Recent Submissions

  • Fostering the Intellectual Virtue of Civility in Online Contexts

    Mower, Deborah S. (Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 2023)
    Civility provides norms for engaging in discourse on topics that yield harm or benefit to others, affect the conditions of our lives, and drive public policy—in short, on topics that matter, morally and politically. While discourse on moral and political matters is already difficult in face-to-face and interpersonal conversations, online interactions through social media pose unique challenges for interactions and exchanges. Using research from philosophy, psychology, behavioral economics, and computer science, I explain how the intellectual virtue of civility can be fostered within individuals as a developed trait of internalized norms to guide how one engages with others when evaluating beliefs and contentious issues. Like the development of any virtue, the development of civility takes time, practice, and effort, but it can be fostered even in online contexts through the careful contextualization of experience and practiced behaviors. Altering tech design through the use of goal setting, nudges, gamification, and in-group priming allows for repeatable behaviors to be practiced and modified. Shifting from a focus on policies for content moderation to a focus on users’ choices within online interactions—and deeper consideration for how designs affect users’ options, choices, and agency—allows us to capitalize on insights from moral psychology and education to see new ways forward in combatting incivility in online contexts.
  • In the American Tempest: Democracy, Conspiracy, and Machine

    Biagetti, Samuel (Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 2023)
    No one can be certain precisely what “democracy” is, but everyone seems to agree that it is in danger. Since the beginning of the pandemic, warnings of “toxicity,” “vitriol,” and other ill humors infecting the body politic have invaded mass media and political discourse, while the foundations of our civic order—“truth,” “facts,” and “civility”—have been seen to erode to the point of collapse. Although the exact cause of the present rupture in the social and epistemic fabric is hard to pinpoint, many observers seem to agree that the internet is to blame. Online algorithms are found to spread “misinformation” and “disinformation,” while anointed experts attribute unexpected outcomes of public events, from election results to the verdicts in defamation suits, to online campaigns by malicious “bots.” A New York Times opinion piece from June 2021 warned readers against examining or analyzing claims found online, since the impulse towards curiosity “allows grifters, conspiracy theorists, trolls and savvy attention hijackers to take advantage of us.” The atmosphere of confusion and distrust not only pervades public discourse in the English-speaking world, but increasingly spills beyond it; the phrase “fake news” has entered, untranslated, into political discourse in France, where a law criminalizing false statements online fuels an acrimonious debate.
  • The Case for Designing Tech for Social Cohesion: The Limits of Content Moderation and Tech Regulation

    Schirch, Lisa (Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 2023)
    Based on nearly 60 interviews with staff at tech companies, critics of big tech, civil society groups impacted by tech-amplified social media, and new tech startups, research revealed three distinct but complementary narratives or approaches to thinking about polarization and social cohesion in digital spaces. The “User-Centered” Narrative describes harmful content online as generated by users, with social media products and search engines acting as a mirror of society. Several interviewees described the defeating feeling of playing “whack a mole” against the growing tide of individual and state-sponsored industrialized harmful digital content. This narrative points to the need for content moderation on user-generated content and digital media literacy to help the public navigate information and communication on the internet. The “Tech Design Regulation” Narrative describes harmful content as amplified by tech product designs including the affordances and algorithms that are optimized for user engagement, advertising, and shareholder profit. Many social media companies optimize their product designs for user engagement to maximize their ad-based profits. Machine learning algorithms promote emotionally alarming and divisive content which tends to garner more attention, just as cars slow down driving past a car accident and as news outlets use the “if it bleeds, it leads” principle to prioritize alarming news. From this point of view, some tech products incentivize harmful content that drives toxic polarization. This narrative presses for government regulation to extend beyond privacy to regulating tech profit models, algorithms, affordances, and designs that amplify toxic content. The “Social Cohesion by Design” Narrative describes tech products that amplify and scale social cohesion by designing affordances and algorithms optimized for these purposes. These digital products can support human agency to participate in civic action, bridge divided communities, and build trust between the public and institutions. The first half of this article provides explores the complex relationship between toxic polarization and digital spaces and analyzes these three frames or paradigms for understanding the role of digital spaces in toxic polarization. The second half of the paper focuses on examples and case studies of “social cohesion by design” also known as "peacetech."
  • Work Disguised as Leisure, Leisure Disguised as Work: The Roots and Consequences of the Bifurcated Economy

