Recent Headlines Confirm the Inadequacy of the Supreme Court’s Reasoning in Trump v. Anderson

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar discusses how the decentralized nature of the U.S. presidential election system allows individual states to have varying rules that can significantly impact the overall outcome, as illustrated by recent examples from Ohio, Nebraska, and the Supreme Court case Texas v. Pennsylvania. Professor Amar argues that the Supreme Court’s decision in Trump v. Anderson, which emphasized the need for uniformity in presidential candidate ballot access across states, was not adequately defended by the Justices, as it failed to address why the Constitution permits such consequential disuniformity in election administration among states.

How Not to Restore Public Confidence in the Supreme Court

Guest columnist Gary J. Simson—Macon Chair in Law at Mercer Law School and Professor Emeritus at Cornell Law School—addresses the potential conflict of interest if Justice Clarence Thomas participates in the Trump v. United States case, given his wife’s involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. Professor Simson argues that Justice Thomas should recuse himself from the case to avoid further damaging public confidence in the Supreme Court, and if he refuses to do so, the other Justices should publicly disassociate themselves from his decision to prioritize the Court’s and the nation’s best interests.

President Biden’s Cafeteria Is Open to Everyone

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin discusses the concept of “cafeteria Catholicism,” where some Catholic politicians, such as President Joe Biden, follow certain elements of their faith while diverging from church teachings on other issues, such as, in Biden’s case, abortion rights, LGBTQ+ equality, and contraception. Professor Griffin argues that cafeteria Catholicism is a good thing, as it allows Catholic politicians to govern based on a pluralistic consensus that protects everyone’s rights and freedoms, rather than imposing specific Catholic doctrines on the entire population.

Judges, Heretics, and Capital Punishment

Cornell professor Joseph Margulies comments on Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond’s request to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to slow down the pace of executions and Judge Gary Lumpkin’s critical response to that request. Professor Margulies suggests that Judge Lumpkin’s hostility towards Drummond’s motion is not merely due to moral insensitivity, but is an ideological attempt to admonish Drummond for perceived deviation from the staunchly pro-death penalty stance expected of his office, exemplifying the “black sheep effect” of harshly policing in-group boundaries.

Indiana Court Finds a Right to Abortion on Religious Grounds

The opinion piece discusses a recent Indiana appeals court ruling that granted religious exemptions to the state's restrictive abortion law based on Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The author argues that this ruling could have broader implications, potentially providing a basis in federal constitutional law to challenge abortion restrictions nationwide on the grounds of religious discrimination.

California Prosecutor Seeks Sentence Reductions for Death Row Inmates. Other Prosecutors Should Follow Suit

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the recent unprecedented request by Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen to resentence all death row inmates from his county, highlighting the critical role prosecutors play as gatekeepers in the death penalty system. Professor Sarat argues that Rosen’s actions, driven by concerns about racial bias and changing attitudes towards capital punishment, serve as an important example for other prosecutors to follow in order to right past wrongs and ensure justice is upheld, regardless of how much time has passed.

Who Trusts the Intelligence Community?

Cornell professor Joseph Margulies discusses the issue of bias in the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) and the need for research into public trust in the IC, particularly in the current “post-truth” era. Professor Margulies argues that while existing research suggests broad public support for the IC, more comprehensive and nuanced research is needed to understand how the current partisan and “post-truth” environment may be eroding trust in the intelligence function, and that the Department of Defense should commission such research to inform its understanding of and response to this issue.

Assessing the Legality of Israel’s al-Shifa Hospital Complex Operation

Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler examines the legality of Israel’s military operation at the al-Shifa hospital complex in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war, focusing on specific allegations such as attacks on the hospital, the killing of Faiq Mabhouh, civilian protections, and treatment of journalists and medical staff. Professor Wexler argues that while the legality depends on contested facts that warrant further investigation, hospitals can lose protection if used for military purposes, and the treatment of protected persons like journalists and medical staff raises serious legal concerns under international humanitarian law.

Courts Need to Respond to Trump’s Efforts to Intimidate Judges and Undermine Judicial Legitimacy

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses Donald Trump’s recent attacks on Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over Trump’s New York hush money trial, as well as on the prosecutor and the judge’s daughter. Professor Sarat argues that Trump’s contemptuous remarks and efforts to intimidate and discredit the judiciary should be met with contempt orders and appropriate penalties by the courts, as silence or acquiescence in the face of such behavior is far worse and threatens the integrity and independence of the judicial system.

Trump Wants 2024 to Be a Nostalgia Trip. Biden Should Not Take the Bait

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the role of nostalgia in the 2024 U.S. presidential campaign, focusing on how Donald Trump and Joe Biden are framing the contest around voters’ recollections of the past. Professor Sarat argues that while Biden wants voters to remember Trump’s poor handling of the early COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Trump benefits more from nostalgia as voters tend to remember the pre-pandemic economy positively, suggesting that, to prevail, Biden must shift focus to his vision for the future.

