The Stakes in Andy Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Andy Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith, the first non-software fair use case the court has heard since 1994. This has copyright lawyers aflutter, as fair use law has been in increasing disarray for the last 20 years or so, and there is hope that finally the Supreme Court will give lower courts much-needed guidance. Unfortunately, I think the probability is higher of a mush-filled disaster of an opinion, like the one in Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands (2017), that not only gives no guidance, but eliminates the few stable boundaries we have.

That’s because fair use doctrine is a poor fit for the way modern courts operate, and there is probably little the Court can do to fix that, but a lot it can do to make the problem worse. But before I get there, I want to lay out in this post what’s at stake in AWF.

The case involves a licensing deal between celebrity photographer Lynn Goldsmith and Vanity Fair magazine. (more…)

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State Supreme Courts and the “Major Questions” Doctrine

When a legislative body delegates authority to an administrative agency, it cannot envision every future scenario, and often uses language that is regrettably—but necessarily—imprecise. Take, for example, the power given the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to exercise “general supervision and control over the waters of the state.”[1] Or consider the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to select the “best system of emission reduction” for certain entities emitting air pollution. (The United States Supreme Court analyzed the scope of the latter provision earlier this summer in West Virginia v. EPA). Operationalizing such vaguely worded authority has proven difficult for agencies. Disputes about the true extent of the delegation arise when the agency takes action near the limit of the delegation.

In the legal skirmishes that result, courts sometimes find the agency has gone too far. The most recent, high-profile example of this is the West Virginia case, in which the Court endorsed the “major questions” doctrine. The Court examined EPA’s authority to enact a plan to cut emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants. To some extent, the plan required a “generation shifting” approach mandating a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. The Court took a skeptical view of the plan. It held that in certain “extraordinary cases” raising a “major question” of “economic and political significance,” there is good reason to restrain the scope of an administrative agency’s power, especially if Congress had not clearly delegated authority for the agency to take the questioned action. The Court further explained that the doctrine flows from traditional separation of powers principles inherent in the federal constitution. The holding seems likely to restrict the reach of just about any federal agency’s authority.

In light of West Virginia, will state courts adopt state-level equivalents of the “major questions” doctrine, based on the parallel separation of powers principles in state constitutions? In Wisconsin, the answer is not as clear as you might think, particularly in light of two recent Wisconsin Supreme Court opinions rejecting constraints on agency power, even when based on murky conferrals of legislative authority. (more…)

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The Washington, D.C., Issue of the Marquette Lawyer Magazine 

2020 Summer Cover

Amid all the global disruptions that started in March, Marquette Law School moved forward effectively in teaching students to be lawyers and in offering, as best we could, the public engagement we are known for. One important aspect of the latter is the release of the new issue of the Marquette Lawyer magazine, produced with a few internal procedural adjustments, but no change in schedule or in our commitment to provide high-quality reading to Marquette lawyers, all lawyers in Wisconsin, and many interested others.

Washington, D.C., is the focus of the new issue. The Washington that’s in (more…)

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When Must a Catholic Judge Recuse from Cases Involving His Diocese?

[The following is a guest post from Daniel Suhr ’08, a prior guest alumni contributor to the Blog.]

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in Archdiocese of Washington v. Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.  According to the order in the case, Justice Kavanaugh took no part.  In his statement respecting the denial of certiorari, Justice Gorsuch wrote, “Because the full Court is unable to hear this case, it makes a poor candidate for our review. But for that complication, however, our intervention and a reversal would be warranted….”  Justice Kavanaugh was a member of the D.C. Circuit panel that first heard oral argument in the case when he was Judge Kavanaugh, and thus could not hear the case again on appeal. See 28 U.S. Code § 47 (he subsequently withdrew from the panel).

Some have suggested that Kavanaugh was recused (either at the DC Circuit or SCOTUS) because he was an active member of a parish in the Archdiocese of Washington. This is not the standard for recusal for any judge on cases involving institutions of his or her faith.

Courts consistently hold that judges do not have to recuse when their denomination has taken a public stand on an issue before the judge. (more…)

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Trump’s Willingness to Destroy Culture

the Pink Mosque in Shiraz
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque (the Pink Mosque) in Shiraz

In the midst of our recent, deadly skirmishes with Iran, President Trump at one point threatened to bomb 52 sites that were “important to Iran and the Iranian culture.”  Commentators quickly pointed out that doing so would violate the UNESCO World Heritage Convention as well as the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.  (For just a sampling of those responses, see here, here, here, here, and here.)  For my own part, I was struck by the President’s understanding of “culture” and his willingness to destroy it. (more…)

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