Wisconsin Law Review Forward is an online only publication intended to move conversations in legal academia forward by providing a forum for the quick publication of topical and timely pieces that would otherwise be delayed by our production schedule for print issues. Many of our online pieces are short response pieces to larger pieces published in our print edition and all are shorter works commenting on larger topics in legal academia.
We spend large parts of our days on screens. Often more than we intend to. Screen time has increased steadily for over a decade, even before the Covid-19 pandemic. This is no coincidence. Reports leaking from Silicon Valley revealed that tech companies used manipulative designs to extend users’ time on screens. The internet economy’s business model relies on extending user time online to collect more data and target more advertising at users. This Article aims to answer why regulators did not intervene for years to protect users, especially children, from the harms of excessive screen time. It does so by developing law and technology theory to examine what influences the creation and breadth of windows of opportunity to regulate new technologies. Specifically, it identifies three factors that can obstruct the creation of meaningful windows of opportunity: (i) the invisibility of the technology; (ii) rapid entrenchment of norms and business interests; and (iii) social and institutional resistance to early intervention. The article also offers insight into how the occurrence of mega-historical events can reopen windows of opportunity by shaking up entrenched norms and practices. The Article sheds light on how a window of opportunity to regulate addictive technologies failed to originally materialize, while re-opening later. First, the technology design that made screens addictive was invisible. As a result, users did not notice that their time online was gradually extended. By the time that public reports raised awareness of the technology addiction and overuse problem, both user norms and business interests were deeply engrained. Screens permeated practically every aspect of everyday lives. And, the primary business model of the internet economy relied on maximizing user time. Second, U.S. regulators generally resist early intervention, particularly of information technology and the Internet. Unsurprisingly, they opted for a wait-and-see approach in addressing technology overuse. Finally, the Article argues that the Covid-19 pandemic was a mega-historical event that created a window of opportunity to tackle the technology overuse problem. While the pandemic exacerbated the problem by significantly increasing screen time, it also made the technology visible. People realized how much time they spent on screens and how it affected them. This realization, coupled with increasing scientific evidence of the harms of technology overuse, created a window to regulate addictive technologies.November 21, 2022
What does it mean for technology to disrupt law? Several possibilities come to mind. The first is that disruption refers to reshuffling some feature of the prevailing social order, destabilizing the balance of power and rights under prior law. Social impacts like these are instrumental to legal disruption—they often precipitate legal action to reverse or entrench the new status quo—but focusing on social impacts tells us little about the role or response of law itself. The second possibility is disruption in the sense of challenging and changing substantive legal doctrine. This is perhaps the most popular and intuitive usage, and certainly a core concern for legal scholars. To define disruption this way, however, sweeps in too much. Change is an expected feature of a functional legal system rather than an indicator of anything remarkable. One might try to reserve the disruption label for particularly sudden changes or difficult doctrinal problems, but this solution invites further line-drawing questions. This framing of legal disruption is also incomplete: it begs for an account of why some doctrinal challenges prove more difficult than others. This essay introduces a third possibility grounded in institutional analysis. By this account, legal disruption arises when technological change presents problems that are difficult to resolve through standard processes of making, enforcing, and updating the law. It arises fundamentally from the mismatch between the questions presented and the capabilities of existing legal institutions along the dimensions of authority, competence, and legitimacy. This account of disruption provides a schema for understanding how the difficulty of resolving techlaw problems extends beyond questions at the level of doctrine.November 13, 2022
In this short comment, I raise two concerns regarding the implementation of Professor Krishnan’s model. The first is that the LODE model’s analogy to the discretionary interlocutory appeal is imperfect, and the imperfection is not merely technical, but rather involves the very heart of the reason for such interlocutory appeals: it is difficult to see how the LODE model will actually produce appellate rulings that could potentially shorten or terminate the underlying hearing. Instead, the LODE model seems likely only to create delay while the appellate court decides, based on an incomplete record, whether the rest of the immigration hearing will involve record development by the immigration judge. The second concern is that the LODE model puts the appellate court into the position of having to decide (again, on an incomplete record) whether the noncitizen’s lawyer is inept or incompetent. Such a ruling could have far-reaching implications on any potential ineffective assistance of counsel claim brought by a noncitizen who loses at the hearing.September 7, 2022
