Thomas Jefferson Counts Himself into the Presidency

The Constitution instructs the President of the Senate to “open” the ballots submitted by members of the Electoral College, but it provides little guidance when a ballot turns out to be defective. This article provides the first in-depth consideration of two early precedents. Both Vice-President John Adams and Vice-President Thomas Jefferson confronted problems when counting the electoral votes in 1797 and 1801, respectively. Both men were placed in the awkward position of ruling on matters involving an election in which they were leading presidential candidates, but Jefferson’s problem was more serious. In 1801, Georgia’s electors cast their votes for Jefferson and Burr, but their ballots were in plain violation of the Constitution’s explicit formal requirements. If Jefferson had ruled these votes invalid in his capacity as Senate President, one of the Federalist candidates, Adams or Pinckney, might well have emerged victorious from the House runoff required under the Constitution. But Jefferson used his authority as Senate President to exclude his Federalist competitors, restricting the runoff to a two-man race between himself and Aaron Burr. This allowed him to emerge victorious on the thirty-sixth ballot. Rumors of this episode occasionally surfaced during the nineteenth century, but this article presents indisputable documentary evidence demonstrating the irregularity of the Georgia ballot. After telling the story, we appraise its significance both as an act of constitutional statesmanship and as an enduring legal precedent that may guide future Senate Presidents as they confront the electoral college crises of the twenty-first century.

Information Costs in Patent and Copyright

Why do we have more than one form of intellectual property rights? Why are the structures of patent and copyright forms so different? What factors influence the optimal structure of each form? We can move toward addressing some of these enduring puzzles and understanding the effects of the differences between intellectual property forms by examining the presence and distribution of information costs in the propertarian relationship. In this article, I explore the relationship between the nature of protected intellectual goods and differences in the structures of patent and copyright. Intellectual property rules in patent and copyright can make it easier or more difficult for parties to gather and comprehend information regarding protected goods. The literature on the law of organizations has recognized that it is most efficient to align transactions, which differ in their attributes, with organizational forms, which differ in structural ways, so as to minimize transaction costs. I argue that similarly, when intellectual property forms are structured to minimize information costs they are more efficient, all else equal, than when they are not so structured. Examining the presence and distribution of information costs can suggest ways in which we might increase efficiency in intellectual property.

Racial Equality: Progressives’ Passion for the Unattainable

In the 2008 presidential race, the debate as to the role of race in past and present American life would benefit enormously had all the citizenry read The Lost Promise of Civil Rights, Professor Risa L. Goluboff’s extensively researched and impressively presented history of racial discrimination and the only partially successful efforts to combat it by a small group of government and private lawyers and those who supported them. In my review, I express doubt with her thesis that more progress might have been possible had civil rights advocates devoted more of their limited resources to litigation challenging employment discrimination. Refuting her position, though, enhanced my understanding of why in the abstract we Americans have more that unites than divides us. For that truth is, even today, too easily diluted by fears, suspicions, and deep-seated beliefs about the legitimacy of dominance by whites over people of color.