Volume 163, Issue 4 
March 2015

Judicial Comparativism and Judicial Diplomacy

David S. Law

By global standards, the U.S. Supreme Court is unusual in a number of respects, but one of its most distinctive characteristics is its reluctance to engage in comparative constitutional analysis. Much has been said on the normative question of whether and in what ways the Court ought to make use of foreign constitutional jurisprudence. Rarely, however, do scholars broach the underlying empirical question of why some courts make greater use of foreign law than others.

To identify the causes of comparativism, a behind-the-scenes investigation was conducted of four leading courts in East Asia: the Japanese Supreme Court, the Korean Constitutional Court, the Taiwanese Constitutional Court, and the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. The results of this investigation highlight the crucial role of institutional and resource constraints in shaping judicial behavior but also pose an unexpected challenge to traditional conceptions of the role and function of constitutional courts.

Evidence from interviews conducted with numerous justices, clerks, and senior administrators suggests that a combination of mutually reinforcing factors creates the conditions necessary for comparativism to thrive. The first factor is institutional capacity. A court that lacks institutional mechanisms for learning about foreign law, such as the recruitment of law clerks with foreign legal expertise or the use of researchers who specialize in foreign law, is unlikely to make more than sporadic use of foreign law. The second factor is legal education. Even the most elaborate of institutional mechanisms for facilitating comparativism is unlikely to be effective unless it is backed by a system of legal education that produces an adequate supply of lawyers with both an aptitude and appetite for comparativism.

Investigation of the reasons for which courts engage in comparativism also reveals a hidden underlying phenomenon of judicial diplomacy. Unlike other judicial practices such as textualism or originalism, comparativism is not merely a means by which judges perform legal and adjudicative functions; it can also be a form of diplomatic activity. When constitutional courts demonstrate mastery of foreign law or host foreign judges, their goals may not consist exclusively, or even primarily, of writing stronger opinions or winning over domestic audiences. They may also be competing with one another for international influence or pursuing foreign policy objectives, such as promotion of the rule of law and judicial independence in other countries. The concept of judicial diplomacy helps to explain why constitutional courts engage in a number of practices that are only tenuously related to the act of adjudication. Although the U.S. Supreme Court rarely practices constitutional comparativism, it is an active practitioner of judicial diplomacy in other forms.

Do You Have to Keep the Government's Secrets? Retroactively Classified Documents, the First Amendment, and the Power to Make Secrets Out of the Public Record

Jonathan Abel

Now you see it. Now you don’t.

This is not a magician’s incantation. It is a description of retroactive classification, a little-known provision of U.S. national security law that allows the government to declassify a document, release it to the public, and then declare it classified later on. Retroactive classification means the government could hand you a document today and prosecute you tomorrow for not giving it back. Retroactive classification can even reach documents that are available in public libraries, on the Internet, or elsewhere in the public domain.

The executive branch has used retroactive classification to startling effect. The Department of Justice, for example, declassified and released a report on National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapping only to declare, years later, that the report was once again classified. The journalist who had received the report was threatened with prosecution if he did not return it. Retroactive classification has also targeted government documents revealing corruption in Iraq, violence in Afghanistan, and mismanagement of the national missile defense program. In each of these cases, the government released a document in an unclassified form through official channels—not through a leak—and then turned around to classify it.

This practice would be troubling enough if it actually removed the document from the public domain. But in the Internet Age, once a document is released to the public, it is often impossible for the government to retrieve it. While retroactive classification does not remove the document from the public domain, where our enemies can access it, retroactive classification does remove the document from the public discourse, prohibiting members of Congress, government auditors, and law-abiding members of the public from openly discussing it.

In the ongoing debate about the balance between secrecy and transparency in government affairs, retroactive classification tests the limits of the government’s ability to control information in the public domain. The questions raised by retroactive classification go far beyond those raised by the WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden disclosures. In those cases, the information remained classified even though it was widely available in the public domain. A similar situation occurs with retroactive classification when information in the public domain becomes classified. The difference is that in retroactive classification, the government initially released this information in a non-classified form and only later decided to classify it. This difference makes retroactive classification much more complicated from a legal standpoint because it involves the government’s going back on its initial classification decision. Retroactive classification thus forces us to ask what limits, if any, exist on the government’s authority to control information. Can the government reach into the public domain to make a secret out of something it has already disclosed? Are we obligated to go along with retroactive classification decisions? What are the implications beyond national security law? This Article takes up these pressing questions.

