Student Projects - Fall 2021

Wednesday, November 10
Webcast of presentations on November 10

4:10 pm – 5:30 pm

Justice
Verda M. Colvin (Supreme Court of Georgia)
Judge Jill A. Pryor (US Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit)
Judge Andrew A. Pinson (Court of Appeals of Georgia)
Professor Ute Roemer (GSU Department of Applied Linguistics and ESL)

4:10 – 4:35
Ray-Kelle Preston, The Art of Persuasion: A Linguistic Analysis of “Persuade” and its Applicability Under 18 U.S.C. §2422(b)

In this paper, I use corpus linguistics to analyze the meaning of “persuade” under 18 U.S.C. §2422(b), a criminal statute that prohibits the use of the internet to “knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce” a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity. The Circuits are split on the interpretation of the four verbs, with the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, and D.C. Circuit supporting an  interpretation that the verbs require the defendant to seek to transform or overcome the will of the minor. Conversely, the Second, Eighth, and Eleventh Circuit support an interpretation the defendant only need cause the sexual activity and no additional element is required. Pending writ of certiorari before the Supreme Court on this issue is United States v. Zupnik, 989 F.3d 649 (8th Cir. 2021), in which Zupnik argues the “overcome the will” standard should be applied and that the “minor” in his case (actually an undercover officer) was willing to engage in the sexual activity. Using data from the Corpus of Historical American English for the period 1900 to 1919 (the language is adopted from the Mann Act of 1910), the analysis involves the close reading of concordance lines using “persuade” to identify the Agent, Patient, and Purpose to look for the existence of the initial will of the Patient, the one who is being persuaded, as well as the purpose of the persuasion. Finally, I examined the relationship between the initial will, the final resolution, and if the Purpose of the persuasion was realized. The evidence indicates the original meaning of “persuade” does not necessarily require one to overcome or transform the will of another, as “persuade” was frequently used in contexts where the Agent was not aware of the Patient’s initial will or where there was no indication that Patient had any initial will at all in relation to the Purpose of the persuasion.

4:35 – 5:00
Madison Caito, Did Monroe Get It Wrong? Determining the Meaning of “under color of” in Section 1983
“Under color of” is a phrase used in 42 U.S.C. 1983. Section 1983 provides a civil action against any person who deprives another of civil rights “under color of” any state law. Section 1983 is one of the most important civil rights laws that is litigated today; whether or not an action is punishable by the statute depends on whether it is ‘under color of’ law. If the phrase is misinterpreted, thousands of cases may be incorrectly decided every year. Using corpus linguistics, this research seeks to uncover the original meaning of ‘under color of’ by answering two questions: (1) did the phrase “under color of” have a fixed idiomatic meaning in the United States leading up to the Reconstruction Era; and (2) did the phrase appear to have special meaning when followed by “law” or a related noun? By analyzing sources from the time period leading up to reconstruction, this paper hopes answer these questions to reveal the true meaning of actions ‘under color of.’

5:05 – 5:30 Madison Gibbs, Original Meaning: Linguistic Analysis of “Cruel and Unusual”
The Eighth Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments,” but what is the relationship between the terms “cruel” and “unusual”? Courts and scholars have grappled with this question since enactment. The clause in the Eighth Amendment is identical to a clause in the English Bill of Rights of 1689, and many state constitutions include a variation of the clause. The variations include cruel or unusual and cruel used in the context to describe prohibited punishments. Scholars and courts have focused on trying to separately define cruel and unusual. However, should the focus should shift outwards to define the entire phrase as one? Therefore, I researched into the original public meaning looking for evidence the phrase is an idiom; if so, there would not be the need to interpret “cruel” and “unusual” separately. My next research question was to look for evidence the phrase is meant to be read as a “hendiadys,” in which case the phrase would be interpreted as “unusually cruel.” This would create a single requirement for impermissible punishments, and arguably dissipate the confusion amongst courts when defining and applying the original public meaning of this phrase. 


Wednesday, November 17

Webcast of presentations on November 17

Session 1: 4:10 pm – 5:00 pm
Justice Nels S.D. Peterson (Supreme Court of Georgia)
Presiding Judge Christopher J. McFadden (Court of Appeals of Georgia)
Professor Lawrence Solan, Brooklyn Law School

