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Article

Brett Curry and Banks Miller

The pervasiveness of their influence arguably makes prosecutors the most consequential actors in the American criminal justice system. Armed with discretion over which cases to pursue, what charges to file, and which issue areas to prioritize, prosecutors play a decisive role in determining what progresses from investigation to the courtroom. It is their charge to do justice in each case, but that obligation hardly forecloses the influence of politics on their decisions. Despite their centrality, however, prosecutors and their behavior have failed to garner even a fraction of the attention that scholars have directed toward law enforcement, correctional systems, or judges. The discretion of American prosecutors is theoretically immense; there are few formal constraints upon it. If a federal or state prosecutor declines to pursue a case that has been referred to him or her, that declination decision is essentially immune from judicial review. But these formalisms come with more practical limitations. At the federal level, United States Attorneys are appointed by the president and, therefore, are expected to carry out an administration’s general policy priorities. In the states, most district attorneys answer to the electorate, which imposes its own constraints on a prosecutor’s freedom of action. Chief prosecutors—state and federal—are simultaneously principals to their subordinates and agents of the people or the president. If those considerations were not enough, American prosecutors must be mindful of still other factors. How might their actions today impact their future career paths? What influence might legislative changes, public opinion, or judicial rulings have on how they operate? Scholarship on prosecutors has addressed some of these questions, but we still lack a good understanding of all the ways in which politics infects prosecutorial decision-making. As “progressive prosecutors”—many who are former public defenders—continue to win office, new questions will arise about how far prosecutors can push reform of the criminal justice system. A major looming question is how voters conditioned to law-and-order rhetoric will evaluate the new prosecutors. Some preliminary work shows that non-White prosecutors tend to reduce rates of incarceration, while Republican-affiliated prosecutors increase them.

Article

Udi Sommer and Aliza Forman-Rabinovici

Public debate rages around the world as to if and when a woman has a right to access abortion services. Though abortion policy has become more permissive over time in various places, there are still many countries with severe restrictions. The variety in state abortion policies at the state and regional levels reflects the different religious, cultural, and political attitudes toward this issue. Literature on this topic engages with larger theoretical debates within the study of public policy. That includes definitions of morality policy and determinants of feminist policy. Researchers continue to search for the ideal way to compare permissiveness of abortion policy in light of the extensive variation, conditions, and caveats that exist within abortion legislation. A number of variables, including female political representation, dominant religious groups in the country, and women’s movements have emerged as central correlates with permissiveness of abortion policy. The difference between de jure abortion law and de facto access also constitutes an important part of abortion policy research.

Article

Jeb Barnes

How do courts affect social policy? Answering this question is deceptively complex. Part of the challenge stems from the sheer scope of contemporary judicial policymaking, particularly in the United States, where litigation reaches into nearly every nook and cranny of the American welfare state and casts a shadow on policy issues ranging from marriage equality to healthcare reform. Another obstacle is that scholars remain deeply divided on fundamental questions about the nature of judicial decisions and how their policy effects should be studied. These disagreements, in turn, have engendered three very different approaches to studying the role of courts in social policy that often talk past each other. The dominant approach views judicial decisions as prescriptive rules—legal commands from the bench—and asks: To what extent do judicial decisions change policy? This view implies that judicial decisions are “treatments” whose efficacy should be tested by measuring shifts in policy outcomes from the pre- to post-treatment period or across treatment and control groups. An alternative tradition envisages judicial decisions as a potential resource, which can be used by activists as leverage in building movements and pursuing agendas in multiple forums. Here, the core question is not whether court decisions produce abrupt policy shifts, but how activists use these decisions to challenge the status quo, mobilize interests, and generate pressure for policy change. A third approach sees legal precedent as a constitutive framework that shapes and constrains policymaking and its politics over time. The test for whether law matters under this approach centers on the degree to which judicial decisions influence the developmental trajectories of policy and politics, which includes consideration of paths not taken in the policymaking process. That is not to say that the literature is wholly discordant. Despite their significant conceptual differences, these approaches tend to converge on the general idea that judicial policymaking shares many attributes with other policymaking processes: the implementation of judicial decisions, like statues and regulations, is contested and subject to capture by sophisticated interests; litigation, like lobbying, is a form of mobilization that seeks to translate policy grievances into effective political demands; judicial precedents, like other policies, generate policy feedback. Identifying similarities between judicial policymaking and its counterparts is a signature achievement in the study of courts and social policy, which has largely dispelled the “myth of rights” and simplistic notions that the law is somehow removed from politics. Yet it arguably has had an unintended effect. Normalizing judicial policymaking—making it seem like other types of policymaking—threatens to render it less interesting as a distinct topic for research. This article suggests the time has come for all of the various research traditions in the field to return to foundational questions about what makes judicial policymaking distinctive, and systematically study how these particular tilts and tendencies influence the continuing colloquy that drives the policymaking process.

