Tax Liens & Tax Deeds: Common Law Rights can Remedy the Disparate Impact on Communities

Michael Taddonio

Gladys Wisner lived on 480 acres of cropland outside of North Platte in Lincoln County, Nebraska, since 1941.[1] At 90 years old and suffering from mini-strokes, Gladys moved from her home of over 70 years to a supervised living facility.[2] Gladys’ eldest of four, Roger, handled all the finances for her and the farm.[3] Unfortunately and unexpectedly, Roger passed away and Gladys’ second son, Robin, stepped in to handle all the finances.[4] In the transition, Robin failed to pay the property taxes one year because he misunderstood the family’s land trust.[5] The County sold a property tax lien on the land to a third party.[6] The original third-party purchaser sold the property tax lien to Vandelay Investments.[7] No one told Robin or Gladys their taxes were delinquent or that interest in their land moved through so many hands.[8]

After paying Gladys’ property taxes for three years, Vandelay sent a letter to Gladys’ retirement home telling her that she would lose her family’s 480 acres if she did not pay three years-worth of property taxes, costs and fees, plus a 14% interest rate.[9] Gladys never received the letter, and Vandelay never sent a letter to Robin.[10] Ninety days after the post office returned Vandelay’s notice, the county transferred the property to Vandelay, free and clear.[11] When Robin found out about the transfer, he offered to pay the total amount of past-due taxes, costs, fees, and 14% interest to keep his family’s land, but Vandelay rejected the payment.[12] Vandelay paid roughly $50,000 in delinquent taxes to receive a farm worth $1.1 million.[13] This is the tax sale process.

Trump Against TikTok: The Limitations to Controlling Foreign Online Applications

Benjamin Fuller

President Trump’s executive order banning the use of TikTok in the United States (U.S.) violates treaties the U.S. has within the World Trade Organization (WTO) and violates Bytedance’s Constitutional due process rights as a corporation. When comparing TikTok with other social media apps, there is not a huge difference in security issues, content manipulation, or what happens with users’ data. The fundamental difference is that TikTok is subject to Chinese government censorship, and a Chinese corporation owns TikTok. The Trump administration, therefore, treats a business differently mainly because the corporation is based in a different country. This Note addresses how the executive order is improper and investigate the possible avenues that TikTok might pursue to invalidate this former President’s ban.

Assisted Suicide: Is There a Right to Die with Dignity, or Only a Duty to Live in Pain?

Brandon Sheffert

            Many patients in America currently suffer from terminal illness, with no option other than to suffer for an indeterminate amount of time. The Supreme Court of the United States denies terminally ill patients the fundamental right to hasten their death through physician-assisted suicide.[1] The case Washington v. Glucksberg declared there was no fundamental right to assisted suicide.[2] Glucksberg denies countless patients, suffering from terminal illness, a dignified end to their suffering.[3]

Revisiting Internet Personal Jurisdiction in a Pandemic: A Shift From a Zippo Sliding Scale Test to a Sliding Categorical Test

Patrick Raya

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on everyone’s lives. Society, people, and likely even the courts will not be the same afterwards.[1] Our world is shifting away from physical interactions to an increasingly online reality.[2] More day-to-day operations are going virtual.[3] E-commerce has risen to greater heights.[4] Yet the outdated test for internet personal jurisdiction has stayed relatively the same.

The need for a robust internet personal jurisdiction rule is at its peak as the pandemic forced our personal and professional lives to go online.[5] The Supreme Court has not adopted a test for internet personal jurisdiction, leaving lower courts without clear precedent to follow.[6] The most used test for internet personal jurisdiction, the Zippo sliding-scale test, is outdated and should be modernized to reflect our prevalent online presence.[7] Courts cannot rely on the current jurisprudence for internet personal jurisdiction in our increasingly virtual reality. For internet personal jurisdiction to be brought to the modern age, courts need to look “under the hood” and actually parse through a website’s code to see if the website has availed itself of a website visitor’s personal data.

The Lake Erie Bill of Wrongs: An Exercise in Unconstitutional Ordinance Drafting

Joseph Coffey

Residents of Toledo, Ohio, were given a stark warning in August of 2014: “Do not drink the water, do not brush your teeth or prepare food with it, and do not give it to your pets.”[1] This warning came after a particularly dangerous harmful algal bloom (HAB) in the western basin of Lake Erie; just offshore from Toledo.[2] Lake Erie has a history of HABs dating back to the 1960s.[3] HABs died down in the decade before and after the turn of the 21st century, but steadily increased since then.[4] Sensing an abdication of their government’s environmental responsibility—that directly endangered their health and well-being—the people of Toledo worked to enact a Rights of Nature (RoN) ordinance.[5]

Branching Out with a Genus Idea: The Need to Preserve Genetic Biodiversity Through Phylogenetic Metrics in Conservation Law During the Anthropocene

