Shannon Gilreath & Arley Ward
Can a state government allow its officials to opt-out of issuing marriage licenses based on religious objections to same-sex marriage? Similarly, can a state create special religion-based exceptions to anti-discrimination laws? This article examines these questions by comparing traditional objections to same-sex marriage and racial integration, and by delving into how each category is treated by anti-discrimination law. We examine the ultimate refusal to legally accommodate analogous religiously-motivated objections to racial integration. We conclude that any such exemptions would be unconstitutional violations of both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Understanding the history of religion-based arguments justifying discrimination is crucial to this analysis. Proponents of far-reaching religious exemptions from otherwise generally applicable anti-discrimination laws too often portray the advent of same-sex marriage as unprecedented and terrifyingly unique. So terrifying and unique, it is claimed, that the law must recognize unprecedented new rights for individuals refusing to accept the evolution of the law because of their religious beliefs. Understanding the striking similarities between arguments justifying anti-gay discrimination and anti-black discrimination for religious reasons is crucial to exposing this fallacy.
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K. Heather Devine
The greatest health risk in the world today is hunger. One out of nine people in the world do not get enough to eat—meaning they do not get enough calories, nutrients, or both. Hunger and malnutrition threaten global health at a greater rate than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
Hunger is not restricted to developing nations. Fourteen percent of United States households are food insecure—they cannot consistently access enough food for their households. Closer to home, nearly 80,000 Vermonters, more than 20,000 of whom are children, are food insecure. More than a third of Vermonters report they cannot afford to buy nutritious food, or they cannot buy enough food.
In January 2014, members of the civil society network, Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, held the world’s first International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature and Mother Earth (International Tribunal) in Quito, Ecuador. Since that time, the International Tribunal has met in Lima, Peru and Paris, France in parallel with the Conference of Parties for UN climate change negotiations, and Regional Chambers of the International Tribunal have been held in the United States and Australia. Given that the International Tribunal has emerged from civil society rather than state-centered international law, and given that countries like Australia and the United States do not recognize, in State or Federal law, the intrinsic rights of plants, animals, or ecosystems to exist, what possible benefits do Rights of Nature Tribunals offer the natural world, and what impact can they have on the current legal system?
In this paper, I outline the creation and ongoing hearings of the International Tribunal and its Regional Chambers and provide an overview of Earth jurisprudence, the emerging theory of Earth-centered law and governance from which the Tribunals have emerged. I then contextualize the Rights of Nature Tribunals within the phenomenon of peoples’ tribunals during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I suggest that like many “peoples’ tribunals” before them, Rights of Nature Tribunals provide a powerful voice for civil society concerns and create an alternative narrative to that offered by western legal systems regarding environmental destruction. They also have the potential to play a role in transforming existing law and offer a welcome, cathartic contribution to the burgeoning field of Earth jurisprudence.
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 International Rights of Nature Tribunal, Global Alliance for Rts. Nature, http://therightsofnature.org/rights-of-nature-tribunal (last visited Nov. 23, 2016).
Rodrigo M. Caruço
American military criminal law does not often receive much attention outside the military and its law journals. But for the first time in over three decades, Congress will debate sweeping reforms to the United States military’s legal system proposed by the Department of Defense (DoD) that, if enacted, would further civilianize the military’s criminal code. Just a few years ago, the acclaimed documentary The Invisible War brought the issue of sexual assault in the U.S. military to the forefront of national attention. This film prompted sustained attacks by certain members of Congress regarding how the military prosecutes sexual assault cases, as well as the creation of numerous panels to study different aspects of the military’s approach to sexual assault investigation and prosecution. On its own initiative, the DoD took a broader view and initiated a comprehensive review of the entire military legal system. The result of this review is the DoD-proposed Military Justice Act of 2016, a wide-ranging proposal that substantially civilianizes a legal system already radically civilianized compared to its original enactment in 1775. However, one institution critical to the military’s legal system will escape all scrutiny by both Congress and the DoD—its highest court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF). This article closes that gap.
Though an Article I court, CAAF is an independent judicial body. Its budget flows through the DoD, but Congress has made it clear that CAAF is located within the DoD “for administrative purposes only . . . .” Like all judicial bodies, it should benefit from ongoing scrutiny. Its early judges agreed and invited such scrutiny. Though the military services law review journals and numerous civilian journals publish works analyzing specific aspects of military law, few, if any, include structural analyses of the military’s appellate institutions generally, and CAAF specifically. This type of study has not occurred since the 1970s. Thus, CAAF, and consequently military law, has evolved over the last 50 or so years without much scrutiny of its role within the military justice system and whether its conduct is consistent with its role. No comprehensive understanding of the military justice system is complete without a better understanding of its highest court.
