The Journal of Law and Public Policy is….

Evictions Are Coming: An In-Depth Look at the COVID-19 Eviction Crisis

(Source) In the United States, nearly 1.4 million people per year spend time in a shelter, and there are more homeless people than the population of some rural states. For those living in city centers, it is an unignorable issue. A home is a foundation on which people build their lives—losing the place you call home can have serious impacts on one’s ability to obtain financial stability and can have impacts on one’s mental health. When the COVID-19 (“COVID”) pandemic hit American shores, it not only devastated the health of communities but also their financial stability, specifically impacting communities of color more severely. During the hardest hit months of the pandemic, over fourteen million Americans filed for unemployment. This spike in unemployment meant families lost the ability to financially provide for themselves, and for many of them, the debt of every day expenses, such as rent, began to accumulate. The looming threat of eviction hangs over many of these families who worry that they will be just another homeless statistic. This piece explores the eviction moratoriums the federal government and the New York state government put in place and analyzes the protections they provide to tenants. It is important to [read more]

Forced Sterilizations — A Discriminatory Reality, Not a Relic of the Past

(Source) Content warning: Rape, sexual assault. It has only been six months since a shocking whistleblower allegation regarding forced hysterectomies and medical neglect at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) detention center in Georgia. Dawn Wooten, a licensed nurse who previously worked at the ICE detention center — the privately-operated Irwin County Detention Center — filed a complaint regarding the numerous hysterectomies performed on Spanish-speaking immigrant women without any prior informed consent. She also expressed concern over the alleged deliberate “lack of medical care, unsafe work practices and absence of adequate protection against COVID-19.” In 2020, these allegations — reproductive organs being forcibly removed without the woman’s consent — almost sounded too inhumane to be true. These allegations, however, have brought to light that forced sterilizations are a remnant of the long legacy of eugenics in the United States and, contrary to popular belief, are not a relic of the past but a harsh reality even today. Sir Francis Galton, Charles Darwin’s half-cousin, coined the term “eugenics” in 1883. The term stemmed from an inaccurate interpretation of Gregor Mendel’s pea pods and Darwin’s theories and stood for the idea that many social ills were perpetuated by rapid reproduction and growth [read more]

A Dodger’s Dilemma: The Possibility of Civil Liability for Justin Turner’s World Series Celebration

(Source) The Los Angeles Dodgers finally broke “The Curse of ‘88” and won the World Series on October 27, 2020, beating the Tampa Bay Rays four games to two. While the Dodger’s Fall Classic win certainly attracted a large source of attention, a significant portion of news centered not on the game itself but instead on the actions of one player in particular. Justin Turner, the Dodger’s third baseman, played a crucial role in the team’s World Series run and subsequent victory, but was mysteriously pulled from the series-clinching game after the seventh inning. The MLB discovered midgame that a COVID-19 test Turner took earlier that day had come back positive and immediately notified the Dodgers, who promptly pulled their third baseman out of the game. As per player and League agreed-upon protocols, the team then ordered Turner to remain in self-isolation. However, after the Dodgers secured their first World Series win in thirty-two years, Turner disregarded these instructions and joined his team for the on-field celebration. Although Turner initially wore a mask when he returned to Globe Life Field, he was seen with his mask off on multiple occasions, including while sitting in close proximity to his teammates for [read more]

SPACs: Avoiding Volatility, Evading Regulation

(Source) The American economy shattered records in 2020. In April, the unemployment rate rose to 14.7%, the highest rate in the history of the data. By June, national debt had increased by twenty-five percentage points since the end of 2019, the strongest surge in history. In July, the Bureau of Economic Analysis found that U.S. gross domestic product fell 31.4% during the second quarter, representing the biggest recorded contraction of that figure. Two-thousand twenty was a record-breaking year for Wall Street, too. On March 16, the Dow lost 2,997.10 points, a larger one-day percentage slide than the one on Black Monday in 1929. However, by August, the Dow had erased all of its 2020 losses and the S&P 500 closed at an all-time high after its severe plummet earlier in the year.  There was another source of record-breaking activity on Wall Street last year. Special-purpose acquisition companies, or “SPACs,” have entered the market in unprecedented numbers. In 2020, SPACs conducted 248 initial public offerings (“IPOs”) and raised over $83 million. By contrast, 2019 –  also an unprecedented year for SPACs – saw only fifty-nine SPAC IPOs and $13.6 million raised. SPACs are public companies formed for the purpose of merging [read more]

Proposition 22: What Does Your Uber Driver Deserve?

(Source) On November 3, 2020, in the throes of one of the most contentious presidential elections in history, all eyes at Uber and Lyft were on California. The rise of the gig economy—a labor market that relies on independent contractors and freelance workers outside of traditional labor regulations—is a major subject of discussion among legislators across the nation. California’s efforts to reform and regulate the gig economy hinged on the passage or failure of Proposition 22 (“Prop 22”), a ballot initiative that defines app-based transportation and delivery drivers as independent contractors with their own personalized labor and wage policies. The gig economy titans spent more than $200 million on their campaign in support of the measure, the most expensive in the state’s history. This past November, the titans rejoiced: Prop 22 had passed with 58% of the vote. But what does Prop 22 mean for California’s app-based drivers, and what are its consequences for gig economy workers nationwide? Gig economy giants, such as Uber and Lyft, assert that their app-based drivers are independent contractors, not employees. As independent contractors, drivers are exempted from major traditional protections under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) and other social protections like unemployment, workers [read more]

