Area of Interest: Philosophy of Law, Ethics, Political Philosophy
I am a graduate student in UCLA’s joint JD/PhD Law and Philosophy program. My philosophical interests include Philosophy of Law, Normative Ethics, and Social & Political Philosophy. My legal interests include precedent, Constitutional law, federal courts, administrative law, and immigration law.
My dissertation is an interdisciplinary project in philosophy and law, about precedent. My committee members are Professors Mark Greenberg (chair, Philosophy & Law), Pamela Hieronymi (Philosophy), A.J. Julius (Philosophy), and Rebecca Stone (Law). A working list of chapters, subject to change:
- Precedent and the Institutional Self. This chapter examines precedent as a more general phenomenon of institutions, not just legal systems. I argue that a precedential system requires and enables institutions to take responsibility for their own past decisions in their present decision-making. This aspect of precedential systems further enables an institution to interpret its own past decisions and thereby partially constitute its present identity.
- Puzzling Plurality Precedent. There are many deep disagreements about what it means for a court to properly follow precedent and how we might determine whether a court has done so in a particular instance. Scholars and practitioners generally agree that the precedent of a past case involves legal content supported by a majority of the court. Matters get particularly thorny when a legal decision is made by a panel of judges who can’t agree on the reasoning behind the decision; these are plurality decisions. Plurality decisions do not have an opinion supported by a majority of the panel, and therefore they do not have legal content explicitly supported by a majority of the panel (besides the judgment of who wins or loses). As a result there is a healthy debate in the literature about what role plurality decisions should play in the U.S. legal practice of following precedent: Do such decisions create precedent and thereby bind the decisions of future courts? And if so, how? This chapter is a literature review of prominent theories of plurality precedent.
- Getting Controlling Opinions Under Control: The Need to Match Opinion Selection with Precedent Determination in Plurality Decisions. In this chapter, I identify a problem with one of the typical tools used by methods for determining the holdings (precedents) of plurality decisions: controlling opinions. One intuitive suggestion for identifying plurality holdings is to find a substitute for the majority opinion by selecting one of the concurring opinions that supported the majority outcome of the case. Generally, the controlling opinion is selected based on identified majority agreement on a significant part of that opinion. The holding of the entire plurality decision is then to be identified by treating the controlling opinion as if it were the majority opinion of a majority case. Importantly, many controlling-opinion-based methods abstain from the more general question of how a holding should be identified from a majority opinion. I argue that there is a tension between picking a controlling opinion based on majority agreement and abstaining from the general issue of whether holdings must be justification-inclusive. This tension undermines the majoritarianism motivating controlling-opinion-based methods. Controlling-opinion-based methods cannot be agnostic on general theoretical disagreement about holdings.
- Precedent Breakdown: How Attorney General Review of Immigration Appeals Violates the Norms of Lawmaking Through Precedent. An analysis and criticism of the U.S. Attorney General’s power to individually create precedent for the federal immigration court system. I argue that various institutional structures in the immigration adjudication space make it likely that entire opinions by the Attorney General, a single temporary political appointee, will be treated as precedential in the immigration adjudication system. However, under the commonly recognized holding-dicta distinction, only parts of precedential opinions are precedential. I argue that part of the legitimacy of precedential opinions lies in the fact that other decisionmakers have the power to interpret those opinions narrowly.