The University of Wisconsin’s James Willard Hurst was arguably the most significant legal historian in the United States. Hurst not only launched the so-called “new” legal history as an alternative to traditional constitutional narrative, but he also founded the interdisciplinary field of “law and society” more generally. And Hurst is most famous for some of his more general observations about the relationship between economic development and the growth of American law. As Lawrence Friedman put it, “[O]n the general question of the relationship between law and the economy, the pioneer work of J. Willard Hurst is still a fundamental starting point. . . .” Much of that work concerned the nineteenth century and law’s role in what Hurst talked about as “the release of creative energy.”July 11, 2022
A few summers ago, I was playing in the yard with my kids. I noticed my 3-year-old son pinching the tops off the red lilies we had planted, which were just starting to bloom. I told him to stop. He immediately froze and blurted out “it was an accident!” I surveyed the scene. There were eight decapitated lilies in a row. Eight. I pressed him. “So, you are saying it was an accident, eight times?” He looked down, and then off into the horizon. The jig was up. He furrowed his brow—wondering how I could possibly know it had been intentional. I told him that we generally do not repeat the same movement, accidentally, eight times. He was mystified that I could have known his private thoughts. I told him that he was already developing the ability to read other people’s minds, and it would improve as he got older. He looked at me in awe, as if I had some superpower. But it’s one of the most basic things we humans do. This sort of mindreading—where we look beyond the actual words spoken, to discern someone’s true thoughts through their eye gaze, affect, expressions, character, demeanor, and any other cues—is an essential part of our social lives. By aggregating lots of information about other people’s mental states, past behavior, character (and unfair stereotypes), we decide whether they should be praised, condemned, or forgiven.May 3, 2022
The public safety need for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic spurred the City of Chicago to begin reimagining its public right of way. One program of particular success was the City’s “Make Way for Dining” program initiated in the summer of 2020. This program created temporary outdoor “Café Streets” and pedestrianized roadways for dining and shopping to support a reeling restaurant industry due to forced closures and prohibitions on indoor dining. The City’s plan to help revive the local economy did come at a cost, however, as the City’s Transportation Commissioner, Gia Biagi, acknowledged that “street closings might require the [C]ity to compensate the consortium that leases Chicago parking meters for any taken out of service.”March 6, 2022
"My name is Dan Tokaji. I'm the Dean of the University of Wisconsin Law School, and I'm delighted to welcome you to the first Thomas Fairchild Lecture of my deanship and our first virtual Fairchild Lecture... We have an extraordinary speaker for this evening, David Maraniss... David is an acclaimed Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and best-selling author who has in his various books chronicled American life through the lens of sports figures, U.S. Presidents, and everyday heroes. He's an associate editor at The Washington Post and a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt. He's won two Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and was a finalist three other times."November 12, 2021
The Seventh Circuit Fires a Warning Shot: “Rights and Benefits” Includes Paid Military Leave When Employers Offer Pay for “Comparable Absences”
As a matter of first impression in the federal appellate courts, a three-judge Seventh Circuit panel broadly interpreted the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (“USERRA”), to require private employers under some circumstances to provide paid leave to employees absent from work due to military service. White held that an employer’s failure to provide paid military leave, while on the other hand offering paid leave for other comparable leaves of absence, impermissibly violates USERRA’s equal-treatment rule for reservists and National Guardsmen. The net effect of this holding is clear: service members and employers must understand the Seventh Circuit’s reasoning and its future impact on employment policies and practices.October 26, 2021
Post-Enlightenment Western religion, and legal frameworks responding to it, place special emphasis on individuality and personal conscience. But as the racial and ethnic makeup of the nation evolves, an increasing portion of the nation’s population follows religious traditions that emphasize communal practices. Thus, as demographics change, the appearance of religious exercise will change too. Recent scholarly critique, which questions robust protections for religious free exercise, should consider how certain protections may be particularly valuable for minority, but growing, religious perspectives. Specifically, protections for institutional free exercise and religious land use, with the proper limitations, should be seriously considered as desirable safeguards of minority rights. Such approaches to religious liberty law would respect the communal and embodied nature of religious life which looks to expand in years to come.August 31, 2021
