Who’s a Good Boy? US Supreme Court Considers Again Whether Dog Sniffs Are Searches

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a case in which the US Supreme Court is considering whether to grant review that presents the question whether police must obtain a search warrant before bringing a trained narcotics dog to sniff at a person’s door for illicit drugs. Colb highlights some of the most interesting arguments on the issue and explains some of the nuances that make a clear answer more elusive in these cases.

Run, Baby, Run: Federal Court (Correctly) Sends Pregnancy Discrimination Case to Trial

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman praises a recent decision by a federal district court allowing a claim of pregnancy discrimination to go to trial and denying the employer’s motion for summary judgment. Grossman describes the factual and legal background of the case and explains how the court used two methods to find that the case should go to trial on the merits.

Frenemies at Last?: How Legislative History Could Save Justice Kavanaugh’s Opinion in Azar v. Allina

John Cannan—a research and instructional services librarian at Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law in Philadelphia—discusses a case that will be argued before the US Supreme Court this week and explains how the legislative history of the law at issue in that case could save the lower court’s decision, which was written by then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Cannan points out the irony that Justice Kavanaugh, who is vocally opposed to using legislative history in interpreting the meaning of statutes, may find the greatest support for his decision in this case in the legislative history.

How the Arizona Legislature Has Exceeded its Permissible Role in Filling US Senate Vacancies: Part Two in a Series

In this second of a series of columns, Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains how the Arizona legislature has exceeded its power under the Seventeenth Amendment in prescribing how the governor must make a temporary appointment to a vacant US Senate seat. Amar points out that under the most likely reading of the Amendment, state legislatures may empower the governor to make such temporary appointments but may not further participate in the process.

Can the Supreme Court Shelter Rich People from Taxation?

GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains the benefits of a tax policy that eliminates the “realization requirement” but describes how a hyper-conservative Supreme Court might go to great lengths to strike down such a policy. Buchanan points to an all-but-overturned Supreme Court decision from 1920 and suggests that the conservatives on the Court could ignore the (well deserved) criticism that decision has received in order to strike down progressive tax legislation.

Why Facebook’s Hate-Speech Policy Makes So Little Sense

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on Facebook’s global efforts to block hate speech and other offensive content and explains why formula-based policy necessarily makes very little sense. As Dorf explains, accurate determinations of hate speech require cultural understanding and evaluations of cases on an individual basis, but this approach also necessarily injects individual bias into those decisions. Thus, Facebook’s policy, while not ideal, may be but one of a handful of inadequate options.

States’ Regulation of Broker Dealers

BU Law emerita professor Tamar Frankel explains why state regulatory bodies should impose fiduciary duties on broker-dealers, whose services involve both “sales talk” and the managing of securities of investors who often lack knowledge or expertise of the transactions. Frankel reiterates points she made during testimony before the New Jersey Bureau of Securities and makes the case for the long-overdue regulation of broker-dealers as fiduciaries.

Trump “Hush” Payment to Stormy Daniels Likely Does Not Violate Election Law

NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and JD candidate David Moosmann argue that the $130,000 “hush” payment of adult film actress Stormy Daniels, paid through his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, likely does not violate campaign finance laws. As Estreicher and Moosmann explain, the payment most closely resembles an expenditure by a candidate from his own funds, not a contribution from a third party and thus is permissible under applicable laws and regulations.

2018 Year in Review: Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitations, and the Catholic Bishops’ Spiritual Retreat

Marci A. Hamilton—the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania—comments on the progress (and lack thereof) of legislation in 2018 affecting child sex abuse victims’ access to justice across the United States. In particular, Hamilton calls upon American bishops to start advocating for, rather than against, the victims of abuse.

Changing How We Think About Date Rape

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb explains how the Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA) program might help change the way we think about acquaintance rape and reduce the incidence of such rape and other similar sexual crimes. Colb points out some of the shortcomings of consent-focused education about rape and describes how EAAA addresses many of these shortcomings.