This article attempts to further the understanding of CAAF’s role in the military justice system by examining CAAF’s effectiveness as the court of last resort within this system. This is accomplished by answering a series of questions. First, what is a court of last resort? Second, is CAAF viewed as a court of last resort in the military judicial hierarchy, or is it viewed as the first real intermediate appellate court, with the service courts acting as mere reviewing agencies? Third, if CAAF is viewed as a court of last resort, does it act like one?
This article concludes that CAAF is a court of last resort that, far too often, acts as an intermediate error-correction court. This conclusion raises both concerns and opportunities for a legal system facing ongoing scrutiny over its legitimacy. Each of the questions presented above are answered in order. Part I introduces the role of a court of last resort in a judicial system. Courts of last resort in a two-tiered system primarily focus on declaring what the law is, not error correction. This role is concerned with the development of the law. Error correction is the primary task of intermediate courts. Part II turns the focus to the perceptions of CAAF, perceptions by both the Supreme Court of the United States (Court) and CAAF itself. Even during periods in which the Court expressed grave concern over the legitimacy and competency of the military justice system, it has always viewed CAAF as the court of last resort within that system. Likewise, CAAF has always asserted itself as the court of last resort in the military justice system. Though CAAF expressed this view less in recent years, it has never retreated from its earlier declarations that it was the military’s supreme court.
Part III begins the inquiry into whether CAAF acts like a court of last resort describing the methodology used to obtain, review, and classify the relevant data. The sample size consisted of each published decision from four select terms: 1951–52, 1968–69, 1994–95, and 2014–15. The first three selected terms followed the enactment of legislation that specifically intended to clarify CAAF’s status as an independent and important federal court. Presumptively, these terms transpired when CAAF was most aware of its enhanced prestige. The 2014–15 term represents CAAF’s most recent full term, thus presenting the opportunity to examine its recent conduct. Based on the criteria established in Part I, each decision in these terms was given one of ten codes to classify it as either an error correction decision or a declaration of law. Nine of the codes mark the nine bases for granting review common amongst courts of last resort. The tenth code marks the decision as one of error correction. In addition to the first three terms, the Court’s 2014–15 term was reviewed and coded for validation. Proper coding should result in a high total number, indicating more declaration decisions by the Court.
Part IV analyzes the results of this examination. It concludes that each term contained an extraordinary number of error correction decisions, at times making up nearly 90% of all decisions in a given term. Furthermore, when CAAF does issue a law declaration decision, thus acting as a court of last resort, it often does not frame the issues or address them in a manner one would expect from such a court. The discussion in Part IV offers some initial potential explanations, which ultimately narrow down the question to whether CAAF understands its role, and if it is properly served by its lower courts and appellate counsel. Part V offers a procedural and substantive framework for approaching petitions for review and subsequent decisions based on the available data. This includes suggesting CAAF make clear when it is conducting error correction and when it is conducting law declaration—and why the distinction is important. Finally, this article concludes with a call for examination of the historically high level of error correction decisions issued by CAAF.
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 See, e.g., Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013, S. 967, 113 Cong. (2013) (providing that prosecution determinations in sexual assault cases cannot be made by commanding officers).
 The Invisible War (Chain Camera Pictures 2012).
 Senator Kristin Gillibrand, D-NY, first introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013, which sought to remove the authority to decide whether to prosecute sexual assault cases from military commanders and place that authority in senior attorneys outside the chain of command. S. 967. Sen. Gillibrand’s bill did not make it out of committee, but the substantial interest she generated had an impact. The subsequent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) created two panels focused on the prosecution of sexual assault cases. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, Pub. L. No. 112-239, § 576, 126 Stat. 1632, 1758–62 (2013). The charter of the Judicial Proceedings Since Fiscal Year 2012 Amendments Panel (Judicial Proceedings Panel) directed its membership to review judicial proceedings in such cases for the purpose of gathering statistics, determining trends, and making recommendations on improving military judicial proceedings. The Judicial Proceedings Since Fiscal Year 2012 Amendments Panel, Charter 1–3 (2012). In addition, the charter of the Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel (Response Systems Panel) directed its members to investigate “the systems used to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate . . . .” sexual assault and related offenses. Response Sys. to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel, Charter 1 (2013). Part of this directive included investigating whether military commanders should retain their authority in the military legal system, known as the military justice system. Id. at 1. The panel concluded they should. Carl Levin, et al., Report of the Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crime Panel 6–7, 22–23, 36–37, 161–71, 173–74 (2014). Partly in response, Sen. Gillibrand re-introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act. Military Justice Improvement Act of 2014, S. 2992, 113th Cong. (2014). It fell a few votes short in a cloture vote, 55-45. On the Cloture Motion S. 1752, GovTrack, https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/113-2014/s59 (last visited Nov. 22, 2016).