Much has been written, and remains to be written, about the many roles law has played in China’s economic development since 1978. Without minimizing the value of what has been written so far, this essay seeks to broaden the discussion by applying to China’s recent history certain ideas of the great historian of nineteenth century American law and economic development, James Willard Hurst. The essay proceeds by providing a brief introduction to Hurst and his work on law and economic growth in the United States, then explores how those ideas might be applied to assist our understanding of what has happened in China.June 15, 2021
The Wisconsin school of contracts is one of the most important scholarly contributions to the understanding of contracting practices and contract law from the second half of the twentieth century to the present. As part of the broader law and society movement in which Wisconsin scholars played a major part, it shifted focus from law-in-books to law-in-action and brought to light the importance of relationships and the limits of law as central elements of contract in society. As summarized by Stewart Macaulay and William Whitford: To us, as we use it in connection with contract law, it expresses a widespread interest of how in fact, as opposed to in theory, statutory law and case precedent come into being; how people and businesses use contracts to manage their lives; how disputes in the performance of contracts arise and are settled; and how the resolution of disputes affects the parties to the disputes and influences future parties to contracts.April 16, 2021
Download PDFJanuary 14, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on American society. Public health experts agree that the best way to end it is with the development and implementation of a safe and effective vaccine program, and government, private industry and not for profit organizations have already committed billions of dollars towards this end. This Essay will examine three possible approaches that government and businesses can take to increase the likelihood that enough Americans are immunized against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to achieve herd immunity.November 15, 2020
Wisconsin’s Law of Negligence is Inherently Incompatible with the Restatement— So Why Does the Court Regularly Adopt Restatement Provisions?
This essay proposes that Wisconsin’s formulations of duty and causation are unique and fundamentally incompatible with the Restatement (Second) of Torts. Part I offers a theory of Wisconsin negligence. It tracks the historical roots of Wisconsin’s negligence framework and distinguishes Wisconsin’s approach from jurisdictions that follow the Restatement by examining two famous cases, The Wagon Mound and the “exploding lamp” case.1 Part II considers two recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions and argues that in each case, the Court applied sections of the Restatement that were incompatible with Wisconsin law. These cases are microcosms of a larger debate among the justices questioning whether duty should be handled differently in cases of negligent omissions as opposed to negligent acts. This essay proposes that nearly a century of settled law resolves this debate, and that Wisconsin’s unique negligence analysis is strong enough to answer any difficult questions that come before it. When the Wisconsin Supreme Court resolves complicated cases by adopting unnecessary sections of the Restatement, it places the doctrinal integrity of Wisconsin’s negligence framework at risk. Judges would be wise to avoid the Restatement (Second) of Torts altogether.October 13, 2020
Thomas A. Baker III, Marc Edelman, & John T. HoldenJuly 28, 2020
The COVID-19 health crisis and resulting “stay at home” orders have led to newfound challenges for commercial sports leagues concerning how to safely and ethically conduct games during such uncertain times. For professional sports leagues, including Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, and the National Hockey League, many of the decisions about how to return to sport have entailed collectively-bargained negotiations between league owners and players’ unions. However, in collegiate sports, where the players are not unionized, these decisions are made unilaterally by colleges on either the individual school, conference, or national level—all without any meaningful player input. This article explores some of the legal and ethical challenges for college sports in the time of COVID-19, and it explains why it would be entirely inappropriate for colleges that are not planning to offer live classes this fall to have student-athletes return to campus this summer to prepare for a college football season.
Nizan Geslevich PackinJuly 5, 2020
The COVID-19 economic crisis has brought to light something very broken in the American banking system—banks prioritize their own profits over the interests of those they serve and interests of social justice. And they are permitted to do so because they do not owe a fiduciary duty to their customers and are not social welfare maximizing entities.
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