The Conservative Case for the Judiciary Accountability Act

*Aliza Shatzman


The judiciary is an unaccountable workplace where some judges abuse their positions of power, mistreat their employees with impunity, and act as if they are answerable to no one. More judges engage in misconduct, including gender discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, than the legal community cares to admit. Fueling this injustice, the Third Branch is exempt from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark antidiscrimination law that protects employees from gender discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace.1 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e–2000e–17. This exemption distinguishes the judiciary from Congress,2 See generally Congressional Accountability Act, Pub. L. 104-1, 109 Stat. 3 (1995). the Executive Branch,3 See generally Presidential and Executive Office Accountability Act, Pub. L. 104-331 (1995).  and most private businesses, whose employees are all protected by antidiscrimination laws.4 See generally, Small Business Requirements, U.S. EQUAL EMP. OPPORTUNITY COMM’N, []. Title VII applies to employers with at least 15 employees. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b).

This year, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees are considering a bill, the Judiciary Accountability Act (JAA) (H.R. 4827/S. 2553), that would finally extend Title VII protections to the judiciary.5 See Press Release, Chairman Jerrold Nadler, House Comm. on the Judiciary, Nadler & Johnson Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Hold Judiciary Accountable to Workers (July 29, 2021), []; Press Release, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, U.S. House of Representatives, Rep Speier Joins Rep Johnson in Introduction of Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Hold Judiciary Accountable to Workers (July 29, 2021), []. Judicial accountability is, or should be, a bipartisan issue. Both Democratic6 See Catie Edmondson, Former Clerk Alleges Sexual Harassment by Appellate Judge, N.Y. TIMES (Feb. 13, 2020), []. and Republican7 See Matt Zapotosky, Prominent Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski Accused of Sexual Misconduct, Wash. Post (Dec. 8, 2017), []. judicial appointees mistreat their law clerks. Furthermore, both liberal and conservative clerks experience harassment and retaliation from the most powerful members of the legal profession—judges—with limited recourse available.8 See Brief for Named and Unnamed Current and Former Employees of the Federal Judiciary Who Were Subjected to or Witnessed Misconduct as Amici Curiae in Support of Appellant Jane Roe, at 35–39, Strickland v. United States, 32 F.4th 311 (4th Cir. 2022) (No. 21-1346) [hereinafter Jane Roe Amicus Brief], [] (explaining that Employee Dispute Resolution, or EDR, is the sole option for mistreated federal law clerks, and that remedies under EDR are inadequate). Troublingly, as of August 2022, the JAA currently has only one Republican co-sponsor in the House9 See, H.R. 4827 – Judiciary Accountability Act of 2021, Cosponsors, and no Republican co-sponsors in the Senate.10 See, S. 2553 – Judiciary Accountability Act of 2021, Cosponsors, [].

This article argues that Republican lawmakers should support the JAA because it promotes the conservative principles of curbing government abuses of power and enforcing the rule of law.11 Some conservative organizations, including the Institute for Justice, argue that giving judges immunity from suit prevents victims of harassment from holding their abusers accountable.  See Project on Immunity and Accountability, INST. FOR JUST. []; see also Short Circuit Podcast, Clerks and Harassment, Inst. For just, (June 10, 2022), [] (arguing that judges should not be immune from suit). The JAA would rein in unaccountable judges who abuse their positions of power and act as if they are above the law. Additionally, the JAA would end the judiciary’s Title VII immunity, checking judicial behavior and holding judges to the same standards as members of the other two branches of government—including congressmen and chief executives—as well as employers in private businesses. Furthermore, the JAA would ensure that the next generation of attorneys—from the most conservative to the most liberal—are not driven out of the profession due to harassment and retaliation.12 See, e.g., Part IV, detailing the author’s personal experience with gender discrimination, harassment, and retaliation during and after her clerkship, which ultimately drove her from the legal profession. The author’s experience is not rare. Documentation on file with the author.

In this article, I first discuss the scope of judicial misconduct, outline the Judiciary Accountability Act, and use my personal experience with harassment and retaliation by a former DC Superior Court judge to underscore why this legislation is so urgently necessary. Then, I explain why conservatives should support the JAA, explore conservative arguments against the JAA, and engage with some alternatives to the JAA, concluding that the JAA is the best path forward.


Misconduct is pervasive and unaddressed in the federal courts.13 his article focuses on federal courts, because those would be affected by the JAA. However, state courts— where thousands of judiciary employees—including law clerks—go to work every day— are also in need of heightened protections. Even in state courts, where law clerks can sue their harassers, they rarely feel empowered to do so. Author conversations with law clerks, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for attribution. Several of the citations in this article are to conversations between the author and judges, law clerks, and congressional staffers who were granted anonymity to allow them to speak freely without threat of reprisal. Date ranges for these conversations have been provided where possible without identifying the interviewees. Documentation for these conversations is on file with the author. This is not an argument against the JAA, rather, this indicates that larger cultural change in the legal community is also necessary to go from a culture of deifying judges and disbelieving law clerks, to one in which more law clerks in both state and federal courts feel empowered to take legal action against their harassers. For two rare examples of state court clerks who did pursue legal action against the judges who harassed them, see Marquez v. Hoffman, No. 18-CV-7315(ALC), 2021 WL 1226981 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2021) (dismissing some but not all of the law clerk’s claims under § 1983, New York State Human Rights Law, and New York City Human Rights Law) and Spence v. New Jersey, No. 119CV21490NLHKMW, 2021 WL 1345872 (D.N.J. Apr. 12, 2021) (dismissing some but not all of the law clerk’s claims under Title VII and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination). Troublingly, judiciary leadership, including the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, have, until recently, repeatedly refused to conduct a widescale workplace culture assessment, making it difficult to measure the scope of the problem.14 See Ann E. Marimow, Judges accused of sex discrimination, bullying, internal survey shows, WASH. POST. (May 20, 2022, 12:23 PM), []. Troublingly, the D.C. Circuit seems more concerned about identifying the source of the “leak,” than about what the leaked survey data show—that harassment and retaliation are pervasive and unaddressed in the D.C. Circuit.  See also Ann E. Marimow, Court to investigate leaked survey alleging misconduct among judges, WASH. POST (May 20, 2022, 5:00 AM), []; Ann E. Marimow, Federal courts drop survey question about workplace misconduct, but not before judges’ staffers said they’d witnessed such problems, WASH. POST (Jan. 14, 2022, 12:02 PM), [] (indicating that thirty-four out of forty respondents surveyed, reported observing inappropriate behavior). After several years of calls for reform, the federal judiciary announced in September 2022 that they would conduct workplace assessments; however, they have not committed to report the results publicly, rendering this move insufficient at best, and toothless at worst.  See Nate Raymond, Federal judiciary to survey employees nationally on harassment, misconduct, REUTERS (Sept. 20, 2022, 5:22 PM), Judiciary leadership insists that harassment and retaliation are not pervasive problems within the federal courts.15 See Workplace Protections for Federal Judiciary Employees: Flaws in the Current System and the Need for Statutory Change: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Cts., Intell. Prop., and the Internet of the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 117th Cong. (March 17, 2022) (Combined Written Statement of the Honorable M. Margaret McKeown, United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit, and the Honorable Julie A. Robinson, United States District Judge for the District of Kansas), []; see also CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN G. ROBERTS, JR., U.S. SUP. CT., 2021 YEAR-END REPORT ON THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY 4–5 (2021), []. However, judiciary employees who have experienced or witnessed mistreatment know differently.16 See infra Part IV, detailing the author’s personal experience with gender discrimination, harassment, and retaliation during and after her clerkship.

In 2018, U.S. Courts Administrative Officer James Duff proudly proclaimed that, in some years, including 2016, there were “zero” complaints filed by law clerks against judges.17 See Confronting Sexual Harassment and Other Workplace Misconduct in the Federal Judiciary: Hearing Before the S. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong. (June 13, 2018) [hereinafter Confronting Sexual Harassment Hearing Video], [].  However, the judiciary only created a separate “judicial employees” category for its judicial complaint data in 2019, so it would have been nearly impossible to assess the number of complaints filed by law clerks.18 See U.S. Cts., Table S-22: Report of Complaints Commenced and Action Taken Under Authority of 28 U.S.C. 351-364 During the Period from 10/1/2019 to 9/30/2020 (2021), [].  Furthermore, the dearth of complaints by law clerks against judges is likely due in part to the lack of channels for reporting misconduct.19 See Letter from Olivia Warren to the House Judiciary Committee (Mar. 17, 2022), available at [] (underscoring that the judiciary’s internal process offers an inadequate avenue for law clerks to report mistreatment).

Between October 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021, there were only 11 formal complaints filed by judicial employees against judges under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act,20 See supra, note 18. []. which is the formal complaint process for the federal judiciary.21 See Judicial Conduct & Disability, U.S. CTS., []. However, according to a 2021 internal D.C. Circuit survey that was leaked to The Washington Post, fifty-seven judicial employees in that circuit experienced “problematic behavior” like gender discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and bullying, and an additional 134 either witnessed or heard about such misconduct.22 See Ann E. Marimow, Judges accused of sex discrimination, bullying, internal survey shows, WASH. POST. (May 20, 2022, 12:23 PM), []. Troublingly, the D.C. Circuit seems more concerned about identifying the source of the “leak,” than what the leaked survey data show—that harassment and retaliation are pervasive and unaddressed in the D.C. Circuit. See Ann E. Marimow, Court to investigate leaked survey alleging misconduct among judges, WASH. POST (May 20, 2022, 5:00 AM), []. This mismatch with Duff’s assertion suggests both that the judiciary’s records do not capture the full scope of misconduct in the Third Branch and that the judiciary cannot be expected to adequately self-police on these issues.

Law clerks rarely file formal complaints against judges23 See Caseload Statistics Data Tables, U.S. Cts., []. because they fear retaliation by the judge or reputational harm in the legal community.24 Author conversations with law clerks, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for attribution (July 2021–present). While anecdotal data indicate that harassment and retaliation are persistent problems,25 Id. Since the author began speaking publicly about her experience, current and former clerks have reached out to her nearly every day to share their experiences of workplace mistreatment in federal and state courts. judges are rarely disciplined, further disincentivizing filing complaints.26 See Joan Biskupic & Aaron Kessler, CNN Investigation: Sexual misconduct by judges kept under wraps, CNN (last updated Jan. 26, 2018, 12:35 PM), [] (thoroughly analyzing data on judicial orders related to misconduct complaints between 2006 and 2017). The CNN analysis revealed that “very few judges are disciplined”; none of the complaints are made public; and “[j]udicial orders are dumped onto circuit court websites as a series of numbered files,” rendering the data confusing and unsearchable. Id. The most serious discipline judges receive are rare public reprimands.27 See Judicial Conduct and Disability Orders, U.S. CTS., [] (listing by case number rather than by judge Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability orders that typically redact and conceal judges’ names, making them useless as disciplinary mechanisms). Reprimands have no tangible consequences to judges’ lives—in contrast to the enormous life- and career-altering consequences the victims of their mistreatment face.28 For a discussion of the career- and life-altering consequences that the author faced after harassment and retaliation, see infra Part IV. The threat of removal has also proven inconsequential in deterring problematic behavior by life-tenured judges, since removal requires congressional impeachment, which rarely happens.29 The Constitution provides that “[t]he Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour.” U.S. CONST. art. III, § 1. However, some scholars have suggested that this should not necessarily be equated with “absolute life-tenure.” See Saikrishna Prakash & Steven D. Smith, How to Remove a Federal Judge, 116 Yale L.J. 72, 88 (2006); see also Judges and Judicial Administration – Journalist’s Guide, U.S. CTS., [] (explaining that Congress rarely uses its impeachment power to remove misbehaving federal judges from office). Ideally, Congress should expand its use of the impeachment power.

Several aspects of a judicial chambers make it a uniquely dangerous workplace that is particularly conducive to harassment. First, there is an enormous power disparity between law clerks and judges. Law clerks are typically fresh-out-of-law-school lawyers who opt for a pay cut in order to spend one or two years learning from a judge.30 Author conversations with law school administrators, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for attribution (April 2022–present). Increasingly, some judges look for clerks with a few years of work experience. However, in general, law clerks are at or near the start of their careers. Their powerful superiors either enjoy life tenure (for most federal judges) or ten- or fifteen-year terms (for Article I judges and most state court judges).31 See About Federal Judges, U.S. CTS., []; Article I Tribunal, BALLOTPEDIA,,the%20executive%20and%20legislative%20branches []. Conversations between the author and state court judges revealed that these judges perceive themselves to have de facto life tenure, since they are reappointed or reelected as merely a formality. Conversations were subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for personal attribution. Clerks, as a result, often depend on judges for references to secure their next jobs.32 See Leah M. Litman & Deeva Shah, Essay, On Sexual Harassment in the Judiciary, 115 Nw. U.L. Rev. 599, 616–17 (2020) (explaining the importance of a judge’s reference throughout the law clerk’s career). In the best of circumstances, judges will be lifelong mentors, supporting the law clerks throughout their careers. But in the worst of circumstances, a negative clerkship experience can devolve into a long-term, far-reaching, retaliatory, and sour relationship between judge and clerk. Even a lukewarm reference can destroy a law clerk’s career.33 For a discussion about how a negative reference from a judge destroyed the author’s legal career, see infra Part IV.

Judges face no oversight in their day-to-day dealings with clerks.34 See Litman & Shah, supra note 32, at 619. In the typical judicial chambers, two law clerks, a judge, and perhaps a judicial assistant work behind closed doors for long hours under stressful circumstances. Furthermore, the internal courthouse workplace dispute resolution plan, known as Employee Dispute Resolution (EDR),35 See UNITED STATES COURTS, MODEL EMPLOYMENT DISPUTE RESOLUTION PLAN 1–3 (2019), [] (last revised Mar. 8, 2022) (last “substantive” revision Sept. 17, 2019). The terms “employment” and “employee” are used interchangeably when referring to EDR plans. EDR is the internal courthouse dispute resolution plan, overseen by judges in the courthouse where the complainant law clerk and respondent judge work. See id at 7–8. The process can take several months between the investigation, hearing, and appeal process, overshadowing much of a law clerk’s one-year clerkship. See id. at 8–10. is notoriously flawed, lacking both confidentiality and impartiality.36 See Cara Bayles, Can US Courts Police Themselves On Workplace Misconduct?, LAW360 (Sept. 22, 2021, 12:02 PM), [] (criticizing EDR plans for their lack of guaranteed confidentiality and lack of standardization among circuits); see also Brief for Named and Unnamed Current and Former Employees of the Federal Judiciary Who Were Subjected to Or Witnessed Misconduct as Amici Curiae in Support of Appellant Jane Roe at 17–34, Strickland v, United States, 32 F.4th 311 (4th Cir. 2022) (No. 21-1346), [] (highlighting EDR’s flaws, including lack of confidentiality and impartiality, lack of standardization among circuits and courthouses, and insufficient remedies for law clerks). These troubling features of judicial chambers are compounded by the fact that law clerks have fewer workplace protections than employees in other industries.37 See supra text accompanying note 1.


The Judiciary Accountability Act (JAA)38 Judiciary Accountability Act of 2021, H.R. 4827, S. 2553, 117th Cong. (2021). The JAA would amend Chapter 57 of Title 28 of the United States Code (“Judiciary and Judicial Procedure”). Id. § 2(a). offers a solution to this outrageous lack of accountability in the federal judiciary. It would extend workplace protections to judiciary employees, and it would hold judges accountable for their poor behavior.

