Jeannie Suk Gersen

Jeannie Suk Gersen

John H. Watson, Jr. Professor of Law Harvard Law School

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The Socratic Method in the Age of Trauma

Journal Articles
Harvard Law Review
Publication year: 2017

Translating Truth

Journal Articles
114 Harv. L. Rev. 640
Publication year: 2000

What "Design Copyright"?

Journal Articles
Jeannie Suk Gersen & C. Scott Hemphill
126 Harvard Law Review Forum 164 (2013).
Publication year: 2013

Earlier this month, in an important copyright ruling, the Supreme Court dropped a puzzling clue about copyright for designs that merits examination. In an opinion authored by the Court’s foremost copyright scholar, Justice Breyer, the Court posited a “design copyright” for a “dress” made in China and then sold in the United States. The statement is striking because courts have traditionally denied the copyrightability of fashion designs, including dress designs; a proposed bill to add fashion designs to copyrightable subject matter has not yet been passed by Congress. In this Reaction, we explain the Court’s unexpected comment and why it matters.

 

Administering Sex

Journal Articles
Jeannie Suk Gersen & Jacob E. Gersen
42 Admin. & Reg. L. News, no. 1, Fall 2016, at 18.
Publication year: 2016
Sex and administrative law are not words that are traditionally uttered in the saine breath. Yet, recently, administrative law scholars and courts have increasingly focused on precisely this relationship. The past decade has seen a transformation of the way sex discrimination, sexual violence, sexual harassment, and just plain sex is legally regulated in the United States. Increasingly, administrative agencies are defining what sex is permissible, requiring educational institutions to adopt particular policies on sex, and specifying how sex that deviates from those norms is investigated and adjudicated. Today, sex is a domain of the federal bureaucracy. The question is what role traditional administrative law principles will play in the administration of sex.

Redistributing Rape

Journal Articles
48 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 111 (2011) (reviewing Sharon Dolovich, Strategic Segregation in the Modern Prison (2011)).
Publication year: 2011

The Trajectory of Trauma: Bodies and Minds of Abortion Discourse

Journal Articles
Columbia Law Review, Vol. 110, No. 5, June 2010 Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 10-22
Publication year: 2010
What is the legal import of emotional pain following a traumatic event? The idea of women traumatized by abortion has recently acquired a constitutional foothold. The present Article is about this new frontier of trauma. I argue that the legal discourse of abortion trauma grows out of ideas about psychological trauma that have become pervasively familiar in the law through the rise of feminism. The Supreme Court’s statement in Gonzales v. Carhart, that some women who have abortions feel “regret” resulting in “severe depression and loss of esteem,” has provoked searing criticism because talk of protecting women from psychological harm caused by their own decisions seems to recapitulate paternalistic stereotypes inconsistent with modern egalitarian ideals. I argue that a significant context for the newly prominent discourse of abortion regret is the legal reception of psychological trauma that has continually gained momentum through feminist legal thought and reform since the 1970s. Rather than representing a stark and unmotivated departure, the notion of abortion trauma continues a legal discourse that grew up in precisely that period: a feminist discourse of trauma around women’s bodies and sexuality. This intellectual context gives meaning to the present discourse of women’s psychological pain in our legal system. The ideas informing abortion regret are utterly familiar once contextualized in modern legal understandings of women that have developed in the period since Roe.

 

Reply: Remix and Cultural Production

Journal Articles
Stanford Law Review at 61 STAN. L. REV. 1227 (2009).
Publication year: 2009

The Law, Culture, and Economics of Fashion

Journal Articles
Stanford Law Review, Vol. 61, March 2009 Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper No. 344 Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 627 Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 09-63
Publication year: 2009
Fashion is one of the world’s most important creative industries. As the most immediate visible marker of self-presentation, fashion creates vocabularies for self-expression that relate individuals to society. Despite being the core of fashion and legally protected in Europe, fashion design lacks protection against copying under U.S. intellectual property law. This Article frames the debate over whether to provide protection to fashion design within a reflection on the cultural dynamics of innovation as a social practice. The desire to be in fashion – most visibly manifested in the practice of dress – captures a significant aspect of social life, characterized by both the pull of continuity with others and the push of innovation toward the new. We explain what is at stake economically and culturally in providing legal protection for original designs, and why a protection against close copies only is the proper way to proceed. We offer a model of fashion consumption and production that emphasizes the complementary roles of individual differentiation and shared participation in trends. Our analysis reveals that the current legal regime, which protects trademarks but not fashion designs from copying, distorts innovation in fashion away from this expressive aspect and toward status and luxury aspects. The dynamics of fashion lend insight into dynamics of innovation more broadly, in areas where consumption is also expressive. We emphasize that the line between close copying and remixing represents an often underappreciated but promising direction for intellectual property today.

 

Is Privacy a Woman?

Journal Articles
Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 97, p. 485, 2009 Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 09-09
Publication year: 2009
This essay is about the representation of privacy. Focusing on several of the Supreme Court’s Fourth Amendment cases regarding the police and the home, I explore judicial articulations of the meaning of private space. Several striking figures of women appear in the Justices’ opinions in Kyllo v. United States, and Georgia v. Randolph, for example, and represent different conceptions of privacy that are in dialogue and conflict. To theorize privacy in the home is to imagine a woman, and the way she is imagined is bound up with the idea of the home and stakes of privacy articulated. From the lady of the house in the bath, to the lady at home receiving callers, to the battered woman, distinctive figures of women reveal peculiar fault lines in the modern meaning of privacy in an era of judicial commitment to gender equality. Even long after the gradual demise of the particular marital privacy associated with the common law of coverture, the idea of protecting women from men remains central and appears today in new and different guises that evince both change and continuity in the legal meaning of the home.

