Current Commentaries

Summer 2020

Staving Off a Supreme Court Smackdown: Anticipating and Avoiding an Ex Post Facto Challenge to FOSTA

Julie A. Minicozzi

Before April of 2018, in mere moments a person could log onto the internet and find a bevy of advertisements for underage, sex-trafficked girls, and then point, click, and purchase a fifteen-year-old girl for cyber-sex acts, or for in-person sex acts. Sex trafficking does not happen only on the dark web. It does not happen only in a foreign country. Sex trafficking happens daily right here in the United States. And, prior to April of 2018, ordering sex online was as easy as ordering anything else online. Law enforcement could not effectively prosecute the overwhelming number of bad actors advertising online and, therefore, could not effectively help ensnared and exploited victims. In a letter to Congress, the National Association of Attorneys General requested an amendment to a statute that blocked such prosecutions by affording broad immunity to internet service providers: the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) § 230.

Spring 2020

Establishing a Sovereign Vote: Unshackling the Electorate by Redistricting Through Independent Commissions

Lucas Katzenmeier

For much of our nation’s history, the power to draw congressional districts has rested exclusively with the states’ legislators, and in a majority of states, the legislature retains that authority. When dividing the state into congressional districts, map makers are bound by strict equal population requirements.

Winter 2020

Permissioned Blockchains & Smart Contracts: The Smarter Way to Protect Intellectual Property

Katarina Gonzalez

Blockchain is the new buzzword of not just the technology industry, but seemingly the entire world. Most people associate blockchain with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. The uses of blockchain technology go far beyond the cryptocurrency world and can benefit many different industries. This Commentary examines how permissioned blockchain and smart contracts benefit the intellectual property (“IP”) industry. The use of smart contracts would increase IP holders, and potential buyers or licensees, establish and enforce IP agreements, and track licensing agreements for IP deals.

Abatement Ab Initio in New Jersey and the Evolving Legal Landscape

Jason Kornmehl

What is the effect of a criminal defendant’s death while an appeal challenging a conviction is pending?  At one point, both federal and state courts provided a fairly uniform answer: death pending appeal required that the judgment of conviction be vacated and the indictment dismissed.  In other words, courts generally treated the defendant “as if he or she had never been charged.”  Because the defendant’s death discontinued all proceedings ab initio (from the beginning), this common law doctrine came to be known as abatement ab initio.

Fall 2019

Disciplining the “Disruptive” Student Heckler

Justin W. Aimonetti

The recent rise of state statutes and policies that discipline disruptive student protestors raises a host of important, yet largely unaddressed, constitutional questions. This Commentary seeks to identify the constitutional issues raised by such disciplinary systems, in addition to making three principal contentions. First, this Commentary argues that any state disciplinary policy that subjects disruptive student protestors to punishment must not be unconstitutionally overbroad. Second, and by contrast, state disciplinary statutes or policies must specify what is prohibited and what is allowed to avoid chilling the expression of constitutionally protected speech. Third, this Commentary normatively contends that a carefully crafted disciplinary sanction regime may encourage civic activism as students will feel more comfortable expressing their views when they know which conduct is clearly permitted and which is subject to discipline. Speakers may also find confidence in voicing their perspectives to an audience subject to a disciplinary regime which punishes overly disruptive speech and behavior. In short, a disciplinary sanction regime, accompanied by defined terminology, may further the significant government interest in promoting a sort of marketplace, where students are exposed to a variety of different ideas, and where contrarian points of view are freely expressed on campus.

A Comparative View on the Restrictions of Free Speech in the United States and Europe

Anne R. Colrick

The freedom of speech is the right to express opinions and ideas without the fear of punishment and censorship. However, while this may be an essential right there are certain forms of speech that are restricted in the United States and Europe. Within the U.S., the freedom of expression is protected through the First Amendment and a stronger emphasis is placed on maintaining the freedom of expression by implementing a more categorical approach to regulating free speech, specifically categorizing and restricting speech that is deemed to be unprotected. In contrast, through Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”), Europe employs a broader approach to restricting speech, balancing the value of the speech against its societal costs so that only the collective view of accepted speech is protected. This commentary explores the distinction between these two standards and analyses their benefits in protecting free speech as well as their possible detriments in chilling it. Part I examines the more categorical approach that the U.S. implements in restricting free speech, focusing on three main forms of unprotected speech: those that incite imminent danger, true threats, and fighting words. Part II explores Europe’s more broad approach to protecting free speech and how it focuses on enforcing what is societally acceptable. Part III analyses the benefits and detriments of both standards, deducing which standard allows for the most discourse that would enable a better cultivation of valuable speech.