The JAA would finally extend Title VII protections to judiciary employees—including law clerks and federal public defenders39 See id. § 10(2); see generally Workplace Protections for Federal Judiciary Employees: Flaws in the Current System and the Need for Statutory Change: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Cts., Intell. Prop., and the Internet of the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 117th Cong. (March 17, 2022) (testimony of Caryn Devins Strickland), []. —enabling them to sue their harassers and seek damages40 See H.R. 4827 § 2(a)-964(b). for harm done to their careers, reputations, and future earning potential.41 See ARIANE HEGEWISCH, JESSICA RODEN & EVE MEFFERD, PAYING TODAY AND TOMORROW (2021).

Additionally, the JAA would increase judicial accountability by revising the definition of “judicial misconduct” in Title 28 of the U.S. Code to include discrimination and retaliation.42 The bill establishes discrimination and retaliation as judicial misconduct by amending 28 U.S.C. § 358 (“Judiciary and Judicial Procedure”). Specifically, Section 8 of the JAA states that the following shall be added:

IN GENERAL.—Each judicial council and the Judicial Conference shall prescribe rules for the conduct of proceedings under this chapter, including the processing of petitions for review that—(1) ensure the independence, integrity, impartiality, and competence of proceedings under this chapter; (2) ensure the greatest possible public confidence in proceedings under this chapter and maintain public confidence in the Federal judiciary; (3) reflect that the judicial office is a position of public trust; and (4) effectuate sections 453 and the provisions of the Judiciary Accountability Act of 2021.

See H.R. 4827 §§ 8(a)(1)–(4). Furthermore, the JAA also adds the following language to the Judiciary and Judicial Procedure part of the U.S. Code: “workplace misconduct (as defined in the Judiciary Accountability Act of 2021) constitutes a violation of this chapter, including conduct prohibited under sections 964 and 965 of this title.” Id. § 8(a)(4).
It would also clarify that misconduct investigations can continue even if the judge who faces misconduct allegations retires, resigns, or dies.43 Id. § 8(d)–(e) (amending 28 U.S.C. § 352). Judges exploit the current regime by retiring to avoid misconduct investigations. See Stephen B. Burbank, S. Jay Plager & Gregory Ablavsky, Leaving the Bench, 1970–2009: The Choices Federal Judges Make, What Influences Those Choices, and Their Consequences, 161 U. PA. L. REV. 1, 4–5 (2012); see also Retiring to Avoid Consequences: Judges Exploit a Loophole to Maintain Pensions in Spite of Misconduct, FIX THE COURT (Oct. 1, 2021), []. Additionally, the JAA would create a Commission on Judicial Integrity,44 Membership on the sixteen-member Commission on Judicial Integrity shall include two recent clerks, who clerked within four years of their selection, as well as expert and judges.  H.R. 4827 § 4(b). which would oversee several important initiatives, including standardizing Employee Dispute Resolution Plans,45 Id. § 4(d)(1)(D). creating a confidential reporting system,46 Id. §§ 4(d)(1)(A)–(B). crafting a workplace misconduct prevention policy,47 Id. §§ 4(f)(1)–(11). and administering workplace culture assessments.48 Id. §§ 6(f)–(g).

The JAA would finally require the judiciary to collect and report data on workplace culture,49 Id. the outcomes of judicial complaints,50 See id. § 8(c)(2)(A). and diversity in hiring.51 Id. §§ 4(d)(1)(F)–(G).  Furthermore, the JAA would create an Office of Employee Advocacy to provide legal advice and assistance to judiciary employees seeking judicial accountability.  See id. § 7.  Specifically, “the relationship between the OEA and an employee to whom the OEA provides legal assistance, consultation, and representation under this section shall be the relationship between an attorney and client.” Id. § (c)(3). These are notoriously under-scrutinized areas, and the lack of data in these areas has enabled some judges to get away with misconduct for far too long.52 Conversations with current and former state and federal judges, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for personal attribution.


Early in law school, I decided to become a homicide prosecutor—and during law school, I interned with four different U.S. Department of Justice offices, all during the Trump administration, which further solidified my opinions on crime.

I decided to clerk in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (“D.C. Superior Court”) for a judge more progressive than myself. My law school had instructed me to “apply broadly”—meaning across the geographical and political spectra—and to accept the first clerkship I was offered.53 In the author’s conversations with law school administrators about the advice to apply broadly—across the political spectrum, and to geographically diverse areas—some have conceded that this is not feasible for all students. One administrator offered the example that there are some geographic locations where it is not safe to be openly LGBTQ. Author’s notes from conversations with law school administrators during the clerkship application process. Another administrator conceded that some students do not have the financial means to “hop on a plane in twenty-four hours” for an in-person clerkship interview. Author conversations with law school administrators, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for attribution (April 2022–present). The judge presided over felony cases, meaning that I would get a crash course in criminal prosecution right out of law school.

Unfortunately, my clerkship destroyed my career aspirations and set me on a different path.54 See Workplace Protections for Federal Judiciary Employees: Flaws in the Current System and the Need for Statutory Change: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Cts., Intell. Prop., & the Internet of the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 117th Cong. (March 17, 2022) (statement for the record of Aliza Shatzman), []; see generally Workplace Protections for Federal Judiciary Employees: Flaws in the Current System and the Need for Statutory Change: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Cts., Intell. Prop., & the Internet of the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 117th Cong. (March 17, 2022), []. Beginning just weeks into my clerkship, the judge began to harass me and discriminate against me because of my gender.55 Author’s notes. He would kick me out of court, telling me that I “made him uncomfortable” and he “just felt more comfortable with” my male co-clerk. He told me I was “aggressive” and “nasty” and that I had “personality issues.” The day I found out that I passed the Bar Exam—an enormous day in any young attorney’s life—he called me into his chambers and told me, “You’re bossy! And I know bossy because my wife is bossy!”

I was devastated. I cried in the courthouse bathroom at work and cried myself to sleep at night. I wished I could be reassigned to a different judge. However, my workplace did not have an Employee Dispute Resolution Plan in place that might have enabled me to be reassigned—it was implemented one year after my clerkship ended.56 See District of Columbia Courts Announce New Employment Dispute Resolution Plan, D.C. CTS. (May 20, 2021), []; see also Employment Dispute Resolution Plan, D.C. CTS., [].

Eventually, the judge ended my clerkship early, telling me that I “made him uncomfortable” and “lacked respect for” him. I contacted D.C. Courts Human Resources (“HR”), but they told me there was nothing they could do because “HR doesn’t regulate judges” and “judges and law clerks have a unique relationship.” Then they asked me whether I knew that I was an “at-will employee.”

One year later, I was finally back on my feet. I secured my dream job as a prosecutor in the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office (“USAO”). I was two weeks into training when I received devastating news that altered the course of my life. The USAO told me the judge had made negative statements about me during my background investigation, that I “would not be able to obtain a security clearance,” and that, therefore, my job offer was being revoked.57 Author’s notes. A few days later, an interview offer for a different position with the same office was also revoked, based on the judge’s same negative reference. I was only two years out of law school, and the judge seemed to have limitless power to ruin my reputation and destroy my career.

I was eventually able to read the outrageous and misleading reference. By then, it was too late. The damage had been done. I was blackballed from what I thought was my dream job. I will likely never work as a federal prosecutor.

No one—not even a Senate-confirmed judge—should be able to mistreat their employees with impunity. However, the judiciary is a uniquely unaccountable workplace, where those tasked with interpreting the law are not subject to the rule of law—at least not where workplace harassment is concerned. As if mistreating one’s law clerks during their clerkships was not terrible enough, some judges are emboldened to exert far-reaching authority over their former clerks’ careers. There are no guardrails to prevent the type of mistreatment I experienced during my clerkship and in the years following it. Law clerks have neither legal protections nor recourse when the most powerful members of the profession abuse their positions of power.

I became aware of the proposed JAA while I was engaged in the formal judicial complaint process in the summer and fall of 2021. Since then, I have spoken with many House and Senate offices, both Democratic and Republican, including those involved with drafting the JAA, to urge their bosses to support this critical legislation. I highlighted my personal story to personalize abstract issues. My experience with harassment and retaliation by a former D.C. Superior Court judge underscores why the JAA is so urgently needed. I wish the JAA had protected me when I was a law clerk.


The JAA should receive bipartisan support. Both Democratic and Republican appointees harass their clerks,58 See Edmondson, supra note 6 (reporting on substantiated allegations against the late Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt); see Zapotosky, supra note 7 (reporting on substantiated allegations against former Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski). and both liberal and conservative clerks experience mistreatment.59 See Protecting Federal Judiciary Employees from Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, and Other Workplace Misconduct: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Cts., Intell. Prop., and the Internet of the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong. 11 (Feb. 13, 2020) (testimony of Olivia Warren) [hereinafter Olivia Warren House Judiciary Testimony], [https://perma/cc/DVB5-JZM5]; see also Letter from Heidi S. Bond, Former Law Clerk, U.S. Ct. App. for the 9th Cir., to the Senate Comm. on the Judiciary (June 11, 2018) [hereinafter Letter from Heidi S. Bond], available at []. Anecdotally, the author receives messages from law clerks every day, ranging across the ideological spectrum. Author conversations with law clerks, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for attribution (March 2022–present). House and Senate Republicans should support the JAA, considering how much it aligns with conservative principles like enforcing the rule of law and curbing government abuses of power.

The JAA would finally extend Title VII protections to more than 31,000 federal judiciary employees.60 See Ally Coll & Dylan Hosmer-Quint, The Federal Judiciary Has a Harassment Problem—But There’s a Fix, BLOOMBERG L., (Nov. 19, 2021, 1:00 AM), []. It is baffling that an entire branch of the federal government is so lawless. The judiciary is distinct from Congress and the Executive Branch, where staffers are protected by, and lawmakers are subject to, Title VII.61 See generally Congressional Accountability Act, Pub. L. 104-1, 109 Stat. 3 (1995); Presidential and Executive Office Accountability Act, Pub. L. 104-331 (1995). In fact, Congress extended additional workplace protections to more employees, including interns, in 2018.62 See Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, 2 U.S.C. §§ 1311–1438; see also Press Release, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Klobuchar, Blunt Bipartisan Sexual Harassment Reform Measure Takes Effect with New Cong. (Jan. 7, 2019), []. Unpaid congressional interns are protected by Title VII, yet young attorneys working for life-tenured federal judges are not. Conservatives should demand that the judiciary be subject to the same standards as other government branches and most private businesses, where employees are protected by various antidiscrimination laws.63 See U.S. EQUAL EMP. OPPORTUNITY COMM’N, supra note 4. Continuing to exempt the judiciary from Title VII sends a powerful message to misbehaving judges that they are above the laws they interpret. Subjecting judges who harass their clerks to Title VII litigation would curb government abuses of power by judges who mistreat their clerks with impunity.

If a law school graduate decides to work at a law firm, on the Hill, or at the White House, they are protected under civil rights laws. If they are mistreated by their employers, they can seek legal redress. However, if they decide that, for their first job, they want to spend a year or two learning from a judge, these young lawyers may experience harassment and retaliation with no legal recourse. Judiciary employees are not asking for special protections.64 See supra notes 62-63. Title VII, which applies to their counterparts in similar industries, should apply to them as well.

Arguably, the judiciary needs Title VII even more than the other two branches of government, because these powerful employers—judges—enjoy life tenure.65 See supra note 29. Compared to a congressional office—with about half a dozen staffers in a House office and about a dozen staffers in a Senate office—a judicial chambers has a fraction of the staff and an employer with more unchecked power. A judicial chambers is more geographically isolated and more physically imposing than a congressional office. There is nowhere for a mistreated clerk to go to escape their harasser—no alternative supervisor to work for or to contact for assistance. Furthermore, members of Congress are accountable to the public—the voters—through elections every two or six years. Most federal judges have life tenure, making them effectively accountable to no one.66 See Judicial Conduct & Disability, U.S. CTS., []; see also Caseload Statistics Data Tables, U.S. Cts., [].

Judges who mistreat their clerks are committing egregious abuses of power. Judges are empowered with the authority to make decisions every day that affect fundamental aspects of litigants’ lives—including decisions about their liberty. And yet, those to whom we entrust the most power are immune from suit. Misbehaving judges evade scrutiny over their mistreatment of clerks; they also avoid accountability for committing misconduct.67 The author often asks judges where they would recommend a law clerk go to report mistreatment by their judge. Many judges recommend reporting to the Chief Judge of the courthouse. However, judges also concede that the Chief Judge has “no oversight” over judges’ day-to-day dealings with their clerks. Conversations with current and former state and federal judges, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for personal attribution. The author would recommend empowering Chief Judges with oversight responsibilities.


Some conservative organizations, members of Congress, and judges68 The author has spoken with both progressive and conservative judges who support the JAA. Id. Judicial opposition to the JAA also spans the political spectrum. See Workplace Protections for Federal Judiciary Employees: Flaws in the Current System and the Need for Statutory Change: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Cts., Intell. Prop., and the Internet of the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 117th Cong. (2022) (combined written statement of the Honorable M. Margaret McKeown, United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit, and the Honorable Julie A. Robinson, United States District Judge for the District of Kansas), [] [hereinafter Testimony of Judge McKeown and Judge Robinson]. have voiced opposition to the JAA.69 See Workplace Protections for Federal Judiciary Employees: Flaws in the Current System and the Need for Statutory Change: Hearing Before the Subcomm. On Cts., Intell. Prop., and the Internet of the H. Comm. On the Judiciary, 117th Cong. (2022) (testimony of Sarah Parshall Perry, Legal Fellow, The Heritage Foundation), [] [hereinafter testimony of Sarah Parshall Perry]. They argue that the JAA introduces intrusive regulation, particularly by imposing a centralized Commission on Judicial Integrity;70 See id. at 3. that the judiciary is a unique branch of government that can and should self-police;71 See id. at 4–5. and that the JAA threatens “judicial independence.”72 See id. at 2. Some Republican congressional offices have also questioned whether the JAA would chill hiring and whether it would be effectively utilized.73 The author has spoken privately with GOP congressional offices about the JAA. Conversations with Congressional staffers, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for personal attribution (July 2021–present). She appreciates their willingness to engage with her on this issue. The author addresses these arguments in a separate section. See infra Section VI.2. .

A. It Is Time to Centralize and Standardize the Judiciary’s Approach To Workplace Misconduct.

Some have criticized the breadth of the Commission on Judicial Integrity’s oversight mandate, arguing instead for decentralized governance within the judiciary and claiming that each courthouse has unique needs.74 See testimony of Sarah Parshall Perry, supra note 66. However, this Commission would neither regulate judges’ day-to-day dealings with their clerks nor their rulings. Its purpose is to oversee and administer the JAA’s programs—including the workplace misconduct prevention policy, the standardized EDR Plan, the confidential reporting system, the data collection initiatives, and the workplace culture assessments.75 See H.R. 4827, 117th Cong. § 4(f) (2021).

It is time to centralize and standardize judiciary workplace policies so that every law clerk, no matter what state and courthouse they work in, knows there are safe places for them to go to report misconduct and seek assistance. Current judiciary policies are either nonexistent or ineffective. Judges investigate their colleagues, both internally through EDR and through formal complaints under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act.76 See Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, 28 U.S.C. §§ 352-355, 357. These policies create both the appearance of and an actual conflict of interest. As a result, judges rarely face discipline.

