Two Big Legal Misconceptions That Have Recently Arisen in the Presidential Race

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and California civil litigation attorney Michael Schaps address two common misconceptions about the relationship between criminal law and politics that recently arose in the presidential race. Amar and Schaps explain first why the presumption of innocence does not apply to politics, and second, why the president actually does have the power to order prosecutions.

The WikiLeaks Nothingburger

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan describes how news outlets are stretching to try to make news out of the contents of the Clinton campaign emails released by WikiLeaks. Buchanan argues that the emails reveal nothing remarkable or problematic about the Clinton campaign’s inner workings and in fact support her claim of fitness for presidency.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Versus Colin Kaepernick

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent public criticism (which she has since retracted) of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his protesting against police brutality and racial oppression by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. Dorf distinguishes criticism ex cathedra from criticism given while off the bench and concludes that while Justice Ginsburg was within her right to speak her mind, she was also correct to subsequently take back her comments.

The Supreme Court Considers Whether to Pierce Jury Secrecy for Evidence of Racial Bias

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb considers the arguments on both sides of a difficult question currently before the Supreme Court—whether a defendant is entitled to use juror testimony to impeach a verdict based on racial bias, notwithstanding a contrary rule of evidence. Colb describes the facts leading up to the case and discusses the jurisprudence that will most likely affect the justices’ ultimate decision.

The Fury of the Mob: Comparing the Calls to Prosecute Clinton and Bush

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies compares and contrasts Donald Trump’s call for Hillary Clinton’s imprisonment and the same call against George W. Bush. Although he disagrees with both attempts to seek prosecution, Margulies argues that the call for Clinton’s imprisonment is at best akin to a lynch mob, whereas at least the desire to have Bush prosecuted reflects a good-faith attempt to use the law to punish war crimes.

“Prison for Hillary”

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, comments on Donald Trump’s recent calls for the imprisonment of Hillary Clinton. Dean points out that jailing political opponents is a tactic of dictators, not democracies.

The State Law Gauntlet Facing Child Sex Abuse Survivors: A Long Way to Go to Child-Centered Justice

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how federal and state law interact to block survivors of child sex abuse from justice. As Hamilton explains, extending statutes of limitations for bringing abuse claims, or eliminating them altogether, is only one (albeit critically important) step state legislators must take toward helping survivors get the justice they deserve.

Notorious P.I.G.: Rape Culture Meets Presidential Politics

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and University of Pittsburgh law professor Deborah L. Brake analyze the infamous video of Donald Trump boasting about what he can do to women, as well as the response of the Trump campaign. Grossman and Brake argue that Trump’s words in the video, and his non-apology following its release, epitomize the formula that creates rape-prone culture: deny harm, deflect responsibility, and normalize what happened.

Allocating Burdens of Proof in a Criminal Case: An Arizona Decision Raises Questions

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a recent decision by the Arizona Supreme Court holding that a state statute properly created an affirmative defense to sexual abuse or child molestation when it placed the burden of proving no sexual motive on the defendant. Colb describes the court’s reasoning and explains why the U.S. Supreme Court should revisit its jurisprudence affirmative defenses to crimes and hold that some conduct may simply not be classified as an affirmative defense to be proved by the defendant in a criminal case.

Battle of the Sexist: The Implicit, Explicit, and Unrelenting Bias of Trump’s Presidential Campaign

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and Boston University law professor Linda C. McClain discuss the sexism that pervades Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Grossman and McClain comment not only on the presidential debates, but also on the bigger question whether (and how) a woman can be perceived as “presidential.”

Federal Investigations of Possible Corrupt Agreements by State Attorneys General who Threaten Criminal Prosecutions

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda argues that, in the interest of protecting free speech, the Attorneys General of New York and Massachusetts should comply with congressional subpoenas investigating whether the state attorneys general are part of a corrupt agreement with private interests seeking to harass. Rotunda argues that the state attorneys general are effectively chilling the free speech of scientists who question the validity of the theory that humans contribute to global warming.

Do Fourth Amendment Protections Vanish After an Indictment? The Manuel v. Joliet Case on the Supreme Court’s Docket

University of Illinois Law dean and law professor Vikram David Amar comments on a case in which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week. In that case—Manuel v. Joliet—the Court will consider whether an individual’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure continues after an indictment has issued, thereby allowing a malicious prosecution claim based on the Fourth Amendment. Amar argues that the case highlights some unusual features of Supreme Court practice, as well as some important aspects of constitutional law.

Timothy Dolan Implements the Penn State Playbook for Child Sex Abuse Victims: The Best Argument Yet for SOL Reform

Marci Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, comments on the recent announcement by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Commission intended to help some clergy sex abuse victims in the New York City Archdiocese. Hamilton describes Dolan’s mixed record on justice for sex abuse victims but hails the latest development as a step in the right direction.

Republicans Always Lose the Tax Fairness Debate, and Trump Turns It Into a Rout

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why, with the information that we currently have, there is no way to determine whether Donald Trump’s tax strategies were legal or illegal. Buchanan argues that regardless of the answer to that question, there are still too many special provisions for people like Trump—particularly with respect to the real estate sector.

Should Self-Driving Cars Be Mandatory?

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the proposed policy guidelines the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released that relate to the logistics of self-driving cars. In this column, Dorf looks ahead to a time when the majority of vehicles on the road will be self-driving and considers the potential consequences of regulating the few manual cars that will remain. While there is an argument to be made that people's choices and personal freedom should outweigh government interference, Dorf explains that the benefits to the larger population's welfare that self-driving cars may one day offer is likely to win out over time.

A Defense of Shared Humanity: Criminal Justice and National Security

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies discusses two primary areas of law he has practiced during his career. Margulies explains how his time as a capital defense and civil rights attorney was a natural extension of his background in criminal defense investigation. Using an evocative example of a condemned individual deemed a threat to U.S. national security, Margulies shines a humanizing light on a demographic usually viewed as anything but by the American public in his argument against capital punishment.

Religion in the 2016 Election Cycle: Where Did It Go?

Marci Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the decreased emphasis on affiliation with organized religion this election cycle. Although this may seem unusual in light of a more dedicated focus on religion in past elections, Hamilton explains that this lack of attention in the 2016 election harkens back to an earlier era of American history when many of our constitutional framers professed a Deist view of religion—and is ultimately a positive development for our country.

Indiana Court Rules in Favor of Cell Phone History Privacy

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb comments on a recent decision by the Court of Appeals of Indiana, holding that police violated their suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights by acquiring, without a warrant, the suspect’s cell site information from his cell phone provider. Colb explains the Indiana court’s reasoning and discusses the evolving law regarding people’s privacy expectations in information their cell phones store and transmit.

Limits on Grandparent Visitation: The Continuing Ripples of Troxel v. Granville

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman discusses the continuing impact of Troxel v. Granville, a seminal case in family law that addressed third-party visitation rights, particularly those of grandparents. Grossman lays out Troxel’s holding and explains how it relates to family law in a larger context, then analyzes a more recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court family law case with facts that the court held distinguished it from the broader statute addressed in Troxel. This decision, Grossman posits, was correct. The legislature in the Pennsylvania case had overstepped its bounds, to the significant detriment of parental rights.

What the Last Eight Years of Federal Government Intervention in the National Economy Has Wrought

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda evaluates the claims of President Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton about the country’s economic gains over the past eight years and finds that those claims lack support. Rotunda argues that the numbers indicate that the policy of federal government intervention has not worked as well as Clinton and Obama claim.

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 Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

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

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb tea... more

John Dean
John Dean

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

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

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

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States, a Fox Distinguis... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney, writer, and editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

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

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

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

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more