechanisms that imposed discipline on start‐up company founders. Recent scandals at prominent Unicorns suggest that investors have erred in placing blind faith in the honesty and capabilities of start‐up founders. Policymakers should learn from these disasters and close regulatory loopholes that allow Unicorns to persist in limbo between private and public status for extended periods of time.

Part I provides an overview of how the IPO has shifted from the preferred exit strategy in the eyes of entrepreneurs to a regulatory morass to be shunned. It traces developments in the market for start‐up company shares, and regulatory reforms that facilitated the proliferation of Unicorns. Part II highlights unique governance risks posed by Unicorns, addressing both societal and investor protection concerns. Part III offers suggestions on how to address Unicorn risks, and raises fundamental questions about the future of Unicorns in our economy.


Response

Auditing Algorithms for Discrimination

By
Pauline T. Kim
166 U. Pa. L. Rev. Online 189 (2017)

As reliance on algorithmic decisionmaking expands, concerns are growing about the potential for arbitrary, unfair, or discriminatory outcomes in areas such as employment, credit markets, and criminal justice. Legal scholars have lamented the lack of accountability of these automated decision processes and called for greater transparency. They argue that the way to avoid unfair or discriminatory algorithms is to demand greater disclosure of how they operate. Accountable Algorithms resists this call for transparency, calling it “a naive solution.” Instead, it argues that technology offers tools—“a new technological toolkit”—that can better assure accountability.

One of the examples that Kroll et al. rely on to illustrate their argument is the goal of ensuring that algorithms do not discriminate. Many commentators have pointed out the risk that automated decision processes may produce biased outcomes, and in prior work, I have argued that serious policy concerns are raised when these algorithms exacerbate historic inequality or disadvantage along the lines of race, sex, or other protected characteristics—what I’ve referred to as “classification bias.” Recognizing that the precise meaning of discrimination is uncertain and contested, Kroll et al. do not try to resolve debates over the meaning of discrimination. Instead, without choosing among the competing definitions, they simply survey the available technical tools, suggesting that these tools will be more effective at ensuring nondiscrimination than calls for transparency.

Transparency involves outside scrutiny of a decision process, for example, by allowing third parties to examine the computer code or the decision criteria it implements. Auditing is another method for promoting transparency. When the goal is nondiscrimination, auditing could involve techniques to ensure that an algorithm follows a specified rule—for example, sorting must not occur based on race or sex. Alternatively, auditing for discrimination could take the form of examining inputs and outputs to detect when a decision process systematically disadvantages particular groups. The latter form of auditing does not involve direct examination of the decision process, but is useful in detecting patterns. This type of auditing, in the form of field experiments, is well established in the social science literature as a technique for testing for discrimination in decisions such as employment and consumer transactions. Auditing the effects of decisionmaking algorithms similarly offers a method of detecting when they may be biased against particular groups. Kroll et al., however, express skepticism about auditing as a strategy, arguing that it is not only technically limited, but also likely restricted by law. More specifically, they suggest that when an algorithm is found to have a disparate impact, the Supreme Court’s decision in Ricci v. DeStefano may prevent correcting for that bias.

This Essay responds to Kroll et al., arguing that, despite its limitations, auditing for discrimination should remain an important part of the strategy for detecting and responding to biased algorithms. Technical tools alone cannot reliably prevent discriminatory outcomes because the causes of bias often lie not in the code, but in broader social processes. Therefore, implementing the best available technical tools can never guarantee that algorithms are unbiased. Avoiding discriminatory outcomes will require awareness of the actual impact of automated decision processes, namely, through auditing.

Fortunately, the law permits the use of auditing to detect and correct for discriminatory bias. To the extent that Kroll et al. suggest otherwise, their conclusion rests on a misreading of the Supreme Court’s decision in Ricci. That case narrowly addressed a situation in which an employer took an adverse action against identifiable individuals based on race, while still permitting the revision of algorithms prospectively to remove bias. Such an approach is entirely consistent with the law’s clear preference for voluntary efforts to comply with nondiscrimination goals.


Case Note

Of Laundering and Legal Fees: The Implications of United States v. Blair for Criminal Defense Attorneys who Accept Potentially Tainted Funds

By
Philip J. Griffin
164 U. Pa. L. Rev. Online 179 (2016).

“In the common understanding, money laundering occurs when money derived from criminal activity is placed into a legitimate business in an effort to cleanse the money of criminal taint.” 18 U.S.C. § 1957, however, prohibits a much broader range of conduct. Any person who “knowingly engages” in a monetary transaction involving over $10,000 of “criminally derived property” can be charged with money laundering under § 1957.

Because § 1957 eliminates the requirement found in other money laundering statutes that the government prove an attempt to commit a crime or to conceal the proceeds of a crime, § 1957 “applies to the most open,

above‐board transaction,” such as a criminal defense attorney receiving payment for representation. In response to pressure from commentators, Congress passed an amendment two years after § 1957’s enactment defining the term “monetary transaction” so as to exclude “any transaction necessary to preserve a person’s right to representation as guaranteed by the sixth amendment to the Constitution.”

The statutory safe harbor found in § 1957(f)(1) has successfully immunized defense attorneys from money laundering prosecutions. However, United States v. Blair raised concerns among the criminal defense bar because of its holding that an attorney‐defendant was not entitled to protection under § 1957(f)(1). In Blair, an attorney‐defendant was convicted of violating § 1957 for using $20,000 in drug proceeds to purchase two $10,000 bank checks to retain attorneys for associates of his client. Noting that Sixth Amendment rights are personal to the accused and that Blair used “someone else’s money” to hire counsel for others, the Fourth Circuit held that his actions fell “far beyond the scope of the Sixth Amendment” and were not protected by the safe harbor. In his strongly‐worded dissent, Chief Judge Traxler criticized the court for “nullif[ying] the § 1957(f)(1) exemption and creat[ing] a circuit split.”

This Case Note discusses the implications of Blair for the criminal defense attorney who accepts potentially tainted funds and proposes a solution to ameliorate its unintended consequences. First, Part I provides relevant background information by discussing the money laundering statutory framework, the criticisms leveled at the framework as it was written, the Congressional response to that criticism, and § 1957(f)(1)’s application up until Blair. Next, Part II describes the Blair decision in detail and examines its implications. Part III then proposes a novel solution to the problems it created. Finally, the Case Note concludes with a brief word of practical advice for the criminal defense bar.