An op-ed by Noah Feldman: A lawsuit in Texas is challenging a hospital’s requirement that its employees get vaccinated against Covid-19 before returning to work. The case isn’t going anywhere, legally speaking. But the central claim is worth examining because it’s at the core of a lot of vaccine hesitation. The Texas plaintiffs, either working in concert or in parallel with a New York-based law firm that is in turn linked to the anti-vaccination movement, claim that administering mRNA vaccines now should be treated as a form of experimentation. And they maintain that requiring employees to be vaccinated eliminates their capacity to consent. This, they insist, amounts to a violation of the Nuremberg Code, a guideline developed in the post-World War II trial of Nazi doctors for crimes against humanity that says humans should not be subject to medical experiments without their consent. The Texas hospital is not violating that principle, because the vaccines at issue aren’t experimental — they have already gone through a series of clinical trials with voluntary subjects. Another reason the Texas plaintiffs’ argument has little legal purchase is that the Nuremberg Code isn’t the law, either under the Texas state statutes or federal law. The word “code” is a bit of a misnomer. Usually in legal context, a code is a body of law that has been authoritatively deposited or laid down by some responsible authority. The Nuremberg Code isn’t that.
After George Floyd’s killing last year, Harvard Business School Professor Mihir Desai says he channeled his thoughts and emotions the best way he knew how—by writing a case study. His aim was to design a classroom exercise that would give M.B.A. students a deeper understanding of the country’s racial scars and what role businesses might have in processing them, he says. He soon seized on a historical event he felt deserved more attention: the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, in which armed white mobs attacked Greenwood, a prosperous, albeit segregated Black neighborhood in the Oklahoma city that later came to be known as Black Wall Street. Over 24 hours, as many as 300 people were killed and more than 190 of the community’s businesses burned to the ground. Prof. Desai’s case study, “The Tulsa Massacre and the Call for Reparations,” asks students to explore ways to reckon with the attack’s financial fallout for its victims and their descendants. He uses the Tulsa case as a launchpad to discuss the use of reparations to respond to the effects of slavery in the U.S. and its aftermath. Students are also asked to consider the role of business in addressing racial-justice issues more broadly.
An op-ed by Evelyn Douek: Content moderation is eating the world. Platforms’ rule-sets are exploding, their services are peppered with labels, and tens of thousands of users are given the boot in regular foul swoops. No platform is immune from demands that it step in and impose guardrails on user-generated content. This trend is not new, but the unique circumstances of a global public health emergency and the pressure around the US 2020 election put it into overdrive. Now, as parts of the world start to emerge from the pandemic, and the internet’s troll in chief is relegated to a little-visited blog, the question is whether the past year has been the start of the tumble down the dreaded slippery content moderation slope or a state of exception that will come to an end. There will surely never be a return to the old days, when platforms such as Facebook and Twitter tried to wash their hands of the bulk of what happened on their sites with faith that internet users, as a global community, would magically govern themselves. But a slow and steady march toward a future where ever more problems are sought to be addressed by trying to erase content from the face of the internet is also a simplistic and ineffective approach to complicated issues.
Police Commissioner Dennis White, fighting for his job on the eve of a termination hearing, released a sworn statement Tuesday in which he recounted telling former mayor Martin J. Walsh that he had been the subject of a restraining order when he was accused in the late 1990s of threatening to shoot his former wife…The sworn statement was released in the form of an hourlong video of White being interviewed by his attorney, the latest part of an effort to dissuade Acting Mayor Kim Janey from ousting White at an administrative hearing scheduled for Wednesday…Employment experts described White’s series of video affidavits as a public relations campaign designed to pressure City Hall. But ultimately, experts said, Janey must decide if she wants White as her police commissioner, not whether he was guilty of domestic violence in the 1990s. “How could he possibly assume the position, so tainted by the controversy?” said Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge and senior lecturer at Harvard Law School, in an e-mail. “For sure, he had every right to want to clear his name, and a legal right to do so, but … having done all of this, how confident would Janey or any other mayor be in his taking a position of such responsibility?”
The power grid serving nearly 20% of the U.S. population is about to throw a roadblock in President Joe Biden’s plan to decarbonize the electricity sector. PJM Interconnection LLC, which keeps the lights on for 65 million people from Chicago to Washington, D.C., is expected to clear a fleet of new natural gas plants– and even extend the lives of some coal plants — when it releases the results of its massive electricity auction Wednesday. That’s because Trump-era changes to the way the auction is structured give a leg up to fossil fuels, at the expense of zero-carbon sources such as nuclear, wind and solar. “The market has been trending toward renewables, but this is pulling it back,” said Ari Peskoe, director of Harvard Law School’s Electricity Law Initiative. “It’s fighting the future.” As much as 4 to 6 gigawatts of new gas capacity and several clunker coal plants could clear the auction, according to some estimates, while nuclear and renewables are expected to be the big losers. Such an outcome would further entrench fossil fuels in the biggest U.S. power market, and runs counter to the president’s goal of eliminating greenhouse gases from the power industry by 2035.
