Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2013-05

Dealing With National Security Leaks: Obama’s “Plumbers”: Part One in a Two-Part Series of Columns

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on how certain presidents—specifically, Nixon, Bush, and Obama—have respectively chosen to deal with national security leaks. Most strikingly, Dean notes that President Obama still fully embraces an only slightly modified Bush/Cheney viewpoint on dealing with leaks of national security information. And that Obama position, Dean points out, is quite notable, since such thinking can be traced directly to Richard Nixon’s infamous “Plumbers.” In the column, Dean also tells the story of the original “Plumbers,” to illuminate the parallel. Dean will continue his series on this topic with Part Two on June 14, here on Justia’s Verdict.

The Supreme Court Takes the Case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, Which Raises the Questions Whether—And If So, How—a Town Board May Open Its Meetings With Prayer

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton discusses a church/state case that the Supreme Court has recently taken up, which concerns the question whether a town board may constitutionally open its meetings with prayer. Hamilton predicts that this case will be a landmark Establishment Clause battle, and a key development in America’s ongoing culture war over control of government programs and spaces, and of American culture itself. In addition to analyzing prior Establishment Clause precedents that are relevant here, Hamilton suggests where each of the Justices is likely to fall on the possible spectrum of views, and votes, regarding the Town of Greece case.

Antipathy to Lawyers and Litigation as a “Bullies Will Be Bullies” Attitude

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb looks at the possible roots of many Americans’ antipathy to lawyers and litigation. This hostility, Colb suggests, likely stems from a mindset, shared by Republicans and Democrats alike, that holds that the law should not intervene in private interactions. Thus, Americans may be surprised to learn that medical malpractice suits actually make us safer, or that bringing lawyers into a business dispute might at times be the right thing to do. The American way, many think, is instead to work things out on one’s own. But the flaw in that thinking, Colb suggests, is that the disputants in a disagreement may well have significantly unequal power—a situation that often calls for the law to intervene. Colb also contrasts criminal prosecutions with civil litigation, noting that Americans are typically much more comfortable with the former (with some exceptions, like “date rape” prosecutions) than they are with the latter. Finally, Colb contends that we should see anti-lawyer prejudice as, at times, a form of bullying, for sometimes only legal intervention can ensure a fair outcome.

Birthright: The Iowa Supreme Court Allows a Lesbian Co-Parent to Be Listed on an Infant’s Birth Certificate

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling allowing the lesbian co-partner of the biological mother of a child to be listed on that child’s birth certificate. Grossman covers the facts regarding the particular co-partners who prevailed in this landmark decision, and the reasoning that convinced the Iowa Supreme Court—which earlier had legalized same-sex marriage—to side with them and to grant them both the rights to be recognized as the legal mothers of the child whom they are raising together.

Supreme Court’s Ruling in Arlington v. FCC Highlights Debate Over the Meaning and Future of Chevron Deference Doctrine in Administrative Law

Justia columnist and U.C., Davis law professor Vikram David Amar comments on a very recent Supreme Court administrative law opinion, Arlington v. FCC. First, Amar explains the key doctrine of Chevron deference, which was established in an earlier Court precedent, and was central here. He also comments on the Court’s rejection of an interpretation of the doctrine that would have significantly narrowed it. Finally, Amar also discusses the contrasting views of the concurring and dissenting opinions in the case.

Why Are Republicans Determined to Waste Money on Government? The Upside-Down Logic of Taking Responsibilities (and Funding) Away From the IRS

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on the recent IRS scandal, which he contends is better labeled a “non-scandal” limited to low-level mistakes and mid-level crisis mismanagement. He also covers the current state of the IRS, its role in American life, and the reasons its reach has expanded. Buchanan also warns that if we move the IRS out of its current role, we do so at our peril.

A Unanimous Supreme Court Ruling Underscores the Limits of Habeas Corpus as a Remedy for State Prisoners

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf comments on Monday’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling in Metrish v. Lancaster, as well as on the more general significance of unanimous rulings. Lancaster, as Dorf explains, involved the writ of habeas corpus, which the Justices declined to invoke, despite evidence indicating that the convict at issue did not receive due process at the state court level. Dorf also notes that this is only one instance in a larger pattern of the weakening and narrowing of habeas corpus at the High Court.

Changing Our Attitudes Toward Health Policies

Justia columnist and attorney David Kemp discusses two recent issues that have come up in recent news related to health and health policy. The first issue Kemp discusses is that of breast cancer prevention and treatment, in light of a New York Times op-ed written by actress and director Angelina Jolie. The second issue is the recent and alarming outbreak of bacterial meningitis in New York City, particularly among gay and bisexual men. Kemp compares and contrasts the two issues, arguing that there is no place for moral approbation or judgment in the prevention and treatment of these diseases or any others.

President Obama’s Burgeoning Scandals—Benghazi, IRS, and AP’s Telephone Logs—Are All Smoke and No Fire

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean discusses each of the three scandals on which the media are currently focusing. After commenting on the nature of modern political scandals generally, Dean focuses on the Benghazi scandal, the scandal regarding the IRS’s targeting conservative organizations, and the scandal regarding DOJ’s subpoenaing AP telephone records. Each scandal, Dean concludes, will not be found significant in the end.

Abuse in the Sports World, and What Needs to Be Done About It

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton discusses abuse in the world of sports, including school, amateur and professional sports. While child sex abuse has been a problem in this world, physical, emotional, and verbal abuse are far too common, and need to stop as well, Hamilton urges. She cites the example of Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice, but stresses that Rice is far from alone in his abusive behavior. And, Hamilton notes, it is a problem that athletes looking for—or wanting to continue with—college scholarships feel that they have no other choice but to take the abuse. Hamilton asks us all to imagine sports as it should be: free of bullying and fear, and offers a model code of conduct for sports addressing the various forms of abuse that athletes may suffer, as well as reporting requirements when abuse does occur.