 During the same period that the NDAA directed the establishment of the Judicial Proceedings Panel and the Response Systems Panel, the DoD established the Military Justice Review Group (MJRG) to perform a comprehensive review of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM), and the applicable service regulations. Memorandum from the Secretary of Defense on a Comprehensive Review of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to Secretaries of the Military Departments, et al. (Oct. 18, 2013), http://www.dod.gov/dodgc/images/mjrg_secdef_memo.pdf. The last such review occurred in 1983, with many piecemeal amendments since then. Id. The MJRG conducted hearings and received information for two years; its proposals then underwent approximately a month of internal DoD review. See Military Justice Review Group, Dep’t of Defense, http://www.dod.gov/dodgc/mjrg.html (last visited Nov. 22, 2016) (providing documents related to the DoD’s review of the military justice system). Subsequently, the DoD proposed the Military Justice Act of 2016 on December 28, 2015, based on the MJRG’s initial report. Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Def., Department of Defense Forwards to Congress Proposed Changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (Dec. 28, 2015), http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/638095/department-of-defense-forwards-to-congress-proposed-changes-to-the-uniform-code.
 Bryan Koenig, DOD Proposes ‘First Comprehensive’ UCMJ Update in 30 Years, Law360 (Jan. 4, 2016), http://www.law360.com/articles/742081/dod-proposes-first-comprehensive-ucmj-update-in-30-years.
 In its report, the MJRG stated that “[i]n view of the judicial independence of the Court, the Department of Defense, as a matter of policy, typically has deferred to the Court with respect to initiating any legislative proposal that might be necessary in the interests of judicial administration.” Military Justice Review Group, Report of the Military Justice Review Group, Part: 1: UCMJ Recommendations 1020 (Dec. 22, 2015), http://www.dod.mil/dodgc/images/report_part1.pdf.
 10 U.S.C. § 941 (2012).
 Robert E. Quinn, The Court’s Responsibility, 6 Vand. L. Rev. 161, 162 (1953). Chief Judge Quinn eagerly welcomed scrutiny: “It is my hope that the bar, individually and through its legal journals, will follow closely the work of this Court. They can perform a most valuable function in weighing individual cases against the dichotomatic concept of military justice and tell the public, the services and us, the judges, whether we are performing properly our task of enunciating principles worthy of existence in this relatively new field of law.” Id.
 See, e.g., Eugene R. Fidell, Is There a Crisis in Military Appellate Justice?, 12 Roger Williams U. L. Rev. 820, 820 (2007) (“The highest court of the jurisdiction — The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces — is turning out careful, scholarly opinions that are easily on par with the work of the geographical circuits.”); Jonathan Lurie, Presidential Preferences and Aspiring Appointees: Selections to the U.S. Court of Military Appeals 1951-1968, 29 Wake Forest L. Rev. 521 (1994) (exploring the politicized nature of presidential appointments to the U.S. Court of Military Appeals); Scott L. Silliman, The Supreme Court and Its Impact on the Court of Military Appeals, 18 A.F. L. Rev. 81, 82 (1976) (considering the Court of Military Appeals’ status within the military justice system).
 See, e.g., Daniel H. Benson, The United States Court of Military Appeals, 3 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 1, 2 (1971) (describing the structure of CAAF); John S. Cooke, The United States Court of Military Appeals, 1975-1977: Judicializing the Military Justice System, 76 Mil. L. Rev. 43, 44 (1977) (discussing the effects of transforming the military justice system during the late 1970s); John T. Willis, The United States Court of Military Appeals: Its Origin, Operation and Future, 55 Mil. L. Rev. 39 (1972) (providing a history of the Court of Military Appeals and its role); John T. Willis, The Constitution, The United States Court of Military Appeals and the Future, 57 Mil. L. Rev. 27, 27 (1972) (examining the decisions and structure of the Court of Military Appeals), John T. Willis, The United States Court of Military Appeals – “Born Again”, 52 Ind. L.J. 151, 153 (1976) (discussing precedent-breaking decisions, supervisory review and civilianization by the Court of Military Appeals).
