What the Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict Tells Us About Domestic Violence

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb reflects on what the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse tells us about domestic violence and society’s expectations based on gender. Professor Colb argues that the law of self-defense, especially as it is developing away from the duty to retreat, demonstrates gender inequality within the criminal justice system by favoring testosterone-fueled vigilantes over the women who choose to survive rather than succumb to domestic violence.

A Tale of Two Juries

Texas law professor Jeffrey Abramson comments on two jury verdicts last week—the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the conviction of three men who attacked and killed Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia—that demonstrate our country’s division over race, guns, vigilantism, and self-defense. Professor Abramson notes that when evidence is borderline, as it was in the Rittenhouse trial, jurors are “liberated” to decide on the basis of their own sentiments and values. Professor Abramson argues that the rushed jury selection process in the Rittenhouse trial effectively placed the Second Amendment, rather than the individual defendant himself, on trial.

Why California Should Abolish Its Death Penalty and Why It Matters What That State Does

Amherst professor Austin Sarat calls upon California Governor Gavin Newsom to ask the state legislature to end capital punishment. Professor Sarat explains why this route is superior to the direct democracy route (which failed in both 2012 and 2016) and why it’s so important that California abolish the death penalty.

Democrats Should Accept Mitch McConnell’s Debt Ceiling Offer as a Holiday Gift

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why Democrats should accept without further delay Senator Mitch McConnell’s offer of a streamlined process to pass a debt ceiling increase via the reconciliation process. Professor Dorf points out that due to opposition to filibuster reform by Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, this is the only way to avoid an economic catastrophe as a result of the debt ceiling crisis.

The Fifth Circuit Completely Botches the Federal Constitutional Issues Raised by OSHA’s Vaccine and Testing Requirements for Large Employers

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone explain why a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit egregiously misunderstands the Commerce Clause issues presented in several lawsuits challenging the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s authority to mandate vaccine and testing requirements for large employers. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone focus on three ways in which the Fifth Circuit gets it wrong and expresses hope that the Sixth Circuit, which is where the lawsuits have been consolidated, does better.

Kyle Rittenhouse, SB8 and the Dangerous Legalization of Vigilante Justice

Amherst professor Austin Sarat explains why the not guilty verdict of Kyle Rittenhouse sends a powerful message condoning vigilantism, particularly when coupled with the Texas law that authorizes private enforcement of its extreme prohibitions on abortion. Professor Sarat argues that vigilantism, including these instances, has historically taken root in times of social, cultural, and political transition, and in places with high levels of cultural diversity and institutional instability

Substantial Questions of Statutory Authority Confront OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination Emergency Temporary Standard

NYU Law professor Samuel Estreicher and 3L Ryan Amelio comment on the unusual move by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) decision to require employee vaccinations for employers with a total of 100 or more employees. Estreicher and Amelio explain why it is unclear whether the Agency has authority to mandate vaccinations and testing.

Democracy Is Dying, But We Do Not Have to Lose Our Souls

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why the present political situation is somewhat like the plot of Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory,” in that a supposedly preferable solution involves throwing powerless people to the wolves, simply for other people’s benefit.

Private Transitional Justice—The Case of the Slave Daguerreotypes

Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler comments on a case in which a Massachusetts court affirmed Harvard’s ownership over several slave daguerreotypes despite the horrific and now criminal conditions under which the pictures were taken. Professor Wexler argues that the double injustice of mistreating enslaved people and using them to prove a theory of their lesser-than status calls for application of transitional justice principles, not ordinary law.

Chamber of Commerce v. Bonta: A Temporary Reprieve for California AB 51, Which Prohibits Conditioning Employment on the Waiver of the Right To Litigate?

NYU Law professor Samuel Estreicher and appellate lawyers Rex Heinke and Susan Yorke discuss a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in which the appellate court reinstated California AB 51, which prohibits employers from conditioning employment on an applicant’s waiver of various rights, including the right to litigate. The authors note that the ruling creates a circuit split and may even be at odds with recent Supreme Court case law.

A Question by Justice Thomas During the Second Amendment Argument Inadvertently Exposes a Weakness of his Originalist Philosophy

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explores the meaning of a question Justice Clarence Thomas asked during the oral argument in New. York State Rifle. & Pistol Association v. Bruen about the interpretation of the Second Amendment: “should we look at the founding, or should we look at the time of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, which then, of course, applies it to the states?” Professor Dorf argues that the question exposes a weakness of Justice Thomas’s originalist philosophy and affirms what we already know about arguments rooted in original meaning: they typically serve a rhetorical function, and Justices invoke them to justify decisions taken on other, ideological, grounds.

