The Other Side of “Order Without Law”

BU Law emerita professor Tamar Frankel argues that while private ordering—that is, rules of behavior without the backup of law—works well in some situations, such as among diamond traders and farmers, it cannot work in other situations, including the financial system. Frankel provides a brief review of the literature on private ordering and explains why the financial system cannot work under this model, and indeed why applying it would cause dangerous trends and damaging consequences.

Supreme Court’s Conservative Majority Issues Another Atextual Ruling in a Sovereign Immunity Case

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, in which the conservative majority departed sharply from the brand of originalism that Justice Clarence Thomas (who authored the opinion) and his fellow conservatives purport to favor. Dorf points out the inconsistency of the Court’s conservative bloc criticizing liberal-leaning doctrine based on broad text in rights cases while simultaneously (as here) fashioning right-leaning doctrine from the murky materials of structure and history rather than text.

A Welcome Turn to Violence

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies describes several refreshing perspectives in the area of criminal justice reform that tackle the crucial and difficult issue of violent crime. By way of background, Margulies explains the simplistic and erroneous idea that drives the enormous (and enormously expensive) carceral state and explains the importance of recognizing humanity in order to begin to dismantle it.

Exactly What Are the Rules Concerning Supreme (or Other Federal) Court Review of Impeachment Proceedings?

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on President Trump’s recent tweet suggesting that if the Democrats were to try to impeach him, he would ask the Supreme Court to block the impeachment. Amar argues that while critics of that assertion are correct, the legal matter is more complicated than might appear at first blush.

C’mon Pope Francis: You Can Do Better Than That

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, explains why the modest steps taken by Pope Francis ostensibly to address the child sex abuse problem in the Church are not enough to effect meaningful change. Hamilton points out that the United States has also failed to act, with the notable exception of Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), who proposed that the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) re-appropriation include a requirement that the states examine their laws related to institution-based sex abuse.

Should Police Need a Search Warrant to Chalk Tires and Discover Illegal Parking?

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a recent decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit holding unconstitutional the use of chalk by police officers to track whether a parked car has remained longer than permissible. Colb considers whether the decision—which seems to faithfully apply the US Supreme Court’s decisions in Jones v. United States and Florida v. Jardines—falls short of the “reasonable expectation of privacy” test the Court established in Katz v. United States. Colb proposes a test that instead combines trespass, information-gathering, as well as some privacy interest in that information, arguing that such a test would better reflect the scope of the Fourth Amendment.

SCOTUS LGBT Discrimination Case Will Test Conservative Commitment to Textualism

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on three cases in which the US Supreme Court recently granted review that together present the question whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Dorf points out that the cases pose a test for the Court’s conservative majority—whether they will keep faith with their textualist commitment and rule for the plaintiffs or instead follow their conservative social views and rule for the defendant employers.

Seven Steps for Progressive Prosecutors

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies describes seven steps that progressive prosecutors must take to advance three fundamental principles of meaningful criminal justice reform—dignity, community, and equity. Margulies explains the importance of going beyond piecemeal initiatives to truly embracing and furthering an alternative organizing vision for the prosecutorial function.

Liberals Reject Too-Convenient Theories; Why Don’t Conservatives?

GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan points out that while liberals reject radical left-wing ideas, conservatives do not similarly reject radical right-wing ideas. By way of example Buchanan discusses the theory of Modern Monetary Theory, a persistent fringe theory has been embraced by a few prominent left-leaning politicians despite being rejected by economists across the political spectrum.

Children Have a Right to Live and Be Vaccinated, and Two Legal Reforms Are Needed

Marci Hamilton—professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA—discusses the importance of vaccinating children and proposes two legal reforms needed to ensure children’s protection. Specifically, Hamilton proposes that states eliminate religious exemptions to mandatory vaccination and permit mature children to decide whether they get vaccinations.

Insurance Carriers Hold a Key to Prevent Child Sex Abuse

Marci A. Hamilton—founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit academic think tank at the University of Pennsylvania dedicated to interdisciplinary, evidence-based research to prevent child abuse and neglect—explains why insurance carriers can and should play a key role in preventing child sex abuse. Hamilton describes two reforms that are needed to make the insurance industry a positive force instead of a barrier to child sex abuse prevention.

If These Ideas Are Too “Far Left,” Why Are They So Popular? (Part Two)

GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan continues his series of columns discussing how the establishment left, particularly the media, is treating the policy and politics of Senator Bernie Sanders (and others) irresponsibly and superficially as “extreme left,” reinforcing false equivalence and “bothsidesism.” Buchanan provides additional support for his thesis across these columns that the supposedly extreme ideas of Sanders and others are actually hugely popular and not at all radical.

Election Day in Prison

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies reflects on a class he taught in a prison last Election Day that presents questions of elections and fear in an age of tribalism. Margulies describes the heightened state of fear in the United States, defines tribalism, and explains why true freedom requires an open—rather than closed—mind.

Why Settled Precedent Prevents President Trump From Punishing Sanctuary Cities For Declining to Assist in Federal Immigration Policy

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why President Trump’s proposal that detained immigrants be relocated to sanctuary cities violates the Supreme Court’s precedent interpreting relevant constitutional provisions. Amar argues that even a conservative Supreme Court that defers to the Executive branch in matters of foreign affairs would likely not permit such action.

Overcoming Partisan Objections to Electoral College Reform: How Red States Could (and Should) Adopt the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact But Defer Implementation Until 2032

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes recent developments in the reform movement known as the National Popular Vote (NPV) interstate compact plan and explains how those hesitant to get on board (particularly elected Republican legislators) can address their concerns with the plan. Specifically, Amar proposes that states should adopt the NPV interstate compact but delay implementation until 2032—a time in the future at which no one today can anticipate which party (if either) the compact would benefit.

“You Can’t Investigate Me, I Quit” or “I’ve Been Promoted”: Should Federal Courts Continue Misconduct Investigations of Former Judges?

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the practice by federal courts of dismissing investigations into complaints of judicial misconduct if the judge retires from the bench or is elevated to justice status. Dorf argues that a full investigation of someone who is no longer a judge (or no longer a judge on a covered court) may still have implications for judges who continue to serve and thus that judicial councils should not construe their statutory mandate as narrowly as they did in the recent investigations of then-Judges Maryanne Trump Barry, Alex Kozinski, and Brett Kavanaugh.

Bypassing the Constitution: Texas Legislature Considers Bill to Add Burdens to Pregnant Teens

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a bill under consideration by the Texas legislature that would require appointment of an attorney ad litem to represent an unborn child during a judicial bypass proceeding for an abortion for a pregnant minor. Grossman describes the legal background and explains why the bill is both unconstitutional and unwise.

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