    Hull, Samuel (Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 2023)
    This Article argues that the framework laid out in the post-Marxist scholar André Gorz’s 1989 book on the alienation inherent in a system focused on efficiency, Critique of Economic Reason, provides a valuable approach for understanding the alienation that inheres in the unequal modern economy, as well as the roots of the legal-political structure that undergirds that inequality. The Article first describes Gorz’s understanding of how the rise of quantification and economic reason left modern work patterns deeply alienating, and how incentivizing long hours of unfulfilling work through “compensatory consumption” and an “ideology of work” led to the bifurcation of society into elite and “servile” classes. The Article then updates Gorz’s model to analyze the rise of several phenomena that represent a fuller extension of this bifurcation: the gig economy, which embodies Gorz’s notion of “disguising private activities and leisure activities themselves as work and jobs”; and what this Article terms “totalizing firms,” which conversely disguise work as leisure. The Article next discusses how economic reason has reinforced its hegemony, both by undermining the potential for political solidarity and through its entrenchment in the legal apparatus. Finally, the Article turns to how reorienting the labor movement and economic policy toward a focus on free time could challenge economic reason.
  • The Purloined Debtor: Edgar Allan Poe’s Bankruptcy in Law and Letters

    Sheley, Erin; Rosen, Zvi (Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 2023)
    This Article represents the first interdisciplinary case study of Edgar Allan Poe’s bankruptcy as an inflection point in the legal and cultural history of debt. Although Poe hardly leaps to mind for portrayals of legal procedure, much of his oeuvre reveals a terror of legal process as an interstitial principle. The anxiety around identity in Poe’s work reveals an ongoing struggle between an individual subject and two opposing yet equally degenerate legal statuses: possession and indebtedness. This opposition renders a distinct form of legal process legible in these texts: the then-emerging law of bankruptcy. Poe declared bankruptcy at a unique moment in American legal history, where for thirteen months in the early 1840s, America had a debtor-focused bankruptcy law under which a bankrupt could seek protection. Poe’s case, read alongside his literary output, reveals both legal and narrative contradictions at the heart of bankruptcy, which the 1841 Act did a poor job of resolving. On the one hand, bankruptcy reframes the identity of the debtor, who becomes the object of a quasi-inquisitorial process. On the other, bankruptcy restores some degree of material agency to the debtor as a subject, often at the expense of creditors.
  • Looking for the Common Good with Adrian Vermeule and William Shakespeare

    Sczygelski, Lucas P. (Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 2023)
    In a March 2020 essay for The Atlantic, Harvard Law professor Adrian Vermeule called on fellow conservative legal thinkers to renounce the bedrock principle on which Originalism rests—the separation of law and morality. Instead of placing legal reasoning inside an airtight box into which no moral or political exigencies may enter, Vermeule counseled the conservative legal movement to permit moral and legal claims to mingle freely, to drop the drab positivist hermeneutics and embrace a vibrant form of natural law oriented to the “common good.” The essay provoked intense reactions, and in the process Vermeule—an administrative lawyer theretofore known primarily for his robust if increasingly lonely conservative defense of Chevron deference—became something of a legal celebrity on the integralist right. His recent attempt to expand his 2020 essay into a book entitled Common Good Constitutionalism is the subject of this Article. I read Vermeule’s book against Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in an attempt to draw out some of the unsettling ahistorical patness at the center of Vermeule’s theory. Where Vermeule assumes that legal questions can have a single correct solution coterminous with the common good, The Merchant of Venice provides that legal subjects, in their ineradicable and splendid human inconsistency, will have no trouble suggesting others.
  • “Death by Bureaucracy”: How the U.S. State Department Used Administrative Discretion to Bar Refugees from Nazi Europe