The U.S. Supreme Court Rules That Blood Tests for Drunk Driving Suspects Require a Search Warrant: A Wise Decision?

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb considers the merits of the Supreme Court’s approach to cases where drunk driving is suspected, as set forth in Missouri v. McNeely. There, the Court held that police must conduct a “totality of the circumstances” exigency analysis to determine whether seeking a warrant prior to performing a blood test would significantly undermine the efficacy of the search in an individual case. Colb considers whether the Court’s ruling makes sense, in light of what generally happens in DWI cases, and discusses an alternative approach that was proposed by the Chief Justice, as well as the approach described in Justice Thomas’s dissent and its witty hypothetical.

A Difference of Opinion: Are Universal Life Church Weddings Valid in New York?

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on the validity, in New York, of marriages performed by the Universal Life Church, which ordains its ministers via the click of an online button, and subsequent online approval. New York courts are split on the matter, and as Grossman notes, a recent annulment filing has brought the issue up once again. Her column brings up interesting questions such as, “Who is a minister?” and “What is a Church?”

Why Tennessee Might—and Should—Reject Its Proposed “Ag Gag” Bill

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on a Tennessee controversy over a proposed ag-gag law that would require anyone who intentionally records images of animal abuse to submit their unedited footage or photos to law enforcement within 48 hours. Hilden argues that, as Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper—who called the proposed law “constitutionally suspect”—has argued, it has numerous serious flaws.

The Breadth of the Ministerial Exception and Ecclesiastical Deference: A State Supreme Court Case Highlights Questions Left Open by Last Year’s U.S. Supreme Court Hosanna-Tabor Ruling

Justia columnist and U.C., Davis law professor Vikram David Amar comments on a decision from the Kentucky Supreme Court concerning the ministerial exception to employment discrimination law, which leaves some inquiries to ecclesiastical, rather than secular resolutions. In this area of law, Amar notes that last year’s U.S. Supreme Court case on the ministerial exception, Hosanna-Tabor, left a number of questions still to be answered by the courts, both state and federal—including the U.S. Supreme Court, meaning, Amar says, that future High Court clarification is likely.

How Did Gay Bashing Become Part of the Debate Over Government Spending and Deficits? Why We Need to Focus on Making Wise Investments in Future Prosperity

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on the recent contention by Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson that famed economist John Maynard Keynes was gay and, for that reason, did not care about the well-being of future generations. Buchanan rebuts this ugly claim on a number of levels; notes similar arguments that cropped up before the Supreme Court in the Prop 8 oral argument; and makes the case that far from ignoring future generations, Keynes had their interests always at heart, and sought to build for them a more prosperous future.

Legal Limits on the Forced Feeding of Hunger-Striking Guantanamo Bay Detainees

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf comments on the law applicable to the forced feeding, via tubes, of those Guantanamo detainees who refuse to eat, as they are on a hunger strike, and are becoming dangerously weak. Human rights groups condemn the forced feeding as cruel, but the government says that it is better than the detainee’s dying. With U.S. law unclear on the force-feeding issue as it related to detainees, Dorf analyzes the situation, citing two relevant Supreme Court precedents and other legal sources that might shed light on the issue. He also suggests that the detainees’ best hope, in this situation, might be to invoke international law, though their chances of prevailing will still be slim.

Multilevel Marketing: How to Avoid Building the Pyramid

Attorneys Jonathan E. Turco and David O. Klein comment on how companies can engage in perfectly legal multilevel marketing without running the risk of engaging in an illegal pyramid scheme. Turco and Klein detail how the two differ; explain the rules of the road regarding multilevel marketing; and comment on both state and federal regulations in this area of law, including a set of FTC safeguards.

Unfortunately, Conspiracy Theorists Are Now Busy Concocting Bizarre Explanations of The Boston Marathon Bombing

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean discusses the troubling conspiracy theories that have arisen in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing—including the “false flag attack” claim postulating that the Boston bombing was the work of the government, intended to result in taking weapons away from Americans. Dean discusses these and other conspiracy theories, and why some people believe in them, drawing in part on academic papers on the subject. Dean also notes the role of the conspiracy entrepreneurs, who profit in some way from propagating the belief in the conspiracy, and the cost we may be paying for the popularity of conspiracy theories, particularly ones that are anti-government.

Who Is Afraid of Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims, and Who Is Fighting for It? Some Recent Developments

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on developments in States across the nation regarding abolishing the statute of limitations on child sex abuse. Hamilton chronicles the details of the progress in each of the relevant states, and notes the rising calls for justice not only for victims, but also for those who knew of a victim’s abuse and did nothing about it or, even worse, covered it up.

Rape by Deception, Rape by Impersonation, and a New California Bill

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb discusses two types of rape that may not at first come to mind when one thinks of the crime, but that are very traumatic for the victim: rape by impersonation, and rape by deception. Colb illuminates the law with respect to these little-known crimes, and describes a California bill that is meant to ensure that rape by impersonation of the victim's partner can be prosecuted even if the victim is an unmarried woman, as was historically required. Colb also discusses other aspects of modern and historic rape law (such as the now-abolished marital rape exception), and raises the question whether lying about oneself to obtain sex should be deemed a crime, as an Israeli court ruled.

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 and a Professor of Law at The George Washington U... 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. Befo... 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 country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Pra... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing 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