4:10 – 4:35 Stephanie Miller, A Corpus Linguistics Analysis of the “Right To/Of Privacy”
The Supreme Court states that the Constitution conveys a “right to privacy” to the people.  However, the word “privacy” does not appear in the Constitution. Even the Supreme Court cannot define where this right materializes - the 14th, or 9th, amendment perhaps. Nor can the courts determine what exactly the “right to privacy” covers.  This term was historically, and still is today, used to describe property rights. However, various court opinions used the term to pave the rights to abortion (Roe v Wade 1973), interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia 1967), contraception (Griswold v. Connecticut 1965), and same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges 2015). Even Justices, who whole-heartedly believe these rights should exist, admit the decision in Roe vs. Wade was deeply flawed. Justice Ginsberg lamented, “Roe v. Wade sparked public opposition and academic criticism, in part, I believe, because the Court ventured too far in the change it ordered and presented an incomplete justification for its action . . . [and] Academic criticism of Roe, charg[es] the Court with reading its own values into the due process clause”.  This academic endeavor seeks to uncover how far back this phrase can be found, with the use of Westlaw and Hein.  Then, the paper analyzes how the phrase was used both within the legal community and the public at large with the help of corpus linguistic databases COHA, COFEA, and COSCO-US.  Since the phrases “right of privacy” and “right to privacy” appear rarely in non-legal copora, a look at the public’s linguistic use of just “privacy” is examined as well. Last, a peek into how this phrase has set off a flurry of critiques of the Supreme Court and its place in our government.

4:35 – 5:00 Jonathan Mok, Are Cases of Gravity Worthy of Certiorari? A Corpus Linguistics Approach to Interpreting the Georgia Constitution of 1983
The Georgia Constitution of 1983 provides: “The Supreme Court may review by certiorari cases in the Court of Appeals which are of gravity or great public importance.” The  Georgia Supreme Court has yet explicitly to explain the difference between  “cases of gravity” versus “cases of great public importance.” A corpus linguistics approach investigated how the phrase “of gravity” was used by the public to discern its ordinary and natural meaning, in particular looking for evidence whether the difference between “of gravity” and “of great public importance” distinguishes cases of an individual versus collective nature. This approach reveals the phrase is used primarily in scientific contexts when examining the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA). Excluding those results through collocate searches reveals “of gravity” is used to convey a sense of graveness, seriousness, or solemnity to the nouns it describes. Examining observations from 1820 to 1990 shows a higher frequency of usage as compared to those from 1980 to 1990 with no semantic shift detected between historical and modern texts. Observations show the nouns “of gravity” describes are not limited to collective nouns, but are primarily individual in nature. Observations found in the Corpus of Founding Era American English (COFEA) show consistent usage with those found in COHA and may be subject to future research. Thus corpus linguistics shows “of gravity” conveys a sense of graveness, seriousness, or solemnity; the phrase is more frequently used historically than contemporarily, but no semantic shift is detected; and the phrase typically describes singular nouns as compared to collective nouns, possibly distinguishing it from cases of “great public importance”.

Session 2: 5:00 pm – 5:50 pm
Chief Justice David E. Nahmias (Supreme Court of Georgia)
Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton (US Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit)
Professor Jesse Egbert (Northern Arizona University)

5:00 – 5:25 Julia Martin, A Corpus Linguistics Analysis of “Underway” as Used in the 2004 Crime Victim’s Rights Act
A “corpus” (plural: corpora) is a large, digitized data set representing actual language. At the intersection of law and the science of linguistics, one can use corpora to interpret statutes and constitutional texts. This article uses corpus linguistics to determine what the ordinary person at the time of the passage of the 2004 Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), 18 U.S.C. § 3771, would have understood to be the meaning of “if no prosecution is underway” and whether that ordinary meaning supports an interpretation that crime victims have rights under the Act before an indictment is filed. See Courtney Wild v US District Court, U.S. S.Ct. Cert. Petition 21-351 (filed Sep 3, 2021), appealing 994 F.3d 1244 (11th Cir. 2021) (en banc)


5:25 – 5:50 Brittany Langley, A Corpus Linguistics Quest for the Original Meaning of “Public Use” in the Fifth Amendment
“[Kelo] was wrong the day it was decided.  And it remains wrong today.”  This past July, dissenting to a denial of certiorari, Justices Thomas and Gorsuch reminded us just how wrong they think the Court got it sixteen years ago.  At issue then and this past July was the “Public Use” clause of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, which states: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”  Renewing his then-solo dissent in Kelo, Justice Thomas, joined now by Justice Gorsuch, reasserted that the Takings Clause “authorizes the taking of property only if the public has a right to employ it, not if the public enjoys any conceivable benefit from the taking.”  We set out on a corpus linguistics quest to see how the phrase “for public use” was used in the Founding Era.  Judicial interpretation of the “Public Use” clause has turned on “how” taken property is to be used, as evidenced by a line of cases spanning back to the mid-twentieth century.  However, absent from judicial interpretation is consideration of “what” property is taken and how that might inform “how” such taken property is then used.  Founding Era texts suggest this may be an equally important inquiry. Because the Fifth Amendment was ratified in 1791, we turned to the Corpus of Founding Era American English (COFEA).  Examination of Founding Era texts revealed that “what” property is “for public use” is an important key to understanding the ordinary meaning of “public use.”  Further motivated by neurolinguistic research, we derived an interpretation of “use” as an action noun to examine how it should be co-interpreted with its object (i.e., “what” is used).  Our findings revealed a meaningful lexical-semantic relationship between “what” is used and “how” it is used that suggests the original meaning of “public use” was likely a very inclusive term in the Founding Era.