 To be fair, there is some discussion that this distinction is not so clear; courts of last resort and intermediate courts routinely engage in a two-way communication in the law development function. See, e.g., Doni Gewirtzman, Lower Court Constitutionalism: Circuit Court Discretion in a Complex Adaptive System, 61 Am. U. L. Rev. 457, 462, 464 (2012) (arguing the circuit courts’ role is to maintain stability and help evolve the judicial system); Evan H. Caminker, Precedent and Prediction: The Forward-Looking Aspects of Inferior Court Decisionmaking, 73 Tex. L. Rev. 1, 7–8 (1994) (comparing and contrasting two models of behavior in inferior courts, namely (1) deference to existing superior court precedents and (2) predictions of future superior court rulings). However, this article structures the roles of each level in accordance with the American Bar Association’s Standards Relating to Court Organization. See Gerald B. Cope, Jr., Discretionary Review of the Decisions of Intermediate Appellate Courts: A Comparison of Florida’s System with Those of the Other States and the Federal System, 45 Fla. L. Rev. 21, 27 (1993) (citing Standards Relating to Court Org. § 1.13 commentary at 39–40 (1990)).
 Silliman, supra note 9, at 82.
 Id. at 89–91.
 Id. at 91.
The state of Maine has a complicated and often adversarial legal relationship with the federally recognized Native American (Indian) Tribes in the state. Perhaps the most contentious legal relationship presently pertains to Maine’s authority to regulate water resources on Indian territories and lands (Indian lands). At their core, legal conflicts often involve disputes over power, money, respect, or any combination of these elements. What makes conflicts between states and Native American tribes so complex, and in this particular case volatile, is that the legal issues often involve clashes of all three of these elements. The legal framework for the current water resource dispute traces back to a series of state and federal laws setting aside reservation and trust land for the Tribes in the 1980s and 1990s, collectively known as the Settlement Acts. The Tribes’ lack of bargaining power during these settlements arguably resulted in a jurisdictionally oppressive framework for the protection of tribal natural resources. The most recent legal conflict erupted in February 2015, and juxtaposes Maine’s right to regulate water quality standards (WQS) against the Tribes’ right to fish for sustenance on their lands. The emotional responses ignited by this conflict illuminate why a comprehensive approach to settling the disputes between Maine its Tribes is needed.
Jennifer L. Bjurling
Fitzgerald v. Fitzgerald. May this case be branded on the mind of every family law attorney. The husband, Thomas, was the plaintiff, and in conformity with the typical situation, the debtor in bankruptcy. The wife, Sandra, was the defendant in the divorce complaint and creditor-spouse in bankruptcy. The parties negotiated a property settlement. The court incorporated the stipulation into a divorce decree. The stipulation required the husband to make an equalizing payment to the wife. He did not. Instead, only one month after the divorce decree, the husband filed for bankruptcy. Though she entered her appearance as a creditor in bankruptcy court, the wife chose to seek a remedy in Vermont state court. She did not object to the discharge of the husband’s debt to her in bankruptcy court. Rather, she filed a Rule 60(b) motion for fraud and misrepresentation with the family court. Prior to the Rule 60(b) hearing, the husband successfully attained a discharge of the equalizing payment to wife in the bankruptcy case. Sandra’s slaughter was complete.
The trial court dismissed the wife’s 60(b) motion as barred by the husband’s discharge in bankruptcy. On appeal, the Vermont Supreme Court held that Title 11 U.S.C. § 523(c) provides that a creditor must pursue an exception from discharge for a debt based on fraud or deceit in the bankruptcy forum. Given that the wife failed to do so, the discharge of the equalizing payment granted by the bankruptcy court was “an injunction against the commencement or continuation of an action, the employment of process, or any act, to collect, recover or offset any such debt as a personal liability of the debtor, or from property of the debtor, whether or not discharge of such debt is waived . . . .” The court stated that an attempt to distinguish the reopening of the underlying judgment, pursuant to Rule 60(b), from enforcement of the discharged debt was “illusory.” The Vermont Supreme Court further held that res judicata barred the wife from re-litigating the claim; “[f]inal orders of a bankruptcy court are res judicata as to all matters that were or could have been litigated before that court.”