    Leff, Laurel (Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 2023)
    During the Nazi era, the United States could have remained within overall and country-by-country quotas limiting immigration and still have admitted an additional 350,000 refugees from Germany and Germanoccupied or -allied countries. Instead, the State Department, whose consular officers abroad decided whether visas were to be issued, denied them to hundreds of thousands seeking refuge between 1933 and 1945. Largely untethered by judicial or public oversight, consular officials deployed their discretion in a way that produced direct and often deadly consequences for the mostly Jewish refugees. This episode has been largely overlooked in histories of administrative or immigration law, and minimized in historical accounts focused upon congressional intransigence and presidential acquiescence in failing to change the statutory scheme. Its meaning has been lost in the gap between disciplines. This article seeks to bridge the divide by showing how State Department officials used the discretion afforded them under the immigration statute and through judicial decisions to implement an anti-foreign, antisemitic policy. Understanding the multiplicity of decisions officials faced gives lie to the oft-repeated refrain that the law in the form of an impenetrable statute dictated the result. Reviewing the history also demonstrates the power of the “law made me do it” claim, as it persists decade after decade, despite overwhelming evidence that “the law” did no such thing. This tragic case study ultimately illuminates the need for historians to develop a better understanding of law, and for legal scholars to gain a better understanding of history.
  • Law and Redemption: Expounding and Expanding Robert Cover’s Nomos and Narrative

    Levine, Samuel J. (Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 2023)
    This Article explores two interrelated themes that distinguish much of Robert Cover’s scholarship: reliance on Jewish sources and the redemption of American constitutionalism. Two pieces of Cover’s, Nomos and Narrative and Bringing the Messiah Through the Law: A Case Study, explore these themes, providing complementary views on the potential and limitations of the redemptive power of law. In Nomos and Narrative, Cover develops a metaphor of the law as a bridge, linking the actual to the potential. Bringing the Messiah Through the Law: A Case Study extends the metaphor through the lens of Jewish legal history. Building on Cover’s foundation, this Article further examines the transformative power of law in Jewish tradition, using examples that illustrate Cover’s redemptive vision for the law. The unrealized redemptive potential of the American legal system ultimately reflects the failure of American law and society to grapple with our past wrongs, a necessary first step on the bridge to Messianic harmony.
  • Literary Influence on Legal Philosophy: A Comment on Professor Meyler’s Cardozo's Literary Precedents

    Kendrick, Leslie (2023)
    What shapes judicial temperament? What hones judicial style? Seeing as judges are grown in neither a hothouse nor a test tube, presumably they attain their temperament and style much the same way as the rest of us—which is how, exactly? Do we soak up influences like sponges? Or do we spring forth like Athena, our outlook and predilections mostly formed, and find in outside influences that which we want to see? I am not qualified to answer these questions, about either judges or people in general, yet they are the questions that Bernadette Meyler’s lovely piece on Cardozo’s Literary Precedents prompts for me. I will suggest here that Meyler’s piece identifies and rejects some bad answers to these questions and also hints at some more intriguing possibilities.
  • Some Notes on George Eliot

    Cardozo, Benjamin N. (2023)
    It will be found true, I think, of the works of every mastermind that there is in them some recurring note, some theme, some refrain, that stamps the author’s personality upon them, and forms a principle of unity throughout them all.1 It may be simply by some distinctive line of thought, it may be merely by a prevailing mental tone, that nature thus reveals how one-sided are the broadest minds, and proves how narrow, after all, are the best and the greatest of mankind. For a great truth paralyzes as well as inspires. It limits as well as exalts. Minds that have felt its full influence are, as Mr. Lowell would have said, possessed by it; they do not possess it. They are in its power; it is not in theirs. And so it comes to pass that, in many cases, at least, a tendency toward repetition in an author is a token, not of sterility, but of strength. It marks the sincerity, the truth of his convictions; it shows that his writings stand for thoughts that have become imbedded in his being; and thus we can judge him, if not more favorably, at least with a keener sympathy. Thoughts, as Emerson so clearly saw, are rarer possessions than most of us seem to fancy; and only by stress and toil and wear of spirit can one of them be made our own. The rest that receive the name are, in fact, mere outgrowths of these central ideas of our being; and we ought hardly to quarrel with those who have the frankness to show us these ideas, running through all their works, colouring all their conceptions, and yielding them an infallible test of truth and beauty.
  • Cardozo’s Literary Precedents

