117 Yale L.J. 1236 (2008).
Nearly every international agreement that is made through the Treaty Clause should be approved by both houses of Congress as a congressional-executive agreement instead. In making this case, this Article examines U.S. international lawmaking through empirical, comparative, historical, and policy lenses. U.S. international lawmaking is currently haphazardly carved up between two tracks of international lawmaking, with some areas assigned to the Treaty Clause route, others to the congressional-executive agreement route, and many uncomfortably straddling the two. Moreover, the process for making international law that is outlined in the U.S. Constitution is close to unique in cross-national perspective. To explain how the United States came to have such a haphazard and unusual system, this Article traces the history of U.S. international lawmaking back to the Founding. The rules and patterns of practice that now govern were developed in response to specific contingent events that for the most part have little or no continuing significance. The Treaty Clause process is demonstrably inferior to the congressional-executive agreement process as a matter of public policy on nearly all crucial dimensions: ease of use, democratic legitimacy, and strength of the international legal commitments that are created. Thus, this Article concludes by charting a course toward ending the Treaty Clause for all but a handful of international agreements. By gradually replacing most Article II treaties with ex post congressional-executive agreements, policymakers can make America’s domestic engagement with international law more sensible, effective, and democratic.
117 Yale L.J. 1374 (2008).
This essay takes stock of federal sentencing after 2007, the year of the periphery. On Capitol Hill, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned in the face of widespread criticism over his role in the replacement of several U.S. Attorneys. In the Supreme Court, the trio of Rita v. United States, Gall v. United States, and Kimbrough v. United States clarified and perhaps extended the breadth of license given to district judges in an advisory guideline regime. In contrast to the Supreme Court’s sentencing cases, which focus on the allocation of authority between judges and juries, and the bulk of the sentencing literature, which pits prosecutors against judges, the institutional pairing highlighted here is Main Justice versus the districts, with Department of Justice (DOJ) sentencing policies since 2001 considered in the larger context of DOJ efforts to exercise power over U.S. Attorneys’ offices. What has often been framed as “judicial discretion” might better be seen as a coordinated exercise in local norm setting—an exercise in which line prosecutors, through charging power and shared control over investments in information gathering (in tandem with agencies) inevitably play a critical role. The extent to which prosecutors will be allowed to explicitly embrace the power they tacitly exercise already, and whether an illusory regime of sentencing uniformity will give way to a real one of collaborative norm articulation and development, remains to be seen. But the suggestion here is that the new sentencing cases may point the way to a healthier federal criminal justice system.
117 Yale L.J. 1374 (2008).
When states accept federal funding to administer a joint federal-state program, what assurance is there that they will conform to the requirements of governing federal law? This question takes on a new urgency in the Medicaid context since the § 1983 lawsuits that have historically monitored state compliance with fundamental federal Medicaid requirements may now be impermissible due to recent legislative developments. Anticipating a scramble to find alternative means of enforcement, a novel solution—using administrative hearings to compel states to conform to the federal requirements—may prove to be the most appropriate remaining mechanism for bridging the impending accountability gap.
117 Yale L.J. 1420 (2008).
Early scholarship on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines focused on the transfer of sentencing authority from judges to the Sentencing Commission; later studies examined the transfer of discretion from judges to prosecutors. Of equal significance are two other institutional competitions for power: one between local federal prosecutors and officials in the Department of Justice in Washington (“Main Justice”), and the other between Congress and the Supreme Court. Congress’s enactment of the Feeney Amendment in 2003, in reaction to sentencing data and decisions appearing to reveal that sentencing judges were willfully ignoring the Guidelines, represented a direct challenge to every level of the federal judiciary, to the Sentencing Commission, and to front-line federal prosecutors. By design, this legislation simultaneously empowered Main Justice, which was Congress’s partner in the endeavor to achieve nationwide “compliance” with the Sentencing Guidelines. In its 2005 decision in United States v. Booker, the Supreme Court undid the Feeney Amendment, introduced the opportunity for judges openly to exercise judgment independent of the Guidelines, constrained the leverage that inheres in prosecutors in a mandatory sentencing regime, and counteracted the centralizing impulse of Main Justice. The Court’s recent decisions elaborating Booker confirm that, once again, sentencing is to a significant extent a “local” event. The Sentencing Commission and Main Justice may still be calling signals but the decision makers on the playing field—judges and prosecutors—need not follow them. The pendulum of sentencing practice may increasingly swing back toward the exercise of informed discretion as newly appointed local decision makers are able to see beyond the narrow and arbitrary “frame” of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.