Though Fitzgerald was litigated in 1984, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA) continues to enable a similar outcome in Chapter 13 filings. This Article aims to provide family law attorneys with a basic understanding of bankruptcy law so they might successfully negotiate and craft divorce stipulations which are not vulnerable to discharge in bankruptcy. This Article further strives to enumerate specific strategies to achieve that end.
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James Marc Leas
Vermont can take action now to restrain the corrupting effects of money in elections without running afoul of Citizens United. With a result joined by all nine Justices, in Nevada Commission on Ethics v. Carrigan, the Supreme Court approved legislative conflict of interest recusal as a method to prevent corruption.
Recusal takes a cut at the corruption problem in a manner that is opposite to the way the old limits on election spending attempted. Vermont’s own reasonable contribution limits were declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in Randall v. Sorrell based on the notion that money is protected speech. The United States Supreme Court initiated this line of decisions with Buckley v. Valeo, continuing through Citizens United and more recent cases that take its logic even further. Recusal rules straightforwardly address the heart of corruption in democracy while entirely avoiding any entanglement in the convoluted and mostly improvised First Amendment reasoning of those decisions.
Outrage over Citizens United was initially directed toward advocacy of a constitutional amendment to permit restoration of election spending restrictions. However, the Supreme Court’s decision in Nevada Commission on Ethics means that updating our recusal rules provides a far easier and faster way for Vermont to begin to stamp out the corrupting influence of money on elections.
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In November 2014, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari in Blum v. Holder, a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) challenging the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as a violation of the First Amendment. The plaintiffs were five
animal rights activists with long histories of participating in peaceful protests and nonviolent civil disobedience. They argued that the AETA is
overbroad, vague, and discriminatory on the basis of content and viewpoint.
The first section of the AETA punishes “caus[ing] the loss of any real or personal property . . . used by an animal enterprise.” Plaintiffs argued
that the statute makes no distinction between loss caused by unlawful or unprotected activity, such as arson and other property damage, and loss
caused by boycotts and other constitutionally protected activity. The briefing throughout the case largely debated whether personal property
includes profits, as distinguished from physical property. If it does, this lends credence to plaintiffs’ claim that the plain language of the AETA proscribes more than vandalism, theft, and other harm to tangible property, and further legitimizes their alleged chill from documenting agricultural conditions, organizing lawful protests, speaking at public events, and other protected expression aimed at harming the profits of animal enterprises.
One plaintiff alleged a distinct chill. She argued the AETA dissuaded her from engaging in a course of conduct that included both advocacy of illegal tactics and protests against specific individuals because, while each of these actions is constitutionally protected on its own, together they violate the AETA. These allegations were directed, in particular, at § (a)(2)(B) of the statute, which punishes “intentionally plac[ing] a person in reasonable fear of [death or bodily injury] . . . by a course of conduct involving threats, . . . harassment, or intimidation . . . .”
This plaintiff had good reason to fear prosecution under this section of the law. Five years before Blum was filed, in United States v. Fullmer, she had been convicted of conspiring to violate the AETA’s predecessor statute, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA), for precisely this conduct: speech in the course of a campaign that included both advocacy of illegal tactics and protests against individuals. In Fullmer, this entire multi-year campaign was treated by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals as an illegal conspiracy to violate the AEPA. Additionally, the Third Circuit ruled that protest chants used by this Blum plaintiff, then a Fullmer defendant, were unprotected true threats—despite the fact that a Massachusetts court had previously ruled that the exact same chants were protected by the First Amendment and dismissed state indictments against this plaintiff. For her conviction under the AEPA and related charges, this Blum plaintiff was sentenced to 52 months in federal prison, 3 years of probation, and ordered to pay $1,000,001.00, jointly and severally with her codefendants, in restitution. Thus, in Blum, this plaintiff alleged that her speech had been chilled both because she was uncertain whether the speech she wished to engage in would be deemed protected and because the AETA unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of content and viewpoint within the unprotected category of true threats.
That plaintiff in Blum and defendant in Fullmer was me.