Federal Lawsuit Tests Constitutionality of Arizona Statute for Filling US Senate Vacancy Created by John McCain’s Death: Part One in a Series

In this first of a series of columns, Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a lawsuit filed in federal court in Arizona that challenges the way state officials are handling the vacancy in the US Senate created by Senator John McCain’s death four months ago. Amar explains the basis of the lawsuit and discusses the sparse case law on point that may determine the outcome of the lawsuit.

Obamacare Nonseverability Ruling Exposes Uncertainty in our Conception of Law

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent ruling by a federal district judge in Texas striking down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act and argues that the judge relies on a highly unorthodox (and erroneous) interpretation of the doctrine of “severability.” As Dorf explains, there is a notable lack of judicial consensus as to what courts actually do when they declare laws unconstitutional, despite that the Supreme Court established its power of judicial review over two centuries ago in Marbury v. Madison (1803).

Larry Nassar and the Milgram Experiment

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb considers the narrative of Kyle Stephens, a woman who was first abused by Dr. Larry Nassar when she was six years old, particularly as compared to the narratives of other women Nassar victimized. Colb points out that patients, parents, and law enforcement all give great deference to medical doctors, and Nassar recognized and took advantage of that deference to sexually assault so many women over such a great period of time.

What Would a New Constitutional Convention Look Like? Two Dozen Unanswered Yet Crucial Questions

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses the possibility of a federal constitutional convention to propose fundamental revisions to the document. Amar points out that many fundamental legal questions about such a convention remain unanswered and highlights 24 important questions that will need to be considered if a constitutional convention seems imminent.

The Latest Report on Institution-based Sex Abuse Is Issued on the United States Olympic Committee’s Failures

Marci A. Hamilton—the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania—comments on the most recent report on child sex abuse, which was commissioned by the US Olympic Committee and focuses on the Dr. Larry Nassar scandal. Hamilton points out that scandal after scandal should make clear to the public that we have a systemic problem that is cultural, not isolated.

Double Jeopardy Case in Supreme Court is About More than Trump

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the double jeopardy question raised in Gamble v. United States, in which the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week, and explains how the extraordinary nature of the Trump presidency should inform judicial decision making. Building upon a point made in a 1985 Columbia Law Review article by Professor Vincent Blasi, Dorf argues that judges construing the Constitution and other legal texts in perilous times such as these should keep in mind that the rules they adopt will also operate in normal times.

Abuse Victims Still Don’t Get Justice

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin criticizes the recent order by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to permanently redact the names of eleven priests from the grand jury report on sexual misconduct by the clergy in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses. Griffin argues that the redaction undermines the purpose of the grand jury report to promote openness and sends the negative signal to survivors that the court will protect their abusers.

Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta Must Go

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains the role of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta in allowing multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein to plead guilty to a mere 13-month sentence despite evidence he had abused dozens of girls in his home in Palm Beach. Hamilton argues that Acosta should not be in any position of power, but particularly not one such as Labor Secretary, where the welfare of children or trafficking victims is at stake.

The Politics of Interpreting a Drop in Abortion Rates

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb discusses a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control that reflects a decrease in the rate of abortions in the United States. Colb explores the various reasons why this might be the case, illustrating how such reasons might differ between pro-life and pro-choice perspectives, as well as offering her own take on the report's findings.

At Least for Now, Women Have Reproductive Rights

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman discusses a recently introduced Ohio bill that would ban abortion, regardless of circumstances. Grossman notes that while this bill may not ever be signed into law, a growing trend in recent years has seen many nearly as extreme bills become law in other states. Grossman argues that federal courts will follow Supreme Court precedent and hold most of these recently passed abortion bills invalid but cautions that the Supreme Court’s increasingly conservative lineup of justices may one day invalidate existing precedent, paving the way for the passage of similar bills.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more