Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2016-11
Why—and How—President-Elect Trump’s Conflicts of Interest Matter

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why President-elect Donald Trump’s conflicts of interests are problematic for the country. Dorf argues that the primary risk is that a Trump administration will pursue policies that further Trump’s business interests at the expense of the national interest. Dorf also points out two other risks posed by Trump’s conflicts of interest: the possibility of unjust enrichment and the cultural shift that corruption at the top could catalyze.

Friends with Benefits: Texas Man Who Donated Sperm to a Friend Has Parental Rights

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes a recent decision by a Texas appellate court applying that state’s parentage laws to a situation involving a man who donated his sperm so his friend could become pregnant. Grossman notes that while resolution of the “donor versus dad” question differs from state to state depending on the particular laws that apply, the facts of this case proved straightforward given the language of the Texas statute at issue.

The Many Faces of Backlash

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies considers how the politics of quiescence and backlash might manifest itself in the areas of criminal justice and national security. As to national security, Margulies predicts that backlash will be particularly potent, but as to criminal justice, his poor decisions that disproportionately affect poor people of color will unable to generate the same political resonance.

Why Do We Pardon Turkeys? Lessons in Human Morality

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb addresses the argument that nonhuman animals’ lack of moral agency justifies our denying them the right to live free of our violence. Colb contends that the notion that we owe duties only to those who can repay us actually reflects an impoverished morality.

Trump has Unleashed Forces that Put the Vulnerable at Risk, Which Means the Private Sphere Will Have to Step Up to Protect Them

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, describes three individuals named to lead Donald Trump’s presidency who will threaten already-vulnerable communities. Hamilton argues that Mike Pence, Stephen Bannon, and Jeffrey Sessions are likely to reduce or eliminate the rights of gays, women, minorities, and children over the next four years unless the private sector steps up.

Labeling Moderate Muslims As Anti-Muslim Extremists

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda discusses the controversial designation of Maajid Nawaz, a practicing Muslim, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born former Muslim, as “hateful extremists” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Rotunda argues that SPLC should reconsider its criteria for labeling someone an extremist, and he points out ways in which SPLC’s labeling system is inconsistent and misguided.

Fixing the Problem of “Faithless” Electors

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar proposes a solution to the problem of the “faithless” elector—a person who pledges to vote in a particular way but then who wants to cast his or her electoral college vote in a different direction. Amar provides specific language that states could implement as law to address these rogue individuals whose actions could alter a presidential election result.

The End of Genuine Law and Order in the United States?

In the aftermath of the presidential election, George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers what it would mean on the ground for the rule of law to be eroded to the point of obliteration. Buchanan describes how Trump and Republican might play constitutional hardball in a manner that spells the end of the rule of law.

Liberal Activism in the Age of Trump

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf shares some of the lessons he has learned as a vegan animal rights advocate, and explains how they apply to other policy areas. In particular, Dorf argues that in order to build a world in which presidential candidates do not pander to humanity’s basest otherizing instincts, we should aim to persuade our fellow humans of our point of view, not merely to organize to outvote them.

Raise the Rainbow Flag: Federal Court Rules that Title VII Bans Sexual Orientation Discrimination

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent decision by a federal district court in Pennsylvania holding that Title VII bans sexual orientation discrimination. Grossman describes the gradual recognition of sexual orientation discrimination as a cognizable injury under Title VII and praises the court for coming to the correct conclusion.

The End Is Nigh! Or Is It?

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies describes the typical pattern in politics of quiescence and backlash. As Margulies explains, it is natural for the supporters of the winning candidate to reach a sense of quiescence after the election, while the supporters of the losing candidate formulate a backlash. Margulies points out that this pattern exists regardless of whether the winning candidate is a Republican or a Democrat.

Coming Consequences for the Litigious President-elect Trump

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, discusses the possible consequences of the many lawsuits involving President-elect Donald Trump on his presidency. Dean explains why Trump’s situation is different from other presidents-elect who carried civil lawsuits with them into the Oval Office—Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, and Bill Clinton.

The Electorate Inadvertently Imposes Real Accountability on Washington Republicans

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how Republicans’ victories for president and both houses of Congress impose real accountability on the Republican party to get things done. Hamilton argues that with Republicans controlling these branches, they have no excuse for failing to fully come through on all the changes they have promised, including replacing Obamacare, building a wall on the Mexican border, creating jobs, and cutting taxes.

Ensuring Consent with Sexual Advance Directives

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on the idea of a sexual advance directive—a proposed legal device that could provide consent or designate an agent to provide consent in advance of an anticipated persistent period of legal incompetence. Colb explains how a sexual advance directive purports to work, describes some limitations of it, and proposes an alternative solution that addresses those limitations.

Constitutional Lessons From Comey’s Unwise “October Surprise” Decision to Comment on Clinton Investigation Yet Again

Illinois law dean and law professor Vikram David Amar describes three takeaway lessons from FBI Director James Comey’s decision to comment on the ongoing Clinton email investigation a second time. Amar argues that (1) with respect to investigators, sometimes less formal independence means more latitude to act out, (2) the FBI director should not operate outside of DOJ bounds, and (3) the DOJ policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations arises from the Constitution.

Young Voters, This Is Your Chance to Make History. Enjoy It!

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why the 2016 election is an opportunity for young voters to have the unusual opportunity to make a difference in their future. Buchanan argues that voting for Hillary Clinton is the only way to exercise that power in a way that gives young people hope for a positive future.

Trump Won’t Win a Defamation Suit as a Plaintiff, But He Could Lose as a Defendant

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf explains how under defamation law, Donald Trump may be vulnerable to defamation lawsuits by the women he accused of lying about contact with him, and why, at the same time, any defamation lawsuits he might pursue against those women would be unlikely to succeed.

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