Article

Nick Sitter and Elisabeth Bakke

Democratic backsliding in European Union (EU) member states is not only a policy challenge for the EU, but also a potential existential crisis. If the EU does too little to deal with member state regimes that go back on their commitments to democracy and the rule of law, this risks undermining the EU from within. On the other hand, if the EU takes drastic action, this might split the EU. This article explores the nature and dynamics of democratic backsliding in EU member states, and analyses the EU’s capacity, policy tools and political will to address the challenge. Empirically it draws on the cases that have promoted serious criticism from the Commission and the European Parliament: Hungary, Poland, and to a lesser extent, Romania. After reviewing the literature and defining backsliding as a gradual, deliberate, but open-ended process of de-democratization, the article analyzes the dynamics of backsliding and the EU’s difficulties in dealing with this challenge to liberal democracy and the rule of law. The Hungarian and Polish populist right’s “illiberal” projects involve centralization of power in the hands of the executive and the party, and limiting the independence of the judiciary, the media and civil society. This has brought both governments into direct confrontation with the European Commission. However, the EU’s track record in managing backsliding crises is at best mixed. This comes down to a combination of limited tools and lack of political will. Ordinary infringement procedures offer a limited toolbox, and the Commission has proven reluctant to use even these tools fully. At the same time, party groups in the European Parliament and many member state governments have been reluctant to criticize one of their own, let alone go down the path of suspending aspect of a states’ EU membership. Hence the EU’s dilemma: it is caught between undermining its own values and cohesion through inaction on one hand, and relegating one or more member states it to a second tier—or even pushing them out altogether—on the other.

Article

Enlargement has always been an essential part of the European integration. Each enlargement round has left its mark on the integration project. However, it was the expansion of the European Union (EU) with the 10 Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs), Cyprus, and Malta, unprecedented in scope and scale, which presented the EU with an opportunity to develop a multifaceted set of instruments and transformed enlargement into one of the EU’s most successful policies. The numerous challenges of the accession process, along with the immensity of the historical mission to unify Europe, lent speed to the emergence of the study of EU enlargement as a key research area. The early studies investigated the puzzle of the EU’s decision to enlarge with the CEECs, and the costs and benefits of the Eastern expansion. However, the questions about the impact of EU enlargement policy inspired a new research agenda. Studies of the influence of the EU on candidate and potential candidate countries have not only widened the research focus of Europeanization studies (beyond the member states of the Union), but also stimulated and shaped the debates on the scope and effectiveness of EU conditionality. Most of the analytical frameworks developed in the context of the Eastern enlargement have favored rational institutionalist approaches highlighting a credible membership perspective as the key explanatory variable. However, studies analyzing the impact of enlargement policy on the Western Balkan countries and Turkey have shed light on some of the limitations of the rationalist approaches and sought to identify new explanatory factors. After the completion of the fifth enlargement with the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, the research shifted to analyzing the continuity and change of EU enlargement policy and its impact on the candidate and potential candidate countries. There is also a growing number of studies examining the sustainability of the impact of EU conditionality after accession by looking into new members’ compliance with EU rules. The impact of EU enlargement policy on the development of European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and comparative evaluations of the Union’s performance across the two policy frameworks have also shaped and expanded the debate on the mechanisms and effectiveness of the EU’s influence. The impact of the Eastern enlargement on EU institutions and policymaking is another area of research that has emerged over the last decade. In less than two decades, the study of EU enlargement policy has produced a rich and diverse body of literature that has shaped the broader research agendas on Europeanization, implementation, and compliance and EU policymaking. Comprehensive theoretical and empirical studies have allowed us to develop a detailed understanding of the impact of the EU on the political and economic transformations in central and eastern Europe. The ongoing accession process provides more opportunities to study the evolving nature of EU enlargement policy, its impact on candidate countries, the development of EU policies, and the advancement of the integration project.