The Supreme Court’s Misplaced Emphasis on Uniformity in Trump v. Anderson (and Bush v. Gore)

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar and Illinois Law professor Jason Mazzone coment on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Trump v. Anderson holding that states cannot enforce Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to bar former President Donald Trump from primary election ballots due to his alleged role in the January 6 Capitol breach. Professors Amar and Mazzone argue that the Court’s reasoning, primarily based on concerns about nationwide ballot uniformity in presidential elections, is flawed because it fails to properly consider the Constitution’s overall design, which grants states significant autonomy in running presidential elections and selecting electors.

Election Denialism 2024, Spring Edition

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses Donald Trump’s long history of making false claims about election fraud and his current warnings about the 2024 presidential election being rigged. Professor Sarat argues that Trump’s baseless allegations are damaging democracy, sowing distrust in the electoral process, and setting the stage for potential unrest if he loses in November.

Judicial Chaos is a Symptom. (Mostly) Asymmetrical Polarization is the Disease

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the Supreme Court’s handling of the Texas v. United States case involving a controversial Texas immigration law, using it as an example of the broader issue of increased polarization and chaos in the federal court system due to the courts’ expanding “shadow docket.” Professor Dorf argues that while both political parties bear some responsibility for this polarization, Republicans have moved much further from centrism, contributing more to the acute political divide that has spread to the courts and is exemplified by the Texas Republicans’ extreme stance on immigration in this case.

Delaying Trump’s Trials Is What Savvy Democrats Should Have Wanted All Along

Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses the conventional wisdom that delays in Donald Trump’s legal cases benefit him politically, as Trump hopes to win the 2024 election before facing legal consequences. However, Professor Buchanan argues that these delays actually help President Joe Biden and the Democrats, and that convictions prior to the election would not significantly harm Trump’s political chances, making the delays the best realistic outcome for those who oppose Trump.

Georgia Court Case Tests the Limits of Execution Secrecy in the United States

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses Georgia’s plan to execute Willie James Pye on March 20, 2023, and the state’s efforts to restrict press access and impose secrecy around the execution process. Professor Sarat argues that Georgia’s lethal injection protocol, which severely limits what the press can witness and the public can know about executions, is unlawful and arbitrary, serving no legitimate state interest, and that the court should grant the request to stop executions until the restrictions on press access are removed.

Scandoval: Revenge Pornography and Complex Victims

Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler discusses the lawsuit filed by Rachel Leviss against Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix over allegations of revenge porn, stemming from a scandal on the reality TV show Vanderpump Rules, where intimate videos of Leviss were shared without her consent. Professor Wexler argues that this case serves as a crucial opportunity for the public to learn about the legal nuances of revenge porn, highlighting its significance beyond the realm of reality TV by exploring the implications for sexual privacy, the distinction between consensual and non-consensual sharing of intimate images, and the broader societal need to respect individual autonomy over sexual imagery, regardless of the individual’s perceived moral character or actions.

Shrinkflation, Inflation, and Climate Change

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses President Joe Biden’s commentary on “shrinkflation” during his State of the Union address, particularly Biden’s call to pass legislation to combat this deceptive practice where companies reduce the product size while maintaining the price. Professor Dorf explains why he agrees with the need to address shrinkflation but critiques Biden’s focus on junk food examples, arguing that consuming fewer unhealthy products might not harm consumers. Additionally, Professor Dorf highlights a broader issue of consumerist populism and the inconsistency in addressing economic policies and environmental challenges.

14th Amendment Disqualification Decision Saves Trump but Damages the Supreme Court

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Trump v. Anderson, where the Court ruled that Donald Trump could not be disqualified from appearing on the ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, emphasizing the decision’s implications for the Court’s prestige and internal consensus. Professor Sarat argues that the decision, while appearing unanimous, reveals deep divisions within the Court and suggests a failure by Chief Justice John Roberts to foster genuine unanimity or to protect the Court’s reputation, further criticizing the decision’s approach and its broader implications for the Court’s impartiality.

The Execution of Ivan Cantu Is a Reminder of Why We Execute the Innocent and Always Will

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the execution of Ivan Cantu in Texas, using it as a case study to explore the broader issue of innocent individuals being executed in the United States. Professor Sarat argues that the continued use of the death penalty inevitably leads to the execution of innocent people, underscoring the urgent need to abolish capital punishment to prevent such irreversible injustices.

Another Botched Lethal Injection, Another Official Refusal to Accept Responsibility for Failure in the Execution Process

Amherst professor Austin Sarat examines the recent failed execution attempt of Thomas Eugene Creech in Idaho, highlighting lethal injection’s history of unreliability and the broader context of its use as an execution method in the United States. Professor Sarat argues that systemic issues and denial by state officials perpetuate the cruelty and inefficiency of lethal injections, urging an acknowledgment of its failures and a cessation of its use for capital punishment.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is a Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law and a Professor... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, is a visiting professor at both Osgoode Hall... 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

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... more

Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las... 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

Professor Marci A. Hamilton is a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

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

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at... more

Laurence H. Tribe
Laurence H. Tribe

Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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