Behavioral International Law

Tomer Broude

Economic analysis and rational choice have made significant inroads into the study of international law and institutions in the last decade, relying upon standard assumptions of perfect rationality of states and decisionmakers. This approach is inadequate, both empirically and in its tendency toward outdated formulations of political theory. This Article presents an alternative behavioral approach that provides new hypotheses addressing problems in international law while introducing empirically grounded concepts of real, observed rationality. First, I address methodological objections to behavioral analysis of international law: the focus of behavioral research on the individual, the empirical foundations of behavioral economics, and behavioral analysis’s relative lack of parsimony. I then offer indicative behavioral research frameworks for three contemporary puzzles in international law: (a) the relative inefficiency of the development of international law, (b) dissent in international tribunals, and (c) target selection in armed conflict. Behavioral research in international law can serve as a viable, enriching alternative and complement to conventional economic analysis, so long as it is pursued with academic and empirical rigor as well as intellectual humility.


Toward a Standard of Meaningful Review: Examining the Actual Protections Afforded to Prisoners in Long-Term Solitary Confinement

Elli Marcus

The unprecedented trend of lengthy incarceration in the United States has produced a disturbing byproduct: the use of long-term solitary confinement. The precise number of people held in solitary confinement is notoriously difficult to determine due to a lack of reliable recordkeeping within institutions and varied terminology among states, but experts believe that tens of thousands of people are held in “restricted housing.” Of those people, many reside long-term in so-called segregation—a practice that removes an inmate from the general prison population to a segregated housing unit and is justified as an administrative measure to maintain safety for inmates and prison officers alike. Segregation placement severely restricts an inmate’s contact with other people and with the outside world.

In light of these extreme conditions and the great impact they can have on a prisoner’s confinement experience, the procedures regarding placement that are afforded to prisoners placed in segregated housing are of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s longstanding tradition of deferring to prison officials has limited the procedural protections prisoners can demand under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. By emphasizing that the procedural guarantee of due process is flexible, the Court has sanctioned segregation decisions as long as the placement involves some form of “meaningful review.” The Court has refrained from defining the requisite process or investigating how a prison’s stated procedures actually function on an individual inmate level, however, rendering meaningful review meaningless.

This Comment considers the actual procedural due process protections afforded to prisoners placed in segregated housing for nondisciplinary reasons. Part I examines the procedural protections afforded to inmates generally and prisoners placed in administrative segregation in particular. In addition, Part I explores the doctrinal limitations on due process challenges relating to administrative segregation. Part II chronicles recent developments in inmate litigation, in which litigants have alleged due process violations despite these limitations. Part II also evaluates the state of the doctrine through an analysis of recent litigation strategies, highlighting Ashker v. Brown as a model. Finally, Part III recommends changes to the Court’s approach to administrative segregation due process challenges.

Recovering for the Loss of a Beloved Pet: Rethinking the Legal Classification of Companion Animals and the Requirements for Loss of Companion-ship Tort Damages

Lauren M. Sirois

Under U.S. law, animals are considered the property of their human companions. With this classification, individuals are granted the right to own, use, and control their animal property as they see fit. To many, though, the relationship between man and his companion animal fits uncomfortably within the idea of property ownership. To these individuals, companion animals, such as dogs and cats, are more than property: they are best friends, confidants, and integral parts of the family. However, unlike certain familial relationships—such as that of a husband and wife or a parent and child—the bond between a human companion and his or her companion animal is devalued under tort law. When a companion animal is negligently or intentionally injured or killed, no matter how beloved the animal is to his or her human companion, the animal is still only viewed as property under the law. Because of the companion animal’s classification as property, emotional damages related to the bond between the animal and the plaintiff are unavailable, preventing those who have been harmed from fully recovering for their loss.

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