While some continue to quibble about specific provisions of the JAA, as it stands, law clerks lack basic workplace protections. Nothing about the judiciary suggests that it should be uniquely exempt from civil rights laws. Judges who enforce antidiscrimination laws should themselves be subject to them. Judiciary employees who go to work in courthouses across the country deserve the same access to the justice system as the litigants who appear before them.

The judiciary is a sprawling workplace that spans hundreds of courthouses across all fifty states.77 See Court Role and Structure, U.S. CTS., []. Perhaps this could cut in favor of internal self-policing at individual courthouses, especially if judges could point to unique characteristics of their courthouses requiring special policies. However, judges in courthouses across the country have proven themselves unable and unwilling to self-police misconduct in their ranks.78 See supra Part II (discussing the pervasiveness of judicial misconduct and the inadequacy of the judiciary’s data collection practices to quantify it). As misconduct allegations and investigations into other insular organizations like police unions79 See Nicole Dungca & Jenn Abelson, When Communities Try to Hold Police Accountable, Law Enforcement Fights Back, WASH. POST (Apr. 27, 2021), []. and the military80 See Bill Chappell, Military Panel Urges Taking Sexual Assault Cases Out of Commanders’ Control, NPR (Apr. 23, 2021, 11:16 AM), [].  have shown, attempts to self-regulate often fail.

Some judges have privately voiced concerns about whether judicial complaints and investigations under the JAA could be politically weaponized by an overbearing, highly partisan Congress.81 Conversations with current federal judges, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for personal attribution. For example, a Democratic-majority Congress could threaten to investigate conservative or Republican-appointed judges for misconduct if they do not rule a certain way. However, under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, individual members of Congress already can theoretically pressure chief judges to initiate investigations into judges, even absent a complaint by a law clerk.82 See Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, 28 U.S.C. §§ 351(b). Congress has not politicized this process in the more than four decades since the policy has been in place.83 The author found no evidence to suggest that Congress has weaponized Judicial Conduct and Disability Act complaints against judges from the opposite political party. Under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, a Chief Judge is empowered to initiate an investigation into a judge if he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that the judge has committed misconduct, absent a formal complaint by a judiciary employee. See Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, 28 U.S.C. §§ 351–364.

Opposition to the JAA under the guise of “judicial independence” is particularly disingenuous.84 See Testimony of Judge McKeown and Judge Robinson, supra note 66 (claiming that “[t]he Judiciary’s internal governance system is a necessary corollary to judicial independence”), at 15. Individual judges, both liberal and conservative, have also raised this argument privately. The JAA, which would finally implement basic workplace policies and create some judicial accountability, has nothing to do with ensuring that judicial rulings are free from outside political influence.85 The judiciary already faces some political oversight as part of the system of checks and balances (i.e., Senate advice and consent for judicial appointments, see U.S. Const. art. II §2, and congressional funding for the judiciary, see Judiciary Budget Request, FY 2023, Congressional Research Service (Apr. 25, 2022),  What most threatens judicial independence is when notorious harassers, including misogynistic judges, are never disciplined. What are female litigants to think when they appear before these notoriously misbehaving judges—particularly if the judges are presiding over Title VII cases? Judicial independence in decision-making is distinct from workplace conduct.

B. There Are No Downstream Political Implications For Extending Title VII To the Judiciary.

Conservative congressional offices are willing to engage on the subjects of judicial accountability and increased workplace protections for judiciary employees.86 Conversations with congressional staffers between July 2021 and October 2022, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for personal attribution. However, some offices have privately raised concerns about specific aspects of the bill.87 Id.  In this section, I engage with two points of concern: first, that the JAA will either chill hiring by judges seeking to avoid lawsuits or complaints down the road; and second, that mistreated law clerks will not actually sue judges under Title VII.

The JAA will not chill hiring.88 At a 2018 Senate hearing, then-Senator Kamala Harris raised this issue with U.S. Courts Administrative Office Director James Duff, alerting him that misogynistic judges were threatening to stop hiring female clerks in order to avoid sexual harassment complaints. Confronting Sexual Harassment Hearing Video, supra note 17. Mr. Duff evaded the question. Id. In 1995, Congress extended Title VII to both itself and the Executive Branch.89 See supra notes 2­–3. At the time, the Judicial Conference vociferously opposed extending Title VII protections to judiciary employees, in part because “[t]he judiciary currently provides its employees with protections similar to those enumerated in” the statutes.90 JUD. CONF. OF THE U.S., STUDY OF JUDICIAL BRANCH COVERAGE PURSUANT TO THE CONGRESSIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 1995, 2–3 (1996) (invoking “judicial independence”).  Since 1995, there has been no evidence to suggest that either branch of government’s hiring patterns were affected by extending Title VII protections to their employees.

I have spoken with many federal and state court judges from a variety of jurisdictions about the JAA.91 Conversations with current and former state and federal judges, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for personal attribution. The author is grateful to the many judges who either reached out to her following her written testimony and early public statements or who responded to her email inquiries and agreed to speak about judicial accountability and the JAA. These conversations informed both this piece and the author’s broader advocacy work on this subject. Anecdotally, many federal judges support the JAA or some other increased workplace protections for employees and accountability for their colleagues.92 See id. Furthermore, state court judges are already subject to Title VII or similar state antidiscrimination laws, such as 42 U.S.C. § 1983; these judges still handle their judicial tasks effectively, hire law clerks without issue, and conduct business efficiently.93 Id. At least half a dozen federal judges who previously served on their state benches have stated that they do not believe that they should suddenly become exempt from antidiscrimination laws because of a change in jurisdiction; nor do they believe that something about themselves as employers suddenly changed when they received life tenure.94 Id. Furthermore, multiple federal judges told the author that they did not realize they were exempt from Title VII prior to speaking with the author. Id.

Congressional offices have also asked whether judiciary employees, including law clerks and federal public defenders, will actually sue their powerful superiors under the JAA. State court employees can sue judges under Title VII and state antidiscrimination laws; yet, they rarely feel empowered to do so.95 See supra note 13; see also Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 228–30 (1988) (holding state judges are amenable to suit for gender discrimination, that a judge is not absolutely immune from suit in her or his capacity as an employer, and that the judge may be liable for unconstitutional conduct regarding the discharge, demotion, and treatment of employees). Multiple congressional staffers even argued that suing a judge would make the judiciary employee unemployable in the legal community.96 Conversations with Congressional staffers, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for personal attribution (July 2021–present).

These concerns are unwarranted. Evidence suggests the JAA will be utilized and will have a material effect on judicial workplaces. In fact, some judiciary employees are trying to sue right now.97 See Nate Raymond, U.S. Judiciary Can Be Sued Over Handling of Sex Harassment Complaint, REUTERS (Apr. 27, 2022), []. Assistant Federal Public Defender Caryn Strickland testified before a House Judiciary Subcommittee in March 2022 about her experience with harassment and retaliation while working as a federal public defender. See supra note 39, testimony of Caryn Devins Strickland. Former North Carolina Assistant Federal Public Defender Caryn Strickland is currently engaged in litigation against judiciary officials in the Fourth Circuit for gender discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.98 See Strickland v. United States, 32 F.4th 311, 319–20 (4th Cir. 2022). Ms. Strickland can only rely on Fifth Amendment equal protection and due process claims because federal defenders’ offices are also currently exempt from Title VII.99 See id. at 349 n.9.

These same arguments could have been raised against extending Title VII to the Legislative and Executive Branches in 1995 but would have rung similarly hollow. Regardless of survivors’ appetite for litigation, they should not be denied the right to sue their harassers. Furthermore, potential liability for employers is a strong disincentive for harassment. Additionally, the argument about unemployability in the legal community cuts both ways. It will be more difficult for the former clerk to find a legal job after suing a judge, just as it will be more difficult for them to find a legal job after filing a complaint against a judge. However, judiciary employees who are driven from the profession and face financial hardship must be able to sue and seek damages.

Most importantly, the JAA does much more than just extend Title VII protections to judiciary employees—it establishes courthouse workplace protections and creates judicial accountability.100 See supra Part III (discussing the JAA). By requiring the judiciary to collect and publish data, including the results of a desperately needed workplace culture assessment, the JAA would finally quantify the scope of the problem.101 See H.R. 4827 §6(e). No matter how many judiciary employees take advantage of the Title VII protections, many more will utilize the workplace misconduct prevention policy, the confidential reporting system, and the standardized EDR Plan.102 See H.R. 4827 §§ 4(f)–(g). Many law clerks express privately to the author that, while they are not ready to file formal complaints, they are looking for somewhere to make confidential reports about the judges who harassed them. They also express skepticism that the current system of reporting to workplace circuit executives is actually confidential. Author conversations with current and former law clerks, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for attribution (July 2021–present).  Every employee will benefit from a publicly reported climate survey of the judiciary as well as data on law clerk and public defender hiring and the outcomes of judicial complaints.

The JAA is not perfect. For example, it will not remove EDR and Judicial Conduct and Disability Act investigations from the judiciary’s chain of command. It should. Judges should not investigate their colleagues. Additionally, the JAA will not revise the provision in Title 28 of the U.S. Code that allows a judge to continue collecting his pension if he retires  rather than resigns amid a misconduct investigation—collecting taxpayer dollars after committing misconduct.103 See 28 U.S.C. §§ 371–77 (defining judicial retirement and resignation); see also Stephen B. Burbank, S. Jay Plager & Gregory Ablavsky, Leaving the Bench, 1970–2009: The Choices Federal Judges Make, What Influences Those Choices, and Their Consequences, 161 U. PA. L. REV. 1, 4–5 (2012); Retiring to Avoid Consequences: Judges Exploit a Loophole to Maintain Pensions in Spite of Misconduct, FIX THE COURT (Oct. 1, 2021), [].  It should. However, judiciary employees cannot wait another year for urgently needed reforms.


Some judges and conservative congressional offices have suggested alternatives to the JAA.104 Conversations with Congressional staffers and current federal judges, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for personal attribution. The first is to utilize an internal U.S. Courts Administrative Office (“AO”) process, rather than Title VII, to adjudicate workplace disputes.105 See id. The second is to sever the JAA—passing the Title VII protections now, while addressing the judicial accountability, data collection, and judicial oversight provisions later, perhaps in a separate bill.106 See id.  While extending Title VII to the judiciary is better than doing nothing, both of these proposals are undesirable.

A. Current Internal Processes for Adjudicating Workplace Disputes in the Judiciary are Ineffective.

The judiciary has proven itself unable or unwilling to self-police.107 See supra Part II (discussing the judiciary’s inability or unwillingness to self-police, and particularly former AO James Duff’s tone deaf response to Senate Judiciary Committee questions about judicial misconduct). Congress should not give the federal judiciary any more opportunities to offer toothless “reforms.” Following public misconduct allegations against former Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski in 2017,108 See Matt Zapotosky, Federal Appeals Judge Announces Immediate Retirement Amid Probe of Sexual Misconduct Allegations, WASH. POST (Dec. 18, 2017), []. the following year, the Judicial Conference of the United States, which is the national policymaking body for the federal courts, created a Workplace Conduct Working Group to make internal policy recommendations.109 U.S. CTS., FED. JUDICIARY WORKPLACE CONDUCT WORKING GRP., REPORT OF THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY WORKPLACE CONDUCT WORKING GROUP TO THE JUDICIAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED STATES 1 (2018), []. The Working Group released an interim report in 2019, offering a few hollow proposals and continuing to insist that harassment and misconduct are not pervasive within the federal courts.110 See U.S. CTS, STATUS REPORT FROM THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY WORKPLACE CONDUCT WORKING GROUP TO THE JUDICIAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED STATES (2019), []. Judiciary leadership continues to tout its EDR Plan,111 See U.S. CTS, REPORT OFTHE FEDERAL JUDICIARY WORKPLACE CONDUCT WORKING GROUP TO THE JUDICIAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED STATES  (Mar. 16, 2022), claiming that Title VII protections are unnecessary and duplicative.112 Inexplicably, in Judge McKeown’s and Judge Robinson’s March 2022 House Judiciary Subcommittee testimony, they appeared to claim that judiciary employees are protected under Title VII. See Testimony of Judge McKeown and Judge Robinson, supra note 66, at 3. However, EDR Plans among the federal courts are notoriously ineffective.113 See Brief for Named and Unnamed Current and Former Employees of the Federal Judiciary Who Were Subjected to or Witnessed Misconduct as Amici Curiae in Support of Appellant Jane Roe at 35–39, Jane Roe v. United States, No. 21-1346, 2022 WL 1217455, (4th Cir. 2021) [hereinafter Jane Roe Amicus Brief], [] (discussing the effects of harassment on former clerks’ and public defenders’ lives). They are not standardized among all federal courthouses; the proceedings are not confidential; and the judges overseeing EDR complaints are not impartial arbiters.114 See generally Id. One sitting judge told the author that they had been on the bench for a decade and had never attended EDR training. Conversation with current judge, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for personal attribution. Furthermore, in many cases, judiciary employees attempting to utilize the EDR Plan lack basic due process rights.115 See Jane Roe Amicus Brief, supra note 107, at 20. For example, EDR complainants are not always permitted to conduct discovery or read the investigatory reports. See generally Dungca & Abelson, supra note 76, Strickland v. United States, 32 F.4th 311, at 26-37 (4th Cir. 2022).

On March 16, 2022, just hours before the House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing to discuss the JAA,116 See Testimony of Judge McKeown and Judge Robinson, supra note 66, at 1. and after more than four years of work, the Working Group released another Report.117 REPORT OF THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY WORKPLACE CONDUCT WORKING GROUP TO THE JUDICIAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED STATES (2022), []. The Report offered a few meaningless reforms to EDR and again claimed that the judiciary is an exemplary workplace that can self-police.118 See generally id. Two judiciary representatives from the Working Group testified at the hearing the next day, making the same hollow claims.119 See Testimony of Judge McKeown and Judge Robinson, supra note 66, at 21.

Arguments about judicial independence and judicial exceptionalism are troublesome, since judges have been notoriously unwilling to discipline their colleagues, even in the face of appalling misconduct.120 See supra Part II. The judiciary has also strenuously opposed oversight.

Under these circumstances, and based on the judiciary’s failures in the EDR context, the AO should not be permitted to craft its own internal policy to mirror Title VII. Title VII may not be perfect,121 Some scholars have commented that Title VII may not be the ideal vehicle to address modern day gender discrimination claims. Critics argue that Title VII is best equipped to tackle explicit, intentional discrimination, but that much twenty-first century gender (and race) discrimination can be categorized as either implicit or unintentional. See, e.g., Chad Derum & Karen Engle, The Rise of the Personal Animosity Presumption in Title VII and the Return to “No Cause” Employment, 81 TEX. L. REV. 1177, 1188 (2003); Stephen M. Rich, One Law of Race?, 100 IOWA L. REV. 201, 231 (2014); Samuel R. Bagenstos, The Structural Turn and Limits of Antidiscrimination Law, 94 CALIF. L. REV. 1, 3 (2006). but it is better than anything the judiciary has come up with to self-regulate. The judiciary has been trying to self-regulate for 250 years and has been unable to prevent and discipline misconduct in its ranks.122 See Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat. 73. The U.S. court system was established in 1789, affording the judiciary more than two centuries to prove itself capable of internal self-regulation. It has failed to do so. Progress should not be held hostage any longer by obstinate judiciary leadership.

