Welcome to the Roundtable, a forum for incisive commentary and analysis
on cases and developments in law and the legal system.
on cases and developments in law and the legal system.
By Henry Lininger
Henry Lininger is a Wayne Morse Public Policy Scholar at the University of Oregon. His articles have appeared in publications affiliated with Cornell, Duke, and Yale.
Trigger warning: the content in this article may be offensive or obscene to some readers. Discretion is advised.
The U.S. justice system relies on an odd machine to assess deviant sexual arousal -- even though mounting evidence shows that this technique is inaccurate and abusive. Invented by a Czech scientist in the 1950s, the penile plethysmograph (or PPG) measures the engorgement of the male sexual organ.  It uses a cuff or other sensor to gauge blood flow.
Investigators employ PPGs to determine if certain categories of images cause arousal. The Czech government originally utilized PPGs as part of aversion therapy designed to “cure” homosexuals.  When social norms changed, this particular use of PPGs ended; however, PPGs remain in common use by corrections officials in the U.S.  District courts in virtually all federal circuits have included PPG testing as a condition for supervised release of sex offenders.  Nationwide, approximately 25% of sex offender programs utilize PPGs. 
By Henry Lininger
Henry Lininger is a Wayne Morse Public Policy Scholar with sophomore standing at the University of Oregon, where he is studying philosophy, ethics and political science. His articles have appeared in publications affiliated with Cornell, Duke and Yale.
Last year, when director Zack Snyder was editing the film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, he scrapped a scene in which Superman used his x-ray vision to scan the interiors of buildings.  Snyder wondered whether this power was too great. Snyder decided that Superman had to forbear from peering through walls, because such surveillance would have made him omniscient -- an unsettling idea for the director and, potentially, for the movie-going public as well. In the summer of 2017, major advances in technology have given U.S. law enforcement officers the functional equivalent of Superman’s x-ray vision. The question posed by Snyder has become even more salient: Under what circumstances -- if at all -- should police use this awesome power?
The Supreme Court case that came closest to addressing this issue was Kyllo v. United States.  In that case, the Court evaluated whether the Fourth Amendment permitted the warrantless use of a thermal imaging device to determine the amount of heat emanating from various parts of a residence in Florence, Oregon.  At the time of the original investigation, this device was cutting-edge technology and was not in wide use.
By Nicholas Parsons
Nicholas Parsons is a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.
Political buzzwords like “regulatory accountability” sound great, in theory. In the case of apparently superfluous regulations, , accountability is appealing. The Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), introduced in the House of Representatives last January, was devised with this purpose in mind. In theory, by either amending current or preventing future regulations, our government could cut unnecessary regulatory costs and redundancies. In the words of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the RAA “would require agencies to be more open and accountable to the public when they propose ‘high-impact’ rules,” defined as regulations estimated to cost more than a billion dollars per year.  
However, if misused, the powers endowed by this act will cost our country massively. Such is the case in terms of environmental protections. Oftentimes those so-called “high-impact” rules are the most impactful, and their weight on the economy should be secondary to their functional exigency. As the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards puts it, the RAA “would cripple the process for issuing and enforcing regulations that ensure we have clean air and water, healthy food and consumer products, fair wages, safe workplaces and many other key protections.”  In essence, “high-impact” regulations such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act have a high impact not just on the US economy, but on Americans’ health and the environment, and these factors need to be taken into account.
By Harshit Rai
Harshit Rai is a third year student at the Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
The presidential election in United States, last year was charged with divisive politics, with Trump’s focus on the elimination of “radical Islamic terrorism” at all costs. His pre-poll promise included taking radical measures against immigration and ending terrorism. In this context Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia gained more importance. It tested the anti-radical Islam rhetoric of president Trump on practical grounds of diplomacy and set the tone at which the policy of Trump administration will operate in continuation of his election promise.
Trump on his maiden visit to Saudi Arabia exhorted leaders to get rid of extremists asking them to “drive them (extremists) out of places of worship, drive them out of communities and drive them out of this earth.” Even as he expressed United States interest in working with Middle Eastern Nations in partnership, he put the responsibility on countries to eradicate terror.  This address is significant, as it not only draws the outline of the future partnership between the countries in Trump administration, but also marks a departure from the policy of United States during the Obama years. Democracy and Human Rights found no mention in Trump’s address.
“We are not here to lecture, we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, how to be or how to worship”, he said.  Though Obama in his speech in Cairo acknowledged that United States could not claim to know what is best for everyone, he reposed his faith in democratically elected governments and protection of Human Rights. He underscored the need for increased co-operation with countries to build educational and medical infrastructure. Obama’s speech was a milestone in the history of American diplomacy. It acknowledged that 9/11 triggered certain acts by the government which were regrettable. He expressed that torture practices in Guantanamo bay had to be stopped and forces returned. Engagement with Iran and the culmination of a nuclear deal was a remarkable achievement of the Obama tenure.  Trump, however made his stance clear in Riyadh while bashing Iran declaring it to be “ungrateful” towards the US government.
By Habib Olapade
Habib Olapade is a first-year law student at Yale University.
Electoral structures are highly path dependent. Specific institutional structures and legal rules, not a preexisting popular will or ideology, are responsible for our political system’s virtues and vices. America’s two-party system, for instance, is a by-product of the nation’s single member district election scheme.  This insight was best articulated by French political scientist Maurice Duverger. She observed that in single district political systems, in which the candidate who receives the most votes wins office, two party political systems dominated.  This disposition is not necessarily harmful. Two-party systems facilitate democratic decision-making by responding to constituent concerns, competing for votes among undecided members in the electorate, and stabilizing and streamlining dissident minority interest groups. 
But what happens when one party – or both – seeks to entrench itself in the government at the public’s expense? In resolving this question, it can be helpful to think of the democratic political process as an economic market. This analogy is valid because the principle-agent dilemma between the parties and the electorate closely resembles the sometimes troubling relationship between a company’s board of directors and its shareholders.  Both elected leaders and corporate board members claim legitimacy for their actions by appealing to their constituents’ interests and seek to enact procedural and substantive hurdles that prevent their voters from throwing them out of office.  Political processes and economic markets also rely on robust competition and clear rules of engagement.