Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A disquieting observation about the Fourth Circuit's en banc immigration decision

The typical law student has a tendency to think he or she has performed worse on exams perceived as harder and better on exams perceived as easier. But often the opposite is the case. Thinking that one may have done poorly because the examination seemed so hard is sometimes a sign that one has performed well.

One of my law school professors (I think it was Dan Meltzer, but I'm not sure) gave an explanation of this phenomenon that made sense to me. Exams seem hard when the exam-taker has perceived the hard issues raised by the exam. Exams that seem easy may only seem that way because the exam-taker has missed the hard issues entirely.

I'm reminded of this phenomenon in reading the Fourth Circuit's en banc immigration decision. The decision seems legally wrong for reasons set forth in Judge Niemeyer's dissenting opinion, the government's briefs, and online writings by Josh Blackman, Ilya Shapiro, Marc DeGirolami, and others. Go find and read those if you are interested in the technical legal analysis. But don't forget that good legal analysis often is technical.

Most troubling to me, though, is the seeming confidence of the majority opinion that comes through in the language it uses as it deploys modern Establishment Clause doctrine. The reason that is troubling is traceable to one of the best law review articles I've read.

In *A Political History of the Establishment Clause,* 100 Mich. L. Rev. 279 (2001), John Jeffries and Jim Ryan offer precisely what their title suggests. Go ahead and read it. It will probably make you miserable if you really care about the law part of constitutional law. But it will also make you wiser.

If you're an anti-anti-Catholic, you might also--and appropriately--be more worried about judicial decisions finding Establishment Clause violations.


Walsh, Kevin | Permalink