B. Every Component of the JAA Is Crucial.

Partisanship in recent years has rendered Congress unable to pass much legislation,123 See Drew DeSilver, Congress Is Off To A Slow Start In 2021, Much As It Has Been In Previous Years, PEW RESEARCH CENTER (Aug. 13, 2021), []. making it imprudent to rely on future congressional action. With the JAA finally gaining momentum across the political spectrum, now is not the time for half measures. Therefore, Congress should not sever the JAA to focus on the Title VII protections now, with the intent of passing a second bill later. Lawmakers should act swiftly and decisively to protect judiciary employees.

Critically, the JAA as written does much more than simply extend Title VII protections. In fact, the other parts of the bill—the workplace misconduct prevention policy, confidential reporting system, standardized EDR Plans, workplace culture assessment, and data collection and dissemination programs—will assist the entire judiciary workforce and promote the judiciary’s mission. Similar legislation extending workplace protections to Congress and the Executive Branches, such as the Congressional Accountability Act (“CAA”) and the Executive and Presidential Office Accountability Act (“EPOAA”), did much more than just extend Title VII protections to those branches.124 See Presidential and Executive Office Accountability Act, Pub. L. 104-331 (1995); Congressional Accountability Act, Pub. L. 104-1, 109 Stat. 3 (1995). The CAA and the EPOAA, which have transformed federal workplaces in their respective branches, achieved their success by taking a holistic approach to workplace protections, rather than just extending Title VII to their employees.

C. Change Is Headed to the Judiciary

While these two alternatives to the JAA would not make the meaningful reforms for which I am advocating, my conversations with conservative congressional offices and judges make me hopeful that the JAA can receive bipartisan support. A wide swath of Congress, as well as a wide swath of the judiciary’s rank and file, support increased workplace protections for judiciary employees and increased accountability for judicial misconduct.125 That is not to say that the author has not occasionally faced resistance from individual judges, who warn that the judiciary is insular; that judges protect their colleagues and their own reputations at all cost; and that these features of the judiciary will not change anytime soon. Conversations with current and former state and federal judges, subject to agreement that the interviewees’ statements were not for personal attribution. It is primarily the judiciary’s leadership—a powerful lobby—that aggressively opposes congressional oversight.126 Cf. Testimony of Judge McKeown and Judge Robinson, supra note 66.  However, congressional Republicans should listen to their constituents, who are affiliated with courthouses across the country and who would benefit immensely and immediately from the JAA.


Many members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees were law clerks themselves. Some of their staffers are former clerks. What would these members of Congress and staffers have done if they were harassed at work? Would they have been driven from the profession? That would have been an enormous waste of their training and talents.

There are federal courthouses in all fifty states, meaning the JAA touches every state.127 See U.S. CTS., COURT ROLE AND STRUCTURE, []. Every Senator and nearly every House member represents constituents whose workplaces would be made safer by the JAA.128 See id. While politicians of all parties regularly defend and support judges for partisan reasons, they neglect law clerks—the next generation of progressive and conservative thinkers and decision-makers—who are tossed aside and driven from the profession by misbehaving judges bent on destroying their careers out of malice or vindictiveness.129 Several individuals told the author privately that, while they supported her, it was “too bad” that the DC judiciary was losing a “progressive sentencer” and that the judge for whom the author clerked “got it” on progressive issues. Author’s notes from these conversations. Statements like this are not helpful to law clerks facing harassment. Chief executives can always appoint more judges who align with the political majority. Aligning political affiliations is not a good enough reason to protect a misbehaving judge.

The judicial workplace should set the standard for workplace civility, safety, and accountability. Judiciary employees—from the most left-leaning progressive to the most right-leaning conservative—cannot wait another year for the JAA’s urgently needed reforms. Conservatives should support the JAA because it would align the judiciary with the other branches of government and with most private employers. Every conservative should be outraged by the lawlessness and unaccountability of our judiciary.

* Aliza Shatzman is an attorney and advocate in Washington, DC who writes and speaks about judicial accountability. Ms. Shatzman is the President and Co-Founder of The Legal Accountability Project, a nonprofit aimed at ensuring that law clerks have positive clerkship experiences, while extending support and resources to those who do not. Ms. Shatzman’s writing on this subject has previously appeared in the UCLA Journal of Gender & Law, NYU Journal of Legislation & Public Policy, Yale Law & Policy Review, Above the Law, Law360, Ms. Magazine, Slate, and Balls & Strikes. Ms. Shatzman earned her BA from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and her JD from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri, where she was an Associate Editor of the Journal of Law & Policy.

Reparando los Daños Causados por las Intervenciones Militares Ilícitas del Pasado: El Caso de la República Dominicana

Congresista Adriano Espaillat* y Francesco Arreaga**


Como el primer domínico-estadounidense en servir en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos y miembro del Subcomité de Estado, Operaciones Extranjeras y Programas Relacionados del Comité de Apropiaciones de la Cámara, me preocupo profundamente por las relaciones de los Estados Unidos en todo el Caribe y los compromisos para garantizar que estemos cumpliendo nuestros ideales de igualdad, libertad, oportunidad y democracia en el escenario mundial. Mantener las relaciones diplomáticas entre los Estados Unidos y la República Dominicana es especialmente importante para mí, ya que nací en Santiago de los Caballeros, República Dominicana y vine a los Estados Unidos cuando era niño. Fomentar esta importante relación requiere el reconocimiento y la reparación de las pasadas intervenciones y ocupaciones militares de Estados Unidos en la República Dominicana. Mientras crecía, mi familia me enseñó acerca de las intervenciones militares de los Estados Unidos, y recuerdo haber visto a infantes de marina de los EE.UU. patrullando en la República Dominicana en 1965 cuando regresé brevemente a Santo Domingo, sin comprender completamente su significado o el impacto que su presencia tuvo en mi comunidad.

Este ensayo detalla la historia de las intervenciones de los Estados Unidos en la República Dominicana, incluido el deseo del presidente Ulysses S. Grant de anexar la República Dominicana a los EE.UU., la ocupación de 1916-1924, el apoyo de los EE.UU. al régimen opresor de Trujillo y la ocupación de 1965-1966. Luego describe cómo las dos ocupaciones militares de los Estados Unidos violaron la soberanía de la República Dominicana. Concluye explicando cómo el proyecto de ley que introduje en el Congreso 117, la H.R. 2725 –La Ley de la Comisión de las Ocupaciones Norteamericanas (Commission on United States Occupations Act)– es un paso importante para reparar el daño causado por las intervenciones militares de los Estados Unidos en la República Dominicana, que reforzará la legitimidad de la defensa de los derechos humanos y el derecho internacional de los Estados Unidos en el escenario mundial.


A. Presidente Grant Intenta Anexar República Dominicana

Después de independizarse de Haití en 1844 y de España en 1865, la República Dominicana enfrentó un período de inestabilidad política, aumento de la deuda nacional y una continua amenaza de invasión. Al mismo tiempo, Estados Unidos se adhirió a la Doctrina Monroe, una política que establecía que los países del Hemisferio Occidental no debían ser considerados objetos de una colonización futura por ninguna potencia europea.1 Doctrina Monroe, HISTORIA (20 de sep., 2019), [].

Temiendo que una potencia europea tomara el control de la República Dominicana, el 29 de noviembre de 1869, el presidente Ulysses S. Grant firmó un tratado con la República Dominicana para anexar la nación a cambio de $1.5 millones y el pago de su deuda.2 Véase Presidente Ulysses S. Grant, Mensaje especial al Senado de los Estados Unidos (31 de mayo, 1870), disponible en []. El 31 de mayo de 1870, el presidente Grant envió un mensaje al Senado de los Estados Unidos sobre el tratado de anexión de la República Dominicana, expresando que “la adquisición de Santo Domingo es en observación a la doctrina Monroe; es una medida de protección nacional; está afirmando nuestro justo reclamo de una influencia controladora sobre el gran tráfico comercial que pronto fluirá de este a oeste.”3 Id. El tratado requería dos tercios de los votos en el Senado para ser ratificado. El 30 de junio de 1870, el Senado, por una votación de 28-28, rechazó el tratado de anexión.4 Tratados rechazados, SENADO DE LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS, [] (última visita el 27 de septiembre de 2022).

El 12 de enero de 1871, el Congreso promulgó una resolución conjunta creando una Comisión de Investigación de los EE.UU. en Santo Domingo.5 Cuadragésimo Primer Congreso. Tercera Sesión. Cámara de los Representantes. Peticiones y Memoriales., N.Y. TIMES, 12 de enero de 1871 en 5, disponible en []. Frederick Douglass fue miembro de esta Comisión y apoyó los esfuerzos para anexar la República Dominicana.6 DeArbea Walker, En 1871, Estados Unidos casi adquiere la República Dominicana. El presidente Ulysses S. Grant esperaba que ‘toda la población de color de los Estados Unidos’ se mudara a la isla., INSIDER (11 de julio de 2022), []. La Comisión de Investigación emitió su informe al Congreso detallando cómo el presidente de la República Dominicana y su gabinete “manifestaron un espíritu liberal y acomodaticio” al tratado de anexión.7 COMISIÓN DE LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS EN SANTO DOMINGO, REP. DE LA COMISIÓN DE INVESTIGACIÓN EN SANTO DOMINGO 31 (Washington, Gov’t Printing Office 1871). También señaló que la gente en la República Dominicana preferiría la independencia a la anexión, pero evaluó que “la independencia es imposible” – porque la República Dominicana “nunca había mantenido una independencia real” antes.8 Id. en 32. La Comisión no hizo una recomendación oficial sobre la anexión, ya que estaba más allá de su mandato congresual.9 Id.  En última instancia, el Congreso de los Estados Unidos no siguió adelante con el deseo del presidente Grant de anexar la República Dominicana.

B. La Ocupación Estadounidense de 1916 a 1924

Para 1904, el presidente Theodore Roosevelt había establecido una nueva doctrina de política exterior para mantener a las potencias extranjeras fuera del Hemisferio Occidental y garantizar el pago de las deudas a los acreedores internacionales. El Corolario de Roosevelt a la Doctrina Monroe establecía que Estados Unidos actuaría como “una potencia policial internacional” en el Hemisferio Occidental.10 Roosevelt, Theodore, Mensaje anual al Congreso (6 de dic. de 1904). En la práctica, esta doctrina sirvió como justificación para la intervención estadounidense en varios países del Hemisferio Occidental.11 DEPARTAMENTO DE ESTADO, COROLARIO DE ROOSEVELT A LA DOCTRINA MONROE, 1904, [].

De acuerdo con el Corolario de Roosevelt, la Convención de 1907 entre los Estados Unidos y la República Dominicana autorizó al presidente de los Estados Unidos a nombrar un receptor general para cobrar los derechos de aduana acumulados por la República Dominicana hasta que el país pagara lo que debía a los acreedores estadounidenses.12 Convención de 1907, (Rep. Dom.-EE.UU., 8 de febrero de 1907, T.S. No. 465). Tras el asesinato del presidente dominicano Ramón Cáceres en 1911, la República Dominicana entró en un período de continua inestabilidad política que le impidió cumplir con sus obligaciones fiscales. Estados Unidos intervino enviando 750 infantes de marina a la República Dominicana, cortando los fondos de la colecturía de aduanas y colocando a monseñor Adolfo Nouel como presidente interino.13 DEPARTAMENTO DE ESTADO, REPÚBLICA DOMINICANA 1916-1924, [].

El 5 de mayo de 1916 fueron desplegados aproximadamente 280 soldados estadounidenses para apoyar al presidente Jiménez. Sin embargo, solo dos días después, el presidente Jiménez renunció.14 Proyecto Análisis Dinámico de Manejo de Disputas (DADM): (1) República Dominicana (1902-presente), UNIV. CENT. ARK. (última visita el 30 de septiembre de 2022), [] [en adelante República Dominicana (1902-presente)]. Se produjo una guerra civil y, finalmente, Estados Unidos envió 3,000 soldados para ocupar la República Dominicana.15 Id. El 4 de julio de 1916, el general dominicano Carlos Daniel y el capitán Máximo Cabral resistieron al ejército estadounidense que avanzaba hacia Santiago durante la Batalla de La Barranquita.16 Partido gobernante conmemora batalla poco conocida entre EE.UU. y RD, DOMINICANO HOY (3 de julio de 2014), []. Cabral y la mayoría de sus hombres murieron en combate el 4 de julio de 1916.17 Id. Los relatos históricos indican que los infantes de marina estadounidenses “intimidaron, insultaron, maltrataron, oprimieron, hirieron e incluso mataron a cientos de dominicanos, combatientes y no combatientes por igual.”18 Bruce J. Calder, Caudillos y Gavilleros versus los Marines de los Estados Unidos: Insurgencia Guerrillera durante la Intervención Dominicana, 1916-1924, 58 Hisp. Am. Hist. Rev. 649, 662 (1978). Los registros del Departamento de Estado de EE.UU. admiten que “Las audiencias del Senado de EE.UU. resultaron vergonzosas cuando los testigos dominicanos argumentaron que la ocupación violó el derecho internacional y contravino los Catorce Puntos de Wilson, y examinaron el maltrato de los insurgentes dominicanos encarcelados.”19 DEPARTAMENTO DE ESTADO DE EE.UU., CATORCE PUNTOS DE WILSON, 1918 (última visita el 30 de septiembre de 2022), [https: //]. La ocupación estadounidense de la República Dominicana duró ocho años, causando un gran resentimiento entre los ciudadanos de la República Dominicana. Al menos 1,000 personas murieron durante este conflicto.20 República Dominicana (1902-presente), supra nota 14.

C. El Apoyo de Estados Unidos al Régimen Represivo de Trujillo

Durante la ocupación estadounidense de la República Dominicana, Estados Unidos formó una policía compuesta por ciudadanos dominicanos entrenados por los marines estadounidenses para vigilar el país. Entre estos nacionales estaba Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, un “favorito del personal de la Marina.”21 Raymond H. Pulley, Estados Unidos y la Dictadura de Trujillo, 1933-1940: El Alto Precio de la Estabilidad Caribeña, ESTUDIOS CARIBEÑOS., 22, 22 (1965). Cuando Estados Unidos se retiró de la República Dominicana en 1924, Trujillo comandaba el Ejército Nacional. En 1930, el general Trujillo se postuló para la presidencia y ganó, asegurando “su elección mediante la supresión a la fuerza de toda oposición.”22 Id. en 23.

Trujillo retuvo un control decisivo sobre la República Dominicana durante más de tres décadas, monopolizó varias industrias para asegurarse de que las ganancias económicas beneficiaran desproporcionadamente a su familia y reunió una fuerza policial secreta para censurar la prensa y matar a los disidentes.23 Rafael Trujillo, HISTORIA (8 de marzo de 2021), []. Trujillo y los miembros de su familia tomaron el control de las industrias de la sal, el tabaco y la cerveza, al tiempo que adquirieron aproximadamente un tercio de las tierras cultivables de la nación.24 Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. Biografía de gale en contexto. Web. (1 de octubre de 2010). En 1938, un periodista e historiador estadounidense escribió que “Trujillo, entre otras cosas, es producto del gansterismo, el bandolerismo, el militarismo y nuestra propia ocupación de la Marina.”25 Pulley, supra nota 22, en 25. A lo largo de la administración del presidente Roosevelt, Estados Unidos apoyó a Trujillo a pesar de su régimen represivo porque sirvió a los intereses financieros de Estados Unidos y protegió las propiedades extranjeras en la República Dominicana.26 Id. en 30.