 

Taking the Home

Journal Articles
Law & Literature, Vol. 20, p. 291, 2008
Publication year: 2008
This essay juxtaposes two Supreme Court cases, Kelo v. City of New London, and Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales. Both reflect on the meanings of home as simultaneously the source of security against the focal point of anxieties about crossing between the categories of the private and the public. This essay traces the specter of doubleness that haunts the home in the law: the uncanny ways in which the home emerges as the exemplary private institution and the exemplary public concern in our society.

 

The True Woman: Scenes from the Law of Self-Defense

Journal Articles
31 Harv. J.L. & Gender 237 (2008).
Publication year: 2008

Self-defense is undergoing an epochal transformation. In the last few years, dozens of states have passed or proposed new Castle Doctrine legislation intended to expand the right to use deadly force in self-defense. These bills derive their informal name from the traditional common law castle doctrine, which grants a person attacked in his own home the right to use deadly force without trying to retreat to safety. But the new Castle Doctrine statutes, conceived and advocated by the National Rifle Association, extend beyond the home to self-defense more broadly. This Article sets out to explicate, contextualize, and theorize this remarkable development in self-defense law. To do so, the Article investigates the ideas that shape these new Castle Doctrine laws. It offers an interpretive genealogy focused on three crucial turning points in the development of self-defense, and argues that each has left a defining ideological trace on the new laws. The central claim is that in each phase, self-defense law drew importantly but differently on the idea of the home; and, in each, the operative idea of the home was constituted specifically by gender roles therein. The Article shows that modern self-defense law exemplified by the new Castle Doctrine powerfully embeds these distinctive meanings of gender, home, and crime.

Criminal Law Comes Home

Journal Articles
116 Yale L.J. 2 (2006)
Publication year: 2006

Though traditionally criminal law did not reach into the home to punish domestic violence, today such intervention in the home is well accepted and steadily growing. Because we all welcome that remedial development, we have taken little notice of the legal innovations in misdemeanor domestic violence enforcement that are transforming the role of criminal law in the home beyond the criminal punishment of violence. An important legal tool in this transformation is the protection order, which bans a person from the home on pain of arrest and enables treatment of presence at home as a proxy for violence. Through prosecutors’ routine deployment of protection orders in the criminal process at arraignment, plea bargaining, and sentencing, the home is becoming a space in which criminal law deliberately reorders and controls private rights and relationships in property and marriage–not as an incident of prosecution but as its goal. The growing criminal law use of protection orders to prohibit the cohabitation and contact of intimate partners (often when substantial jail time is not imposed) is a form of state-imposed de facto divorce that subjects the practical and substantive continuation of intimate relationships to criminal sanction. This displacement of the choice to live like intimate partners exemplifies the changing legal meaning of the home, wherein the archetype of private space becomes a site of intense public investment suitable for criminal law control.

 

Originality

Journal Articles
Harvard Law Review, Vol. 115, p. 1988, 2002
Publication year: 2002
This essay juxtaposes three contexts in which lawyers grapple with originality: copyright law, precedent-based legal reasoning, and law review publishing. I compare the dynamics of originality in each of these contexts. I focus on the literary genre of rewriting and its encounter with copyright law. I examine the interaction of rewriting and originality in one particular instance of judicial precedent-following. Finally, I reflect on the relation between preemption and citation in legal scholarship. In each of these contexts, originality and unoriginality form two sides of a double-edged sword: a paradox that derives from the application of lawyerly habits of mind to the unstable concept of originality.

 

The Sex Bureaucracy

Journal Articles
Jeannie Suk Gersen & Jacob E. Gersen
104 California Law Review 881 (2016) Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 16-13
Publication year: 2016

We are living in a new sex bureaucracy. Saliently decriminalized in the past decades, sex has at the same time become accountable to bureaucracy. In this Article, we focus on higher education to tell the story of the sex bureaucracy. The story is about the steady expansion of regulatory concepts of sex discrimination and sexual violence to the point that the regulated area comes to encompass ordinary sex. The mark of bureaucracy is procedure and organizational form. Over time, federal prohibitions against sex discrimination and sexual violence have been interpreted to require educational institutions to adopt particular procedures to respond, prevent, research, survey, inform, investigate, adjudicate, and train. The federal bureaucracy essentially required nongovernmental institutions to create mini-bureaucracies, and to develop policies and procedures that are subject to federal oversight. That oversight is not merely, as currently assumed, of sexual harassment and sexual violence, but also of sex itself. We call this “bureaucratic sex creep” — the enlargement of bureaucratic regulation of sexual conduct that is voluntary, non-harassing, nonviolent, and does not harm others. At a moment when it is politically difficult to criticize any undertaking against sexual assault, we are writing about the bureaucratic leveraging of sexual violence and harassment policy to regulate ordinary sex. An object of our critique is the bureaucratic tendency to merge sexual violence and sexual harassment with ordinary sex, and thus to trivialize a very serious problem. We worry that the sex bureaucracy is counterproductive to the goal of actually addressing the harms of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. Our purpose is to guide the reader through the landscape of the sex bureaucracy so that its development and workings can be known and debated.