Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2016-07

Mike Pence’s Abortion Law

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb comments on the Indiana abortion law that Donald Trump’s chosen running mate, Mike Pence, signed into law as governor of that state. Colb explains the different reasons that women have for terminating their pregnancies and argues that while some of the reasons women actually choose abortion might be repugnant to some of us, that should not undermine their right to make that choice.

An Open Letter to the Change-Maker Hillary Rodham Clinton on Behalf of Sexual Abuse Victims in the United States

A Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, Marci Hamilton writes an open letter to Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton on behalf of sexual abuse victims around the country. Hamilton asks Clinton what she will do as President of the United States to address the problem of child sex abuse and to help improve victims’ access to justice.

Trump’s Law and Order Versus the Rule of Law

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf explains the difference between “law and order,” a term Donald Trump uses to describe his approach to governance, and “rule of law,” a principle that those in positions of authority exercise their power even handedly and consistently, within a framework of public norms. As Dorf explains, Trump’s law-and-order message, taken in conjunction with his observed business practices, is that of an authoritarian ruler—one who imposes rules on others yet sees himself above and unconstrained by law.

Chevron Deference and the Proposed “Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016”: A Sign of the Times

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016, a bill that, if passed, would undo the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council. Amar points out that support for the doctrine of Chevron deference has fluctuated based on which political party occupies the White House, and there may even be a constitutional argument against Chevron’s preference for agencies over courts.

Melania Trump’s Plagiarism Fiasco

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, explains why Melania Trump’s plagiarism fiasco might not simply fade away, and he argues that it reveals more about Donald than Melania. Dean dissects the situation and the bogus responses by several people in or close to Trump’s campaign.

Can Criminal Justice Reform Survive Cleveland?

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies laments the revival of the “law and order” rhetoric triggered by the recent shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge and seized upon as common ground for Donald Trump and the GOP. Margulies explains why greater police presence and more arrests actually make communities less safe, rather than safer, and argues that such changes threaten to undo the progress made in the criminal justice system over the past several decades.

Forcing Lawyers to Perform Pro Bono Services

Ronald Rotunda, law professor at Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, responds to the Justice Sonya Sotomayor’s comment that she favors imposing mandatory pro bono work on lawyers. Rotunda argues that while lawyers should engage in pro bono work, making it mandatory would infringe on their liberty to decide how to spend their time and doesn’t adequately account for other ways in which lawyers help their communities.

Balancing Teachers’ Liberty Against Students’ Right to Unbiased Education

Antonio G. Sepulveda, Carlos Bolonha, and Igor De Lazari comment on a law recently passed by the house of representatives of the Brazilian state of Alagoas—over the governor’s veto—that places certain restrictions on teachers’ autonomy in the classroom. Sepulveda, Bolonha, and De Lazari discuss the purpose of the law and the criticism leveled against it and draw upon United States federal case law as a basis for analysis.

Three Important Constitutional Lessons to Take From FBI Director Comey’s Statements About Hillary Clinton’s Email Management

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes three lessons we should take from FBI Director Comey’s statements about Hillary Clinton’s email management. First, Amar points out that the president is the ultimate decisionmaker when it comes to all criminal prosecutions. Second, he argues that there are other ways that Republican leaders could seek to punish Ms. Clinton for what they believe to be wrongdoing—such as the impeachment process. Finally, Amar suggests that to prevent Republicans (or others) from doggedly trying to prosecute Ms. Clinton for years to come, regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, President Obama could pardon her just before he leaves office, as other presidents have done in numerous instances.

What’s the Matter With “Bomb Robots”?

In light of recent events in Dallas, Texas, Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf considers the use by local police of a “bomb robot” to kill the man who shot twelve police officers and two civilians. In particular, Dorf addresses (1) whether the use of the bomb robot represents an important change in policing, (2) whether the robot is a military tool inappropriately used in a domestic policing situation, and (3) whether its use in this instance violated the Constitution.

Should We Lift the Stigma on “Virtuous Pedophiles”?

Inspired by a Dan Savage podcast on the topic, Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb considers both the concept of “virtuous pedophiles” and some of its potential implications. Colb explains what this term means and draws several comparisons to other individuals who may be oriented toward a certain action that is either illegal or prohibited to them, ultimately expressing ambivalence toward the notion of the virtuous pedophile.

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Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies reacts to the lack of response by many important people and organizations to recent shootings by police of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Margulies points out that when leadership is silent on an issue, people will take to the streets to try to rectify it, often perpetuating violence.

Hillary’s James Comey Nightmare Likely Continues

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, delves into the FBI’s findings regarding the Hillary Clinton classified email investigation, as explained in a recent statement by FBI Director James Comey. Dean further breaks down how the statements are likely to continue to adversely affect Clinton’s presidential campaign due to the vague nature of Comey's testimony, even after the FBI concluded that no reasonable prosecutor would pursue a criminal case on this matter.

Mississippi, the First Amendment Defense Act, Accommodation, and Apartheid

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton comments on Mississippi’s latest law stigmatizing and marginalizing the LGBTQ community, and compares it to the federal First Amendment Defense Act. Hamilton argues that these divisive and discriminatory laws resemble apartheid in South Africa in that they are purported to be accommodations but in fact are simply immoral and wrong.

Birchfield v. North Dakota: An Acceptable Compromise

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota, in which the Court held that states may criminalize the refusal to take a breathalyzer test but may not criminalize the refusal to take a blood test, absent a warrant, as an ordinary incident of an arrest for driving while impaired. Colb explains why the Court distinguished the two types of tests and argues that the decision effectively balances competing interests in public safety and individual privacy.

The TRAP Door Closes: The Supreme Court Invalidates Texas’s HB 2, Which Unduly Burdens Access to Abortion

SMU Dedman School of Law Professor Joanna Grossman comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in which the Court struck down certain restrictions on abortion clinics that imposed an undue burden on women’s constitutional right of access to abortion. Grossman describes the history of abortion access in the United States and how the Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health fits within that history.

Justice Kennedy’s Majority Opinion in the Fisher Affirmative Action Ruling Muddles Even as It Illuminates

Dean and law professor at Illinois Law, Vikram David Amar comments on Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion last week in Fisher v. Texas, where the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the part of the University of Texas undergraduate admissions policy that formally takes the race of individual applicants into account in admitting a portion of the entering freshman class. Amar praises the opinion for being more forthright than other majority opinions of the Court in this area of law, but he expresses concern that in some respects Justice Kennedy’s language may actually obfuscate the legal doctrine at issue.

United States et al. vs. Texas et al.: A Political Question for November

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, explains the significance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s equal division in the immigration case United States v. Texas, which involved a challenge to the Obama administration’s sweeping immigration policy. Dean argues that the Court is effectively punting the political question of the immigration policy to the winner of the 2016 presidential election.

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