Today in our series on civil rights Supreme Court cases, we examine the anticanon decision of Plessy v Ferguson. Steven Luxenberg, Kenneth Mack, Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson walk us through the story of Homer Plessy, the Separate Car Act of 1890, an infamous opinion and a famous dissent.
Months into President Joe Biden’s first term, supporters of former President Donald Trump are still touting the “big lie” that Trump actually won the 2020 election. One of the prominent supporters of these theories is Trump’s former lawyer Sidney Powell, who is facing a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit for promoting the big lie. In defending herself against the lawsuit, Powell has argued that no reasonable people would have believed her assertions of fraud. But outside court, Powell has continued to play to Trump’s base and bolster theories related to the big lie. During an event in Dallas on Sunday that was also attended by prominent peddlers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, Powell suggested Trump could be reinstated as president even now, saying that “it should be that he can simply be reinstated, that a new Inauguration Day is set.” … It’s worth noting that Powell said “should,” so it’s possible she’s not suggesting that the current law allows a president to “simply be reinstated” but that it should. Even so, Harvard University Law School Professor of Constitutional Law Laurence Tribe told CNN it’s “still weird and wild,” adding that it’s likely “it would be unconstitutional if a law was passed to that effect.” Tribe referred to Powell’s comments as “part of a fantasy world that is truly dangerous to democracy.”
A committee created by the California state legislature to study the state’s penal code and propose improvements in the law has recommended that California repeal its death penalty and expeditiously reduce the size of its death row. At the conclusion of a virtual meeting on May 14, 2021, the California Committee on Revision of the Penal Code (CRPC) unanimously voted to recommend that the state abolish the death penalty. It was the first ever policy vote on the death penalty by the Committee, which was established by an act of the state legislature in 2019…In March 2021 the Committee heard presentations from death-penalty scholars Carol Steiker and Jordan Steiker, siblings who respectively teach at Harvard Law School and University of Texas at Austin School of Law, Elisabeth Semel, the director of UC Berkeley’s Death Penalty Clinic, and UCLA Law professor Sherod Thaxton, among others, on constitutional issues and issues of innocence, costs, racial and geographic bias, and mental health related to capital punishment. It also received submissions from the California District Attorneys Association, the Prosecutors Alliance of California, the California Innocence Coalition, and the Office of the State Public Defender.
Some of the best books of the year so far provide welcome respite from the outside world—while others aim directly for the turbulence, providing frameworks to understand how the past informs our present. Michelle Zauner crafts a devastating tribute to her late mother, circling universal themes of grief. Torrey Peters examines what makes a family in her refreshing debut novel. And Annette Gordon-Reed explores the history behind Juneteenth, offering a comprehensive account of the holiday and its place in our culture. Here, the best books of 2021 so far…On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger read out a declaration telling the enslaved people in Texas that they were finally emancipated, two long months after Appomattox. Juneteenth was a day long-celebrated by many Black communities in Texas and across America, but only in the past year or two has it become a more widely recognized holiday. In her slim but potent book, Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning historian and Harvard professor Annette Gordon-Reed explores the story of that day and all the ways that Black and Native people’s lives have been obscured in culture. As a Texas native, Gordon-Reed offers a book that is both profound and personal in its exploration of the ways history shapes our lives and becomes distorted and reinvigorated over time.
The U.S. Justice Department released the first official expenditure report for the special investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Russia inquiry — providing a rare bit of insight into the secretive review more than two years after it was begun in response to demands by then-President Donald Trump. The inquiry being led by Special Counsel John Durham spent about $1.5 million from Oct. 19 to March 31, according to the report from the Justice Department released Thursday…Durham’s work has now gone on longer than the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who took over the original Russia interference probe in May 2017 and concluded it in March 2019. Critics continue to question the value of Durham’s inquiry and whether it should be shut down. “Now that Durham’s probe into the FBI’s Russia probe has lasted longer even than the protracted Mueller investigation, it’s hard not to get an Alice-in-Wonderland sense about whatever bottomless rabbit holes these guys are burrowing into,” constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe said… “I suppose DOJ should push Durham to provide a status update, but I doubt much would come from such a push as long as the political costs of forcing Durham to wind things up and close up shop exceed the legal benefits of doing so,” Tribe said in an emailed response to questions.