There has been limited scholarly treatment of the grave First Amendment dangers raised by the Third Circuit’s affirming my and my codefendants’ (collectively, the SHAC 7) convictions. Though a smattering of law review articles have discussed the case, none has thoroughly probed the depths of the First Amendment problems in Fullmer—namely: (1) the Third Circuit’s reckless use of conspiracy to criminalize an entire protest campaign; (2) the court’s use of a protest campaign wherein some individuals committed illegal acts as context to deny First Amendment protection to nonthreatening speech and expressive activity; and, (3) an extensive factual record that belies many of the Third Circuit’s conclusions. Meanwhile, Fullmer has not gone quiet. Indeed, in Blum both the district and appellate courts repeated Fullmer’s sweeping and unsupported claims that the SHAC 7 defendants’ speech was evidence of illegal activity.
Almost a century ago, during the first Red Scare, the fervor of war and anti-socialist panic led a nation to prosecute hundreds of anti-war agitators based on nothing more than their words and associations—and the Supreme Court to (in)famously affirm the convictions it reviewed. Justice Brandeis and Justice Holmes are lauded for their (eventual) bold dissents from this line of cases and for articulating principles that ultimately prevailed and created robust protections for speech. Who will dissent from the Green Scare?
Activists and lawyers have been sounding alarms and defending against repression of the animal rights and environmental movements for over a decade. But they have been almost completely ignored by the scholarly First Amendment community. Despite the seriousness of the charges in Fullmer—terrorism—the nature of the evidence against the defendants—speech and expressive activity—and the gravity of the consequences—multi-year prison sentences and excessive financial lawyers, activists, and a journalist have written the few law review articles addressing the case. Meanwhile, industries and legislatures continue working to criminalize animal rights activism in an effort to silence a movement that challenges the inviolability of human dominance over, and violence against, all other species on Earth.
In March 2015, a federal court rejected another First Amendment challenge to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. In United States v. Johnson, defense attorneys, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, moved to dismiss animal enterprise terrorism charges against two activists alleged to have released, and conspired to release, thousands of mink and foxes from fur farms in rural Illinois. The motion to dismiss argued that the AETA is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, and that charging the defendants as terrorists for allegedly freeing animals was an unconstitutional denial of substantive due process. In July 2015, two more activists were indicted on AETA charges for allegedly freeing animals from fur farms and vandalizing property. As courts allow the AETA to stand, the way that such designer legislation was used in Fullmer is instructive. It reveals the reality of what activists face and fear due to the very existence of the AETA.
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The start of the Green Revolution was a time of optimism. Fueled by chemical fertilizers, new hybrid seeds, and a sense of moral righteousness, the Green Revolution increased field productivity through the magic of science and innovation. Yet this short-term miracle of technology has failed to deliver a long-term solution to malnutrition and food shortages. Concerned with feeding the largely disenfranchised and hungry populations of the Global South, the makers of the Green Revolution failed to contemplate that though their interventions would provide semi-reliable harvests for some of the poorest individuals in the world, they would also transform human agriculture into an industry largely defined by chemical dependency and ultimately diminishing yields Today, 40% of the 437 million farms in developing states that feed approximately two-thirds of the human population are dependent on Green Revolution technologies. In practice, the Green Revolution simultaneously succeeded and failed. It succeeded for the earliest generations or poor communities who benefited from the extra crop yields, but it is failing the current generation that is left with a legacy of contaminated soils and waters.
The continued need to achieve the high yields associated with the Green Revolution becomes increasingly important when contemplating current rising global demographic trends. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) predicts that a 70% increase in food may be needed to feed the increasing population. In response to increasing population projections, States have chosen to invest in known conventional food security strategies rather than explore less-tested strategies that might achieve both food security and environmental security. For example, the market for nitrogen fertilizer, a key input for the Green Revolution, is predicted to reach an all-time global production high of 200.5 million tons in 2018—24% more than the global usage in 2008. Much of this usage is concentrated in states with large populations, such as China, where the rate of fertilizer application has increased four-fold over about three decades. Applying large amounts of agricultural fertilizer to achieve industrial-level crop yields has profound implications for the environment, including substantial contributions to both global greenhouse gas emissions and contaminated water tables.
This Article asks whether states in pursuit of cheap outputs of food to feed burgeoning populations should continue to pursue status quo domestic food security strategies that are likely to threaten long-term environmental security. More production promotes immediate food security, but governments also have human rights obligations, including the duty to respect, promote, and fulfill both the “right to food” and the “right to a clean and healthy environment.” Existing industrial food production strategies pose legitimate threats to achieving long-term food security objectives. Part I of this Article reviews the impact of industrial food production on environmental resources. Part II explores the intersection between the human right to food and the human right to a clean and healthy environment. Part III proposes additional legal interventions in support of strategies for ensuring the full realization of both the right to food and the right to a clean and healthy environment.