En la década de 1950, en medio de la Guerra Fría, la administración del presidente Dwight D. Eisenhower se centró en prevenir la propagación del comunismo. En 1958, el presidente Eisenhower puso fin a los envíos de armas a Cuba y suspendió la ayuda militar a Trujillo. En abril de 1960, el presidente Eisenhower aprobó un memorando del Departamento de Estado sobre las políticas a seguir “en caso de huida, asesinato, muerte o derrocamiento de Trujillo.”27 S. G. Rabe, Eisenhower y el desbordamiento de Rafael Trujillo, 6 REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS DE CONFLICTO 34, 38 (Invierno de 1986). El memorándum detallaba cómo Estados Unidos estaba dispuesto a “enviar buques de guerra a aguas dominicanas o desembarcar tropas en suelo dominicano” para evitar el surgimiento de un régimen simpatizante de Fidel Castro de Cuba.28 Id. en 38. Posteriormente, varios representantes de Estados Unidos viajaron a República Dominicana para convencer a Trujillo de que renunciara. Trujillo resistió y dijo “pueden entrar aquí con la Marina, y pueden entrar aquí con el Ejército, y pueden entrar aquí con la Armada o incluso con la bomba atómica, pero nunca saldré de aquí a menos que sea en camilla.”29 Id. 

En junio de 1960, el subsecretario de Estado para Asuntos Latinoamericanos dio su aprobación extraoficial a la Agencia Central de Inteligencia (CIA) para brindar asistencia clandestina a los disidentes en la República Dominicana necesaria para desarrollar una fuerza para derrocar a Trujillo.30 Id. en 39. El 30 de mayo de 1961, Trujillo fue asesinado por siete ciudadanos dominicanos.31 Id. en 41.

D. La Segunda Ocupación de la República Dominicana (1965-1966)

Tras el asesinato de Rafael Trujillo, el fundador del Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, Juan Bosch, fue elegido presidente. Bosch fue derrocado por un golpe militar solo siete meses después de su mandato, y la República Dominicana se sumió en la agitación política. El 28 de abril de 1965, el presidente Lyndon B. Johnson ordenó el ingreso de tropas a la República Dominicana a través de la “Operación Power Pack” para proteger las vidas y propiedades estadounidenses en la República Dominicana.32 Declaración del Presidente al Ordenar el Ingreso de Tropas a la República Dominicana., U.C. SANTA BÁRBARA: El Proyecto De La Presidencia Norteamericana (última visita el 29 de sept. de 2022), []. El presidente Johnson, sin embargo, también declaró que había tomado esta acción militar para evitar el establecimiento de una “dictadura comunista.”33 Tropas Estadounidenses Aterrizan en la República Dominicana en un Intento de Prevenir una “Dictadura Comunista”, HISTORIA (27 de abril de 2021), []. De manera similar, el embajador de Estados Unidos en República Dominicana, William Tapley Bennett, Jr., describió cómo era necesaria la intervención para “prevenir otra Cuba.”34 Brendan J. O’Shea, “OPERACIÓN POWER PACK – Intervención Militar de EE. UU. en la República Dominicana”, EJÉRCITO (20 de abril de 2010), [].

El 28 de abril de 1965, más de 22,000 soldados estadounidenses, apoyados por fuerzas proporcionadas por varios estados miembros de la Organización de los Estados Americanos, iniciaron una intervención militar en República Dominicana.35 HISTORIA, supra nota 33. Finalmente, 42,000 miembros de las fuerzas armadas estadounidenses se desplegaron en la República Dominicana y permanecieron allí hasta septiembre de 1966.36 Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, 40 Años Después, la Invasión de EE.UU. Todavía Persigue a República Dominicana, PROGRESSIVE MAG. (21 de abril de 2005, 6:08 PM), []. Más de 3,000 dominicanos y 31 militares estadounidenses perdieron la vida.37 Id. 


A. El Caso de la Fábrica de Chorzów sobre las Reparaciones

El principio de proporcionar reparaciones para compensar una violación del derecho internacional existe desde antes de la creación de la Carta de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) en 1945. En 1927, la Corte Permanente de Justicia Internacional sostuvo en el caso de la Fábrica de Chorzów que “es un principio de derecho internacional que toda violación de un compromiso internacional implica la obligación de reparar de una forma adecuada.”38 Caso Relativo a la Fábrica de Chorzów (Gobierno de Alemania v. Gobierno de la República de Polonia), Sentencia, 1927 I.C.J. 21 (26 de julio), []. Además, el tribunal explicó que las reparaciones “deben, en la medida de lo posible, anular todas las consecuencias del acto ilícito y restablecer la situación que, con toda probabilidad, habría existido de no haberse cometido dicho acto.”39 Ver id. En otras palabras, cuando un país se involucra en una acción que viola el derecho internacional, no solo tiene la obligación moral de corregir ese error, sino también la obligación legal de hacerlo según el derecho internacional.

B. La Carta de la ONU

Después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Estados Unidos se coordinó con otras naciones para crear las Naciones Unidas. El Senado de los Estados Unidos ratificó la Carta de la ONU el 28 de julio de 1945 con una votación de 89-2.[/mfn] 93 CONG. REC. 8, 8190 (1947) (votación nominal) []. [/mfn] La Carta establece el marco básico para los estándares jus ad bellum que describen cuándo un estado puede involucrarse legalmente en un conflicto armado y reafirma el compromiso de la ONU de respetar la soberanía de cada nación miembro de la ONU.

El Artículo 2, párrafos 1, 2 y 4 de la Carta de las Naciones Unidas declara que los miembros de la ONU actuarán de acuerdo con los siguientes principios:

  1. La Organización está basada en el principio de la igualdad soberana de todos sus Miembros.;
  2. Los Miembros arreglarán sus controversias internacionales por medios pacíficos; y
  3. Todos los Miembros se abstendrán de recurrir a la amenaza o al uso de la fuerza contra la integridad territorial o la independencia política de cualquier Estado.40 Carta de la ONU art. 2, ⁋ 1, 2 y 4.

El Artículo 33 establece que “[las] partes en una controversia cuya continuación sea susceptible de poner en peligro el mantenimiento de la paz y la seguridad internacionales tratarán de buscarle solución, ante todo, mediante la negociación, la investigación, la mediación, la conciliación, el arbitraje, el arreglo judicial, el recurso a organismos o acuerdos regionales u otros medios pacíficos de su elección.”41 Carta de la ONU art. 33, ⁋ 1.

La Resolución 3314, adoptada por la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas el 14 de diciembre de 1974, define agresión como “el uso de la fuerza armada por un Estado contra la soberanía, la integridad territorial o la independencia política de otro Estado, o de cualquier otra manera incompatible con la Carta de las Naciones Unidas”, tal como se establece en esta Definición.”42 A.G. Res. 3314 (XXIX), art. 1 (14 de dic. de 1974).   Además, “la invasión o ataque por las fuerzas armadas de un Estado del territorio de otro Estado, o toda ocupación militar, aunque sea temporal, resultante de tal invasión o ataque, o cualquier anexión por el uso de la fuerza del territorio de otro Estado o parte del mismo” califica como un acto de agresión.43 A.G. Res. 3314 (XXIX), art. 3 (a) (14 de dic. de 1974).

Finalmente, el artículo 92 de la Carta de las Naciones Unidas establece la Corte Internacional de Justicia como el principal órgano judicial de las Naciones Unidas, y el artículo 94 establece que “Cada Miembro de las Naciones Unidas se compromete a cumplir la decisión de la Corte Internacional de Justicia en todo litigio en que sea parte.”44 Véase la Carta de las Naciones Unidas, art. 92; Véase también Carta de las Naciones Unidas, art. 94, ⁋ 1.

C. Las Invasiones Militares de Estados Unidos a la República Dominicana Constituyeron Violaciones del Derecho Internacional

Basado en los principios esbozados en la sección anterior, es claro que las intervenciones militares de los Estados Unidos en la República Dominicana violaron principios fundamentales del derecho internacional. Estas intervenciones militares fueron actos de agresión, tal como se describe en la Resolución 3314 de la ONU y desconocieron la soberanía territorial y política de la República Dominicana. La Doctrina Monroe y el Corolario de Roosevelt fueron utilizados para justificar actos de agresión contra países del Hemisferio Occidental como la República Dominicana, pero tales justificaciones no absuelven a nuestra nación de la mancha moral que dejan las violaciones del derecho internacional, así como el devastador impacto que estas acciones tienen en la sociedad civil.

D. Nicaragua v. Estados Unidos

Es probable que cualquier país que busque reparaciones de los Estados Unidos por violaciones del derecho internacional no pueda obtener con éxito una reparación de un tribunal internacional. El caso de Nicaragua v. Estados Unidos ejemplifica los límites del derecho internacional al mostrar las barreras para hacer cumplir las sentencias de los tribunales internacionales. Específicamente, este caso sirve como un precedente útil para mostrar por qué la República Dominicana probablemente no podría obtener una reparación a través de un tribunal internacional por las intervenciones militares de los Estados Unidos en el siglo XX.

El 9 de abril de 1984, Nicaragua presentó ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia (CIJ) una solicitud para iniciar un proceso contra los Estados Unidos “acerca de una disputa relacionada con la responsabilidad de actividades militares y paramilitares en y contra Nicaragua.”45 Actividades militares y paramilitares en y contra Nicaragua (Nicar. c. EE.UU.), Resumen, , []. Tras la determinación de la CIJ de que tenía jurisdicción para conocer este caso, el Departamento de Estado de los Estados Unidos anunció que no reconocía la jurisdicción de la CIJ.46Texto de la Declaración de EE.UU. sobre el Retiro del Caso ante la Corte Internacional, N.Y. TIMES (19 de ene. de 1985), []. El 22 de febrero de 1985, el presidente Ronald Reagan afirmó durante la primera conferencia de prensa de su segundo mandato que su objetivo era “remover” la “estructura actual” del gobierno de Nicaragua.47 Hendrick Smith, Presidente de EE.UU. afirma que el objetivo es remover a los sandinistas, N.Y. TIMES (22 de feb. de 1985), [].

El 27 de junio de 1986, la Corte emitió su sentencia, sosteniendo que Estados Unidos estaba “incumpliendo [su] obligación bajo el derecho internacional consuetudinario de no intervenir en los asuntos de otro Estado” al “entrenar, armar, equipar, financiar y suministrar a las fuerzas de la Contra o de otra manera alentar, apoyar y ayudar a las actividades militares y paramilitares en y contra Nicaragua.”48 N Actividades militares y paramilitares en y contra Nicaragua (Nicar. c. EE. UU.), Sentencia, 1986, I.C.J.14, ¶ 292 (27 de junio). Además, la CIJ concluyó que “Estados Unidos de América tiene la obligación de reparar a la República de Nicaragua por todos los daños causados a Nicaragua por el incumplimiento de sus obligaciones en virtud del derecho internacional consuetudinario”.

La Corte señaló que el Congreso de los Estados Unidos “expresó la opinión de que el Gobierno de Nicaragua había dado ‘pasos significativos hacia el establecimiento de una dictadura comunista totalitaria.’”49 Id., en ¶ 263. Sin embargo, la Corte se negó a “contemplar la creación de una nueva regla que abriera un derecho de intervención de un Estado contra otro sobre la base de que este último ha optado por alguna ideología o sistema político particular.”50 Id. Tal conclusión socavaría el “principio de la soberanía del Estado, en el que descansa todo el derecho internacional, y la libertad de elección del sistema político, social, económico y cultural de un Estado.”51 Id. 

El 31 de julio de 1986, Estados Unidos vetó la Resolución de la ONU S/18250, que solicitaba un “llamado urgente y solemne al pleno cumplimiento de la sentencia de la Corte Internacional de Justicia” en Nicaragua v. Estados Unidos.52 Elaine Sciolino, Estados Unidos veta censura a la ayuda a los Contras, N.Y. TIMES (1 de agosto de 1986), []. En octubre de 1986, Estados Unidos vetó una iniciativa similar, la Resolución S/18428.53 AG. Res. 41/31 (3 de nov. de 1986) (haciendo referencia a las actividades militares y paramilitares en y contra Nicaragua (Nicar. c. EE. UU.), sentencia, 1986 I.C.J. 14 (27 de junio)). El 3 de noviembre de 1986, la Asamblea General de la ONU adoptó la Resolución 41/31, exigiendo el cumplimiento inmediato de la sentencia de la CIJ y solicitando que el Secretario General mantenga informada a la Asamblea General sobre la implementación de la resolución.54 Luego de una presión sostenida, Nicaragua informó a la CIJ en septiembre de 1991 que ya no deseaba continuar con los procedimientos contra Estados Unidos y el caso fue sobreseído.55 Actividades militares y paramilitares en y contra Nicaragua (Nicar. v. EE.UU.), Orden, 1991 I.C.J. 47 (26 de sept.) [].

Además de los desafíos de obtener reparaciones de los tribunales internacionales, la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos también ha establecido que las decisiones de la CIJ no son vinculantes para el derecho interno.56 Véase Medellín v. Texas, 552 U.S. 491, 520–23 (2008) (donde se sostiene que las “obligaciones particulares de los tratados”, como el cumplimiento de las sentencias de la CIJ, “no constituyen por sí solas una ley nacional” o “constituyen una ley federal vinculante que prevalece sobre restricciones estatales”).

E. El Congreso debe Proporcionar Reparaciones para las Violaciones del Derecho Internacional

La Cláusula de Supremacía de la Constitución de los Estados Unidos hace que los tratados sean la ley suprema del país.57 CONSTITUCIÓN DE EE.UU. Art. VI, § 2. La Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos sostuvo en Foster v. Neilson que en los Estados Unidos, “nuestra Constitución declara que un tratado es la ley del país. En consecuencia, debe ser considerado en los tribunales de justicia como equivalente a un acto de la legislatura siempre que opere por sí mismo, sin la ayuda de ninguna disposición legislativa.”58 Foster v. Neilson, 27 U.S, 253, 254 (1829).

En general, Estados Unidos no reconoce la jurisdicción de los tribunales internacionales. En Medellín v. Texas, la Corte Suprema sostuvo que el Artículo 94(1) de la Carta de las Naciones Unidas, que exige que los miembros de la ONU cumplan con las decisiones de la Corte Internacional de Justicia en cualquier litigio en el que sea parte, “no es una orden para los tribunales nacionales” y “no establece que Estados Unidos ‘debe’ o ‘deberá’ cumplir con una decisión de la CIJ.”59 Medellín, 552 U.S. en 508. Además, la Corte Suprema expresó que la “ONU se lee como un ‘pacto entre naciones independientes’ que ‘depende para el cumplimiento de sus disposiciones en el interés y el honor de los gobiernos que son partes en él'”.

En consecuencia, corresponde a los miembros del Congreso proporcionar una reparación legislativa para las violaciones del derecho internacional. Por esta razón, el 21 de abril de 2021 introduje la H.R. 2725, La Ley de la Comisión de las Ocupaciones Norteamericanas (The Commission on United States Occupations Act), para iniciar el proceso de reconocimiento de las violaciones al derecho internacional y las injusticias cometidas contra el pueblo de la República Dominicana como resultado de las intervenciones militares de los Estados Unidos.60 H.R. 2725, 117º Cong. (2021) [].