    Meyler, Bernadette (2023)
    Benjamin Cardozo penned his essay “Law and Literature” long before the field of law and literature took off in the 1970s.1 The piece, which furnishes a typology of judicial styles, has become a classic early example of engagement with the intersection of the two areas.2 “Law and Literature” fits squarely within what is now called the genre of “law as literature,” considering the literary attributes of legal writing.3 Reading it, one might never imagine that Cardozo had also considered works of fiction in depth. Indeed, few know of his early study of literature, including his heretofore unpublished undergraduate paper on novelist George Eliot.4 Although this earlier work does not touch on law explicitly, it demonstrates the emergence of Cardozo’s concerns with duty, causation, and responsibility even before he became a judge, presaging the account of morality furnished in The Nature of the Judicial Process. It also helps to flesh out the reasons why, as he claims in “Law and Literature,” style is so significant.
  • Ambivalence, Judicial Craftmanship, and the Development of the Law: Variations on a Theme of Benjamin Cardozo

    Amaya, Amalia (2023)
    In The Nature of the Judicial Process, Cardozo identifies the embrace of uncertainty as a mark of judicial expertise. Such uncertainty, he claims, provides an occasion for the exercise of creative energy and the judicial development of the law. This paper critically examines and extends, in light of contemporary work on the philosophy and psychology of ambivalence, Cardozo’s views about the relevance of uncertainty in judicial decision making and its import for the evolution of the law. First, it provides an account of the benefits of ambivalence in judicial decision-making, with a special focus on the links that there are between ambivalence and judicial creativity. Second, it argues that there is a certain tension between Cardozo’s views on the important role that ambivalence plays in judicial decision-making and his view of law’s evolution as a streamlined, self-correcting, process. Two problems—the problem of hidden alternatives and the problem of unconceived alternatives—and the ever-present possibility of error vividly bring to light the extent to which law’s progress may be hampered. Third, it argues that for judges to recognize and resolve ambivalence in ways that positively contribute to the development of the law, a certain kind of judicial temperament must be developed. This temperament is neither skeptic nor dogmatic, vindicates imagination as a critical capacity for excellence in judging, and fosters a judicial style (and, more broadly, a legal culture) that, in Cardozo’s spirit, frees itself from the quest for certainty.
  • Cardozo and the Nature of the Equitable Process

    Smith, Henry E. (2023)
    Benjamin Cardozo is associated with the common law, equity, judicial decision-making, and with a characteristic kind of proto-Realism. And in his day he was the most prominent expositor of the law of New York, a jurisdiction that had led the way in the merger of law and equity. So it is with equity. Equity pervades Cardozo’s work as a theme of the law and as a problem in judicial theory, in both his theoretical writings and in his decisions. In The Nature of the Judicial Process, Cardozo invokes equity when introducing the problem of reconciling the need for both certainty and flexibility in the law. And equity plays a large role in the modes of judicial decision-making he identifies—the philosophical, the historical, the customary, and the policy-oriented. This last, or sociological, method is the “arbiter” of the others in a way suggestive of equity’s role as meta-law. Because this approach to equity could only emerge from its application, it is not surprising that cases in the area of equity would receive his special attention as a judge. Most clearly in some headline equity cases but going far beyond them, Cardozo’s vision for the integration of equity and law was functional rather than primarily jurisdictional. Equity for Cardozo both kept the law to a high moral standard and supplemented and corrected the law in limited circumstances. Sometimes Cardozo’s reformulation of equity in this functional sense reformed the law so subtly as to be easy to miss. Seen in the light of later full-blown Legal Realism, Cardozo’s equity is easily mistaken for a version of Realism in its rhetoric but disappointingly cautious in its results. Cardozo’s equity was a genuine path not taken and one that perhaps still could bring equity into the modern age.
  • Cardozo’s Equitable Method and Judicial Lawmaking’s Auxiliary Role: A Comment on Professor Samet’s Equity, Morality, and Law in The Nature of the Judicial Process

