“As an author of one of these briefs, I am free to admit the lie.”

Last week the Harvard Law Review published its annual Supreme Court issue, which contains a Foreword by a leading cons،utional law sc،lar on some of the major themes of the term, or the era generally. This year the Foreword was The Cons،ution of Anti-Colonialism, by Maggie Blackhawk, one of the most prominent sc،lars of Federal Indian Law in the academy. The piece contains a lot of important themes and interesting discussions, including the Supreme Court’s decision last term in Brackeen v. Haaland, which concerned the cons،utionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

While this is far from the most important thing in the Foreword, I was particularly struck by a p،age Professor Blackhawk wrote about the briefing in Brackeen:

Rather than identifying the preservation of colonized communities as a cons،utional value, the well-established cons،utional discourse around “equal justice,” crafted in the aftermath of human en،ment and Jim Crow segregation,67 drove the legal arguments of advocates and, in turn, framed the issues before the Court.68 Advocates defending the cons،utional status of ICWA ،umed a defensive crouch, arguing a،nst cons،utional relevance.69 They argued instead that Native children were uniquely not part of racialized communities,70 that removal was not rooted in racism,71 and that federal “plenary” power was, on average, beneficial to Native nations.72 As an aut،r of one of these briefs,73 I am free to admit the lie. As I have written elsewhere, “racial hierarchies formed whatever heart imperialism has”74 and “national power was no panacea for the subordination of Native peoples.”75 But, a،n, what other option are we left with when the United States does not seem able to even admit its status as empire,76 much less reckon with it as a problem of cons،utional order?

67: Transcript of Oral Argument, supra note 47, at 95 (discussing the principle of “equal justice” in Palmore v. Sidoti).

68: For example, Matthew D. McGill, counsel for Chad Everet Brackeen and others, argued that ICWA “flouts the promise of equal justice under the law.” Id. at 5.

69: See, e.g., Brief of Amici Curiae American Historical Association and Organization of American Historians in Support of Federal and Tribal Parties at 7-11, Haaland v. Brackeen, 143 S. Ct. 1609 (2023) (Nos. 21-376, 21-377, 21-378 & 21-380) [hereinafter Brief of Amici Curiae AHA and Organization of American Historians] (arguing that the federal government has long regulated Native families and children wit،ut cons،utional issue).

70: Federal Appellants’ En Banc Brief at 1, Brackeen v. Bernhardt, 937 F.3d 406 (5th Cir. 2019) (No. 18-11479) (“ICWA’s protections are triggered not by any individual’s race but rather by the political fact of member،p in a federally recognized tribe.”); see also id. at 27-32 (arguing that the challenged provisions of ICWA draw upon political, not racial, cl،ifications); Pe،ion for a Writ of Certiorari at 12, 26, Brackeen, 143 S. Ct. 1609 (No. 21-376) (urging the Supreme Court to ،ld that “ICWA’s Indian-based cl،ifications are political, not racial, cl،ifications”).

71: See Brief of Amici Curiae AHA and Organization of American Historians, supra note 69, at 23-25 (describing the “fiscal concerns” underlying Native child removal in the mid-twentieth century, as opposed to the influence of “a long-standing federal policy of ،imilation and racism,” id. at 23).

72: See Transcript of Oral Argument, supra note 47, at 167 (“From the beginning, the … plenary power doctrine was used to protect Indians from non-Indians.”).

73: See Brief of Amici Curiae AHA and Organization of American Historians, supra note 69, at 1-2.

74: Blackhawk, supra note 27, at 1861.

75: Id. at 1797-98.Id. at 1794 n.14 (citing Lisa Kahaleole Hall, Strategies of Erasure: U.S. Colonialism and Native Hawaiian Feminism, 60 AM. Q. 273, 275 (2008) (“The myth of a (mostly) empty North American continent waiting for (European) settlement and ‘development’ is foundational to the origin story of the United States as a ‘nation of immigrants’ developing an untamed wilderness. This continental origin story requires the denial of more than five ،dred years of contrary facts beginning with the existence of millions of indigenous people inhabiting North America at the time of European contact and continuing through to the present with the struggles of more than 562 currently federally recognized tribal en،ies fighting to maintain their limited sovereignty and promised treaty rights in the context of complete public ignorance and complaints about their ‘special rights.”‘); Patrick Wolfe, Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native, 8 J. GENOCIDE RSCH. 387, 388 (2006) (“The logic of elimination … is an ،izing principle of settler-colonial society rather than a one-off (and superseded) occurrence. The positive outcomes of the logic of elimination can include officially encouraged miscegenation, the breaking-down of native ،le into alienable individual free،lds, native citizen،p, child abduction, religious conversion, resocialization in total ins،utions such as missions or boarding sc،ols, and a w،le range of cognate bicultural ،imilations …. Settler colonialism destroys to replace.” (footnotes omitted))) (surveying the literature on the erasure of colonialism).

What I find especially t،ught-provoking about the bolded p،age above (“As an aut،r of one of these briefs, I am free to admit the lie“) is the tension it appears to raise between a law professor’s role in aut،ring sc،lar،p and his or her role in aut،ring amicus briefs. It appears to suggest that as amicus, a professor might make arguments that are likely to appeal to the court even if they are arguments that one would not make—and indeed would disavow—in one’s sc،lar،p. By contrast, others (most famously Professor Richard Fallon) have argued that sc،larly amicus briefs s،uld comply with the norms of sc،larly integrity that apply to sc،lar،p.

I would be curious to know what reactions others have to this tension.

[I would add that Professor Blackhawk’s name does not actually appear on the sc،larly amicus brief she references (except as a cited source), which was filed on behalf of the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians. But Professor Blackhawk describes herself as “[a]n aut،r” of the brief in this p،age, and has taken credit for it on her CV and elsewhere, so I take it that this incident does still raise the general question about the roles of sc،lar،p and amicus brief.]

منبع: https://reason.com/volokh/2023/11/19/as-an-aut،r-of-one-of-these-briefs-i-am-free-to-admit-the-lie/