Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2013-09

Last Rights and the Battle Over Huguette Clark’s Will

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman and Justia guest columnist and Stanford law professor Lawrence Friedman together comment on an epic contest over an estate that totaled over $300 million. Grossman and Friedman explain why the estate at issue, belonging to a woman named Huguette Clark, raised a host of complex issues that were ripe for a will contest, and they comment on the possibility that the will contest might have been avoided in various ways.

Germany’s Election Results Are Bad News for the U.S.

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan expresses very strong disagreement with the economic policies of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who recently claimed electoral victory. Buchanan contends that Merkel’s policies are bad for Europe, the United States, and the world, and carefully details the reasons behind his conclusions. Though Merkel is little known by Americans, as Buchanan notes, she will surely exert influence on the U.S., so, Buchanan warns, Americans ought to take more notice of her policies and influence.

Don’t Expect the Latest Mass Shootings to Produce Gun Control Legislation

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf contends that mass shootings will never lead to gun-control laws. While he notes that the gun lobby plainly plays a role in that situation, Dorf also sees the difficulty of getting such laws passed as a failure of democracy: Although more people favor than oppose additional gun-control measures, the gun-control opponents appear to favor gun rights with greater intensity than the intensity with which the majority favors gun control.

Should Schools Stalk Students Online to Prevent Cyberbullying?

Justia columnist and University of Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry comments on a Southern California school district’s decision to retain a private firm to search the Web and look for public posts, photos, tweets, and other communications made by its students. The district’s stated purpose for retaining the firm is to prevent students from harming others—and, in particular, to stop cyberbullying. But Ramasastry notes that the company that does the monitoring also finds out a lot of other information about students, as well.

Ripe for Resolution: Ending Taxpayer Expenditures on Pointless Litigation

In this second of a series of columns on the death penalty in California, Justia guest columnist and Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell describes a procedural dilemma facing federal courts in states with the death penalty. Mitchell explains that under a Supreme Court case decided earlier this year, federal courts are not required to stay habeas corpus proceedings for death row inmates who are mentally incompetent. She describes the absurd result this holding creates and calls on death penalty states to implement alternative dispute resolution programs in order to reduce miscarriages of justice and end “taxpayer expenditures on pointless litigation.”

When Is a Public School Student’s Online Speech About School Violence Cause for Concern?

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on a recent Ninth Circuit case regarding the tension between the right to free speech and fears that such speech might spur school violence. Another issue that the case raises is whether the well-known Tinker test for public school student speech needs to be modified or augmented in the Internet Age.

Are Internet Providers, in Fact, at Risk for Defamation Liability?

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the case of Sarah Jones v. Dirty World Entertainment, which he notes raises a fundamental question about the scope of immunity from defamation liability for Internet Service Providers under Section 230 of The Communications Decency Act (CDA). Dean predicts that the case will be watched closely, as an indication of whether the courts will, in fact, start policing the nearly unlimited immunity that has evolved under Section 230. There are good arguments on both sides of this case, Dean notes, making the case an especially interesting one.

What To Expect From the Supreme Court’s Abortion Case This Term

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on the United States Supreme Court’s June grant of certiorari in Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. The new case confronts the regulation of medically induced abortion and, Colb predicts, may prove to be important and surprising. Colb provides a particular focus here on Justice Kennedy’s possible views on abortion issues.

Playing “Too Womany” and the Problem of Masculinity in Sport

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman, and Justia guest columnist and University of Pittsburgh law professor Deborah Brake comment on the 40th anniversary of Title IX, which transformed athletics for women and girls. Yet, they note, serious problems remain. Grossman and Brake note issues such as the cost of prizing masculinity in sports and the collateral damage of masculinity, including rape, gang-rape, and male-on-male hazing and assault. They also discuss the daunting task of changing sport culture, suggesting that community sports programs, especially in the younger years, should encourage more co-ed play, so that kids learn young to respect all athletes, both male and female, at a young age.

Does the First Amendment Protect Begging?

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on the U.S Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s decision invalidating Michigan’s criminal anti-begging statute. The ACLU successfully argued in court that begging is protected, as speech, by the First Amendment. Hilden agrees with the ruling, but also raises the more difficult question of aggressive begging’ and how it can be regulated to strike an appropriate free speech balance.

What Does Opposition to War in Syria Tell Us About the State of International Law?