Article

Søren Dosenrode

Europeanization refers to the mutual influence of the European Union (EU) and its member states, to interactions within and between member states driven by the EU, and to the effect of the EU on EU applicant states. It affects domestic politics, policy, and polity and therefore is relevant for citizens and businesses. Europeanization effects also raise an issue of legitimacy: who bears responsibility, the member states or the European Union? In the broadest sense, analysis of Europeanization began with the theories of regional integration in the 1950s, which explained what was to become the early 21st-century EU and how it began and developed—the making of a polity. In the narrow and more common use of the concept, studies of the effect of what was then known as the European Community began at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s under the name of “adaptation.” It was not until 1994 that Robert Ladrech used and defined the term “Europeanization” for analyzing the effect of the European Community on its member states. Thus, in its most encompassing sense, a complete typology of Europeanization includes five types, each with its own primary mechanisms at work: (a) meta-Europeanization, the processes whereby the member states that have created the EU have set the overall frame, that is, the EU; (b) downloading, which implies a pressure on EU member states’ policies and governmental structures to adapt to EU standards (but this does not lead to “uniformity,” as the member states have diverse histories and traditions); (c) uploading, whereby the member states contribute to the EU’s further development by making policy suggestions to the EU and its institutions; (d) cross-loading, whereby the EU creates frames for the member states to exchange best practices and experiences, with little or no involvement from the institutions; and (e) export Europeanization, whereby the EU makes potential members comply with the Union. In a narrow sense, Europeanization is about downloading, uploading, and cross-loading. Studies on Europeanization have contributed greatly to our understanding of how the EU works and how it influences its member states and vice versa (not to mention its influence on subnational actors as well as on interest organizations and neighboring countries). In the early 21st century, Europeanization studies expanded to policies that were previously not sufficiently considered: for instance, the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the Common Security and Defence Policy, and social movements.

Article

Nayani Rajapaksha and Chrishantha Abeysena

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a major global public health issue. In 2019, an estimated 38 million people worldwide were living with HIV. Of these, 2–3 million HIV cases were estimated to be in the South Asia region. In South Asia, India has the largest population (1.366 billion), whereas the Maldives has the smallest (0.54 million) population. In line with global strategies, most of the countries adapt strategies to end HIV in 2030. The rights-based approach is a guiding principle of HIV policy in most countries. Integrated HIV testing and counseling services are implemented through facility-based and community-based services. The percentage of people who are on Anti-Retroviral Treatment among the diagnosed, is highest (81%) in Nepal. The Maldives and Sri Lanka achieved elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in 2019. Coverage for preventive programs is low in all the countries. Condom usage is low in all the key population groups in the region except India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Sex education is integrated into the school curriculum in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Knowledge of HIV prevention among the young population is low in all the countries. India, Nepal, and Pakistan provide both needle and syringe programs and opioid substitution therapy. A high percentage of people who are injecting drug users (IDUs) have safe injecting practices in all the countries. The prevalence of HIV is low in all the countries, but concentrated epidemics continue in some countries. A higher prevalence of HIV is reported among IDUs in all the countries except Bhutan. The prevalence of HIV is also higher among transgender people in Nepal and Pakistan. Since 2010, a declining trend in new HIV infections has been observed in Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and an increasing trend has been observed in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Some South Asian countries have many punitive laws, while others have introduced legal protection for key populations. Sex work is criminalized in all the countries. In Bhutan, when men who have sex with men and IDUs seek health services, the health worker is obliged to report them to the police. Nepal became the first South Asian country to identify the existence of “sexual and gender minorities” in its constitution. There is a protective legal environment for homosexuality in Nepal. India also has several laws protecting homosexuals, transgender people, and IDUs, and laws against sexual harassment in the workplace. India has become the first South Asian country to implement special protective laws on HIV/AIDS. India has criminalized discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. The presence of stigma and discrimination is a major critical factor for the national approach to HIV prevention in all South Asian countries. Stigma and discrimination are observed in healthcare facilities, within families, in employment, and in educational institutions, and many countries have developed antidiscrimination policies in response. Throughout the region, poverty, low literacy, outbound migration, tourism, internal displacement, disasters, poor infrastructure of healthcare systems, population size, and social and cultural values have hampered the response to HIV.