    von Schütz, Konstanze (2023)
    As Irit Samet expertly demonstrates in her contribution to this Symposium, the jurisprudence of equity is “key” to understanding some of the central ideas Benjamin N. Cardozo sets out in The Nature of the Judicial Process (NJP). This is, as she puts it, because equity and the ideas underlying it serve “as an essential foil for the work [Cardozo] aims to do in the text.” According to Samet, what Cardozo is after is the promotion of a progressive agenda that succeeds in striking the balance between dynamism and stability of a legal system. For her, the aims laid out in the NJP resonate strongly with the aspiration of equity. In her article, she draws attention to the structural similarities between Cardozo’s picture of adjudication, on the one hand, and the jurisprudence of equity, on the other. On Samet’s view, equity aligns law and morality while carefully balancing judicial creativity and adherence to established rules and precedent. Equity, so she argues, lays out a picture of judicial decision-making that is attuned to the necessity to synchronize law and morality without running roughshod over the rule of law. Samet sees the jurisprudence of equity as exemplifying “the viability of aligning law and morality as a project that judges can and ought to pursue.
  • Doctrinal Forks in the Road: The Hidden Message of The Nature of the Judicial Process

    Abraham, Kenneth S.; White, G. Edward (2023)
    Revisiting The Nature of the Judicial Process, the published version of four lectures Judge Benjamin Cardozo delivered at Yale Law School between February 14 and 18, 1921, presents a challenge to the contemporary reader. That challenge is to imagine how the lectures could have generated the strongly affirmative reaction that they apparently did. In this Essay, we seek first to recover that reaction and to juxtapose it against our initially far less enthusiastic response. We then identify a feature of the lectures that was not remarked upon when they were first published and has not been emphasized since: Cardozo’s examination of how appellate judging is frequently about whether to extend what he called a doctrinal “path,” or not to extend that path. If the path is extended, existing doctrinal propositions are treated as governing not only the case at hand, but also as applying to an expanded set of potential future cases. But if the path is not extended, the doctrinal principles embodied in a set of previous cases are deemed inapposite to the current case, and a developing doctrinal path is truncated, thus limiting its application to future cases.
  • Equity, Morality and Law in The Nature of the Judicial Process

    Samet, Irit (2023)
    For equity lawyers over the big pond, Cardozo is hero: one of a few judges whose fame has survived the great rift that opened between English and American law when the latter embraced fusion between equity and law and the consequent decline in the study of equity as an independent body of law. Cardozo’s extensive engagement with doctrines whose origins lie in equity (even if this has been long forgotten in his native country), the colorful language in which he immortalized them, and the bold ways in which he developed some of the central themes of modern equity—like the fiduciary relationship and the constructive trust—enshrined him as a force to be reckoned with in the field of equity. It is no wonder that a man of “[t]he most delicate conscience and the nicest sense of honour” like Cardozo, was drawn to equity as a major source of inspiration.1 In this paper I wish to argue that the jurisprudence of equity is a key to understanding his treatise on the art of judging, The Nature of The Judicial Process (NJP). While the text is too nuanced and rich to be placed firmly in one tradition or school of thought, I argue that the jurisprudence of equity with its highly sophisticated engagement with the issues that are of concern to Cardozo, and the historical perspective it offers to the pragmatically-minded jurist, serves as an essential foil for the work he aims to do in the text.