La H.R. 2725, el primer proyecto de ley en la historia del Congreso en llevar un nombre en español, establece la Comisión para el Estudio y Desarrollo de Propuestas de Reconciliación para la República Dominicana. La Comisión está encargada de identificar y examinar la documentación probatoria relacionada con el interés de Estados Unidos en incorporar a la República Dominicana como territorio estadounidense en 1869, así como las ocupaciones militares estadounidenses entre 1916-1924 y 1965-1966. Además, la Comisión recopilará datos precisos sobre el número de víctimas y destrucción de propiedad privada, así como el impacto que tuvo la intervención en el futuro de la economía dominicana. Luego, la Comisión recomendará al Congreso las reparaciones apropiadas para el pueblo de la República Dominicana, incluida la emisión de una disculpa formal en nombre de los Estados Unidos, así como políticas, proyectos y recomendaciones apropiados para revertir los efectos de las ocupaciones. Es importante señalar que la Comisión debe abordar cómo sus recomendaciones de reparación se ajustan a las normas internacionales de reparación de daños y perjuicios tal como se entienden en los protocolos, las leyes y las conclusiones internacionales.

De aprobarse, esta ley sería el primer acto del Congreso que reconoce la necesidad de brindar una reparación al pueblo de la República Dominicana por haber sido objeto de una política exterior de intervencionismo militar por parte de los Estados Unidos. En 2016, la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA), de la que Estados Unidos es miembro, se disculpó públicamente por aprobar la ocupación militar de República Dominicana en 1965.61 OEA Pide Perdón a República Dominicana; ¿EE.UU seguirá sus pasos?, DOMINICAN TODAY (16 de junio de 2016), []. La Declaración de Santo Domingo sostiene que la ocupación interrumpió el restablecimiento del orden constitucional en República Dominicana y reafirma los principios del derecho internacional, la Carta de las Naciones Unidas y la Carta de la OEA.62 Id. 

La promulgación de la H.R. 2725 afirmaría el compromiso de Estados Unidos de defender el derecho internacional y, por lo tanto, reforzaría nuestra capacidad de liderar a otras naciones en apoyo de los derechos humanos y el respeto de la soberanía en el escenario mundial. Como potencia mundial que se esfuerza por proteger los derechos humanos y los principios democráticos, Estados Unidos debe tener en cuenta las acciones de administraciones anteriores y demostrarle al mundo que rectificará los errores del pasado. Esto es tanto moralmente importante como necesario para cumplir con nuestras obligaciones en virtud del derecho internacional.



* Miembro de la Cámara de Representantes de los Estados Unidos (D-NY). Licenciatura en Queens College, 1978. El congresista Espaillat es miembro del Comité de Apropiaciones de la Cámara y del Comité de Educación y Trabajo. Es el primer inmigrante domínico-estadounidense y el primero que alguna vez fue indocumentado elegido para servir en la Cámara de Representantes de los Estados Unidos. El congresista Espaillat desea agradecer a Betzaida Sánchez por su trabajo en la introducción de la Ley H.R.2725 – La Ley de la Comisión de las Ocupaciones Norteamericanas, a José Acosta por traducir este artículo al español, a Candace Person y Mónica Garay por su apoyo, y a los editores de la Harvard Journal on Legislación (Revista de Harvard sobre Legislación).


** J.D., Universidad de California, Berkeley, Facultad de Derecho, 2021; Licenciatura en la Universidad de California, Los Ángeles, 2017. El Sr. Arreaga es Asesor de Políticas del Congresista Espaillat. Se ha desempeñado como miembro de la Sociedad de la Constitución Estadounidense, así como también como asistente legal en el Comité Judicial y Bancario del Senado.






Remedying Past Unlawful Military Interventions: The Case of the Dominican Republic

Congressman Adriano Espaillat* and Francesco Arreaga**


As the first Dominican American to serve in the United States Congress and a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, I deeply care about the United States’ relations throughout the Caribbean and commitments to ensuring that we are fulfilling our ideals of equality, liberty, opportunity, and democracy on the world stage. Maintaining diplomatic ties between the United States and the Dominican Republic is especially important to me as I was born in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic and came to the United States as a young child. Fostering this important relationship requires acknowledgment and redress of the United States’ past military interventions and occupations of the Dominican Republic. Growing up, my family taught me about the United States’ military interventions, and I recall seeing U.S. Marines on patrol in the Dominican Republic in 1965 when I briefly returned to Santo Domingo, without yet fully understanding their significance or the impact their presence had on my community.

This essay details the United States’ history of intervention in the Dominican Republic, including President Ulysses S. Grant’s desire to annex the Dominican Republic, the 1916-1924 Occupation, U.S. support for the oppressive Trujillo regime, and the 1965-1966 Occupation. It then outlines how the two military occupations by the United States violated the Dominican Republic’s sovereignty. It concludes by explaining how legislation I introduced in the 117th Congress, H.R. 2725 – La Comisión de las Ocupaciones Norteamericas Act (Commission on United States Occupations Act) – is an important step to repairing the damage caused by the United States’ military interventions in the Dominican Republic, which will bolster the legitimacy of the United States’ defense of human rights and international law on the world stage.


A. President Grant Attempts to Annex the Dominican Republic

After gaining independence from Haiti in 1844 and Spain in 1865, the Dominican Republic faced a period of political instability, rising national debt, and the continued threat of invasion. At the same time, the United States adhered to the Monroe Doctrine, a policy establishing that countries in the Western Hemisphere were not to be considered subjects for colonization by any European powers.1 Monroe Doctrine, HISTORY (Sep. 20, 2019), [].

Fearing that a European power would take control of the Dominican Republic, on November 29, 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant entered into a treaty with the Dominican Republic to annex the nation in exchange for $1.5 million and payment of its debt.2 See President Ulysses S. Grant, Special Message to the United States Senate (May 31, 1870), available at []. On May 31, 1870, President Grant sent a message to the United States Senate regarding the treaty to annex the Dominican Republic, expressing that “the acquisition of San Domingo is an adherence to the Monroe doctrine; it is a measure of national protection; it is asserting our just claim to a controlling influence over the great commercial traffic soon to flow from east to west.”3 Id. The treaty required two-thirds of the votes in the Senate to be ratified. On June 30, 1870, the Senate, by a vote of 28-28, rejected the treaty of annexation.4 Rejected Treaties, U.S. SENATE, [] (last visited Sep. 27, 2022).

On January 12, 1871, Congress enacted a joint resolution creating a Commission of Inquiry to Santo Domingo.5 Forty First Congress. Third Session. House of Representatives. Petitions and Memorials., THE NEW YORK TIMES, Jan. 12, 1871 at 5, available at []. Frederick Douglass was a member of this Commission and supported efforts to annex the Dominican Republic.6 DeArbea Walker, In 1871, the US almost acquired the Dominican Republic. President Ulysses S. Grant hoped that ‘the entire colored population of the United States’ would move to the island., INSIDER (Jul. 11, 2022), []. The Commission of Inquiry issued its report to Congress detailing how the President of the Dominican Republic and his cabinet “manifested a liberal and accommodating spirit” to the treaty of annexation.7 U.S. COMM’N OF INQUIRY TO SANTO DOMINGO 31 (Washington, Gov’t Printing Office 1871). It also noted that people in the Dominican Republic would prefer independence to annexation, but assessed that “independence is impossible” – because the Dominican Republic had “never maintained any real independence” before.8 Id. at 32. The Commission did not make an official recommendation on annexation, as that was beyond their Congressional mandate.9 Id. Ultimately, the United States Congress did not move forward with President Grant’s desire to annex the Dominican Republic.

B. The American Occupation from 1916-1924

By 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt had established a new foreign policy doctrine to keep foreign powers out of the Western Hemisphere and ensure the payment of debts to international creditors. The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine established that the United States would act as “an international police power” in the Western Hemisphere.10 Roosevelt, Theodore, Annual Message to Congress (Dec. 6, 1904). In practice, this doctrine served as a justification for U.S. intervention in several countries across the Western Hemisphere.11 DEP’T OF STATE, ROOSEVELT COROLLARY TO THE MONROE DOCTRINE, 1904, [].

In accordance with the Roosevelt Corollary, the Convention of 1907 between the United States and the Dominican Republic authorized the President of the United States to appoint a general receiver to collect customs duties accrued by the Dominican Republic until its outstanding bonds were paid.12 Convention of 1907, (Dom. Rep.-U.S., Feb. 8, 1907, T.S. No. 465). Following the assassination of Dominican President Ramón Cáceres in 1911, the Dominican Republic entered a period of continued political instability preventing it from meeting its fiscal obligations. The United States intervened by sending 750 Marines to the Dominican Republic, cutting off funds from the customs receivership, and placing Monseñor Adolfo Nouel as interim president. 13 DEP’T OF STATE, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 1916-1924, [].

On May 5, 1916, approximately 280 American troops were deployed to support President Jiménez. Just two days later, however, President Jiménez resigned.14 Dynamic Analysis of Dispute Management (DADM) Project: (1) Dominican Republic (1902-present), UNIV. CENT. ARK. (last visited Sept. 30, 2022), [] [hereinafter Dominican Republic (1902-present)]. A civil war ensued, and the United States ultimately sent 3,000 troops to occupy the Dominican Republic.15 Id.  On July 4, 1916, Dominican General Carlos Daniel and Captain Maximo Cabral, resisted the American army that was advancing towards Santiago during the Battle of La Barranquita.16 Ruling party commemorates little-known US-DR battle, DOMINICAN TODAY (July 3, 2014), []. Cabral and most of his men died in combat on July 4, 1916.17 Id. Historical accounts indicate that U.S. Marines “frightened, insulted, abused, oppressed, injured, and even killed hundreds of Dominicans, combatants and noncombatants alike.”18 Bruce J. Calder, Caudillos and Gavilleros versus the United States Marines: Guerrilla Insurgency during the Dominican Intervention, 1916-1924, 58 HISP. AM. HIST. REV. 649, 662 (1978). Records from the U.S. Department of State admit that “U.S. Senate hearings proved embarrassing when Dominican witnesses argued that the occupation violated international law and contravened Wilson’s Fourteen Points, and discussed the mistreatment of imprisoned Dominican insurgents.”19 U.S. DEP’T OF STATE, WILSON’S FOURTEEN POINTS, 1918 (last visited Sept. 30, 2022), []. The American occupation of the Dominican Republic lasted eight years, causing great resentment amongst citizens of the Dominican Republic. At least 1,000 people were killed during this conflict.20 Dominican Republic (1902-present), supra note 14.

C. United States’ Support for Trujillo’s Oppressive Regime

During the American occupation of the Dominican Republic, the United States formed a constabulary composed of Dominican nationals trained by U.S. Marines to police the country. Amongst these nationals was Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, a “favorite of the Marine staff.” 21 Raymond H. Pulley, The United States and the Trujillo Dictatorship, 1933-1940: The High Price of Caribbean Stability, CARIBBEAN STUD. 22, 22 (1965). When the United States withdrew from the Dominican Republic in 1924, Trujillo commanded the national army. In 1930, General Trujillo ran for the presidency and won, assuring “his election by machine-gun suppression of all opposition.”22 Id. at 23. 

Trujillo retained decisive control over the Dominican Republic for more than three decades, monopolized several industries to ensure that the economic gains disproportionately benefited his family, and assembled a secret police force to censor the press and kill dissenters.23 Editors, Rafael Trujillo, HISTORY (March 8, 2021), []. Trujillo and his family members took control of the salt, tobacco, and beer industries, while also acquiring approximately one third of the nation’s cultivated land.24 Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. GALE BIOGRAPHY IN CONTEXT. Web. (Oct. 1, 2010). By 1938, an American journalist and historian wrote that “Trujillo among other things, is a product of gangsterism, banditry, militarism, and our own marine occupation.”25 Pulley, supra note 22, at 25. Throughout President Roosevelt’s administration, the United States supported Trujillo despite his repressive regime because he served U.S. financial interests and protected foreign holdings in the Dominican Republic.26 Id. at 30.

By the 1950s, amid the Cold War, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration was focused on preventing the spread of communism. In 1958, President Eisenhower ended arms shipments to Cuba and suspended military aid to Trujillo. In April 1960, President Eisenhower approved a State Department memorandum regarding policies to be followed “‘in the event of the flight, assassination, death, or overthrow of Trujillo.’”27 S. G. Rabe, Eisenhower and the Overflow of Rafael Trujillo, 6 JOURNAL OF CONFLICT STUDIES 34, 38 (Winter 1986). The memorandum detailed how the United States was ready to “dispatch warships to Dominican waters or to land troops on Dominican soil” to prevent the rise of a regime that was sympathetic to Fidel Castro in Cuba.28 Id. at 38. Subsequently, various representatives of the United States traveled to the Dominican Republic to convince Trujillo to resign. Trujillo resisted and stated, “you can come in here with the Marines, and you can come in here with the Army, and you can come in here with the Navy or even the atomic bomb, but I’ll never go out of here unless I go on a stretcher.”29 Id.

In June 1960, the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs gave unofficial approval to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to provide clandestine assistance to dissidents in the Dominican Republic necessary to develop a force to overthrow Trujillo.30 Id. at 39. On May 30, 1961, Trujillo was assassinated by seven Dominican nationals.31 Id. at 41.

D. The Second Occupation of the Dominican Republic (1965-1966)

After the murder of Rafael Trujillo, Dominican Revolutionary Party founder Juan Bosch was elected president. Bosch was toppled by a military coup just seven months into his term, and the Dominican Republic plunged into political turmoil. On April 28, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered troops into the Dominican Republic through “Operation Power Pack” to protect American lives and property in the Dominican Republic.32 Statement by the President Upon Ordering Troops into the Dominican Republic., U.C. SANTA BARBARA: THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY PROJECT (last visited Sept. 29, 2022), []. President Johnson, however, also declared that he had taken this military action to prevent the establishment of a “communist dictatorship.”33 U.S. Troops Land in the Dominican Republic in Attempt to Forestall a “Communist Dictatorship,” HISTORY (Apr. 27, 2021), []. Similarly, the U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic William Tapley Bennett, Jr., described how intervention was necessary to “prevent another Cuba.”34 Brendan J. O’Shea, “OPERATION POWER PACK – U.S. Military Intervention in the Dominican Republic”, ARMY (Apr. 20, 2010), [].

On April 28, 1965, more than 22,000 U.S. troops, supported by forces provided by several member states of the Organization of American States initiated a military intervention in the Dominican Republic.35 HISTORY, supra note 33 Ultimately, 42,000 American armed forces were deployed to the Dominican Republic and remained there until September 1966.36 Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, 40 Years Later, U.S. invasion Still Haunts Dominican Republic, PROGRESSIVE MAG. (Apr. 21, 2005, 6:08 PM), []. More than 3,000 Dominicans and 31 American servicemembers lost their lives.37 Id. 


