Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2016-02
What Does Ancient Athens Have to Do With University Protesters?

Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda describes how freedom—specifically freedom of speech—was recognized as important as far back as ancient Athens, and how it remains important in the United States today, not only for its inherent value but also in setting an example for the rest of the world to use. Rotunda argues that when the United States restricts speech, other countries will use our example to justify their own repression.

The Grave Risks of the Senate Republicans’ Stated Refusal to Process any Supreme Court Nominee President Obama Sends Them

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes some of the risks Senate Republicans will face if they refuse to process any Supreme Court nominee that President Obama sends them, as they have claimed they would. Among these risks, Amar argues, are the possibility that a President Hillary Clinton might appoint Obama to the Supreme Court, that the Democrats could take over the Senate and approve a nominee that a Republican-controlled Senate would not have approved, or even that Justices Breyer and Ginsburg could retire under a Democrat-controlled Senate, giving President Obama three places on the Court to fill with liberal justices.

The Kasich Moderation Burlesque

George Washington University law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan continues his series of columns evaluating presidential candidates’ claims of being moderate by looking at Ohio governor John Kasich. Buchanan cautions that although as governor Kasich accepted a Medicaid expansion for Ohio and acknowledges climate change, his actions and words with respect to issues such as abortion, the Affordable Care Act, and the federal budget—among others—reflect extreme conservative views, not moderate ones.

Senate Republicans Offer Laughable Reasons for Refusing to Confirm an Obama Supreme Court Nominee

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf explains why Republicans’ claims that President Obama lacks democratic legitimacy in appointing a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Dorf points out that the reasons offered thus far for refusing to confirm an Obama nominee seem to imply that originalism/formalism can be validated or invalidated by popular approval, even absent a constitutional amendment.

The 2016 RFRA Decline Is Due to the Difficulty of Selling Discrimination and Child Endangerment as Good Policy

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton explains why the pace of new state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts is slower in 2016 than in previous years. Hamilton points out that to pass these bills, legislators have to not only advocate for discrimination, but also for child endangerment—hard policies to sell.


Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies comments on Donald Trump’s recent declaration that not only does he support torture, but that if he becomes president, he would utilize it more, regardless of whether it “works.” Margulies explores these statements as well as the identity of those who support him and his views.

In Defense of Justice Scalia on Religious Liberty and Smith

In honor of the recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton discusses the Court’s decision in Employment Div. v. Smith, in which Justice Scalia wrote for the majority holding that a law is constitutional under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment if it is facially neutral and generally applied. Hamilton lauds the decision as striking the right balance between liberty and harm, and between religious diversity and religious tyranny.

The Second Circuit Honors the Threshold of the Home in a Fourth Amendment Opinion

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding that when police are outside the threshold of a home arresting a suspect who is inside the threshold, it is a “home arrest” requiring a warrant. Colb explains why the decision is significant in protecting the home as a space where a person can feel the highest degree of privacy and comfort, free from unreasonable government intrusions.

Course Correction: Young v. United Parcel Service Makes Courts Focus on Right Issues, but Also Reveals Limits of PDA

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses the effect that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. United Parcel Service has had on cases arising under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), as well as the limitations of that decision. Grossman argues that while the decision helped give effect to the intended purpose of the PDA, it did not and could not expand the scope of the statute, which is what is now needed to adequately protect pregnant workers.

When Judicial and Presidential Politics Collide

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the likely political and legal consequences of the recent passing of Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Margulies predicts that, due to the ongoing presidential campaign, anyone President Obama nominates to fill the vacancy might become both a partisan tool in presidential politics and also a symbol for the future of America.

Sticking Up (Kind of) for a(n Idaho) State Court Slapped Down by the U.S. Supremes

Vikram David Amar—dean and law professor at the University of Illinois College of Law—comments on a summary reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court of a decision by the Idaho Supreme Court. While Amar agrees with the Court that the Idaho court erred in reaching its decision, but he argues that the Idaho jurists were not guilty of the particular stupidity or defiance the Supreme Court imputed to them.

Republicans Will Not Seriously Try to Sell Marco Rubio as a Moderate, Will They?

In this first of a series of columns evaluating presidential candidates’ claims of being moderate, George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that Marco Rubio is extremely conservative on both social and economic issues. Buchanan points to Rubio’s position on such social issues as reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, gun control, and economic issues such as tax policy and the federal budget.

The Most Promising Reform

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies reflects on the devastating toll solitary confinement can take on those who are already part of a vulnerable demographic, as witnessed during his time as a criminal defense and human rights attorney. The story Margulies describes offers compelling support for criminal justice reform as it currently exists in the United States.

Homespun Wisdom (and Wrongheadedness) in Iowa on the Treatment of Muslims

Illinois Law dean and law professor Vikram David Amar evaluates three people’s statements regarding America’s treatment of Muslims: President Obama, an Iowa businessman, and a local Muslim cleric (an imam). Amar points out that Donald Trump’s proposal that America ban all Muslims from entering the country is vastly underinclusive (because the great majority of violent acts in this country are perpetrated by non-Muslims), and at the same time very overinclusive (because the overwhelming majority of Muslims who want to enter the United States intend no harm)—two indicators of legal and moral unfairness.

Godly Rhetoric in Presidential Campaigns: Cruz, Rubio, and Reagan

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the use of religious terms in among the Republican presidential candidates, particularly terms that refer to a specific religio-political world view. Hamilton especially critiques Cruz’s and Rubio’s invocation of Ronald Reagan’s name, pointing out that Reagan tried to bring Americans together in his speeches, even in his references to God.

You Made Your (Marital) Bed, Now Lie in It

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by an appellate court in New York holding that a harsh but voluntary prenuptial agreement could be enforced as written. Grossman points out that the decision is consistent with a larger trend of courts enforcing prenuptial agreements, even when their terms might seem objectively one-sided or unfair.

Crossing the Bar: Notable Lawyers Who Left Us in 2015

Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda reflects on the accomplishments of several attorneys who passed away in 2015. Among the lawyers Rotunda remembers are: Mario Matthew Cuomo, Edward W. Brooke, Vincent Bugliosi, Fred Thompson, Solomon S. Seay, Loredana Nesci, Joe Jamail, Richard S. Ketcham, and Tahir Elci.

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

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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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