Botched Executions Are a Feature, Not a Bug, in America’s Death Penalty System

Amherst College professor Austin Sarat points out that botched executions are commonplace in the United States and that their frequency has only increased during the last decade as states have experimented with different lethal injection drugs and drug combinations. Professor Sarat critiques the way journalists tend to cover these botched executions and argues that civil society needs to view these errors as routine, rather than as mistakes. The only way to break this pattern, he argues, is to stop altogether the practice of using death as a punishment.

Abortion Pride?

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb explains why “abortion pride”—in the sense of coming out about having had an abortion—can help eliminate the shame and stigma associated with the procedure. Professor Colb points out that just as gay pride is more than simply pride in one’s sexual attractions but the creation of a community of people with like experiences, abortion pride can potentially reduce the need for specially designated support groups and help them chat unselfconsciously with other people with similar experiences.

“A Tragic Mistake”: Understanding the Aftermath of the Kabul Drone Strike: Part IV—Assessing the U.S. Response

In this fourth in a series of columns about the U.S. military drone strike in Kabul that killed ten civilians (including seven children), Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler considers whether the United States has now satisfactorily provided the recommended amends and discusses what more ought to be done. As to what more is needed, Professor Wexler suggests congressional review of the incident, chain of command accountability decisions, and a broader review of drone strikes.

Using Legalistic Lawlessness to Protect the Wealthy from the Indignity of Paying Taxes: Part Two of Two

In this second in a series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan shows how much of a stretch it would be to say—as conservatives are saying—that all taxes on wealth are unconstitutional and that all progressive taxes are taxes on wealth. Professor Buchanan argues that even if the now-defunct Billionaires Tax proposed by Democrats were a tax on wealth, rather than income, that classification would still not categorically violate the Constitution.

Legalistic Lawlessness and the Strategic Use of Repudiated Supreme Court Precedents, Part One of Two

In this first of a series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why, even though Democrats’ so-called Billionaires Tax is not moving forward, there is much to learn from the flurry of commentary published just before it failed. Professor Buchanan explains how easy it would be for a motivated Supreme Court to mangle logic and precedent to make it more difficult for Congress to enact taxes that would collect revenues from the richest Americans, even if the United States soon becomes a one-party autocracy under permanent Republican, non-majoritarian rule.

Texas SB8: A Cooperative Venture for Rapists and the State of Texas

In light of next week’s oral argument in a high-profile case involving the federal government’s challenge to a restrictive Texas abortion law, Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb explains what we can learn from the law’s failure to grant an exception to its near-absolute prohibition against abortion for pregnancies that result from rape or incest. Professor Colb argues that by refusing to permit the women of Texas to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape and by simultaneously allowing lawsuits against those assisting such terminations, the state of Texas deputizes a rapist to forcibly impose an entire pregnancy upon the victim of his choice.

The Proposed Tax on Billionaires’ Income Is Most Assuredly Constitutional, Unless the Supreme Court Simply Makes Stuff Up

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why Democrats’ proposed tax on billionaires does not violate any part of the Constitution, despite claims to the contrary. Professor Buchanan argues that the U.S. Supreme Court, in normal times, should recognize that there is no constitutional barrier to the proposed tax, but this ultra-conservative majority Court could defy text and logic and create a new law from whole cloth, as it has done before on other issues.

The Supreme Court’s Authority is at Stake in the Texas Abortion Case

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that even the procedural issues presented in the federal government’s challenge to Texas’s restrictive abortion law are high stakes. Professor Dorf argues that the procedural question fundamentally asks whether the U.S. Supreme Court will permit state-sanctioned lawlessness.

From Boston to Brunswick, Georgia: The Perils of Jury Selection

Texas law professor Jeffrey Abramson explains why the trial judge in the case against the three men who chased and shot to death Ahmaud Arbery should not commit the same mistake that occurred in the Boston Marathon trial—speeding up jury selection to convict obviously guilty defendants, only to have the sentence thrown out on appeal. Professor Abramson argues that while judges may understandably feel frustrated during jury selection in high-profile cases, taking shortcuts during jury selection risks forcing victims, witnesses, and the community to live through traumatic events twice.

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, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... 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

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

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government 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

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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