A. The Chorzón Factory Case on Reparations

The principle of providing reparations to compensate for a breach of international law has existed since before the 1945 creation of the United Nations (UN) Charter. In 1927, the Permanent Court of International Justice held in the Chorzów Factory case that “it is a principle of international law that the breach of an engagement involves an obligation to make reparation in an adequate form.”38 Case Concerning the Factory at Chorzów (The Government of Germany v. The Government of the Polish Republic), Judgment, 1927 I.C.J. 21 (July 26), []. In addition, the court explained that reparations “must, as far as possible, wipe out all the consequences of the illegal act and reestablish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed.”39 See id. In other words, when a country engages in an action that violates international law, it not only has a moral obligation to correct that wrong, but also a legal obligation to do so under international law.

B. The UN Charter

After World War II, the United States coordinated with other nations to create the United Nations. The United States Senate ratified the UN Charter on July 28, 1945, by a vote of 89–2.40 93 CONG. REC. 8, 8190 (1947) (roll call) []. The Charter establishes the basic framework for the jus ad bellum standards which outline when a state may legally engage in armed conflict and reaffirms the UN’s commitment to respect the sovereignty of each UN member nation.

Article 2, paragraphs 1, 2, and 4 of the United Nations Charter declare that the members of the U.N. shall act in accordance with the following principles:

    1. The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members;
    2. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means; and
    3. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.41 U.N. Charter art. 2, ⁋ 1, 2, and 4.

Article 33 states that “[t]he parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.”42 U.N. Charter art. 33, ⁋ 1.

Resolution 3314, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 14, 1974, defines aggression as “the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, as set out in this Definition.”43 G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), art. 1 (Dec. 14, 1974). Furthermore, “the invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another state, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof” qualifies as an act of aggression.44 G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), art. 3 (a) (Dec. 14, 1974).

Finally, Article 92 of the UN Charter establishes the International Court of Justice as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, and Article 94 states that “[e]ach member of the United Nations undertakes to comply with the decision of the International Court of Justice in any case to which it is a party.”45 See U.N. Charter art. 92; See also U.N. Charter art. 94, ⁋ 1.

C. The United States’ Military Invasions of the Dominican Republic Constituted Violations of International Law

Based on the principles outlined in the previous section, it is clear that the United States’ military interventions in the Dominican Republic violated fundamental principles of international law. These military interventions were acts of aggression, as described in UN Resolution 3314  and disregarded the territorial and political sovereignty of the Dominican Republic. The Monroe Doctrine and Roosevelt Corollary were used to rationalize acts of aggression against countries in the Western Hemisphere like the Dominican Republic, but such rationalizations do not absolve our nation of the moral stain left by the violations of international law as well as the devastating impact these actions had on civil society.

D. Nicaragua v. United States

Any country seeking reparations from the United States for violations of international law, will likely be unable to successfully obtain a remedy from an international tribunal. The case of Nicaragua v. United States exemplifies the limits of international law by showing the barriers to enforcing judgments by international tribunals. Specifically, this case serves as a useful precedent to show why the Dominican Republic would likely be unable to obtain a remedy through an international tribunal for the United States’ military interventions in the twentieth century.

On April 9, 1984, Nicaragua filed an application to institute proceedings against the United States in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), “concerning a dispute relating to responsibility for military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua.”46 Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicar. v. U.S), Overview, []. Following the ICJ’s determination that it had jurisdiction to hear this case, the United States Department of State announced that it did not recognize the ICJ’s jurisdiction.47 Text of U.S. Statement on Withdrawal From Case Before the World Court, N.Y. TIMES (Jan. 19, 1985), []. On February 22, 1985, President Ronald Reagan affirmed during the first news conference of his second term that it was his objective to “remove” the “present structure” of the government in Nicaragua.48 Hendrick Smith, U.S. President Asserts Goal is to Remove Sandinistas, N.Y. TIMES (Feb. 22, 1985), [].

On June 27, 1986, the Court issued its judgement, holding that the United States was in “breach [of] its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State” by “training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the contra forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua.”49 Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicar. v. U.S), Judgement, 1986, I.C.J.14,
¶ 292 (June 27).
In addition, the ICJ found that “the United States of America is under an obligation to make reparation to the Republic of Nicaragua for all injury caused to Nicaragua by the breaches of obligations under customary international law.”

The Court noted that the United States Congress “expressed the view that the Nicaraguan Government had taken ‘significant steps towards establishing a totalitarian Communist dictatorship.’”50 Id., at  ¶ 263. The Court, however, refused to “contemplate the creation of a new rule opening up a right of intervention by one State against another on the ground that the latter has opted for some particular ideology or political system.”51 Id. Such a finding would undermine the “principle of State sovereignty, on which the whole of international law rests, and the freedom of choice of the political, social, economic and cultural system of a State.”52 Id.

On July 31, 1986, the United States vetoed UN Resolution S/18250, which requested an “urgent and solemn call for full compliance with the judgment of the International Court of Justice” in Nicaragua v. United States.53 Elaine Sciolino, U.S. Vetoes Rebuke on Aid to Contras, N.Y. TIMES (Aug. 1, 1986), []. In October 1986, the United States vetoed a similar initiative, Resolution S/18428.54 On November 3, 1986, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 41/31, calling for immediate compliance with the ICJ’s judgment and requesting that the Secretary-General keep the General Assembly informed about implementation of the resolution.55 G.A. Res. 41/31 (Nov. 3, 1986) (referencing Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicar. v. U.S.), Judgment, 1986 I.C.J. 14 (June 27)). []. After sustained pressure, Nicaragua informed the ICJ in September 1991 that it no longer wanted to continue the proceedings against the United States and the case was removed.56 Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicar. v. U.S.), Order, 1991 I.C.J. 47 (Sept. 26) [].

Apart from the challenges of obtaining reparations from international tribunals, the Supreme Court of the United States has also established that decisions by the ICJ are not binding domestic law.57 See Medellín v. Texas, 552 U.S. 491, 520–23 (2008) (holding that “particular treaty obligations” like complying with ICJ judgments “do not of their own force create domestic law” or “constitute binding federal law that pre-empts state restrictions”).

E. Congress Must Provide Remedies for Violations of International Law

The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution makes treaties the supreme law of the land.58 U.S. CONST. art. VI, § 2. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Foster v. Neilson that in the United States, “[o]ur Constitution declares a treaty to be the law of the land. It is consequently to be regarded in courts of justice as equivalent to an act of the legislature, whenever it operates of itself without the aid of any legislative provision.”59 Foster v. Neilson, 27 U.S. 253, 254 (1829).

As a general matter, the United States does not recognize the jurisdiction of international tribunals. In Medellín v. Texas, the Supreme Court held that Article 94(1) of the United Nations Charter, which requires members of the UN to comply with decisions of the International Court of Justice in any case of which it is a party, is “not a directive to domestic courts” and “does not provide that the United States ‘shall’ or ‘must’ comply with an ICJ decision.”60 Medellín, 552 U.S. at 508. In addition, the Supreme Court expressed that the “U.N. reads like a ‘compact between independent nations’ that ‘depends for the enforcement of its provisions on the interest and the honor of the governments which are parties to it.’”61 Id. at 508–09 (quoting Head Money Cases, 112 U.S. 580, 598 (1884)).

Consequently, it is incumbent upon members of Congress to provide a legislative remedy for violations of international law. For this reason, on April 21, 2021, I introduced H.R. 2725, La Comisión de las Ocupaciones Norteamericanas Act (The Commission on United States Occupations Act), to start the process of acknowledging the violations of international law and injustices committed against the people of the Dominican Republic as a result of the United States’ military interventions.62 H.R. 2725, 117th Cong. (2021) [].


H.R. 2725, the first bill in the history of Congress to be named in Spanish, establishes the Commission to Study and Develop Reconciliation Proposals for the Dominican Republic. The Commission is charged with identifying and examining evidentiary documentation relating to the United States’ interest in incorporating the Dominican Republic as a U.S. territory in 1869, as well as the U.S. military occupations between 1916-1924 and 1965-1966. In addition, the Commission will compile accurate data regarding the number of casualties and destruction of private property, as well as the impact that the intervention had on the future of the Dominican economy. The Commission will then recommend to Congress appropriate remedies for the people of the Dominican Republic, including the issuance of a formal apology on behalf of the United States, as well as appropriate policies, projects, and recommendations to reverse the effects of the occupations. Importantly, the Commission must address how its recommendations for remedies comport with international standards of remedy for wrongs and injuries as understood by international protocols, laws, and findings.

If passed, this law would be the first Congressional act that recognizes the need to provide a remedy to the people of the Dominican Republic for being subjected to a foreign policy of military interventionism by the United States. In 2016, the Organization of American States (OAS), of which the United States is a member, apologized publicly for approving the military occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1965.63 OAS Says Sorry to Dominican Republic; Will The US Follow, DOMINICAN TODAY (June 16, 2016), []. The Declaration of Santo Domingo, acknowledges that the occupation disrupted the restoration of constitutional order in the Dominican Republic and reaffirmed the principles of international law, the United Nations Charter, and the Charter of the OAS.64 Id.

Enacting H.R. 2725 would affirm the United States’ commitment to upholding international law and thereby bolster our ability to lead other nations in support of human rights and respect for sovereignty on the world stage. As a global power that strives to protect human rights and democratic principles, the United States must reckon with the actions of previous administrations and demonstrate to the world that we will rectify past wrongs. This is both morally important and necessary to fulfill our obligations under international law.

* Member, United States House of Representatives (D-NY). B.A., Queens College, 1978. Congressman Espaillat serves on the House Appropriations Committee and the Committee on Education and Labor. He is the first Dominican American and formerly undocumented immigrant elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Espaillat would like to thank Betzaida Sanchez for her work in introducing H.R.2725 – La Comisión de las Ocupaciones Norteamericanas Act, Jose Acosta for translating this article to Spanish, Candace Person and Monica Garay for their support, and the editors of the Harvard Journal on Legislation.

**J.D., University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, 2021; B.A., University of California, Los Angeles, 2017. Mr. Arreaga is a Policy Advisor to Congressman Espaillat. He has served as a fellow at the American Constitution Society, as well as a law clerk on the Senate Judiciary and Senate Banking Committee.

Subnational Diplomacy: The Key to Strengthening U.S. International Relations

Representative Ted Lieu*


When SARS-CoV-2 (“COVID-19” or the “coronavirus”) began spreading in the United States in early 2020, it quickly became apparent that we were facing a global crisis with consequences for our local communities. The Trump White House decided early in the pandemic to cede most decision-making to the states and local municipalities.1See Kevin Liptak, Kristen Holmes & Ryan Nobles, Trump Completes Reversal, Telling Govs “You Are Going to Call Your Own Shots’ and Distributes New Guidelines, CNN (Apr. 16, 2020), [].

That approach was not illogical. Community health departments and local governments have a good grasp of the unique demographics in their areas and can be quicker to respond to challenges as they arise. But for that strategy to work, state and local governments needed significant support. Unfortunately, the hands-off, uncoordinated approach from the federal government meant local governments did not have the time and resources they desperately needed to crush the virus.2 For example, Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner famously referred to the national stockpile of medical supplies as “our stockpile” and not one belonging to the states. See Nicholas Wu, Jared Kushner Makes Coronavirus Briefing Appearance, Draws Backlash for ‘Our Stockpile’ Comment, USA TODAY (Apr. 3, 2020), [].

In confronting a pandemic that did not care about geographic boundaries, local officials were often forced to improvise without help from the federal government. States opted to coordinate with each other3 See Pennsylvania Joins New York, New Jersey and Connecticut’s Regional Coalition to Combat COVID-19, N.Y. STATE (Mar. 18, 2020), []. and with foreign counterparts.4 See Brakkton Booker, Maryland Buys 500,000 Test Kits From South Korea, Drawing Criticism From Trump, NPR (Apr. 21, 2020), []. Some states struggled to track down adequate personal protective equipment (“PPE”) for healthcare workers5 See Irena Hwang, The PPE Crisis Didn’t Go Away: Across the U.S., Grassroots Supply Networks Are Trying to Fill the Void, STAT (Dec. 1, 2020), []. while others pleaded for federal and international help to expand testing.6 See P. Kenneth Burns, Coronavirus Update: Murphy Says Widespread Testing Needed Before Reopening, WHYY (Apr. 14, 2020), []. In many ways, the pandemic demonstrated that the national government cannot always be as nimble as city and state governments can be when it comes to responding to crises.

While international relations is mainly the responsibility of national governments, diplomacy can be practiced at every level of government. Crises such as COVID-19 and difficult global issues like climate change present opportunities for subnational diplomacy—diplomacy conducted by officials at various levels of government below the national level—to overcome barriers that have national governments stuck in the mud. From governors to mayors to tribal leaders, relationships between officials at the subnational level have and will continue to open multiple diplomatic channels.

At the height of the pandemic, the lengths to which local leaders were willing to go to secure supplies for their communities was staggering. In April 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker coordinated a secret charter plane to bring PPE from Shanghai, China. Governor Pritzker’s plan was meant to circumvent the Trump administration’s alleged seizing of PPE shipments from abroad.7 See Michelle Mark, Illinois’ Governor Organized Secret Flights to Bring Masks and Gloves from China Out of Fear Trump Would Seize Them, BUS. INSIDER (Apr. 18, 2020), []. A hallmark of the desperation and supply chain challenges at the time, the state of Illinois was forced to hand million-dollar checks to intermediaries in parking lots to get more masks, gloves, and gowns for healthcare workers.8 See id.

Perhaps the most high-profile example of subnational diplomacy on the fly occurred in Maryland. Governors like Larry Hogan, who were left on their own to address the ever-worsening crisis, were desperate to build up testing and contact-tracing programs. At the time, testing was considered the key to containing the pandemic.9 See Larry Hogan, Fighting Alone: I’m a GOP Governor. Why Didn’t Trump Help My State with Coronavirus Testing?, WASH. POST (July 16, 2020), []. The initial flaws in the federal Center for Disease Control’s tests set the country back by months in terms of containment, and South Korea had a far more effective testing apparatus than the United States. Hogan and his wife made a direct ask of Korean President Moon Jae-in, touting the “special relationship between Maryland and the Republic of Korea.”10 See Full Remarks: Governor Hogan Announces State of Maryland Acquires 500,000 COVID-19 Tests From South Korea’s LabGenomics, MARYLAND.GOV (Apr. 20, 2020), []. When the tests arrived in Maryland, the Governor called it “Operation Enduring Friendship” and touted his diplomatic efforts to secure 500,000 COVID-19 tests from South Korea.11 A state audit would later find that Hogan did not follow state regulations when he secured the tests, which ended up going completely unused. See Steve Thompson, Audit Criticizes Maryland’s $9 Million Purchase from South Korean Company of Coronavirus Tests That Had to Be Replaced, WASH. POST (Apr. 2, 2021), [].

Meaningful, high-profile subnational diplomacy existed well before the pandemic.12 See Anthony F. Pipa & Max Bouchet, Partnership Among Cities, States, and the Federal Government: Creating an Office of Subnational Diplomacy at the US Department of State, BROOKINGS (Feb. 17, 2021), []. For example, during the Cold War, communities around the country used their local political power to vocalize opposition to nuclear armament.13See BENJAMIN LEFFEL, USC CTR. ON PUB. DIPL., SUBNATIONAL DIPLOMACY, CLIMATE GOVERNANCE & CALIFORNIAN GLOBAL LEADERSHIP 2 (2018), [].
In the 1980s, upwards of 4,000 communities in seventeen countries, including the United States, declared themselves “nuclear-free zones” in response to escalating tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.14 See id. In 1987, 700 United States mayors and city council members gathered at the National League of Cities Congress in Las Vegas and signed onto the Nevada Declaration, which called for a national ban on nuclear testing.15 Michael H. Shuman, Ban Nuclear Testing, 2 BULL. MUN. FOREIGN POL’Y 2, 3 (1987).