Article

The fight to effectively treat and stop the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has made meaningful progress both in the United States and globally. But within the United States that progress has been uneven across various demographic groups and geographic areas, and has plateaued. While scientific advances have led to the development of medicine capable of both treating and preventing HIV, law and policy dictate who will have ready access to these medicines and other prevention techniques, and who will not. Law and policy also play a crucial role in determining whether HIV will be stigmatized, discouraging people from being tested and treated, or will be identified for what it is—a preventable and treatable disease. To make further progress against HIV, the United States must address healthcare disparities, end the criminalization of HIV, and devote additional resources toward combatting HIV stigma and discrimination.

Article

Judicial control over the bureaucracy is a means to defend the rule of law and important principles of democratic governance. It refers to the power of the courts to consider whether the actions of public authorities respect the limits prescribed by law. Regimes of judicial control vary in legal and administrative systems. Two major traditions can be mainly distinguished. The first characterizes continental Europe. It assigns judicial review to specialized administrative courts and involves a special branch of law, that is, administrative law. The second relies on ordinary courts and characterizes the Anglo-American system of common law. The two traditions also differ regarding the role of the courts and particularly their possibility to shape rules (common law tradition) or to apply rules (continental tradition). The expansion of state activities, including economic and social regulation and welfare service provision, has blurred the old politics–administration distinction since more and more decisions are delegated by parliaments to the administration, endowing it with wide discretionary powers. These developments have added a new meaning to the implementation of the rule of law. When the content of decisions is bound by a legal rule, legal compliance is more straightforward than when there is a margin of appreciation and choice. Circumscribing administrative discretion passes first and foremost from regulating the process of decision-making. Procedural standards have indeed been an area of primary concern for courts. Increasingly, nevertheless, substantive aspects of the administrative decision-making process and even service provision come under judicial scrutiny. Its extent inevitably differs from one legal system to another. The intensity of judicial review and its impact on (a) administrative operation and (b) policy decisions raise critical questions: how is it possible to achieve a balance between managerial flexibility, efficiency, and responsibility on the one hand and legal accountability on the other? To what extent may the courts substitute their own judgment for that of policymakers and the administrative or expert opinion underlying the decision under examination? How far do they go in scrutinizing policymaking and implementation? Judicial control involves constraining as well as constructive effects on the administration. It may contribute to an institution-building process (e.g., strengthening of Weberian-type features, increasing formalization, etc.) and to the agenda-building process, and it may influence policymaking. In certain contexts, courts even tend to become political actors. The reverse side is that they may step into matters of management and policymaking for which they are not prepared or institutionally responsible. This points to potential tensions between the administration (the executive) and the judiciary but also underlines the limitations of judicial control. Delicate issues regarding the separation of powers may emerge. Furthermore, cost, delays, the degree of administrative compliance with judicial decisions, and the ability of courts to integrate into their reasoning issues of efficiency and effectiveness constitute growing challenges to judicial control.

Article

Florian Trauner and Ariadna Ripoll Servent

Justice and home affairs (JHA) is one of the most salient policy fields at European Union (EU) level. It deals with issues closely related to the sovereignty of member states including immigration, borders, and internal security. This article takes stock of the policy’s development and current academic debates. It argues that EU justice and home affairs is at a crossroads. Most EU actors underline the value added of European cooperation to tackle transnational threats such as terrorism and organized crime as well as the challenge of international migration. Indeed, the EU has increased its operational cooperation, data-sharing and legislative activities. The EU home affairs agencies, notably the European Police Office (Europol) and European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), have been substantially empowered. Yet JHA has also become a playing field for those attempting to politicize the European integration process. Therefore, recent years have seen major conflicts emerge that risk fragmenting the EU. These include controversies over the distribution of asylum seekers within the EU and the upholding of rule of law standards in some Eastern European states. Scholars have followed these developments with interest, contributing to a multifaceted and rich literature on aspects such as the dynamics of EU decision-making and the policy’s impact on the member states’ respect for fundamental rights and civil liberties. Promising avenues of further research include the implications of the politicization of the field and the consequences of ever more interconnected internal security databases and technologies.