Justia guest columnist and U.C. Berkeley School of Law professor Saira Mohamed critically discusses the possibility of military force by the United States against Syria. She first describes how unilateral military intervention would violate international law and explains why the United States should avoid it. She then draws alarming parallels to punitive actions taken by the U.S. against Libya in 1986, Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, and Iraq in 2003. Professor Mohamed concludes with the optimistic perspective that the American public supports the principle that military force should not substitute for diplomacy, and that war is not a legitimate tool of international relations.

The Legal Significance of the Leo Frank Case

Justia guest columnist and Touro Law Center professor Rodger Citron comments on the historic case of Leo Frank, who was convicted of the murder of a woman who worked at the factory he managed, and ultimately lynched by an angry mob, but might well have been innocent. Citron focuses on the case's legal significance as this year marks the 100th anniversary of Frank's conviction, noting two key lessons that we can take from it.

Precisely How Much Academic Freedom Should (Does) the First Amendment Afford to Professors and Teachers at Public Schools? The Ninth Circuit’s Take in the Recent Demers v. Austin Case

Justia columnist Vikram Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C. Davis law professors, analyze an important and interesting decision, Demers v. Austin, involving the First Amendment academic-freedom rights of public school and university faculty members that was handed down last week by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Amar and Brownstein argue that that a more concrete and categorical framework for resolving academic freedom disputes than the Ninth Circuit's needs to be fashioned.

How to Succeed in Sounding Impressive When Talking about Budgets and Deficits Without Really Trying: Understanding the Degraded Media Environment When It Comes To Reporting and Discussing U.S. Budgetary Matters

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan sharply questions the competence and knowledge of mainstream media figures who cover economic issues. He illustrates his point with examples in which media figures’ uninformed opinions clash with the much better informed stances of economists regarding, for example, key issues such as budgeting, entitlements, deficits, health-care inflation, and the debt ceiling.

California Voters’ Shifting Views on the Death Penalty

Justia guest columnist and Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell describes California voters' changing views on the death penalty. She provides several possible explanations for the death penalty's decreasing support, including the presence of high-profile cases where an innocent person was sentenced to death, lower concerns about crime rates, and the high economic costs of maintaining capital punishment in the state. This is the first of a series of columns by Mitchell discussing the death penalty in California.

Should There Be a Right to Reclaim Your Name? The Harm of Errors in Consumer-Data Collection and Some Possible Solutions

Justia columnist and U. Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry comments on consumers' problems with correcting credit reports that are inaccurate and damaging. She also describes a related FTC initiative in this area that helps consumers regain their good names, and their good credit, when credit-report errors have unfairly soiled them.

Could the President Bomb Syria Even If Congress Says No?

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf comments on President Obama’s options in Syria. Dorf notes that Secretary of State John Kerry’s position is that the President can act without Congress. But Dorf calls that position profoundly misguided, citing international law and the U.N. Charter on the use of force. Dorf also points out that Congressional approval cannot substitute for Security Council authorization. Moreover, he comments on prior presidents who faced situations in which there was a lack of Congressional authorization for the use of force.

A South Carolina Same-Sex Marriage Challenge, and Predictions as to the Outcome of Future Litigation in This Area

Justia columnist and attorney David Kemp discusses a recent case filed in federal court in South Carolina challenging the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriages. Kemp describes the facts and arguments of that case, Bradacs v. Haley, and compares it to another recent case filed in Ohio challenging that state’s own laws precluding recognition of same-sex marriages. Kemp notes one particular parallel between arguments in the two cases and predicts, based on this parallel, that we will see similar challenges in several other states with comparably structured domestic relations laws.

Who Won, Vicki Iseman or The New York Times? And What About the Debate?

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on a 2008 New York Times story and its continuing fallout. The story insinuated that lobbyist Vicki Iseman had a romantic relationship with John McCain, who was then emerging as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. But even The Times’ own ombudsman noted the story’s lack of proof. While McCain had no real remedy based on the story, Iseman sued The Times for defamation. Dean comments on the Iseman lawsuit, on a defamation suit filed by Barry Goldwater, and on American defamation law more generally. Dean also warns readers that their social-media activities may make them vulnerable in defamation suits, and draws on relevant advice from defamation experts Coleman Allen and Rodney Smolla.

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