Heidi Guenther

The United States is facing a critical moment in human history and the choices we make will determine the future we will collectively inhabit. Societally, we are still grappling with whether the science of climate change is real and whether humans are the cause of it.[1] In the meantime, species are dying off in all ecosystems at alarming levels.[2] The increase in overall extinction has drastically accelerated since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and the increase of human-produced greenhouse gases.[3] While we are making steps in the right direction to reduce greenhouse gas production, it is not quickly enough to prevent a warming planet and the ensuing effects on all species.[4] Currently, the way we conserve species focuses on populations that are already threatened, whose numbers are dangerously close to extinction. [5]We should be taking more proactive steps to assist species that are still abundant, so they are capable of adapting through the Anthropocene.[6]

Death by Court: Justices Find Nothing Cruel and Unusual About Prison Conditions that Expose Inmates to Covid-19

Robert Baker

Imagine that you and your friends took a vacation to a five-star resort. Your phone vibrates with an alert that a foreign country has just launched a nuclear missile, and it is undoubtedly on its way to your location. The resort can assist you in departing before the missile arrives. Meanwhile, while cognizant of the danger, the resort’s staff disregards the severity of the crisis.

You and others are stunned when you hear the resort’s response to the many grievances that are circulating amongst the group. Despite knowledge of the danger and the resources to assist you and others, the resort ignores your plea and adds ‘you’ll survive, don’t worry.” However, one staff member disagrees and offers you and others a way out of this travesty. And when the group makes its way to the exit, the head of security for the resort halts you in your path. And to add to this preposterous response, you overhear a command on the head security guard’s radio stating, “this is the owner of the resort; those individuals are prohibited from leaving the resort grounds.” The resort’s security begins to detain you and the group and jokingly says “you were supposed to fill out a request, subject to the review of our board of directors who will be in next week.”

What’s Mine is Yours?: “Live” Gametes as Property and Repercussions for Reproductive Freedom

Lorentz Hansen

The right to own property, legally enshrined in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, is a fundamental American right.[1] The Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”[2] Property rights cover an individual’s rights to something in relation to other persons,[3] including the rights to: possess, use, exclude, dispose of, transfer, and remain free from government seizure without just compensation.[4]

Courts have for decades treated human gametes as legal property when cryogenically preserved outside of the human body, explicitly referring to preserved gametes as a “unique type of ‘property.’”[5] The property rights to those gametes only become relevant, however, once the gametes have left the body and “been transferred to a commercial middleman.”[6] Gametes should be treated as legal property while they are still “live”—meaning inside of the body rather than extracted and/or preserved. The rights to “live” gametes would (as with cryogenically preserved gametes) become relevant when the gametes transfer from one party to another with the potential to make new matter, such as an embryo. During heterosexual intercourse, therefore, the property rights to the live sperm would transfer to the person able to become pregnant. Assuring property rights to live gametes would provide a stronger constitutional basis for reproductive autonomy than the implied “right to privacy” in the Fourteenth Amendment that the Supreme Court relied on in Roe v. Wade,[7] which has been constantly challenged since the ruling.[8]

Restoring Property Rights to Farmland Heirs’ Property Owners Through Federal Intervention

Heather Francis

Since 1910, Black farmland owners have lost approximately 14 million acres of land in the U.S.[1] This considerable loss results from heirs’ property legal challenges, such as partition actions, foreclosure sales, and adverse possession issues.[2] Heirs’ property occurs when someone dies without a will, and their land passes to their children, spouse, parents, or other family members.[3] Heirs’ property owners hold the land as tenants-in-common, sharing an undivided, fractional interest in the land.[4] Tenancy-in-common is the “most widespread form of common ownership in the United States” because about half of Americans do not make wills.[5]

Heirs’ property challenges substantially burden Black landowners who have difficulty paying for an attorney to solve their property issues. Consequently, forced partition sales continue to disproportionately impact Black landowners.[6] Heirs’ property owners cannot secure “traditional mortgage financing or business loans” because they do not have a clear title to their land.[7] Without a title or deed, heirs’ property farmland owners have difficulty securing loans or aid from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).[8] In many cases, state USDA offices do not approve these owners for loans or disaster relief funding because landowners fail to prove ownership since tenants-in-common landowners cannot produce a deed.[9]

A Not so Blast From the Past: Government Concurrence with Minority Voter Suppression in the United States

Simeon Brown

The United States has a long history of mistreating its minority population. Since the founding of this country, from the 3/5 rule to modern voter-dilution practices, the U.S. has subjected minorities, and particularly African Americans, to state-mandated second-class citizenry. Of which, minority populations continue to struggle for fair apportionment and representation within our state and federal governments. After Abraham Lincoln gave his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863,[1] Congress took over seven years to draft, pass, and ratify the 15th amendment granting African American men the right to vote.[2]

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