Article

Helma G. E. de Vries-Jordan

Marriage equality movements have been successful in achieving policy change in an increasing number of states. Hence, a growing body of scholarship has explored institutional and cultural factors that influence activists’ tactics and messaging and, in turn, contribute to marriage equality policy diffusion. Democracies with parliamentary, presidential, and semi-presidential systems, federal and unitary states with varying levels of centralization, and the presence or absence of constitutional anti-discrimination protections provide social movements with divergent political opportunity structures, contributing to dynamics in their tactical choices. In addition, the type of electoral system and party system, the presence of political parties that are movement allies, the use of conscience votes, the level of party discipline, the presence of out LGBT elected officials and straight political allies, and the degree of political will to enact policy change also impact activists’ strategic calculations. Finally, the use of personalized narratives in advocates’ messaging, the framing of marriage equality and LGBT rights as human rights norms, the adoption of family values frames to coopt opponents’ messaging, and the use of homonationalist versus homophobic discourses to justify policymaking decisions regarding same-sex marriage are explored. This article provides a comprehensive review of state-of-the-art research concerning all of the states that have legalized same-sex marriage as well as a detailed analysis of the mechanisms used to achieve policy change. After examining how different explanatory factors perform in accounting for the dynamics in marriage equality activism and policy convergence across a broad range of national contexts, new directions for future scholarship are suggested.

Article

Russell H. Kaschula and Michael M. Kretzer

Language policies in sub-Saharan African nations emerge out of specific political, historical, socioeconomic, and linguistic conditions. Education plays a crucial role for all spheres of language policy. Policies either upgrade or downgrade indigenous languages through their application at various educational institutions. The most significant example is the selection of the language(s) used as languages of learning and teaching at higher-education institutions. The region’s colonial history also influences the language policies of the independent African states. Language policy in Senegal is an example of a francophone country focusing on a linguistic assimilation policy in which minor reforms in favor of indigenous languages have taken place. Rwanda’s language policy is unique as the former francophone nation now uses English as an exoglossic language in a type of hybrid language policy. Botswana is an example of an anglophone country that follows a language policy that is dominated by a very close connection to the notion of nation-building through its concentration on a single language, Setswana, alongside English. Tanzania is an anglophone African country whose policy focuses on Kiswahili, which is one of the very few indigenous and endoglossic languages. Kiswahili is broadly used in Tanzanian educational institutions until the tertiary level, but its use as medium of instruction focuses on the primary level. South Africa demonstrates the very close relationship between general political decisions and language policy and vice versa. Language policy decisions are never neutral and are influenced by the politics of a specific country. As a result, individual and societal language attitudes influence language policies. In addition to this, the overt and official language policy on a macro level may differ from the implementation of such policies on a micro level. At the micro level, practice can include covert language practices by various stakeholders.

Article

Steve Peers

Abolition of internal border controls—with corresponding harmonization of external border controls and other relevant policies (short-term visas, freedom to travel, control of irregular migration)—has become a cornerstone of the European Union’s (EU) overall integration project, being linked also to harmonisation of asylum policy, external relations issues, and policing and criminal law cooperation, including the ongoing development and extension of justice and home affairs databases such as the Schengen Information System and the Visa Information System. However, the Schengen process has been frequently contested over the past decade, first of all in the context of the Arab Spring in 2011 and subsequently due to the perceived migration crisis of 2015–2016. The EU has responded with a combination of further integration (such as more funding, more harmonization, and more power for EU bodies) along with deference to Member States regarding re-imposing border checks in order to stop flows of asylum-seekers. It may be questioned how well this strategy will work in the long term, but in the medium term it has succeeded in keeping the Schengen policy afloat in this modified form. The research in this field has concentrated on whether the Schengen system has accomplished its objectives and the possible tension between the system and human rights and data protection standards, as well as the overlapping tensions between the attempts to develop a uniform policy at EU level and the divergences in implementation and policy priorities at national level, particularly at times of crisis or intense political debate.

