Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2016-03

North Carolina’s HB 2: Does Passing an Obviously Unconstitutional Law Make the Law Even More Unconstitutional?

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses North Carolina’s recent passage of House Bill 2 (HB 2), which purports to take away existing anti-discrimination rights from LGBT people. Grossman explains why the law is unconstitutional and considers whether, in light of the law’s patent unconstitutionality, the law reflects even greater animus by those who passed it.

The Hidden Atrocities Behind Medical Progress

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb considers the moral question whether we have the right to benefit from discoveries made by outrageous rights violations. Colb considers the example of James Marion Sims—known as the father of modern gynecology—whose research on female slaves, without providing them the available anesthesia, led to his development of a technique to repair obstetric fistulas. Further, Colb calls into question the presumed rightfulness of experimenting on nonhuman animals.

The 1-2 Punch the Catholic Bishops Have Delivered to Clergy Sex Abuse Victims

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton and guest columnist and child traumatology specialist Steven Berkowitz, M.D., describe the several ways in which Catholic bishops have prevent sex abuse victims from seeking justice for their abusers. Hamilton and Berkowitz argue that justice demands that legislators revive expired civil statutes of limitations and, going forward, eliminate the criminal and civil statutes of limitation for child sex abuse.

How Should Courts Evaluate a Treatment Decision by a Government Doctor That Takes into Account the Patient’s Race? The Ninth Circuit Doesn’t Quite Get Things Right

Vikram David Amar, law professor and dean at Illinois Law, and Michael Schaps, a California civil litigation attorney, critique a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit considering whether and when a government physician can take into account a patient’s race. Amar and Schaps argue that the court’s analysis is internally consistent and legally flawed, as well.

Does Boredom Explain Some of Trump’s Appeal?

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the American public's enduring fascination with Donald Trump, and explains how the social science of boredom may be at play in it. Dorf highlights studies that explain this phenomenon from distinct angles, and applies the findings to the general voting populace as a means of explaining why people just cannot seem to get enough of Trump, regardless of whether they agree with his politics.

The Puzzle of Reform, Part I

In this first of a two-part series of columns, Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies begins to explain why criminal justice reform is happening. Margulies articulates three propositions toward which it is moving: (1) vulnerable populations should not be treated like “ordinary criminals”; (2) offenders deserve an opportunity to redeem themselves; and (3) the police should be monitored, but not closely regulated.

“Spotlight” Makers Munch a Little Crow

Former counsel to the president John W. Dean discusses the defamation action brought by Boston College public affairs director Jack Dunn over his portrayal in the Academy Award winning film “Spotlight.” Dean expresses surprise that the Academy would award the honor of Best Picture to a film that twisted facts for dramatic gain at the expense of at least one person’s reputation and suggests that the Academy should consult fact checkers as part of its film evaluation process.

Alabama: The U.S. Constitution Applies to You, Too

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent per curiam opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court in which it instructed the Alabama Supreme Court to obey the U.S. Constitution and give full effect to a lesbian couple’s adoption decree from Georgia. Grossman describes the facts leading up to the case and explains why the High Court ruled firmly as it did, and why the Alabama court was incorrect.

Does a Shoe Salesman With a Foot Fetish Have a Moral Duty to Disclose?

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb examines the boundaries of moral permission to be the object of someone’s fantasies. Colb considers several different situations that are similar but likely elicit various degrees of responses from readers before concluding that fantasy should be the private prerogative of the fantasizer that should not be subject to either legal or moral regulation.

The Obama Administration Draws Back From the Precipice of Theocracy

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton describes two recent events that indicate that the United States remains dedicated to a culture of freedom and tolerance, rather than moving toward theocracy. As Hamilton explains, the federal government has taken action against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for establishing a theocracy on the border of Utah and Arizona, and also for money laundering and food stamp fraud.

The Wages of Crying Wolf

Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda calls attention to the increasing problem of false claims of hate crimes—whether based on race or sexual orientation—and suggests that rather than embrace a mob mentality, we neither jump to conclusions of guilt nor accuse claimants of lying.

A Specific Proposal That Helps Give Us a Sense of What Getting Rid of Citizens United Might Entail

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar examines California’s Proposition 49—which seeks the voters’ approval for the California legislature to ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC—in order to shine light on what might be required to overturn the decision on a federal level. Amar argues that Proposition 49 highlights just how difficult it would be to craft a workable constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Trump’s Anatomy Is More Relevant Than You Think

In light of Donald Trump’s recent comments about his anatomical endowment, Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the role of virility—and perceived virility—among prior American presidents and other world leaders of history. Dorf points out that while some studies suggest popular perception of one male candidate as “more manly” than another might give him an edge up, analysis shows that result cannot necessarily be extrapolated to predict male versus female elections.

Deciding Strategically: Lessons From a Brazilian Supreme Court Decision

Guest columnists Igor De Lazari, Antonio Sepulveda, and Henrique Rangel comment on a recent ruling by the Brazilian Supreme Court that criminal sentences may be enforced after a challengeable appellate court decision—a ruling the authors argue departs from the clear meaning of article 5, section LVII of the Brazilian Constitution. De Lazari, Sepulveda, and Rangel suggest that the ruling was based on strategic motivations by the justices, rather than purely on interpretations of the law.

Dueling Delusions

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the current plight of the Republican party and the role of Donald Trump in that trajectory. Margulies focuses on the delusions that bedevil the GOP and points to the symbols in which the party refuses to believe and on which it simultaneously depends.

Legislators Should Find Courage in Spotlight’s Success and Motivation in Yet Another Grand Jury Report, and Finally Do SOL Reform Right

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton discusses the recently released report on abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese in Pennsylvania. Hamilton argues that with the motion picture Spotlight having received the Oscar for Best Motion Picture, legislators in Pennsylvania and elsewhere should have even greater motivation to reform civil and criminal statutes of limitations with respect to victims of child sex abuse.

Differing Perspectives on California Law Requiring Pregnancy Clinics to Post Abortion Information

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb considers the perspectives of both sides of the controversy over a relatively new California law requiring licensed pregnancy centers to prominently post a notice about the availability of free or low-cost abortion, contraception, and prenatal care. Colb offers a compelling narrative to illustrate each perspective, ultimately concluding that while she personally agrees with one side neither is “right” in a moral sense.

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