    Balganesh, Shyamkrishna (2023)
    Since at least the time of Blackstone, scholars have identified the “uncertainty” of the common law as a problem that is endemic to its functioning. Indeed, to Blackstone the idea was “so generally adopted” that any attempt to “refute it” was likely to result in ridicule. Yet, even to him, the precise source of the uncertainty was something of a mystery, variously attributed to the multiplicity of laws and judicial decisions, the resulting abundance of potentially contradictory rules, and the heightened discretion afforded to judges to declare the law in individual disputes. All the same, to Blackstone, the fault—if any—was not with the common law but with the nature of laws more generally. As he wrote: It has sometimes been said [that uncertainty] owe[s] its original to the number of our municipal constitutions, and the multitude of our judicial decisions; which occasion, it is alleged, abundance of rules that militate and thwart with each other, as the sentiments or caprice of successive legislatures and judges have happened to vary. . . . People are apt to be angry at the want of simplicity in our laws: they mistake variety for confusion, and complicated cases for contradictory.
  • Rediscovering The Nature of the Judicial Process: A Comment on Professors Abraham’s and White’s Doctrinal Forks in the Road

    Goldberg, John C. P. (2023)
    Sometime between 1918 and 1920, Dean Thomas Swan, with the approval of his faculty, invited Benjamin Cardozo to give the prestigious Storrs lectures at Yale Law School. The invitation was notable. After only a few years on the bench, Cardozo clearly had made a mark, in part thanks to his 1916 opinion for the New York Court of Appeals in the MacPherson case. Cardozo seems to have initially demurred but then, when asked if he could share his thoughts on how he went about the job of judging, agreed. Cardozo lectured on four successive days in February 1921. According to Arthur Corbin’s well-known account, the first lecture was met with a standing ovation that subsided only when Cardozo left the room. The remaining lectures then were moved to a room twice as large that was filled to capacity, with Corbin reporting that attendees were “spell-bound.” Though perhaps embellished, this recounting is plausible. Cardozo was a powerful speaker. And, as I will suggest below, he delivered a message that audience members might had reason to find engaging.
  • Doctrinal Forks in the Road: The Hidden Message of The Nature of the Judicial Process

    Abraham, Kenneth S.; White, G. Edward (2023)
    Revisiting The Nature of the Judicial Process, the published version of four lectures Judge Benjamin Cardozo delivered at Yale Law School between February 14 and 18, 1921, presents a challenge to the contemporary reader. That challenge is to imagine how the lectures could have generated the strongly affirmative reaction that they apparently did. In this Essay, we seek first to recover that reaction and to juxtapose it against our initially far less enthusiastic response. We then identify a feature of the lectures that was not remarked upon when they were first published and has not been emphasized since: Cardozo’s examination of how appellate judging is frequently about whether to extend what he called a doctrinal “path,” or not to extend that path. If the path is extended, existing doctrinal propositions are treated as governing not only the case at hand, but also as applying to an expanded set of potential future cases. But if the path is not extended, the doctrinal principles embodied in a set of previous cases are deemed inapposite to the current case, and a developing doctrinal path is truncated, thus limiting its application to future cases.
  • Taking Experience Seriously: A Comment on Professor Zipursky’s Benjamin Cardozo and American Natural Law Theory

    Barzun, Charles L. (2023)
    Commenting on a paper with which one profoundly agrees presents something of a dilemma. If intellectual progress requires anything like the adversarial method, then one feels a certain pressure to criticize. Yet scholarly scruples demand something more than devil’s advocacy. That is the dilemma I face in commenting on Benjamin Zipursky’s essay, “Benjamin Cardozo and American Natural Law Theory.”1 I am in deep sympathy with the essay’s core claim that a tradition of legal thought links Benjamin Cardozo to Lon Fuller and Ronald Dworkin. Indeed, I recently restructured my Jurisprudence class around that tradition. My solution to the dilemma is to grasp ahold of both of its horns by offering a little criticism and then (I hope) some constructive engagement. I first draw a couple of distinctions that I think are important but which Professor Zipursky’s essay glosses over. I then suggest a way of developing further what I have characterized as the essay’s core claim. My suggestion is that the tradition to which Professor Zipursky has drawn our attention is older, broader, and more diverse than one might conclude after reading his essay. If that’s true, it does not undermine, or even diminish, Professor Zipursky’s core claim; to the contrary, it underscores the importance of Cardozo and of Zipursky’s account of his place in American legal thought.

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