Article

Sex reclassification is a core issue of gender nonconforming legal engagements. Access to proper identification documents for trans and nonbinary people relates to lower levels of exposure to anti-trans violence, discrimination, and suicidality. In the first decades of the 21st century, the majority of global jurisdictions have seen some kind of reform with respect to sex reclassification. Nonbinary classifications, such as the X marker, are also becoming available for those who wish not to be classified as either M or F. Across the globe, five major policy streams can be found: total ban on reclassification, that is, having no law or policy in place that allows for reclassification; reproduction-related prerequisite, that is, requiring applicants to undergo sterilization or genital-related surgery; other medical intervention-based schemes, that is, requiring applicants to provide proof that they have modified their body using some kind of gender-related medical technology; corroboration requirements, that is, requiring that a third party, usually a medical professional, corroborates the identity of the applicant; and the emerging “gold standard,” gender self-determination, that is, laws and policies requiring only an expression of a desire or need to be reclassified. These streams of policy provide varying levels of access to proper identification documents and place different burdens on applicants, some requiring bodily modifications while others rely on autonomous will. Yet all these policies still demand an alignment between the internal truth of the body and external facts, resonating with the logic of birth assignment of sex itself—that is, the idea that the allocation of differentiated legal status of M or F reflects an immutable truth about legal subjects. Current laws and policies fail to address harms caused to gender nonconforming people by state mechanisms themselves. They only provide remedies ex post facto. In the early 21st century, all countries assign a differentiated legal status of either M or F at birth based solely, in almost all cases, on external genitals of newborns. This differentiated legal status is recorded on the birth certificate and becomes a part of one’s legal identity for life. This allocation of status reflects the idea that external genitals of newborns are proof of their owners’ future roles as men or women, that is, an idea that there is a pre-legal alignment between certain bodily configurations, social role, and gender performance. This mundane administrative mechanism not only justifies different treatment for men and women but also marks trans and nonbinary people as others. In order to better address the harm caused by systems of gendered distribution of resources and opportunities, there is a need to go beyond sex reclassification to question birth assignment itself.

Article

In the early 21st century the public debates about the inclusion of gender identity in public accommodations municipal ordinances and statewide and national laws represent another step in the ongoing struggle of the social movement seeking to advance the rights and liberties of lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transgender, and other queer (LGBTQ) people. Situating these current debates in the larger context of the LGBTQ movement connects this emergent issue to that broader struggle. The LGBTQ social movement and its counter-movement, often referred to as the Religious Right, have had numerous battles over social policy since the late 20th century. Importantly, movements and their counter-movements identify winning strategies and, at times, tactically innovate so as to effect a shift in current tactics in light of a failing strategy. Tactical innovation includes shifting policy debates, which has been a primary tactic of the counter-movement to LGBTQ rights. Transgender rights broadly and public accommodations policies specifically represent a tactical innovation in the ongoing development of LGBTQ rights in the United States. How has gender identity inclusion in public accommodations been addressed in politics, policy, and law? There are numerous dimensions of gender identity public accommodations policies as understood in social movements, American law, public policy and administration, public opinion, and sociology and social psychology. Public accommodations are a constant source of public contention. The legal landscape in constitutional, federal, state, and municipal approaches to these policies remains uncertain, and there are competing interpretations of law in whether gender identity protections are covered in existing federal statutes. The rhetoric of the policy debates in both state legislatures and initiative and referendum campaigns primarily focuses on the potential harms to women and girls brought about by men taking advantage of such laws to assault them in sex-segregated public facilities. An account of public opinion about these policies also shows that American adults are far more divided about transgender people using restrooms consistent with their current gender identity than other aspects of transgender rights such as employment nondiscrimination policies. Experimental interventions, such as in-depth conversations encouraging people to consider the day in the life of a transgender person, reduce transphobia and make people more resistant to arguments opposed to the inclusion of gender identity in public accommodations laws. Finally, some have questioned whether sex classifications are needed in public policy and how current nondiscrimination laws achieve their stated goals without such a system. Further development and inquiry absolutely are needed in all these areas.