Faculty Scholarship Digest

Stanley K. Laughlin Jr.



Stanley K. Laughlin, Jr., U.S. Territories and Affiliated Jurisdictions: Colonialism or Reasonable Choice for Small Societies?, 37 Ohio Northern Univ. L. Rev. 429 (2011)

The United States currently has nearly five million “territorial citizens,” people living in those parts of the United States, such as Puerto Rico or American Samoa, that are not a part of any state. In this article, drawing on his earlier work, Stan details and defends the reasons why an overwhelming majority of these individuals wish to continue their affiliation with the United States. To begin with, the article emphasizes “insular Americans are Americans, and think of themselves as such.” Beyond this fundamental point of self-identity, the article also points to the advantages for strategic defense, political and economic reasons. The article then turns to the rights of territorial citizens, noting the need to correct their lack of voting representation at the federal level. Beyond that, Stan offers an interpretation of Supreme Court jurisprudence that would apply the Constitution and its rights provisions in the same way in the territories as the rest of the United States, apart from narrowly bounded exceptions when such application would be “anomalous” or “impractical.” He would also have federal courts scrutinize legislation that treated territorial citizens differently, for example, by providing federal benefits in lesser amounts, under a heightened scrutiny pursuant to footnote 4 of Carolene Products.