No More Zoom Law School?: The Constitutionality of Mandatory Vaccine Laws

(Source) “We’re very close to [the COVID-19] vaccine,” former President Trump stated in a press brief on September 16, 2020, suggesting that a vaccine could be ready by election day. Then-President-elect Biden responded that he did not trust the President to determine when a vaccine would be ready for the public. On November 9, 2020, Pfizer, as part of Operation Warp Speed, announced early results from its COVID-19 vaccine trial that suggest that the their vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. Since the election, President Biden has been more aggressive in ensuring that more vaccines are available by pledging to purchase 200 million addition vaccine doses. Assuming that the vaccine can be delivered safely and effectively, can the state and federal governments require such vaccine? State Government The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits any state from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” However, the liberty protected by the Constitution is not absolute. The Supreme Court has recognized that a state can exercise its police power by enacting reasonable regulations to protect public health and safety. The Supreme Court first addressed the constitutionality of mandatory vaccine laws in 1905. In Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the Court [read more]

If the Personal is Political, Then So is Food

(Source) Introduction Earlier this year, Mike Jozwik, the owner of Mushroom Mike LLC, discovered a method to consistently cultivate a corn fungus called Ustilago maydis after five years of experimentation. “Mushroom Mike” sees himself as a fungus expert, and is the mainstay edible mushroom supplier to most high-end restaurants from Milwaukee to Chicago to Madison. He’s in the process of creating a new business, which he is calling WiscoHuit LLC, specifically to sell U. maydis to restaurants and individuals. But Jozwik is far from the first person to discover U. maydis cultivation on this continent. The Indigenous peoples of central Mexico have been cultivating and consuming U. maydis since, food historians theorize, before Europeans ever arrived on the American continent. They call it “huitlacoche,” and it’s seen as a popular delicacy in Mexico, with over 400 to 500 tons of it sold in Mexico City annually. However, in the U.S., it’s called “corn smut” and seen as a destructive blight on corn crops, akin to a mold, that renders the underlying corn unsellable. As a result, it is relegated to harvests of fringe, seemingly “underground” farmers and restauranteurs. Because, as Jozwik points out, most genetically modified strains of corn have [read more]

Healthcare Price Transparency in a Privately Insured United States: Is Patient Ignorance Bliss?

(Source) It is no secret that the United States is the only industrialized nation without a single-payer universal healthcare program. Among the many issues created by the high cost of healthcare, both parties agree that unexpected, and often extremely expensive, medical bills present a serious threat to financial security in a nation where around two-thirds of individuals declare bankruptcy due to an inability to afford medical care. Despite both parties agreeing that surprise medical bills are a pressing issue, there is little agreement concerning what an appropriate solution might look like. On June 24, 2019, the Trump administration issued an executive order requiring hospitals to make negotiated pricing information accessible to the public. In November 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services, in complying with the order, created a “final rule” requiring all hospitals in the nation to publish the prices of certain procedures on their websites. The American Hospital Administration (“AHA”) and several other hospital networks subsequently filed a lawsuit challenging the administration’s authority to impose such a requirement. The AHA asserted that the rules imposed by this executive order would require more administrative positions to organize and deliver the requested pricing data, an increased cost that ultimately [read more]

New Jersey’s Half-Baked Ballot Initiative Prevents Meaningful Marijuana Reform

(Source) On Election Day, November 3, 2020, voters in four states, New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in their states. These referendums, known as ballot initiatives, allow voters to participate in the state’s policymaking process by inviting them to vote on a proposed law. Prior to the 2020 election, nine states and D.C. legalized recreational marijuana through this method. Some ballot questions contained very general language concerning taxation and regulation. Now, eight years after the first successful legalization efforts in Washington and Colorado, the political conversation has evolved beyond rudimentary concerns.  This past year, criminal justice was on the ballot nationwide, allowing voters to impact state and local policies.  Now, there is a broader dialogue about legalizing recreational marijuana as a means of social and criminal justice reform. Many advocates of marijuana reform hope to wield this democratic tool to ensure that it would protect those who have been or would be harmed by marijuana’s criminalization. In light of the many historic moments of 2020 that have shed light on racial disparities and injustice in the United States, it is appropriate to address these key concerns in the ballot initiatives. In Arizona, the approved ballot measure included [read more]

Whose Right Is It Anyway?: The Messy Intersection of Graffiti, Street Art, and Copyright Law

(Source) Unlike the drab billboards and miles of gray concrete known to punctuate urban landscapes, the splashes of color typical of murals and street art demand to be seen. Street art’s roots, however, are found in graffiti, a phenomenon where various structures are “tagged” with words, which has been viewed as a public nuisance and plays a symbolic role in the controversial broken windows theory of policing neighborhood blight and crime. Graffiti artists have gradually garnered a countercultural reputation for disrespecting private property rights since they see city structures as blank canvases. Los Angeles, for example, spends $7.5 million a year to eliminate graffiti, removing over thirty million square feet of it from over 600,000 spots in 2015. Authorship is typically accompanied by legal rights, but do ownership interests even exist for graffiti artists and can they enforce them?  Do they even want to? Cities generally criminalize graffiti as a form of vandalism, but whether an artist’s right to free expression can overcome this is less clear. Cities generally criminalize graffiti with various approaches: Los Angeles considers graffiti to be a nuisance, requiring owners to keep buildings free of graffiti while artists may face fines and imprisonment under the California [read more]
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