Author Archive | Ryan Davidson, guest-blogging

Batman, Appropriations, and “Augmentation”

My co-author James has made a few posts already this week, and I’d like to thank Professor Volokh for the opportunity to participate here. I’m going to chip in with a post about Batman based on the last few issues of Detective Comics vol. 1, # 871-881. Number 881 is actually the very last issue before the “New 52” renumbering/revamp/reboot DC Comics did at the end of 2011. The issues in question are collected in trade paperback form. The legal issue we’ll be looking at has to do with government appropriations law. Specifically: is it legal for Bruce Wayne/Batman to donate a privately-funded forensics lab to the Gotham City Police Department?

The background is that, in the aftermath of his return after the events of Final Crisis, Batman decided to start up franchises around the world. This is reflected in Batman, Incorporated, a title which survived the New 52 revamp and continues in its monthly format. But realizing that Gotham City might feel somewhat slighted if Batman simply expanded his activities without giving Gotham any special attention, Bruce Wayne decided to give the G.C.P.D. a fully-equipped, state-of-the-art forensics lab. But because of the somewhat fraught relationship between Batman and the Department, G.C.P.D. does not make routine use of the facilities and only seems to do so when they’re dealing with a super criminal. Regardless, the question for our purposes is whether this kind of arrangement is legally permissible.

I. Federal Appropriations

If the G.C.P.D. were a federal agency, the answer would be “Definitely not.” The Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. § 1341) explicitly prohibits an officer or employee of the United States from “mak[ing] or authoriz[ing] an expenditure or obligation exceeding an amount available in an appropriation or fund for the expenditure or obligation”. In other [...]

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