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Nadia Lambek and Priscilla Claeys
Twenty years ago, in 1996, world leaders, activists, and food producers met in Rome for the World Food Summit. One of the many outcomes of this meeting was a clear direction to the United Nations human rights bodies that States and stakeholders were interested in how the right to food could be operationalized at the national level. Over the past two decades, the right to food has gone through a period of intense normative elaboration, from a little theorized right to a largely fully elaborated human rights framework with corresponding State obligations and interpretations applying the right to food to a variety of contexts. Today there is a greater understanding of the concrete implications of the right to food as a legal doctrine for a range of state, international, and private actors, as well as a greater understanding of the importance of adopting a holistic approach to food insecurity.
The right to food has now entered a new era, with advocates focused on its promotion, adoption, and implementation, particularly at the national level. As a result of these efforts, the visibility of the right to food has increased remarkably over the last decade, particularly through the work of a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations, and the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the right to food. States are increasingly adopting the right to food framework—or more accurately some elements of the framework—as a policy guide or as a legal norm through a variety of laws, constitutional amendments, policies, and programs. The right to food as a guiding framework is also increasingly discussed in international fora, notably at the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS).
This Article focuses on the right to food in the context of national implementation—and not as an analytical tool for assessing the ails of the food system or as a uniting principle between different constituents. It argues that, despite the advancements noted above, little progress has been made overall at legal, policy, and institutional levels in effectively creating an environment in which the right to food can be fully realized in national contexts. Indeed, the adopted legal and policy frameworks have largely focused on the obligations of states to fulfill the right to food, leaving unaddressed the obligations to respect and protect the right to food. This has resulted in a failure to fully endorse the right to food in such a way that it would lead to the structural change needed to improve the realization of the right and to decrease food insecurity for individuals and communities.
Many factors can be credited with limiting the success of the right to food as a legal tool. These include a lack of political will among States and a reluctance to recognize economic and social rights; increased corporate capture of food governance fora and of the food supply chain more broadly; a lack of political constituency for the right to food, with implementation efforts largely stemming from a handful of NGOs and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) right to food team; and weak implementation mechanisms, which often fail to reflect the core State obligations imposed by the right to food.
While these obstacles and limitations are well documented in the literature, we argue in this Article that some of the most relevant and interesting developments allowing us to reflect on the challenges facing the right to food have taken place not within the right to food field, but outside and in parallel. Indeed, the last decade has seen a rise in new and alternative models for transforming the food system, such as alternative food networks, local food policy councils, and food sovereignty. These are often implemented in response to the challenges and the limited progress achieved with the right to food. These alternatives—often defended by local and transnational peasant organizations and food movements more generally—have succeeded not only in creating new narratives about the structural changes needed in our food system, but also in establishing new rights, institutions, and governing practices. Our objective in this Article is to document these developments and the lessons we believe they bear for right to food advocates and practitioners. These alternatives provide an important lens through which to view the perceived limits of the right to food as a legal tool. Further, taking them seriously invites us to expand our understanding of the right to food in at least two ways: (1) towards a more inclusive participation of citizens in the governance of food and agriculture; and (2) towards a transition to more localized food systems.
In Part I of this paper, we provide a brief overview of the right to food’s legal framework. In Part II, we review some of the key developments in implementing the right to food over the last two decades—both with respect to national implementation of legislation, as well as through policies. We show that progress has been made when it comes to fulfilling the right to food, but that much needs to be done to respect and protect the right. We also highlight a number of accountability challenges that need to be addressed. In Part III, we assess alternative models, grounded in the alternative paradigm of food sovereignty, that have emerged from the bottom up at the local, national, and regional levels over the past two decades. We discuss food sovereignty laws and policies, as well as alternative food networks and food policy councils. We then move to the international level, where we explore efforts at institutionalizing space for civil society in food system governance at the global level—specifically at the CFS. We also discuss the current elaboration of the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas at the United Nations Human Rights Council as an articulation of new human rights norms to reflect the experience and claims of peasants and other people working in rural areas. Drawing from the alternative models, we conclude with a discussion of how the right to food could better address the twin crises of accountability and participation.
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