Today, over fifty-five percent of the world’s population live in cities.16 See 68% of the World Population Projected to Live in Urban Areas By 2050, Says UN, U.N. DEP’T ECON. & SOC. AFFS. (May 16, 2018), []. That number is expected to climb to sixty-eight percent by 2050.17 See id. Some local leaders oversee economies comparable to those of entire countries. Large cities and counties are claiming more and more economic power in the United States, with one percent of counties in the United States accounting for one-third of the country’s gross domestic product (“GDP”) in 2018.18 See Andre Tartar & Reade Pickert, One-Third of the U.S. Economy is Jammed Into Just 31 Counties. L.A. is the Biggest, L.A. TIMES (Dec. 19, 2019, 1:05 PM), []. Los Angeles County, for example, has an output of $710.9 billion GDP, the equivalent of Saudi Arabia.19 See id. The state of California is the fifth-largest economy in the world, making its GDP larger than that of the United Kingdom and Russia.20 Pat Evans, 16 Mind-Blowing Facts About California’s Economy, MKTS. INSIDER (Apr. 26, 2019, 8:02 AM), [].

Rural jurisdictions and states with rural areas have also benefitted from subnational diplomacy. Foreign officials routinely visit agricultural areas and ink contracts for various agricultural products.21 See e.g., New Trade Relationship With Ecuador Benefits Texas Ranchers, TEX. DEP’T AGRIC. (May 20, 2015), [] (“The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) recently hosted a delegation of agriculture leaders from Ecuador and the United States to facilitate the trade of cattle between the two nations.”). When the Director General of the Hebei Provincial Agricultural Department visited the United States to discuss agriculture and animal husbandry, did he visit the State Department in Washington, D.C.? No, he went to Kansas and met with the Kansas Department of Agriculture and Kansas Department of Commerce.22 See Kansas in Spotlight as Chinese Delegation from Hebei Province Visits Kansas, KAN. DEP’T AGRIC. (May 8, 2015), [].

When subnational actors join forces, they can have an undeniable and far-reaching impact. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a coalition of 97 cities from around the world committed to addressing climate change currently chaired by the Los Angeles Mayor, represents more than 700 million people and a quarter of the global economy.23 See C40 CITIES, []. This subnational effort to address climate change represents a large movement by local leaders to find commonality with foreign counterparts to advance shared goals, even in the face of stalled efforts at the national level. We have seen these principles apply to local responses to the pandemic as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates in the starkest terms what happens when local governments do not have the federal support to address a crisis. It also shows us that states and local governments are already coordinating with foreign counterparts and will continue to do so. What is missing is direct and explicit federal support to help achieve shared goals. In the case of COVID-19, coherent federal support in the diplomatic space would have meant local governments would have had access to information and potentially resources from allies abroad contending with outbreaks in their communities. That type of knowledge-sharing may have saved lives and offered valuable insight into the United States’ COVID response. Instead, the patchwork of local responses left our communities vulnerable to outbreaks. There is much that cities and states can—and already do—learn from other countries through diplomacy, and the federal government has the tools, knowledge, and resources to expand those efforts.

While subnational diplomacy has become increasingly prevalent in United States cities and states as mayors and governors recognize the power of international cooperation for their constituents, the federal State Department has no dedicated structure to support these local efforts to engage with the international community. In 1979, the State Department created an Ambassador-at-Large for Liaison with State and Local Government.24 See CHRIS MURPHY, THE CITY AND STATE DIPLOMACY ACT ONE PAGER, []. But since then, these functions have been folded into a parade of temporary stand-alone offices or into the Bureau of Public Affairs.25 See id. This lack of focused federal support for city and state governments is the reason for the City and State Diplomacy Act,26 City and State Diplomacy Act, H.R. 4526, 117th Cong. (2021). which will support state and local diplomacy with counterparts abroad. The bill will establish an office of city and state diplomacy at the State Department, which will coordinate overall United States policy, programs, and resources in support of city and state engagement with foreign governments and officials. This is a vital tool for our democracy because it ensures a coordinated effort between local officials and the State Department, thereby streamlining and strengthening both federal and local diplomatic aims.

The pandemic has provided a lens through which to view the value of subnational diplomacy. It does not undermine national level diplomacy but rather enhances it. By leveraging federal resources to support cities and states, the State Department can advance foreign and domestic policy goals relating to economic prosperity and geopolitical stability—and help local governments reap the full benefits of foreign engagement in the process.

The City and State Diplomacy Act also provides two other benefits. It helps us push back on near-peer competitors like China that use a whole of government approach to achieve their objectives, by giving United States state and local leaders the tools and knowledge needed to navigate pressure and exploitation by foreign officials. And it helps diversify and increase the actors involved in our nation’s foreign policy. Instead of just having one federal department with a limited number of overworked foreign service officers and ambassadors (with relatively few minorities),27 See Ryan Heath, The State Department Has a Systemic Diversity Problem, POLITICO (Mar. 16, 2021, 12:55 PM), []. we can leverage the expertise, talent, and energy of tens of thousands of city, county, and state officials from around the country who are going to be engaged abroad with or without federal support.

Continue reading “Subnational Diplomacy: The Key to Strengthening U.S. International Relations”

Scattershot: Guns, Gun Control, and American Politics

 Maria Mortenson*


In 1967, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense sold Mao’s Little Red Book to raise money to buy guns.1 BOBBY SEALE, SEIZE THE TIME: THE STORY OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY AND HUEY P. NEWTON 79–85 (1968).  The Panthers traveled from Oakland to the University of California, Berkeley, where they sold the books to aspiring student communists in the campus center.2 Id. at 80. Huey P. Newton’s sales pitch? “Power comes out of the barrel of a gun. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung. Get your Red Book.”3 Id.  The Panthers soon had enough money to purchase shotguns, pistols, and semi-automatic rifles,4 See id. at 85 (listing weapons owned by the Panthers). which, in the spirit of self-defense, they carried proudly during their combative patrols of Oakland’s police force.5 See id. at 80–81.  As Bobby Seale recalled in his memoir, Seize the Time, Newton “studied those law books, backwards, forwards, sideways, and cattycorners; everything on gun laws” to ensure that the Panthers were obeying California law.6 Id. at 73. But their patrols were in danger.

The Panthers had attracted the attention of Don Mulford, a Republican state representative from Oakland. That April, Mulford threatened to “get” the Panthers by making their patrols illegal.7 HUEY P. NEWTON, REVOLUTIONARY SUICIDE 146 (1973) (Newton recounted a radio show that had invited him as a guest. He recalled Mulford calling in: “He told us that he planned to introduce a bill into the state legislature to make it illegal for us to patrol with our weapons. It was a bill, he said, that would ‘get’ the Black Panthers.”). He quickly followed through, introducing a bill to prohibit Californians from carrying loaded firearms “in any public place.”8 Mulford Act, ch. 960, 1967 Cal. Stat. 2459 (codified as amended at Cal. Penal Code § 25850). The Mulford Act, which remains effective in California, was signed into law by then-governor Ronald Reagan after the Panthers staged a daring armed protest of Mulford’s proposed bill at the California State Capitol.9 See ADAM WINKLER, GUNFIGHT: THE BATTLE OVER THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS IN AMERICA 244–45 (2011).

Today, many liberals view gun control as an unmitigated good. During campaign season, Democratic politicians use gun control as a powerful political tool to energize their supporters. In 2019, when Beto O’Rourke declared that, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” during a presidential primary debate, the audience cheered so loudly that he had to shout to finish his sentence.10 Beto O’Rourke (@BetoORourke), Twitter (Sept. 12, 2019, 9:26 PM), []. Conservatives, for their part, tend to be hostile towards gun control.11 Republican Platform 2016, REPUBLICAN NAT’L COMM. PLATFORM COMM. 12–13 (2016), [] (Republican Party platform from 2016) (opposing, among other things, “ill-conceived laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle” and “federal licensing or registration of law-abiding gun owners, registration of ammunition, and restoration of the ill-fated Clinton gun ban.”). The Republican Party declined to adopt a new platform in 2020. Resolution Regarding the Republican Party Platform, REPUBLICAN NAT’L COMM. 1 (2020), []. After O’Rourke’s debate performance, Lauren Boebert, now a freshman representative from Colorado,12 Biography, CONGRESSWOMAN LAUREN BOEBERT, [] confronted O’Rourke at an Aurora, Colorado town hall.13 Shaun Boyd, Colorado Woman Challenges Beto O’Rourke’s Plan For Buyback Of AR-15s, AK-47s, CBS DENVER (Sept. 20, 2019, 11:38 PM), []. Her response to O’Rourke’s proposed assault weapons buyback program? “Hell no.”14 Id.  Over a heckling crowd, Boebert pressed on to ask how O’Rourke planned to “legislate evil.”15 Denver7, Full Town Hall: Beto O’Rourke Campaigns in Colorado, YOUTUBE (Sept. 19, 2019), []. As Boebert saw it, the cause of crime “is not the gun, it is the heart of the man that does that.”16 Id.

Absent from this debate is any recognition of the reality that, since before America’s founding, firearms regulations have disproportionately restricted black Americans’ access to firearms.17 See Robert J. Cottroll & Raymond T. Diamond, The Second Amendment: Toward an Afro-Americanist Reconsideration, 80 GEO. L.J. 309, 323–26 (1991) (discussing how race impacted the English tradition of bearing arms in colonial America, with Virginia explicitly banning all black residents from owning firearms and other colonies, including Massachusetts and New Jersey, exempting their black residents from militia service). The Mulford Act’s racially-motivated approach to gun control was, in short, not new. Indeed, as early as 1680, Virginia forbade all black residents, both free and enslaved, from possessing weapons of any kind.18 Id. at 325. Although the state subsequently loosened this restriction out of concern for its vulnerable frontier properties, gun ownership by Virginia’s black population remained subject to regulation.19 See id.  Across the country, laws that explicitly predicated gun ownership on race coexisted with limitations on gun use in urban areas and regulations of gunpowder storage.20 See District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 683–86 (2008) (Breyer, J., dissenting).

Although no jurisdiction would condition gun ownership on race today, modern gun control was built on this dual approach: seeking to control America’s black population on one hand, while addressing practical safety problems on the other. The Mulford Act and the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 showed that racialized fear was an important motivating factor behind the legislation that constitutes our modern gun control regime. Both laws aimed to promote public safety yet pursued this goal by making guns inaccessible to disfavored groups. The Mulford Act’s prohibition of open carry targeted the Black Panther Party,21 See PART II, infra.  while the Gun Control Act made it a crime to sell a gun to convicted criminals, drug addicts, and any person deemed “a mental defective.”22 Gun Control Act of 1968, Pub. L. No. 90-618, 82 Stat. 1213-2 (codified as amended at 18 U.S.C. § 921). These categorizations of gun use and ownership served as rough proxies for dangerousness and resonate with today’s discourse on gun control, focused as it often is on mental illness and mass shootings.

Gun control’s racial history is obscured by today’s partisan divide. What’s more, the partisan split over gun control is deeply inconsistent with both parties’ other positions. Democrats’ eagerness to restrict gun ownership conflicts with their embrace of other personal freedoms, such as abortion access and sexual liberty, and runs up against liberal aspirations to shrink the criminal justice system. In a time when many Democrats decry mandatory minimum sentencing and racially disproportionate criminal punishment, proposals for gun control legislation that incorporate harsh minimum sentences—like Representative Sheila Jackson Lee’s (D-Tex.) proposed federal firearms registration and licensing system23 Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act, H.R. 127, 117th Cong. (2021). —seem incongruous, an uncomfortable reminder of Democrats’ prior “tough on crime” stance. For their part, Republicans’ anti-regulatory stance is consistent with libertarianism, but in tension with mainstream conservatives’ comfort with safety-promoting laws. After all, most abortion regulations, a perennial Republican project, are passed to protect unborn life and (perhaps pretextually) promote women’s health.24 Olivia Gans Turner & Mary Spaulding Baulch, When They Say… You Say: Defending the Pro-Life Position & Framing the Issue by the Language We Use, NAT’L RIGHT TO LIFE COMM. 5, 12 (n.d.), [] (describing fetuses as possessing an “unalienable right to life and deserv[ing] full protection under the law” and asserting that laws restricting abortion are “protective legislation insuring that women are given information about risks and alternatives to abortion and scientifically accurate information about the developing unborn child”). Those interested in overcoming the current deadlock on gun control would do well to consider whether legislating to criminalize supposedly “dangerous” gun use in fact promotes public safety for society writ large.

Continue reading “Scattershot: Guns, Gun Control, and American Politics”

A Conservative Approach to Early Childhood Education: Building on the Foundations of Success & Boosting Academic Achievement Through Choice

Representative Burgess Owens*


As the son of an educator and a grandfather to sixteen school-aged children, I believe that Early Childhood Education (“ECE”) is essential for many reasons, one of which is that ECE simultaneously provides support for children to learn, for parents to enter the workplace, and for future generations of American workers to grow. I have seen the importance of ECE firsthand as a father and grandfather, as well as in my role as Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education.

Raising children is one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences in a person’s life. As part of that process, ensuring that children have a solid start is the first step to helping them grow and develop. One of the most important tools at a parent’s disposal is ECE, access to which has significant impact on the foundations that are built for children from birth to fifth grade.1 See Early Childhood Education, CTRS. FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION, [].  The impact of high-quality early education on childhood development and beyond cannot be overstated. Americans of all political stripes, alongside local municipalities and private sector partners, must work together to support a strong child care sector that assists hardworking American families.

The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a significant blow to child care, in-person education, and the American workforce. When most of the economy was shut down, schools and child care centers also shut down.2 See Map: Coronavirus and School Cloures in 2019-2020, EDWEEK (Mar. 6, 2020),,6%20to%20May%2015%2C%202020. []; NAT’L ASS’N FOR THE EDUC. YOUNG CHILDREN, AM I NEXT SACRIFICING TO STAY OPEN, CHILD CARE PROVIDERS FACE A BLEAK FUTURE WITHOUT RELIEF (2020). As the pandemic wore on, many schools remained closed, but child care providers worked to remain open or reopen because they recognized their importance in keeping America going and helping families and children succeed.3See Anya Kamenetz, What Parents Can Learn from Child Care Centers That Stayed Open During Lockdowns, NPR (June 24, 2020, 7:01 AM), [].

When combating these challenges, we must remember that the beginning years of a child’s life are the building blocks upon which they rely on to create a bright future. Without access to high-quality care, as defined by meeting the specific needs of each child, it is often more difficult for parents to go to work or further their own education. Access to ECE in America will help determine the success of future generations. It is imperative that we think outside the box and focus wholly on children by protecting parental choice, saving taxpayer dollars, and prioritizing the future workforce of America. The time to work together for bipartisan childcare solutions that encompass program alignment across federal, state, and local governments is now.  We have no time to waste—parents are waiting, children are growing, and our nation is falling behind as a leader in education.

Continue reading “A Conservative Approach to Early Childhood Education: Building on the Foundations of Success & Boosting Academic Achievement Through Choice”